Greetings from Tanzania!
I am sorry it has taken awhile to send an “official” newsletter. I have sat down many times over the last 7 months to try to write you all. I am a photographer and not a writer so summarizing my life and all that has been happening here has felt next to impossible! God has been at work here in Dar Es Salaam, Haven of Peace Academy, and in my own life in so many ways. Hopefully many of you have been able to follow through my blog, prayer letters or Facebook. I am so thankful for each one of you who are praying and financially supporting my ministry here. I am in a privileged situation where my time is mostly outside of the classroom. I get to walk along side the students as they complete college applications, mentor them through fundraising projects, trip-planning projects, campus service assignments and various other tasks as well as teach a class once a week on transitioning out of high school in to university.
Instead of attempting to talk about the many experiences and parts of my ministry here, I finally decided maybe it would be best to hear what has been happening from the perspective of one of my students. She is one of my Grade 12 students and the part of my ministry that has been the most on my heart and in my prayers lately:
Miss Laarman could still be called relatively new to HOPAC but in the short time that she has been here she has made a positive impact on the school and its students. Apart from her job as a secondary college counselor (of which she is making great efforts to accomplish), she is seen around campus taking pictures of students at different events and capturing precious moments in the every-day school experience. Recently she has become very much involved in the proceedings of upper high school, especially 11th and 12th grade. As a senior, I have had the opportunity to create a personal relationship with her. She is always ready to listen, quick to provide help, slow to judge, very understanding and a devoted Christian (as evident in the things she does). Her sense of empathy makes us more willing to approach her with whatever troubles we may have faced or our joys. Her room is always open for us and that’s always an added bonus. She has such passion and love for her job and for teaching. It inspires me. I especially love the fact that she doesn’t keep relationships between students strictly professional and is keen on becoming a part of our lives without seeming nosey. I really wish she had come earlier in the year because I know she would have made my last high school experience even more memorable. – “Sue”
Now let me give you a little more back-story on Sue and her class. This year’s grade 12 class has a reputation for disrespecting authority, making poor decisions, and apathy. I have been teaching a Lifeskills class once a week consistently since March. We have been talking about transitioning to university. I had pretty much written this class off. I hadn’t really built any relationships and felt judged every time I went into their class. They didn’t know me and I was a first-time teacher limping my way through my first class. The last few weeks of Apri I thought, “well at least they have been told. Even if nothing sinks in and they don’t really care, at least they have been told.” The last assignment I had them write was an essay in response to an article on drinking at US universities. I could tell in most of the essays the students were saying what they thought I wanted to hear. The last one written by “Sarah” broke me. Nothing I read surprised me, but that day God really brought me to my knees through this essay.
Being born in this generation and in a country like Tanzania were the age restriction on alcohol [age 18] is not taken serious I can easily relate to this article. A child at a young age can be sent to the local “Duka” meaning shop and buy a beer or any alcohol claiming they have been sent without them being questioned at all…the shops here don’t care about age restriction but more about money, so on weekends one can imagine the amount of underage drinking that takes place. The only place people get asked for ID is in some clubs that are trying to do mass crowd control but not for any other reason.
In this city on weekends the crowd on teenagers go to wherever the alcohol is cheapest, at the moment there is a place in Masaki let’s call it “Johnnies” that sells shots for one thousand only [equivalent to 60 cents], this is where every teenager comes to get drunk on the little pocket money they get from parents thinking their child is simply at sea cliff or slipway ‘hanging out’. Every weekend there is a minimum of 3 teenagers passing out from too much consumption of alcohol or fights from young youth who are too drunk to make sense of anything.
I personally go to Johnnies because this is where every one of my friends goes to before the next stop for the night. This place has become so popular for its cheap price on alcohol thus why mass youth gather up in this place on weekends. – “Sarah”
Not only are my students dealing with normal teenage temptations they are living in a culture where these issues aren’t even being attempted to be controlled. There are 31 students in my class. 1 is Finnish, 2 are Korean, 2 are German, 1 is Dutch, 2 are Nigerian, 1 is Malawian, and the rest are Tanzanian. There are maybe 5 that we can say confidently are Christians. 5 are Muslim, One or two are Hindu and the rest either claim to be Christian but don’t walk the walk or are apathetic to religion. That night I lay in my bed and cried and prayed for hours.
God heard those prayers. The next day, Sarah, Sue, and one of the guys, “Henry” came to my office to work on a fundraising project. They sat in my office for over 3 hours. There had been an incident at the schools talent show a few days earlier that caused two of the three to be at odds with the school administration. That incident opened the door for some great conversation that day and several days over the last few weeks. The students in general had felt like no one wanted to spend time with them because they were “bad kids”. I know there are two sides to every story. I know the students brought the reputation on themselves and have built up walls towards authority. In fact, Sarah told me when she told her classmates she was going out for coffee with me, they told her, “Be careful. She is just using you for information.” Thankfully Sarah had been around me enough to know this wasn’t true. In one of our conversations, the students were talking about not sleeping well. I mentioned that I had a night the week before that I couldn’t sleep because of “you guys” meaning the grade 12 class. Sue asked, “Praying for us?” I relied, “yes.” To which she said, “Good because we need it.”
Please join in me in praying for this class. They are now writing exams and will soon be heading off all over the world for university. God, through HOPAC, is not done with this class and through my conversations and experiences with this students, I hope others will have a better experience as they finish their education at HOPAC.
Other prayer requests:
- As a direct result of conversations with these students, I have decided I need to move to a location where I can invite groups of students over to just hang out and get to know them better. I have found a place just down the road from where I am currently living at the same rent I am paying now. However, no one has ever lived in it and I need to furnish it with everything. My currently place provided all I needed. So I need appliances, furniture, pots and pans, dishes, etc. That is not currently in my budget but I am moving forward in faith knowing God will provide.
- I have also decided I am most likely going to be staying longer than two years here in Dar Es Salaam. In order for that to happen, I need to have more monthly support. Please pray that more people would consider being part of my financial team and support my on going ministry.
- I will be traveling home in June for 6 weeks for a conference, rest, and support raising. Please pray that traveling goes well for myself and several of our staff that will be traveling during that time as well. Pray also that I can rejuvenated and ready to tackle another school year, and that I can return to Tanzania fully funded for another year.
- I am attending a new church plant in Dar Es Salaam called God’s Tribe. I am active with the youth group and taking pictures for church events. I am also exploring the possibility of starting a post-high group (another reason I want a little bigger place). Pray for the leadership of the church as we explore our options for managing our rapidly growing congregation both in physical location of the church (we have outgrown our current facility) and in discipleship
Thank you again for your prayers and support. I look forward to sharing more about what God is doing Tanzania when I return this summer.