E.L.C.A. - M.U.D.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
West and Central Africa: Growing food crisis
Inadequate rainfall, poor harvests and rising food costs have left nearly 15.5 million people, particularly children, in need of emergency food assistance. Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are working to provide food and other life-sustaining necessities like medical supplies and hygiene kits. Read more at www.elca.org/disaster or www.elca.org/news (click on News Releases in the left-hand column) or find an in-depth situation report at www.elca.org/~/media/Files/Disaster%20Response/West_Africa_Sitrep_1_031912.pdf.
Global water crisis claims more lives per year than war or natural disasters
Nearly a billion people -- that’s one out of seven people in our world today -- lack access to clean, safe water. Unclean water causes millions of people, especially young children, to die from water-related illnesses each year. Learn how ELCA youth can make a difference through the 100 Wells Challenge at www.elca.org/100wells.
World Malaria Day 2012
Take part in launching malaria work in Liberia -- where malaria accounts for 30 percent of all deaths seen in hospitals -- by helping to raise $200,000 between April 25 and May 1. Find bulletin inserts, prayers, hymns, offering envelopes and more resources for worship services on April 29 at www.elca.org/malaria.
Mexico: The gift of listening
Kat Heavner rarely had a free minute when she lived in Cuernavaca, Mexico. When she wasn’t teaching English to preschool and elementary students, she was preparing lunch at a community center for senior citizens or helping with a dance class, among other things. Read more about this ELCA young adult volunteer, or download a copy-ready insert at www.elca.org/stories.
Japan: "It's not all about Santa and presents, right?"
Fourth grader Emilie becomes a witness when she shares the story of Jesus' birth with her classmates in Japan. Read the entire story at www.elca.org/handinhand; click either the copy-ready bulletin insert or the Spring 2012 issue of the Hand in Hand newsletter.
Slovakia: "Many countries, one congregation"
The Bratislava International Congregation, with a remarkably diverse membership from many countries, denominations and occupations, has just welcomed its new pastor, ELCA missionary Miriam Schmidt. She and her husband, Jeremy Blythe, are also the new ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission coordinators for Central Europe. See http://blogs.elca.org/handinhand/.
Hosting a missionary this summer?
Is an ELCA missionary visiting your congregation this summer? Hold a potluck with PlaceMaps and ELCA Missionary Sponsorship offering envelopes for everyone. Both are available by calling 800-638-3522 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Larger orders may be placed through http://resources.elca.org.
Jamaica: Seeking clinical pastoral education supervisor
A CPE supervisor and trainer is sought for the United Theological College of the West Indies in Jamaica. See www.elca.org/globalserve/search and enter keyword Jamaica.
Earthquake relief, cultural exchanges and monthly prayers
Learn about these and other components of companion synod relationships through the online profiles updated recently by the Indiana-Kentucky, Northern Great Lakes, and Northwestern Ohio Synods of the ELCA. See www.elca.org/companionsynodprofiles.
Hunger Rumblings blog
Subscribe to the Hunger Rumblings blog where ELCA World Hunger staff and associates write about root causes of hunger, current events and other pertinent topics. See http://blogs.elca.org/hungerrumblings/.
Lutherans to discuss ecology online on May 12
Using a new interactive online format, The Lutheran World Federation is promoting a wider conversation on ecological justice. You are invited to participate in this first virtual conference. See www.elca.org/localevents or www.elca.org/ecumenical.
Glocal Mission Gathering in Cincinnati, Ohio, June 6-7
Equip yourself for God's work in today's global and local realities. Find more information and registration at www.elca.org/glocal.
In our prayers
Pray for Megan Ross who serves as an English teacher at the Deaconess School of the Protestant Christian Batak Church (HKBP) in Indonesia. As a deaconess, her walk with other women committing their lives to faith and service in Christ is an inspiration to those with whom she works. (This prayer for April 28 is available along with daily prayers from around the globe at www.elca.org/prayerventures. You may also see a short video from this school at www.elca.org/companionvoices.)
Thursday, April 12, 2012
malaria. Gifts to the ELCA Malaria Campaign will allow the church to expand its anti-malaria work to include Liberia.
