Author Archives: theflamingheretic

Craig D. Atwood is the Charles D. Couch Professor of Moravian Theology and Ministry at the Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, PA an is Director of the Center for Moravian Studies. He came to Moravian in 2010.

Unity Mission Conference

Yesterday was a full day. The conference began with the expansive breakfast buffet. I saw my friend Emmanuel from Milami Theological College in Tanzania and gave him some things to take back to friends there. I also brought a suitcase full of academic books from the faculty of MTS for the library of TEKU. It is much cheaper to bring them as checked luggage than to ship them directly. After breakfast was worship with songs in many languages. Bishop Gray led the music and Bishop Abraham gave the sermon.

We have Moravians from 36 different nations here. That is simply amazing. English is the official language of the conference but there is translation provided for those who speak Spanish. It is still amazing to me that I know so many people here from so many different lands.

The keynote address by ……. Was very good and very challenging. He is a missiologist from South Africa with an impressive pedigree. We had a nice long chat later in the day about missions in an era of religious pluralism. We were behind schedule because there was a lengthy response. So we did not have much time in our small groups, but I did meet a young college student from Alaska. She is a Moravian from the Bethel area who is in school in Fairbanks. Like me, this is her first time to South Africa.

My address was immediately after lunch, which is always hard because people are ready for a siesta. I gave Karel August a flashdrive with the presentation on it and he had copies printed for the audience. Only after the lecture did I realize that I had given him the long and uncorrected version. O well, now everyone knows that I make mistakes and change my mind about things! I had to speak slower than usual because of the simultaneous translation, but there was still ample time for questions. I discussed the differences between Moravian missions in the 18th century and the 19th century and acknowledged some of the negative aspects of the mission, such as the church’s involvement with slavery. Jørgen Boytler told the audience that it was the first time in a gathering of the Moravian Unity that these things had been talked about.

Part of my talk was on the important role that women played in the Moravian Church and Moravian mission in the time of Zinzendorf and how this was suppressed after his death. That generated a lot of discussion from the women in provinces outside of the US and Europe. I even told them about the adoration of the Holy Spirit as Mother and how that was suppressed.

My intention was not to blame people for the decisions they made because they were goodhearted people trying to do the best they could in their context. But we need to be honest about the past and not romanticize. We cannot learn from our mistakes if we do not see them. But my main purpose in looking at this history was to give us courage to make decisions and take the risks that we are called to take in our age.

I had dinner with Rev. Angelica Regalado, one of my former students, and Adriana Craver who will take my classes online as part of her studies at Wake Forest. A young man named David from South Africa ate with us. Part of what I love about my job is being with students and gaining energy from their enthusiasm and ambition. We talked about the immigration and refugee crisis in America and what the Moravians can do to help. And we talked about Salem College because Angelica and Adriana are both alumnae and I used to teach there.

The evening address was by Jindrich Halama, one of the Moravian Church’s finest scholars. He is also a pastor in the Czech Province. He is an ethicist rather than a historian and his talk moved quickly from missions in the old Moravian Church, the so-called Ancient Unity, toward what it was like for the Moravians living under communism.

After the talk I met up with Br. Boytler and the Albanian delegation for some of their national beverage and very honest conversation among friends. Among them was one of my current students, Dena Fortuzzi, who is an amazing person. She will be the first Moravian to be ordained in Albania. I promised to attend the ceremony when the time comes. For now though we are working on her plan of study through distance learning. I talked to several people who wish to study at MTS through distance learning, including a pastor from England who wants to study Moravian history on his sabbatical.

It was after midnight when I went to bed after a challenging and beautiful day.



Day 2 – Cape of Good Hope


I woke early and went down to the elaborate breakfast buffet. Even though it was not yet 7 a.m. the restaurant was packed. I think it was a bus tour. I made arrangements with the concierge for a half-day trip out to the Cape leaving at 1 p.m. and settled down in the room to work. I guess in that regard I am a true Moravian!

Wilson the tour guide collected me in the lobby and we drove to Long St. to pick up the rest of the group on the tour. They were three young women from Chili who were on a trip around the world. They started in Norway, made their way through Europe and Southeast Asia and were now in Africa. Delightful young people just out of university. It took us a while to get out of Cape Town, but it was nice to see more of the city. We drove along the Victoria Road south along the western coast. Clifton, Camps, Hout Bay. Some of the most expensive real estate in Africa with beautiful beaches. Chapman’s Peak offered a beautiful scenic view of Hout Bay. At one beach we saw a black flag flying to warn swimmers of sharks! From there we turned east and crossed the peninsula on very twisty roads until we came to False Bay.

The bay got its name from the early European explorers who thought they had rounded Africa and were heading toward India only to discover that they were in a massive bay. The peninsula has many little bays off of the big bay. To the north and east is Stellenbosch, which is vineyard country. I haven’t tried any wine yet on this trip. Maybe tomorrow after my presentation. We passed through Simonstown (where there is a naval base) to the Boulders. Cape penguins have established a colony at the Boulders. They lay eggs on the beach under the bushes and the babies live there until they are large enough to swim. There were hundreds of tiny penguins and almost as many tourists. Simply wonderful to behold. While we there I ran into some of the Moravians from America who are also at the conference. Such a pleasant surprise.

We drove south down the eastern side of the peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Preserve. On the way we stopped to look at some ostriches. The preserve has many species of native flora called fynbos. The plants cannot grow in any other soil. Some have white flowers and look like snowballs on the hillside. Others are large bushes with beautiful yellow flowers. Others are pink and purple. It is a very hilly and rocky landscape covered in these hearty bushes bursting with color. It is almost otherworldly, and I thought how little imagination sci-fi movies have when they make alien landscapes. This was one of the most unusual landscapes I’ve ever seen. It seemed uncouth to be driving through it instead of riding a horse bareback, but I wonder if a horse could make its way through the tangle of vegetation. And it would be dangerous, Wilson said. Puff adders, black mombas, and other venomous creatures lie in wait for the unwary. Roses may have thorns, but the fynbos have fangs.

