Representatives from church bodies in Kenya and Taiwan traveled a long way to be at the synod convention in Minnesota this summer—and not just in miles.
Their journeys were very different but their destination the same—to work hand in hand with WELS in spreading the Word to their homelands. Delegates welcomed these two church bodies into confessional Lutheran fellowship at the convention.
“My wife and I have traveled far to be with you these few days,” said Mark Anariko Onunda, pastor and chairman of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ–Kenya (LCMC) when addressing the delegates. “Our short time together will secure a lifelong partnership to advance our positions in many fields of battle.”
The LCMC–Kenya, a church body of 25 pastors, 46 congregations, and between 3,000 and 5,000 members, is relatively young. Registered as an independent church body in Kenya in 2013, it formed after several of its pastors and churches broke away from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya because of false teachings. This fledging church body immediately began searching for like-minded confessional Lutherans. After they made contact with WELS World Missions in 2014, Prof. E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute, visited Onunda for the first time in Kenya in 2015. The Lutheran Church of Central Africa—Zambia, WELS’ sister synod, declared fellowship with the LCMC–Kenya last September.
“We are like you. That is why we are coming to you—so we can work together,” says Onunda. “With our blessed partnership in place, your brothers and sisters in Kenya can now attend to our most pressing challenges.”
Onunda’s first goal is to work to restore confessional Lutheranism in Kenya through better and continued education of pastors and leaders. The LCMC–Kenya also wants to be aggressive in its outreach within Kenya. This includes providing physical and spiritual aid to South Sudanese refugees living in Kakuma, Kenya.
But Onunda isn’t content with just focusing on Kenya. “Our partnership is going to give birth to more churches outside Kenya,” he says. He mentions Rwanda and Uganda and South Sudan—all areas WELS and the Lutheran Church of Central Africa, WELS’ sister synods in Africa, are working to reach.
“This man will become our partner in expansion throughout the entire continent of Africa, so we’re gathering up church bodies and our team becomes larger and stronger,” says Sorum.
Pastor Peter Chen and Mr. Michael Lin attended the convention to represent the Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church (CLEC) in Taiwan. The CLEC started as a mission of WELS, with missionaries serving there from 1979 through 2013. Now it is an independent church body.
“We are happy to be united with WELS in faith,” said Chen to the delegates. “WELS is like a mother to us.”
Chen notes that church members were unsure about what would happen to their church when the missionaries left. “When I go back, I can let my members know WELS hasn’t left us!” he says. “Now they declare we are in fellowship with each other so even if there are no missionaries in Taiwan, it doesn’t make a difference. We are one.”
Chen was also impressed by the theme of the convention, “For the Generations to Come.” He is training Lin to be a leader in the CLEC. Lin will finish his training this year. “This is a good chance to pass on the whole idea of who we are and who we belong to for the next generation,” he says.
This was Lin’s first trip to the United States. He was amazed by the opening worship service. “I will go back [to my congregation] with lots of pictures and stories. I can tell them this is the way our mother church is,” he says.
The CLEC has four congregations, one pastor (Chen), and about 100 members. Three men, including Lin, are training to serve congregations as tent ministers. It is reaching out in a country of 23 million people, of which 5 percent are Christian. “Please pray for us,” says Chen.
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 2019