I want to tell you a story about a Pentecost Sunday I experienced in 2003 and how it continues to teach me about loving God, loving other people, and what it means to show up every day!
I traveled with a group from Olympia, Washington to Haydom, Tanzania to support a friend who was there as an AIDS educator, working for the Lutheran church in Tanzania. We also came to experience community in the town of Iberoda. They needed help building their new community center/church. So, we worked “bega kwa bega” (shoulder to shoulder), mixing and pouring cement, cooking in clay pots over wood pit fires, hauling water from the river with a cart pulled by oxen, framing windows, talking about faith under Acacia trees, and holding babies that did not wear diapers.
Early in the week, after a long day in the sun, we turned to leave the village and walk back up to Haydom, where we were staying in a hospital complex. The villagers gathered at the road to bid us farewell and began dancing and singing in Swahili. We stopped, to enjoy the music. Then we began to try to do the dance steps and sing the song they were singing. They laughed and tried to teach us the song and the steps. Let me tell you, rhythm was not our forte, nor was speaking in Swahili, but we sure had fun trying.
We later learned that the translation of the song was the verse in Galatians 3:28—“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”
What a perfect place to sing that song. We felt like one, and the presence of God—the Spirit of God—was palpable in that place. I often go to that memory when I pray because I want to remember the deep joy and presence we experienced in that moment. We were all one in Christ Jesus!
On Sunday, a few days later, we attended their worship service in the building we were helping to complete, and it happened to be Pentecost Sunday.
Let me set the scene: There was no glass in the windows and the birds flew in and out. The wind was blowing through the windows, as we sat on rustic benches in that dirt-floored building. Everyone in our group was wearing the colorful clothing that had been given to us as gifts from the people of Iberoda.
As the service began, we heard several languages being spoken: Swahili, English and another local dialect. John Stroeh, our Pastor, was the one speaking English. At one point we looked at each other with expressions of awe and amazement. We were truly experiencing a Pentecost Sunday! The wind was blowing, different languages were being spoken, and there was an excitement and energy that filled the space.
The service lasted over two hours, and after the service we planted trees together so they could remember our presence there among them. That day I deeply experienced God’s presence and the beauty of community; the beauty of being united in a new way.
On this Pentecost Sunday there are three communities on my mind and heart:
There are some common experiences in all three of these communities:
So, a few reminders while we live now, in this community of Holden Village:
We create community by showing up with courage, joy, authentic communication, and most of all LOVE. The world will know us and our Creator not by our accomplishments or knowledge, not by all the projects we complete, but by our love—our messy, honest, courageous, expectant, love!