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Day 4 – Fr. John’s Tanzania Mission Trip

Friday, Jan. 20 

Salome is the name of the young lady at Christ the King that I couldn’t recall yesterday when I wrote the journal for Day 3 of our mission trip. She was very sweet and helpful.

 Day 4 started too early for me after getting to bed after midnight. We were to participate in the celebration of the Mass at 6:00 a.m. with all the students and a few of the parishioners of Christ the King. That would have been less of a problem for me, if I hadn't discovered that morning while I was dressing at 5:30 a.m. that I couldn't find my passport. Anthony had asked all of us the night before to give him our passport numbers, although now I can't recall why. So all of us had gotten our passports out and had given Anthony the respective numbers while we were all sitting in the living room of the rectory. I couldn’t recall what I did with my passport after getting it out, but I recalled checking the living room for all my belongings before going to my bedroom for some sleep. I began taking everything out of both my suitcases and my backpack, but the passport was nowhere to be found in my room.

 Trying to keep from becoming too alarmed, I went out and told the Salome and Savorina, who were already setting up the kitchen for breakfast, that I couldn’t find my passport and would appreciate their keeping an eye out for it. I began searching the furniture in the living room, thinking that maybe I had lost it in one of the pieces of furniture. No luck. Then I realized that it was 5:58 a.m., and that I was about to be late for Mass. So I headed over to the church to find that it was packed and that all the schoolgirls and the few parishioners present were singing the procession song. I saw none of our crew except Scott, who was sitting at the very back. I asked where the others of our group were, and he told me that they were all up front. Anthony and Fr. Matthew weren’t with us today, as they were going back to Mwanza for more automobile parts and wouldn’t be rejoining us until the evening. I joined the remainder of our crew on the front row of pews, and Scott followed me there. I tried to keep my concern for my missing passport out of my mind and just to rely on God’s Providence for whatever would happen regarding the missing passport, so that I could concentrate on participating in the Mass.

 The Mass was beautiful, with all the girls singing, and Fr. John celebrating it. One of the school girls, who actually is a Muslim (the school accepts non-Catholics and has experienced some conversions over the years), served as a reader. Fr. John promised to keep his homily to three minutes, which he said was much shorter than the time he usually spends with his homilies. He looked at me and asked me to tell how long his homilies usually last at home, and I just responded “Many minutes.” True to his word, he kept his homily short (although a bit longer than three minutes) and simply told the girls to believe that they were special because they were all created by God, and that they had a purpose of evangelizing the Gospel to others.

 Following the conclusion of the Mass, Fr. George announced to the congregation that our group had brought gifts to Christ the King, and he displayed the paschal candle and explained what it was. Then he also told the congregation that we had brought rosaries for all of them. Fr. John blessed the rosaries, and then Fr. John, Fr. Matthew and four of our group distributed them to the congregation. We had just enough for all the girls and the few other parishioners who were present. 

After Mass, Fr. George and Fr. Salvatore showed us around the entire campus of Christ the King. We saw the classrooms, the dorms, and the new three-story administration building that’s under construction, among other things.

The students all began various chores around the campus. They were all dressed in their uniforms of dark blue skirts, white blouses with blue neckties and dark blue sweaters. We learned that tuition for each of the girls is the equivalent of about $600 per student, and it’s all paid for by their families, which is a big sacrifice for most of the families. Then Fr. George assigned each of us to different classrooms to teach the girls for about 40 to 45 minutes. I got a level two class of girls (basically sophomores in our high-school systems) whose ages ranged from 13 to 18. I went to each one and asked her name and age, and they were precious in their shyness in responding. I then talked to them in as basic terms as I could, using the chalk board to write many of the terms I used, about the mystery of the Trinity, the seven Sacraments, Adam and Eve and Original Sin, the Passion of Jesus, the eternal nature of our souls the Last Judgment, and Heaven. I frequently asked the girls for input, and I was impressed at how much they already knew and had learned about all the things about which I talked to them.


