Meet the Johnsons

Meet the Johnsons

Tonight Johnson and Rose hosted Pastor Fue and I for dinner. It was an evening filled with love, learning, and laughter.

Both Johnson and Rose are leaders in the church. “Johnson is famous for farming ginger,” Pastor Fue said. “And he is secretary of Kirangare’s Building Committee.” That committee oversees construction projects in all four preaching points. For example, the committee hires workers, lays plans, and manages the budget for the Zion Day Care expansion project in Kirangare itself, and the Water Project in Mpare, and installing tile flooring in the church building in Idaru, and similar projects in Marindi.


Johnson was quite curious about what the companionship means to Zion people. On the one hand, he hears people outside of Kirangare Parish saying, “Oh, those people must really love you to come such a long way to visit you. And two years in a row!” On the other, he said, “Kirangare is far and small and rural.”

So I told him how deep in your hearts the people of Kirangare are. Your gasps when I read Pastor Fue’s Christmas greeting those years ago. Your stories, even before that, of what visiting Kirangare or hosting people from Kirangare meant to you. And when Joseph and I returned how much more I learned about the impact on family and friends of travelers to Kirangare, on Zion people who have never traveled or hosted.

“We have no words to express our gratitude,” Johnson said. He seemed to doubt there could be any mutuality between us. That they would forever be in our debt. But those stories of your love and joy assured him.

I futher assured him that I and my companions and others at Zion feel the same way! Being in Kirangare last year, I had this feeling of too much—they honor me too much, they love me too much! (I coached Zion’s new travelers this year in receiving.) And this is how we know we are in God’s presence, that these are God’s gifts, when both of us feel we are receiving so much and neither feels burdened in giving. This is God’s abundance, not ours.

I think this resonated with him.

Mutuality was the theme of the night, because it was present in the work Rose does and her curiousity too.

Rose is the head of both the Kirangare Parish and Kirangare Preaching Point Women’s Department. In other words, she leads the local Lutheran women in the village of Kirangare and also she coordinates the work of all the Lutheran women in the four villages Kirangare, Idaru, Mpare and Marindi.


You might think of the Women’s Department like the Zion Lutheran Church Women (ZLCW), which are part of the Women of the Evangelical Church in America (WELCA). But there is a key difference in goals. Rose’s Women’s Department exists to

  1. Create gender equity in Kirangare Parish. For example, making sure women are represented in all areas of leadership, even to 50%.
  2. Resist gender violence within the church and in the community. For example, even non-Lutheran women can come to the Women’s Department to report gender violence, seeking projection, support, and justice.
  3. Empower women economically, both within the church and community. For example, Rose brought to the Companionship Committee the request for support from Zion for a Freezer Project. I’ll say more later but since keeping cows is women’s work here, a freezer would allow more women to make more money selling milk.

Rose organizes the women of Kirangare Parish to do this powerful work all while raising children and managing the home. Because, like in the U.S., this is also women’s work here. In fact, she asked me about this. Basically, in the U.S., when women become community leaders and pursue their own careers, who does the housework?

Now, I don’t need to tell you. You know who.

I talked about my own experience, first watching my parents negotiate these things. Even though my father did the laundry, he was quite cruel in demanding my mother cook. I talked about how Sara and I negotiate them too. That every so often we renegotiate, meaning, she asks me to take on a greater, more fair share of childcare and housework. And that I don’t want do the dishes, but so Sara can be more free and so I can set an example for both my son and daughter, I do the dishes and more.

Finally, I added that this can be a special challenge for Christians. Because we have the witness of the Apostle Paul who wrote that the husband should be the head of the household. This may have been true in Paul’s time and place, but it is not so in the Kingdom of God. In families modeled on God’s kingdom, Christ is the head, and all the adults share mutually in the loving work of leading and providing for the family.

Then Pastor Fue asked Rose when she wanted to start this in her household.

“Tomorrow,” she said.

We may have different work in Davenport and in Kirangare when it comes to the Women’s Department goals. But I hope we can be inspired and spurred on by what Rose and Kirangare women are doing. Let’s not pretend our work is done or give away our power and dismiss the opportunities God gives us for courage and intention.

To be in companionship with Rose means not simply sending money to Kirangare for a freezer for milk. It also means doing the work in our own backyard of creating gender equity, healing gender violence, and empowering women economically.

“Some men in Kirangare think the Women’s Department wants to overpower men,” Rose’s husband said. “But this comes from their lack of education. When she is empowered, I am empowered.”

Let anyone with ears hear.