Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Finishing Up in Nepal...On to Bangladesh

Good Morning from Kathmandu...

Joel and I arrived back in Kathmandu last night (Wednesday, Feb. 27) after spending the past several days traveling, visiting, and teaching in a far west district of the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal. We've got relatively good WiFi access in our hotel and a few hours before we leave for the airport to catch our 1:00 pm flight from Kathmandu to Dhaka, Bangladesh, so I thought I would try to get a few thoughts and pictures on the blog before we head out.

We spent more hours riding in the car over winding, bumpy, under-construction, washed-out, road than I care to calculate. Raju did all the driving and his father joined us. They make this trip every few months for pastoral training classes with ten men who are serving congregations in the surrounding hills. These men have been in contact with the HCLCN for a few years but just started formal classes about a year ago with a grant from the CLC-Mission Development Fund. They will study for another couple of years until they are formally received into fellowship. This district happens to be one of the areas of Nepal that has received a lot of Christian persecution so we kept a pretty low profile while we were there. For this reason, I am purposefully leaving out the names of the towns and pastors for their protection.

On our way to the West, we also spent a day with students and pastors in the Chitwan district. This area of Nepal is where the majority of the HCLCN congregations are located. We conducted pastoral training on Thursday and all the pastors traveled back to their congregations up in the Himalayan foothills on Friday so they would be home for worship services on Saturday (the only weekend day in Nepal). So, we had Friday as a down day to catch our breath and do a little sight-seeing. There is a big national park in the Chitwan District where lots of tourists come to visit. So we had a good time riding elephants for about an hour and a half. We were fortunate to see a pair of Rhinos, which is a rare. We also got some good coffee, good food, good rest, and got to see elephants walking by our hotel throughout the day.

After some necessary car repairs, we began our trip from Chitwan to the west. The trip took us two days as we routed through Lumbini to pick up Raju's father from the airport so he could join us for the classes out west. Lumbini happens to be the birthplace of the Siddhartha, the son of the ruling king at the time, who forsook his wealth and royal status and eventually became the Buddha of Buddhism. As you can imagine, this has become a "holy" pilgrimage site for millions of Buddhists and Hindus alike. It's always hard to witness such open and blatant idol worship. It breaks my heart to see so many people bowing down and giving devotion to idols of wood and stone and at the same time rejecting the love, forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life that our Savior Jesus won for us on the cross. But witnessing all of this also drives home the importance of the work our Savior has given us to do as He sends us into all the world to make disciples of all nations by baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as we teach them to observe all things that He has commanded us with the promise that He is with us always, even to the end of the age! (Matthew 28:18-20)

I know that I repeat these thoughts often in this blog, but I can't seem to find the describe the appreciation I have for the joy of the Lord and the privilege I He has given to be able to spend this time working alongside these faithful Christians. Their dedication to our Savior, His Kingdom, and the work of proclaiming the truth of His saving word is overwhelming. They do it with joy, commitment, dedication, selflessness, and an obvious love for the Lord, His Word, and the souls for whom our Savior died. I only wish that I had more time to spend!

Later today we will be met by Pastor Monotosh Banjaree who leads the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission. We will spend the next few days visiting a few congregations and schools. We will also spend a day with the other leaders of this Confessional Lutheran Church body to discuss our doctrinal positions as we take this first and important step toward establishing a God-pleasing fellowship based upon unity of doctrine. It's exciting and a bit overwhelming and humbling all at the same time to be involved with this kind of Kingdom work. Your prayers are much appreciated!

Also, please join me in giving thanks for my incredible wife who loves the Lord, our family, and (incredibly enough) me. Thank our Savior for because she is so supportive of me and this work that the Lord has called me to as she so willingly keeps up with all the necessities of family life back home.

Here's a few pictures from the past several days...
HCLC-Nepal Pastors and Students in the Chitwan District
Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal Pastors and Students in the Chitwan District

Rare Rhino sighting in the Chitwan National Forest

Our Hoti (elephant) and Mahout (driver) for a 1 1/2 hour ride through the Chitwan Jungle

Birthplace of Siddhartha (the Buddha) in Lumbini, Nepal

Pastor/Students in the far west district of the HCLC-Nepal

Pastor/Students in the far west district of the HCLC-Nepal

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Finishing Up in Myanmar...On to Nepal and Bangladesh...

