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035

We arrived in Tanzania as the moon was rising full and beautiful. We’ve watched it wane and now it is nearly full again. It is time to come home. As we prepare for our last seven days on this continent we are filled with awe, sadness, hope, sometimes despair but always love and gratitude for what we have experienced and what we have learned. Some of you will agree with me that it is easier to say “hello” than “goodbye,” but I remind myself that goodbye is derived from “God be with you” and we leave our friends here with that prayer.

With the few remaining days we want to fill them to the brim. As I may have mentioned, we had dinner with Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo and his lovely wife Irene on Saturday night. He gave us a personal tour of his grounds where he himself is growing casava, mangoes and grapes. Tanzanian wine is not the greatest, so here’s hoping the bishop can grow a grape that will harvest a good crop for communion wine.

We ate in their dining room with a Lazy Susan. At one point I asked if it was permissible to take seconds and Irene said it would be impermissible not to have seconds and imagine this: the bishop began to clear the table. I thought that was the deacon’s job or privilege. Later we retired to his living room where the bishop gave us his undivided attention about some of the schools and projects that we are interested in. On Sunday we were again with him as he ordained over 30 men and women to the diaconate and the priesthood. He graciously invited me to vest and participate but I had not brought robes and I was quite happy to sit with Jessie and other friends. Our friend, Joseph Kyense who was in one of my classes last year moved to sit close to us so he could translate for us. The service was in Kiswahili. There is a genuine kindness in the bishop’s face and demeanor. It was a glorious day as are all ordinations. We are all on the mountain top that day and the next day we are in the valley where most of life’s growth occurs.

We have a full week with a visit to another diocesan school nearby and we have volunteered to have an orientation for 4 students who are coming to the states in January to do four weeks of urban ministry at Virginia Theological Seminary. None of them have ever been on an airplane and some are nervous wrecks. Jessie and I hope to alleviate some of their fears or concerns.

This coming Saturday two of my former students and one whom Jessie gave art supplies to are taking us to Manyoni and Itigi to a different diocese. We will visit with church leaders and their bishop and then we are promised a magnificent view of the Rift Valley in Kenya. I asked Sandy why they were going to so much trouble for us and she said it is all they have to give us.

One last note for this entry. Today at 4:00 a lovely man, Daniel Fweda came for tea with his wife, Karen. As Jessie and I picked up our cups they stopped us and said: “we must give thanks for the tea.” Embarrassed, we said that we say grace at mealtimes but not at tea. When Daniel said they give thanks for a glass of water I nearly dissolved in tears.

Jessie will follow this up with news of a project that really lights my fire. We are investigating all the hopes and possibilities.

Blessings

bishop's farm 014

The bishop’s farm – what an operation!  Vineyard, orchards, livestock, casava, this is where he will retire.  It was family land and he has been building the “shamba” farm for nine years, but has just moved in recently.  It is all energy-green.  Solar panels, methane gas from manure, collection system for rain water.  He will use it as a conference center and teaching farm as well.  A remarkable guy.  We had a lovely dinner with him and his wife and good conversation about things in the diocese.  Today we are going to an ordination (cast of thousands).

(click on photo to see slideshow)

At least a hundred years ago I directed a production of Hansel und Gretel at an elementary school in Virginia. One little child had a one-liner: “The wind, the wind, the heavenly wind,” and he could never get it quite right – sort of like the little boy playing the inn keeper during the Christmas pageant. When Mary and Joseph came up the church aisle he got so excited that rather than saying his one-line: “There is no room at the inn,” he blurted out: “Wecome, welcome, come on in, we have plenty of room.” It sort of blew the gospel account of Mary giving birth in a stable or a cave but it still excites the mind that the birth of any baby, and especially the Christ Child can engage and capture our hearts.

Wind is much on my mind these days because it comes up in the early hours of the morning – I mean like just before the rooster whom we have named Pavarotti, welcomes the new day, and it blows and blows and sometimes makes me think of storms at sea.

Shortly before I left for South Africa in 2007 the late Dr. Don Schulte, respected and loved by many of us, called me at home and said among several things that I had endured a seismic event in my life with the sudden death of Hank Franklin, the priest at Emmanuel whom I had worked with so faithfully and lovingly for many years. Further, Don said that I was entering a period of enormous transition and he urged me to go off to South Africa with an open heart and an open spirit. More than anything he told me to be attentive to the new sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this very different world from what I had known.

I think this year, two years later, I am more in-tune with the sounds and smells and sights. Landsamercy, last year I was too shocked to take in much of anything other than the poverty. I’m more relaxed this time – not as stunned, in fact mesmerized by the sights and events that we have been privileged to experience this year. Earlier we said we would probably not come back next year because of the global economy but already we are saying we want to come back next year.

Wood and charcoal fires, the African’s way of cooking is a natural aroma now. Mostly though I notice the quiet at night – Jessie doesn’t always agree because we hear drumming and singing long into the night from the girls’s secondary school nearby, but once they have called it a day, it becomes unearthly quiet – no traffic, no planes or trains, no sounds from things like refrigerators or televisions or even air-conditioners. Those sounds do not exist here. Occasionally we will here far in the distance the whine of a dog which rips at our souls. Mostly, it is grave-like quiet and it feels holy to me.

