This week's story comes from Birdie Olson, a short-term volunteer in Iringa from St. James Lutheran Church in Burnsville and a member of the Iringa Committee's Scholarship & Education team.
It is warm and wet this time of year in Iringa with flowering trees and green everywhere. This is the third year that I have been able to come here to assist in the BKB office with visiting schools and paying scholarships to the students whose companion congregations in the US are supporting them. My husband Ken, who is at Ilula during this time with the medical group Shoulder to Shoulder, and I find this is the perfect time to leave Minnesota to come to a place we have learned to love as a second home. The faces that greet us here are as much family as those we have left back home.
Part of what I do when I am here is visit scholarship students at all six schools of the Iringa Diocese. This year we also added visits to four government schools where a large number of our students attend. I get a knot in the pit of my stomach when we begin to prepare for these trips as the roads to some of these schools can be daunting to say the least. I know many of you reading this know exactly what I am talking about. Ruts, bumps, mud and lack of guardrails can render even the most savvy drivers cautious. It was only after I read a devotional from my church at home about "trusting in the Lord" that I realized I could let go of my control over the outcome of our trips. People here and at home are praying for our safety and success and I needed to trust that our journeys were in God's hands, not mine. As you may have guessed, we had decent roads, no misadventures and warm welcomes wherever we went. It was a joy to watch the students sing and dance for us in welcome and gather to claim their place on the rolls of BKB scholarships. Smiles and laughter rewarded us for our efforts.
From the beautiful vistas of Ipalamwa to the hot dry country surrounding Mtera; from the orderly expanses of Image to the distant seclusion of Lutangilo; from Pommern, the grandfather of DIRA schools to the mountaintop experience of Bomalong'ambe; each place is unique and special to those who attend. The headmasters all proudly welcome us to their schools. They are excited to show us their latest additions to their buildings and the accomplishments of their students. We gather the students by parish and as we read their names, they come forward to demonstrate that they are at school ready to learn. It is important to make sure that the information we have regarding their grade level, parish etc. is correct. We also take pictures of the students by parish so that their companion congregations can find their smiling faces on the BKB website
December, January and February are busy times for the Scholarship office at DIRA. Carefully compiled information and accurate recording have made the process much more efficient and helpful to all involved. This is due in large part to the work of scholarship clerk Frank Mkocha and Pastor Msigwa as they communicate with the parishes. April Trout is busy doing the payments and managing the work on the BKB side. It is a privilege to be able to join them as we implement this program. These five weeks have really flown this year. I am already looking forward to next year and all the possibilities that await us. May we all feel the sense of reward and fulfillment that providing scholarships for these young minds brings.
St. James in Burnsville & BKB Volunteer