Orthodox Christian Mission Center’s Blog

April 1, 2008

Update from OCMC Missionary Ed Pier


MISSION LOCATION: Archdiocese of Bukoba & Mwanza, Tanzania, Africa

REPORT DATE: February 2008

MISSIONARY; HOME PARISH:  Edwin (Joseph) Clark Pier; Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church, Shoreline, Washington USA.

Habari za nyumbani? (How are you/is everything at home?)

What is he up to now?

I have arrived in Tanzania, Africa.

I’m finishing my 2nd week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, at the Tanzania Swahili Language School.  I arrived on Monday evening (Jan 28) and checked in with the school and my host family the next day. I then made phone contact with the office of the Metropolis in Bukoba.  I am now taking about 5 hours of Kiswahili language class a day, 6 days a week.

To Africa By Way of Guatemala?

But first, let me go back.  The journey here started earlier in January when I had the opportunity to return to Guatemala with some folks from International Children’s Charities who were drilling a water well for a village near Flores. I was there for about a week learning how to operate an older drill rig with a couple of real experts from the states—Paul Billings and Bob Perry (both own their own drilling companies)—who served as my teachers. The point of this trip was to learn how to operate the drilling rig  because we understood that the diocese in Bukoba may have similar well drilling equipment, so anything I could learn in advance could be useful.  Why Guatemala?  Couldn’t find an outfit in the US that would take me on for the short time I had available before departure except this philanthropic group. We were the big attraction in the “village” – just an area including clusters of farm huts —that week.

I tried to set up a visit to the Hogar Rafael Ayau Orphanage as I passed through Guatemala City, and was engaged in a happy call with Madre Inez when we were disconnected.  An email that I then sent to try to set up a visit didn’t get through to her either, so perhaps next time. I did get to speak with Madre Ivonne by phone, though, and we had a wonderful talk. I was also able to talk with Rudolfo and Eric via Madre’s speaker phone.

Then England. . .

5:00 in the morning, after my flight returned to San Diego from Guatemala, found me boarding my flight to Tanzania via England and St. John the Baptist Monastery in Essex.  I stayed at the monastery a week and had the opportunity to speak with Fr. Simeon.  I also took a little hike up to Layer Mawn (approx. name), an old English manor and church that had been built back in the 1400s.  Interesting to me was a wooden screen in this old Church of England, located between the sanctuary and the choir/altar area, that reminded me very much of an Orthodox iconostasis.

Finally, Africa.

On to Tanzania, or, more properly, Dar es Salaam.  If I only had one word to describe what I’ve seen so far it would be poignant.  My first impression of this country was one of beauty with so much potential but weighted down with the burden of poverty.  But it would be a mistake to pity the place or the people.  There seems to be a lot of personal industry, positive outlook and a great tolerance for each other.  Christians, Muslims, people of “traditional” faiths, all working and living alongside and intermingling with each other. For now, I don’t get a feeling of tension or depression: struggle, yes; hopelessness, no.  We will see how this impression holds.

First Impressions:

·       Teenage Muslim girls peering over the gate of their Muslim secondary girls’ school making what appear to be gentle catcalls at their young male counterparts passing by on the street as they duck their heads and smile self-consciously. 

·       An LA-type traffic jam on a two lane highway, one youngish man jogging loosely up between the stalled lanes of traffic pulling a little flat-cart, his buddy sitting kind of sprawled on the cart, his arms extended out behind him as he leans back on his hands; both just relaxed and moving with the breeze as they pass between the cars.

·       The easy, relaxed flow of the movement we all have when we must walk along the road in this heat and humidity.

·       The local newspaper reporting only 2 deaths for last night. Quite a switch from my time in Iraq and Guatemala City. . .or any other major city I’ve been in in the USA.

Home Stay

I’m being hosted by an older African couple, Anna and Alan Kaduri. He’s a retired agriculturalist who used to work for the National Government, and, she’s running a secretarial service business of her own. They have four daughters: three in the US, two of which are married to African Americans.  Mama Anna is making me fat (trying to resist her demands to eat more is like, well . . . there’s just no point).  Every night after he gets home, Baba Alan and I sit together outside in the front to take in the evening cool. They are two extremely gracious hosts.  Alan and his brother both converted from Islam in their young adulthood and became Christian. Anna has always been a devout Christian. They are Lutherans (recall that Tanganyika was colonized by the Germans before the British took it after WWI).  Their local daughter is a young psychiatrist married to an attorney with the Government’s Central Bank. They have a beautiful young son, Madiba, three years old., who is lovingly spoiled by bibi Anna and babu Alan.  He seems to be taking to me pretty well so far, so that’s good.  Best to be on good terms with the king of the house.

While the Kiduris usually set a fairly western-style table, we ate traditional ugali the other night.  Ugali is a kind of really thick mush.  One batch was made from maize and another one from millet and sorghum. Sauces are served with vegetables and accompanied by meat.  Also, traditionally, you eat with your hand. The “houseboy”, Msiferi, got a real kick seeing me eat with my hand, licking my fingers and enjoying the food. It really cracked him up.

Hagia Paraskevi GOC

My first Sunday, I went to the Greek Orthodox Church of Hagia Paraskevi (Patriarchate of Alexandria), Archbishopric of Irinoupolis, built in 1952.  This is the Cathedral of the Dar es Salaam metropolis of the Greek Orthodox Church in Tanzania. His Eminence, Metropolitan Dimitrios, stays here when he’s not out visiting his missions in Iringa, Arusha and other provinces. His Eminence is from Greece and a former monk from Rhodes. He has spent many years as a missionary in India, the Philippines and Africa.  Father Frumentios (Tanzanian) presides over the parish. Father is a former Roman Catholic who became Orthodox about eight years ago.  That first Sunday, there were about eight Greeks/Cypriots, an Indian family, an Armenian man, myself and about forty African Tanzanians.  All those chanting and serving were Tanzanians.  The service was in three languages: Greek, Kiswahili and a little English. According to Father, they are having a lot of growth in eastern and central Tanzania, especially around Arusha and Iringa.  .Apparently they are receiving a lot of help from some Greek monastics and Greek churches.  Excellent!

The following Wednesday I met with Metropolitan Demetrius who was back in town.  He gave me a very warm welcome and we had a good talk about the work going on in his Metropolis. He is quick to make use of his assets and drafted me to present a homily this last Sunday on my conversion.

What’s the Plan?

After studying and practicing my Kiswahili for several more weeks, I will transfer to the Metropolis of Bukoba and Mwanza around mid-March.  There I will determine from His Eminence Jeronymos more details of what he wants to have me do.  

“As I see it, one of my responsibilities is to be your representative here; I am your presence with the people of Bukoba/Mwanza, Tanzania.” Your contributions enable me to be here and act in your name, to extend your community to the people and staff of this Metropolis. Please help me in this task by making a donation payable to OCMC and designated for “Edwin Pier” on the memo line. Please mail it to:  OCMC, P.O. Box 4319, St. Augustine, FL 32085-4319, or by going online to http://www.ocmc.org/giving.php and making your donation there to my name, Edwin Pier, under “Long Term Missionaries.”

Asante Sana

(Thank you very much!)


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