Visits to our companion parishes have a common script – the singing and dancing of the welcome, the report or ‘historia’ of the congregation, naming accomplishments and challenges, walking together to examine a site or a project, and breaking bread together, sharing a meal.

The BKB team in Iringa has been making a series of similar visits. But instead of visits on behalf of companion congregations, this month we are visiting unpartnered parishes in each district. We’re practicing the power of presence and we are learning many things.

Since its inception as a diocese, churches here have focused on evangelism and planting new congregations. God has blessed these efforts abundantly. About 10 years ago, there were 70 parishes in the Iringa Diocese, and every one of them had a U.S. companion. Today, the diocese has 130 parishes, and 77 of them have a U.S. companion.

“We’ve seen other parishes near us receive friends from America and we wondered when we would get a visit, too,” said one of the pastors. At Masukanzi Parish we heard, “On behalf of the parish, thank you for visiting us. This is one big step, you knowing that there are parishes without partners. For us, even knowing that you know is healing to us. Through these visits you will know our challenges and strengths. When you go back home, tell them that we love and pray for them.”

At each of these visits, we have heard some of the same challenges that we hear from our companions in partnered parishes. There are students in need of scholarship support. Congregations struggle sometimes to build chapels to meet the needs of their growing congregations, or to provide bikes for evangelists or a motorcycle for the pastor’s use. Communities lack access to clean water and healthcare.

About six years ago when the Iringa Committee saw the growing number of unpartnered parishes, we established a Scholarship Equity Fund to share scholarship resources with students from these communities. At present, the fund shares 1 million TSH with each parish. That’s about enough for one secondary student per parish.

We’d like to grow the Scholarship Equity Fund, and have also established a Parish Equity Fund. The Parish Equity Fund will share resources with unpartnered parishes, and the first goal of that fund is to supply motorbikes to help pastors reach their many village congregations. Please remember these opportunities when you budget for the coming year. (Average cost of a scholarship, $450. Cost of a piki piki, $1350.)

At each of our visits, our friends have quoted Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Asante sana,

Kirsten Levorson
Director of Bega Kwa Bega