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!

Day 5 – Tuesday Feb. 28 Lectures at the Mlimani College; visiting Yerusalem


I have been in Tanzania for five days and finally I begin the work that I came to do. I had breakfast with the Chairman and Project Director, and then we went to the Mlimani Theological College. It is a beautiful setting, but I did not get time to enjoy it until later. First we went into Principal Sikazwe’s office to sign the guest book and review the agenda. Then we had devotions in the chapel. I preached on the Beatitudes as an important passage for the early Moravian Church. It seemed to go well. I enjoyed the service, at least. Then we rearranged the tables for my lectures. I was so grateful that the projector worked with my computer!


I talked about the founding of the original Unity of the Brethren in the context of the Czech Reformation. I was not surprised that the students knew little about the founding. Tanzanian Moravians, like most American Moravians, have heard many times that the church was founded by John Hus. It was new information for them that the church was founded by Gregory the Patriarch long after the death of Hus. I left plenty of time for questions, and the questions were very good. Some of them came from the Project Director, Rev. Simae who often some criticism of my lecture. This led to a good discussion. Apparently what most impressed the teachers, though, was that I admitted I did not know some things and would need to study more. I gave many of the teachers and the provincial leaders flash drives with my lectures and other materials on them. They had printed out some copies of the PowerPoint slides to put in the library.


I was very tired after the lecture, but it was time for lunch with the school administrators and the provincial leaders. It was a good and engaging lunch, but I was so tired. As soon as it was over I went up to the room and slept deeply for an hour.


Then I was taken to visit one of the local churches, Yerusalem (Jerusalem), which is the church that the Chairman attends. It is a new church and they are still constructing the building. Members of the congregation are helping with the construction. Many of the elders came to a meeting in the sanctuary, and I heard about the history of the church and some of their needs. I brought greetings from Moravians in America. Then we had a question and answer time. Much of the conversation was about some of the challenges Moravians are facing in both our countries, especially the fact that young people are leaving or have already left the church. They hoped I had ideas for them, but all I could say is that Moravians in America waited too late to address this challenge and now many of our congregations have few young people and many old people like me. One of the women talked about how important it is to let the young people dance in church, and I said that most of the US congregations are too conservative for that!


Then someone asked me about homosexuality in the US. It was a question I had feared, but so far no one had asked me. I had been told that this was a taboo subject in Tanzania, but apparently that is not the case. At the most recent Unity Synod in August, 2016 the Tanzanian delegation was the largest (since there are seven provinces in the country with over a million members) nationality represented. Based on the reports of the American delegates, the Tanzanians were among the most strident in their opposition to the Northern Province’s decision in 2014 to allow gay marriage in churches and to ordain homosexuals. I did not know the right thing to say in this situation. I wanted to be respectful, but I also wanted to explain some of the reason why Moravians in America have a different view. I spoke about homosexuality being natural rather than a choice someone makes. I compared it to be left-handed. I mentioned that in the Bible the left-hand is considered less good than the right or even evil. Jesus puts the goats to his left and the sheep to his right. I also told them about how hard it was on my sister when teachers forced her to act like she was right-handed. I talked about the many gay Christians who were so rejected, despised, and excluded in the church that they grew to hate themselves and even committed suicide. Peter told me that I was clever in my answers.

After the discussion we ate together, which is the way these things should work in the church. We disagree and still eat together. But the congregation kept thanking me for coming and asking me to be their partner. I gave a small gift, which was received with gratitude.

Day 4 – Monday Feb. 27 Visitation

I spent most of today visiting officials of the Moravian Church in the Rukwa Province. I was greeted at breakfast by the Project Director for the province who also cares for the management of the conference center that I am staying at. He is a very engaging person. In addition to the conference center, the church opened a secondary school in 2009, and is engaged in a five-year program of tree planting as part of an environmental project. The province began by planting trees on a five hundred acre plot of land and now congregations are seeking assistance in planting more trees on their lands.


