“Compassion is the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody elses skin.  It is the knowledge that there can never be any peace and joy for ME until there is peace and joy for YOU.”  That was written by Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian minister and writer of many books.  I used that quote in my last Pastoral Care class this afternoon and it occurred to me as I wrote it on the chalkboard that I am drawn back time and time again to this place for that very reason.  I been asked why I come to Tanzania when there are great needs everywhere, even in Southern Pines, N.C.  In other words, why do I feel called to come so far and spend so much money to get here?  I’ve even asked that question of myself.  Why?  Why Africa, a place I never expected to come to.  Why Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in Africa?  I can simply say that God dropped me here by a set of holy coincidences.  And that might be sufficient.  But now it is more than that.  When Jessie and I returned last year we remembered faces but very few names.  Some are hard to pronounce and harder to remember.  This year we remembered their names ~ these are now people we know, care for and perhaps there will never be peace and joy in me until there is peace and joy in them.

Thursday’s chapel service is in Kiswahili rather than English and there was great singing and dancing in the aisle and I don’t mean anything like our liturgical dancing.  This was joyful worship, a kind that I could/would never do.  Jessie made a video of it and it is amazing and you would think they are the most joyful people in the world.  But once we get to class their concerns are different.  They asked me many serious questions about their role as clergy.  Many I could not answer.  Many were questions of morality and rules and laws.  I could only give them my perspective and how we do it in America.  Sometimes our code of law is different. 

We had dinner tonight with Mary and Yusufa (Joseph) Mkunda.  Mary teaches at Bishop Stanway and Yusufa is a priest, teacher and administrator at MTC.  The live directly behind us.  Yusufa said that when we leave we leave a great void or hole in them.  I believe he is very sincere.  On their wall is taped a small painting that Jessie painted for them 2 years’ ago to take as a hostess gift when we went there for dinner.  We learned that it is bad form to take food such as rice if they have invited you to dinner even though they may need it badly.

It’s late ~ I had already gone to bed but this quote would not leave me alone and I fear I may never find joy and peace until it comes to them.  They are beautiful people.  My life has been enlarged by them ~ maybe we are beginning “to live in their skin.”

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