I had put up a short post the day before Valentine's Day. It was outside of my usual posting every two weeks. But I had found a Valentine's card that I had given to Debbie and thought I would post a scan of the card.
Today I was wondering if this was a week when I am supposed to post, I thought to myself, No, I posted on Valentine's Day. That makes this your off week. So here I am suddenly realizing that I was wrong. So, this will be a short post.
I've written in the past about Tanzania and what a gift a scholarship is. (https://www.timkwrites.com/blog/bega-kwa-bega-scholarships) I'm very pleased that my church, Shepherd of the Hills in Shoreview, MN had decided that this year any money given during our Wednesday evening Lenten services will be used for scholarships for our children in our partner congregation of Kidamali in Tanzania.
I wrote before about how a scholarship is a triple gift. The recipient of the scholarship benefits by getting an education. The school depends on scholarship money for it's budget to operate. And Tanzania benefits when these students graduate and start having an impact on society.
If you'd like to help out with our fundraising here's a link to the Giving page on Shepherd's website. (https://www.sohsv.org/your-giving-makes-a-difference.html) You can give via text or online. Just make sure you mark you contribution as "Other" and put Lent or Scholarships in the description.
I’d like to give you an update on one of the best gifts I was a part of this year. During our Lenten services this year my church, Shepherd of the Hills in Shoreview, Minnesota ( www.sohsv.org ), raised money for a well in Tanzania. Our partner congregation in Tanzania, the Kidamali parish, had asked if we could help with a well in their preaching point at Nyamihuu. Shepherd of the Hills’ members responded to the request and the money was raised before the end of Lent.
St. Paul Partners ( www.stpaulpartners.org ) is the organization the coordinates the gifts from Minnesota and the well program in Iringa, Tanzania. They teach the people about wells and water sanitation. They also help them set up a water committee to oversee the well. Then comes the drilling.
At Nyamihuu there was a lot of drilling. They drilled three holes to a depth of 40 meters, the usual depth for finding water. But they didn’t find any water. Then they tried drilling deeper. At 60 meters they found water with very good flow rates. A special hand pump was installed to pull up the water from the deeper depths of the well. There were some increased costs from the depth of the well, but a Shepherd member generously donated the extra money.
This fall at the Bega Kwa Bega Festival, which celebrates the partnerships between Minnesota and Tanzania I met Bo Skillman of St. Paul Partners. He had been to Nyamihuu. He told me the well was functioning good. They had a small problem with a leak, but the villagers had notified them of the problem. He said that was a good sign they were being serious about the well and the quick reporting had allowed them to have the repair covered by warranty.
Bo provided me with the picture below of the well.
Thank you to all who contributed money and prayers to make this happen. You have provided safe and reliable water to the community. Also, sometimes a new well will draw people in which could lead to increased attendance at Nyamihuu Preaching Point.
A belated Merry Christmas to all my readers. I hope your holiday season was peaceful and joyous.
The first night in Tanzania we stayed in Dar es Salaam. I was rooming with Pastor Horacio of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Oakdale. He had also been at Shepherd of the Hills in the past, so I knew him before the trip. I’m sure Horacio became tired of me unpacking and realizing something else I had forgotten. “Oh no, I forgot to bring any soap.” “Oh no, I forgot to pack pajamas.” “Oh no, I forgot the charger for my cell phone.” “Oh no, I forgot….” There were many things I had been meaning to pack and didn’t end up putting in my bags.
I had been through it before. It was a symptom of grief. My Dad’s death and funeral were about two weeks before we left for Tanzania. I thought I was handling it fairly well. I was functioning and getting ready for the trip. But my mind wasn’t always as focused as it should have been. It was after the unpacking that I figured out what was going on.
I understood it because I had been through it after Debbie had passed away. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be go into the bathroom upstairs to get the dirty clothes out of the laundry hamper only to find myself in the basement a half hour later looking for a screwdriver while the laundry was still upstairs. There were many times like that where I would be working on something and become distracted by something else that needed to be done. So, I would immediately move to the other task with the original task completely out of mind for a time.
