Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.
Luke 10: 3 NSRV
Sandra read this passage and Dean Martha Horne preached on it at the Msalato Theological College graduation on June 24th. Martha, who is retiring after 13 years as Dean of Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), came to Msalato at the request of Principal Dr. Dickson Chilongoni. She gave a wisdom sermon as only one with her Christian spirit and experience could give. During her short stay, she also managed to convene reunions of former East African graduates of VTS in Dar es Salaam and in Dodoma. We were sobered hearing the stories of their ministries, especially from the Reverend Sylyester Kambaya, the Dean of All Saints’ Cathedral in Khartoum, Sudan. After telling us briefly of repeated jailings and beatings, as well as being witness to the killing of many people inside the Cathedral last New Year’s Eve, he said that he has learned to suffer without tears. .
Martha was only one of many visitors making connection with the Anglicans in East Africa. Many others have come during the months of June and July. The first group to come was two students and three professors from VTS. They were led by Dr. Jacques Hadler, a VTS professor, who found his call to ministry on a mission trip to Tanzania in the 1960’s. The two students were Cynthia Park and John Newton who came to polish their teaching skills. Dr. John Yieh, professor of New Testament and Dr. Judy Fentress-Williams, professor of Old Testament came a bit later. To have two scholars, John a Taiwanese-American and Judy an Afro-American, gave a variety of perspectives to the theological discourse. Sandra and I really think visiting students, clergy, and teachers can bring vibrancy to this campus in offering multiple points of view.
The Tanzanians were absolutely delighted to have an Afro-American professor on campus. The students pried Dr. Williams with many hard questions; for example: Why do the students from here when they go to America find that that the blacks there do not welcome them as graciously as the whites? Why do not more black missionaries come to Africa? Judy explained that one reason may be that they have different histories, theirs coming out of colonialism and hers coming out of slavery, so their world views are different, even though their genetic makeup is similar. Dr. Chilongani said to Sandra: Judy looks just like me, but she talks just like you. Judy also brought her 12 year old daughter, Samantha, who attended the diocesan international school while here. We are sure that this cross-cultural experience for this beautiful young lady will be life-changing for her. Her mother, Dr. Williams, said she now knew why she herself had come. She had come home. She also realized, like the rest of us Euro-Americans, that we are now all simply Americans. Perhaps it is time to stop using adjectives, those parts of speech which divide us.
Close on the heels of the team from VTS, Bishop Alexander led a group of 11 people, clergy and lay, from the Diocese of Atlanta. They represented several parishes and were assessing possibilities of cross cultural interaction with the Diocese of Central Tanganyika (DCT.) One specific goal was to link a private Atlanta school, Holy Innocents, with DCT schools. Don Johnson, Bishop of Western Tennessee, also came along to observe the connection of two dioceses. This team went to the graduation of the Bishop Matinda Christian Formation Center in the village of Matambulu. This is the DCT campus for educating catechists and evangelists. Bishop Alexander gave the graduation speech. After the Atlanta team was introduced to the students, parents, and families, Bishop Johnson was introduced as being alone. His touching response was: I'm not alone; I am with you Although their time was short, this group saw a lot and only the Holy Spirit knows what the results may be.
The VTS group and the Atlanta group overlapped one day, and so we had a lovely farewell and welcoming dinner at Msalato on the same night. Dean Horne came the next day for five days before joining her husband in Dar to go on a short safari in northern Tanzania. The following July 2-3 weekend brought Patricia (Trish) Callard, a member of the Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. Trish was encouraged by the minister, Gordon Cosby, and other friends there to come to see what we were doing. Trish was teaching primary school as part of a Cross-Cultural Program for educators in Bagamoyo, 75 kilometers north of Dar es Salaam. Bagamoyo (meaning lay down your heart in Kiswahili) was the original capital of German East Africa and was one of the most important slaving towns in East Africa. The guide books say that all of the major British explorers, including Burton, Speke, Livingstone, Stanley and Grant, used Bagamoyo as a staging post for their expeditions.
On Trish’s first weekend visit, she went with us to a village youth rally in the Matumbulu Deanery where Sandra was the preacher. On the way we visited the home of first year student, Ayubu Mazengo, where we saw his son and three others perform dances and rituals they had learned in circumcision camp. There were rows of boiling pots of bean and corn, a local favorite called kande, being prepared to celebrate the completion of this rite of passage with relatives, neighbors, and friends. The Wagogo people isolate their circumcised boys in either a camp outside the village or sometimes these days in a special area attached to the home. Here they are taught by elders the ways of a Wagogo man. We are told they learn not only the facts of life but also about how they are to handle their women. We don’t understand it all, but in many places the children are beaten severely by the elders, supposedly so they will learn humility and respect. John Newton, the student from VTS mentioned above, visited a traditional camp and was shocked at the condition of the boys. He told Sandra that in the U.S. people would be put in jail for such.
During Trish’s visit we learned that she not only loved to dance but also that she was very interested in traditional folk dancing and in preserving such. To that end we arranged to have her return the following weekend and stay with Deacon Darius Sudayi who lives near the village in which Mchoya, the international king of Wagogo dancing resides along with his troupe. Meanwhile Trish met Mary Chibwana, from the College of Art in Bagamoyo, who had danced with Mchoya’s group, so both of them came and spent the weekend at Darius’s home where Mchoya and his troupe came to perform on Saturday afternoon. Mary had not forgotten the moves and was patient in our attempts to mimic. (View video entitled Wagogo dancers for full affect.) The elder women’s choir came to see Mchoya and brought some traditional flavor to the festivities as well. On Sunday morning Sandra returned to celebrate at the 7:00 AM service and baptized baby girl Mariamu in the early morning light.
