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.

Greetings from Papua New Guinea

Posted on August 27, 2013 by Hand In Hand
Ann Klavano_PNG_8-27-13

The Rev. Ann Klavano in Papua New Guinea

The Rev. Ann Klavano is an ELCA missionary serving a four-year call at the Senior Flierl Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea in the Finchhaven region of Papua New Guinea. Among her duties at the seminary are teaching English and church history and overseeing the library.

Click here to hear Ann describe her work and to see photos from where she is serving. To support Ann, or another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries in the global church, click here.


Troubled times in Papua New Guinea

Posted on November 19, 2011 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Rodney Nordby and Nancy Anderson are ELCA missionaries in Lae, Papua New Guinea. To support Rodney and Nancy, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to

The Rev. Rodney Nordby and Nancy Anderson

The Rev. Rodney Nordby and Nancy Anderson

Nov.  9, 2011

We write you at a time of civil unrest in Lae. News may be starting to come into the U.S., but we want you to know that we are safe even though there have been a lot of tensions. On Thursday a large group of people from Morobe (our province) marched to the provincial government offices with many complaints and got little satisfaction. Things escalated quickly and there was violence on Friday and a lock-down by the weekend.

There are many stories and rumors so it is difficult to discern what has truly happened, but houses have been burned, some people we know have been threatened, the little store near Ampo where our friends and neighbors shop has been looted, and there are long lines of people wanting to buy food once the shops open.

Our pastors here in Lae are providing leadership to bring the factions together and address the concerns, many of which are the legitimate issues of urbanization, manifested in unemployment, the emergence of settlements and the daily presence of hunger and poverty. That these issues and violence quickly turn into modern-day tribal fighting is troublesome.  It is amazing how the biases emerge so swiftly and, if not thwarted, turn into protests.  A state of emergency has not been called and there is some return to normal, but no one is resting easy yet.

On the previous Monday, Reformation Day, we had had a wonderful outdoor service.  Due to the rain, it involved much preparation and work erecting a tarp to protect us from the weather. By the end of the week, the idyllic scene of the service seemed a distant memory.

The same area in which we held the service under big rain trees was the scene of young people running with rocks and knives through Ampo, the result of their protest being halted by the police at Butibam Bridge.  The prayers points in our Reformation Day worship service foreshadowed what have been emerging concerns about security, street crime in Lae city and the lack of responsiveness of the provincial government.

We are safe.  We stay connected with our Papua New Guinean colleagues and neighbors and our fellow missionaries.  We try to resume our normal daily routines, knowing full well that a shift has taken place.

Blessings to you as you prepare for Thanksgiving and Advent. We will stay in touch.
Gob i blesim yupela olgeta,
Nancy and Rod

UPDATE as of Nov. 13:
The situation in Lae has settled down. Meetings between factions and the local government were successful; a community-wide solution was found to the many tensions. Nancy and Rod remain safe, and Rod has even traveled on some projects that were postponed due to the riots. The church was at the forefront of providing protection to those who felt threatened by violence, and ecouraging dialogue to ease the tensions.

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.

Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Sister Ruth Ellen Rebelein

Posted on January 15, 2011 by Franklin Ishida

Sister Ruth Ellen, an ELCA deaconess, began her service as a teacher in the Senior Flierl Seminary in Logaweng, Papua New Guinea. She has spent the last 12 years as teacher at the Seminary and a voice in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea. Prior to her service with the ELCA Global Mission, Sister Ruth Ellen resided in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania.

Bagarap and beauty (Nancy Anderson, PNG)

Posted on August 23, 2010 by Hand In Hand

 Thank you, Creator God, for the gift and beauty of this new day.  Help me trust.  Help me focus on what is important.  Bless the work I do this day in this place.

Soon after arriving in Papua New Guinea, I learned a great new word in Pidgin: bagarap!  The exclamation is used to describe an unexpected and unpredictable situation or the expected and predictable demise of the well-planned day: “Em bagarap!”

Bagarap! is a useful word to know as I learn how to accomplish things in Papua New Guinea.  For example, I recently inherited responsibility as Pool Car Coordinator to manage the care and utilization of the church partnership’s shared cars.  Each Monday morning, with hope more than confidence, I say to myself and to Jonah, our young driver, “It’s a new day!  It’s a new week!” And then, well, bagarap happens.

