We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Waiting: Present to the Moment

Waiting. Tanzanians are brilliant at waiting. I am terrible. And so recent busy weeks have been a struggle and a challenge for me! For months we have waited for workmen to build a culvert and bridge at our gate and fix the serious flooding issues on our property. They finally started digging a ditch around our house on Monday last week. They returned on Tuesday but because our neighbours needed a new toilet hole, they started digging a toilet hole instead. And so a week later, the mud from weeks of rains and the Monday moat remains (yes, it's a feat to get in and out of our house!) and we have more water than ever filling up 'round the clock downstairs. And as for the toilet hole... I didn't understand that at the time, but maybe now can accept they had a point of priority?
Our front steps disappear into The Moat

The Mud
Getting out the front gate to go to school!
Waiting. On Monday morning we waited 3 hours in Kisesa for a meeting to start. On both Tuesday and Saturday afternoon I sat for over an hour or two on a brick, in the muddy ground, waiting for women to arrive for our Upendo wa Mama group meetings. On Wednesday we waited over 2 hours for someone to arrive at another meeting and on Thursday Tim waited 3 hours in town for new tires. I wish I could say I have now mastered the art of waiting. But I haven't and I still get frustrated, especially when things are so busy. In my head I really do understand how things work here and have grasped the concept of cultural contexts etc. In my head I can see how I can make the most of every opportunity... but somehow my emotions have yet to catch up (which is usually the case. But even more so at the moment!).

But amidst the waiting this week, we bumped along the rough, muddy track to the Church Planting school in Kisesa. And we saw seeds we planted in October now flourishing! It is so good and encouraging to see the fruit of some waiting! We are once again amazed at the difference in colour and size of the seeds planted with compost and mulch compared with those without. Even after just a few weeks above ground, the seeds planted with the new methods are a healthy green colour, tall and strong.

Mulched maize in the foreground.
Notice the pale colour and small size of the maize behind.
And something else much waited for ... I was so excited to discover that sometime in between our Monday and Friday visits, bees took up residence in the Kisesa hive! I had placed our worst hive in Kisesa, figuring we probably wouldn't get bees there as the forage for bees seemed so limited. The hive had already crashed to the ground in the winds and was precariously balanced at an angle unrecommended by the experts. But those bees must have loved all that canavalia we planted, because they were happily buzzing in and out of that rather inferior, unbalanced hive! 
Bees in the Hive!
We thought out our plans for the future of this shamba. We plotted spaces for tree varieties, crop varieties, a vegetable garden and medicinal garden. And with Joseph we planted another 40 trees (we have planted well over 150 now), starting a moringa tree section. And as I get excited about this, I realize that I can handle the fact that we will be waiting YEARS before most of this becomes fruitful and I think hidden in this fact is how I can make sense of waiting.
Planting trees
Ready to plant!

Moringa trees and aloe vera

Beans fertilizing the future medicinal garden area

Henri Nouwen makes very good sense of waiting. "The secret of waiting is the faith that the seed has been planted, that something has begun. Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it." I think my emotions when waiting often tell me to give up. But actually here, I am encouraged not to give up, but be actively (not passively) waiting, being present to the moment. This means I need to play my part (baiting the hives, planting the seed and tending the soil, doing my best to serve the mamas), but at the end of the day, the rest is out of my control and I can wait, trusting that God has it all in hand. And so I do feel fully present with those hives baited, waiting for bees and with these very small tree seedlings with nothing close to a mango or an avocado on them.

"We can only really wait if what we are waiting for has already begun for us... it is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more." We only wait because we know we are waiting for something. Whether I wait for the mamas or a daladala or a tree to grow, I do have confidence that something is happening, something is growing, and therefore I wait. It is part of actively being present to the moment! And that is what advent is all about. Waiting. Being present to the moment. Holding on to faith that something is growing. Whether that be a baby in Mary's womb, a kingdom without tears, or on a very practical level, a hive full of honey or a bridge through muddy waters.

I am not waiting here for a perfectly decorated Christmas tree or a perfect roast dinner and trimmings or beautifully wrapped gifts! But I am waiting in confidence that something is happening where I am, and even if I emotionally feel tired and frustrated, I want to be present to it!

And coming up in the next post... interesting things learned about medicinal plants and also more on our drive to church on Sunday which made all our previous drives seem rather tame ... and we've  had our fair share of  freaky journeys the past few weeks! And I haven't even started on the active waiting that's been going with my bees here at home!


  1. Thanks for your post. Wow, we're both missionaries Rachel, but our lives are so different (we live in Tokyo). However, the waiting is a common thread. Waiting for different things, but waiting. My best Japanese friend I've known for nearly 10 years now and have prayed for her for that long too. She still has no interest in knowing about God. The other big waiting thing that is common for all of us parents regardless of where we live is waiting to see how our kids will "turn out". We actively parent, but we have many years to wait to see the fruit of our labour.

    1. Thanks, Wendy! I enjoy stopping by your Edge of Ordinary blog!

  2. Your story of your waiting makes it easier to slog through the last busy days here before the holidays. You just reminded me what Advent is all about. Hope you get your ditch dug soon. God Bless and Merry Christmas!

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