The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
As our Bega Kwa Bega travel schedule has begun to resume [cautiously], I’ve been thinking of my previous journeys. The places I’ve been and especially the people I met have left strong connections.
Planning my next journey, I’m especially thinking of those who have accompanied our groups as interpreters. You know, a good interpreter not only translates the words of a speaker, but also interprets and bridges the barriers of culture. If you’ve spoken in Tanzania, and uttered a short declarative sentence, only to have the interpreter speak a paragraph or two in Swahili, you know what I mean. It’s a sure sign that your short sentence included a word or expression or experience that required further commentary in order for your audience to fully understand your meaning.
I’m remembering one interpreter in particular. He was a beloved retired pastor who accompanied many travel groups. He was beloved because of his good humor, the way he worked a crowd, and the way he could deeply connect with both the travelers and the hosts. In retirement, he was working with Anglican and Roman Catholic colleagues on a special project, translating the Bible into the local Hehe tribal language.
He had a habit of announcing every morning when he woke from sleep that he had been resurrected again. He allowed the young people in our group to call him Babu, Grandpa.
In front of a crowd, his age dropped away. He was animated and engaging. At some point at each village congregation, he would address the assembly, which was often comprised of people from several tribes: Hehe, Bena, Maasai, Barabeig. Alternating between Swahili and English, he would ask, “What language will we sing in heaven?” Then he would answer his own question, “We will sing Hosanna and Alleluia!” and lead a spirited "Hosanna" that would raise the roof of these rural parish chapels.
This week, as our worship is bracketed by the Hosannas of Palm Sunday and the Alleluias of Easter, I am grateful for our companions, for those who interpret, and for all those who show us the way to honor our diversity while leading us to sing together in praise to the risen Christ.
Acting Director of Bega Kwa Bega