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The Trip to Tanzania (don't read this post)

I think a bunch (most) of you know that I am going to Tanzania for a month this summer. If this is a new fact to you, or if this is a fact you don't particularly care about, or if you have any other reason at all, please feel free to skip this post. Because this is a post in which I ask for help. And I don't really like asking for help. I'm happier to have you skip this post and feel free of any sense of obligation or guilt than to read this post and then wonder if I'm secretly judging you for not helping me (I won't be).

The only reason I'm writing this post is because multiple people asked me if I would be writing a support letter, and could they support my trip to Tanzania. The answer, in the typical sense, is no - I cannot get you charitable receipts in exchange for money given to a "sending organization," and I have no plans to send glowing prayer reports of the great "ministry work" I do while I'm gone. But the actual answer is yes, please support me. 

Well, that's an awkward start, isn't it? This whole post is going to be an awkward ramble. You've been warned.

Let's start out with a brief history of relevant information:
  1. As a small child, I wanted to be a missionary. At the time, that meant I would live in a jungle or on the grasslands, helping the uneducated (and likely unclothed) native peoples by preaching the word of God through pictures, stories, and symbolic illustrations out of their own (primitive) cultures. I wanted deeply to travel to Africa. I dreamt of living there someday. In defense of young-Beth, her heart was entirely in the right place. But she had the framework all wrong. 
  2. In university, I took classes in post-colonial literature, and my eyes were opened to the myriad ways in which "my" people had horrifically imposed religion, culture, and disease on "other" people who they deemed less cultured or valuable. University-Beth began to understand that the Church had done some awful things, that the preaching of the gospel was rarely done in a way that would measure up to my own ethical standards, let alone those of Jesus.
  3. My first real-grown-up job was a Christian ministry job in which I had to raise my own support. Not a fully uncommon thing in conservative church circles, I found it much more stressful than I anticipated. I constantly felt afraid of pressuring people to give me money. And I felt the need to live up to my supporters' expectations (or at least appear to), so that they felt their giving was "justified" and going to "good use." When I left this job, ministry-Beth may have sworn to herself that she would never again raise money for herself (with the caveat that if I had to, Jesus would have to do a dang-good job of convincing me of its necessity).
  4. Two summers ago, I visited friends in Uganda. It was my first time in sub-Saharan Africa, and I loved it. I also found it heart-breaking. Upon my return to Canada, I spent a solid four months looking for jobs overseas. But I do not have the requisite International Development experience or training. I finally accepted the fact that if I'm able to return to Africa, it would have to be with an opportunity better-suited to my actual skill-set and calling. 

And now here I am, in seminary, presented with the opportunity to go to Tanzania for a month - not on a "missions trip" in the typical sense of the word, but as part of a seminary course, a "learning experience" on the history and current state of the Church in east Africa. I was immediately intrigued and decided that this is the type of trip I might regret missing out on. I want to learn about what it looks like for people in a radically different social context to love Jesus. I have a feeling there is much I can learn from them. I have a feeling I will be deeply humbled and forced to face many naive or arrogant assumptions I have made about faith, culture, and Christ. So I committed, knowing it would be a financial stretch on top of an already expensive return-to-school year.

Cost-wise, the trip is relatively affordable; I am responsible for my travel & visa costs (a little over $2,500), and the school pays for all in-country expenses. I have to pay tuition, but I would have to pay for the equivalent credits at some other point, so that is a matter of cost-timing, rather than cost-increase.

Technically, I have now paid for the trip. Four installments of $550 on my credit card, and one $500 cheque from my parents. It is tight. It dug into my line of credit, but it's been manageable.

Then I realized that I haven't paid tuition yet. And then I discovered that my laptop is on its last legs, is running a no-longer-supported operating system. And it also occurred to me that a month in Tanzania means a month of zero income (I have a part-time job and two freelance gigs, but all of them would require me to be, if not in Canada, at least online, which I cannot be).

To say I am a bit stressed is accurate. And there's another side to the stress.

I am anxious about some of the interpersonal dynamics with this particular travel group. Very anxious. So anxious I thought about backing out of the trip. But one of the things I think God has been reminding me this year is that I cannot simply surround myself with people that are easy to care about (I have essentially done this for the past 3 years, and I think it was important for a time. But now I need to start doing the hard work of loving all people, not just the ones I easily like). To live and love like Jesus means engaging with people where they are at, as they are. My gut (I think it might actually be Jesus-in-me) is telling me this is an important trip for me to go on, even though the potential positive outcomes are very vague. So I'm still going.

And I need help from my community.

I need prayer and encouragement. I need to know that if I'm lying in bed with dysentery, or if I'm eating strange meats in a village, or if I'm crying in a corner because of interpersonal conflict, there are people in Canada (and the US) who are thinking of me.

And while I don't technically need money, I could certainly use it. I would like to minimize my debt, continue to pay off my credit card each month, and have the ability to upgrade my computer before a crisis occurs.

That's my big ask. If you want to pray or give or have some other supportive idea, let me know. If you don't want to help, there is zero (ZERO) expectation on my end that you will. (I don't even know who's reading this!) If you want to be involved, you will have my gratitude, and the promise of stories of some variety when I return. If you aren't involved in a formal sense, you will still get some sort of stories when I return, because this is my blog, and that's what I do here.

Basically, I am promising nothing in return. (this is why I make a terrible salesperson)
I am going to stop rambling now and hit publish. Because that's not at all terrifying to me.


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