BKB Ambassadors – Bridging the Gap

Date posted: Thursday 02 March 2017

BKB Ambassadors are short-term (6-8 week) volunteers from the Saint Paul Area Synod who travel to Iringa on behalf of congregations in the United States. Their task is to be the eyes and ears and hands and feet for those who aren't able to be in Tanzania themselves. 

This week's update offers two vignettes from Russ and Jo Hilliard who helped to initiate this position last year. If you are interested in sending BKB Ambassadors on your congregation's behalf, or serving in that role yourself in the future, email begakwabega@spas-elca.org for more information.
Idegenda Parish:
One of the first things the pastor of the Idegende parish mentioned to us on our arrival was the church's concern that no one from its partner congregation had visited in a long time and they hoped they hadn't done something wrong to offend the partner. We assured them that was not the case and that the message we brought from their partner would explain the situation. During our meeting with the partnership committee and elders, we read the warm and informative letter from the Minnesota partner's pastor about the changes that the partner has been undergoing. 
The people from Idegende were very interested and sympathetic. They understood that one significant reason their US partner has been unable to send anyone to visit in the past few years is because of the huge demographic and membership changes going on in that congregation. We were able to explain that the US partner wishes to continue the partnership and increase communication, but that it needs Idegende to understand the narrower parameters within which it is working at this time.
Idegende appreciated hearing about the projects its US partner is doing to raise funds for it (e.g., can recycling, craft sales, congregational  donations), even though it has been unable to send visitors in recent years. They also expressed their appreciation for the ambassadorial visit, saying that it helped them to understand and to continue to keep the partnership close in spirit.
Igangidungu'u Parish:
We drove up another treacherous, winding, bumpy, and absolutely gorgeous mountain road to reach Igangidungu'u, a former preaching point of Kiponzelo that has become its own parish. As we approached the church we could hear singing and ululating and as it came into view we saw a huge crowd of colorfully dressed people waving palm fronds and branches and welcoming us with huge smiles and dancing and jubilant songs. It was one of the largest and most joyful welcomes we had in our ambassadorial visits-and that is saying a lot! We sang and danced our way into the church, and everyone followed us in, filling the sanctuary. 
The pastor began the meeting by telling us it was a dream to receive guests as there had not been any white person in the parish or the village since its American partner had visited, while Igangidungu'u was still a preaching point, several years before. The congregation was very happy to hear that visitors from the US hoped to come in the next couple of years, and expressed great appreciation that we had been sent in the meantime to communicate with them their partner's good wishes and future plans.
Russ Hilliard & Jo Whiting
Holy Trinity - Newington, NH
BKB Cluster Leaders & Ambassadors