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[...]
This past July the BKB office made our rounds of DIRA school visits. For those of you who may be wondering what exactly these are, Frank, the BKB Scholarship Clerk has written a little bit about them:
School visits are all about checking and verifying students at our Diocese schools: during the visits I do a lot of things including checking the information we have on hand about each student, for instance their current school level. These visits also give us a chance to get to know the students. We get to meet each of them and take their picture. For us, the visits are helpful in confirming and/or updating the records we have from parishes. I have seen the progress in the scholarship program since we started doing these school visits and I continue to think that the program has potential for further improvement.
At every school we are introduced as representatives from the BKB Office and/or St. Paul, and we are graciously welcomed with song and thanked for our support. I was grateful for the presence of Kirsten Levorson and Jenny Harrits who accompanied our team to help the process of capturing photos of sponsored students. Jenny shared, as a teacher, about how important education is and the gift it is to see students striving for better lives both in Tanzania and back home in Minnesota. Kirsten shared what it means to be a representative visiting on behalf of the Saint Paul Area Synod - that we are merely a few of the hundreds and hundreds of people praying and supporting these kids. Each one of these students is being prayed for and supported by a community who wants them to succeed and pursue the dreams they have for themselves. And for me, to be physically present and among students who are giggling when you ask them to smile bigger, or shyly turning away when you smile at them standing in line, or dancing to their school song, is the blessing. I enjoy school visits because I have the privilege of getting to meet the next generation of Tanzanians, and the opportunity to convey that all of their hard work that they are putting in now will lead them forward.
Pastor Msgiwa, the BKB Director here in Iringa, also told a story to the students at Mtera that I would really love to share with you:
There was a man who had a daily routine. When he came back from work every day he would always greet his young son by tossing him up in the air. Then, after that he would bathe and prepare for dinner. One day he got home and called out to his son, but his son didn't respond. He looked for him, and couldn't find him, so instead he decided to continue with his routine and take a bath. As he was on his way to bathe, he met his in-laws. (Now, in Tanzania to meet your in-laws half-naked with a towel on your waist is a not the best situation one can be in, but to not greet your in-laws is probably the even greater offense.) So, what did the man decide to do? He greeted his in-laws, and just after he greeted them, who came running up to him but his young son. The child looked at him holding his arms out preparing himself to be tossed up in the air. What should the man do? He thought, "how could I not?" so he tossed his child in the air, and what happened...he felt the towel start to slip from his waist. He knew he had a choice - either to catch the towel or his child. What do you think he should do?
Pastor Msigwa told this story to students at Mtera as a lesson about priorities. There are many influences in our lives and it can be easy to start living your life for someone else. Education allows you to make your own decisions and conclusions. Education flings open doors to opportunities and new ways of thinking.
So, I write to you sharing this little Tanzanian proverb and offering gratitude for having the privilege to be a representative of this partnership. To be welcomed with big smiles waving branches. To offer and receive both gratitude and thanks. To have the chance to sing and dance with students walking back to school. To listen to wisdom from Tanzanians and Americans, and to take a few selfies along the way. Thank you for your accompaniment.
BKB Program Coordinator & Long-Term Volunteer