2017 Mission Trips to Guatemala & Tanzania

In August 2017, several members of Holy Trinity went on missionary trips to Tanzania & Guatemala.  In Tanzania, we support a local parish in Isimani and we are setting up their very first library for their school.  Meanwhile, in Guatemala City, we will be visiting Fundaniños Orphanage to serve the the children who grow, attend school, and play at their home church Casa de Libertad. We’ll be purchasing school materials with your generous donations, leading games/crafts, making a special meal, offering food staples to neighbors as an outreach project, and reinforcing “living” Jesus principles while playing or solving little conflicts between children!

Please enjoy the daily updates from these mission trips.  Pastor George Koch, our sitting interim Pastor, will be writing updates on the Tanzania trip.  Cristina Dolcino, an International Social Ministry leader, will send updates that have been written by the youth and adults while in Guatemala.

Visiting Fundaninos by Daniel Levin

Posted by Mark Donahue on Thursday, August 24, 2017 @ 10:40 AM

Hello, this is Daniel Levin.  I am 15 years old and attend Portsmouth High School.  I went to Fundaniños children’s home in Guatemala from Sunday, August 6 through Sunday, August 13.  I visited along with six others including four other teenagers and two chaperones.  The purpose of our trip was to get to know the kids, spend time with them, play with them, learn about Guatemala and do some work in Fundaniños and in the surrounding communities.  The seven of us will be giving a talk to the church about our trip, and will show some of the photos we took. 

One moment that struck me was when my brother and I, along with some of the kids from Fundaniños, were sitting on a big wooden swing in a gazebo.  The gazebo was on the Fundaniños property, overlooking a soccer field also on the property.  It was a sunny day, not too hot and not too humid.  The kids did not have school so we spent most of the day playing.  Some of the kids had been asking me to play music, certain songs which were popular there at the time.  When I was sitting at the gazebo, one of the kids asked me to play music so I agreed.  Pretty soon, some other kids who had been playing nearby heard the music and came around, dancing.  Before I knew it, there were five other people on the swing, and fifteen total kids singing and dancing.   This moment was a very big eye opener to me because before, some of the kids had kept to themselves (which would be understandable because of the rough backgrounds they had, which would make it hard to trust people).  But in this moment, they heard the music and were happy and truly danced like nobody was watching.  This moment was very real and pure and uplifting.  It was very good to see all of the kids being so easygoing and happy.

When I returned to the U.S., I was reminded of how good we have it here, including little things like hot water, washing machines, and accessible hospitals and doctors.  But the biggest change I noticed was the difference in security.  In Guatemala, I saw barbed wire fences everywhere and security guards with guns even around McDonald’s.  I realize how fortunate we are in the U.S. to have trust in our neighbors. 

Tanzania 8/16/2017: "Heart of Darkness" and the Heart of God.

Posted by Mark Donahue on Thursday, August 17, 2017 @ 9:32 AM

Our final two days here in Africa have been on the Spice Island of Zanzibar. The clove plant is native here, and its quality is so pure that it is highly regulated by the government. Clove Growers must sell to the government any amount of cloves they produce over 20 lbs. The government then controls both price and and quality for this important Spice.

Other spices grown here include Pepper (green, red, white and Black), Vanilla, Cinnamon, and Cardamom. It is a wonderful, magical place.

In addition, its white sand beaches on the Indian Ocean make it a tourist Mecca,  especially for our friends in South Africa and Australia who are on "winter break" now ( remember that their seasons are reversed from ours). Zanzibar has been a wonderful end to two weeks learning about Africa: both the good and bad, the rich and poor. No one who comes to Africa leaves unchanged. I will leave a part of my heart in Africa as well.

But there is an underside to the story which spans two continents and hundreds of year. And that is the story of slavery. For Zanzibar is the home of one of the most pernicious slave markets in the world where for almost two hundred years Arab, European and Indian traders - as well as native chiefs - made themselves rich by selling fellow human beings like cordwood. There are no clean hands here. Everyone benefited from the practice of slavery. 

Joseph Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, begins  on a boat in the Thames in London, where the narrator, Marlowe, is telling others about his trip down the "the River of Darkness"( the Congo) to meet an unsavory ivory trader, Kurtz. In the novel Conrad shows that there isn't much difference between so-called civilized people and those described as savages; Although Heart of Darkness raised questions about  imperialism and racism in 18th Century Britain, it could have just as easily been talking about current events.

Our African friends wonder why America isn't living up to its message if freedom and justice for all. Remember, many of them can recall colonial rule and the lack of freedom and mobility they had at that time. They see events like Charlottesville and wonder about America's commitment to equality and opportunity.

