January 23, 2024
From Karagwe Diocese Media
We thank our Heavenly Father for the life he granted you and the chance we lived together. Your humbleness and the heart of helping others will always be remembered. Sleep well our dear Mel. You will always live in our heart. Till we meet again 🙏
The service memorializing Mel Breed was perfect – right down to the downpour. During the last visit Steve and I had with Mel and Leann at their “cottage” in Wisconsin, USA, we had taken a pontoon ride on the lake. All of a sudden the skies opened up and Mel had to beast back to the dock because of a downpour. The rain at today’s memorial service reminded me of Mel’s humor at that time and his ability to laugh in the face of life’s circumstances.
Bishop Bagonza led a beautiful service. The Karagwe Diocese pastors and management led the service and the KARUCO choir sang. Although I didn’t know the words, I could tell by looking at people’s faces, that the song was touching. Bishop’s message about Mel was so insightful and so spot on that I couldn’t help but think how much better our world could be if we all lived as selflessly as Mel.
Bishop shared how he met Mel when he was a pastor and doctoral student at university in Chicago. Through a mutual connection with Don Barnes from Wisconsin, Mel became aware of a need of (then) Pastor Bagonza for a cassock to lead services at the Lutheran Church in McFarland. Although he lived far away, Mel bought and delivered a cassock for him. That was Mel. See a need. Do what you can to help. Ask nothing in return.
In memory and honor of Mel Breed, Bishop wore that same cassock for the service today.
Bishop highlighted Mel’s humility. He offered examples of other wealthy people who are not humble, who go first, who brag, who put the spotlight on themselves, who use their wealth, resources and power to manipulate and abuse others. He then shared the story of how Mel opened the car door for Bishop at one point, and noted how the people stared wondering what super important VIP was in the car that Mel Breed would open a door for in Eau Claire, Wisconsin! The person must be extremely important! Bishop contrasted Mel’s humble attitude with the arrogance that can come with wealth and concluded that Mel was indeed a rarity.
At some point during the message, the skies opened and the rain came. So as Bishop was contrasting the attitudes of those who have access to resources and those who don’t, a beautiful, strong young woman came up behind me and held her umbrella over my head. The pastors around me were getting drenched but the umbrella was over my head. I could not help but see the irony of this moment.
Bishop Bagonza talked about Mel’s legacy being so many things. He cited all the institutions, churches, businesses and projects that Mel supported in Karagwe – some of which surprised even me. And each one mentioned is growing. Bishop told that the projects Mel supported were too numerous to even remember, let alone mention. Then he highlighted the Micro-Enterprise Loan (MEL) Program and the graduates of KARUCO who are the living legacy of Mel Breed. What a legacy. It is just one year in operation and already has almost ten new start-up businesses in agriculture and animal health. Wow. It is very difficult to not have Mel here to enjoy this part with us. But it is more than enough just knowing that Mel would be thrilled and beaming at this transformation.
Bishop then explained that the burial site is not a tomb; that Mel’s tomb is elsewhere in the U.S. But that at the family’s request, some of Mel’s ashes would be forever in Karagwe in the burial place created by KAD. This place sits on KARUCO property between the chapel and the proposed MEL House where recipients of MEL loans may live some day so they can operate a business. The burial place will be covered with tiles and the marker you saw on my previous post. One can just envision the landscaping that has begun and can see the flowering plants and trees that have been planted at Mel’s ashes burial site. Like everything else at KARUCO, the future is bright.
People progressed to the chapel with more singing, introductions of guests and a message from Educate Tanzania and representative of the Breed family – me. Bishop translated so that all could understand in Swahili. I had a longer message planned but the thunder and rain on the metal roof were so loud that I kept things short. I highlighted Mel’s legacy and how he creatively combined caring for people with sound business practice. I highlighted the MEL Program and echoed what the Bishop said about humility. The crux of my message was that when I met Mel I was surprised at his humility and kindness. I encouraged those in the chapel to be so humble and kind that they surprise others in their path.
It’s Mel Breed Day.