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For during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. (II Cor. 8:2 NRSV)
We begin this newsletter on the fourth Sunday in Easter, April 29th, at the end of a very busy month. Today we went to Handali, a rural village 55 kilometers south of Dodoma, where Sandra preached a stewardship sermon for one of the students, Stephen Silla. Handali was the site where the first English missionaries to this area settled. It is Stephen's home village, and his parish is trying to raise funds to build a classroom for a kindergarten. We went with three other students and one other faculty member from Msalato Theological College whose first parish had been Handali. We were touched when one man put his flip-flop sandals (less than seventy cents on the street) into the offering basket. Lots of women gave corn and other produce. In all about 300,000 Tanzanian schillings ($240) was raised. The cost of the building is spelled out not in terms of overall cost, but in quantities of iron sheets, bags of cements, number of nails, etc., that are needed. This particular building will require 30 iron roofing sheets, so whenever anyone would donate one sheet, a roar would go up from the crowd as these cost around $13 US.
We did not think Handali was the poorest of the poor, but is is representative of the huge spectrum of subsistence farmers that make up 85% of the population. All in all, it was a positive experience for us, the students, and we think the parish as well. A small portion of the amount raised was of the "promised" variety, but as crops have done well this year and the fields around Handali were very green, those funds should materialize. While Sandra has mixed emotions about these events (and we are under no delusions as to why we are asked to be the "honored guests"), here fund raising events are very popular in the church, enjoyed by the people and often very successful.
From the end of April we fast backwards to April first, Palm Sunday. In the last letter, we told you about two young women from Columbus, GA, Ann Conger and Bobsie Turner, coming to volunteer in Tanzania after spending ten weeks on a game preserve in South Africa. They lived in Dodoma and did data entry for the diocesan AIDS orphans' project called The Carpenter's Kids. Side trips for them included going to a village to do handcrafts with the local women, where as an added bonus they also got instruction on how to carry things on their heads. For Palm Sunday we took them, along with a former student, the Rev. Darius Dudayi, and his sister, Joyce, to a remote village called Fufu in the most southern part of the diocese. We think going to Fufu must be akin to going to Timbuktu. The pastor there was one of the best students of last year's class, but due to location and circumstances is struggling to make ends meet. We heard in the announcements that March's offerings were 14,000 Shillings ($12), and the pastor gets thirty percent of the collections!
The way to Fufu is along The Great North Road which Cecil Rhodes envisioned as linking Cape Town to Cairo. Unfortunately, this dirt road took a pounding during the rains and had not been re-graded. It was terrible. This usual 1.5 hour trip turned into a 3 hour trip making us over an hour late, but all went well. The former student was most gracious. He had a well organized service, and the choirs were very good. The palm branches were in abundance. Sandra preached, and Darius translated. We returned very tired after a long day. After we dropped Ann and Bobsie off, we picked up a student in Dodoma to give him a ride to Msalato. He reminded us that when we get heaven, there will be a place there called Fufu. It was nice of him to put this in perspective. We hope the road has improved.
For Good Friday, Sandra did Stations of the Cross at Msalato Girls' School where she is a chaplain. The Stations of the Cross was a new experience for most of the young women, and they enjoyed the visual effects that we had downloaded from the internet the night before. These stations were painted by artists from Turkana, Kenya and reflect the daily life and culture of the Turkana people. To view them click here. Soldiers are Kenyan, not Roman, and Pilate looks like a Turkana chief. Mary is a typical Turkana woman, and her son is a typical young Turkana man. The Turkana tribe has been left out of the economic development in Kenya and suffers a lot. It is said that the paintings of Passion Week enabled the Turkana to identify very closely with Jesus. Many of the school girls were very moved with the pictures and prayers that accompany each station. It made it very personal and real to them.
For Easter, we picked up Ann and Bobsie early and drove 3 hours east to Sokoine (near Morogoro) to the Maasai Church we have visited on three previous Easters. This was a chance for Ann and Bobsie to see some of the Maasai culture. After a five to six hour service where many were baptized we gathered for lunch with several Maasai men. Women cook and deliver the meal but are not allowed to eat with men! We "jokingly" began the bidding of Ann's bride price at 50 cows and the bid immediately went to 60. Ann, cool as can be and only after 3 weeks exposure to Kiswahili (she learned numbers) said, mia moja (100). Perhaps they weren't prepared for a woman to speak up, as the bidding stopped. Lots of laughter followed. The men were also entranced by Sandra's computer, as she showed pictures from the year before. We had told you that they are relatively wealthy from their cows and many have cell phones. Now, they have cameras on the phones and took pictures of Bobsie. Martin really likes the guy with his purple robes, purple helmet and huge motorcycle. We journeyed on to Morogoro for the night and next day put Ann and Bobsie on the bus to Dar. From there they went on to Zanzibar, Victoria Falls, and Cape Town. They were good troupers all the way, and we miss them. They promised to return to Tanzania, next time with some of their families.
