Archive for April, 2015

Visit to Debra Libanos and the Portuguese Bridge


14 April 2015

Today, the LCMS group — Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations; Rev. Juan Gonzalez, Board for International Mission member; Rev. Mark Rabe, Missionary to East Africa / professor at MYS; Rev. Shauen Trump, Area Director for East Africa — along with people from the EECMY left Addis Ababa for Fiche to see a EECMY mission start and its context with a nearby orthodox monastery.


Pictured (left to right): Rev. Mark Rabe, professor to MYS; Rev. Shauen Trump, Area Director of East Africa; Rev. Juan Gonzalez, Member of the Board for International Mission; in car from Addis Ababa to Fiche.


A road we traveled down near Fiche. At times the road became impassable for the Land Rover and we were forced to walk to our next destination. In this case, a mission start for the EECMY.


IMG_9555 2 SMA dog decided to play with some children in the middle of the road.

DSC_0025Visiting the site where the EECMY-CES is building a new congregation. Qes Abraham, President of the Central Ethiopian Synoc, explains that the new congregation will be done in the style of the “Mother Congregation” in Addis Ababa built in 1920. Today the congregation worships about 400 people on a Sunday.

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After seeing the EECMY congregation, we visited the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church monastery called  “Debre Libanos.” This monastery was founded by the 13th century saint Tekle Haykmanot. He remains the only native Ethiopian saint popular both domestically as well as outside Ethiopia; he is the only Ethiopian saint celebrated officially in foreign churches such as Rome and Egypt.


Before we could enter, we were asked to observe the rules listed above before entering the church.


The current structure was built in 1961 under the orders of Emperor Halie Selassie. In 1937 the Italians massacred the inhabitants of Debre Libanos killing 297 monks and 23 laymen.

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The inside of Debre Libanos has many stained glass windows.


A stained glass window inside Debre Libanos of Adam and Eve at the top and Noah at the bottom.

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After visiting Debre Libanos, we went to the Portuguese Bridge built in the 16th century.

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The Portuguese Bridge is near the Blue Nile Water Fall. We visited during the dry season. It covers the Jemma River Gorge.

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Pictured: Rev. Mark Rabe, Theological Education at MYS; Rev. Shauen Trump, East Africa Area Director; Beza Tefera, Dean’s Office at MYS. Walking across the bridge for a view of the Ethiopian Rift Valley.

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Dr. Collver sitting on the edge of the Ethiopian Rift Valley.

After the journey north, we headed back to Addis Ababa for the EECMY pastors’ conference which begins on Wednesday, 15 April 2015. That evening we picked up Rev. Eric Stinnett, who will serve as a theological educator at MYS along with Rev. Mark Rabe.

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Pictured (left to right): Dr. Collver, Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations; Dr. Belay Olam, President of MYS; Rev. Juan Gonzalez, BIM member; Rev. Shauen Trump, East Africa Area Director; Rev. Eric Stinnett, Instructor MYS.


Esget teaching

On 19-21 March 2015, The LCMS and EECMY held a conference titled, “Recovering Lutheran Identity in Worship and Music.” The conference originated from the work of the EECMY hymnal committee, which is seeking to develop a new hymnal for the EECMY. Deaconess Sandra Rhein from the Missouri Synod works with the EECMY’s hymnal committee. She has made several trips to Ethiopia for this work and most recently organized the worship conference. This post is based upon her reports.

participants EECMY worship conference

The first action of this Hymnal Committee was to sponsor a three-day Worship and Music Conference. The goal of the conference was to teach the fundamentals of what theology and music mean for the faithful. It was held March 19—21 at Gudima Tumsa Training Center in Addis Ababa. Invitations were sent to 150 pastors and music leaders, as well as select seminary students. Over 160 attended, with a larger attendance each day as word spread about the wonderful Biblical teaching, and the participants were attentive and appreciative throughout three full days of lectures and presentations. At the conclusion of the conference, each attendance was presented a copy of the newly published book Catechisms, Creeds and Confessions (Click to see a previous blog post about this resource).

Program for worship and music conference

The conference was held over three days beginning with Matins and ending with Vespers. Presentations were given by Deaconess Sandra Rhein, Dr. Fred Baue, and Rev. Christopher Esget. Sectionals included topics such as “How to read music,” “Jesus, Help! The Kyrie as the basic prayer of the Christian,” “The connection between doctrine and worship.”

