Reflections on my First Week

Today is my second Sunday in Kilimatinde, and as I sat in church this morning, I was blown away with the way the people here worship.  As I sat, taking in the incredible praise songs and dances, the shouts of Bwana Asifiwe (praise the Lord), and the prayers of the celebrant, I started thinking about a prayer I have said a hundred times, but had never fully understood until then.  It’s from Compline, the evening time prayer from the Episcopal prayer book, and it reads, “Be present, O merciful God . . . so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness.”

These last few weeks have brought me a million changes.  I moved halfway across the world.  I left behind friends and family and took a chance that honestly is still kind of terrifying to me.  I’ve come to a country where I barely speak the language.  I started a job that I’ve never done before, and have almost no qualifications to do.  Trying to make a space for myself and figure out what I’m supposed to be doing is tiresome.  Trying to learn about and relate to my students and fellow teachers is difficult and overwhelming.  Simply being more exposed to the sun and weather is physically draining.  In short, I am wearied, for sure.

Despite this I feel at peace, because I recognized this God that they were worshiping in church, he’s the same one from home.  Regardless of the miles I’ve travelled and the culture and language barriers I’ve experienced, He stays unchanged.  I think people assume that missionaries are sent to Godless places, but this couldn’t be more untrue for Kilimatinde.  God came here long before I did, and let me tell you, he is ALIVE here.  He is present not just in church, but is integrated into all aspects of life.  He’s still the same God that makes you feel at home when you pray to Him.  He’s the God you see in the smile on a child’s face.  He’s still the God that urges you to join in with song and dance, wanting your praise not just with words but with your whole body and soul.  He’s still that God that guides me through the unknown and gives me strength to carry on.  He’s the God that will show me what I am meant to be doing here in Tanzania.  He will take my fear and trepidation and turn it into confidence and joy.  It doesn’t matter that the locals worship in a different language and do not know me yet, we worship the same Lord and are brothers and sisters under Him.  We are one church, one family, one people.

Change is a good thing.  It’s frightening and at times can seem like the end of the world, but it is good.  Change pushes you out of your comfort zone and encourages growth- spiritually, emotionally, physically.  I welcome the changes of my new life here in Africa, and I rest easy knowing that no matter what happens in this life, my God will never change, will never abandon me, and will always answer when I call to Him.  Change is inevitable, and I look forward to seeing the person God is leading me to become through my time here.

I’ll leave you with a prayer for guidance, from the Book of Common Prayer:

“O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgement, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”