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.

Rejoicing for the roofs

Posted on June 25, 2013 by Hand In Hand

Phillip and June Nelson are ELCA missionaries in Cameroon where they are working in business administration and nursing. To support Phillip and June, or another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries in the global church, go to


June and Phillip Nelson

June and Phillip Nelson

June 16
Dear friends,

The church truck just got back from Ouli five days ago. Denis hauled all the materials for the roofs of the churches in Mbengetiko and Ouli dropping Bello and Bernard off with the tools to build the roofs on the two churches there. They took the roofing sheets and other materials along with the tools from here about 10 days ago. When they reached Bertoua they picked up the wood that Gouroudja had purchased a couple of days earlier. By the time they got close to Mbengetiko where they were going to drop off the first set of materials it was getting dark.

Denis said that the road was fixed up from the last time that he went down that way and he didn’t even recognize the turnoff to get there. So they started asking and the word got out that they were on the way. Several kilometers outside of Mbengetiko they were flagged down by a man, and he rode on the truck shouting out that the materials for the church were finally arriving. By the time they got to the church there was a large crowd there singing and dancing with joy. It was at that time that Denis called me to tell me they had arrived. I could easily hear the singing in the background, and Denis had difficulty hearing me on the phone.

The town wouldn’t allow them to continue that night even after they had unloaded the material for their church. So they stayed overnight and left for Ouli the next morning, to unload and start there before returning to Mbengetiko. Yesterday they said they had a couple of days left in Ouli before finishing that first of the two roofs. Then Bello and Bernard would be returning to Mbengetiko to work on that one.

It was the ELCA South Dakota Synod that financed these two church roofs. This is cooperation between the people in South Dakota and the people in each of the churches out here. It is the responsibility of the local congregations to build the walls out of permanent materials (either burned brick stone or cement block for the walls with a solid foundation). South Dakota’s part comes in when they pay for the corrugated aluminum roof, which runs anywhere between from $7,000 to $10,000 a roof. Bishop Thomas Nyiwe of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon tells me that there are still over 25 churches waiting for roofs.

June and Phil Nelson

Moussa can walk again

Posted on March 19, 2013 by Hand In Hand

Phillip and June Nelson are ELCA missionaries in Cameroon where they are working in business administration and nursing. To support Phillip and June, or another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries in the global church, go to


June and Phillip Nelson

June and Phillip Nelson

Dear Friends,

Moussa Oumaru is a young boy who is about 13 years old from the Fulbe ethnic group, who is thin of face and body. He is not a strong or powerful young man but he has a strong heart.

It all started with an accident about two years ago in the small town of Madjidou where he and his family have been living for the last several years after starting to follow the teachings of Harouna Iisa. The accident burned his legs and caused way more pain and suffering than a young boy of 11 should have to go through. He wasn’t able to get to a hospital for several weeks because public transport often refuses to take people who have those kinds of oozing sores. The assistant to the bishop here in Ngaoundéré was coming back from a trip out Moussa Oumaru’s way and had the compassion to bring him to the Protestant Hospital here in Ngaoundéré.

The burn unit here worked with him for about three months, and this cost way more money than his poor family had. The Medical Assistance account took charge of his bills and paid the more than $1,000 dollars for his treatment. It was around a year ago that he went home to continue the healing process, which included exercises that Nicole Danki (the physical therapist) gave him to do.

Because of the pain and other factors that come from such an injury, he was still unable to straighten his legs and walk. We have the good fortune to have acquired the services of Yve Obombyok, an orthopedic/trauma surgeon, this year at the hospital who was able, in the last month, to perform the necessary surgery for Moussa to be able to straighten his legs once again. It brought a tear to my eye when I saw him walking out of the surgical ward without even a cane to help him.

Moussa is going home today and his father came by to say “thank you” for all that we had done to make his son able to walk again. Moussa’s father told me in no uncertain terms that he knew that his son was healed thanks to all the people here in Ngaoundéré but mostly what made it possible was the healing power of Jesus Christ. We only need to trust in him. Not everyone has such a dramatic recovery, but Moussa did and we rejoice with him and his family.

Often times we forget the reason we are called here, but every once in a while we get a reminder of the reason God calls us to this place when we are privileged to be a part of lives such as Moussa and his family.

June and Phil

New Gbaya Bible editions bring joy

Posted on July 24, 2012 by Hand In Hand

Anne and Willie Langdji are ELCA missionaries in Cameroon. They serve in the areas of health ministries and sustainable development and are also Western Africa regional representatives. To support them, or another of the ELCA’s 225 missionaries, go to

Recently ordained Pastor Rita and her husband.

