By Jeni Miller
ST. LOUIS (July 22, 2013) — In the second of four essays delivered to the delegates and participants at the 65th Regular Convention of the LCMS, the Rev. Amos Bolay, president and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL), shared with those gathered and the LCMS at-large, “We are called to witness in good times and in bad times.”
No stranger to these “bad times,” Bolay described for the delegates how his hometown was infiltrated by Islamic rebels who captured him and held him at gunpoint. “Satan the devil was not happy with all that was happening through the faithful witness in the LCMS,” said Bolay. “I said, ‘I am a pastor’ – the wrong thing to say to Islamic rebels. They took me over to the commander and he said to me, ‘Pastor you are free, but stay with us.’ [I] stayed. We said, ‘Please allow us to begin to hold worship services,’ but we needed to all congregate in one place. All of the churches came together. God used me to be leader of that church.”
Tying in the essay’s theme, “Baptized for Witness,” Bolay declared to the delegates and others that Baptism is “God’s way of graciously enlisting you into the kingdom of His Son, Jesus Christ.”
Bolay went on to explain how those in the LCMS, as enlisted members of Christ’s kingdom, have supported and continue to support the ELCL. While monetary assistance is not a priority for them, Bolay said they desire LCMS involvement in helping to train their pastors for service in Liberia. “All of our pastors are either poorly trained or have no formal training at all.”
Bolay himself was supported through the LCMS Global Seminary Initiative, a program that allows partner-church leaders and students to study at one of the two LCMS seminaries. It is his hope that the LCMS continues to send professors to Liberia to teach the faith to their pastors and seminarians.
Bolay continued with a statement that garnered the enthusiastic applause of the assembly: “We need partnership to uphold this pure, unadulterated Gospel of Scripture. We of the ELCL need the Gospel.”
Returning to the topic of “Baptized for Witness,” Bolay commended the LCMS, saying, “When baptized, you were baptized into God’s kingdom and to witness to the Lord of kings. I believe this is exactly what you have been doing and why we want to partner with you and you will continue to do it.”
To the delegation, he concluded, “Christianity is not just about living it but proclaiming the Word of God; we are baptized to witness under His saving grace and to the lordship of Jesus Christ.” Despite the difficult circumstances in which Bolay found himself years ago, he nonetheless stated, “Evil will never triumph over good. I am a witness to the goodness of God.”
Bolay noted that the ELCL has always self-identified as an LCMS mission church, despite the disruption in relationship caused by the Liberian civil war. Although the LCMS first began work in Liberia in 1978, the ELCL was not officially formed until May 2009, a merging of 20 congregations from four Lutheran groups. Due to assistance from the LCMS, Bolay stated that it was made “possible for 835,000 to hear a clear Gospel message of Jesus Christ and His saving grace.”
Bolay, who serves as the chief ecclesiastical leader, representative and spokesperson for the ELCL, earned a Master of Arts in Systematic Theology from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and is currently pursuing a doctorate of ministry in pastoral leadership.
The 65th Regular Convention of the LCMS is meeting July 20-25 at the America’s Center Convention Complex under the theme “Baptized for This Moment.” Among convention participants are some 1,200 clergy and lay voting delegates.