Following our teaching exercise, Fr. George and Fr. Salvatore got all of us and the students togerther in the courtyard between the classroom buildings for photos of us with all the students. I heard from Scott that he showed the girls in his classroom how to dance, Scott-style, to the great amusement of his girls. Jill had taught the girls in her classroom about Colorado life and activities and had a drawing of a stick figure skiing down a ski slope. Then, at about 9:45 a.m., we headed back to the rectory for a wonderful breakfast and my first coffee of the day (finally). I was hoping that Savorina or Salome had found my passport, and when I went in the house and asked, I was disappointed to hear that they hadn’t found it. Suddenly a light must have turned on in Scott’s head, because I heard him and some of the others calling my name from the front porch outside, and then Scott displayed my passport. He sheepishly told me that he had unthinkingly put it away with his after I had handed it to him the night before. Boy, was that a relief to me, but Scott expressed his chagrin that his unintentional keeping of my passport overnight, causing me several hours of concern the next morning, would again make him the subject of this journal. So there you have it, Scott. You were right!

After breakfast, we rejoined the students and school staff in a large hall, where all the teachers were also present and introduced themselves and their courses to us. The scope of the courses they teach is very impressive. Then the girls performed some skits for us called “Christ the King TV,” showing off their knowledge and intelligence. It was both darling and very impressive. Then we showed them some additional gifts of pencils and erasers and a couple of jump ropes we had brought for them, and Fr. John asked me to demonstrate my rope-jumping ability, which got a laugh out of our group at least. (No double-Dutch jumping for me.) Finally, it was time to take our leave of the girls and head off to our next rendezvous. All of the girls insisted on shaking our hands and telling us goodbye and it was very heartwarming to see how much they had enjoyed our visit.

Our next destination was Nyampande, the village where St. John the Apostle Parish, whose rector is Fr. Makonge, is located. This is Fr. John’s parish in Tanzania. It was a relatively short drive back in the direction we had come from the night before. Nyampande is another small community in northern Tanzania. When we drove up to St. John the Apostle church it seemed to us as if the whole population of the village was waiting there for us. 

 Men, women and children were singing joyously, and one man, who we later learned is the church’s choir director, was playing as one would play a violin what looked like a stringed instrument with only one string. He got a lot of melody out of the instrument, whose name no one could tell us. As we exited our vehicles and walked up the driveway, the throng of people continued singing and marched along with us, dancing along the way. (We began to realize that joyful singing, sometimes accompanied by dancing, is a standard operating procedure for the Tanzanian people greeting us for the first time.) Once again we shook hands with and/or hugged many of the people who greeted us. The singing and dancing went on for several minutes before Fr. Makonge quieted the crowd and then, after introducing us to his staff and offering us water and soft drinks, took us on a tour of the school operated by St. John the Apostle, which has grades 1 through 4. 
St. John the Apostle School has grown from only 27 students a few years ago to some 200 students now, and it’s still growing. The school is constructing new dorms for the students, as most students live at the school year-round due to the distances they would have to travel to and from their homes otherwise. The cost of tuition and other expenses is about $450 per year, which is paid by the parents. The school is also constructing three new classrooms to add to the six it has now, and it has plans for an additional five classrooms. We visited the classrooms, which are across the road from the church and the dorms, and saw that they are not very fancy and are in great need of books. Then we headed back across the road to an open-air theater for an amazing two-and-half-hour show of singing and dancing and marching put on for our benefit by all the students from the various classes and the church choir. It would take to pages and pages to describe all the performances of singing and dancing, but it was all very heartwarming, joyus and beautiful, and I took probably an hour’s worth of videos with my iPhone, if not much more. After the show was over, we presented the students with gifts of candy, pencils, erasers, three soccer balls and an inflator. Then Fr. Makonge presented us with gifts of pullover collared shirts with the school logo and our individual names on our shirts, respectively. At about 3:00 p.m. we went into the rectory for lunch with Fr. Makonge and his staff. 

