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Epiphanies come at 66: Thanks be to God

by Christie Brandau

Mom & daughterI turned 66 last May and had an epiphany. If I want to do important things in the years I have left, I need to get busy! Then came the Women of the ELCA Facebook posting calling for an accompaniment trip. I requested more information and started planning. The first thing I did was to email family and friends to ask if anyone wanted to join me on this journey, and my daughter Kara said “yes!”

I learned so much about accompaniment: This was not a sight-seeing trip, and not a mission trip. Instead it was the opportunity to walk and work and share beside Lutheran women from other parts of this country and Tanzania. We were different ages, different personalities and from different backgrounds, but we shared something important—our Christian faith and Lutheran heritage.  

There were many highlights for me, but two stand out: distribution of quilts and losing my phone!

Waiting for quiltsIt was a hot day when we drove the dusty, rutted road to ELIMAA, a small school. There waiting for us were several Tanzanian women, children and elderly people.

We had little shade, and it seemed to take a long time to get organized, open the bales of quilts and boxes of school and health kit in advance of distribution. But the Tanzanians waited patiently.

At one point, a group of them broke into song and dance. After the distribution, many of us joined the dance, sang and tried to get our American voices and tongues to mimic the ululating Tanzanian women. I will never forget the joy of that day.

It's may sound odd that misplacing my phone was a highlight, but it was a lesson of accompaniment for me. After searching through my bags and going back again and again to the last place I remember seeing it, I became distraught. All my pictures, travel information and, of course, means of communication were gone.

As word of my loss got around, I was surrounded by my American and Tanzanian sisters who consoled me and quilt distributionprayed … and prayed ... and prayed. When we found the phone, it was like a scene from the biblical story of the lost coin! Cheering, hugging, thanking God and again the joyful sound of ululating voices. I will never forget the kinship and sisterhood of that moment.

Taking this journey with my daughter was so precious. In addition to the help and comfort she provided, it was a joy to have sister after sister share their admiration of my daughter's gentle and loving nature. It reminded me that with God's help, I had raised a beautiful, spiritual woman.

I will present a program on my trip during the spring WELCA luncheon at my home church, and will be sharing my experience with family and friends in person and via social media.

The message I am giving is "thanks be to God for our Lutheran family here and around the world!"  God willing, Kara and I will attend the triennial gathering in 2017. We look forward to a reunion there with many of our American and Tanzanian sisters.

Christie Brandau is a retired librarian and a member of Our Saviors Lutheran Church in Osage, Iowa. She has three grown children and eight awesome grandchildren. 

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Photos of quilt distribution by Eva James Yeo. See more photos of the Tanzania trip.