“Eleni najua tumekuwe wachungaji wako mimi na mama pamoja na familia yangu. Leo tunakuaaga. Kunahudhuni. Tunabaki Kapenta, Tanzania na wewe unakwenda Merikani, USA. Na le tunakuombea mfuatane na mchunga huyu -Zaburi 23:1-6- Mungu akipenda tutaonana. Amen”
“Erin, I know I have been your pastor (shepherd) along with me family. Today we say goodbye. There is sadness, as we stay here in Kapenta, TZ and you leave for the United States. And today, we pray for you to follow this Pastor (Shepherd) – Psalm 23:16 – If it is God’s will, we will see each other again. Amen.”
It was May 2009 and my heart was breaking. I was packing up my life as I knew it, and was saying goodbyes to precious people and to beautiful places I called “home.” It seemed like everything I did was another one of the many “lasts” that went on that week: last hike to the waterfall, last Girls’ Group, last afternoon playing with the little ones, last church service, last trip to Lake Rukwa, last Pizza night, last visit to Esta’s house, last Valley mango, last real rice and beans meal, last swim in the Rabenolds’ pool, last roof rack ride, last circle hand shake greeting time, last time hearing the drums and hyenas as I fell asleep, last hike with Dad up in the woods, last trek to the village with mom, last scary trip in the dark to the generator with my brother, last night sharing a room with my sisters. Even now, I can’t write these things with out eyes brimming with tears as I relive those emotions and experiences.
A treasured memory during this time was when our pastor of the Kapenta church and his family came to say goodbye. We talked, prayed, and all cried a lot. They are incredible people that love the Lord, each other and others so much. They exemplify so much of God’s character and I thank God for putting them in my life. The above is the picture/letter that they left with me that day. Pictures are treasures to the Tanzanian people and I feel humbled to have been given such a beautiful one. He prayed as I left my home for college, that I would stay close to the Lord, and I would follow the Good Shepherd. I am so thankful that he prayed these things. So thankful for the prayers of God’s people. He also prayed that one day, we would get to see each other again. I was able to visit twice during college, but it has been almost four years since I have seen this family, and returned to my precious Rukwa Valley, but God answered his prayers from those six years ago. In May 2015, my husband, Zechariah, and I will be returning to Tanzania for a three-week mission trip with a couple other people. Once again, I will be blessed with the opportunity to serve alongside these people. God is so good.
I have been so amazed by the faithfulness of God in my life as he leads and directs me through the mountains and valleys of life. I am not the only person with a past filled with cultural transitions, goodbyes and locked up treasured memories. GMI alone has 39 MKs (college age and younger). I know God used the prayers of Paskali and Mama Yakobo to change and impact my life. You could be someone whose prayers God uses to change and impact the lives of our MKs and their families.