Tanzania: Dispatch Four


This is mission ministry in its basic form – circuit riding in an old Hiace van, beat up and rattling, breaking down frequently, moving slowly through African bush country and through the mountains. We are five days on the road and have never exceeded 25 MPH. The mountain roads are twisty, rutted, and washed away from the rains. All in all, a very bumpy ride. The views are beautiful but we find few people in between villages. We travel very slowly with a bishop, an American priest, two driver-mechanics, and a contingent of sixteen other choir members, priests and assorted children. They sing constantly in Chigogo, the local language. I am beginning to dream in some semblance of the Chigogo language! We see few animals – baboons, a leopard, some lizards.

The first destination was DeBarro Parish with Fr. Samual and his wife Maria. They were all gathered to receive us. It was so joyful. The visit started with an hour of praising God, singing and dancing and worshiping in beautiful Chigogo fashion.

frsamual.jpgThen we ate. God must be protecting my digestive system because I have not gotten sick on the road (I see where they get the water, old wells with hand pumps. And they cook with this water). I eat ugale, which is a pasty bread, rice, some potatoes, very tasty greens, some chicken (coocoo in Swahili) and an occasional banana (ndizi) and mango (embe). They were very proud to serve me tambi – I looked at it and recognized African spaghetti. There are a lot of starch and carbs, hard on my system but that is what they have so I eat it gracefully. Courtesy requires me to eat the plate clean.

We worshipped in the little dug out church. Digging our the church allows them not to have to construct high walls. I preached from Acts about how the believers live as one and got along. I talked about who we are, who we were, and how we are now together and what that means. This is kind of like an introductory tour – they get to know us and we get to know them. It is a very good visit with many questions.

I stayed in a little room in a little hut. They had worked hard to give me a space of my own and I was grateful. It is good I prepared for such things and I am told that they were very pleased to hear me snoring. Breakfast was hard boiled eggs and chai tea. We exchanged greetings and were sent off rejoicing in the Lord. There is something about a personal visit that gives meaning to brotherhood.

The journey to Itiso, our next stop was very hard down the mountain and into the bush. The bush is a sort of meandering trail through scrawny thorn bushes. Often, the road is blocked by temporary small ponds. Sometimes there are drive arounds. Sometimes not. Some we successfully forded. We were stuck very badly once. The men had to push – helped by some passing Masaii and Chigogo. We finally got to Itiso. It was even on my map!

Itiso is the remnant of the old African Chicogo kingdom of Itiso. It is a village of perhaps a thousand people. There are two of our churchesfrrobert.jpg there, both pastored by Fr Robert and his charismatic wife, Jennifer. They worshipped for over an hour when we arrived. It was late and we ate quickly and slept. Another simple room in a hut maid of mud and sticks, with a mud floor. They cleaned up as best as they could for my stay. No criticism, only a grateful heart. I hope I snored here as well and made them feel good!

The next day we worshipped in their dug out church. It was glorious. I taught on the order of worship from Paul’s letters combining with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We prayed over people, took the mandatory picture of the people outside the church and then it was time to move on.

It was a long drive to our next destination, Henetty. We move through the bush over very hard terrain. The van is now marred and scratched by all the bush. Our break lines sever. They are fixed. A tie rod came off. It was fixed. The charging system malfunctioned. It was “temporarily” fixed (whatever that meant!).

Henetty is a larger village on the Dodoma to Arusha (the gateway to the Serengeti Plain) bus route. It is where Bishop Chidawali was born and he has many relatives there. The pastor is Fr. Ashury. He lives alone since his wife decided to stay CEC. There are many casualties like this in Africa. Split families in confusion. Part of my ministry is to help sort that out.

I spent the next day at the shamba, the farm of the diocese. The have purchased 3000 acres of fertile soil. It is not at present completely cleared. They have cleared and cultivated 100 acres. They are starting to clear another hundred acres. It will take several generations to do the work. They have the time.

