Orthodox Christian Mission Center’s Blog

October 27, 2011

Update from OCMC Missionary Maria Roeber

Farah na amani! Joy and Peace!

Hello from Tanzania! The two months since my last letter to you have been extremely busy, but very educational and beneficial to me.

First, I was blessed to find a wonderful language and culture teacher, a lady named Methodia who grew up here in Bukoba, and also lived in England and Germany for close to twenty years. I’d prayed to God for weeks prior to my arrival here that He would send me the “right” nurturer from the start, and so He has: Mama Methodia has adopted me as her fifth child, and proudly declares that I will be speaking Kiswahili by Christmas. We are using a method of language acquisition where the first 100 hours of study do not involve me speaking, but rather listening to her speak to me, just the way infants first listen to their parents speak to them before they attempt to imitate sounds. I’ve been surprised both at how much fun I am having, and also at how quickly I seem to recognize many words. While I am not required to speak Kiswahili in class, I am allowed to use it as I feel able in normal activities, so I am becoming more comfortable greeting people and holding very simple conversations. My greatest delight is walking around town and having children attempt to greet me in English and being able to respond to them in Kiswahili. Yesterday as I walked along the beach to get to class, three children playing nearby watched me very solemnly until I asked them, “Habari ya mchana?” (How is your afternoon?) Their eyes got big and round, and the littlest boy who was about two or three squeaked out, “Shikamoo! Nzuri!” (Shikamoo is a greeting of respect to an elder. Nzuri means fine, or good.) It’s fun when I start running into the same group of kids each day on my way to school. There’s one family with three small children whose home I pass each day, and without fail the kids start waving excitedly when they see me. I feel less anxious about being in a foreign place and more welcome with each passing day, for which I am extremely grateful.

Most people ask me what a typical day is like, so I will attempt to answer that question very briefly. Every day starts at about 7 am, when the bells for Matins ring next door at the church. We attend Matins every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday it’s Matins and Liturgy. After service we enjoy a hot breakfast made by Mama Christina, our cook and housekeeper. After that it’s usually time for some chores—either going to the market or to pay a water or electricity bill, stop by the bank, or stay home and do laundry or clean my room. Then I spend an hour or so listening to the language lessons from the previous day, which I record and can store on my iPod. I also spend a little time each day preparing for the next language session—we have a curriculum provided for us, but it requires some thoughtful planning to execute well. Then I spend some time answering emails or updating my Facebook account, which I know many of you follow. It’s such a blessing to be able to communicate with folks from home so easily! Usually Mama Christina has lunch ready for us by 12:30, and by 12:45 I am out the door to walk down to the lake for my class. In the afternoon when I return I make myself a cup of tea and a snack and start the process of transferring the language recordings from that day’s session onto my computer, and then listening to them for another couple of hours, as well as reviewing previous sessions. I also usually do some more emailing at that point. By six we are back at church for Vespers, and then I make my own dinner—usually something simple. The evening might include more study, doing some relaxing reading, writing to my support team by email or “snail mail,” or chatting with my roommates about the day. Sometimes I get to call my family or friends, too! I try to get ready for bed by about 10, and am generally asleep by 11. On any particular day we might have visitors drop by, which changes the schedule a bit, and I am learning to be flexible with how to organize activities here.

Many people have asked for updates about how the work at the Orthodox clinic is going. My primary responsibility during the first six months to a year of service here is to focus entirely on language and cultural acquisition. People here generally do not speak much English, and without studying Kiswahili, I will not be able to care for patients without a translator. As the clinic will be functioning with the help of us as volunteers to staff it, there’s not provision for the hiring of translators. It has been challenging for me to “stop” being a nurse and to feel like I am “not working,” but the truth is that by working hard at language study I am building the foundation upon which my later nursing practice will depend. The Orthodox clinic is currently awaiting registration through the Tanzanian government in order to reopen. It was closed because it had originally been registered as a “hospital,” but since we cannot meet the staffing requirements to function as such, a new application had to be submitted. Please keep the registration and government approval of the clinic in your prayers. My hope is that the clinic will be ready to open at the same time that I am ready to focus more on direct patient care and less on language study, but I am also open to God’s will and am trying to accept whatever He asks me to do.

As many of you are aware, I did have the opportunity to use my medical background to conduct a health care needs assessment for the Turkana in northern Kenya last month, which is one reason you haven’t heard from me in a while. My fellow missionaries and I are also busy preparing to welcome an OCMC medical mission team that will provide medical care to rural areas in Tanzania for two weeks in October. My next update will include more detailed information about the trip to Kenya and about our preparations for the October team, and I’ll be sending it out shortly after this letter.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your faithful prayerful and financial support that sustains me here! I pray for all of you every morning when I thank God for allowing me to be here, and I thank you, too! Glory to God for all things!

Yours in Christ,

Maria

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