Minnesota Bishops: Chaplains Provide Critical Care
Written by the six Minnesota bishops of the Evangelical Church in America. Published in the Opinion Ex[...]
I’ve spent the past three months in Iringa…my longest visit yet. I’m grateful to have been there through the transition of program coordinators in the BKB-SPAS office, wishing Ryan and Astine Bose well when they departed and welcoming Susan Seidel to her new home and work for the coming two years.
Bega Kwa Bega has two offices in Tanzania:
Our colleagues in the BKB-DIRA office are Mr. Frank Mkocha, scholarship clerk, and Pastor Lusungu Msigwa, coordinator of BKB for the Iringa Diocese.
Frank compiles and updates all the data for our extensive scholarship program. He’s tech savvy and pays attention to details. It’s his job during school visits to verify that students on our list are in attendance at the appropriate school, and that all our information about them – names, home parish, year in school, fee information – is accurate. He posts that information to a database that is accessible to the cluster leaders, who share the student lists with congregational leaders here in Minnesota. He tracks students who come from partnered parishes as well as students from unpartnered parishes whose fees are paid by the Equity Fund. He brings tuition fee requests to the BKB-SPAS office for payment.
When it’s time for post-secondary scholarship interviews and selection, Frank collects applications, tracks admission letters and student transcripts, and verifies fee information. He communicates with the applicants so they appear on the right day for interviews, and he has the hard job of delivering the news from the award panel, whether the student has received a scholarship or not. Frank has many pockets of knowledge and is often a gold mine of reliable information about anything from technology to residence permits to where to get the best price on whatever household goods a person could need.
Pastor Msigwa is a wise and gracious partner in our shared work. His time in Minnesota studying at Luther Seminary has made him even more valuable as an interpreter for travel groups, as he interprets not only Kiswahili and English, but also the cultural differences experienced on each side of this companionship. In the last year, he has personally accompanied almost every travel group, spending three-day weekends on the road with Minnesotans rather than at home with his family.
Pastor Msigwa is the important central hub in our communication wheel, assisting congregations and parishes by connecting and passing messages back and forth. While Americans would love to have direct email or text connections with their Tanzanian companions, often the barriers of language, internet, and changing personnel get in the way. But U.S. congregations can send the BKB-SPAS office messages, greetings, or a list of questions, and we will pass them to Pastor Msigwa. He will then message or call the Tanzanian parish pastor, and relay the responses back to the SPAS side. The communication is prompt and reliable, and is strengthening companionships in amazing ways.
A year ago, Pastor Msigwa was given an expanded role by the diocese, when he was named International Relations Officer. He now coordinates not only the companionship with Saint Paul, but also works with Swedes, Danes, Germans and others who have connections with the diocese.
Together, our BKB team has traveled many kilometers visiting schools and parishes around the diocese. Frank has shoveled us out of some muddy spots on rough roads, and Pastor Msigwa’s most memorable line this year was in response to a wish that an online map would work in the rural areas. “I will be your GPS,” he deadpanned from the backseat.
For these colleagues with their skill, dedication, kindness, and good humor, I am deeply grateful.
Director of Bega Kwa Bega