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[...]
Working shoulder to shoulder, in 2020 congregations in St. Paul and Iringa are sending 1,136 students to secondary school and certificate programs. (Bwana Yesu asifiwe! Lord Jesus be praised!) The Bega Kwa Bega team in Iringa recently visited many of those students enrolled at eight different schools. View pictures from those visits!
This time of year, many people in Minnesota are planning trips to Florida, Arizona, and Texas - anywhere that it is warm! And then there are those of us who plan trips to Tanzania, though not necessarily for the weather. In fact, this year has not been a good year for the weather in Iringa. It is the rainy season in this part of the globe and there has been too much water! There have been bridges flooded and rock slides and dangerously muddy and rutted roads. Travel has been adventuresome, to put it mildly!
The heavy rains have made everything more complicated...drying your laundry, driving to the villages, and even walking to the market if you forget your umbrella. Life for our friends here is also a challenge as they watch their crops grow and the water levels rise. It has only been in the last few days that the sun has decided to shine.
So why do I come here this time of year? Well, if you could see the faces of the students I meet at the schools I visit on behalf of Bega Kwa Bega and our Education and Scholarship Committee, you would understand.
Going to school in Tanzania is not easy. The primary schools are free, but to continue into secondary school, there are tests to pass and fees to pay. Private secondary schools charge tuition. Government secondary schools are tuition-free, but there are still room and board charges and the cost of uniforms and school supplies. The students we support cannot afford those costs.
I am thankful that many generous donors from SPAS congregations provide the opportunity to attend secondary school through their partnerships with the Lutheran parishes here. We provide scholarships for around 1,000 students each year for secondary and post-secondary schooling. We have even begun a fund to help provide scholarships for students who are in need but do not belong to a partnered congregation. Education is so important to the future of these young people, and they fully embrace the opportunities made possible through this relationship.
The team here in Iringa, TZ, will do just about anything to make sure these students are in school. Pastor Lusungu Msigwa (BKB-DIRA coordinator), Frank Mkocha (BKB-DIRA scholarship clerk), and April Trout (BKB-SPAS program coordinator) take the time to travel to every diocese school twice a year to make sure that the students are accounted for. We tour the facilities and listen to the requests and challenges of the headmasters. Sometimes we even meet students working on projects. I love to make these visits because I get a chance to see what we can do when we work bega kwa bega (shoulder to shoulder) to make life better for our brothers and sisters here in the Iringa Diocese.
May God continue to bless all of them and all of you,
- Birdie Olson
BKB Volunteer and Member of St. James, Burnsville