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I've spent the last two weeks in Myanmar working with the Church of the Lutheran Confession of Myanmar (Kalaymyo) and the National Lutheran Church of Myanmar (Yangon). This evening I will fly from Yangon to Kathmandu, Nepal via Kuala Lampur.

I'm looking forward to meeting up with Joel Krafft (CLC Board of Missions Chairman) in Nepal tomorrow afternoon. We will have a quick night in Kathmandu and then up at 4:00 am for an early departure on Thursday so we can get to Chitwan in time for the pastoral conference. Friday we will catch our breath and Saturday is worship. Then we will travel the long road to the Dang district for a two day seminar with ten men who training to be pastors. Then it's back to Kathmandu to catch a flight to Bangladesh to meet with pastors of the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission. Then back to Kathmandu to catch our flight back home!

In Kalaymyo we held a two day (Friday and Saturday) Bible Training Seminar at the church headquarters with teaching from 8:30 to 3:30 pm each day and worship each evening. And we gathered for morning and evening Worship on Sunday. We had over one hundred in attendance. A little less than half those in attendance were from the local congregation. All the others in attendance were pastors, evangelists, elders, and members from some of the fifty-four rural congregations in Chin State. They traveled by bus, motorbike, bicycle, and in back of pick-up-truck taxis to attend.

In Yangon we followed basically the same schedule with forty in attendance.

The topic in both places was a study of the Apostolic Creed as an outline of the foundational truths of our Salvation. We broke the creed into twelve parts and discussed why each was important and where it is taught in Scripture and the comfort and encouragement these truths provide on a daily basis. For some it was a good review of the "basics" of our faith. For others, like the elderly Hindu man and the two Buddhists who attended, this was probably the first time these truths had been explained to them. What a privilege to bring the Gospel to so many!

At both Kalaymyo and Yangon we also spent a great deal of time discussing the work that the Lord has given us to do together. We explored opportunities and plans to train more men for the Gospel ministry.

In Yangon, there are several orphanages. Some are big, with more one hundred children and other are quite small with just ten to fifteen children. We visited three orphanages where Pastor Charles has had the opportunity to teach the children about their Savior. These orphanages are run by husband and wife. Pastor Charles is excited that two of the men involved with these orphanages would like to receive training so they can start congregations in their neighborhoods.

Here's a few pictures from the past couple of weeks in Myanmar...
Pastors, Evangelists, Elders, and Members of the CLC-Myanmar after worship in Kalaymyo
Pastors, Evangelists, and Elders of the Church of the Lutheran Confession of Myanmar

Pastor Charles translates and explains at the Bible Training Seminar in Yangon, Myanmar
Attendees at the Bible Training Seminar in Yangon, Myanmar

Children and teachers (sisters of Pastor Charles) of the Good Samaritan Lutheran Preschool in Yangon
Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Yangon, Myanmar...established in 1878 by Tamil Lutherans from India

Pastor Charles' 11 year old daughter was quite pleased to take a break from rice...she loves pizza!

Sunset over the Irrawaddy River during a layover in Mandalay

Saturday, February 16, 2019

CLC Mission Opportunities Prayer List...16 FEB 2019

1.    Missionary to India – Unfortunately, the India government canceled our missionary’s visa without notification. He was detained, denied entry into the country, and was sent back to the U.S. the next day. He has now returned safely to the U.S. The Board of Missions recently met and decided to re-assign him as a Resident Missionary to West Africa. He will be be based in Lomé, Togo for the majority of the year and will work with our brethren in Togo, Benin, Ghana, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Give thanks to the Lord for the opportunities He has provided to assist in training men to be faithful preachers and teachers of His saving word in India and so many other places around the world. 

Give thanks to the Lord for keeping our missionary safe during this ordeal. Pray that the Lord will give wisdom and clear direction to the Board of Missions as they consider other opportunities for the CLC to continue to assist out sister church bodies (CLCI and BELC) in India in the work of training pastors, teachers, and evangelists to spread the Gospel in India where the darkness of idol worship is so prevalent. 

