Africa

Mission work in Continental Africa is changing. Missionaries working with WELS’ established missions – Cameroon, Malawi, Nigeria, and Zambia – focus on assisting the national synods and their churches as they mature, while also helping with their pre-seminary and seminary programs. Two synods in Ethiopia and Kenya reached out for assistance and are now in full fellowship with WELS and partners in new outreach initiatives. The new work before WELS missionaries is outreach, as individuals and church groups in ten additional African countries have reached out to WELS and the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) for fellowship and theological training. Visits have been made to Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. The TELL program by Multi-Language Productions has also identified promising individuals from three additional countries. In response to this new gospel call, the One Africa Team was organized to coordinate WELS missionaries and resources. The One Africa Team is accountable for visiting the groups and synods seeking partnerships, teaching confessional Lutheran doctrine, and encouraging mission expansion.

Currently, nine called missionaries and one hired Director of Africa Mission Operations serve on the One Africa Team.

Support mission work in Africa. Your gift will support theological education, new African outreach, church worship facilities and parsonages, and national pastor and vicars throughout Africa. Select “Africa Special Projects” (for a more general gift) or a specific African country you’d like to support from the drop-down menu.

Meet the Missionaries

Missionary Howard Mohlke and his wife Leslie are empty nesters, currently living in Lilongwe, Malawi. The Mohlkes have five grown children, four of whom are married, and five grandchildren. All their kids live in the United States.

Missionary Mohlke is the leader of the One Africa Team. He represents WELS in Africa, specifically maintaining and developing good working relationships with partner churches throughout the continent. He is also responsible for leading, managing, and holding accountable the team of missionaries who are tasked with developing and carrying out various aspects of WELS mission work in Africa.

From 1991-2000, Missionary Mohlke’s first call was to be a missionary in Zambia, followed by being called as a pastor back in the United States from 2000-2017. In 2007, he became part of the Board for World Missions and continued in his pastoral and board positions until 2017, when he became Director of the Apache Christian Training School at the Native American mission in Arizona. In 2020, he accepted the call to become the One Africa Team leader.

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missionarybios.

Missionary Dan Kroll serves as part of the One Africa Team. He and his wife Karen live in Lilongwe, Malawi, as empty nesters. They moved from Cameroon to Malawi in 2018 when a civil war broke out that prevented the Krolls from continuing to live there. Missionary Kroll is on the One Africa Team outreach team, currently serving groups in Nigeria, Liberia, Cameroon, and Uganda.

Missionary Kroll graduated from Martin Luther College in 1983 and spent three years working on an evangelism program for WELS and Reformation in San Diego, Calif., before starting at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. In May 1992, Dan was assigned to Zambia and arrived there in October with his wife and their 4-month-old son Ezekiel. Missionary Kroll served in congregational oversight and general church development through teaching small groups. Dan and Karen added four more children to the family: Josiah, Elijah, Jonah, and Gideon. The Krolls were brought back to the U.S. in 2009 due to budget cutbacks. Missionary Kroll then received a call to serve at St. John’s in Lake City, Minn. In 2014, Missionary Kroll received a call to re-start the seminary program in Kumba, Cameroon, after it had been inactive for 15 years.

Africa mission work was reorganized as the One Africa Team in 2016, while Missionary Kroll continued to focus on the maturing church body in Cameroon and supporting some well-established programs in Nigeria.

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missionarybios.

Missionary John Holtz is part of the One Africa Team. He works as part of a liaison committee with the Lutheran Church of Central Africa – Malawi Synod. Missionary Holtz works with them on their ministry plans and the support that WELS can provide. He also directs the professional development branch of the Confessional Lutheran Institute, the theological education arm of the One Africa Team. Missionary Holtz helps teach or arrange courses that are requested by national synod leadership. He is also on the outreach committee and serves as a liaison to a church body in Uganda and the Lutheran Mobile Clinic of the Central African Medical Mission in Malawi. Missionary Holtz attends the staff meetings and gives devotions and spiritual advice.

Missionary Holtz served at Mount Olive in Iron Mountain, Mich., from 1989 – 1997. He then served in Zambia from 1997 – 2008 and was a supervising pastor to many congregations in the rural areas of the Eastern Province. Missionary Holtz and his missionary partner led four worship services each week, preached sermons, taught Bible Studies, tested confirmation students, administered the sacraments of Baptism and Lord’s Supper, met with congregational church councils, and visited the people who were hospitalized and shut in.

Missionary Holtz and his wife Mindy are empty nesters. Mindy is the Assistant to the Financial Secretary for the mission in Malawi and the One Africa Team. The Holtz’s have two daughters who live in the U.S. Rachel and her husband Christopher live in St. Paul, Minn. They both graduated from Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minn. Rachel will graduate with her Physical Therapy degree in May 2022. Christopher is working for an Insurance Company. Heather graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran College in Wauwatosa, Wis., and currently works as a nurse in Oconomowoc, Wis.

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missionarybios.

John and Nancy Roebke served in Eastern Europe from 1994-2004. After a year of language study, Missionary Roebke planted a church in the Sofia suburb of Mladost, where he and Nancy taught courses on English and the Bible. Three years later the couple moved to the northwestern city of Vidin, where Missionary Roebke and a Bulgarian national vicar began work with Bulgarians in urban and rural areas.

In 2004 the Roebkes returned to the United States where Missionary Roebke served Peace Lutheran Church in Wautoma, Wis. from 2004-2008. In 2008, Missionary Roebke accepted a call to serve Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Madison, Ala. In 2017, Missionary Roebke and Nancy left their daughters in the United States and moved to Lilongwe, Malawi, to begin serving the WELS One Africa Team. Missionary Roebke works closely with the Lutheran Church of Central Africa-Malawi and WELS Multi-Language Productions to coordinate publication efforts. In addition, he oversees consultancy work with African national worker training programs, serves as liaison with WELS’ sister church in Kenya, and coordinates promotions for the One Africa Team through their blog and Facebook page.

