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To each of us is given the occasional burning bush or mountain top experience.  Sometimes we don’t even recognize it but other times we feel a deep shift deep in our soul.  I am not even sure we have to be attentive.  Most often they just happen and we are surprised but we know it is of God.

My husband Claude wanted to go to his home parish today. I didn’t. Something was pulling me to St. Thomas’ in Sanford or St. Mary Magdalene’s in Seven Lakes. Up until the last minute I didn’t know which way my car would go ~ north or south.  There was some freedom in going wherever the Spirit led me. To make a long story short, I went south to St. Mary Magdalene’s not knowing that they were celebrating their 30th anniversary, not long in the Episcopal Churches’ history in North Carolina.  Emmanuel is well over 100 years’ old and St. Thomas’ is even older. But this sweet-spirited mission church is committed to growth and to serving God by serving others.  What came as an even greater surprise was Father Bob’s sermon.  He spoke lovingly of  The Reverend Moses Matonya’s visit to St. Mary Magdalene’s last Sunday with his message of “love and thanksgiving.” Bob also read an e-mail to Jessie and me from Moses written when he reached Virginia Theological Seminary last Sunday evening. When he arrived they had already eaten their evening meal but Moses had in his possession a small gift given to him by someone at St. Mary Magdalene’s ~ something wrapped in blue paper that he clutched in his hand as he signed his book and as he talked at their Coffee and Contemplation time after the service.  None of us, other than the giver knew what was in the small package.  Moses wrote: “Thanks be to God because I have the cake I was given at the church I am eating it before I go to bed.”  He closed his e-mail with these words: “I truly enjoyed so much my stay with you. You have so nice hearts you ladies and God bless you richly. You will always remain in my heart and I will NEVER EVER forget the care and love you and your people (St. Mary Magdalene) gave me.”  Bob said that a simple gift of cake, wrapped in blue paper became Moses’ Sunday supper and that God’s grace transformed that tiny gift into an abundant meal of love.”  He went on: “Can’t you just see Moses’ smiling face as he ate his gift of love, and remembered with fondness and thanksgiving the people of St. Mary Magdalene Church? Can you have any doubt that God was smiling too? Can you ever doubt that God was well pleased?”  By then tears were coursing down my cheeks; Bob was crying and the congregation was in the same boat. We all felt the grace of Moses’ visit.  After the service Bob said to me that now that Moses has gone from this place that it is not unlike the lovely fragrance of incense after it has burned out when there is nothing left but ashes. That is the way we feel about Moses Matonya.  His loveliness is still here with us. I am deeply moved by his visit, his faith, his trust and his way of always finding reason to give God thanks.

I learned later this afternoon that due to heavy rains the young sister of Seche who cleaned, washed and baked bread for Jessie and me lost her home yesterday when it collapsed due to heavy rains.   Pendo which means love in Kiswahili has two small children and I want to help her in any way we can. She works for Sandy and Martin McCann.  If any of you readers would like to help don’t forget Karimu. We will see Sandy next week just before she returns to Tanzania.  We will give her what we have to aid this young and good family. Rain is fickled over there ~ it is not enough or it is too much. Even so I am sure Moses will give thanks to God.

Pendo's Little Girls

A good, related article from the New York Times:

New Life for the Pariahs by Nicholas D. Kristof


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A week ago we were on our way back home. Am glad that trip is behind us…34 hours of flying, transferring, waiting. First two days were physically challenging, wild sleep patterns, muscle aches, probably dehydrated.

Gone through 7 weeks of mail, caught up with family and friends, Tally has written a grant for $3,000. Hope that it goes through. Processing what we have learned, what we can do next to further the projects we are involved in.

Have started painting some of the scenes and people we saw, so would say – am back home. For now. Jessie

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This is a photo of Pendo, the tortoise.  As we were leaving the “church” we heard so many people saying:  “pendo, pendo”  and chuckling.  One of the men that brought us said this will be something they say for years – a tortoise named Pendo (love).

Given that tortoises live to be two hundred years old,  I can hear it now, some old person 100 years from now will be saying:  “See that tortoise?  A long, long time ago, two Muzungus were here, and were given that tortoise as a gift, but they couldn’t take him from our country, so they named him for the love that went behind the offering of the gift, “Pendo,” meaning love.”

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Today will be a day requiring both Tally and me to write about. It was a crammed full day of hospitality. This word refers to the RELATIONSHIP between guest and host. And relationship is the operant word here. We Americans are some of the most hospitable people I know, we are kind, welcoming, giving, and caring. But, today, Tally and I are reeling from a day of outreach towards us that will take a long time to digest and process.

We went with two of Tally’s former students, whom she will talk about as soon as she had caught her breath. (I am writing now because am afraid it will escape my mind if I wait). We went to the Diocese of the Rift Valley, leaving Msalato at 7:00 a.m. and returning at 9:00 this evening. The drive was on paved roadway for a good part of the journey. Our driver, Musa, was happy. Anyway, it was two and one half hours to the first stop, Manyoni, (this was too big a day, I cannot write about it now as I don’t know where to begin other than to give a chronological account, and that would not convey anything about the experience). Let me just say that the outpouring and effort that went into the expression of welcome was almost overwhelming for both of us. I still do not understand totally why – okay, no tourists ever come to this area, so Muzungus (whites) are a bit unusual. I think, though, it probably was mostly due to the two men that brought us there. Both are loved and respected by their villages, diocese, and so we rode in on their wonderful coat-tails. We were greeting by singing people, fed food at three different stops, prayed over, (and I had to say prayers more today than I have ever had to do out loud in front of people in my life). We were given gifts. Clothes, which the women gave us by putting them on over the clothes we were wearing right there in the church with no roof. Over our heads came the tops, and then we were wrapped like parcels with the skirts to match. We were given spoons, songs, and at the end, startlingly, a man brought us a baby tortoise! We did not understand this gift at all, and knew we could not accept it as we couldn’t travel out of Tanzania and into the US with a Tortoise. So we explained we could not keep this gift, but I asked if we could name it. They said yes, so I said “pendo” which is love in Kiswahili. Later, we asked the significance of tortoises, and learned that they are very special animals, highly revered, and wise omens of good things. So much thought and care went into this day from our hosts. They did not have much advance notice either, just a few days. Women of the villages cooked wonderful meals, choirs sang and men, especially the village elders made Tally and me feel like royal personages and a bit uncomfortable because we don’t fit that description in the least.

I want to think long about how they made me feel, what is it that so touched my heart. I think some of it is the unguarded, unselfconscious expression of welcome. Perhaps there is the hope that we, as Americans can help them in a tangible way, but I don’t think that prevailed with all the people who held our hands, looked into our eyes, gave us food, smiled and sang songs of welcome. I don’t know what I think right now except to say that I felt touched by God today.

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*click the photo to see a slideshow of the trip to Mlowa Village

This describes perfectly what we go through dozens of times a day:

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