Above all powers, above all kings
Above all nature and all created things
Above all wisdom and all the ways of man
You are here before the world begann

Lenny Leblanc*


— scroll down for English version —

Vor unserem Umzug nach Lindi machten wir uns über unzählige Dinge Gedanken und versuchten, uns unser neues Leben vorzustellen. Wie würde unser Haus und seine Umgebung aussehen? Was sollten wir einpacken? Gibt es in Lindi eine gute Schule für unsere Kinder? Wie ist das Wetter während der Regenzeit? Womit wir niemals gerechnet hatten war die große Zahl christlicher Missionare und der schöne und wertvolle Kontakt zu ihnen, der sich entwickelte. „Missionare“ meint nun nicht – plakativ gesagt – alte weiße Männer, die möglichst viele Menschen taufen. Stattdessen trafen wir auf eine japanische Familie mit drei Kindern, die seit 15 Jahren in Lindi lebt sowie eine amerikanische Familie aus Texas mit zwei Kindern, die seit drei Jahren in Lindi wohnt. Im nächsten Dorf, 25 km nördlich, leben zwei amerikanische Familien mit zwei und vier Kindern zwischen vier und 14 Jahren. Von Anfang an hießen diese Familien uns sehr herzlichen willkommen, luden uns zu gemeinsamen Treffen ein und waren und sind für uns und unsere Kinder zu wirklich wertvollen Kontakten geworden. Wir möchten heute einen kleinen Einblick in diese für uns völlig neue Lebensrealität und die Motivation sowie den Alltag dieser Familien bieten und tun dies in Form eines Interviews mit Lauren Pierce, der Mutter der texanischen Familie in Lindi. Lauren und ihr Mann Jason sowie ihre zwei Jungs Silas und Noah kamen 2015 nach Lindi und arbeiten für „Serving in Mission“ (SIM). SIM ist eine internationale und interkonfessionelle christliche Missions Organisation, die 1893 gegründet wurde. Die SIM Missionare leben jeweils für zwei Jahre im Ausland, sind dann für ein halbes Jahr im Heimatland und kehren für weitere zwei Jahre zurück ins Ausland.

— English version —

Before coming to Lindi we thought about countless things – e.g. which stuff to take with us or how to learn the language as soon as possible. Also, we tried to imagine many aspects of our future life – what will the place look like where we are going to live? Is there a good school for our children? What is the weather like during rainy season? What we never expected to find in Lindi were christian missioners! Talking about missioners – we don´t mean old white men, baptizing as many people as possible! Instead we met one Japanese family (three children) who has been living in Lindi for about 15 years and one American family from Texas (two children) who has been living here for three years now. In the next village 25 km north of Lindi there are two American missionary families (two and four children). From the very beginning on these families gave us a warm welcome and invited and included us in their joint activities. We and our kids are very thankful for their friendship and with this blog entry we want to provide an insight in their motivation, their challenges and their everyday life in this region. As we do not feel ready to give this insight by ourselves I conducted an interview with Lauren Pierce, the mother of the American family in Lindi. The Piercens first came to Lindi in 2015 and belong to “Serving in Mission” (SIM). SIM is an international and inter confessional Christian mission organization, founded in 1893. The SIM missionaries stay abroad for two years and go on home assignment for six months before their return for another two years and so on.

After church everybody is invited to come to Pastor Johanna´s house.

The Interview:

Wiebke: Originally you and your husband come from Texas. What were you both working back home? Why/how did you decide to change your life radically and move to Tanzania?

Lauren: Before coming to Tanzania, I was a second-grade teacher and Jason worked as a logistics manager at a freight forwarding company. We both felt called or lead by God to quit our day jobs and move to Tanzania in obedience to the conviction that we both felt to share our faith with others.

Wiebke: When did you come to Lindi for the first time? Had you ever been to Tanzania or another foreign country before? How did you choose especially Lindi?

