Messiah Missionary Rev. Phil Knutson

For many years, Messiah Lutheran Church has financially sponsored Rev. Phil in his role as ELCA Missionary to South Africa. We enjoy his quarterly letter, as well as his annual visit to the States, when he usually stops by to give us an update. Below is a copy of his most recent letter to us.

March 2018
Dear friends,
“They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He … began to tell them what was to happen to the Son of Man… ‘they will condemn him to death …and kill him and after three days he will rise again.’” (Mark 10:32-34).
 
During the season of Lent, just as the disciples and others were on the road with Jesus and were at times amazed and afraid we are privileged and challenged to walk and work together with our companions in Southern Africa. Accompaniment means sharing hopes and fears, joys and sorrows and learning what it means to participate together in God’s mission in the way of the cross.
 
Last week I attended the Joint Mission Board (JMB) meeting of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique (IELM) in the Indian ocean port city of Beira. Each year the leadership of the IELM meets with Lutheran partners from the ELCA, Brazil, Germany, Geneva, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Bishop Eduardo Sinalo shared the annual report of the church and talked about ways we can collaborate as companions to support the church’s ministry and diakonia programs for the coming year.
 
On the Sunday we were invited to participate in the worship service in the local congregation of Matacuane. Heavy rains the previous night, which flooded many streets, delayed but did not stop the start of the service. After Holy Communion the Sunday School children, youth and women took turns dancing in and out of the church singing. The congregation and guests gathered for a meal and fellowship afterwards.
 
ELCA Global Mission accompanies the IELM in its mission outreach, with scholarships for leadership training and support for two rural clinics and programs for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs).
 
Thank you for your prayers and support and for your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Peace and blessings.
 
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson,  ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa
Johannesburg, Feb. 24, 2018
 
Please note the link to my online giving page on www.elca.org: community.elca.org/SouthAfrica 
 
Newsletter February 2018
 
 
The New York Times recently picked up on an issue which is now in the news in South Africa every day: “Day Zero for Cape Town.”
 
The city of Cape Town with four million residents is experiencing the worst drought in over a century. Dams are dangerously low and if the rains do not come soon the city may have to switch off the taps in April. Residents will then have to queue to collect their ration of water at 200 distribution points which will have major logistical, health and security issues. Already the price of bottled water has spiked.
 
South Africa, along with many other rain-scarce countries in Africa, is vulnerable to the effects of climate change and faces a long-term challenge with providing enough water for its people, agriculture and industry. This crisis highlights the fact that policies and practices by governments, businesses and ordinary people regarding water usage will have to change not only in Cape Town but around the world.
 
The watchword for the year 2018 from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) Almanac is from Revelation 21:6b “To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” ELCSA Presiding Bishop AM Mnisi writes in the preface to the devotional booklet, “Christ is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, everything belongs to him. He sees that we are thirsty and offers fresh water for all to drink at no cost…Salvation is given freely, without price.” The LWF subthemes marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 were “Salvation is not for sale!,” “Human beings are not for sale!” and “Creation is not for sale!”
 
As ELCA Global Mission we are privileged and challenged to walk with our companions in Southern Africa in God’s mission through programs that support evangelism outreach, leadership development, theological training, health care and sustainable development including strategies to provide safe, secure water supplies and mitigation of the effects of climate change and poverty.
 
Thank you for your prayers and support and for your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Peace and blessings.
 
Yours faithfully, Collecting well water at Munene Clinic in Mozambique

Thank you for your prayers, support and participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson,  ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa

Johannesburg, Feb. 2, 2018

https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

 
 

Please note the link to my online giving page on www.elca.org: community.elca.org/SouthAfrica

Newsletter November 2017

From Oct. 20 to 22, I attended the commemoration events of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Durban hosted by Bishop PP Buthelezi and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern - South Eastern Diocese (ELCSA – SED).

An ecumenical service was held at the Emmanuel Catholic Cathedral in downtown Durban. Wilfrid Fox Napier OFM Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and archbishop of Durban welcomed Catholics, Lutherans and other denominations to the joint event. Bishop Munib Younan (Bishop of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and former President of the Lutheran World Federation), invited as special guest speaker, emphasized how Lutherans and Catholics have come closer together through the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999, the 2017 document From Conflict to Communion and the historic joint service in Lund, Sweden in October 2016 together with Pope Francis.

On Saturday, Oct. 21 a cultural program was organized with participation by children, youth and adult choirs from across the diocese, traditional dance groups and a drama about the Reformation.

Bishop Younan delivered the Luther Lecture with the theme: “Working towards Peace and Reconciliation amongst the people of the Middle East” (With particular reference to the conflict in Palestine and Israel).

On Sunday, Oct. 22 an open-air worship service with Holy Communion was held at the Kings Park stadium.

Bishop Buthelezi delivered the sermon based on John 8:31-36 emphasizing that Jesus Christ is the Truth who alone can set us free. Because of Christ “Change can happen for all people in bondage including the people of occupied Palestine as happened with the ending of apartheid in South Africa.”

Bishop Younan also spoke on the LWF theme “Liberated by God’s Grace” and the three sub-themes “Salvation not for sale!” “Humans not for sale!” and “Creation not for sale!”.

It was a great privilege to be invited to attend these events as regional representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – Global Mission.

