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African music by African composers for African worship

One of the exciting highlights of this year’s WELS synod convention was the welcoming of the LC-MC Kenya into full fellowship. The relatively new Kenya synod is currently producing its own hymnal and worship music accompaniment recordings for use in Sunday services. One of the goals of the hymnal committee is “to encourage the creation of African music by African composers for African worship.” The hymnal project has set a target of having 90% of the worship songs composed by Africans.

At the request of LC-MC Kenya leader Pastor Mark Onunda, Multi-Language Publications (MLP) of WELS World Missions hosted a music workshop in Nairobi from November 4- 15 to assist in moving the hymnal project forward. Fifteen individuals from throughout Kenya participated in the workshop.

The music workshop took on a formidable number of tasks. Consider the following factors regarding the current worship music situation in the Kenyan church:

  1. Many of the churches do not have musicians or instruments for Sunday services.
  2. A Kenyan Lutheran hymnal does not exist. A few of the congregations make use of songs from a Lutheran hymnal from Tanzania, produced several decades ago.
  3. There is no organized system for recording, sharing, and storing worship songs and liturgies among Kenyan congregations.
  4. There are many church year events and many biblical doctrines for which the LC-MC has no worship music resources.
  5. The LC-MC does not have a musical setting for a common service or communion service based on the historic Lutheran liturgy that they find attractive for use in Sunday services.
  6. There are virtually no worship music resources in a contemporary Kenyan music style for use in evangelism campaigns among the unchurched youth.
  7. There is a desire among the LC-MC members to have a particular contemporary music style that would be identified as “Lutheran church music.” In Kenya, most church denominations have specifically identifiable music styles.
  8. There is a desire to make greater use of technology in recording, distributing, and implementing professional recordings of accompaniment music for Sunday worship. Some congregations are already using accompaniment files during worship.

At the same time, the LC-MC Kenya has the following extraordinary musical assets at their disposal as they address their worship music needs:

  1. There is an astounding availability of composers for the LC-MC. I counted at least seven composers at the workshop. The compositions of the seven were so well received that every composer will have one or more songs included in the first group of recorded accompaniment files.
  2. Among the workshop participants, two had completed three-year music degree programs at a prestigious church music school in Tanzania. Two of the young women had completed vocal studies at a premier music conservatory in Nairobi. Having such trained musicians available is a huge asset in producing quality accompaniment tracks for use in Sunday worship at churches that do not have musicians.
  3. Steve Onunda (son of Pastor Mark) is a brilliant professional musician (guitar, bass) with arranging and studio recording experience. His professionalism has created confidence and excitement in the entire group that quality recordings will be produced.
  4. Steve has contacts with many professional musicians (vocalists and instrumentalists) in Nairobi, several of whom are assisting us with these recordings. Four of the workshop participants are pursuing careers as professional musicians.
  5. We are able to make professional recordings in Nairobi at very reasonable rates at a studio staffed by Christians who specialize in contemporary African worship music.

Among our workshop participants there is an extraordinary level of energy, excitement, and commitment to this worship music project. There is a deep awareness that the Lord is blessing the LC-MC with an historic opportunity to create African music for African worship. May our Lord Jesus Christ continue to bless our efforts to create worship music to his glory and for the furthering of his Kingdom throughout Africa!

Written by Rev. Dr. Terry Schultz, Artistic Development Missionary for WELS Multi-Language Publications

 

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New partners in Christ

Delegates welcomed two new church bodies—the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ—Kenya (LCMC) and the Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church of Taiwan (CLEC)—into confessional Lutheran fellowship with WELS on Wednesday morning.

Representatives from both Kenya and Taiwan were present at the convention: Rev. Mark Onunda, chairman of the LCMC, and his wife, Grace, and Rev. Peter Chen and Mr. Michael Lin from the CLEC.

“My wife and I have traveled far to be with you these few days,” said Onunda when addressing the delegates. “Our short time together will secure a lifelong partnership to advance our positions in many fields of battle.”

