Happy December 13th!!! (I realize it is the 14th, you would have been reading this on the 13th had our internet not been haywire!) This day may not be significant to you, but for our family, it marks the anniversary of our arrival in Arusha, Tanzania. Today we finish our fifth year. Even as I write, I am shocked at the passage of time. In a few months, Camille will have lived in Tanzania for more than half of her life. Tabitha passed that milestone years ago. It has been my tradition to write an anniversary blog to celebrate both our arrival to Tanzania way back on December 13, 2013 and the end of the year.
This blog is always really difficult for me to write. Mostly because it is not an easy task to sum up an entire year. Our 2018 has been CRAZY! Crazy good, crazy busy, crazy faith-building, crazy productive, just all the crazies. As I review some of our accomplishments and struggles over the past twelve months, I am just so grateful for the continued opportunity to be a part of the community her in Arusha. We are honored and humbled to be seeing such an impact from our work with Walk In Love. I hope that I get the privilege of writing this blog for many more years.
In preparation for writing this blog I re-read my 2017-year end post (HERE). I actually think that was one of the best blogs I have ever written. I wrote this… “This year (2017) ministry has felt like holding fragility in our hands, knowing that no matter what we do, it might not end like we want it to. We have had to rest uncomfortably in the truth that God has a plan and our part for a time was painful. But pain is not an excuse to give up. If anything, it is a call do double our efforts. This year our faith was destroyed and rebuilt a stronger thing with muscle where only softness had been. In May, after our time at Neema House ended, we could have gone anywhere, done anything. All the options were on the table and in the end we choose to stay here. Our heart was still in this place. We had learned too much, seen too many injustices, to forsake the opportunity to make a difference in the community that has somehow become our own. We hope for great success. We pray that our programs at Walk In Love will decrease suffering and help our community thrive. There is no guarantee and the risk is high, but if this year has taught us anything, it is that God will not allow us to be destroyed. He is the God of the path of righteousness, the God who shepherds us to the place that He wants us to serve Him.”
I was writing that one month before we would open the Kisongo Center. Let me tell you, I was scared! I was scared the daycare would not be accepted. I was scared it would not have the impact that we thought it would. I was scared that we would run out of money. I was scared that we were in over our heads. Sometimes Matt and I look at each other and wonder what the heck we are doing. Now, at the end of 2018, I can tell you that the daycare was accepted. Not just accepted but embraced, by both the community and the Ministry of Social Welfare. The impact was more than we expected. We did a survey of the parents at our center, because doing data backed cross-cultural work is such a big deal. In our survey of 52 families, 60% or 31 families, report a positive change in their employment status. This means that 31 families have either gone from unemployed to employed or increased their earnings as a direct result of being able to bring their children to Walk In Love Daycare. Also, 83% of the parents, or 43 parents report a noticeable difference in their child’s weight and growth. This is impact. We, in fact, did not run out of money and are feeling pretty okay about our financial status for 2019. Along with these numbers we have so many stories about kids who were in unsafe situations whose lives were changed by coming to the center. I hope you follow us on Facebook, because we are highlighting some of these stories right now.
If I could sum up ministry for 2018, the word I would use is THRIVING. That words gives me all the feels. We are so excited about 2019. We are ready to see what God has for us to do. We are excited to continue to empower the people around us, to provide resources that are literally keeping families together and helping them to thrive. We are excited about new partnerships and continued relationships with the staff and leaders of the area. We are so very grateful for everyone who believed in our dream last year and stuck with us as it turned into a reality.
Ministry is not the only thing to write about. Both the girls are doing well. We are still homeschooling and plan to continue for the foreseeable future. Camille is in 5th grade and Tabitha is in 3rd. Tabitha started doing Jujitsu this year and is loving that activity. We are still looking for a voice and piano teacher for Camille. Camille is still a voracious lover of knowledge. She reads faster than any person I have ever seen. Both the girls love Minecraft, Legos and playing games. Friends are a constant prayer. We are believing that God will answer the prayer to bring more friendships into their lives. They are growing in their love and understanding of the Kingdom of God. I see them leaning into real faith. The show this by their actions and by the words they say. I am so very proud of them both.
We were able to stop in London for a few days on our way back to the States. This is one of the huge benefits of mandatory international travel. Stopping in Europe for a few days adds less than $100 to our tickets! We save throughout the year so that we can add this experience to our homeward bound trip. This year my brother Josh was able to join us on our London adventure. We had so much fun seeing the history and culture of that distinguished city. We were so thankful for all the visitors we were able to welcome and hope that other people take us up on our offer of a free place to stay in Tanzania.
Matt is still committed to weight-lifting. He is also an avid devourer of knowledge. He wrote a commentary on the first 8 chapters of Romans. He has been involved in an accountability group throughout the year, which has been a huge blessing. He continues to be the face of Walk In Love to the government. He constantly impresses me with his wisdom and leadership in both our ministry and our family.
As for me, I walked the Kilimanjaro Half Marathon last year and plan to walk/run the half again this year. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and have been working with my diet to control that, with good success. I am continually researching the enneagram (a personality typing system) and have been using it for both parenting, ministry and personal growth. I have also been involved in an accountability group, and I am so grateful for the friendships that God has grown through this year.
We are eagerly anticipating what God will do through our family and ministry in 2019. We are extremely grateful to you, our family and friends, for supporting both our family and ministry as we bring life changing resources to this community.
Hope you enjoy our 2017 slide show. It has been an amazing year. I cannot wait to see what 2019 brings. Blessings and love from the Erdman Family.