Pray also for our brothers and sisters in Christ in India that the Lord will give them strength, determination, zeal, love, and courage and that they will not be discouraged by Satan’s attempts to silence the Gospel message!  

2.    Visiting Missionary – Missionary Ohlmann has spent the last several weeks working with the leaders of the CLC-Tanzania, CLC-Zambia, and the CCLC in D.R. Congo. On Tuesday, February 5th he arrived in Yangon, Myanmar where he spent two weeks working with the National Lutheran Church of Myanmar in Yangon and the CLC-Myanmar in Kalyamyo, Chin State. On February 19th, he will travel to Kathmandu, Nepal where he will meet up with CLC Board of Missions chairman Joel Krafft, Together, they will work with the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal for a couple of weeks. They will then fly to Bangladesh to conduct a first-time face to face meeting with leaders of the Bangladesh Lutheran Mission Church. By the time Missionary Ohlmann returns home in mid-March, he will have been gone for nearly nine weeks. Pray for safe and uneventful travel and for his family while he is away.

3.    2019 CLC Mission Helper TripDue to the increased scrutiny and hostility towards Christians we and our Indian brethren have had in the last several months, the Board of Missions made the decision to cancel the Mission Helper Trip to India and send them to Tanzania and Zambia in East Africa instead. This was done out of concern for the safety of the Mission Helpers, but also concern for our the welfare of our Indian brethren who may experience increased hostility because of the presence of so many foreigners visiting their congregations and teaching the Gospel in so many villages. The Board of Missions is working on a plan to send two CLC pastors to India for a three-week visitation this summer. Pray that the Lord will bless these plans to work with and assist our brothers and sisters in Christ to proclaim the Good News of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life through our Savior Jesus Christ!

4.    Tanzania – Missionary Ohlmann recently spent two weeks in Tanzania in early January. We spend the time working with the leaders and pastors of the CLC-Tanzania. He and two leaders of the CLC-TZ traveled to the city of Mwanza near the Burundi border in the north-west part of Tanzania to meet with three independent pastors who have been in correspondence with the CLC-TZ for the past few years. Two days of doctrinal discussions and pastoral training took place along with visits to the two of the three congregations. The president of the CLC-TZ also has close relatives that live in the area who are also quite excited about the possibility of establishing faithful Lutheran congregations in the area. Leaders from the CLC-TZ will be making another visit soon for more doctrinal discussions. Pray that the Lord will bless this effort to establish fellowship with these three independent congregations and pastors and that this will be another opportunity to spread the Gospel in near-by Burundi where there are more independent pastors and congregations who have contacted the CLC-TZ.

5.    The Wartburg Lutheran Theological Seminary of Tanzania – While Missionary Ohlmann was in Tanzania, three days of meetings were held with the leaders of the CLC-TZ and the teaching staff for the newly established seminary. Much was accomplished and final plans for class schedules, teaching assignments, student transportation, room and board, etc. were finalized. Classes are scheduled to begin with eight students (2 from each district) on February 25th! Missionary Ohlmann plans to return to Tanzania in late August to spend a week reviewing with both students and teachers following the first two semesters of classroom instruction. Pray for both students and teachers that the Lord will bless this effort and that He will provide all that is necessary for this important work to go forward.

6.    Zambia – While Missionary Ohlmann was in Zambia for two weeks he had an opportunity to review the newly adopted constitution of the Confessional Lutheran Church of Zambia and to see first hand the government registration documents and provisional certificates. This is a big step for the three districts of the CLC-Zambia. This will allow them to start new preaching stations and eventually purchase property in the name of the church. They are also making plans to start a seminary in the next few years and this registration will allow them to do so without the interference of trouble makers. They are currently looking to purchase a building in Livingstone area (where there are not other Lutheran congregations) to serve as a residence, office, church, Bible School, and seminary. Pray that the Lord will give them guidance and direction in these plans and that He will bless their every effort to proclaim the truth of His saving word.