We saw the monuments that the Portuguese explorers had left when they “discovered” this land. It was a great adventure for them to have sailed all the way from Lisbon on wooden ships down the coast of Africa, but of course humans had lived here for thousands of years. Finally we came to our goal – the Cape Point. It is a steep climb, but there is a funicular if you prefer. Cape Point is a narrow jut of rocky land at the entrance of False Bay. From the top you can look out over the Atlantic and toward the Pacific. It was thrilling to be there. I’ve heard about the Cape of Good Hope since I was a boy in school, and I never thought I would stand there. I decided to call my dad to let him know that I was standing where the great adventurers stood, but he mainly wanted to talk about his health. Such is life, I suppose. I saw more Moravians on the way up and down. My companions were surprised I knew so many people!

On the way out of the park we saw a male baboon on the side of the road, his fur covered in blood. We assume that he had been beaten in a fight. Wilson found a place to pull over and there we saw the rest of the baboon colony. Mothers with babies in arms. Toddlers tumbling over each other. Older baboons eating berries from the fynbros. And a large male who had probably just had a victory over his bloodied rival. We did not dare to get close. In the distance on the hillside was a herd of antelope.

The trip back to Cape Town was much faster and less scenic. Wilson filled us in on the history of apartheid and we drove past the prison where Mandela was confined for several years after he had been on Robbins Island. It was a sobering thought that the American consulate is near that prison. He dropped me off at the hotel in time for dinner. I walked in and found over a hundred Moravians from around the world enjoying a large buffet. I saw so many people I knew from other settings: from my teaching in Cuba and Jamaica, from the Women’s Conference in Suriname, from Denmark and Germany. I ate with Donna Hurt of Winston-Salem and Angelina Swart from South Africa. The new president of the Moravian Church in Cuba saw me and began to dance because she remembered that I had danced in worship in her church in Havana.

Tomorrow I give my paper on the history of Moravian missions and will share in the discussions. I am afraid my paper may be controversial, but I will be presenting it in a country that overcame the injustice of apartheid and now stands tall among the nations of the world. It gives one hope.

Cape Town

Cape Town Journal

I am in Cape Town for an international Moravian Mission Conference that will last from Wednesday until Monday. I will be giving one of papers for the conference on Wednesday. It will briefly look at Moravian missions in the 18th and 19th centuries. There will be about 200 Moravians here, and I know several of them who are coming from the US, Albania, and Tanzania. I have an entire suitcase filled with books and other material that I am giving to people.

I arrived in Cape Town about 11 p.m. on Sunday night, November 12 and was greeted by members of the Moravian Church who took me to the Garden Court Hotel on Nelson Mandela Boulevard. It was a long day of traveling that began with a drive to Newark, N.J. It was strange that I was starting on a trip across the world at the same time that the body of my Aunt Ima were being interred in North Carolina. Since I had a long wait for my flight I wrote down some of my memories of my aunt on my blog. The night before leaving Julie and I went to Bucknell to have dinner with Madeleine. I was glad to see her before leaving. And Sarah was home for the weekend, so I could say good-bye to her as well. She had just returned from Venice. I never imagined growing up that my family would be able to travel like this! I wish Julie could have come with me, but with Thanksgiving coming and work demands it was best for her to stay behind. So I kissed her good-bye and headed east. I left my truck at the home of a former student named Helen who lives near the Newark Airport. She dropped me off at terminal B.

The flight to Paris was uneventful and reasonably pleasant. Comfortable seat and good movies to watch. I took a short nap at the Charles DeGaulle airport before boarding the Air France flight to Cape Town. That seat was much less comfortable and was crowded. The food was good and they provided champagne and other pleasant beverages, but I was very tired and my joints were aching. I slept a little watching various movies, including Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. After eleven hours of cramped travel we mercifully landed in Cape Town. I feel so guilty complaining about traveling thousands of miles in 24 hours when I think of people like La Trobe who sailed for months from England to South Africa risking his life from storms and poor food. Here I was drinking champagne and eating potatoes au gratin complaining that my back hurt. But at least La Trobe got fresh air and could watch the porpoises frolicking alongside the ship while sailors sang shanties.

The hotel is very nice and I have a large room to myself on the top floor with a view of the harbor. I slept through breakfast the next morning, but I had brought an emergency granola bar that sustained me until lunch. Granola bars are my lembas (for you LOR fans). A nice taxi driver named Caesar took me down to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront where I was able to exchange currency and enjoyed the life of the tourist. Cape Town seems more like a European or American city than an African one. It is very modern with large highways. Everything is very clean and the people are very friendly. Caesar tried to convince me to move here. It is a little tempting, I must say.

The defining geological feature of Cape Town is Table Mountain. All day the top was shrouded in clouds. It is called Table Mountain because most of the top is flat, but the side of the mountain looks like a lion’s head. There is another sharp peak across from Table Mountain that is called Signal Hill. I enjoyed seeing how the clouds on the mountains changed during the day from white and friendly to blue and threatening. Hopefully I can go to the top later this week. There is a cable car that goes up 3000 feet to the top.

I treated myself to a huge lunch of salmon with a salad completed by panna cotta. I sat outside where I could watch the tourists, mainly German it sounded, walking past the historic clock tower. The walkway sometimes moved to make way for yachts proceeding to the inner harbor. There were buskers, including a brass quartet – trombones and a trumpet – playing a Miley Cyrus song. I wondered if the trombonists were Moravians. And another group playing African xylophones. I did some shopping for the family. There are lots of jewelry stores with beautiful Tanzanite stones and diamonds, of course, but that was all well beyond my price range.

I happened by a boat that was heading out for a half hour harbor tour so I jumped on with several Germans. It was nice to see Cape Town from the water even though the weather was cloudy. On the horizon was Robbins Island where Mandela had been a prisoner for over 20 years. At one point it had been a Moravian leper colony. If I had more time I would take the trip to visit there. The highlight of the harbor tour was finding a family of Cape seals on a large bouy. They were just waking up and the young ones were started to frolic.

