Thursday, December 28, 2017

Prayer List - 28 DEC 2017

1.      Nepal – Sanju Bhitrakoti, Raju’s wife was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. She has been admitted to the hospital twice over the past couple of months. Most recently she spent twelve days being treated with medication and an IV. They are expecting their baby on January 15.

2.      Tanzania – Pastor Nathanael Mayhew (CLC Bd of Missions secretary) and Missionary Ohlmann will be leaving for a three week visitation to Tanzania on January 8th. They will spend time visiting and training pastors in the Arusha, Moshi, and Makanya districts. There will also be hosting a general pastoral conference in Moshi. They will also visit new contacts in Dar es Salaam.

3.      D.R. Congo – The CCLC has purchased land for the Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute and has begun making bricks for the construction of a new building. This building will be built in phases over the next few years. This project will be partially funded through a grant from the CLC Mission Development Fund. Eventually the building will provide classrooms, library, offices, and dormitories for students preparing for the ministry. There are currently seven students enrolled in the three year program.

4.      Zambia – Pastor Ibrahim is considering the possibility of moving from Lusaka to Livingstone so that he can spend more time training the pastors and leaders there.

5.      India/Asia – The CLC-India, BELC-India, CLC-Myanmar, National Lutheran Church of Myanmar, and the Himalayan CLC of Nepal are all making preparations for the 2018 Joint Asia Pastoral Conference scheduled for early February. This conference will be held in Nellore where the BELC has a congregation. Pastor Tim Daub is making plans to attend as well. Missionary Ohlmann will be in India during this time and will also be privileged to attend.

6.      Myanmar – Part-Time Visiting Missionary David Koenig and Missionary Ohlmann are making plans to visit Myanmar in late February. Seminars will be held with both church bodies that we work with in Myanmar. The National Lutheran Church is located in Yangon on the South-East border and the CLC-Myanmar is located on the South-West border.

7.      Nepal – Following the Myanmar visit, Missionary Ohlmann will be in Nepal for a few weeks in early March to work with the pastors and leaders of the HCLCN.

8.      Individuals in Senegal, DR Congo, Haiti, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh continue formal Online Theological Studies correspondence courses.

9.      Missionary Ohlmann – will be traveling to Tanzania, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Haiti to work with pastors and leaders over the next few months. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Heading Home from Zambia

It's early Friday (12/15) morning as I wait through the night in the Amsterdam airport for my flight home. It's been a busy three weeks that concluded earlier this week a visit to the city of Kitwe near the north-central border with D.R. Congo, a bus ride back to Lusaka, a seminar for the Women and Sunday School Teachers in the Lusaka area, meetings, and an unfruitful attempt at securing a Missionary Visa for D.R. Congo. 

Kitwe Visit...

Congregation in the Kitwe area meets in a rented school classroom 
Pastor Yumba, who is the president of the CCLC in D.R. Congo works along the Zambia/D.R. Congo border. He is also working to train a few pastors in the city of Kitwe. Since I was denied a visa to visit D.R. Congo arrangements were made to meet with Pastor Yumba and the pastors in Kitwe. There just happened to be a large regional soccer tournament being held in Kitwe the same time were there so the buses, streets, and hotels were packed. We attended a worship service on Sunday morning at the congregation of one of the pastors who Pastor Yumba is working with. We also had meetings to get updated information on the work of the CCLC D.R. Congo. Pastor Yumba has drafted a new letter asking the D.R. Congo consulate in the U.S. to grant me a visa so that I can visit in late spring of 2018. We'll see what happens! 

There has been a lot warfare  and fighting among rebels in the eastern part of DRC in recent months and there is currently a massive refugee crisis along their north-east and south-east borders with hundreds of children dying daily of starvation and disease. I talked to other travelers in Zambia who have also been denied visas to visit DRC. They speculate that DRC President/Dictator Kabila is trying to keep international observations at a minimum and this has led to a denial of visa applications from western countries. Here's a couple of news articles about the on-going crisis in DRC:

Seminar for Women and Sunday School Teachers in Lusaka area...

There were more than forty in attendance as we encouraged these women to raise up the children of their community in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This is a challenge as many of the men in this particular are absent from their families. This particular congregation that Pastor Ibrahim has been working with is located in a very impoverished area of Lusaka that is built near a local dump and polluted lagoon. I was told that many of the men have turned to drugs and alcohol and so the women in this community are left to raise their children with very little support or encouragement from the fathers of the children. Education levels are very low and job opportunities are limited.

The two hour seminar focused on the encouragement that God's word provides when we remind one another of God's love for sinners like us and His faithfulness to His promises of grace and mercy. 

