The guy with the overnight hiking pack on his back, the school boy back pack hanging in front, and a satchel dangling from his arm, showed up again.
Said he just returned from Iringa, or something like that. Meetings, then a day or two of prayer. Must have jumped a train or something. Looked like it. Worn. Dropped his stuff and smiled. That big one. The one that said, “I’m back! Thanks for the invite!”
Hadn’t seen Nasson for a few weeks. Noticed he visited the Facebook Group page a few days, maybe a week ago.
Said he would stay for two nights, one day in between. Needed to get back to Dar, to his family. Wanted to say “Good bye!” Knew that Tuesday, I would be flying home. Wanted to tell me in person how his ministry had changed, how many documented contacts he had made over the past 3 weeks or so (about 800, by Wednesday night).
Incredible accomplishment, I thought.
Nasson lives as a bull, masked as a human. Personality-wise, that is. He’s tough. Nothing stops him. God called him. So, get out of the way, or you’ll get trampled. Or saved.
But, that’s his gift. Most of us couldn’t do what he does. Most value sensitivity, politeness, gentleness of spirit. He does, too. But, he wears “hutzpah” like most wear a dash of cologne. He wears a lot of it. Can smell it in the other room. He wears the mantle of a born-again disciple. Unstoppable in his determination to save as many lost souls as he can. God’s calling to him.
I told him I was glad to see him. Wanted to interview him, anyway, for the documentary that Nehemiah wanted to complete.
Since he ambushed me weeks earlier, showing up with that single mom and her three dependents. I consented to doing so. Sheepishly. Reluctantly. Wasn’t here for that, though. Told him so. That was in the house. When he and I walked outside, found her there, in the flesh, with three kids attached with tattered string, with the assurance that someone’s second coming just happened, with a plea that I help her. I couldn’t help but agree to consider it. Told her and him that I wouldn’t extend any charity. She agreed. Then asked for help getting started in the poultry business. Desperate. Nasson’s angle. Knew it. A reluctant agreement. Translated to a promise. He assured her.
An unmet promise. Regardless of the set-up, needed to keep it. Now. Before I left.
Told Nasson that we would video an interview, then visit Angel at her home. Thursday. Would cancel all other pending arrangements, so Nasson could go back to Dar on Friday. Didn’t want to hold him up!
Pleased Nasson. Big smile. Said he needed to get up at 4 AM to do more street (or bus) preaching. Would be back by 9:00 AM to fulfil our agenda for Thursday. Warned him that we had accepted a dinner invitation from Mary, who would also host Vance and Beth Marie. 6 PM. Couldn’t be late. Might be a long day.
Next morning. 9 AM. Quiet. Nasson didn’t show. Know he loves his work. But Christians keep their promises. Mostly. Sometimes. (This is Tanzania, John!)
10:00 AM. Quiet.
11:00 AM. Quiet. A few minutes past. A sheep walks in. Sheep eyes, anyway. “Forgive me? Sorry.” Looked at him. No sheep eyes from me. Quiet. Pregnant. Again, “Forgive me?”
“Sit down, Nasson. We need to talk.”
Mr. Sheep Eyes sat. I pulled up a chair. Pulled it right in front of him. Sat. Looked him in the eyes. Those sheep eyes. “I forgive you. I won’t forget. I don’t do business like this. I don’t do business with people who don’t live up to their commitments, their end of the deal.” Calmly, intensely, my eyes holding his in a hammer lock. “Don’t ever do this again! Agreed?”
I relaxed. He relaxed, just a bit. I know he’ll do it again. He’ll know it, when it happens. Like Peter, when the cock crowed. He’ll know it.
Smiles melted remaining anxiety. Until it rose again. Took him another half hour to change, get ready. A two hour assembly of bus rides to somewhere past Kilimanjaro airport. Waiting for us. Told Nasson that the promise took precedence over the video interview. Knew he’d not want to miss being interviewed. Might help us get back more quickly.
We took off on our day trip. Dala dala to Arusha central. Got off. Nasson walked towards a shop. Chatted up the guy tending the vendor stand. Next to the closed one. One of them made a phone call.
Nasson: “The owner of that shop is on his way. He’s on a Toyo. Be here in a few minutes.”
Told me before we got off the dala dala that he had bought a jacket. Had put it on layaway. Didn’t use that term. Felt he needed to explain the concept to me. Now I realized that he was setting me up, again. This was what he talked about. He wanted to complete the purchase, since we were passing by. Another half hour.
Admired a pair of boots that the next door vendor showed him. Tempted. Wanted my assessment of the ones he currently wore. The steel toed, waterproof, oil resistant and slip-proof pair of Dickies. Told him he had a great pair of boots. Probably couldn’t get much better. Showed me the temptation. Gore-Tex. Told him it was good. TEMPTED. Told him he already had a great pair. Didn’t need the Gore-Tex, if he had the Dickies. Must have believed me. Turned the vendor down.
Jacket shop owner arrived. Dressed in his best-pressed Boy Scouts of America uniform. Almost wanted to solute. I grew up a Boy Scout. Never lost my respect, admiration.