Malaria, a preventable and treatable disease, is a leading cause of death in Africa, claiming the life of a child every 45 seconds. In Liberia, malaria accounts for 30 percent of all deaths seen in hospitals. Through the ELCA Malaria Campaign, rolled out by the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, ELCA members are working with Lutheran churches in Africa to prevent, treat and contain the disease by 2015. A goal of the campaign is to raise $15 million and support the anti-malaria efforts of Lutheran churches and organizations in eleven African countries.
"World Malaria Day invites all of us to reflect on the global companionship that is vital to the identity of the ELCA," said Jessica Nipp, coordinator of the ELCA Malaria Campaign. "We are a global church, accompanied on our faith journey by our Lutheran sisters and brothers in
countries around the world."
"Malaria is a medical injustice, and God calls us to fight against injustice," said Nipp. "Working together, we can equip our Lutheran companions to treat, prevent and educate about malaria in ways that will make a life-saving difference. We are a church that rolls up our sleeves and gets to work. It's time for us to take the next step in the ELCA Malaria Campaign," she said.
Since the beginning of the ELCA Malaria Campaign, Lutheran churches in Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe have been working to control malaria, but the ELCA has yet to raise the funds needed to begin its engagement in Liberia.
Health officials in Liberia have received information about the ELCA Malaria Campaign.
"I believe that, as a Lutheran Christian, taking care of the physical body should be a mission of the church," said Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, Liberia's minister of health and social welfare and a member of the Lutheran Church in Liberia.
The ELCA and the Lutheran Church in Liberia are members of The Lutheran World Federation. The ELCA is the federation's only member from the United States.
On April 28 the Lutheran Church in Liberia will celebrate its 152nd anniversary of mission and ministry. The church is well-known in Liberia for its health care ministries.
Lutherans were the first to build a hospital in Liberia. Phebe Hospital opened in 1921, and its school of nursing was the first nursing school in the country. Curran Lutheran Hospital in Zorzor, Liberia, has provided health care to residents in surrounding districts for the past
Willie L.B. Roberts, a medical director at Curran, believes that sharing the story of God's love and healing the physical body are critical ministries for both the Lutheran church and medical institutions.
"Healing the sick is a mission that was started by Christ himself," said Roberts. "We believe that what (Lutheran) missionaries brought to Liberia -- education, sharing the story of the love of God, and the healing of bodies -- is paramount" to the mission of Curran.
Information about the ELCA Malaria Campaign is available at http://www.ELCA.org/malaria, ELCA World Hunger at http://www.ELCA.org/hunger and the Lutheran Church in Liberia at
Sunday, April 8, 2012
When the disciples first heard Jesus speak of his death and resurrection, "they kept the matter to themselves" (Mark 9:10). But the news is too good to keep to ourselves. The life of Jesus Christ has been unleashed into the world.
Because Christ is risen, you can embrace life's complexities and uncertainties with a living, daring confidence in God's grace. The risen Christ goes ahead of you, meeting you in the most surprising faces and unexpected places. Christ's resurrection puts us right where God wants us to be -- in the thick of life.
Because Christ is risen, you have a word of hope. To those weary from mourning loss and fearing death, the assurance is given that nothing in all creation will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The life of Jesus, God's own life, has burst into the world, restoring community. At the barriers we erect to divide us, the risen Christ meets us, turning those walls into tables of reconciliation. To those who live in fear and feel unworthy, the promise is given. "You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).
Every morning you awaken with the mark of Jesus' death on your forehead and the promise of Christ's resurrection on your lips.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
In God's grace,
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Thursday, April 5, 2012
In the summer of 2003 I participated in three weeks of orientation to prepare for international service with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) Global Mission. At that point I had never left the shores of North America. Among other things, those in attendance learned of cultural sensitivity and personal security, and we also discussed a wide variety of topics surrounding discernment, faith, globalization, and racial privilege. While I cannot remember all that took place during those important weeks in Chicago, I do recall the period as extremely helpful and totally worthwhile. In reflection, I realize that no amount of orientation could have fully prepared me for the wonders and complexities of international service, yet I continue to recognize the value in such preparation, and I remain dearly thankful for the training I received from the ELCA.
