"Yesterday was an amazing day for celebration... to receive April (Trout) in the Bega Kwa Bega office and to say goodbye to Julia Hubbard, who did an incredible job in the Iringa Diocese and among its different institutions." This was the message I received last weekend from one of our colleagues at Ilula Lutheran Hospital. He goes on to say that she will be missed, that "she is so creative, but we trust God has a good plan (for her)."
The goodbye party held at Huruma Center on Friday, Sept 8 was well attended, with representatives from the DIRA head office, Radio Furaha, and leaders from Diocese Medical Facilities and Schools. Over WhatsApp I asked General Secretary Chavalla how the festivities were. "Many tears and smiles?" "Exactly," was his reply.
For the past two years Julia has served as our first long-term volunteer in Iringa in a position shared jointly with ELCA Global Mission. Building on the solid foundation established by decades of others volunteering for several months at a time, the position was created to achieve our strategic goals of tightening up programmatic administration while, more importantly, deepening our relationship by being present in a whole new way.
During the course of her service with Bega Kwa Bega and the Saint Paul Area Synod, Julia has hosted some 35 delegations from the United States, monitored the progress of several large projects, facilitated the purchase of a dozen pikipikis, danced with hundreds of secondary students, coordinated an Intercultural Youth Camp, worked beside Diocese colleagues on major events (like the election and installation of a new Bishop), navigated hundreds of kilometers of rough terrain, and learned to speak Swahili fluently. Around Iringa town, she became a regular at weekly rugby matches, drove hard bargains in the market, and helped to organize a major music and arts festival - among many other things.
More than that, as our hands and feet among our companions, she has helped to model what it means to understand accompaniment - the idea that God's mission is a journey that we share with our global neighbors and companions near and far. As one DIRA Pastor has observed, "We are sorry for the departure of Julia because she nicely 'coped' with us. She was a nice Swahili language speaker, she was working hard and with a kind smile. Of course! She fits to be a missionary. I suggest the Saint Paul Area Synod give her another missionary opportunity in Iringa or elsewhere."
From Tanzania, Julia will be doing some traveling with some friends before making her way back to the United States. While further schooling of some sort is likely off on the distant horizon, more immediate plans involve reconnecting with family and loved ones closer to home. When her path brings her back through Saint Paul, rest assured that we too will throw a party.
In the mean time, let us join with our companions in Iringa in welcoming April to the role of BKB Coordinator, sending Dada Julia (Sister Julia) on her way, and giving thanks to God for the privilege of walking beside faithful servant-leaders such as these.
With gratitude and joy,
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega & Assistant to the Bishop