This should be two entries because there is another whole story to tell you about our dinner with the bishop last night and an ordination of 30 some men and women in a far off village. We left home at 7:30 and got back around 5:00. Don’t ever complain about services lasting more than an hour!

For now I will leave you with these words about wind.
“I am the wind; yes, the wind beneath my feet. I’ll keep rising up. From the way I stride to the whisper in my voice; it’s the wind carrying me and directing my flutter; directing every twist and turn. Yes, it’s the wind inside that uplifts my spirit daily. See the true freedom in my eyes, it’s my soul in the wind.”

Calling all qualified English Teachers!! As you know, Tally and I are attempting to teach English grammar and have found out just how utterly clueless we are about the structure and rules of our own language.  It is a total mystery. We attempt to teach young women every morning a class at 8:00. Yesterday, because it was one of the gal’s birthday, we brought in a cake and had a party. The earrings from Morgan Miller were a huge hit. In the afternoon, we had an English conversation class, this is a bit easier since we certainly can speak! However, I was so tired, I spiraled down in to idiocy when a man told me his name was “Peter”. Most of the names are tribal – but Peter! All I could think of was: “Peter, peter pumpkin eater, had a wife and couldn’t keep her, he put her in a pumpkin shell and there he kept her very well”. Of course we then had to explain what a pumpkin was, which is good since it is a conversation class. But, I could not leave bad enough alone and proceeded on to “eensie, weensie, spider” and ended demonstrated “I’m a little tea pot”. Now I have not done that since kindergarten. Tally took pity on me and asked a sensible question: “Does Tanzania have an army?”

communionOur day began at 6:30 when we awoke to prepare for our journey to the village of Handali about an hour and a half away on a rutted dirt road but with lovely mountains in the background captured by Jessie and her camera. Along with Sandy McCann who was to preach and celebrate the Holy Supper, we picked up Venuce Mazengo, one of my students from last year to translate the sermon into Wogogo and Kiswahili, and Magi Griffin (one neat woman) who is from Georgia and who works for the Diocese of Central Tanganyika.  Sandy’s gallant husband, Dr. Martin McCann did all of the driving and please notice in the photos, especially you altar guild experts, Martin decanting the communion wine during the service.

We were welcomed first into the home of the priest-to-be ordained next weekend, Ayubu, I think. My hearing deficit is a real problem here but I manage. Sandy had a wonderful sermon and as I listened to her preach on the gospel from Mark (not the same lectionary that we use) I wished that Jesus could put his fingers into my ears and help me to hear but I reminded myself that I am old and have heard the birds, babbling brooks, rushing wind and Mozart for many years and it’s enough to be thankful for.  Jessie and I are phenoms over here – old old Muzungus (white-skinned people) and honored and respected far more than we deserve.

The service was so much more than we are accustomed to – lots of music, singing and dancing – several collections (and we think we ask for a lot of donations!). The collections were for the 10 that were “made Christ’s own forever” in Holy Baptism. One collection was to defray the cost of the newly aquired electric keyboard, and then there was the regular alms given to God.

Baptism2Deacons have privileges here that we are not always granted in different parishes. Sandy was insistant that I baptize half of the children. I didn’t know the Kiswahili words but she told me to do it in English because it meant so much to the people. I looked into their dark faces gleaming with hope and trust in their Saviour and couldn’t help but wonder about their futures and in some mystical way I trusted God to “do his thing,” whatever that may be. I was allowed to be God’s helper and the rest is up to God.

BaptismJust like at home, many pictures were taken of the clergy with the newly baptized and then Jessie and I were gifted with two pottery vessels – enormous pots that we might not be able to bring home because of the sheer weight of the two pieces. They look Etruscan to me but were given with such love that it will be nearly impossible to leave them behind. When the service ended hours later we had yet another meal in the priest’s home. We got home at nearly 5:00 which was was about the time you were beginning the 10 o’clock service. God’s word is being preached all over the world at different times but he/she is a timeless God.

We are energized, exhausted, thankful and are going to hit the hay feeling it was a glorious day and one that we will not forget. How do we come home in heart and spirit after all of this?

So much of our days are filled with new challenges.  Our old brains, already forgetful, are really shorting out these days as there is so much new information, challenges, and wonders to process.  Life is utterly fascinating, never boring.  But, there are the small everyday tasks we do here that soothe in their calming, arcane behaviours we thought we would share:

There is the morning washing of the blackboard rag at the tap outside the classroom before our English Class.

washing the blackboard ragEnglish class

Texting…

Jessie Texting

feeding the poor sick dog that wanders our neighborhood,

feeding the poor dog

Tally shining our shoes after our day of walking the dirt paths to and from our classes.

Tally shining shoes 1Tally shining shoes 2Tally Shining shoes 3

Feeding our neighbor, Iri Moto’s, chickens who calm and amuse us with their clucks and antics,

Tally feeding the chickens

giving food to old Shamba who comes everyday in his heavy coat and bare feet,

Shamba

then lastly our “cocktail hour” before we cook our dinner of beans and rice, do some work and usually turn into our beds around 9:00 to read before going to sleep.

cocktail time

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