Tuesday – Newala

Sister Elena shows us their incubator. They are hoping to add a solar power source that will make it more possible to hatch chicks with unreliable electricity!

Photo: Sister Elena shows us their incubator. They are hoping to add a solar power source that will make it more possible to hatch chicks with unreliable electricity!

This is a “day off” from visiting churches, though it’s still a busy day! Our friend Vaileth meets us in the morning to show us around Newala a bit. We walked up the main road past the cathedral to the market area, then turned up another road and headed slightly uphill, past shops and cafes, a big school, the local courthouse, police office and lodgings for police officers and their families, arriving eventually at the district commissioner’s office. It was a long, leisurely walk, and we were warm by the time we arrived. Along the way we chatted about her work and her family, and asked a few of our questions about life in Tanzania. The office is a new, modern building just across the street from the old colonial police/government building, half-ruined, like the others we’ve seen. We’re on one edge of the plateau here, and an amazing view spreads out in the distance. Vaileth arranges for us to chat with the Commissioner for a few moments. He receives us very cordially, and, in response to our question, tells us what he sees as the greatest challenges for this area – a lack of clean, safe water, and the low prices for cashews, since there’s not much capacity locally to process them and get a better price for ready-to-sell nuts. One positive possibility would be a small-scale, cooperatively-run processing plant that would allow local farmers to process their nuts and command better prices.

We were headed out of the building after this conversation when someone called after us: the local Member of Parliament wanted to meet with us, too! So we were ushered into George Mkuchika’s office. Think of him as the local senator – active in national governance. His specific role in the Tanzanian Parliament is to focus on good governance, ethics and anti-corruption work – important and challenging work! He is an Anglican and clearly passionate about the church. He proceeds to tell us much of the history of the diocese and province, from the days of the missionaries on up. He reminds me of some of the learned, committed lay Episcopalians I know back home.

He says the biggest challenge for the church here is that it has a lot of land, but not enough money to use it – to develop it into useful or income-generating projects. He likes the idea of building a hostel on the cathedral grounds, so that all the priests of the diocese can gather there occasionally, and to generate income from other guests the rest of the time. (I wonder about this; Newala doesn’t actually seem to get a lot of visitors, which may be why this hostel idea isn’t Bishop Oscar’s highest priority. He’d like bigger and better diocesan office space, for certain – but expanding the church hostel in Mtwara, where there ARE lots of outsiders coming & going, would probably be a more effective money-making project.)

George tells us, “I want to bring back the glory days of the church!” He went to Anglican primary school and secondary schools, and says that he would not be what he is if he hadn’t received that education. He was a teacher before going into politics, and is one of the people who’s been active in getting the government to give schools back to the churches. George’s big hope is to have a good Anglican secondary school in every province of Tanzania, to extend the availability of quality secondary education in the country. He says, “There are many challenges in Tanzania. There are big vacuums, and if you don’t fill them with good things, bad things will come in.”

After talking with George, we go across the street to explore the old boma and admire the view. Then we realize that we’re tired and hungry. David and I want to take a bajajj home – one of the funny little mini-taxis, like the offspring of a motorcycle and a smartcar – but Bishop Oscar comes out to rescue us instead and whisks us back to the hotel in his Prado. We order vegetable curry in the hotel restaurant. As usual, it takes an hour or more, and is delicious when it finally arrives. We drink Serengetis and talk to pass the time, then eat hungrily and head off to take naps before the evening’s events.

Tuesday evening, the Bishop picks us up and takes us to visit Rehema Health Centre, Dr. Issa Lawi’s clinic here in Newala. It is a private health center, where people are expected to pay fees for their medical care. But it is better-equipped and sometimes faster than the government hospital in town. Rehema means “Mercy,” and I trust that Dr Lawi exercises some mercy now and then in caring for those who cannot pay! After visiting the health center, we meet a fellowship group from the cathedral, and their cows. This group of 25 women and 5 men (and one sweet-faced boy who reminds me of my son) meets three times a week to pray together. A couple of years ago, they started a micro-enterprise project of raising cows together. In this “Get a Cow, Give a Cow” program, a member of the group takes a pregnant cow, cares for it until the calf is born and ready to leave its mother, then gives the cow back to the group and keeps the calf to raise. Milk and manure can be used and sold. The project, which received significant help from our diocese, has been a great success. The group sang for us, gave us gifts, introduced us to some of the cows – all with such delight! – and asked Bishop Miller to bless their brand-new PA system, purchased with proceeds from the sale of milk. They’ll use the PA system, mounted on a car, to spread God’s word and invite people to prayer meetings. Bishop Miller asked them, “Which one of you is the evangelist?” They laughed and several replied, “All of us!”

In the golden evening light, Bishop Oscar drives us to see Simo na Mungu, “The Mouth of God,” one of several places where there is a dramatic overlook over the edge of the plateau. It’s amazing to see so far, and to look at those stark vertical walls of red rock on the arms of the plateau across the valley from us. I can well imagine that this has been a place of reverence for thousands of years.

Peanuts drying on top of the cistern at the SSM compound.
Peanuts drying on top of the cistern at the SSM compound.
David and some of the kids at the church school near the cathedral.
David and some of the kids at the church school near the cathedral.
One of the sisters with a tiny student! (It's a nursery school - I would say the kids were four through six-ish?)
One of the sisters with a tiny student! (It’s a nursery school – I would say the kids were four through six-ish?)
Marking the doors with the initials of the Three Kings! I try to do this, when anyone will let me! This Epiphany...
Marking the doors with the initials of the Three Kings! I try to do this, when anyone will let me! This Epiphany…
The fellowship group.
The fellowship group.
Simo na Mungu...
Simo na Mungu…

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