Lack of focus, absent mindedness, forgetfulness, inability to complete tasks. I had them all. Everyone’s grief journey is different. This doesn’t happen to everyone. But it is a common symptom of grief.
But, back in Tanzania. There I was understanding what had happened but without a charger for my cell phone. I wasn’t planning on making calls; in fact, I left the phone in airplane mode the entire time I was in Tanzania. But it was going to be my camera for the trip. As I stood on the verge of panic, a cooler head rescued me. Horacio asked if I had a USB cable for the phone. When I said yes, he pointed out that I could plug that into my Chromebook and charge it that way.
I was relieved; Pastor Horacio had saved me. I shouldn’t have been surprised; after all, he is in the business of saving people.
magine turning on your water tap and nothing happening. What would you do if you didn't have water available just by turning a handle marked "H" or "C"?
I composed that opening for my blog on Sunday night as I was lying in bed waiting for sleep to come. Monday morning there was a notice from the city water department on my door when I opened it to retrieve my paper. It said that they were repairing a water main break and they would be shutting off the water from 8:30 that morning until early afternoon. For a large part of the day I was living the situation I described above.
We are truly blessed to have the water system we have. It comes from the work of many people. Others in this world are not as fortunate. Hundreds of millions of people do not have access to safe drinking water. The leading cause of death for children under five years old is diseases from unsafe drinking water. Wednesday, March 22 is World Water Day. A day set aside by the UN to raise awareness of water issues.
While I was in Tanzania I became aware of how much we take our water system for granted. Most nights we stayed at the Lutheran Center in Iringa where we had running water. We also spent a couple nights in staying in the village of Mwatsi where we had 5-gallon buckets of hot and cold water delivered to the guest house in the morning. And no, they don't be a water heater like we're used to. For us to get hot water in the morning it was heated over a fire.
Mwatsi is fortunate to have had a water system that was built by St. Paul Partners (www.stpaulpartners.org), an organization that works to provide safe water and health education in partnership with local communities in Tanzania. Unfortunately, there was a construction accident that cut off water to the taps that were nearest to the guest house. The water they provided to us came from a tap that was about a half a mile away. Then there would be a half a mile walk back carrying the water.
It was a common sight from our bus to see women and children walking to or from water carrying buckets. While we have water available anytime we need it night and day, that's not the case for many people. They carry buckets to their water to be filled. If they're lucky there's a well, sometimes it's a stream. Someplaces the water is clean, someplaces not. Once they fill their bucket they have to take it home. It takes us under a second to get water. It takes them many hours every day.
Someday we will have a world where clean water is available for everybody. It will take a lot of little steps to get there. One that I've seen that encouraged me was at my own church. Shepherd of the Hills' companion congregation Kidamali mentioned that one of their preaching points needed a well for water. So, we started the process with St. Paul Partners and were told the cost would be $4,500. Shepherd decided to devote the offerings taken at our Wednesday Lenten services to this. The response has been tremendous. We should reach our goal to fund the well at Nyamihuu. It is a little step on the way to the goal. I am so blessed to be a part of such a giving congregation. [Update: The goal was reached and surpassed. The extra money will be used to help Kidamali in other ways.]
Whenever you turn on your water, remember how blessed you are.
Flying into Tanzania our plane stopped at Kilimanjaro Airport. I was sitting on the aisle. There was a man sitting next to me and a woman by the window. As we taxied all I could see out the window was the wing of the plane and the runway. The man and the woman were looking out the window towards the gate. The man turned to the woman and said, “Caribou.” I thought, "that’s amazing, I didn’t realize they had Caribou Coffee in Tanzania." Then I realized he had said “karibu” which is the Swahili word for welcome.
We heard a lot of music in Tanzania. Whenever we arrived somewhere and got off the bus it seemed like there was always a group of people singing a song that included the word karibu.
Many churches in Tanzania were upgrading their sound system. Apparently, the younger generation likes electronic amplified sound. So the traditional choirs are slowly changing. At one parish we went to they were having trouble with their sound board. Finally they got it solved. The music started and the four or five people in front started singing along with the music. However, we quickly realized that they were lip synching.
At our next stop the choir sang with a few drums to accompany them and they sounded fantastic. After they sang they told us that they wanted to get a sound board and speakers. This was the last thing we all thought they needed.
