It was a sunny, early 2016 December Saturday when the phone rang at St. Paul, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The voice on the other end identified himself as Jacob Luk. He said that he and his community were members of another Lutheran church in town, and he wanted to come to my office and talk about church. Intriguing and a bit mysterious, I thought to myself. We set an appointment to meet.
Jacob appeared at my office right on time, along with his wife, Elizabeth. He explained that his South Sudanese community was of the Nuer tribe and that they had been members at a Lutheran Church–Canada congregation for about five years. Once a month they held a Nuer prayer service. They were looking for a new church home because the pastor would not preach his Sunday morning sermon at their Nuer service, and since the church fellowship hall was being rented out to a private daycare facility, there was no place to have Sunday school for their children. His asked if they could use our facility for a Nuer Christmas Day service followed by a Christmas meal.
And so our relationship began. With approval by St. Paul’s council, the Nuer service was held Christmas Day afternoon. I preached my Christmas morning message. The service ran from 2 p.m. until 4:45 p.m. The Christmas meal took place from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. About 65 Nuer souls attended.
Starting in February 2017, I led a nucleus group through Bible instruction. All 34 souls chose to join our congregation. On Sept. 10, 21 of the 34 were present to be publicly accepted into membership by profession of faith.
A monthly Nuer service now is taking place. Nuer members also attend St. Paul’s weekly Sunday services. Our combined kindergarten Sunday school is so large that we had to split it into two classes. Our parking challenge has moved us to negotiate with the University of Ottawa to obtain more off-street parking. The Nuer community has been a gracious and blessed addition to the St. Paul family.
As Jacob likes to explain it, “Two communities, one church.”
Harland H. Goetzinger
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Author: Harland H. Goetzinger
Volume 104, Number 12
Issue: December 2017
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