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.

Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Kristopher and Rebecca Hartwig

Posted on January 7, 2012 by Franklin Ishida

Kristopher and Rebecca Hartwig served in Tanzania from 2004 to 2011, though they both had lived there when they were younger. Kristopher is a palliative care/hospice physician by training and Rebecca is a nurse. They both worked with a palliative care home-health team out of Selian Lutheran Hospital, helping terminally ill people with control of their symptoms, emotional and family support, and spiritual care.

To support any of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to


Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Marissa and Viking Dietrich

Posted on December 3, 2011 by Franklin Ishida

Viking and Marissa Dietrich served in Senegal from 1992-2009, and Ghana from 2009-2011. Viking’s call to mission service in Senegal was driven by the opportunity to use Christian witness in a Muslim context as a means of fostering community and peaceful relations. He served both international and Senegalese churches, as well as managed a post-literacy project. He also was general secretary for the Joint Christian Ministry in West Africa and later served as Global Mission’s regional representative based in Ghana. Marissa taught in international schools in both countries.

To support any of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to

Clean hands do make a difference

Posted on October 29, 2011 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Deborah and Joe Troester are ELCA missionaries in Baboua, Central African Republic. Joe is a technical adviser for PASE, which provides clean drinking water and promotes good hygiene and sanitation to villagers. Deborah teaches at the Theological School in Baboua. Their daughter, Christa, attends ninth grade at Rain Forest International School in Yaoundé, Cameroon. To support the Troesters, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to

Marie Gbayina pours water for Rodrigue Koulagne to wash his hands.

Marie Gbayina pours water for Rodrigue Koulagne to wash his hands.

October 15 was Global Hand Washing Day.  Why have a day dedicated to the prosaic act of washing one’s hands? Hand washing holds the key to preventing many serious diseases both at home and around the world. Remember when your mom told you to wash your hands before eating? It was good advice.  According to the International Water Institute in Stockholm, diarrheal illnesses could be reduced by 45 percent by washing hands with soap after using the toilet and before eating. Many other diseases can be passed from one person to another by people who don’t wash their hands. Hand washing is an important defense against the spread of cholera, typhoid, and even the common flu virus, among other diseases.

PASE, the Water Management Project of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic (CAR), is working to provide clean drinking water to villages in CAR and also to teach good hygiene practices to villagers, such as the importance of hand washing. Providing clean water is only one part of preventing water-borne diseases. Hand washing is a crucial element in the equation.

This year PASE will be constructing latrines and hand-washing stations at schools and health centers in CAR in order help the “hand washing habit” take root.

Joe Troester

Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Bette McCrandall

Posted on September 3, 2011 by Franklin Ishida

Bette McCrandall first went to Liberia in 1973 and later began service as an ELCA missionary in 1984. She was employed as the secretary to the bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia and later served as supervisor of schools of the church. She was responsible for up to 46 schools. Bette was in Liberia during the civil war in 1990. At one point, 600 people, who had taken refuge in St Peter’s Lutheran Church in Monrovia, were killed by the armed forces. During this difficult time, Bette endured the same hardships as the Liberian people and supported them through it. Bette retired from mission service in 2011.

To support any of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to

Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Peter Hanson and Sarah Grow

Posted on August 13, 2011 by Franklin Ishida

Sarah and Peter Grow-Hanson’s international service began with Peter’s seminary internship and Sarah’s volunteer service in Morogoro, Tanzania. This experience eventually led them to Senegal in 2001, where Peter was called to serve as the director of the Cultural Center Galle Nanondiral (House of Mutual Understanding), an ELCA-founded center providing a wide variety of community programs to a mostly Muslim population in Dakar. In 2008, Peter began serving directly with the Lutheran Church of Senega as theological advisor for leadership development. Sarah has served as academic coordinator for the School for International Training’s (Vermont) study abroad program in Dakar.