I can’t really do the music justice trying to describe it in words. Instead, I’d like to include some with this post.
The first is at Kidamali; before we went up to the church the choir sang to us outside the pastor’s house. I’m sorry. I always try to tell myself to not pan too fast when I do a video, but sometimes my brain doesn’t listen to itself. I apologize for my fast panning.
This one is from the worship service at Kidamali and includes a traditional dance. You can get a good view of the church in this also. See if you can see the kids looking in the window to watch. My translator told me that Pastor Kisoma said people had complained about there being some stones sticking out of the dirt floor. So, they would try to fix that with this dance.
This one is not a video, but a recording of the students at Image Lutheran School singing to us. The song starts about 20 seconds in.
Here’s a choir at one of the preaching points we visited.
This is a group that showed up to sing and dance for us as we were looking at the water system in Mwatasi.
Last week I posted about scholarships in Tanzania. I talked about how scholarships are a triple gift to the student, the community and the school. And then I dropped the ball and didn’t include any instructions on how to donate. I’ve updated that post to include the instructions and I’ll also include them here.
If you are interested in making a donation for scholarships check with your local Saint Paul Area Synod ELCA Lutheran Church to see if they have a companion parish or you can send donations to: Bega Kwa Bega c/p Saint Paul Area Synod, 105 University Ave. West, St. Paul, MN 55103.
In my post about our visit to Kidamali (http://www.timkwrites.com/blog/sunday-worship-in-kidamali) I wrote about how moved I was when I heard that over 70 children in the parish had been helped through scholarships from money given by Shepherd of the Hills. We visited three schools on our trip. Image and Bomalang’ombe Secondary Schools and the Nursing School at Ilula Hospital. I learned more about the scholarship program on these visits.
The day after we visited Kidamali we had a full day planned. We were going to Ilula Hospital, Image Parish and Image Secondary School. Our guide for the day was Frank Mkocha who works in the Bega Kwa Bega office at the Iringa Diocese. His job is working with the scholarship program. As part of his job he visits every school every term to verify that children receiving scholarships are actually at the school.
At Image Secondary School we arrived late, but lunch was still waiting for us. After lunch, we were serenaded by the students and we were given a tour of the school. As were getting ready to leave we noticed that several students had decorated our dusty bus.
As I was getting on the bus, Frank pointed out a message that was written on the bus. “That’s Swahili for ‘wash me.’”
At Bomalang’ombe our guide was a young man from Mwatasi, the village we were staying at. He had attended Bomalang’ombe and he told me he was interested in seeing the school again. There had been a forest fire in the area that had come close to the school and he wanted to see how bad it had been. The fire had been very close to the school; we could see the burned areas on several sides of the school when we were given a tour. One of the teachers told me they had been out with water when the fire was getting close.
At the end of our time at the school I was talking to another teacher. He said it would be good if we met again sometime. I agreed, but I wasn’t sure if I would be coming to that school again because it is a long way from Kidamali. So, I said if we didn’t meet again in this world we meet in the next. He burst out laughing and I had to join in.
At Ilula Hospital we toured the nursing school that they had just started up. It is in its second year, so there are two classes of students. We were allowed into the classrooms and saw the first-year students and the second year students. As we were talking with the class of second-year students we asked how many of them were receiving scholarships from Bega Kwa Bega. They had the ones receiving scholarships stand up.
Every student in that class except for one stood up.
Scholarships are important and they’re actually a triple gift. First, they are a gift to the student to allow them to get the education they deserve. Secondly, they are a gift to society. These students will have an impact on their world, whether as a nurse or in some other capacity. They will be a force for good. And finally, they are a gift to the school. At every school we went to they talked about how scholarship money helps their budgets. Would Ilula Hospital have been able to start a nursing school if there had been only one student? What an amazing gift a scholarship is.
If you are interested in making a donation for scholarships check with your local Saint Paul Area Synod ELCA Lutheran Church to see if they have a companion parish or you can send donations to: Bega Kwa Bega c/p Saint Paul Area Synod, 105 University Ave. West, St. Paul, MN 55103.
