Pastor Carolyn was finally able to send her personal journal entries about her first week in Tanzania! Here it is posted, in it’s entirety. Photos will be added when she’s able to send them! -Dave
We stayed in the Super 8 last night and had the waffles for breakfast
this morning. It was hard to say goodbye to Dave at the airport. We
long for the good old days when you could wait with people at the
gate. But, no, now there’s security.
You have to be at the airport 3 hours early for international flights,
but this is Omaha. The TSA agent asked if I was a preacher and I told
him about the exchange program. So he sent me though the pre-check
line where you don’t have to take out your ziplock of little bottles
or take off your shoes. Small privilege for serving the Lord, I
guess. Although the progressive in me wants to say something about
separation of church and state.
That makes me realize the huge privileges I have in my life. So many
opportunities for education. So many opportunities to travel. Lots
of Apple devices to use in my work and play. I might complain about
the $200 extra for the CTA “conducting temporary assignment” visa, but
how many people can have a stamp on their passport that says they
worked in Tanzania? So here I sit at Eppley, writing this and looking
at the Swahili language book. Here’s a picture of the plane I’ll be on.
I completed the rest of the flights fairly uneventfully. The
Amsterdam airport is under construction and incredibly crowded, but I
found my gate in plenty of time. I arrived at KJO airport and got in
the “I need a visa” line. It had 3 stations. First, they take your
$100, then you get in line two where they take your picture and print
a stamp. Line three is electronic fingerprints and another picture.
By the time I was in line 2, I could see my luggage which is always a
I got my bag and started toward the door. Pastor John and I saw each
other the same time and we were both so happy! It was then that I saw
the welcoming party. All the elders and church leaders were there!
They took my bags and the women started dressing me in the most
beautiful batik wrap I have ever seen! Everyone was clapping and
singing and hugging me and wrapping me in cloth and giving me flowers
at the same time.
I was introduced to everyone and there was much picture taking. I was
put in the vehicle, some sort of large Toyota suv, driven by my host,
Doctor Swai, and full of people. There was also a small bus packed
with people from the parish. I thought we were going to the Swai’s
house since, by then it was 9:30 in the evening, and I had already had
quite a welcome.
We drove to the church instead, about 30 minutes from the airport. As
we approached the drive up the hill, I could hear lots of children and
adults calling out and clapping. When I could see them, I realized
there were dozens of people waving palm branches and singing and
calling out a welcome. I felt like Jesus on Palm Sunday and I
thought, “Who am I to be greeted this way?” Then I realized I was
among people who welcome every guest as they would welcome Jesus.
They escorted me up to the chancel and the women readjusted my wrap so
that it wouldn’t fall off. We took pictures with every group there –
confirmation students, youth, women, elders, and some committees, I
think. Then they sang a couple of hymns, acapella, and in harmony,
and Pastor John said a prayer and told them I must be tired from my
trip and it was time to go home.
My hosts, Dr. and Mama Swai, live down the hill from the church. The
women had me so tightly wrapped that it was no small challenge getting
up into the car. Several people followed us to the house and stayed
for the supper that was prepared there. I had eaten supper on the
plane, so I only ate a small bowl of the rice and chicken which was
They have given me the master bedroom here so I have my own bathroom
with a western toilet and shower. I feel guilty taking their room,
but they insisted. Dr. Swai will be away at work several days a week.
He works for the ELCT in health care administration since his
retirement as a surgeon. Mama Swai is a retired nurse. Both speak
excellent English, as does Pastor John.
This morning my hosts took me and Pastor John to Moshi to meet the
Bishop, Rev. Dr. Shoo. He received us graciously and prayed for our
pastoral exchange and safe travels. He does not think we need the CTA
visa so that is good. Then we went to meet with the district
superintendent for the Hai (high) district. He oversees about four
We stopped at a large outdoor market on the way back, but didn’t get
out because it was very muddy. The soil reminds me of red Georgia
clay. It has rained intermittently since I arrived, but it seems to
soak in, so the mud is not constant. They did have a pair of galoshes
waiting for me, but I didn’t need them today. I will use them other
days for sure as I will be walking to the church and school from the
house. Did I mention that it’s uphill?
