My neighbor lives a ways away – 8,489 miles away from Ames, Iowa, to be precise. My neighbor is easiest to see in person via plane, tho that’s a full 24 hours of travel and isn’t cheap. But thanks to the internet, and email and social media, I can talk to them most any time.
Many of my neighbors are farmers. And commonly use animals in their daily work. At least in the areas we visited. Many of my TZ neighbors are also landowners, owning property that spans back many, many, many generations of family.
My neighbors, for the most part, have enough food to eat. This was confirmed with the pastors I spoke to. And it really surprised me. My neighbors provide for their family, food-insecurity isn’t a huge problem for them. Who knew?
Speaking of food, my neighbors know how to cook! Our group ate, and ate, and ate, between 5 and 7 meals a day. My neighbors, where we visited, eat local, almost exclusively. Whether it came from the ground, or tree, or bush or animal, it was generally fair game.
My neighbors know how to throw a party! We were warmly welcomed where-ever we went. My neighbors smile and chat, and pray in ways that had a calming effect on each of us. We knew, at all times, our neighbor cared for us.
Speaking of parties, holy cow do my neighbors know how to worship! Whether it’s in Swahili or the Pare dialect, or the language of the Masai – we heard each in worship – my neighbors know how to live it up, in praise of their Creator, on a Sunday morn.
My neighbors like to laugh, and dance, and sing, and bang drums and cymbals and laugh and dance and sing in ways and quantities that surprised us. My neighbors know how to celebrate their faith, LOUD AND PROUD. I can learn much, very much, about joyful worship, from my neighbor.
My neighbor has less money than I, less electricity, less internet, less stuff. But more time. And more joy. And more community. To these western eyes my neighbor lives life more fully, and completely, than I do most every day. To be honest the time, and joy and community my neighbor has available to them, in such large quantities, I am very, very jealous of.
This is my confession.
My neighbor has skin so much darker than my own. So much darker than many of you. As the trip went on this difference seemed to matter less, and less and less. Until by the end of the trip this difference was hardly worth mentioning at all.
That was truly a gift. And it only happened by spending some time, a lot of time, with my neighbor.
My neighbor could use some help from me and the people in my town. But in different ways than perhaps I’d first assumed. My neighbor already knows how to farm. But they could use some wisdom from ag science here, and sometimes some equipment and training too. My neighbor could use help with processing and packaging their food products, to help get them to a larger market.
This is something I hadn’t thought much on before.
My neighbor has access to water. But it could almost always be better access.
My neighbor has access to education, and values it. Tho my neighbor values having access to even better education. Their goal? To help their people thrive even more.
In this way I am very much like my neighbor.
My neighbor is a beloved child of God. As am I. As are you.
Because of this my neighbor shares a common ancestry, common purpose, and common destination to us all.
I really miss my newfound neighbor.
But mostly now I just call them friend.
And I can’t wait to spend time with my new friends, in person, once again.