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Pastor Rich Larson from Bethlehem Lutheran in Bayport is currently spending six weeks of his sabbatical in Iringa volunteering as a BKB Ambassador. Beginning with his first trip in 2003, he has made several trips to Tanzania - including time serving as a Pastor/Teacher at Tumaini University in 2010. This time he'll be visiting seven different Iringa Diocese (DIRA) congregations on behalf of companions back in Minnesota who are unable to make the journey themselves this year.
For Pastor Rich, serving as an Ambassador is "an opportunity to spend time immersed in the life of the people (in the Iringa Diocese). I get to see what their daily life is like and to learn about their joys and concerns - particularly the pastors."
While conveying messages and sharing pictures back and forth between partners is Pastor Rich's primary task, he is able to follow some of his own curiosities as well. He says, "I am interested in what I can gain from learning about how the church in Tanzania is gaining momentum through outreach and evangelism." Last week while visiting Irindi Parish on behalf of their friends at St. Timothy, he was able to experience some of that energy first hand.
The visit began with a drive from Iringa Town past Ilula and the Lutheran Hospital there and then down the escarpment. Reaching the bottom, at Mahenge, they turned North and followed a rock-covered dirt road up to Irindi. "We arrived at the beautiful village of Irindi," he reports, "It is located in a fertile valley with nice looking crops of corn, banana trees, mango trees, kisava plants, among many other kinds of crops." After a delicious breakfast consisting largely of local produce he received reports and news from the parish and read a letter from the partnership committee in Minnesota - discussing shared projects, updating one another on new developments in their communities, and lifting up ways in which they can support one another in prayer.
What struck Pastor Rich most from the visit was the concerted effort leaders in Irindi are making to reach out to different tribes in the area through hospitality. "The incredible welcome guests from Minnesota receive is not limited to foreigners," he observes. The people of Irindi practice it with their neighbors as well. "As people are welcomed they form friendships and other relationships," he notes, "and these in turn lead to baptisms and the growth of Christ's church."
All in all it was a remarkable experience - one that he is eager to share with others.
We'll be having another set of BKB Ambassadors visiting Iringa later this summer. From mid-August into early October, Russ Hilliard and Jo Whiting will be making visits on behalf of US congregations. If you and your leadership team have questions for your partners, a project to follow-up on, or just want to send your greetings they'll be happy to do so for you. To learn more and get on their visit list, email firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
With gratitude and joy,
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega and Assistant to the Bishop