2019 Annual Report

Date posted: Wednesday 29 May 2019

At the 2019 Saint Paul Area Synod Assembly, Kirsten Levorson and Pastor Peter Harrits presented the annual assembly report on behalf of Bega Kwa Bega and the Iringa Committee. Included below is a synopsis of their presentation. Click here for the written report included in the assembly bulletin.


One of the highlights of our common work this year has been to complete the goals of the strategic plan adopted five years ago, and to start developing our next five-year plan. While much of the life-giving experience of companionship happens in Iringa with our Tanzanian brothers and sisters, there is also much other work done here in St. Paul to provide the infrastructure supporting our congregational partnerships. We are grateful for the members of the Iringa Committee, its subcommittees, affiliate partners and all those who contribute to that work.


While it has been a full year for our companions as well, there is one key event that we'd like to draw to your attention. In January, the Iringa Diocese held a Special Assembly in order to elect a new Dean or Assistant Bishop. With a near-unanimous vote, Pastor Askali Mgeyekwa was elected to the position and installed on Palm Sunday. We are asked to hold him in our prayers as he works with the Bishop and District Pastors to oversee the spiritual growth and development of the diocese.


Scholarships and the support of education have long been a priority of our companion relationship. Last year, two science lab classrooms were constructed and furnished for the students at Lutangilo Secondary School. This year, we're raising the roof for the multi-purpose building at Mtera. We've also expanded the scholarship program from funding primarily secondary school students, to offering college scholarships, too. Our partners in Iringa tell us this is the growing edge where support is needed. We are grateful for the ways in which the BKB community stepped up to support more than 30 new, qualified applicants for Post-Secondary Scholarships last September. So too are the students who say, "Asante sana. Thank you very much."


Reflecting the theme of this year's assembly and its focus on both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, another highlight of the last year occurred this past February as six leaders from across the Saint Paul Area Synod met with 14 of their peers from across the Iringa Diocese and a handful of other mission partners for the inaugural Pamoja Leadership Summit. Seated together under fruit trees and across great cultural difference, we spoke and we listened, from our strengths and in our vulnerability, and -- in doing so -- we all were grasped by the both/and-ness of the call to follow Christ.


This large network of relationships that we call Bega Kwa Bega could not function well without proper administrative support. Working in collaboration with ELCA Global Mission, we've been blessed to have long-term volunteers serving in Iringa as program coordinators. At the same time, shifts in funding from the general synod budget mean that we need to rethink how that good work is funded. That challenge presents an opportunity, and we invite you to contribute to our mission personnel support target of $9,000 per year. So far, we're about a third of the way there. For the support we've received from individuals and congregations, both partnered and not, we say "Asante sana. Thank you very much."


One of the first groups to say 'yes' to the invitation to provide missionary support for our shared placement personnel in Iringa was the group of Mission Starts and Congregations in Redevelopment that work with my colleague, Pastor Justin Grimm. Their support reflects the intentional efforts that we've been making across the board to build a greater sense of camaraderie and shared purpose between the Saint Paul Area Synod's global and local mission practitioners. Whether it be in Tanzania, Guatemala, or much closer to home we are, all of us, on the way together... All thanks be to God.


Mungu Awabariki... God Bless You All,
-Kirsten & Peter


Kirsten Levorson, Chair of the Iringa Committee
The Rev. Peter Harrits, Director of BKB and Assistant to the Bishop