April 18 – Saturday
There is a gathering planned at Pastor John’s house today. His wife
returned yesterday and today all but his youngest son will be there.
He is at the university and can’t make it. I don’t know what time they
will pick me up or if we are walking. It rained off and on last night.
It sounded nice.
At breakfast, Woinde told me that I am to follow the evangelist today
and help with confirmation at 10 am. She will walk with me to church.
As it turned out, Dr. Swai walked me to church and we met the
Evangelist, Robert, who was having the kids help pick up the grounds
for tomorrow’s worship. An evangelist is a parish worker like an
assistant pastor. He does visitation, teaching, and preaches at one
congregation when the pastor is at the other one.
I talked a little about St. Mark’s and especially our confirmation
program. Then they asked a lot of questions about Nebraska and my
family. I promised to show them a few pictures next time I see them.
They are the same ages as my students, grades 5-7, but they are
smaller and younger looking. Just like our kids, the girls sat in one
row and the boys in another. One of their questions was about why they
have to wait for confirmation to take communion. I explained that in
our church, that policy is different, and baptized children receive
communion. I am not quite sure what got translated to them, but that’s
OK. They were really sweet and interested in everything.
Later, Pastor John came and picked up me and Dr. Swai for the party
at his house. His wife gave me the traditional fabric skirt. There
were two women there from the parish in that area who invited me to
come speak to their district women’s group. I told them I would be
happy to come. They wrapped me in two more beautiful pieces of fabric
and they have a gift and card for my husband to thank him for hosting
I am grateful to their son Erick who came over and let me use the wifi
hotspot on his phone. I got the journal transmitted and a few of the
pictures. Erick thinks we can get a SIM card for my old iPhone to use
here over the Internet and as a hotspot for the iPad. He said I
should be able to get a good signal up here in the hills. He said he
would make sure I get internet. He is hopeful that John will learn a
lot more about computers and develop an appreciation for technology
when he is in Nebraska. I suggested they could skype to his cell phone
and he translated that for the women there and explained it.
Even if I can text from the iPhone it will be great. I am no longer
used to texting from the numeric keyboard on the phone that Marty
Malley from the synod so graciously loaned me. And yes, as I type
this, I am painfully aware that it is the epitome of a first world
Around six o’clock, or so, Woinde (say it with a long O, I like long
E, and E like long A) said she was walking over to church so I asked
to go with her to drop off the gifts and my alb for tomorrow. She was
going to get something from her house because she is sleeping here
until Florence gets back, from her daughter’s I think. By the time we
completed these errands, it was dark. She had a light and shined it
on the path for me. I remembered Psalm 121 which is a perfect psalm
for his place, and I did not fall. I am very grateful to Woinde and I
don’t plan to walk around in the dark anymore.
April 19 Sunday
I am the pastor of a parish in Tanzania for the next 5 weeks. That is
both amazing and terrifying. I am greatly consoled that God is in
charge of the church and that I really have no power to prevent the
coming of the Reign of God, because most of the time I am trying to
figure out what is going on. I am only here to proclaim. That is a
blessing I can only begin to express in English, much less Swahili, or
This morning we went to church. There are some very universal things
about being Lutheran and there are some things each congregation does
that are unique, but they think are universal. We met in the pastor’s
office and were vested. I picked up the hymnal and learned that we
were using a different book today and the worship was in Chagga, the
tribal language, not Swahili. They appear to be phonetically the
We processed during the gathering song. The tunes to the liturgy are
mostly the ones from our Service Book and Hymnal, the hymnal of the
LCA and ALC from 1958-78. I knew where we were for most things that
we sang. It helped that the Latin names were printed, too. The order
of service is slightly different. The creed comes before the sermon
and the gospel comes before the alleluia. We stand for all the songs
I read the appointed preaching lesson, which was the Epistle, in
English, then Pastor John read it in Swahili. He translated my sermon
line by line for me. He said it was good, meaning easy English to
translate. His son Erick will translate for me on Sundays for the
next five weeks. This will be very good, because he will be able to
be sure the translation is theologically correct.
