MK: Shelby Caraway – Tanzania

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of interviewing Shelby Caraway, a missionary kid (MK) from Tanzania, colleague, and friend. It was a pleasure being able to talk about her experiences in Tanzania and how it has impacted her worldview.

1. When did you move to Tanzania and what were your first thoughts upon arriving?

I was born in Muskegan, Michigan, and moved to Tanzania when I was 13. We were originally supposed to go there on a short-term trip but we fell in love with the people and culture and decided to stay there full time. I loved being in Tanzania. As a 13 year old, I loved the freedom to go outside without worrying about threats or dangers.

2. Can you describe some of the major differences between America and Tanzania?

In America, time is very important. You constantly feel like you have to be somewhere and do something; if you aren’t, you have this overwhelming urge to be busy even if you have nothing to do. In Tanzania, time is viewed differently. Relationships are valued higher than in America. When you see someone on the street, stranger or not, it is custom to greet them; even if you are busy and have somewhere to be, you stop and talk with them about their day, their families, and their lives. Coming back to America was very difficult because I had learned to value relationships and taking the time to get to know others. America, when I first came, seemed distant and the people seemed cold. When I returned to Tanzania, it was like coming home, back to where I felt I belonged.

3. Since you mentioned coming to America, other than time, was there any other culture shock?

[Laughing] Definitely. I can remember when I first came to America, I was somehow expected to be different than the rest of my peers. “How could you do that? I thought you were an MK,” some people would remark, some jokingly, some with disdain, and most misunderstanding. I can also remember drama in the dorms. Of course, there is always drama but let me give you an example. It was first semester of freshman year. A lot of people seemed wrapped up in what would be considered high school drama: crushes, rivalry, etc. I had a hard time understanding what people meant when they said they were “upset” or “having it rough.” Right before I left Tanzania, I had to help carry four dead bodies, all friends–that was upsetting and rough.

4. How do you think living in Tanzania has impacted your life?

I believe that living in Tanzania has given me a deeper appreciation for people. I help with orphans and children’s ministry when I go home [to Tanzania]. I love children and I hope to work with orphans after college. I also believe that being a missionary’s child has helped me to appreciate serving God wholeheartedly and that no matter what happens He is in control, even when hard times hit, which can happen quite frequently and unexpectedly.

Grace and Peace,

John Cook


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