I took a cab up to Bree and Loop Streets where there were much better African shops and spent a long time browsing until a sweet lady showed me some scarves in a lovely material. I ended up buying quite a bit from her, including a blue hippo. That’s more of an Egyptian thing than a South African thing, but I know a little girl who’ll love it. I treated myself to a massage, which eased the pain in my back and hips.

I walked back to the Waterfront. It was over a mile, but I need exercise. Unfortunately I got a little lost because I was following road signs designed for cars and I had to cross a multi-lane highway, but I made it eventually. I found a little plaza with statues to four Nobel Peace prize winners from S. Africa and a German lady took a picture of me next to Bishop Tutu. There is a very cool artisanal food market in an old power station right by the plaza. Unfortunately I wasn’t hungry even though they had everything from sushi to samosa to traditional Africa pap. I settled on a mango smoothie and wandered back to the main part of the waterfront to listen to the African xylophonists. I picked up some take out falafel for dinner in my room. I tried calling Caesar, but the calls did not go through so I grabbed a different taxi back to the hotel with less money but feeling good.

I opened the window and sat on the terrace to eat my dinner and called Julie. She was on her lunch break. It was good to talk to her, but my internet time abruptly ended in mid-call. I spent the evening doing college work and eventually fell into dreamless sleep.

Aunt Ima

Aunt Ima

My aunt Ima Misenheimer was buried today. I couldn’t be there for the funeral because I am on the way to Cape Town, S. Africa. It’s hard to be away from home at times like this, but I did make the trip to North Carolina last month so I could see her and say good-bye. Her spirits were good. She decided to stop dialysis and face death with dignity in hospice. She was 80 years old and had lived a long and full life. She had lived alone since her husband Joe died 13 years ago, and had been even more alone after her sister (my mom) and brother Randy had died. Randy’s wife Pat took care of Ima during her last years. Pat is one of those saints who doesn’t look like a saint. She’s a tough little woman with a wicked tongue who does what needs to be done – especially when no one else will do it. She was just the friend Ima needed. My brother Keith and his wife Susan also looked in on Ima, as did my nieces Nicole and Jodie. That’s what family is for. I haven’t heard yet who all was with Ima when she died, but Susan told me she lifted her arms to Jesus and asked him to take her. And he did.

Pastor Cheryl Cottingham did the funeral and wrote Ima’s official memoir, but I want to talk about the woman I knew for 56 years and remember some of the things she did for me, my brother, and my sisters. She and my mom were best friends and talked on the phone for an hour or more each day. And I guess I spent more time at Ima’s house as a boy than any place other than my own home.

Ima and Joe couldn’t have children of their own so they adopted a baby they named Kenneth. He was a couple of years younger than me, but we spent a lot of time together. Kenneth was a difficult child. He was extremely robust and didn’t suffer from any of the illnesses I faced. I was asthmatic and had allergies and just never had the same kind of energy he had. I loved to read; he didn’t. I was generally obedient to my parents; Kenneth was constantly challenging his mother and father. He could be destructive and violent. But I was bigger and stronger than Kenneth and most of the time we got along well. He often slept over at each other’s houses, and Ima used to take us to the pool, movies, or anywhere Kenneth wanted to go. She always paid because she knew my dad never gave me money for such things. I didn’t even know to be embarrassed. Of course, for Ima, it was relief to have someone else entertain Kenneth.

The Misenheimers lived about ten miles from us. I know that because sometimes I rode my bicycle to visit them. They had several acres of land that included fields, a creek, a fish pond, and woods. Their neighbors also had similar spreads. Like everybody else in Forsyth County in the 1960s they had large gardens that required a lot of tending in the hot sun, and Ima canned beans and other vegetables. We had even more land and larger gardens, and my father expected me to spend hours each day in the summer weeding and picking. Ima and Joe rarely asked me to do anything other than to play with Kenneth.

I doubt they had any more money than we did, but they seemed rich to me because they bought Kenneth anything he wanted. Sometimes I was jealous, but he shared freely and we sometimes spent all day playing with Hot Wheels or riding his go-cart. There was a huge pile of sand under some pine trees where we could play in the shade in the heat of day, and he had a whole set of Tonka trucks that we used to build cities. We also went fishing, but Kenneth wasn’t very patient, so mainly we hiked through the woods and played in the creek catching crawfish and building damns to make swimming holes. And climbing trees. Always climbing higher and higher as if we were trying to find out if there really was a God up there somewhere.

Ima was a stay at home mom, which was pretty normal in those days. So she was always in the house or sitting on the front porch while Kenneth and I played. She always wore men’s clothes, mainly jeans and a button-up shirt with the sleeves cut off, because they were more comfortable to work in. I don’t remember ever seeing Ima wearing make-up or jewelry other than a Timex wristwatch. So she wasn’t like most of the Southern ladies I knew or like anybody I’d ever seen on TV. Sometimes, though, I thought my mom was a bit like Lucy on TV and Ima was a bit like Ethyl Mertz. She was this tough little lady who loved my mom dearly.

She also helped take care of her mother, Grandma Brown. All of the children came by to see Grandma at least once a week, and Ima usually took her to buy her groceries and medicines. One day they were in the check out line and Grandma kept asking Ima if she had remembered to get her pills. Finally, Ima said real loud, “Yes, mother. I got your birth control pills right here.” The check out girl started to laugh, and Grandma replied “I wish I had had them 40 years ago.” My family is funny, not nice. One time when my mom and Ima were both in their 60s, Momma took a frozen sausage and smacked her on the head laughing.

Ima was a smoker. A lot of people smoked cigarettes in those days, but my dad hated smoking and hated Ima for smoking around us. I always thought that was a little odd since my dad started chewing tobacco when he was eleven or twelve years old. He always had a cup with him that he spat the foulest tobacco juice in and which made the car and our house smell. But somehow that was okay while cigarette smoke was devil’s breath. When I say Ima was a smoker, I mean that it was hard to imagine her without a cigarette in her mouth. I think she smoked Salem, which were named for our hometown Winston-Salem, but maybe it was Kool. I watched a lot of old movies on TV in those days and the women all smoked and looked so languid and sensuous. Ima smoked more like a sailor.