Conference Leaders

The conference presenters pictured left to right: Dr. Fred Baue, Mr. Girum Fantaye, Deaconess Sandra Rhein, and Rev. Christopher Esget. Conference presenters were Dr. Fred Baue (retired), Rev. Christopher Esget (Immanuel, Alexandria, VA), and Deaconess Sandra Rhein (Emmaus, South Bend, IN). Rev. Esget’s topic was “the gift of liturgy”. God chooses to come to us and give His gifts to us through the liturgy. Our liturgical life is faithful to Biblical teachings and also distinctly Lutheran. Dr. Baue spoke on the meaning of “Lutheran identity” and how the Book of Concord is necessary for our confession. Dr. Baue has also been experimenting with a musical setting for Matins and Vespers, using Ethiopian pentatonic scales. These settings were used to open and close each day of the conference. Deaconess Rhein taught the music of Matins and Vespers to the participants, along with an introducing them to music notation and the practice of chanting.


In the video above, Deaconess Sandra Rhein teaches how to sing the opening versicles.


Although the lectures were conducted in English, the ultimate goal is to issue a revision of the liturgy in Amharic. The first edition of the liturgy in Amharic was completed by the the Swedish missionaries in the 1920s. The EECMY used this consistently until the communist government took over. The rapid growth of the EECMY along with the lack of printed resources has decreased the knowledge of the historic liturgy among many members. The EECMY asked the LCMS to assist them with a hymnal to help increase their Lutheran identity.

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In addition to the hymnody the EECMY inherited from the Scandinavian Missionaries, they also have indigenous songs that developed out of the Ethiopian context and in some cases from the persecution the church faced. The song book pictured above was compiled by Scandinavian missionaries in the early 1970s. Some of these songs such as “What Kind of Love Is This?,” are known to the LCMS — See Lutheran Service Book 542. In LSB the hymn is known as “When I Behold Jesus Christ.”

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Pictured above is a copy of “What Kind of Love Is This? by Almaz Belhu. The above photo may be the earliest printing of that hymn. Any revision of the EECMY hymnal will consider the historic hymns of the church, along with newer songs and hymns developed in the Ethiopian context.

It is an exciting time for world Lutheranism!


A Lutheran Primer for Preaching: A Theological and Practical Approach to Sermon Writing

A Lutheran Primer for Preaching

“Dr. Grimenstein’s A Lutheran Primer for Preaching is the first confessional Lutheran framework on preaching produced in more than a generation.  Not since Richard Caemmerer has a Missouri Synod homiletician offered a theological and practical approach to Law and Gospel preaching that is both textual and Christological.  Grimenstein covers the theological foundation of preaching and then offers a practical 5-page method for developing a sermon that brings out the Word of God for the Lord’s people in a meaningful way.  The book originally was conceived as a primer for preaching to be used on the mission field, but its value expands beyond the mission field as a helpful tool for seminarians, new pastors, and experienced pastors who would like to hone their preaching skills.”

– Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations and Assistant to the President

The book is available now from Amazon for Kindle by clicking here.

Rev. Herb Mueller

Homily for the Week of the Resurrection

Note: This homily was preached by Pastor William Weedon, International Center Chaplain, on April 10, 2015, the Friday of the Week of the Resurrection of Our Lord. We bring it to you as a joyful proclamation of the fullness of the resurrection Gospel. + Herbert Mueller

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Today we mark yet another step in the unfathomable love of God for the human race. It was not enough for Him to have created us in His image and place us into the paradise of plenty. It was not enough for Him, when we fell into sin, to promise us a Savior. It was not enough for Him, to give us the Law to teach us our need of His mercy. It was not enough for Him, to send us prophets who called us again and again to trust in Him and to turn from all that was death and vanity. It was not enough for Him even to send His Son into our flesh. It was not enough for Him to walk among us, a man among men, the man among all others who are really only failures at being men. It was not enough for Him to stand in the waters of the Jordan in solidarity with sinners. It was not enough for Him to reach out and touch and heal. It was not enough for Him to teach us the counsels of salvation. It was not enough for Him to offer up His life a ransom for us upon Gologotha’s stony slope. It was not enough for Him to share our graves and taste our death. It was not enough for Him.

He would love us even more. And so the joys of Easter. For make no mistake about what Easter celebrates. Not merely that a man was raised from the dead. THIS Man had raised others from the dead before — Jairus’ little girl, the widow of Nain’s son, Lazarus. But they were all brought back from death into life with still corruptible flesh. That is, they each finally grew sick and died yet again. I don’t imagine that any of them faced death in the same way as before — for they had encountered Him who was stronger than death. But their coming back to life was not like His.

This week we celebrate that human flesh, like unto our own, of a piece with us, has been raised from death in incorruption. He will never die again. He is forever beyond all that. As we like to sing: “Gone the nailing, gone the railing, gone the pleading, gone the cry, gone the sighing, gone the dying, what was loss lifted high.”

