Good Friday morning ...
Mapingo is not a name familiar to us here in the states ... but he is one of my favorite friends from Tanzania. I met him through Dr. Steve Friberg, my partner in ministry among the Maasai.
Mapingo always looks the same ... gray stubble beard, sharp, piercing eyes, badly discolored teeth with several missing, matted, short-cropped hair covered with a tattered edge of his shuka while in the sun and uncovered inside a hut. His garb is always the same as well ... a mixed assortment of colored fabric held in place by a homemade cowhide belt attached to which is an ever-present, large Maasai knife ... his hairless, stork-like legs extending underneath with his dusty feet shod with used-tire Maasai sandals. Always in his right hand is his walking staff ... replaced only occasionally with his spear when off on a long trek.
At least twice a month Mapingo will stop in at Dr. Steve's village home in Ketumbeine. Even though he lives several miles distant, secure in a primitive boma with his several wives, his visit is always unannounced and usually early in the day ... between 7 and 7:30. He stops in for an early morning cup of chai and some conversation.
I have been present for several of these early morning visits and the atmosphere can be jovial or serious. The topic of conversation can deal with drought conditions or government concerns ... it might be academic one time and philosophical or theological the next. Though Mapingo can neither read nor write ... he is a smart man ... knowledgeable in the ways of his culture ... wise in the good and bad behavior of mankind ... and wealthy by Maasai standards. For these reasons he is a chosen leader.
Mapingo was one of the first Christians in the community around Ketumbeine. And what a man of God he is! What ridicule he endured as he first professed his faith ... then altered his lifestyle to live with his first wife (though taking responsibility for and care of his other two and their children for life) ... and finally giving up the traditions and customs of traditional African spiritualism. But he stood strong ... and he fought gallantly ... and, by God grace, he endured.
And so it is only a short walk from Mapingo's remote boma where a stick and thatch "church" has been built in which the local Christians (mainly his family) gather each week for worship ... no hymnals, no pulpit, no raised chancel ... just some bare-wood, stick benches, a few glittery streamers adorning a wooden altar, a lot of hearty voices, and a deep passion for the Lord. There is dancing and clapping and whooping and singing (lots of singing) ... a double collection (the second one is your "sacrifice") ... some testimony sharing ... and an evangelist's sermon to culminate the morning. When present ... and I've been privileged to worship and preach on several Sunday mornings ... you feel the enthusiasm, the excitement, the emotion ... along with tasting the dust from stomping, dancing feet. It is a thrilling, exuberant experience!
It was Mapingo's boma to which Dr. Steve took me for my very first up-close Maasai experience. It was his warriors who demonstrated the art of "bleeding" cattle for blood nourishment during the drought season when food was scarce ... who showed me how to ignite a fire using dried donkey dung and a pair of sticks ... who displayed how to whittle and twist fresh-cut sticks to fashion an exterior wall of a hut ... who demonstrated how to spring load a snare for catching morning doves using string and a few kernels of corn ... who explained how to evade the black mamba on my walk across the twenty-two mile trek between Ketumbeine and Gelai on foot ... and who demonstrated the art of spear-throwing as a defense against attacking animals. The man and his warriors know their stuff and, when I'm on their turf, I pay close attention.
Though we see each other infrequently ... Mapingo considers me a close friend by virtue of my calling as a pastor, and, perhaps more importantly, my association with Dr. Steve. As such, he always quickly discovers my presence in Tanzania and upon my arrival will make an appearance ... no doubt unannounced ... full of questions and eager for conversation. I always look forward to our awkward conversation through a translator ... but just as importantly to try and figure out how he knows what's going on so quickly. The guy has some sort of sixth sense. Regardless of what I might discover about his mysterious knowledge ... and I can already hear his throaty laugh at my inquiry ... we will, no doubt, have a delightful visit and I will become the main beneficiary.
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever he does prospers. [Psalm 1:1-3]
Have a blessed weekend … perhaps with a Christian friend …