“Shaken to my core”

by Ethan Mandel
Ethan with the Carpenter's Kids in Gawaye
Ethan with the Carpenter’s Kids in Gawaye

Stephen Lewis, the former UN Special Enjoy for HIV/AIDS Africa, once remarked, “Every time I go to Africa, I am shaken to my core.” After traveling to Tanzania and catching a brief but powerful glimpse of the Holy Spirit in action there, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

a map of Tanzania, with the capital region of Dodoma highlighted

Put simply: this Carpenter’s Kids pilgrimage is life-changing. It is transformational. It will make you cry. It will make you smile. It will exhaust you. It will open your eyes wider than you ever thought possible. No amount of preparation and prayer could have prepared me for what awaited in Tanzania. And at the same time, I would not give up the experience for anything.

pilgrims on a mission to Tanzania
Pilgrims to Dodoma: Ethan Mandel, Church of the Ascension; Lauren Salminen, NY Carpenter’s Kids Coordinator; The Venerable William C. Parnell, Archdeacon for Mission, Episcopal Diocese of New York

One thing is for certain: I left Tanzania with a much deeper understanding and respect for the Carpenter’s Kids program. Although not necessarily described this way in the program’s mission statement, one of its major accomplishments is that it has enabled us to harness our energy and resources to serve as our Lord commanded: “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was naked, and you clothed me.”

Carpenter’s Kids taking a break from classes

This is a very daunting task in general, but even more so in a country that lacks basic economic resources. Nonetheless, after experiencing it first-hand, I can say with confidence that the program is truly performing miracles. In my linked village alone, it has had a major impact on every level of the community. For this, I say, “Bwana asifiwe! (Praise the Lord)”

As an opportunity to forge a meaningful relationship with my parish’s linked village of Gawaye, the pilgrimage was also a vital launching point for the Church of the Ascension’s deeper participation in the Carpenter’s Kids ministry. We are now even considering the possibility of a parish trip in the near future. I, for one, cannot wait to return.