After the sermon was another hymn, and several anthems during the
offering. Since both preaching points were in Tema today, the
offering was interesting. First the two elders brought up a wire frame
holding 3 buckets. Then the Nrowony choir sang while the Tema people
brought up their offerings. Then the Tema youth choir sang while the
Nrowony people brought up their offerings. I am grateful that Dr.
Swai reminded me to take my offering this morning since it would be
noticeable if I did not put anything in. They have reusable manila
offering envelopes that are returned to a display rack after the money
is counted and picked up on Sunday to use again the next week. Also,
there are no hymnals in the pews. Everyone brings a hymnal and Bible
from home. I like that.
After the offering were a couple of more anthems and then what
appeared to be a congregational meeting. I am not really sure.
Several elders spoke. Pastor John spoke, then the elders walked around
getting people to sign up for something, I think. Then we sang another
hymn and they chanted in Chagga or Swahili, SBH tunes, “The Lord be
with thee. And with thy Spirit.” “Bless we the Lord. Thanks be to
God.” Then there was a prayer and I blessed them in English. Then I
gave the gifts I had brought. The youth choir loved the bookmarks and
the elders liked the little wooden crosses.
Then the women left to get their gift for me. I am getting used to
being wrapped in fabric and it is all beautiful batiks. They came in
singing about being a a mother in Africa and how Africa is supported
and upheld by the strength of women then dressed me in the fabric.
Pastor John said that after that the women would “carry” me to my
office. I thought he meant “take” because of the language difference.
After they dressed me, six of them picked me up and carried me from
the chancel the the office in the parish hall. African women are very
strong. I found myself apologizing for being a large woman, but they
just laughed. I think there are pictures because I saw another woman
with an iPhone standing there.
Some random thoughts about that experience of being carried:
This whole trip has been an act of faith.
Is this what the bishop meant when he told me that they have a
different way of doing church?
It reminded me of the co-operative trust activities at confirmation
camp where they lift someone.
Most people don’t have six people carry them out of a church and live
to tell about it. Next time, I won’t.
After church we sat around outside while they auctioned off the
non-monetary gifts. Some elders bought some small bananas and a
couple of eggs and gave them to me as a gift. After that was over,
they sang the offering song, I think, and I said the benediction.
Sister Dorcas, a deaconess who was a daughter of the parish stopped by
for a brief visit. I took a selfie with her so my ELCA deaconess
friends can see it.
After lunch we went to John’s house and I visited with two of his sons
who speak excellent English. They made an omelette for supper and had
honey for the bread. John has several bee hives and said he has two
different kinds of bees. The honey was dark and delicious, with a
nice strong, almost molasses flavor. One son, Henry, is getting
married in July and shared about the customs here while he drove me
back. He gave me an invitation.
A short time after I returned, the elders came over to visit, sing
hymns and pray. They are encouraging me to learn as many Swahili
phrases as quickly as possible and are trying to be helpful. I think
they got the wrong impression from the fact that I can sing the hymns
in the book. I know the tunes and the sounds the letters make and I
know what the English words are. Singing Swahili does not mean I can
speak it. It means I am a Lutheran. I am doing the best I can, but
their expectations may not be terribly realistic.
They are coming in the morning to sing and pray again. I have no idea
what time. The late supper after they left was with Florence and
Woinde. Dr. and Mama Swai left for Arusha after putting in their
offering at church. He said they may be back for a couple of weekends,
but he has a lot of work to do. Their main home is in Arusha. This is
a house he inherited from a family member.
I slept better last night than I have since I arrived. Maybe I am
finally acclimating to the 8 hour difference. Tomorrow is a day off.
I am going to get some more time for my phone and work on Swahili
vocabulary and read.