Please remember these women, families, husbands, and those who are called to serve them with God's saving word in your prayers.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Sent to...Livingstone, Zambia - December 2017

A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NKJV)

The last time I in Zambia was in July of 2015 with the Mission Helpers. One of the privileges we had on that trip was to meet a group of pastors and evangelists in the area that were interested in the work that the CLC was doing in Zambia along with Pastor Ibrahim. There were about twenty-four men who were loosely organized and working together to spread the Gospel in villages out in the bush. Pastor Ibrahim had met the leader of the group on one of his trips through the area on his way to visit a CLC contact in Zimbabwe. Livingstone is just a couple of kilometers away from the Zambezi River, which forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Before independence, these two countries were a British colony called Rhodesia.

Pastor Sait was the pastor who organized and led this group of pastors. None of these men had been given the privilege of attending a Bible college or seminary. They all seemed rather eager to learn. So, in 2015 Pastor Ibrahim asked me if we could travel to Livingstone with the Mission Helpers and spend a couple of days meeting with these pastors. The first day we had twenty-four men in attendance. By the second day we were down to fourteen. These fourteen men expressed their agreement with what had been taught and their desire to continue training in Lutheran doctrine with the goal of becoming faithful preachers and teachers of the truth of God’s saving word. We were thankful for what the Lord had done in Livingstone and a recommendation for minimal funding  for travel and meeting expenses to the CLC Board of Missions was approved and a few months later a CLC-Zambia pastoral training center was established.

Fast forward about two years and things have changed quite a bit. What we thought was a well laid plan actually fell apart when Pastor Sait suddenly died about one year ago. Now there are only three from the original group that have continued in study with Pastor Ibrahim. In addition to these three men, five new men have joined in the studies. Of these eight men, six have successfully completed an adult instruction course and received certificates of completion at a special worship service held on December 3rd.  

Six men who completed one year of study with Pastor Ibrahim
These eight men are committed to continued study with Pastor Ibrahim and would very much like him to move to Livingstone so that classes could be held more than just four days a month. There is definitely a strong desire among these men to dedicate themselves to the study of God’s word to become faithful preachers of God’s saving word.

As mentioned earlier, Pastor Sait died rather suddenly with much suspicion of foul play. The evangelism work that Pastor Sait and the others had been doing in rural villages had born fruit in one particular village that didn’t have a Christian congregation. The stories and rumors are many, but the consistent details include a tribal chief wanting to give land to the CLC-Zambia so that Pastor Sait could build a church for the village. The other parts of the story have to do with another (rather unscrupulous) evangelist that had also begun to work in the village after Pastor Sait’s group had found some success. As the rumor goes, Pastor Sait and the tribal chief sat to visit with the man to try to get him to stop spreading lies about Pastor Sait and the others in an attempt to ruin their reputation. Not long after the meeting Pastor Sait suddenly collapsed and died. It is suspected that he was poisoned by the rival evangelist.

Upon the death of Pastor Sait, the group disbanded and stopped meeting for classes. A few of the men called Pastor Ibrahim and told him that they wanted to continue studying with him. And so, he began making the 8-9 hour one-way bus ride twice a month to bring the truth of God’s word to these men. One of the men, Kebby Chifofoma, was asked to take over the pastoral duties of the congregation that Pastor Sait had served. He along with several young men from the congregation are now the group of eight students that attend the classes. These men all serve in different capacities and have a desire to spread the Gospel and start new congregations in rural villages that don’t have the truth of God’s word. 

Steve Liswaniso (left) Pastor Ibrahim (right)
One particular young man named Steve Liswaniso spent all of his time with us while we were in Livingstone. He was very attentive everything that needed to be scheduled and taken care of for the classes, worship service, memorial service of Pastor Sait, and evangelism efforts. We don’t know exactly what the Lord has in store for this group of dedicated men, women, and children, but we trust that His word will not return to him void, just as He has promised.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:8–11, NKJV)

Public School where CLC-Zambia Congregation meets
The group currently meets in a public school classroom that is made available on the weekends. This is not ideal because every classroom is used by a church group on Sunday mornings for worship and it gets very chaotic and noisy as every group seems to be trying to out-do the others with the sound level of their speakers. The group would very much like to buy or build a church building that could serve the congregation and also provide a space for Ibrahim to stay (or live) and teach on his semi-monthly visits.
Pastor Ibrahim giving a test on the day's lessons
Please pray for this fledgling group of Christians, the men who have been called to serve them with the Gospel, and their evangelism efforts in villages where the Gospel is not present. Pray also for Pastor Ibrahim to give him the necessary dedication, wisdom, and commitment as he continues to train these individuals for the Gospel ministry and struggles with decision of whether to stay in Lusaka or move to Livingstone.