The LCMC, a church body of 25 pastors, 46 congregations, and between 3,000 and 5,000 members, is relatively young. Registered as an independent church body in Kenya in 2013, it formed after several of its pastors and churches broke away from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya because of false teachings. This fledging church body immediately began searching for like-minded confessional Lutherans. After they made contact with WELS World Missions in 2014, Prof. E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute, visited Onunda for the first time in Kenya in 2015. The Lutheran Church of Central Africa—Zambia, WELS’ sister synod, declared fellowship with the LCMC last September.

“With our blessed partnership in place, your brothers and sisters in Kenya can now attend to our most pressing challenges,” says Onunda. “We want to be aggressive in our mission work. We want to be strong in our encouragement of the pastors and congregations already in our church body. . . . There is also the pressing challenge of human need and suffering among our Lutheran people in Kenya.” This includes partnering with WELS to serve South Sudanese refugees living in Kakuma, Kenya.

The Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church (CLEC) in Taiwan started as a mission of WELS, with missionaries serving there from 1979 through 2013. The CLEC is now an independent church body.

“We are happy to be united with WELS in faith,” said Chen to the delegates. “WELS is like a mother to us.”

Chen notes that church members were unsure about what would happen to their church when the missionaries left. “When I go back, I can let my members know WELS hasn’t left us!” he says. “Now they declare we are in fellowship with each other so even if there are no missionaries in Taiwan, it doesn’t make a difference. We are one.”

Chen was also impressed by the theme of the convention, “For the generations to come.” He is training Lin to be a leader for one of the four CLEC churches. Lin will finish his training this year. “This is a good chance to pass on the whole idea of who we are and who we belong to for the next generation,” he says.

This was Lin’s first trip to the United States. He was amazed by the opening worship service. “I will go back [to my congregation] with lots of pictures and stories. I can tell them this is the way our mother church is,” he says.

The CLEC has four congregations, one pastor (Chen), and about 100 members. Three men, including Lin, are training to serve congregations as tent ministers. It is reaching out in a country of 23 million people, of which 5 percent are Christian. “Please pray for us,” says Chen.

Delegates celebrated the declaration of fellowship by joining together to sing, “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation” (Christian Worship 531).

 

 

 

View all convention information, including news, videos, photos, election information, resolutions, and more.

 

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Recommendations for church fellowship

One of the highlights of this summer’s 65th Biennial Synod Convention will be the formal declaration and recognition of fellowship with two confessional Lutheran church bodies. The 2019 synod convention will be held July 29 – Aug. 1, 2019, at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.

The Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ – Kenya (LCMC – Kenya) was formed when the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya began to tolerate false teachings. A group of Kenyan pastors broke away and began searching for a confessional Lutheran church body. In 2015, Rev. Mark Onunda of the LCMC – Kenya met at length with the Doctrinal Committee of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa – Zambia Synod (LCCA – Zambia), a former WELS mission and now our sister synod. The LCCA – Zambia synod declared formal fellowship with the LCMC – Kenya last September. The WELS Commission on Inter-Church Relations will be recommending to the synod convention that WELS also formally declare fellowship with the LCMC – Kenya.

The Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church in Taiwan began as a WELS mission and is now an independent Lutheran Church body that has always been in fellowship with WELS. Because this church is now independent, the Commission on Inter-Church Relations is recommending that the synod in convention formally recognize our fellowship with the Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church in Taiwan.

Representatives from each church body will address the convention and make presentations that will familiarize the delegates with these church bodies that will be recognized formally as a part of our fellowship.

We thank God for continuing to enlarge our fellowship with Lutheran Christians around the world.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

Learn more about the 2019 synod convention.

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Faces of Faith – Simon the Translator

An exciting ray of hope continues to shine among the growing number of Lutheran congregations of South Sudanese refugees in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. As the camp has extremely limited internet access, Multi-Language Publications (MLP) has provided hundreds of pounds of printed materials, from catechisms to seminary resources, to serve these vibrant congregations.

PSI training in Kakuma Refugee Camp (Simon pictured in green)

Very few of our Nuer brothers and sisters speak English. Enter student pastor Simon, early 30s in age, who speaks fluent English and was my translator for a week of Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) sponsored classes for 17 men at Kakuma last October.

