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Summer 2024 newsletter

 

Anna Johnson, Tanzania

Anna with student and mother

Anna with Shinane (a student) and his mother at a health clinic held at Huruma School in April

Our family stepped off the plane in Mwanza, Tanzania, almost exactly 18 months ago. We were exhausted from jet lag and lack of sleep, excited at the new (and for us strange) world we were entering — and anxious to find out what “mission” would look like for our family.

One and a half years later, my husband Kyle and I are both elbow-deep in that mission. While I continue to help at Huruma Special Education Unit (a school serving 70-plus children with disabilities that was founded by Maryknoll lay missioner Bertha Haas 20 years ago), Kyle is assisting a group of disability advocates and leaders in Mwanza as they plan Tanzania’s largest disability awareness campaign and conference (scheduled to take place in April 2025).

The work we do is incredibly rewarding, exciting and life-giving: I treasure the grin of a young man as he hears he will be getting a set of prosthetic legs, or the relief on a mother’s face when she sees a wheelchair that has been donated for her 10-year-old boy whom until now she has carried on her back. Yet I’m also finding that at the end of the day, mission work is still very much … work.

Johnson kids with mural

Collin, Charlotte and Josephine helped paint a mural inside Huruma School in April.

Our three kids still need waking up each morning, breakfast and lunches need to be prepared, homework in the evening still needs to be done. Co-workers frustrate or disappoint. Colleagues face challenges that slow down work (just last month our head of school had his phone and computer stolen, creating major hurdles as we scrambled to retrieve important data from old emails or copies of grants).

The health system here is less than ideal — and I find myself pulling my hair out many afternoons, trying to make sense of information I’m being told that just doesn’t quite add up. The list is long and, some days, never-ending.

Some days it’s all I can do to rinse off in a cold shower at the end of the day and crawl into bed at 8:30 p.m. Yet as I struggle to make sense of my hours, days and weeks in Tanzania, God continues to remind me of one very important life lesson that, apparently, I’m very slow at learning: the importance of rest.

Our God is a god of work, creativity and production. I look around at the planet we are blessed to live on — the beauty and complexity of the oceans, the mountains, the forests, the animals. I look around at the diversity of people I am blessed to work with — Black, white, American, Maasai, Indian, Catholic, Sukuma. Clearly this Creator of ours knows a lot about creativity and productivity.

Yet I am reminded in both the Old and New Testament that our God is also a god of rest. God created for six days, and on the seventh day, God rested. Repeatedly Jesus left those he was serving, walking away from even his disciples, so he could pray — and rest.

Working in Tanzania has been both the hardest thing I’ve ever done and also incredibly rewarding. Days are long and hot and often frustrating. But small things I do can often have a large impact and make a big difference.

It’s easy, at times, to not slow down. To go full-bore. To charge ahead. To work late into the evening or through the weekend. To slow down can seem wrong when there is always more to do.

We are reminded to be “imitators of God” (Eph 5:1-2) and to “walk in the same way [Jesus] walked” (1 John 2:6). While this includes healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and welcoming the stranger, it also means learning how to pray and how to rest.

I cannot do the work I do without the inspiration, guidance and grace of God being present in my daily life. I cannot truly work and create and produce without rest.

Whether back home in the U.S. or on mission in Tanzania, my hope is that each of us can make time (both daily and weekly) to rest in the presence of our Creator, so that we can find the energy and inspiration to go back out and work to make the world a little bit better place for all of us to live.


Please consider supporting our family’s mission work in Tanzania with a donation through the link below.

We invite you to walk with us as our “COMPANIONS IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 

 

Anna Johnson
Anna Johnson provides healthcare to children living with disabilities at Huruma School in Mwanza, Tanzania. Together with her husband, Kyle, and their three children, she joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners at the end of 2022. She is a registered nurse.