CAMM January 2024 Newsletter

Originally appears on the Central Africa Medical Mission website. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

As I write this letter, it is late December and it’s amazing how it feels just like yesterday that we were celebrating the beginning of 2023. Now that we are just a few days away from ending 2023, there is so much to be grateful for—especially the gift of life that the Lord has granted us throughout the year.

Here in Malawi, December always comes with heavy rains. It’s the time when all the farmers plant their fields knowing that the rainy season has arrived. However, this December was different because a lot of districts had not received any rain until mid-month. This brought so many worries to farmers as they had no hope on when the rains would start. But because our Lord is good, by December 20, Lilongwe and other districts received heavy rains. People were happy and ready to work in their fields.

Despite being happy about the rains, during this rainy season the clinic faced challenges in so many ways. December 20 was a clinic day at Suzi, and because it had rained heavily we had difficulty traveling to the clinic site. The road was bumpy and very muddy making it hard for driving. Despite all these difficulties, we still made it to the clinic as our land cruisers are good, even on bad roads.

Upon reaching the clinic, we found a large crowd of people—men, women, and children—sheltering under the roof of the clinic and some under the trees as it was still raining. The people were happy seeing us as they thought we wouldn’t make it due to the bad road. When our staff were setting up the clinic, our clinicians had already started seeing the patients that were triaged by the village staff before we arrived. These people were very sick and the complaint that presented the most was malaria.

Malaria is a condition that worsens during the rainy season and is one of the leading causes of death in Malawi. From the month of October on, our clinic started registering an increase in malaria cases that worsened in November and December. Not only has this malaria affected children under five, but it is also affecting adults. As a clinic, we are always prepared for this as we carry enough malaria testing kits and medication for uncomplicated malaria. Not only that, but we also carry with us medication for complicated malaria, which we give to patients before we refer them to hospitals for continued management. As always, our staff, who are hardworking and team players, did an outstanding job in dealing with the large number of patients we saw that day. When a staff member sees that a colleague needs help, they can be relied on to jump in and assist without being told to do so. We thank God for this and may he continue blessing all of the staff.

Written by Violet Chikwatu, nurse in charge at the Central Africa Medical Mission Lutheran Mobile clinic in Malawi. 

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A picture is worth a thousand words

Originally appears in the One Africa Team blog. Subscribe to future updates from Africa at oneafricateam.com.

A picture is worth a thousand words – in any language. Members of the Obadiah Lutheran Synod (OLS) in Uganda speak English, Luganda, Lusoga, and many other Bantu dialects. It is a challenge to communicate Scriptural truths across linguistic and educational barriers. It’s even more challenging to explain abstract concepts like justification, redemption, and Christ’s humiliation and exaltation to students in confirmation class. But a well drawn picture can tie timeless truth to a tangible target.

Rev. Dr. Terry Schultz is an experienced WELS missionary who creates print and music materials for WELS Multi-Language Productions. Schultz supports WELS mission work around the globe. OLS President Maksimu Musa requested One Africa Team’s assistance in training Sunday school teachers. One Africa Team turned to Schultz, who has graphically portrayed the Apostles’ Creed with full color illustrations. He and Missionary John Roebke engaged 35 Sunday school teachers and OLS pastors with the task of translating these illustrations into lessons.

The pictures

The 1531 edition of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism contained 23 pictures printed from woodcut images. Like these images, Schultz’s drawings help a teacher tell a simple story to explain a complex teaching. A courtroom scene depicts a young man standing before a judge with his accuser to one side and his attorney at the other. The next scene shows him standing before God, flanked by Satan and Jesus.

Another picture unfolds the drama of a kidnapping and payment of ransom. The next scene represents the divine story of Christ’s redemption – not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood. A comic book panel of pictures illustrates each of the stages of Christ’s humiliation.

A composite illustration presents the stages of his exaltation. Schultz carefully crafted each picture to maximize understanding and teaching. A teacher’s manual with minimal text supplements each picture, bearing in mind the target audience’s literacy level. WELS Multi-Language Productions has produced three booklets to date – one for each of the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed. Schultz is finalizing the illustrations for the Sacrament of Baptism, with the other chief parts of the Catechism to follow.

The teachers

Attendees began each day of the workshop with animated singing and dancing. In addition to performing local melodies, the group learned a few African American spirituals from Schultz. OLS pastors delivered inspiring devotional messages in English. Schultz infused his own energy into the workshop as he introduced each picture to the participants.

After this, the Sunday school teachers broke into smaller groups of three to five people. In each group, an OLS pastor walked through the concepts behind the picture. Thirty minutes later, each small group took turns teaching the lesson to the larger audience. Some teachers appeared more confident than others, but by the week’s end all of them had made significant improvement.

Next steps

Unfortunately, time did not allow for Schultz to present all 45 teaching posters the group. The teaching posters and manuals remain with the OLS in Uganda. We encouraged the pastors to work through these materials with their Sunday school teachers. The pastors have a much better grasp on both Lutheran teachings and local culture.

Regardless if Schultz returns to Uganda, the OLS now has a powerful instrument for instructing youth and adults. Can you picture their faces gathered around Jesus’ throne some day?

Please pray for those working in fields that are ripe for harvest. Share their story, engage with future news, and receive updates. Learn more about our mission fields in Africa and how the Holy Spirit is working faith in people’s hearts.

Written by Rev. John Roebke, world missionary on the One Africa Team.

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CAMM December 2023 Newsletter

Originally appears on the Central Africa Medical Mission website. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

“Praise the Lord, all you nations! Worship him, all you peoples! Because God’s faithful love toward us is strong. The Lord’s faithfulness lasts forever!” – Psalm 117:1-2

This Bible verse certainly describes the work of the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) in 2023. God’s faithful love has been strong toward both of our clinics in Zambia and Malawi. God’s blessings have reached the staff and patients in countless ways; they have been abounding! And we thank and praise him for his love and faithfulness.

CARE OF PATIENTS:
In 2023, we saw over 70,000 patients. The patients came for physical healing or preventative care, and we were able to provide treatment, medications, testing, and health education. At the beginning of 2023 we were challenged with the thought that cholera would continue to spread and possibly create a pandemic. Thankfully, this was not the case and it quickly receded. HIV rates have chronically been high in the past several years. By God’s grace, while testing at our clinic sites has been increasing, the number of positive HIV tests has been decreasing. Staff continues to educate and test visitors at the clinics. At the Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Zambia, the clinic continues to be recognized by the Zambian government for exemplary care.

CLINIC LOCATIONS:
By the blessing of God, all our clinic sites were remodeled and have been in full use in 2023. The improvements in lighting, privacy, and safety not only help patient care but also give staff a safer and more enjoyable place to work. During the COVID epidemic, CAMM placed hand sanitizing stations at each of the clinics and grass fencing at the Malawi clinic sites. These remain in place for the patients and staff to use because they are good practices to promote hygiene at the clinics. In Zambia, we were blessed with generous donations this year so that we could install permanent metal fencing around our clinic. The fencing was needed to keep livestock and goats out of the clinic buildings. It has now been successfully installed, is effective in banning the livestock from the clinic buildings, and the grass around the clinic has started to grow back.

STAFF:
We are grateful for the staff that CAMM has been able to employ. From the guards and drivers to the nurses, clinicians, laboratory technicians, and midwives, everyone is critical to the work that CAMM is doing. We have 14 employees in Zambia and 17 employees in Malawi. We also have church and government volunteers who help us every day. We are thankful for the care they give to patients, and for treating patients in a Christian manner—with respect and dignity in support of the mission of CAMM to provide “Christ-Centered Healthcare Supporting Gospel Ministry.”

EXPANSION:
In 2023, we were given the green light to explore expansion opportunities for clinic care. The expansion could include new sites within the countries of Malawi and Zambia or in an entirely new country. There are many factors to consider when looking at a site for expansion. One of the most critical is to have the support of a Lutheran church body in fellowship with the WELS at the site. With the aid of WELS Board of Missions, WELS Christian Aid and Relief, and the Lutheran Church of Kenya, we are making plans to hold a five-day short-term clinic in Kenya in February of 2024. What an amazing opportunity to be able to heal the physical needs of the Kenyan people, while also filling their souls with spiritual guidance!

GRATITUDE:
It would not be possible for the Central Africa Medical Mission to carry out our work for over 60 years without our faithful and generous supporters:

• Your interest in staying informed with presentations, requests for promotional materials, and e-mails keeps the mission of CAMM present in your congregations, schools, social circles, and church groups.
• The continued monetary support all of you promote by sharing information about the needs of CAMM.
• The boxes of medical supplies and clothes you carefully gather, package, and ship to Zambia and Malawi.
• God hears your many prayers for the continued success of CAMM, the continued care of our patients and staff, the safety of the countries we are located in, and prayers for the expansion into Kenya in 2024. May God continue to bless CAMM every day!

While reflecting on the past year, we are reminded that God’s faithfulness does last forever! Let us all worship and praise him for our many blessings!

Written by Angela Sievert, Central Africa Medical Mission Chair.

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CAMM November 2023 Newsletter

Originally appears on the Central Africa Medical Mission website. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

The Zambian government through the Ministry of Health and its partners is working hard to provide the necessary commodities to end HIV/AIDS by 2030. In Zambia, there are more than 1,190,000 people living with HIV who are on antiretroviral therapy (ART). As of October 2023, the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre services about 892 clients currently on ART, making it the second highest in Shibuyunji Health District.

The facility also offers other services to help eradicate HIV by intensifying identification of new positives, prevention of mother to child transmission, provision of pre-exposure/post-exposure prophylaxis, cervical cancer screening, voluntary male circumcision, viral load monitoring, condom distribution, adult/pediatric nutritional assessment for people living with HIV, and tracking of late clients.

Even though the facility receives support from the Ministry of Health and other implementing partners in the eradication of HIV and AIDS, adult nutrition programs is one area that has not received much funding or support. As the Mwembezhi area is rural and has a high poverty/illiteracy rate, it has been bit of a challenge to implement adult nutrition programs for people living with HIV.

Currently the facility has over 100 clients on HIV treatment with body mass index less than 18, which is below normal rate for an adult. This is mainly related to the non-availability of a nutritious balanced diet in their homes because of they do have the money to purchase adequate food. There is also a lack of understanding regarding the importance of having a balanced diet. Weight, height, and age play a very big role in certain ARV prescriptions and recording such high malnutrition cases hinders and slows boosting of immunity.

After the facility recorded such high numbers of adult malnutrition in many people living with HIV, a staff meeting was held to discuss on how best we can help our clients and some of the interventions than can be put in place before end of December 2023. These measures include:

  1. Continuously give informed information education and communication to not only people living with HIV, but also to the community at large.
  2. Lobby for more height boards and scales to be used during outreach programs so that all client’s height and weight will be assessed regularly to enable early detection of new cases.
  3. To order high energy proteins, an instant porridge fortified with vitamins and minerals for healthy growth
  4. Enforce responsibility in keeping appointments so that monitoring of our clients will be easy and all needs are met on time.
  5. Revamping of the support group for people living with HIV at the facility

As the Zambian government continues adopting tolerated regimens and other models of care with established benefits, our clinic in Zambia,as a health facility and as community health care workers, will continue to put in the effort to meet our patients’ expectations by providing cost effective solutions to help maintain our client’s good health and nutritional status.