A little bit about Livingstone -- This city is located near the Zambezi river about three miles from Victoria Falls. It's also about four miles away from Zimbabwe border crossing. Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall in the world and is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. 

Mosi-oa-Tunya from the air during the rainy season. photo credit unknown
Locally, it is referred to as Mosi-Oa-Tunya, which loosely translates to "thunderous smoke waters" because during the rainy season the mist that rises up from the base of the waterfall can be seen for miles and appears to be smoke rising out of the valley. It is an amazing sight. 

Victoria Falls near the end of the dry season. Photo taken by me on 03 DEC 2017
Dr. David Livingstone, the famous missionary and explorer of Africa, was the first European to see the falls and he named it after Queen Victoria. 
Statue of Dr. David Livingstone's first glimpse of Mosi-oa-Tunya in 1855

Monday, December 4, 2017

Prayer List...04 DEC 2017

CLC Mission Opportunities Prayer List
04 DEC 2017
1.      Six pastor/evangelists/students in Livingstone, Zambia met for pastoral training on Dec. 1st and 2nd. They have been in studies with Pastor Ibrahim for the past two years. On Sunday, Dec. 3rd they received certificates of completion for the first phase of their instruction.

2.      The main leader in the Livingstone Zambia district recently died and there have been many struggles as a result. But it would appear that the Lord is using even this tragedy to strengthen His work in this area. More will be reported in an upcoming Spokesman article.

3.      Pastor Ibrahim and I will be traveling back to Lusaka by bus tomorrow (12/5) where we will spend the next four days training pastors and doing evangelism and home visits in two different areas on the outskirts of Lusaka. Then we will travel to Kitwe, a city near the D.R. Congo border where we will meet with Pastor Yumba of the CLC in D.R. Congo.

4.      Before I return to the U.S. I will visit the D.R. Congo embassy in Lusaka with a letter from Pastor Yumba requesting a longer-term missionary visa. In recent years it has become quite difficult to obtain any type of visitor visa, making CLC visits impossible. The last CLC visit to D.R. Congo was in January of 2013 when Missionary Ude and his wife Vanessa visited. Pray that the Lord will bless this effort to secure the necessary visa.

5.      The CLC-India, BELC-India, CLC-Myanmar, National Lutheran Church of Myanmar, and the Himalayan CLC of Nepal are all making preparations for the 2018 Joint Asia Pastoral Conference scheduled for early February. Pastor Tim Daub is making plans to attend as well. I will also be in India during this time and will be privileged to attend.

6.      Part-Time Visiting Missionary David Koenig and I are making plans to visit Myanmar in late February. Seminars will be held with both church bodies that we work with in Myanmar. The National Lutheran Church is located in Yangon on the South-East border and the CLC-Myanmar is located on the South-West border.

7.      Following the Myanmar visit, I will be in Nepal for a few weeks in early March to work with the pastors and leaders of the HCLCN.

8.      Sanju Bhitrakoti – Raju’s wife was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. She is doing much better. They are expecting their baby on January 15.

9.      Pastor Kham in Myanmar recently reported that they were successful in registering their church body with the local and state government and they are now in the process of registration with national government. They will register as the Church of the Lutheran Confession of Myanmar rather than the Zomi Lutheran Church (as they have been know) which only identifies them with the local Zomi tribe.

10.  Pastor John Hein and Pastor Em. Dave Koenig have recently returned from Liberia. Pray that the Lord will bless His word that has been taught and proclaimed. And thank Him for this new opportunity to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.

11.  Individuals in Senegal, DR Congo, Haiti, and Bangladesh continue formal Online Theological Studies correspondence courses this month.

12.  Pastors from the Nigerian-CLC of the Lutheran Confession and MELC in Togo met last week. Pastor Kossi had some difficulties in his travels from Togo to Nigeria but the Lord protected and delivered him safely to the conference and home again. Thank the Lord for His protection of His servant in difficult circumstances.

13.  Progress has been made in preparing for Missionary Ohlmann and Pastor Mayhew’s visit to Tanzania in early 2018. It has been three years since the last CLC visitation to Tanzania and there is much work to be done. They will conduct pastoral training seminars and will also be investigating opportunities to reestablish organized efforts to train pastors.

14.  The MELC in Togo has just recently been approved by the Togo government to begin caring for orphans and providing for children in need in the impoverished portion of the city of Lome where the main congregation is located. Through Kinship sponsorship they are now caring for six orphans. They are also providing help with a weekly nutrition program, clothing, school supplies, and a weekly Bible school.

15.   The BELC in India continues to train new men for leadership roles as the opportunities to start new pastoral training districts increase.
16.   The CLC-India makes preparation for their Christmas outreach efforts. Pray that the recent anti-Christian rhetoric does not interfere with their plans to proclaim the birth of the Savior of the world.