Archive for January 2012

Liberia Day 5 – Farewell Celebration

In Front of Evangel Temple Evangelical Lutheran Church

This evening, 3 January 2011, the pastors and church leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia held a farewell dinner for the LCMS guests at the Evangel Temple Evangelical Lutheran Church. There was singing, short speeches, and excellent West African food. 

Choir Singing at Farewell Dinner

Before dinner, Bishop Amos Bolay addressed the group, speaking about how fellowship is not the work of men but of God. Bishop Bolay said, “The Lord creates fellowship among church bodies.” While in light of the fellowship discussions between the ELCL and the LCMS, the natural assumption was that Bishop Bolay was speaking of the events from the past few days. In reality, Bishop Bolay spoke of the fellowship the Lord created between the four Lutheran groups in Liberia that merged into one in May of 2009, forming the ELCL. Then he spoke how the coming of the LCMS delegation to Liberia also was the Lord’s work. An example that Bishop Bolay offered to demonstrate the Lord’s hand in the meeting was the alignment of all participants calendars. The group found this comment amusing. On a more serious note, Bishop Bolay said that prior to the unification of 2009, the LCMS would not have known with which of the four Lutheran groups to hold talks. Yet since the unification occurred, there is one ELCL for the LCMS to relate. Thanks was offered to the Lord and to the LCMS guests for coming to Liberia. Next came the presentation of gifts.

Presentation of Gifts

Each of us were given a West African (Liberian) style shirt. 

Naomi and Joyce Erber

The women were gifted first, then the men.

Rose Bolay, Dr. Lehenbauer, Bishop Bolay

The choir continued to sing during the presentation of gifts.

Rose, Dr. Erber, Bishop Bolay

The shirt worn by Bishop Bolay commemorates the unification of the ELCL in May 2009.

Dr. Michael Rodewald Addresses the Group

After the presentation of gifts, the LCMS delegation was invited to give a response. Dr. Mike Rodewald, LCMS Regional Director for Africa, presented first. He thanked the ELCL and commended them on their hard work. He echoed some of Bishop Bolay’s remarks, chiefly that the way events unfolded were the work of God not of men. He also reiterated how it was that Bishop Bolay ended up in St. Louis in October 2010 when he requested fellowship with the LCMS. Dr. Rodewald invited Dr. Collver to bring closing remarks.

Dr. Collver Offers Closing Remarks

Dr. Collver’s remarks centered around 1 Corinthians 1:2 (with some contextualization): “To the church of God that is in [Liberia], to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” The Lord calls his church together. He called the four Lutheran church bodies in Liberia into one. The Lord might also call the ELCL and the LCMS into fellowship. Dr. Collver also said, somewhat but not entirely tongue in check, that some time would have to be spent in Saint Louis explaining an important detail. In America, we are accustomed to churches splitting or breaking away from another church body, not coming together to form one body. He remarked that it might take some time to explain that these churches came together rather than broke away from another larger church. Thanks was given to the Lord and dinner was served.

A Hat from the ELCL’s Convention
The official events concluded and conversations lingered in the “parking lot.”
Dr. Mike Rodewald Talks with Members of the ELCL

On this building, the Lutheran “colors” of yellow and green are seen. 

Dr. Collver and Bishop Bolay

The trip to Liberia in general and to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia in particular educated and encouraged the LCMS delegation. As devastating as the Liberian civil war was, the Lord worked good by strengthening churches. Liberia as a country has a theme of “unification.” The theme of “unification” also is echoed in the church, yet unlike the secular nation which seeks unity for unity’s sake (or for the well-being of the nation), the church is drawn together by the Lord Jesus through the preaching of His Word and the giving out of His forgiving gifts in the Sacraments. Like any church the ELCL has challenges, but is moving forward trusting in the promises of the Lord. As for fellowship between the ELCL and LCMS, Drs. Collver and Lehenbauer will make recommendations to President Harrison and the CTCR, and an announcement regarding a decision should occur around May 2012 (after the next CTCR meeting).

Sunset at Close of Day

On a final note, the missionary staff in Africa — both Dr. Michael Rodewald, Regional Director, and Dr. Erber and his family — did a remarkable job of preparatory work for the fellowship dialogs between the ELCL and LCMS. Dr. Erber took care of all the arrangements, making it easy for the team from Saint Louis. Dr. Rodewald, first came to Liberia, in the early 1980s, were he labored to translate the Holy Scriptures into the local language until the Liberian civil war. Dr. Rodewald actually lived in Liberia during the beginning of the war, only to be evacuated later. Dr. Erber has lived in Nigeria for the past 18 years with his family, but makes frequent trips to Liberia. He has been involved with Liberia in particular for the past several years. If not for the Lord’s use of Drs. Rodewald and Erber as his instruments in Liberia, it is hard to imagine that fellowship talks would have occurred between the ELCL and the LCMS. Both of these men built on the work of those who went before them… (the trouble with offering thanks is that someone will be forgotten or not mentioned). In any case, as the church, the LCMS has been blessed by the instruments the Lord has provided her for His service.