Lauren: Neither Jason or I had ever been in Tanzania before committing to live here long term. We both had been to Kenya and I worked as an English teacher for a short time in Hong Kong as a part of my studies at University.

After going to Kenya together we were hoping to have some sort of clarity as to what to do as missionaries. One of the things we noticed while we were there is that there were A LOT of missionaries and expat workers. We wanted to go to a place where the need was great but the ‘goers” were few. At the time we were working with our sending organization SIM to find a location. They sent us the job descriptions they had for all of East Africa. Jason and I looked through them separately (about 15 positions) and we both picked the same one. We took that as clear direction from the Lord that he wanted us in Lindi, Tanzania. Jason would be working as a Bible teacher and disciple maker and I would also be involved with church development through children’s and women’s ministry.

Wiebke: What about your preparation – which kind of preparation did you go through (e.g. language course)?

Lauren: Jason went back to school to earn his masters degree a year before leaving and I took several online courses on Bible and cross-cultural sensitivity. We also attended a 4 week training in America for language acquisition and cross cultural acclimatization. Once we arrived in Tanzania we studied Swahili for four months in Iringa.

Wiebke: What was your start like in Lindi? Which support did you get from other fellow expats/missioners?

Lauren: Start up in Lindi was very difficult. We had to get used to many things such as the extreme heat and humidity, power outages, limited water and sometimes no running water. I (Lauren) had to re-learn how to cook and do laundry, both of these things I was very capable of doing in America but in Tanzania it was totally different. I remember being so frustrated the first time I made bread from scratch! We ate many meals very late at night because I didn’t realize how long cooking would take when nothing is pre-packaged or prepared. Our teammates, the Shimizu family, were a huge help to us! In the beginning they invited us over for meals many times and would bring any left over food by. This helped me greatly as I struggled to keep food on the table at first (had not yet hired house help.) We were warmly welcomed by our teammates and they understood so many of our struggles. Of course, another big challenge was language. Even though we studied the language fulltime for four months we found that the dialect on the south coast was very different and difficult to understand. Our teammates are from Japan as well so that also presented us with another first. As we were acclimatizing to the Swahili culture we were also learning how to communicate well and be sensitive to our Japanese teammates. However, God really guided and helped us as a team! Being a part of the body of Christ can bring anyone close together. We have many of the same passions and desires and we receive great joy from serving together and learning about each other and our struggles.

Wiebke: For how long will you be living in Lindi?

Lauren: We do not know how long we will be here. We have been in Lindi now for three years and we desire to stay until we feel a peace and direction from God to return home.

Wiebke: What does your work in Lindi consist of? What does a “normal day/week” in Lindi look like for you, your husband and your two boys? 

Lauren: Our weeks can vary a lot. Most of the time however, Jason has several different meetings and Bible studies that he leads throughout the week. We both share in house work and taking care of our 2 sons. Throughout the week I am working with the women at Mama wa Nuru. Mama wa Nuru is a group of women who serve in ministry at different churches all around Lindi. Izumi, my teammate, and I have helped them to begin a small business where they make handcrafts and baked goods. Jason also preaches once or twice a month on Sunday mornings and also works with many local pastors to share the gospel of Jesus through different avenues. Some weeks he has more administrative tasks to take care of with our workers and our organization. Daily life here is very busy but often filled with very different things than you might see in a western society. We constantly have visitors through out the day that we are talking with, something always seems to need fixing around the house, and what seems to be a simple job somehow ends up being complicated in a place with limited resources. We find a lot of joy in being together so much as a family though. Our sons are ages 2 and 4 and keep things fun around the house. Our oldest attends a local pre-school 3 days a week and I also homeschool him a bit on the days he is home with me.

Wiebke: Can you tell us a little bit about the ups and down of your life in Lindi? Were there moments where you wanted or want to go home or doubt your life in Lindi? Which were/are the moments when you experience/feel that you are in the right place at the right time?

