This past December the Iringa Diocese decided to host a mashindano mpira or soccer tournament for congregations within Iringa town, in honor of Bishop Mdegela's retirement. With eight teams comprised of both young and old, men and women, the pitch beside the DIRA compound has been filled with lots of activity.
You might be wondering how someone came up with the idea of the tournament. Well, in fact Petro, the cook at the Lutheran Center, had the idea after playing a couple pick-up games during Day of Grace programming. The following week during DIRA morning devotions there was an announcement about the tournament (and also an announcement that Petro would be leading fitness sessions for our Head Office team!). Over the first few weeks of the tournament, Petro would come running up to my apartment asking if I was ready for some mazoezi (exercise). We'd head out to our sloping, sandy, uneven pitch where we'd find a small number and start our drills: sprints, footwork, passing, and shooting. Petro thought we especially needed to get in shape because our team had a lot of wazee (elders) and most of the other teams were vijana (youth).
A couple of our games haven't quite started according to schedule. Sometimes I would arrive and maybe see one other person, but we would chat, stretch, shoot the breeze, and wait until slowly more and more people started to arrive. To be honest, part of me was anxious about timing and wondering when in the world we were going to play, but the other part of me knew that it would happen and why not enjoy the moment until then. (Tanzanians seem to be especially adept at this.) So, one day we took selfies while we waited, another day we did calisthenics, and another we just passed a ball around. It has been amazing to look around and see pastors, headmasters, and people from all over the Diocese around the sideline or on the pitch on any given game day.
Our second match, Bishop Mdegela played goal keeper and every time he made a save, the whole crowd erupted in cheers. Bishop Elect Gaville has started as a forward and has had a few break-a-ways, General Secretary Chavalla has scored three or four goals, and Pastor Msigwa has fooled a number of people with his fancy footwork. I am used to seeing these people in their professional roles at the Diocese, but these past weeks they have come out to be a part of this event and show their support.
I have been struck by the simplicity of gathering together. The past 5 weeks have shown me what community building looks like. For the Iringa Diocese, it's been as simple as organizing some soccer matches and showing up. But even as I type this I know the act of showing up is not that simple. And as we move into 2017, I hope and pray that we as Bega Kwa Bega can show up and be present to our communities both around the world and down the street.
Na Tumaini (With hope),
Bega Kwa Bega Program Coordinator in Iringa