The relationship one builds with a translator over a short period of time is often amazing, but none have ever compared to working beside Simon, with his passion and exuberance for the message of Christ. Simon’s method of translating included walking closely beside me and mimicking my every hand gesture. It often felt like we were in some kind of choreographed dance together. I found myself motivated to be more demonstrative in my movements, with Simon immediately responding. At the same time, Simon began punctuating the points I made in class with an exuberant “Alleluia,” which was echoed back by the students. Seeing Simon get more excited got me more excited! It was an exhilarating experience as we fed off each other in a class on the life of Christ.

Simon preaching

On the last day of classes, Simon was asked to preach at our camp-wide, combined church service. Simon however, did not restrict himself to simply preaching. Grabbing a large, goat-skin covered drum in one hand and wielding a strip of rubber truck tire tread for a drumstick in the other, Simon just wailed on that drum from the opening song. Stalking the congregation to root out the timid, Simon urged the assembly on to greater and greater heights of joyous praise. The room became an ocean of music, rhythm, drums, and movement.

Needless to say, Simon preached with the exuberance he displayed in his music and his translating. I videotaped over an hour of Simon preaching. Rarely have I seen a man preach with such intensity and passion.

Two days later our visit to Kakuma was over, and we needed to say goodbye until next year. I couldn’t wait to work again with this amazingly gifted brother.

Simon (on the right) plays his drum for worship

Less than two weeks after we left Kakuma Refugee Camp, I got the news from Pastor Peter Bur, our U.S.-based South Sudanese pastor who serves as South Sudanese ministry coordinator. Peter told me that Simon and a few others were walking home late at night after an evening church gathering and decided to take a shortcut outside of the parameters of the camp. As they walked through a deep, unlit valley, they were attacked by robbers (not of the Nuer tribe) looking for a little cash or a cell phone. Simon was shot in the chest and died a short while later.

I miss Simon more than I can put into words. Although the only word I ever understood him say when he preached was “Alleluia,” that one word said it all. We both believed in the same Savior Jesus. We both knew we were on the road to Paradise. And during those classes, we both knew there was nothing more important and exciting we could be doing than preparing men to take the message of Jesus to the ends of that camp.

Simon got to Paradise way before anyone expected. Kakuma will never be quite the same. Neither I suspect will the heavenly choir, with Simon no doubt shouting his “Alleluias” the moment he arrived. I will see you again, Simon, when we will sing and play drums together to our Savior King forever!

Written by: Rev. Terry Schultz, Consultant for Multi-Language Publications 

To learn more about WELS Joint Missions outreach to the South Sudanese, visit wels.net/sudanese.

 

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Fellowship established with a Lutheran church body in Kenya

On Sept. 14–15, 2018, our sister synod the Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Zambia Synod (LCCA-ZS) met in convention for the 31st time in its history. The LCCA-ZS, along with the Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Malawi Synod, was established as a mission by WELS and has since become a fully independent church body in fellowship with WELS.

Delegates at that convention approved the recommendation of the LCCA-ZS Synodical Council to declare full fellowship with a Lutheran church body located in Kenya.

Swedish missionaries brought Lutheranism to Kenya in 1948, and in 1963 the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK) became an independent church body. Over time, however, the ELCK began to tolerate false teachings in its fellowship, and a group of Kenyan pastors broke away and began searching for a confessional Lutheran church body. In 2015, Rev. Mark Onunda of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC)–Kenya met with the Doctrinal Committee of the LCCA-ZS and with WELS representatives in Zambia and presented a formal request for fellowship.

Over the past three years, the LCCA-ZS Doctrinal Committee carefully examined the constitution of the LCMC–Kenya and identified key doctrinal areas to be discussed with their leaders. Representatives of the LCCA-ZS, WELS Pastoral Studies Institute, and WELS missionaries from the One Africa Team made multiple trips to Kenya to study issues like the roles of men and women, Pentecostalism, and the doctrine of the Call. After all these issues were thoroughly discussed, the Doctrinal Committee of the LCCA-ZS gave a recommendation for a full declaration of fellowship with the LCMC-Kenya, which was endorsed by the LCCA-ZS Synodical Council in July. Last month, delegates to the LCCA-ZS synod convention ratified this recommendation.

