As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me.” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” NIV Luke 10: 38-42
On February 17th, a Saturday, Sandra was invited to preach in the Parish of Chamwino about 20 miles from Dodoma. The occasion was a meeting of the Uwake which is the Mothers’ Union. The Reverend Mary Sengaya, the Secretary of Uwake, was holding a parish-wide seminar to empower women. Chamwino Parish is made up of a central church with 5 other peripheral churches. The seminar was held at St. Peter’s, the main church. After the morning session and after lunch, Sandra preached and Mary celebrated. Surely it has been the first time in Tanzania that only women were serving at an Anglican altar AND with a male deacon acting as acolyte! Photo Mary is a member of the local Wagogo tribe, and she led us dancing out of the church playing a traditional Gogo drum.
Sandra preached on the above Martha and Mary story, playing on the roles of Martha, the dutiful housekeeper-cook, and Mary, the contemplative disciple at Jesus’ feet. It was about how these two women welcome Jesus (Karibu kwa Yesu) into their lives. In short, Martha the human doing represents the woman’s role in Tanzania, and Mary the human being at Jesus feet represents the potential for empowerment. The sermon went on to say that women need to be more than welcomers and that they, as men (and there were several of the elder men in the church), are welcomed to be Jesus’ disciples. The women when they take time to listen to The Word discover that they are good and equal creations who are called, like Mary and Martha, to be full participants in the life and prayer of the church. In listening to The Word women will find that they are called to be both Martha and Mary. At the conclusion Sandra called on all the members of Chamwino Parish to work toward full partnership of men and women working together in the mission of the church. This may be an over simplification of the sermon, but all listened intently as it is news here (and very good) that women are equal to men though their functions may be different. Each of the six choirs of the parish also sang and danced, each trying to out do the others. Photo The faces of the women in the photographs above taking communion from the silver chalice, a gift from the Grube’s of Columbus, are beyond description.
This weekend had followed another important outing for us. February 14th to 19th happened to be the Primates meeting of the Anglican Communion. This is held every year to bring all the archbishops to a meeting chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It happened to be in Dar-es-Salaam and to be the first time a female archbishop (Presiding Bishop) attended. Our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori invited all the Episcopalian missionaries working in Tanzania to meet with her the first day of the conference. Sandra and I, Leslie and Kirk Steffensen, and Kelly Alexander drove down to Dar and joined Dr. Henry and Priscilla Ziegler, missioners in Dar from Washington State, for this meeting. It was quite an honor to meet our PB on such an historic occasion. Photo She listened attentively to our missions and made it clear that we had access to her office and the resources of the mission personnel office at 815 (the national church office.) The Reverend Emannuel Sserwadda, Interim Partnership Officer for Africa at 815, who had arranged our meeting with the PB later took us out to dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. He made us feel that he is a caring liaison at the Mission Personnel Office. The news services tried to play up her presence and sensationalize the “split” in the communion. From our point of view, she was received well. The number of primates refusing to take communion with her was in fact less than the meeting last year in Ireland attended by PB Griswold.
The Anglican Communion hosted a TEAM (Toward Effective Anglican Mission) Conference March 7th to 14th in Boksburg, South Africa, near Johannesburg. Martin and a team from the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, including Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo along with Atlanta Bishop Neil Alexander, attended. *6 The meeting drew more than 400 representatives from 34 of the 38 Anglican Provinces of the world. The purpose of the meeting was to develop a more effective and focused approach to the issues outlined in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) which center on poverty and hunger, education, gender issues and health issues (for a complete list of the 8 goals see http://www.undp.org/mdg/goallist.shtml.)
The meeting began with a Eucharist, led by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The topics are difficult to summarize but recurring themes emerged. One, first delivered by Helen Wangusa, Anglican Observer to the United Nations, was that not only should the church put a theological basis to the MDG’s but also where possible improve on the MDG’s. Bishop Mhogolo commented effectively along these lines concerning Goal #2 which is for universal primary education. He essentially said Tanzania has had primary education for some time but that this level of education has not produced the skill levels needed for real development. Another point that emerged was that the churches in developing countries have historically fostered schools, hospitals, clinics, and women’s groups. Pastors meet with their flock at least once a week and can relay the MDG message and gather the needs of the people. Thus the churches are grass roots and are positioned in helping the underprivileged. Another dominant theme was the role of the churches in advocacy. In the developed countries, advocacy is for starting and continuing links with developing countries and meeting the 0.7% budget commitment to MDG’s. In developing countries advocacy is for rational cost accounting and transparency and finally for insurance of delivery of benefits to the poor.
