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Uwepo wa Mungu: Finding the Presence of God from Tanzania

By Rob Callus

In Kiswahili, “to have” does not have a direct translation. Ownership and possession cannot be conveyed in quite the same way as in the Western world. Instead, we use the phrase “kuwa na” which translates as “being with” something or someone. This idea of “being with” is central to a ministry of presence that weaves its way through Tanzanian life.

 

Yet, amidst the craziness of the school calendar, we volunteers often lose sight of the presence we strive to practice and emulate. While I enjoy teaching, I firmly believe that likizo, or holiday, is the time where we can truly “do JV things.” There is time to visit coworkers and neighbors. We are able to pour our energy into learning Kiswahili. We get to enjoy the gently-moving pace of life. We can be present to a God who is ever-present to us.

During our June holiday, our community did quite a lot of “JV things.” My favorite adventure was a five-day home stay with a coworker from Loyola High School. She and her family stay quite far from school. In fact, they have a commute of about an hour each day, and that’s without traffic. But, if you could see this place, you would understand why this family has chosen to live so far away. It is, without a doubt, my favorite place in Dar es Salaam.

 

On top of a hill in Kinyerezi, you can see the whole city while enjoying soothing breezes and peaceful quietude. You can see even as far as the Indian Ocean if you look past the skyscrapers of Kariakoo and Oyster Bay. In between welcoming bouts of feeling obligated to eat thirds and fourths at every meal, I passed the time sitting and fixing my gaze upon the city. We were “making stories” with the members of this lovely family and sharing tales of our lives. From up there, it is so easy to be aware of the ways in which God flows all about and through our lives.

This is why I am so grateful for times when I receive such unwavering hospitality, as I did over this holiday. I have received renewed energy and vigor through the grace of a warm welcome. The stunning view of the city overwhelms me, yet simultaneously leaves me in awe. Places like Kinyerezi are perfect for bringing God’s presence to the forefront of my mind. I hope that I may be able to slow down enough to be ever-conscious of the peace of the Lord, even in the most tumultuous of times.


My name is Rob Callus and I am a JV in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. My placement is as a teacher of Writing Skills at Loyola High School. To be honest, I never knew I would enjoy this work as much as I do. I graduated from the University of Notre Dame with degrees in Pre-medical Sciences and Theology. Before becoming a JV, I was able to spend some time in a Catholic Worker community in South Bend, Indiana.

 

 


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