Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It is Finished!

Back in May, I was in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, getting ready to fly up to a town called Mwanza. I would then take a four-hour bus ride on to another town called Musoma. We have a large translation project going on in Musoma serving eight language communities, with plans to expand even more.

As I got in line to check in for my flight, a man walked up behind me and we began chatting in Swahili. After a few minutes he asked me, “What do you do here in Tanzania that your Swahili is so good?” 

I began to explain our work of language development and Bible translation. And this man, John*, was very taken in by what I described. He was a bit hesitant, however, as to whether or not Bible translation into all the local languages was really necessary since it is already available in Swahili. However, I just left that “objection” alone. As we continued to chat, I found out that John was also traveling to the same final destination as I was – Musoma! And he is from one of the tribes for which we are actively translating the Bible.

I proceeded to check in for my flight and go through security. After getting settled at my gate, I saw John and he waved to me, calling me over to sit next to him. He began to ask me more about why I felt there was a need for Bible translation into his language. I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to jump in and dig a little deeper. Pretty quickly, I realized that he didn’t understand just how deep and rich God’s mercy and grace are for us. He really was in the category I like to call, “Jesus gets me started, and then it’s my job to finish it.”  

A few weeks earlier, I had heard a sermon about Jesus’ statement from the cross, “It is finished!”  I felt the Spirit leading me to use that analogy to show John just how deep God’s grace is. By now, I had also learned John’s profession- he works for the Tanzanian tax authority! (Jesus loves tax collectors, right?) 

I explained to John that the phrase “It is finished!” was used in legal proceedings in Jesus’s day to indicate that a debt had been paid in full. I asked John if he had a stamp at his office to use when someone pays off a tax bill.  Of course, he said yes! (In Tanzania, stamps are very important! You could almost say that the more important the person, the bigger the stamp he/she will have.) 

I then explained to him that when Jesus died on the cross, he paid for all of his sins, past, present and future. John sat there looking at me, just bewildered! He had never understood this before.

“Are you serious?” he asked.
I told him, “Do you see now how rich and deep Jesus love and forgiveness is for you?”

John was amazed!

I then asked him if he now understood why I feel the Bible needs to be available in his local language so his people could understand this message for themselves.  “Absolutely!” he exclaimed. 

As we boarded the plane, it occurred to me, “That man just came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ!” 

After arriving in Mwanza, John asked me if we could share a taxi to the bus stand.  We then sat together on that four-hour bus ride, and upon arriving in Musoma, my colleague offered him a ride to his house.  John and I had lots of great talks through the day, and he kept coming back to how amazing the message about Jesus really was and how he had never heard it explained to him that way before.  

A few days later, John came by our offices for lunch.  I gave him copies of all the Scripture we have in his language.  The Jesus film is also nearly completed in his language, and he was very excited to hear about that.  

Even since returning to the US, John and I have continued to keep in touch, texting back and forth. It was such an honor to be used by God to tell John just how amazing God’s grace really is, and to watch him respond to it!  I love my job! 

--By Paul Hefft 


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Our New Normal: Type 1 Diabetes

"Your son has Type 1 Diabetes."

Those are words we never expected to hear spoken about our son. Our joyful, energetic, usually healthy boy? Really? He's never even missed a day of school.

Two weeks ago, we took Josiah to the doctor after noticing somewhat sudden changes in a few of his normal habits. He seemed to be going to the bathroom a lot, and he was drinking copious amounts of water. Internet searches for those symptoms included Type 1 Diabetes at the top of their list, and we began to be concerned.

The doctor's visit confirmed our fears. The lab found sugar in his urine, and his blood glucose reading was over 500. Our boy had Type 1 Diabetes.

A wild mix of emotions overcame me as I sat there listening to the doctor explain about what life would now be like for Josiah and what life would be like for me as a parent of a Type 1 diabetic. The doctor's own daughter suffers from the disorder, so he spoke from first hand experience and was kind and helpful.

He explained what Type 1 diabetes was.

Josiah had done nothing to cause it. He hadn't eaten too much sugar or lived an unhealthy lifestyle. For some reason, his immune system had attacked his pancreas. The pancreas was no longer producing insulin, which is necessary for the body to properly regulate carbohydrates in the food and drinks he consumes. He would now need to begin injecting insulin at least 4 times a day to replace what his body was no longer producing on its own. Without it, he would not survive for very long. He was now insulin-dependent. For life.

