I never anticipated how difficult it would be to say goodbye. Going to church today for the last time was very sobering as I realized how many friends I have in Tanzania. The branch presidency was reorganized, a missionary being transferred gave a powerful testimony, we had two investigators there who felt the spirit strongly, and the lesson I taught in primary went well. I’m so thankful to belong to a church where I can feel the Spirit strongly in Africa as well as I can in my home ward. I’m thankful that the things that happened in Jerusalem have permeated all the earth and every person I meet, no matter where, all benefit from that great Atoning sacrifice of our Savior and can feel His love. I’m so thankful that everyone can learn for themselves that the Church is true through the Holy Ghost.
I hope I can always remember the people and the scenes here, even when I am back in the US living comfortably. How I wish all the boys selling snacks at the bus station were in school instead, that the children in the neighborhood were not malnourished, that the village of Morombo wasn’t hopelessly littered and so many people perpetually drunk, that women didn’t have to go to church with raw hands from doing laundry by hand, that free primary education meant quality education for everyone, that fathers were involved more in families, that every child had shoes, that Anna who takes care of 12 orphans in her home had someone to help her take care of them, that Neli who is going to university had the laptop she needs so badly. There is so much saving to do, and I lie awake wondering if I’ve really done any of it. No matter how badly I wanted to make a difference in other’s lives, the biggest difference was made in me. I don’t know how someone can come here and not leave a happier, improved person. After having to walk everywhere on rough dirt roads, how can one complain about having to walk to work on sidewalks or having to drive a junky car? After seeing how almost everyone here gets malaria at some point in their lives, no one has perfect teeth, no one has vision care, how can I complain about an occasional flu or about imperfect skin? I hope I can always remember the discomfort of most of the world that lives in developing countries while I sit in air-conditioned comfort at a wonderful university. I hope I will always remember to live simply so others can simply live, as Ghandi put it.
But even though it may seem like there is a lot of “saving” to do, I believe the answer is to help those in need to help themselves. However, the vicious cycle of poverty and corrupt governments and a variety of other factors make it very difficult, seemingly impossible at times. I’ve really come to realize that while we try to change people’s lives, Christ is the one who changes people who can then change themselves. “The world would take people out of the slums, but Christ takes the slums out of people who then take themselves out of the slums.” (Ezra Taft Benson)
Basically, all my rambled thoughts have one common denominator: I have learned so much from the good examples of people here, and I hope I never forget them. I am thankful Christ is always there to help them, and that He can never forget them because they are engraven on the palms of His hands. My friends here are so dear to me and as I am saying goodbye over the next few days I wish so badly I could say that I knew when or if I was coming back. Will I ever be able to wave to Mary who sits on the tire all day long again? Or talk to the enthusiastic Robert who sells paintings in town? What about Terian at church who knows all the answers in Primary even though his parents go to a different church? Who will hold Noel on their lap every Sunday and let him color in their notebook? What will come of Godi, the little boy who runs wild around our neighborhood with his homemade cars and toys? Will the girls in our health class have opportunities to work towards the lofty goals they all wrote down for themselves?
I will miss Anna terribly and her unending optimism, recognition of miracles and God’s hand in her life, and generosity.
Godi, who never fails to make me smile even though neither of us understand a word of the other’s language.
Some of my favorite primary kids. But who am I fooling? They’re all my favorites.
I may be flying out of Tanzania on Wednesday, but I’m not really leaving it.