Written by Mr. Jackson Kalekwa, Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) clinic officer in charge at the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Mwembezhi, Zambia

 




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Port of calling

“Port is where the heart is.” If you’re stitching a saying onto a pillow or a quilt for a sailor, maybe you can use that one. Port is important: It’s where a sailor reconnects with land and with all the comforts to be found there—if only for a short time, until the ship is ready to sail again.

L to R: Stefan Felgenhauer, Dan Witte, Joel Hoff, Dan Kroll, Keegan Dowling

I was once a sailor on the M/V James R. Barker, a thousand-foot-long freighter ship hauling coal and taconite pellets back and forth across the Great Lakes of North America. Did you know that we have a system of Great Lakes here in Africa, too? My favorite port-of-call was Duluth, Minn. I enjoyed the beautiful book and music shops, as well as Erbert & Gerbert sub sandwiches. However, I had been hoping for more. I had hoped to find a WELS pastor who could visit me and give me communion. But there was a vacancy, a situation far too familiar to many of us in today’s WELS, some 20 years later.

The Port of Douala is one of the greatest port cities on the continent of Africa. In fact, it is the largest city in the country of Cameroon. When it comes to WELS mission work in West Africa, the Port of Douala actually functions like a spiritual port. When several of us missionaries met with pastors in September, only one of them was from Douala. All the rest of us were “ships,” so to speak, coming to Douala simply for the purpose of meeting around the gospel of Jesus Christ! Douala—for WELS mission work—is nothing more and nothing less than a “port of calling.”

Missionaries Dan Witte and Dan Kroll were studying and meeting with pastors from three West African synods: Christ the King and All Saints of Nigeria and the Lutheran Church of Cameroon (LCC). Because of the multi-dimensional security threats present in the region, for the moment WELS missionaries are not able to travel to Nigeria or to Cameroon, apart from just one city in Cameroon: Douala. Because we couldn’t meet them where they were, our brothers came to meet us in port. Missionary Joel Hoff flew in from Zambia, to give a presentation about the very successful TELL online outreach program, which pastors can use both to teach their congregations and to discover new prospects in their own country. Director of Missions Operations Stefan Felgenhauer also flew in from Wisconsin.

Missionary Keegan with Pastor Israel, professor at the seminary of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon

I, Missionary Keegan Dowling, also ended up in Douala, our port of gospel calling. I met with yet a different church body: Holy Trinity Lutheran Synod. They hail from a distant part of Cameroon, where there is a violent and dangerous conflict. Yet, a group of leaders trekked down to Douala, so that we could study the Bible together and talk about Holy Trinity’s mission plans. Holy Trinity is not yet in fellowship with WELS, but this is their desire. So, my job is to work with Holy Trinity along a pathway of studies and discussions that the One Africa Team uses to bring church bodies into fellowship.

An interesting thing about Holy Trinity Lutheran Synod is that many of the leaders and members speak French! In fact, they are our first French-speaking partner church body (although God is blessing our efforts in other parts of francophone Africa, too—stay tuned for future blog posts!) When we “drop anchor” in our “port of calling” we read the Bible together in French. We discuss the issues in French. And outside of class, walking around the Port of Douala, guess what? Missionaries like Pastor Kroll and I get to practice a lot of real-life French! Each trip adds to our capabilities. It further increases our ability to call: to call our fellow sinners to our common Savior throughout French-speaking Africa. This is why the Port of Douala is our “port of calling.” And, God willing, it will be joined by more ports of calling, too.

Written by Rev. Keegan Dowling, world missionary on the One Africa Team, based in Lusaka, Zambia. 

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Medical camp in Kenya planned for February 2024

Originally appears in the Central Africa Medical Mission October 2023 Newsletter. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

The work of the One Africa Team has been blessed as they continue to build relationships with various Lutheran synods throughout Africa. One of those is the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) in Kenya. The synod is led by Pastor Mark Onunda. Pastor Onunda and several other pastors left the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and began the task of building the LCMC from scratch. LCMC is now in fellowship with WELS and has congregations scattered throughout the country. Pastor Onunda spends much of his time on the road, (Kenya is about the size of Texas) encouraging and training leaders and bringing God’s Word to the congregations. We pray God gives him the strength to keep up this monumental effort.

In Zambia and Malawi, our clinics have demonstrated God’s love for all people by looking after their physical and spiritual needs. In fact, part of WELS’ early success in Zambia in the 1960s was due to the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) clinic in Mwembezhi. To help grow the church in Kenya, Pastor Onunda has proposed something similar: a medical camp. The members of thee CAMM stateside committee have prayerfully considered expanding their work to help in Kenya based on several investigative visits by Gary Evans and One Africa Team Missionary John Roebke.

Short term medical camps, which last about a week, are common in Kenya and are used by church organizations to bring people to church properties where they are given physical and spiritual care. A camp might expect to see 3,000 to 4,000 patients over a four- or five-day period. The local government health care agencies support these camps as they are a means of health screening to populations who might otherwise have no access to health care.

CAMM is partnering with the One Africa Team, Christian Aid and Relief, and the LCMC-Kenya to conduct a medical camp in late February 2024. The camp will be held on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church, Kwiangachi, Kirinyaga County, which is located about a 3-hour drive northeast of Nairobi. The church has land, but no buildings, making the camp quite a logistical exercise. Two large 100-seat tents will be provided for shelter and privacy; one will be used as a reception/triage/devotion area and one as a pharmacy. Smaller tents will be used as individual consulting rooms on nutrition, cancer screenings, outpatient services, dental work, eye treatments, and mental health. We will provide the medications and medical supplies. We will also rent port-a-potties and provide a tank for drinking water. Medical staff and some medical equipment will be provided by the government. Transport and accommodation will be provided for staff and volunteers.

The LCMC-Kenya is engaged in much of the ongoing planning and coordination. They will also provide volunteers for security, administration, and making lunch time meals. Pastors from the LCMC-Kenya will hold ongoing devotions and provide pastoral services during each day of the camp. Patients who need follow-up and referral will be directed to go to local health agencies. We have met with Kirinyago County Health Officials who have approved the camp and will provide 25 medical staff, medical equipment, and an ambulance in case of emergencies.

CAMM has agreed to manage the clinic on behalf of the One Africa Team. The camp provides an opportunity for U.S.-based medical and non-medical volunteers to provide assistance. As this is the first of what could be many medical camps, CAMM stateside committee members will be the first set of volunteers to attend the camp. If this camp is successful, we hope to offer similar camps in the future, which will open volunteer opportunities to more WELS members.

Please pray for the success of this camp as it provides an opportunity for healing; and, most importantly, sharing God’s Word with so many people.

Written by Mr. Gary Evans, Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) field director.

 




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Your gifts are making a difference in Africa

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:3-6

The WELS One Africa Team currently works with established church bodies in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zambia. Your gifts are making a difference for these sister churches as we partner with them in outreach and assist in their theological education programs. Below are just a few specific ways that God is using your support to bring his gospel message to more people throughout Africa:

Constuction on the new school in Ethiopia

  • WELS is supporting the building of an additional elementary school campus that the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia will operate in Gambella, Ethiopia. The current campuses in Dukem serve over 750 students.
  • Missionary John Roebke and his wife, Nancy, assisted with a marriage workshop for pastors and their wives from the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ – Kenya (LCMC–Kenya) alongside LCMC-Kenya President Mark Anariko Onunda. One attendee shared, “It has refreshed our family and taught us new things that will strengthen our staying together and our work in the Lord’s vineyard too. It was a good encouragement.”
  • Missionary Daniel Witte continues to visit various sister churches throughout Africa to provide theological education for pastors, and partner with the LCMC-Kenya to lead workshops for Kenyan lay and called church leaders.
  • Pastors from Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia come together in various locations throughout Africa to study different courses as they work towards a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. A course on marriage was taught in Zambia in June, and another course on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was held recently in Malawi.

Thank you for your support! We pray that God continues to work through WELS’ sister churches and the One Africa Team to change lives in Africa—like those of Eric Kebeno from Soweto, Kenya, and Eunita Odongo, a deaconess in the LCMC-Kenya.

Pray for our African brothers and sisters in the faith as they continue to spread the message of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and love for sinners like you and me. Follow the One Africa Team on Facebook and subscribe to their blogs at oneafricateam.com for updates and stories of the Holy Spirit at work. Ask God to bless the work of the One Africa Team as they help spread the gospel throughout Africa.

Learn more about mission work in Africa at wels.net/africa.

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Lutheran Seminary installs principal in Zambia

Originally appears in the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) newsletter. Subscribe to future updates from the CELC at celc.info/signup.

Pastor Davison Mutentami, LCCA-Z Chairman

The Lutheran Church of Central Africa – Zambia (LCCA-Z) joyfully gathered for the installation of Pastor Chibikubantu Simweeleba (pictured center above) as the new principal of the Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia, on Saturday, September 16, 2023. Pastor Simweeleba is the seminary’s fifth principal in its nearly 60-year history. He is the second Zambian national pastor to fill this call.

Seminary Board of Control Chairman Pastor Edward Bangwe officiated at the morning service. Pastor David Baloyi based his sermon on the theme “Be Strong and Courageous!” from Joshua 1:1-9. Following the sermon, several area pastors shared their blessings and encouragement for Principal Simweeleba during a laying-on-of-hands ceremony.

A short program followed the service. LCCA-Z chairman Pastor Davison Mutentami brought the new principal greetings from the synod, encouraging Pastor Simweeleba to be among the synod’s pastors and members as an ambassador for the Seminary. The Simweelebas received well wishes and gifts from the attendees. The festivities concluded with a fellowship luncheon.

Pastor Simweeleba has been a pastor since 2009 and has served on the faculty of the Lutheran Seminary beginning in 2018. His responsibilities as principal will now take him beyond the seminary campus. He will use his experience in ministry to reach the synod’s membership as the face of the Seminary to recruit new students, nurture collaboration with the synod’s pastors and lay leadership, and along with the seminary faculty and the Board of Control, tailor the Seminary’s instructional program to meet the future ministerial needs of the LCCA-Z.

Written by Pastor Anthony Phiri, Dean of the Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia

 




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West African kickoff

Originally appears in the One Africa Team blog. Subscribe to future updates from Africa at oneafricateam.com.

A kickoff always signals the start of a football game. From September 2-9, 2023, we kicked off a new organization in Africa. The One Africa Team brought together two leaders from each of WELS’ three partner church bodies in West Africa: Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria, All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria, and the Lutheran Church of Cameroon. These six men sat together to solve some very sticky issues involving budgets, curricula, and staffing of their seminary programs.

