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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

I doubt that one can be half-mad, half-crazy or even half schizophrenic. I guess your are or you aren’t, but yesterday I felt that half-madness had overtaken me. I’ll try to explain.

Night before last Jessie and I had a dinner guest, a woman from England who suffers from MS but who is a volunteer English teacher, something we hope never to have to teach again -(gerunds, dangling participles, simple-past negatives – oh horrors)! It was a warm night so we opened the back door in order to have some cross-ventilation. We had not opened the back door before because we are gone most of the day, and the nights are delightfully cool. Looking out the back door and seeing that our kitchen drain had emptied a lot of garbage out there and making it look like the world’s cess pool, and being that it was late and I still had the kitchen to clean up, I said to Jessie: “I think I hate Africa. I’m tired of the daily dirty beggars, tired of cleaning my shoes every day, tired of not knowing if we would have water or the internet, tired of dim lighting that has probably permanently ruined my eyes, tired of dirt and dust, tired of my skin and head itching from the dryness, tired of the suffering, tired of the starvation poverty – tired-tired-tired.”  Africa seemed hopeless to me that night and I guess I had a real case of “poor me.” Perhaps I am not mad but human and feeling helpless in the face of so much suffering.

Now here is where the real “go figure” comes in.

The very next day I had an English conversation class. Usually Jessie and I do this class together but she had another class at Bishop  Stanway so I went alone never expecting the fall-out that was about to happen. The conversation lesson for the day was to identify items one would find in various rooms in a house or home. They had been prepped for this with small pictures of the average western home and they named all the items – sofas, chairs, lamps, desks, computers, showers, toilets, cookers (stoves), cabinets, towels, sheets, pots, pans, microwaves and on and on. I knew that they not only didn’t have those things, often they didn’t even know what they were (Stupid lesson).  When we got to a garage and what one might find in an average American garage I suddenly teared-up. They said a water hose to water grass and flowers. When I asked how they bathed or washed they said: “with a bucket.” I felt so horrible for having such an “attitude” the day before. They are such dear people and I couldn’t bear that I use water indiscrimately – turn on the faucet and voila, I have water. Fill up a tub of hot water just for a soak, push a button or turn a knob and the outdoor watering system comes on. Here they thank God for a glass of water. Where am I going with this; I honestly don’t know. I only know that I told them it was our last class and I walked around the room and shook all of their beautiful black hands and wished them God’s blessings and then I left crying.

I stopped at Sandy’s on my way home and said: “last night I hated Africa and today I am crying over leaving and I love Africa”. She said: “welcome to Africa – now you are becoming a missionary. I’m not sure I even know what that means. Maybe I have a love/hate relationship with Africa. I do know that something is not right with this picture but I sure as heck don’t know what to do about it. Keep on keeping on, perhaps, and try to remember Mother Teresa’s wisdom – we can only do small things with great love or “better to light one candle than curse the darkness.”

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?

Can you believe I skipped church this morning – just didn’t think I could make the 7 a.m. service. I had a leisurely start, finished a fascinating book entitled: “Take this Bread,” a spiritual memoir of a 21st century Christian who had been an athiest. I used the word “athiest” in my class the other day and my students had never heard it and didn’t know what it meant. They cannot imagine anyone not believing in God and yet there are plenty of reasons for me to wonder when I see what I see.

I am glad that I didn’t go to church because the electricity went off and I was yearning for a bath and shampoo – managed to get it just before the electricity went off, otherwise it would have been a cold bucket bath. Sometimes girls have to do girl things, so I worked on my nails (never to be the same), didn’t get any tea or breakfast because I had no electricity. At noon I met with the New Yorker’s again with the Carpenter’s Kids for a dinner in the college library. I met so many interesing people, some from Australia who send money for medical emergencies and eye glasses. We don’t have to do big stuff – just little things with love.

When I came home I changed out of my clergy shirt and new African skirt and put on work clothes. Jessie has felt our “yard” needed attention so I raked the yard, meaning I raked the dirt. It bore a slight resemblance of a Japanese garden minus white sand or stones – just dirt.

Sandy McCann came over and said: “is your sister home?” Soon thereafter Jessie came home with wonderful stories and pictures that I can see her painting. The first thing she wanted was a shower but we had a rash of company and now many hours later she is finally getting her bucket bath. Isn’t it interesting how the simple things in life give us such pleasure?

We all need to re-evaluate our lives and determine what is important in the overall scheme of things. Do I miss nice bed linens, a strong shower? You betcha, but I have enough.

We continue to grieve over the loss of the baby. Jessie painted a picture of the great grandfather on the library walls last year. We feel a connection and a sadness. The father of the baby, Emmanuel Petro said it was God’s will but I don’t think like that although I do believe God redeems everything even is we can’t see it.

Wait until you hear from Jessie.

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