A new approach to African mission work
In May and June of this year, three of WELS’ sister church bodies in Cameroon and Nigeria graduated a combined 25 men after five years of seminary studies. Seven of those men will serve as pastors in the Lutheran Church of Cameroon (LCC); nine will serve Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria; and nine will serve All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria.
Mission work in Africa looks significantly different now than it did 30 years ago. Gone are the days of American seminary-trained pastors driving out to remote African villages to preach in churches. “Years ago, we had the idea that we were going to bring what we knew from the United States and just transplant that into Africa. It was generally missionary-driven,” says Rev. Dan Kroll, a One Africa Team missionary based in Malawi.
Now the relationship between WELS missionaries and our African church bodies is shifting to one of partnership.
The ministerial training of the recent Cameroonian and Nigerian graduates demonstrates this shift. At the outset of the LCC’s five-year seminary program, Kroll was working in person to hand the worker training program over to the capable, spirit-driven men of Africa. Kroll’s time in Cameroon soon came to an unexpected end, however, when COVID-related challenges and dangerous political unrest made face-to-face contact with the men impossible for the final three years. The situation in Nigeria was similar.
Suddenly, the African teachers in both Cameroon and Nigeria bore the responsibility for completing the seminarians’ training. While Kroll and Rev. Dan Witte, a One Africa Team missionary based in Zambia, worked tirelessly to provide guidance and materials via e-mail, the stunted communication proved challenging.
But the Lord promises us in Isaiah 55:11 that when his Word is preached, his purposes are fulfilled. Kroll explains, “The men graduated, and they’re going to be in ministry. They studied, and the Holy Spirit will strengthen them and encourage them and put out whatever he wants to put out.”
The next seminary class began its studies this month, with the African national pastors now taking the lead in the training. “Now it’s their thing, and we’re going to assist,” says Witte. “It’s important for us to empower people with Holy Spirit-given gospel gifts to do their thing their way, as opposed to us saying, ‘How can they replicate our thing our way?’”
Witte and Kroll recently met in Cameroon with their African brothers to preview course materials and seek feedback as the national pastors work to shape their own ministerial programs. “Our goal is to work ourselves out of a job,” Witte explains. “Our goal is that on the day we need to leave, [this ministry] is in someone else’s hands.”
Learn more about work in Africa at wels.net/missions/africa. Read more about our African partners at forwardinchrist.net/doing-their-thing-their-way.