The next step will be a formal recommendation by the LCCA-ZS to accept the LCMC-Kenya into the fellowship of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, of which WELS is a member. WELS anticipates declaring formal fellowship with the LCMC-Kenya at its 2019 convention.

Read more about the LCCA-ZS synod convention. Learn more about WELS mission work in Africa at wels.net/missions.

 

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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The Time Is Now – LCCA-Zambia Synod Convention

Meetings can be painful. Painfully looooong. Painfully tedious. Painfully unproductive. Can you relate? Ever walk away from a meeting with a question and a sigh: “What have we really accomplished?”  Or end it with an exclamation and a huff: “What a waste of time!”

Benches are hard and decisions are hard to come by. Emotions run high and energy runs low. Rehashing the same stuff, some people missing the point and others belaboring it. Resolutions controversial and outcomes debatable.

Pastor Evans Makowani sings The Time is Now!

Yes, meetings can be painful. But then again, meetings can be powerful. Powerfully beneficial. Powerfully effective. Powerfully uplifting and inspiring.

Just like the 31st Synod Convention in Zambia.

Pastor Alfred Kumchulesi and I were privileged to attend it. (Pastor Alfred Kumchulesi is a Professor at the Lutheran Bible Institute in Lilongwe, Malawi. He is currently serving as the Synod Secretary.) Oh, sure, the hours stretched long and there were occasions of tension and frustrations, but all in all, so many good things took place. Oh, so many good things.

  1. The Lutheran Church of Central Africa Zambia Synod (LCCA-ZS) declared fellowship with the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) in Kenya.
  2. The Chairman of the LCMC in Kenya, Dr. Mark Enricho Onunda, attended the Convention.
  3. The delegates elected the new Synod Leaders.
  4. Essayists presented thought-provoking papers.
  5. The Convention attendees worshiped, communed and fellowshipped together.
  6. The men who participated in the Convention showed love and patience when there were times of disagreements and differing opinions.
  7. God graced us with His presence and leading and spoke to us through His Word and strengthened us in the Sacrament.
  8. Men stand poised to undertake the important work at hand.

The delegates were revitalized and they all rallied are the Convention theme: “The Time is Now!

The Time is Now!” was not only the theme of the Convention but the thread woven throughout and within the sermon, the devotions, the reports and the papers. One of the pastors, Reverend Makowani, even wrote an original song, entitled it, The Time is Now! and sang it before all the delegates.

Out-going LCCA-Z Synod Chairman Pastor David Baloyi speaks to the Convention

The Time is Now!

The Time is Now to do what?

  • To rebuke the erring,
  • To repent of our own sin,
  • To work and walk together,
  • To trust God to lead our Synods,
  • To preach and teach the true Word of God.

The out-going Chairman, Reverend David Baloyi, appropriately said in his report, “…the time is now to accept what God has for His Church.”

And indeed, God has a lot for us!

A Son who is our Savior,
A Love that is unconditional,
A Home that is eternal,
A Plan that is unstoppable,
Power unconquerable,
Wisdom unsurpassable.

With a God who has these things, imagine what He can do through a Synod like the one in Zambia!

And so we entrust the LCCA-Zambia into the strong hands of God Almighty. And we pray that the Lord works in the hearts of the leaders to direct the affairs of the church and in the hearts of the Lutheran members to work together with them.  May they all do so with faithfulness, finding their motivation, strength and joy in the Triune God.

Even when the benches are painfully hard and the discussions painfully harder. Jesus one day said to His disciples, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.  Night is coming when no one can work…I am the Light of the world” (John 9:4).

Pastors Kumchulesi and Holtz were invited guests from Malawi.

Interestingly the power (electricity) was out for a good share of the meeting. After a full day of meeting we were still knee deep in discussions and it was getting extremely dark in the church; however, the last rays of the setting sun were shining through the glass cross in the back of the church.

