Today’s destination was a Mwera village about 20 kilometers off the main Lindi/Mtwara, Tanzania, road. My guide and I drove carefully over the trail, intent on reaching the village by mid-morning. We met several entrepreneurs riding their bicycles toward Lindi, each loaded with three or four bags of charcoal. The Mwera are “slash and burn” farmers and use fallen trees to make charcoal to generate cash.

Several villagers were returning from delivering their goods to Lindi. One old man waved for us to stop. As we drove past him, I looked into his eyes and noted his fatigue. He was desperate and my heart went out to him. We stopped, strapped down his bicycle on the roof rack and gave him a ride.

The 90-year-old man was exhausted and grateful for the kindness we had shown him. He had ridden to Lindi for a business appointment and was now rushing back to attend a funeral at 1 o’clock. We learned that he was the chief of a village near where we had planned to visit. Recognizing that this connection was a “divine appointment,” our plans were adjusted and we went instead to the chief’s village.

On the way we stopped to greet a farmer and his wife who were inspecting their groundnut and maize fields. There were also many cashew trees along the route, since cashews are a main cash crop. The Mwera have a low annual per capita income of less than $40.

Arriving in the village, we parked our vehicle under a large tree in front of the chief’s house. A village restaurant was located nearby, and several village elders were relaxing in the shade. The chief introduced us and we were given a warm, open welcome.

Introductions were made and then I made a traditional Tanzanian driver’s request. “It has been a long journey and the driver needs a cup of tea,” I said.

“You will have your tea,” the chief responded, “but what about first drinking some fresh coconut milk.”

I agreed, and shortly a young man appeared with several coconuts. He sliced them across the top, peeled back the shells and offered us the drink. It was cool and refreshing!

Tea was served in the little restaurant. Afterward the chief and about 10 village elders escorted us through their village. We looked down at the crops in the fertile valley, viewed the old British market used during colonial days, observed the cassava warehouse, stopped by the mosque and inspected the “Millennium Project” dispensary built with U.S. Aid funds.

The dispensary doctor is a Mwera native who assists the community with immunizations, pre- and postnatal services, and minor medical needs. The dispensary was very impressive. I commented to the doctor and elders that they had been spending my tax money, which brought a good laugh from all.

Our two-hour visit came to a close as the village needed time to make final preparations for the Muslim funeral. Our schedule didn’t permit us to stay for the burial, but we left some money with the sheik to assist with the expenses. This act of concern seemed to be deeply appreciated. 

It was a great visit and I could not help but sense it was “God-ordained.” A relational bridge was built and an invitation was extended for us to return. We were deeply moved by the openness of the people and the magnitude of their spiritual need. Our prayer is that God will use this report and pictures to call forth a messenger to proclaim the good news of the gospel to the Mwera.