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A HOLY WEEK JOURNEY LIKE NO OTHER…COME AND SEE…

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. John 13:14

Dear Friends,

Happy Easter!  As we begin the glorious 50 days of the season, I want to share how mine began, returning to the beginning of Holy Week on Palm Sunday.  Lent has always been one of my favorite seasons.  After the abundance of Thanksgiving and Christmas I usually find myself ready for a more disciplined way of eating and spending.  For me the Lenten Season brings back fond memories of book studies and prayer groups, of mite boxes and of other small sacrifices that somehow have been important and meaningful in my overall spiritual journey.  I have practiced both giving up and taking on.  In one particularly busy and stressful Lenten Season when I found that I could not give up, I prayed for and received extraordinary energy.  Whatever the discipline, by Good Friday, I usually felt more grounded in Jesus, more aware of returning to dust.

For the last nine years I have not been able to fully immerse myself in Holy Week as I have been either attending or teaching seminary classes which did not conclude until midweek. But this year Msalato Theological College took a full two-week break. This gift of time gave me the extraordinary opportunity of helping a parish priest and friend, the Rev. Darius Sudayi, to serve his six village churches in the Parish of Maduma.  A delightful retired priest, the Reverend Hubert Nyembela, also helped us.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I will outline basically our daily routine, but the story is in the accompanying pictures and captions.  In sharing these, it is my hope that you also will also experience Easter on a deeper level.  All week long as we sat up the communion tables under trees, in dirt yards, and inside sick rooms the words, This blood was shed for you, kept coming into mind.

                       Outline of the Week with Accompanying Pictures

Palm Sunday: St Peter’s (the Maduma Parish main church): 2 services: 7 and 10

Monday-Saturday afternoons: The people gathered every afternoon at four to sing, to pray, and to have a 2-hour seminar, ending as the sun was setting at seven in the evening. The basic underlying theme for the week was humility, centered on such questions as: Why do we reject a king who rides on donkeys and washes our feet?

Tuesday to Saturday mornings: Tuesday through Friday we went on foot from home to home to anoint the sick and to conduct short worship services of song, prayer, the Word preached, and Holy Communion.  The final Saturday morning we went by car due to the distance, and, as you will see, we made a way out of no way.

Maundy Thursday: Worship service with Washing of the Feet.

Good Friday: Stations of the Cross and The Seven Last Words

Holy Saturday afternoon: Lunch with Carpenter’s Kids and children’s choir practice.

Holy Saturday Vigil after seminar: All night vigil with older children and youth in the parish church singing and dancing until dawn (I wrote sermon all night to an African beat!)

Easter: 7 services and many baptisms in six churches with Rev. Sudayi covering two churches, Rev. Nyembela two, and myself two.

See pictures from A HOLY WEEK IN TANZANIA

   

Martin and I returned home on Easter evening very tired but on an emotional high.  It was truly a mountaintop experience, and I have found it hard to come down—finding myself wanting to pitch a tent there!  Both Martin and I came to know Jesus on a much deeper level during our long ministry with the mentally ill at the Stewart Home in Columbus, GA.  This week we again experienced the compassion and love of God in the mentally ill, the sick, the blind, the poor. We also experienced Him in those who have and who are sharing with those who do not.  As we walked the way to each home we experienced Him in His beautiful creation in the waving tall maize and millet, in the wild flowers and rock formations, in the sun and in the blessed rain.

We did not have long to reflect on the week as on Monday morning we made the six-hour trek to Dar es Salaam to pick up Magi Griffin, another missionary from the Atlanta Diocese.  She has come to be the Project and Financial Advisor to Bishop Mhogolo.  Magi is an old friend who served for over a year (2005-6) in a similar capacity to the newly elected Archbishop of Tanzania, Valentino Mokiwa, in the Diocese of Dar es Salaam.  We are all excited to have Magi in our diocese, as she is a lovely, multi-talented, hardworking lady whose expertise is much needed here.

Another emotional high for the entire student body and faculty of Msalato was the arrival of the long-awaited minibus on March 7.  All of us were beside ourselves with giddiness as we had waited so long that it was hard to believe that it was really here.  The bus was blessed and dedicated on March 11 with the entire student body and faculty participating.  We are preparing for many groups from the US to use it this summer (well, winter here.)  Thank-you again to Joan Redmond, Trinity Church, Columbus, and to our many generous friends there who made this a reality.

We have been a long time in writing.  It is not that we have not tried.  Both of us attempted to do a Lenten newsletter, but the words would not come together. We are, however, hard at work and making plans for many of you who plan to visit.  We covet your prayers, as there are many issues and decisions for which we need discernment and wisdom.  The college is in dire financial straits at the moment with the Diocese also struggling to make both ends meet.  We do give thanks for the restoration of the Internet at Msalato due to the generous donation of a faithful friend.  It makes us feel like we are part of the world again.

The Lord has risen indeed!

Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Rejoicing in the season and thankful to be Easter people,

Sandy and Martin