Between the sun, smoking, and worrying about her son, Ima’s face was tanned and wrinkled by the time she was forty. I thought she was beautiful. She had a face like my grandmother whom I loved. It was a face that showed that she had lived, and when she laughed her whole face lit up. I can see her slow clearly sitting on her low ceiling, crumbling front porch on a humid summer day drinking ice tea out of a jelly jar with a cigarette smoldering in her fingers laughing at some story my mom had told. Who needs those pale insipid angels with their harps when you’ve got an Aunt Ima?

I ate many a meal at Ima’s house. Most of them she cooked. Sometimes it was just fried baloney sandwiches or beanie weanies, which were two of my favorites. Other times it was fried fish that we had caught in the pond or fried pork chops. Always there were two or three types of vegetables and mashed potatoes or sweat potatoes. And a slice of white bread. Since I am by nature and vocation an honest man, I cannot say that Ima was a good cook, but she knew that. Momma was the good cook. Ima knew how to feed you. Best of all, she didn’t mind how you ate it so long as you sat at the kitchen table with the family. Elbows on the table, shoveling potatoes in your mouth as fast as you could so you could get back outside before the sun went down. That was fine. Seconds, thirds. Sure. Spilled your Kool Aid? Don’t worry, that’s why we got paper towels. It was so different from eating at other people’s houses, and I loved it. And Ima and Joe never yelled. They didn’t yell at each other or at us kids. Sometimes I could see in their faces just how disappointed they were at one or the other of us, but they never yelled.

I don’t know if I have ever felt freer anywhere in the world than I was at the Misenheimer place. Whenever I did something wrong or stupid, Ima and Joe just made sure I wasn’t too badly hurt and then patch me up and send me back out into the world. I don’t think either one of them ever hugged me or said “I love you” or any of that sissy stuff that made boys squirm. She said “I love you” with every Band Aid or application of mercurochrome. That stuff stang something awful and left you with red streaks that looked like blood, but we just accepted that as the price of healthy living. You never cried because you were cut and scraped and bruised. You saved your tears for the important things in life. You cried alone in the middle of the night because of the evil of the world. I never heard Ima cry, but I’m sure she did.

Kenneth was a wild child and I think Ima hoped that me and Keith could somehow civilize him. I did teach him to play chess and sometimes he would settle down long enough for a game. Occasionally he even beat me. But I did something really bad to Kenneth by accident one night. I never thought Kenneth could be hurt. He seemed indestructible, but he was human like the rest of us. I had a BB gun that I loved. Like many boys in those days I played Army and cowboys and Indians and other games that were mainly about shooting and killing people. I set up a shooting gallery in our basement and did target practice several nights a week. It was an air rifle with a wooden stock and you pumped it up before each shot. One night Kenneth and I were taking turns shooting and he was being his usual hyperactive self. He stood in front of the targets and told me to shoot him. I wasn’t going to do that, but he just kept dancing around daring me. I lift the rifle and told him to move, just like Chuck Connors on TV, but the safety was off and I pulled the trigger. One shot. One little brass round ball. No aim. It should have hit him in the arm or leg or chest and we should have laughed about him and told stories about to this day. But no. In the eye.

My dad rushed him to the emergency room and the surgeons did what they could, but they could not save his eye. I had blinded my cousin, one of my closest companions. I was twelve or thirteen and had done the unthinkable. And what did Ima and Joe do? They told me it was okay. They still loved me. Even Kenneth forgave me even though he still has a glass eye. Even though I ruined any hope he had of playing baseball or football or any sport that requires 3D vision. They forgave me and continued to invite me to their home.

My life and my cousin’s life diverged more and more after that. I would go to college, answer a call to be a minister, and get my doctorate. Kenneth got into drugs. He painted his bedroom dark purple and listened to heavy metal. He started skipping school to do drugs and then started stealing from his parents. He broke or stole anything of value and sometimes even threatened them physically. They had to deal with the police and the courts, and I saw Ima diminish. The wrinkles grew deeper, but not from laughing and smiling. Eventually Kenneth was sent to a reform school where he got his GED. Ima was so happy when Kenneth finally married his girlfriend. I did the wedding under the shade tree with Kenneth and Donna and their three kids.

During those dark years, my sisters Reenea and Lynn got married and had babies. They were poor and lived in a trailer park out in the country. Ima loved her nephews and nieces and did whatever she could to help my sisters. She was like a second grandmother to them. Often my mom, sisters, brother, and the kids would all gather at Ima’s for the afternoon. I still remember sitting underneath the enormous shade tree (Live Oak I think) with kids running loose and Ima taking delight in their laughter while she and Momma talked about the sufferings of this world. So much suffering that women endured in those days. So much pain.

At some point in those years Ima and Joe started coming to our church, Hope Moravian. It was an old country church where we all felt loved and welcomed. The Rev. David Merritt had recently become the pastor. He was a country boy whose family was similar to Ima’s family. And he had the same wicked sense of humor. They hit off. Ima even bought a dress to wear to church, but she was happiest helping Joe mow the church yard. Whenever possible she would take the kids outside so they wouldn’t disturb people. I think she just didn’t care so much about preaching.

After David took a new call, he was replaced by a pastor who had been a classmate of mine in seminary. He was a good kid, but got mixed up with fundamentalists and his preaching became very judgmental. It was all about sex, mainly how bad it is. And about abortion. I remember after one sermon Ima was steaming. She grabbed me in the parking lot and said “I don’t care what that preacher says. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover and it don’t say a thing about abortion.” It took a lot to get her to come back to church. Well, maybe not a lot. It took David Merritt coming back to Hope. David helped her through many years of difficulty, especially as Kenneth’s kids started doing drugs and getting into trouble. One killed a man and is in prison. One died of an overdose. Another went to jail for drugs. But the worse things got, the closer Ima got to David and to Jesus.

