Sundays here in Dodoma begin very early. There is an Anglican Church right next to where I am staying, and the first service begins at 7am. The 7 am service is in Swahili. I can hear everything, but I can’t understand what they are saying. The hymns, however, are often familiar. So, sometimes I hum along. Both the Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church across the street have English services at 9. I went to the Lutheran church last week, and yesterday I went to the Anglican Church. It is very interesting to see the differences in these services. At the Lutheran Church, I was the only non-Tanzanian. The English service at the Anglican Church, on the other hand, is almost all ex-pats, and several of them teach at the same school. The congregation is very warm and welcoming. I am even going to have dinner at a lady’s house tonight. So, I will probably continue to attend the Anglican Church.
Yesterday morning, I also met a nice lady from South Africa who is a missionary. I didn’t get her whole story, but I think she is just out and about traveling around spreading the Gospel. This is her first time in TZ, and she is just in Dodoma for a few days. I had to laugh, though, because she asked me if I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was very gracious, but, in my head I was thinking, “We’re at a church service…obviously I have some level of belief…” Although, I guess it is possible I would attend church for cultural reasons or to meet other ex-pats. I had a similar experience at the Lutheran Church last week. The pastor asked me if I was a Christian.
I’ve been thinking about the various conversations I’ve had since I’ve been here, thinking about them in terms of what is OK to discuss and what is not, what you can expect people to ask you about. Here in TZ, I think you can just expect people to ask about your religious beliefs. The will want to know if you are a Christian, what church (denomination) you attend, and, they may even ask you about specific theological points. For Americans, it may seem nosy or rude to talk about these things the first time you meet someone, but it’s common and normal here. I don’t mind, but I definitely know people who would feel offended or judged. However, it is important to remember that Tanzanians are genuinely interested in who you are and your beliefs. It’s part of normal conversation and getting to know you.
I’ve also hit the point where some aspects of being in a developing country are quite frustrating. Well, the main frustration is internet speed. There are days I can barely check my email, let alone do anything productive. Plus, I’ve had to pare down my internet usage at home because the internet company doesn’t have an unlimited plan anymore. So, I’m back to having almost nothing to do in the evenings. I’m hoping that getting connected to this church will give me some social outlets throughout the week. I might also talk to the people I work with about borrowing a TV.