Some Thoughts- Maybe Final Thoughts, Maybe Not

Hello Friends! I was asked to preach at my church, St. Luke’s Simeon, here in Charlottesville about my time in Tanzania. I am posting the sermon here as some final thoughts, knowing that I may have more to say at some point. It’s a bit long for a blog- read it if you feel it!

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentacost

“The needy shall not always be forgotten And the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.” Psalm 9:18

We are all missionaries.

Bwana asifiwe! Bless the Lord!

Neema na amani view nawe. Grace and peace be upon you.

It makes great good sense to me that my first Sunday back at St. Luke’s we renewed our Baptismal Covenant.

“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being? I will, with God’s help.”

That’s one of the lines that most resonates with me. Justice and peace are not two words we typically connect with what we hear about Africa. We hear about injustice, war, poverty.

Here’s part of what the musician, Bono, had to say at a prayer breakfast in 2006:

“It’s not a coincidence that in the scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It’s not an accident. That’s a lot of air time. You know, the only time Jesus Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor. ‘As you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.’

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties; it doubts our concern, and it questions our commitment. Six and a half thousand Africans are still dying every day of preventable, treatable diseases, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity: this is about justice.”

I have had a heart for sub-Saharan Africa for as long as I can remember. So when I was fortunate to travel to Tanzania in 2012, I knew I would be back. I started trying to figure out how about two years ago. In one of those moments that could have been a coincidence or could have been the Holy Spirit, I happened to see a Carpenter’s Kids newsletter saying their missionary there had come home. So, in February of last year, I headed to New York to talk about the position with the folks at the Mission Office, afraid, by the way, to drive into New York City by myself, but oddly, unafraid to go to Africa by myself.

As J.R.R. Tolkien so wisely says in The Hobbit,

“It’s a dangerous business stepping out your door. You never know where you’ll be swept off to.”

Indeed. So, in August, I found myself in Dodoma, Tanzania.

Tanzania, like too many of Africa’s 54 countries, is poor. There are many wise books that explain why and I am happy to share titles with you, if you are interested. George Alegiah, the BBC’s Africa correspondent, born in Africa himself says,

“No continent on Earth has been interfered with as much as Africa.”

And in regard to how Western cultures, generous as we are, often respond, he says,

“There is always emergency money for Africa. Cash to fly in tents and bags of food. Plenty of aid-workers to cradle the runt-like children of murdered parents. This is foreign policy of the sticking-plaster variety. It’s dishonorable. And what’s more, it doesn’t work.”

I didn’t go to interfere. I didn’t go to give money. I went to walk in love with my Brothers and Sisters in Christ. As Lila Watson, an indigenous Australian, says,

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, let’s us work together.”

As to my work, I didn’t actually do much. I went to the office at Mackay House each day. I answered emails from donors in the US, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. I wrote some blogs and a couple of newsletters. I went on Saturdays with the CK staff to give the Carpenter’s Kids their uniforms, shoes, socks, soap, school supplies, malaria nets, and sometimes, solar lamps. I spent time- with my co-workers, with kids who came to the office with their guardians, with the people in the villages, with my neighbors from around the world, with whom I lived in the compound for the Canon Andrea Mwaka School.

What I received and learned was, as predicted, far greater than anything I gave. I know, of course, that you can’t make generalizations about an entire people, but there are four main concepts I witnessed consistently that I’d like to share with you.

  • Karibu. Welcome in Kiswahili. Tanzanians use the word the same way we do, to say “Welcome” and as in “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” But there, it is used much more as, You are welcome! The welcome I received at DCT- the Diocese of Central Tanganyika- and at the CK office was extraordinary and continued to be throughout my time there, regardless of how many silly things I said or thought or how many times I didn’t understand something. You are welcome. And Tanzanians say Karibu every time you walk into a store, a restaurant, a village, someone’s home, and they really mean it. And they don’t just say it to visitors, they say it to each other. You are welcome
  • Generous hospitality. Tanzanians are, in fact, widely known for their warm, genuine hospitality. In the villages and churches and people’s homes, there was always a special meal, song, and often a gift. You may recall my ill-fated chicken, Kuku? I was given another chicken, and beans, and peanuts, and fabric and many other gifts by people who certainly didn’t seem like they had much to spare.

But there is a hospitality of spirit as well. Regularly, walking to or from work, a Tanzanian would join me, often taking me by the hand, and walk me home. Just because. Once when I was walking home, an elderly woman walked with me and began to talk. I told her, as I so often did, in Swahili, “I don’t speak Swahili,” (at least I think that’s what I was saying). She fussed at me gently, and fair enough, for not learning the language. Then, she invited me to come to her house for dinner any time. And she walked me to show me where her house is, before walking me back home. This is hospitality.

