August 17: We left for Chikola for Carpenter’s Kids distribution day. Overwhelming welcome (the Kiswahili word is Karibu) with dancing, singing and much communal joy; “visitors” are a good excuse for this kind of effusive celebration. Chikola is an impoverished village located about forty minutes drive from Dodoma. This partnership was made possible by Laura and Todd Cook, who were introduced to Carpenter’s Kids by the inimitable Dahn Gandell. Dahn struck up a conversation with Laura on an airplane trip while in the States. The rest is history! Her evangelistic fervor in sharing her joy for this ministry is truly an inspiration to all of us. We are so proud of you, Dahn!
The church building in Chikola is a work in progress and members of this church are slowly but surely intending to finish this work. They need to have windows, a door and the flooring done. After elaborate greetings, introductions and gift-giving, we had the children receive uniforms, backpacks, and shoes. It was clearly a transforming experience for us and the kids. We see such promise in the brilliant eyes of these beautiful children!
That afternoon found us in Ibihwa Christian Education and Development Center. This is a center for children who have come through Carpenter’s kids and wish to pursue vocations such as carpentry, tailoring and agriculture. Almost all 160 children here are able to live in a residential setting and develop varying degrees of proficiency in each of these skills. At Bishop Mhogolo’s request I confirmed forty-five young people during a bilingual liturgy. Ned sang a song for them with great enthusiasm and then was invited to do an encore performance! Eklan has come out of his shell in an amazing way. Everywhere we go he would introduce himself by saying, “jina languni Eklan!” He was never shy to share his thoughts.
We headed back to Ipolile, the Bishop’s residence. It was much later than we had anticipated, but we did check out of the Bishop’s house that night since the Bishop and his wife were heading off to villages for the next few days of confirmation visitations. We checked into the New Dodoma Hotel in town and caught a late Chinese dinner.
Throughout our time we have had the help of several people, but chief among our immediate helpers was Magi Griffin, a Missionary from the Diocese of Atlanta. Magi, serves as adviser to the Bishop and is entrusted with monitoring projects such as Nets for Life, MDGs, etc. She is just the most radiant witness for Jesus exuding her Christ like love and compassion in practical ways and has walked—more accurately been tossed around in the vehicle as we have travelled many a bumpy road—with us throughout our trip. She has dedicated the last eleven years of her life to mission work in this part of God’s vineyard. She is a great inspiration for those who wish to serve in these parts of God’s vineyard.
August 18: We headed off to Mvumi (Mu-Vumi) to visit the diocesan secondary school. It is mostly residential and is supported by a Trust Fund based in the UKw ith some real connections with Eaton College. Over a hundred of the nearly six-hundred children are sponsored through this fund and Ned Kemp, an ex-naval officer oversees this on site as the Bursar for the school. Our older son got a kick out of introducing himself. He does not meet a whole lot of Neds, and who would have thought in Tanzania! Ned, who is in his early fifties, was our gracious host. We spent the day touring the school and the diocesan hospital in this little village. The medium of instruction in this school is English and we had the opportunity to interact with a few of the students while we were there. There were two students from Eaton College who spent their summer at Mvumi. Endearingly referred to as “gappies,” Tim and Miram, were visiting during a gap in the school year; they were bright, humble and engaging people. We had lunch with the teaching staff, most of whom were men, and discussed education, health, and maternity leave in various parts of theUK, US and Canada. The staff got a kick out the possibility of envisioning maternity leave in Tanzania where families tend to be rather large!
In the evening, our host had a few of the seniors (Jerald and Sarah), a few recent graduates (Abel and Nuomi), and the gappies for dinner. We had amazing food cooked by Ms. Agnes, who did some of the house work for Ned. The conversation around table was most fascinating. It was about the future of Tanzania’s education, politics, the economy, etc. We even had Sarah and Jerald give us speeches they had made or were working on making soon. They were substantive, thoughtful and delivered with sincerity. Fascinating!
August 19: The next morning, we were mostly awakened by the rooster choir. One after another they went off waking us up with great diligence. We headed back to Dodomain Ned’s Nissan Van. The bumpy road seemed like an inspiration of sorts to our host who got us back to the hotel for a fresh new day of events. Today we went off to the Diocesan office, also known as Mackay House, for an intro and tour of the various ministries. Mackay House is a multistory building in the heart of Dodoma. It was bustling with activity around the general clinic, an eye clinic, a dental clinic and a pathology lab, which is run by a Rochester native! Dr. Martin and Sandra McCann met at the University of Rochester and were married at Grace church in Scottsville in the early seventies. Sandra now teaches and coordinates communication at the seminary. Diocesan offices and other ministry offices, including the Bishop’s office, are located here. Our host and guide for the morning was the General Secretary, who is like the chief of Operations of the Diocese, Lt. Col. Tandila who introduced us to the Vicar General, who is like our Canon to the Ordinary, The Rev. George Chomolla.
