The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


In taking his picture, I saw myself

It's a sunny day on Mount Meru in Tanzania, Africa. I'm playing with children in Seela, the village of our partner parish. What a blessing it is to represent Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Menomonee Falls, Wis., in a partnership through the companion synod program of the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.

As we play, a little boy timidly approaches. "Mama Sue," he says. I'm able to understand the Swahili words njoo (come) and nyumbani kwangu (at my home). There is a slight sense of urgency in his voice.

Not sure of what to expect, I tell the other children "nitarudi" (I will return) and begin walking with the child. Carefully, he leads me by the hand down a rutted dirt path to his home.

The house is built of rough timber with a dirt floor and rusty metal roof. He points to a nearby coffee tree, ripe with red berries. With a trace of a tentative smile, he says, "Mama Sue, piga picha."

Ahhh. "Take a picture." After so many years, children in this village are familiar with my camera and delight in finding things for me to photograph. I smile and take a photo, which I show him on the back of the camera. He looks and nods approvingly.

"Piga picha," he says again, pointing to a goat. So I do. I'm as delighted as he seems to be with these unexpected photo opportunities. He checks this photo, too, and nods. Pulling me by the hand, he takes me around to the back of his home.

I'm not prepared. My hand covers my mouth, stifling an unexpected intake of breath. Realization rocks me. This is the little boy I've heard about. This is the boy whose mother died just last week. He has brought me to her grave.

The photo the little boy asked Sue Werner to take"Mama Sue," he repeats solemnly, almost whispering, "piga picha." It was my turn to nod.

As he stood next to a rough wooden cross on which his mother's name was painted, I silently complied with his request. A picture of a boy at his mother's grave. It must have been how I looked as a child, standing at my own mother's grave 40 years ago, at age 7.

The cycle of life and death goes on. It is yet another reminder of how much I love the people of Tanzania and find comfort in the connections in our lives. We all live by faith, trusting in God's plan.




Posted at 6:55 pm (U.S. Eastern) 8/24/2010

The article and picture by Sue touched me as well.

Laura F.

Laura F.

Posted at 12:27 am (U.S. Eastern) 8/24/2010

Asante, Sue, for so beautifully and simply sharing this moment of your unexpected identification with a Tanzanian boy. I love this story, even though it gave me a lump in my throat. Pole sana that the mutual experience, losing a mother while still very young, is such a hard and sad one. 

I hope that you can give the boy his own copy of the picture, and that he will find comfort in being able to look back at it  perhaps even when HE is in his 40's.)  

Kent M.

Kent M.

Posted at 1:22 am (U.S. Eastern) 8/24/2010

Wow -- a very impactful story Sue.

Having just returned from our partner parish in El Salvador, I could easily put myself in the story -- although I have not had an experience quite like this one.

David Shelstad

David Shelstad

Posted at 9:55 am (U.S. Eastern) 8/25/2010

    For me, this touching story from Tanzania, is a reminder that we all need to find resurrection moments in the midst of our daily lives.  In the poignant moments of grief to everyday losses .... from the hurts inflicted & absorbed .... in the cries that arise from the vulnerable to the triumphs of the everyday --- God's presence is woven into our moments.  It is ours to see Christ, resurrection and new life.

Thanks for the story......  DLS




Posted at 9:37 am (U.S. Eastern) 8/28/2010

yes, thank you!



Posted at 7:43 pm (U.S. Eastern) 9/1/2010

thanks Sue,

For me this is reconnection story  and a moment of reflection. Thank you for taking me home. (I come from Seela). Amana

Copriano Mbise

Copriano Mbise

Posted at 12:28 pm (U.S. Eastern) 9/11/2010

  Mama  Sue

 What a very  agonising story is this from  our Tanzanian boy. Pole  sana  that you have come in a such sensitive  story  which  touches hearts core to every one with  sympathy  heart.  I say pole not only because of the grivance of this young boy of the poor family in Tanzania  but because his  grivance  touch you to in the same way or age. Real this made me to weep in tears inspite of trying to resist.  But  I assume that  this story  didn't happen to you inccidentaly but may be is the GOD'S bridge  show us the GOD'S  LOVE  to us that we can share the life in this Gallax as we all we are the  same  in life an death and its  agony.  Pole sana mama Sue I hope GOD of MERCYwill give  you and all of us the way for  consolation to this  boy.

Thank you  Sue. Let our  GOD strengthen you console you too.

Yours in  Jesus  Christ

Dr. Copriano  A. Mbise          

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