At 9:00 the chairman of the province, the principal of Mlimani Theological College, and academic dean arrived with the church’s Land Cruiser to take me to the African Rainbow Secondary School where we met with the head master and senior staff. I am not accustomed to being treated as an honored guest, and I am afraid that they do not understand that in the United States mere professors have little power or authority. Seating arrangements are important in Tanzanian culture and so I was sat at the head of an impromptu dais (the headmaster’s desk) with the Chairman on my left hand and the Principal of Mlimani on my right. The rest of our entourage were sitting a the long table with the head master and his staff were at the end table. Introductions were very formal. Even though each person gave his or her name they were all referred to by title. So I was professor and the chairman was “chairman.” It is not the American way, but I rather liked the structure and respect each person showed.

The school is only six years old. It is an “O” level school, but they hope to been accredited to teach “A” levels. For Americans, this means that it offers the basic high school education rather than college-preparatory education. The project director is rightly proud of how far the school has come in a short time, but the head master and the department chairs provided me with a long list of needs that they are facing. It took me about five minutes to realize that he and the staff think that I have access to resources that can help them, but I am not sure that I can. I will talk to people back in Bethlehem when I return. In addition to the fact that teachers sometimes have to work without salary, they have a critical need for textbooks and library books. They have a computer lab, but electricity is not always available. (Even now I am writing this blog in the dark relying on my computer’s battery. I’m cursing the fact that I did not pack the solar-battery light that I have just for trips like this!)


They also hoped that I could give them advice on meeting the challenges they are facing, but I am just an historian and theologian and know little about academic administration or even high school education. I made some suggestions such as sending teachers and staff out to the Moravian congregations to generate interest and support for the school. We talked about the need for pastors to recognize talented youth and help them get a quality education, and I told them about Comenius. It sounds to me like they are doing admirably under difficult situations. They are building a new laboratory building for the sciences but there is no electricity for it yet. The dormitories do not have running water, but they assured me that their students are accustomed to that. And the list goes on. Before we left, the teaching faculty joined us, and they asked me to say something to them. I remembered Christie McAullife’s statement that as a teacher she touched the future. They liked that concept a lot. I also told them that I admire what they are doing for the good of their country.


After touring the school we went to the church offices for the province where I was introduced to all of the church workers. Again we made very formal introductions. The Treasurer and I have already become friends. (Ah, the lights just came back on!) I met people who work with youth, with women and children, and the accountant. They were shocked to learn that their provincial staff is actually larger than the program staff of either the Northern or Southern Provinces in the U.S.A. While we talked the rains poured down.


The provincial treasurer was disappointed to hear about the severe financial problems the American provinces are facing. But they have staff who sometimes cannot be paid. We talked at length about the differences between our provinces, and it is clear that they are concerned that the Moravian Church in America is in such decline, but they were still hoping that I could give advice to them. But I know the past, not the future. I do think that the American Moravians may have to adopt some of the structure of the Tanzanians. They have parishes that include several congregations that are supervised by an ordained minister but served by “evangelists”. And then we had sodas and cookies.


After that we went to visit the first bishop and founder of the Rukwa Province, Bishop Kasitu. He is revered, and I can see why. He is quite elderly now, but is still a commanding and comforting presence in a room. Sadly his wife of many years passed


away last year and he is deeply in grief at losing her. Her name was Joyce, and it is evident that she was his co-worker in the church. We visited her grave, which is placed just outside the district office building that the bishop had built and where he worked as chairman until the new provincial offices were built. The grave was covered in wreaths of bright ribbons. The bishop has written a history of the province that the academic dean is editing, and he gave me a summary to help me with my own writing. The earliest work in the region was by missionaries of the London Missionary Society in Kasanga by Lake Tanganyika (where I visited). When the British were forced to move out in the early 1960s when Tanzania became independent, they asked the Moravians to assist in that region and in Zambia. The Western Province headquartered in Tabora took charge. From the beginning they planned on Rukwa becoming an independent province. The bishop also talked about an American named Lindberg who provided a great deal of financial support to his ministry. We visited the district office where we had sodas and cookies. I have a growing stack of cookies in my room!

Then they returned me to my residence. At dinner I met a Chinese man who lived in the conference center for two years (in my room, he said) and a student from the Netherlands. We chatted about our different experiences in Tanzania and our homes. She is also a Zunga and has had to get used to children staring at her and even touching her skin. It is interesting that that word is not in my Swahili dictionary, but I have heard it a lot on this trip.