In the nine years since those initial orientation sessions in Chicago, I have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles, visited an assortment of continents and countries, experienced various cultures, met a multitude of amazing people, and experienced the love of God through sights and sounds that I never imagined possible while growing up in central Wisconsin. As a pastor of the Lutheran Church, I have participated alongside local companions in hundreds of worship services and ceremonies, walked countless rural paths and urban streets, visited numerous homes, listened to people of diverse faith and cultural perspectives, and at each step I have tried to learn with humility, speak and act with boldness, follow the way of Jesus, and hear God’s voice in the midst of uncertainty and struggle. All together, my views on faith and responsibility have grown, my assumptions have been challenged, my articulation of the Good News has widened and deepened, and with each passing day I find new ways to participate in God’s mission alongside people who often think, act, believe, and look differently than myself. All in all, I have changed a great deal since 2003, and as Kristen, Khaya, and I prepare to return to the USA later this month, I pray that these changes are for the better.
When I began international service in 2003, I was barely removed from college, ready to be finished with formal classroom education, and I was certain that I would remain single for the rest of my life. However, in the years since I have become a married man, father, uncle, ordained pastor, and a PhD candidate. Life has changed! And so, as Kristen, Khaya, and I pursue new opportunities in the USA, we do so with a recognition that life will continue to change in the years ahead, and this journey will bring with it a whole host of thoughts and emotions. And so, with these various reflections in mind, while there is not nearly enough time to fully contemplate what is taking place around us, I believe it is important to make time to process the experience of transition as it occurs, consider what God is showing us during these moments, and continue to discern how lessons learned from the global village may be applied and developed in the years ahead. In other words, while it is impossible to summarize all that I have learned since 2003, and it would be hopeless to try and review all that I feel during these intense weeks, I believe it is useful to share a few thoughts as our re-entry into the USA draws increasingly near.
Diversity: Different Does Not Equal Wrong
Wade Davis, a Canadian anthropologist, once remarked: “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit”. With these thoughts from Davis in mind, I have recognized over the past years that there are countless “models of reality”, thus there are numerous “unique manifestations of the human spirit”. In other words, God is creative! And so, I recognize that my experiences as a white, North American, male, Christian-Lutheran from central Wisconsin are only one model of reality, thus when encountering another culture and/or religious tradition, although an initial impulse may be that of discomfort, it is most often because of difference, and not because of wrongness. And so, to make a long story far too short, I have learned to resist judgment, understand the many stories beneath and around “the story”, and as a result, move past tolerance and instead practice acceptance, wonder, and hospitality.
I recently spoke with a close South African friend about diversity and inclusion, and we recognized that the global community is intended to be a grand choir, in that we have commonalities (singing the same song), yet diversity (different tones and pitches), thus the beauty is found in unity, not uniformity. In other words, if each voice in the choir was exactly the same (uniformity), it would be an awful sound! And so, because “all God’s creatures have a place in the choir”, one of the keys to functioning faithfully in a diverse global community is a recognition that difference can illuminate the overall sound (“…some sing low, some sing higher!”), and at our very core, we are all singing the same inclusive lyrics, for we are members of the same choir, the global community, created in the Image and Likeness of God. As a result, while there are indeed billions of unique “manifestations of the human spirit”, the Holy Spirit of God connects us into one community, thus we recognize the importance of restoring this community through a deep and sustained commitment to hospitality.
Connectedness: I am Because We Are
One of the intellectual foundations of Western thought is “Cogito ergo sum“, or “I think therefore I am”. This statement from René Descartes has influenced a wide variety of North American life, and while a full articulation is not intended here, what is worthy of attention is the focus it places upon the individual. In other words, the statement from Descartes assumes that human existence can be self-contained and/or self-reliant, and as a result, such thoughts give birth to various terms in the English-language with “self” as a prefix. For example, we often hear of self-confidence, self-conscious, self-expression, self-criticism, self-deception, self-defeating, self-denial, self-discipline, self-esteem, self-expression, self-importance, self-improvement, self-interest, self-respect, self-restraint, self-sacrifice – and the list goes on! Amazingly, the equivalent of these “self” words cannot be found in many non-Western languages, which reveals a great deal about separate views of the world. All together, while many could provide various reasons for our North American vocabulary choices, I would argue that it is an indication of how seriously we perceive independence, for the “self-made woman” and/or “self-made man” continues to be viewed as ideal.