One of the members of our trip was Pastor Rich Larson from Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Bayport. For the first part of the trip it felt like whenever I would refer to him as Rich someone would correct me to tell me it was Rick and then when I would refer to him as Rick someone would correct me to tell me it was Rich.
One day in Tanzania we went to the Image Lutheran Parish which is the partner congregation for Bethlehem. We also visited a hospital and a school. That evening at dinner someone asked me which part of the day was my favorite. My first reaction was that it would be like comparing apples and oranges and bananas, but probably the hospital or the school. Later, after I thought about it though, I realized my favorite part was Image Parish.
We arrived on the bus and pulled in. As we unloaded there was a group of people singing to welcome the group. We went into the church and were led up to the front where we sat facing the congregation. Leaders of the congregation were introduced and each stood up. We all introduced ourselves and received applause. There were some reports made about the partnership.
Then it was Rich’s turn to speak. He stood up at the podium and began to talk. He talked about Bethlehem and their partnership. There was frequent applause for his remarks. Then he told them he had an idea he wanted to discuss with them. Rich wanted to come back to Image and spend a more extended time with them walking with and learning about them. Rich is usually a pretty confident speaker, but as he talked about this he was pausing and seemed to search for the right words to say. He ended with asking the congregation what they would think of this idea. He didn’t get applause, he got cheers. Rich’s expression was joyous.
Afterwards as Rich was giving gifts to the congregation we saw a man coming up the aisle and leading a goat. He sat down with the goat. After Rich was done with his gifts, the man with the goat came forward. The goat was their gift to Pastor Rich. I’m not sure how much a goat costs in Tanzania, but I know this had to be a pretty significant gift.
We may look at the lives of these people and say that they are poor. And they certainly are by monetary and material measures. I left there amazed by their generosity and love and feeling richly blessed. So, think about what measures you use for people and who in this story is rich.
Before I begin I’d like to highlight something. The Saint Paul Area Synod is putting together a trip to Tanzania for May for young adults (age 19 to29). If you know of anyone who might be interested in this here’s a link: http://www.spas-elca.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/YATrip-2017-Info-Sheet-Update.pdf. Makes me want to be young again.
We spent a lot of time in our bus going to different places. Mostly it was a vehicle for getting to where we were going. But there were a few times where the ride itself became an adventure and gave us glimpses of Tanzania that we would have otherwise missed.
Our driver thought that maybe the size of our bus wheels and the length between the front and the back were in some sort of harmonic convergence with the equipment that is used to maintain roads. Whatever it was, once we got off paved roads if felt like driving over a washer board. For miles at a time. Watch the window in the short video below.
Not too long after we entered the Great Rift Valley on our way to Ruaha the villages were becoming farther and farther apart. Suddenly in the middle of nowhere our bus pulled over. The driver got out and went to the front of the bus where he lied down on the ground looking up into the engine next to the passenger side tire. Hmm, not a good sign.
To understand the significance of what happened next, I need to backtrack a little. When we would drive on dirt roads as you can imagine there would be quite a bit of dust. The picture below is the back of our bus after we stopped at Image school. As we were leaving Image the Bega Kwa Bega person who was accompanying us that day, Frank, pointed out some writing in the dust next to the door to me. “That’s Swahili, it means ‘wash me’.” When we’d be driving there would also be some dust in the air in the bus. In the video I took on our way back that day two people in the bus were attempting find ways to not breathe the dust.
Now I can go back to our story. The driver came back in the bus. To look at the engine, he had to be in the bus and there was a hatch in the floor that could be lifted up.
When he opened it up the bus quickly filled with steam and fumes that smelled just like an old radiator. There was a mass exodus from the bus to avoid the fumes. Everybody except the bus driver and two others. I would say something about who were those masked men, but they were no longer masked. They were just sitting in the bus reading their books.
The bus was leaking. It wasn’t the radiator, but it was a hose coming from the radiator. Ed Taylor was one of our group members who farms in southern Minnesota, so he knows a bit about engines from working with tractors. He assisted our bus driver and they managed to get us mobile again so we could make it to the next village.
