Talk about teachable moments in Tanzania. At the
Saturday night Easter Vigil in an outstation in the Serengeti District during
the many scripture readings relating how God has intervened in our human
history, it started to rain. Since the church has a corrugated sheet metal roof,
the nice steady rain made quite a bit of noise as we sat by kerosene lanterns
I began my homily by asking the women elders a question.
They are a tough bunch, weathered in body and spirit by long hard years living
in the African bush. I love ’em; they’re my favourites. I turn to them and ask
in a loud voice: "Wakungu ("old women" in the local language), what do you
think? This is the most important liturgical service of the whole year. Now we
have this rain beating on the roof and we can’t hear very well. How about if I
ask God to stop the rain right now so we can hear what’s going on?" The old
women hesitated a bit not wanting to offend me, then overcoming their
reservations responded in a loud chorus "NO". Some hastened to add comments like
"We can hear good enough!" The reason for the clear rejection of my proposal was
simply that these rugged old women were hearing God in the rain.
Of course I knew how they would answer because this rain
represented the end of a fierce 10-month long drought, one of the worst I’ve
seen here in 18 years. Everyone in that church knew that finally, after this
long, hard time, God was present to them in their daily needs – intervening, if
you will, in their personal history.
I say this was a teachable moment because we were about to
pour that same water over the heads of 80 adults, giving them a new life in
Baptism. So it was easy going as I preached about life-giving waters. Later when
I doused each catechumen with the water,
there was a powerful lot of singing and dancing going on.