In wonderful contrast to “I think therefore I am”, the African philosophy of ubuntu states, “I am because we are”. Among other things, ubuntu recognizes that individual autonomy is totally impossible, for a person is only a person through being in relationship with other persons. In other words, all people are products of their environment, and thus all people have to rely upon others each and every day. While ubuntu recognizes personal initiative, drive, and the ability to shape our surroundings, it also acknowledges that relationships form existence, and thus connectedness is essential to an understanding of a full life. As stated by Benezet Bujo, ubuntu recognizes that “a person only remains healthy in a holistic sense by living in harmony with the whole creation”, thus “to be human is to affirm one’s humanity by recognizing the humanity of others and, on that basis, establish humane relations with them”, which includes a “peaceful co-existence” with all of God’s creation. All together, ubuntu views total independence as a myth, for while personal responsibility and freedom is indeed important, we are all intimately and intimately interconnected with all people in all places throughout the world.
Solidarity: Walking Together
With the above thoughts in mind, I have come to recognize that the global community is extremely diverse, yet it is also intimately connected, thus we are called by God to walk together in a solidarity that seeks interdependence and mutuality. While I am indeed extremely different from the South Africans and Guyanese people who I served alongside, we are also incredibly similar and deeply connected as people created in the Image and Likeness of God. As a result, because of this common thread of mutual humanity, we have a profound responsibility to walk in solidarity with one another in the journey of life. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
In a real sense all life is inter-related. All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality.
With King’s thoughts in mind, and with ubuntu in my heart, within this “inter-related structure of reality” I am not merely a citizen of the United States and a rostered pastor of the ELCA, but I am something much larger – “I am” a person of faith who believes in the value, sacredness, and dignity of all life because “we are” members of a common humanity that is deeply loved by a gracious God. As a result, I believe that following Jesus in daily life means to recognize that injustice anywhere has an impact everywhere, and we possess a personal responsibility to look beyond the borders of race, gender, culture, religion, and sexuality, to ensure fairness and opportunity for all that God has brought to life. I thank God for the global church companions that have taught me these lessons, and I pray for the integrity to keep such wisdom deep in my heart and mind for the rest of my life.
Thoughts on Re-Entry: The Next Step
I have already begun to hear others speak of our departure from South Africa as the conclusion of our global missionary service. I totally disagree with this assertion, for in many ways it is only the beginning. I believe wholeheartedly that God’s global mission through Jesus is about reconciliation, transformation, and empowerment, thus a global Christian missionary is one who seeks to reconcile, transform, and empower, by the grace of God, and for the sake of the world. I cannot see myself stopping such activity at any point, as everywhere is the “mission field”, each day constitutes numerous “mission trips”, and every local action has a global reaction. In a world that possesses division and violence, I believe God is on a global mission of reconciliation, and I plan to participate fully within in. In a world were billions of people scrape through life in spirit-destroying poverty, I believe God is on a global mission of transformation, and I plan to participate fully within it. In the midst of a world that is thirsty for compassionate servant-leaders, I believe God is on a global mission of empowerment, and I plan to participate fully within it. And so, our global missionary work has not concluded, but it will transition to something new, and by God’s grace I look forward to this new, exciting, and challenging chapter.
And so, once again I will participate in a global mission orientation, but unlike the sessions that took place for a few weeks in Chicago nearly nine years ago, the upcoming orientation period will never conclude. As the cycle of orientation and disorientation is – in many ways – a life-long process, Kristen, Khaya, and I will return to North America and always seek to learn about the joys and struggles of the people whom we are called to accompany. In addition, we will always discern who God is and who we are in the midst of such diverse settings, and we will always consider how we may contribute to what God is doing to and through an ever-changing and increasingly complex world. We will remain mindful of the lessons we learned in Guyana, South Africa, and beyond, we will hold tight to the wonderful friendships formed, and we will continue to be shaped in the years ahead alongside whatever local and global community we are placed. And so, as we enter into this process of transitions, decisions, and additions, Kristen and I ask for your ongoing thoughts and prayers, for just as so many have loved and supported us throughout the past years, we trust that such encouragement will continue in the time ahead. We look forward to this next chapter of life and ministry, we thank God that so many will walk this journey alongside us, and we look forward to all that God will do “to us all” and “through us all” in the years ahead.
Brian E. Konkol and Kristen F. Konkol have led the ELCA-MUD program as Country Coordinators since its inception in 2008. They will return to the USA on May 1, 2012.
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The opinions expressed in these forums are solely the opinions of the participants, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa.