Celebrating Life

Date posted: Friday 04 October 2019

In our description of who we are and what we are about, we say: Bega​ ​Kwa​ ​Bega​ ​is​ ​a​ ​network​ ​of​ ​relationships: ​holy,​ ​growing,​ ​and​ ​thriving.​ ​Through it​ ​we​ ​walk​ ​beside​ ​our​ ​companions​ ​in​ ​Iringa,​ ​celebrating​ ​our​ ​life​ ​together​ ​through​ ​mutual​ ​prayer, presence,​ ​and​ ​projects.


More than a program or a common activity, when people ask me what ‘this Bega Kwa Bega thing’ is, I tell them that, at the end of the day, it is “a celebration of life, together, in Christ.”


A recent Sunday in Iringa affirmed that observation for me. It was a thirteen-hour day that began at sun up and concluded with sun down. Throughout it, my traveling companions and I covered 212 km (130 miles) of road–some of it paved, much of it not. We went south into the rolling hills and highlands past Kilolo. And then we went east, turning off the highway at Ilula and dropping down to the plains near Image. This being the dry season, the skies were clear, save for the plumes of dust our vehicle kicked up.


Our first stop of the day was the mountain-top village of Lukani for the dedication of a new water system. Built in cooperation with their companions at St. Stephen Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake and Saint Paul Partners, the BKB Affiliate focused on providing safe water, the system was built with the entire community in mind. And, boy, did the community turn out. As the church bell rang above and dancing feet adorned with njuga (dancing bells) pounded the ground below, school children and elders and parish members and government officials gathered around a tap in the courtyard of the church. We all stood shoulder to shoulder as Bishop Gaville prayed over and dedicated the new system. And then, when the taps were opened, we shouted and sang and hooted and hollered together as the gift of clean water, a gift of pure life, began to flow. All thanks be to God.


From Lukani we followed the Bishop’s entourage back to the highway and then to the east – out toward Image School and the parish of Uhominyi for an entirely different kind of celebration. As we approached the place, cars and buses and vans were parked tightly behind houses and scattered in clusters throughout neighboring fields – wherever one could find space, it seemed. Once parked, we followed those who were walking by foot.


We saw familiar faces from across the Diocese–pastors and evangelists and lay leaders and choir members. And then we joined them in a large crowd (hundreds if not a thousand) that had gathered around a tent set up outside a family’s house. Adorned with musical instruments and flowers, it was erected for the funeral of Obed Mella. A beloved choir master, talented musician, and prolific composer, his was a life that touched many. In solidarity we stood with them, before the house and alongside the gravesite. In joy and sorrow we accompanied them as they, in turn, remembered and commemorated the witness of their mentor, their teacher, their father, their friend… All thanks be to God, indeed.


This is the stuff of life and this, for me, is what it means to live and work bega kwa bega. For all of it, and for the opportunity to serve, share, and celebrate beside all of you, I give thanks.


With joy and gratitude,


The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega and Assistant to the Bishop