Good Friday morning ...
The water in the village of Piaya is bitter. Even if it is boiled, it leaves a harsh, unpleasant aftertaste.
The rancorous trace is still evident in a piping hot, sweetened, goat-milk-flavored cup of chai. And even when used in making the traditional dish of ugali, a daily staple food for the Maasai, the bitter taste is evident. Like an unripe persimmon, it turns the mouth inside out ... the nasty pungency lingering long after it is consumed.
But now there is another source of water ... at least at the Lutheran dispensary operated by Dr. Steve Friberg. It is not a persistent source like the downward flow of the stream from which the bitter water is extracted. But it is available at certain times of the year when rains are plentiful (normally two times a year).
This new source of water is available to dispensary patients and staff due to the on-site construction of a 55,000-liter masonry tank and the installation of gutters to the fascia boards of the clinic and staff housing.
The water dripping from the roof into the gutter is collected and stored in the tank from which it is drawn when needed. It tastes a bit dusty (obviously capturing the dust on the roof as it drips over the edge into the gutter) ... but the taste is far better and much more appreciated than the tart water from the stream.
This new source of water is yet another simple project of the Maasai Mission Fund and the teams that accompany me to Tanzania. Several years ago, Dr. Steve, Paulo (a young Maasai fundi) and I made the long, arduous trek to this distant village located at the base of a huge escarpment that borders the eastern Serengeti. It was then that we fashioned make-shift gutters to direct the rain water into the tank located at the corner of the clinic. Upon completion, the clinic staff, village leaders and local Christians were ecstatic with joy.
Piaya is the location of a lively congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania ... fostered in its infancy by an enthusiastic Evangelist named Cusmos.
It is a miracle that such a congregation was even planted in this barren territory. And yet there it thrives, encouraged by the teams of Christians that have come from America to share their faith and to provide resources and manpower to build houses of worship. So encouraged were the local Christian leaders and the members of this fledgling congregation, that they determined to build their own church building. And build it they did.
They first laid out a large foundation seven or eight times the size of their existing stick and mud church. They gathered large stones to place in the footings. They began making their own bricks from clay found on the escarpment, molding them, baking them under the hot equatorial sun and then firing them in their own home-made, open-air kiln. They used these bricks (thousands of them) to construct the walls of their future sanctuary.
They raised money to purchase cement, dug sand out of riverbeds, and chipped stones to make golf-ball sized pieces of gravel ... all of which they used to make their own concrete floor. They cut eucalyptus trees from the highlands and made lengths of timber from which they constructed rafters and then raised more money to purchase pieces of tin for a roof.
The result is a "magnificent" house of worship. It is a simple rectangle design, has no windows or doors (yet), is occupied on weekdays by birds and critters of the area, but on Sundays becomes a lively gathering of both believers and unbelievers from the surrounding area.
On the peak of the tin roof is a wooden cross, fashioned by one of its members, giving notice to the community that this is a house of worship and visible some distance from the village.
This is the church where something's happening NOW. And it is a joy to witness.
The water of Piaya may be bitter ... but the spirit of the Christians from this distant outpost is sweeter than sweet. It's a joyful, exuberant gathering of the children of God, a world away from our own, speaking the language of the Maa, and sharing a primitive culture so unlike the west.
Praise God for the movement of His Spirit across the world and especially in this place where bitter water is used to sweeten the souls of unbelievers through the rite of Holy Baptism.
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands," [Revelation 7:9]
Have a great weekend in the Lord …