This is the news that the Angel brought to the Marys and Salome at the tomb: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth. He is not here. He is risen. Come, see the place where they laid Him, but go and tell His disciples and Peter that He is risen and goes before you into Galilee. There you will see Him just as He told you.”

As He told you. His words of promise never fail. You can count on them when everything else around you is shaking, when your world crumbles, when your heart breaks, when your body fails. He will not fail you. It wasn’t enough for Him to merely share our flesh and blood. Oh, no. He would have that flesh and blood glorified, raised in incorruption, shining with the light of deity, the very source of our eternal hope. And He will take that glorified flesh and blood and raise it to the right hand of the Father, bringing humanity to that place where God had intended humanity to live from the beginning.

And do you see what His incorruption means to you? He, who is forever beyond death, beyond sin, beyond the accusations of the law, beyond hell — He has joined you to Him. In your Baptism you went into that grave with Him and you came out with Him. Alive. One with Him. His life was given you there in the water to be your life — His INCORRUPTIBLE life. But with Him, that’s never enough. There’s always more.

And so He sends His servants out to proclaim His promises — promises that cannot fail, that are as sure and certain as His rising from that grave on this day in incorruption–incorruptible promises to make you partakers of His divine nature. This is how St. Peter put it: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3,4) The promises of the Incorruptible One impart to you incorruption and make you a sharer in His divine nature — so that all that He is by nature you become by grace. He, a child of God; You, a child of God; He, the Heir of the Father; You, the heir of the Father.

But with Him there is always more. It was not enough for Him to baptize you into His own indestructible life; not enough for Him to arrange for His promises to be spoken to you to impart to you incorruption. He goes further; He has more; His love knows no limit. He has a meal for you. He wants to put into you, into your corruptible, dying, sinful bodies His incorruptible, undying, sinless Body and Blood for your forgiveness and for you life. He wants to unite YOU to Himself; to strengthen the bonds of your faith; to comfort you; to hold and still you in all your anxieties and fears. He wants you to know that just as death was not the end of Him, so it will NEVER be the end of you. He wants you to rejoice that YOU have a life that is stronger than all the death in this world.

Old Job could go to his grave in the confidence that his Redeemer lived, and that on the other side of the corruption — yes, though his body be destroyed — yet he would live again in this flesh and his eyes and none other would behold God. And as he thought of it, his heart burned within him.

You see more than Job. For you have known the Redeemer for whom he hoped, and you know His triumph over death and the grave. You know that not a single word of His ever proves false.

So, beloved, since Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed, let us keep the feast. Away with the leavened bread of malice! Away with the leavened bread of evil! Let us welcome the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth: the sincerity that is God’s earnest promise and the truth that with our God and His love for us, nothing was good enough until He had made our nature incorruptible in His Son and united us to Him that we might live in Him forevermore. This is God’s sincerity. This is God’s truth. This is the Bread on which we feast — the incorruptible bread that is Christ our Passover Lamb to whom be glory with His Father and the Holy Spirit — the only and blessed Triune God who has loved us with a love unimaginable and deep.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Giving thanks for care and growth of career missionaries






Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ!

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.” (Ps. 107:1)

We are blessed with the gift of faith through Holy Baptism and the preaching of God’s Word in accordance with the Lutheran Confessions. We give thanks to our Lord for so many blessings, including the opportunity to carry out our Lord’s mission in our respective vocations and with the talents God entrusts to us.

In July 2013, the Synod in convention set before the Office of International Mission (OIM) a challenge to double the number of career LCMS missionaries (Resolution 1-11, “To Recruit and Place More Career Missionaries”). By the Lord’s grace, we project that by September of this year, we will have met and exceeded that bold challenge!

In Jesus’ name, we give thanks for those who have accepted a call or solemn appointment to serve as an LCMS missionary. We give thanks to each person reading this who is committed to supporting our missionaries through personal prayer, words of spiritual encouragement and through each sacrificial donation offered up for this purpose.

The Lord of the harvest is indeed gracious and merciful, overcoming every doubt with the certainty of His constant and enduring love and providing everything that is truly needed to accomplish His will. He continues to call each of us through His Word to labor for His harvest.

As our international career missionary team grows, He continues to open doors of opportunity and possibility. Lutheran church bodies, including our 36 official partner churches around the world, plead for us to send teachers, pastors, theologians, church planters, medical teams and other skilled lay workers into their midst.

Now is the moment for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to stand boldly and to vigorously make known the love of the Lord Jesus Christ in word and deed, proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through Him alone to the entire world!

God is positioning the LCMS to serve our Lutheran partner churches to help them enhance their own witness and mercy efforts, plant new communities of faith and nurture new partnerships so that every tongue confesses Jesus Christ as Lord.

