Tanzania to Texas – Part 1

Sorry it’s been longer than I’d planned between writings. I was studying for my final. But I’m back now. And I had said in an earlier post that I’d tell you the “I’m in Africa, man,” story later. I had thought it would be later than this, but something’s come up and I think now would be an appropriate time.

It all started in the Spring of 2004. (WOW! just realized it’s been 10 years! What a long, strange trip it’s been!) I was sitting at the bar when a friend, Scott, came in and started talking about going on a trip to Africa. He was in a quandary because they told him he needed to fund raise 1/3 of the cost of the trip. He said he could afford the whole amount on his own and felt bad asking people for money to pay for his “vacation.” “How do I do it, anyway?” he asked me.

I had just completed a fund raising effort for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, so I told him, “Make yourself up a letter and talk to EVERYONE you meet about what you’re doing. You never know when someone may slide a five down the bar and say, here, take this with you.” As I said it, I actually did slide a five down the bar to him. He laughed and said, “Yeah, I get it,” as he slid the five back to me. “But Scott, you never know when someone may slide a five down the bar to you and say ‘Here, take this with you.'” Again, he said, “Yeah, I get it,” as he slid it back to me. “NO, SCOTT, you never know when someone will slide a five down the bar and say “HERE TAKE THIS WITH YOU!”” He finally got the message and took my $5.

When he got home, I was the only one at the bar who wanted to know about what he really did while he was in Tanzania. Each time he tried to tell me, we’d get interrupted by someone asking if he saw elephants or monkeys. This went on for a few weeks and was getting quite annoying. (I did, however, get the story of how my $5 paid for a “female operation” for one of the women in the area. Yes, that’s right, just $5 paid for the entire procedure!) Finally, one day, Scott came in and as we were having the conversation, or the attempt at conversation, he told me that his church was having a free spaghetti dinner that Saturday and he was going to talk about his trip. I refused because I didn’t do church. There was no way he was getting me in those doors. We’d get around, eventually, to getting the story out at the bar. We tried again, and just as he was getting into it, someone ELSE came and asked about elephants and monkeys. I gave in. After all, it was just dinner and his story, uninterrupted, right!?!

So, Saturday I went to his house and got in the car with him and his wife, and off we went. It felt REALLY strange walking in to this place. But, there was no major earthquake and fire didn’t burst forth from the bowels of the earth as I entered. It was just like walking into any other building. But! Once we were there, once I was trapped with no way to escape, he dropped the other shoe – right on my head! “Oh, by the way, we have a Saturday night service and Pastor Scott is going to speak first.” Many unkind words, sprinkled liberally with expletives swirled in my head, but I was inside a church (semi-voluntarily for the first time in 40 years) so I couldn’t say any of them. I’m sure the look I gave Scott told him what I was thinking!

There I was, in the sanctuary of a church, sitting through a church service that I had no desire to sit through. And then it happened, just as Scott said it would, even though more expletives swirled through my head when he said it. “Don’t worry, Pastor Scott is really cool and you’re going to think he’s talking right to you.” And so he was. He was talking to me and he was making direct eye contact and his words were shooting into me and straight into my heart. And the tears started flowing, and my heart was breaking. To this day I could not tell you what he was actually talking about, but I know it was meant just for me. And afterward, we ate and Scott talked about Tanzania, and people and names and faces spun around me and it was all a big whirlwind.

All I really knew after that was that I had to go back there again. And I really didn’t know how I was going to do it, because there was NO WAY I wanted my family knowing that I was going to church! But there was no way I could stop myself from going. It would be over 5 years before I missed a Sunday from that first time. You might even say that I went religiously! (Sorry, it was there, I had to use it.) And I learned and I grew in my relationship with the LORD.

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