Last weekend was my first in Machui and it turned out to be a special one. Saturday is a normal working day here though and people really only take Sunday off. I helped in the dispensary, which is the health clinic for the village. The room where the medicine is kept needed to be cleaned, so I took charge of that. As I was cleaning, I also weeded out the expired medicine. This obviously hadn’t been done in a while because I found some from 2004. It was interesting to see that most of their medicine comes from Germany, so I wasn’t learning any Swahili from this task. I did learn the german word for expires though, so maybe that counts for something.
Sunday was Corpus Christi Sunday, or the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Sisters here love to celebrate feast days and make them very special. When I went to breakfast, the room was decorated and our places at the table had all kinds of goodies. The verse John 10:10; “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”, was sitting on the table. How could anyone help but feel joy at seeing that? One of the first things I observed about the Sisters is their continual and abounding joy. Their zeal for life is completely contagious and I can’t help but laugh and smile when I am around them.
Then came Mass and I’m still struggling to find the words to describe that experience. The beauty of the way the people here celebrate the Mass left me speechless. I could sense immediately the difference in the attitude of the congregation from a typical American Catholic Liturgy. The people really participated and were fully present. All too often we simply go through the motions but there was none of that happening here. I could tell the people really believed and found myself wishing that I had a tenth of their faith. I wonder what the world would be like if all Christians had such strong faith.
One of the Sisters had found a booklet with the liturgy in Swahili so I was finally able to follow along and say the responses to some extent. Of course I was totally lost during the homily but I’m learning more and more of the language every day. After Mass, to celebrate the special day, we moved right into a period of adoration. We processed outside to an altar set up and knelt on the ground. We sang the Pange Lingua, but in Swahili. I was frustrated because I knew it in Latin and was so close to actually understanding something.
During the Eucharistic Procession children threw flower petals towards the monstrance, which is apparently a tradition here. We stopped at another outdoor altar and finally processed back inside. After having been swept up in their reverence of the Eucharist, I am thankful to the people of Machui for making the Mass more powerful and special to me than ever.
On Sundays there is a “choir” but this simply means that there is a group of people with voices more beautiful than the average Tanzanian. I still swear that music is in their genes. Throughout the Eucharistic Procession the choir sang continuously and I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to the haunting beauty of their voices.
Leading up to Sunday, the Sister that cooks kept referring to the “feast” we were going to have. Well she was not exaggerating. There was an abundance of food at lunch, including french fries!! I was overjoyed to see them and took plenty. We had something called Sombosas, which I was happy to find I really liked. They’re basically closed bread pockets filled with meat and vegetables. There was also a cake that said, “Enjoy Life!”, ice cream and even soda. The sisters offered me some wine and assuming that there’s not really a drinking age in the sticks of Tanzania, I decided to try some. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it at all so you can relax mom and dad.
After a day of feasting and partying, I joined the sisters for evening prayer for the first time. This is something I plan on doing every day for my time here, as I am coming to realize how important prayer is in missions work especially.