I was stressed. I don’t remember the bus ride that well.
After months of waiting for the trip to Tanzania, it happened. After months of wondering what it would be like in Tanzania and how I would react, here I was. After a long time with no visits from Shepherd of the Hills to our partner congregation in Kidamali, I was on the way there for Sunday worship.
What would it be like? Would they be upset with me for Shepherd’s long absence? What would it be like talking with the people of Kidamali? How would I do when I addressed the whole congregation? Questions and worries nagged at me.
Then we were there, our bus pulling into the driveway at the Pastor’s home. We all signed a guestbook and then were welcomed inside for a meal. After the meal, we went onto the Pastor’s porch where we were serenaded with beautiful music by the church choir while the Pastors all were putting on their vestments. We had 5 Pastors there. From Kidamali – John Kisoma, the Senior Pastor and Amidu Msungu, the Associate Pastor. From our group – Pastor Rich who would be preaching and Pastor Sarah who was our group leader. And from the Iringa Diocese Bega Kwa Bega office Pastor Msigwa (pronounced em-sig-wa) who was translating. After the Pastors had changed we processed up to the church building and service began.
As the guests, we all sat up at the very front of the church on the side. At one point, we all introduced ourselves. As the representative from their partner church I went first. I introduced myself and spoke about how Shepherd was excited to be reestablishing our relationship. The congregation all cheered. After the introductions, I read a letter from the Pastor and Governing Board of Shepherd of the Hills to the congregation. I would read one sentence, Pastor Msigwa would translate it and the congregation would cheer. After every sentence, they applauded. I was feeling welcome in Kidamali at this point.
Later in the service the Chair of their partnership committee, Clemence Kavindi gave a report about the partnership from Kidamali’s viewpoint. He spoke and Pastor Msigwa translated to me. I was amazed to hear that they had set aside two days a week for praying for us in Minnesota, that money that had been given from Shepherd members had helped 70 children with educational scholarships, and that they had said special prayers for Shepherd when they knew we were looking for a new pastor. I was moved almost to tears. When the report was finished the Chairperson turned to go sit back down, but I leaped up and went to him. I just had to hug him. And not just him, it was really meant for the whole congregation.
The whole service lasted almost 3 hours, but it didn’t feel long at all. I felt energized from the welcome I had received.
Afterwards we had a lunch again at the Pastor’s house. Clemence helped me to find the spot at the guest house where my daughter, Alicia, had stood to have her picture taken when she had visited in 2007. Tom Olsen from our group took a picture of me in the same spot.
Then we took a short trip to one of the parish’s preaching points. The way it works in Tanzania is that the main parish will have additional preaching points where services are held by an Evangelist each week. When a preaching point becomes large enough it can become a parish on its own. At the preaching point of Nyamihuu we were greeted by the church leaders singing a welcome song for us. (I’m not sure if I’ll get any buy-in when I tell the Shepherd Governing Board we should be singing welcomes to our visitors.)
Spending time seeing God at work in Tanzania made my worries fade and left me feeling that in Kidamali and in Tanzania I was karibu sana. (In Swahili karibu means welcome and sana means very much.)
Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.