A few thoughts

Jirani ni nani? (Who is my neighbor?)

This Sunday was a bleary-eyed awakening to an early Swahili Mass at the Capuchin Friars.  We were a few minutes late and so we joined the crowds of people spilling out of the back of the church, packed and pressed in to hear the joy of the choir, the beating of the drums, and the prophetic Word preached.The Gospel this Sunday was the story of the Good Samaritan and the posed question – who is my neighbor?  One of our group asked, what does it mean for Tanzanians to hear this Gospel?  The preacher admonished the congregation – What about the street boys you pass by without acknowledgement?  Those who are sick with HIV/AIDS whom you do not visit?  What about African values of community and hospitality – how are these being lost by an uncritical absorption of all things Western?  Over and over again, he repeated “We all need each other.”  And we do – there is very obvious need here.  And – as we have reflected often on this trip – there is very real, different need within us as well.  But how often do we pass over to the other side of the road, averting our eyes? 

Jisikie nyumbani (Feel at home)

After “Karibu,” (Welcome) I think that “Jisikie nyumbani” (Feel at home) is one of the most common greetings extended to us here.  And with so many warm welcomes, how can we not feel at home?  As a Jesuit Volunteer in Tanzania for 2 years, I reflected often on home.  I was often homesick.  However, after time, my neighbors made me feel at home.  And, after I left, I often felt less at home in the cultural context of the States than I had felt as a Jesuit Volunteer in Tanzania.Coming back to Tanzania, in a way, feels like coming home.  They say home is where the heart is, and definitely a part of my heart is with my Tanzanian community.  However, I know that truly I am called to find home wherever I am.  One of my theology professors described a mystic as one who is truly “at home.”  How often do I rush through my days, how often do I travel far geographically only to realize that I am far from who I truly am or am called to be?

Kuimba (To sing)

I think some of the SJU group has already written about our greeting from the students at the Mgolole secondary school.  A whole morning we sat as near-celebrities, as the students performed songs of greeting and welcome for us.  Their voices swell and fill the hall with vibrancy and life.  “Viva Tanzania!  Viva America!” they sing and I wonder what we will ever be able to offer them in return. 

Hope

Josefina, a Form One student at the Mgololoe sister’s school, says she wants to be the president of Tanzania when she grows up.  She glows with enthusiasm and eagerness.  I tell her that I want to come back to Tanzania when she becomes president.

-Beth

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1 Response to “A few thoughts”


  1. 1 Eileen July 17, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    Beth,
    It was not until today that I had the opportunity to sit down and read the blogs that you and your team have posted (although I promise that I have been picking up your mail while you’ve been away!) I am reminded how much I enjoyed reading your emails during the two years that you were a Jesuit volunteer in Tanzania. I am intrigued by the Tanzanian preacher’s comments about the loss of African values of community and hospitality to an uncritical absorption of all things Western. I often wonder why so much of the world wishes to emulate a culture where the individual is set so far above the collective community that many basic human rights are not always addressed.
    Thanks for the inspiring blogs. I miss you!

    Your little sis,
    Eileen


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