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[...]
Walking down the street this morning I find myself fighting the urge to let my eyes drift from the concrete blocks in front of me, instead they want to roam left and right, and all around trying to take in all of the different sights. A man is sweeping out his duka (shop) preparing it for the day, a woman in a stylish dress talking loudly outside the fashion boutique next door, and a line of piki pikis wiping down their motorbikes and calling out to me “Dada, where do you want to go?” All the while dala dalas (mini buses) are whirring down the streets opening and closing their doors to passengers every so often. There is so much activity and motion in this city. This is an Iringa morning and I can’t help but marvel at how I have already been here for a month and get to be here for 23 more.
In some ways I cannot believe that it has been that many days and weeks. In that time, Tanzania prepared for an election with waving flags strung across the market and across almost every intersection, supporters of either party donning their respective colors, and motorbikes and trucks driving through the streets blasting speeches and music in favor of Lowassa or Magufuli. In those weeks I climbed into the center seat between Frank and Pastor Msigwa and rode out to several of the further out villages in the Diocese. I came to memorize the phrase “Bwana Yesu Asifiwe” (Praise Jesus, Lord) and received countless blessings and “karibu sanas” (words of welcome) from pastors and partnership committee representatives. I have watched those same pastors and partnership committees taking notes as Frank shared the new changes we are making in our scholarship program, later offering their comments and questions. (Later, asking questions of my own to Pastor Msigwa or Peter about why and how and what.) We have eaten ugali and tasted mandazi, smiled at the camera and said “ndizi” (banana) together. I have danced and sang into a school and a church carried in a movement of joy. And I have come home covered in a red dust. A dust that reminds me of the Holy Spirit at work in this relationship. How it takes energy and vulnerability to learn from each other and be sisters and brothers to one another. How sometimes I can’t even see beyond myself in a red cloud, but if I step into it and take a moment to let that dust settle, the dancing and rejoicing that we are one body becomes clear. How that dust falls on all of us and travels with us. This is what I’m coming to understand about Bega Kwa Bega.
Bega Kwa Bega has been described to me by so many people; I have heard stories about transformation, challenges, joy, stumbles, and commitment. It excites me that I have this opportunity to experience those pieces firsthand. To continue to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste what it means to share life together. From the hills of Ndengsivili to the trees sprouting upwards at the Diocese headquarters, it is amazing to feel this energy and excitement in the community of the Church. That the Church is involved in the spiritual, mental, physical, and economical well-being of its people, it is intimately a part of life. There seems to be so many connections like this that keeps me realizing how much I have to learn here. And I am starting understand the Swahili saying, “Haraka haraka haina baraka” – Hurry, hurry has no blessings. So, as my eyes meet the other eyes of my brothers and sisters here on the streets of Iringa, I find myself smiling and saying hello because there are so many blessings here waiting to be realized.
Bega Kwa Bega Program Coordinator, Long-term Volunteer