Day 3 – Sunday Feb 26 Preaching in Africa; Visiting Kalambo Falls and Lake Tanganyika

Today was a very good day. At 7 a.m. Peter Kawageme, the Chairman, the Treasurer, the Principal, the Dean, and a couple of other people from the church met me at the Conference Center. It was raining. Peter was wearing a checked coat with velvet patches on the collar and elbows. The Chairman was in a blue suit and teased his former teacher mercilessly, which made Peter laugh. He has one of the most engaging laughs I have ever heard and is clearly loved throughout the province. We crowded into the Land Cruiser and set out for the Kisumba congregation in the country. All day long the men in the back would break into laughter. I think that sound, more than anything else, is what I will remember and cherish from my visit. The pastors prayed in the car at the start of the journey and again each time we stopped.

After a few miles the highway ended and we were on dirt roads. Women were carrying large buckets of water from the creeks to their homes. In some places people were clearly on their way to church. Gradually the road became very muddy, but our driver was good and we did not get stuck. After an hour we left behind the villages and were driving through wetlands filled with birds. And then through forest and the roads became rougher and rougher. In places they were so washed out that it was nearly impossible to pass, but slowly we made our way. It was exciting for me to be outside the city and into traditional Africa, but I was surprised that there was no wildlife. Not even small mammals. Just birds. We talked some in the car, but mainly the Tanzanians talked among themselves. Frequently they were on their phones. Cell phones have transformed many parts of the world, and once we passed a tall cellular tower in the middle of the forest.

We reached the Kisumba village about 10:30. The brick huts have grass roofs. As I watched the people milling around and looked at the village I realized that the sermon I had brought with me would not be good. I had preached it in a large urban congregation in Jamaica with many educated people, but these were people who lived by subsistence farming. I decided to preach without notes, and so I left my computer in the car. The pastor is a young man who welcomed us into his house where chairs were prepared. Food was brought in. Fried bread similar to tortillas. Tasty. Before eating the pastor brought a pitcher and basin to wash my hands and the hands of the others in order of status. After eating we washed again. And they led me to the church.


It is a brick church, somewhat traditional in architecture, but with a soundboard and large speakers. The Principal presided over the service, dressed in white robe with green stole. I was in clerical collar and blue blazer. Peter translated what he was able to, but some of the music was in the language of that tribe. There are over 120 languages in Tanzania. Swahili is for most people a second language. The service was a beautiful blend of traditional liturgy with African music. There were four choirs, mainly youth and women’s choirs. The youth choir danced while they sang, and some of the women gave ululation. I enjoyed it greatly. I preached on Colossians 3:1-15, a favorite text of mine and Peter translated. I talked about the need to die to our old life and old ways and live the new life of Christ. I used myself as an example, telling them I grew up in a racist society and that my parents taught me to fear black people. But I was in Africa because Christ showed me a better way and showed my country a better. I spoke mainly about clothing ourselves in compassion as the outer garment that we should wear each day. People seemed to be engaged in the sermon and Peter told me later that it was very good. It is the first time that I have received ululation after preaching!


The church is trying to raise money for glass windows and there was a special “exercise” to dramatize the need for money. The Chairperson made a point of giving. I gave a little myself. People come forward to put their money in the money chest. Some people brought agricultural products that were auctioned after church. When the service was over everyone greeted me on the way out of church. Many of them gave a three-fold handshake, which means Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. People did not leave the yard immediately. The choir continued singing, and then the auction began. Someone bought charcoal and then gave it an elderly woman who received it joyfully. When all was over, the pastors went back to the house for lunch. Again hands were washed and food was brought in by the women. They ate in the kitchen with the children. There was rice, of course, cooked greens, and dried fish prepared in broth. After lunch there were farewells. One toddler looked at me and screamed. She was frightened by the white man. Her mother was embarrassed, but I was not.


Then it was time to climb back into the car for the long journey to Kalambo Falls. We were talking much more freely now. I think I had passed a test in worship and at lunch, and I was treated more as a companion than a visitor. The Treasurer is a young man with good English and he often explained things to me. From time to time we had to stop and “check the tires”, which was a euphemism for biological needs. We eventually made it to the last village in Tanzania. Across the river is Zambia. It was another village with brick huts with grass roofs and so many children! As the Project Director explained to me later, the rural people in Tanzania have not adopted the government’s program of family planning. The children crowded around the car to look at the mzunga or white person. One knew enough English to ask for money, but I had none to give and did not think it wise anyway.


