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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Volume 105, Number 3
Issue: March 2018
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