In English it is 'Thank You.'
In Swahili it is 'Asante Sana.'
In Malay it is 'Terima Kasih' - a phrase that, translated directly, means 'accept my love or affection.'
Four years ago this week, I began what I called my 'farewell tour' in Malaysia - a string of meals, excursions, and visits meant to honor and share the affection that I felt for the individuals and communities that had grown to become a vital part of who I was - who I am - during the course of my four years with them. Preparing to leave people and places that I deeply cared for was a bitterly painful experience (even when the destination was the 'promised land' of Minnesota). In the midst of that, it was the practice of gratitude, of vulnerably naming and offering my love and affection for others that pulled me through what was, at the time, a dark night of the soul.
Two weeks ago I sat beside my maternal grandmother's bedside at a hospice center in Southeastern Wisconsin. I was there to honor her and to say goodbye (kuaga in Swahili). I joined a steady stream of family members - aunts, uncles, and cousins - who arrived with thanks on their lips and nothing but love and affection in their hearts.
A week and a half ago, on his final night in Saint Paul, Bishop Gaville stood before those who were gathered for a celebratory dinner at Prince of Peace Lutheran in Roseville and expressed his profound gratitude
for his visit and the larger Bega Kwa Bega relationship that surrounds it. "Whenever I see you, my tears start coming in my eyes because what you have done and what you are still doing is wonderful."
Neither glib nor cheap, but fully heartfelt, real gratitude and true thanks-giving are incredibly powerful and life-giving expressions.
And so, in the darkening days ahead, as you gather with family and friends for a Thanksgiving feast at home and recall the distant hum of Asante Sana Yesu that reminds you of your beloved sisters and brothers in Christ in Iringa, may your heart be filled with love and affection - for one and for all.
Even more, may you dare to share it.
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega & Assistant to the Bishop