For life? The gravity of this fact, along with all the details surrounding diabetes management was overwhelming in those initial hours. It was even more so, when adding in the burden of my own medical realities of late...three rather unexpected surgeries in the past five months, the latest from which I've not yet recovered. But I stopped and reminded myself to breathe. The Lord has been with us this far, and He has promised that He'll never leave us or forsake us.

From the doctor's office, Josiah was admitted to Children's Mercy Hospital. We spent three days there participating in what they call "Diabetes Boot Camp," learning the basics of what we need to know to care for Josiah's new health reality.

We learned how to check his blood sugars with a glucose meter. We learned what signs and symptoms to look out for when his blood glucose levels get too high or too low and how to treat it. We learned how to count carbohydrates in the food he eats and then prepare the appropriate dose of insulin. And we also received hands-on practice giving him insulin injections.

Practicing injections on a ball
Paul was the brave one - he usually is - so he jumped right in and gave the first injection that the hospital asked us to perform. It took me until the last day of the hospital stay to find my bravery, and mostly this was because they wouldn't let us go home until both parents had successfully given him one of his injections. You should have seen my hands shake!

But if you want to talk about being brave, that would most certainly be Josiah. He had a difficult time at first with all the sticks and pokes (At one point he cried to us with sheer honesty, "I don't want this life! I'd rather die!") But as the hours and days went on, you could gradually see his confidence grow. He quickly relaxed and became more comfortable with each finger prick and insulin injection, eventually saying that he barely felt the needles. 

That helped my confidence grow too. If my sweet boy can get okay with having multiple jabs a day, then I can get confident about giving them, and I can also be confident that together our family can effectively manage his care.

As a good friend of mine, who is a Type 1 Diabetic herself, says, "It all gets easier in time."

And it will. It already is.

No one wishes a chronic illness on their child, but God saw fit that Josiah could handle being a Type 1 Diabetic. God saw fit that Paul and I could help him along the way. God knows. God cares. God is with us.

Our life will never be the same as it was before. Type 1 Diabetes creates a new dynamic for our family life, and we are now forced to wrestle with some big questions about our future plans. A lot about life feels uncertain.

But one thing we do know: God is certain. His promises are certain, and we can praise Him throughout every season of our life.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10, NIV) 

Monday, November 12, 2012

When God Changes Your Plans

"You can make many plans, but the LORD'S purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:21 (NLT)

I'm a planner by nature. I like my little purse-sized calendar and mapping out the foreseeable future in those little squares. I particularly love the end of the year, when I can go calendar shopping and spend an entire afternoon writing in a new year's worth of birthdays and events.

I know. I know. Some of you just don't understand. But keeping a calendar and making plans does something for me - someone who craves order and consistency and being prepared.

I believe there is value in having plans and giving some thought to tomorrow (Proverbs 6), but as the verse above also reminds me, sometimes God has purposes which are different than my plans. So, while I make those plans, I have to hold them loosely.

God has certainly been teaching me this lately.

Mostly because of this.

I'm currently recovering slowly from my second surgery in two months time - two rather unexpected surgeries. The second, which was definitely NOT on my calendar.

According to the well-thought-out plans our family had made for this home assignment time, instead of being in the hospital or laid up in bed, during the past few months I should have gone to the symphony to celebrate my birthday, attended parent/teacher conferences at my kids' schools, visited the pumpkin patch, and taken part in our sending church's missions conference (which I had been looking forward to for months and months).

But most of all, if I hadn't developed a severe infection that required a second surgery, right now, I should be a typesetter. You see, for months and months I had been planning and preparing and studying to spend the past three weeks in Dallas, Texas, receiving training to becoming a typesetter for our branch. With both my kids now in school for full days, I've been looking for a role within our organization that would be a good fit for my skills and personality. Typesetting kept coming up, and an opportunity arose for me to get training while we were back in the States, so we wrote it into our home assignment plans.

God, however, had a different purpose for me, for my family. God said, "No" or "Not yet," to all of those aforementioned plans. I didn't celebrate my birthday like I had planned. I didn't take part in missions conference. I'm not trained to be a typesetter.

