Eugene Peterson uses this phrase taken from a Denise Leverton poem to describe his formation as a pastor. Every step an arrival. Becoming the person that I didn’t know I was becoming.
“Surely The Lord was in this place and I did not know it.” Such was the realization of Jacob after a night of wrestling with the circumstances of life that were not as he expected.
We move freely between two worlds. Freely, but not comfortably.
On Sunday, our Tanzanian driver asked us where we would like to eat. He gave us several price options. Because I didn’t have any Tanzanian currency, I asked for a place where we could use a Visa card. “I want to buy you lunch,” I said. He thanked me but said he only ate traditional food – something not available at a place that would take a Visa card. So, we asked about traditional food, and hearing his description, chose the traditional option. He would pay for the meal, then take us to a place where we could exchange our Kenyan shillings for Tanzanian shillings. We ate at an outdoor cafe, a setting much like what we would experience at an outdoor summer festival in Minnesota. Except our food came without silver ware. The traditional way to eat rice, ugali, chicken, and fish is with one’s fingers. I don’t think I had eaten this way since I gave up the “high chair” experience. It felt odd to be instructed on how to eat with one’s fingers without making a mess. Still, I made a mess! Amanda and I were the only caucasian persons among the twenty or so people who were eating. I would pause in my hands-on eating experience to watch those who were watching us. I wonder their impressions of us. We are the tourists. There is no disguising that. Our driver, a Masai, indicated this is the typical menu and manner of eating in his home. He has learned to eat fish. The Masai, he said, are afraid of fish. Traditionally, they eat beef and goat only.
At one point, we were driving through a small town marketplace. Our driver pulled to the side of the road so that we could observe. Amanda asked if she could take photos, and he replied that photos were permitted. But as she took photos from inside the car, I noticed obvious displeasure from persons who were watching us.
Moments like this, I wonder who is watching whom.
At any stop, we are approached with requests for money or persistent appeals to purchase some souvenir. There is no way that we can blend into the crowd.
Riding through a village on the way to my friend’s home for the night, people alongside the road watch us. No specific emotion that I can detect, but I wonder.
We come from one world and have entered another. We move freely, but not comfortably. At night, we lock ourselves inside, windows double barred and padlocked. It is for our safety, and yet a reminder that we can experience a night of safety amid a world of extreme need.
We step inside. We step outside. We move freely, but not comfortably. Surely The Lord was in this place and we did not know it.
Ever step an arrival. Living into the journey.
You are braver then I would be in that moment. God bless and keep you safe. Pat E.
I wish I was with you. You are having the experience that I am anxious to hear about. My prayers are always with you.
I never did get used to eating with my fingers, partly because I am not a fan of ugali. I am looking forward to Amanda’s pictures.
Thanks for sharing your adventure so that we may travel vicariously with you. Mizpah – Betty and Tom