 I preached at both Isimani and Montibete over the last two weeks. At both churches I quoted St. Paul: "In Christ there is no male or female, no slave or free." He  makes sure that the early church understood that in Jesus the old distinctions break down.  If he walked the earth today, he would have said there is no distinction between Tanzania and American, no distinction

Between Black and White. God's  love, in Christ eliminates all human distinctions. And Christ's commandment to love as we have been loved mean that our distinctions also melt away.

Our African friends know this already. They embrace us like brothers and sisters. They share what they have. And they pray for US, as a congregation and as a nation. 

Because of human sin, there will always be problems like racism. But we know that God's love is greater than our sin and we look for the day that all will truly be one in Christ.

------////////

BLOGS are the first reflections of an author and they demand further reflection and thought. We will have plenty of time to reflect on this African journey into the fall.

Blessings,

George

Tanzania 8/14/2017: East of Eden; South of the Nile

Posted by Mark Donahue on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 @ 9:20 AM

1) East of Eden. The Rift Valley in East Africa spreads like a jagged scar across the landscape, unearthing millions of years of archaeological history in the process. It was here that the earliest humanoids lived; it was from here that they migrated east and north. If unspoiled Africa was the original Garden of Eden, then this area was "east if Eden" from where the earliest humanoids scattered all over the earth.

Although not as well-known as similar sites north (where the fossil "Lucy" was found) the prehistoric site at Isimelia is no less important. First excavated in the late 1950's by the University of Chicago, the sIte contains Stone Age tools such as axes, knives and spear points.

The site is in a narrow valley, a "wadi" which is dry much of the year but has  pools and wet spots which allow animals to drink, as they have for millennia. It was here that the early humans hunted animals and gave them game upon which to feed.

Thus narrow valley also has hundreds of sandstone pillars which are covered by lava from ancient volcanoes. It is a place of incredible serenity and beauty. We visited this area on Friday, just before hopping on the bus to go to the Masai Reservation in Montebete on Saturday.

2) The Masai - South of the Nile. 

 All relationships in Tanzania are personal in nature and it has been a personal relationship between Pastor Paul Korpaschi and Dot & Kurt Kasik which has begun a relationship with the Masai people.

Masai are nomadic, and fairly recent converts to Christianity, thanks to evangelist’s called Wandering Shepherds.  Masai do not believe in private ownership of the land, but rather graze cattle and goats on the semi-arid lands around Montibete. When the government of Tanzania (TZ for short) declared their ancestral homeland of the Serengeti to be park land, they were given similar land in Montibete.

Masai have been monotheistic since the beginning, shepherds of large flocks and circumcise their sons at age 16. They believe that they are the descendants of Noah, living in the land "from Mesha in the direction of Sephar, the hill country of the east."

At first skeptical about the divinity of Jesus, the Masai were able to embrace Christianity after their own people became Wandering Shepherds and lived with them as they traveled with their flocks. Pastor Korpaschi was one of the first Wandering Shepherds and now acts in an administrative capacity. The Masai are part of the Southern Diocese of Tanzania which is normally partnered with the Western Iowa Synod (just as the Iringa Diocese is partnered with the Saint Paul Synod). But like Isamani, we can partner with the Masai if both New England and Western Iowa Synod agree.

Although they have many needs, they would like to setup a SACCOS, the micro financing organization to help individuals to get off the ground. They already have a committee formed and early pledges. They also need a cash infusion to the SACCOS and ask our help, something for our council to explore.

Like the people at Isamani, the Masai fed us, gave us shelter for the night and clean water to wash. And like the people from Isamani, their hospitality was heartfelt, genuine and warm. 

We saw the young males do the jumps to prove their manhood and chatted with the elders at dusk. At worship, I was asked to preach and we gave them gifts of soccer balls, small dresses for the girls and items for women.

One has to be impressed with tie beauty and faithfulness of the Masai People. Like the visit to our friends at Iringa and Isamani, our time went by too quickly.

Yesterday, Monday was another transition day driving eight-plus hours to Dar es Salaam.

Till later, George 

Tanzania 8/13/2017: "Bega Kwa Bega" and the whole experience of Africa.

Posted by Mark Donahue on Monday, August 14, 2017 @ 9:46 AM

1) The danger of a single story. Often when we think of third world places like Africa, we think stereotypically of the overwhelming poverty. Certainly the story of poverty contains some truth, but it is just one story... For the poverty of Africa is a financial poverty,  not a poverty of caring, generosity, resiliency and good will. You can not live with Africans for even a few days without noticing these other traits.