By grace, God has strengthened the internal capacity of the OIM for effectively responding to these exciting opportunities, and to do so with even greater efficiency. Twelve full-time employees at the International Center in St. Louis, coupled with the regional administration teams, are responding to the 2013 convention’s challenge. Not only is this committed team recruiting more qualified missionaries and sending them into ripe harvest fields, the OIM is ensuring pastoral (spiritual and emotional) care for each missionary by deploying them in teams, under a strategic plan developed around the Synod’s six mission priorities adopted in convention (Res. 3-06A).

On the LCMS Mission Advancement side, four full-time specialists in St. Louis and eight staff members deployed around the county, including Gary Thies at Mission Central in Iowa, are working directly with (and caring for) faithful stewards in the Synod whom God empowers to financially support our missionaries. This team also provides professional assistance to our missionaries as they grow personal networks of financial partners. God has even blessed the Synod with dozens of lay volunteers who invest their precious energy in this effort!

Now is the most exciting time for LCMS international mission work in several decades! The current potential for a faithful Lutheran witness about Jesus all over the world is unprecedented. A seismic change is compelling many church bodies to seek out the LCMS because of the very treasure we steward, the Gospel, which they desire to teach in its truth and purity in their seminaries, their congregations and in the streets of their communities.

In East Africa alone, the countries of Ethiopia, Madagascar and Tanzania are home to almost 20 million Lutherans. These joyful Christians heard the Gospel proclaimed by missionaries sent from Europe and America. They are now journeying to speak God’s truth in the lands of those first missionaries, including the very birthplace of Lutheranism, Germany. We are being invited to partner with them. In the West African nation of Nigeria, opportunities to work alongside our partner church are opening up. Nigeria is home to more Muslims than those who live in Iraq.

The future strength of faithful Lutheranism is shifting to lands south of the equator and toward Asia. The call and challenge we have been handed is to share the theological treasures we steward with these partners so they are fully equipped to carry the biblical Gospel, as it is taught in the inerrant Scriptures, to all of the world.

Western Europe faces many of the same challenges of secularization we in North America are experiencing, perhaps in an even more intense way. Our partner churches are learning how to confess Christ as a minority in cultures and communities that do not have direct experience with or are indifferent and perhaps even hostile to the Christian church. People have forgotten even the most basic Christian narrative, and biblical literacy cannot be assumed. In some respects, a new Dark Age is descending on Europe.

Despite these daunting challenges, the Gospel is being proclaimed in what is a huge mission field! Our partners in Europe look to the LCMS for encouragement and help as they discover new opportunities to speak boldly and lovingly to their neighbors, especially to immigrant groups. Our mission strategy is intentionally designed to support their outreach efforts, and in some cases the LCMS provides workers to help plant new churches among those whose ears and hearts are open to the truth.

H. Mayer, the mission secretary of the Synod in 1956, noted a strange paradox about Christian mission work:

“And what shall we say when we look at the heathen world? During the past 40 years about 14 million heathen were baptized. But during that same span of time the heathen population increased by more than twenty times that number. Each year there are more Christians, but each year there are still more heathen. We face the strange paradox: The church grows, and yet it becomes relatively smaller.”

If this was true almost 60 years ago, it is true also today. It is precisely why the LCMS is active in mission in the 21st century — reaching out and proclaiming the Gospel to those who have not yet heard that Jesus died for their sins. It is why we purposefully nurture the faith of new Christians who hear and believe by gathering them around the Word and Sacraments so they may regularly receive God’s good and perfect gifts, a foretaste of the feast to come. It is why we establish Lutheran churches which shall exist into the future as faithful communities sharing the Gospel and themselves prepared to send missionaries.

Each generation of Christians is challenged by the devil, this broken world and our sinful flesh in ways that can hinder the spread of the Gospel. Yet in the midst of obvious challenges, the Lord of the harvest brings to light new, exciting opportunities. He promises hope and a future, and He delivers on every promise. In grace and love, He grants hope to carry on, courage to share the Gospel and an understanding that not even the gates of hell will prevail against His Church.

Thank you in the name of Jesus. Our earnest prayer is that you will continue this journey with us, joyfully carrying His Gospel to the four corners of the earth!

Rev. Tony Booker, Eurasia Regional Director
Rev. Dr. David Erber, West Africa Area Director
Rev. Theodore Krey, Latin America Regional Director
Mr. Darin Storkson, Asia Senior Regional Director
Rev. Shauen Trump, East Africa Area Director

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations
Rev. Dr. Edward Grimenstein, Associate Executive Director of the Office of International Mission
Mr. Mark Hofman, Executive Director of LCMS Mission Advancement


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