Recently ordained Pastor Rita and her husband.

There are around 250 languages spoken in Cameroon. Since their arrival in the 1920s, American Lutheran missionaries have been involved in translating the Bible into Gbaya, an important language in the region where they were working. The first edition of the Bible was dedicated in 1996. But on June 9 this year in Garoua-Boulai, a second edition and a first edition with the deutero-canonical books were dedicated, to much celebration. Present were local church leaders from both Cameroon and the Central African Republic, but also Dr. Philip Noss, a Lutheran missionary kid and prominent linguist who oversaw this translation work, as well as a 92-year-old priest from France who has made this his life’s work. The Spirit will use this event and the availability of new Gbaya Bibles to work for reconciliation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon, which is still struggling with internal unrest.

The next morning, the EELC’s Bible School in Garoua-Boulai  graduated 21 new lay catechists, including one woman. And the new Gbaya Bible was proudly open on the laps of members, catechists and pastors during the service.

The local congregation almost blew the roof off the church when National Bishop Thomas Nyiwe introduced Pastor Rita, one of the first three women ordained by the EELC at the beginning of May.

Joy, joy, joy!

Thanks for your continuing support and prayers!

A new sister in Christ

Posted on December 6, 2011 by Hand In Hand

Philip Nelson works with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic. June Nelson is a nurse in the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeon’s clinic. To support the Nelsons, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to

Philip and June Nelson

Philip and June Nelson

Dear Friends,

A young woman recently desired to be baptized. Her husband is one of a growing group of people in her ethnic group who have chosen to follow Jesus. She is a woman with traditional values. When she came to my house to be baptized, she couldn’t go against her upbringing and speak to someone as seemingly imposing as myself. I discreetly went into the kitchen and prepared some coffee while Pastor Abdulahi Jean and her husband spoke with her about why she had chosen to be baptized.

Eves dropping from the kitchen, I heard her tell Pastor Abdulahi that she had seen a difference in her husband after he was baptized, and that when she was sick here at the Ngaoundéré hospital, the Christians, especially Pastor Abdulahi, were so kind to her. She wanted to be a part of what she had heard about Jesus.

After I came out of the kitchen I asked her if she knew what the cross was and why it was important to Christians. Embarrassed she looked at her hands that were zipping and unzipping her small pocket book and shook her head indicating that she didn’t. After I explained the significance of the cross to Christians, we laughed together about her being embarrassed to talk directly to me. Our house worker and cook, Eve, then arrived with a longtime friend of the family, Tobi. These two women helped put the young lady more at ease.

Pastor Abdulahi started the service around our dining room table and had me read from the 28th chapter of Matthew where Jesus commands the disciples to go into the world and make disciples of all nations first baptizing them. Pastor Abdulahi baptized her with Eve holding the bowl of water. Our new sister left this morning with a smile and a cross to remember what Jesus did for her and for us.

This is the reason that I find joy in the work that we have been called to participate in here in Cameroon and Central African Republic. God is indeed wonderful and more powerful in our lives than any force or coercion. I do not give you her name because she is now vulnerable to others of her ethnic group who do not agree with her choices.


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

Baptized in Cameroon — despite persecution

Posted on August 23, 2011 by Hand In Hand

Philip Nelson works with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic. June Nelson is a nurse in the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeon’s clinic. To support the Nelsons, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to

Philip and June Nelson

Philip and June Nelson

Dear friends,

This last weekend was very exciting for me.  We brought a group of Imaniiya here to Ngaoundéré to two of the church services on Sunday.  The church members got a chance to see and meet the Fulani people that are coming to believe, even with the persecution that they have been through recently.

At night a group came over to my house and three of them asked to be baptized.   They asked to do this at night because they wished to do this in secret.  I am not a pastor so we called Pastor Abdulaye Jean, who is a chaplain at the Hospital here, to perform the baptism.  I will give them English sounding names to protect their identity.

Sally is a beautiful young woman of 17 has been going to high school here in Ngaoundéré.  She will be staying with a Fulani family in Ngaoundéré, who are Christians.  One of the wonderful things about this group of Imaniiya is that, even though they come from a Muslim tradition, they worship with their women giving them voice in their worship.

Adam, 36, has lost his cattle due to the persecution he has suffered since starting to follow Jesus that he went through.  He led the singing of the group and loves to make up songs to express his faith.  He will be returning to his village as a child of God.