I got to bed around midnight. The elders arrived for prayers at 6:25
am. Woinde woke me up and said I should go back to bed after we
prayed, which I did, and slept until after 8. Today is on my calendar
as my “free day.” While I would be thrilled to have St. Mark’s church
council members want to pray morning and evening prayers with me
daily, I think they know how I, and any American pastor, would feel
about them showing up at 6:25 am on my day off.
A couple of them came back around 10:30 and wanted to talk about menus
for me. It is very kind that they want to serve what I would like. I
got them to make lots of suggestions and that went fairly well.
Breakfast is eggs and bread and coffee every day and the other meals
vary with rice and potatoes and pasta with some kind of meat at lunch
and fruits and something starchy at supper. Sunday dinners are
special because people will be coming by to see me.
A few days ago, I was having a great deal of swelling in my ankles and
Dr. Swai noticed and insisted on taking my blood pressure. It was
155/95. He told them to quit cooking with salt and he would check
again in a couple of weeks. My ankles are fine now. The food was
noticeably salty before and tasted great that way, but I am glad to be
eating without it. I do feel bad for the others though, because they
really miss the salt flavor cooked in the meat and rice and stews.
They are doing my laundry now and we will walk to get more phone
minutes this afternoon. They both refused money for doing my laundry
and said that Pastor John made them promise not to take any money from
me. As long as this post is in the category of “too much information”
already, yesterday I was able to use a non-western toilet without
incident. Even middle class people have latrines outside. I think I
have the only western toilet in the village.
They did not have time to go with me to get the phone card today. They
won’t hear of me going anywhere by myself. Elders are coming again
this evening to pray, then they are going to church for something. I
was sitting outside trying Swahili phrases with Florence when a lady
came by to visit her. It was quite an animated conversation. I am
recognizing many proper nouns and made out a part of it about the
white American pastor who only speaks English. It is evidently
socially acceptable here to talk about someone in front of their face
when you think they don’t understand.
I feel bad that the communication between the synod and diocese was
not better prior to my coming here. I don’t think that either of them
realized that the people here, even the teachers, do not speak English
well enough to understand me most of the time, much less interpret.
One of the teachers from Nrowony was here last night. She went over a
few greeting phrases with me. She seems very frustrated that I am not
learning faster. I spent a couple of hours with my book working on
vocabulary today. Woinde and Florence keep saying “God help you,” by
which I think they mean God will help me learn Swahili. I am mostly
praying for God to give us all patience and understanding and send me
someone who can translate.
Dr. Swai phoned me on Woinde’s phone and asked how things were going.
I expressed concern about the need for a translator and he said it was
in the works. I told Woinde and she said he means the teacher, Finya,
who was here last night. God help me. It has been a frustrating day.
I was looking forward to a day of rest.
I suppose there will be plenty of rest over the next few days if I
can’t do most of the things on my schedule. It is a beautiful place
and people are coming over to sing hymns with me. Evening prayer is
much better than morning prayer in my opinion.
The power went out at supper, and stayed off until nearly 10:00 so the
elders didn’t come. The three of us sang a few hymns and prayed
together before bed. I love being with people who sing hymns together
all the time.
It is raining this morning so there are no office hours. The
evangelist rides a motorcycle to work so it is not safe in the rain
and he won’t be in. I am supposed to teach religion at the school at
10:15. I have no idea what they are studying, which grade I am
teaching, or who will interpret for me. When Pastor John and I met
with the head teacher last week, the teacher seemed concerned and did
not see how it was going to work out with the language barrier, so we
will see what happens.
I do not have enough money on my phone to send a text to America so
that is frustrating. Today for sure I am going to get more scratch
off cards, if I have to insist on going by myself in the rain. Dr.
Swai called me again to see how I was doing. He is an interesting
contrast, a very gracious and faithful man who also has the
personality of a surgeon. He described a cesarean section in detail
one night during supper. I was fascinated, but I think the others
were grateful not to understand the English. He reminds me of Dr.
George Wolcott, one of the doctors I used to work with at Madonna.
We went over to the school in the rain for the 11:15-12:30 religion
class (not 10:15, as my schedule said) for the 3rd and 4th graders.