Lauren: There are so many ups and downs, sometimes you feel this in one day, and other times its more seasonal. The first month we were here we had what we like to call “oh crap!” moments. Moments when we feel like we have made a terrible mistake and life here is much harder than we ever imagined! However, God always helps us through these times. He guides us, leads us, and reminds us of his goodness and blessing in the struggle. We never came to Lindi to fulfill our own happiness, we came for the glory of God and I think this is what also helps us through hard times. We are confident, even on hard days, that we are where we are supposed to be. Explaining that confidence and how we have it is a bit difficult. The only way I really know how is through my faith. We believe that Jesus sacrificed everything, including his own life so that we might be free from the bondage of our sin. Knowing Jesus and what he has done for us, helps us to want to live selflessly for others. Now believe me, we do not do this perfectly! We struggle all the time with a desire to run from it all but like I said before, God is our strong tower and by his grace we stay for another day, another week, another month, another year. Every year seems to get better as we learn more Swahili and begin to understand the culture more and more as well. It takes time and commitment. We also receive a lot of joy from the work that we do. We love sharing our faith with others and helping people grow in their faith and knowledge of the Bible. I also really enjoy working with the women at Mama wa Nuru. It gives them so much confidence to learn new things and for them to see their talents and ability to earn income and help their families. Some of these women used to ask me for money, now they ask me for work. This is a huge accomplishment in my eyes. They can earn money for themselves which impowers and enables them in so many ways. Seeing this progress and my husband seeing his students grow in their faith and knowledge really gives us a lot of energy to keep going as well. Progress might seem slow going at times, but it’s there and we are thankful to see it!

Wiebke: How do your kids adapt to the life in Lindi? What are the main challenges when living in Lindi as a family with children compared to a life you would be living in America?

Lauren: This might be one of our biggest struggles in this season of life. Our oldest son is now four and though he has lived in Lindi longer than he has lived in America now, he still faces challenges. Just as much as we feel like outsiders at times, I think our son feels this way as well. He looks different, speaks a different language, and has more than most in our community. He does really well when we have one or two children at our home. It gives me a chance to communicate and help him to communicate with his visitors. Most of the time though, one or two kids at our house can multiply to 10 or more very quickly. I think this can be overwhelming at times. I believe he is learning though and it will take time but I hope that he can have some good local friendships in the future. He also attends a local pre-school which gives him opportunity to play with other children. We are very thankful that he is accompanied there by your son Kalle. Their friendship has been so helpful to Si! Both of our boys love the simplicity of life here. They have a nice big yard to run around in, plenty of space to be kids and so many great things that they get to see and experience. They love the ocean and the times when we get to see wildlife. In America I feel we might have many more distractions and obligations as a family. Everyone seems to have their children involved in a million activities. Activities are great, but sometimes I think a more simple life without so much busy-ness can be good for a child and their creativity. I do miss the ease of friendship for my children though. When we are in America it is effortless for my kids to play with others, which is much different than here.

Wiebke: How is your work accompanied by people in Texas? Do you have regular contact to your home church? How do people in Texas see your work in Lindi – which kinds of reactions do you get when you are home?

Lauren: As of now we do not host teams of people or volunteers from Texas. We hope that this will be an opportunity in the future. We are in the beginning stages of building a school and we believe this will be a great way for our community back home or other volunteers to get involved. Our community back home does pray for us and give to us financially. Most of our financial support comes from our home church as well as 3 other churches. We send out newsletters about every three months and we also have a facebook page. When we go home we spend a lot of time traveling to different churches and speaking about our life in Lindi. People are really encouraged by the work God does through us here and they love to hear about how God is moving in different parts of the world. Its always an encouraging time for us to be home!

Wiebke: Thank you very much for this insight!




Further Reading / Zum Weiterlesen

Homepage von Serving in Mission (SIM)

Artikel über Familie Shimizu in „SIM heute“ (Schweiz) 01/2010 

Homepage von „Missionare auf Zeit“, weltwärts Entsendeorganisation für junge Freiwillige

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