The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
I was thrilled to get an email with this subject line a few weeks ago. Twenty years ago, Prince of Peace in Roseville began our companionship journey with Bomalang’ombe Lutheran Church. We have prayed for each other and visited regularly every two years.
One of the many highlights of our visits is when we are shown all the changes that have happened since our last visit. Over the years we have observed improvements to preaching point buildings, new and renovated housing for pastors and evangelists, widows’ pig and goat projects, and the formation of a women’s economic development program that creates batiks.
During our most recent visit in 2019, we had a chance to stay in the brand-new house for the lead pastor and visit a new preaching point. We were also excited to learn that the Vikongwa preaching point had grown to the extent that they were planning to form a new congregation. We eagerly looked forward to visiting in 2021 to see all the new changes.
Then COVID hit. Like so many other churches in the U.S., we had to learn to adapt and change. At Prince of Peace, we experimented with livestreaming, recorded services and outdoor worship. We learned how to use Zoom for meetings and ways to stay connected. Our connection with our companions stayed strong with regular emails where we each gave updates on what was happening in our congregations and communities, and continued to pray for each other.
In 2020, ambassadors from the Iringa Diocese and BKB office represented us at the installation of the new parish in Vikongwa, where we committed to form a covenant relationship with them as well. In October of 2020, we had a Zoom call with representatives of both Bomalang’ombe and Vikongwa parishes, and had a chance to hear directly from some of the past and current students we had provided scholarships for.
As COVID continued to rage, it became clear that a 2021 visit would not be feasible. We continued to communicate through emails and another Zoom call with both parishes. In Bomalang’ombe we heard about the addition of a kitchen to the pastor’s house and the addition of electricity for evangelist homes. We heard that the women’s economic group had expanded to making hand sanitizers. Vikongwa continued to renovate the house they had purchased for their new pastor. Bomalang’ombe also shared the exciting news that the road between Kidabaga and Bomalang’ombe, where we had often gotten stuck in the mud, had finally been paved!
We also learned of a new project – Bomalang’ombe began building a new business center – renovating an existing building to become a new café, and beginning a new building with three shops. Some of the funds Prince of Peace raised for building projects were used to purchase tin sheets for the roof, cement, electrical installation and metal gates. The pictures in the email showed the new café and the new shops…a barbershop, a women’s beauty salon and an animal feed store! The plans are to eventually build 15 shops.
Our partnership is also mutual – Prince of Peace needs to replace a portion of our roof, and during our Zoom call, we were surprised and delighted when Bomalang’ombe donated six of the batiks made by their women’s group that we can use to help raise funds for our roof.
We hope and pray that we can make another visit back soon.
Chair, Iringa Committee