The Bye-bye Party
Tomorrow I will be preaching at Uyole congregation, sharing in Dr. Mankenja’s 50th birthday bash and then Randy and I are moving onto the last leg of our journey, a week with family friend Pastor Kumbuka Mwasanguti, his wife Veronica and the children. We have been blessed to be able to spend so much time at SHUCo, talk to the administration and staff, attend classes and deepen our partnership. In honor of our leaving, everyone, including students, the gardeners, cleaning staff and support people threw us a bye-bye party this morning.
Yes, that is what it is called…a bye-bye party. It is quite an affair with a master of ceremonies, speeches, guests of honor, food, dancing, processions and much prayer. The bishop had asked one of the district pastors to come on his behalf and offer opening scripture, prayer, a speech and closing devotion. I got to do the meal prayer which was billed as “bites and drinks,” but was really a full meal with plates heaped with beef, potatoes and a wonderful chili and pea dish (which by the way most people ate in the traditional African way…with their fingers).
Everyone, and I mean everyone, thanked all of us for coming and partnering. There was a “cheers” ceremony which meant that we, as guests of honor, stood in a line behind the head table and everyone danced by clinking their water or soda bottles with ours. Kind of a conga line, but more dignified. There were tribute speeches, Randy and I being asked to demonstrate a few dance steps, tell the story of tech4tanzania all over again and then the gift giving began. Cloth and baskets were presented in a dance. A special insulated cooking pot that I had been eyeing was given to me. And Jacob, the English dept. lecturer showed off a sample of a polo shirt that has the schools motto on it..”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” They are being made for us right now.
Again and again I am overwhelmed by the generosity of this people. They gave up their Saturday, cooked for us, brought us gifts, welcomed us, feasted us and took care of us. Randy and I had hoped that we could jettison one of the four suitcases we brought to Tanzania but I don’t think that this is going to happen. Tomorrow I am going to Uyole and more will be shared with us and given to us. Then onto Ruanda parish and it will be the same. And all of that makes Randy’s eyes misty sometimes and me a little embarrassed. I will have to learn to receive as graciously as the people of Tanzania give and not think about how much more I have than they do. It is not about stuff. It is this people sharing their soul with me.