They were completely adorable. Finya, the teacher I met the other
night came and brought another woman teacher, named Cleopatra, who’s
English is slightly better and between the two of them, they helped me
teach the children to sing “Jesus loves me” in English. There is a
song in their book under that name, but they didn’t recognize the
words or the tune. They sang me “three blind birds” in Swahili, which
is the same as “Three Blind Mice” in English. They were thrilled that
I knew their song. There are evidently no mice around here, because if
there were, we would certainly have them in the buildings the way
everything is open and the food is out. They sang “welcome pastor
teacher, you are so wonderful” in English. One little boy even did a
solo for me.
The evangelist taught the class the story from John 21 of Jesus on the
beach with the disciples after the resurrection. He has a natural
gift for working with children and was fun to watch. Also, after
today, I will encourage everyone in every congregation I talk with to
make as many school kits as they possibly can for LWR and contribute
to “Textbooks for Tanzania” through the Nebraska Synod. These kids
are sharing paper and pens here and the textbooks look old enough for
me to have used them.
I met another of my interpreters, Mr. Swai whose wife is head of the
women of the church. He will interpret for me on Friday at
confirmation class. He walked with me as we went to get the phone
cards. I wanted ten but the guy only had four. Mr. Swai said he will
bring me 6 more tomorrow. Each card has 1000 Tanzanian shillings,
about 55 cents. I installed 2 of them and talked to Dave for 5
minutes before it ran out. I installed the other two and it seems to
take about 150 shillings for each text message. It is about 5
shillings for a local call so they are not really understanding why I
want so many of the cards.
On the walk we met another ELCT pastor named Henry from a nearby
parish. He saw me and immediately, said “Nebraska Synod.” The road
we were walking on is the dividing line for the parishes. He invited
me to come see his church sometime while I am here.
Today they gave me the scripture references for the confirmation
class. Cleopatra interpreted for me as I tried to explain in simple
English the introduction to the 10 commandments and the 2 uses of the
law. The kids were fairly quiet. Only 11 of 16 were there today.
Only 3 had Bibles. At the end the evangelist questioned them on what
they learned and the translator told me they understood what I said.
They leave by walking out singing a song and clapping. When they get
down the steps they turn and say a blessing called the “Neema” which
is the Swahili first word of: “The grace of our lord Jesus Christ, the
love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with
you now and always.”
After I returned from confirmation class, I was greeted by Philemon
Swai, the doctor’s brother who said he was there to help me with
Swahili. We made a list of the vocabulary so far, and I know about 20
phrases. He said there will be help with the liturgy Sunday. It seems
that nearly everyone in the parish has the last name of Swai or Lema.
Two of the men who are elders came for evening prayers so there were 5
of us including Florence, Woinde, and me. It must be wonderful to sing
hymns with people every day like that. The only places I have lived
with daily worship were the Seminary and the Deaconess House.
We started supper and within a few minutes, one of the men was back
with three others, evidently the worship team from church. We
hurriedly ate a few bites of food they put it away and I took my tea
over to the coffee table as the men came in. Florence let me know to
put that away before they saw it. I told them afterwards that I drink
coffee in church because my throat gets dry. They were completely
appalled, so I guess I will be keeping cough drops in my pocket.
The second installment of evening prayers went on for at least 45-50
minutes. We sang three or four hymns as usual, then the leader read
all of John 15, the passage about Jesus being the vine and we are the
branches. They are supposed to pick a short passage, only a few
verses, and reflect on it for two or three minutes. This guy preached
longer than I usually do. Then we stood for a sung litany, which was
pretty. Then every one prayed quietly aloud – individually saying
whatever they wanted to pray for at least five minutes. Then a couple
more songs and more litany and praying quietly aloud. Then they asked
me to give a benediction and we sang two more songs.
