The Rev. Brian and Christine Palmer are ELCA missionaries in Liberia. In this post to their blog, Brian shares his thoughts about the recent class that graduated from the lay training center where he teaches. To support Brian and Christine, or another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries, go to www.ELCA.org/missionarysponsorship.
The compound is quiet. I can hear the steady beat of a whipper cutting the grass in the field beside the library. I can hear the murmur of classes in session at Totota Lutheran High School. I can hear the pump handle being worked as the children draw water. What I don’t hear is my students. I don’t hear the commotion of the lady’s dorm as the women of the Class of 2012 eat and bathe and do small laundry before dragging themselves to my 8:15 a.m. Old Testament lesson.
Today is Tuesday. Last Friday 26 lay ministers of the Lutheran Church in Liberia graduated from the Louis T. Bowers Lay Leaders and Ministers Training Center. The transformation has been remarkable. They came to Level I preaching works righteousness and exchanging recipes on how to manipulate God. Today, almost two years later, they all preach Christ’s righteousness while living with the daily struggle of “thy will be done.” What this means is that there are now 26 more congregations peppered throughout the Lutheran Church in Liberia that are hearing a message of God’s grace that is both solidly biblical and Lutheran flavored.
There’s a song in “Fiddler On the Roof” called “Do You Love Me?” It’s the one where Tevya is sitting with his wife of 25 years and wondering if their parents’ promise that they would learn to love each other had come true. The song unpacks the meaning of love and lays claim to this idea that love is less of a feeling and more of a doing. At graduation I told my students about this song and I said I hoped I had shown them that I love them. More importantly I hoped I had taught them to see more clearly how God’s love is shown to us in Christ. Finally, I admonished them to return to their congregations prepared to follow Christ’s example and show their love for their people. Communication with Liberians is often difficult for me so I ended with a refrain of, “Are you getting me?” I knew they would say yes and sure enough they did. Today, on this quiet Tuesday, my sincere prayer is that their yes was the truth.