Stories from the Global Church

Here you will find stories from the global church by ELCA global missionaries, scholars, and churchwide staff, brought to you by the ELCA Global Church Sponsorship team.

Signs of the resurrection in Suriname

Posted on May 31, 2011 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Kevin Jacobson is an ELCA missionary in Paramaribo, Suriname.

The confirmation class of 2011

The confirmation class of 2011

May 2011
A Blessed Easter Season — it continues — to you!

Shortly before Easter I read an article by Tomas Munita on The New York Times website.  He described the colorful minibuses on the streets of Paramaribo, Suriname. The minibuses have hand-painted illustrations of the heroes, outlaws, religious temples and musical subcultures of this South American city.

On that same day I was sitting on the side of the road in Paramaribo waiting for a friend.  Of course I was watching the buses go by, but this time I was paying closer attention to what was written on each one.  I saw “Give God all the glory!” “Only God can move me — oh yeah and the mountains!”  “Give God a chance.”

Because it was Holy Week, after some moments my attention turned to another question.  I asked myself, “How might these buses relate to the resurrection?”  That seemed to be a stretch but it got me thinking about Easter.  And soon my question was “What are the signs of resurrection in Suriname?”  When growing up in Wisconsin the signs of spring were the symbols of Christ’s resurrection. But what about in the tropics, in Paramaribo where every day it is hot and humid?

Resurrection — perhaps it could mean the opportunity to sit by the road and observe closely what is passing by?  Could it be that newly painted bus? Could it be the excitement in the voices of the six travelers just getting their U.S. visas to travel with me for 16 days through the Florida-Bahamas Synod and visiting missionary sponsoring congregations and the synod assembly? Could it be in the African mother who wipes off the tears of her daughter after she has just fallen on the curb? Could it be in the bright-red fire lobi, hibiscus, frangipani, inpatients, buttercups that are everywhere all the time in Suriname? Could it be in the three children that were baptized and the 10 students that were confirmed in April in the Lutheran Church? Could it be in the rhythms and singing of the “Brothers in Christ” at our worship services? Could it be in the ice cream cone that I just consumed?

Well now I may be stretching the meaning of resurrection just a little bit. However, all these things bring a smile to my face, lighten up my day and bring freshness in the air I am breathing. It is in the everyday sights, sounds, smells and, yes, tastes that I often take for granted but are the signs of the story of Christ’s resurrection in Suriname.

Thank God for them, thank God for you.

Pr. Kevin L. Jacobson
ELCA missionary to Suriname

LUCSA launches website

Posted on May 3, 2011 by Hand In Hand

Kristen Opalinski, an ELCA missionary, is the communication specialist with the Lutheran Communion in South Africa (LUCSA).

ELCA missionary Kristen Opalinski (left) supports communications efforts in Lutheran churches in southern Africa.

ELCA missionary Kristen Opalinski (left) supports communications efforts in Lutheran churches in southern Africa.

Greetings from the LUCSA offices in Bonaero Park!

I’m emailing you during what is a very exciting and busy time at LUCSA. We have hosted the Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) African Lutheran Leadership Consultation. This biennial meeting includes the leaders of LWF’s three African sub-regions and LWF staff from Geneva to discuss strategic plans to best meet the needs of the 19 million Lutherans living in Africa.

We are also excited that we have launched our new LUCSA website at We look forward to having it become a vital communications tool to be used by both member churches and global partners. Be sure to check it out and let me know if you have any questions. Also, please check my blog in the coming weeks at if you haven’t already, as I hope to get a couple of posts up by the end of April.

LUCSA has begun 2011 with a renewed sense of spirit and direction. Our new communications strategy is now in full swing and our various programs have launched some new and dynamic workshops and projects. We look to continue to develop 2011 into the year of “taking LUCSA into the future,” which will be one of the major themes of this year’s general assembly in Lusaka, Zambia, in July.

I want to thank you all for your continued prayers, love and support (both financial and spiritual) during my time here. I cannot express how much it means to me to know that so many friends and family across the U.S. are thinking about me and lifting me up in prayer. I’ve really enjoyed receiving your various letters and emails as well!

In God’s Peace & Love,

Kristen Opalinski

Easter in Slovakia

Posted on April 22, 2011 by Hand In Hand
The children carried palm branches.

The children carried palm branches.

The Rev. Arden and Janna Haug are ELCA missionaries based in Bratislava, Slovakia. Arden is the ELCA’s regional representative for Europe. They have two sons, Vitali and Alexei.

Dear Friends,

In Slovakia, Palm Sunday is known as “Flowering Sunday.”  It is a wonderful description of the season.  Apple trees, plum trees, forsythia and magnolias are all in bloom.   Slovaks often bring branches from these trees or pussy willows to be blessed as a part of the Sunday morning liturgy on Palm Sunday.

In the Bratislava International Church, we celebrated the day with traditional greens palms and dry tan palm crosses.  When I was in Great Britain for a regional meeting of the Lutheran World Federation, I searched high and low for palm branches, but I was told in one liturgical supply house after another that in England, “palm crosses is what we use.”   The English save their palm crosses, as Americans do their palm branches, for Ash Wednesday

The adults waved palm crosses.

The adults waved palm crosses.

services the following year.  I scoured the city for palm branches and then decided to experiment and have a multicultural Palm Sunday.  The children entered the church with palm branches swaying and shouting loud “hosannas,” and the adults followed waving their palm crosses and reverently singing, “All Glory, Laud and Honor.”  It was a wonderful way to begin our Holy Week observance.

