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Grace Lutheran's 'Mission of Hope' sends African students to school

By Natasha Clark

Assistant Managing Editor

WEST SPRINGFIELD For the last three years Grace Lutheran Church has been helping children in Tanzania get an education that is almost financially impossible for them to receive otherwise.

For $160 a student between grades one through eight can go to school for one year. A secondary student, which is high school through two years of college or trade school, has an annual tuition of $300. Since 2005 through "Mission of Hope," church members have been giving the gift of knowledge by sponsoring children in the East Africa country.

Former pastor Laurie Anderson learned of the sponsoring initiative when she attended the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Global Mission Event and met Rev. Elieshi Mungure from Tanzania.

Grace Lutheran member Carol Goulet said Mungure was in the United States to advance her education so that she could return to her native land to train others in the ministry there. According to information released by Goulet, "[Mungure] had been invited to be one of the presenters at the conference and spoke about a group in Wisconsin, where she was attending school, that had began the program a couple of years earlier to help provide educational opportunities for children in her home village near Arusha."

By the time Grace Lutheran members officially met on the subject in 2005, they had acquired 14 children to sponsor. When it was actually time to send out their financial support, that number had increased from 14 to 21 children. Children ages five to 20 were able to attend school thanks to West Springfield residents whose annual tuition contributions also helped purchase school supplies and uniforms which is quite a feat considering that the average Tanzanian lives on one U.S. dollar per day.

Goulet said grateful students send updates and notes of thanks via e-mails. Church members and students also exchange letters and photographs throughout the year.

Last Christmas, Grace Lutheran members sent an extra $5 per child so that students could enjoy the holiday season as well.

Goulet said that $5 not only "provided a Christmas feast for the families but the gift of a Bible in their native language and a few extra items to start their school year."