13 May 2009

Sucky Internet + Tanzanian Visitor = Bad Blogger

The title pretty much covers the status of things at Chez Johnson. Here's possibly more information about our time with Pastor Luhwa than you'd like to know. I plan to return to regular blogging once I figure out what the starts-with-h-rhymes-with-bell is wrong with our modem.

We had the privilege of hosting Pastor Luhwa from Tanzania in our house Wednesday-Sunday of last week. Hosting a visitor whose primary language is not English can be a wonderful yet exhausting experience; spending so much time making sure you're understanding each other and trying to be a gracious host without being obsequious about it takes a lot out the most outgoing of folks like my Beloved, to say nothing of what it does to an introvert like myself. We have made a wonderful new friend in PL, however, and I'm so very thankful to have met him and learned so much from him; we would do it again in a heartbeat, and we're thinking and planning how to get to Tanzania sometime in the next few years to see this experience from the other side.

Pastor Luhwa arrived Wednesday night around 6:00, and we met Clement, one of PL's parish members, while we were greeting Pastor Luhwa. We gave Pastor Luhwa a completely American experience right away: we rushed through supper so we could get back to work quickly! Kristin and Pastor Luhwa headed off to Confirmation at St. Andrew's while our babysitter watched the girls so I could clean the kitchen. Then I left for the Lutheran Center and didn't see anyone awake until Thursday morning, since I usually arrive home at 11:00 or later Wednesday nights.

Thursday morning we had time for a good breakfast and some conversation with Pastor Luhwa. Ainsley and Alanna were a bit taken aback at our visitor, but they quickly grew comfortable with him. After Pastor Luhwa left for his day at the Iowa State Veterinary Medical Center, we went about our usual Thursday business. Thursday night was the Lutheran Center Choir Dinner at Dublin Bay, so I took our Tanzanian visitor to eat with our white midwestern kids at an Irish restaurant - a real cross cultural experience! He had the chicken sandwich, but found our discussion about Guinness and its merits fascinating. In the course of the meal Pastor Luhwa discovered that friends of his had visited Camp Ewalu and met one of our students, which delighted him to no end. He told me on our way home that he enjoyed the night very much. He also noted that my Volkswagen is a very nice car, and it took me a good while to explain that while it is a nice car, I probably shouldn't have bought it and the payments are more than I'd like to be paying. It was an interesting discussion at the very least.

Friday began with another breakfast and conversation and then Pastor Luhwa went to the doctor with Kristin and Alanna for Alanna's 9 month shots. After that they came over to the Lutheran Center and we all walked down to the Union for lunch. Pastor Luhwa had another chicken sandwich, and when I asked if he'd like to try some of my Panda Express, he told me that rice is what everyone eats in Tanzania and he'd rather stick with his chicken. He was interested that I was eating with chopsticks - I think he said he'd never seen someone do it in person before.

At noon Pastor Luhwa joined the "Theology for Lunch" crowd at the Center. He was obviously growing tired, but he did seem to be following our animated discussion, and he took notes several times. One of our gifts to him was the book we're currently studying, On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard Forde, and I hope he gets the chance to read it when he returns to Tanzania. At 1:00 eight of our students came to have coffee with Pastor Luhwa, which was a great turnout considering it was Friday of finals week and most of the University crowd were leaving town as quickly as they could. We had an hour of conversation about life at Iowa State and why campus ministry is important to our students.

After that conversation we came home and Pastor Luhwa took a nap while I read. Friday night we were joined for burgers and brats by our nanny, Lacey, her boyfriend , and Pastor Jesse Larson of Collegiate Presbyterian in Ames, who is a good friend of ours and an experienced traveler in Africa. The meal was a wonderful sharing of food and friendship, but the aftermath was even better. Jesse and I and Pastor Luhwa talked about politics African and American for at least an hour, ranging over many subjects and learning much in the process. We had a GREAT time with each other.

Saturday began with another big breakfast, at which time Pastor Luhwa mentioned how much he enjoys our "heavy" breakfasts. I didn't have the heart to tell him that most days we grab a bowl of cold cereal on our way from the shower to the door! Then we spent a leisurely morning puttering around the house before a shopping trip to Lowe's, where we bought potting soil and a few odds and ends I needed for yardwork. Then we had grilled chicken for lunch before entrusting Pastor Luhwa to another church family for an afternoon boat excursion near Des Moines.

Sunday morning we ended our time together with a final "heavy" breakfast and more conversation. Kristin and I both learned a lot about Pastor Luhwa's ministry over the week and consider ourselves very blessed to have had him as a guest in our house. As a matter of fact, our time with him will be the illustration I'll use for our campus ministry summer newsletter: just as we tried to provide kind hospitality in a strange land for Pastor Luhwa, so campus ministry seeks to provide kind, gracious hospitality and ministry to students in a new environment. We learned so much from him, and enjoyed his company tremendously. It was a great few days and I can't wait to join the AARLA meeting Thursday morning and see PL once again.

So, that's the story of our Tanzanian visitor. I'll close this with one of the few Tanzanian phrases I know: asante sana, Pastor, for blessing our lives last week!

Grace & peace,

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