7.    Zambia – Say a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for the opportunity that the Lord has given to the CLC-Zambia to purchase a building for about one-third of the going cost. They have been looking for a building to purchase for the past couple of years and there was nothing available within a price-range that they could afford with a CLC-Mission Development Fund grant. Their patience paid off and the Lord has provided!

8.    Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – Due to the recent presidential elections (the first free and open elections since their independence in 1960), current political climate, refugee crisis, and on-going armed conflict, it has been a few years since our CLC missionaries have been able to acquire the necessary visa to visit DRC. Because Missionary Ohlmann was denied an entry visa, leaders of the CCLC-D.R. Congo traveled over the border into Zambia to meet with Missionary Ohlmann and to facilitate the pastoral training seminars among the CLC-Zambia congregations in this northern district of Zambia known as the Copperbelt Province. Pastor Yumba gave extensive reports concerning the pastoral students he has been training for the past two years. These students have been attending classes five days a week for the past two years in a temporary building while they wait for the completion of the new building to be completed. The seminary is called Holy Trinity Lutheran Seminary. Over ten acres of land has been acquired for the seminary. Through an MDF grant from the CLC construction continues on three buildings that will serve as classrooms/chapel, dormitory, and a library/office. There is also plenty of room on the property for farming where the students will be responsible to raise food as a portion of their school fees. Pray that the Lord will bless these men and those who are teaching them in their last year of classroom instruction and during their year-long internship. They are all scheduled to graduate and be ordained in October of 2020.

9.    Myanmar – Seminars in Kalaymyo and Yangon have been conducted by Missionary Ohlmann who has spent the past two weeks working with the leaders of the CLC-Myanmar in Kalaymyo and the National Lutheran Church of Myanmar in Yangon. Pray that the Lord will bless the word that has been taught and that those in attendance were strengthened in their faith and that those who heard the truth for the first time will be led by the Holy Spirit to repent of their and in saving faith, rejoice in the forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life through Jesus Christ.

10.  Nepal – Translation of Luther’s Large Catechism into Nepalese has recently been completed and five-hundred copies will be printed and ready for distribution to the pastors of the HCLC-Nepal in February. The pastors will then begin leading congregations and preaching stations through a study this book. This project was made possible through a grant from the CLC Mission Development Fund (MDF). Thank the Lord for providing the gifts, abilities, and financial resources to complete this project. Pray that the Lord will bless the study of His word and strengthen the faith of those who are given the opportunity to study this book together with their pastor.

11.  Nepal CLC Board of Missions Chairman, Joel Krafft will join Missionary Ohlmann in Nepal in mid-February. Together they will visit several congregations and meet with the pastors and students of the Himalayan Church of the Lutheran Confession of Nepal for a training seminar. While in Nepal they will also have the opportunity to travel to the recently established Dang district to meet with the pastors and students who are training to be faithful preachers and teachers of God’s saving word. Pray for safe travels and success in the proclamation of God’s saving word.

12.  BangladeshAfter more than three years of extensive Online Theological Studies correspondence courses, Board of Missions chairman Joel Krafft and Missionary Ohlmann will visit Bangladesh for our first face to face meetings with the president and leaders of the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission (BLCM). Pray that the Lord will bless these meetings as we work toward establishing agreement in doctrine.

13.  Nigeria – Pray for this nation as they go to the polls in what many have described as the most important presidential election since they gained their independence from Great Britain in 1960. There are also several regional elections. There has been much violence,  and many protests, intimidation, and deaths leading up to the elections that were scheduled for February 16. The elections have now been postponed on the very day that people were headed to the polls.

14.  Nigeria – Our brothers and sisters in Christ of the Nigeria-CLC are facing a variety of challenges as they work together to provide both spiritual and bodily care for orphaned children. They are currently working to develop guidelines and policies that are in compliance with the regulations of the Nigeria Ministry of Women and Children’s Welfare. If and when they are able to re-open the NCLC Children’s Home the CLC Kinship Committee will be involved in providing support for these children. Please pray that the Lord will provide the NCLC the wisdom, compassion, and all that is needed to carry out this important work of love, care, and compassion.

