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This week representatives from the Saint Paul Area Synod are joining their counterparts from the Iringa Diocese and 150 other leaders from 20 ELCA synods and 26 ELCT dioceses for a summit on companion synod relationships. When asked what the secret is to the Saint Paul - Iringa connection, the simplest answer is that it is all about the people, as this introduction from General Secretary Nayman Chavalla reveals.
Welcome to the Iringa Diocese and to the Head Office where we have many departments and programs. As General Secretary, I am the administrator for the diocese. Today it's my job to tell you about the partnership and its impact.
This partnership is 30 some years old, one of the oldest of all the ELCT partnerships. Ten years ago, together we evaluated the partnership and developed three areas of focus: prayer, presence or visitation, and projects.
Starting with prayer is very important to our relationship. Every congregation here has a special week to pray for their Saint Paul Area Synod partners.
I visited your country three times. I remember coming to your house for dinner [said to the leader of the visiting group] and I remember your animals - a llama and chickens. I've never seen that animal before, that's why I remember.
We need to visit one another, to know our different customs and norms. We learn a lot... When we visit, we exchange the way we live. We understand each other better. You Americans, you are so good on time management. Frankly speaking, we are not. We care very much about relationship. If I am on the way to a meeting with April, but along the way I see Kirsten, I have to stop and ask how is she doing, how is her husband, how is Emily? I'll be late to see April but it doesn't matter... So please, continue to visit, it makes the partnership stronger.
It seems like the SPAS/DIRA partnership is so strong because of the people, not just because of the leaders. In other synods, the partnership is between the bishop here and the bishop in America. Much of the discussion is about funding. Here there are many relationships.
The third focus of the partnership is projects. We have education and scholarships... Ilula Hospital... Ilula Nursing School... microfinance... Radio Furaha... The Huruma Center... The Lutheran Center... Saint Paul Partners working on water... A Million Trees working on reforestation. In short, we have so many projects and programs.
What is important to know is that the partnership is important to the people. Its impact is so high.
If we leaders woke up today and wrote a letter to Bishop Patricia Lull saying that we would not continue the partnership, I tell you, the partnership would continue because of the strong relationship between so many people.
General Secretary Chavalla's presentation is transcribed and paraphrased in a blog post by Kirsten Levorson, chair of the Saint Paul Area Synod's Iringa Committee. You can read the full post here.