The most valuable tools are the labor of the men and the wonderful tractor with its cultivator and carge trailer. What a workhorse! They are still grateful to Barnabas Ministries and Bishop Weeks for this tractor and start every day with a prayer for them. Bishop Chidawali gave me some colored rocks from the land to give to his benefactor, Bishop Weeks.

Four men were working the day I was there. They are preparing to plant sunflowers. Sunflowers are a valuable crop in Africa. They make a universally used oil from sunflowers. If they had the machine to extract the oil, they would clear a lot of funds to help the people and help the diocese. This was an impressive, large operation.

The next order of business was a family wedding. Bp. Chidawali’s nephew was marrying a Masaii girl. Bp. Chidawali’s brother has died so the bishop was the host. Fr. Ashury celebrated the wedding and I preached. I preached on covenant and sacrament. The local Anglican pastor attended and brought his 30 person choir with keyboard and guitar (an honor for Bishop Chidawali). The choir brings a small generator to provide electric power.

It is one of those days I want to remember in my life because it was so unique. The culture of the Africans here is for the groom and bride to sit stoically and never smile and never look to the side no matter what is happening. The people surround them during the service and put garlands and flowers all over them. They have an outdoor reception where they have an elaborate ceremony to eat the cake together. The MC eggs them on to smash the cake but I am told that it never happens. The women then take over and dance this primal fertility (my evaluation) dance to the beat of many drums. The Anglican pastor took me by the hand into the center of this mass of dancers to see this. Nothing immoral just kind of wild. The women took the Anglican pastor and me and all pushed us around and out of the dancing mass with much laughing and glee. I guess it’s part of the program. It was a big hit with the people. Everybody eats and celebrates.

Overnight again in a simple hut. I slept seven hours by the grace of God. More simple food, gratefully received. They are so glad to see me live as one of them, to eat as one of them, to sit and talk through language difficulties.

Language is hard here. I expected more English speakers. Not so. They speak a combination of Swahili and Chigogo with a little Masaii thrown in for good measure. It is hard to communicate. But there are victories. We had a session where up to seven people worked through a bible study on the Resurrection, both from a Chigogo bible and an English bible. it was exciting to see them stretch to learn. They realized a mistranslation in the Chigogo bible. It spoke of a volcano when Jesus rose. The English bible speaks of an earthquake. Several men are using my Swahili-English/English-Swahili dictionary to learn English so they can better communicate with me.

The young general secretary priest to Bishop Chidawali is using my BCP to assign readings. He has learned how to read the lectionary in English. The Book of Genesis is called Kwanza – “from the beginning.” They are fascinated to learn about African Saints as well; Augustine, John Toltin, Moses the Black.

Another overnight in the hut.

Sunday, we had services. Bishop and I just sat as the pastor and young priest led the service. The local Chigogo and Masaii had a gift; a beautiful hand made African decorated cross and chain. It will fit Patricia very well!

The journey back to Dodoma was one of the hardest in my life. The road was so bad. You entered the road by a security checkpoint where your time is noted and a call made to the exit point. If you are not at the exit in so much time, the military goes to look for you. We broke down three times. Three times they managed to fix the vehicle. It is obvious that the Holy Spirit is at work. We got home to Dodoma (one more breakdown, a puncture) late Sunday night, exhausted.

This has been basic ministry to start a relationship. You cannot be brothers in reality through the internet. Flesh must be touched. The Word must be preached. Worship must be shared. All must see, not just the bishop or the clergy. This is not just a name change. It is a real personal relationship. This is a start. Trust is growing. Tomorrow we go on another five day journey in another direction to do the same. Please pray for us.

Munguu arabariki sana! May God bless you well!

Fr. Francis Wardega


1 Comment

  1. December 1, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    […] Tanzania: Dispatch FourBy connectionkenyabpmzees.jpg. This is mission ministry in its basic form – circuit riding in an old Hiace van, beat up and rattling, breaking down frequently, moving slowly through African bush country and through the mountains. …CK Foreign Missions – https://connectionkenya.wordpress.com […]

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