Joshua from Mpare

Joshua from Mpare

I want to tell the story of meeting 15 year old Joshua in Mpare.

The celebration in the Mpare church building had just ended. We had danced and sang our way outside. Pastor Fue, Evangelist Rombo, Joseph, and I stood by the door in a kind of receiving line as the congregation came out. Joshua walked past, and the shirt he was wearing caught my eye.

In Kirangare, many can be seen wearing locally made clothing. In this case, dresses and shirts are made from fabrics with distinctive African patterns and colors. Men's monochrome pants come in a range of colors, some in neutral black, grey, brown, or navy and others much more vibrant: greens, bright blues, and pinks. Kirangare choir members, for example, write matching outfits—women, bright yellow-orange dresses; men, burgundy with yellow dots short sleeve button down shirts.


Other clothing is from the U.S. or Europe. It's available in local markets. I've seen an American Cancer Society hoodie, a Sierra Club member jacket, a Tom and Jerry knit sweater, a Chanel blouse, and Adidas track pants. And these mixed with local clothing with traditional fabrics.

Joshua's grey shirt pictured Super Girl carrying Superman with the caption, "Never underestimate the power of a woman."

You know, I was named after Superman. So I asked if we could take a picture together. I asked his name and age. I explained that Superman was Clark Kent, and that's where my name came from. But even with Pastor Fue translating, Joshua seemed quite bewildered or maybe simply a combination of surprised and shy.

In any case, I'm not sure he knew who Superman is or that it was Superman on his shirt. Because at first, when Pastor Fue sent Evangelist Rombo to summon the boy with the Superman shirt, Rombo came back leading a grown man by the elbow. He was wearing the most fantastic suit but without Superman. Something got lost in translation.


Joshua and I took the picture, while 100-some Mpare Lutherans looked on. Given my conversation with Simon Simon and given how Joseph and I are greeted like heroes or celebrities, I could only imagine what everyone was making of this moment. And what kind of memory it would make for Joshua. It had some of the feeling I imagine there was when Jesus stopped and picked Zacheus out of the tree.

Then I posed with the man with the fantastic suit, because his suit was fantastic and I didn't want to leave him hanging.

And that opened the floodgates. It seemed like all the young men of Mpare were passing their phones to a friend and lining up for a picture. When two boys flanked me, three more jumped in to stand behind us. Finally Pastor Fue and I motioned to the watching crowd and we took one big photo all together.

It was so much fun! When it was over Joseph and I agreed: we should've done this at Idaru and Makasa! And it started accidentally, with one eyecatching shirt and a case of mistaken identity. God is good.