We skip ahead to April 22, the fourth Sunday in Easter. Sandra is asked to preach at Matumbulu, a village usually less than an hour away. However we found the road to Matumbulu almost impassable, filled with huge rocks and potholes and drop-offs that made us wonder why we thought the road to Fufu was bad! We needed our four-wheel drive option. This village is the home of a school called Bishop Madinda Christian Formation Centre that has the responsibility of training catechists and evangelists for the diocese. The Rev. Darius Sudayi's father, Canon Philemon Sudayi, is the principal of this school and for sometime he had been wanting us to come for a day of worship with the students and the village. Sandra preached the traditional Good Shepard Sunday sermon with a certain theological insight into the Gospel of John for the students. It was a wonderful day of worship at a St. Thomas far from our home St. Thomas of Columbus, GA, followed by the traditional Tanzanian luncheon.
In addition to the heavy load of preaching in April, Sandra also did a fair amount of traveling for the school during the month. During the week of Easter break, she and the principal, Dr. Chilongani, drove to Iringa (8-9 hours) to visit Tumaini University, a Lutheran school with several branches in Tanzania, including a very good medical school in Moshi called KCMC (Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center). The Iringa branch has four faculties with degrees in business (including a Masters), law, education and theology. They were very impressed with this school. It has nearly 300 computers on line. You may know that Nokia is a Finnish firm and much of their faculty and money comes from the Lutheran Church of Finland as well as the USA. Their IT people were trained in Finland. The main purpose of the visit was to look at their library and to get ideas as Msalato is underway making plans for their new library.
On April 25th, Sandra accompanied Buck Blanchard, the Diocese of Virginia's World Missioner and his California friend, Steve Walsh, to the Diocesan Office of Rift Valley in a town called Manyoni. This used to be a part of our diocese, Diocese of Central Tanganyika, until a few years ago. You might remember that last year Buck came bearing gifts from St. John's Church in West Point, VA, namely a suitcase of toothbrushes and dental floss. He returned this year to revisit us and Manyoni. The cathedral in Manyoni is one of the most beautiful Sandra has ever seen in Tanzania, built by the German Lutherans (yes, ecumenism!) in 1996 using native volcanic rock from the Rift Valley Escarpment area which is nearby.
The next day Sandra traveled to Bahi, a village an hour away, that was severely impacted by the heavy rains. It is a swamp area where rice is grown and several houses were destroyed or damaged during rainy season. Fifteen displaced families are still living at the school with the other 20 families having found housing with relatives or friends. Sandra, along with several faculty members and students, delivered food and goods to the local authorities and Anglican pastor.
Outside of church matters, a timely issue concerns Rift Valley Fever (RVF). There is no beef to be had in the stores and chickens are now expensive and hard to find because they have been bought up by the restaurants and hotels. This disease has sent a scare through the populace. RVF is a virus that affects livestock, especially cattle. It is blood borne, passed among herds by mosquitoes and possibly other biting insects. People who slaughter cattle are at risk. It is mostly passed to humans by mosquitoes in times of heavy rainfall such as we have had. Most often it is a flu-like illness, but in a small percentage it causes severe disease and death. Also, a few develop retinitis which leads to permanent vision loss. Several deaths have been reported in Tanzania. Effective drugs or a vaccine have yet to be evaluated or produced. Prevention is by bed nets. Nets of Life of the Roll Back Malaria Programs may actually prevent several diseases. Allison Talbert, who was a doctor at the diocesan Mvumi Hospital for years and an expert on tick borne relapsing fever, had shown a decrease on the transmission of that disease due to bed nets.
Since April was such a busy month for us (including the third Sunday, April 15, which was our 35th wedding anniversary) we decided to write a separate newsletter for it. We didn't want it to get lost in the busy months of May and June. These months always bring many visitors from around the world and June 24th will be another graduation day at Msalato. We eagerly await the coming of Dean Martha Horne of Virginia Theological Seminary to be our speaker and guest of honor this year.
We will always have sweet memories of the April of 2007, the April of 5 Sundays beginning on April Fool's Day, Palm Sunday, in Fufu Tanzania! Although some think we are fools for being here (and we have had our moments as well), overall we feel moving to Africa was the wisest move we could have made after our early retirement. We give thanks to the risen Lord for the privilege of serving here and for the honor of serving in your names and His.