Monday – Newala


More churches: All Saints, a big, beautiful old church, over 1000 worshippers, where we hear a formal speech about the parish’s history and a choir sings a song for us.  And St Luke’s, Nagaga, which has a new building almost ready, lacking only a floor and a roof, and Father Emelius, its priest.

Other visits – a diocesan dispensary, where medical personnel deal with malaria (most people in this area can’t afford mosquito nets), diarrheal diseases, immunizations (provided free by the government, with lots of international help), wound care, and maternal and child health. They serve an area including 20,000 people. As minimal as the health care offered here is, it’s enough that some people even come across the border from Mozambique to this simple clinic.

And Lulindi Medical Center, another diocesan project which has received significant help from our diocese and from the UTO. We get a big community welcome here, with a Makonde dance performance. We’re introduced to various town officials. The local councillor thanks us, as representatives of DioMil and the Episcopal Church, for helping bring health services to the town, and expresses the hope that it will continue. It’s great to see that this church-based clinic is such an important resource for the whole town, Christians and Muslims alike. Bishop Steven is presented with a young black goat, and Padre Paula receives a beautiful round basket. We meet the staff of the clinic, including the traditional midwife, a venerable mama swathed in many colorful kangas. Canon Giles Mpakama is the priest-in-charge of the local parish, and also the chaplain for the medical center.

There’s a government dispensary here in Lulindi too, almost right next door, but the government is in the process of shutting it down and handing it over to the church clinic, so they’ll be expanding in both facilities and capacity to take on what the government clinic has been doing. We visit the UTO-funded maternity clinic, which right now is empty except for a thin, unhappy-looking man who is dealing with some kind of urinary tract issue. (We decide, over konyagi later, that it’s just a very *inclusive* maternity ward.) However, we’re assured that it will be well used when the government facility shuts down and this unit becomes the main maternity ward in the area. I leave the medicines and baby clothes gathered at St. Dunstan’s Baby Jesus shower here, to be given away.

We are served lunch in Lulindi, in a room on the campus of a state-run school for developmentally disabled kids, adjacent to the medical center. Rice, greens, chicken, orange soda. Some of the clinic staff eat with us. Afterwards there’s a bit of time to talk. Some of the clinic staff want to know if we can get them new uniforms or other needs. Bishop Oscar responds, and even though Oswald isn’t translating (busy listening, and we’re all tired), there’s a part that’s crystal clear with even my tiny bit of Swahili: he describes a child, mtoto, growing, marking out its stature with his hand: a toddler’s height, taller, taller, taller, until finally the child is grown to an adult, with even a moustache and beard (his gestures are clear!). He’s telling them: You’re trying to make a child grow directly into an adult. This partnership, this diosisi rafiki relationship, is a little child and it needs time to grow. Polepole.

(Reflecting on that moment at the bar that night, he says he gets frustrated when people in his churches ask for things they could do for themselves. He mentions the wobbly lectern at one of the churches we visited: why don’t they just fix that? Which leads the Marekani to begin reflecting on similar issues in our own churches, sometimes…)

Back in Newala, Bishop Oscar kindly drives me around to look for Airtel airtime for my cell phone. In the complete absence of internet access, texting on a twelve-year-old Motorola Razr with a local sim card is my only way of being in touch with home, and I’m out of airtime and anxious about it. I’ve seen several little stalls with Airtel signs on the near side of Newala town’s little market district, so I thought this would be easy and quick. But: It’s Ramadan and many stalls are owned by Muslims, and aren’t open during the holy season. It takes surprisingly long and a number of false leads to find someplace that can sell us airtime – finally, an unlikely tiny booth tacked onto the end of a row of shops, with a battered red Airtel sign at about knee level. I want 5000 shillings worth of airtime (about $3), enough to hold me for a few days’ texting, but the man in the booth only has airtime chips in 500 shilling units, so he has to enter the activation codes for TEN of them, a slow process. I watch a woman buy kerosene from a stall nearby, and on a whim I buy a used grain sack from the shop right next door – 500 shillings (probably a mzungu price, but who cares) – it has a map of Tanzania on one side, so I reason that it’s great souvenir material. I rather like the kinds of souvenirs that you buy in the market local people actually shop in, rather than (in addition to?) the souvenir shops. Poor Bishop Oscar, he is so busy and so weary, but he graciously waits with me until my phone is loaded up, then delivers me back to the Country Lodge Inn.

A useful Swahili phrase I got down today: Bwana asifiwe! (God is great!) Response: Amen! (or, Amina!)  Often used at the beginning of a speech or sermon.

All Saints' Church.
All Saints’ Church.
Some of the older women of All Saints', sitting along the wall towards the front. The older men sit on the other side.
Some of the older women of All Saints’, sitting along the wall towards the front. The older men sit on the other side.
Early morning out the back door of the restaurant at the Country Lodge.
Early morning out the back door of the restaurant at the Country Lodge.

6205 University Ave., Madison WI

St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church