Then her health started failing. Years of grief and toil and smoking slowly took their toll. When Joe died she sold the house and land and moved into a little apartment. She loved for people to come and see her, especially my nephew Erik who lived nearby. But then Erik fell prey to his own demons and slipped deeper and deeper into alcoholism until finally he got blood sepsis and died. He was only 40. My mom died later that year, and it was a blow to Ima.

I moved away to Pennsylvania after that to be a professor. Ima told me once that she was much twice as smart as me. She finished school in 12 years, but it took me 24. I didn’t see much of Ima after I moved, but I am glad I got to see her one last time. She was dying and we both knew it. But we didn’t talk about that. We laughed together remembering funny stories from the past. I think I told her I loved her. But I think she knew that anyway. It is so hard to say good-bye.

Ima was ready for heaven, but I don’t know if heaven is ready for her. I do know that God is going to have to answer for a lot when Ima gets a chance to talk to him. She loved Jesus because Jesus knew what it’s like to suffer, but God the Father was more than a mystery to her. I don’t think Ima ever did a cruel or evil thing in her life, but she suffered greatly from others. I’ve got no answers for her. But when I get to heaven, I’ll have a chat with God, too, and thank him for giving me that beautiful woman to ease my own suffering and grief. And I’ll let him know that she don’t like to wear dresses like those other angels. Give her some old jeans and boots. And while harp music is okay, she’d rather hear some banjos. And is it really wrong to have a smoke in heaven?




Final Day – March 6; Dar es Salaam; museums, markets


thumb_IMG_0974_1024I left Mbeya on the 9 a.m. flight for Dar Es Salaam. The rest of the Moravian faculty were already there. They head for Zanzibar tomorrow, but they let me put my luggage in one of their rooms and three of us spent the day together. Dar Es Salaam is a major, modern city, but it is still distinctly African. We ate lunch in the hotel and then went to the National Museum. It took only an hour to see the exhibits. I think the most fascinating exhibit for me was the history of prehistoric (is that an oxymoron) art in Africa, especially the petroglyphs. It was mainly pictures and interpretative panels, but some of the art was quite extraordinary and very ancient. Humans are artists, and the notion that realistic depiction came with later “civilized” art is disproven by these cave paintings and carvings. The animals looked like they could come off of the wall. They also had artifacts from the 1998 bombing of the US embassy by Al-Qaida. Very disturbing, especially when you consider what came after that nightmare.


Then our taxi driver took us to the main market in Dar Es Salaam. Unlike the Medina in Marrakesh, this was not a tourist market. The taxi driver accompanied us – I think to help protect us. It looked like you could buy anything from produce to water pumps to clothing. It was fascinating and chaotic, but there was nothing I wanted to buy. We did get four glasses of fresh sugar cane juice seasoned with lemon and ginger. The additional flavors really made it refreshing and it was ice cold. I know that my doctor warned me about bacteria in ice, but it was so good to have a truly cold beverage.


Dar Es Salaam is very hot and humid, especially after being in the highlands. And I was quite sweaty after our quick tour of the city. So we went up to the rooftop bar and enjoyed a gin and tonic while looking out on the Indian Ocean. There was a lovely breeze. We talked about campus politics, Donald Trump, colonialism, Orientalism, international travel, and a host of other topics. We teach on the same campus but never have time to have free ranging conversations like this. It is nice to work with intelligent and ethically engaged colleagues. Then Akbar graciously allowed me to use the shower in his room and change into clean clothing for the return trip. I took the hotel shuttle to the airport and am now waiting to check in for my overnight flight. I am actually sitting in a little restaurant desperately waiting for my 7-up and chicken sandwich since lunch was long ago and the night is long.

I’ve been away from home for a long time. New furniture arrived while I was away, so home does not even look the same. I’ve missed my family, my students, and my friends, and I’m eager for some American food. But I’m also a little sad to be leaving Africa. I was so nervous about this trip and did not know what to expect. I certainly never thought that I would such good friends. The natural beauty of this country is awe-inspiring, but the people are even more wonderful. I’ve been invited to come back to TEKU and MTHECO in August 2018, and I hope I am able to make the trip. If God is willing, as they say. But my immediate plans is to have dinner. Fast Food is not an African concept!


Day 10 – Sunday March 5 –Dancing in Church


Today was a very full day. The Rev. Dr. Tuntufye Mwenisongole picked me up at 7 a.m. He is an alumnus of Moravian Theological Seminary with degrees in counseling and theology. He took me to his church for the early worship service. It is a large, beautiful church. We sat on the dais with the pastor and worship leaders. The service was led by the women of the church, but they did not use the special order of worship that the province had provided. A very dynamic woman led the prayers, which included prayers for women in sexual slavery in the Philippines. There came a time for every person to pray as they chose, including speaking in tongues. The result was a strange buzzing sound in the sanctuary. It did nothing for me, but some of the people were deeply moved. Several choirs sang, including a youth choir. I brought greetings that Mwenisongole translated. Even though it was women’s day, they brought in a lay evangelist. He preached like an American evangelical preacher – pacing back and forth repeating the same phrases over and over trying to get people to convert. He was very hard on the youth of the congregation accusing them of breaking many of the commandments. The service lasted for about three hours, and my companion kept telling me that this was not a typical sermon. After the service, we took tea with the pastors and evangelists.

Then we went to another Moravian Church in Mbeya, which was quite different. It was an older building built in cruciform style. The service had already started, so they hand to bring a couple of chairs onto the dais for us. Many of the women were dressed in white with white headdresses. Since it was Women’s Day, the pastor’s wife was sitting on the large chair behind the communion table. The worship included more traditional Moravian elements, and yet the congregation seemed more enthusiastic than the earlier church. For some reason I felt immediately at home in this congregation and my greeting was longer and more personal. They laughed very easily.

