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Thank you for continuing to check our blog. We hope to keep it going with news from Tanzania, and our efforts here to help them. Tally wrote a grant, and now we are trying to select photos for a new powerpoint presentation. We will be going to two churches this Autumn to give talks, the people in Wyoming continue to amaze us with their generosity – they are looking at getting bikes for priests now. The first $50,000 of their grant has been received in Tanzania, they will apply for a continuation of the grant next year for another $50,000 and again the following year for the remaining $50,000.

Fritz Healy and his family, Emmanuel Episcopal Church here in Southern Pines, are sponsoring a student and we look forward to telling him the latest news and showing photos.

Watch the blog for information on the projects we will be working on for next year!! bye for now, Jessie

Some neighborhood scenes:

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Am having trouble. Cannot seem to settle in to my life back here. Have been ruminating over this going on two weeks now. Have painted, but am not happy with the results, it isn’t flowing. This is an alarming thing for one who paints for a living! I feel disconnected, distracted, by that I mean I cannot stick to anything, but wander around in my house as well as my mind. It is hard to understand intellectually. I mean there is much work to be done here for our projects there: Grants to be written, talks to be given. Here I have my beautiful home, my friends, my dogs, family a day’s drive away…so what’s the deal???

Whatever it is, it is deep. It is not just a case of wanting to do something “to give back”, meaningful. Goodness knows, we have those opportunities right here in my town. But, in Africa, I feel a connection to God and self. I cannot explain why I’m suduced by a land where the poverty, dirt, disease, strife, living conditions are so basic one bathes with a bucket and cup, is happy to have a cement floor (as opposed to dirt), limited diet. So, where is the seduction? It comes from the people as well as the land. The generosity, hospitality of those that give from nothing, it comes from working with other people from different countries who are all there working towards common goals. These goals are such human goals – PRIMEVAL goals. Not only did life begin for humans in Tanzania (remember Lucy?), but the people there still struggle with close-to-the-bone, life and death issues. And, there are the children. The children tug at my soul, their smiles, joy, hope.

Well, I guess we just have to be gentle with ourselves, give it time, and don’t try to do too much just yet…Jessie

Having moved around very little in my lifetime, I have only experienced homesickness twice (and it is a bad sickness) ~ once when Claude and I moved from Northern Virginia to Southern Pines, and now as I try to re-enter life in our very green and luxurious environment. Even the fading flowers of autumn are breathtaking. Still I am homesick for the barrenness of Dodoma, the dusty paths that we walked daily, and the sense of community among those who had virtually nothing. Jessie and I are trying to figure it out. When I told her that I missed Africa she asked me point blank what I missed. It took me awhile. “I miss the simplicity of life there,” I said, and we both put together vaguely our feelings of community, all of us working with a purpose or the same goal: to help God’s children. This is not to say we are special or have any claim to righteousness, just that it fed our souls. John Tampa’s sermon this past Sunday resonated with me ~ especially when I thought of the 4 little girls that had fallen in love with Jessie last year and watched them rush to her on that first day and embrace her as she in turn embraced them. “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

In many ways we are still in Africa ~ a foot in both world. Perhaps Africa gets in your blood and never leaves us. I went into Harken and Harkness the other day to have the battery in my watch replaced and Paul welcomed me home and said: “How was Africa?” and I started crying. I’ve not “lost it,” I am not delusional ~ I’ve just experienced Africa, and specifically Tanzania, the poorest country in the world. Lord have mercy.

It is clear to me that I am still pretty emotional about our experiences. Someone at Emmanuel asked me if it was WONDERFUL. The question took my breath away ~ “wonderful”, I thought? After thinking about it it occurred to me that it was filled with wonder. So I guess that makes it wonderful.

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A week ago we were on our way back home. Am glad that trip is behind us…34 hours of flying, transferring, waiting. First two days were physically challenging, wild sleep patterns, muscle aches, probably dehydrated.

Gone through 7 weeks of mail, caught up with family and friends, Tally has written a grant for $3,000. Hope that it goes through. Processing what we have learned, what we can do next to further the projects we are involved in.

Have started painting some of the scenes and people we saw, so would say – am back home. For now. Jessie

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Now I am not referring to the shortest book of the Old Testament, and who but biblical scholars even knows where it is? True Obadiah was a prophet and I had to go to the index to find his short little book. (Between Amos and Jonah if you are interested) Old Testament is actually a pretty good read.

But this Obadiah is not the prophet. He is a beggar who came to our house nearly every day. He looks worse this year than last and Sandy doesn’t think he will last much longer.

Remember, we were there in the dry season – they don’t have winter, spring, summer and fall. They have the rainy season and the dry season. In the dry season it is quite cool in the mornings and evenings and warm, even hot during midday.

Obadiah comes in the afternoon and I’ve never seen him in anything but a ragged wool overcoat, torn trousers, barefooted and with a stick and a filthy old bag. We gave what we had – a chunk of bread, a baggie of cooked rice, an egg, tomato and once I gave him some Knorr’s dry soup that had been left in our cupboard and of course he hadn’t a clue what to do with it. We tried to make him understand to mix it with water but I’m not sure he ever “got it.” Somehow, he knew my name for he would say “Tally” but Jessie and I both went to the door and both found scraps for him. Maybe he just couldn’t say Jessie. In all truth I confess that some days when we were busy at the computers or trying to take a little rest we would say to each other: “Oh, no it’s Shamba (his other name which I don’t get because Shamba means farm). There were times when we just wanted him to go away. It’s not easy to look at beggars. We are not saints, at least I am not, maybe Jessie is. But he would sit patiently on our porch muttering in Kiswahili, waiting us out and we would finally give up and look for something to share.

Obadiah/Shamba is also an alcoholic and it could well be that he sold whatever we gave him. Several times he would offer us a dirty, broken-down sandal (he only had one) and I couldn’t bring myself to even touch it.

Something happend on our last day though that humbled me and pierced my soul. I saw the image of a Christ-like figure and I hope this doesn’t embarrass Jessie. We had laid aside the clothes and towels that we were leaving behind including our athletic shoes. With the heart of Jesus, Jessie suddenly asked me: “Do you think Shamba could wear my shoes?” And with that she went back into the house and came out with her dirty running shoes. Now Shamba has a deformed hand but he sat down in the dust grinning his toothless grin to try to get them on. With that withered hand there was no way he could wrestle his feet into them, and then I watched my beautiful sister/friend bend down and force his filthy feet into her shoes. She did exactly what Jesus would have done ~ she touched a “leper.” Although I filmed it, it is a scene that is engraved on my brain and in my heart. I’ll NEVER forget it. I learned a lesson from Jessie at that moment. Those beautiful artistic hands that become poetic when she paints became the hands of Jesus forcing Obadiah’s feet into her shoes – feet that haven’t seen soap and water in heaven knows how long, if ever.

Maybe Obadiah/Shamba was a prophet after all for me. Everyone is sacred and should be looked upon with wonder and awe ~ everyone needs a “leg-up” or shoes put upon their tired feet even a filthy beggar. Maybe now, “all God’s children got shoes,” and Shamba didn’t have to wait to get to heaven to get his. Thank you Jessie, for opening my eyes.

You may have to wait for Anna Franklin Smith to post the pictures of this scene. Jessie may be a saint but sometimes even saints are stymied by technology.

Jessie is the sister of my choice ~ sisters examine each other so they can have a map for how they should behave.

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