And God’s Church Grows On

Date posted: Friday 17 November 2017

As a pastoral intern I served a congregation on the suburban edge of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Located at a global crossroads and at the gateway to the diversity of Southeast Asia, I followed my congregation members as they ministered to short-term migrant workers from Nepal. Young men seeking economic advancement came to this modern, predominantly Muslim, Malay megacity from a former Hindu kingdom and, through this migrant ministry partnership, became Christians in the process. And then they would return home, planting house churches in Nepal on the border of India or in other far-flung locales where migrant labor was in high demand - places like Seoul, Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai.
Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Lutheran Churches in Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong have joined others in the Mekong Mission Forum and helped to establish the Lutheran Church in Cambodia - a new church body that ordained their very first pastor this month. From the island of Borneo another Lutheran body, the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia is equipping and sending leaders who are fluent in both English and Chinese to serve as missionaries in multilingual communities of ethnic Chinese in Australia, Madagascar and Tanzania. And this is just scratching the surface of what God is up to in that corner of the world.
In East Africa, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania is another center of energy and creativity. Domestically they have grown from having 20 dioceses to having 24 (of which Iringa is one), and are poised to add three more in the coming years. Numerically their total membership has risen as well, adding half a million members between 2014 and 2016. Regionally they are known to be a missionary church as well and have played a key role in the establishment of Lutheran churches in neighboring countries like Kenya and Rwanda. Clearly God is up to something there as well.
The Spirit is moving and we, the people of the Saint Paul Area Synod, have the opportunity to join in.
As part of the Campaign for the ELCA, we have pledged to support a project with the ELCT called 'Effective Outreach in the Twenty-First Century.' Leaning on the strengths of this national church body, the project will develop a training course at Makumira University in Arusha. An initial pilot program will bring leaders from neighboring countries to learn about evangelism and outreach from the ELCT and then return home to implement their learnings. In future iterations the scope and scale of the program will expand to include leaders from global partners - including those in North America and Europe, too. From there the possibilities are endless as God's church grows on.
The excitement for this project was palpable at this year's BKB Fall Festival as we raised nearly $11,000 toward our $15,000 base commitment. Individuals and congregations who would like to join the effort and help us reach this goal should contact Greg Triplett in the synod office. To those who have already given, we say 'Asante Sana' and to those who are prayerfully considering the invitation we of course say, 'Karibu Sana' too. You are very welcome.
With gratitude and excitement,
The Rev. Peter Harrits
Director of Bega Kwa Bega & Assistant to the Bishop