Africa Trip: Kenya

Dr. Al Collver, Archbishop Walter Obare, and President Harrison in Nairobi Kenya.

On 22 January 2014, President Harrison visited the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK), in altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS and a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), to celebrate a decade of LCMS work with the ELCK. President Harrison, then executive director of World Relief and Human Care, visited Kenya in December 2003 at the request of then Bishop Walter Obare.

Former street children from Nakuru now under the care of the ELCK demonstrated gymnastics for the LCMS delegation.

A choir sings gospel songs.

Archbishop Obare and Rev. Shauen Trump discuss how the LCMS and the ELCK can better cooperate.

View of Children’s Traffic park on Uhuru Road from the headquarters of the ELCK.

President Harrison, Dr. Collver, and Rev. Shauen Trump spent the day with Archbishop Obare and the bishops and bishops elect from each region of the ELCK. Remembrance of the past and hope for the future occupied the day.

President Harrison and Dr. Collver departed Kenya for Ethiopia.

– Posted on 23 January 2014 by Dr. Albert Collver using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Oloitoktok Road,Nairobi,Kenya

Do Not Hold Back

Eighteen years ago while serving as district president, I became aware of some unrest in one of our well-established congregations caused by a small group of people whose interests didn’t fit in. Most of the congregation wanted to continue to do things more conventionally, which I certainly supported. This small group wanted to try new things, most of them very acceptable to our LCMS way of thinking and doing.

I remember meeting with this group in one of their living rooms one evening. They were truly a black sheep group, having fallen out of favor not only with their congregation but with surrounding LCMS congregations and pastors. I provided a little counsel about some things that interested them that were out of step with the Synod. Having obtained their cooperation, I also recognized among them a real energy and interest in serving their Lord. Rather than discourage or oppose them, I advocated their peaceful release from their former congregation, supported their efforts to form an LCMS congregation, and provided initial pastoral service on Sundays when I was available to do so.

The rest of their story to date is 18 years of hard and faithful labor, abundantly blessed by God. They began by purchasing an old building with many rooms to serve as their Father’s House. Using their own considerable talents and resources, they remodeled it to provide worship space and modest beginnings for an early childhood ministry. They called a pastor who also recognized their interest and energy in serving their Lord and provided faithful and compatible spiritual leadership. Their small number and ministry to the community began to grow. After several years they sold their first building to purchase a more suitable one. They and their ministry continued to prosper over the years.

This past Sunday I preached for the dedication of their most recent building, purchased with the help of the district church extension fund. The text I used was Isaiah 54:2. It was a wonderful day of reminiscing and marveling and giving thanks by congregation and pastor, district personnel, the fifth vice-president of the Synod, and members and pastors of surrounding congregations.

It was a glorious dedication by a now-much-larger congregation of their 120,000 sq. ft. building that they have been able to convert into a church-like exterior, a beautiful sanctuary, and an amazing Early Childhood Center serving more than 200 children. And there is plenty of room to spare…for a future interest, a parochial school.

An amazing story, in which I was privileged to play a small part. I only mention it, as someone with a more conservative bent, because I marvel how I was led to recognize the need to do the right thing, to step outside the box and “not hold back” (Isaiah 54:2).

Ray Hartwig

Christmas Appearances

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14

Stories abound about apparitions – that is, an instance of something’s appearing. One of the more famous apparitions is commonly referred to as, “Our Lady of Lourdes.” A young 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubirous, reported that she spoke to a woman in a cave near her hometown of Lourdes, France. After her first encounter with the lady in February 1858, she had 17 more meetings with her that year.

Unlike Bernadette’s mysterious encounters, pastors regularly and most predictably experience apparitions during Christmas. They have numerous encounters with parishioners who appear at the celebration of our Savior’s birth, not to be seen for another year with possible exceptions at Easter. They come to hear, once again, the preacher in the pulpit share the story about baby Jesus.

Christmas, although filled with excitement and anticipation of celebrating the Messiah’s birth, can become a litany of appearances. Christians are crushed by shopping sprees, mandatory social gatherings and endless parties. Before they know it, Christmas fatigue sets in — often by the third Sunday in Advent. Divine worship becomes another “event” for them to attend. They make their appearances and subtly grow indifferent about the birth of Jesus.

By now, they wonder what more can be said about Christmas, and there are12 days of Christmas ahead of them! What more can be said about the birth of the Savior? For sinners there is much to share. The law has enslaved humanity under its curse. Redemption is hopeless without God’s intervention and God makes his remarkable appearance at Bethlehem; redemption has come. He came in the flesh and lived among us full of grace and truth. He is man born of woman.

God’s redemption has come for all humanity to see, touch and hear. It is no illusion conjured in the hearts and minds of men. God has come in the flesh. Simeon says it so beautifully as he takes the Savior in his arms and says,

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.”

May the grace and peace of God manifest among us in the Savior sustain us always in the one true hope that endures for all eternity. Amen.

Rev. Gregory Williamson
Chief Mission Officer
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

Mexico Lutheran Church (SLM)

Pictured: (back row) Rev. Arthur Rickman, Rev. Daniel McMiller, Rev. Ted Krey, Rev. Dr. Scott Murray, Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill; (front row) Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, Maria De Lourdes, President Alvaro Lopez Fajardo, Rev. Samuel Peréz.

Representatives of the Missouri Synod met with representatives from the Lutheran Synod of Mexico (SLM) on 16 December 2013 in Mexico City, Mexico. In the early 1980s, the LCMS largely withdrew work in Mexico. On 29 September 2013, the SLM sent a letter to President Harrison asking the Missouri Synod to resume and increase its partnership. The LCMS responded by sending Rev. Arthur Rickman to meet with church officials.

In the meetings SLM officials explained the challenges faced both in Mexico and in the Synod. Currently, the SLM has three ordained pastors. The SLM expressed a need for theological education leading to ordained pastors. They also expressed a need for increasing Lutheran identity, and the deacons and deaconesses. Dr. Scott Murray, 4th Vice President of the LCMS who attended the discussions, said of the meeting between SLM and the LCMS, “It was delightful to renew relationships that had gone fallow and to encourage a church body that felt orphaned. We discussed concrete action items for the future that were mutually agreed to. Through these opportunities we look forward to rebuilding our relationship as we walk together in the body of Christ.”

In cooperation with the Luther Academy, the LCMS sponsored a conference for SLM pastors and laity. Rev. Roberto Bustamante from Concordia Seminary in Buenos Aries, Argentina, was the lecturer. His lectures are focusing on Lutheran identity and the theology of the cross.

The conference was held at the Lutheran Center of Mexico City. The Lutheran Center was built in the 1960s largely through the work of the Missouri Synod. As a result of the agreement, the Missouri Synod has a place at the table to discuss how the facility is used to promote Lutheranism in Mexico and Central America.

We look forward to the future of a closer partnership between the SLM and the Missouri Synod.

The SLM is in altar and pulpit fellowship with the Missouri Synod and a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC).

– Posted by Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations and Executive Secretary of the ILC using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Cerrada de la Otra Banda,Álvaro Obregón,Mexico