In the Slovak language, the word for Easter is Vel’ka noc, which means Great Night.  The name the Great Night comes from the early tradition of Orthodox Christianity and its important midnight Easter Vigil.   Following the old Slavic liturgy and custom, the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection takes place in the midnight hours.  The good news of Easter is proclaimed “on the first day of the week, and early dawn, when the women went to the tomb.”

At midnight the priests and congregation walk around the church three times, and on third round, they stop at the entrance of the church.  The priest knocks on the door, and then announces to the congregations standing in the darkness, that the tomb is empty. This leads to the Orthodox Easter greeting which has become our own familiar Easter greeting, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”

A blessed Easter from Central Europe!

The Haugs

Missionary kids: Making the most of the dry season

Posted on April 16, 2011 by Hand In Hand

Sarah and Dirk Stadtlander are ELCA missionaries in Senegal.

From left to right, Tall, Ellen, Eva, Soxna, Ndeye Fal and Ramata take a break to pose in front of their garden artwork.

From left to right, Tall, Ellen, Eva, Soxna, Ndeye Fall and Ramata take a break to pose in front of their garden artwork.

“We are currently in hot season.   For us, that means dry, dust-laden winds and daily temperature highs of around 120 degrees Fahrenheit,” says ELCA missionary Sarah Stadtlander.  “It hasn’t rained since October and won’t again until mid- to late June.”

What do missionary children do during the dry season?  They beautify their yard!  Eva Stadtlander, age 7, and Ellen Stadtlander, age 3, invited their Senegalese friends to help with the project.  Their friends Soxna, Tall,  Ndeye Fall and Ramata joined them in designing and coloring an Easter-colored chalk mural for their garden wall.

“It should last until sometime in June, when the first rain falls,” says Stadtlander.

The Stadtlander family lives in northern Senegal, accompanying an emerging worship community of Fulani people, semi-nomadic shepherds and farmers.  Dirk Stadtlander serves as a pastor to this Pulaar-speaking congregation of the Lutheran Church of Senegal.  He also works with Senegalese who are translating the Old Testament into Pulaar as well as the evangelism committee of the Lutheran Church of Senegal.

To sponsor the Stadtlander family or another ELCA missionary, contact or 800-638-3522, ext. 2657.  Give on-line at


For the Sake of the World, con much amor

Posted on June 27, 2010 by Hand In Hand

The English class of Cristo Rey Lutheran congregation (Lima, Peru) studied the script and watched For the Sake of the World, a video presentation that explains how ELCA global ministries are funded. 

This was more than an English-language exercise for the class, for they are “hand in hand” investors in ELCA global ministries.  Their English teacher and pastor, Dana Nelson, is a sponsored ELCA missionary.   During Lent, the class used the ELCA World Hunger 40-day calendar and coin box.  “When Easter came,” writes Pr. Nelson, “we emptied all of our boxes together on the classroom table and found that together we had collected 87 Peruvian soles  (about $30 U.S. dollars) to donate to ELCA World Hunger.   The students collected this money con mucho amor (with much love).   They were so excited to watch the video presentation and see how their gifts are being used to help people all over the world.

Find the six-minute video presentation online at or contact to request a DVD.–Sue Edison-Swift.

Move over Easter bunny…

Posted on March 30, 2010 by Hand In Hand

"Easter horse" by Mercedes (Thabor Lutheran, Wausa, Neb.)

Easter horse is here!
The front cover of Mercedes’  Operation Thanks-Giving (OT-G) Easter card features a front-and-center cross surrounded by rainbows.  “How nice,” I thought as I looked at it, “to include symbols of covenant and resurrection on an Easter card.”

Then I opened the card and SOLed (snorted out loud).

Easter Horse!  How perfect!  What a wonderful way to capture Easter delight.

Thank you, Mercedes.  Thanks to you and your fellow card makers from Thabor Lutheran Church (Wausa, Neb.).  Your messages of God’s love will bless the lucky missionaries who receive your cards.

Learn how you can participate in OT-G:Easter by visiting  Learn how to be a missionary sponsor at
May Easter blessings delight you,  Sue

An Easter seasoned with thanks giving

Posted on March 30, 2010 by Hand In Hand
Operation Thanksgiving Easter greetings (OT-G: Easter) have started arriving at my desk.   With the arrival of 90 cards (a shoebox full!)  from Lutheran Church of the Abiding Presence (Burke, Virginia), we now have at least one card for each of our 188 missionary households.   Thanks, too, to the other congregations on the OT-G: Easter honor roll:  Augustana Lutheran (Hobart, IN);  Walnut Hill Lutheran (Dallas, Texas); Grace Evangelical Lutheran (Westminster, MD)–especially Megan and Emily; Alma Lutheran (Mead, Neb.) and Thabor Lutheran (Wausa, Neb.).

Since Easter is a season, there’s still time to participate!  Send your cards to arrive in the office by April 26.  Get the details at (the OT-G: Easter button is on the left).  Remember, send cards directly to any specific missionaries, members of the armed forces and other service personnel connected to you; send “random acts of Easter joy” greetings for missionaries to ELCA Global Mission Support, 8765 W. Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631.

It is a joy to open the packets of Easter greetings, and a privilege to send them off to our missionaries!  Pr. Twila Schock, Kathleen West and I–your Global Mission Support team–thank God for you and for all you do to support the “Hand in Hand” global ministries of the church.
Easter blessings!  Sue Edison-Swift