 The food was great, and the conversation were great. Fr. John gets a journal highlight for accidentally knocking over an unopened glass bottle of soda, which broke, causing a pretty good mess that had to be cleaned up. When it was finally time for us to take our leave from St. John the Apostle, we presented Fr. Makonge and his staff with some of Alice Smith’s nicest rosaries.

Our next destination after St. John the Apostle was the Diocese of Geita, where we were scheduled to spend the next five days, as we undertook projects of teaching women to sew and make clothing and other items to allow them to be self-sustaining, repairing some diocesan vehicles that were inoperable to allow them to be used by diocesan priest in going to various “outstations,” as circuit priests do in this country, and instructing men at the vocational technical school in mechanics and welding, among other things. We arrived at the house of Bishop Flavian Kassala in the late afternoon, just in time to have a chance meeting with Bishop Flavian as he was returning to his home. He was very gracious in greeting us, and afterwards, after we had been situated in our accommodations, he met and socialized with us in one of his lounges and discussed with us our trip and his delight in the fact that we were there and in what we were planning to do.

 Unfortunately, when we went to a room in the bishop’s house to look at the luggage that one of the diocese’s drivers had stored after taking it from Mwanza directly to Geita on Thursday morning, Jill discovered that another one of the suitcases containing a large quantity of cloth for the sewing project was missing. Recall that when we arrived in Mwanza Wednesday night, a different bag, a large garment bag of Jill’s, was missing, but some of our group seemed certain that the bag that was currently found to be missing, apparently distinctive in appearance due to its being decorated with stars, was there at the airport in Mwanza and was loaded onto one of our vehicles that went to the Malaika Beach Resort for the night before being carted directly to Geita. The missing bag was a disappointment to Jill, and there was much discussion and confusion about what might have happened to that bag, including speculation as to whether it had actually arrived in Mwanza on Wednesday night, whether it had been left at the Malaika Beach Resort when we all left there Thursday morning, and whether it had been overlooked in the vehicle that had left Malaika Beach Resort that morning. Fr. Matthew seemed certain that the bag would turn up, and so we went on to our accommodations.

 Fr. John took a room in Bishop Flavian’s home, and the rest of us were given rooms in a guest house a short walk from the bishop’s house. Each of our rooms had its own bathroom, which was nice, but the guest house has no air-conditioning, and it’s been rather warm and uncomfortable for me. But for me that’s just another part of the journey.

 After we had all stowed our gear we went back to the bishop’s house and met with the bishop and some other priests in the bishop’s lounge, where we all watched the inauguration of Donald Trump and listened to the speeches. Then we all went back to the guest house to shower and prepare for dinner back at the bishop’s house. I had no hot water in my shower and o water in my sink at all. Oh well, I knew I could handle a cold shower – brrrr!!! – but just “another part of the journey.” Dinner was on the lawn of the bishop’s house, and by the time we gathered for dinner, it was dark and relatively cool. Anthony and Fr. Matthew still hadn’t gotten back from Mwanza, and we heard that their vehicle had broken down three times that day on the way back.

At the bishop’s house we met several sisters and other priests who are associated with the Diocese. Bishop Flavian invited us to sit with him at one of the tables, and we had a wonderful time visiting with him and discussing many topics of interest to us all over a couple hours. Fr. Matthew and Anthony finally made it to the house, and Anthony had a chance for the first time to meet the bishop, who greeted him warmly. Finally, at about 10:45 p.m. it was time to call it a night. We all went back to the guest house, and since I had no Internet, I tried working on my journal on my iPhone, which was very awkward and clumsy. And I was so tired, I kept falling asleep with my iPhone in my hands. Finally I gave up and closed my eyes, and the next thing I knew, my iPhone alarm was waking me up the next morning.

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