A few days ago I drove through Nyamikoma village and what I saw prompted me to track down a man affected by the recent rains.
Shepherd Andrea Fransisko, who is a mason, is the religious head of the Lake Zone under the Magu sub district of the New Apostolic Church. He also heads the Nyamikoma church of the same congregation.
When I saw the church he heads partially submerged in rainwater I felt I needed to talk to him. I had this feeling that since Prime Minister Edward Lowassa recently asked religious congregations to pray for rainfall, many heeded his call and I was convinced Shepherd Andrea was one of them.
It appears those prayers were answered and by biblical proportions. Large areas which suffered under drought have now experienced periods of rainfall which have caused flooding and also brought extensive damage to property. In Magu district alone 30 houses are reported to have been swept away by floodwater.
I had many questions lined up for him, all with the basic purpose of finding out whether faith still abounded under such conflicting signals from above. After my first question he told me God's actions cannot be criticized and I was effectively silenced. At least for a while.
I wanted to know if he could reconcile the fact that their prayers were answered in that manner, with his church under one metre of water. The response was predictable, but it would have been interesting to find a man who has decided to abandon religion altogether in frustration and stay with the more predictable occupation of masonry. That is a situation that newspapers love to expose.
But I was still curious enough to ask some not so direct questions.
For that much rain to fall he must have contributed to a lot of praying, I asked him. He told me that throughout the 20 centres under his authority he did lead a lot of prayers to ask for an end to the dry spell. That I was expecting. What I suspected was unexpected was not only the excessive rainfall but also the the floodwater causing part of the church to remain under water.
He told me apart from the flooding of the church some religious texts and church registers were also damaged. The damage resulted from a heavy downpour on February 24.
I planned my interview with an intent of testing Shepherd Andrea's faith in his Creator and came out with the impression that he was not only steadfast in his faith, but he also found some positive aspects to the incident.
This became apparent when I persisted in trying to dig out a weak link in the chain under his leadership when I asked, "Didn't any member of the congregation wonder why the prayers could not have been answered in moderate proportions?"
"No," he said, "they were happy to scrub clean the Church and clear it of the dirt and mud. Besides, now that the rains have come people are busy planting rice and sweet potatoes." I could tell he did not become Shepherd for nothing.
I went out in search of a dent in the faith of a human being but only ended up discovering other weaknesses in humans which have nothing to do with religion. According to Shepherd Andrea, the person who was given the task of constructing the church chose a low-lying area in a floodplain. To compound the situation, the church stands next to the Mwanza - Musoma road whose low bridges are not adequately cleared of debris and prevents a fluid flow of rainwater.
The result is, during excessive rainfall, the road becomes a dam allowing water to accumulate on one side of the road and preventing the water to flow freely to Lake Victoria, and eventually, to the Nile in Egypt where the Egyptians of centuries past suffered enough damage from floods to devise effective mechanisms for managing the heavenly responses to human suffering.