15.  CLC Online Theological Studies – continue to pray for individuals in the following countries around the world who are studying God’s word through email correspondence courses as they continue to train to be faithful preachers and teachers of God’s saving word:

1.    Senegal, West Africa
2.    D. R. Congo, Central Africa
3.    Togo, West Africa
4.    Liberia, West Africa
5.    Bangladesh, South East Asia
6.    Zimbabwe, Africa
7.    Myanmar, South East Asia
8.    Tanzania, East Africa
9.    Kenya, East Africa
10.   Uganda, East Africa
11. Brazzaville-Congo, Central Africa

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Finishing Up in Zambia...On to Asia!

Greetings from Lusaka, Zambia!

I'm finishing up the work here in Zambia. I've spent the past two weeks here visiting the three districts of the CLC-Zambia.

Leaving Africa (Zambia and Tanzania this time) is always hard to do. There's so much to be done and such amazing people to work together with in our Savior's kingdom.

These past 4 1/2 weeks have gone by quickly. Now I'm on my way to work with brothers and sisters in Christ in Myanmar, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Over the next few days I will fly from Livingstone to Lusaka to Nairobi to Bangkok to Yangon to Kalaymyo, Myanmar.

While in Zambia, I also had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Yumba from the D.R. Congo (DRC). Due to a variety of reasons beyond our control, the last missionary visit to DRC was in January 2012. I had planned to visit in early 2017, shortly after beginning this new role as a visiting missionary, but my visa application was denied by the DRC embassy in the U.S. In 2018, I was told by Pastor Yumba that the local government would not provide the official notarized stamp of approval for his letter of invitation, so I did not bother to apply as a government notarized approved letter of invitation is required. Pastor Yumba was able to get a letter of invitation approved and notarized and delivered to me, so I will begin making plans for a visit in the fall of 2019.

The DRC was scheduled to have its first free and open elections since the first election was held at the time of independence in 1960. The history of leadership in the DRC is one of assassinations, military coups, and rigged elections for the past fifty years. As you can imagine, all of this brought a lot of turmoil and uncertainty to the nation over the past couple of years leading up to the elections. Elections were delayed several times and there was even an attempt to cancel the elections again by the dictator Joseph Kabila. Elections were finally held in December, but the results have been contested. During the lead up to the elections and following the elections there were protests and this led to a “government” cut off all communications and they closed their borders. 

No independent observers from the United Nations or even the African Union were allowed into the country to verify that the elections were indeed free and open. There has been a lot of controversy about this election and the nation is divided about who actually won. The courts have confirmed the election of the new president but there are many reasons to think that his election is not legit. This has led to more protests. All of this has led to a lag in communications between Yumba and me for the past few months. 

Three days before I was supposed to travel to the northern border of Zambia to visit Yumba, I still hadn’t confirmed that he had received my proposed visitation. But a couple of days before I was supposed to travel to the Zambia/DRC border communications/internet access was restored and the borders were again opened and Yumba was allowed to receive a Zambia visa for the first time in months. 

The meeting went well and he reports that the seminary students have successfully completed the first two years of training and construction is underway on the new seminary buildings that will be used for classrooms, dormitory, and office/library. This large building project is made possible through a grant from the CLC-MDF. 

The town near the Zambia/DRC border where we meet is also where there are three CLC-Zambia congregations, so we conducted a two day Bible training seminar.

Bible Training at the Ktiwe/Copperbelt District of the CLC-Zambia
From the Zambia/DRC border I traveled by bus to Lusaka and then to Livingstone where I conducted Pastor, Evangelist, and Sunday School training seminars in both locations. 
Bible Training - Luska/Shimabala District of the CLC-Zambia

Bible Training - Livingstone District of the CLC-Zambia
Pastor Ibrahim moved from Lusaka to Livingstone in August. This is where the CLC-Zambia will be headquartered and eventually there are plans to start a Bible School/Seminary. The CLC Board of Missions has approved partial funding for the purchase of land or a building to be used for this purpose. Pastor Ibrahim and the church elders in the Livingstone area have been actively looking for a building for this purpose at a price that they can afford with the grant from the CLC MDF.
CLC-Zambia Congregation in Livingstone