Hand in Hand Blog Digest

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.

Thoughts on the fourth day of Christmas in Haiti

Posted on January 3, 2012 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Paula M. Stecker works with the Lutheran World Federation Haiti office in communications and ecumenical relationships. To support Paula, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.

 

New members of the royal priesthood.

New members of the royal priesthood.

Often as we walk between the main street, Delmas, and our little side street, we pass by a small soccer match in the middle of the street behind the bakery. These soccer matches are played with a sadly, half-inflated  ball striped with dirty tape. My first impulse was to replace it, but that would probably ruin the sport. You don’t want long kicks when the field is only 4 yards wide and 20 yards long. And if the ball looked too new or too valuable would it remain available to this scraggly crowd? The goalie box is marked by two broken halves of a cement block. There are spectators, of course, who cheer and coach as though we were at a grand stadium. And everybody rushes into the “stands” when a car or truck presumes to clear the field.

The imagination is a great gift. God allows us to see things beyond our present reality — to dream of things yet unseen. We can even practice the moves that we would make should that greater reality come to pass. Like little boys passing a weather beaten soccer ball on a dusty street, we sing our songs of praise and lift your prayers of adoration from our dusty, weather beaten, half-inflated lives, proudly wearing the colors of Christ, which are not yet fully visible to the spectators.

The Bible teaches that “Faith is hope in things unseen.” Like a tiny baby, wrapped in rags and laid in a bed of straw, before whom kings bowed and laid precious gifts and over whom multitudes of angels sang their heavenly choruses. Their hope was in the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God who would be a Savior. And it was visible only by faith. Christmas demands our imagination.

Today we baptized five young saints, marked  them with the cross of Christ and welcomed them into the royal priesthood. Afterwards there were some goodies and simple gifts and it was glorious.

The Stecker family, having been blessed to celebrate Christmas together, hope that you will have a blessed and holy imagination into the New Year!

Paula and Carl, Chantal and Valerie Stecker

Celebrating a baptism in South Africa

Posted on April 2, 2011 by Hand In Hand
Bishop M. Biyela baptizes Khaya.

Bishop M. Biyela baptizes Khaya.

Brian and Kristen Konkol are ELCA missionaries in South Africa. They are coordinators for the South Africa based Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program.

Friends:

On March 13, we celebrated Khaya’s baptism at the Lutheran Theological Institute in Pietermaritzburg.

I was honored to preach at the service, and the baptism was administered by Bishop M. Biyela of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa.

An additional blessing was the presence of all eleven of the South Africa-based Young Adults in Global Mission participants.

We thank God for such a wonderful experience of amazing grace!

With peace,
Brian

 

Affirming one’s baptism again and again

Posted on March 29, 2010 by Franklin Ishida

The traditional rite of confirmation is an opportunity for (usually) young people to affirm their faith into which they have been baptized. Baptism, of course, is that grace-filled visible occasion in which we receive the forgiveness of sins, unconditionally become God’s children, die with Christ and receive new life in him, and become a part of the church which is Christ’s body.

Luther had said that when confronted with challenges in life, he could respond: “But I am baptized.” The challenge for Christians is thus how to remember that it indeed is our baptism that sustains us in all aspects of life, that God is with us throughout our lives that are founded in baptism … something that goes beyond a singular confirmation rite.

In North American Lutheran circles, confirmation has become a time to “affirm” one’s baptism, with the intention that it goes beyond a particular moment. And parts of the same liturgy are often used to welcome new church members, or to point to transitions in life.

In Japan, Kazuhiro Sato, pastor at the Matsumoto and Nagano two-point parish, created something new to the Japanese Lutheran scene. He explains of the particular Affirmation of Baptism service he formulated: “The affirmation of baptism is intended to remind us of the gift of grace that comes through baptism, and to re-confirm and re-live this as individuals in the grace of baptism.” The particulars of the rite included a commendation, prayer, profession of faith, and a public affirmation of baptism. After this, each participant’s name was read together with a laying on of hands. At the end, as the pastor splashed water over participants, the words were proclaimed: “through water and the Spirit, remember of your baptism, trust in God’s promises, and walk in the Word.” This became an occasion to re-confirm life in God’s grace.

