Only God Gives the Growth

Date posted: Thursday 07 October 2021

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything,

but only God who gives the growth.” - 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NRSV)

There’s a tree I check in on every time I visit the head office of the Iringa Diocese. It is located behind the reception building and the small lounge with a TV where pastors and church leaders from further afield wait to meet with staff members whose offices form a ring around the courtyard. The tree is an avocado tree and it came from the Millions of Trees project near the back of the head office compound.


I check on this tree because I planted it.


Or, more accurately, because I helped to plant it. Most of the work was done by my Tanzanian colleagues – including the Treasurer of the Diocese and the late Amos Mkuye, Lead Building Technician at that time. Most of my ‘work’ involved placing the seedling in the hole that they had dug and fertilized. Someone else even did the initial watering.


Still, the tree is somehow mine and I do care for it. After more than a year and half away from Iringa, I wondered how my little tree was doing. When I walked back to the courtyard a couple weeks ago, I noticed that some of the other trees that were planted had withered away or been replaced. I was worried until I rounded the corner and saw it again. In February of 2020 it was small enough that you’d need to crouch down to give it a hug; now it is taller than me. My how it has grown…


That’s a sentiment that has surfaced time and time again during the whirlwind of the past three weeks and my first trip back to Iringa since the pandemic began. From the mountains of Bomalang’ombe to the rift valley sands near Ruaha, there’s been so much growth across this web of relationship that we share.


As much as we may want to center the story on ourselves, this time of being together and apart is a reminder that growth can be attributed to God and God alone, and signs of that growth can be found everywhere…


  • The roots of this relationship run deep. On my first Friday in Tanzania, I was called to participate in a memorial service in Iringa for a member of their companion congregation who had passed away that week in St. Paul. This individual was known as ‘Babu’ and the congregation mourned his passing as if he was their own. In ways large and small, he was and still is with them – in spirit, now, if not in flesh. While the buildings and projects he supported still stand, it is his faithful friendship and their mutual fellowship that was remembered and honored on that day.
  • God’s church continues to grow. This past weekend I saw multiple preaching points and other projects in various stages of completion in Ifunda parish alone. Recent ‘Ambassador Visits’ by Astine & Ryan have documented similar stories in half a dozen other congregations. Payment requests and transaction records in the office indicate that we are finding ways to work together in a myriad of ways.
  • Schools are full and students are performing well. They are in the middle of graduation season in Iringa, the time of year when Form IV students at each of the diocese-owned secondary schools receive their diplomas and academic awards. With songs and dances and skits galore, these are multi-hour celebratory affairs. A month ago, Pastor Lwila shared about the good performance of students in Form VI and just last week, a joint review board approved $15,000 in new scholarship awards for 31 students in post-secondary programs.
  • Affiliated development projects continue to flourish. Take Iringa Hope as one example. After being dedicated in April 2021, their new Market Center officially opened on Monday, Oct. 4, with a ceremony that included speeches from church leaders, the University of Iringa, and a member of parliament. Built on a relational foundation 30 years strong and after a decade of investments in SACCOS and AMCOS, the Market Center will provide a central storage place for crops close to transportation and will help small farmers by obtaining a better price for them. Elsewhere, wells continue to be dug, trees are planted, and a new tower for Radio Furaha will soon be sprouting up on the hills overlooking Iringa Town.
  • New paths are opening up. At the suggestion of Pastor Lwila and Scholarship Clerk Frank Mkocha, a local media group is now creating a documentary movie about the BKB Scholarship Program and its impact in local communities. Together with Astine and Ryan Bose, the team in Iringa is finding digital ways to bridge relationships through platforms like WhatsApp and Zoom and will be looking into ways to safely reintroduce travel once global conditions improve.


As I wait for my flight back to the United States today, I can confidently say that the state of this relationship remains strong and growing – all thanks be to God. And all thanks be to you, as well. While growth can be attributed to God, each of us has our small part to play. Whether it be planting or watering, digging deep or praying fervently, tupo pamoja. We are together.


With joy and gratitude


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