We set up a WhatsApp chat group to communicate throughout the week. It was useful for communication about what we had done in the conference room, details about meals, etc. We also came to understand that we could also use this forum for a monthly meeting. Regular communication will greatly assist us in making plans and holding one another accountable so that things get done.

Our biggest topic of conversation was to gain an understanding of the One Africa Team’s vision for quarterly ministry plans. Much has changed since the days when missionaries resided in Nigeria and Cameroon. Due to security, WELS missionaries do not live in West Africa. In those days our partners were quite free to come and tell us, “We need ____ to carry out our ministry.” Then the local missionary would see what he could do to provide it for them.

Now, our West African brothers are writing their own plans. They are very clear about the programs that they are planning to implement. These plans include the purpose of the proposed program and who will be the participants and the teachers. Plans also include where the proposed program will take place and benchmarks to gauge the program’s effectiveness. The focus of ministry planning must remain on reaching people with the gospel. However, detailed estimates of expenses and funding sources are important for successful planning. We now have a good understanding of what our partners need for the upcoming quarter. With some minor adjustments, our partners will be ready to move forward with assistance from the One Africa Team.

We have opened a line of communication between the One Africa Team and the West African leadership group. After the initial kickoff, the ball is now rolling.

Written by Rev. Dan Kroll, world missionary on the One Africa Team and liaison to West Africa

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Faces of Faith – Eunita

“I want to emulate Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ service to his people.”

Meet Eunita Odongo, a deaconess in WELS’ sister church, the Lutheran Congregation in Mission for Christ – Kenya. Hear how she’s giving back to her community and spreading the gospel message in this special Faces of Faith video.

Learn more about mission work in Kenya and throughout the continent of Africa at wels.net/africa.

Faces of Faith – Eric

“Surely, when you find the Lord, life changes.”

Meet Eric Kebeno, baptized member at the Lutheran Congregation in Mission for Christ – Kenya congregation in Soweto. Hear how the gospel has changed his life in this special Faces of Faith video.

Learn more about mission work in Kenya and throughout the continent of Africa at wels.net/africa.

Reflections on Zambia

I had the incredible privilege to travel to Malawi and Zambia in July with three other members of the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) Stateside Committee, Gary and Beth Evans and Stacy Stolzman, to see the clinics operated by CAMM, meet the staff, and observe clinic operations. Gary is currently the CAMM Field Director and oversees the clinics in Malawi and Zambia. This blog shares some of my reflections on our visit to Lusaka, Zambia and the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre.

Beth Evans and Stacy Stolzman packing up boxes from CAMM supporters

Our visit to Zambia began with meeting Alisad Banda, the clinic administrator, whose office is in Lusaka on the same property where the seminary which trains pastors for the Lutheran Church of Central Africa is located. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Public Health Administration and is truly a blessing to the clinic operations in Zambia. Alisad has a gentle and faithful spirit that is on fire for Christ and he is dedicated to serving the people that come to Mwembezhi with Christ-centered health care.

Alisad drove our group out to Mwembezhi, which is in a rural area about a two-hour drive from Lusaka, part of it on dirt roads. Before we departed, we loaded up several boxes which were recently received from CAMM supporters across the country. These boxes contained pill bottles, baby blankets, and baby hats, and we were excited to personally help bring those boxes to the clinic staff. About 160 babies are delivered per year at Mwembezhi, and the new mothers really appreciate receiving the baby blankets and hats that have been donated.

We were met at the clinic by Jackson Kalekwa, the Clinical Officer in Charge, who introduced us to many of the staff and gave us a tour of the clinic buildings, including the pharmacy, lab, examination rooms, and the labor, delivery, and recovery rooms. The onsite staff, which is made up of all Zambian nationals, is led by Jackson, who is very knowledgeable and diligent in ensuring the clinic is run smoothly and that things are in good order. The clinic is part of the Zambian government health system, so the government provides many medications and test equipment to keep the pharmacy and lab well stocked. Mwembezhi has a very good reputation to provide their patients with the medications and health care they need.

Mothers and babies at Mwenbezhi receiving gifts of hats and blankets from staff

It was amazing to walk around the property at Mwembezhi and to learn that it is in the same location where the missionaries to Zambia established a church, Martin Luther Church, and began their outreach in the late 1950s, nearly 70 years ago.

The original church is still in use, but the original clinic building has been renovated and new buildings have been added, some very recently. The new mother’s shelter is bright and clean and is a much improved, comfortable setting for expectant mothers to come for a stay shortly before they are due to give birth. The new staff house, which is modern and well-equipped, looks like it could be a home here in the States. It is waiting for power to be connected before it will be occupied by Mrs. Banda, the midwife.

All of these enhancements to Mwembezhi were only possible due to many donations from churches, schools, and individual supporters, and are critical to continue providing a high standard of quality care at the clinic, which serves around 25,000 patients annually.

As we were leaving the Mwembezhi clinic, a local woman and member of Martin Luther Church named Gertrude stopped by our vehicle to introduce herself and to say “Thank you, thank you so much for all you are doing for us.” Her exuberance, joy in Christ, and her humble thankfulness stands out in my memory. I would like to pass on her words to those of you who have remembered CAMM with your donations and your prayers: Thank you, thank you so much for your support of the Central Africa Medical Mission and the work to address the physical and spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters in Zambia and Malawi!

Written by Vickie Walther, CAMM Development Committee Member. 

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Reflections on Malawi

“You need to be patient!” This is a common phrase used by parents or teachers but what is true patience? During my July visit to Malawi and Zambia with Vickie Walther and Gary and Beth Evans, I was blessed to observe the amazing patience of Central Africa Medical Missions’s (CAMM) clinic patients. Our trips focus was to learn about the Lutheran Mobile Clinic (LMC) in Malawi and Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Zambia to better serve our supporters. I am excited to share a few of our amazing experiences with you.

Clinic each day truly started the night prior when Violet Chikwatu, the nurse in charge, and Lusungu Mwambeye, Clinic Administrator, prepared bins of necessary medical supplies and medications. Each morning, the Lutheran Mobile Clinic staff in Lilongwe loaded the ambulance. On the way to the village of Suzi, we picked up additional staff and completed the 1.25-hour drive to clinic. The dirt roads were an adventure in the ambulance. I celebrated the wonderful driving skills of Vincent who navigated traffic in Lilongwe and the bumps and turns of the roads to the villages.

Upon arrival at Suzi, our staff efficiently set-up the clinic in the church buildings and courtyard while patients were listening to a devotion under the trees from a church elder. The mothers waited in line patiently to have their little ones weighed via a scale hanging from a tree outside of the clinic. Beth Evans and I wandered in the crowd to identify any patients who needed to be moved to the front of the line due to severe illness. The Clinic started and ran smoothly and efficiently. I kept thinking about myself headed to a doctor’s appointment in the US and how I would have been frustrated if taken a few minutes late from my scheduled appointment. These patients had traveled many hours by foot to get to our clinic, waited patiently for clinic to open and then proceeded calmly through each step of clinic (triage, immunizations, doctor visits, pharmacy, etc.). I witnessed a man with severe asthma being assessed and treated by our staff. He was able to leave clinic with the necessary asthma medications for the days ahead. Another former patient with a leg wound came to share with Beth his gratitude for her medical care as his wound was now fully healed. A baby with febrile seizures was seen by Violet and Beth who determined the baby required a transport to a local hospital for additional interventions. Our back-up ambulance transported her there while the other staff cleaned up clinic and took the main ambulance back to Lilongwe. What a blessing to have our two ambulances so this could all happen! the Lutheran Mobile Clinic served 250 patients in five hours at Suzi that day.

Patients waiting in line to be helped

There was no chaos and the staff and patients were calm throughout the whole day. It was a true blessing to observe!

The next day started in the same way at Lilongwe with loading of the ambulance and picking up staff on the 45-minute drive to the village of Mwalaulomwe. So many mothers and babies were waiting and listening to the devotion when we arrived. After devotion, clinic was again up and ready to see patients with ease. Within an hour of opening, three babies were identified as potentially having pneumonia. The ambulance was able to transport them safely to the local hospital. We rejoiced that the mothers were able to connect with our staff and receive the necessary triage at our clinic along with transport to the hospital. I again thought about patience. How long had these babies been ill?

What if clinic was not open that day in Mwalaulomwe. As a mother, I am grateful for urgent cares and medical clinics open 24/7 near my home for my daughters. I am thankful God supported these mothers during their infants’ illnesses and connected them to our medical staff for appropriate medical care and transport.

Words cannot express how thankful I am for the opportunity to travel to Malawi and Zambia to see our clinic staff in action and the patients served. I rejoice in their patience as they waited for care to nourish their body and soul. Please reflect with me this month the words of Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” The Central Africa Medical Mission’s focus of Christ-centered healthcare supporting gospel ministry occurs every day through the support you provide with prayer and donations. Thank you for your support!

Written by Stacy Stolzman, development director for the Central Africa Medical Mission

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Fishing in French in Cameroon

Fresh fish! Look at these fellas and the catch of the day! For one week in the middle of June, two One Africa Team missionaries got to work by the sea in Cameroon with a group of church leaders, not only in English but also in French. As far as anyone can tell, this may have been the first time WELS World Missions has provided in-person training in Africa in French!

Sweating in Douala
Missionary Dan Kroll, who has many years of experience living in Cameroon, Africa, and I went to the port city of Douala, and the church leaders traveled from their inland homes to meet with us there. Douala is a dank, green city on the Gulf of Guinea—and basically on the Equator. Douala is Cameroon’s biggest city and a major port. Where we stayed was right next to where the huge freighter ships docked and there was plenty of fresh fish to eat—even huge, spicy prawns! We got so much fish on the street that the sellers got to know us. . . and rival sellers would tussle over us, trying to physically direct us toward their stalls.

Fish for Souls
But the real reason Missionary Kroll and I were there was not to eat, but to catch fish. More specifically, we were there to help train some local fishermen: a group of leaders from Holy Trinity Lutheran Synod, whose calling from Jesus—like each of us Christians—was to fish for people, not necessarily for fish.

Holy Trinity is not yet in church fellowship with WELS. They are just beginning their journey of exploring the road to church fellowship. This starts with an emphasis on doctrine—specifically, a comprehensive overview of doctrine like you would find in a Bible information course at a church in North America. I’ve known French since I was a teenager and would read Le Monde newspaper, listen to Radio France Internationale, and collect French films in college.

I am thankful that, back in 2013, the Lord called me at my Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary graduation to serve as a pastor for nine years in Orléans, Ontario, which is on the eastern side of Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. Ottawa is the largest bilingual city in the country. While I was there, seeing and hearing French every day, I soaked up a lot of detailed vocabulary, which is coming in handy serving in Africa, where 167 million people speak French.

