The Gift of Presence

Date posted: Thursday 01 December 2022

For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of our companions among us. The Rev. Askali Mgeyekwa, dean/assistant to the bishop of the Iringa Diocese, and the Rev. Jiskaka Lwila, district pastor and former Bega Kwa Bega – DIRA coordinator, have been tireless ambassadors, visiting congregations, speaking at the BKB Fall Festival, preaching in congregations, and meeting with congregants across the synod. How blessed we have been to have the opportunity to reciprocate, in some small measure, the hospitality so many of us have received on our journeys to Iringa.

We are so grateful to have spent this time together, building relationships and strengthening the companionship that means so much to so many.

From the first moment we stepped outside the airport, into the cold, fresh snow, we have been aware of the different circumstances of our lives. Our friends commented on unfamiliar foods, roads, infrastructure, customs, and the way we Americans observe time. We developed a shorthand way of acknowledging it all, giving one another a side-eye and commenting, “Cultural differences….”

A Special Children's Message

One of my favorite moments of their visit came during worship at St. Mark, Circle Pines. Pastor Mollie Dvorak and Pastor Mgeyekwa collaborated on an impromptu children’s sermon using a theme of what’s different and what’s the same. A gaggle of nine-year-old boys and one delightfully distractible toddler discussed with the pastors the distance between our congregations and the length of their journey, the variety of weather we experience, the way our worship in each place tells the story of the love of God.

“God loves all of us and wants us to be connected,” Pastor Mgeyekwa told the children.

“Could they stay here?” one of the boys asked Pastor Mollie. “Well, they probably have families at home who want them to return,” said Pastor Mollie, “but they are always welcome to come back.”

Pastor Mollie told the congregation of her hopes that she and other members of the congregation will visit their companions in Wimbe Parish in the next year or two. All the boys up front volunteered to go with her.

Karibuni sana Iringa, Pastor Mollie and the kids of St Mark! I know the people of Wimbe will welcome you warmly.


Kirsten Levorson
Director of Bega Kwa Bega