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This came from The Rev. Sandra B. McCann, M.D. during the night.  I want to share it with you.

December 2004

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.  Isaiah 35: 1-2a

Advent Season in central Tanzania is a time of great hope for the greening of the dry barren earth which has not had rain since last December.  And, indeed, in the three weeks since our move from Kenya to Tanzania, the above verses describe the nearly overnight transformation that occurs when the rainy season comes.   The desert blooming in central Tanzania means that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  And indeed, everywhere you go, one sees families energetically hoeing the red sandy soil  for the planting of maize, millet, peanuts, and beans.  While in the darkness of the northern hemisphere, Advent is a time of preparing for the coming of The Light into a dark world, in this part of the southern hemisphere Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of The Living Water to a dry land.

Woody Allen or some prophet said that 95% of life is just showing up and Meister Eckhart said : “If the only prayer you say in your entire life is thank you, that will suffice.”  Sandy McCann says that one reason Jessie and I are loved in Tanzania is not that we are so great but that we care enough to come back  (we show up) ~ our friends know they are not forgotten.  Jessie has written sincerely about alternative giving and indeed, in just a few days you will get a  letter from us with hope that you will want to help.  It’s awkward to ask for money especially now when all of our mailboxes are stuffed with requests for donations to very worthy causes.  Go where your heart leads you.

I listened carefully to the prayers of the African people this summer.  Aside from praying for the right amount of rain I only heard prayers of  thanksgiving.  “Thank you God for this day, for this water, for this school, my family,” and so on. 

This is our national holiday ~ Thanksgiving Day and I daresay most of  us will go to bed tonight wishing we had not had that second helping.  Claude and I had Thanksgiving with Skip and Melissa Johnstone and their awesome family.  Skip asked us all to write something on a little piece of paper on the kitchen table that he could incorporate into his Thanksgiving prayer.  35 of us stood around the kitchen holding hands as he said grace.  There were prayers for our troops, for those who were not with us,  for our families, for love,  for our beloved dogs.  I added a prayer for those without a voice in Tanzania.   My particular prayer this day is for you  who have donated and supported our efforts in Tanzania.   This is one of my favorite prayers in the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come, knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

They don’t celebrate Christmas they way we do in Tanzania!  There is no “Black Friday” – endless shopping, Santa Claus, tree, presents.  They do have a special dinner with family which means at that dinner they would try and have some cow meat.  There is so much need, no donation is too small in a country where $5.00 would enable someone to go to the doctor if sick.  They are coming into the rainy season now, that means schools are closed so everyone can go to their Shambas (farms) and plant their maize and other crops which will feed their families for the coming year.  We have to hope the rains will come and be steady.  Too often, they don’t get enough rain, or they are deluged washing away the seeds.  It is a real crap shoot, (or should I say crop shoot).  The women in this photo were waiting for a hand out of maize the year before last when crop failure seized their region.  If any of you are looking for an alternative to adding to our own abundance with yet more “stuff” may we suggest making a donation in someone’s name to KARIMU?  No amount is too small.  A friend’s grandchildren are giving their small gifts via Karimu to their Grandparents.  What a lovely thought and lesson for small children.  If you would like to do this, checks can be made out to KARIMU, and mailed to Bill Rose, our Treasurer at 10 Walnut Creek, Pinehurst, NC 28374.  We will be happy to send you a letter for you to take to your tax person stating the deduction, and send a card to the receipient of the gift for you.  Please help us to help them this Christmastime.

A good laugh never hurts.  Last weekend, Jessie and I were in Burlington at The Church of the Holy Comforter ~ a beautiful church set back behind huge oak trees.  The church has all sorts of almost unseen steps to the altar and to the pulpit.  Yep, I had to go up winding steps to get to the pulpit.  Also the choir and musicians were performing a Mozart Mass in commemoration of All Saint’s Sunday crowding that area.  I was extremely cautions moving between the orchestra members and choir to get to the pulpit steps.  I’m small so I could squeeze in and out pretty well.  I was also very measured as I assisted at the altar, watching for those tricky little steps, hard to see with burgandy-colored carpet.  So far so good.  After the service an 87 year old lady with a cane asked if I was really 77 (I had mentioned that in my sermon) and then further commented on how agile I was for that ripe old age.  I was on my way outside to get a nosegay of flowers to help in “flowering the graves” behind the church.  No more had she said those words than I went down the granite steps and reached for the railing as I started back up not knowing that the railing was loose.  Down I went hitting my forehead, nose and eyeglasses on the metal railing.  My hip took a knock too.  Nothing was broken, not even my glasses, a miracle there, but I remembered my father’s favorite words from the Good Book.  “Pride goeth before a fall.”  I also remembered that I had been called “Gracie” in school because of well, you know ~ I was not graceful.  “Are  you hurt?” several asked.  “Only my pride,” I said.  When I finally made it to the graveyard most of the flowers had been put on graves of recently deceased saints.  I found a grave of a child, long dead and for a moment stood there wondering who she was or who she would have been.  Certainly one of God’s holy angels now.  I have more to write about that journey to meet the gracious and generous people of Holy Comforter but this is enough for now.

You may be wondering what is happening with the “Pig Project”.  Well – the women of Ikowa have purchased 26 piglets!!  They are currently being treated for hook worms.  I do not know if that means they have hook worms or if they are being treated prophylatically.  Let us hope it is the latter.  Will let you know when we hear how they are doing.

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