Summer 2022 newsletter
Joanne Miya, Tanzania
Greetings from Uzima Centre. I hope and pray that you are all doing well.
Many of you have become familiar with the work of Maryknoll Lay Missioners through my newsletter or via our website and emails. What most people don’t realize is that behind all we do is an organizational structure that guides us.
Recently missioners from around the world participated in a virtual Expanded Mission Assembly. One of the outcomes was an updating of our organization’s core values. Simple living, community, joy, inclusion and humility now define us. I think we can agree that Jesus exemplified all of these; all we can do is try our best.
Simple living: Well, today we woke up to no electricity or running water. It might come back on later, or it might not. For the clients at Uzima Centre, no running water or electricity is the norm.
Irene (pictured at right) has lived with HIV since birth. She was 9 years old when she was registered with Uzima Centre. Recently she was accepted for college studies as a laboratory assistant. Her mother was so proud that she was able to scrape together $100 for Irene’s tuition but it wasn’t nearly enough. Uzima Centre helped with the additional cost. The college required that she have a smart phone, so we purchased a simple one for her. It’s the first phone Irene has ever owned.
Community: Without a supportive community, I would not have lasted this long. The other missioners share my laughter and my tears. We are there for each other through thick and through thin. My Tanzanian coworkers at Uzima Centre challenge me and, most importantly, put up with my “Americanness.” We know all too well that we can’t do anything alone. We need one another.
Joy: Ahh, this is my favorite. A nun told me years ago, “When mission no longer brings you joy, leave!” Well, I’m still joyfully in mission.
Linda was one of the first people from her village to register with us. I’m convinced that she is held together by the perfect combination of joy, gratitude and tenacity. Last month Linda saw me painting my office and asked if she could have the paint can when I was finished. She explained that she grows cassava, which she dries and pounds into flour to sell. Typically, the flour is measured out using a paint can. The next time she came in, she saw the shiny, clean can with her name on it. I have never seen anyone rejoice like Linda did over an empty can from paint.
Inclusion: As the world seems to be becoming more and more divisive, we are committed to becoming more inclusive. Currently six lay missioners are serving in Tanzania, ranging from age 24 to 80! Half are married and half are single. Three of us are parents. Our differences help to give us a broader perspective on life.
In Africa, the concept of family is very fluid. Cousins are considered the same as siblings. “Assisted living” means you live with your grown children who assist you. Within the same family, you will find Christians and Muslims. Over 120 different ethnic groups call themselves Tanzanian. They have much to teach us about the value of inclusion.
Humility: When asked to sum up what mission life is like, I often say, “It’s an ongoing exercise in humility.” No sooner do I think that my fluency in Swahili is pretty good, than I make some horrific grammar mistake. Living in an adopted culture involves a lot of stumbling; so, after 38 years of stumbling, my pride has taken some hits. The best one can hope for is the ability to stick with it.
All we do at Uzima Centre is made possible by a long list of people, both here and in the United States. You and I are just pieces of something so much bigger and it is God’s grace that brings it all together.
In the words of St. Paul, “May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow more and more and become as great as our love for you” (1 Thes 3:12).
Peace, deep breaths and gratitude,
Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!