This past week, Christians in Arusha have overwhelmed me with graciousness! Their hunger for a new approach to intercontinental friendship feels like a massive bear hug embrace. Church leaders and aspiring Christian entrepreneurs want to enable productive partnerships with Christians in my church and Denver. Local leadership openly yearns for a new model.
Although I’ve hardly had time enough to talk with my wife, the substance of both Tanzanian conversations and receptiveness to learning gratifies me beyond words. The folks that I have met soak up new learning like dry cloth.
I arrived in Arusha, TZ Friday evening, August 25th. Saturday dictated a badly needed conversation about tying up loose ends to a months-long planning process. Although I had conditioned my confirmation of coming to TZ upon the wrap-up of planning details by the end of June, I ended up compromising my conditioned offering without the development of a specific schedule of entrepreneurship training, venue and format. So, Saturday involved huddling with the Crazy Idea Action Committee to hammer out strategy. Sunday evening we agreed to it.
Ilboru Lutheran Church
Sandwiched in between strategy, Lota, Nehemiah and I attended church service at Ilboru Lutheran Church. We arrived a bit late, merged into song with the rest of the congregation, and hardly missed a beat. Nehemiah brought both the video and digital still camera. He immediately took liberties to begin recording Lota and I in song. Although I intended to hum a good tune, Lota pulled me into the words, translating when he could. Thankfully, the congregation consisted of rather full throated songbirds. So, my dragging slightly behind the tune lost itself in the ocean of decent voices. The lady next to me even filled in the natural pauses with a complement of appropriate vocal exclamation points. Although nobody could have noticed my lack of musical talent, I think they certainly noticed a new white guy when he and Lota walked in. But another white guy, also singing full throated melodies with the choir, softened the contrast in skin color a bit. Afterword, I shook hands with him, briefly noting that the former German now lived here permanently.
Pastor Abel led the service masterfully. I immediately concluded that he commands as much respect from his congregants as he does Rockland’s leaders. Dressed in clerical white robe, ribboned around the neck and front, he finessed the formality of his appearance with the graciousness of a welcoming smile. He turned to Lota and me, pivoting the subject of his congregational address. Lota started whispering in my ear, regularly translating the words that I could hardly pronounce, into English. I heard “Rockland” multiple times as the pastor spoke. I caught his glancing grin, sometimes a chuckle, like a floating dandelion seed. The congregation also chuckled, choreographed beautifully with simultaneous head-turning to the late arrivals.
Lota looked at me, nodded in the direction of Pastor Abel, and said, “Let’s go.”
“Up there?” I countered.
Lota raised from his seat, lifted me with his eyes, and motioned with a half twist of his wrist. “Come on. You need to say something to the congregation.”
The contrast between the starched-white clerical robe and our more casual dress should have shocked the seated. But, they all smiled with warmth, perhaps inspired from their pastor. So, as all eyes, including the pastor’s and Lota’s, pointed at me, I began some sort of convoluted rendition of past relationships between Rockland and Pastor Abel. I probably embarrassed Pastor Abel when talking about how I tried to change him into a Colorado cowboy a few months back, when he visited Colorado. I said something about the all-black clerical outfit in which he came dressed, exchanged for a Rockies shirt, a pair of jeans, and a nice pair of hikers. When I lifted my own hikers to make sure they understood, they laughed. Pastor Abel admitted that he had all these things back home, but that his congregation wasn’t likely to ever see him in such unspiritual garb. I kiddingly warned about the pictures that I took of him when he posed for a few in Red Rocks park.
After the service, Lota and I joined the rest of the congregation in the adjoining yard. We all made a big circle; a lady with a Bible began talking and animatedly gesturing to various elements of the circle. I stood next to the line-up of robed ladies, likely another stark contrast. When we adjourned, a few of the leaders introduced themselves and invited us to join them for tea in Pastor Abel’s office. We talked only briefly with the pastor, after which he left us to exchange pleasantries, pastries and intermittent sips of Tanzanian tea (locally harvested tea with fresh milk, sugar if one chose).
Although brief, John Kavishe (Mwangaza educational partnership director) and I exchanged commentary upon what I intended to accomplish while here. We discussed the sometimes (perhaps chronically) difficult management and decision making structures of the Arusha Lutheran Diocese. I countered that the decision making process of the Tanzanian Action Committee at Rockland also experienced its share of individual member frustration. Management by committee is always difficult, we agreed, subject to compromise and changing members and accompanying sentiments. Even Pastor Abel, before he left this discussion, had agreed that, at least the Lutheran side of the Rockland/Arusha partnership needed change. The ideas of transaction based relationships and an independent business to manage it all seemed to resonate easily from a reservoir of built-up frustrations that had accumulated over many years.
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I intend to use this weekend to more fully bring interested persons up to date on other matters, including commentary on this week’s seminar/work shop completions, delivery of letters to Renea Secondary School, the overall embrace of key concepts put forward thus far, and the overwhelming appreciative support that this visit has engendered. But, it seems that each day ends at about midnight, leaving minimal time to communicate. It’s been a busy week. As Saturday has just pushed Friday into history again, I believe it’s time to go to bed and continue later.
Thanks for everyone’s interest and support! I appreciate it greatly.
All the best;