After lunch, Pastor John and I went to the school and visited with the
head teacher. I am to teach religion classes there two days a week.
Confirmation class is two afternoons a week. Language is an issue, as
very few people speak any English at all, and I will need an
interpreter for everything. Pastor John is trying to arrange this but
I can tell it is a concern. The school children speak their tribal
language, not Swahili. He is encouraging me to learn as much Swahili
as I can as quickly as possible. So far, I am only good on a few
He is also arranging to have me talk to the community about life in
Nebraska as well as meet with the primary school teachers. The school
is next to the church and the cemetery is behind the school. The view
is beautiful and you can almost make out Kilimanjaro behind the
The students are adorable. They are very polite, but they do stare as
I am the first white person they have ever seen here. They were
cleaning up the play ground when we arrived. A couple of older boys,
maybe 11 or 12, were trimming shrubs with machetes. We would never
trust kids that age with that kind of potential weapon in Nebraska.
There are chickens everywhere and the church has a cow. They used to
have four cows, but three were sold. The school has a garden where
the kids raise maize and other things that they eat for lunch.
The church is starting its own credit union that will make micro loans
to help members start their own businesses. Pastor John has big dreams
for a vocational school for the youth here. A big part of the mission
of this parish is helping people out of poverty. He has high hopes for
my stay here and wants my ideas for ways of doing that. He hopes I
will be able to encourage the youth to continue in their education.
Before supper one of the women brought her old English level one book
and read a little Swahili with me. I can pronounce the words so I
sound fairly decent when I read, but I can’t remember them yet.
The food is delicious. We had rice and chicken and some stew cooked
with bananas. Dr. And Mama Swai got some sacramental altar wine for us
to drink before dinner. They thought a pastor would like it since it
is Christian wine. They really laughed when I said we use Jewish wine
for communion. They were right. I liked it. It tastes a lot like
Mogen David and it really seemed to help my Swahili.
I spoke at breakfast with the two women who will be here to help me
and cook for me when the doctor and his wife are gone next week. Mama
Florence looks about my age. Woinde looks to be in her 20s and is one
of the kindergarten teachers at the parish kindergarten. They are
concerned about my lack of Swahili and the lack of interpreters when
Pastor John and Dr. and Mama Swai are not here as they are the primary
ones who can translate.
Then we talked to Pastor John and I said I could write my sermons in
English and use the Internet and Google Translate to change them to
Swahili. He agreed this was a good idea and the teacher who is
helping me can help me read it in Swahili. This would require getting
me somewhere with wifi at least once a week. They are working on that
Then Pastor John and Robert, the evangelist, and I went to visit 3
shut-ins. They brought me the mud boots and we walked up and down
hills on the wet clay path. I am very happy to say that I didn’t
fall. We visited the women in their kitchens which was a separate
wooden building with a low ceiling and a little fire. There were 3
large stones holding up a pot and the sticks for the fuel were fed in
between the stones.
The first woman was roasting bananas and she shared with us. It was
very good. We sang a hymn, then I prayed and said a blessing for each
of the women. We sang from the Swahili hymn book, “the old rugged
cross” and “now thank we all our God”. The women had never met a white
person before and were happy to meet a woman pastor.
The visits were exhausting because of the walk up and down the hills
in the mud, but it was a real privilege to be there and give a
blessing to them. I asked at tea later, and all of these women are
younger than I am. I would not have survived to this age as an African
woman. That knowledge is extremely humbling.
Several times over the last two days, I have been handed someone’s
cell phone to talk to whoever the caller was. It is a little awkward
because of the language barrier and the fact that neither of us ever
knows what to say beyond welcome and thank you. It is evidently the
custom with visitors, so I keep doing it as graciously as I can.
I slept much better last night so I hope I am acclimating to the time
change. I am also acclimating to the sound of the cows and chickens and
whatever the birds are that are very loud and sound like crying
babies. This morning, Dr. Swai led us in morning prayers. Every
family has a service book and hymnal so they shared with me. I was
able to sing along with phonetic pronunciation, but the reading went
far too quickly. I read the benediction and recognized the words.
