One Week in a New World

We’ve been in Moshi for one week. What an amazing, awe inspiring moment in our life!

Moshi is located in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro and some of the new surroundings remind me of Montana. The clouds have kept the old mountain peak hidden this whole week. We’ve seen glimpses of the snow covered peak, but the old giant disappears into the clouds.

The driving roads change from paved road to dirt, to rocky, to washed out in an easy one mile drive from Moshi city center to our new home in the Shanty Town district (I love that name!). In some ways, it’s just like a drive from our old home in Colstrip out to our pastor’s ranch house.

The vegetation, landscape, and some of the house design in our neighborhood reminds me of south Florida, or north Mexico (just across the Texas border) or even pictures of beach towns in southern California. But then the trees remind me I’m in Africa.

I thought that I would feel like I’m in a foreign land the moment I stepped foot on the ground, yet the landscape doesn’t disorient me like I thought. The real trigger for culture shock is the culture. The land lets me think I’m somewhere in North America, but the sounds of Africa and the markets of Moshi don’t allow such confusion.

Nearby conversations don’t carry familiar words or sounds. There is no Walmart. There are no stop signs or traffic lights (just alot of traffic).  The easy swipe of a credit card is not a part of the shopping experience (Dave Ramsey fans would be happy). Canned and processed foods are more like luxury items, not the norm. Even a quick trip to the store requires a stack of money (Tanzania Shillings) compared to one or two US bills.

I think I’m feeling more of convenience-shock than culture-shock. My common conveniences are missing as I wait to discover new ones.

The first week of missionary life is culture immersion. Learning to thrive in a culture, in Christ honoring ways, is no insignificant task. Adopting a culture is the way to relationship with the people of that culture.  If you misunderstand the culture, you miss the people.

We miss the known comforts of America, but we are willing to find new ones here.  I could wait for traffic lights to be installed before I drive or I can learn to drive like the Tanzanians. I could write to Walmart and request they bring a store to Moshi or I can learn to shop like a Tanzanian. I could prefer to use a credit card or I can refresh my mental math to quickly sort through tens-of-thousands of shillings (yes, tens-of-thousands) for just a few items at the market. I could wait for a long time for convenience to come to me and never form relationships with the people of Tanzania. Or, I could learn my new home.

The Stewarts are happy to be in our new home even though disorientation is a part of the first steps in creating a new home. The kids started part days at a local school and will take Swahili lessons at least once a week. Autumn and I deep dive into Swahili lessons on Monday.

We are thankful that Aunt Grace came along for the first six weeks of this adventure. We are thankful for all the prayers made on our behalf. God is listening and blessing us with great favor as we make the transition to East African living.

Missing comfort is overcome by peaceful joy. Finally arriving in Moshi increases our faith even more knowing all that God has done to get us here. As our faith rises, our joy increases, and both of these propel our momentum to go.