Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tanzania Church

As promised. The church blog.

On Sunday, Amber, Jackie, Elsa and I went to Mama Jacksons church. Hillary stayed home sick. Upon our arrival, we discovered that although we thought we were late due to some crazy morning struggles, we were actually early. Mama Jackson told us the wrong time for service! This meant though, that no one was really there yet, well people were there, but they were all milling amongst themselves. So we picked a bench and sat down.

A few minutes later, one of the leaders of the church came up to introduce himself. He then asked the all to often asked question, please come sit in the first row. Let me explain. White people are revered, they are always special guests, there isn't anonymity, there isn't a choice of seating. If you are white, you are always requested (rather forced) to sit up front, and often asked to give a small sermon or message to encourage the people. I was annoyed. I just wanted to blend, but really, how could four white girls blend in that crowd. He asked a second time, we obliged. Although I will admit, I did so begrudgingly.

A few minutes after church started, I noticed Mama Jackson and her kids sneaking into the service. I waved and gave her a look that I hoped she would interpret to mean, "we do want to sit with you but your pastor won't let us!"

Service was incredible. It is always a little difficult because everyone will come up and say hi to you, often at what we would consider inappropriate times. It is also difficult because they sing amazing songs, and usually we don't know the words as they aren't put on a screen like in the US, but shockingly I knew some of them. I enjoyed the message, although from the swahili I know I know it wasn't quite translated into English correctly. In the middle of church I starting thinking to myself, I should come here more often. It would help me to make more Tanzanian friends, it would help with my swahili, and after all, even with the nuances, it is fun. I was nearly convinced. Then service ended.

After service, we were escorted out to meet the Pastor and his wife. And I encountered one of those cultural moments that cause all the fire to well up inside me! I was infuriated, as we were all standing in a line, Amber, Jackie, Elsa, Mama Jackson and then me. The pastor warmly greeted the girls, and ask Mama Jackson attempted to greet her he pushed her aside in order to greet me. Then he continued to talk to me and completely ignored Mama Jackson. I was so frustrated. She was a committed member of his congregation, and he brushed her off! So eventually he asked how we came to come visit his church. I thought I would give it to him, as I was still mad, I don't like when people disrespect others. Instead though, I pointed out quite nicely, that mama Jackson is a friend of mine and that she was really proud of her church and that she had invited us here to worship with her. I then directed him towards her so he could greet her. He didn't. I felt like putting my foot down, but didn't. Culture.

Mama Jackson invited us back this week. On Wednesday I am going to take Lorivi with me in hopes that he can better explain CHE and answer all her questions in his perfect swahili! Be praying.

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