Jaylen’s Tanzania Reflections…
On February 18, 2013, I got on a plane and headed for Tanzania. I traveled with Pastor Martin, my mom, my grandma, and 12 other excited Montanans. I thought I was just taking some time off from school and going on a great vacation. I had no idea that the course of my life was going to be changed. I had no idea that I would fall in love with a country that wasn’t my own. I had no idea that I would experience God in such a meaningful and beautiful way.
It is easy to see God in Tanzania when gazing at His creation. As I sat in the hot sun and looked out on the red-dust magic of the African landscape, I felt like I was witnessing how the world must have looked at its creation. The Ngoronogoro Crater was filled with such an abundance of elephants, zebras, gazelles, rhinos, lions, hyenas, ostriches and hippos that I wondered at God’s greatness at making such amazing animals. And, the Serengeti, with its wide open grasslands, acacia trees, and grazing giraffes, felt as sacred to me as any church.
I truly saw God’s presence in nature in Tanzania. But, I actually could feel God’s presence in the people of Tanzania. Tanzanians, by American standards, are poor people. But they are only poor in terms of money and things. They are very rich in spirit. Their relationship with God is overwhelmingly deep and personal. Tanzanians often walk miles to church to sing and worship with an energy that is awe inspiring. When it is time for the offering, they give shillings, and coins, and chickens, and fruit, and bunnies, and eggs, and sugar cane. They give whatever they have.
As we spent more time in Tanzania, I experienced God in the daily work of the people also. The Tanzanians are a welcoming people. I was told that neighbors will think something is wrong with you if your house is not filled with visitors. Tanzanians truly value family and friends. They also have a great respect for old people. They care for the sick and feed the hungry. They share whatever they have. They greatly value education. Teachers, civil engineers, doctors, and attorneys come from the simple classrooms equipped only with desks and text books. Everywhere we went I could see the Tanzanians making the most of what God had made available.
We can learn something about faith from the Tanzanians. We can learn to worship more openly. We can learn to trust that God will fulfill our needs. We can learn from the Tanzanians that God has graced us with amazing friends, and family, and neighbors and that we should take care of them with love, respect, and dignity. We can learn to welcome people with our whole hearts into our homes. We can learn to share our gifts and our fortunes even if we have little. We can learn to trust that God will take care of us all. We can learn to sing and dance with joy and praise. We can learn that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We can learn from Tanzanians that the world is small and that we all need each other.
On March 5, I returned home a different person. I feel like I matured in Tanzania. I feel like I learned hospitality, gratitude, and grace in Tanzania. I know that I will go back to Tanzania some day. I may go back as a student, or a teacher, or a volunteer, or even just a traveler, but I will go back. Until then, I will hold Tanzania in my heart and in my prayers.
Jaylen was 12 years old and in the 7th grade when she participated in a vision trip to Tanzania.
You too can travel to Tanzania on a vision trip thorough Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church.
Visit the Tanzania Vision Trip page on Our Redeemer’s website for information
on participating in this transformation journey.