Relationships require hard work and regular communication in order to be strengthened and sustained. When working across great distances, cultures, and different languages, gaps in communication have the tendency to be magnified. Left untended, this leads to once-vital relationships breaking down over time. Bridging those gaps, therefore, is one of the key tasks before those of us who are called to shepherd and support this network of relationships.
Our latest effort to address this was launched late last month and is one of the things I'm most excited about. The tool itself is a Google Form that we call "Msigwa's Notebook." Named after my counterpart in the Iringa Diocese, it gives Pastor Lusungu Msigwa a quick way to record snippets of the conversations he has with leaders in companion congregations there. With the click of the 'submit' button, his notes are sent to the BKB-SPAS office where our long term volunteer, April, reviews and sends them straight on to the designated contact people in US congregations. It is quick, efficient, and gets to the heart of what this whole Bega Kwa Bega endeavor is all about - growing closer to God and one another.
Already the messages are flying back and forth. Some are formal updates on projects, others are requests for funds, while many more are the kinds of news items that are shared naturally between friends and loved ones.
One Parish writes: "Praise the Lord. [Our] parish members are doing fine with heavy rains now. They always pray for [your] people. Now they wish you a wonderful moment as we think of the way Jesus saved our life through the cross. Let us meditate and pray for each other."
Another says, "We still remember your last visit. Through it you not only showed how you love us but also you blessed us. Thanks be to God that you traveled safe back home. Thank you for many gifts which we received in all preaching points. May God keep on blessing you as you think of fundraising the money for pastor's motorcycle."
And yet another shares, "We are happy that church buildings have been roofed. And now we are looking forward to plastering both churches. Last December we confirmed 75 students and we had a big celebration at the parish for them. We have a sad news that [our Pastor's] father who was there at [your] last visit passed away."
More than a technical tool, as you can see in the examples above, Msigwa's Notebook is a mechanism to share the stuff of life.
To be fair, communication will continue to be a challenge as congregational leaders in Iringa still need to make the trek into town and partnership committees in Saint Paul experience their own transitions in leadership. But we trust that this is a move in the right direction. To keep the information flowing, you can help by making sure we have accurate contact information for your congregation's designated leader. If and when you receive a message from Iringa you can reply promptly. You can also initiate conversation by emailing April at email@example.com
with updates and stories from your community that she and Pastor Msigwa can share with your companions in Iringa. In ways large and small we can all take steps to share this life abundant more fully with one another.
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega and Assistant to the Bishop