Finally an elder came to open the gate and we drove down to the stair that leads to the falls. The falls are amazing. They are not wide, but are very powerful. It is a single free waterfall that is over 700 ft high. Some authorities say it is the second highest in Africa, others the second highest in Tanzania. Over the millennia the river has carved a deep gorge. The Zambian side is a shear cliff. The Tanzanian side is steep, but has more vegetation and tumbled rocks. About halfway down the gorge the vegetation becomes very thick and green. It is truly one of the most awesome and beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Everyone was amused that I was sweating so much from the exertion of the hike, especially the final climb of the stairs. They teased me about running the Kilimanjaro marathon next year.

Our next destination was Lake Tanganyika, another place that has lived in my imagination since I was a child. It was a long drive to Kasanga Port, and on the way we stopped at a village to visit the pastor and his wife. I heard an exorcism going on in the church. Loud screaming, but that is a normal form of pastoral care. Visitations involve frequent ritual phrases that are like a litany or chant. I caught a few phrases, like Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow him and Christ have mercy. Back in the car we drank sodas. The Treasurer introduced me to Stoney, a ginger soda that I liked a lot. And we had cookies and we laughed often. No one calls me Craig, except for Peter. I am always Professor or Pastor. And I use their titles as well. It is an interesting blend of formality with easy laughter and much teasing.

When the car rounded a turn coming down from the highlands I saw Tanganyika for the first time. The green hills come right down to the blue water. It is beautiful. It is like the ideal lakes that I pictured when I was boy. Actually it is like the image I had of heaven one day in church when I was seven or eight. We drove down to the port and got out of the car. It is a small port with a single cargo ship on the southern end of the lake. The lake itself is one of the longest, largest, and deepest in the world. It is really an inland sea. The water was so calm it was like glass. There were just a couple of fishing canoes on the water and nothing else to disturb it. Near the lake is a fishing village where the Moravians have a church, one of the oldest in the Rukwa Province. Tanganyika, you may remember was where the sainted David Livingstone established his hospital and where the horrible Henry Stanley eventually discovered him after a long rampage through Central Africa.


The Treasurer explained that Kasanga had been the headquarters of the German colonial authority in Africa and was named for Bismarck. There is still a German ship under the water from World War I. Across the lake I could see Zambia and Congo. If we sailed the length of the lake we would come to Burundi and Rwanda. We went up the hill to a little resort area and bought some lake fish. One of them was about three feet long and had been gutted and hung in a tree. The driver tied the fish to the top of the Land Cruiser and we drove off as the sun was setting. Our only dinner that evening was cookies and more soda. We drove the same difficult roads again, but this time in pitch dark in the rain. Twice we startled owls on the road who flew off in a blaze of white in the glare of the headlamps. Beautiful. So much beauty in this world to see if we keep our eyes open, but despite the rough roads I dozed in my seat, exhausted from preaching, from talking, from laughing, from hiking, and from being overwhelmed with the beauty of this place and its people.

Day 2 – Saturday Feb. 25 Travel to Sumbawanga


I had a nice flight to the Songwe International Airport in Mbeya early in the morning, and I was happy to see that Peter Kawageme was there to welcome me. I have learned very little Swahili, but Karibu is an important word. It means “welcome,” but I think Tanzanians invest more in welcome than we do. I heard Karibu many times on my travels. Peter was there with a Toyota Land Cruiser owned by the Moravian Church and with the vehicle there was a driver who spoke a little more English than I could speak in Swahili. The weather was cool and damp in Mbeya, which is about 6000 ft above sea level.

The drive to Sumbawanga was so different from the congestion in Dar Es Salaam. At times we were the only vehicle on the road. I had not realized just how agricultural Tanzania is. We passed miles and miles of corn. It was almost like Wisconsin, but the plots of land are small farms. The farmers walk a considerable distance to tend their crops. Every time we came within a few miles of a village or town we see many people walking or riding bicycles beside the highway. Most of them are carrying something either to the market to sale or something they have bought from the market. The women carry things on their heads. I knew they did this and have seen it on television, but it is an amazing thing to witness in real life. I do not know how they balance the things they carry while they walk. Large bags of charcoal or huge bundles of firewood. I saw one little girl, about eight years old, balancing a round-handled hoe on her head. Wherever I have been in the rural areas, this is what you see. Men often had even larger loads that they put on their bicycles, which they pushed up the highway. The towns and villages are bustling places with small shops that sell a surprising variety of goods. If you want to see entrepreneurship in action, go to Africa!

