New Patterns. New Life.

Date posted: Friday 14 August 2020

In a typical year the months of June, July, and August are abuzz with activity in Iringa as congregational delegations from the United States visit their companion parishes and we celebrate the life we share, together, in Christ. This year we find ourselves apart – physically distant if not spiritually so.


Our offices there are quieter, the Lutheran Center is emptier, and the dusty roads that crisscross the region are a little less busy without the land cruisers and coaster buses shuttling guests out to visit old and soon-to-be-new friends. The 107 people from Minnesota who expected to find themselves in Tanzania these few months, have been left holding their passports and wondering when it is that they’ll be able to safely cross the world again.


We are apart. Yes.
And yet, in Christ, we are together.
This network of relationship endures.


We mourn the plans that have been scuttled. Yes.
And still, when we look, we see signs of life and vitality.
This network of relationship grows on.


As you read this, Pastor Msigwa, Deacon April Trout and the team in Iringa are in the middle of making 25 BKB Ambassador Visits over a six-week period to congregations and schools across the Iringa Diocese. At the same time, partners are finding new ways to communicate with one another. Last Friday and this Friday, delegations from DIRA parishes are making their way to Iringa Town in order to participate in Zoom sessions with partnership committees in the United States. While the internet connection can be choppy, the Holy Spirit is nonetheless present and these virtual spaces become holy ground.


As you read this, the ELCT continues to grow and the Iringa Diocese is expanding right along with it. Bishop Gaville and an entourage of district pastors and other officials have been busy dedicating new congregations and opening up new institutions, like a Lutheran junior seminary near Ihemi.


As you read this, across this BKB network, new lines of relationship are being formed and formalized. In recent weeks, Immanuel in St. Paul made official its intent to support both Mkimbizi and Magubike parishes, Prince of Peace in Roseville affirmed its commitment to remain in partnership with Vikongwa (a daughter church of Bomalang’ombe), Gloria Dei in St. Paul confirmed its desire to establish a brand new relationship with the people of Kalingapasi, and a handful of other congregations from Minnesota are exploring what it would mean for them to have a companion in Iringa as well.


Reflecting on his 2019 trip to Iringa and Gloria Dei’s desire to enter into this global relationship in the middle of a pandemic, Pastor Bradley Schmeling spoke about a growing appreciation of community and gathering. “(It is) something that the pandemic is helping us to rediscover. I hope that the joy people have in Kalingapasi when they get together is something that we get to know again when we been through all of this.”


As you read this, our BKB affiliates continue to do incredible development work: Saint Paul Partners and Friends of Huruma are collaborating on a water system at Huruma Center, Shoulder to Shoulder – Ilula Health celebrated the installation of new X-ray equipment at the hospital, Iringa Hope is expanding their efforts to connect farmers with tillable land, Radio Furaha is proceeding with plans for a new tower, and Millions of Trees is adding more fruit trees into the mix of seedlings offered. Through their efforts and your support, lives and livelihoods continue to be changed and enhanced.


As you read this, within our Saint Paul Area Synod congregations, partnership committees are imagining new ways to engage their communities and fund the commitments they’ve made: bolts of Tanzanian fabric are being sewn into masks, virtual gatherings are being planned, outdoor handicraft markets are being set up, and video greetings from Tanzania are being recorded to share in youth groups and worship too. If we’ve learned anything from our companions, it is that with a little bit of hustle and creative thinking there are no ‘problems’ that are insurmountable, only ‘challenges’ that can be overcome. Mungu akipenda. If God pleases, of course.


In short, God is Good. All the time.
Even when we are together and apart.
And for that, let us give thanks.


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