It is time to address the elephant in the room. Remember back in March when we made a huge Facebook push and released our video announcing the opening of our Market Center? If you missed it, you can find it HERE. We set a formidable goal of opening the new center on April 30th. A few weeks ago I put out this blog saying how well things were progressing. Well, things did progress well. The building was ready. We hired new staff, did the painting, went and talked to people, bought all the supplies, and threw our doors open on April 30th.. Cue the crickets.
The doors were open….and no one came. Ouch. That sentence hurts. Can I take a moment here to say that this is not the easiest blog to write, although necessary. Through this tough and emotion-filled year we have celebrated a lot of success in ministry. This blog is not about success. It also is not about failure. It’s about the truth of ministry. Sometimes we have expectations and they do not work out. Period. This is not failure, but it is an opportunity to share vulnerably about the process of our work. We thought because our Kisongo Center filled up rapidly, that the Market Center would do the same. We thought that because Social Welfare asked us to open this center in response to their own decision to kick kids out of the market, that they would then follow up and actually encourage moms to bring their kids. We thought that because the area is poverty stricken, people would see this resource as the answer to a life-limiting problem. We thought, we thought, we thought. Does this mean we were wrong?
I have been doing a lot of research about cross-cultural work. How to do it in such a way that you are meeting your goals. How to do it in such a way that your ministry is sustainable and meeting needs in a culturally respectable way. Recently, I was listening to a YouTube video on cross-cultural work, and the speaker said something that took my breath away. Here it is:
“We [cross-cultural workers] are scientist trying to solve a difficult problem. WE are creating tension. There are no comfortable problems left to be solved. It is okay to fail. We don’t know how to solve this problem. We are here because we want to be a scientist, to explore. We are willing to work our way to how the problem can be solved. Do not avert your eyes. People like us look at this problem. People like us commit to going down a pathway to solving it. This is difficult. It is not going to happen tomorrow, but we will do it together [us, our staff, our community, our supporters!]. It is time to take the long view.”
He was speaking to my heart, and to the heart of missionaries everywhere. It is time to take the long view. But when you take the long view, when you are creating tension and working on a difficult problem, you have to wrap your mind around the fact that not everything is going to fall into place with simplicity. If we address the problem like a scientist, we know that missed expectations are just an opportunity to look more closely at our hypothesis. So we have spent this week re-evaluating our plan. (We have also spent this week taking a close look at our unrealistic expectations). Why did we have a less than enthusiastic reception in Unga Limited? What will work to bring people in? What do they want that we are not offering? How can we make things better, more relevant, more community focused? Our staff keeps saying that this is normal. Tanzanians are very cautious. They do not want to be the first one to try a new thing. Our daycare is a very new concept. They will come, everyone says. So we re-evaluate, then we keep to the path.
A wise person told me to be disappointed, but not defeated. It’s all part of the learning. This is not failure, it is learning, growing, and becoming better. It is hard. To keep the faith, the excitement, and the momentum in the face of less than stellar reception is hard, but I am glad to be doing it. I think this, more than success, forges us into the kind of person that will thrive, because sometimes things do not go well and you have to press on.
So today, on our 9th day of being open, we have six kids. We are starting to meet with church leaders and the local government to tell them what we are doing. We are calling on Social Welfare to do their part in the markets. I still believe we are in the right place; doing the right thing at the right time. We have been praying that the right kids will come, and we believe that God is answering that prayer. We thank you for joining with us in this work.
Tupo Pamoja (we are together)!