Though missing out on all of those experiences has been difficult on different levels, God has brought me to a place of peace where I can say, "It's okay." And I praise Him for that!

I have learned through this ongoing trial that often I do hold my plans with too tight of a fist. I'm often wound too tight, letting myself get stressed when I simply need to release it all to Christ's capable, All-Knowing Hands.

Sometimes God uses trials like the one my family and I have experienced to teach us to trust Him even when we don't know why we're experiencing a difficult season. He wants us to lay down our plans on the altar, believing that His purposes are best and that He WILL work everything out for our good.

So, today, even though it's uncertain whether or not I will realize my goal of becoming a typesetter for our next term and even though I won't be able to "get back" some of the furlough experiences I had hoped to have, I can rejoice. Though there has been pain and disappointment, I have received so many other blessings from the Lord that I wouldn't have received without walking this path.

I have felt the Lord's presence and His peace in such a new and fresh way lately. I have learned to appreciate resting and "being" even more than I did before. I have seen an outpouring of prayers and support from family and friends around the world, which blesses me to the core. I have seen the body of Christ in action as people have cared for our family in various practical ways. I have so much for which to thank God!

I still love my little calendar, and I'm still looking forward to buying a new one here in a few weeks, but I've learned a valuable lesson on trusting and holding loosely to all my plans and desires. His plans are always perfect. His purposes will prevail.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jumping for Joy

There's something about a trampoline. You can't help but feel a surge of joy as you launch yourself into the air and fall back again to the springy, black surface beneath and then do it all again.

As I child, one of the highlights of visiting my cousins in rural northern Missouri was jumping on their big trampoline in the backyard. Seven or eight or nine of us would pile on at the same time and bound together in wild abandon. We'd do flips and knee jumps. One person would curl up in a ball in the middle, and we'd all jump together to try and bounce them as high as possible before they freaked out and uncurled. We'd lay out on the trampoline under the stars and talk until our parents made us go to bed. So. Much. Fun.

A couple of months ago, Paul found a good deal on a 10-foot trampoline in Dar that he couldn't pass up. Even though our furlough was only months away at that point, the price was so good that we decided to "spring" for it now instead of waiting until next term like we had been discussing.

It has proved to be a good choice.

Our kids have spent many hours jumping together, giggling and screeching with joy.

It's also been fun to share our trampoline with some of our Tanzanian friends. Most of them had never jumped on a trampoline before, so it was great fun to watch the joy on their faces as they experienced jumping on one for the first time.

Margaret didn't think that the trampoline would hold an adult. She found out it could!

Mama Ruth was terrified, but we coaxed her on, and her experience ended with side-splitting laughter.

Nearly every one of our co-workers took a turn, all of us cackling with laughter and having a blast.

Like I said, there's something about a trampoline.

It makes you feel like a kid again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Here and Now

When transition is coming, sometimes it's hard to focus on the here and now. Or at least that's how it is for me.

Our departure date for our one-year home assignment is looming on the horizon. It's just 45 days away to be exact. So right now, I often find myself living in the future.

My mind is constantly running to things I need to do before we leave and stuff we'll get to do when we get back to the United States. I have been making packing lists of what to take from here and purchase lists of what to buy when we get there. I've been communicating with friends, family, and partners about visits and road trips and speaking engagements. I've been dreaming about what it will be like to step off the final plane of our journey and get to hug family and friends that I haven't seen in three years and nieces and nephews who were just babies (or not even born!) when we left.

There isn't anything wrong with making plans and getting excited about what's to come, but it can also be a little dangerous to live in the future. Because sometimes focusing on the future can make you impatient - or even dissatisfied - with the present. And, at least for me, the present has a lot going for it.

I sat down to think about what I love about the present, living and working in Tanzania. A few random things came to mind.

Tropical Fruit

The fruit I buy on the cheap here, is not always so cheap in America. And come on...I have a mango tree, lemon tree, avocado tree, nearly 100 banana plants, and passion fruit growing in my yard!

Friends from Around the World

Not only has my life been enriched by the wonderful people and cultures of Tanzania during the past three years, but I have also had the opportunity to get to know people working here from all over the world: England, Northern Ireland, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and more. I've learned a lot about different cultures and truly feel more like an international citizen these days than just an American. And I love that that goes for my kids too.