At one point a choir came into the center to sing and dance, and then members of the congregation joined them into a raucous joyful dance. People noticed that I was doing my best to dance along with the congregation, and they encouraged me to continue. The pastor insisted that I come forward and dance solo in the center of the church. You may not know that I’m not a dancer, but I felt so at ease and accepted in the church that I went forward to do some moves. And the crowd went wild, so I danced wilder. I kicked off my clogs so I move better and the congregation shouted. Many people filmed me, but alas, I have no video to show others. A man actually gave me 2,000 shillings. It was such fun. Finally, I had to stop and go back to my seat and the pastor told the congregation “if the professor can dance in church, why can’t you?”


The sermon was given by Sr. Kyomo and Br. Mwenisongole translated for me. It was definitely written for Women’s Day as it addressed many of the horrible things that women suffer in Tanzania and the world at large. It was much more direct and graphic than American sermons. It was long, but very inspiring. I felt bad for my translator who had to work so hard, but he wanted to make sure I understand it. There were three offerings. One for daily needs of the church. One for the women’s group. And one for a new church start. There was a youth choir from a new Moravian mission congregation. They had a very loud sound system, but I liked it much better when the sound system went off and we could hear their beautiful voices. They presented gifts to the pastor and his wife and then auctioned a cloth as a fund-raiser. When the service was over we went to the porch to greet the worshipers, and a women’s choir dressed in white sang while people came into the church yard. Before long the whole congregation had reassembled and then they auctioned gifts that people brought. I joined the church staff for lunch and talked with Sr. Kyomo. After church Br. Mwenisongole gave her a ride home and we visited with her 80-yr old husband Andrew. He also attended MTS and earned a degree from Princeton and an honorary doctorate from Moravian College. Delightful man. In his retirement he is writing a book about the African worldview and modern counseling.

I was so very tired after nearly seven hours of worshiping and visitation, but it was important for me to see the TEKU library. We met Dr. Kategile who gave us a tour. The library building is beautiful and the reading room has large windows that look out on the mountains. Unfortunately there are very few books in the collection. The theology section is the largest, thanks in part to gifts from MTS, but the other disciplines have few resources. I hope we can find a way to improve things.


We left the university and drove up a mountain. I think it was Loleza Peak, which is over 8,700 ft high and overlooks the city. We did not go to the very top because of time constraints. It is provides a beautiful view of the entire city, and Sr. Kategile showed me where the University is in the center of the valley. After I had a little rest in the room, Br. Mwenisongole picked me up and took me to Sr. Kategile’s for dinner. We had a wonderful evening talking about MTS and mutual friends. We also discussed possible ways that Moravian College and TEKU could cooperate. I think we will have a beautiful future together.


Day 9 – Saturday March 4 – Climbing a volcano

We left my hotIMG_0854el, the Beaco Restort, about 8 a.m. for an excursion to Ngozi. I was glad now that I had packed extra jeans and good hiking shoes. The weather was cool and misty when we left. The Moravian College folks had their suitcases in the back of the car since they were heading to the airport right after lunch. All I knew about the place we were going to was that it was near the Malawi border and that the climb was a bit steep. Sr. Kategile told us that she would wait in the car while we hiked. Our driver was Jessie and Peter, the academic dean of TEKU came with us.

After an hour drive we got to the turn-off from the highway. Just a hand drawn sign and a gate across the dirt road. Peter and Mary negotiated the fee, which initially had a 70,000 TS surcharge for the foreigners (mzunga). She convinced them to provide a guide for the normal price of 30,000 (about $6). While they were negotiating we stretched our legs. Across the field was a school and the children were out of recess. Some of them were interested in us and I stepped forward and waved. One boy did handstands while some of the girls popped behind and out from bushes. Gradually some of the bolder ones came forward and we smiled at each other. Then one boy came up to me and I shook his hand.

IMG_0842After that about three dozen children came down to where we were. They all wanted to shake my hand. Jessie came and talked to them and they asked him while my hands were so soft. They really liked the way they felt. He explained that I do not labor with a hoe like all the grown-ups they know. Cynthia pulled out her camera and they surrounded her to get their pictures taken. We exchanged funny hand signals, like peace-out, and then it was time for us to go explore and for them to go back to school. Priceless.

The roads were very bad to the trail head. At one flooded place, Jessie checked the depth with a stick before we drove through. And then the road became more of a single car path. And then we noticed swarms of flies on the windows. Tsetse flies, Jessie said. That got us all a little worried and Cynthia crawled back to her bag to get Deep Woods Off. I had sprayed before I left the room, but after a horse fly bit the palm of my hand I gratefully accepted more Deet. We pulled over to wide place in the road while Peter and Jessie examined the path ahead. One of the cars could not make it, so we put all of the luggage in the smaller car and we climbed into the big 4-wheel drive.

Jungle trail

Ever since I was a boy I’ve wanted to hike through the jungle, and now I have. Or maybe it is a tropical rain forest. It was lush with plants, but we never saw nor heard animals. There were banana leaves more than twice as big as me. The only flowers were stunning red ones and tiny purple ones. Thankfully it was not raining, and the temperature was not too bad, but the trail was very muddy and slippery. And then it started up. It was very steep, and in places the rocks acted as stairs. It was not climbing with hands steep, but still it was very steep. Peter, who is much bigger than me, decided to go back to the car.

Our barefooted guide was very fast. The altitude was not all that bad. About 2000 meters at the beginning and 2600 at the top (6000 ft to 7800 ft), but as we climbed we all felt the diminished oxygen in the air. We were four scholars, not athletes, and three of the group was still suffering from jet lag and lack of sleep. One of us was struggling with the effects of gravity on 250 pounds. Apparently swimming 40 laps a day does not prepare the body for a very steep and very long hike. About two thirds of the way, the senior member of the party decided it was prudent to stop and wait for the rest of us to make the trek. Two of us were very tempted to stop, too, but Christian insisted that  must see the lake. Jessie was kind enough to stay with her. I reached for my inhaler and discovered I had forgotten it or lost it.

