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[...]
On Tuesday of this week, the Rev. Elisange Mhanga, training officer for the Iringa Diocese, shared the picture above with the following caption: "(Deacon) April E. Trout, a missionary from America, celebrating her one-year anniversary of being a missionary in the Iringa Diocese. The event took place today at the ELCT Iringa Diocese head office. God Bless you." Invited by leaders of the Diocese to join them for morning devotions, April was both surprised and delighted to have this occasion be commemorated by the gifting of 6 meters of beautiful purple fabric amidst a flurry of prayer, words of gratitude, and warm embraces. "Somebody told them purple is my favorite color," April remarked, promising "something stunning will be made."
On the Saint Paul side of the partnership, we give thanks too for April and her willingness to serve on our behalf in Iringa. It is hard to believe that one year ago she was, as she put it, 'stepping into thin air' by saying 'yes' to a call that involved letting go of everything she knew in Pennsylvania and setting out on a sojourn among strangers from both Tanzania and Minnesota.
As BKB Program Coordinator, April serves as our eyes and ears, our hands and feet, year-round, among our companions in the Iringa Diocese. Technically speaking, she is a long-term (two-year) global volunteer in a shared-placement position between ELCA Global Mission and the Saint Paul Area Synod. More personally speaking, she is 'our' missionary and it is our responsibility to accompany and support her (as well as those who will, someday, follow in her footsteps).
This revised BKB Program Coordinator role and our working relationship with ELCA Global Mission is a relatively recent arrangement. April's predecessor, Julia Hubbard, was the first to help us pioneer the role. Prior to that, we relied on a rotating group of volunteers to provide both operational coverage and communication - a difficult task for even the most seasoned among us. Three years into this new way of organizing our life together, I'm struck by the ways in which it is already bearing fruit:
Support for our missionary in Iringa comes in a variety of forms. The first, and most important, is prayer and encouragement. To say 'yes' to a call to live away from one's homeland carries with it no small set of challenges. Each week Bishop Lull and the synod staff pray for 'the Iringa Diocese, Bishop Gaville, and April.' We ask you to do the same.
The second area of support is financial. While administrative fees charged on projects help to offset many of the costs we share in our common work, the Iringa Committee has identified 'Missionary Support' as a way to receive targeted gifts from congregations and individuals across the synod. Our annual goal going forward is to raise $9000 toward the work of the BKB Program Coordinator. For those with existing connections to Iringa, this is an opportunity to directly invest in the work of the partnership at large. For those not able to commit to a companion-congregation relationship or who have substantial global connections elsewhere, this is another point of entry to this important part of our life together as the people of the Saint Paul Area Synod.
To learn more about missionary support and the work of the BKB Program Coordinator, contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a gift, contact Greg Triplett at email@example.com. On behalf of the Iringa Committee, I offer thanks for your prayerful consideration and your ongoing support in its myriad of forms.
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega & Assistant to the Bishop