Dr. Lehenbauer, Noami and Dr. Erber, Bishop Bolay, Drs. Collver and Lehenbauer

On the way back from the visit with the Liberian Vice President, we stopped at the ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa) Compound along the coast.

— Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations
Posted 4 January 2012 in Monrovia, Liberia.

Liberia Day 5 — Vice-Presidential Visit

Bishop Amos Bolay, Vice-President of the Republic of Liberia Joseph N. Boakai, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver

This morning we had the privilege of meeting with Joseph N. Boakai, Vice-President of the Republic of Liberia.

Dr. Mike Rodewald, Bishop Amos Bolay, Vice-President Joseph N. Boakai, Dr. Albert Collver, Dr Joel Lehenbauer, Dr. David Erber

Although Lutheranism has been in Liberia for 150 years, we had opportunity to explain how the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia came into existence in 2009. Bishop Bolay emphasized to the Vice-President that the ELCL was not a break away group from the Lutheran Church of Liberia (LCL), but rather the union of four separate groups that came together. He explained the connection the ELCL has with The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Bishop Bolay politely explained some of the differences between the LCMS and the ELCA.

We had opportunity to give greetings to the Vice-President on behalf of President Harrison and the people of the LCMS. As well as describe the work of the LCMS around the world, particularly in the area of education and humanitarian work. We gave the Vice President a booklet describing the LCMS.

Dr. Collver asked the Vice-President what the greatest challenge Liberia faced. The Vice-President replied, “Harnessing the energy of Liberia’s youth in a productive way.” He went on to explain this is why educational and vocational programs were essential to Liberia’s future.

The Vice-President also noted some differences between America and Africa in general. He said in America the people waste little time and are very efficient. In Africa, lots of time is wasted but in the process many friends are made.

We thanked him for his time and the friendship he showed us and closed with prayer.

Vice President Joseph N. Boakai and Naomi Erber

– Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations
Posted in Monrovia, Liberia on 3 January 2011.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Rehab Rd,,Liberia

Liberia Day 4 – Visitation

Today, we, along with Bishop Amos Bolay, visited nine of thirteen Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia congregations in the vicinity of Monrovia, Liberia. At each church, the pastor and church leadership was waiting for our visit. In some cases, a choir and parishioners also waited for us to arrive. The ELCL does not count children in its membership counts. Many of the congregations have three services a week. We travelled to many different types of congregations and saw many districts of Monrovia. The congregations we visited include: St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lynch Street; St. Martin Evangelical Lutheran Church, Paity Town; Grace Lutheran Church, Zumah Town; Holy Ghost Evangelical Lutheran Church, Banjor, Lower Virginia; Emmanuel Temple Evangelical Lutheran Church, Chocolate City; St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church, Chicken Soup Factory, Gardensville; Christ Lutheran Church, Coco Cola Factory, Payensville; Upper Room Lutheran Church, Coco Cola Factory, Payensville; St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Red Light. Many of the congregations also have schools associated with them.

St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lynch Street, Monrovia

St. John’s was founded in 1992.  Many of the congregations are formed around ethic groups. As a result, each congregation uses different types of drums.

Drums from St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church

Next to the church is a coffin workshop. 

Coffin Next to the Church
Nearby the church is a mosque.

As we traveled Bishop Bolay said that there is a big need for training pastors in the ELCL. He lamented, “We have pastors who do not know the Small Catechism. We do two or three day training workshops, trying to train pastors. The workshops create a lot of excitement and encourage the pastors to study.” This is reminisce of the condition of some congregations at the time of the Reformation, when Dr. Martin Luther lamented that some priests did not know the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer. There is great need for pastoral training.

St. Martin Evangelical Lutheran Church

St. Martin Evangelical Lutheran Church in Paity Town was founded in 1995 during the hottest part of the Liberian civil war. The congregation is named after Martin Luther and has a school associated with it. It is located in one of the most difficult locations due to the extreme poverty of the area.