2) "Bega Kwa Bega" [Swahili for "shoulder to shoulder"]. Each of the 65 synods in the ELCA is connected to a global companion Synod. In New England our companion is the Lutheran Synod of Jordan and the Holy Lands (we support missionaries there). The Minneapolis Synod is the official companion of the Iringa Diocese of the Tanzania Lutheran Church. We are also in Iringa with the blessings of the Minneapolis Synod because of Joe Lugalla's long term membership at Holy Trinity.

Minneapolis Synod and the Iringa Diocese have developed a special way of working together in partnership called "Bega Kwa Bega." Americans coming to Africa the first time are set up by Bega Kwa Bega to experience everything Africa offers. Again, this is to allow Africans to tell more of their story. Thus for the last three days we have visited the largest nature park in Africa - The Ruaha- as well as a Stone Age digging site.

3) The Safari and return. Originally the sport of wealthy people to kill African beasts, the current safaris are used to promote conservation and counteract global warming. We spent two days in this natural "garden of eden" living in the animal's habitat. We saw Impalas, Dik-diks, leopards, baboons, zebras, giraffes, lions, hippos and crocodiles. It gives you a sense of proportion of how vast the created world is and how small a part man plays in it.

When we returned, we also stopped at a school for "at risk" children. Your benevolence helps to support this "House of Mercy" which offers a complete life for at risk or otherwise disabled children.

4) Today (Friday) we also toured the Nema Crafts workshop run by our Episcopalian friends in Tanzania. Handicapped people in Africa are often killed just after birth. Nema House offers them good job skills and a productive job. Our tour guide for Nema was one it the first employed. He now is the supervisor. Nema Crafts offers hope to people who formerly had no hope, and a way for them to make a living.

5) the Iringa Diocese- we also spent time with the General Secretary of the Synod ( the Bishop's right hand man), learning what the Synod does from replanting seedlings.  

Next Blog - Stone Age tools and Masai wisdom. Stay Tuned!

Blessings,

George

Guatemala 8/10/2017: Day 5

Posted by Mark Donahue on Sunday, August 13, 2017 @ 11:32 AM

Top Left: Casa del Destino

Top Right: Antigua market

Guatemala 8/9/2017: Day 4 by Jonah Levin

Posted by Mark Donahue on Sunday, August 13, 2017 @ 11:26 AM

Today we woke up and had donuts for breakfast. The children enjoyed them as almost as much as we did. Next we walked the children to school and began our choirs. Tory, Juanita, Christina, and Kay continued to paint the boys house while Jonah and Alex cut pipes near the schoolhouse and Dan mowed the grass near the goats. Next Jonah, Dan, and Alex helped Dennis and Barb move to their new house and were rewarded handsomely with guatemalan gatorade and cupcakes. We had sandwiches for lunch with the children and then we played four square and soccer. After that we rested for a bit then we played water balloon toss with some of the kids which quickly escalated into a full on war which ended in a bucket of water being dumped on the kids (at their request). We had a delicious traditional guatemalan chicken dinner with rice. After dinner we played more four square and then we played a big game of soccer with a lot of kids until it got dark. And then we went to bed!

Jonah Levin

Tanzania 8/12/2017: "Without a vision the people perish."

Posted by Mark Donahue on Sunday, August 13, 2017 @ 11:08 AM

There have been two overwhelming changes for the good in the Isimani parish. First, Holy Trinity paid for electric lines to be strung to the church from where the poles stopped. The church,

Parsonage and outbuildings now have light, the girls at the sewing class have electricity.

Photos (see above):

  • Members dancing to electronically amplified music! How having electricity has captured their imagination!
  • Pastor Msungu and Kurt Kasik inspect furniture made by members.
  • Panoramic view of one of the new building sites.

Second, Pastor Livingstone Msungu has been a godsend. When he arrived the place was dispirited, people were leaving and the place looked tired.

Not yet 30 Pastor Msungu through a great vision for the parish and a personality which shows leadership and a respect for elders, has infected the people with a can-do spirit. Two preaching points which almost closed are dreaming about building Church buildings which will cost them about 2 Million T Schillings (about $1,000).

One preaching point is going through a building renewal. There is a keen yearning for growth and people are coming back. We can not praise Pastor Msungu and his church elders who are making such great things happen!

It is not only a parish that needs vision; it is a need by individuals to help give them direction. We met with one of our scholarship students who has graduated from secondary school. Next year she will be off to the university and medical school.

All of these things are possible because of your generous gifts, your prayers and concern for the people of Isimani!! The people there wish to say to you, "Asante Sana" (thank you very much!

