01 Dec Meet Naelijwa Manongi
Naelijwa which means “I am sanctified” lives a venerated life of service to others just like what Jesus said “For whether is greater, he that sittet h at meat, or he that serveth? I s not he that sitteth at meat? Luke 22:25 ( KJV). B ut what is the source of Naelijwa’s life of service that she lives and bears and how was it developed? What are hobbies and how do they enrich her spiritual life? What does Naelijwa think should TAUS do to get the youth engaged in its services? Welcome to Naelijwa story.
Naelijwa grew up Dar es Salaam and was fortunate and blessed to attend day school from elementary school to high school – daily enjoying family love, guidance, and influence and being exposed to the outside world on weekdays. Just like any other kid, she enjoyed the ride to school and playing with friends. She loved her teachers as she enjoyed the lessons and doing homework. However, she also experienced some minor challenges like scheduled exams on Sabbath, which the parents helped resolve by explaining to the teachers why Naelijwa cannot do her exams on Sabbath day.
Naelijwa’s weekends were marked by the same experience that Adventists have in Tanzania – a very special breakfast on Sabbath morning followed by church services where Naelijwa enjoyed the children Sabbath School and other children activities. Her local church in Dar es Salaam was Mwenge where she would meet many relatives and friends and enjoy quality time with them. Naelijwa learnt of things, which Jesus said about serving others “…Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others…” Mark 10:43-45 (ESV). At young age, she visited hospitals to see the sick, feed the hungry on Dar es Salaam streets and other activities, which the church organized.
At a tender age, Naelijwa loved to go the beach on Sundays and enjoy the cool breeze of the Indian Ocean. She would arrange with friends to enjoy swimming in the ocean and drink coconut juice, she loved drinking right from the coconut shell and finished by scooping up its succulent flesh. She would lie on the beach beds with family and friends and enjoy the cool breeze and ocean waves, silently singing with David “Above the roar of many waters—the mighty breakers of the sea—the LORD on high is majestic” (Psalm 93:4). Naelijwa’s mother and dad were especially instrumental in teaching their kids on the importance of prayer. But at the same time, baba taught his kids that prayer shouldn’t be an excuse for not working hard. Mama agreed with praying hard and reminded them that if they are met with challenges, they shouldn’t be worried, things will work if they trust God. Like Gordon Hinkley – who said “Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds” – mama made sure her kids understood the value of work and that she used Romans 12:11-12 to make her point: Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically….Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
Special Grandma – Granddaughter Relationship
Naelijwa is the name of her grandmother who lived in a village in the Same districts. Naelijwa the grandma (for brevity, let us call her GM Naelijwa) and Naelijwa developed a very special relationship well beyond sharing the same name. Just like many grandmas, GM Naelijwa had a special love for her namesake and – as expected, she pampered her. But beyond pampering, GM Naelijwa taught Naelijwa lots of lessons to earn a very special position of being her role model. Yes, to all of the grandmothers who make the world more gentle, more tolerant and more safe for our children. Never doubt your importance (Mary-Lou Rosengren).
An Italian proverb goes – if nothing is not going well, call your grandmother. This was true with Naelijwa and she knows full well that there’s no place like home except Grandma’s (Anonymous). She made her family visit GM Naelijwa three to four times a year. The most exciting time in a year was during Christmas when Naelijwa’s family traveled to Same for vacation. Naelijwa always liked to see her grandma and she would keep talking about the trip long before and after the travel date. She would prepare all the good gifts to give to her grandma, draw pictures and prepare cards – all showing how much she loved her. Then the day would come to drive to Same. Naelijwa knew that the 213-mile trip from Dar es Salaam to Same was long and fast because it was on a flat terrain. But once they started climbing up the steep slopes of the road from Same to the grandma’s village, Naelijwa would get very excited – knowing that they would soon arrive at GM Naelijwa home. She would keep asking dad – the driver – “are we there yet?” Dad’s answer was always, “Not yet Naelijwa. We have some time before we arrive at grandma’s home.”
In the village, GM Naelijwa always looked forward to seeing her special visitors arrive. Days before their arrival, she would tell all neighbors and friends who care to listen about the special visitors. She would use all her energy to carefully prepare her home ready for Naelijwa and her company. The special visitors would finally arrive and Naelijwa would run fast to go hug GM Naelijwa and cling on her for a long time. At the same, GM Naelijwa would welcome her beloved granddaughter.
After the dust settles down GM Naelijwa would cook Pare food – which is exclusively prepared for distinguished guests. This includes Ibada na kajama Kegeriwe makungu (cassava thick paste served with beef seasoned with oyster nut – Telfairia pedata) or Vugai vywa mabundo na vuperege vwe banikwe – a thick paste prepared from mixed corn and rice flour and served with dried fish. The holiday visit at GM Naelijwa was a big hit for Naeilijwa who loves nature. She would accompany GM Naelijwa to her farm and enjoy all the crops, birds, livestock and everything natural. Early morning before sunrise, Naelijwa would listen to the songs of birds announcing the new day and as Rabindranath Tagore said, “Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark”, Naelijwa knew that God has protected her and her family and it was time to wake up and enjoy nature. She didn’t need an alarm clock as the birds – which surrounded GM Naelijwa’s farm – woke her up.