Children in Paity Town

Bishop Amos Bolay reflected on the Liberian civil war as we visited the ELCL congregations. He noted that the war made people very serious about their faith. Yet even now people are forgetting that the Lord delivered them during the war. Bishop Bolay told us about the three months we spent in a rebel prison camp during the civil war. He said, “If you are fleeing from a war, do not go back to retrieve material things.”

Foundation for Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zumah Town

The drums at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church were square and from the Grebo Tribe.

Grebo Drums

Walking to Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, we passed some African Hunting Dogs.

African Hunting Dogs

Bishop Bolay explained that some adults and older people do not want to become Christians because they do not want to give up their traditions. This is why Jesus spoke about the faith of children.

Sophie attends Grace Lutheran Church

Our next stop was to Banjor in Lower Virginia where Holy Ghost Evangelical Lutheran Church resides.

Holy Ghost Evangelical Lutheran Church

A mosque sits behind Holy Ghost Evangelical Lutheran Church. 

The Mosque is the White and Green Building

It is very difficult for muslims to convert to Christianity. When a muslim converts away from Islam, he is considered dead to the family. To convert to Christianity means to lose your family.

Emmanuel Temple Evangelical Lutheran Church

Emmanuel Temple Evangelical Lutheran Church is located in Chocolate City, named not after the coco bean, but after the color of the soil that looks like chocolate. Emmanuel Temple was founded in 1996. Note the green LCMS logo cross.

Readings for the Circumcision of Jesus

At Emmanuel Temple Lutheran Church the readings for the Circumcision of Jesus (1 January 2012) were written on a chalk board next to the altar.

Outside of St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church

St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded in 1995 and is located in Chicken Soup Factory, Gardensville.

Field Behind Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church

There are two congregations in Coco Cola Factory. One is Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church and the other is Upper Room Evangelical Lutheran Church. 

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church

Pastor Dennis Mbombo stands in front of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Coco Cola Factory. The area is known as Coco Cola Factory because of the bottling plant nearby.

Coco Cola Factory

In the villages, it was very common to see African Hunting Dogs.

From Coco Cola Factory, we traveled to St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Red Light. It is named Red Light because before the Liberian civil war there was a three way intersection with a stop light. A market and trading center developed around the “red light.” Although the red light is gone, the area is still called “Red Light.”
St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church

St. Paul’s also has a high school that has over 1,000 students.

St Paul High School in Red Light

The visitation of ELCL congregations was invaluable in better understanding this Lutheran church body in Liberia. In some cases, the pastor and church leadership waited for us all day until we arrived to meet them. It took us about 10 or 11 hours to drive around and see each one of these congregations, often times only spending a few minutes there. When the four separate church bodies decided to unify in 2009, about 100 congregations left because they wanted to remain Pentecostal. The congregations that stayed to form the ELCL have made an intention decision to be Lutheran and are working to improve. We all found the visitation to the congregations instructive, inspiring, and encouraging. The Lord will have a church for himself  where he desires.

– Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations
Posted 3 January 2012 in Monrovia, Liberia.

Worship – Liberia Day 3

Dr. Joel Lehenbauer stands outside Christ Assembly Evangelical Lutheran Church

This morning, 1 January 2012, we worshiped at Christ Assembly Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL) was the result of a merger between four groups. Some of these groups originally had roots in the Church of God or in the Assemblies of God. The remnants of this history is sometimes detectable in the name of congregations such as “Christ Assembly” Evangelical Lutheran Church. Yet having originated in a more Pentecostal background, the ELCL has a good understanding of its dangers and incompatibility with Lutheran theology. One of the ELCL pastors explained, “Pentecostalism teaches that God will do something for you on the basis of what you do for God. This is animism using Christian vocabulary. As Lutherans, we teach that God blesses us not because of what we do for him, but because he loves us and has sent his Son for us.” Nonetheless, the ELCL recognizes that elements from its Pentecostal background remain and require slow, patient teaching.

Note the email address says LCMS2
As seen from the pictures above, the ELCL strongly sees itself as connected to the LCMS. The ELCL liberally makes use of the LCMS cross on its buildings and bulletins. The ELCL refers to the Lutheran Worship hymnal as “our Lutheran Worship.” The congregation loudly and boldly received the Apostles’ Creed during the service. Although the Divine Service in Lutheran Worship serves as the foundation for the worship in the ELCL, it would not be accurate to say the service is like a typical LCMS service. Between sections of the liturgy, various choirs sing in the pattern of tribal chants. Some of the songs were recitations of Scripture with congregational response encouraging the choir or cantor to continue to tell the story. The only musical instruments required were the human voice and drums. Occasionally, the choir and congregation would break into a dance. After the song, the service would continue according to the liturgy.
A Choir that began dancing during one of the songs
The service bulletin is reproduced here:

ELCL Bulletin 1 Jan 2012

Pastor Washington N. Gate preached a sermon based on Luke 2:22 – 38, titled, “Jesus is the foundation of the church. Time to Name the boy born of the Virgin Mary.” The sermon, delivered in about 45 minutes and interspersed with “Amens” and “Alleluias,” in Liberian English went something like the following.

