Many years ago, while still new to Tanzania, I met a very
old Kuria woman at Kiagata Parish whose name was Stella. She was the nice old
grandmother type. It was Sunday morning. After a half hour of preparation, we
were ready to begin our church service. As the opening song began, Stella was
standing right in front of me. I don’t know what it was. I’m certain it wasn’t
the music, nor was it my Swahili or liturgical expertise. Nevertheless, I
witnessed a minor miracle. Old Stella began to change right before my eyes! The
wrinkles began to smooth out. Her skin softened and began to shine. Her cheeks
rounded out to such a beautiful smile that spread across her face. As the old Kuria do, she started moving up and down in rhythm with the music. Finally she
let out the vigelegele, that traditional African shrill of happiness. Throughout
the service, Stella smiled and looked so happy. Her mood was contagious as we
all began to feel pretty good about things.
As I sat with Stella in front of me that day, I could not
help but feel a special presence in our midst. I began to realize the power and
majesty of the Holy Spirit. As I returned to the rectory later in the day, I
felt that I had been blessed. I had seen my God!
It’s now eighteen years later. As I sit here thinking of
evangelization, my thoughts center on Christ’s Spirit alive and in our midst. My
mind and heart instantly bring me back to that day when my old Kuria friend,
Stella, evangelized me. For it was from that simple service in such a stark
place among a dumb-founded community that the Spirit descended. And, on that day
so long ago, a young seminarian emerged with that fervent desire to go out and
to preach the good news to all people. How grateful I am to have met Stella!