The landscape changed as we drove across the country. At times it reminded me of western North Dakota with horizon all around. Other places were more of Piedmont. But the most striking thing was how brilliantly green and lush the landscape is. The highway we drove on (a two-lane road in America) was built by the American People. I know this because there signs every 50 miles or so announcing that it was built by the American People! Only one of the signs was in Swahili, so I assume that the American People really wanted people like me to know that we had built the road. I suspect that our new President will not be investing in places like rural Tanzania, though, unless it is to build a golf course. I would love for him to experience what I have experience and see just how hard people here work and how well that work with what they have.


We stopped to buy four enormous bags of charcoal from several men who were standing at the edge of a field. They make the charcoal themselves. Peter kept asking me if Americans cook with charcoal and I tried to explain that we only do that in the summer when we grill outside. The idea that we have sufficient electricity or natural gas to have stoves and ovens was almost unimaginable to him.

We finally arrived at our destination. I am staying at the Moravian Conference Center, which is owned by the church but which is a profit-making enterprise. It is quite lovely, although not luxurious by any means. They are providing me with a large room with a bed complete with mosquito nets. And I have a bathroom. Sometimes there is sufficient water pressure to shower; sometimes not. But it is so nice to have a private place to relax. And the best surprise of all is that the internet works some of the time. My first night the power went out and I cursed the fact that I forgot to bring the solar-powered light that was invented specifically for Africa! But it was peaceful to sit in the dark and rest from the long journey. Already my mind is filled with images and conversations with Peter. Tomorrow will be a long day, though. The church’s leaders are taking me deep into the country to preach at a village.

Day 1 – Friday, Feb 24 Kilimanjaro

Esther arranged a tour for Alex and I the next morning. A guide drove us to the mountain. We could see it in the near distance with its white peak. Kilimanjaro! I’ve known about this amazing mountain since I was boy reading National Geographic. The tallest mountain in Africa. Over 19,000 feet in elevation, rising almost from sea level. The highest solitary mountain in the world. A mountain on the equator where there are glaciers on the top. A mountain that defeated every climber until the middle of the 19th century when a German and an Austrian reached the top along with a local climber named Yohani Kinyala Lauwo, who only received credit in 1989, on the centennial of the climb. Since that time, four trails have been mapped, and climbing equipment has improved to the point where ordinary hikers can reach the top. One man from the Andies ran to the top in just over six hours.

kilimanjaroWe drove through the gate on the southern slope of the mountain. We were already 2000 feet up, and a guide named Yankee Davis explained all about the mountain and the trails. He promised me that if I come he will make sure I can reach the summit in good health. Julie thinks that it a bad idea for an overweight, out of shape, 56-year old man who has had heart surgery. Who should I trust? The woman who has been my companion for over 25 years or a guide that I talked to for an hour?

Then our guide to us to Kilasiya Waterfall in Marangu. I was expecting something like Bushkill Falls with loads of tourists taking a casual walk around to see the waterfall. No, there was only one other person there, and the trip down to the fall was steep, muddy, and treacherous. I was cursing the fact that I had worn Birkenstocks instead of boots since I was planning on hiking! Alex is a young rugby player who is joining the Navy. Did I mention that I am a 250 pound man with bad knees, a stiff back, asthmatic, and had heart surgery? But I made sure that the young fellow got down safely. The trip was worth it! It is a single free-fall waterfall in a beautiful little gorge. Alex stripped to his shorts and went for a swim under the waterfall itself. Icy cold. I, however, remembered the good doctor’s warning about swimming. Honestly, the cold water did not daunt my spirit! It was so beautiful and refreshing to sit in front of the fall and feel the spray. And then our guide said those horrible words. Let’s climb back.

