Pumoja: Being a Church that Bears Much Fruit

Sunday, May 05, 2024
Pastor Jason Bryan-Wegner

John 15:9:17

Good morning, everyone! It’s great to be back with you after an incredible time with our siblings in Christ and partners in ministry in Tanzania.  After worshiping with Ipogolo for 4.5 hours two Sundays ago, I was tempted to message the office and say we were having one combined service today that would last all morning, just so you all had the opportunity to experience the joy of being together that long on a Sunday morning…but then I figured it was an experience that may not translate so well back at home.

One of the things that was important to do while visiting both Ipogolo and Nyamuhanga was mark the length of relationship Augustana and they have had, and recommit to our partnership moving into the future. If there was one thing that is abundantly clear from both our group visit to Guatemala last August and this visit to Tanzania is that WE NEED EACH OTHER. This isn’t just a trite sentiment. We need each other in order to be the Church God has created us to be. We need these partnerships to gain fresh perspective on what is possible when people commit to support the work God is doing to raise up new generations of young people who are making their families, communities, churches, and country stronger. We need each other to see how God is at work in the lives of everyday people. WE need each other to experience the fullness of grace and the power of God’s love.

I want to share just a short video of some of what the group from Augustana experienced in the last couple weeks. It’s a powerful witness to what it looks like when God gathers us in by faith and love from across the world.

Video…

One of the Swahili words I learned defines exactly how important these relationships are. The word is Pamoja – it means TOGETHER or Unity. Jesus says in our gospel this morning, “I am the vine you are the branches.” At the heart of faith, is an inseparable unity with our Lord and Savior. If you’ve ever seen a vine that is growing strong, the vine and the branches are indistinguishable. But we still have to remember which is which. We bear fruit when we become like Jesus, not when Jesus becomes like us. We, the Church bear much fruit when we align our lives with the One who has created us and redeemed us. and given all that we have to us to use for Christ’s purposes. This is Pamoja.

Pamoja is what guides us who don’t look alike, or speak the same language, or share the same cultural rituals, or have the same economic status to share life and faith, and the challenges we each face – together despite our differences. What I learned in the last couple weeks is that this isn’t just a social practice between people, it is a spiritual practice grounded in the love of God. Pamoja reminds us that all of creation is designed to praise and worship God. Our voices and actions move in the same direction, always seeking to do the right thing in light of our relationship with God and each other. Pamoja calls us to set down our personal agendas to make room for the Spirit of God to form and lead us. The unity of Pamoja doesn’t require us to bring the same gifts to the table, but to honor the different ways we each can contribute. Our global relationships are based on three Ps. Prayers, Presence, and Projects. We both most certainly can and do pray for each other. Regularly. And I ask that you keep our partners in your prayers. We’ll be adding some pictures and names of leaders of our partners churches and those impacted by our partnership so you can pray for people by name in the coming weeks and months. It’s important that we all know who God has called us to be in relationship with. And it’s much more real when we have names and faces to pray for.

One of the most impactful ministries we are part of is providing scholarships for secondary students who come from Ipogolo and Nyamuhanga Churches.

These scholarships are bearing the fruit of faith and education and are changing families, and communities.

We provide about 15 partial or full scholarships. There are about 15 more secondary students who are waiting for a scholarship to attend a Lutheran school. Some have access to public school, but others don’t.

Headmaster Sebastian Chaula introduced us to Nathaneal. He is a first-year student, from Ipogolo. He’s about 12 years old. The Sebastian allowed him to come to school without scholarship because his father recently died in a terrible work accident. Nathaneal would have been able to afford school had it not been for the accident. Because he is a member of Ipogolo, we were able to assure Nathaneal that his tuition, room, and board (which is about $500/year, will be covered until he completes his education. This scholarship will change his and his family’s life. And enable him to imagine a future and a career that would not be possible.

Priorities for our ongoing partnership. The ways God is calling us to bear fruit together.

Themes emerging from our visit:

Increasing support for students so children, families, and communities grow and thrive.

Support for training teachers at Diocese schools so the schools remain accredited as national standards change.

At Nyamhanga, they need a deeper well to draw consistent water for their brick making project and the childcare center they are developing, to care for at least 30 children under the age of 5.

With clean accessible water, they can make bricks at a lower cost and benefit from more of the profit to sustain and support their ministries.

Friends, one thing we heard again and again on this trip is “God is good – all the time, and all the time-God is good. The students often added one more line – “And that is nature. Woo!” Our brothers and sisters in Tanzania not only believe this. They live it each day, despite incredible challenges and lack of resources. But they do not lack faith in our amazing God. Christ is the vine, we are the branches. And thanks be to God, Christ has grafted us together in his vine – Pamoja. As we consider our generosity for our ongoing ministry with Tanzania, Guatemala, and the Middle East, I invite you consider how good God has been to you. My family and I plan to double our gift to global mission to $1500 this year because we want to be part of the goodness of God and what God is doing among our churches. I invite you to join me in giving generously.

We do this together, as a church, but even more so, we are gathered together – Pamoja – in unity and faith so that we may see that God is good – all the time – in the lives and faces of one another – here and around the world. Amen.

Past Sermons