This is a special article because Missionary Holtz was in Nigeria for teaching, graduation and ordination.
If God is for us, who can be against us?1
Excellent question, Paul, just excellent.
Paul’s query is much more than simply thought-provoking and much greater than merely discussion raising. It’s heart-touching and faith building.
Of all the Scripture that could have been used very fittingly for the sermon text on Graduation Day at Christ The King Lutheran Seminary in Nigeria, the nine students chose this one from Romans 8:31b: If God is for us, who can be against us?
Why this particular text? Why this specific question? The nine graduates had one answer:
“Because this very Word of God speaks personally and powerfully in our circumstances here in Nigeria.”
During the years of their Seminary training, it seemed to them that so many – too many – things were indeed against them:
- Boko Haram
- The death of 3 classmates
- The death of 3 local lecturers
- The death of two student wives
- A serious internal church issue
It’s not that any of the students or lecturers were killed by – or even infected with the Ebola Virus; it’s not that any of them were kidnapped or even personally threatened by a terrorist group; but these two weighty Nigerian issues were serious enough concerns for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) that the Board for World Missions (BWM) temporarily suspended all travel to Nigeria by WELS Called Workers who would teach at the seminary in Uruk Uso, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria.
Cancelled travel meant postponed classes.
Postponed classes pushed Graduation Day further down the road. Graduation became a tantalizing mirage that the students could never reach. The closer they came, the further it went.
But the nine students didn’t quit the program. They pressed on. They persevered. They rode out the storm. Then one day two lights of hope shone over the troubled waters in the distance:
Nigeria declared itself “Ebola Free” on 20th October 2014 and her president, Goodluck Jonathan joined Nigeria with neighboring nations2 for a stepped up military campaign against Boko Haram. Though both were still menacing issues for Nigeria, neither one was hovering anywhere near the Lutheran Seminary. The WELS Board for Missions was satisfactorily assured and gave the green light to Missionary Doug Weiser3 to engage the traveling professors.
Classes could resume!
The professors came in three week waves.4 The students were elated. Graduation Day would happen!
Though the normal six year seminary time had stretched over seven years, graduation finally took place on 14 March 2015.
WELS Pastor Joel Jaeger5 preached the text the students chose: “If God is for us who can be against us?”
Even though this sounds like a searching question, it’s really one of a half dozen powerful answers to his first probing question.6 Like an ammunition clip for an AK47, Paul’s six questions are lined up one right after another and ready for action. Paul rapid fires these six rounds. He not only hits the target but he tightly groups them centering on the bulls-eye truth:
Through Jesus Christ we are more than conquerors!7
The Seminary Students needed to hear that message on Graduation Day.
Who can be against the class and ultimately succeed?
What can be against the graduates and victoriously triumph over them?
- A deadly disease with plenty of victims but no cure?8
- A terrorist group with plenty of machetes but no conscience?
- A dwindling class?
- A growing anxiety?
Paul’s question is really his answer! It’s the answer the graduates rejoiced to hear:
NO ONE and NOTHING can go up against our great God and be victorious!
A cross and a grave couldn’t stop Jesus, how could anything or anyone else?
Graduation Day was a good day.
Gowns were donned.
Gifts were received.
Congratulations were given.
But more importantly,
Sin was exposed.
Grace was announced.
Christ was praised.
Then on the 15th and 21st of March 20159 God supplied nine more gifts10 to His Church in Nigeria.
Just in case you ever wonder if Satan, the world or a relentless bombardment of life’s challenges have gotten the upper hand, ask yourself an important answer:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Your Malawi Missionary Partner,
John Holtz, Doug Weiser, Joel Jaeger
Christ the King Lutheran Seminary
Graduation Day 14 March 2015
- Romans 8:31b
- Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
- Pastor Doug Weiser retired from the pastoral ministry (serving in Bellevue, Washington at the time) in June of 2014 and was commissioned as the Missionary to Nigeria the same day. He jokes that he has the record for the shortest retirement: three hours! With WELS budget funding, Pastor Weiser can travel to Nigeria at least four times per year, teaching at the Seminary and coordinating the WELS work there. He organizes WELS pastors, professors and missionaries to teach at the seminary while he works with the two synods.
- Missionary Holtz was in Nigeria teaching the Seminary class a course on Evangelism, 23 February 2015 – 13 March 2015.
- Pastor Joel Jaeger presently serves Christ Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Previously he has also served in Nebraska, Germany and St. Lucia. Pastor Jaeger has traveled to Nigeria four times to teach in the seminary. This time he taught the book of Titus.
- Paul begins Romans 8:31a with his question: “What shall we say in response to this?” In response to what? Paul had just assured the Romans that God works for our eternal good and assures them that God has predestined, called, justified and glorified them.
- Romans 8:37
- To date and to my knowledge, no known cure for Ebola has been officially announced or recognized. However, there has been a lot of progress made in this particular medical arena. Some people who had been infected with Ebola are still alive.
- 15th March 2015 was Ordination and Call day for two students who will serve in Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria. Missionary John Holtz preached for the Ordination service. He used John 10:11-18 as the text. The theme of the sermon: “Lord, you are the Good Shepherd, help me to be a shepherd under Christ!” The 21st of March 2015 was Ordination and Call Day for the other seven students. They are serving in their sister synod called All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria. These synods formed years ago when certain groups of dissatisfied people broke away from the Lutheran Church of Nigeria.
- Ephesians 4:11. Pictured from left to right on page 1, student’s names are in bold type: Pastor Doug Weiser, Joseph Odama Ogar, Vincent Onah Odey, Pastor John Holtz, Wonah Johnson Egbe, Samuel John Udoh, Egar Michael Nleng, Eshua Sylvester Odok, Idorenyin Joshua Udo, Agwu Johnson Ogar and Orji Stephen Odey, Pastor Joel Jaeger.