The Bibis and the Bishop

Date posted: Thursday 30 June 2022

I met the first Bibi (Grandmother) when I visited her remote village a number of years ago. We were the first wazungu (white people) to visit. She was rather stern, and made it clear that she was an Anglican, and only worshiped at this Lutheran church because there was no Anglican church in the area.


I met the second Bibi when I visited her village in 2007. That year, she asked our group to pray for her son, who had strayed from the church. The next time we visited, he was an evangelist, and she asked us to pray that the parish would help build a chapel in her village. The next time we visited, the chapel construction had begun, and she asked us to bring a source of water to her village. When that project was complete, I asked her what we should pray for next, and she replied that we should pray for this partnership to continue in perpetuity.


One of many things I love about these women is that they don’t wait for a translator. When we meet, they take my face in their hands and start to speak with great fervor. I get the gist. There are words of welcome and words of blessing.


Recently, I met up with these two Bibis from neighboring villages while waiting for a celebration to begin. After tearful reunions, the three of us sat, and I called over a translator. For 20 minutes, we caught up, exchanged words of greeting, blessing, hopes and dreams.


And then Bishop Gaville arrived for the ceremony.


In Tanzania, the respect for hierarchy is strong. Those who are sure of their place in the hierarchy approach the Bishop with greetings and words of welcome. Others hang back. These two Bibis grabbed my arms and we approached the Bishop. We are very short and he is very tall. As we approached, he bent to our level and opened his arms wide, greeting the three of us together.


May we all be so bold, and so graciously received.


Asante sana,

Kirsten Levorson
Acting Director of Bega Kwa Bega


P.S. Be sure to check out the BKB Facebook page, which regularly posts content and photos from Tanzania.