Kristo amefufuka! Christ is risen!
Greetings from Bukoba in northwest Tanzania, where I have spent the past week visiting with fellow missionaries and Archdiocesan leadership. Bukoba is the headquarters of Kagera Region, a brilliant green area with hills, mountains, and rocky cliffs cascading down into Lake Victoria. As I sit here listening to songbirds, I am only a ten-minute walk from the lakeside. Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the sinking of the MV Bukoba, a passenger ship that went down nearby to the loss of more than eight hundred lives. It’s a time of mourning and remembrance for the town.
Things are going well. On the Sunday of the Paralytic I joined Archdiocesan leadership to survey a community called Ibale, far up in the hills of Muleba District just south of here. Ibale looks essentially like a bare hillside with a church, a clergy home, and a view of ridges and valleys dotted with homesteads and banana plantations. It is central to a number of other communities, and so we have chosen it as the site for this year’s youth seminar.
Every year the seminar is conducted in a different region of the Archdiocese of Mwanza, and every year we are joined by volunteers from the Finnish Orthodox Mission and from OCMC in North America, who assist in conducting the Christian education program. This year we hope to host up to two hundred students… yes, on a bare hillside. God willing, by the end of July there will be tents to house the students, staff and Team Members; kitchen and dining facilities; and temporary structures for classrooms. Already many details have come together since my initial visit in January, and it’s exciting to see how much can be developed from apparently sparse resources. You can read more about this in the Spring 2011 OCMC Magazine, which should be available soon at http://www.ocmc.org .
On Friday 20th May, I was invited to join Missionary Michael Pagedas on a visit to another rural community- this one called Rubale, about a two-hour drive from town and site of Saint Sosthenes Secondary School. Although the school is only in its third year, already its students have made a big splash in National Examinations. I was impressed by the faculty and by the facilities- which are high-quality by local standards, but still face similar setbacks as other schools here… crowded dormitories, not enough desks for all the students, and equipment shortages.
All secondary, post-secondary and graduate education in Tanzania uses English-language curriculum, so success in school depends heavily on ability to do academic work in English. Imagine if all North American high schools, colleges and universities conducted classes exclusively in Tagalog (after English-only education through seventh grade) and you’ll begin to get a sense of how great a challenge this is! So, at Archbishop JERONYMOS’ request, the headmaster of St Sosthenes and I are assessing the possibility for me to facilitate the school’s English-language education. I am excited about the possibility.
These are only a few of many exciting things going on in our Archdiocese, but I’ll mention only one more right now: Maria is coming! OCMC Missionary Maria Roeber hopes to arrive in Tanzania in early June, to begin learning local culture and Kiswahili language. She is a maternity nurse from Georgetown University Hospital and plans to be stationed at Holy Resurrection Hospital here in Bukoba. Complications with birth are among the very biggest health issues locally, so once she has learned the language and culture well, Maria’s professional abilities and calling will be of tremendous value. I’ve known Maria since 2008, and am eager to welcome her to Tanzania.
I miss you guys, and I miss my Florida! It recently hit me that Florida springtime has passed me by and I never saw a single azalea, camellia, phlox, dogwood or magnolia blossom. Lakeside Tanzania has probably the most perfect climate imaginable (Southern California is extreme by comparison), and it’d be hard for me to find anything to complain about here. But that doesn’t mean I’m not just a little bit homesick…
Thank you for sending me here. Thank you for your financial support, for your friendship, for your correspondence and encouragement, and especially for your holy prayers. God is keeping and sustaining me because of you.
Amefufuka kweli! Truly he is risen!
By your prayers in Christ,