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Keflin has been crushing rock for most of her adult life. “It pays poorly,” she says, “but it puts food on the table.” 

The neighborhood around the Lake House of Prayer in Mwanza, Tanzania, is made up of people as interesting and as precious as the neighborhood of the famed Mr. Rogers of the children’s TV show of past years.

Frank with his wheelbarrow

Frank is a day laborer. He supports his family doing whatever work he can find. For the past three months, he has literally been moving earth to make a new road, carrying wheelbarrows full of earth to the site of a new road in process. He has carried tons of earth, making maybe 100 trips a day.

Keflin is also a day laborer working on this new road. Her job? Crushing rocks into gravel. Keflin is a single mother of five adult children and grandmother of many. To help supplement the family income she has been crushing rock for most of her adult life, using a handmade instrument to bludgeon rock into gravel. “It pays poorly,” she says, “but it puts food on the table.”

I meet Keflin and Frank daily on my walks to Lake Victoria. They are the original inhabitants of this area and have lived here simply for several generations, without electricity or running water. There is a natural spring along the path that has provided water for all their daily needs — bathing, washing clothes, dishes, pots and pans, and carrying buckets of water on their heads for drinking and cooking at home.

But things are changing. Signs of development are moving into this traditional way of life. Big elaborate homes are now being built side by side of their simple earthen homes. Traditional ways of fishing are dying out, and farming land is being sold to development projects. The original inhabitants are becoming day laborers, finding whatever work they can in order to live.

Our neighbors, like Frank and Keflin, are the people who come to pray with us each day. They are our praying community. These are our neighbors, these are the people who teach us what it means to need God, and what it means to trust in the Providence of God day by day.

 

Women at the spring

 

Traditional neighborhood house

Judy Walter Judy Walter
Judy Walter is a spiritual director at the Lake House of Prayer, a retreat ministry in Mwanza, Tanzania.