During the past few months I have been privileged to visit and work with companion churches in diverse settings and projects across Southern Africa.
In July I helped lead a Christian education training workshop in Botswana for Sunday School and confirmation teachers. Participants worked enthusiastically in groups to prepare and present lessons for different age groups using the LUCSA Christian Education resource books 1-4.
In August I attended the annual Ecumenical Partners meeting and 30th Anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi. The ELCM was launched in 1982 as the result of local initiatives by Malawians who had lived and worked in neighboring countries where they had come into contact with local Lutheran congregations. Today the ELCM has over 100,000 members and is one of the fastest growing Lutheran churches in the region. The ELCA is accompanying the ELCM through providing assistance for scholarships for pastors, empowering women and youth, climate change mitigation, a clinic at Madisi parish, HIV & AIDS and malaria programs.
In late August and early September I attended the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia with the theme “Baptism: A call to mutual accountability.” The LUCSA is the sub-regional expression of the LWF and is comprised of 15 member churches from 10 countries across Southern Africa. I was honoured to be one of the Bible study presenters at the conference.
In October the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) held its annual Partners’ meeting this time in the small mountainous kingdom of Lesotho. There are a few Lutheran congregations in Lesotho that applied to become part of ELCSA. On the Sunday over 2000 ELCSA members from South Africa came across the border to the capital city of Maseru for a special launch and celebration service.
In early November I also represented the ELCA at the consecration of Rev. Ernst //Gamxamub who is the new bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN). Bishop Zephaniah Kameeta was his predecessor. In May Namibia declared a drought emergency in the country. The ELCA has responded to the LWF ACT appeal with an emergency drought relief grant of $150,000. Lutherans comprise about 40% of the country’s population of 2 million.
At the end of November I am meeting with the ten Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) participants and their coordinator Rev. Tessa Leiseth as they gather for their mid-term retreat in Pietermaritzburg. It is always interesting to reflect together on their experiences of living and learning in the South African context.
As I meet and work with companion churches in Southern African and with companion synod visitors from the ELCA I always stress that it is not the color of your skin, country of origin or a plane ticket that makes you a missionary but your baptism. By God’s grace we are all claimed and called through baptism, gathered, equipped and sent to participate in God’s mission locally and globally for the sake of the world.
Thank you for your prayers and continued support through the ELCA’s Missionary Sponsorship program. We look forward to visiting our sponsoring congregations again in the summer of 2014.
May you have a blessed Advent and Christmas season.
Philip Knutson, ELCA Global Mission. Regional Program Assistant – Southern Africa
Johannesburg, November 5, 2013