Teaching God’s Word in French

When Missionary Kroll and I were out an about in Douala, we both got a lot of exposure to hearing French. French is the language of the city of Douala. Seeing the need, WELS Multi-Language Productions (MLP) gave us permission to create my favorite Bible information course—Basic Bible Christianity, by Pastor Jon Buchholz—in French, and use it in our training workshops. We spent time with our new friends in Cameroon focusing in on such aspects of doctrine, such as: communion, baptism, law and gospel, the history of the Bible, and confession, among others.

It is still a new and fresh experience for us to use French in our ministry. It was also a new and fresh experience for our friends from Holy Trinity Lutheran Synod to explore biblical doctrine systematically with a Bible information course presented both in French and in English. We plan to meet with these very same men at all our upcoming workshops so that we can forge personal relationships and make progress as we grow deeper in our studies and our planning together. Missionary Kroll and I hope we grow stronger in our use of French with each visit we make to Cameroon, and we hope the leaders from Holy Trinity will also grow stronger in their understanding and use of God’s Word—which sounds sweet in any language.

Written by Rev. Keegan Dowling, world missionary on the Africa One Team and living in Lusaka, Zambia

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Exactly where God wants us

“The school doesn’t even teach us about Jesus. Why would anyone want to go there anyway?”

My boys had many questions. What would the weather be like? What kind of foods would they eat? What wildlife would they see? Would there be any playgrounds? How long would we live there?

Since accepting the call to serve as the TELL Missionary to Africa, the questions had been coming daily. We had answers for some of the questions. For others, we couldn’t say much more than, “I guess we’ll find out together.” But when one of my sons asked why we would ever want to go to a school that wouldn’t teach about Jesus every day, I had to pause before answering.

At the time, I was serving at Trinity in Neenah, Wis., and we were blessed to have a Christian elementary school right across the street from our church. Our boys had built close relationships with their classmates as well as their teachers. My wife was involved with the fundraising for the school and a significant portion of my ministry was focused on the school ministry. The school, faculty, staff, and the families connected with Neenah Lutheran had been a blessing and joy for our family for the past four years.

So why leave? Why move to a country so far away and so different? Why move to a place that didn’t have a school that won’t teach about Jesus every day? Why would anyone want to go there anyway?

We have been in Lusaka, Zambia, for two weeks now. My boys have experienced new things every day. To our shock, they’ve tried many new foods. To their delight, they’ve ridden on bumpy roads and discovered lots of new insects. Before the end of our first month, we hope to have them enrolled in a new school for the remainder of the school year.

Since we arrived, we’ve also been blessed to meet many new people. Elizabeth works at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka and helped us fill out the proper forms when three of our luggage pieces didn’t arrive when we did. George is studying medicine and happened to worship with us at the Lutheran Church of Central Africa at M’takwa. Clarise is a flight attendant with Qatar Airways and was looking for ways to grow in her faith and study of God’s Word. By God’s grace, these three will enroll in the TELL program and begin their journey of studying God’s Word and one day become trained TELL Bible leaders.

I honestly can’t tell you the exact words I shared in response to my son’s question. Yet every day we’ve met someone new, they have really been the answer. We are here – at this place and at this time – to tell others about Jesus. And that is how it’s always been. It doesn’t matter if you live in Wisconsin or Zambia, you are exactly where God wants you to share the love of Christ with others.

I don’t know what school will be like for my boys, but I do know that it will be one more thing that is different for them. I also know that they won’t hear about Jesus in the classroom. So, why would anyone want to go to a school that doesn’t teach about Jesus? Good question.

Perhaps, my son, because the Lord will provide opportunities for us to be His witnesses and to share with others the hope that you have through Jesus.

Written by Rev. Joel Hoff, new TELL Missionary on the Africa One Team.

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A warm welcome in Tanzania

Originally appears in the One Africa Team blog. Subscribe to future updates from Africa at oneafricateam.com.

Missionary John Roebke and I received a warm welcome to Tanzania last month, as part of One Africa Team’s Four-Stage Outreach process. We came to Tanzania to continue discussions with a local Lutheran church body, the Africa Mission Evangelism Church (AMEC). We wanted to discuss if our church bodies share the same Scriptural beliefs and practices. We hope that one day we will be able to work together united in faith.

AMEC’s leader, Bishop Baltazar Kaaya, met us at the airport late at night and showed us to our lodgings. The next day he gave us a tour of a couple congregations up in the foothills of Mt. Meru. As we drove, he explained how the lack of rain had been starting to affect their crops. “We’re praying for rain so that our people will have food to eat,” he said. Eventually, though, the dry areas began to give way to more green. Bishop Kaaya explained, “As we get higher on the mountain, we find areas that receive more rain.” It was quite a contrast.

Later in the day, we had the opportunity to witness an interesting piece of culture. The elders of a village were recognizing a man as the new leader of his family. This was a celebration somewhat reminiscent of a new pastor’s ordination or installation. All the other family heads gathered to speak their blessing upon this man in the presence of the entire clan. Many people were gathered. Though we felt a little out of place at this event, we were treated as honored guests. We were even asked to speak blessings of our own, as if we were part of the clan.

Throughout the week, the Tanzanian people continued to show us their warm welcome and hospitality. The church members gave us places of honor at their worship services. They made us feel at home with them, and that feeling increased. As the week progressed, we saw a familiarity in how the people approached the Word of God. In our daily workshop sessions, we explored that Word together. We used Luther’s Small Catechism as a guide to see whether we were on the same page. Ultimately, we found a group of people committed to the truth and zealous to put it into practice.

AMEC is made up of a group of almost 100 Lutheran congregations in northern Tanzania. Most of the congregations are concentrated near Mt. Meru, with a few more around Mt. Kilimanjaro to the east. These congregations are reaching out to other areas as well. AMEC’s newest effort is the coastal business center in Dar es Salaam. Islam is the dominant religion in this area, but the pastor there is working to bring the soothing peace of the gospel to the city’s people. It is living water for thirsty hearts!

At the end of our time together, the workshop participants surprised us with another warm gesture. They presented us with shukas, the traditional garment of the Masai people. Many of the people in this area of Tanzania belong to this ethnic group. It was a wonderful gift that expressed a deep truth: they wanted us to be part of their “tribe.” This is something that we want too! And what a blessing it was to see all the things on which our churches agree!

The weather isn’t the only thing keeping Tanzania warm; the faith of these people is a warm welcome in this cold world. It is a faith in the same God we serve and worship. We pray that our visits with the people of AMEC will continue to bear fruit of a common faith watered by God’s Word.

Written by Benjamin Foxen, a world missionary on the One Africa Team, serving in Zambia. 

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New and old brooms

The difference between new and old brooms is summarized in a proverb. “The new broom sweeps clean, but the old broom knows the corners.” The meaning is that while youth brings energy to a situation, people with experience bring more knowledge.

A fresh set of eyes helps you see things you’ve overlooked or grown accustomed to. The Africa Regional confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) gathering in Lusaka, Zambia this month brought together both new and old WELS mission partners. The former brought fresh perspective and energy. The latter brought experience and encouragement. The exchange was invaluable for all.

A Practical Conference
The agenda presented real-life ministry struggles before the delegates. The first presentation addressed the pros and cons of church-run businesses. One of the “new brooms” represented at the conference was the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ – Kenya (LCMC-Kenya). Its president, Rev. Mark Anariko Onunda, delivered a paper on this topic. He wrote, “Our churches are poor and the poverty of the church workers leads to a crisis of the spirit.” Generally speaking, African pastors are poorly compensated by their members, due to various factors. Many African pastors operate small business ventures to help support their families. Some are more skilled at managing their time and money than others.

The first community of believers chose seven deacons to manage the financial affairs of the church. They left the apostles free to give their attention to prayer and the ministry of the word (Ac 6:4). Rev. Onunda noted that skilled laypeople can run church businesses well and pastors can concentrate on the spiritual needs of their flocks.

Training Shepherds

One Africa Team Leader Rev. Howard Mohlke led a Bible study on Christian service, both private and public. The number of organized African congregations is much higher than the number of ordained clergymen available to serve them. Many view the term “pastor” as a title of respect rather than as a calling to serve. Rev. Mohlke noted that the word “pastor” is a verb that means “to shepherd.” The shepherd’s job is to care for the needs of the sheep. All Christians have the gifts and responsibility to personally serve one another as members of Christ’s body. Some Christians have been called to serve in public ministry on behalf of the congregation. The essence of their work as public ministers is the same as that of all Christians. It is a humble, Spirit-filled service that focuses people’s attention on the gospel of Christ.

 

The Lutheran Church of Central Africa-Zambia (LCCA-Zambia) is one of the “old brooms.” One of the WELS’ oldest gospel partners in Africa has Rev. Davison Mutentami as its president. His presentation touched on the kind of training needed for a healthy church. In his words, “Africa has been invaded by prophets and preachers from all walks of life. Africans have been invaded by teachings that are likely to deny them a chance to receive the true message of salvation by grace.” Many churches are led by people with no formal or informal Biblical training. Several African governments are considering legislation to require that pastors obtain a degree from an accredited institution.

 

But training should not be limited to members of the clergy. One size does not fit all. There are many local church leaders who would benefit from training tailored to their needs and abilities. The curriculum of many Lutheran seminaries is a treasured heritage to be sure. However, there are other practical skills to learn that will benefit both pastors and their congregations. One of the delegates, a layperson, made the following insightful comment.

“Theological education’s purpose isn’t to turn a man into a gospel minister, but to help him do gospel ministry.” That kind of training will certainly result in a healthy church.

A Layperson’s Perspective
An accountant by trade and a former treasurer of the LCCA-Zambia, Mr. Zororai Shoko delivered the fourth presentation. He very effectively demonstrated the need for financial accountability and transparency in the church. Mr. Shoko made his case by citing examples from both the Bible and recent case studies. He wrote, “whenever a person in power – especially the power of handling finances – tries to avoid transparency and accountability, the Church is in danger.”

When Mr. Shoko served as the treasurer of a local congregation, members asked to borrow funds from the general offerings. He refused, even though this had been standard practice in the past. Some congregations did not have bank accounts, but offerings were handled single-handedly either by the treasurer or the pastor. This lack of checks and balances has damaging consequences for the pastor and the church. According to one study, in 2019 Christian organizations were estimated to have lost $68 billion due to fraud. In the same time frame, donors were expected to give $60 billion for worldwide mission work.

Part of the reason for low offerings is a spiritual problem, but another is the lack of accountability. Fiscal malfeasance is endemic in the government. Nevertheless, Mr. Shoko remarked that “people expect more from the church than from the government.” The solution to these problems is simple. The church must establish clear procedures for counting, depositing, and accounting for funds entrusted to them. In the absence of such procedures, sinful human beings will take advantage of the opportunity. Mr. Shoko shared this final anecdote: A thief was asked if he would give up stealing. His reply? “Not if they remain so careless.”

Prayer Requests
Delegates from each of the seven synods attending the CELC Africa Regional meeting presented a brief history of their church bodies. They also mentioned requests for prayers. May I ask you to join me in praying for our African brothers?

