Bwana Yesu asifiwe means “Praise the Lord Jesus,” in Swahili. We heard this phrase again and again. Or simply Bwana asifiwe, Praise the Lord. Or Mungu asifiwe, Praise God.
A highlight of our week in Kirangare was always going to be Sunday worship. It was full of singing and dancing, giving and receiving gifts, and more singing and dancing. It finished with an auction in the church yard.
The congregation was overjoyed to host us. It was a privilege unlike any other to be their guests of honor.
I wish I could share audio of the choir. It was incredible in person but it blew out the mic on my cell phone! Maybe Joseph's video is better or maybe back in Iowa I can work some technical magic. Until then, you'll have to make to with audio of the congregation singing hymns.
After singing and dancing, Psalm 50, and spoken liturgy, Pastor Fue greeted us. I brought greetings from Zion.
I gave gifts on behalf of Zion. To Kirangare, Pastor Fue, and the Companionship Committee, the picture of Zion in worship.
To Jasper, the committee's chair, a shirt printed with "QC IA/L" given in thanks for how he served us this week and in hopes that he may visit Iowa.
To Pastor Fue, an Imani Moja, One Faith shirt from Zion's 2004 visit, sold then as a fundraiser. "I'm so happy!" he said with a great smile.
And finally I gave another gift to Kirangare—the quilt, made by Zion's Piece Corps quilters, with ab patch from an Imani Moja, One Faith shirt sewn into the center squares.
And then there was such joy in the congregation that, lead by the choir, we broke into spontaneous singing and dancing. Pastor Fue danced. I danced.
We should dance at Zion!
When you visit Kirangare, you'll see and hear for yourself that God's good people here really embody the invitation to participation, not perfection. Yes, the choirs are amazing. Yes, they rehearse three times a week. But it truly seems like an offering of love and joy, having little to do with the performance or with technical proficiency. Maybe you have to be here to experience it for yourself. I heard of key notes, awkward dance steps. But nothing in this world is perfect and to focus on such things is to miss the first for the trees!
The people of Kirangare are so free from our white European perfectionism, and I receive this freedom as such grace and life. It's liberating, infectious. Can you imagine what your life and our worship could be like as we learn this lesson? What would that freedom be worth?
For a while I was dancing in rhythm with the down beat, instead of the beat everyone else was on. Didn't matter. Once I caught the beat, I still probably looked like a wobbly block of wood. But who cares! Jesus said "Love your neighbor as yourself," not "Criticize your neighbor as yourself." Maybe this is what one of the early church fathers meant when he said, "Shield the rejoicing."
We have much to learn from Kirangare.
Then I preached. Listen for yourself:
With Pastor Fue, I also co-presided at communion. I got to say, "This is the body of Christ given for you and for the world" to 120 some Tanzanian brothers and sisters. What a witness this in itself was! "And for the world," indeed!
Kirangare gave gifts to Joseph and I. Just look at these beautiful shirts! (And later, on Monday evening, we received the shirts we were measured for in Idaru.) We also received matching fabric "for our wives," which, given that Joseph isn't married, was one of those mistakes I mentioned in the sermon that could not ruin our love and joy.
So until you come yourself—and you better believe they invited us to return and with a bigger group!—this foretaste will have to suffice.
Probably you want to know more about this auction I mentioned. Being a rural village, many Lutherans brought in-kind offerings—cabbage, potatoes, yams, firewood, and one rooster. The choir lead the congregation in procession out of the sanctuary to the church yard where the auction began. All the in-kind offerings were auctioned off and the money given to the church.
So the man pictured above won the rooster in the auction. He paid 18,000 Tanzanian shillings, or somewhere between 7 and 8 U.S. dollars.