Sunday, September 22, 2013

Visitors from Home

The day after we arrived back in Tanzania, we drove to Tanga to meet a group from our home congregation, St John’s Lutheran Church in Philadelphia.  The Lutheran Church worldwide has a program connecting synods around the world as partners.  Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod is partnered with the North Eastern Diocese of the ELCT.  Our congregation is partnered with Kana Lutheran Parish in Tanga, a small city on the Indian Ocean.  This partnership is how we came to be here in Irente.

In Tanga, we enjoyed the fellowship of our friends and visited Kana and it’s members.  Our pastor preached at the Sunday services and led a Bible study group in a discussion of disciples of God, especially those called by God, who at first objected to God’s call.  We visited a small sub-parish for worship on Sunday, where they held a fund-raiser to be able to complete the walls of the church and install a door. 

On Monday morning, we visited a sewing school, which is a project of Kana.  The school teaches young women to become seamstresses and tailors in order to provide them with a living or opportunity to open their own small shop.  These students are young women (and a few older ones) who pay a small tuition to attend the school.  The sewing machines are the treadle style and there are far more students than machines.  We were very warmly welcomed and got to see some of the clothing they were making.

Late Monday morning, we traveled to Irente.  Pastor Tricia and her husband David, rode in our car and the others were in the Kana vehicle.  We wished we could have seen all of their faces as we went the last 30 km up into the mountains from Mombo to Lushoto.  The road is narrow and steep with no guardrails and hairpin curves.  One person told us they rode most of the way with their eyes closed.  We remember that feeling!

At Irente, we were very warmly welcomed by the staff and students of the children’s home.  They greeted us all with bouquets of flowers and the singing of “Karibu Wageni Wetu” (Welcome our Visitors). 

The group stayed at the hostel at the home, but we had all of our meals together at our home.  Veronica did all of the cooking and arranged for a friend to help her while our group was there.  Catherine did most of the laundry and helped with cooking prep work.  I believe everyone enjoyed their meals, since we have had several requests for recipes from Veronica.

The group consisted of our pastor, four teachers, and a CPA.  Everyone got busy right away with various projects.  Mary and Rochelle worked with the school-aged children who were home on holiday.  The kids learned some new songs, made “books” about themselves, read stories and did a lot of math.

Don, David, and Vickie worked painting the kitchen at the home.  St John’s raised money in order to repair the walls and ceiling (which was starting to fall down because of roof leaks).  The new ceiling and plaster- work were done by some fundis (skilled workers) before we arrived.  The kitchen is now a beautiful, sunny yellow color.  It is a wonderful room to work in now.  St John’s also raised money to construct a protective awning so the students can walk from the prep kitchen to the cooking room without getting wet.  They also donated money for the purchase of two new tables and chairs for the dining room.  With these, all of the students can eat together in the dining room.

Pastor Tricia worked diligently in the shamba (vegetable garden) with the students.  Using a jembe (hoe), she dug planting beds until she had blisters on her hands.  She also enjoyed time for conversation with the students while they worked.  They really were impressed with pastor and how hard she worked. 

Besides painting, Vicki joined the students with all of the work they do everyday:  washing dishes, babies, and clothes (by hand), hanging laundry, and helping with food preparation. 

It was a wonderful time for Tom and I.  We enjoyed having friends from home with us.  They lived our life for a short time, complete with power outages, internet disruption, bucket showers, and for some, Eastern toilets.  We visited the market and they did some shopping.  We attended the early service at Irente Lutheran Church together.  We enjoyed a lively game of “Nacho Loco” and had some meaningful Bible study and conversations.

The visit was over too soon.  They traveled from Irente to Arusha on Sunday afternoon.  There they were to visit some schools through the Mwangaza Education program of the ELCT.  And of course, they concluded their trip with two days at the national parks at Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire.

We enjoyed their visit so much and wish others could come to see how great, but different, life here is.  We say, “Karibu tena” (welcome again) to our friends, and also we welcome you to join us too!

ELCA Summer Mission Gathering

While in the states, we had the pleasure of traveling to Chicago and then to Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin to attend the ELCA’s Summer Mission Conference. 

We drove from Philadelphia to Kenosha and back in order to enjoy seeing some of the country.  We especially enjoyed the hills of Western Pennsylvania and the farm country of Indiana.  It was also a wonderful time to talk about our visit home and our plans for the upcoming year in Tanzania. 

Carthage is a Lutheran college located on the shore of Lake Michigan.  The campus is beautiful.  There we joined with 128 mission personnel, who serve all around the world, and staff of Global Missions.  We enjoyed time of worship, learning, and fellowship over five days.

We had attended the conference in 2011 before we came to Tanzania.  On our return this year, we were able to reconnect with friends from our cultural training in Toronto.   We also had time to catch up with others we met before and also new people heading out for the first time.

The SMC is a wonderful chance for people serving God in many places to refresh and recharge.  The ELCA Global Mission staff did a great job organizing and conducting this event.  I believe everyone there left with a greater sense of God’s love and why they are doing what they do.

Some of the places represented were: China, Lithuania, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Egypt, Uruguay, and Japan.