Just the night before I had read the part in the Two Towers when Gollum leads Frodo and Sam up the Winding Stair out of the Morgul Vale. This was something like that. Up and up. Steep with uneven steps covered in slippery mud. Halfway up, I had to stop because the heart was pounding so hard I could hear it. Rest. Apologies to my

thumb_img_0432_1024younger and thinner companions. And then a renewed assault. Almost to the top and then there was bench. What a beautiful view of the vale below. Yes, let’s sit awhile and contemplate the meaning of life while the heart stops pounding. And then to the top. Yes, after that surely I can come back and climb Kilimanjaro. Right?

Our guide is a member of the Chagga tribe whom the government recognizes as the caretakers of Kilimanjaro and the surrounding forest. He told us many interesting things about the area and his people, including the brewing of banana beer. And then he took us to the Chagga caves. This may have been the most interesting part of the trip. A young Chagga woman told us about the caves. The Chagga and the Maasai were neighbors who depended on each other. The Maasai are nomadic herdsmen while the Chagga grew various crops. Most of the time there was mutual respect, but in times of drought the Maasai cattle would die and they would raid the Chagga villages for food. They also captured Chagga women and raped them so they became pregnant. When the child was weaned and no longer need its mother, the woman was killed so the child would not know his or her mother had not been Maasai.


About two hundred years ago the warfare between the Chagga and Maasai was so severe that the Chagga dug tunnels in the ground overlooking the river. Along the edges of the tunnel there were rooms big enough for a family to live for weeks in darkness. The only light came from burning castor beans. Air vents shafts allowed fresh air to circulate, and the openings were protected by poisonous plants. The entrance to the tunnel had a low place so that intruders would bump their heads and cry out. Three Chagga warriors kept guard and when they heard an intruder they beat him with heavy clubs. Then they chopped up his body and washed it out the tunnel into the river where the crocodiles devoured it. So the Maasai never knew what happened to their scouts. It is a grim story, but the tunnels are ingenuous, and UNESCO helped the Chagga to restore a small portion of the two-mile network so people like me could see them and learn this story that I now have told you.

Then I bought some gifts for family and our guide showed two of the Chagga traditional huts where people lived in peaceful times. Then he showed us how to take raw coffee beans and pound them to remove the shell, and then how to winnow them to get the kernel. And then we helped roast the beans in a clay pot on an open fire. Then we pounded the roasted beans and threw them into boiling water. And, of course, we then got to drink the coffee with milk and sugar. This is what Moravian lovefeast coffee should taste like! It was an amazing day with the Chagga that ended with a visit to someone’s home in the village where we shared a very large glass of banana beer, but I will leave the mystery of the taste to your imagination!

Then it was a rush to get back to the airport for my flight to Dar Es Salaam on FastJet. On the way we drove through Maasai country and I could see their huts and some of the men herding cattle. Women build the huts and stay with them while the men roam with the animals. The flight was good, and the driver from the Latana Hotel was there to greet me on time. The 7 mile drip from the airport took over 40 minutes because of traffic. My room had a canopy bed! And I was asleep by midnight but woke at 3:30 a.m. before the alarm. My next flight was at 7 a.m. and the same driver took me. He had slept in the car.

Arrival in Africa – Feb. 23

My flights all went well. In fact I was lucky to be on a nearly empty plane to Amsterdam, so I had room to relax. The flight to Africa was more crowded, but I still had three seats to myself. That flight had many Americans who were on their way to a safari. Most of them were retired people and some seemed a bit frail, but they were eagerly anticipating their adventure. They were going to see the Africa in the documentary films. My journey was a bit different.

We arrived safely at the Kilimanjaro International Airport, which is between Arusha and Moshi after dark. The time difference from Pennsylvania is 8 hours and it had been 26 hours since Julie left me at the airport. I was so happy to see the driver from the Alteeza Lodge was there with a sign with my name on it. There was a young man from England on the flight who was also staying at the lodge so we shared the ride to Moshi. He is taking a year off after university before joining the Royal Navy to see the world. He had just been in Thailand for five weeks working with elephants and now was going to be teaching English in Arusha.


We arrived at the lodge, which is a lovely place, and Esther Alexandria greeted us and checked us into our rooms. She was confused because my name is Craig Atwood and the other person was Alexander Craig. And her last name was Alexandria. She asked what I do for a living and why I was in Africa, and I told her. She smiled and said that her dream is to be a professor. Of mathematics.

The people in the picture are Alex and Yankee Davis who guides people up Mt. Kilimanjaro.