The 2011 First Anniversary Newsletter of Jean Wahlstrom and Marvin Kananen, Missionaries at heart, residents of the USA
Dear friends in Christ, dear friends of Jean and Marvin,
March the 11th 2011 marks the first anniversary of our landing in Seattle. One year later, we offer you a most informal newsletter, maybe a final word of thanks, and a good-bye again. This is a moment to share with you the strange process of becoming Americans again. So, it is with great joy that Jean and I say this:
Our last newsletter was dated August, 2010. Immediately, we went through a phase we'd never before heard of called 'Newsletter Withdrawal.' Newsletters were always fun, but sometimes the news is hard. Last August while we were in Iowa trying to make connections with as many of the people and churches who had befriended us as we could, it became a difficult month for us. While still speaking there, we received word that Jean's middlest (that would make him the fifth of the nine children) brother, Vern died of cancer. We shuffled our schedule and drove northward and spent a highly emotional ten days between his funeral and, a week later, Lillian Wahlstrom's 103rd birthday. Afterward we resumed our truncated speaking schedule and heard that J. David Simonson, the missionary to Tanzania (in 1955 when he and Eunie went it was Tanganyika) who was instrumental in getting us to Africa, had died at the age of 80, still in Africa. Before we could get home, a third death occurred, that of Eric Hanson who died of brain cancer. Unable to get to Africa to Simonson's final farewell, we raced home and were able to celebrate the life of Eric. Eric, Beth Elness-Hanson, and Anya were at the Maasae Girls Lutheran Secondary School with us for 2-1/2 years as well as being our neighbors in Bellevue where we live.
Appropriately, we arrived home on Labor Day. Before we left early in July, friends had swarmed over our little condo and painted every paintable surface with two coats of paint. But when we got back we walked into and over a pile of 140 boxes we'd stored in our attic crawlspace, 20 trunks, and gathered almost 35 suitcases others had carried back from Africa for us. Our place was furnished if you consider boxes and trunks, plus two desks, a card table, folding chairs, and a bed enough. But friends in Christ as well as Christ, through friends, provided. Friends, living on a houseboat and therefore always aware of weights and balance as we generally never have to consider, gave up their three piece oaken desk in exchange for a player piano from her mother, and so gave Jean a working desk. Other friends gave us a huge dining table which, when all the leaves are installed, looks as if you could land a plane on it. We kept the leaves off and, with eight chairs, we have seating for many. Someone got a flat-screen TV so we got their old one. We bought a used hide-a-bed and recliner. Lamps and kitchen stuff wandered into our lives, and suddenly our condo became a home. We bought a new gas barbeque and an outside patio table.
In November we left to go to Virginia where we spoke, then spent three days in D.C. (everyone ought to go see our nation's capitol, an amazing place). On the way home we both stopped by to see our families in what we called our 'Christmas in November' visit.
Our home church welcomed us back. I know there are people in this world who are disgruntled at 'church' and 'The Church,' but we love our church, the people therein, and the Christ they serve. I would never want to be without a place of worship we can consider our 'home church.' In the twelve plus years we were gone, they kept us as members even though we only attended about once a year. We belong to St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Bellevue, a mile from where we live.
Jean spent most of January in Tanzania with a mixed class of seven students from Trinity Lutheran College and Pacific Lutheran University (one of Marvin's alma maters), including several days back at the Maasae Girls School. What is the news? Well, in our absence the school continues to struggle with a lack of water in the pipes, the rising food prices, mandated governmental increases in salaries, a lack of textbooks, and a people group which still doesn't support the education of girls.
HOWEVER, the school continues to recruit the poorest of the poor, to have students eager to learn and improve the quality of life of their families, to welcome the work of God in the lives of their students and staff, and to have many competent graduates now working in Tanzania in a variety of occupations. There are three grads teaching at MGLSS. Jean was able to participate in worship led by a clergy grad serving as chaplain, to encounter several others now serving as nurses. accountants, administrative officers. legal officers, primary school teachers, business administrators, and even a public policy advocate. These educated Maasai women bring such joy to our hearts!!!
