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.

Please remember those suffering in Japan

Posted on March 17, 2011 by Hand In Hand
Nathan and Sharonette Bowman

Nathan and Sharonette Bowman

A message and plea from Nathan and Sharonette Bowman in Japan:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We ask you to join with us in prayer for the many who have suffered loss of loved ones, property and their livelihood as a result of the massive
earthquake that has devastated northern Japan and has left its print on the life of all Japanese.

For Japan, this follows the tragedy of the
Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand, where many Japanese were among the victims.

Please pray for wisdom for the leaders, who will strive to bring the infrastructure back into function.

Please pray for a new longing for God, as people come face to face with their own powerlessness.

Please pray for a compassionate response of neighbor to neighbor, that even through this devastation, relationships could find new meaning, be restored and new relationships built.

We would like to assure you that we are well. We were not directly affected by the terrible earthquake and tsunami. We are on the southern island. Kumamoto faces the East China Sea. We have had some small earthquakes, usually about once or twice a month, and this one was mildly felt here.

We look forward to meeting with as many of you as we are able this summer. May God give you strength as you serve Him faithfully in your community.

In Christ,
Nathan & Sharonette Bowman

Giants of Compassion

Posted on November 19, 2010 by Franklin Ishida
Deaconess students in training

Deaconess students learn the meaning of prayer for healing

The Deaconess School of the Protestant Christian Batak Church (HKBP) in Indonesia is a place where “giants” reside. Jerry Schmalenberger, ELCA Global Mission Volunteer, describes the students there, some 60 of them age18-24, as “giants of compassion.”

Jerry goes there on occasion to teach homiletics, pastoral care and counseling, stewardship, church organization and conflict management. “They teach me real discipleship, life together, love of others, and humble service,” he says.

Jerry writes: “In the Mark 2 story of the bringing of the paralytic to Christ and letting him down through the roof of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, it simply says that Jesus had compassion on him. It is a phrase that is used over and over describing Jesus’ ministry. These young women students and their teachers have that same exorbitant compassion for others. Their ministries are for lepers, blind, physically and mentally challenged, lame, grieving, ostracized, and the hungry. They are that compassionate Christ incarnate in the jails, hospitals with the sick and dying, the victims of volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis, and the poor elderly in their slum homes. They care for Sumatra’s orphans. They teach kindergarten. There is no job too dirty or humbling which they will not undertake on God’s behalf.

“They often come from the poorest villages and Batak families; but they are rich in faith. I serve them bread and wine and lay on hands for healing, celebrating the real presence of Christ; they go from their campus to take that real presence out into what is often a cruel world full of hurt and suffering.

“The early days were not as easy. When students first moved into their quarters they were squeezed into a far too small facility. Without complaining they slept five to a room on three mattresses. Rice was cooked over a wood fire out back. Now, because of the recognition of this school of giants of compassion, a new bus has been purchased, new beautiful classrooms constructed, a computer lab built and furnished with the latest technology and a theological library opened.

“While Deaconess schools in Europe and America are closing and simply drying up, this one thrives! If I were to select a hymn that best represents these God’s children living together, it would be my ordination hymn by Frederick W. Faber: ‘There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy (like the wideness of the sea).’ Verse 2, as I would paraphrase it, would be: ‘…there is no place where earth’s sorrows are more felt than in HKBP’s Deaconess School. There is grace enough for thousands of those who need it most.’

“And if I could choose scripture that best fits this God’s Eden it would be the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. The description of Jesus as High Priest in Hebrews 5:2 describes them as well: ‘He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness.’”

Continued prayers sought for Thailand

Posted on June 1, 2010 by Franklin Ishida

[A letter received from ELCA companion Church of Christ in Thailand. This follows an earlier prayer request  from the CCT.]

Dear Friends,

Many of you have written with expressions of solidarity for us in the Thai church and with the Thai people over these last few days. We are thankful for your concern and prayers at this time when our nation is struggling through a seminally tumultuous time in its history. Many questions still remain unanswered about the events that shocked both Thailand and the world last week. Many of them will probably remain unsanwered. The one certainty we have is that all is not yet at “peace” in this country known as the “land of smiles.” There is a still a lot of hard work to bring about true peace and reconciliation.

In this nation today there are people who have lost loved ones, those who were physically and emotionally harmed in the violence. There are those whose businesses and homes have been burned, those who have lost their livelihoods because of the downturn in tourism or because the place in which they once worked is out of business. There are those facing criminal charges and those who desire justice. There are those whose hopes, whether well founded or not, of a better society have been crushed or still burn within them like insatiable hunger. And there are also those whose only care is to get back to making money, gernering influence and living “the good life.” What is to be done with all these desires and emotions? How could there ever be a “settlement” with such a national landscape? While it is true that this was the worst violence in terms of lives lost and people physically hurt that the nation has ever experienced, this is not the first time Thailand has faced a crisis. And we might take heart that in all the other times of crisis the Thai spirit has shown uncommon resilience and has ultimately survived.