At the next village, we stopped. It wasn’t much of a village, but they provided several gallons of water for us to replenish the radiator. While we waited for the radiator to cool enough so they could refill its reservoir most of us again left the bus. We attracted a group of children who were watching. I saw a few small mangoes that had fallen from the tree where we were parked. So, I picked up a few and started trying juggle to amuse the kids. I was out of practice, so they got quite a few laughs at my drops.
Our driver, Esas, managed to take a piece of wood and whittle it into a plug for a temporary fix. Once we were filled up we were ready to go. From there we made one more stop at a slightly larger village where there was a store. Esas stopped and went into store. He came out with a couple one-liter bottles. It wasn’t the right color for water. Then he opened the lid for the gas tank and we realized what he had just purchased. Once we left Iringa and the paved roads, there were no more gas stations.
On our way back, after visiting the park we stopped at a village closer to the park. It was a larger village. They were able to fabricate a part for Esas to make a more permanent fix to the radiator. How long would it take? “40 minutes.” Even though it was said in English, we knew that translated from Tanzanian time to our time that meant, “I don’t know for sure, but it will be more than 40 minutes.”
With our latest fix in place we were good to go. We made a rest stop in Kidamali, but not at the church. There was a Greek Orthodox church right on the road that Esas thought would be easier to get in and out. So we made a stop there which turned out to be longer than a quick rest stop as we waited for the radiator to cool down. If I had realized how long it would be I could have run up to the visit our companion church quickly.
After that the bus performed just fine. Until…
We were staying in Mwatasi and were returning from visiting Bomalang’ombe school. We almost made it back. But a flat tire. They should be able to change that quickly. Except of course the tool for getting the spare out of its storage place was missing. A crowd gathered. The lug nuts could not be loosened with just the wrench we had. Maybe if we could find a pipe that we could put over the wrench to get us more leverage? And suddenly two men from the crowd were on their motorcycles going in different directions in search of a pipe. One of them returned with a pipe they had gotten from another bus. Still no luck, so most of us decided to make the hike back to where we were staying as it wasn’t too far. Not too long after we got back the bus pulled in. They had pumped up the tire with a bicycle pump and driven it up to the church so they could work on it there.
The next day the bus was ready to go. They had taken the tire off and taken it to be repaired overnight. On our way back to Iringa at one point we pulled alongside another bus. Our driver stopped and opened his window. He passed the borrowed pipe back to the other bus and we were back on our way.
Our bus trips are a great metaphor for the picture of life is a journey. Sometimes the road is paved. Sometimes it’s a rough road. You’ll have days where things run smooth. Other days you’ll have problems. But if you’ve developed relationships with the good people on your bus, you’ll find that it’s bearable. And remember God is driving your bus, he’ll take care of things and get you where you need to be.
Note: The two pictures of the bus were taken by Tom Olson from our group and are used with his permission. Thanks Tom.
While I was in Tanzania we took a few days to take a safari in Ruaha National Park. Ruaha is the biggest national park in Tanzania. It is more than double the size of Yellowstone National Park. The road to Ruaha goes right through Kidamali (Shepherd of the Hills’ companion congregation), so we drove through on the way there and back. The drive was an adventure in itself and I’m planning on writing about that in another post.
We arrived at Mwagusi Safari Camp at about 4 in the afternoon. We had a brief orientation with some warnings – stay on the path, don’t go out at night, what to do if an animal is blocking the path, etc. After we dropped off our bags and had a quick snack it was time to take our first safari. We took a safari that evening and two on the next day. We saw a lot of different animals and birds. In Africa, they have what is known as the “Big 5” animals – Cape buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions and rhinoceros. We saw four out of five.
Here’s a partial list of the animals we saw:
Red billed horn bill
White bellied bustard
Lilac breasted roller
It was a lot of different animals. I’m not going to write about everything we saw. I’ll try to let you know some of the highlights for me and describe them to you, so you can get a sense of what it was like.
We went out in modified pickup trucks. They had platforms added onto the back to allow people to sit. We divided into two groups to fit into the trucks. Each truck had a driver and a guide. The guide would stand up through the sun roof on the passenger’s side. We would see other groups out on safari when we were out. The guides all had cell phones and would talk to each other to let each other know what animals were where.
