Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Year End (almost) Report

Greetings from Susan and Thomas MacPherson
Irente Children’s Home

   As our first year here at the home is coming to an end we wanted to share some of our experiences and plans for the year to come. The time here has sped by so fast.  In many ways we are still getting accustomed to the area and the culture.  We are blessed to have so many brothers and sisters helping us each and every day.

  At the present time we have 30 children at the home.  Some are orphans some are abandoned, and some are waiting till their families are capable to bring them home.  It’s a wonderful feeling to walk up to the home and have so many of them calling “Bibi, Babu”.  (Grandmother, Grandfather).  Nothing could ever feel so good. 

   September 28th was graduation for the second year students.  These women were here for two years leaning health care, midwifery, hospitality, horticultural, nursing, cooking, and many other skills to help them in their lives.  Many of the students will continue with their studies.  Past students have become teachers, nurses and even a doctor.  When we began here we didn’t realize our mission here was not only taking care of the children, but these young women also.  They are the most incredible, hard working and most respectful students you would ever meet.

    Our jobs here continue to bring us joy and happiness.  Susan is teaching English, computers skills, and bookkeeping.  I try to repair anything that is broken, cut fire wood, and provide transportation for the children to and from the hospital.  We both play with the children everyday.  Together we have a class teaching Conversational English to the girls. This is so much fun.  In January a class will begin with the employees to help them improve their English.

   We have said from the beginning that this is a joint mission with the ELCA, NED, SEPA, many friends and family.  Without all of you this companionship would not be taking place.  The relationship is growing each and every day. Your financial gifts and prayers have made this mission possible.  The ELCA’s support through our health insurance and transportation has been a wonderful gift.  Without the truck many things would not be accomplished. Here is a list of what the truck has been used for so far:

  1. Taking the children to the hospital
  2. Bringing firewood to the home
  3. Transportation for the students
  4. Carrying manure
  5. Taking maize to market to be ground
  6. Picking up supplies for home
  7. Carrying cow grasses for feed
  8. Transporting the brass band for a “Send Off” party

I am sorry to add that it was also used to carry the coffin of a child who died after only being here for one day.  I know we will never forget driving the truck with Hussein’s little coffin and many of the students in the back, singing hymns on the way to the gravesite.

    The North East Diocese has been gracious to provide us with our home.  All of you are always welcome here.  Their support has been amazing.  The staff at the diocese helps us in many ways.  We thank God each and every day for their gift.

     What can we say about SEPA?  We could go on forever saying all the things they have done for us. Bishop Burkat, Joanne Carlson, and the Tanzania Partnership team consisting of David Neal, Alice BellSon, Sharon Smith, Joanne Carlson, and Nancy Shaw have guided us from the beginning. This group was formed when the thought of having mission personnel was in the infant stages.  Their time and effort is Immeasurable.  We thank you all so much for your support, your vision, and most of all your love. 

   To our friends and family, we thank you for all your support, words of encouragement,  your gifts and your love.  We know its been hard on you not having us with you in your time of need.  You are always in our thought and prayers.

   One of the most fantastic experiences we have had is meeting people from around the world.  I bet we have met well over a hundred visitors.  Here are some of the countries they have come from:  England, Scotland, France, Italy, Iran, Israel, Poland, Spain, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, India, New Zealand, Austria, Australia, Norway, Sri Lanka, Canada, the United States, and many more.  When we meet them we talk about the mission of our church here in Tanzania and at home.  We have shared our experiences and also our slide presentations with them.   SEPA’s mission is now being shown all around the world, in universities, schools, churches, organizations and in homes.  You have planted the seed and now we all are watching it grow.  How marvelous is that?  Thanks be to God!

    One of our biggest support systems here has been the United States Peace Corps. We have developed close friendships and supported each others mission here. The Corps has eight volunteers doing projects around our location.  They have come to the Children's Home to work on projects and we have gone with them to work on theirs.  We support each other by listening and encouraging each other when times are difficult.  Did you know the idea for the Peace Corps was based on a church mission suggested to John Kennedy by Hubert Humphrey?

