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Try Prayer! It Works! Contest

12/18/2014

2014 Try Prayer Contest – “An Experience Like No Other”
Personal Account by David Evans Kimera
Staff Member - Kampala Mission Office Beads_12182014_Kampala Try Prayer boys 250


By 4:00 am I had already woken up to say my prayers and freshen up. My bags are packed and ready to be checked in at the bus terminal. Father Constantine Changwe, C.S.C., gave my brother and me, a ride to the bus. At 4 am one would think the streets would be little free because many people are still in bed, but in Nairobi it’s different. After driving about one mile, we fell into a traffic jam. It took Father Changwe’s knowledge of the city to maneuver through short cuts that would in the end help us to reach the bus terminal. Beads_12182014_Kampala Try Prayer 250

We reached the terminal just 15 minutes prior to the check in time. After being checked by the security people at the terminal, we said our good byes and boarded the bus. It would take us about 2 hours to travel the 175 miles from Nairobi to Namanga. Namanga is the border of Kenya and Tanzania. It wouldn’t have been such a long journey, except that we had to carry our cameras. We didn’t want to put our bags in the luggage hutch because we couldn’t guarantee the safety of the cameras. So we carried them on our laps. They were heavy, so heavy that we had to switch them from place to place.

At the border there are several youth that make their living by pretending to be customs officers and once you fall for them, they take your passport and to get it back you have to pay them. Luckily we were warned about them. We bypassed them and went and checked in at the immigration office of Kenya and thereafter the Tanzanian side. Beads_12182014_Kampala Try Prayer Ladies dancing 250

We sat on the bus again to take another 85 miles from Namanga to Arusha. This would take 1 hour and 40 minutes. I couldn’t help but take naps in between the journey. At the same time I wanted to have a glimpse of the new country I was in. We reached Arusha at around 11am. From Arusha we were to go to Karatu. We had to seat four people on the seat. It was really so uncomfortable. Very tiring and remember we had to carry our heavy bags with us for close to 2 hours with little space to even turn. I had done it before but not for long journeys and not with a heavy bag.

We reached Karatu at around 1pm. I couldn’t wait to get out of the car and get some breathing space and stretch. It would take us more than 10 miles to reach St. Brendan’s Catholic Parish Kitete. But first we had to figure out how to get there. The only cars that can manage to go to Kitete are either Land Cruisers or Land rovers. Once they leave you have to wait for the next day to be transported. They only make one trip to Kitete each day and don’t return until the next day. By the time we reached there were a couple of Land Rovers left but they were not leaving soon. So they showed us a bus that was to leave. The bus was too old and rusty. When I looked at the bus I almost refused to board for fear of my life. I had no option. We paid and waited for the journey. It took two hours to fill the bus. When I say filled I am talking about having the every seat occupied; and when they were occupied I thought it was time to go. Oops I was wrong. The bus had enough space for 30 more people according to the driver as he included on the top of the bus for those who couldn’t fit.

Meanwhile when the driver started the engine to imply that we would start moving soon, he got a big stone and put it on the accelerator to make sure the engine doesn’t go off. After some time we set off. As we went off the main road I realized why only Land Cruisers where used. The roads are so bad and filled with rocks all over. They are so uneven. You can’t drive even five meters of clear road. To make matters worse the place has steep slopes and deep trenches on both sides. It reminded me of what a friend of mine from America described driving in Uganda. He called it creative driving. On our way we found a car that had rolled over on a slope. This scared me a little but for the rest it was normal. I tried to ask a few questions but I couldn’t because of the language barrier. I started asking myself why I wasn’t taught Swahili in school.

At one point the river had crossed the road almost making it difficult to pass. We reached a slope at one time and in the shadow of the bus I saw two children about 7 and 9 years of age seated at the top of the bus. To me this was extreme.

We went from place to place through wheat fields to food gardens. Luckily a lady that was seated next to me said something in English, so I started talking with her. That’s when I learned her son is a Holy Cross Seminarian in my own country. We chatted and she showed me the stages or what you could call bus stops.

