Thursday, February 13, 2014
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Today, on our last day in Madagascar, we attended Sunday worship at Ivato Lutheran Church (FLM) about 1.5 miles from the airport (immediately following the service we needed to catch an airplane for our return to the United States after more than three weeks of travel through Africa). The congregation was formed in 1994. It began in a house. Today, it has over 2,000 members and not enough seats on Sunday for all the members to attend. In total, the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM) has over 4 million members.
This morning at the 9 am service (which lasts for 2 hours), approximately 600 people were inside the church with several hundred people standing outside the church (a grand total of more than 1,000 in attendance). Every seat in the church was taken.
Pastor David Rakotonirina preached on Matthew 13:31-36, the parable of the sower.
Note the three offering baskets. These baskets correspond to Witness, Mercy, Life Together (note the purple, red, and green ribbons). One offering is collected for missions. A second offering is collected for helping the poor and sick, while a third offering is collected for the needs of the congregation. As stated in the Witness, Mercy, Life Together Bible Study, the Malagasy Lutheran Church provided inspiration for the theme adopted by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod as a mission emphasis. One of the church parishioners brought a live chicken in a plastic bag for his offering. People give as The Lord has given them. The congregation presented a special gift to a family who recently had a family member die to assist with the funeral costs -- Mercy.
The congregation processes bringing their offerings forward, putting am offering in each basket. President Harrison brought greetings from the LCMS during the announcements before the offering.
The Malagasy Lutheran Church is liturgical, hardly deviating from the hymnal. At the same time, the Malagasy Lutheran Church is experiencing rapid growth, opening a new congregation every week. (A congregation worships between 1,500 and 3,000 each week.) The liturgy is based off the Norwegian Lutheran tradition but is readily recognizable to Missouri Synod people (Confession / Absolution, Kyrie, Gloria and so forth).
On the way to church, I bought a Valihy, a tube zither made of bamboo. Ironically, this traditional instrument, in fact, the national instrument of Madagascar, is not used in worship in Lutheran Congregations. I asked the pastor why the Valihy is not used in worship. He replied that it is used when traditional Malagasy people exhume the dead between June and September for ancestor worship. He said an instrument used to worship ancestors and demons is not fit for use in worship of The Lord.
You might have noticed that the church building lacks a roof. In fact, this situation is rather common in Africa. Most African Lutheran congregations can afford
to construct their buildings from local materials. In some parts of Africa, the buildings are made from bamboo and mud. Here in Madagascar, the churches are constructed of red bricks made from mud taken from rice patties and baked in a burning grass fire. However, they often have difficultly obtaining the tin roofs necessary to keep the congregation dry during the rainy season.
(Photo by Erik Lunsford)
Because of this reality (difficulty of obtaining tin roofs for the congregations), 17 of the 21 Malagasy Lutheran Bishops requested that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod assist them by helping 22,000 congregations with tin roofs. Currently, we are waiting for a formal proposal from the church to see how the LCMS might assist.
Names of Malagasy Bishops and LCMS representatives who met in Antsirabe.
Our stay in Madagascar was incredible. We were well received. We look for ways we can work more closely with the Malagasy Lutheran Church (FLM). Now we sit at the airport for our long journey home.
- Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver on 9 February 2014 using BlogPress from my iPhone
Monday, February 3, 2014
After President Harrison's sermon, the Ghana Lutheran Church Mass Choir
Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, participated in the Ghana Theological Seminary dedication. Drs. Rast, Roethemeyer, and Quill greatly assisted the completion of the Ghana seminary by providing library and accreditation consultation through the Chemnitz Library Initiative, a joint partnership between Concordia Theological Seminary and the International Luther Council.
The Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, director of International Studies for Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and Director of Global Seminary Education for the LCMS Office of International Mission, gives the Gospel lesson during the service and dedication of the Lutheran Theological Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in Greater Accra, Ghana. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford[/caption] After the service, Dr. Timothy Quill, Director of International Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary and Director of Theological Education for the LCMS, gave an address for the dedication of the seminary. He told a story about his time in Nigeria when Pres. Fynn was a young seminary student. One day Quill's four year old brother was riding his little bike down the big hill behind the seminary and did a complete summersault. Paul Fynn picked him up and carried him home in his arms. Today's celebration of the new seminary campus in Ghana also experienced a sever bump in the road when construction was halted. Someone needed to pick things up and bring the task home to completion. This was done by the joint efforts of Dr. Fynn, the generous donors from the LCMS, the LCMS Office of International Mission. Quill encouraged the members of the ELCG to now care for their seminary and their dedicated faculty, including sending their finest young men to study theology and be prepared as pastors for their churches and missions.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
On Wednesday, 29 January 2014, the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW) met in Wittenberg, Germany, to discuss the ongoing reconstruction of the Old Latin School. The LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM) area facilitators also were able to join the ILSW for a tour of the construction site.
LCMS President Matthew Harrison, SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, and the Oberbürgermeister of Wittenberg Eckhard Naumann discuss the reconstruction of the Old Latin School.
Pastor Michael Kumm, chairman of the ILSW, conducts the meeting. Bruce Kintz, President and CEO of CPH, Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary and Chairman of the CTCR, and Mr. David Rohe, executive director of CID CEF, listen to the update on the project.
The reconstruction of the main room which will serve as the chapel in the reconstructed Old Latin School. The main beam has warped approximately 6 inches over 400 plus years.
