We have often heard the term in Kananga, “ela tshiayi”. Literally, it means to “serve tea”, and gradually we have come to understand that it implies throwing a party to celebrate something, such as graduating from school, a job promotion, or moving into a new house. When we moved into our apartment in Kananga last year, we were told often (sometimes by complete strangers) that we should “ela tshiayi” and invite them to inaugurate our new living situation.
So—fast forward to January 2011. We were given offices to use as part of the Evangelism Department, and were excited about finally having a place to meet with people and ‘work’ aside from our apartment. The ceiling was rotting and falling down, the awning was broken, and it desperately needed some new paint. We arranged for those repairs to be done in December, and told a few colleagues that when we were able to start working in the offices, we wanted to ‘ela tshiayi’ to initiate this step in our work with the church.
Our idea was to invite our colleagues in the Department of Evangelism and a few of the church leaders to see the offices and pray together at a short gathering, and then serve tea and donuts. We wanted to keep it short and low-key, and thought that morning might be a good time to hold it. We met with the Director of Evangelism to get his input, and he supported the idea. He initially suggested that we hold it in the late afternoon, but then conceded that late morning might be OK. We reviewed the menu: we would serve tea and coffee…
“And what else?” he prodded. “What about those people who don’t drink tea?”
“Water?” we suggested, “Soft-drinks?”
“And what else?” he questioned again.
”What are you looking for? We thought that ‘kuela tshiayi’ meant serving tea, and we thought that would be a good option for an office opening….”
So…in the end we decided on serving beer and soft-drinks, with peanuts and donuts. Diabetes is quite common in this region, especially among older adults, so beer is a sugar-free drink of choice. With advice from some other colleagues, we nixed the tea and coffee (“because by 11am the sun is hot, and people don’t drink tea when it is hot!”).
We cleaned up the offices (trying to clear off years of dust and sort through ages of papers). The morning of our gathering, Bob picked up a few pictures that we had framed and we were really happy with how everything looked. Nearly all of our invitees came, and very close to on-time despite a rainy morning! They did a brief introduction/ceremony, and then we walked through the offices and prayed over the space and our work there. Then, we gathered in the Protestant Center for refreshments and celebrating. Ironically, since it was raining and cold that morning, I decided at the last minute to make tea and have that as an option – and was amused at how many people opted to drink both beer and tea! Be flexible and hospitable—two key strengths of the culture in Kasai we have learned to appreciate!
Dr. Mulumba and other church leaders enjoy refreshments
Pierre was our ‘protocol person’, and made sure everyone was served
Kristi sitting at her desk