Memories of the Tanzania Trip - Fall, 2002
****************************************Pat's Reflections From Dodoma -
As I sit here, surrounded by 4 inches of snow and zero degree temperatures, I can still feel the warm hugs and enthusiastic greetings we received from the Women in Dodoma when our bus pulled up at the Cathedral Church, where the convention would take place! They were singing and shouting, Jambo Big Mama.welcome, welcome.
The bus door opened and I felt like a celebrity the way they held their arms up to greet me. Such hugs and beautiful Flower Leis were given to all of us. And there were many children there to sing to us. It was overwhelming and wonderful.
We immediately were hustled in a building to have a soda and rest. Then into the Cathedral Church for a more formal welcoming. The choir sang, Bishop Mwamasika greeted us, Elizabeth, the planner and Adelina, the Diocese President; each gave us a warm greeting.
We then went into the Church hostel and had a quiet lunch, of rice, something like beef stew, fruit (tangerines and bananas) and of course soda. The bishop started telling us our duties for Sunday, such as where the pastors would preach in the area, when he suddenly turned to me and said you will do the service at the Cathedral! Now I know this is His church and the Prime Minister and many legislative people also attend here. It seemed like a big task to do. He said, "Don’t worry. I will translate for you and make whatever you say into a sermon." I told him I would do it.
When I asked him the scripture text for the day, he did not hand me a bulletin or printed material of any kind (Paper is not readily available and is too expensive, hence no bulletin). He told me it is the story of Jesus healing the blind man. Well, you know how many stories of Jesus healing blind men are in the bible, so I picked one. Also he said there were two services and they started at 7:30 am!
The next two days, Friday and Saturday, we traveled and stayed overnight in the village of Kibakwe so there was no time to prepare my sermon except after 10:00 pm Saturday night. I was exhausted but I knew God would help me, and he did.
It was the most awesome experience of my life to process with Bishop Mwamasika in all his attire of a red cape and bishop hat into the Cathedral. I will never forget. I am so glad I listened to God and did the service. There were 450 people in attendance at each service. They had two choirs, youth and adult. The hymns were the same as we sing. Even though you didn’t understand the language you recognized the tune and sang in English the hymn. No one seemed to mind.
I had an interpreter, Martina, who I had previously met in Northwest Ohio. I had called her my daughter. She kept me informed of what was happening.
The bishop started by telling the people in no uncertain terms that they were responsible to keep us safe while we were visiting in their area especially today during the solidarity walk. He was very emphatic about this. I sat there wondering when it would be my turn to speak (remember, I had no bulletin and no idea what was going to happen next). I would look at Martina and say am I next and she would shake her head no.
Then suddenly it was my turn and we, Martina and I, climbed the three steps into the pulpit to speak. We read the scripture I had picked of Jesus healing the blind man by putting mud on his eyes and then the blind man could see but not well and the Lord laid his hands on his eyes and he could see clearly. I told them how Jesus had opened my eyes to their concerns and needs when they were in our country, but now that I had visited their villages and drove through their countryside, I saw clearly their needs. It went well.
After the sermon, I asked for questions from the congregation. No one stepped forward so I turned to the Bishop and asked him for a question. He asked me to speak about aids. This was one of my goals when I went, to share knowledge of the disease and how to prevent it. I got to talk to 900 men and women about Aids! Then a man stood up and asked me what I thought of President Bush and what he was planning to do in Iraq. WOW. I looked down at my husband setting on the front pew and he looked ghastly. I took a deep breathe and started by saying not everyone in America agrees with President Bush and I have mixed feelings…from then on I do not recall what I said. Bishop Mwmamsika said I handled that very well. Another man asked me; since I am a big elephant what did I plan to do for their poverty issues? I proceeded to tell him all Northwest Ohio has and is doing for their country. He still e-mails me with his concerns. He was from Dar Salaam, which is 8 hours away, and came to hear me speak. It seems his sister sang in the choir at the Cathedral in the Dodoma.
In between services, the Bishop and I were whisked off to a small room, handed a warm wash cloth to wash our face and washed our hands with water poured from a pitcher. This is a custom before you can eat any food everywhere. Then we were offered the usual soda (coke, orange, sprite etc.) coffee and tea along with small sandwiches called Samosas (tasted like ground beef and onion wrapped in phyllo dough). Very tasty. I had several. And then back out to process in and do the same service one more time. I found out that this is very tiring.
After each service we processed out to the front of the Cathedral where everyone stayed for the auction of gifts of chickens, rice, beans, greens etc. that were brought by those who could not afford a money offering. The choir director proceeded to auction off the items. After the second service, I got into the bidding. I purchased a bag of beans for ten U.S. dollars, which was a lot of money in Tanzania. The crowd was really excited that I took part in their auction. They clapped and cheered. I looked over and my husband again looked flabbergasted. He wondered what I was doing now. His first comment was how are we going to get these beans back to Ohio. I assured him I had given the beans back to the church to give to someone in need.
It was now 12:30 pm and the Women’s Convention was starting at 2:00 pm. I was exhausted and my day was just starting…I will tell that story another time.
BIG MAMA Pat
From the Spring 2003 issue of Son Light