Our work has not been in vain! One of our grads, the former Esther Piniel who was Marvin's English Department Head at a neighboring Monduli school, volunteered to host one of our Trinity Lutheran students for a homestay. It was a joy to watch Esther teach this USA student about Tanzania, about being a Maasai girl from the bush who had come to the school, about her culture and faith, about her university experience in Dar es Salaam, and even share about marriage and wedding customs as Esther prepared for her added new role as wife and mother. Through her, we have witnessed one generation becoming the next. Sigh!
Rejoice and give thanks with us for the fruit God has produced through this school and your partnership in mission. PRAY for wise solutions to the continued struggles and challenges facing the school, for the Head of School, and for OPERATION BOOTSTRAP AFRICA as they move forward together.
We both had a chance of going back to Tanzania, to a new part of the country to a lesser known secondary school of the ELCT called Manow Lutheran Jr. Seminary (Konde Diocese, 9 degrees, 14' 15"
S and 33 degrees 46'16"E for you Googlites, east of Tukuyu, 5,600 foot
elevation) where we would have taught a pre-Form One English Intensive program started by Nancy Winters of Olympia, WA. This assignment would have lasted ten weeks (mid-September to early December) and would probably have been extended another couple of weeks, thus avoiding some of the winter in the US in exchange for Christmas time on the Indian Ocean. This is a volunteer program, but most expenses (including airfare) are covered by the Tanzania Teaching Foundation (also of Olympia). We can't make it, but if you've ever wanted to spend 3 months as a missionary teacher, this is a real opportunity.
By the way, they (the Tanzania Teaching Foundation) are having a fund-raising event May 21 in Olympia, WA at the Schmidt Mansion. Space is limited, there is an advance purchase of tickets
($40) for either the 4-to-6pm or the 6-to-8pm time slots. Call Nancy Winters at 360-943-3053 or contact us if you are interested in teaching at Manow or attending the fund-raising wine and cheese event.
And for Nancy's sake, we want you to know that you can donate without attending. This is a recognized 501-C3 event.
And so here we are. Jean turned 67 a few weeks ago and applied for Social Security, getting her first check in a week or so.
Marvin, ever so much younger, turns 65 in March, joined Medicare March 1st and will receive his first SS check in April. We've been in America a year now. We're retired. When we finally got home to stay in our own home in September, Marvin weighed 290 pounds. Able to control our diet for the first time in a long time, we have now lost nearly 40 pounds between us. Our weight is still slowly dropping. We walk a lot and Jean swims at least 3 times a week while Marvin 'works out' as well as walks all over town, visiting Starbucks for their 5 calorie drinks.
As you get this newsletter, we will be in Arizona. After this month we will probably have completed our missionary speaking opportunities. Then maybe we can settle down and live our lives with as much grace and activity as we can. But know this, we both miss life in the missionary world. The Girls School and Operation Bootstrap Africa are still there. At the school we have turned over our responsibilities to the Tanzanians, we have confidence in them, however Jean still frets about the biblical teaching the girls are getting and Marvin worries about the English program. We miss being the agents of hope for those girls. We miss the chaos, the adventure that happens every time you open your door, and the sense of weary accomplishment that generally rocked us to sleep each night. You were there with us, making it possible, being our lifeline (literally) back to the States. Thank you; and God bless you for that. We urge you to continue your support of the ELCA Global Missions, the Maasae Girls Lutheran Secondary School (they still need sponsors for this year's new Form One students), Operation Bootstrap Africa (call 612-871-4980 or email@example.com), and everyone around you. Truly, we need one another and we're better off sharing the burdens of life (some carry, some are carried, often we switch roles). And, true to our deepest fears, the Form IV grades dropped from the 94th percentile in 2009 down to the 88th percentile in 2010, which is still so high we praise God for their performance, for we who were their teachers know who gets the credit for their success.
Love, Jean and Marvin
P.S. Remember the post scripts that always added last minute information to our newsletters. This time it turns out that Eunice Simonson has a new book out, I COUNT MY BLESSINGS: Every Day is a Gift, a Blessing, a Connection. It costs $15 and is available at Amazon.com. They have a Kindle version but I didn't check the price.
Eunice and David Simonson are the people God used to get us to Tanzania. If you know Eunie, you love Eunie; it's that simple. If you do get the book, for reasons unstated, we do advise you to skip over page 121. Please know that this is not a commercial or endorsement, exactly . . . .