Minnesota Swahili Christian Congregation (housed at Holy Trinity Lutheran), Minneapolis
I moved to Minnesota in July 1998 after graduating from Waldorf University, Forest City, Iowa (then the ELCA’s Waldorf College). I’d heard there was a congregation in Minneapolis that had a Swahili service in the afternoon. The day I visited, I knew right away that I’d found my church. First, they spoke Tanzanian Kiswahili, which is my mother tongue, and services started at 2 p.m. I’d just graduated and waking up early on Sunday mornings to go to church wasn’t fun. Most importantly, there was good Tanzanian food after the service. For a self-proclaimed food lover, Minnesota Swahili Congregation was the best place for me.
I left Tanzania at the end of my teen years, so beginning my adulthood away from all family and friends was very hard, but the support of my church community was unwavering. They’ve been there for me during job losses and family losses, marriage and milestones for my children. Being at home away from home is hard. Although I have adapted well to the United States, deep inside I’m a Swahili first. Being part of this congregation has truly blessed and enriched my faith and my physical life immensely.
My church community means everything to me and my family. During holidays we’ve got each other. Whereas other friends travel to be with family and friends, we either celebrate together at church or break into groups and celebrate in our homes. Besides the pastor, my children refer to all adult church members as uncles/aunties/grandmas/grandpas. They always joke that they have the largest family in the whole of Minnesota!
After working for Lutheran Youth Encounter, I went back to school for my Master of Business Administration and transitioned into banking. I ended up in small-business banking. I had a small stint in the financial advising world before returning to business banking, and I worked for a community development financial institution before joining the government sector. I love being able to make a difference in the historically underserved communities. It’s no secret that nationwide many communities of color and specific segments of the general population have been marginalized where business financing is concerned. I love volunteering to teach and provide financial awareness and being a resource on obtaining help so businesses can become successful and contribute to generational wealth.
I pray for life and good health for my family and friends. I also pray for peace in our hearts and in our home—our adopted country of the United States and Tanzania—and in the world in general. Finally, I ask if God could indulge us with a good belly laugh—we all could use one every single day.
Beyond the sound bites of doom and gloom news from major media, there are always a few good people doing good work and making a difference. Let’s find these good people and spread the cheer. Better yet, let us be these good people and make a difference. It’s possible to be like Jesus.
I’m a Lutheran because the Lutherans get me. I became a Lutheran by chance when I followed my mother to church. As an adult, I chose to stay a Lutheran because of the loving community I belong to. When I’m at church, whether I’m attending a worship service or event with Minnesota Swahili or interacting with folks from our host church, Holy Trinity Lutheran, I’m at home. I’m a Lutheran because I’m whole—Swahili and all!
I’m a Lutheran because I’m whole—Swahili and all!
Besides volunteering on several nonprofit boards and being part of the Minneapolis Area Synod Council, my husband John and I enjoy barbecuing with family and friends, and coordinating activities and play dates for our children, Nohealani Petra, 9, and Naali Yves, 7. When resources allow, we like traveling. The kids love road trips.
I have had many faith mentors in my life. My college professor and boss, Edward Raupp, and former Waldorf president William Hamm started my adulthood faith journey by showing me that it’s possible to live a Christlike life by serving others in the global church. My friends Sara Trumm, Sunitha Mortha and Chad Amour engaged me in many faith conversations over the years that taught me that I could be cool like them and still be able to serve. But most importantly are those who have stood by me and walked me through the roughest and greatest parts of my life—my sisters in Christ, Elieshi Mungure and Faith Lugazia, pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. Without them holding my hands and helping me line up my faith and life journeys, my faith would have faltered.
I have too many favorite church memories, but this one sticks out: My father was a Moravian pastor’s kid who went to study medicine in communist USSR and came back to Tanzania a non-Christian scientist. This created challenging dynamics for my Lutheran-practicing mother, as she was forbidden to take my two sisters and me to church. One Sunday morning I decided I needed to go to church with my mother. I begged and cried until she agreed to take me with her. I had an amazing time in Sunday school that day. That was the beginning of my faith journey, and I’ve never willingly missed Sunday school classes since that day.
Since I joined my congregation, I’ve assumed various roles—from ushering and washing dishes after service to being a congregation council member, secretary and treasurer. I also participated in the transition from a synod-authorized worshiping community to a full-fledged congregation. And having spent seven and a half years working at Lutheran Youth Encounter right after college, I dove into youth ministry. Today I’ve done it all—from Sunday school and confirmation classes, to the Youth Gathering and other youth programming. It’s a blessing to be the resident children and youth ministries expert.
I went through the darkest time of my life when my first marriage fell apart. I was angry with God because it wasn’t my doing that it ended. My then mother-in-law reached out to me daily. Although we didn’t share the same faith, she supported and nurtured me the most. She prayed for me and encouraged me to reach out to my church community. Her love, care and encouragement to pray was what I needed to turn back to God!
Whenever I hear grace in the church context, I sing a song by an old friend, Peder Eide—“Yeah by grace through our faith .…” On a serious note, I’m blessed beyond measure, though at times I don’t see it and become grouchy to my heavenly father. It’s only by grace that I get to worship and continue to grow my faith in a way that is culturally meaningful to me, in a community of faith that loves me and mine unconditionally.
I have learned that I don’t have to be ordained to serve. Living the life of service can be anywhere and everywhere. I recognized that I could coach and help find solutions to minor stumbling blocks in the business finance industry. As I do this, I see God’s presence as he strengthens me even in places where I think there is little or no hope. I live a life of servitude by making a difference—one business at a time.