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Village visits here in the Iringa Diocese often begin with singing, dancing and palm branches waving – a welcome akin to the greeting Jesus received upon entering Jerusalem. Great hospitality is extended and humbly received, and formal greetings are exchanged. When the celebration ebbs, a schedule is agreed upon for the visit. There’s a partnership meeting, perhaps a tour of preaching points, or maybe a show and tell of parish projects from the shamba [farm] to the beekeeping area, to the brick making and construction site. All of the items on the schedule are chosen to help the American guests get a glimpse of daily life within the Tanzanian church or an understanding of parish projects and priorities.
And sometimes it’s the unscheduled, serendipitous events that deepen our understanding of one another’s gifts and needs.
A coaster bus on its way to a remote village comes to a stop at a ravine. The incline is too steep for the bus to continue. Church leaders consult. Can the Americans walk the distance? They do, and come home with stories of what they saw along the way, how their friends gave them a hand over the rough terrain, and the revealing conversations they had along the way.
Lunch is over and the group is expected at the next village, but Barb opts to stay with the parish women who prepared the meal. She announces she wants to help wash dishes, and they look at her quizzically. She insists, and finally they bring her dishes to wash. New connections are made and Barb takes home a joyful memory and another perspective on daily life.
It’s late afternoon, the schedule is complete, and an evangelist invites the group to his home and his rice field, to see the process of harvest. In the golden evening light, they walk farther than they expected and find the work much more difficult than anticipated. At home again, they will recount step by step the labor intensive process of harvesting rice. Read more here.
With these shared experiences, we grow to recognize each other’s gifts and capabilities, while caring for one another’s needs. Thank God for these village visits.
Acting Director of Bega Kwa Bega