  • The Lutheran Church of Cameroon: pray that God end the current war that has led members from seven congregations to flee the region
  • The LCMC-Kenya: pray that God will relieve the current famine and grant peaceful relations between various ethnic groups in the country
  • The LCCA-Malawi Synod: pray that God will empower the leaders of the congregations and the synod as a whole to use offerings in a transparent and accountable way
  • Obadiah Lutheran Synod (Uganda): pray that God will help them train church leaders and build up their church body’s infrastructure
  • The LCCA-Zambia Synod: pray that God will grant pastors the courage to serve under extremely difficult circumstances and give the church body spiritual growth
  • All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria: pray that God grant church members spiritual maturity
  • The Lutheran Church of Ethiopia; pray that God grant more faithful leaders and financial stability for the church
  • Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria: pray that God bless the church body’s leadership to serve both God and the members faithfully

May God bless the efforts of both new and old brooms to sweep souls into His Kingdom everywhere!

Written by Rev. John Roebke, world missionary in Malawi, Africa.

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Mother’s shelter renovations in Zambia

It is not uncommon to hear babies crying in the village of Mwembezhi, Zambia. In Psalm 127:3 it reads, “Children are a heritage from the Lord; offspring a reward from him.” The Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) has been helping protect the Lord’s gifts and their mothers for over 60 years. The Lutheran Rural Health Centre in Mwembezhi is located about 60 miles west of Lusaka, in Central Province of Zambia. The clinic provides Christ-centered healthcare services to people within its region. One of the primary functions of the clinic is pre and postnatal care: monitoring pregnant women throughout their pregnancies and then through labor and delivery. In 2021, 197 babies were born at the clinic. In fact, the Zambian government mandates that babies be born at health centers such as Mwembezhi, rather than at home.

Unlike the United States, people do not have cars or have easy access to ambulances or taxis to transport a mother to the clinic quickly when she goes into labor. To address the problem, the clinic created a mother’s shelter where expectant mothers can come two or three days before their due date then safely deliver the baby at the clinic. This is followed by proper postnatal care in the critical 48 hours after giving birth and resting before returning home. Before leaving, mothers are given gifts of baby blankets, onesies and baby hats, which are donated by our supporters in the United States.

Before renovations

The mother’s shelter, which consisted of two rooms—an open space and a storeroom (which the local police occasionally used as a jail cell)—had fallen into a state of disrepair. The roof leaked, windows were broken, masonry was cracked, doors were made from rusty iron roof sheets, the paint was peeling, woodwork was rotting in places, and there was no electricity or running water. It was clear that the building needed significant improvement and so a renovation project was proposed.

Additionally, because of an inspection of the clinic conducted by the Health Professional Council of Zambia in June 2022, it was decided that the clinic did not have proper and separate male and female observation rooms as required by Zambian health standards. Men and women were sharing the same observation room. So as part of the renovation project, it was decided that the old storeroom would be extended to create a larger mother’s room that could accommodate up to four mothers at a time, and the two previous mother’s rooms would be converted to male and female observation rooms.

CAMM was blessed to receive grants to fund the project from WELS Christian Aid and Relief and students from Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Milwaukee, Wis. Construction began in September 2022 for the renovation and remodel of the building.

After renovations

The building received a new roof, windows were reglazed and repainted, rotting woodwork was replaced, cracked masonry was repaired, drainage around the building improved, walls and floors were replastered and repainted. A new concrete walkway was built between the mother’s shelter and the main clinic building. The shelter was connected to the clinic’s solar system and lights and electrical outlets were installed. Wash basins were also added. The building was re-opened in December 2022.

With the completion of the mother’s shelter, CAMM has now renovated all of the buildings associated with clinic operations. CAMM leadership wants to ensure that patients are treated with respect and quality in the facilities and staff who help them. The Lutheran Rural Health Centre is regarded as the best health center facility in the Shibuyunji health district. Most importantly, our patients hear the good news of the gospel and receive true Christian love from our staff during their care.

Written by Gary Evans, field director for the Central Africa Medical Mission

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Counting the stars in Uganda

Originally appears in the One Africa Team blog. Subscribe to future updates from Africa at oneafricateam.com.

Uganda is a special place. “The Pearl of Africa,” they call it. It’s a beautiful country of rolling hills, mountains, and vegetation. The source of the Nile River is there, bubbling up from underneath Lake Victoria. During the day, my eyes couldn’t get enough of all that they were seeing.

It was when the sun went down, though, that I saw and was reminded of something even more beautiful.

My colleague, Missionary Keegan Dowling, and I had the privilege and honor of traveling to Uganda just before Christmas 2022 to teach about the life of Jesus to a group of pastors, evangelists, and lay leaders in the Obadiah Lutheran Synod (OLS). The OLS is a church body with whom WELS will be declaring formal fellowship during its 2023 synod convention. The workshop took place on the property of the church president, Pastor Musa (Moses), located in a village away from modern conveniences. The only electricity around was produced by a generator sparingly after night fell. This might not sound very pleasant, but it revealed something often hidden from our eyes.

The night sky. . .

Seeing that sky and the starlight that pierced its veil is something I will never forget. Thousands upon thousands of the great starry hosts twinkled above us, casting their soft light and dispersing the gloom. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the conversation God had with Abraham about the stars. . . “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them. . . So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5).

Pastor Dowling and I were blessed to be introduced to about 40 of those believing stars at this workshop. We taught many stories from the life of Jesus, from his birth to his ascension, and these stars soaked it up. Then they showed us their own capacity for light-bearing as they taught and retaught the same lessons in our practical sessions. Our goal was not only to teach them more about Jesus, but to teach them to teach their people more about Jesus.

Who could have guessed that we would meet some of Abraham’s descendants in this remote village in a country halfway around the world from the home we knew? Jesus can count the stars.

He knew he’d be introducing me to Tony, a persistent optimist and a man trained to be an educator. He sees many challenges facing their church body (lack of Bibles, for one), but he sees more opportunities for doing gospel ministry. He wants to give Bibles away, show films about Jesus to the community, start a Lutheran school for children, travel to Sudan to do missionary work there, and more.

Jesus knew about Jaka, a refugee from South Sudan due to the war going on there. He lives and serves in a refugee camp on the Ugandan side of the border. Jaka lives separated from his parents. In spite of his experiences, he praises and glorifies God. He also keeps his sense of humor and was often the one making everyone laugh.

Jesus introduced me to another star, Isaac, one of the few men there who has been seminary trained. He had been doing work with another church in Uganda, but eventually left for doctrinal reasons and has been in touch with WELS for some time. I was privileged to be part of the meeting where he and his two companions officially requested to become a part of the OLS in Uganda. Three others who weren’t able to make it to the workshop will also be joining. More stars. . .

Finally, Jesus knew about Pastor Musa, the current president of the OLS, shining brightly for all of them. He and two others started this church body back in 2008. They had neither congregations nor resources. Today, the OLS has nearly 30 congregations in spite of still having very few resources. Their motto has often been: “We will make use of whatever resources are available.” That goes for money and people as well. Many of the workshop participants were young, in their late teens or early twenties, and they had very little training. But Musa is determined to train them and have their gifts put to use to teach the people in their congregations. That way the light of Jesus may shine all the more brightly, and more and more stars of Abraham might make themselves known as they pierce that blanket of night.

As you look up at the night sky, wherever you are, count the stars you so often can’t see. Count these descendants of Abraham who shine with the light of Jesus. Pray that our Savior would cause them to burn ever more brightly, that the whole world may be bathed in the light of God’s fulfilled promise to Abraham.

Written by Rev. Ben Foxen, Outreach Missionary on the One Africa Team




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Sharing their stories

How did you become a Christian? When did it happen? Were there other people who helped you to know Christ?

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to visit Ethiopia. The main reason for my visit was to teach a course on St. Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus. The course was intended primarily for young men who are preparing to be pastors in the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (LCE). There were seven students in the class.

When I arrived, I asked each student to share his story. How did you become a Christian? When did it happen? Were there other people who helped you to know Christ? All of them had interesting stories. One student is the son of the LCE’s one and only pastor. He didn’t ask to be born into that family, but he was. And that is how he became a Christian. Another student was a Sudanese man who came to Ethiopia as a refugee. His mother and father were not Christian, but he learned about Jesus from his uncle, a man who is now a WELS pastor. That’s how he became a Christian.

I shared my story, too. A father who was my seminary professor, who taught me so many “big religious words” and deep truths about the scriptures that I can’t possibly remember all of them. A mother who led me in my bedtime prayers, prayers that were so foundational to my spiritual development that I can’t possibly forget even one of them. And that’s how I became a Christian.

All of us told very different stories, but one thing was the same in every story. We were all so grateful to God for the people who helped us to know Christ.

St. Timothy had a story, too. His father was a Greek who almost certainly did not believe in Jesus. But Timothy’s mother was a dedicated Christian, and his grandmother was, too. That’s how Timothy became a Christian. Paul wrote in his Second Letter to Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.”(2 Timothy 1:5,6)

How can we thank God for those who shared the word of God with us? And how can we honor those people who have led us to faith in Christ? St. Paul tells us how. “Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.” (2 Timothy 3:14)

For about two weeks, the students and I studied the word of God in the Letters to Timothy and Titus. We grew in our understanding of the gospel. We honed our abilities to share the word of God with others and to lead people to Christ. That’s the best way to thank God for his blessings.

When people tell their stories and thank God for those who helped them to know Christ, how many people will thank God for you?

Written by Rev. Mark Panning, world missionary on the One Africa Team

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Double the Pastors in Nigeria

Two of our sister synods in Nigeria doubled the number of pastors serving in their church body in one day!

Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria is based in the town of Uruk Uso, and All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria is headquartered in Ogoja. Until now, each of those synods had nine men serving in the public ministry. After five years of study during some unique circumstances, our mission partners each received nine new pastors on June 11, 2022. We praise the Lord for doubling the number of pastors who will shepherd God’s people with the truth of his Word!

For many years, WELS has sent missionaries to Nigeria four or five times per year. Those missionaries reviewed what the students had learned with their previous teachers. They also taught new material at the seminary in Uruk Uso. In addition, they provided direction and study materials for the coming months until the next teacher came. In the meantime, Nigerian Pastor Aniedi Paul Udo directed their studies.

Joyfully celebrating God’s gift of kingdom workers

Things were different with this current class of graduates. WELS provided the students with food and study materials, but we were unable to send visiting missionaries due to safety concerns. Director Udo and Missionary Dan Kroll made the best of the situation, attempting communications via the internet when it was working. Our missionaries and brothers in Nigeria learned a lot of valuable lessons after five years of training like this. Students learned about the need to be flexible and open to change during the time of transition. . . invaluable qualities for gospel ministers.

At the end of the day, we are trusting the Holy Spirit to transform these Nigerian students into faithful servants of God. And that isn’t unique. In all of our ministry partners’ worker training programs around the world, the success of building God’s kingdom depends on the Holy Spirit. We plant the seeds and wait for the crop – a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown (Matthew 13:8).