Okay. Slow steady breathing through the nose. Don’t be ashamed to stop to catch breath. Keep going. The way down will be easier. The guide said it was just ten more minutes, but the steep part is coming. It was a five-foot vertical climb up tree roots. The rest of the way was relatively flat, but I looked back over the direction we had come and was shocked to see how high we were. Jungle below us, narrow trail before us.  Don’t give up now. Sweat is a healthy physical reaction to exertion. People pay money to go to hot yoga classes to sweat like this.


And then we reached the summit where there were log benches to sit on. There was the lake at least 200 meters below us. The climb was more than worthwhile. The lake is beautiful. I wish the sun had been shining. They say it turns from deep blue to emerald green. It is the second largest crater lake in Africa (the other is also in Tanzania) and is one of the deepest. There is an island in the middle of the lake, and the trees grown right to the shore. The locals will make the descent to get fish, but we looked at the “path” and it looked like a shear drop to me. From time to time the volcano still spews poisonous gasses into the lake. It was so perfectly beautiful and it was all the more beautiful because of the journey to it. The guide says he brings tourists everyday, but other than the trail and the benches there is no sign that tourists have ever been there. No trash, no markings. The air was so pure and clean. It was sad that we were on a schedule, or as my Tanzanian friends say “time is not our friend.” The way down was much quicker, easier, and more dangerous. We picked up the two we left on the trail and started down the mountain. Twice I slipped and landed on my ass. Suddenly we were back at the cars.

On the way back we were for a time in the funeral procession for a young Moravian woman who died Wednesday in childbirth. Sr. Mary told me all about her and how much she was loved. Two buses from the university were full of students and faculty going to the funeral. It was a somber reminder of how quickly death can come. Mary has already lost a husband, who I knew when he was a student at Moravian Theological Seminary, and a daughter named Mercy. I remember picking the Kategile family up at JFK in 1989 and driving them to Bethlehem. At that time there were five children. One of them was Mercy. Death comes quickly in this world.

It was a somber ending to a great morning in which I accomplished something I’ve wanted to do for 50 years. I not only went hiking through the jungle, I climbed a volcano. And I was rewarded with a spectacular view. But this afternoon I rested in my room and listened to rains outside. Tonight I have dinner at Sr Mary’s house.


Day 8 – Friday March 3 – Travel to Mbeya and TEKU


We had planned to leave at 7 in the morning after breakfast with the provincial leadership, but it rain throughout the night and the car got stuck in the mud on the way to the conference center. So I had hard boiled eggs alone and waited for the driver. Once he came we picked up Rev. Kawageme, Rev. Sikazwe, the wife of the bishop, and two boys. And we started the long trek to Mbeya. It was cool and raining when we left, but it got hot and sunny as we traveled. On the way out of town a police office stopped us and asked for a ride to his roadside station. Of course we agreed!

We were a quiet group most of the way. I think we were all tired. Shortly before we reached Tunduma we got a flat tiredand as soon as possible we stopped to repair it. There was a long row of shops, one of

IMG_0497which did tire repair. It was fascinating to watch them work without all of the automatic tools we are accustomed to, but I’m afraid I got burned in the sun despite having put on sunblock. While we were waiting Rev. Sikazwe smelled pork frying, and Peter asked if I would like to try it. He seemed pleased I said yes. So we stepped into a little shop where a woman was cooking. She cut up pork in small pieces, seasoned them, and fried them. We sat on narrow wooden benches with a low plastic table in front of us and ate the pork with toothpicks as our skewers. Delicious. Especially with the pepper sauce. Finally the tire was back on the Land Cruiser and once again we were on our way.

After Tunduma we were making good time. The landscape changed from plains to hill country. Some of the vistas were gorgeous, but we ran into a speed trap coming down an incline. The driver argued with the police officer that he wasn’t speeding, but there was a camera. We had to pull over and wait. And wait. We got out of the car and waited. The pastors went over to try to help, but to no avail. I tried to find a place out of the sun. Finally, the fine was paid and we were off again.We passed the Songwe airport and made our way into Mbeya. After a weak in Sumbawanga and various villages, Mbeya seemed huge and crowded. Traffic was terrible. We dropped off our passengers, and came to the gates of Teofilo Kisanji University where Sr. Mary Kategile was waiting for us. Kisanji was the first Tanzanian bishop.

The university has a large and beautiful campus. It looks like a park or garden, and the buildings are new. Representatives from Moravian College were in the conference room meeting with the senior administration of the university discussing possible partnership. It was so nice to see our Provost Cynthia Kosso, the director of our international studies program, Christian Sinclair, and Dr. Akbar Keshodar, our expert on Africa (especially Zanzibar). The meetings were going well.


Sr. Kategile reserved a room for me at the Beaco Resort, which was much nicer than I would have chosen for myself! I relaxed for a bit and then dressed for dinner. I wore the beautiful Moravian seal shirt that was a gift from Mlimani Theological College and we were all amused that the table cloth was the same pattern! It was nice meeting the TEKU folk and dinner was very good. It was nice to have something a little different from rice and chicken. Or I should say in addition to rice and chicken! Akbar and I hardly see each other on campus and it was nice to catch up. I invited myself to go with the group tomorrow to visit some of the natural beauty that was suggested by the faculty at TEKU. And they gave gifts to the Moravian faculty – shirts and dresses similar to the one I was wearing! We are all hopeful that we can establish regular relations between Moravian College and Theological Seminary and TEKU.

Day 7 – Farewell lovefeast; dinner with Kawageme family


Today was a day that I hope I never forget. I wore my new shirt, and the waitress at breakfast was surprised. She said I was beautiful. When we got to the college, they were all so happy that I was wearing it. I met with the senior staff of the Mlimani College. Mlimani means “hill” and the school is on a hill, but the name was intended to recall the mountain where Jesus preached and Mt. Sinai where Moses received the commandments. It is a good name. I heard a report from Rev. Sikazwe about the school. The needs are many. I am amazed that they teach as effectively as they do considering the lack of resources. We had a good conversations as educators, and felt much more comfortable discussing strategies that might be helpful than I had in the churches. The principal would like to build a dormitory for women, and I asked if women receive the same education as the men. He said that they do, but there aren’t that many women since there is no dormitory for them. He also said they need a car for various purposes, but I think where I can be most helpful is in online instruction. I made it clear that I could make no promises since I am a lowly professor and not a dean or provost. I encouraged the teachers to work on writing the history of the Moravians in Tanzania from the perspective of the Tanzanians rather than the European missionaries. They want me to come back and spend time doing this, but I think it is best if they do it. I encouraged them to interview people before they die and the living memory is lost. I hope someone can do this.


