Living Large

On the one hand, we have not had a busy schedule so far, on the other, we have had amazing experiences, filled with people, color, and life.  We are connecting with people in new ways from daily life and from events.  A key cultural difference from cold, gray and snowy Milwaukee is that life here is lived outdoors.  Buildings are for sleeping, getting out of the sun and maybe business meetings.

Sunday there is the inauguration and fund-raising of a choir DVD at Usa River.  We have been told that it will be long, the Bishop will preach but few other details.  We do not ask enough questions and are not really prepared for the 4 hours we spend in worship.  When we walk over to the church, there are tents set up.  We look around for someone we know.  Soon an elder realizes that we are here and escorts us to the tea table and then to sit next to Bishop Akyoo.  We know now that it is an event!!

It is a worship service to which people of means, non-members, have received a special invitation to come and donate to the inauguration of a choir CD.  The church is filled, as is an overflow tent.  After tea, we are seated as honored guests in front pew.  We are introduced to the District Commissioner for the AruMeru district, Mercy.  She is a member of the congregation and her presence in the front row is a show of the importance of the day and her support of the choir.

The choir sings and dances its heart out.  The worship is lively, full of greetings and ritual.  The Bishop begins preaching about an hour after the service began.  After the sermon and the pledge offering and the thank offering,  the choir celebration, inauguration of its DVD begins. The Hosanna choir leaves and a choir from Mulala provides an anthem. When they are finished the Hosanna choir reenters in new outfits.  The women have a silk like turquoise blue skirt with a flowered top and the men have the turquoise tops with black trousers.  They dance up the aisle singing.  After another song they take seats so the auction can begin.  Tables are brought out on either side of the altar.  People to collect and record  the donations and boxes of DVDs are situated on the table.  Beautiful banana grass baskets and reed baskets are used for the cash.

The choir director is also the emcee.  He asks the Bishop to auction the first DVD.  The bidding quickly goes to 100,000 T schillings for a DVD.  The district commissioner who is sitting next to me began the bidding at 60,000.    She explains to me it is something of a game or party to see how high the bidding will go.  That is why people with means, who actually have cash, have been invited to attend.  After the first DVD there is a carefully orchestrated order to who is asked to contribute.  The DC, Mercy, explains to me that those with special invitations have probably determined their donation already and will be called on later.  The early donors are choir members and others related to them that have smaller donations, many at 30,000 TSH, around $20 U.S.  It is quite a spectacle to have people so cheerfully announcing to everyone his or her contribution.  The choir sings and cheers as each donation is secured.  A child has a 5000TSH donation which is increased to 260,000TSH through auction and song.

At 1:30 when we have been in the pew, 3 ½ hours,  the Bishop sends a message that we may leave as it is getting a little long.  They have not yet made it to the major donors.  The program for the day called for a 2:00 pm close but they are not near the end.  We say we would like to make a donation for a DVD before we leave.  We are properly acknowledged and get our DVD.  We leave the sanctuary but are taken to an office for the food that has been prepared for the 500 guests.  As we talk with our host/translator,  while we eat,  we reflect on how fundraising in the United States is a much more private event.  I cannot think of a church where people would be pleased to have their major giving celebrated with song and dance.  Our host reflects that there much of what is raised will be used to feed the crowd,  yet it is a joyful, community building event.  It is after 3 before we are finished, 5 hours after church began.  The Holy Spirit surely moved among that community and enriched our spirits that day.  Bwana Asifiwe!