A Sudanese Christmas in Ottawa

I received a phone call on December 2nd from a Jacob Luk asking if he could make an appointment with me to speak about an issue that he didn’t want to discuss over the phone. All he would say is that he was currently a member at another Lutheran church in Ottawa, and that he would not take more than an hour of my time. Cryptic and intriguing.

I met with Jacob and his wife Elizabeth on Saturday, December 10. They explained that Jacob was the leader/Evangelist of a group of 10 Sudanese families currently worshiping at another Lutheran church not in our fellowship. The church had rented out its fellowship hall to a for-profit daycare operation and the Sudanese had no place to meet and fellowship. In addition, the current pastor was unwilling to serve the group at their Sunday afternoon Nuer service, insisting that they join the core group of the church at their Sunday morning service. The pastor just did not want to risk having two congregations within the same building. As Jacob explained it to me, it was not their goal to have two congregations. On the contrary, most of the English speaking Sudanese attended the Sunday morning worship as a way to be a part of the core group. “We’re looking for one body with two communities.”

Jacob asked if it would be possible to use our facility on Christmas afternoon in order to hold their worship and fellowship meal. Whatever our answer would be–it was the intention of the Sudanese to leave their current congregation and hopefully join St. Paul. After meeting the St. Paul pastors and experiencing our facility, they would make a decision as to their future. Well, I’m not always the quickest study, but this seemed to be a huge Christmas gift opportunity that the Lord was dropping in our lap!

The St. Paul Council approved the use of our building for a Nuer service on Christmas day. We began at two o’clock with a hymn sing while the group gathered. At approximately 2:30 the service began. The service was a simplified worship format of hymn, Old and New Testament readings, opportunity for individuals to arise and either make prayer requests for some event occurring in their life, or, to make a biblical application of a Bible text to their own or the groups spiritual situation. I was asked to preach my Christmas day sermon. Afterwards Pastor Thompson and myself were asked to address the group. They even asked my wife Karen to address the group as one of the “female leaders” of the congregation. We closed with more hymn sing, the Apostles’ Creed and a final blessing.

There were approximately 65 in attendance and the service lasted approximately two hours. Now, onto the potluck meal, delicious! That’s the best way to summarize my Christmas dinner of 2016. There was ample opportunity to meet and speak with several of the leaders over a leisurely meal.

The next step is that Jacob’s leadership will meet and decide what their future will be. Then a meeting will be called between their leadership and the St. Paul pastors. We look forward to where this exciting opportunity may take us. We pray that the Lord blesses this opportunity for a new phase of gospel ministry at our downtown Ottawa congregation.

What a blessed gift we received for Christmas 2016.

Written by: Rev. Harland (Skip) Goetzinger, St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Ottawa, OntarioChairman, WELS-Canada mission district.

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