On our recent visit to Tanzania we were struck by how much has happened to the people we knew as children in 2004. We spoke to them in Swahili as elementary school children and now they are attending universities, speaking with us in English and, using all the modern communication techniques from computers to cell phones, sending us TSM messages and emails. It amazes us.
These beautiful Tanzanian children who are now young adults make a difference in our lives.
Roger and Kitty Schiltz, partners in mission as in life, share stories of their time in Tanzania.
Roger: When we go to Tanzania for two or three months, we take books with us as part of our spiritual journey.
Two years ago, reading two Orbis books by Franciscan sister Ilia Delio—The Unbearable Wholeness of Being and The Emergent Christ—and being with the people in Tanzania, we remembered that we are stardust and co-creators with our God in this beautiful cosmos. This year we brought with us two books by Richard Rohr OSF: Eager to Love and Hope against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety. And we learn that God is love and God is in our DNA and in everything.
We hope these pictures of our time this year in Chipole, along with the readings, will give an idea of our journey.
Kitty and Sr. Tuzinde, in the 10-acre Field of Dreams, are elated by seeing trees 5, 10, and 20 feet tall after years of fires. Sunflowers grow between the trees.
To prevent fires and to compost the soil, Roger cultivates the ten acres by hoe each year.
Children call Sr. Tuzinde Mama Miti —mother of trees. She is pulling the earth toward love and sustainability.
Roger feels like he is sitting on top of the world in the Field of Dreams.
We do have a little fun out here in this spiritual dreamland where God’s DNA is in everything. St. Francis would say, looking up at the stars and at all the creatures, “If these are the creatures, what must the creator be like?”
Kitty: While staying at St. Agnes Abbey in Chipole, Tanzania, this year, I decided to spend time with the youngest orphans. Since the older orphans were at school and pre-school, five of the youngest spent their mornings waiting for their older siblings to come home and play with them.
Mama feeding uji to Rosie. Joni is watching.
These young ones were just waiting for me to come each morning. They would be sitting on the floor, not yet walking. I came at porridge time when they were enjoying a cup of warm uji.
What do you do with five little children who can’t talk or walk yet? By the time I had their diapers changed, they were wet again, so I did not concentrate on dry babies. I wore old clothes and changed when I went home.
Lighty and the soccer ball.
I found an old soccer ball, and we learned to roll it to one another; but mostly I sang songs and held them on my lap. It became so natural to be with them each morning. Most of them were lively, and I picked them up and made them giggle. When I sang they would smile and move to the rhythm of the songs—except for one of them.
Kitty singing to Joni, Rosie, Lighty, and Omega. Antony has crawled off somehwere.
My challenge was to get that one to smile. Lighty was her name, shortened from Lightness. One of the first things I noticed about her was that she was not at all like her name.
She did not smile and she was chubby, not interested in moving or walking even though she was two years old. The ball was the one thing she really liked, so we played ball. Lighty began to smile and respond to the rhythm of the songs, to attempt to go after the ball. Finally, when I urged her to hold my hands and try to walk, she smiled up at me and tried. I felt joyful; now I miss the babies and wonder how they’re doing.
Kitty and Lighty and ball. Joni and Antony in background.
“First you do what is needed, then you do the possible. Then the impossible will happen.”
Kitty and I were in Chipole, Tanzania, waiting for the rain. Very little rain had fallen for five months. Everyone was waitting to plant when the new moon was in decline and the rainy season had begun.
This year we brought our daughter Laura and her friend Jenny with us. It was their first experience in Africa, and it was a pleasure being with them as they experienced the Tanzanian people. Two years ago, many people prayed for our daughter Laura when she was sick with Goodpasture Syndrome, a kidney disease. Many sisters in Chipole prayed for her. I was overwhelmed when I saw some of the sisters hug Laura, telling her that they had prayed for her and were happy to see her alive.
Many people we meet ask us, "What do you do over there in Tanzania? Where did you ever get the idea to be in Africa? " Our answer is that we don't know where the idea came from . We only know that we can't stop wanting to be there. We will be returning to Tanzania next Monday, October 15.
Kitty and I have been home in Lacey, Washington for nearly a month. The following pictures depict somewhat the experiences we have in Tanzania. A Maryknoll father was asked, "What should you do when you go to mission?" He said, "Do what gives you joy." I hope you can see in the following pictures what gives us joy. "Why it's almost like being in love. That can happen to you in Africa.
Dec. 21, 2011
We have had a very successful 3 weeks with the 15-17 school-age orphans. They have had math and English practice, singing and reading every day for 2-3 hours. We all enjoy the lessons and laugh a lot. Every night they come to our room to exchange reading story books to take with them to bed.
Since we were here last year some things at the orphanage have changed. The kids who attend primary school have moved to the dorms becaus the school is now a boarding school for the primary grades as well as the middle grades. This leaves only the smallest children "home" during the morning on school days. The children old enough for preschool come to the preschool in the mornings and return to the orphanage at lunchtime and remain there the rest of the day playing, eating and laughing.
We thought you might be interested in what we are doing to celebrate 100 years of Maryknoll and their presence in Seattle. Roger and I were part of a feature on Maryknoll in our local diocesan newspaper recently and the articles may interest you about us and about Maryknoll in Seattle. If you follow this link there are a number of articles here.
The way to Chipole is more than a certain amount of hours or miles from my home in Lacey, WA. It is worlds away. To be there I must let go of myself and my stuff. I must let go of my independence and worries about what I should wear or eat. And even after a 24 hour flight of a kazillion miles and a bus ride of many hours more I don't arrive there as ready as I should be for living with loving sisters and wiggly children, small living quarters and simple food.
"If you don't see me at the back of the bus, you can't find me nowhere, come on over to the front of the bus. I"ll be riding up there."
We left Chipole a few days ago. It's the home of the Benedictine Sisters of St. Agnes. What a beautiful experience and the beginning of a beautiful relationship with them. Working, singing, dancing and praying with them is a meaningful spiritual experience. It took us 21 hours to reach Chipole from Dar es Salaam, so in leaving, we decided to stop in a few places on the way hoping to have no breakdowns.
Kitty and I just arrived in Songea from Chipole. It's only one hour by car, but we take the bus. The bus takes four hours and leaves at 5 am. The bus's name is Tumaini (hope), which is appropriate. The Tumaini travels through every little village and the ride is bumpy. It travels through mud holes, but carries us, sisters from Chipole and many farmers with things to sell to Songea.