Tuesday, October 24, 2017
“Orphanages are the only places that ever left me feeling empty and full at the same time.” ― John M. Simmons
There are 120 tribes in Tanzania with the largest only representing less than one fortieth of the population. Because of this, we have not had the kind of inter-tribal warfare that killed so many in Rwanda and more recently in Kenya where one tribe attacked another. The most common tribes in our area are Sukuma, Jita, Zanaki, Curia, and Ikizu with Sukuma being far and away the biggest. Still, Jita is a big one locally, and the SIL missionaries in Musoma are working hard on producing a Bible in that tribal language. Everyone here speaks their mother (tribal) tongue, Swahili, and about a fifth also speak English which is the second national language. If you speak three languages, you are trilingual; if you speak two languages, you are bilingual; if you only speak one language you are probably an American.
All of this is just to get you to the point that I can talk about my tribal (Jita) name. Not every foreigner gets a tribal name, but many do. Karen is called “Mama Africa” because that is what the children have called her from day one. Kids walking by will yell for “Mama Africa” and smile and wave--and she smiles and waves back. My tribal name is “Magesa Mamba” which is from the Jita language. “Magesa” is a really good name as it means someone who is born during the harvest and from whom many blessings will come. “Mamba” is Swahili for crocodile and they threw that in because it looks like I eat everything—just like crocodiles. Now how did I come by this name? We have friends from Finland who run an orphanage about an hour north of us. They have been here for almost thirty years running the cleanest, nicest orphanage I’ve ever seen in this country. They only take infants and only until they are two years old. After a child reaches the age of two, it can be raised fairly easily by an extended family or a home village. We have had many groups coming here for mission trips that have also visited that orphanage and helped with construction and funds for food and clothing. Karen loves to go just to play with the babies. The church that was funding the orphanage withdrew its funding to focus on big revivals but the couple refused to quit. For years (no longer now) the husband would spend six months a year driving a bus in Sweden to raise funds to keep the orphanage afloat. One time about eleven years ago, the husband was in Sweden and his wife had to leave to go back to take care of her dying mother. The nurses running the orphanage knew me and had seen me many times. One morning, very early, I got a call from one of the nurses. Five babies were dying and would I come and pray for them. I drove up there and spent the next eight hours holding babies and praying for them and anointing them. The baby who liked me to hold him the most was a tiny little thing who was from Bunda, like me. He smiled at me several times while I held him. Amazingly, all five babies lived and thrived and were healthy by the time the wife got back. The boy I held, anointed, and prayed for that day is now eleven years old and doing very well with an extended family here in Bunda. He doesn't know me or that I ever held him or prayed for him. That little boy from Bunda was named “Magesa” and so I have been called ever since. First by the nurses at the orphanage, then the people who ran the orphanage, then our staff when they heard about it, and now, eleven years later, I am known more by the name “Magesa” than my own. If I fly into the airport at Mwanza or check into a hotel in downtown Mwanza, you can hear the baggage handlers and taxi drivers all hollering, “Magesa! Magesa!” I must admit, I like it. I don’t remember who added the “Mamba” or crocodile part, but it was a long time ago for both names have stuck. If you come to Bunda and ask for Charles Wiggins, people will stare at you. If you ask for Magesa Mamba, they will smile and take you right to me. I think that’s another of God’s thank you notes. At least that’s how I take it.