Or even double the pastors.

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Cameroon Seminary Graduates Seven

May 27, 2022, was an amazing day for our brothers and sisters in Cameroon. Amidst celebrations that reached across Africa, the Lutheran Church of Cameroon graduated seven men into the full-time work of the holy ministry.

In 2016 the LCC identified 14 men to begin ministerial training. They were men with a reasonable level of education, a Spirit-led love for the Lord, and some years of service as laymen in their congregations.

There were, of course, losses along the way. A few students left the program for valid reasons. A political crisis made it unsafe for the men to be together and caused the loss of an entire year of classroom studies. The same crisis made it impossible for WELS missionary Dan Kroll to do any face-to-face teaching in the final three years of the five-year program.

Although the devil uses such things to try to discourage us, we endure with the knowledge that the Lord is refining us as he promised through Jeremiah (9:7): “I will refine and test them.” The Holy Spirit was refining well for the gain of the Lord’s church, so that seven men were able to complete the course to prepare them for full-time ministry. The LCC’s teachers have grounded these men in God’s Word and prepared them to shepherd the Lord’s flocks in Cameroon. The Lord has strengthened each of them to face the challenges of his unique ministry.

The names of the graduates are Solomon Anim, Jean-Jacques Dooh, Nicole Epie, Ferdinand Fomenyam, Thomas Ngalame, Vincent Ngalame, and David Tembuc, They essentially double the LCC’s ministerium.

One of the LCC’s other pastors, Gervase Ngalame, is moving to the seminary campus to assist in training the next group of men for the ministry. Currently, Pastors Mathias Abumbi, Joseph Njume, Daniel Muankume, Julius Njume, Barnabbas Ngalame, and Fon George are serving as full-time congregational shepherds.

We give thanks to God for the addition of these seven men. The Lord has reminded us that he is watching over his church in Cameroon!

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All twenty-two and Clarice, too

Do I have a story for you.

A seven-day Psalms study with African pastors in Lusaka, Zambia, might seem a story without sizzle. But this one: wow.

In a way, the story starts almost two years ago. In June 2020 the Confessional Lutheran Institute (CLI), the educational arm of the One Africa Team, formed a cohort of African Lutheran pastors. These men, all ordained, want to keep learning the Bible, church history, doctrine, and shepherding God’s flock.

For most of the 19 pastors currently in the cohort, our March 31–April 7, 2022, Psalms course was the third in a series of nine courses and a final thesis, all of which will lead, God willing, to a Bachelor of Divinity (BDiv) degree from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS).

The main teacher for this Psalms course, in which students met mornings and afternoons and worked on learning Psalms like the back of their hand, was Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) Professor Bradley Wordell.

Dr. Ernst Wendland from Lusaka Lutheran Seminary, who has published extensively on Psalms, also taught two afternoons. He got help from several seminary students who had composed Psalm settings in Chewa, Nsenga, and Tumbuka. Missionary Daniel Witte taught the last day and a half.

Ho-hum? Hardly. You see . . .

1) This was the first time the full CLI Bachelor of Divinity (BDiv) cohort was able to be together in person. Previous COVID-19 travel restrictions had forced the BDiv brothers into one previous course via WhatsApp — an online communication platform, and the most common way to communicate via cell phone in Africa — and one course held successively in separate countries.

2) From 2010 to 2014 and 2015 to 2019 the Greater African Theological Studies Institute (GRATSI) had organized similar classes for other African pastors in our fellowship, but only pastors from Malawi and Zambia.

Now GRATSI has become CLI, and pastors in the current BDiv cohort are from five countries: Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Zambia.

3) This Psalms course also brought together three other Kenyan pastors who already have bachelors degrees in theology. They are starting on a Master of Theology program, also through Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.

I wish you could have been with all of us in Lusaka to see the new camaraderie between these 22 pastors: the laughs, the discussions, the prayers.

I wish you could have experienced the energy in the meeting room as pastors saw more clearly than before how all the Psalms center in Christ and connect in a story that summarizes the whole Bible, ending in the most perfect praise to God.

I wish you could have been there near the end of the last day as the pastors composed and sang for each other a refrain for Psalm 118. The melody is in both the WELS’ 1993 and 2021 hymnals, from Tanzania.

The refrains your African brothers wrote for that melody (we drummed it with our hand on the tables, too!) were not in Hebrew (׃חַסְדּֽוֹ לְעוֹלָ֣ם כִּ֖י ט֑וֹב־כִּי לַיהוָ֣ה הוֹד֣וּ), nor in English (“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his covenant-love is eternal”), but in their heart languages, such as Akoose, Chewa, Kiswahili, Lenje, and Tonga.

4) Another unforgettable part of the story: Professor Bradley Wordell brought his wife Andrea and her mother Clarice Fastenau along on the trip.

Clarice’s husband, Missionary Don Fastenau, served as principal of the Lusaka Lutheran Seminary (1969–1980). He went to be with the Lord in 2018. The Fastenaus had left Lusaka in 1980. Andrea and Clarice had not been back to Zambia in 42 years.

Andrea and Clarice loved seeing Zambia again. They marveled at how things had changed. And was Clarice, now age 82, spry! “Energetic” hardly fits.

For instance, this photo is Clarice at the bottom of Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall, near Livingstone, Zambia. Clarice climbed all the way down to The Boiling Pot, and all the way back up the rocky stairway.

So now Clarice has a story to tell friends and family the rest of her life, of how many things had not changed in 42 years, and how different Lusaka looks today.

And I have a story to share of God’s grace uniting pastors across a continent and believers around the world.

And you have a story too. Tell someone else about how WELS’ work in Africa is becoming fewer missionaries doing things for others, and more and more a partnership in Christ.

For instance, here is Pastor Mesue Israel, principal of the Lutheran Seminary in Kumba, Cameroon, encouraging his classmates and Professor Wordell and me with a heartfelt message from Isaiah 53 about Christ crucified, risen, and reigning.

Pastor Israel and many other pastors continue to study the Psalms too, so they know them like the back of their hands. With joy Pastor Israel told me a whole story about it again just this morning!

Please pray for those working in fields that are ripe for harvest. Share their story, engage with future news, and receive updates.

Written by Rev. Daniel Witte, world missionary on the One Africa Team.

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African outreach trips – Fall 2021

During 2021, missionaries from the One Africa Team were able to make several trips to visit various church groups throughout Africa. Many of these trips were originally delayed due to COVID travel restrictions. Missionaries and other national church partners traveled to Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, and Ethiopia. Here’s a recap of each visit:

Tanzania

The One Africa Team looks to partner with various churches in Africa to ensure unity in doctrine and practice, and to combine resources to continue reaching the lost.

The African Mission Evangelical Church (AMEC) formed in 1993 after they split with the main group of Tanzanian Lutherans. In April 2021, Missionary John Hartmann made a preliminary visit to Tanzania to meet with a dozen AMEC pastors to learn more about their history and introduce them to WELS doctrine and beliefs. In November, Missionary John Roebke and Missionary Hartmann returned with Kenyan national pastor Mark Anariko Onunda to continue potential fellowship discussion. It is the prayer of AMEC to partner with WELS to provide solid confessional Lutheran training for their pastors. The One Africa Team will return in 2022 to continue their discussions. We thank God for this opportunity for a potential ministry partnership in Tanzania! Read more about their visit in this article from the One Africa Team blog.


Kenya

Missionary Dan Witte and three LCMC – Kenya pastors

In 2019, the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) – Kenya joined in fellowship with WELS. Because of the pandemic, no One Africa Team members were able to visit. Finally, after months of video conferencing and e-mails, Missionaries Howard Mohlke and John Roebke were able to travel to Kenya in August 2021 and meet with the members and leadership of the LCMC – Kenya. On this trip, the two missionaries traveled to various LCMC – Kenya congregations to see some of the buildings WELS helped build and share messages and encouragement from the Bible.

The attendees listening to the Bible and watching the Jesus film

They held leaders’ workshops where they gave presentations on the Bible, principles of stewardship, and Church and Ministry. The attendees also received microSD cards with audio Bibles and a Jesus film in both English and Swahili; immediately the SD cards were put to use. Read more about their trip in this article from the One Africa Team blog.

Then, in October 2021, One Africa Team Missionary Dan Witte traveled to Kenya to teach a course on African Church History to three pastors of the LCMC – Kenya. He was also able to participate in the dedication of St. Peter’s Kindu Church in Eastern Kenya. Read Missionary Witte’s reflections from his trip.


Uganda

Missionaries John Holtz and Dan Kroll visited Obadiah Lutheran Synod in Uganda in early October 2021 . They were evaluating and preparing the last steps needed before recommending that Obadiah Lutheran Synod be brought into fellowship with WELS and visited some of their churches. Missionary Holtz was also able to meet with seven students who gathered online to study Luther’s Small Catechism during the pandemic. Read more about their trip from Missionary John Holtz.


Cameroon

One Africa Team missionaries Howard Mohlke, Dan Kroll, John Holtz, and Africa Business Manager Stefan Felgenhauer traveled to Cameroon in October to meet with a group of pastors and laymen of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon (LCC). After not meeting in-person for two years, this gathering was appreciated. The group discussed the partnership in the ministry that these groups share, the future of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon seminary, ministry training opportunities, and other ministry topics.


Ethiopia

In October 2021, One Africa Team missionaries Mark Panning, John Holtz, Howard Mohlke, and Africa Business Manager Stefan Felgenhauer traveled to Ethiopia to visit WELS’ sister church, the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (LCE). God greatly blessed mission work in Ethiopia through a Lutheran elementary school. The original plan was for the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (LCE) to start a nursery school in Bishoftu, but God had other plans. Read how God’s bigger plan ultimately brought more blessings than they could ever imagine in this One Africa Team blog article.


God is truly blessing mission work in Africa! Please keep the One Africa Team missionaries and the family of believers in Africa in your prayers. We thank God for all the blessings poured out on mission work in Africa, and we pray he continues to bless this work in the years to come.

 

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Evolving styles of ministry in Africa

Do you like looking at old photographs? Probably you do. And probably you don’t. On the one hand, how heartwarming it can be to see those happy photos of your children when they were five years old. And imagine . . . now those kids of yours have children of their own! But on the other hand, oh my! That hairstyle! That cheesy mustache! Those silly bell-bottom jeans! Did I really look like that? Is it possible that the ‘me’ of yesterday was not as groovy as I thought I was?

A few days ago, I stumbled upon some old photographs. I thought they were fascinating. The year of the photos was 1981, and the place was Lilongwe, Malawi. One picture showed workers laying the foundation for the classroom of the Lutheran Bible Institute (LBI). Another picture showed the construction of Lutheran Bible Institute (LBI) student houses. The plan was to build a brand-new boarding school for the training of national pastors. All those buildings are still here, but things look very different today.