To support any of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to

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

Meet the GM Africa Leadership Team

Posted on September 23, 2010 by Hand In Hand

(July 2010) The ELCA Global Mission Africa Leadership Team: (Back Row) James Gonia, Bob Lowden, Willie Langdji, Sharon Robinson, Benyam Kassahun, Viking Dietrich. (Middle Row) Janice Lowden, Barbara Berry-Bailey, Amy Honore, Barbara Hinderlie. (Front Row) Andy Hinderlie, Anne Langdji, Phil Knutson.

This introduction to the ELCA Global Mission Africa Leadership Team is drawn from the Rev. Viking Dietrich’s blog, “Viking in West Africa.” –Sue 

 The leadership team of the ELCA Global Mission Africa Desk, including Program Directors, Regional Representatives and Chicago-based staff, met in July to consult and strategize for more effective regional work. 

The Rev. James Gonia is Desk Director for Western and Central Africa, Tanzania and Madagascar.  The Rev. Benyam Kassahun is Desk Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.  As Desk Directors, Jim and Benyam are responsible for Global Mission’s engagement with companion churches and institutions in 20 countries in Africa

The Rev. Barbara Berry-Bailey is Desk Director for Companion Synods.  There are 52 companion synod relationships between African companion churches and dioceses and ELCA synods. 

Amy Honore and Sharon Robinson are Chicago based Administrative Assistants.  They are key to the teams efficiency, assuring logistical support and communications for the team. 

Regional Representatives nurture relationships between the ELCA and its companion churches and partners in mission by being an extension of the leadership team present in the region.  They assist the Desk Directors by providing support to ELCA missionaries, offering interpretations of context, monitoring grants, and acting as a liaison between multiple partners. 

  • The Rev.Viking Dietrich, Anne Langdji and Willie Langdji are regional representatives to Western and Central Africa.  Viking works primarily in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana.  Anne and Willie work primarily in Senegal, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.  To learn more about their regional work, visit “Global Mission in West Africa.”
  • Regional Representatives for Eastern Africa are the Rev. Andy and Barbara Hinderlie and the Revs. Janice (JMe) and Bob Lowden.  In September,  JMe and Bob returned from service in Tanzania; their work that will be continued by Tom and Sally Roach, the  Hinderlies and the Rev. Phil Knutson.  The Hinderlies work in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda, with Barbara having primary responsibilities in Madagascar.  There are over 13 million Lutherans in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Madagascar, representing three-fourths of Lutherans in Africa.  For more information,  visit the Hinderlie’s regional site.
  • The Rev. Phil Knutson is the ELCA Regional Representative in Southern Africa, as such he is responsible for work in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.  For more information about the ELCA engagement in Southern Africa go to the site: Southern Africa Connections.

As a team, the Global Mission Africa leadership group is completed by more than 30 missionaries and dozens of volunteers and Young Adults in Global Mission who live and work in over 15 countries in Africa.

Thinking like a Nigerian

Posted on August 20, 2009 by Timothy Fries

The folowing is a slightly abbreviated version of a blog post by ELCA Missionary, Mary Beth Oyebade.

My Grandma had major heart surgery in Rochester, MN in June. My mom, dad, aunt and uncle were at the hospital before, during, and after the surgery. But within a day or two, they started to go to their respective homes. I was horrified. I said, “But who’s going to stay with Grandma?!” My mom gently explained that what they were doing was acceptable. They didn’t need to be with her 24/7. And moreover, my Grandma really didn’t need constant company if she was going to get adequate rest. I understood what she was saying, but I still felt a twinge of guilt that someone wasn’t sitting with Grandma.

In this area of my thinking, I have become very Nigerian. If you are hospitalized in Nigeria, you have to bring someone to take care of you – especially for your feeding and bathing. It is just expected that a family member is always present.

In a similar vein, as I was making various presentations this summer, I noticed I was using some Nigerian terminology, and I couldn’t think of how to express that thought in American English. For example, I would mention that we train youth on computers, and that having these computer skills would enable them to get a small job. “Small job” didn’t sound right in the U.S. In retrospect, I could have said, “Youth are able to get part-time or entry-level jobs with these computer skills.” I can tell that I have been here a long time.