Yesterday morning I had to set my alarm a little earlier than usual. I was expected to be on a 7am video conference with the other members of the Iringa Lutheran Center board of directors. Half of the members of our board were in Iringa and half of us were here in the US. While our day was just starting, it was late in the work day in Tanzania.
The Lutheran Center is the guest house and retreat center that is operated as a joint ministry as a part of Bega Kwa Bega, the companion relationship between the St. Paul Area Synod and the Iringa Diocese of the Lutheran Church in Tanzania. Like most hospitality enterprises these days, the Lutheran Center has seen its income streams plummet in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Foreign travel remains next to non-existent. Retreat and conference business has all but disappeared. As a board, we’re being faced with a truly challenging financial picture.
As I was reading Chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel this week, I was struck by the story placed at the outset of the chapter. Jesus sends out 35 pairs of “missionaries” into the villages of northern Judea. These 70 faithful followers are at the very start of a trajectory that begins the work of sharing God’s story of unrelenting love to those who’ve not known of it before. Following that trajectory, you can imagine the Lutheran missionaries brought this story to Tanzania and established the church that now thrives there.
That same trajectory includes a church that was planted by the Mission Board of the Montevideo Circuit of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the growing edge of St. Paul in 1957. The collection of church leaders and hospitality professionals that gathered on Zoom yesterday morning are co-inheritors of this centuries old call to mission that Jesus commissioned of his followers.
The story in Luke 10 tells us that mission is first and foremost embodied by hospitality. The ministry of the Lutheran Center in Iringa is facing a great challenge in the weeks and months ahead but our mission is clear and we trust that God will continue to use our efforts and our investments to make sure that this story of unrelenting love will not be quieted. The trajectory that Jesus launched 2000 years ago keeps moving forward.
Please keep the staff, guests, and its board of directors in your prayers today. And join us in giving thanks for the history of those that came before whose work we are working so hard to continue for a long time to come.
May God’s peace find you this day. – Pastor Peter
Let us pray:
We are turning, Lord, to hear you, see you, and know you. You are merciful and kind, slow to anger, rich in blessing. With every twist and turn, lead our steps back to your grace and your mercy. Lead us in your ways of new life, forgiveness, and re-creation. We pray in the name of Christ, the one who reveals your love, we pray. Amen.