Friendships abroadThey went to build a church; they returned with hearts full of friendship. From late October to mid-November, members of Pilgrim Lutheran Church traveled to Arash, Tanzania. In the small bush community stood four walls that Superior residents helped turn into a church.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
They went to build a church; they returned with hearts full of friendship. From late October to mid-November, members of Pilgrim Lutheran Church traveled to Arash, Tanzania. In the small bush community stood four walls that Superior residents helped turn into a church.
“Traveling to Tanzania was an amazing opportunity,” said Amy Missinne, one of the church members. “The work we did is already making a difference in Arash and surrounding communities.”
The group left flush toilets, running water and electricity behind to travel “two days past the end of the road” and help others, said Pilgrim’s pastor, Will Mowchan.
But they received far more than they expected.
“I feel we developed friendships over there that will last for years,” said Dale Johnson, another church member who went on the trip.
At the outset, the project seemed overwhelming. Some of the materials were the wrong size, so they had to rip lengths of wood in half with hand saws. Although the walls were standing, the combined team of Superior and Tanzanian workers had to dig down a foot and a half below floor level, than fill the space with boulders, softball-sized rocks, gravel and concrete. They moved about seven dump truck loads of rock and dirt with their hands, buckets and wheelbarrows.
“Even the locals who were helping us were overwhelmed,” Johnson said, but it never entered his mind to give up and walk away.
“Everyone went to work and step by step it happened,” Mowchan said. “We all felt like it was a spirit thing; it shouldn’t have happened and we did it.” One afternoon, 100 school kids showed up and asked to help.
“They walked around out in the thorn bushes and the trees picking up gravel with their hands so we would have enough gravel. And we got enough,” Mowchan said. “It was really amazing.”
The Superior travelers missed the last two weeks of the mud-slinging, ad-heavy presidential campaign. Instead, they spent days in the open air and nights sleeping with the sound of hyenas in the distance. Within two weeks, the four walls had become a church they could worship in side-by-side with their Tanzanian partners.
Technology has brought the world closer together.
“You see a Maasai warrior lay down his spear and take out his phone and start texting,” Mowchan said. “And school kids have cell phones.” They know about our way of life. Although we in Superior many have many things and busy schedules, they told congregation members; in Tanzania, they have time for each other.
“And they say ‘we consider ourselves to be the rich ones because we have each other and you have things,’” Mowchan said. “And then you hear that and you think ‘wow, they have some things figured out that we maybe need to get back to or get to in the first place.’”
Pilgrim Lutheran’s pastor has traveled to Tanzania four times — three times with a Spooner congregation and once with the Superior group. He gets occasional calls from friends in Tanzania, usually at 2 a.m.
“You always know when it’s a Maasai calling because they know about cell phones but they don’t know about time zones,” Mowchan said with a smile.
When a congregation prepares for such a trip, the pastor said, they often go with the idea that they are helping someone in great need.
“And we went over there and we were all blown away by the fact that we saw and experienced again and again that they weren’t needy,” he said. “It was great to work together. We had things to give each other, that they had a lot to give us especially in terms of understanding what matters most in life.”
Johnson recalled taking pictures of the Maasai people as they were snapping shots of him with their cell phones. He left many tools in Arash for his friends.
“It is exciting to think about the lives we touched not only on the trip but in the preparation and homecoming as well,” Missine said.
The two congregations are, in a way, one. Arash Lutheran Church could be considered “Pilgrim East,” Johnson said.
“Or maybe we’re Arash West,” Mowchan said.
Taking such a trip often renews the church members who go, he said. They realize they can make a difference, then go out and do it. Along the way, they share their new enthusiasm and global view.
“It’s really an amazing, enriching educational experience, life changing in many ways,” Mowchan said, and it spreads ripples through the community.
Everyone in the community is invited to see pictures and hear stories of the mission trip. Presentations will be given during the 8:45 and 10 a.m. services Jan. 27 as well as during the Jan. 10 King’s Men gathering, which takes place at 6:45 a.m. Jan. 10 at the church, located at 820 Belknap St.