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Pilgrimage to Tanzania

October 24, 2011 04:52 PM
primeminister
Meeting Prime Minister Pinda
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By Pastor Perucy Butiku

 

On August 22, ten members of our synod's Black Pastors Group set out for Tanzania. The two-week trip was intended as a pilgrimage to the motherland.

 

Upon our arrival in the capital city of Dar es Salaam, we received a friendly welcome from the Azania Front Lutheran Church and Kijitonyama Lutheran Church where Pastors Ernest Kadiva and Charles Mzinga serve. We visited several churches where we preached, shared music, and met with leaders. These churches hold a 6am service every weekday. Attendance is usually 500 people with a pastor, an instrumental ensemble, and song leaders. Membership in many churches ranges from 1,000 to 2,000. We met with the presiding bishop, the assistant bishop, and staff members of Tumaini University, a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. Everywhere we went, we felt at home. "The people of the Lutheran church in Tanzania have a faith commitment and a spirituality that makes us seem like heathens," said participant Pastor Jerome Taylor. "They live what it means to love God and love neighbor."

 

Before embarking on our journey, the group had been briefed about the plight of Tanzanians born with albinism. We raised funds for an organization helping those who are being brutally persecuted simply because they are albinos. In Dar es Salaam, we had the incredible opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, regarding this matter. He explained how the government is working hard to stop the persecution and we gave him our donation.

 

memorialWe traveled across the Indian Ocean on the "Kilimanjaro" cruiser to Zanzibar where we visited an 800-member Lutheran church, toured the spice markets, and visited the ancient Arab slave dungeons. During the slave trade, one hundred African captives at a time were chained and packed into an underground chamber approximately seven feet high, ten feet wide, and 15 feet long, divided into two levels, each three-and-a-half feet high. They remained there for three days without food or water. A church now stands near this area; a large baptismal font at the entrance marks the spot where the captives' children were slaughtered because it was too much trouble to care for them on the slave ships. "Visiting the slave trade sites meant a great deal to see and touch this precious history," said Pr. Taylor. "When we went down into the slave chambers, it was as if you could feel the suffering and pain. I had feelings of respect and honor for my ancestors as well as anger over how people could treat another human being in this manner. I also had the resolve to continue to fight racism today." 

 

safariContrary to stereotypical pictures of starving Africans, we met people who looked healthy, happy, and content. We saw mansions that looked like small, elegant hotels: residences with sculpted gardens, maids, butlers, and security guards. As we traveled across the country, we also saw people living as if we had stepped back in time thousands of years: living in mud huts with no running water, walking because they didn't have donkeys, washing their clothes in the rivers. "The people we met had no problems proclaiming God in all forms," reflected participant Pastor Linda Bell. "What was most profound for me was the realization that God loves them exact same as he loves me. No matter where you are in creation, no matter the circumstances of your life, God loves us all the same. God does not love us any differently."

 

Towards the end of our trip, we traveled by bus to Arusha for a two-day safari in Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Park. Seeing the wildlife in their natural habitat was breathtaking. On our final night, we were given a festive "Bon Voyage" reception at Kijitonyama Lutheran Church where former strangers had now become friends. Our journey to Tanzania was enlightening, inspiring, sobering, and truly unforgettable.

 

 

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