This is the area revered as the birthplace of the Wa-Iraqw people, the predominant tribe in the Mbulu region southwest of Arusha. That we companion synod representatives from Southeast Michigan were transported to this cherished place was amazing and humbling. We traveled some hours by large Land vehicles over rough terrain to the top of a ridge. When we got out, we were offered a lunch of hard-boiled eggs and bottles of Fanta which were carried on top of our vehicles in wooden crates.
We were led to the top of a deep, steep, richly green gorge, at the base of which was a jostling river (unlike many dry riverbeds in the Mbulu region). We slowly crept down, ably steadied by young and older Lutherans, some nimble in flip flops. At the bottom of the descent we stepped gingerly over boulders and rivulets, like kids at camp for the first time.
What surprised us in the surroundings? Yes, the gorgeous scenery, plus the absence of any vestige of human habitation. There were no roads, no houses, no cultivation. I was struck by thinking, “I’m in the Garden of Eden.!” I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Adam and Eve appear. I pondered the history of human existence and how little has changed in some parts of the world. The Wa-Iraqw consider it their Garden of Eden, the cradle of their tribal story.
What attracted me to this place was our hosts’ sense of holiness, reverence for the genesis of the Wa-Iraqw people.
Whether it be the Garden of Eden or Mama Isara, we celebrate the beauty and wonder of creation and sense of our origins.
What places are special to you? Where have you felt wonder and a deep connection to a land or landmark? Have you been “elsewhere” and felt linked or united with a place or a people?
Barbara Miller serves on the churchwide executive board. She lives in Washington, Mich.