One thing I love about Tanzanian culture is how easy it is to talk to people (at least, on the surface it is, but getting to know people deeper isn’t so easy). Here’s some recent random encounters:
- Down at the market I popped into one little shop to buy some eggs and ended up in conversation with the shop owner, discussing deep questions like, “How do you see Tanzania versus England? What advice do you have for us? Why don’t we make progress?” These questions aren’t uncommon. I always start my reply with what I value about Tanzanian culture – people’s hospitality and focus on relationships.
- On the way home from church I stopped to buy some samosas from two ladies on the street corner. We got chatting about religion, and I shared the reason for my faith – that through Jesus Christ alone can we have a certain hope for the future.
- As I left church a couple of weeks ago, a voice called out, “Subiri” (“wait”) – it was a lady from church heading the same way. She knew my name (as most people do at church) but I didn’t know hers (as is usually the case!) and I learned about her family and I visited her market stall (where she sells tomatoes and lemons) and her home.
Of course, there are also the less pleasant encounters, such as people calling out ‘mzungu’ as I pass by and staring at me, and there are the encounters that you just have to laugh at, such as children saying, “Tell me my name” – they obviously haven’t quite grasped how English possessive pronouns work!
God certainly made each person unique, and He also made us to be relational beings. I find myself more and more seeing the value and importance of relationships and friendships and spending time with people. And if we are made in God’s image, doesn’t this need for relationship also reflect something of how God wants to be in relationship with us? Does it also teach us something about how God is more interested in us spending time with Him than He is in all the things that we might seek to do for Him (just like with Mary & Martha)?
I am looking forward to all the chances I will get to spend with people over the next few weeks – chances to see old friends and deepen new friendships, and most excitingly, the chance to welcome my parents to Mbeya! Karibuni sana!
Photo: Some of the people I have recently had the privilege to encounter - Sunday school teachers at a workshop in one of the language areas where we work.