The Cross is empty.
So is the grave.
Jesus is alive.
So are we.

It is still day. But night is coming.

The Zambians and WELS Missionaries have done a lot of work in their beloved Synod and in the ripe Harvest Fields but still have a lot more to do.

Do you in yours? The Time is Now.

Missionary John Holtz

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Moments with missionaries: Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya 

Terry L. Schultz

Pilgrims in another land

I met Nyaduel while visiting the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya to help conduct leadership training. Kakuma Refugee Camp and nearby Kalobeyei Settlement have been at times the largest refugee settlements in the world, with over 185,000 inhabitants counted in 2017. For more than 25 years, South Sudanese men and women, even children with no accompanying relative or friend, have walked for miles to refugee camps to escape the carnage of the civil war in South Sudan.

Since 2014, Peter Bur, a revered elder among the Nuer people of South Sudan who emigrated to the United States and now serves as the North American coordinator for South Sudanese ministry for our synod, has made trips back to Africa to train South Sudanese church leaders in Kenya and Ethiopia. The Spirit-powered results have been astounding. Currently 23 groups (three in Kakuma, 20 in Ethiopia) serve more than 2,600 people with the gospel. On the day of our visit to Kakuma, more than 300 members—including Nyaduel—gathered for a combined church service.

Nyaduel is 17 and has already lived over 10 years in Kakuma. “How did you get here?” I asked her. She remembered and, in her second language of English, replied, “I am running. My mother is running. I never see her again.” Nyaduel, her mother, and her father were in different locations in the village when the government soldiers arrived. They each had to run for their lives. Sylvia has met her father since then. Tragically, he is currently not a Christian. Neither of them have found her mother. But Nyaduel is blessed to be part of a new family with many brothers and sisters of the faith in Kakuma. And while Nyaduel would like to study to become a pilot one day, right now she loves serving as one of the congregation’s youth leaders.

As a youth leader, Nyaduel teaches Bible lessons to the children. She also directs the choir and teaches dance movements to accompany the singing. Several large, goat-skin drums are used to keep the beat during worship. The drums are exuberantly played with beaters made from eight-inch strips of durable rubber tire tread cut from discarded tires.

Nyaduel’s humble, servant-like attitude is clearly evident in her youth work. As a young girl, Nyaduel lost her left foot in a fire. She managed to obtain an artificial foot made of wood. But that was years ago. Nyaduel has grown since then and now needs a new artificial foot that is a couple of inches taller. But having one leg shorter than the other does not impede Nyaduel. The girl with one wooden foot doesn’t worry about looking awkward as she teaches dance steps to the children and youth choirs to use in praise of Jesus!

During worship, the Kakuma congregation sings a song written by the refugees themselves: “Lord, we know you are here with us. Lord, you know we want to go back home.”

No one will be going back home until there is peace in South Sudan. And no one is optimistic that that will happen any time soon. But God’s message that in this world we are always aliens, foreigners, and pilgrims resonates deeply with our Kakuma brothers and sisters. An eternity with our heavenly Father in paradise is coming for those who put their trust and faith in Jesus.

On this Sunday, in the barren refugee camp of Kakuma, there is a three-hour worship service of preaching, prayer, singing, and dancing. The celebration has already begun! God’s children in Kakuma are secure in the knowledge that the eternal kingdom awaits them, thanks to their Savior Jesus!


Terry Schultz serves as a consultant for WELS Multi-Language Publications. 


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Author: Terry L. Schultz 
Volume 105, Number 3
Issue: March 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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World mission teams provide coordination and expertise

For decades WELS members have been hearing about the WELS mission work being done in Malawi, Zambia, Cameroon, and Nigeria and how God has blessed these efforts.

But what about Rwanda, Liberia, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Mozambique? New opportunities are blooming in Africa either as church leaders reach out to WELS for fellowship and help or as WELS and its African sister church bodies recognize new outreach potential.

To help WELS explore these burgeoning opportunities, the One Africa Team has been formed. This team, which comprises the 10 WELS missionaries serving in Africa as well as the US-based Africa administrative team, is coordinating WELS missionary work and resources across Africa.

