The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
Last September I was in Iringa for a short trip - just ten days from take-off to landing back home. I was there to participate in the Post-Secondary Scholarship Review Board, and I also had time to spend a few days engaging in one-on-one conversations with members of the Iringa Diocese Head Office staff.
At the same time, a series of God-inspired serendipities was playing out. A woman in my home congregation, who had never been to Tanzania but whose brother had retired after teaching in Dar for many years, received an email from a person who was married to another teacher from the same school in Dar. Not knowing whether the inquiry was legitimate or not (and also not knowing I was in Tanzania at the time) the woman from my congregation forwarded me the email. Turns out, the email came from the director of an offshoot of the Danish Lutheran Mission, seeking support for the work of Soma Biblia.
Soma Biblia means "read the bible" and is a literature ministry whose mission is to serve and equip Christians and local churches by providing bibles, hymnals, prayer books, catechisms, devotional and study materials, and curriculum for children, confirmands, and adults, in their own language. They have a publishing house, operate five bookshops throughout Tanzania, and have eight mobile sales vehicles roaming all over Tanzania. There's even a Soma Biblia bookstore in downtown Iringa.
After a couple more emails with the director, the Rev. Peter Harrits and I agreed to meet Mr. Ole Malmgaard for lunch in Dar before our flight home. We had a marvelous conversation, learning about Soma Biblia's outreach to nomadic communities, including villages in the Iringa Diocese connected to my own congregation's partnership - Mahove in Makifu Parish and Mpalapande in Tungamalenga Parish. Mr. Malmgaard knew my good friend, Pastor Paulo Masinga!
We toured the warehouse and bookshop in Dar. The books I was seeing were the same books I had seen in the departmental offices at the diocese head office. There were children's bibles, confirmation curriculum, catechisms, and more. I can't resist a good book sale, so I loaded up a tote bag.
We talked about how our ministries could collaborate. When BKB travelers come to Iringa, we often bring gifts for our partners, and want those gifts to be truly useful for the congregations. How could we arrange for US partners to order children's curriculum or daily devotional books from Soma Biblia? I could get a daily devotional book for about 90 cents, and a pocket version of Luther's Small Catechism for 55 cents. Pamoja na Yesu (Together with Jesus) is a series of bible story books for children, at $1 per book.
Mr. Malmgaard has curated a catalog of Soma Biblia products and has invited BKB travelers to order items in advance of their travels. Items can be shipped to the Iringa bookshop, and he offers payment options upon pick up, or by wire transfer in advance. He told us, "We will consider it an honor to serve the congregations of Iringa with good, sound literature, for all age groups." Find the catalog here (PDF).
I hope your congregation will consider these good gifts of Bible literature the next time you plan a trip. It's another way we can walk alongside our companions, supporting their work of growing in the knowledge of the Lord, deepening faith, and bringing the Gospel to all our neighbors.
Chair, Iringa Committee