After they left, we quickly brought the food back out and I retrieved
my tea. In the evenings, I am drinking the most delicious lemon grass
tea called chai chai. Regular tea is called chai. Both have sugar and
The evangelist came with Emanuel Swai, a retired teacher who is one of
the translators around 8:30 and we walked to Nrowony. They had
gathered several of the old people in one house a ways down the hill
from the church and some elders joined us as we sang and prayed and I
blessed everyone. Then we walked up to a blind woman’s house, and
sang and prayed and blessed her.
We walked up to the church office and a woman with a baby was waiting
for us. They had announced Sunday that the 26th would be a baptism
Sunday and everyone who wants their babies baptized was to see me and
the Evangelist yesterday or today. Robert and Emanuel took down the
names and birthdays of the children then talked to the parents about
how this means you are to come to church every Sunday. They
especially told one woman that her husband needed to be there for the
baptism. I got to hold the child. She was about four months old and I
took a selfie with her.
Then another woman came with 3 month old twins, Patrice and Patricia,
boy and girl. They took my camera and got a few picture of me holding
them. They were both sleepy and did not seem to mind being in my lap.
All the babies I have seen are dressed in long sleeves, wearing little
knit caps with ear flaps, and wrapped in blankets. It was probably
about 80 degrees this morning. Heat tolerance certainly varies by
One of the men brought us back in his pick up truck. I was extremely
grateful as the path back is a fairly steep climb up the whole way.
If anything, I think they are more afraid of me falling than I am.
They keep telling me to go slowly down the hills. I am hoping the
nice man with the pickup will take me to church on Sunday since I will
need to take my alb and stole and it will be nice not to be exhausted
before church even starts.
I am not worried. No one ever lets me carry anything around here.
From the first night at the airport and they took my bags, I have been
relieved of anything in my hands. I have been trying to remember to
put things I want like the camera and eye drops in my pockets so I
don’t have to ask for the bag and make everyone stop so I can get to
them. They don’t understand that I am used to carrying my own purse
all the time. I did warn John not to try to take a woman’s purse away
from her to offer to carry it in Nebraska.
Another father showed up during our tea. We are up to six babies for
the baptism. There is something on the schedule at 4:30 which I think
is evening prayers at church. They told me I didn’t need to be there
because I must be tired. I said I was fine and they repeated that I
must be tired. I think sometimes my presence is more trouble than
it’s worth, and I don’t want to be a burden, so I decided to take the
hint and stay here.
I heard from Dave that John arrived safely. They made it back to St.
Paul around 12:30 this morning. I have been explaining the time
difference using the world clock map on the iPad. It really is a hard
concept to grasp.
Today was sunny and nice. Mornings are beautiful with temperatures in
the 60s and 70s I think. Around noon it gets hot and stays hot until
around 5 when it cools down nicely. The rains are usually in the
morning and at night. The sun comes out and sort of dries the mud so
that you can walk in the afternoon, but then it is hot and humid.
Interestingly, I don’t seem to be allergic to anything. I sneeze all
the time in Nebraska, but not here. I have seen and killed only a
couple of Mosquitos. There are screens on the bedroom windows, but
not in the rest of the house, so various bugs make it indoors,
especially moths and some bees and flies. I have seen ants outside,
but not in the house. They make interesting paths like little troughs
across the roads after it stops raining.
This morning for breakfast we had chapati, which was like a thick
crepe. They said there are two kinds of chapati and this one is made
with eggs and flour. The other kind is more like Indian chapata
bread. They are going to teach me how to make them. They were
Emanuel came over with Robert to walk with me to school for the first
and second grade religion class. I taught them the song, “Jesus loves
me,” the same as the other class. Then Emanuel said, “teach them
about Jesus.” So, I started with the Nativity, mentioned Jesus as a
little boy, and then said Jesus told his pupils stories, so I told the
Good Samaritan story. Then they sang and prayed and Robert reviewed
the story with them. They didn’t want to ask questions about me the
way the older ones did. A couple of them were carrying what looked
like LWR school bags. Most did not have any bags or books.
