Sunday we were invited to preach at a church we had not yet visited; it was started after we left to return to the states by Pastor Paul Buhwahwa.
It was a different mountaintop experience than I’ve ever had before; let me tell you about it.
Since we had never been to the church before, we stopped at the pastor’s home and picked up him and his family so that they could show us the way to the church.
We drove along over the very muddy, water-covered road and maneuvered our way to the base of a hill; the pastor instructed us to park our vehicle. I began to have an uneasy feeling that I should have worn “walking shoes” rather than “church shoes”.
We proceeded to climb over the rocks and around the various houses until we arrived at the very top of the hill. The church sits on the top of the rocky hill and, in fact, the large rock at the top forms part of the floor of the church. I breathed a sigh of relief for having made the climb without injuring myself since I tend to be rather clumsy and accident prone.
As the service began, so did the rain. Within a few minutes there was a downpour in progress that sounded like a very loud drum as it beat upon the metal roof of the church. Soon, Tim and Pastor Paul had moved off the platform and were standing directly in front of the congregation yelling at the top of their lungs in an effort to be heard above the roar of the pounding rain on the metal roof.
The thunder began to to clap in harmony with the drumming on the roof and at the same time the wind began to blow with great gusto. The church has huge windows on all four sides of the rectangular shaped building which affords a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately, those huge windows are just gaping holes at this point since the church has not yet collected the money needed for actual windows.
So, added to the noise, we now have wind-driven rain blowing across the church in a near horizontal pattern. The people, in good Tanzanian fashion, accept what they cannot change and make the most of a bad situation; they move to the opposite side of the room and huddle together to stay dry and warm as Tim and Pastor Paul (acting as interpreter) continue to yell as loud as possible in an effort to be heard above the “roar of nature”.
Every few minutes the wind would change direction and thus the rain would pour in from a different direction causing everyone to shift again in an effort to stay moderately dry and warm.
To this scenario of rain, wind, shifting people and noise, add the valiant efforts of the board members to keep me and my belongings dry and you have the makings for a very funny “home video opportunity”. It was one of those occasions when it would have been great to have a video camera to capture all of this chaos in order to view it later.
The rain continued long after the service was over and we continued to move and shift around the church waiting for it to end. The choir sang, people visited, and the children played; Tanzanians take things in stride and accept life as it comes.
Finally, the pastor suggests that it has let up sufficiently to “make a run for it”. I immediately envision myself plummeting to my death at the base of the rain-soaked hill as we scramble over the rocks and through the mud. We kindly explained that I was physically incapable of “making a run for it” even over dry level terrain.
However, with a prayer and a firm determination to survive we started down the hill carefully; Tim in front of me leading the way.
We made it safely to the car, locked in the hubs and headed out in four-wheel drive through the water and mud. We arrived back at the pastor’s home along with the ten people who crowded into our Land Cruiser without getting stuck in the mud.
We had a lovely lunch and visit with Pastor Paul and his family and afterwards made our way home. I determined that in the future I would ask in advance about the location of the church and dress accordingly in case I have another “mountaintop experience”.
All in all, it was a good day and we survived to do it again!