DAY 4 – A 5-Hour Church Service


I love this place.

  1. During the night there was growling and barking right outside my door! Surprised me. I kind of wanted it to be a lion.
  2. Breakfast at 7:00am and ready for George, our driver, to pick us up for church. 
  3. Picked up at 8:00am and got into the truck which already had four others: Pastor Jeremiah, another pastor, Edina and another woman.
  4. We were squished and laughing all the way. 50km (1.5 hours) to the service. Crowded ride.
  5. We were late for the service but took our place in the VIP chairs under a tarp. So joyful. Music filled the air. Colorful. Goats.
  6. I believe the reflection time later in the day was supposed to be a required part of our day, led by the engineering students. Students reflected on the church service and connections with people so far.
  7. Bishop Bagonza, saw me after the church service and asked excitedly, “Are you Ann?!”. I had to tell him ‘no’ but that she was right behind me. Ann and Bishop had communicated for months setting up the trip and he was eager to meet her. Very fun watching them introduce themselves and see each other face to face. I learned later that the bishop ‘invests’ in young people from around the world to come to Kayanga and serve, meet the people and spread the story.
  8. When an area missionary asked what our team was doing in the area, Ann began to explain water pasteurization. The room grew silent as people in the area worried and later expressed that local women would think they no longer had to boil water to make it clean. The missionaries were clearly worried about the idea of pasteurization not done properly.


NARRATIVE: I had heard tales but this was my first African church service. It lasted 5 hours. Plenty of time to induct the sisters into the Lutheran church, watch their families dance their way to the front, take offerings, have speeches, listen to sermons, sing hymns, pray, think about the sermon, and a few other things as well. Part of me loves that the people took their time to do what my American culture won’t take the time to do, and part of me just needed to stand up and move around quickly for maybe no reason at all except to stand up and move around quickly. 5 hours is a long time in my world. The five hours gave me plenty of time to observe and to reflect on my first night in Tanzania.

I woke to singing then fierce growls and animals screeching. I peeked outside and saw a man watching, standing guard in the courtyard. I felt perfectly safe – just interested. As a kid raised on a farm with a healthy and realistic respect for animals, I was wary of heading out before things were settled. I saw a dog cross the courtyard and when I mentioned this to others later, it was determined that we had dogs fighting in our courtyard. (I have been back mutliple times since 2008 and haven’t seen dogs on any future trips since.) Breakfast of omelette and bread and coffee. Pastor George picked us up and we crowded into the LandRover with four others already in it.

Drove 1.5 hours to church where 3 sisters were ordained. They are 28 years old and have been trained for 10 years. We were a bit late for the service which was held on a grassy knoll amidst some brick buildings complete with goats. The singing was spirit-filled, the women were in colorful and beautiful dresses, the children obediently sat through everything. The bishop led the service decked out in his vestments. George insisted that we sit under the fabric tarp on the wooden bench even though there was standing room only. This was my first introduction to giving us the best and nicest while others got what was left. There were messages given by men and women; one against witchcraft; another against materialism. There were many references to God and to other people’s stories. No one was hurried. There were two choirs – one in light olive green shirts and dark skirts with blue and white shiny neckties. They sang joyful songs while a man led the choir. Others in another choir had reddish/brown skirts and tops looking like Batik. Between thanking everyone, hearing from everyone, 2 sermons, half a dozen choir songs, 2 hymns, ordaining three sisters, messages from others, etc. – the service took a long time. A woman from Denmark (Elsie I believe her name is) kindly interpreted for us.

During reflection time the engineers noted that people in Karagwe take ample time to acknowledge each other and note what each has done to contribute to the well-being of the group and were antsy to see that done at a slow pace. The group marveled at the lack of resources and shared initial observations of the culture. Friendships, especially with those with our driver, those at the ELCT, and those at the hotel are budding and taking shape.

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