We came home for lunch. Emanuel left to go have lunch with his wife,
the blind lady I visited yesterday. A very mild mannered dog had
followed us to school earlier and Emanuel said it was his dog. It was
a stray that he found and decided to keep. He said he wanted to chain
the dog, but the dog runs away every time he sees the chain. Without
the chain, the dog follows him everywhere.
Another one of the elders came for lunch and Florence had to translate
as he and Robert wanted to ask a lot of questions about Nebraska, US
politics, economy, education, care of the elderly, and poverty. We
had a wonderful conversation for about two and a half hours. Poor
Florence really had to work hard. Fortunately, she and Woinde and I
had talked about a lot of these things before so she could answer some
questions without asking me. I showed them a lot of my pictures and
how the iPad works.
We talked a great deal about the causes of poverty and how it
contributes to other problems. There are children in this village who
don’t go to school for lack of clothes and shoes and uniforms. I have
seen children out playing during school hours and wondered why they
were not in class. In addition to the uniform and shoes, all the
primary children, both girls and boys must have their hair cut very
short, what we would call a buzz cut. It is a government requirement.
I had seen many pictures like that, but always assumed that their hair
didn’t grow any longer. You can’t tell the girls from the boys except
that the girls always wear a skirt. In secondary school, they are
allowed to grow their hair. Many adult women continue to wear their
hair very short.
I sent Dave a text and he replied, but my reply didn’t send. I don’t
know if it is because I am low on minutes or if he network is down,
because that happens too. The man who is getting me more phone cards
will be here tomorrow.
The weather has been beautiful today. No rain, clear to partly cloudy,
and I don’t think it got above 80. The afternoon was not horribly hot
as it usually is.
The power went off around 9 last night and only blinked back for about
half a minute this morning so I am down to 22% battery on the iPad and
around 50% on the iPod. The rain started around 8 last night and has
not let up. It is only raining in Tema, not in the nearby villages or
Moshi. Today I have grades 6-7 for religion at school and
confirmation class this afternoon. I am not sure there is much
educational value in me teaching them more than one session since I
cannot follow their textbooks.
Mr. Swai came to take me to class and translate for me. It stopped
raining by 10:30, but was exceptionally muddy, so he held my arm as we
went. He is a retired teacher. I asked about teacher training and it
sounds like what our “Normal Schools” used to be, a year or so beyond
high school. His English is very good and he enjoyed helping me teach
the 6th and 7th graders to sing Jesus Loves Me. They asked me
questions about traveling and time zones.
The power finally came back after lunch and I got the iPad and iPod
charged. I need the iPad to finish the sermon for Sunday. Mr. Swai
will interpret so I promised short, easy English phrases. He helped
me with confirmation this afternoon, by which I mean, I told him the
scripture references, and he basically taught them, which was fine.
He also got me some more scratch off cards for the phone and I gave
him money for 9 more. If I get Erick’s tablet and can email, that may
last me awhile.
On the way back home, we greeted the credit union members who were
meeting out on the church lawn. They have the ability to make micro
loans to help each other through tough times and to help start small
businesses. It is a wonderful ministry that would be greatly aided by
some seed money.
The sun was out this afternoon, so it was hot and humid from the rain,
but the mud dries enough not to be treacherous. Woinde told me shoes,
not boots. This morning everyone else thought it was cold. They were
wearing sweaters, jackets and ski caps. I would guess it was in the
high 60s. They laughed at me for not being cold.
I have 8 baptisms his Sunday at Nrowony, and so far, 2 the next week
at Tema. I am very grateful to Pastor John for saving them for me to
do. Everyone is surprised that I only have 1 or 2 a year. I have
looked at the worship book and practiced the things I need to say. I
will baptize them in English, and be translated. I think that’s what
they want me to do. They put the water on the child’s head and sign
the cross on both the head and the chest at that time. There is a
blessing for the parents after I baptize all the babies.
If it rains Sunday, worship is at Tema, since the pathway is steep and
not passable in the mud. If it’s clear, worship is at Nrowony.