He opened the shop. Pulled out the waterproof jacket. Splashed water on it. Rubbed it. Proved beyond a doubt that it repelled water. Pulled out a matching pair of trousers. Proved it again. Nasson pulled out money. Paid his remaining layaway. Beamed like a kid at Christmas.
Found a Kilo dala dala. A bigger one than the local people movers. An inter-city or inter-region transporter. Packed ourselves in. Nasson in front, almost. The second row. I sat in the fourth. Lots of rows behind me. Definitely bigger than the mini vans that do local.
Didn’t take long.
Before Nasson stood, turned, introduced himself to the assemblage of passengers. A “man of God.” On a mission.
Didn’t look at me. Looked at his congregation. Eyes found his. No sheep eyes. A magical combination of piercing, soft, compassionate connection. Travelled to various individual congregants. Smiled. Warm, welcoming. Loud voice now a melody of words. Started out English. Explained his calling, the need to present the alternatives. If you die, eternal damnation. If you accept Jesus before you die, eternal bliss. Heaven.
Unisoned responses. The guy next to me, peered up. Nodded at the appropriate times. Mesmerized by the preacher. A bus load of responses, together.
Frankly, I couldn’t believe it. This just made my whole TZ experience pale in comparison. The guy showed boldness, confidence. In his element. Passion, charm. Took out his preacher’s Biblia. The onion skin kind. The covers flop a little bit. Tabbed like a dictionary.
He read. The people repeated. In unison. Nobody telling him where to go. He was telling them.
Switched to English. Introduced me as his friend. Provided a little background. Switched back to Swahili. Preached some more.
Then he handed out business cards. Pens, too. A naturally ungraceful process, made graceful through pure confidence and spirit. Gave me the leather pouch from which the pens had emerged. When the hard inventory returned, I re-stuffed the pouch for him. He collected the paper business cards. He read back the names, one by one. Smiled at each person whose name he called. When physically close enough, patted their back or shoulder. Even one of the bus attendants returned a card. Confirmed their contact info. Stuffed the little treasures of information into bulging pockets of wallet-type pouches. Could hardly fit them in.
Started collecting donations. Lots of them. Generally 1,000 Tsh bills. Small, but they came in from all over. A few coins.
We got off the bus well after turning left at the Kilimanjaro airport sign, we each hopped a Toyo. Rode to Angel’s house. Took inventory. Nasson had collected 56 business cards from his early morning preaching expedition, 23 more from those riding the bus to Kilimanjaro. Later that evening, he told me he collected 40 more from the return trip to Arusha.
Angel greeted us, served us a wonderful spaghetti lunch (too much eating!). Showed us around. Humble surroundings. But, obvious that she keeps things under control. Maintains a job, pays all her bills, including a bank loan for expanding her home. Chickens appeared well-kept. Chicks also. Wants to produce chicks, raise broilers, maintain egg layers. Will need to document her bio in another write-up, later. Generally, appears responsible. Hard life, though. Has not enjoyed much of it. Maintains a generally negative perspective towards men. Justified.
Didn’t leave until about 5:20 PM. Motorized tricycle to the bus round-up place. Hopped it and got back to Kwa-iddi after 7:00 PM. Got to Mary’s about 8:00 PM, two hours late. No sweat. Tanzania standards. Dinner not served until about 8:45, I’m guessing. Got to be at about 1 AM. A short sleep.
At Mary’s, I suggested to Nasson that he would now need to invest in a computer, a data base, and a system for tracking his constituents. Might have to hire someone to enter all the info that he collected, and will continue to collect. Latched onto the computer part. Not sure he knows that the data base and its maintenance will also require absorption into his outreach process. But I suggested that he needed to begin writing parables regularly and maintaining communications. Efficiently. Might want to coordinate with other pastors within his outreach radius. Need to think about trading services, for example, using his existing church’s computer, if it has one, leveraging assistance from other churches in exchange for referrals, and the like. We’ll see.
Nasson cancelled his 4:00 AM routine. Wanted to do the interview. I found him sacked out on the couch at about 7:30 AM. I slept in, a bit, lingered because I thought Nasson had not yet returned from early morning preaching.
I surmise he enjoyed doing the interview. Front porch. Chickens didn’t bother us too much. He waxed eloquent. Complimentary about everything. Embraced the whole concept of teaching to fish over against handing out already caught fish. Bought into the transaction based way of interacting.
“Oh, ******! It’s 9:45 already!” Panic! Need to catch the bus to Dar by 10, maybe 10:30! Does not run on Tanzania schedules. Runs on time!
Strapped up his hiking pack, back pack which he carries as a front pack, and the loose satchel into which the last minute left-overs get thrown. Probably figured forgiveness lay outside this impending lateness scenario. Long-gone buses must not be Christian.
Figured to myself, I might have inadvertently slept longer into the morning than I needed to. I didn’t ask forgiveness, either. Didn’t even occur to me.
Shame on me!
(Did I just forget something?)