Pastor Washington N. Gate Preaching

The Law proscribed certain ceremonies – one of them was circumcision. Why was circumcision so important to the Jews? It was a sign that the Lord had saved the Jews, that the Lord had separated them from the Gentiles. It was a symbol of dedication and of salvation. It was a symbol of separation from idols. What was circumcision to the boy? It was the giving of his name. It was a putting of the boy into the Lord’s family. Once the boy was circumcised, there was no turning back; he forever was identified as belonging to the Lord. Circumcision was required by the Law. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.

Circumcision set people apart. It set people apart in their morals. People are watching you in your community to see how you live. You have been set apart in Jesus.
The new circumcision of God’s people is Baptism. it is a circumcision of the heart by the Spirit of God. Salvation is by God through the death of Jesus. The Church is built on the foundation of Jesus, the name given to him not by man but from God.
At the naming of Jesus, the woman was purified. Purification came from the blood of animals. It is not the blood of animals that purifies us. The holy blood of Jesus purifies us. He is our priest. He entered the temple of God and shed not the blood of animals, but his own blood that makes us righteous. He used the blood of the Lamb of God to make us righteous. It is a gift.
Now we are clearly blessed by God because we stand on a firm foundation, Jesus. We are buy back, redeeming. The church belongs to God. Jesus redeemed us from the wrath of God, not with the blood of animals but with his own blood.
Simeon said, “Let us depart in peace. My eyes have seen your salvation.” I assure you that Jesus is your salvation. Let’s look at the name of Jesus and the name Christ. God himself selected the Name of Jesus. Jesus saves his people. Jesus is the only solid foundation.
Why is Jesus called Christ? Jesus is the anointed one. Jesus is anointed to be our prophet, priest, and king. Jesus is God. He is true man and was raised up as the true prophet, like Moses, but even better. As a prophet he proclaims and bears witness to the truth of God.
Who is a priest? A priest offers up intercession. All Old Testament priests are a shadow of Jesus. Jesus is God and our true high priest. Unlike Old Testament priests, Christ did not have to offer sacrifice for his own sin to enter into the holy of holies. Jesus had no sin. When he entered the holy of holies, Jesus did not offer up the blood of animals. Instead he offered up his own blood. He is the perfect atonement for our sin. The Old Testament sacrifice is a shadow of Jesus. It is like a check that is signed and put into the bank. Jesus, however, is the true treasure. Jesus is your treasure.
Who is a king? A king has power and authority. Jesus is the true King who has all the power and authority of God. Jesus is the true foundation.
Jesus was born, suffered, and died for you. If you do not believe this, you will remain under the wrath of God and die forever. You must believe for yourself that Jesus is the foundation of the church.
Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the Son of Man. He is called Emmanuel, the Lion of Judah. Jesus is your Lord and Savior. Amen.
The Celebration of Holy Communion

After the sermon and before the Liturgy for Holy Communion, Bishop Amos Bolay offered instruction on the Lord’s Supper. He said something resembling the following:

The Lord is in the business of unity his church. One way he does this is by giving his Holy Body and Blood to those who believe his teaching and are baptized. If you do not come from one of our Lutheran congregations, we ask you to remain in your seats during the celebration of Holy Communion. We believe that Jesus gives his true body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. It is his body and blood. The bread and the wine do not represent or symbolize body and blood. Jesus gives his body and blood. If you are not Lutheran, or if you are not baptized and repentent for your sins, we ask you to stay in your seats. St Paul warns against improperly eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus; such improper eating and drinking leads to judgment. For those who believe Jesus’ body and blood is forgiveness and life.
After Holy Communion and before the service continued, the pastors gathered at the front of the altar to consume the remaining body and blood of Jesus. 
In total, the service lasted about three and half hours.
Dr. Lehenbauer, Bishop Bolay, Dr. Collver

In the background between Bishop Bolay and Dr. Collver is the church’s water pump.

Later in the day around the time of sunset, we drove up a hill that over looks the army barracks and the ocean.
The sunset.

– Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations
Posted 2 January 2011 in Monrovia, Liberia.