Among the many prayers at our wedding, Father Michael and Father David petitioned God for Daphne and me to “rejoice in the beholding of sons and daughters.” It is clear that this prayer was heard.
God willing, we look forward to rejoicing in the beholding of our firstborn child this March. We are due around the 21st of the month. We have hoped and prayed for children, and it’s exciting to be given such a good gift so very soon. Our child is in good health and is growing rapidly.
At the beginning of this month, we were received joyfully into the home where I had lived since January of 2011. My local Tanzanian family was thrilled to meet Daphne, and have been taking very good care of us.
But the house- like most homes in Mwanza city- is perched high above the nearest proper road. The only way to reach it is by climbing a steep slope of uneven granite boulders which can get pretty slick when there’s mud or sand on them. Pregnancy is giving Daphne sciatica in her hips, and her joints are getting more and more loose and unbalanced.
Daphne really wanted to make it work. She’d hoped that she’d get used to the physical strain of the climb to the house. But it’s getting worse, not easier, as the pregnancy progresses. By the end of last week, it was obvious that we had to move out immediately.
(Daphne’s asked me to clarify that her sciatica is not nearly as bad as what affects some women. I’ll take her word for it. As long as she’s on level ground, she’s fine. But when she’s scaling mountains, it gets pretty awful.)
God is good!
We are temporarily staying in the guest room of a lovely house with a friend who has welcomed us warmly. This all came together at the very last minute—we left our old house for good on Friday morning and were invited to stay here about 5pm the same day. God has taken good care of me for years, and by your prayers, we are confident that he will continue to provide for us.
But we kind of wish he’d let us know what’s ahead more than two hours in advance…
Finding housing in Mwanza city is no small task. You may recall that I spent three months living in a guest house in 2010, while I hunted for a place to live. We expect it to be just as tough this time round. Please pray for us.
Monday was our first visit with our OB/ GYN in Mwanza. He comes highly recommended, and we like him. We have been advised that this city has good medical facilities for women to give birth if it’s not their first pregnancy and there are no known complications. But a first pregnancy carries enough unknowns that if complications do turn up, we might not be able to get what we need here.
This means that, God willing, our child will likely be born either in Uganda, Kenya, or the city of Dar es Salaam here in Tanzania. We have investigated some of these options and will continue evaluating. We are confident that we can have a safe and healthy delivery for mother and child in any of these locations. Each has its own advantages and drawbacks.
Since our arrival, we have spent time in Bukoba town with fellow OCMC Missionaries Felice Stewart and Maria Roeber. Deacon James Nicholas, our Missionary Director at OCMC, paid us a visit last week. We enjoyed being with everyone in Bukoba, as well as welcoming Deacon James here in Mwanza.
Things are as busy as ever at the Church offices. We’re preparing to receive a short-term team from Finland and OCMC in a few weeks. Many other things are also in the works. I have spent virtually no time “back at work” yet, as the priorities of finding a home and a place for our child to be born have taken obvious precedence.
God is taking good care of us. Daphne and I are thrilled to be here in the Orthodox Church of Mwanza and Western Tanzania, and have been received warmly by His Eminence, Metropolitan Jeronymos as well as Church leadership, fellow missionaries, and the local community. I’m delighted to be chanting regular services–morning and evening, every day- in the Kiswahili language at the Archbishop’s chapel. We are present on the mission field where we’ve been called, and we have each other.
I’m doing my best to care for my bride, and feel woefully inadequate. But Daphne is doing well anyway. She is tough, courageous, and positive. I am in awe. If I were in her shoes I’d be a useless mess.
Nevertheless, we are under a tremendous amount of stress right now. We have each other, we have the Church, we have a good local network of support, and we have the fervent intercessions of the saints. We have Christ our God, who was born while His mother was traveling, with no home or even room in which to give birth.
I’ve thought about the Nativity of Christ many times. This is the first time I’ve considered how physically and emotionally overwhelming it might have been for the Mother of God to be uprooted from home in the final weeks of her pregnancy, and how scary it must have been to give birth in a manger.
This is the first time I’ve considered the terrifying weight of responsibility on the shoulders of St. Joseph the Betrothed. How helpless he might have felt, charged with the care of a pregnant woman but without a home or even a room for the baby to be born.
We sure are in good company. God is with us. Although we feel like strangers and sojourners at this moment, we know that we truly are at home in his household.
This letter is already very long, and I haven’t told you the half of what’s been going on. The past six weeks have been packed. I’d like to tell you more. So much has been fun, encouraging, exciting, and memorable. But I’ve said enough for now.
We know you are praying for us. Keep up the good work.
By your prayers in Christ,
James and Daphne Hargrave