Tom goes to Africa (my dad’s blog)

My dad is currently living in Africa. Not permanently, but he is living in Tanzania for the next three months to partner with Tumaini University – a Lutheran University in Iringa – and the Iringa Diocese to help them fine-tune their administrative procedures and do long-range planning. In the states, he is a philanthropic advisor (development/fundraising) at Luther Seminary, he is also an ordained Lutheran pastor and a former college president; and it is because of his experiences in both academic and ministry settings that he was asked to help the Lutheran church in Tanzania. As a way of sharing some of his experiences during his time in Iringa, he is writing a blog called “Tom goes to Africa.” He has only written two entries so far (he just got there last week), but it has been fun to read what he has been doing so far. For instance, he visited a church in a nearby village this morning and during worship there was an unexpected surprise. Here’s the story in his words,

During the singing of one of the choir anthems, I heard a chicken clucking loudly. I thought there must be a chicken pen just outside the open window. When the offering was taken, I realized that someone brought the chicken to church to give in the offering. The chicken, along with the rest of the offering, was brought to the altar and placed beside those of us seated there. It was well behaved. After the service, all non-cash gifts given during the offering were auctioned off in the sanctuary. Not only was the chicken well behaved, but must have been very good, because it fetched $3.50. We were told later that the one auctioned in the Cathedral in Iringa only went for $1.00.

Someone brought a chicken to church to give for offering…how funny is that? I attended a suburban mega-church this morning and I’m imagining how people (including me) would react if someone brought a live farm animal to give as their offering. Looking past the humor of the situation, how powerful a witness is it when you realize that the person who gave that chicken might not have had any money to give; but they did have a chicken (a “well-behaved” chicken!) and giving that chicken as their offering was probably a great sacrifice to the person and their family since it most likely provided them with eggs and, eventually, meat. Still they chose to give it as an offering of thanks anyway. It reminds me of the story of the widow’s offering found in Mark 12:41-44 (also Luke 21:1-4). Here’s the story from Mark’s gospel,

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)

I am excited for my dad that he has this wonderful opportunity (and proud of him for doing it), but I am sad for me and my family (especially my mom) because we are going to miss him. My mom is going to visit him for a few weeks at the end of his time there, but aside from the emails and occasional phone calls I get from him, I will have no contact with him until he comes home at the end of March. I am thankful for the innovations in technology-communication that allow me to have even this limited contact with him while he is on the other side of the ocean, but I am also thankful for my dad’s ability to understand enough about technology that he is brave enough to write a blog so that others (not just me and my family) can learn from his experiences. Selfishly, I’d like to ask you to pray for my dad, the people he is working with and their efforts to provide quality education for the people of Iringa; and I invite you to read along as Tom goes to Africa.

A few final observations from my dad on his first week (especially his first Sunday at church) in Tanzania…

Men sat on one side and women on the other, for the most part.
Liturgical dance is alive and well in Kilolo – there was dancing during every choir anthem.
God can sing louder, even than a great African choir. Even though it thundered and rained on the metal roof repeatedly during the worship, the the pastor just went on, without the aid of a microphone.
Time was suspended for one day. All that mattered was that the people were together worshipping God.
I have yet to see anyone using a cell phone while driving a car.
I’ve only seen about five people smoking cigarettes any time during this first week.
It would be impossible to be on a low carb diet here.

If you somehow missed the first two links to his blog, click here to read it.

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One thought on “Tom goes to Africa (my dad’s blog)

  1. Offerings always amazed me in Tanzania…won’t ever forget the first time I realized there was a live chicken in the pile or having to hold onto the sheep or goats that had been brought forward…but animals are so valuable to them, and they give so much more freely than we ever do! Tanzanians may only eat meat a few times a year because of it’s so expensive, but never hesitated to kill a goat for us wazungu (white people) to eat after worship. Luke 21 came to mind every time– don’t think it could have been illustrated any more beautifully than in the giving spirits of the Tanzanian people.

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