20 Years of Tanzania Partnership!

By Kirsten Levorson

This month marks 20 years since our companionship with a rural parish in Tanzania was established. How did this get started?

In the spring of 2001, one of our members read an account of a fledgling mission partnership between the Saint Paul Area Synod and the Iringa Diocese. A relationship that began informally in the mid 1980s had been formalized as the Companion Synod program when the ELCA was established. The article highlighted that now individual congregations in the synod were being partnered with Tanzanian congregations, and people were starting to exchange visits at the grassroots level.

As I’ve heard the story, the woman went into Pastor Paul Harrington’s office with the article she had read, and
said, “We should be part of this.” I’m told that Pastor Paul picked up the phone, called the synod office, and
asked to be partnered with a Tanzanian congregation. And so a partnership began…

A few years later, after several visits had cemented the relationship, Pastor Bonnie Wilcox asked the synod coordinators how we came to be paired with this particular parish. Was there something unique about them, was there a specific reason to connect the two of us? Was it the fact that Shepherd of the Valley is situated near the Minnesota Zoo while Tungamalenga Parish is near a national game park? “They were just next on the list,” was the response.

So, out of a bold ask and the spirit’s serendipity, our congregation set out on this companionship. Since 2001 we have traveled nearly every year, have received guests six times, sent over a thousand students to high school and college, built chapels plus a clinic and a primary school, sponsored water projects, bought a couple dozen bikes and a half dozen motorcycles, and shared many gifts. We have come to know and love people on the other side of the globe, praying for them in their trials, celebrating with them in their joys, and receiving their prayers for us as well.

Thanks be to God.