A Remarkable Phenomenon

Date posted: Thursday 19 January 2017

When you come to Ilula Lutheran Hospital you will see a mural on the wall in the reception area. The left half is a heavenly rendition of the story of the Good Samaritan with the hand of God reaching down to lift up the distressed. On the right you will find an illustration of Mark 2: 1-12 - the story of the paralytic man whose friends wanted him to be healed so badly that they cut a hole in the roof of the crowded house Jesus was in and lowered him down to be healed. While the full story is a testament to the power of Jesus to forgive sins and to heal, it is the audacity of the four friends and their accomplices that I find remarkable.
 
Accomplices? True, the text doesn't call attention to the involvement of others but I can hardly imagine the scene playing out without a few more contributing to the effort. There are the four men carrying the stretcher... There must have been strong arms to lift the man to the roof and to receive him there.... Others with hands and tools to cut through the roof... And still more with the technical know-how to rig the ropes and gently lower this paralytic man down... Each with their own specialization and all united by a common vision - a desire to bring healing and wholeness to one in need.
 
I shared these observations this morning as part of the Invocation for the 2017 Ilula-Minnesota Healthcare Conference that is currently underway here in Iringa. Bringing together healthcare practitioners from across the United States and the Southern Region of Tanzania for two days of learning, doctors and students, administrators and pharmacists work and share with one another across disciplines and cultures. Having traveled great distances, each with their own experience and specialization, they too are united by a common vision - a desire to bring healing and wholeness to those in need.
 
This, too, is an utterly remarkable phenomenon. It is also one that occurs frequently elsewhere in this network of relationships that we call Bega Kwa Bega.
 
As I write this, a group of students from the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering are settling back into campus after spending two weeks in Iringa. Working in collaboration with Saint Paul Partners, they visited villages, met with local leaders, and are devising solutions to water needs in local communities. At the same time, a student group from Gustavus Adolphus College is on their way back to town after visiting Ruaha National Park and spending several days learning about health and well-being in rural locations. In each of these instances, lines that typically divide - be they institutional, professional, or disciplinary - are blurred as a wide variety of groups and individuals find common purpose in this life that we share.
 
None of this would be possible without you. Interdisciplinary experiences and partnerships like these are the result of decades of work that have gone into building trusted relationships between people of faith in Saint Paul and Iringa. As you have prayed for, walked beside, and worked with your companions, together we have built a solid foundation. When groups from schools and other organizations come, they walk carefully on the relational paths that you have helped to lay down and continue to tend. As they do so, they come and see and then they go and tell what it is that they have seen and heard - namely a vision of new life.
 
And this, to my ears at least, is good news indeed.
-peter
 
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega and Assistant to the Bishop
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