After much consideration, we decided to travel to Arusha for the Holy Week and Easter services. We had been invited to a get-together for mission personnel at the home of Barbara and Andy Hinderlie. Barbara is the ELCA representative to Tanzania and her husband is a pastor and representative to Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and two other countries in East Africa. They planned a combined BBQ and Super Bowl party.
On Thursday, we left very early in the morning. Of course, this was the day that the “rainy season” started in our area. It rained all of the six and one half hours to Arusha. Last time we drove there, we could see Mt Kilimanjaro for several hours. This time the clouds were low and heavy. The road to Arusha is one long two lane highway. It passes though some very beautiful areas, as well as dry flat plains. This trip, we mostly saw the windshield wipers smearing the rain and mud.
We arrived in Arusha at about 12:30 pm and checked into the Impala Hotel. We had decided to stay there this time because of its “high speed” internet, four restaurants, swimming pool, and best of all.....bathtubs! We parked the truck and left it there for the whole five days. Driving in Arusha is stressful and dangerous. The traffic is crazy. We decided to use taxis instead of trying to drive. This was a good decision, since the driver we used for the whole weekend was excellent and knew where we could shop for the items we wanted.
After five months of services in Kiswahili, we needed some English services. The Maundy Thursday service alone was worth every minute of the drive there. Located on the grounds of Arusha Lutheran Medical Center is Arusha Community Church. It is a non-denominational church founded through the auspices of the Lutheran Church. The congregation is made up of people from all over East Africa, Europe, and America. We had the pleasure of listening to the Passion read by teenagers with Irish, British, and American accents. The leader of the service was a German Moravian gentleman.
Good Friday was observed much as it is in our home congregation, St John’s Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. The rough wooden cross was laid at the foot of the altar with votive candles lit by those attending the service. The readings and time for meditation were solemn and filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Easter Sunday service was filled with great joy. We sang some favorite Easter hymns and we were asked to assist with the distribution of Communion. The music and choir were wonderful, but the best was the sermon. Pastor Hinderlie was the preacher that day and delivered a great sermon. The church was packed. With a few dozen people still in the aisle, the bread almost ran out. Tom and Pastor Hinderlie broke the remaining bread into smaller pieces. The pre-poured wine and juice also ran out, and they were served common cup. It was a joyous occasion.
At the meeting on Monday, we met people who are serving all over the area. Besides the Lutherans present, we met people from other denominations including Mennonite, Presbyterians, and Catholics. It was a wonderful chance to share our faith stories with each other. We also learned about the many types of work that is being done. It reminded us of the expression, “God’s work, our hands”. We left there filled with the Holy Spirit as well as barbecued chicken and potato salad.
On Tuesday morning, we left Arusha at 6 am, anxious to get home. Our trip was just over five hours. After we passed Moshi, we saw Mt Kilimanjaro in our rear window, shining in the sunlight. As we climbed the mountain from Mambo to Lushoto and the temperature dropped, we were glad to return to our home. We arrived home refreshed, rejuvenated, and thankful for our time away.
(And for those who are wondering, the Super Bowl was sent to the Hinderlies on a disk from home. Someone from the church brought a big screen and projector and the game was played from a computer. Even though those who watched knew the outcome of the game, there was still a lot of cheering going on. We left in order to be back at our hotel before dark.)
We wish all of you "Pasaka Njema" ....Happy Easter