Lefties Travails!

My (Rusty’s) first year (1956) in then Tanganyika was as a single, unmarried, new missionary. I was assigned to the Kijima station where another single young man lived. Often we traveled together to what were called “bush churches” to help the African pastor who also was going. Yes, it was mainly because I had a vehicle to help with transportation but such ministry was what we were there for. On this one trip, after the Sunday morning service, the pastor, church elders, Ivan and I were ushered into a hut for a GREAT African meal. After a prayer, all were invited to eat – “bonekagi”, the host said.

Now, both Ivan and I were left-handed. Having grown up in Tanganyika and knowing a bit about Sukuma (tribal) foibles, had learned that there are certain things one never does with the left hand. One of them is eating

As we began to eat, Ivan reached for a choice piece of chicken with his left hand. The son of the host, who attended a near-by Secondary School, said in English, “We BaSukuma never eat with the left hand and if you must use it you have to go out to the kitchen and eat with the women”. Ivan, in mid-stride, pulled his hand back and put it in his lap. He just sat there, not knowing what to do. Then the young man said, “But we are Christians now. It is alright”. Pastor Isaaka (Isaac) noted that there were many things that had changed since the Word of God had been introduced among the BaSukuma.

With that, Ivan smiled and reached again for that piece of chicken (which no one else in the meantime had taken) and enjoyed not only that but the rest of the meal. In the days that followed he learned a bit more of those cultural matters and was very careful in the use of his left hand.