Day 353: Easter Sunday

by claire a. williams,

This morning, I put on my Easter Sunday dress. My Easter Sunday dress, here at Tumaini, is a drab green dress from Old Navy circa 1993 that I bought at a garage sale in Mexico. It is extremely ugly. But because Lara had not seen it yet this year in Africa (it is my one nicer item of clothing), and has also lost all of her East Coast fashion sense in the past year of traveling, she went out of her way to tell me how nice I looked. We like complementing each other when we look ever so slightly less hideous, as anyone knows that when you have few possessions, you place greater value on those you do have. And you pull out all the stops on big holidays.

Thus, at church it was of no surprise that the little girls were wearing their Easter Sunday dresses. That their Easter Sunday dresses are actually the same dresses that they run in is just evidence of how truly few possessions most of them have.

Missionary Paul was preaching today. Although he got some slack from a blog reader back in November (if I had better internet here I could link to it) when we mentioned that he teaches one of the *required* religion classes at the very *public* secondary school, we are pretty sure that Paul and his wife Stephanie are the types of missionaries anyone would like. Lara, the resident heathen of TrippingOnWords, can attest to this fact.

In one of Paul's best moments, he explained the division of American missionaries in the world to me. I will try to summarize: One group, he says, is made up of the crazy conservative Christians who can speak in tongues and believe of their right to guide another country to enlightenment. The other group is made up of those individuals who are so liberal politically that they had to leave the USA, and so liberal theologically that they barely believe in the resurrection. You can take your guesses as to which camp Paul and Stephanie fall into.

So Paul's Easter Sunday sermon was all about Stuff and riches; specifically, what riches are, and what riches aren't. Paul used the studies that that Harvard professor on happiness has done to talk about why Stuff – beyond the basics for what you need for survival – doesn't make people happy.

The topic of excess is a particularly provocative one in a community where starvation has been a part of most of the lives of the orphans present. Indeed, by virtue of their upbringings most have a dual fascination with riches/Stuff and lack of expectations for their own. Paul's talk was a good one, and was received well. His under the breath comments about such varied topics as community members' abuse of "bang" (marijuana) and people in the bible bumping into "shiny people" (angels) to an audience who certainly did not understand linguistically the finer points of his hysterical cynicism made the talk all that much more of a winner for the five muzungus/mzungus (white people) present.

Additionally, like all the official talks the kids have heard in the past few days, Paul managed to slip in the fact that stealing someone's cell phone (Claire's) on Good Friday was a good example of wanting stuff that wouldn't make you happy.

After church, we began some more possession based games when we decided to use these bizarre angel bible verse cards (from I had gotten free when I ordered new business cards for an Easter Egg Hunt at Tumaini. There were no eggs, mind you, just the cards. The kids here get one egg a week on Sundays for breakfast, and so there's no way we'd be given clearance to carry out such excess. Although it is hard to imagine many of the kids we know in the States getting too excited over business cards with bible quotes on them, it's different here at Tumaini, and we've been holding onto the shiny cards for just such a special occasion.

So we all hid the cards all around Tumaini – the fields, the gardens, the cafeteria hall, etc. – for the primary school kids. Interestingly, if I were setting up such an Easter Card Hunt in the States, I would have taken extra care to hide many of the cards in easy to find places. However, over the course of the morning and the three consecutive Hunts we held with the exact same children, we realized that any tiny eight year old at Tumaini could find a business card buried under dirt in two acres of land in under five minutes.

And that, of course, is the nature of Stuff: when you have few things, you are good at recognizing that what you have is important and making sure not to lose it. Sadly, though, as soon as you get it, you want more. So, even if you have few possessions, you always want more, and thus the fact that the 150 cards turned into 81 by the end of the three round Easter Hunt game was indicative of what it is like to be an orphan without "shiny people" cards.

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