MANISTIQUE - Big dreams really do come true at Zion Lutheran in Manistique.
The Tanzanian Companion Synod Committee at Zion Lutheran Church in Manistique was excited as it put finishing touches on plans to host eight members from Magomeni Lutheran Church in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Africa. Eight guests - five men and three women - arrived in Green Bay on Tuesday for a two-week stay in the Manistique area.
An important goal of this visit is to further the development of relations between two sister congregations. The Northern Great Lakes Synod began establishing relationships with congregations in the Eastern and Coastal Diocese in Tanzania in 1991 under the leadership of Bishop Dale Skogman. Presently Zion in Manistique is one of 17 congregations who now have a "sister" congregation in the Eastern Coastal Diocese in Tanzania.
Ken and Bonnie Groh of Manistique, who spent more than a month in Tanzania, Africa, in 2009 as part of a work crew, pose for a photo with Helen Baruti, a member of the Magomeni Lutheran Church in Tanzania. Baruti, who hosted the Grohs on the weekends during their visit to Tanzania, is one of eight members of her church who arrived in the Manistique area for a two week visit. The Tanzanian church is a sister church of the Zion Lutheran Church in Manistique.
The Synod mission statement is, "To participate in each other's life and mission through communication, learning and prayer." (Romans 1:12, "That you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith") It was an unlikely match with a rural 82 congregation Synod in the Midwest and a large urban Diocese serving 52 parishes with many sub-parishes in the largest city in Tanzania. It has proven to be a true blessing to all who have participated in the activities of the partnership.
To foster growth in the relationship between the two congregations, several connections have been successful. In 2009, two members of Zion, Ken and Bonnie Groh, spent 32 days in the capital city area. During the week the Grohs were part of a work crew that helped improve conditions at a rural school about 20 miles outside the capital city. Weekends were spent in the capital city of Dar es Salaam with a host family.
Zion, under the leadership of Pastor David Hueter, has an active Companion Synod Committee that meets monthly. They had coordinated several projects, ranging from the Mosquito Netting project in which Zion raised over $2,000, planning and serving African meals for the congregation, inviting speakers to share information, and singing African songs at least once a month.
Zion is one of five churches in the Synod that are raising funds for a Tanzanian student to attend Finlandia University in the fall of 2014. Email communications between the pastors has been very effective as Pastor Dave said, "personal communication is the best."
About a year ago the Committee decided to "step outside the box and dream big." An invitation was extended to members of Magomini Lutheran, led by Rev. Henry Mwinuka, inviting anyone who may be willing to visit the local congregation. With support of the church council, church members and fervent prayers, their "big dream" is going to come true.
Numerous plans have been made to expose the visitors to the Northern Michigan way of life - from Bishop Thomas Skrenes at the Synod Offices in Marquette, to visiting the Tahquamenon Fall/Oswald Bear Ranch in the Newberry area, Pictured Rocks in the Munising area, Fayette and Big Springs in the local area, and to schools, businesses, shops and other places of interest.
The visitors will be a part of the 10:30 a.m. worship at Zion Lutheran Church on Sunday, Sept. 22 and 29.