I got a tour of the campus. Most of the teachers live in campus houses and it was nice to see their children playing outside. There are extensive gardens primarily to grow food for the faculty and students. Later in the day I saw the academic dean working in the pea patch. And there are free range chickens everywhere. Most of the physical facilities seem adequate, if in need of painting and renovation. It was the library that shocked and depressed me. There were so few books. I was glad to see that the books that Center for Moravian Studies sent a few years ago were there. The Principal pointed to my book on the shelf, and I signed it for them. But I truly think that my office has more books than their library. I promised that I would send them books off of my shelves. I owe them at least that much, and I have far more books than I need or even use.


At 11:00 they held a lovefeast in my honor. It was a very touching service, so different and yet so familiar to me as a Moravian. People sat at tables and Br. Kawageme led the service. At one point a group of students started singing and then got up in a type of processional. The song was Swahili for marching to Jericho. They sang another song. Later another choir got up and sang. I love the way they use the whole body in singing, including facial expressions. Then food was served in the thermos containers that are ubiquitous here. A type of small dense roll with hot sweet tea. I thought it was lunch and so I ate too many rolls! And then the principal presented me with a gift: another perfectly fitted shirt. This one is blue with the Moravian seal pattern on it. I also gave a gift, which was a little more substantial than the one I gave to the congregations. Again there was more rejoicing than such a token deserves.


During the recessional, the chairman was dancing to the music as he walked out, so I did the same, to the delight of everyone. They were all taking pictures of the big white guy in the brightly colored African shirt trying to dance his way out of a lovefeast. I was so happy to be there! I have seldom felt so loved and welcomed.


I was rather surprised that we had lunch after the lovefeast at the MCC. It was the college administration and the chairman of the province. This time we had fish. It is called something like Kabuki and is delicious. I finished the fish but could not finished my rice. We talked in more detail about ways that my school and their school might work together. It would be good to bring students from my school there and visa versa. They all speak in terms of when I return, not if I return. I kept reminding them that I am getting older and my body is starting to protest against long trips like this, but they are persuasive. As much as I want to return to the US and be with my family and my students, it is hard to say good-bye to these wonderful people.

At 4 p.m. the driver took me to the home of the Kawagemes. We sat on comfortable sofas and watched Christian music videos and had tea and cookies. I gave Mrs Kawageme one of the Moravian Seminary shirts that I had brought and it fit nicely. She wore it all evening. I also gave one to Peter. I met two of his daughters and his adorable grandchildren. The little boy is two and wants to go to school so badly that he wears his only little school backpack all day around the house. The little girl is older and in school and is very sweet. There mother was quite shy. I also met the third oldest daughter who visiting from Dar Es Salaam where she is studying accounting. She is almost the exact same age as my third oldest, and both are named Sarah. Her English is quite good and we had a lively chat. She took pictures of me and her dad, and he told me all about school in Tanzania. It would be nice if she could study in the US.

We had a lovely dinner.  I finally got to experience the national dish ugali. It is white corn meal and that you shape in your right hand to form a type of cup to dip into the soup. Tastes a bit like grits. And then I returned to the MCC to pack. Even though the driver and I have few words we can say to each other, we have become friends. He is a farmer and wants to buy one of the “tuk tuk” cars that are everywhere on the roads. He is sure that I will return.

Day 6 – Wed. March 1 Lectures; visiting church



Today began much like the previous day, with breakfast in the MCC and then devotions at the college. I preached on Jesus washing the disciples feet, and my lecture was on Zinzendorf. I only got through half of the slides. I tend to get carried away with Zinzendorf. And, naturally, the audience was amused by some of the pictures of Moravian worship – especially the Kiss of Peace and prostration. I told the story of August 13, which I’m sure they heard before. And I showed them the picture of the Prottens who were the first Africans to be Protestant missionaries to Africa. When I talked about Zinzendorf’s belief that missionaries should learn and respect the culture of the people someone made a connection between him and modern African theology. Again, the question time was very vigorous, and by the end I was soaked with sweat. Again we had lunch at the MCC with more discussion.

After my siesta, we visited the CHAKI congregation, which is the mother church for Sumbawanga. They are constructing a new church that can hold over a thousand members even though the congregation is smaller than that. It reminded me of the story of building Central in Bethlehem. We walked around the campus of the church, which has extensive vegetable gardens. Then we went up to the office where I met with many of the elders.


I heard a report from the pastor that include their many needs. And I brought greetings. Peter had taught me to say Our Lamb has Conquered, Let Us Follow Him in Swahili and the people were pleased at my attempt. It is a frequent refrain used by Tanzanian Moravians. We discussed some of the same things as I had at the other church. They were surprised that even as the Moravian Church in America is declining in membership and facing financial difficulties, American Moravians still contribute to missions. I tried not to promise them anything, but when I gave a token gift of money, the women let out a ululation. That is one of the most delightful and surprising traditions in Tanzania. It is only women who do it. I asked them to repeat it so I could film it. It is dangerous, though. There is something about being praised in this way that makes you think you deserve it.


I was also given gifts. The Jerusalem congregation gave me a white cloth with the Moravian seal on it, and the Chaki congregation gave me a beautiful African shirt. When I was at the provincial offices I had been measured, so I knew a shirt was coming, but I was not prepared for how perfectly it would fit or how beautiful it would be. They told me the gifts were to remind me of them and to encourage me to be their partner in the future and to tell others about their needs. I was embarrassed that my gift would not even buy a shirt like that in the US, but the Chairman explained to the elders that I had spent lots of money coming to Sumbawanga and would need money for my return trip. Again we ate together. Rice and chicken!