Across the street from the diocesan office is the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, which is an intriguing structure with an Islamic architectural flair to its design. Wisely contextual, I thought to myself. We had a lovely tour of the Cathedral with the gracious Sub Dean the Rev. Emmanuel Madinda.
We had lunch at Mamma Rose’s, a corner restaurant which is apparently a hot spot for many of the Diocesan and Carpenter’s Kids staff. There is significant Indian influence in a lot of life in Tanzania due to a large Indian population in the country. Mamma Rose, who is from India, specializes in amazing Indian food. Roja and I were in heaven with the Biriyani and fish curry. We had decided to give the boys the day off at the hotel to swim in the pool and take it easy. They were hospitably engaged by Will Brooks the missionary from the Diocese of Virginia. Will is in his early twenties and is helping Carpenter’s Kids with their communication and more. Amazing guy! Our kids had a blast with him. What an inspiration!
We then headed off to Bishop Stanway Primary School, another school run by the Diocese. The teachers were kind to wait for us and give us some time explaining their mission and challenges. Following this, we went to the Diocesan seminary,Msalato Theological College, which offers courses in English language studies, theological education to train lay and clergy leaders, as well as training for secretarial positions for both men and women. We had a great time of interaction with the students. We spent some time encouraging them in their pursuit of preparing to serve God while already engaging in this service. This is an amazing place with an international faculty from Tanzania, theUK, New Zealand, the US, Korea, etc. The Principal, The Rev. Canon Moses Matonya, was a gracious, young, gentle and wise leader. He has helped build this substantive ministry with his leadership over nearly ten years. We were able to put our feet up for a few minutes at the McCann’s (the Rochester connection) before heading for dinner with the staff and faculty. We were warmly surprised at dinner with a cake baked by one of the faculty women to celebrate Roja and my twentieth anniversary. For those who don’t recall, this trip is a celebration of our journey together. We headed back home with full hearts and sore feet.
August 20: We headed out to some of the farthest villages of the diocese for a confirmation liturgy with the Bishop. It was a good two and a half hour drive to Chali Isangha and Igongo, where in a fabulous liturgy under Neem Trees, Bishop Mhogolo and I confirmed several young and old saints. It was a profound liturgy to say the least. Never felt the significance of our global apostolic ministry in this Church like I did under those trees of Chali Isangha. The Pentecostal significance of Bishop Mhogolo saying the conformation prayers in Kiswahili and me saying them in English was quite profound! After confirmation, the three congregations represented presented verbal reports to the Bishop listing the progress they had or had not made with their goals. I am amazed at the amazing drive that these clergy and lay leaders have for the gospel. They surely have a lot to teach us in the US. This area has been devastated by drought this year and harvest of all produce has been affected here. Yet the resilient spirit of these saints is remarkable. I also got to hear about the drought resistant seeds scheme offered by Episcopal Relief and Development in these parts. This scheme allows some of these farmers to avail of such seed and then pass it along to others out of their harvest. It is part of the food-security strategy of the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund. We headed back toDodomaafter a scrumptious meal of rice and goat curry.
August 21, 2011: our last day in Dodoma. Our day began very early. I preached at the 7 AM service, which was attended by over six hundred people. The liturgy was in Kiswahili and four of the six Cathedral choirs sang their hearts out in praise of God. The gracious hospitality extended was again heartwarming. The Cathedral gifted us with a photograph of the Cathedral building and gave us gifts of traditional clothing.
We have mixed feelings about leaving. Interestingly, we all feel a sense of sadness about leaving the good part of our family. This has been an amazing trip in so many ways and we will be processing this trip for a while. We have grown closer as a family and have developed greater respect for each other. I feel renewed in spirit about this ministry that we share with brothers and sisters across the globe. They have helped me put some of my existential struggles as your bishop in perspective. I am aware of the gift we inherit from these saints who have very little materially and yet have so much spiritually. These faithful ones have so much to teach us. I feel so good that we came here. Thank God for providing for us with the resources to make this happen.