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.

Working toward a dream

Posted on February 19, 2013 by Hand In Hand

Mary Beth and Bayo Oyebade are ELCA missionaries in Jos, Nigeria. Mary Beth works with Foundations Academy, a small school that focuses on educating orphans, but children from the community also attend. In this entry from her blog “Establish the Work of Our Hands” she describes how the desire to learn can inspire dreams. To support Mary Beth and Bayo, or another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries in the global church, go to

A Foundations Academy math class works with flashcards.

A Foundations Academy math class works with flashcards.

I last saw Frank* as a young child of about 10. His mother sent him to the village to complete his primary school. Later when she heard that we had a school, she brought him back to Jos. He is now 15 years old.

Although Frank has finished sixth grade, I tested him in math and reading in order to determine his grade level. I’ve learned not to simply place children in the next grade level. Unfortunately, he was low in both reading and math, terribly low. Truly, he didn’t even qualify for fifth grade, but I didn’t have the heart to put a 15-year-old lower than that.

I gently broke the news to him, “I’m sorry that I won’t be able to put you in secondary school. You will need to enter fifth grade.” I saw the muscle flinch across his jaw as his eyes looked away. “Go home and tell your mother what I said. I hope to see you back here tomorrow.”

To his credit, he came back the next day and humbled himself to enter the fifth grade.

About a week later, he met the principal and me, and said, “I want you to put me in the third grade.” We were speechless and asked why. He said, “These other students have passed me.” We still encouraged him to press on in the fifth grade.

He tried, but a few days later, he was back with the same request. We compromised and put him in fourth grade.

Frank is making progress through a lot of intensive work in math drilling on basic facts and learning to read through phonics.

Today as I sat with Frank and other older students who are working on their foundations, I asked him: “Do you want to go to the university one day?” With a far-off gleam in his eye, Frank said, “Yes.”

*name has been changed for privacy

To cross the river

Posted on September 11, 2012 by Hand In Hand

A swollen river can drown the dream of an education. Such is the case in Nigeria, where Mary Beth and Bayo Oyebade are ELCA missionaries. To support the Oyebades, or another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries, go to

In the rainy season, the river by the school keeps some children from attending.

In the rainy season, the river by the school keeps some children from attending.

Mary Beth writes:

Our rainy season starts with a few rains in April, and then gathers momentum through May and June. July is even wetter and then it rains nearly every day in August. Even if the sun is shining on an August day, you still need to carry an umbrella. By September the rains will start to slow down and then we can expect just a couple of rains in October. Then dryness will rule the land from November through March.

During the rainy season, the river near our school becomes very swollen. There are a few places with strategically placed stones where people try to cross. When the water is really raging, people have to go far out of their way to cross a bridge and then backtrack.

In recent months we have heard many stories of parents who want their children to come to our school, but they live on the other side of the river. Last Friday two mothers came to find out about the school, and in the process of trying to cross the river, they fell in.

This morning a father came to see the school for the first time. He said, “I wish there was an access road to this place from the other side of the river. A lot of people over there would bring their kids to this school if they could get them safely across the river.”

I said, “Well, next week we’re planning to start building a bridge.”

“Praise God!”

“You let the people know that now they can bring their kids to school here.”

“I will! I will! You can trust me to do that!” I could see that he had a very exuberant personality and would definitely follow through.

An hour later he was back with his teenage daughter. He enrolled her in the Math Drill which is presently going on, and he is planning to enroll her in school in school by mid-September.


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

A joyful step toward self-sustainability

Posted on July 19, 2011 by Hand In Hand

Mary Beth and Bayo Oyebade are ELCA missionaries in Nigeria. They now serve with the Mashiah Foundation to provide services for those who are infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS. Mary Beth leads the women’s sewing program which helps women with HIV and AIDS earn money to provide for themselves and their families. To support the Oyebades, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to

The women praise God when they receive the sewing machines.

The women praise God when they receive the sewing machines.

In early December the Self-Sustainability Department of the Mashiah Foundation gave out new treadle sewing machines to five of the women in our program. Over the years we have given out more than 100 sewing machines. This is an incredible gift to the women as it allows them to do much of their work at home without always having to pay transport to come to our sewing center. The machine is a big step on their road to being able to take care of their families.

These are always times of great joy — and always kept a secret until the staff come dancing out with machines. The recipients are often overcome with emotions. I haven’t seen Nigerian women cry very often in public, but many times this gift is so overwhelming that their tears just pour out.

The women’s immediate response is to praise God for their new machines. It’s a time of pure jubilation. I also love how friends rejoice with those who receive.

Another example of striving for self-sustainability is a woman who does not have the use of her legs due to having polio as a child. Consequently, she can’t use a treadle sewing machine. She comes to our program from time to time. I’m always reminded of the Bible story of the persistent widow whenever I see her. She kept telling us that she wanted us to help her buy firewood so she could be selling it at her house. In January, we paid for a load of firewood which she is selling from her compound. Ideally, by the time she finishes selling the wood, she will have capital to invest in another load of wood as well as some income to feed herself and her child.

She was so happy that day when some of our staff members visited her in her home and took the money to her. We will be following up with her to see how her business venture is going.



Missionary Moment: Mary Beth Oyebade

Posted on March 15, 2010 by Hand In Hand

Keep On Keeping On
Posted: 19 Feb 2010 10:34 AM PST by Mary Beth Oyebade, ELCA missionary serving in Nigeria.

My apologies for being AWOL on this site for the past few weeks.

The dynamics of daily life have changed in the last month, dealing with riots and various security threats.

It always takes me awhile to get back to normal–or I should say: “the new normal.”  After the riots in 2008, I was driving downtown a few weeks later and almost stopped the car in the middle of the road when I caught sight of construction workers on a three-story building.  I was so shocked that construction was continuing while I was wondering when the next wave of violence would occur.  They were building for the future, and I was just trying to get through the day.

I bought a whole bunch of tomatoes, peppers and onions last weekend just because this is the season to buy those things. I planned to can pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, and red stew (typical Nigerian fare).  But as I looked at the 200+ empty jars on my shelves, I felt the same way I did when I saw those construction workers: filling those jars meant planning for the future–and my mind has been stuck in a daily survival mode for the past month.

We did get the canning done with lots of extra help in the kitchen. Here’s the tally:

30 pints of pizza sauce (this will last more than one year based on current pizza eating patterns in our home)
26 pints of Grandma’s spaghetti sauce
18 quarts of Nigerian red stew

Anyway, this past week was the most normal I’ve had for awhile so I feel like things are starting to pick up once again. And I’ll try to post a little more often on this site.

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.