WADENA, Minn. — What does a city in western Kenya with a semi-arid climate where the coldest months are April to November with average temperatures in the 70s have in common with Wadena, Minnesota? People. Lori Baron will tell you it's that simple, and when you make connections with people in other parts of the world through different projects, you learn we aren't really all that different.
"God created us all in the world and we need to love one another and show that love and share," Baron said as she waited with anticipation for members of a delegation from Homa Bay, Kenya, to arrive at Cyber Cafe last week.
Baron is part of a Wadena knitting group, a member of St. Ann's Catholic Church and chairwoman of a sister parish committee. Her sister parish isn't around the corner; it's in Homa Bay, and a small delegation from that sister parish has been in Minnesota the past few weeks to visit.
Members of Baron's knitting group decided to surprise their visitors with a gift to take back to their country. They knitted 124 dolls for children in that parish.
The St. Cloud Diocese began its partnership with the Diocese of Homa Bay about 17 years ago. Since then, sister-parish partnerships have formed and delegations have visited back and forth.
Fifteen delegates came from Homa Bay to Minnesota on Sept. 20 and stayed through Oct. 3 with host families throughout the St. Cloud Diocese. Hosting parishes in this area were St. Ann's in Wadena and St. John the Baptist in Bluffton.
The Homa Bay delegation's time here was packed with activities, from visiting Sonrise Christian school in Bluffton and St. Henry's school in Perham, to touring Lunde Boat, local farms and attending the fourth annual Partnership Barn Dance at the Wadena County Fairgrounds. The barn dance is a celebration of diocesan mission partnerships.
Baron said the last time a delegation visited, her group knitted necklaces.
Baron went to Kenya a little over a year ago, and while it was a wonderful experience, it was also a real eye-opener and one that made her appreciate the little things in life.
She felt it was important to go after the last delegation came here after one member looked at her and said, "Now you come to our country and learn our way."
"I didn't think I could do it, but then I felt this tug at my heart that wouldn't go away," Baron said. "And I'm glad I did. I would gladly go again."