Laughter - Delight - Awe - Appreciation - Surprise - Connection: each of these were experienced in full measure during my first trip to Tanzania. I am quite sure I am not the only to have come away from the exposure and engagement in this wonderful partnership with these same feelings. The special touch of this place, the people, and the ministry has grabbed hold of one more person.
It was my prayer before going that, 'if you want, God, help bend my heart to this place and people' - and that certainly happened. I remember the first day of our trip and the devotion that focused on the full commitment of Naomi to Ruth, "Where you go I will go. Your people will be my people and your God my God". That story stuck in my mind during the two weeks of our travels and I knew that what I thought might happen God was making sure took place.
I come away having been so blessed by this trip and what is the beginning of a new partnership. Our Redeemer in St. Paul where I serve as Pastor, while a relatively small congregation, has a deep heart for avenues of ministry. This was our initial trip to live into this new partnership with the Kidewa Parish and its five preaching points of Ibumu, Fita, Mpera, Ubamba, and Chengele. We found this to be an excellent new partnership and are looking forward to fulfilling our commitments and finding ways to deepen this relationship.
We brought with us individual pictures of members of Our Redeemer. These photos included basic personal information. They were given to members the Kidewa Parish to help stir their prayers for us. And at each church we visited we took pictures of their members and leaders and got information about their family, work and favorite scripture to put on the back of photos. We gave those to the people of Our Redeemer. The ministry of prayer will continue and help ground this relationship.
There are already plans and interest to return again in two years to help foster presence. From telling our story in a number of places there are already friends, family members and folks from the congregation who want to go. One thing that made this trip special is that we went with Prince of Peace in Burnsville who was visiting their partner for the 5th time. This sense of "bringing someone along" is something we hope to do with another congregation in 2020.
It was also a joy to be able to live into this partnership by supporting their projects. We committed money for student scholarships from our Missions Fund, and committed half the funds for a piki piki (motorcycle) as the pastor now sometimes walks two hours to the farthest preaching point. But part of God's stirring allowed us to respond with help in the form of buying some land for timber production, supporting evangelist training (through a request we made before the trip for people to give), and by honoring my mother who recently died by helping with their top priority of roofing the church at Mpera (pictured here). What a gift to be partners in valuable projects.
I still get a smile on my face, some excitement in my voice, and a deep appreciation in my heart every time I share more about our trip. Thanks for all those who have laid the groundwork for us to now be included in this Bega Kwa Bega relationship. Count us as joyful new partners.
The Rev. Karsten Nelson
Our Redeemer, St. Paul