Abner, 33, has been with the group in Gomana for several years and has joined the children in town to learn to read and write in French.  He is being taught by the son of the village chief.

On the south side of our house here is a rose bush that is blooming right now. The smiles on the faces of those baptized reminded me of the blooms that are just opening now full and beautiful, infectious both in radiance and warmth.  God is wonderful; please pray for these people as they go back to their village and take up their changed lives.



News Service features Willie Langdji

Posted on October 4, 2010 by Hand In Hand
Willie Langdji

October 4, 2010

ELCA Representative in West Africa Crosses Faith With Community Building

CHICAGO (ELCA) — Williboard “Willie” Langdji embodies ecumenism. He is Catholic working on behalf of Lutherans among large Muslim communities. As a regional representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in West Africa, Langdji is comfortable talking about and strengthening faith, while helping to support communities in unique ways.

From 2000 to 2009 Langdji was based in Linguere, Senegal, working among the Fulani people — a large, traditional Muslim community in West Africa. Langdji’s work involved projects in agriculture and milk production.

“We crossed the local cow with American, European Holstein cows or Jersey bulls,” said Langdji. “Our results were very good. The cross-breed yields more milk than the local breed.”

“A family went from producing a few liters of milk a day, maybe one liter a day in the dry season, to as much as 10 liters of milk a day. You can see the impact this has from a nutritional point of view, as well as economic — families have more milk to eat and surplus to sell,” he said.

The project is also very good ministry, said Langdji. “It helps provide for the basic needs of people and offers an opportunity to engage with people in their daily lives. We were dealing with people’s culture, life, health and whole family. It is a good starting point to engage people in conversation, which can move into theology, personal beliefs and more.” For Langdji, holistic ministry and witness in word and deed go together.

When the opportunity surfaced, Langdji said he asked many questions among the Fulani people about their work and faith life. “I asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’ The response was simple. ‘We are called to do this work.’ One thing to understand about the Fulani is that they are traditional Muslim people. Our work was an example of Christians and Muslims working together, an important aspect of ministry.”

The engagement between Lutherans and the Fulani people, particularly in Linguere, has existed for some time and continues, said Langdji. “We now have an ELCA pastor working here,” he said.

“I’ve had contact with Muslims and people of other faiths since I was a kid,” said Langdji, who grew up in Cameroon. “In my childhood village there was a sizeable Muslim community. I grew up with Muslim kids, but I never had the opportunity to share my faith with them.”

Serving as an ELCA missionary in Central African Republic and Senegal, and now as an ELCA regional representative, has been “good for me. It has given me opportunities to understand my faith more, grow in my faith and get to a point where I feel comfortable talking about Jesus and (sharing) something that I trust and believe. That has had a positive impact on my faith. And I hope this will be helpful to others,” he said.

Langdji works with his wife, Anne Ruedisili Langdji, and the Rev. Viking E. Dietrich, an ELCA pastor. All three serve as ELCA regional representatives in West Africa — Dietrich’s work focuses on theological education, evangelism and interfaith relationships. Anne Langdji’s work focuses on health ministries, and Willie Langdji’s work centers on development and capacity building. Together they work to foster church-to-church relationships between and among the ELCA and Lutheran churches in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

The three ELCA regional representatives also work with other religious organizations, such as with the Joint Christian Ministry in West Africa and the Good News Theological College and Seminary in Ghana.

Since July 2009, Willie and Anne Langdji have been based in Cameroon. They will continue to travel across West Africa to learn more about Lutheran churches and ministries, and interpret their learning to ELCA constituencies.

The ELCA has more than 225 mission personnel in 50 countries and 13 regional representatives serving around the world.

ELCA News Service features Dr. Jim and Carolyn Brown (Cameroon)

Posted on September 27, 2010 by Hand In Hand

ELCA Missionaries Dr. Jim and Carolyn Brown serve in Cameroon. (Photo by Melissa Ramirez Coper, ELCA News Service)

September 23, 2010

ELCA Missionaries Find Hope in Training of African Surgeons

  CHICAGO (ELCA) — Jim Brown’s life is full of extremes. There are days when his heart breaks, and there are days when his heart soars. As a surgeon in Cameroon for the past two years, Brown often finds himself feeling overwhelmed. “But the wonderful thing that I think about most is the training of surgeons in Africa,” he said.

“Only 1 percent of the world’s surgical workforce is in Africa, yet Africa has the greatest surgical burden of any part of the world,” said Brown.