Blessings,

George

Tanzania 8/11/2017: The past week at Isimani

Posted by Mark Donahue on Sunday, August 13, 2017 @ 9:41 AM

Although the large city of Iringa lies only 312 miles from Dar es Salaam, it takes over eight hours of actual drive time to get there. So after breakfast on Friday, we boarded our bus to Iringa. There is no accurate census count for Dar, but estimates say around two million people live there and the traffic reflects that. Not only did we have to fight trucks, busses and the occasional personal auto, but also pedestrians, motorbikes and little three wheeled vehicles called tikitiki for possession of the road.

The road was four lanes wide out of Dar through the suburbs, and then down to two lanes the rest of the way. Although this road goes on to Dodoma (the capitol of Tanzania), it has only recently been paved so it is relatively modern. Along the way you see houses and buildings with a red x on them. These will eventually be torn down to make room for a four lane highway, many years away. So people still live in them although they will eventually have to leave.

With two lanes, much truck traffic and "sleeping policemen" (speed bumps) to slow you down in every village, it took all of eight hours of driving to get to Iringa and the Lutheran Center where we stay. A joint project is the Iringa Diocese of the Lutheran Church in Tanzania and the Minneapolis Synod of the ELCA, it houses churches coming on mission trips and other sojourners. We had a late dinner, jumped into clean beds with mosquito netting and sacked out.

Sunday morning we got up to an early breakfast and the one hour trip to Isimani. Pastor Msigua from the Diocese came with us as translator.  Our first stop was the " church center in Iringa, our first place of worship. 

We were warmly welcomed are the bus pulled into the village by people carrying branches, waving and singing, much like they did for Jesus on Palm Sunday. There was singing and dancing going on inside of the church when we got there, a joyful welcome by hundreds of people for us. 

Photos (see above)

  • People came as parishioners of the church center and the six satellite branches.
  •  I preached and baptized a young woman named Stella and assisted in communion. 
  • There were even some Masai in full costume:

The three hour service flew swiftly by and then it was on to Lunch.

Blessings,

George 

Guatemala 8/8/2017: Day 3 by Juanita Sihotang

Posted by Mark Donahue on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 @ 1:46 PM

Hey from Guatemala! This is Juanita, coming from the Fundaniños orphanage! We started off our day by going to the comedor (dining room) for breakfast where we feasted on some pretty delicious donuts from the supermarket. After breakfast, the kids got ready for school and separated ways at 7:30 and our group went off to finish some service projects around the property such as painting trim on the houses, mowing the lawn, and cutting down brush growing over the fence. After that, we took a small break to wash up and get ready for the first lunch with the younger group of kids. During lunch, although it is slightly more difficult for those who don’t speak as fluently and don’t understand their slang, the kids are very nice and happy about teaching a couple of their words here and there. 

We finished the day playing four square, dabbling in a small soccer game, and playing on the playground.  My favorite part is seeing not only myself, but seeing the rest of the people in my group connect with these kids and be so much more happy in a way that I don’t think you would be able to understand without undergoing a trip like this. So glad to be experiencing something so different from what I’m used to. See you all in a couple days!

Sincerely,

Juanita Sihotang

Guatemala 8/7/2017: Day 2 by Tory Liebel

Posted by Mark Donahue on Tuesday, August 8, 2017 @ 2:30 PM

Hi from Guatemala!
            This is Tory Liebel, and I’m a 16 year old from Greenland, New Hampshire! It’s the second day of our mission trip, and I couldn’t be happier to say that this experience is already creating an impact on my life. All of the children at Fundaniños are so grateful for everything they are provided with, whether it be a special meal, a soccer ball, or even just someone sitting down and talking with them. For instance yesterday, Juanita (another person in our mission group) and I were spotted by a 6 year old girl who immediatly sparked a connection with us. She was so excited to have someone paying her just a few minutes of attention, and overall seeing how happy all of these children get is truly incredible to be a part of.
            For this being only the second full day of the trip, the amount of love between the mission group and the children of Fundaniños is only to grow so much more. Today we plan on venturing outside of the kid’s home, and to the surrounding neighbors where we ill be delivering basic necessities of food and supplies.
            Within this mission trip, I hope to create connections with the majority of kids here, and show them that there is always someone out in the world that loves them; especially being under the care of the house parents and directors here at Fundaniños. I also want to learn something about myself that I can have back home to my friends and family. I am already so extremely thankful for the opportunity to come out here to Guatemala, and I can’t wait to see what the next few days have in store for us.

Adios!
Tory Liebel

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