Presence Matters

Date posted: Thursday 17 August 2017

Recently one of our guests experienced a medical emergency while in the village visiting their companion congregation. The group leader responded quickly. Phone calls were made to the BKB office in Iringa, contingency plans were activated, and the guest was rushed to the hospital in Iringa.
In addition to Julia, our BKB Program Coordinator, the guest and group leader were met at the hospital by Bishop Gaville, Dean Sagga, General Secretary Chavalla, and Dennis Ngede. It was late on an already busy Sunday and these men dropped what they were doing to be with the guest and the group leader. While there wasn't much they could do themselves to resolve or 'fix' the situation themselves, they stayed with them deep into the night. They stayed until they were convinced that the guest was in good hands and a solid care plan was in place.
A couple weeks after the group's return to the United States, I sat down with the group leader to debrief the situation and emergency response. With the guest recovering in a hospital near home, medical evacuation insurance that did what it was supposed to, and the necessary support systems in place, what struck the group leader most was the simple presence of the Bishop and others at the hospital. When everything was at its darkest, "the fact that they were there made all the difference" for both the guest and the group leader.   
Presence matters.
We hear this sentiment time and time again from Tanzanians too. Traveling across the Iringa region with Bishop Lull in June, we encountered leaders from several parishes who had yet to receive a single visitor from their companions in Saint Paul. While they were grateful for the faithful prayers and support for projects that they received, they lamented the physical absence of their friends.
This same longing for presence was also expressed joyfully as BKB Ambassadors Russ Hilliard and Jo Whiting visited ten different congregations. The reports that they have sent back are rich with examples of extravagant welcome and outpourings of affection. With tree branches overhead and bells strapped to dancing feet, the act of being there was gift enough to celebrate - even when it meant the congregation had to walk down a mountain to meet the visitors where their vehicle was bogged down in the mud and unable to climb any further.
Now, how is it for you?
When has the simple presence of someone else made all the difference for you? What lengths have you gone in order to just be there for someone else? How might we all be more present among our companions and neighbors and what difference might that make?
With you on the journey,
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega & Assistant to the Bishop