“There are millions of people in Africa who cannot get access to any surgical care, even the most simple life-saving treatments like C-sections or repairing hernias and open fractures. These are done every day in the United States. but many people in rural Africa have no access to these kinds of care,” he said, “and they die or suffer because they can’t get treated.”

“We see a lot of horrible things, lots of death that could have been prevented with timely intervention or resources,” said Brown.

But there are “stories after stories of times when people get well that we knew was not about us,” he said. “I mean this very literally. We see God do things that we know are so far beyond our experience and capability.”

Brown and his wife, Carolyn, are missionaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Jim serves as surgical program director at Ngaoundéré Protestant Hospital — a hospital of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon. He also trains surgeons from throughout Africa through the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS). Carolyn is a recovery care nurse and wound consultant. Together they work to treat patients and train African doctors and nurses.

The Browns are members of the Presbyterian Church in America.

“About 90 percent of women in rural sub-Sahara Africa who need a C-section can’t get one,” said Brown. He said many of the women who arrive at the hospital have labored for days in their villages. “Often the baby is dead or partly delivered,” he said. “There are so many other terrible conditions that people live with here that are hard for us (in the United States) to imagine.”

Strangulated hernias, open fractures that become infected, typhoid perforations, complications from HIV and tuberculosis, trauma and malaria are conditions that Brown said he sees routinely.

“I often say that only 20 percent of what I practiced in the United States is what I practice here. The other 80 percent I’m learning as we go,” he said. “Almost every day I find myself saying, ‘I’ve never seen that before’ or ‘I’ve never done that surgery before.’ Not infrequently I’ll take the book literally into the operating room and read about what I need to do.”

Brown said there are very few places in Cameroon to refer patients, calling the referral center a myth. “We are the referral center for a large part of northern Cameroon and parts of some adjacent countries,” he said, adding that patients who can afford to travel to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, for care are not guaranteed treatment.

“We are also often in that dilemma of ‘can we do this’ and ‘can we do this safely.’ It takes a lot of judgment to accept the fact that nothing can be done or to give it our best try,” he said.

Despite some of the heartbreaks in patient care, Brown said he finds hope in training African doctors to become surgeons.

“There are a lot of people alive today who wouldn’t be alive if we weren’t there,” said Brown.

There are six PAACS training sites in Africa, and 18 residents have graduated from its other surgical programs. All 18 are still serving in Africa, said Carolyn Brown. She said that of the current residents at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon’s Ngaoundéré hospital, one is from Cameroon and the other is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In addition to training nurses at Ngaoundéré, Carolyn participates in the work of distributing a benevolent fund used to pay hospital expenses for patients who cannot pay for services. She said the hospital is completely run by Africans. The hospital relies on income from surgery and other patient care services to stay solvent.

The residents under Jim Brown’s tutelage come from Cameroon and other parts of the African continent. Brown said it is his hope that, once trained, surgeons will return to their home country and make a difference.

It is important that the residents receive a very broad surgical training, because many of them may be working in settings where they will be the only surgeon, he said.

“One of our greatest joys is seeing residents begin to think differently, go to the bedside and conduct a formal evaluation, think in terms of differential diagnoses and evidence-based medicine instead of doing what they saw someone else do at another hospital,” he said.

In his work Brown has learned to rely more on God. “There are so many times when what we do just falls apart, and we have a lot of heart-breaking things that it’s almost impossible to watch,” said Brown. “If you don’t believe that God is sovereign, that God is good, you could easily despair, you could easily give up. If I weren’t convinced that God has called us to do this work at this time, I couldn’t do it. It’s too hard.”

Carolyn Brown said watching her husband struggle sometimes “is hard for me. I help him, but there comes a point where I can’t do anything else but pray.”

“God has given us both a passion for health care and for teaching,” said Jim. A good part of what is shared is “God’s love,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. There are so many amazing, wonderful things that do happen, like establishing relationships and living and sharing with people here. It’s real.”

The Browns are not sure how long they will stay in Cameroon. “It is open-ended,” he said. “But as long as the country is stable and the program is viable and we can maintain it, we plan to stay.”

The ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon (ELCC) are members of the Lutheran World Federation, based in Geneva. Based in Ngaoundéré, the ELCC has 215,000 members in 1,350 congregations.

ELCA missionary sponsorship

“The Browns are a powerful model of how ELCA missionaries, global companions and missionary sponsors work together hand-in-hand to do God’s work,” said the Rev. Twila K. Schock, director for ELCA Global Mission Support.

The ELCA has more than 225 mission personnel in 50 countries serving around the world in a variety of roles. Mission personnel are supported by individuals, congregations and others such as the “Women of the Prairie Coteau Conference” — a Women of the ELCA conference in northeast South Dakota.

