How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." Isaiah 52:7
How beautiful are the feet of those that bring good news. (Romans 10:15)
Sunday, August 28th, was a big screen day in the life of Msalato Theological College. Tanzanian radio, newspaper, and television folks were all on hand as the handsome and highly respected Archbishop, the Right Reverend Donald Tetemela, came for the dedication of four buildings. The passages above refer to the fact that as a fundraising event Bishop Mhogolo and all of the pastors in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika walked barefoot up the hill to the college. The students and faculty walked as well. The country girl came out in Sandra (much to the surprise and delight of the Africans who think that all white people are tenderfoots) as she strode beside them with pace and ease. The event raised six million Tanzanian shillings for the two classrooms needed for the new degree course begun at the college this past August. Six million schillings is roughly equivalent to six thousand US dollars, and although far short of what is needed to complete the rooms, it represents a HUGE donation from very poor people...re the widow’s mite. The success of this campaign was due not only to the sacrificial giving from the parishes but also to the monumental effort from the bishop and college staff.
We are bursting our buttons with pride over this accomplishment. This is one of the projects which we can endorse as something worthy of your support. It is our idea of a real “companion in mission” project of which there are sadly not that many. Too many people here feel powerless to do anything without money from the west. We are doing our best to resist this dreadful effect of colonialism. This has been part of the reason for our delay in posting “needs” on the website. However, this building project and the beginning of the degree program has truly been a local work of faith in action. Even most of the faculty here did not think it was possible to start the degree program this past August, but Bishop Mhogolo could see it. He just kept sounding the vision until enough people got on board to make it happen. The foundation of the building was laid last year with locally raised money before even the first student was interviewed.
At one end of this foundation, the Archbishop dedicated the cornerstone. The money raised will be enough to put up the cement block walls and the beams to hold the roof. Major expense in building here is not labor but goods (windows, cement, wood, iron roofing) and transportation costs. Walking on from the classroom foundation, the Archbishop moved on to dedicate the library, three houses for married students, and a gazebo. He finished his official duties in the concluding communion service by giving a stirring sermon exhorting the students to not be lazy as (he was claiming) most Tanzanians are. No one booed him!
After the church service there was an auction of the material offerings that were donated. These included fabric, eggs, maize, two chickens, and two goats. Sandra bought a goat ($36.00) that she gave to the students as a thank-you for all of their hard work in preparing for the visit. Goat is T-bone here. The students slaughtered the goat two days later and came to our place to honor us with the heart and liver!
This day of blessing marked the end of a week-long diocesan visit by Archbishop Tetemela and his wife. He remarked that both he and his wife loved staying in the home of Bishop Mhogolo. Archbishop Tetemela said his wife was not used to a bishop cooking breakfast for her. While in Dodoma, he visited many parishes to speak and to do other dedications. The Archbishop is much respected and beloved throughout the country. He invigorated each of the places he visited and boosted up all those who heard him. The Archbishop specifically praised Bishop Mhogolo and all the staff of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika.
Some of you have asked what a routine day in our lives is like. They are described as mundane, but not in the worldly sense. Arise, shower, breakfast.… read the Bible, pray….pull together the things needed for work. At 7:25 AM sharp, Martin leaves Msalato for the ten kilometer trip to Dodoma with seven riders. In Africa one never rides alone. One young man is attending a technical school, three young women are attending sewing school, and three staff children are attending the diocesan international school in Dodoma. After dropping the children, Martin joins the morning prayer group at Mackay House at 8:00. The singing is great and the prayers in Kiswahili are beginning to make some sense. After that he goes the lab, and with some help, he cuts, stains, and reads some microscopic slides. On Wednesdays he goes to Mvumi Mission Hospital forty kilometers south on a bad dirt road. Mvumi is a 220 bed hospital owned and operated by the diocese. It has a very respected eye department. The hospital is in a rural area serving a population of self- sufficient farmers. Here Martin does a few aspiration biopsies and teaches in the Clinical Officers’ School. Several riders usually go with him, especially those wanting eyeglasses. For eight dollars they can be examined and have their glasses in hand before Martin returns at 4 PM. Friday afternoon he teaches the AIDS course to the degree students at Msalato Theological College. Evenings are spent reading or preparing lectures. Saturdays are usually spent emailing in the morning and doing a bicycle ride through the thorn bushes in the afternoon. This usually results in a pancha (puncture) requiring a patching job during the next week.