“In the past we were separated into fields. One field would figure out how to help sister synods do evangelism, ministerial education, administration, publications, and whatever else we could help with,” says Paul Nitz, missionary in Malawi and coordinator of the One Africa Team. “The new One Africa Team allows us to pool our knowledge and share our strengths to best serve the sister synods we work with.”

While the missionaries will continue to serve in their respective countries, they will also coordinate their efforts across fields, especially in the areas of evangelism, theological education, communication, and administration. “As we focus our attention and resources on a particular function, the opportunities to do more effective work blossom,” says Nitz. He shared a recent example in which the missionaries were working with a national church body to recruit qualified candidates to study for the ministry. “As we looked into that problem, we ended up looking across all the synods in Africa and comparing what is done,” he says. “And so, working on a problem in one country will likely help us to improve what we do in all of them.”

This team approach also will help WELS as it examines new opportunities for outreach in Africa, providing on-the-ground research and years of knowledge. “You combine the wisdom and experience of African missionaries who have served for decades and add that to the decisions WELS is making to reach out into other parts of Africa—it really is a blessing,” says Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions. “It should allow us to make quicker, more confident decisions and to be better stewards of the resources God has given us so more mission work gets done.”

Already the One Africa Team has been collaborating with the Pastoral Studies Institute and WELS’ sister churches in Africa to examine potential confessional relationships and provide training:

  • In October 2017, WELS Zambian missionaries and several national pastors from the Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Zambia (LCCA-Z) traveled to Kenya and Ethiopia to continue fellowship discussions with one church body, to encourage and teach South Sudanese refugees in refugee camps, and to participate in a graduation service with one of WELS’ newest sister churches.
  • In September 2017, Philip Birner, a missionary in Zambia, and an LCCA–Z national pastor visited Rwanda to meet with a young church body interested in becoming confessional Lutheran.
  • Work also continues in Mozambique as the Lutheran Church of Central Africa—Malawi Synod encourages Mozambican Lutherans who live right across the border from Malawi.
  • Future priorities include looking more closely at two different groups in Liberia.

Africa isn’t the only mission field using this team approach. 1LA (One Latin America) coordinates ministry opportunities in Spanish-speaking countries, and a similar method is used in East Asia. “WELS overseas mission work was started decades ago. The world has changed. Instant communications, easier travel, and migrant tides make broader efforts much more necessary than before,” says Schlomer. “Our new world teams are poised to carry the gospel with an effective use of WELS resources to a rapidly expanding list of new people.”


Read more about WELS missions at wels.net/missions.


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 3
Issue: March 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Moments with missionaries: Kakuma, Kenya

Kakuma, Kenya

E. Allen Sorum

Kakuma is a development on the western edge of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. Temperatures usually range up to 100 degrees by day and 75 degrees by night. It’s desert here. The wind blows, but it’s not cool or refreshing. Food doesn’t grow here. This land should be left to the snakes and scorpions that don’t know how miserable this place is.

But Kakuma is a human development, so to speak. The UN Refugee Agency reports that approximately 200,000 residents are jammed into this desert camp. One hundred thousand of these refugees are South Sudanese Nuer seeking asylum from the Dinka government in their homeland that seeks to exterminate them.

When new residents arrive in the camp, the family receives a piece of thick plastic that is 180 square feet. This will serve as their shelter, assuming the family can find sticks or some other means to support the tarp. The only food or water this family has access to is handed out irregularly by refugee support agencies. There is food on the black market, but there is no way to earn money to buy food. Extreme conditions breed anger and despair. Add uncertainty because the government of Kenya has announced plans to close their refugee camps as a security measure against the rising tide of terrorism.

Does this sound like an ideal spot in which to plant a church? Would it be wise to send a WELS missionary to live just outside this camp—for as long as it remains open—to preach the gospel?

