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[...]
This week's update is an excerpt from a presentation made at the 2018 Convention of the Saint Paul Area Synodical Women's Organization. This year's convention took place May 4-5 at Christ Lutheran Church in Lake Elmo.
...During her visit to Iringa last year, Bishop Lull received a kanga as a gift - a type of fabric with a symbol and message printed on it. Typically found on the border, the message here is included as part of the print and says 'Mwanamke ni nguzoâ' or 'Woman is a Pillar (of Strength)'. It was a gift to celebrate her visit to Igangidung'u parish and a reflection of the high esteem with which they hold her.
Across Tanzania, kangas and vitenge (thicker, wax print fabrics with elaborate designs) are commonly exchanged as gifts. It is customary for women to give them to each other at special life events like weddings, send-offs, births, and so on. They are worn as sarongs, draped over heads and shoulders, and sewn into beautiful dresses, and can be used for one hundred and one different things. Walking through town you see women wearing pithy statements, political symbols, and messages like this on their actual sleeves.
In a society that is largely patriarchal, bolts of fabric become forms of resistance - statements that women wrap themselves in and wear with pride. Mwanamke ni nguzo is a reminder that women are strong and powerful, holding up their families, community, and country. As I travel between Minnesota and Tanzania and across both the Iringa Diocese and Saint Paul Area Synod, I'm privileged to see the truth of this statement borne out on a daily basis.
In Tanzania, to name a few, there are the young girls who make treks to and from their local water source, carrying buckets of water and other heavy loads on their head. There are grandmothers who make sure that the Christian faith is passed on to their children and their children's children. There are pastors from the city, like Eva Msigwa, who move to the countryside and learn the languages of the Maasai and Barabaig in order to share the Gospel in word and deed with them. There are others, like Pastor Joyce Ndangano, who have dedicated their entire careers to the betterment of women, children, and other vulnerable people.
Closer to home, there is Deacon April Trout who is currently serving as our volunteer Program Coordinator in Iringa for two years. She left a career in nursing to follow a call that led her to seminary, global service, and a life of intentional simplicity. There's also Julia Hubbard, having been shaped by her own two years in Iringa with us, she has returned home to the United States carrying all that she has seen and heard with her - hoping to incorporate all of it into whatever it is that comes next.
And then there's all of you... church council presidents, mission committee chairs, fundraising captains, altar guild members, visitors of the homebound, quilters, crafters, pie bakers, and hot dish makers. You raise funds for scholarship students in Tanzania and you fill backpacks with meals for kids at the school across the street. In what you say, what you do, and how you express God's love, you stitch our communities together and hold them up as well. You are pillars of strength and that cannot be stated enough.
Mwanamke ni nguzo, this is most certainly true. All thanks be to God.
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega and Assistant to the Bishop