Smelling African Flowers on Easter Sunday
I’ve always been intrigued by the expression “don’t forget to smell the flowers” and envious in a good sense of people who always seem to have time to do so. At 6:10 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning 1993, I woke up on the cement floor of Kemugongo Outstation Church in Iramba Parish in a very rural, isolated part of Musoma Diocese, Tanzania. We had celebrated the lively Easter Vigil Service the night before with singing, clapping, dancing and short plays into the early hours of the morning. The children especially radiated an almost electric joy. Now after a mosquito-filled, sleepless night I packed my overnight bag and mass kit to drive 40 miles to the other end of the parish for two Easter Sunday Eucharists at Maji Moto and Nyiboko Outstations.
I walked around to the east side of the church and was literally stunned by the rising sun. It was a brilliant gold ball that got bigger and bigger to envelope the whole horizon and flood the African plains with growing, glowing light. Excitedly I exclaimed to my Tanzanian companion: “The sun is rising on a new Easter morning. Last night we sang: ‘The Lord Jesus Christ has risen. It is certain.’ How meaningful that God is called the ‘sun’ in many African languages.” My friend replied: “I feel God with us here right now.” I wanted to linger and enjoy this moving experience, but…
Then the magical moment was gone. Back to our local reality we loaded millet, a goat and some other supplies in my four-wheel drive Toyota truck for the bouncy road (a better description is “bush track”) ahead. Then we set off across the open plain. I hope God doesn’t mind that we didn’t have more time to stop and “smell the African flowers,” but the Christians of Nyiboko were also waiting for the Risen Son this radiant Easter morning.
Rev. Joseph G. Healey, M.M.