Warm Weather and Sunshine

I am NOT a winter weather girl, so living in a climate where I can wear flip flops year round and go swimming on Christmas Day makes me very happy. Also, here in Dodoma, most of the year it's bright and sunny, which makes me even more happy. Dreary days get me down.


I'm the daughter of a master gardener, so there's just something inside me that loves trees. And Tanzania has some nice trees that you don't see growing in America...acacia, baobabs, and flame trees are some of my favorites.

I LIVE Here!

Sure, I'm not "from" this wonderful country, this amazing continent (my daughter, however, claims that she is), but we have been residents here for three years now and it's become our home. If the Lord wills, after our year back in the States, we hope to return to our friends and the work that we love. I'm thankful for that. Even though I'm excited about a year back in America with friends and family and a culture that I understand instinctively, I know I will miss lots of things about Africa while I'm away.

Thank you, Lord, for this blessed here and now!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mince Pies

Today, two American girls got together to make an English holiday staple - mince pies. Rachel's husband, Jonathan, is British and really loves them, so we wanted to have these on hand for our Christmas dinner in a few weeks.

Our pies turned out pretty good despite the fact that we had to make everything from scratch, from the fruity mincemeat filling to the pastry. We even had to borrow a proper food scale from my neighbor to be able to measure out the ingredients for the recipe since we Americans don't tend to measure food weight in grams. (And...c'mon people, you just don't find many recipes for mince pies with American measurements!)

We rolled and pressed and filled and topped.

We egg-washed (it's a technical term).

Then we baked. It was a little tricky getting them out of the muffin tins when they were done, but most of them came out successfully.

Rachel took one home for Jonathan to sample, and they have been approved for consumption.

Not too bad for two American girls.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Recipe Fail

You'll never know unless you try.

That is my cooking motto here. Even though I can find many of the ingredients that I need for the food I want to cook, I make a lot of things from scratch and I end up making substitutions often. The internet is a great help for substitutions. And I've found a lot of good ones.

But even though substitutions are out there, they don't always work for your specific recipe. And then your dish fails. (Oh, this perfectionist hates failing...especially in the kitchen!)

It happened to me this week.

Yesterday was Paul's birthday. One of his favorite desserts is New York style cheesecake, and in America, I successfully baked it for him many times. So, I decided to give it a go here in Tanzania.

The only problem is that you really can't buy cream cheese in Dodoma, and if you buy it in Dar es Salaam it is very expensive and doesn't taste good enough for the price. A friend of mine has had some success making cheesecake from plain yogurt that has been strained overnight, so I decided to try her method and substitute that for the cream cheese.

I had high hopes for my bowl full of strained yogurt as I whipped up the cheesecake batter and poured it into my springform pan. The taste was a bit off, but it looked a lot like what I had mixed up before in the States.

As it baked, I was further encouraged. I puffed up like it was supposed to. It started browning like it was supposed to. The top jiggled a bit like it was supposed to. So, when I thought it was done, I pulled the cheesecake out of the oven and let it cool. My hopes continued to be high. It looked pretty good.

But that evening, as I went to cover the cooled cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight, I realized that liquid was weeping from the bottom of the pan. That's certainly never happened to my cheesecakes before. I started to get a little concerned, but put it in the refrigerator and hoped for the best.

Josiah hoped for the best too. This was his message to Daddy yesterday morning: (Translation: Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you very much. I hope you have a great day. I hope your cheesecake tastes great.)
Unfortunately, my hope started to decline, when I took the cheesecake out of the pan to serve it. There was quite a bit of liquid sitting on top of the cake, and it wiggled WAY more that it should have.

But we stuck candles on it and sang to the birthday boy anyway.

The moment I cut into it, I thought something wasn't right. The moment I tasted it, I knew something wasn't right. It was wobbly. It was wet. It was NOT cheesecake. In fact, it was more like sweet cheese than cake. My cheesecake attempt in Tanzania had failed.

I have some ideas about why it failed. It's probably not a good idea to substitute your main ingredient (all 5-1/2 cups of it). The strained yogurt just has too much liquid remaining in it to make a firm, thick New York style cheesecake.

But hey, I tried. The birthday boy appreciated the effort even though neither he nor I will likely eat another piece of the...creation.

And like I said before. You'll never know unless you try.