Every three months the Browns receive a $1,700 check for missionary sponsorship from the conference’s “Runner’s Club,” a women’s group from LaBolt, S.D.

The Club has sponsored ELCA missionaries for the past 15 years with a giving total of nearly $100,000.

About 21 Women of the ELCA congregational groups give to the Runner’s Club, according to Linda Anderson, the Club’s treasurer. She said the Club was founded 39 years ago by Vavi Amodt of New Effington, S.D. Amodt encouraged women to wear stockings with a “runner” in them to women’s meetings and Bible studies and donate the cost of a new pair of hosiery to sponsor mission work.

The Browns are delivering presentations about their work to ELCA congregations and five medical centers in the United States. They are currently in the United States for home assignment, planning to return to Cameroon in October.

The Runner’s Club

Posted on July 18, 2010 by Hand In Hand

“While chasing down a sponsorship story, the Runner’s Club caught me,” is a feature article on p. 4 of the July-August 2010 issue of Seeds for the Parish. To view the article and a related sidebar about Dr. Jim and Carolyn Brown (ELCA missionaries serving in Cameroon), visit or click here to go directly to p. 4. 

To entice you to read the article and sidebar, here are two “bonus features” that didn’t make it in print.   Blessings!  Sue Edison-Swift, associate director for Global Mission Support.

Bonus feature #1

Dear Linda!  Dear Runner’s Club!

Oh, my goodness.  You made my day.  This is THE BEST story.  Way to go, women!

Your story is dear to me on so many levels.  I was the associate editor of Lutheran Woman Today for its first 13 years and my mom and her various circles were faithful subscribers to Scope. I have been a part of the team that produces the ELCA Good Gifts catalog…filled with ways to make giving concrete and fun.  (You were pioneers in that endeavor!)  And, now I am privileged to help raise needed funds for ELCA missionaries. 

 Linda, you wrote the story so well that I can “see” it all…including the “little box” that holds the offerings.

 This is a stewardship story.  This is a women’s story.  This is an evangelism story. This is a missionary story.  This is a story of Christian community linked “hand in hand” between South Dakota and Cameroon.  WOW!

 Good story blessings,  Sue
P.S.  WOW!

Bonus Feature #2

“Covenant sponsors,” like the Runner’s Club, make a financial, communication, and prayer commitment to support an ELCA missionaries like Dr. Jim and Carolyn Brown (Cameroon).  Learn more in the Hand in Hand Guide for Covenant Sponsors ( 

With or without a covenant commitment, your gifts to ELCA Missionary Sponsorship make it possible for more than 240 missionaries to teach, preach, grow, build, heal and nurture with companions in 50 countries. You may donate through your ELCA congregation or Women of the ELCA organization, by calling 800-638-3522, by visiting, or by mailing a check directly to ELCA Global Mission Support at 8765 W. Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631.

Your gifts and your prayers make a world of difference.  Many congregations pray for missionaries each Sunday and many individuals use the Global Mission Annual of ELCA missionaries as a prayer prompt.  The 2011 Annual will be mailed to all covenant sponsors at the end of October, 2010.  Others may reserve a copy by calling 800-638-3522 or by sending their name and home address to

 As you read and hear the news, as you read “missionary stories” on the Hand in Hand Blog Digest (, pray for our missionaries and companions; it’s a great way to turn worry into action and thanksgiving into praise.

Summer issue in hand

Posted on March 23, 2010 by Hand In Hand

Find the Hand in Hand newsletter, along with related bulletin inserts, at

 The Summer 2010 issue of the Hand in Hand newsletter offers ELCA Missionary Sponsorship “information and inspiration.”   The newsletter, along with related bulletin inserts, are available online at the front side of this Pentecost issue, find

**What love the lord has for me!” A Pentecost story is offered by Jim Noss, a retired ELCA missionary who served in Cameroon for 35 years with his wife, Karen.

**Seven suggestions to help when your YAGM returns home is a must read for friends and family of the Young Adults in Global Mission who will complete their year of global mission volunteer service this summer.  The writer, the Rev. Andrea Roske-Metcalfe, speaks from experience; a former YAGM and current ELCA missionary, Pr. Andrea serves as the country coordinator for the Young Adults in Global Mission Program in Mexico.  Visit to learn more and check out the flip side of this issue to see a group picture of the YAGM Class of 2009-2010.

Request copies of the newsletter to distribute in your congregation or at events by e-mailing