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  • Writer's pictureJana McMillan

Even Better Than Zanzibar

We have been back in Moshi for almost two weeks! It took the first week for me to get readjusted to the time difference. I blame my age. On the second Sunday here, I awoke with a burden on my heart. First thing in the morning, I asked Michael, “When we were driving home from the airport, did you tell me that they called because they needed food in the Rift Valley?” He said yes, so I shared that I was awake in the night with that burden on my mind. So, we started planning:

1. Find out the cost of beans and rice.

2. Find out where the food is needed.

3. Find out when we can make the trip.


Rain was sparse this season in the area of both Moita, the 1st church we built, and Leroy, the 2nd church we built, so their crop growth was low, and what they have is not sustaining them. That afternoon, we talked it over with Bro. Jonas and he explained that instead of rice like we have purchased before, corn would be more beneficial to the churches in the Rift Valley because it is more versatile and can be used in more forms. However, we discovered that corn cost more than rice, but trying to accommodate and allow the villages to have food longer, we decided to spend a little more money to purchase the corn. As we began planning, we alerted the Pastors that we would bring food but that we would deliver to both churches and would head home before dark so not to prepare to feed us. Next, in the plan, choose a day. Remember, everything is subject to change for many reasons in Africa, so plans are never concrete. With that in mind, we discussed going later in the week but decided that we could buy what we needed on Monday and go on Tuesday. We woke up Monday to find it was a holiday, so the bank was closed. Insert flexibility. We will go on Wednesday and combine our trip to drop off food and then travel straight to the 3rd church because they need more building supplies. Although this will add a motel stay in Karatu, it saves gas and miles of driving. This completes our plan, Tuesday, 9/5, we will buy the corn and beans. On Wednesday, 9/6, we will travel and give beans and corn to the congregations, then continue to the motel. Thursday, 9/7, we will head up the mountain to take construction supplies to the third church.

We head to the market on Tuesday to negotiate for the beans and corn. As you walk through the market, you hear shouts of “Rafiki, Rafiki” because everyone is your “friend” when you come to spend your money. We are looking for a specific lady we have purchased bulk from before, but in her words, “She cannot help us today” because she cannot give us the deal we want! We haggle! She won’t budge. We negotiate! She says, “No, can do!” I would like to clarify here: IF I were at the market alone, there would be no negotiation and no haggling because I would just pay what they ask, but Jonas and Michael have decided and prayed about a cap that they want to stay under, so I just walk away, and pretend I do not know them as they haggle for a better price! With no deal from our Rafiki (friend), we leave the market and go to a side street where shops sell dry goods. There, we found a lady willing to sell the corn for a better price! So we bought 200 kilos of corn for 180,000 shillings or approximately $75. (We had planned for $50.) Then, around the corner, they negotiated for beans. This man was selling on the roadside, but he had a scale, and he wanted to weigh the beans so that “you only get what you pay for.” This was interesting because most people sell the bag as 100 kilos without weighing it. So we bought 200 kilos of beans for 200,000 Shillings or approximately $81.00. (we had planned for $60) We also bought bags for giving to the people and scoops that measured 1 kilo.


Let me take a moment to tell you about a miracle. Missionary budgets are tight sometimes, and buying food for two villages wasn’t in the budget. So this money for the beans, corn, fuel, and hotel was just some extra we had saved for a special occasion. The additional cost for the food cut into the budget for something else. I know you aren’t supposed to do that, but sometimes, when a need arises, you just have to answer yes and then wait for the miracle from God! We willingly spent the money to answer this burden and call from the congregations. That evening, we were talking to someone from the States, they asked what we were doing this week, and we shared that we would be headed to the Rift Valley to give beans and corn to the church members and villages. We never mentioned the tight budget or funds, but before we hung up the phone, the husband on the call said, “We are going to send you some money to help with the cost!” Miracle #1: increases in the cost of food covered!


Wednesday morning, we head out bright and early. Today is the 6th of September, just another day? No, today is our 32nd wedding anniversary! Several months ago, we had discussed that we would be here on this anniversary and Michael said, “I’m going to take you to Zanzibar for our anniversary. It's a quick 1-hour flight, and we can spend a couple of days celebrating.” So here we are on our way to the Rift Valley, and the day's joke is, “This is better than Zanzibar!” Though we tease about it, I sincerely say this was the best day! Sharing with others, seeing their smiles as you handed them a kilo of beans and a kilo of corn, hearing the gratitude in their “Asante sana,” and being where God has called you to be can not be beaten! So yes, we laughed a lot today and the following days about our anniversary trip to the Rift Valley, but I would not have traded this day for anything. Maybe we will make that trip to Zanzibar someday, but even if we don’t, our lives are full of love, excitement, and God’s work!


Also, remember how we told the churches not to prepare food for us? Mama Pastor did not listen, and after passing out the food to her congregation, she insisted that we walk from the church to her “village.” When we got there, she told us to sit with the village leader, and in just a couple of minutes, the ladies were washing our hands and serving us food! Yum… goat and rice for our anniversary lunch! This was my first time being in a Massai “family village.” She took me inside her little round hut and showed me where she and her children lived. It was amazing! It is not something I can explain with words, it is just something that someday you need to experience for yourself! I was reminded that we sometimes forget to be thankful for the little things God blesses our lives with because they can be “even better than Zanzibar!”



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