Sandra’s day begins officially at 7:30 when the entire college gathers for Morning Prayer. Each week a faculty member and seven students prepare the services. The students love being creative and showing off their talents. All services are in English, except for a Thursday morning traditional song and prayer service. Last month we were treated to both Maasai and Gogo song and dance. The Gogo tribe is the indigenous tribe of this area, but we do have five or six Maasai along with representation from several other tribes. As Sandra is teaching four classes, the rest of her day is spent like the days of seminary—reading and writing from daybreak to the wee hours of the morning. Unlike seminary, she now has to give the lectures. She is realizing the enormous amount of work it requires to be “the teacher.” In seminary she remembers being upset at hearing the professors groan about all those exegesis papers to mark. They now have her utmost sympathy.
On Wednesday mornings, Morning Prayer is held in small groups called Pastoral Care Groups. In addition to worshipping together on Wednesdays, each pastoral care group is assigned to a local church to assist in Sunday morning worship and Christian Education. Sandra and George Okoth (a Tanzanian who was in the class behind Sandra at VTS) meet with a group of twelve students who are assigned to the chapel of the adjacent Msalato Girls’ Secondary School (~600 girls.) This used to be owned and operated by the diocese, but the government took it over after independence/socialization in the sixties. The school church is still officially owned by the diocese, but it is now used as an interdenominational chapel. George and Sandra are the Protestant chaplains, and they and their pastoral care group lead the Sunday services, administer the sacraments, and teach confirmation classes. Sandra did her second baptism in Kiswahili a few weeks ago. In addition to George and Sandra, there are three ordained pastors among their twelve students. This allows both George and Sandra to occasionally join the English service at the Cathedral or to accept one of the always forthcoming invitations to visit and participate in a village parish service.
On September 4th Sandra was invited to the local village of Daniel Mazengo, one of her former students who became a deacon on the same day she was ordained to the priesthood. He wanted her to come and to preach and to bless his family on their last Sunday in his home church. It is always good for us to get out to the villages to remind ourselves how most of Africa lives. One can forget while living here on the campus in relative luxury. After the service (in a fifteen year old church that has not yet got a roof) we did home visits to two sick parishioners. Even after nearly two years in Africa, it was shocking to see the living conditions. No electricity, no water, no furniture, no shops, nothing for miles but low flat-roofed mud huts, dry, flat barren land, and hot gusts of swirling dust. It has not rained since April and will not until December.
A visit to Buigiri Parish for confirmations with Bishop Mhogolo was another special September Sunday. We took nine girls from Msalato Secondary School to be confirmed there. It is about an hour’s drive. The Buigiri School for the Blind is close by and several of their students were also confirmed. Due to the size of the gathering the service was held outside under the flapping of the tarps, strung from the side of the church and the adjacent trees. In all there were 57 confirmed. We were especially touched by the blind children perfectly reciting the catechism, as well as by the large number of elderly men and women coming forth and kneeling for the confirming laying on of hands. Eight choirs sang. Bishop Mhogolo held the crowd in the palm of his hand. He was inclusive of all groups represented and added enough Chigogo (the local language) words and stories to keep them laughing. After preaching and confirming, he was presented with gifts of fabric, four chickens, and a female goat. The service was followed by a luncheon in which the Bishop conducted an informal business meeting to tell of future plans in the diocese and follow up on past odds and ends. The elders asked questions of deep concern for their parish and the diocese. At the end the bishop warmly thanked the workers and the organizers of the event for their hard work. It was an amazing day made full by Bishop Mdimi’s enthusiasm and seemingly unlimited energy.
Our life is not as heroic as most probably think. To the contrary, our life is a rather ordinary one, except in another setting. We pray, work, eat, and sleep. What we do not do much of is play and we miss that, along with good Episcopal worship and hymnody.
We plan to be home to enjoy some of both on December 3rd. Martin will return after New Year’s, but Sandra plans to do the January term at VTS before departing. Now that we are making reservations we find ourselves getting very excited. In the meantime, we depend on your prayers. Pictures of the walk, the Archbishop, the dedication of the classroom, the goat, the confirmation and others are on our website: www.mccannmission.org
With much love and joy, Sandy and Martin