The Old Latin School being reconstructed next to St Mary's church in Wittenberg.
- Posted by Dr Albert B Collver on 29 January 2014 using BlogPress from my iPhone
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
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Today, President Harrison put on his World Relief and Human Care uniform and visited a center for mentally disabled children in Mekanissa. The total number of children assisted is 372.
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Prior to the center's founding in 1986, mentally disabled children were hidden away in dark rooms -- their very existence was denied. The German Lutheran theologian Oswald Bayer said that to be justified is to be recognized. In some cases, the recognition of people, in this case, the human care for the children brings them into contact with the church so they can hear the Gospel.
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A variety of techniques are used to train the children in life skills. The boy above is being taught in a Montessori way.
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A boy learning how to tie his shoes.
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A young man learning how to make coffee.
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Some at the center learn marketable life skills. The children above are baking communion hosts for the church.
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President Harrison greets a diary cow who has an infected foot. The center for disabled children receives its milk from diary cows kept on the facility.
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Posted around the facility is Proverbs 31:8, "Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute."
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The facility keeps incredibly good records.
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We said goodbye the children, deeply moved and impressed by the care they receive.
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Before we left we visited the library to see a 19th century Ge'ez document which sought to reform the Ethiopian Orthodox Church by teaching on the Sacraments and justification. The Mekane Yesus Seminary (MYS) has the Ge'ez and Amharic versions in their library.
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There are plans to produce a triglotta version in Ge'ez, Amharic, and English.
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President Harrison with Mihreteab, the librarian at MYS, examining the Ge'ez manuscript.
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We look forward to visiting Ethiopia again.
- Posted by Dr Albert Collver on 27 January 2014 using BlogPress from my iPhone
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Today we visited the Addia Ababa Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, more commonly known as the Mother Church.
The pastor was vested and conducted the liturgy in Amharic. The liturgy is based off of the Lutheran Swedish liturgy.
A page from the EECMY hymnal.
It is written in Amharic, which is the second most spoken Semitic language in the world after Arabic.
The choir sang severs songs during the service. Many of the songs were from the period of the Marxist Derg Regime, and had apocalyptic overtones. One song written when the Gospel could not be proclaimed freely described how the gospel would go out into the world and be victorious by bringing about the Lord's kingdom. Another song said, "We are in the desert, but The Lord will remember his promise and drown our enemies like Pharaoh and his army."
The church was full. A number of expats from America and Scandinavia attended the service.
After the service, church and congregation leaders gathered with us and other visitors for a photograph.
After lunch, we visited the Entoto Maryam Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
- Posted by Dr. Albert Collver on 26 January 2014 using BlogPress from my iPhone
Friday, January 24, 2014
Today, the LCMS Delegation, consisting of President Mathew Harrison, Dr Collver, Dr. Carl Rockrohr, and Dr. Debbie Rockrohr, met with EECMY leaders at the Mekane Yesus Seminary and at the EECMY headquarters.
At the Mekane Yesus Seminary,
President Harrison presented to faculty, students, and church leaders on Lutheran identity. The presentation was followed by a Q & A session moderated by Dr. Carl Rockrohr.
After the presentation on Lutheran Identity, President Harrison played the banjo. Mekane Yesus Seminary has a music school on campus. After finishing playing, the banjo found its way into the capable hands of the director of the music school.
Over lunch Dr. Berhanu, the EECMY General Secretary, described the church's persecution under the Marxist Derg Regime (1974-1991), including his own imprisonment. Dr. Berhanu closed by saying, "The Lord always works a blessing through persecution. Through persecution, The Lord purifies his Church."
In a presentation about the EECMY, we learned that the first Lutheran, Peter Heyling, arrived in Ethiopia in 1633 AD. He worked in Gonder between 1634-1652. He practiced medicine and taught Greek and Hebrew to the Ethiopian Orthodox Priests at Gonder. He tried to reform the Ethiopian church by teaching sola Scriptura and by translating the New Testament into Amharic, the vernacular of the ruling class. In 1648, Heyling fell out of favor and was forced to leave Ethiopia. On his return to Germany, he was captured by the Turks and offered the choice of conversion to Islam or death. Peter Heyling chose death rather than to deny Christ, becoming a martyr at the age of 44. Traces of his work remain an influence in the EECMY today.
At the end of the day, both President Wakseyoum of the EECMY and LCMS President Matthew Harrison offered reflections about the day. President Harrison commended the Mekane Yesus church for desiring to remain faithful to the Holy Scriptures and for taking difficult stands on Biblical teaching that were unpopular with her partners. In particular, President Harrison commended the EECMY for breaking fellowship with the ELCA and the CoS over their position of affirming homosexual marriage and clergy. President Harrison also discussed frankly where he believed the EECMY and the LCMS had differences in doctrine and practice. President Wakseyoum thanked President Harrison for his honesty. While holding his Bible in hand, President Wakseyoum stated the EECMY's and the LCMS's commitment to the Holy Scriptures was the primary reason that the two churches should be talking to one another. He stated that fellowship comes through the working of the Holy Spirit. In the mean time both churches should pray and study the Scriptures.
President Harrison signs the EECMY guest book in Dr. Wakseyoum's office.
- Posted by Dr. Albert Collver on 24 January 2014 using BlogPress from my iPhone