At one point our guide got a phone call and when he finished he asked us, “Do you want to see a leopard?” Of course, we did. Off we went in a hurry, racing over the dirt roads. We came to a spot where there were already several trucks parked and stopped. There in a tree was a leopard. It was hard to see until you knew exactly where to look. Someone in my group had binoculars and was nice enough to share them, so we could see it better. A lot of excitement to go see a leopard sleeping in a tree.
There were holes dug in the dry river bed; we came upon an elephant digging one. Even though it was the dry season and there was no water in the river they still know where there is water underneath.
We got very close to a group of elephants at one point. It was interesting to watch them wrapping their trunks around the grasses and pull them up. But then before they would eat the grass they had to give it a couple vigorous shakes to get rid of the dirt on the roots. Then they would eat it. The big leader of the group was less than 20 feet away and was eyeing us to make sure we behaved.
On the second day, we came upon a part of the river where there was some surface water. There were many different animals gathered there – giraffes, impalas, zebras, and a wart hog. One of my pictures from there is the current header for the blog. We were stopped on the river bank, so when one of the giraffes looked at us it we were almost on the same level. I really enjoyed watching giraffes. They look pretty ungainly, but when they move they seem to have a gracefulness about them.
We spent some time on our last safari on an unsuccessful attempt to find a cheetah. It would have been easy to look on that as a disappointment, but it really wasn’t. There we were in the middle of Ruaha mountains all around us in the distance and other than our truck and the road we were on the only sign of man was a cell tower way off in the distance. A feeling of awe at the wonders of the world we live on and that God created settled upon me.
After one more night at our camp we departed to return to Iringa, hoping to make it back in time to go to the marketplace for a bit of shopping before dinner. But our plans were changed. Tune in next week, I’ll be talking about our various adventures with our bus.
The Saint Paul Area Synod is putting together a trip to Tanzania for May for young adults (age 19 to29). If you know of anyone who might be interested in this here’s a link: http://www.spas-elca.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/YATrip-2017-Info-Sheet-Update.pdf. Looks like that trip will also include some time in Ruaha.
Let me start off with a prayer request. If you were reading my blog while I was in Tanzania you might remember Freddy Hanson. I had asked for your prayers for him while the doctors were trying to figure out what was wrong with him. He ended up having surgery and was expected to make a full recovery. Unfortunately, it has been discovered that it was cancer. Freddy has been at Mayo Clinic for radiation and chemotherapy. Your prayers, once again, would be a big help. Thanks.
In Tanzania I was bemoaning that my pictures of sunsets never turned out. Tom Olsen, who had volunteered to be our trip photographer, told me to try editing it and using a red filter. I was trying out the editing capabilities of my phone/camera. If you're a friend on Facebook, you might have already seen what I did. I posted a new cover photo that took a nice sunset picture that hadn't turned out and changed it to look more like the actual sunset. I improved some pictures from Tanzania. I'll give you a sampling below.
This got me musing about befores and afters in life. Sometimes it takes time afterwards for details to come forth and present a clearer, more understandable picture.
For years after the Twins won the World Series in 1987 I would have conversations with people where we were trying to figure out when something had happened. One or the other of us would say, "Well, I know it was before the Twins won the World Series." Or after. It was a shared event. After so many years of no championships for Minnesota pro sports teams, the Twins win created a shared sense of euphoria in Minnesota. We could all place when it had happened.
Before and after meeting Debbie. She changed me for the better. I was a different person back then and Debbie drew out the best in me. (She tended to have that effect on people.)
Before and after Debbie's death. A marker in time. Although on either side of it things are not clear. Her illness was a blur and afterwards I was in a fog of grief for some time. Bit by bit I progress towards being able to look back and understand.
I know that my life will now be divided into before and after Tanzania. This trip changed me in so many way, changes that I know about and changes that I haven't realized have happened yet. But I know that they are changes for the good.
I know that because of another before and after that's important to all our lives. As we celebrate Christmas this year, think about the before and after of Jesus. How this coming to earth changed more than just flipping the calendar from BC to AD. He comes as a child inviting us into a relationship of love. Accept the invitation with joy and afterwards...
Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.