Friendship never grows old.  A free spirit rides forever.

We met Vance and Beth Marie the first Sunday that we attended Arusha Community Church.  We consider ourselves “old friends”.  Not entirely true.  A youthful spirit has left neither of them behind. Time has not extinguished youthfulness, either.  They remain young whippersnappers, at least to this old geezer.  But they feel like old friends.

We discovered, at the following Sunday service, a neighborly connection.  Literally.  They live in the compound right across the road from Lota and me.  Well, almost.  As we walk out our gate, we take an immediate right, walk about 25 or 50 feet, and rattle their gate.  A guard stations there, and opens it, if we look friendly enough.  Last evening, we looked friendly enough.

Vance sent me a text message a couple days ago, inviting us over for supper.  So we hiked to their place.  Vance did the cooking.  I know that because Beth reminded him that he shouldn’t have spiced it up so much.  It was good, nevertheless.

Beth connects with Rockland.  Beth’s father is Wayne Miller.  Trish sang in Rockland’s choir.  Wayne and Trish Miller left Rockland maybe two years ago to move to the west coast.  Wayne and I talked several times.  I remember wishing them all the best, just before their move.

Beth participated in Rockland’s first Tanzania mission trip in 2004.  It hooked her.  Like her father, Beth maintained a free spirit, unafraid to take on new challenges, embrace the opportunities of life.  Tanzanian life grabbed her like a warm embrace.  She now considers Arusha home, even though her school contract renews yearly or bi-yearly, just like her visa.  She returns to Denver, yearly, but only between school breaks.

She and Vance rent the home that sits within the school compound where they each teach.  They secured this place after a few others turned it down.  All the other teachers who had a chance to rent it, declined.  They all had other places lined up.  Or, simply preferred to get away from the kids in the evening.  V&B elected all in.

Beth’s reputation at “The Sanctuary” preceded her meeting Vance.  (I hope I remembered the name of the Denver church that she attended, correctly.)  The Sanctuary sits as a spin-off of Rockland, as Beth described it to me.  Apparently, a group from Rockland spun off years ago, after which, the Sanctuary sprouted from that original Rockland spin-off.  The original spin-off no longer exists, as I understand it.

Located somewhere in the heart of Denver, Vance visited The Sanctuary, and liked it.  Became his church.  Heard all sorts of good things about the legend that Beth had become.  Unaware of who she was when she returned from TZ on some sort of break, fell in love with her, immediately.

Beth never lost her free spirit.  Perhaps like tree leaves riding the wind, her spirit still roams.  But her tree roots in Arusha.  Part of the package that Vance bought into when his enchantment began to grow.

Cautious at first, then more serious, they grew into each other, marrying only a year ago.  Celebrated their 1 year anniversary last week, as ACC’s worship leader-of-the-day announced it.

They told us that the stipend that they get as compensation for their teaching supports their modest standard of existence.  No TV.  Daily grocery visits.  Kids always needing a hug.  Just the basics.  And, just the way they like it!

“People are real, here,” brags Beth.  Vance nods and smiles ascent.  “No pretense.  No artificial demeanor.  That’s what we’re all about.”

“Are you missionaries?”

“Nope.  God gave us talents to use.  We use them in ways that feel good, make us happy.  Probably, until the government kicks us out, this is home.  This is what we do.”

We sing in unison on Sundays.  We try to improve lives here, as best we can.  For a few more weeks, we live the same life style.

So, we’re old friends.  Nothing pretentious, just friends.

A free spirit suits us all.