As you study the MDG’s, you will see the adverse effect of poor health increasing poverty and hunger. In addition, since women and children are more affected by poverty and lack of education, the Mothers’ Unions can have a loud voice in advocacy in developing countries.
The resolutions of the meeting will be presented in some form to Lambeth Conference in 2008. What is needed is for the Anglican Church to embrace the MDG’s as a framework and mold them into the kind of advocacy Jesus would espouse. As in the Martha and Mary sermon as outlined above, by prayer and participation, we all can be better disciples.
Martin has filled you in on the big events, so I will finish by focusing on the everyday. After spending nearly three months in the states and having never had significant rain in Dodoma since we arrived in November of 2004, it was a shock to come back to a green Tanzania. Photo In fact, it is quite jungle-like around here, so much so that when I went to a friend’s house last Sunday I got lost. The previous “road” was now a path through corn fields higher than an elephant’s eyes. I also got stuck in a huge pot hole in the path requiring the college tractor to pull me out. The roads are really beyond your wildest imagination, even if you think you are used to African roads. Photo The natives say in their lifetimes there has never been anything like this rainy season. While we cried and begged for rain, this was more than one could ask. Train tracks, bridges, and roads have been washed out cutting off some towns for weeks. The village of Bahi, about an hour from here, was essentially washed away. The sandy earth in the flat areas is so wet that it cannot hold the roots of the mile high corn allowing the stalks to fall over. But the good news is that there will not be widespread famine this year. Everyone will have something to eat, at least for a few months. At the end of this month, we will do our last food distribution to the neighbors as harvest time is April. We sent home bags of maize with our students the first weekend in March to sustain their families until Easter time. The food distribution program is one that we are all too happy to conclude.
While there is enough water now in the lakes for a consistent supply of electricity, the bad news is that we have lost electricity for large parts of nearly everyday. The electric lines and many poles are down due to the storms and winds. Yet, all in all, you hear few to no complaints from the Tanzanians who are just thrilled to have their small plots flourishing with beans and millet and peanuts.
With funds raised in the states the building of 2 new classrooms is underway Photo . so they should be ready by August when our third ‘first year” degree class will be admitted. Blankets have been distributed to all students from funds from St John’s in West Point, VA, and from All Saints’ in Atlanta. Photo It is fall now and with the dampness and wind a blanket already feels good at night. Other monies from several sources are being pooled to provide school uniforms, shoes, supplies, and daily porridge for 50 children in our surrounding parish. Generators and lab equipment and a power point projector have also been purchased. Thanks so much to all of you for such tremendous support. You make life good for us and for the people we serve.
Last but far from the least, we have been blessed by visitors from home. Bishop Alexander came on an unofficial visit to celebrate with daughter Kelly her 23rd birthday on March 3, but he graciously found time to lecture at Msalato which was a thrill for our students.Photo Everyone wanted a picture with “the American bishop!” Photo He also led the Bible study for 3 consecutive mornings for missionaries and staff of the diocese. The topics were call, discernment, and mission. It was wonderful. Then on March 16 we received Ann Conger, my goddaughter, and Bobsie Turner from Columbus, GA, 2 beautiful young women with big hearts who have come to volunteer for a few weeks. Photo The following day our new boss, the Reverend David Copley, Director of Mission Personnel at 815, made a brief visit along with Mary Brennan, the World Mission Network Officer for 815 and a former member of All Saints in Atlanta. They were warmly received at a staff dinner. Photo David and I, along with his priest wife, Susan, were classmates at Virginia Theological Seminary.
I preached on Ash Wednesday to begin the Lenten Season. It was a very emotionally uplifting day with the entire village and many missionaries from town coming to the service. The crowd overflowed into the church yard on a beautiful late afternoon. It seems that being “ashed,” as they say here, is a very meaningful ritual in this community. Photo As we come to the end of Lent, we wish for all of you a glorious Easter celebration. We plan to be again with the Maasai Church about 2 hours west of here. It is a special place to celebrate that in Easter people there is no east or west. Alleluia. Alleluia.
Peace and joy,
Martin and Sandy