Upon Rock or Upon Sand?

Tabora has one mosque and three Christian churches: Anglican, Catholic and Lutheran. The mosque is a brick or cinder-block plastered structure, painted blue and white with at least three sets of double doors (two on the front, one on the side) It is probably the largest building in the village with the exception of the primary school. In contrast, two of the Christian churches are renting space in the sisal tenement houses, and one (the Lutheran church) is in a clay-and-wattle structure on the Western edge of town.

The Lutheran church is not planning on staying in their grass-roofed building however. They are currently in the process of building a new structure, larger and made out of bricks which the members are hand-making on the church land. The foundation of mortared stones has already been laid, and they are currently in the process of acquiring the resources to continue construction.

I had the opportunity to sit for a couple hours with the pastor (or walimu, which literally means ‘teacher’) in order to help him de-kernel maize and discuss a trip to his shamba (notable for his use of self-taught farming practices mentioned in the last post). As we were sitting there filling his green 20 liter bucket with loose corn kernels, a neighbor woman came by with a large sack of dry corn already taken off the cob. Moses, the pastor, greeted her, took the sack from her arms, and emptied it into another sack sitting behind his door before returning to his own task.

When I asked him about the exchange, he told me that the corn she had brought was for the church. It was to be sold in order to buy whatever else they need (perhaps mortar) to continue building their new structure. I was at once impressed at the cooperation of church members for a single purpose (a cooperation I haven’t seen on a large scale in the US for at least 10 years) and concerned about the effect such donations would have on the food supply of the families during the hunger season. These families are all already tithing and giving special offerings to the Sunday school. And it seems that further donations only increase the burden.

I’m torn with how I feel about this new church building. On one hand, I find myself wondering how much this building is really needed. Their attendance ranges from only a dozen to too many to fit, but on most Sundays is somewhere in between and fits comfortably into the space they already have. I also am unsure if a brick structure is the best choice. Couldn’t they simply make another larger clay-and-wattle building? On the other hand, during the Sundays of highest attendance they do run out of space to put people. Furthermore, faith is a really important part of the culture here and I can understand the desire to provide the best space possible for worship.

So I cannot figure out how should I view this sort of decision making. I don’t know how to feel about it personally, and I’m not sure if or how the Tabora project should respond to situations like this.

The new church foundation with the current church in the background:

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About Joshua Paul

Due to his father's military background, Joshua spent his childhood moving throughout the continental United States. Though he did not travel out of the country until his teens, Joshua has been interested in cultural anthropology and linguistics as long as he can remember. A recent graduate from St. John's College in Annapolis with a B. A. in Liberal Arts, he has studied ancient Greek and French for literary purposes. He currently lives near Boise, Idaho.
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One Response to Upon Rock or Upon Sand?

  1. yakub says:

    Great work Joshua, be blessed brother and thank you

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