by Maria Roeber
Farah na amani! (Joy and Peace!)
My journey here started in State College, Pennsylvania where I’d been staying with my parents for the month of May, having moved out of my apartment in the DC area. While Mom headed to California to visit my brother, Dad drove me down to Washington, where I boarded a plane for London. My next flight took me to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Next I flew to Mwanza, a smaller city on the Eastern side of Lake Victoria. My fellow OCMC Missionary, Michael Pagedas, welcomed me to town and we spent a couple of days resting there before taking an overnight ferry across Lake Victoria to Bukoba!
I’m living in a house belonging to the Orthodox Church, right next to Twelve Apostles Orthodox Church, quite a fitting name since my first Sunday Liturgy here fell on the Feast of Pentecost! Between Matins and Liturgy, Kneeling Vespers and the Churching of a mother and child, the service lasted about four hours! Quite a welcome! I now know a few more phrases in Kiswahili: “Bwana hurumia,” means “Lord, have mercy,” and “Amina” means “Amen!” I’ve also learned that “Karibu!” means, “Welcome!” and everyone here says it to me! “Asante” means, “Thank you!” and I say that word more than anything else!
The weather here is a balmy 75 degrees, with blue skies and sunshine all day, every day. We’re officially in the “dry season,” so I’m being diligent about sunscreen and hats, as we’re very close to the equator . Outside the house are palm trees and roses in the front garden, as well as an avocado tree in the back yard! We’ ve had guacamole for dinner a couple of times already!
Speaking of food, the diet here consists mostly of carbohydrate staples like beans and rice, and potatoes. We eat those every day for our main meal, and usually have some type of fried bread for breakfast. I’ve eaten pineapple and guava so far, and vegetables are usually green peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. Dairy is fairly non-existent, although you can buy eggs here. Meat is rare in our household diet. We do have access to bottled water, which I am drinking almost to the exclusion of anything else!
Each morning the church bells awaken us for Matins, which is served at 7 a.m., and every evening we hear Father ring the bell for Vespers at 6 p.m. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, we go to Liturgy. I’m blessed to have a copy of the Divine Liturgy with Kiswahili on one page and English on the next, so I am able to participate a little. I’ve been made most welcome in the congregation by many people, but especially by Simeon, our priest’s 16 month-old son. Simeon toddles up to me any time I enter church and either grabs my fingers to hold my hand or throws both of his arms around my knees until I pick him up. He’s been a delightful companion, as he’s in about the same language-development stage as I!
I have so much more to tell you, but I’ll save it for another update. Overall, I am well and am almost adjusted to the time change, I’m making small journeys into town to learn my way around and accomplish chores and errands, and I am blessed to live with dear friends and missionaries from the United States, so I am well supported by people who’ve been here for nearly a year.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support over the past year! I wouldn’t be here without you, and I am so excited to begin my ministry as a nurse and more importantly as a loving witness for Christ! You are in my prayers and I ask for yours! Glory to God for all things!