I need to start with an apology. I haven’t done very well with communication. Not for lack of desire. When I moved to Tanzania, I thought I would do a blog post a couple times a month, a prayer update once a month and a newsletter four times a year. I know communication is important. What you might not know about me is that I struggle with anxiety when it comes to writing, an issue I developed in university and became much worse when I was completing my graduate degree. Once I get going and finish it, it is usually a pretty well written piece, but getting started is torture! I want to share my life with you all. I so value each of you and want you to be informed of the ministry you are supporting, but I freeze up, “What do they want to know?” “Didn’t I already write on this topic?” “Does anyone actually read these?” “ I feel like I am ALWAYS asking for money” “My life is so ‘normal’ to me now… now what?”
But now, because it has been so long since I have written, I think, “I have SOOOOOOO much to say I don’t know where to start” so here I sit in a coffee shop with so much swirling around in my brain. So here are some highlights of the past year:
- Last summer I was able to spend about 6 weeks at home, had a successful “Pizza night” fundraiser, 18 photo shoots, and raised enough money to buy a car and increased my support. Having a car has been a huge help for transporting students who might not have otherwise participated in events and coffee dates with students. While driving in Tanzania is nothing like driving in the US (we like to say its like playing a video game. Crossing roads are like playing frogger!), it has made life more normal and less stressful for me and greatly impacted my ministry!
- We welcomed 21 new students to grade 11 for a total class size of 38. I implemented a new orientation program that really seemed to help the students settle into HOPAC quicker and feel a part of the HOPAC community.
- God has really been moving and working in the students at HOPAC this year more than I have seen the last two years. I had more faith conversations in the first month than I had the last two years combined. We had an overnight worship and prayer event which 50 students (a little less than ½ of the senior school) participated. Our weekend Young Life camp had only 9 students last year. This year they had over 70!
- Pizza nights have also grown. I have been having 7-18 students almost every week. It has been a great opportunity for the G12 students to mentor the G11 students, foster great conversations about faith and the future, and just relax and have fun amidst the stress of being a student.
- Tanzania held elections in November. It was the first year there was an opposing party that seemed to have a chance of winning. Africa does not have a good record of peaceful elections. Tanzania was a shining example of what a peaceful election could look like. The new president is working hard to eliminate corruption and reduce unnecessary costs so Tanzania can be more self-sufficient. The result is many families that had money no longer have that income. Also the government is limiting expatriate visas/jobs so many families are leaving the country. As I am writing this letter, I am having a conversation with a new student whose parents are struggling to figure out how they will pay for tuition. Several students who were offered positions had to decline later because they were leaving the country, parents lost jobs or no longer had the funds they thought they would have. It is heart breaking because I know the impact a HOPAC education has on a student. They leave HOPAC more confident in who they are, their future, and their faith. I don’t think any other school in Dar es Salaam is doing that for students.
- I started an ACT after school prep course. The standardized test format of the ACT is foreign to our students. So we they need a little more preparation. Almost ½ of the students taking the ACT scored over 30 (21 is the international average. 36 is the highest possible score) opening many doors for scholarship in the US.
- 35 students graduated in June. Two students got into university with either full or near full scholarship. One will be going to Stanford the other to the Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania. Because of the financial climate, I have two students that will be taking unexpected gap years and one who is now hoping to get into a school in Ghana because the US is now financially out of reach.
- My dad came for my 40th birthday! He fulfilled his dream of seeing the great migration on the Serengeti and swimming in the Indian Ocean. It was a wonderful two weeks of sharing life in Tanzania with him.
- God’s Tribe, my church, moved from the movie theatre due to expenses. We are now meeting at HOPAC. I am also still active with the youth at God’s Tribe. The move has been great for the youth program giving us more room and many new families bringing many more students
- I am now the liaison/coordinator between God’s Tribe and Green Pastures, the orphanage. We are going monthly to their new beautiful home on the new property they own! We teach a bible story, play games, and continue to support them however we can.
So there is my attempt to summarize the last year in ten points.
- I am home until July 27 visiting family and friends while fundraising. I am still working to be fully supported. I need $150/mth ($1800) for the next school year and I also need to replace my camera ($1600). Pray for safe travels and that my needs will be met.
- After three years, the principle and I have decided we need to redefine my position. I am definitely filling a need, but as my job grows, we need to define the direction a little more. Pray for wisdom as we talk through this together and with other staff that I work with.
- Several of my close friends have said this coming year will be their last one at HOPAC. International communities learn to say good-bye often and it never gets easier. Pray we can make the most of the year ahead.
Please feel free to ask questions! Tell me what you would like me to write about next time and know that my lack of communication is in no way a reflection of my gratitude for your support or desire to share about my ministry and life in Tanzania.
Thank you again!