Pastor John and Robert came for breakfast along with one of the
elders, a very nice young man. Then we went to visit 3 or four more
families. One family has a baby and they will schedule the baptism for
me to do while I am here. Another widow was concerned for her safety
since she lives alone and her neighbors are harassing her. One
gentleman showed me his three cows and asked that they be included in
the blessing prayer.
I got to see the milk processing place and the pasteurizer and butter
churning machine. The coop where they sell their coffee was across
the street but it was closed. They are getting a very low price for
their coffee now, which makes no sense since there are coffee disease
problems in South America. Everyone here buys instant coffee and
drinks it with lots of milk and sugar.
We stopped at a store and I got more phone minutes. They wouldn’t let
me pay for them, but at least I know where to get them now. The nice
young man there gave us all Sprite as well and we sat for a few
minutes for a rain storm to pass.
We all came back for tea which is a small meal in the late morning
with bread and butter, cut up fruits, and hard boiled eggs. I was
confused the first day, since it is the same foods as breakfast.
Everyone eats bananas at every meal because everyone has banana trees.
They have them raw, cooked in stews, and sliced and fried. They are
delicious, but I can’t eat many of them. Lunch is about 12:30 or so,
and consists of rice and stews and cooked greens usually, along with
fresh fruits. Supper is late in the evening, with the same type of
foods as lunch.
After our morning tea, Dr. Swai drove me and Florence to the town
market. I didn’t take any pictures on this visit, because I was quite
a distraction there and I didn’t think that it would be polite to go
around taking pictures of people as if they were on display,
especially since that’s how I felt. There were vendors with
everything you could need for your home. There were some grains I
didn’t recognize, and I had to explain that Nebraska doesn’t have many
varieties of corn and maize. I don’t think we grow maize at all. It
is a white corn that people eat. The market was down the hill a couple of
kilometers and much warmer and sunnier there.
Pastor John is preparing for his trip. He is getting quite excited.
I think he is making more arrangements to cover things I can’t do
because of the language barriers. I try to give him the opportunity to
talk to people without having to say it all in English for me. He
told me a parishioner is taking pictures of everything for me and they
will make me a CD to take home.
This morning I was told to be ready at 6 am to go visit a home prayer
group. The parish is divided into ten groups of ten people who live
near each other and meet early on Fridays and Saturdays for hymns and
prayers. They take turns leading and the leader gives a short devotion
on the scripture. If anyone is sick, they ask for prayers and a
Pastor John arrived around 6:30 and I was reminded that time is much
more flexible here. My American upbringing taught me never to make
anyone wait and always be early so I had gotten up at 5:30. We walked
a short distance to the house for the meeting which didn’t start until
around 7:30 or so. It was beautiful and clear outside and on the walk
back we had a clear view of the top of Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately, I
did not have the camera with me. There will be other clear days,
After morning tea, we walked to Ngorony preaching point, about 3
kilometers from here, all downhill, so getting there was easy. The
clay path was wide enough for two people most of the way, and dry
today. We were greeted by the choir and elders, who escorted us into
the church, singing and waving branches. The women had gifts for me
just as they did from Tema parish. This time a beautiful blue elephant
print scarf and a black and gold sweater which will go well with all
my clergy clothes. It was very thoughtful of them because they had
noticed that I was always in short sleeves and they thought I must be
cold. It is hard to explain that Nebraskans are not at all cold when
it is 65 degrees and never wear sweaters when it is in the 80s. I did
get to take it off on the way back uphill. Fortunately, no one minded
that I needed to walk slowly.
After tea with the elders, we went to a town meeting where I spoke
briefly about St. Mark’s and life in Nebraska and answered questions.
There were 50-60 people there and they were very interested in the
differences in men’s and women’s roles between the two places and the
fact that the other women and I don’t wear skirts back home.
The choir sang to us on our way back to the church and then as we left for
home. I told them I would love to take the whole choir home with me.
Just like the home prayer group, they sang acapella, but the choir did
four part harmony and the prayer group only broke into 2 parts. I
don’t think there is anything scheduled this afternoon. They are
constantly discussing timetables in Swahili, telling me afterwards,
discussing it some more, then changing things. It’s all good, just
hard to follow sometimes. They have said I will have a translator
after Pastor John leaves, but I don’t have any other information other
than it’s in the works.
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.
MORE TO COME…