Drawn to the River
As January 2022 began, the ministry committees of St. Philip's, Hastings, were alerted to a grant oppo[...]
So far, about 35 Bega Kwa Bega travelers have ventured to Iringa since we reactivated our travel channels. What have we learned about travel during a pandemic?
It’s so good to be together again. There is such joy in face-to-face conversations, fist bumps in lieu of hugs and handshakes, meals shared, milestones celebrated, projects planned, and in experiencing the unity we have in Christ. Our relationships go deep. While we continued to pray and communicate while apart, there is nothing like being together once again. Bwana Yesu Asifiwe!
COVID is here, there and everywhere. We know the pandemic is not over, and we know that however carefully we plan, we can’t entirely evade the coronavirus. Its prevalence is often more apparent here than in Iringa. From hearts filled with love for our companions, we take every precaution we can, including vaccines, masks, distancing, testing, and planning our meetings in well ventilated spaces or outdoors. And when we test positive, we quarantine.
As mandates and restrictions ease, the responsibility for risk mitigation lands on the individual. Our travelers last May and June studied the CDC and State Department sites for entry and exit procedures, and were prepared to follow each and every requirement. As the summer continued, restrictions and requirements eased, testing and masking requirements were rescinded, until travelers only needed to show proof of vaccination. Several of our travelers said they preferred flying under the more restrictive requirements, because without them, who knows what is in the air around you on the flight? The responsibility for risk management and ethical decision making became very personal.
Since last March, BKB has required travel groups to submit a COVID Risk Mitigation and Contingency Plan for review and approval. Initially, that required plan was tied to certain levels of travel alerts and cautions put out by the CDC and State Department. As restrictions eased, we still saw the need for our travelers to think through the implications of their unique itineraries and group rosters, and create a responsible plan. The Risk Mitigation and Contingency Plan will continue to be a requirement for BKB Travel for the foreseeable future.
We learned that a fist bump can convey a lot of love. Our travelers altered their behavior. Instead of greeting friends with hugs, the fist bump and elbow tap became a sign of our friendship as well as a sign of love and concern for our companions. I admit, at first it felt awkward. But our gracious hosts adapted, too.
For those who aren’t traveling, Zoom is still the next best thing. Here in the U.S., many of us are tired of virtual meetings. But to see and hear our companions for an hour, to pray with them, to share news and updates, and to plan a project – for that, the technology is priceless. More than a dozen congregations have scheduled a Zoom meeting with their companions. See below for how you can, too.
Acting Director of Bega Kwa Bega
During the pandemic, we have learned new ways to communicate with our companions. Congregations have scheduled meetings with their companions over Zoom. Three or four DIRA parish leaders travel to Iringa, with lodging, meals, and transport costs provided by the SPAS companion. Meetings are generally scheduled at 6 a.m. Central/2 p.m. Iringa time, or at 8 a.m./4 p.m. Meeting agendas include prayers, reports and updates as well as discussion around project next steps. Messages can be recorded to share in worship.
Pastor Kent Claussen Gubrud says, “I would strongly encourage any church to set up a Zoom call with their partners! It had such a positive impact on our partnership, and on enthusiastic support for our sunflower press project.” To arrange a Zoom call with your companions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.