After an amazing week at the MaaSAE Girls Lutheran Secondary School, the team headed out Saturday to the surrounding area to visit a church and a boma, the traditional Maasai home of one of the students.
(By the way, you’ve probably noticed the spelling of MaaSAE for the school’s name and for Maasai the people group is slightly different. There is even a third alternate, but we’re having enough trouble keeping these two straight!)
The church, called Emirite, is located about 30 minutes from the school, in the higher hills surrounding the campus in what is called the Monduli Jue – highlands. It’s a small parish with regular worship of about 30, mostly women and children we are told. Our guide, Pastor Nangole, told us an African parable to help us understand the church’s outreach program to invite more men.
A bull, he said, is a challenging animal to lead anywhere. To lead a bull where they want him to go, the Maasai and other pastoralists will lead a cow, and the bull will follow. But, he said, if the cow is unwilling, then the Maasai will lead her calf. Where the calf goes, the cow will follow, and eventually the bull as well.
So Emirite church is focused on outreach to children. Their lead elder, a man, teaches Sunday School – an indication of how much they value programs for children. They ask for prayers for growth and for unity as they grow.
The hospitality of this small church, which meets in a humble mud and stick building while construction is underway of a more permanent building, was absolutely overwhelming. After showing us around their current church and the one they are just beginning as well as the land they’ve been given, the leaders of the congregation showered us with gifts – bracelets, necklaces and shukas – the traditional blankets worn by Maasai men. In a sign that times are changing, even in rural Tanzania, women are elders as well at this church, and seemed to revel in sharing shukas with both their male and female guests.
We were then invited to a “small tea” which turned out to be a huge lunch including chicken, rice, greens, and ugali – the staple food of most Tanzanians made from corn meal, the consistency of which is most like thick mashed potato. What generosity for so few to share so much!
After departing salutations, we headed to the boma of a Form 5 (Grade 11) student, Tumaini. Her name means “hope” and that’s what she is bringing to her very traditional home. A boma is the entire holding of a senior Maasai man, including land and usually several buildings and huts. This man has five wives, so his boma is quite large – a small village in fact. Many men and families resist the sending of girls to higher education, preferring to marry them off at a young age in exchange for a dowry of cattle. Many are promised as subsequent wives to an older man.
Tumaini faced some resistance to her attending MGLSS at first, but as time has passed, her father (in his 80s) has changed his perspective of the value of education. He spoke to us about being proud of his daughter, and having come to desire for more of his children to have such an opportunity. I was born long ago, he told us, before education was seen as important, so I did not attend school. But my children who qualify will attend secondary school, he said, for this is the way of the future.
What an important testimony to the transformation the MaaSAE Girls Lutheran Secondary School is having in this region and in Tanzania! Girls who not long ago were seen primarily as commodities to be traded for cattle are now being valued differently. We pray that Tumaini will be a shining example to her family and community as one of the first girls in her area to attend and now nearly complete secondary school.
Again at the boma we were overwhelmed with generosity. A goat was roasted for us as rare and honored guests. Sodas of many varieties were purchased in town and brought to the boma for us. We even discovered a new favorite for many – Fanta Passion Fruit. Yum!
Saturday evening we went out for a meal at a noted stop for lower budget tourists – the Snake Park! Established more than 20 years ago by a family that moved to the area from South Africa, it’s a combination reptile zoo, restaurant, and very funky bar. To say the least, the place and the personnel had a lot of character, as well as tasty and surprisingly familiar tasting grilled hamburgers. What a treat, although a bit odd to eat just a few paces from cages filled with black mambas, pythons, and cobras!
Our team members continue to feel incredibly blessed and grateful for such experiences. Everywhere we go, we are thanked profusely for the long-standing relationship and support given by Cross of Christ to the school, churches, and health facilities in this area. We accept this gratitude on your behalf, and look forward very much to sharing more with you upon our return.
Thank you for continuing to pray for us and for the Rural Team. We look forward to our reunion with them Wednesday as we together visit more churches and, no doubt, feel the love of our Tanzanian brothers and sisters.
Pastor Dave, for the MGLSS team