It got me thinking about our mission work in Africa. More specifically, it made me think how times have changed. Years ago, the measure of a missionary in Africa was how quickly he could change a tire. In the early days, almost all Africa missionaries drove out to the isolated village churches. They preached the gospel to the people, sometimes in a grass roofed church, sometimes underneath the mango tree. You would get a lot of flats driving those dirt roads, but an experienced missionary could pull off the old tire and pop on a new one faster than a pit crew at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 1981, the very idea of building a fancy brick and mortar classroom for the training of national pastors – wow, that was groundbreaking stuff!

I still teach young Zambian and Malawian pre-seminary students in the very same classroom. And if you want my honest opinion, I still think it’s pretty ‘groovy.’ But things look different today. More and more, the missionaries of today are teaching in a Google Classroom, not a brick-and-mortar classroom. More and more, the measure of a missionary is not how quickly he can change a tire, but how quickly he can reboot his laptop to get the Zoom meeting up and running. Boarding schools? Today it’s ‘keyboarding’ schools. Today, missionaries are not just driving cars to the isolated villages of Zambia and Malawi. They’re flying on commercial airlines to train pastoral students in places like Cameroon and Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya.

So what should we say? Are old ways bad? Certainly not. You carefully groomed that cheesy mustache because that was the best thing for the time and place. That mustache and that hairstyle and the bell-bottom jeans are the things that got you noticed. Maybe they even caught the eye of that pretty, young lady who later became your wife. Certainly, it’s true that styles of ministry in Africa are constantly evolving, but our sister-churches in Africa number more than 60,000 baptized souls. God has blessed our efforts.

The old pictures remind us how quickly this world changes. But one thing never changes: Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus will be saved. As we enter into the year 2022, let’s double our efforts to preach the unchanging word of God, by whatever methods possible, because time is marching on, and “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).

Written by Rev. Mark Panning, world missionary on the One Africa Team.

 

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You made a difference for the WELS Central Africa Medical Mission

“As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Galatians 6:10

The WELS Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) has been blessed over the past 60 years with the generous support of WELS members. We thank God for these gifts and pray for his continued blessings!

Below is a brief update on how your gifts are being used to support gospel ministry through CAMM’s Christ-centered healthcare:

  • We are transitioning our Malawi Mobile Clinic operations over to a fully Malawian staff so we can free up our resources to explore expansion into other African countries and potentially throughout the world.
  • We have repaired and renovated all of our clinic buildings, including adding private exam and consultation rooms so more patients are comfortable coming to our clinic.
  • We are supporting disabled children in Malawi by providing transportation to physical therapy services. These children were introduced to us through the local Lutheran Church of Central Africa-Malawi pastor who uses the service our clinic provides to connect with non-members.
  • We now have the capability to hire more staff as needed. Many of our staff are members of one of our sister churches in Malawi and Zambia, which strengthens our relationship with the local churches and the synods overall.

Thank you for helping us get to this point! There is more work to be done in Africa and throughout the world. The Lord calls us to help the “least of these.” (Matthew 25:40) Pray for his continued blessing of staff members who can share their faith with the patients by offering Christ-centered healthcare. Share the work that the Central Africa Medical Mission does throughout Zambia, Malawi, and potentially more of Africa. Ask God to allow CAMM to expand to other countries where we can offer basic healthcare in support of gospel ministry. Thank you for your continued support of the Central Africa Medical Mission!

Learn more at wels.net/camm.

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Pakuwa Pakhawa (Hope Realized)

Originally appears in the One Africa Team blog, from September 7, 2021. 

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end so that what you hope for may be fully realized (Hebrews 6:11).

In November 2019 I was ready to pack my bags and move to Nairobi. Then COVID-19 ended all international travel. One Africa Team Missionaries canceled all their planned trips to Uganda, Liberia, and other parts of Africa – full stop. But the global pandemic didn’t stop God’s kingdom or the gospel ministry of the LCMC (The Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ) Kenya from moving forward.

The LCMC (The Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ) Kenya declared fellowship with the WELS in the summer of 2019. Due to the pandemic, no WELS representatives paid them a formal visit. Some LCMC Kenya members wondered if they truly enjoyed a relationship with other confessional Lutherans outside of Kenya. They had to hope that their leaders were telling them the truth.

For 21 months, I kept in touch with One Africa Team’s ministry partners in Kenya from a distance. I helped coordinate ministry support from 1,200 miles away in Malawi, using e-mail, instant messaging platforms, and online teleconferencing. I received regular updates and phone calls. I taught Biblical Greek to students I had never met in person. Since I’ve always believed that “the house going pastor makes a church-going people,” I questioned my own effectiveness. I had to hope that God was in charge.

There was evidence of activity: photos of church building projects, expense reports, and videos of joyful church dedications. There was evidence of progress. There was evidence of financial support. But can a long-distance relationship last without meeting face to face?

In August 2021, One Africa Team leader Howard Mohlke and I visited our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Kenya. We wanted to solidify our partnership. We also wanted to give the members of the LCMC Kenya a chance to say, “Thank you” in person. There is a phrase in the Luo language that captures the goal of our visit. “Pakuwa pakhawa” means, “Our hope has been realized.”

Masaai Land

The area around Nairobi is the homeland of the Masaai people, who traditionally were hunter-gatherers and raised livestock. Near the Masaai town of Ngong, Pastor Frank Koyo serves a Masaai congregation at Olissi Lutheran Church. The church building is located at the end of a dirt path on top of a mountain. It is a most beautiful, if not remote place from which you can see the surrounding countryside. A Finnish Lutheran missionary helped the congregation put up a simple tin shack. Built a decade ago, it is still in pretty good shape. Pastor Koyo works as a plumber and has to walk down a steep hill to catch a bus to town. During the rainy season, the road is so slippery that it is impassable even on foot.

About 45 minutes away by car is Kibiku, the location of another Masaai congregation that is currently inactive.

Masaai members of Elkimasek LCMC Kenya

Since there’s no road, we made our own path up a hilltop. We found a Pentecostal church put up next to the Lutheran chapel. Pastor Koyo was serving the church but eventually stopped since the congregation’s offerings didn’t cover the cost of his transportation. The harvest is great, but the workers are few.

We then drove about two hours to another Masasi congregation in Elkimasek. Before his death, a member of the LCMC Kenya donated his land for a church building. A dozen or so adult men and women greeted us under a shade tree. The arid land sits on a volcanic plain where sheep and goats graze on scrub grass. The closest elementary school is 6 km away. Students occasionally encounter elephants and hyenas on their morning walk to class.

Western Kenya

God Miaha LCMC Kenya

There is a large concentration of LCMC congregations in Western Kenya. We drove seven hours from Nairobi to the town of Sondu. We passed through mountain forests, deserts, and huge fields of wheat and corn. We saw lush tea plantations and hills covered with cultivated farm plots. Some parts of Kenya are in the rain shadow and receive little or no rain throughout the year. Other areas are perpetually dripping with rain.

God Miaha is a beautiful chapel in the woods. Patrice Omolo recovered from a near-fatal illness in 2014. He vowed to finish constructing a church building for the congregation that his parents founded. Such thankful giving is evidence that gospel hope produces real fruits of faith.

Mr. Mzee donated the land for St. Peter’s LCMC Kenya

The members of Ramba Lutheran Church worship in a metal shack they constructed by themselves on rented land. It’s located next to a noisy indigenous Africa Christian congregation. Their whose members were banging on drums and metal bars the whole time we were there. But the Kenyan Lutherans didn’t seem to notice their next-door neighbors. They hope someday to buy land and build their own permanent structure.

One of the churches that WELS funds helped to build is St. Peter’s in Kindu town. The congregation began meeting under a shade tree. They started building on land donated by Mr. Mzee, who was in attendance along with a dozen or so of his relatives when we visited. WELS helped the congregation put a roof on their sanctuary, just in time before the rainy season begins.

Former Zambia Missionary Dan Sargent wrote a blog post that featured Nyang’un Lutheran Church. The congregation has 120 members, half of which are widows. Many men age 25-45 died in the AIDS/HIV epidemic, leaving their wives and families behind. But the WELS has not abandoned LCMC Kenya. Our visit proves that LCMC Kenya has fellowship with Lutherans outside of their country.

WELS funds helped complete the construction of a chapel for the members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in the village of Ponge. The owner of the land where they were intending to build their church refused to join the LCMC Kenya. The majority of the members left and began building on another piece of land donated by an older woman. Samson Mambo, one of my Greek students, serves as their evangelist.

Preaching in Luo

I miss the privilege of preaching to a congregation every week. I was overjoyed and grateful that the members of St. Peter’s LCMC invited me to present a message from God’s word at their Sunday worship service. LCMC Kenya treasurer Paul Mboya picked me up from my bungalow in his Honda Odyssey. It’s not a vehicle built for dirt roads. He wound around in a corkscrew pattern to avoid the worst parts of the route. We left the minivan safely parked a quarter of a mile away from the sanctuary.

Othoro LCMC Kenya

The congregation conducts its worship services in the Luo language, so the pastor translated my English sermon sentence by sentence. I spoke on the gospel lesson from John 6. Jesus told his followers they must eat his flesh and drink his blood to live forever. The text goes on to say that most of the people abandoned Jesus after hearing this. So many people hope that God will perform miracles and shower financial blessings on them. This is a false theology of glory. True hope is found on the way of the cross, with real suffering and a real reward at the end. Jesus will remain with us forever.

After the service, we passed by the LCMC Kenya congregation in Othoro. These people started meeting on a rented piece of land. Then the owner forced them off of it when they joined the LCMC Kenya. They have made a down payment on a plot of land. It sits in the middle of a cornfield, where they have erected a simple chapel. They want to build a permanent structure after they finish paying for the land.

Leaders’ Workshop

We met with local LCMC Kenya leaders for a workshop at Kadie Lutheran Church. I presented a Bible study on Biblical principles of stewardship. Missionary Howard Mohlke gave a presentation on Church and Ministry. LCMC Leader Rev. Mark Onunda summarized what we said in Swahili because many of the older attendees did not speak any English at all.

Richard Ombuyi serves Erandi LCMC Kenya

The leaders’ workshop was a perfect opportunity to share God’s Word digitally. We gave each attendee a microSD memory card with audio Bibles and the JESUS film in both Swahili and English. Most of the people had either a phone or a tablet with a memory slot. Some of the card slots were under the phone battery. Other phones had a tray that ejects when a metal pin is inserted into a hole. I improvised with a staple that I straightened out with my pocket tool.

Immediately after we installed the cards the room was filled with the sounds of the Bible and the JESUS film. Each card came with an 8 GB memory capacity, of which half was taken up with the prerecorded content. That allowed users to download other digital content that I had brought with me on a separate device. It’s a local wifi hub that serves as a digital library with 160 GB of Bible commentaries, movies, and music. WELS Multi-Language Productions made these gifts possible.