Not to be outdone, the next weekend Diocese of NY’s Suffragan Bishop Catherine Roskam brought 18 others for a week long visit. As they were here on the Msalato campus during the same time as a youth group from Redland Parish in the UK, we had another combined dinner in the library. By the end of this year, parishes in the Diocese of NY will have connected with over 50 parishes here through a program called Carpenter’s Kids. Each NY parish commits to supporting 50 orphaned children for 5 years at a cost of $3,000.00 per annum. This money includes the costs of uniform, shoes, school supplies, daily porridge, and administration. In addition to the group members visiting the children in the particular parish they support, they went on confirmation with Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo and visited the college and other diocesan sites of interest. Sandra took them shopping on their last full day in Dodoma. As she is not a shopper, she learned much from the New Yorkers about what and where to purchase. She also was the recipient of some gifts from villagers that the group was unable to pack or to fit into their suitcases. A lovely set of bow and arrows from Rev. Randy Alexander now adorns our walls as decorative art.
At the same time these visitors were here, DCT has been in turmoil. As mentioned in the last newsletter, the Assistant Bishop had been let go due to financial irregularities at the end of January. Since that time he has been stirring up trouble for Bishop Mdimi. Bishop Mdimi has been doing all the confirmations and the former assistant and other disgruntled clergy have tried to disrupt the process. They have tried to lock churches where the confirmations are to take place; they have stolen the pulpit to denounce Mdimi. The police will not intervene unless there is actual violence. Never-the-less the confirmations have proceeded and the disruptions seem to be on the decline. If in your prayer time you can mention Bishop Mdimi and his wife Irene for their faith and courage please do.
As for Sandra and Martin, we have been busy. Sandra is preaching nearly every week in the villages. We took VTS students John Newton and Cynthia Park with us one Sunday. With a few words of Kiswahili and a little translation they were resonating with the congregation. They also accompanied Martin on a return house call to the home of a desperately sick 18 month old whose parents insist she is getting better on the vitamins and de-worming medications that the local doctor is prescribing. These pictures also show the typical Wagogo tribe’s style of home building. Another day we took Dean Martha Horne to a village worship service where she performed baptisms before Sandra preached. Martin finished writing final exams for the Clinical Officers’ School and for the Laboratory Assistants’ School. He continues to do fine needle aspirations at his office and at Mvumi Mission Hospital. To do this he takes his stains (yellow case) and his microscope (silver case) on the road. He is looking forward to some rest time before classes start again in August. Marking and grading 76 final exams took its toll. Martin has also ordered hematocrit machines to upgrade the lab at Mackay House in hematology and hopes to start reviewing anemic blood smears in the near future.
On a sad note, the Steffensen Family left Msalato to return to Virginia. Leslie, a gifted teacher who served as Academic Dean, will be sorely missed. Kirk put twenty or more computers (a gracious grant from Trinity Church, Wall Street) on line with the campus network and maintained what we had. His expertise will be missed until Stephen Day, a recent VTS graduate, arrives as a Young Adult Service Corp volunteer in a few weeks. The Steffensen’s three children will also be missed for giving their young activity to their Tanzanian friends. The whole family showed a lot of coping ability in the face of relative hardship the year they were here. They will be remembered by us as Swiss Family Steffensen.
At our mission orientation in 2004, the Rev. Dr. Titus Presler, who was a missionary and has written extensively on the subject, asked repeatedly, Where is God in all this? This is a haunting question for all of us to try and answer in our lives. However, in the coming and going of these groups, there is the feeling that huge commitments have been made corporately and individually for the mission of the Church. God will bless each one of them as they think about their lives and their brothers and sisters in Tanzania.
And speaking of huge commitments, Trinity Episcopal Church along with many of our friends in Columbus, GA, have donated the money for a 26 passenger Toyota mini-bus for Msalato Theological College. Joan Redmond, a friend and retired lawyer from Columbus, rather than giving up Chick-fil-A for Lent this year (her words), took on the task of spearheading the fund drive to make this possible. To all of the generous donors, we owe a huge debt of gratitude. We are in process of choosing and ordering the mini-bus as we speak. Filing for tax exemptions and trying to assess shipment times and cost from Japan as well as customs fees makes it a more laborious project than going down to the local dealer and driving one off the lot…not that we are complaining!
As we come to the end of Martin’s letter and Sandra concludes she is reminded of the verse in Hebrews 13.2 that says: Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. We certainly feel incredibly blessed to have people from home come to visit us. It gets lonely here and connecting with other Americans who share our style of worship and spiritual values tremendously buoys our spirits. We thank all of the above for the extraordinary effort it took to come to Dodoma.
We have just returned from a week in Maasai Land in the Diocese of Kajiado in southern Kenya where we toured and visited several former and current students. That story must wait for another day…enough already!
With much love, gratitude, and joy,
Sandy and Martin
We invite you to visit our website at www.mccannmission.org and sign our Guest Book.
For more pictures of Atlanta Mission Group http://picasaweb.google.com/episcopalatlanta/AnglicanCommunionPartnersAtlantansInDioceseOfCentralTanganyika
We are working on getting the video of Mchoya’s dancers from July 7, 2007 up on the web, but in the interim you can see a previous video by clicking on the Video Icon at www.mccannmission.org and then onto Wagogo Dancers under Archival Videos.