Loaves and Fishes in Abundance
I am always surprised where I will find something about hunger and how we are called to help bring it [...]
Date posted: Friday 06 December 2019
It was midday by the time our three Toyota Land Cruisers pulled away from the Iringa Diocese head office. Each one was stuffed to the max with employees from different departments and ministries, from the General Secretary’s team to the Radio Furaha crew and even the kitchen staff of the Lutheran Center. We were off on an adventure and a day of service in the village of Pommern, some 50 km to the south of Iringa Town.
The village of Pommern is an important location in the life of the Lutheran Church in this part of Tanzania. It was here, among groves of trees and fertile red soil, that German missionaries established a permanent presence more than 100 years ago. Signs of that history abound – from the trifecta of church/school/medical dispensary to the solid brick farmhouse that still stands despite substantial damage sustained several years ago. Before the 105 congregations and myriad preaching points that we recognize today existed, this was the central hub of church activity in the area. Colleagues from Iringa tell stories about how their parents and grandparents would walk dozens (if not hundreds) of kilometers to be baptized, receive communion, and to marry underneath the thatched roof of the ‘old church’ there.
That history makes the fire that occurred earlier this year all more tragic, as the old church nearly burned to the ground.
That history also explains why the community vowed to rebuild – raising millions of shillings from individuals, congregations, and institutions for the material and labor needed to do so.
Those actions, in turn, explain why we were there. Standing shoulder to shoulder with members of the local community and students from the nearby secondary school, we formed a bucket brigade 50-people strong to remove large pieces of debris and rubble from floor of the old church. When that was finished, amidst a swirl of dust from shovelers and sweepers we carried bucket after bucket of finer material out the door – bits of charred wood along with crumbled bricks and cement. Finally, we moved bales of thatching material to the base of the building as the professional roofing team began affixing it to the wooden framework they had already made.
It was a flurry of activity that lasted a couple of hours. And then it was over.
At the completion of our labor we gathered together in the current church building for a time of greeting and prayer. District Pastor Ombeni Sawike and Headmaster Shadrack Nyaulingo expressed their gratitude for our visit. By their estimates we saved the local community months of hard work. On the part of the head office, General Secretary Nayman Chavalla commended the local community for their commitment to rebuilding and thanked them for the opportunity to serve beside them. From there we made our way to the school up the road for lunch and capped the day off with a heated volleyball match against their faculty and staff.
Days of service, like this one, are a regular part of life in the Iringa Diocese and our companions who are called to work at the head office. A couple times a year they intentionally set their daily activities and to-do lists aside in order to work, walk, pray, and play alongside their sisters and brothers in Christ in different districts of the Diocese. Whether it be responding to a flood or cleaning up after a fire, days like this unite pastors and lawyers and cooks with radio personalities and farmers in acts of loving service.
Days like this reflect what it means to be church together around the world.
And for all of this, I give thanks.
The Rev. Peter Harrits – Director of Bega Kwa Bega & Assistant to the Bishop