John and Nancy Roebke were married in September 1993. They have two daughters, who were both born in Bulgaria. Their oldest daughter, Liliana, lives in Madison, Wis., and works as a Human Relations specialist at Dungarvin Disability services. Their second daughter, Christiana, graduated in February 2022 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missionarybios.

Missionary Philip Birner is a professor at the Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia. He teaches doctrine, church confessions, sermon writing, education, and practical theology and serves as principal. He also serves as the liaison between the One Africa Team and the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA)-Zambia synod. They have been living in Lusaka since 1996.

Prior to teaching at the Lutheran Seminary, Missionary Birner and his wife lived approximately 50 miles west of Lusaka at the Mwembezhi Rural Health Clinic. There he was missionary-in-charge at the clinic, and also oversaw between 15-35 congregations at various times and places. They served at Mwembezhi for five years before moving to Lusaka. All told, the Birners and have been serving in Zambia now for 30 years.

Missionary Birner and his wife Susan have four children and one grandchild. Benjamin, married to Julie, is a WELS pastor in Liverpool, New York.  They have one child, Isabel. Zachary is completing his final year of medical school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He will be assigned to his residency in March 2022. Sophia is a WELS teacher at Zion in Morrison, Wis. Sophia just became engaged in October 2021 to Eric Dorn, a WELS teacher at Lakeside Lutheran High School. Peggy is 9-years-old and attends the Lusaka International Community School.

Susan is mostly a stay-at-home mom for Peggy, whom they fully adopted in 2020. Sue is currently working a full-time job as a grade four teacher at the American International School of Lusaka while the regular teacher is on maternity leave. She has taught at the American International School on and off for the past 25 years and now only occasionally substitute teaches.

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missionarybios.

Upon graduation from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 1986, John Hartmann was assigned to St. Paul’s in Batesland and Our Redeemer in Martin, S.D. A year later, a daughter congregation (Rock of Ages), was established in Gordon, Neb. In 1993, he accepted a call to serve as a missionary to the Southern Province of Zambia. Over the years he helped supervise fifteen congregations, which are now served by four Zambian pastors.

In 2012, the Hartmann family was relocated from the Southern Province to Zambia’s capital city of Lusaka. Since 2017, Missionary Hartmann has been serving as the leader of outreach for the One Africa Team. Along with other missionaries, he has visited and taught Luther’s Catechism to church groups that desire to come into fellowship with WELS in Liberia and Uganda. The outreach team is also in discussions with church groups from other African countries, including Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Benin.

Missionary Hartmann and his wife Sharon were married in 1987. Sharon grew up in Savanna, Ill., and has a B.S. in Business Administration from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. Missionary Hartmann and Sharon have three children: Caitlin, Reese, and Aaron. All three children were born in Nebraska, grew up in Zambia, and went to schools in Zambia, South Africa, and the United States.

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missionarybios.

Rev. Dr. Ernst Wendland was called to the Lutheran Bible Institute and Seminary as an instructor in Lusaka, Zambia, in June 1968. By God’s grace, he is still serving in that call today, but will retire from the position in 2022. He is also a former Bible Translation Consultant for the United Bible Societies in SE Africa (1977-2007).

Missionary Wendland is married to “Margie” Ann, a former Central Africa Medical Mission nurse at Mwembezhi Lutheran Dispensary from 1969-1971. They have four children: Robert Ernst, born in Lusaka in 1972 (Professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary); Joel James, born in the U.S. in 1974 (pilot for American Airlines based in Miami); Stephen Paul, born in Lusaka in 1977 (radiologist technician are Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, Wis.); and Naomi Claire, born in Lusaka in 1980 (currently taking care of her parents).

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missionarybios.

Rev. Dan Witte is a theological educator for the One Africa Team, and serves as the One Africa Team’s Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) adjunct instructor. He helps seminary instructors and boards that oversee them in WELS’ sister synods in Africa. Missionary Witte also works with three professors at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to help pastors in Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Zambia advance theologically and practically for sound ministry. Twenty of those pastors are in a Bachelor of Divinity program through Pastoral Studies Institute. Four others are enrolled in Masters of Theology courses. Missionary Witte teaches some of the courses, coordinates visiting instructors, etc.

From 1992 to 2019, Missionary Witte was a pastor in Downers Grove, Ill.; Lakewood Ranch, Fla.; and Nicollet, Minn. He also taught Hebrew classes as an adjunct at Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, and was the secretary for the Psalm Committee for the Christian Worship 2021 hymnal. He and his wife Debbie have been blessed with 6 children: Deanna, Danae, David, Daria, Donovan, and Drew. Missionary Witte, his wife, and youngest son Drew reside in Lusaka, Zambia.

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missionarybios.

New African Outreach

Confessional Lutheran Church of Liberia and Royal Family Fellowship International

Working with Liberian immigrants to the United States, training visits have been taking place since 2016 involving our missionaries, stateside pastors, and the Pastoral Studies Institute to these two groups in Liberia. In 2019, two trips were made for more discussions and leadership training as we work towards fellowship, ensuring that we agree on the truths of Scripture. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, One Africa Team missionaries continue to teach classes online to church leaders.

  • Baptized members: 5,000
  • Congregations: 35

Connect with the One Africa Team. Stay up to date on mission work happening throughout Africa through their website.

Africa Mission Partners

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PICTURES OF AFRICA

Browse through and share pictures of mission work in Africa, taken by WELS missionaries and national workers.