Thank you for your prayers, support and participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson,  ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa

Johannesburg, Oct. 23, 2017

https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

 

Newsletter October 2017

 

Recently I travelled to Chimoio in central Mozambique with six members of Our Saviours Lutheran Church (Naperville, IL) to visit congregations and projects of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique (ELCM). ELCM Bishop Eduardo Sinalo, General Secretary Abel Macuacua and Mr. Mishek Ruwa coordinator for the Vida Humana project were our hosts and guides.
 
Vida Humana is a project of the ELCM which was started in Chimoio in 2005 to assist people in the community living with HIV & AIDS. Thirteen volunteer activists or advocates who are also members of the Lutheran congregation in Chimoio do regular home visits to encourage and assist those who are on Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, organize transportation to the hospital when needed and oversee distribution of e-pap, a concentrated nutritious food supplement. The advocates invited us to walk along with them on visits to some of the homes.
During our stay we also travelled in a small bus to visit the Martin Luther Clinic in the rural community of Munene and then to the nearby town of Catandica 140 km north of Chimoio.
 
We were taken on a short tour of the clinic, the house for expectant mothers and the nurses’ house. The district health officer reported that the number of patients visiting the clinic has increased substantially over the years and the clinic is playing a vital role in providing essential health services in the district. The clinic was built with the support of ELCA World Hunger funds. The government provides for two nurses and medicine.
 
After the visit to the clinic members of the local Lutheran congregation at Munene welcomed the visitors with singing and dancing and served a meal in the church building.
 
On Sunday we attended a worship service with Holy Communion at the Lutheran church in Chimoio. Bishop Sinalo preached a mission sermon based on the story of Jonah. After a lively service the whole congregation joined in a community meal.
 
At the end of our stay we met with the church leadership and the activists of the Vida Humana project to hear about successes and challenges and to talk about the vision for the future and how we can continue to walk faithfully together through mutual support, accountability and transparency.

Thank you for your prayers, support and participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson,  ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa

Johannesburg, Sept. 29, 2017

https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please note the new link to my online giving page on www.elca.org: community.elca.org/SouthAfrica

 

Newsletter August 2017

I recently made a return trip to Zimbabwe to attend a week-long training workshop in conflict prevention, management, resolution and peace building presented by the Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF).

I was invited by ELCA Global Mission to join up with six delegates from the Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) Upper Nile Internal Province who also participated in the workshop. (South Sudan is the newest independent country in Africa and has been affected by internal conflict and large-scale displacement of its inhabitants.) Some 40 church leaders from various ministers’ fraternals across the country of Zimbabwe came for training.

The program included sessions in demystifying conflict, tools for conflict analysis, effective listening and communication, managing perceptions, power dynamics, healing, reconciliation and strategic peace building.

The week ended with a field visit to meet with two Local Peace Committees (LPCs). Both groups testified how the training in conflict management and peace building by the ECLF team had changed their lives and communities. Both communities had decided that their priority was to build a clinic and had laid the foundations using only local labor, local materials and contributions from each household in the ward. We learned at both sites how training by the ECLF had helped them to management conflicts and work together despite being from different political parties, churches and ethnic groups. All agreed that peace brings development.

The delegation from South Sudan is already planning with the ECLF team from Zimbabwe and the ELCA Global mission on how to share experiences and undergo training in peace building in South Sudan.

Thank you for your prayers, support and participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson,  ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa

Johannesburg, June 12, 2017

https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

 


Newsletter July 2017

Zimbabwe achieved its independence in 1980.  Violence during the struggle for liberation and post-independence conflicts left many communities and individuals traumatized. Following the 2008 elections and economic crisis church leaders formed the Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF) in 2009 with Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe Bishop-emeritus Dr. Ambrose Moyo as executive director.

Initially the ECLF focused on working with member churches but this soon extended to local communities and the adoption of the slogan “church and community walking together for peace.”

The ECLF peace-building program includes training in mediation, communication, conflict resolution and prevention, healing and reconciliation.  The ECLF reports that through this program individuals, families, members of different political parties and communities have been reconciled and are now working together on community development and livelihood projects.

The ECLF has introduced its program into all ten provinces and several districts and wards training some 300 local peace facilitators. 

Earlier this month the ECLF in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) hosted a stakeholders’ forum with the theme “Consolidating and Deepening of Community Building Processes” near Masvingo in central Zimbabwe.  I was privileged to attend the meeting on behalf of the ELCA Global Mission.

The program included field visits to meet with several Local Peace Committees (LPCs).  Participants travelled together to Zaka District and started the visit with a courtesy call to the local government office.

In Zaka District poverty, political intolerance and religious differences had resulted in conflicts and tensions in homes and communities.  In 2015 a series of ECLF peacebuilding workshops were held in the area.  Local leaders and community members who completed the training formed Local Peace Committees in each village.  As a result of the training, members of one community began to work together to build a stone bridge over a stream that flooded often after heavy rains.  One woman showed the blisters on her hands and said “these are wounds of peace.” Other LPC members said:  It does not matter that we belong to different political parties or churches, peace brings development.  This bridge connects us and is for our children and grandchildren.  ECLF peace training brought reconciliation and removed negative perceptions, grudges and conflicts.  We could not see each other as brothers and sisters.  When we found peace, we started to work together.  We were transformed. There are other projects we hope to accomplish together now as well.

There is so much that we can learn from the work of the ECLF in Zimbabwe.  One important lesson is that churches and communities need to work together if the call for peace, healing, justice and reconciliation is to be credible and effective. 

Thank you for your prayers, support and participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson,  ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa

Johannesburg, June 12, 2017

https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

 


 

 

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