Good Friday morning ...
I've got an itch ... and my sensitivity to it is increasing by the day!
It is not unusual for me to get an itch this time of the year. It has nothing to do with the end of school or the impending arrival of summer. This itch has everything to do with Africa ... East Africa ... more specifically Tanzania ... a place dear to my heart and to which I will return in just two short weeks.
One might expect that it is the excitement of seeing wild game that causes my itch. But that is not it at all. Oh ... I love to hear the distant hyenas calling to one another as they gather for a nighttime killing foray. And I thoroughly enjoy catching a quick glimpse of a herd of dashing Thomson's gazelle, or observing the slow grazing of wildebeest in the distance, or the infrequent, surprise surveillance of a pride of lions lazing on a grass-tufted incline. And I absolutely relish watching a herd of elephants whispering among themselves as they make their way across a dry riverbed ... not to mention surveilling a scattered herd of giraffe swaying across a wooded grassland.
But my itch is not about the thrill of watching native African creatures.
Nor is it the unique vegetation of the East African landscape that causes my itch ... the solitary baobab tree with its gigantesque bulk and primitive appearance ... the feather-leaved, sweet-scented umbrella acacia ... the fat sycamore fig and sausage trees ... or the ever-present umbrella thorn bush and the dry, brown woodland grass. These are all intriguing specimens and certainly catch my attention and draw my interest ... but not enough to cause an itch!
My itch is more simple ... basic human stuff ... for it has to do with the sights, the smells, the sounds of people ... Massai people in particular. And it's not the National Geographic image that causes my itch ... like the pictures of a Maasai herdsman, standing stork-like on one leg, leaning on his spear, unconcerned, while time passes without notice. Nor is it the image of the warrior, standing stern-like in his red shuka, his spear held proudly, his rangu, carved from an especially hard tree root, tucked in his belt out of sight. Nor is it the figure of an older woman sitting silently in the hot shadows of a hut, weaving palm fronds into mats or stitching beads into a necklace or pounding maize into powder for making a meal of ugali. Nor is it the image of dancing tribesmen ... leaping straight up and down, their spears glistening in the sun, their shrill whoops developing into a heavy, guttural, repetitive chant as the dance crescendo quickens
These are all wonderful images proudly housed in my memory and recalled at will. But they, too, do not cause this present itch!
My itch is simply to be there among them … with these Maasai people … to hear their spontaneous laughter, listen to their happy Swahili banter, observe their unique traditions and rituals and participate in their wonderfully simple lifestyle for a season. It is a marvel to unwind in the bush, away from the noise, the glare, the faux images of Western culture.
But more than that, my itch is to share my faith with some whose lives have been steeped n superstition and witchcraft and cultural taboos, with some whose lives have been confused with the intrusion of Islam and with some whose lives have already been touched by the Gospel grace of Jesus Christ.
And, in addition, my itch is to share this marvelous experience with some new and returning participants (a team of 15) who will join me in this three-week mission and who, no doubt, will be moved by these Maasai people whom God loves so deeply. And they, too, will be touched by the dry, harsh land in which these Maasai live and they will be blessed by unique experiences of the Maasai culture and traditions and they will be challenged to one day return, to long to see those warm, smiling faces once again, to walk their village slopes, to listen to their Swahili chatter and to again see the touch of God’s hand upon their lives.
Throughout these days of Spring, 2018, my itch has been a distraction … but I have only sixteen more days to scratch.
In the meantime, please pray for TEAM TANZANIA 2018 …