On the way back to Nairobi we stopped at Nyamarimba church. The building is a simple brick structure with mud daubed walls and iron sheet roofs. It is located on the property of one of the members. We also swung by Erandi, Rev. Mark Onunda’s home village. He started a congregation because the local Lutheran pastor wouldn’t let them use the church for his son’s funeral.

Nairobi

Mwingi LCMC Kenya future sanctuary (left) and current chapel (right)

We held a second leaders’ workshop in Nairobi. The attendees knew English so Rev. Onunda didn’t have to translate into Swahili. Their spiritual maturity about the opportunities and challenges of raising support for church work made an impression on me. They understand that stewardship is a matter of the heart, not technique.

Mwingi village is located about 3.5 hours east of Nairobi. It is a dry and dusty place where water is precious. WELS is helping the local congregation of 80 families complete a permanent structure. By themselves, they had laid the foundation and built up the wall about 3 feet off the ground.

I finished my visit to Kenya the same way I finished my first visit in 2019. I preached at the LCMC congregation in the town of Kitengela. A lot has happened since then. Three church leaders, including the pastor, went home to heaven. Because of COVID, the Kenyan government stopped churches from meeting for seven months. Because the congregation in Kitengela did not meet, they were in arrears in their rent payments. The landlord placed a padlock on their front door. After two months, the members came up with the money they owed. They hope to purchase a plot of land and put up their own building.

The members of the LCMC Kenya have great hope for their church body’s future. They have taken advantage of their own members’ resources. They also enjoy the assistance of their ministry partners in the WELS. The members of the LCMC Kenya are working hard to turn hope into reality.

Written by Rev. John Roebke, world missionary on the One Africa Team.

To view more photos from the trip to Africa, you can visit the Flickr site.

 

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Looking forward and back

On Saturday, April 17, 2021, my wife, Leslie, and I landed in Lilongwe, Malawi. As we landed and looked forward to our new life living and working in Africa, we also looked back to 1991 when we first landed in Zambia to serve as part of the mission team. Back then we arrived with two daughters ages four and two, and one son who was six months old. Now, it’s just the two of us, and those three (and two more) kids are all grown up. Back then we left behind our parents and “took their grandchildren away,” as they would remind us at times. Now, we are leaving behind our grandchildren.

Missionary Mohlke and his wife, Leslie, with their shipping container as they prepare for the move to Lilongwe, Malawi

Back then, we were a young family, and I had just been assigned from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to serve in Zambia. Now, Leslie and I have been together for over three decades and have been blessed in many ways as we lived in Zambia, Nebraska, Idaho, and Arizona. Now, we look forward to being blessed as we live again in Africa and wonder a bit what the Lord has in store for us. That said, we know for certain that just as the Lord saw us through in the past, he will be with us and bless us this time too.

Many Changes

It is said that you can never go home, meaning that our memories of home remain the same but time changes everything and things are never as we remember. As Leslie and I returned to Africa, we kept reminding ourselves that this would be true, and indeed it was.

Back in 1991, we arrived in a country that had suffered from years of socialism and one-party rule. The consequences were a ruined economy and infrastructure. It was a challenge to procure the most basic of needs. Now, even though there are differences in name brands and price, almost anything can be purchased at a local store. Back then it was big news when certain items were available at the store. Now, one can compare prices and quality of items that you want to buy.

Back in 1991, the only forms of communication with family in the U.S. were airmail and long-distance calls that cost $1.00 per minute, that is, if the phone was working at all. Now, with cellular data, there are multiple means of voice and video communication. That is, if the electricity is on. I guess some things do stay the same.

Missionary Mohlke in Africa in the 1990s

Nothing New

As with water and electricity outages, other things remain the same. The biggest constant is the need to share the Good News of Jesus. People continue to struggle with sin and guilt and need the comfort of Jesus. The work of sharing this comfort is still carried out through Christian congregations who gather to be blessed through Word and sacrament and are willing to share the truth with their neighbors. Nowadays, the congregations are served by locally trained pastors and elders, but the work remains the same.

Something New

Back in 1991, my work was to serve a dozen churches, visiting them every four to six weeks. In between my visits, the work of shepherding the congregations was in the hands of faithful men and women who read sermons on Sunday and taught basic instruction and Sunday school. They visited the sick and managed the affairs of their congregation. When I would visit, I conducted worship and offered encouragement and training to those who were serving so faithfully.

Nowadays, WELS missionaries in Africa are not serving as pastors or overseeing congregations, but are working with the pastors and leadership of church bodies throughout Africa. Back in 1991 there were missionaries doing what I was doing in Malawi and Zambia. Now, the mission team works with partner church bodies in Nigeria, Cameroon, Liberia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, as well as Malawi and Zambia. We also are working with Multi-Language Productions, offering basic biblical and shepherding training to individuals anywhere in the continent. Our prayer is that all these relationships and partnerships would be blessed by the Lord so more people may hear the Good News of Jesus in Africa and beyond.

Always

As Leslie and I begin this new stage of mission life, we know that it is the Lord who has called us here and will bless us. For this we are thankful.

The Lord be with you all.

Written by Missionary Howie Mohlke, leader of the One Africa Team

 

 

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Faith and healing for 60 years

When you hear the word “Africa,” what comes to your mind? For WELS Lutherans, perhaps a lot of history comes to your mind. History that is often rooted in the work of the Central Africa Medical Mission.

1963: Barbara Welch and Kay Stuh work at the Zambia Clinic

The Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) started doing Christ-centered medical work in 1961 for just a handful of people in Mwembezhi, Zambia, which is near Lusaka, the capitol of Zambia. Today, thousands of Zambians come to that same clinic site seeking medical health (healing) for their body as well as spiritual health (faith) for their soul.

In 1970, medical services began in the country of Malawi as a mobile clinic. According to one of our first resident nurses, Edie Schneider Hintz, “For several weeks at three regular clinic stops we saw over 1,900 adults and 700 children in our under-five clinics. Amazing for their first try in the bush with medicine.”

The Lutheran Mobile Clinic in Malawi currently serves four rural villages. Annual attendance varies between 47,000 to 58,000 patients. The people in these villages trust our Lutheran Mobile Clinic to provide them with preventative healthcare and good quality medical care.

This year, CAMM will celebrate its 60th anniversary of showing Christ’s love through our care of very poor and needy people in central Africa who come to our clinics. Every day at our clinics, we get to nourish the faith of patients by sharing God’s Word with them through devotions and praying with them. At the same time, we get to bring healthcare to children in our under-five program, to adults who are suffering from malaria and HIV, and to young mothers in our maternity program.

Devotion at a clinic in Malawi

We also have some exciting news happening in Malawi this year. We have reached the point where we are now able to nationalize our clinic and give more responsibility to the Malawian staff, so that they can run the clinic and make it their own. That’s always been our goal, and God has blessed us at this time to be able to achieve that goal.

There are so many blessings that CAMM has experienced by God’s grace, and there are even more opportunities waiting for us.

Because of the Lord’s great love over the past 60 years, hundreds of thousands of patients have been helped and countless lives have been saved through the work of CAMM. In addition, many adults and children have heard the good news of Jesus and have been baptized as a result. It’s been one blessing after another as we have provided Christ-centered medical and spiritual care for the past 60 years in Africa. “To God be the glory, great things he has done!” (CW 399).

Written by Rev. Kevin Schultz, Central Africa Medical Mission Spiritual advisor

We are featuring the Central Africa Medical Mission during the month of April as they celebrate 60 years of God’s grace in 2021. Visit wels.net/camm to learn more.

 

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So much more than a burial

The body of late Evangelist Chitanzane Kantokoma Mapulanga was laid to rest on December 6, 2020. The coffin was lowered. The dirt was heaped. Wreaths were placed.

Evangelist and Mrs. Mapulanga – December 2016

But the funeral was so much more than a burial. It was a “witness to a stricken world.”

In Christ, who tasted death for us
We rise above our natural grief
And witness to a stricken world
The strength and splendor of belief. – CW #607

Some say that the best evangelism opportunities in Malawi are funerals. Why? Because the masses gather. Not just the fellow members of the deceased’s home church, but the entire community. Crowds of people. And as you can well imagine, a variety of faiths in need of a message whether they realize it or not. What better time to share the gospel of Jesus?

That is exactly what Pastor Khwima Msiska did.

He preached 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, “. . . the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Pastors Msowoya and Msiska

Pastor Msiska could have hijacked the sermon time and simply highlighted how much Evangelist Mapulanga had accomplished during his personal and ministry years. God had given the Evangelist a total eight decades spanning from 1940 to 2020. There would have been plenty to say. After all, just in his gospel ministry of serving the Lutheran Church of Central Africa, how many sermons did Evangelist Mapulanga preach? How many babies and adults did he baptize? How many member visits had he made? How many people of the Lutheran church had he comforted, corrected, rebuked, and trained in righteousness? Over decades of service, how many kilometers had he pedaled and miles had he walked to serve the Lord’s people?

But Pastor Msiska didn’t dwell on those things. For that matter, neither did the Liturgist Pastor Msowoya nor any other speaker. The funeral focus was not about the man Mapulanga but about the God man Jesus Christ. Both Lutheran Church of Central Africa pastors answered very clearly the questions that are most important: What had Jesus done for Evangelist Mapulanga? What had the Promised One accomplished? Why did Christ die on the cross? What does Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death mean for him, and me, when I die? 

Ah, now that’s something to talk about. And sing about.

And that is what the Lutheran women and men did. The preacher and the liturgist were not the only ones witnessing to the stricken world. So were the many people who attended the funeral and are longing for Christ’s coming. We arrived at the funeral home at 9 a.m. We departed at 4 p.m. And for the better part of seven hours, people were singing. Why?

Because there was something to sing about! The funeral was so much more than a burial. It was a witness to a stricken world that there is hope beyond the grave. There is life after death. There is a crown of righteousness in store. No wonder the family of God longs for their Brother’s appearing on the last day! We are not just waiting for Jesus Christ to come again, but desiring it, yearning for it. Looking forward to it, patiently but with anticipation.

One day our fight will be over. Our race will be finished. And we will live no longer by faith, but by sight.

Missionary Holtz with Evangelist Mapulanga

And so with the strength and splendor of belief, the men and women lifted up their voices. They sang at the funeral home, at the mortuary, walking to the cemetery, and huddled around the grave. The day was one of song, and the songs were ones of witness. And the witness was to Jesus Christ.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, so will Evangelist Mapulanga. Because Jesus paid the penalty of sin, we don’t have to. Because Jesus gave up his crown, we will wear one!

A gift of grace.

Until the Lord calls us home as he did Evangelist Mapulanga on December 4, we will still have graves to dig, funerals to attend, and loved ones to bid goodbye. We will mourn. Hearts will ache. Tears will flow.

But not without hope.

So we will also have sermons to preach and songs to sing and a witness to give. Because there is a world out there stricken with sin and in need of a Savior. No matter in which country our loved ones die, let the masses and the crowds come to our Christian funerals! It’s so much more than a burial.

Written by Rev. John Holtz, world missionary on the WELS One Africa Team


 

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