By Paula Schlueter Ross (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Big things are happening among Lutherans in Mozambique, a Portuguese-speaking African country situated on the continent’s southeast coast, above South Africa:
- A newly named church body — Igreja Luterana da Concórdia em Moçambique (Concordia Lutheran Church in Mozambique) — is in the process of registering with the government. The denomination has 10 congregations and some 1,200 baptized members.
- The church’s first eight pastors graduated and were ordained Aug. 9 after six years of theological study. They are now serving calls to their own — and surrounding — villages while continuing to work their small farms and support their families.
- An additional 20 men have begun their pastoral training, with the hope that they might be ready to start assisting the pastors in new locations in two years.
- A property with five houses has been purchased and will be used as the church body’s headquarters and seminary, with classrooms, dormitories, a kitchen and bathrooms.
- A “very important step” was the recent publication of Luther’s Small Catechism in the local Chisena language, according to the Rev. Dr. Carlos Walter Winterle, a missionary who has served the LCMS and its partner church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (known by its Portuguese acronym, IELB), and now provides annual theological training sessions in Mozambique. Winterle primarily serves St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Cape Town, South Africa, on behalf of the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA), also an LCMS partner church.
Winterle, coordinator of theological education in Mozambique, urges all Lutherans to “pray for the eight new pastors and for the Lutheran church in Mozambique. The doors are open to the Gospel and God’s kingdom is growing very fast.
“Praise the Lord for the many blessings He has poured upon Mozambique and for all supporters who are making it possible by their prayers and donations,” he said.
Those supporters include Lutheran Church—Canada, the IELB, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the FELSISA, who pledged their mission partnership by signing a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) for Mozambique in 2010. All have assisted the Mozambique church with financial support, and the IELB has provided theological training as well as Chisena and Portuguese Bibles and other study materials to pastoral students and congregation leaders.
A new MOU for the future of the Mozambique mission is now being prepared for those four partners, plus a new one: the mission arm of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany.
The Lutheran mission in Mozambique was founded in 2006 by now-retired Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC) pastor Rev. Joseph Alfazema and his wife, Perpetua, whose work led to the start of the Kapasseni Project, an LCC-recognized service organization that continues to support mission work in the African country.
The Mozambique church body and its congregations are located in the middle of the country, in the Province of Sofala, on the shores of the Zambezi River — “a strategic place to reach out to the whole country,” according to Winterle. A number of people from other villages and cities — even a government representative at the recent ordination service — are asking the Lutheran church leaders to preach the Gospel among them as well, Winterle noted.
The Rev. Dr. Albert Collver III, director of Church Relations for the LCMS, said, “It is very exciting to see the work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil in Mozambique” and notes that it “represents the first time that a daughter church of the LCMS in Latin America has purposefully reached people on another continent as a church body.”
The IELB began as a mission start of the Missouri Synod, he added, “and now this mission start is starting missions in Africa — this is an important step in the development of a church body,” Collver said. “It shows how the Lord grows a church from caring for their own people to looking outside themselves and seeking to share the Gospel of Jesus with a people not their own.
“We are encouraged by the Brazilian church and look forward to assisting as requested and as we are able.”
Among those attending the two-hour Aug. 9 graduation and ordination in Mozambique were IELB President Rev. Egon Kopereck; the Rev. Leonério Faller, president of the IELB’s Seminário Concórdia; the Rev. Andre Plamer, a theological educator with the IELB; and FELSISA Bishop Rev. Dr. Dieter H. Reinstorf, who called it “one of the most uplifting and blessed journeys ever.”
Even “more exciting” than the ordination service — with an estimated 1,000 worshipers — was a baptismal service the day before, according to Reinstorf.
“I will never forget the joy that filled the air after the baptism of 53 children and young adults,” he wrote in his “Impressions of my visit to Mozambique.”
“Nobody was ready to leave the church. At times it seemed quite chaotic, but then somebody translated what they were singing: ‘We are all going to heaven.’ On my return home I shared this with my congregation and concluded: Maybe they have understood Baptism better than we have.”
Reinstorf recalled Winterle’s words during a long-ago mission festival in South Africa — “Love what you do and love the people” — and said “this I experienced firsthand in Mozambique” among the Brazilian pastors who did not complain about hardships in Africa but shared joy and laughter “wherever they went.”
That “joy, combined with the wonderful Gospel News of Christ, has touched not only the heart of the Mozambicans, but also my own and has left me with a lasting impression.”
To read Winterle’s blog about the ordinations in Mozambique, visit http://pastorwinterle.blogspot.com.
To watch a 12-minute video of the service (taped by a local TV station and available on the national channel), click here.
Posted Sept. 17, 2015