Gray Sunday

I’m coming to the realization that life is complicated. I don’t know if its actually complicated, or if I’m just making it that way, but that’s what I’m feeling at the present moment. There is what appears to be gray and my mother always told me that I see things in black and white. That was a lot more simple I think. The gray makes my head hurt. I’m actually wearing gray today, two different shades. My wife said she liked the outfit, but I just threw it on quickly because I thought I was just going to run down to the orphanage to pick up Awadhi so that Melissa and I could have some time with him. We thought to go to a Tanzanian outdoor restaurant that has a nice playground and do some swimming at a local hotel also. We normally take him to church when he’s home so we figured we would do this instead.

I got to Treasures of Africa and went inside as I heard the voices of the four year olds in the bathroom washing up before lunch. I went inside and had a feeling that Awadhi wasn’t actually there. I talk to one of the caregivers on duty and converse with her in Swahili. “Is Awadhi here?” “He’s not here. He went to church.” “Oh, okay.” I went up to my office to act like I came here for another reason than to get Awadhi, but I just opened the door looked in and then shut it, went back downstairs and left.

I called Melissa to let her know that Awadhi had gone to church with Eli and the older children and that I was just coming home. I felt a little strange as I got home. “Well, I’m sure he’s having a nice time with his brothers and sisters.” Its good for him to be in church, I keep thinking that in any particular worship service, he’s going to be healed. What’s a pile of pilau and a little swim compared to hearing music for the first time or never having to take HIV meds again? We should be in church too this morning, but we were hoping to use that time to relax and spend it with Awadhi as he’s home for his one weekend a month from the deaf boarding school out in Kiboroloni. Not to mention, we were avoiding the service a little because Melissa had been ‘elected’ by the Tanzanian sisters of the church to help lead worship for the special women’s service but we knew she wouldn’t feel up to it because of her morning sickness.

I know its terrible to skip church. That’s why its probably better that Awadhi was there today. Its especially bad for me. I’m a missionary. And I’m actually an elder at my church. I, like Melissa for women’s day, was elected when I wasn’t there. I don’t really understand why that happens. I was there in a leadership meeting a couple months ago when a man stepped out of the meeting to do something and was gone for about a hour. When he returned, the senior pastor told him that he had been elected to head up men’s ministry while he was gone. I saw him begin to squirm in his seat clearly not too fond of the idea. He didn’t even really accept it, he just became it. I was sitting there as an ‘elder’ and I just observed it. Tanzanians do things different than us.

It’s a bit of a gray area too. I want to help so I say “okay, I’ll be an elder.” But then its more of just a title. I don’t go to elder board meetings. I’m not a part of overseeing the church budget. I just have to sit through marathon meetings every now and then and people call me an elder, or worse yet on occasion, they call me mchungaji… pastor.

I got home from the orphanage and Melissa and I decided to go swimming anyway. I love my wife more than anyone. I mean that in two ways, I love her more than anyone else does and I love her more than I love anybody else. It’ll still be a good day. At one point while we were swimming, Melissa said “I wish Awadhi was here.” “You’re not allowed to say that,” I responded softly but seriously. I find myself perpetually wishing Awadhi was here, but over the last two and a quarter years since I moved here, Awadhi has been around less and less than I’ve planned and now I’m heading out for Lord knows how long as we expect the baby to become a California citizen in September.

I can’t think about Awadhi, because I feel like I’ve missed something or I’m missing something. This doesn’t make sense to me. I read something I wrote back in August 2009 that talked about my upcoming move to Tanzania. It was the announcement to my friends and family. I told them that one of the most important things was that after a couple years I would be able to adopt Awadhi. I’ve lived here over two years now and that’s not even on the radar. Did I miss something?

In 2010, I heard about this Tanzanian law that says that one of the adoptive parents must be at least 21 years older than the child they’re adopting. I’m older than Melissa and only 18 years older than Awadhi’s legal, poorly documented age. Since then I’ve just resigned to say that if it was to be, God would have to do it or literally tell me to do it. Now, I’m not in a position to even consider it as we prepare to come to the states for a time that I can only describe as too long for comfort. Heaven forbid I get comfortable.

He’s only getting bigger too, entirely to my chagrin. When I first left him after my short term trip back in the summer of 2008, I told the Lord that I didn’t want to have to spend too much time in the states waiting to move here because I didn’t want him to get too big for me to hold him. As we were at TOA yesterday, unbeknownst to Melissa, she told me, “I think Awadhi’s getting too big for me to hold him.” “You’re not allowed to say that,” I responded softly but seriously.

Gray. What’s a guy to do?

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Author: Brandon Stiver

I am a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, living and working in Moshi, Tanzania. My wife is named Melissa and we have three children: Moses, Promise and Shepherd. We are directors over an orphan care ministry called Kingdom Families; advocating for the needs of orphans and vulnerable children and assisting families to welcome them into their homes as sons and daughters.

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