Sounds absurd. Yet the gospel is needed in this place of despair—and people want it. Kakuma resident James Dobual is part of a group of South Sudanese refugees organized by WELS pastor and refugee to North America, Peter Bur, to start and to serve congregations in the refugee communities of Kenya and Ethiopia. Peter Bur and his team delivered a translation of Luther’s Catechism to the spiritual leaders of these refugee communities and taught it to them in the fall of 2015. In the fall of 2016, Peter Bur, Terry Schultz, and I returned to Kenya with more training and encouragement.

But James did a better job of encouraging us than we could ever do for him. He and his assistant Michael Tut reported that between our visits, they had taken 150 people from the camp in Kakuma all the way through the Catechism. On a given Sunday, almost 300 people gather to worship in a place that does not want to support human life. But James is preaching the Word of Life. He is proclaiming a message that refreshes weary souls. His church is thriving.

A cynical voice within wants to challenge these reports. That voice in me was silenced when I saw Michael pull out his copy of the catechism (pictured). He lifted it up to show me its wear. He held it like it was a treasure. He keeps it close because he is memorizing it. That catechism, Michael reported, changed him from a refugee camp resident into a Lutheran evangelist.

After our two-week training event in Nairobi, James and Michael went back to Kakuma. They were eager to get back to their people, to their thriving church. May God help them. And may God help us to help them.


E. Allen Sorum is the director of the Pastoral Studies Institute of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. He and Peter Bur are planning another trip to Kenya in October.


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Author: E. Allen Sorum
Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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New Partnership To Broaden Outreach Efforts: South Sudan

MINISTRY TRAINING IN SOUTH SUDAN

Linda R. Buxa

When Peter Bur emigrated to the United States, no one could have anticipated how God’s plan would unfold—and how a ministry would explode.

Peter Bur, originally from South Sudan, began worshiping at Good Shepherd, Omaha, Neb., in 2010. Already serving as a spiritual leader for Sudanese immigrants, he started taking classes with Michael Ewart, pastor at Good Shepherd, to deepen his training. Ewart then assisted Bur to become a student in Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI). The more Bur learned, the more he connected other South Sudanese people to WELS congregations all throughout North America.

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Peter Bur training South Sudanese spiritual leaders serving refugee camps in Ethiopia. These leaders are studying a simplified version of Luther’s Small Catechism translated into Nuer, which Multi-Language Publications helped develop.

In 2015, Bur graduated from the PSI and was called by the WELS Joint Mission Council to serve as the coordinator of South Sudanese ministry for WELS, overseeing the pastoral training of South Sudanese leaders in North America who are studying with their local pastor. Bur is also reaching out to pastors and spiritual leaders in Africa who are serving South Sudanese refugees.

In 2016, for the third year in a row, Bur and Sorum encouraged the men who are serving the ever-growing groups in refugee camps in neighboring countries of South Sudan. Bur taught a simplified version of the catechism, which he translated into Nuer, and also spoke on protection from demons.

They were accompanied by Terry Schultz, a member of the Multi-Language Publications team, who created the artwork for the catechism. “These are high quality materials in terms of both content and production,” says Sorum. “After Peter Bur taught courses based on these materials, we left the materials with the spiritual leaders to teach others.”

From the South Sudanese work, connections have been made in Kenya and Ethiopia, all because one Sudanese man sought out one American pastor and they worked together. From one neighbor to many nations.


FINDING FELLOWSHIP IN KENYA

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Pastor Mark Anariko Onunda in front of the piece of land where his congregation worships. He hopes to build a church here. Onunda is the chairman of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, which seeks fellowship with WELS and ultimately the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.

After doctrinal issues caused many Kenyan Lutheran congregations to leave their previous church body, the churches were looking for support. One of the pastors, Mark Anariko Onunda, has spent the past year visiting all the pastors who left, encouraging them to galvanize and join in fellowship with the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference. More than 20 pastors and 50 congregations are looking forward to meetings with representatives of the PSI international team and with WELS Missions administrators in Africa to review the Augsburg Confession with them and encourage them in their journey. “These brothers and sisters are very eager to become part of our fellowship and will be good partners,” says Sorum. “We are doing everything we possibly can to encourage them in their path toward joining the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.”


Linda Buxa is the communications coordinator at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin.   

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

 

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Author: Linda R. Buxa
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

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