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Up close and personal

Nothing brings WELS’ world mission work to life like visiting those missions in person. I had such an opportunity last October. Along with WELS World Missions Administrator Larry Schlomer and Missionary Howard Mohlke, I was privileged to visit two of our sister synods in Africa. The experience is one that I will never forget.

The first visit took place in Nairobi, Kenya. Even though we arrived after midnight we were warmly greeted at the airport by Dr. Mark Onunda, the president of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ–Kenya (LCMC–Kenya), along with several of his family members and congregation representatives.

WELS received the LCMC–Kenya into fellowship at the 2021 synod convention. The church body came into being when Onunda and two other pastors, along with their congregations, left the Lutheran Church of Kenya for doctrinal reasons. Since that time, about a dozen other pastors and congregations have joined them. Leaving the Lutheran Church of Kenya took courage and commitment. These pastors gave up the security of guaranteed salaries and financial support and headed into an uncertain future armed only with their faith and trust in God’s promises to provide.

We had the opportunity to worship in a newly constructed church building, in part provided by the generous support of WELS members. I had the privilege of delivering the sermon. It was a three-hour service (the length was not due to the length of the sermon) that featured words of greeting from the many LCMC–Kenya pastors who were in town because of the synod convention that would meet the next day. The singing was robust and reflected the influence of Kenyan culture. During the service, I also performed five adult baptisms and witnessed one youth confirmation.

We spent the next two days attending the church body’s convention. The faith, zeal, and commitment of the pastors and laypeople attending were truly moving. After the convention, we then visited several area congregations.

Later in the week, we traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There we were greeted by Dr. Kebede Yigezu, the president of the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (LCE). The LCE is also a relatively new sister synod of WELS, with fellowship being declared at the 2017 synod convention. The LCE was formed when Kebede left his previous denomination for doctrinal reasons.

One of the priorities of the LCE is Christian education. In a building in Bishoftu (also provided by the generous gifts of WELS members), Kebede operates a school where three levels of theological training take place. We were privileged to attend the graduation of four men who had completed their training in one of the levels and were ready to begin seminary training.

Kebede also has permission from the local government in Dukem to operate a Christian elementary school there. It already has an enrollment of 400 and will grow to 900 by next year. We visited the school and were impressed by the enthusiasm of the students and the commitment of the teachers.

Sometimes, world missions seem so far away from our lives here in the United States. And sometimes we forget that our fellowship extends far beyond our own synod. I can assure you that these mission efforts are real and the gospel messages are bringing people to Christ. God is building his church and extending his family of believers. Your prayers and mission offerings are having an eternal impact. I am grateful to have seen it up close and personal.

To see photos from the trip, check out “Partnering to spread God’s Word in Kenya and Ethiopia.”

Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 110, Number 1
Issue: January 2023

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This entry is part 7 of 52 in the series presidents message

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