Christmas in Buhemba: Preparations Part 1

Fr. Jim Donohue.

One of the most important preparations for Christmas in the Buhemba parish is to visit the sick and elderly who will not be able to come to church on Christmas Day. Fr. Maciej visited the sick on Monday and Fr. Yohana visited the sick on Tuesday. Then Fr. Yohana and I went on Wednesday together because there are more sick and elderly people in the Mirwa Outstation and the distances to travel are farther. So, our plan was to split up, with Fr. Yohana driving the cruiser and me walking with the catechist, Joseph Chacha. Joseph and I had gone together about a month ago. I did not have my camera then, and I had no idea about the distance we would walk, but this time I was prepared!

The countryside is beautiful, but we had to negotiate different terrain, walking through corn fields and dry creek beds, jumping streams, climbing stony hills, and interacting with cows, donkeys, goats, and sheep!

The people in this area are more isolated and their houses are more rudimentary. Everyone is very friendly as we pass. Most people know Joseph and we would yell greetings or stop to have a word.

Much of the land is under cultivation and you see plenty of animals in the area.

We walked about six miles to visit two elderly women. They were both very old and poor, but their families are caring for them and supporting them. At the first place, the woman had her daughter and her daughter’s five children around. At the second place, the woman’s son and all his family were there. People were waiting patiently for us. They are all devout Catholics and knew all the responses to the prayers. All the members of the second family were fully initiated with Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation, so I was able to give communion to everyone present.

I know it involved much walking, but it was one of the more moving experiences that I have had in Tanzania. In each case, the family told me how happy they were that we had not forgotten their mother/grandmother. I would say this was one of the best ways to prepare for Christmas!

We had to negotiate a few rough places. It took us a while to find a place to jump over. I am a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I almost did not make it when I jumped. I had that split second where I could have gone forward or backward! I think there was a gentle breeze at my back that gave me enough push!

After jumping (or almost not jumping) the creek, we walked through a corn field. I tried not to think of Billy Mummy from The Twilight Zone—does that bring back memories—or of the Children of the Corn movies!

Then we walked through some fields…by the way, we still had not visited any sick people at this point!

Then up a hill…the first elderly woman lived at the top of this hill.

As we approached, I took this photo of the family home. People are very poor here.

We were at a good altitude. It was beautiful and there are many wonderful flowers!

To get to the next place, we needed to get back over that creek…but we came to it in a different place. We managed!

This is what the catechist, Joseph Chacha, looks like from the front! He is a great guy and I love ministering with him.
And here is “yours truly” ready and willing!

At this point we connected with Fr. Yohana to visit one last elderly woman. She was so glad to see us and kept saying: “Two priests, oh my!”

Her great-grandchildren eating papaya.

More Christmas preparations to come!

More to come on

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