Thank you for the change; where’s the receipt?”
“Thank you for the receipt; where’s the change?”
“Please remember to lock the padlocks at night.”
“What happened to the Nissan’s taillight?”
“The insurance and registration on the Nissan has lapsed?”

One morning, as I sat anticipating the bagarap of the day ahead, my husband said “look at what I saw this morning when I opened the kitchen curtains!”  He pointed to the vine crawling up our back staircase and there, in resplendent beauty were gorgeous lavender azaleas.  In my distraction I had missed the beauty right under my nose.  My gasp was a prayer of gratitude. 

ELCA missionary Nancy Anderson serves in Papua New Guinea with her husband, the Rev. Rod Nordby.

Walking the mission road

Posted on March 13, 2010 by Franklin Ishida

Mission in Motion bookIf you feel like you are actually treking up mountains, engaged in meetings on church issues, and dancing with new confirmands as you read the book, Mission in Motion, then you are right on. Ronald and Else Schardt wrote this book about their missionary experiences in Papua New Guinea in the present tense so that the reader can indeed be “walking together with God’s people in Papua New Guinea,” as the subtitle suggests.

The stories are not a chronological account of the Schardts 26 years in PNG. Rather, they portray daily life in a church and country that is dynamic and always in motion. You will walk with those in need of medical care. You will walk with the challenges of getting around where there are no roads (actually, often flying). You will walk into church conflicts. You will march to newly built churches. You will dance in joyous ceremonies. You will tiptoe in the middle of blackouts. And you will walk confidently through the milestones of faith.

Each chapter concludes with discussion questions about accompaniment — the main theme of the book. How do you see accompaniment in the chapter’s story? How do you see accompaniment in similar daily situations of your own? And how is the missionary story our own story? How can we walk together in our lives of faith?

Some of the stories in the book date back to the early days of the Schardts tenure in PNG and some things may have changed since then. But the theme of walking — walking with those around you, joining in mutual encouragement and support, and sharing in life’s journey — remains a strong reminder that mission yesterday, today, and tomorrow is about accompaniment.

You can order copies of Mission in Motion by writing

And of course, consider walking with a missionary by sponsoring one, as they walk day by day among the people with whom they serve..

(Review by Y. Franklin Ishida, Director for Asia and the Pacific, ELCA Global Mission)

October Valentines

Posted on February 10, 2010 by Hand In Hand
The exact year is now forgotten­––1998, maybe––when one of our ELCA sponsoring congregations decorated a shoebox and filled it with valentines, some homemade goodies and some candy for us.  

Anyway, it was October when this Valentine’s Day box finally arrived in Papua New Guinea.  As I opened it up, I did battle with the ants that were enjoying the goodies inside. What the ants hadn’t claimed the tropical heat had.  Only a bag of cinnamon redhots remained untouched and recognizable. 

 The earthworms in the compost received all of the once-edible contents, except for the cinnamon redhots which we decided were not hazardous to our health.  We read the Valentine cards and laughed at the knock-knock jokes. 

 Later that day, I wrote a note to thank the congregation for their thoughtfulness.  In it, I gently suggested that it’s best not to send homemade goodies and chocolate to a place where mail service is unreliable and tropical heat and humidity are the order of the day, every day.

 Three years ago we received a Valentine’s box from this same congregation. It arrived in August.  We were no longer serving in Papua New Guinea, but in the Central African Republic.  This time we found cans of tuna, chicken and shrimp…and a beautiful hand-quilted wall hanging of a heart made up of a multitude of tiny squares.  The note inside reminded us that we were in their prayers and their hearts.  

The Rev. Joyce and Ian Graue

 We pass their quilted heart wall hanging many times a day.  Their gift of love continues to bring us joy. 

Former ELCA missionaries Pastor Joyce and Ian Graue served at Martin Luther Seminary in Lae, Papua New Guinea (1995–2004), and served as advisors in the Central African Republic (2004–2009). Pastor Joyce is currently serving as interim pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Chokio, Minn., while she interviews for a permanent call to serve an ELCA congregation.