    So here we are about to start our second year. Where will we as a mission of the church and the people go from here? There are many projects here at the home and  surrounding areas in which we as a church can get involved. We will be meeting with the Tanzania Team when we visit Philadelphia in November to discuss what programs or projects that are of interest.  We will keep you updated.

    In closing we want to thank veryone for giving us the opportunity to represent the ELCA, SEPA, family and friends by serving here at Irente Children’s Home.  Our thanks go out to our home congregation, Pastor Lee Miller and Pastor Patricia Neale for their guidance and support.  We have faced  many challenges  and we couldn’t have gotten through them without the help from God and the people we represent.  We thank you for your support and prayers.

 With God’s peace and love,
Susan and Thomas MacPherson

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Paulina's Send Off

On Saturday, September 22nd we were very happy to be a part of the Send Off for Paulina, the daughter of Bwana Stephen from Irente Church.  We have written before about the custom of a “Send Off” party for girls who will soon be married.  This is an old Tanzanian custom, which has grown over the years.  In the past, we were told, the custom was to bring together all of the bride’s family to bid her farewell and offer her advice of how to behave in her upcoming marriage.  The family would also present her with some gifts to start her married life.

Now, send off’s rival wedding receptions.  Where money permits, they are held in beautifully decorated halls with an MC and DJ.  The bride-to-be and her maid of honor are dressed in very fancy prom-style gowns with elaborate hair styles.  The community of the bride’s parents contribute to the cost of the party, which can be very expensive.  

Part of the celebration includes having a band escort the bride-to-be as she travels to the party.  Tom was asked if he would help with this part.  So, on Saturday morning we traveled with our friend Eric to Bwana Stephen’s house to be part of the procession.  

When we arrived at the house, many people were there, along with a six piece band.  Many women were dancing and singing along with the music.  Some were dressed in their colorful kangas and others in gowns. 

First, we were invited to have something to eat at Bwana Alfred’s home next door.  The sitting room was filled with many male guests (the women were eating together outside).  After the meal, we went back to join the rest of the guests.  When the call came that Paulina was ready at the beauty parlor, we got into our pick-up with Alfred, Eric and Mr Jackson.  The band got into the back of the truck and started to play.  There were two trumpets, a trombone, a baritone horn, a snare and a bass drum.  We drove down to the center of Lushoto with the band playing all the way.  As we passed, people came from their houses or fields to wave and dance.  

In Lushoto, we waited outside the beauty parlor with the car that would carry Paulina and her maid of honor.  The beauty parlor is right next to the bus station.  Many busses arrived and left as we waited.  When everyone was ready we left, escorting the car which was decorated with purple and gold ribbons.  We drove back to Stephen’s house with the band playing many hymns that we could recognize.  We heard “It Is Well With My Soul” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” along with others.

When back at Stephen’s house Bishop Munga arrived.  Stephen’s family including Paulina’s grandparents all joined the bishop on the sofas and chairs that had been brought out into the front yard.  The bishop offered prayer and blessed Paulina and her family.  Then it was back into the cars and truck to travel to the hall for the party.  First in the procession were two motorcycles (called piki piki’s here), then our truck with the band, followed by Paulina and then the rest of the family and guests.  

The hall was decorated beautifully and the music was wonderful.  Paulina received many gifts to start her married life.  A difference at this send off was the amount of gifts given to Paulina’s parents.  Gift giving here is done by dancing your present, unwrapped, to the front in a conga line.  We were told that the parents of the bride receive many gifts if they have done a good job raising their daughter.  Paulina must be a remarkable young woman, judging by the gifts given to her parents and grandparents.

We felt so blessed to be included in this celebration.  We have been welcomed and accepted as a part of this congregation and community.