The two friends – with the double-digit age difference – spent time together doing everything together and sleeping in one bed. GM Naelijwa would adorably touch Naelijwa’s soft skin and share Margaret Lang’s feelings “As I gazed in awe at my granddaughter, all I could think about was the wonder of God’s handiwork.”
They talked a lot about everything – including Spiritual and social life, and everything in-between. It was during this love-filled relationship encounters that GM became Naelijwa’s role model. She has taught her one big lesson about life and the Bible – Naelijwa should build a personal relationship with Jesus. She should not be going to church because mama tells her to go church. Using
Paul’s message to Corinthians – who challenged them to be Jesus’ open letter to the world – she always told her “your Christianity should be so deep and so wide to the point that whoever you meet would know that you are a follower of Christ by seeing Jesus Christ in what you do. GM Naelijwa taught Naelijwa how she grew up and how she faced her life and offered object lessons on her own life of kindness, serving others and the power of prayer. These lessons from GM Naelijwa have had the biggest impact on Naelijwa’s spiritual and social life.
Naelijwa – An Outdoor Girl
David sings The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1) and in Psalms 33:5, David further reminds us that God’s creation reveals His love: The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is
full of his unfailing love (Psalm 33:5). Job joins David to remind us what nature teaches us about God 7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; 8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. 9 Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? (Job 12:7-10).
Naelijwa chooses to surround herself with God’s handiwork as revealed by nature. She loves hiking, swimming, going to the beach, canoeing, skydiving, rock-climbing, – you name it! Any outdoor activity is
Naelijwa’s business. As she walks through the forest, she smells the fragrant flowers and touches their tender petals made with breathtaking hue. She touches the drooping branches as she hikes – breathing the fresh air scented with fragrant flowers. She listens to the melodious songs of birds and sees the humming birds sipping nectar from flowers. She agrees with Amethyst Wyldfyre who said, “Like the hummingbird sipping nectar from every flower, I fly joyfully through my days, seeing beauty in everything.”
Nature reveals to Naelijwa God’s love, glory, creativity, and presence. This is the reason behind her attachment to nature.
Naelijwa also loves international travel – an attribute which is not surprising given that she was born in a foreign country. She agrees with Roman Payne who said “A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.” Naelijwa enjoys knowing and learning about other people’s cultures.
Profession and Career Life
When Naelijwa was a 10-year girl, she dreamt of being a medical doctor – an aspect, which reflects her calling of caring for others. But she ended up doing social work. She got a job at a social work company in New York City. Her supervisor is her professional role model because she is highly motivated and cares very much for everybody – just like GM Naelijwa counseled Naelijwa.
Naelijwa isn’t done yet with schooling. She is currently doing a master’s degree in social work and plans to advance her career further by taking positions and responsibilities that are more challenging. It is her calling to care for the people and that is why she settled for the social work since social work helps the least of these – supporting people experiencing all kinds of challenges. Naelijwa does not stop doing social work at her office. She lives the life of helping people around her – doing shopping errands for them, giving people rides and all other little acts of kindness.
Out and about in Boston Profession and career life.
Naelijwa’s spiritual role model in the Bible is Moses – who like her – was born in a foreign country and in a different culture. She draws many lessons on his humbleness and self-emptying service to the people to an extent that he was willing to die on behalf of the rebellious Israelites. Naelijwa is also inspired by young adults who participate in choir, or those who volunteer to help other people. Drawing from her Pathfinder activities in Dar es Salaam, Naelijwa always visits the sick and – as seen above– she helps those in need.
Naelijwa hasn’t done much of TAUS activities because the organization isn’t very active in New York city. Upendo Mbwana – who is the Director of Youth & Young Adults – asked Naelijwa what TAUS needs to do to increase Youth participation. Naturally, Naelijwa opined that TAUS retreats needs to plan outdoor activities which are exciting for the youth. She would be more than happy to participate in organizing hiking, canoeing and other outdoor activities which she enjoys doing.
Naelijwa also thinks that TAUS needs to use information technology more effectively. The main WhatsApp group appears to be a noticeboard as they do not have engaging discussion – which could be more attractive to the youth. For the youth groups, she encouraged having a schedule in the chatrooms where various topics can be discussed by the youth. For example, Monday could be designated to discuss spiritual topics, Tuesday financial topics, Wednesday Travel etc. This way all will have a chance to participate and learn from one another. Naelijwa also gave a suggestion that TAUS needs to be consistent in its approach and clearer on the TAUS mission. This will ensure there is no confusion arising from uncoordinated plans.
Naelijwa hopes that stories of the youth – like hers – will be more encouraging to the youth and young adults. Perhaps more young people will visit the TAUS website if they find uplifting youth stories. Increasing the frequency of youth virtual and in-person meetings at chapter and national levels will also help to get the youth more engaged. Naelijwa also advised that TAUS needs to organize programs for helping the youth to learn from adult members on aspects of investments, scholarships, fundraising for mission trips, and other issues which could help young people.
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