Tanzania: Dispatch Five

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Another Week on the Road.

We had returned to Dodoma on Sunday evening and were out again Monday late morning for the next week. In the interim, clothes were washed and semi dried, a few hours sleep was achieved, and a bath was taken. As usual, we do not travel alone. The usual two mechanic/drivers were along. Two other priests came. A fresh new choir of only a half dozen came. The vehicle was not as crowded as on the first trip.

Our first destination was Mpwapwa. I was prepared for about the same as last week. No electricity. Dirt floors in mud huts. Difficult roads. But there were some pleasant surprises this time. There was electricity. The homes had walls of cement block with corrugated steel roofs. However, the roads were still difficult.

Mpwapwa was a regional capital under the German leadership before World War One. Prior to that, it had been a distribution center for the African slave traffic going to the Arab nations of the Middle East. Now, it has primary schools, secondary schools, and even a college.

Three parishes combined there to welcome us. It was delightful. There was a formal Tanzanian dinner with all the favorite dishes. I was a gracious guest, eating and enjoying some of everything. When you dine as a Tanzanian, there is a need to wash before you eat and to wash after you eat.

Canon Harold Hango was there. He is principal of Buigiri School of Theology. We had wonderful discussions on the priestly formation of young men. He is an old style Anglican, around seventy-five years old. He was educated in Nairobi many years ago and has spent his life teaching and forming priests. We had many interesting discussions on the Fathers of the Church and Moses’ ability to write the whole Pentateuch and the authors of the Book of Isaiah. It appears that the school may close at the end of December because of lack of funds to sustain it.

Venerable Bezedell Madeje was also there. He is an older retired priest, a curmudgeon of a man. As a young man he held the national record here for the 400 meter dash for many years. He studied in England and ran for Cambridge. He got his advanced degree from the University of Alberta and was the resident expert on cold (baridi in Swahili) at the dinner. When Tanzania won its independence, he was the first national director of sports for his country and as such, wrote the physical education curriculum, which is still followed in Tanzania to this day. After he retired from national service, he spent years as a principal, starting several new schools around the country. His theological interest is the dual nature of Jesus.

xconfirm.jpgThe service in Mpwapwa contained a surprise for me as Bishop Chidawali ordained a deacon to the priesthood. The bishop has translated liturgy and special rituals into Tanzanian Swahili and made copies for the people. I preached on the call of Jeremiah and on some points from Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. I concluded with the dialogue between Jesus and Peter at the lakeside after the resurrection where He emphasized “Feed my sheep”.

We left Mpwapwa and continued toward our second overnight village, Gairo. The roads were very difficult. On the way, we stopped three times for parish visits. We visited a church a Lupeta where Fr. Aloice and his wife Ruth and the people welcomed us. We spoke to the people, talked about recent church history, prayed blessings, exchanged greetings, and left. We also visited two churches, which were no longer with Bishop Chidawali, just to exchange greetings (an African custom).

As we continued our travel, we came across two Peace Corps workers from Texas. We made a short stop to sip a little water, exchange stories and experiences, and then continued on. When Peace Corps workers come to Tanzania, the spend the first 10 weeks in intense seven day a week language study to assist in their total immersion into the culture.

Our next stop was a small village in the foothills of the mountains outside of Gairo. Frxfrdaudi.jpg Daudi and his wife Elizabeth and their people welcomed us. It was cool in the mountains. Everyone else wore coats. I was surprised how nice my room was. Good size, brushed dirt floor, a bed frame with a two-inch mattress. I slept very well until the fleas migrated onto me from the cat that crept under my bed as I slept. Ouch.

We had a service at the Primary School across the street. Around a hundred people attended from eight parishes. I selected readings from the first Sunday of Advent, intending to preach on that season. Much to my surprise, eight people were confirmed! I quickly changed my sermon and preached from Acts 8 (Peter and John go to Samaria to pray for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit) and Jeremiah 29 (when you pray to me – I will hear you). Life in the missions! It was delightful to see the people come up to be confirmed holding big pieces of paper in front of them with their confirmation names written down. Their best clothes would have made you weep.

We left the village outside of Gairo and visited three other little churches – one with 65 people, one with 100 people, and one with only 25 people. All three of these churches were dug out churches, with low ceilings. People brought some of their own chairs. I finally received my first live chicken of this trip. Once I noticed that its legs were tied, I was able to easily handle it.

Our last destination for the week was Bahi – due west of Dodoma- up till now we had been in the east. This is a famous city in missionary circles here. Several years ago, Bishop Chidawali was taking Bishop Weeks to Bahi. The road was terrible. The van broke down – seriously. Bishop Chidawali had to leave Bishop Weeks for several hours on the road while he went for help. There is no shade. It was not the best day in Bishop Weeks’ life. I am sorry to tell you Bishop Weeks but the road has since been paved and we got to Bahi in under an hour.

There, people came from three parishes. I preached the readings from the second Sunday of Advent and talked about the seasons of the church year and preparing to remember again the birth of Jesus and also looking forward to him coming again.

It is important to recognize that at every place I go, I face the issues of what happened in church this year. It is in my face in every place. It is the subject of almost all questions. In one place, there was a husband and wife who split over the church issues. In another, an adult daughter has been disowned by her parents who remained in the CEC.

I also face the issue of what is happening in the Anglican Church in America. All of this is not something I can deal with in fifteen minutes. It sometimes takes up to two hours to reconcile everything and to understand everything and to start the holy healing process and start to focus on ministry and holiness in the future. I am often exhausted at every stop.

Back in Dodoma, a new issue arose. The daughter of a neighbor died during a crudely performed abortion. The family was not Christian – they belonged to no church. The family asked Bishop Chidawali for help. We had a very good discussion on ministering to the children of God. Basic prayers were said. No liturgy or blessing was given. No promises were made, only a cry for God’s mercy and his consolation for the family. What so ever you reap, you will sow.

Two weeks on the road. Building new relationships. Starting God’s healing of the past. Starting to put an end to the times of troubles. Starting to resume hope and full Gospel ministry. Some teaching on beliefs and practices, some teaching on ordained ministry, some teaching of Holy Scripture.

Bishop Weeks is currently trying to raise money to replace the aging Hiace (Toyoto) van that Bishop Chidawali uses. Raising funds for mission work is harder now because we who used to be one, have fractured into several jurisdictions. Some hesitate to help at all if it does not immediately serve their current jurisdiction. I have examined the Scriptures. I saw how many times Jesus ministered to people who were not Jews. That teaches me something.

Yes, we are all Christians. The Great Commission applies equally to all of us. We are ultimately in one jurisdiction, the body of Christ. Gospel mission work cannot be entirely denominationally based. We serve the needs of the Body of Christ that we are able to serve. In truth, many of us who are in different jurisdictions may soon be in the same jurisdiction – even Bishop Chidawali. The prayer of Jesus in John 17 is being answered.

Christians from many jurisdictions support this ministry – equally sharing in the graces of God. Let us not be small groups of followers of Jesus, financially impotent because of our size. Let us join together into a larger force that can be exponentially expanded by the grace of God.

I have ridden in the Hiace van here and I know it is at the end of its natural life. It is my intention to personally send funds to help. I hope that you do too. If we all send a little, something good can happen. As a missionary myself, I must set the example.

End of request. End of sermon.

Thanks so much to all who pray and to all who still support this mission activity in Africa. God’s blessings come on top of your prayers and donations. I could never be grateful enough.

Mungu arabariki – God bless all of you

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