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.

‘Prisoners of hope’

Posted on February 25, 2012 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Philip Knutson is the ELCA Global Mission regional representative for Southern Africa. To support Philip, or another of the ELCA’s 230 missionaries, go to


The Rev. Philip Knutson

The Rev. Philip Knutson

Dear friends in Christ,

This year the African National Congress (ANC) is celebrating 100 years of existence as a liberation movement and recounting with great pride the history of the struggle to overcome colonialism and apartheid in South Africa. Much of this powerful story is captured in Nelson Mandela’s autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom.”

Reflecting on the ANC’s centenary year is a recent article in Time magazine, “How the ANC lost its way,” that is quite critical even pessimistic about the situation in South Africa  Referring to this article, someone asked me recently where signs of hope might be found.

All this reminded me of the bold statement by Anglican Archbishop-emeritus and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu: “I am not an optimist. I am a prisoner of hope.”

The recently published “Kairos Southern Africa” statement seeks to speak a prophetic and challenging word to the ANC and to South Africa at this time expressing gratitude for sacrifices made, concern over continuing injustices and grounds for hope.

As I travel, meet and worship with companions throughout Southern Africa and meet brothers and sisters who teach and preach in rural and urban congregations and work to overcome HIV and AIIDS, poverty and malaria I continue to learn how, by God’s grace, we are called, gathered and sent to walk together as “prisoners of hope.”

As we move through Lent to Good Friday and Easter we are reminded of the 40-year sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness and also of the disciples’ journey with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, Golgotha and beyond. There were times of doubt and hopelessness but also, when all seemed lost, unexpected signs of hope and new life.

Thank you for your prayers, continuing support through the ELCA Missionary Sponsorship program and for your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,
Philip Knutson
Capetown, South Africa
February 2012

A Japanese view of Lent

Posted on February 18, 2012 by Hand In Hand

Christine Eige is an ELCA teaching missionary in Japan. To support Christine, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to


This is the kanji for “Lent.”

This is the kanji for “Lent.”

We are entering the season of Lent and are focusing our eyes on the cross. Recently, at Bible study, I had the experience of explaining Lent to someone who is not a Christian. I said that Lent is a time to remember how Jesus died on the cross; this sacrifice made it possible for people to know God better and to be with him after they die. It is sad because Jesus had physical and emotional pain, but the story didn’t end there. On Easter we celebrate how Jesus rose again.

After this experience, I grew curious about how Japanese Christians view Lent.  Although Lent is not well-known in Japan, Lutherans here do often know about its meaning.

The word for Lent in Japanese is “jyunansetsu.” It is made up of three kanji (pictures that symbolize words or parts of words). The first kanji means “to accept,” the second means “hardship,” and the third means “a period of time.” Together, in Japanese, Lent means to accept hardship for a time.

I love that image because it reminds us that suffering and hardships are only for a time and that there is an end to the difficulties. Jesus suffered tremendously, but his glorious resurrection put an end to his pain and provided an eternal solution to suffering. So whatever challenges, pain or difficulties you are experiencing, know that the end is in view.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3: 22-23).

Life and Death: North Dakota, Japan, PNG

Posted on March 24, 2011 by Franklin Ishida

Six days after Ash Wednesday, we listen to BBC and wait as the whole world waits for more news out of Japan following the devastating earthquake.  We pray for our missionary colleagues serving in Japan.  Here in Lae we were on tsunami watch for about twelve hours, connected not only with our neighboring Pacific Islands but Chile, New Zealand, California, Hawaii, the Aleutian Islands.  We are fine here and had no effects of the tsunami.  A BBC commentator described the unsettledness of the Pacific Ocean as “a big bath tub”.  A big bath tub!  Could there be a more personal description of the vastness of this ocean that teams with life vital to our existence and movement reminiscent of the evening ritual of cleansing our children?  What makes sense in this huge, wonderful Earth that gives life and takes it away?

As we begin this Lenten journey, we have just returned to Papua New Guinea from a quick trip back to the United States, journeying to the place of my birth to attend the funeral for my mother, the one who gave Rod life.   We begin this journey a little groggy from jet lag, having traversed time zones, climates, emotions, and lifestyles that magnified both our differences and our similarities.   What a contrast in climate and culture that we have experienced in a matter of two weeks.  It was very cold back home in North Dakota, –  11 F on the day of my mother’s funeral, almost 100 degrees colder that it is in Papua New Guinea.  The ground in North Dakota was white, all covered with snow.  Back in PNG we live in a tropical paradise of palm trees, banana trees, some of the most beautiful flowers you will ever see and lush green vegetation everywhere and every day.  The culture and lifestyles of peoples living in these very different places in the world could hardly be more vivid and stark.

Yet somehow we all are dealing with some of the same issues of life and death.  Our friends and colleagues here in Papua New Guinea know death all too well, with young and old alike dying of diseases that would never cause death back in the US.  They prayed with us and shared our sorrows even as they were amazed that my mother was 87 years old.  Life expectancy here is 50-60 years old.  Our PNG friends supported us in our decision to make the long trip back home for my mother’s funeral since that would be assumed, no matter the cost or distance.  Of course you would go back to your “as ples,” your birthplace to honor your mother and be with family at this time of sorrow.  Family and birthplace define the Papua New Guinea people.

And so we went across that “big bath tub, called the Pacific Ocean back to my “as ples” North Dakota, the place of my birth.  We made the journey with your prayers and prayers of people all over this world, pointing out the global nature of our church.  We went on a journey made by every human being in this world at some time in their life, a journey back home to bury your mother, the one who gave us life.

We begin this Lenten journey this year thankful for each and every one of you who have made this journey with us and for the common bond that we all share in Christ Jesus, who unites all people of this world together in one holy and global church.  May God create in each of us a clean heart and put a new and right spirit within us.  May that new and clean spirit keep us bound together in God’s love, even as we live in our very different lands and places.

Rod Nordby and Nancy Anderson
ELCA Missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

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.

Brought to you by paczki

Posted on February 16, 2010 by Hand In Hand

The Global Mission Lenten Series, which includes a host of resources of mid-week Lenten services–even “global” soup recipes for soup suppers–is featured on the ELCA homepage.  Be sure to visit to check it out for yourself and your congregation. Please share the site with others in your network.

Thanks to the ELCA missionaries who wrote for the Lenten Series, to the Rev. Julie Rowe who edited the series, and to our CO colleagues, especially Ben McDonald Coltvet and Marianne Griebler, for highlighting the series on the ELCA homepage!

This message is sponsored by paczki (POONschies), the official Fat Tuesday pastry. Mmmmmm….paczki.

Blessings, Sue Edison-Swift

When and what?

Posted on January 22, 2010 by Hand In Hand

Q. When will the new Global Mission annual be available? 
A. The 2010-2011 Global Mission Support and Service Annual (GMS Annual) will be available in October. All covenant sponsors will receive the GMS Annual. To reserve a copy, call 800-638-3522 (RIS) or e-mail

Q. What Missionary Sponsorship resources are available for distribution in congregations, at assemblies and for other events?
The Global Mission Support team–Pr. Twila Schock, Sue Edison-Swift, and Kathleen West–are happy to send as many copies as you need of the current issue of the Hand in Hand newsletter. Find the newsletter articles and devotions available in reproducible formats at
Offering envelopes, tribute cards, covenant forms, and the “Hand in Hand Guide for Covenant Sponsors” are also available. Contact Sue Edison-Swift (800-638-3522, ext. 2969) to talk through options.

P.S. Check out the online Global Mission Epiphany devotions and Lenten Series.