After the long journey we finally reached our destination. I was touched by the way everyone was concerned that we were from Uganda and needed to get to the parish safely. They negotiated for the motorcycle fare. The main language in Tanzania is Swahili and in Kitete also Qiiraqw is used.
Before we could get the motorcycle, we called seminarian Joseph Owori, C.S.C., who is doing his pastoral year in St. Brendans Parish Kitete and he came for us.

At least now we felt secure since it was almost coming to 7pm. He welcomed us and put our bags in the parish Land Cruiser. When we reached the parish there, we saw a magnificent new church that was being constructed. It looked so nice and is so large.

We were shown to our rooms. At around 7pm in Kitete it is so cold. It was so cold that you would think you would freeze in a minute. The good thing was that the water heaters are fully functioning. And also we were warned of the cold so we carried heavy jackets. We rested for a while and later were invited to join the community for dinner. We got to know the community members and they got to know us.
We arrived a day before the Try Prayer contest so we could prepare and also charge our camera batteries. So we used Friday for preparations.

On October 11, we set out to Audrey Veldman Technical School main hall where the event was going to take place. The hall was beautifully decorated. The music was playing and at around 8.30am the first school came. They came by foot. Then after some time one Land Rover after the other came in bringing schools to the event. I was astonished and perplexed, perhaps perplexed and mesmerized by the fact that it was so normal for the students to sit on top of the moving Land Rovers. It felt so normal for them and even girls sat there with no fear of tipping over. Buses came in and Lorries followed one after the other. The organizers had anticipated 350 to 500 participants since it was the first time. The turnout was overwhelming. It came to over 750 students. They filled the hall and also the verandah. This was not enough space so others had to stand in the hallways. There were more students than space, but there was nothing to be done at that time.

The event started with prayer and then praise and worship music. The students sang with vigor and enthusiasm as if they were competing. Their voices were so lovely as if they had practiced as a group. It was just awesome. Then a talk on discipline was given. Again I understood a few things as much of it was in Swahili. We took pictures and recorded the whole event. Also representatives from ITV filmed the function and aired it on the National TV. This was a good way to spread the word.

After that talk there was blessing and distribution of thousands of Rosaries to all the students and their teachers. Each participant received a Rosary from the director of Family Rosary in Tanzania region Father Sebastian Mulinge, C.S.C. The participants were happy to receive the Rosaries. After everyone received their Rosaries it was time to use them.

A school was chosen to lead the praying of the Rosary, which was followed by Mass celebrated by Father Sebastian. Now, there are no exact words that I can use to describe Father Sebastian. He is just an awesome young and a happy priest. Everyone loves him. His homily was full of life and humor, people were laughing all through it; unfortunately for me, I couldn’t because I didn’t understand his homily, which was in Swahili.

When mass was done lunch was served. Everyone was provided lunch and soft drinks and no one went hungry. After lunch it was time for the main event.
The awarding of the prizes was held after lunch and the winners were given prize money and T-shirts; and the other participants where all given t-shirts as a thank you for their participation. The patrons were also honored for being there for the students and also escorting them to the event.

After this was done, then it was time to be entertained. School after school gave out their best in songs, poems and skits. It was all so entertaining and made the day so wonderful. Everyone did their thing as if they were to win the other. Following the entertainment, it was time for the dance. Music was played and the students danced for close to 1 hour until it was time to leave. The land rover engines were started and they were packed with what I would call over loading of the students. Still they kept that happy smile as they drove away. They waved to us as they went off and even posed for the pictures.
To me it was such an experience like no other and when I tried talking to a few students who spoke English and asked them what caught them, they couldn’t believe, but was grateful for the cash prizes. They enjoyed everything about the event the music, lunch and participation. They asked for us to hold the event every year in Tanzania.

For me, it was a great experience and adventure. When I think about the journey I made from Uganda to Tanzania I think about where the Christmas Carol’s singer says, “GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAINS OVER THE HILLS AND EVERY WHERE” the pain, the fear, the language barrier is not an excuse for not spreading the word of God.

I want to thank Father Chris, the Director in East Africa for giving me this wonderful opportunity to go to St. Brenda’s Parish Kitete, Tanzania to cover this wonderful occasion. Father Chris is a great planner; though he was miles away, his presence was strongly felt by the organizing team and the regional directors. They were constantly referring to the detailed notes he prepared for them before he travelled out of East Africa.