What was particularly unique was that it was not aimed at everyone all at once. Those baptized between 15 and 60 years ago, at five year intervals, were invited to participate. With this, over the course of 5 years, every member can affirm anew their baptism. Pastor Sato says that this rite can also be used at times of recovery from illness, re-entering a life of faith, transfer of membership, and many other occasions.

[Information taken from the March 2010 issue of “Lutheran,” the monthly newspaper of the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church]
Y. Franklin Ishida
Director for Asia and the Pacific, ELCA Global Mission

Easter Vigil experience gives new meaning to baptism

Posted on October 26, 2009 by Franklin Ishida

Singapore is the meeting point of many church traditions within Asia. One of the challenges for Jeff Truscott, ELCA missionary teaching worship at Trinity Theological College, is to introduce students to the theology and practices that have shaped church worship throughout history.

Truscott and students experiencing an Easter Vigil

Truscott and students experiencing an Easter Vigil

In a recent class, he led his class in experiencing the Easter Vigil. Many students come from non-liturgical traditions. For them and even those who do have liturgies, the vigil gave new meaning to baptism within the context of the theology of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Truscott reports that students found special meaning in the service of light and the service of readings from the Old Testament. “The strong symbolism in the service communicated powerfully to them,” he says.

After this vigil experience, students submitted a paper that reflected on how they could use, adapt, and possibly augment this service for use in their own churches and traditions in different Asian countries.

This was just a start. Next semester, Truscott plans to have his worship and liturgy class celebrate the entire Paschal Triduum during a one-day long retreat/workshop that will be open to the entire seminary community.

Y. Franklin Ishida
Director for Asia and the Pacific, ELCA Global Mission

The Pentecost Spirit renews the faith

Posted on June 1, 2009 by Franklin Ishida

Noboru Nakajima was walking down Okubo Ave near busy Shinjuku on a Saturday and noticed the sign for Tokyo Lutheran Church. He made a mental note to come back for worship the next day.

On Sunday morning, however, he ended up loitering in front of the church, hesitant to come in. It was, after all, 50 years since he last set foot in a church. And while the English-language service time fit his work schedule the best out of three services, English was not his forte.

Indeed Nakajima had been baptized in 1950 by a Lutheran pastor. That pastor had signed a Bible for him, which he still held on to dearly. He attended church regularly until he moved away because of work. With the many life changes after that, Nakajima had lost touch with church.

Several years ago, his wife died of cancer and was found gripping a cross. It was only then that Nakajima realized his wife was a baptized Christian as well. In Japan, people often get baptized and don’t tell their families or loved ones for fear of being rejected.

Now was his chance to enter into the life of the church once more. But taking that step across the threshold of the church was difficult; it was shameful to admit his long absence from church. Fortunately, one of the members of the congregation saw him, took him by the arm, and brought him into church.

This was Ascension Sunday, and though he couldn’t understand all of the sermon, which was in English, he knew the message was that all of Jesus’ followers would be God’s witnesses. Indeed, the member who dragged Nakajima into church was a witness. The people who engaged him after church during fellowship were also witnesses. The old Bible in his hand, his wife’s cross in his pocket were witnesses.

And the Holy Spirit was a witness, as Nakajima came back the next Sunday, Pentecost, to celebrate, with all those gathered, the birthing of the church with a renewed faith.
–Y. Franklin Ishida
Director for Asia and the Pacific, ELCA Global Mission

An unfolding Pentecost story

Posted on May 27, 2009 by admin

smdsc0077-741305Xiao (Nicole) and Annie, two only daughters of the same age, met in the Summer of 2002 in Chuzhou, China. Annie was one of four Global Mission/Amity volunteers working in Chuzhou with Chinese teachers of English; Nicole served as the team’s translator.

The Spirit is at work in both of their lives, growing what was planted that summer. Annie, on the path toward ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is about to conclude her Global Mission/Horizon International Internship with the Bratislava International Church, and about to start a year of residency as a chaplain at Advocate Lutheran General/St. Matthew Center for Health (Park Ridge, Illinois). Nicole graduated with an MBA from Michigan State University on May 8, and was baptized at St. Luke’s Lutheran (Park Ridge, Illinois) on May 10. In September, she will begin her new position with Terex Corporation in Westport, Connecticut.

I am blessed beyond measure by both of these spirited and spirit-led young women, one who calls me “Mommy” and the other who calls me “Mama Sue.”
Sue Edison-Swift