The First Year

Date posted: Monday 14 February 2022

“We are the products of our culture. It can be a challenge to cope and adapt to new lifestyles and different cultures.” For Pastor Jiskaka Lwila, this is one of the most significant learnings from his first year as BKB-DIRA Coordinator. “I’m starting to learn the culture of your people from the USA,” he says.


Two places where he’s observed differences that make a difference involved attitudes towards time and communication. Echoing many of the stories recorded in You Have The Watches, We Have The Time, he observes, “Here in Tanzania, there’s no hurry… No need to rush. When you make agreements with people in St. Paul, however, you need to do things on time as you agreed to.” Bridging that gap… helping Americans lovingly to relax and his fellow Tanzanians to speed up is part and parcel of the work he is called to do.


Pastor Lwila is also learning to adapt his own preferred working and communication styles. “We don’t like writing,” he says, “We much prefer talking.” While reflective of his previous talking-intensive calls in parish and campus ministry, his observation dials into the differences between oral and written cultures. If you’ve spent time in Iringa, you know how essential chatting and conversation are to the business of life and the business of business. It isn’t until you’ve inquired about someone’s well-being and the well-being of their extended family members that you can get to the work at hand. Over time, all of that talking and the sharing of stories builds a culture and community that is relationally thick. With much of the work of BKB done through email and text exchanges, however, he is also discovering the beauty of written communication. “It is really helpful because you document conversations… You have a record to review and that is very good.”


As he has helped to facilitate communication between companion congregations, Pastor Lwila has been struck by what he describes as the "serious commitment" of BKB partners in the United States. “Once they agree to do something, I see that people fulfill their promises.” For him, this is an indication of the love and concern that congregations have for one another, as well as the ways in which they make these relationships a priority.


Beginning his work with BKB in December of 2020, the global pandemic forced him to shelve some of the expectations he carried with him into this new role. “Within the past two to three years of COVID-19, the life of BKB is not what it used to be. I was told there would be so many groups I could assist and I was eager to get to meet so many people… I’ve not yet done a big part of my job. When groups come again, I’ll be very happy.”


Turning his attention to the future, Pastor Lwila understands the core of his work to be making sure that the partnership grows stronger each and every year. Tech and social media savvy, he sees the use of messaging apps like Facebook and WhatsApp for partners to share news and stories with one another as key area for growth. He’s been inspired by the hybrid gatherings and streaming services he’s observed in the U.S. (including last year’s Fall Festival) and is using them as the blueprint for the first-ever "BKB Day" in Iringa on Feb. 23.


Taking it a level further, Pastor Lwila also envisions leaning into the first pillar of our partnership and strengthening our sense of spiritual connectedness by arranging joint-prayer services over Zoom on a regular basis. “What would happen if we sang the Lord’s prayer together over Zoom across the planet?” he asks rhetorically, before answering his own question. ”The power of prayer is real and it can build a closeness that can see us through any challenge… All thanks be to God.”


With Pastor Lwila firmly in his role beside Scholarship Clerk Frank Mkocha and BKB-SPAS Coordinators Astine & Ryan Bose, the BKB Team in Iringa is strong and ready to serve. And when global travel resumes, bringing Minnesotans to Iringa and Tanzanians to St. Paul, Pastor Lwila says “(We) really can’t wait to meet you guys.”