  • Tanzanians are a very spiritual people and in fact, find it very hard to believe that other people don’t believe in God. As I told you before, everything begins with Bwana Asifiwe and a prayer. Everything ends with a prayer. The population of Dodoma is majority Christian, but everyone it seems is very religious and faithful. Tanzanian church services last for hours because they make a joyful noise! Even small churches have several choirs. Prayer is constant. Spirituality is real.
  • Love, of course, is the force that drives the CK program- love of the staff and donors for the Kids and their communities. But there is also a love seen in the people through their greetings and welcomes, for each other and for strangers. And love is what took me there and kept me there, even when I wanted very much to come home. After I had been there a short time, I heard Canon Noah, our beloved Director, obviously talking about me, in Swahili. Finally I asked Rev. Emmanuel, another dear, wonderful co-worker, what he was saying about me. He said, he is saying “She loves everybody.” Probably the nicest things anyone has ever said about me. And not true of course. There were a couple of ex-pats there I didn’t love and there’s that guy I know… But no one comes to Tanzania and doesn’t love the people.

One of the most moving moments I experienced was the evening I introduced a friend to Mr. Donald, the lovely guard you may remember I thought was called Donut. I introduced him as “rafiki yangu,” proud that I had learned to say, “my friend” in Swahili. Later that evening he admonished me, kindly, saying, “I am not your friend. You are my family.” Love.

Welcome. Hospitality. Spirituality. Love.

Let’s go back to the Hobbit for a moment.

“There is nothing like looking if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look. But it is not always the something you were after.”

The epiphany came to me last week when I was talking on the phone with another Episcopal missionary who had been in another part of Tanzania while I was there. We talked about coming home so, of course, I talked about St. Luke’s. That’s when it hit me: the four things- welcome, hospitality, spirituality, and love- that are so special and important and rare about Tanzania are the exact same four things that are so special and important and rare about St. Luke’s.

We are all missionaries. I was just lucky enough to go. Do we all strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being? We do, with God’s help.

On a final note, I became obsessed with the Southern Cross while I was there, the constellation and the song by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. So much in that song has always struck a chord with me. I won’t sing; trust me, you don’t want me too. But, I do think about how many times I have fallen. The Spirit was using me. A larger voice was calling. And there is something about seeing the Southern Cross in the heavens, the first or second or twentieth time. It could be called the Southern Kite, because it has an extra star off the tip. Or it could be called the Southern Diamond. But it’s not. It’s called the Southern Cross. I like to think of it now as looking over Tanzania and all the beautiful friends there. I don’t know when I’ll see them again. But love can endure. And you know it will. You know it will.

Neema ya Bwana wetu, Yeto Kristo, na pendo la mungu, na Ushirika wa Roho Mtakatifu ukae nasi sote sasa na hata milele.

The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.

Amen

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11 Responses to Some Thoughts- Maybe Final Thoughts, Maybe Not

  1. Jill says:

    Beautiful Judy! Our group in 2012 knew you would return to Tanzania & knew you would make a difference.
    Hugs!
    Jill

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gaby says:

    So lucky to call you “my friend, my family”!

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jccrosby2014 says:

    Thank you Jill. It was amazing and it all started with our trip in 2012 and with you all! We must get together! ❤️

    Like

  4. Ducie Minich says:

    Really beautiful, Judy. Good job! Welcome home.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mark says:

    Thank you for giving the gift of this sermon to us all and for reminding us what’s really important.

    Like

  6. Ed Wright says:

    Awesome, Judy, just perfect. We at St. Mary’s are heading over next Wed, and reading this has made me super excited to go now. Asante sana for your service in Dodoma and for helping us keep our connections to the children of the CK program. Many blessings!
    Ed

    Like

  7. jccrosby2014 says:

    Thank you Ed! Can’t wait to hear about your trip. Safari njema! Let me know if I can help in any way!❤️

    Like

  8. Sandy Roberts says:

    Just beautiful and well thought out! This was I am sure well received by the congregation! Thank you for allowing me to be a part of that world. May God bless you and keep you and point you in the direction and adventure!

    Like

  9. jccrosby2014 says:

    Thank you Sandy, for reading and for your blessing.

    Like

  10. Magi Griffin says:

    Enjoyed this! Thank you, Judy. Magi

    Sent from my iPhone Magi Griffin

    >

    Like

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