It was a chilly September morning in the mountain town of Wimbe. Evangelists and church elders were gathered in the parish house. The women had on head scarves and brightly colored fabrics pulled around their shoulders while the men wore their jackets indoors. Huddled together, their voices joined in song:
Pamoja na wewe... Pamoja na wewe.
Katika safari yangu, nitembee na wewe...
'With you... With you... In my journey I walk with you..." Their words and their voices filled the sitting room and wrapped around us in a warm and hospitable embrace - a parting gesture that touched both heart and soul. We sang and we prayed and then we were sent on our way, surrounded then (and now) by so great a cloud of witnesses.
We say that prayer is one of the three pillars of the relationship that we share with the Iringa Diocese of the ELCT. More than that, our companions in Tanzania would say, prayer - with and for one another - is the most important thing that we do together. It is the primary activity from which everything else flows. What I observed in Wimbe was one expression of that belief.
I was in Wimbe with a visitor from their companion congregation in Circle Pines. We had spent two days with congregation members and leaders. We walked side by side along steep mountain paths - joined by the laughter of children at one moment and the mournful tune of a community burying one of their elders at the next. The sending prayer in the parish house was one of many times that our voices came together, and each was beautiful.
Even more beautiful is the knowledge that those prayers did not cease when our Land Cruiser worked its way down the mountain. The people of Wimbe, like those in Uhominyi, Kidewa, Mtera, Mlowa, and each of the other 72 partnered congregations continue to pray regularly for their companions in Saint Paul. They pray with specificity for those that they have met and those they have been connected with as prayer partners. They pray generally for those that they have not yet met, those who may never travel to Tanzania and for the wellbeing of our congregations and communities. They are with us, in prayer, in our joys and our sadness - our moments of strength and of vulnerability. In their prayer, they say, there is peace, there is power, and there is grace. Prayer, for them, is pure gift - offered freely and for all.
On Nov 11, at this year's Fall Festival
, we will experience, celebrate, and practice the gift of prayer. Throughout the morning different prayer stations will be available for us to try - from a labyrinth and prayer walk to creating an intercessory prayer chain. We will learn from Rahel Mwitula-Williams about the power of prayer and evangelism in the ELCT. We will join together in worship and we will hear from Bishop Gaville as he delivers a message that says, "Lord, Teach us to Pray..." Through all of this, we will add our voices and our stories to the great, global, cloud of witnesses.
And it, too, will be beautiful.
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega & Assistant to the Bishop