But as Christian people it is not just “survival” that we hope for but the “Kingdom of God.” We don’t want our nation to just muddle through, or be “ok” in comparison to other nations. We want it to be the best it can be. We want it to reflect the character of a loving, compassionate and just God. We want children to not just be safe, but to flourish with good nutrition, education, healthcare and self-esteem. We want men and women to excel in loving one another, develop their God-given gifts to create order and livelihood from the good earth and to live in harmonious relationship in families and communities. We want public servants to be just that — “servants” of the public instead of their own self interests or those of the highest bidder. To this end we aks for your continued prayers for our church. May God help us to see and understand our responsilibity to our society — to be salt and light, to be prophets and healers — and be all of these things as a witness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sincerely Yours,

The Rev. Sayam Muangsak
General Secretary
Church of Christ in Thailand

Prayers needed for Thailand

Posted on April 27, 2010 by Franklin Ishida

A letter from ELCA companion in Thailand, the Church of Christ in Thailand:

“The situation has not improved since April 10 when 24 people were mortally wounded and over 800 injured in clashes between the security forces and the ‘red shirt’ [anti-government] demonstrators. Since then the tension has escalated. An estimated 63,000 people have not been able to return to their places of work in the normally busy center of the city of Bangkok because of the disruptions and baricades. … Other groups have started to take to the streets to demonstrate against the ‘red shirts’ and in support of the government. These have clashed with the red shirt faction and there have been more injuries. Last Thursday [April 22] night several grenages were launched into a crowded area of downtown [near the CCT guest house]. One of these exploded in the mass transit system, killing one more person and injuring many others.

“The rhetoric for and against this group or that group is being ratcheted up – in their talk people often demonise the enemy and white wash those whom they support. We in the Church of Christ in Thailand with many others are despairing over the situation. There seems to be no obvious solution.

“Please continue to pray with us and all people of faith here in Thailand. We wish for peace to return to this country. We are aware however that ‘peace’ without justice and equity would be a bitter pill to swallow for many in our society who have suffered for years from systems of oppression and corruption. We pray therefore for change that benefits the least and the poorest in our society. It is only with that combination that we will ever have lasting peace.

“One positive outcome of the uncertainty of the last few weeks is that churches have been unified in their commitment to prayer. Our moderator, Rev. Virat Koydul, called for our churches in Bangkok together with the Catholic churches and other denominations to gather on the April 25 to prayer for the nation. Over 700 people attended and other events of this is kind are happening throughout the country. Many Christians, in their search for a solution, have turned to the books of the prophets in the Old Testament finding parallels with the nations addressed there with our own country today. One significant point the prophets make is that the faithful are called to repent on behalf of and speak to the nation that has lost its way. Many of us are therefore finding a new understanding of the church’s responsibility to the society in which we live.

“Again may I thank you on behalf of the Church of Christ in Thailand for your concern and continued commitment to our welfare here in Thailand. May we all take assurance from the words of the Apostle Paul that, ‘all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His

Rev. Sayam Muangsak
General Secretary

Prayer shawls and harps

Posted on April 22, 2010 by Franklin Ishida
Lyra Precaria students and their prayer shawls

Some of the Lyra Precaria students with their prayer shawls

Shame is a common human experience and the medicine is grace and unconditional love. ELCA missionary Carol Sack has taken some of the theological aspects of shame and has developed this into a framework for understanding healing as offered through Lyra Precaria, a program of pastoral harp supported by the Lutheran church in Japan.

“The word ‘shame’ has its roots in a word that means ‘to cover,'” says Carol. “The human phenomena of shame is that you feel ‘exposed’ and you intrinsically want to ‘cover’ yourself — to hide or veil, or wear a mask that makes you look on the outside not what you know yourself to be on the inside.”

Based on this, Carol offers Lyra Precaria students the image of the Prayer Shawl as a healing of shame. She then invites them to envision the music Lyra Precaria offers as a kind of swaddling blanket and prayer shawl to envelop people in the warmth of their belovedness in the eyes of God and other human beings.

[Lyra Precaria offers comfort for the sick and dying through harp and song. Many patients are in hospice care, even forgotten by society — something that became a theme of a film in Japan.]

Recently, one of the Sacks’ sponsoring congregations, St. Philip’s Lutheran Church, Fridley, Minn, sent prayer shawls for Lyra Precaria students. “They were thrilled,” Carol said, “and some of them have mentioned that they keep these prayer shawls with them by their pillow or whatever at all times. It is a powerful image for what we hope our music to be.”

Compiled by Y. Franklin Ishida, Director for Asia and the Pacific, ELCA Global Mission, from information provided by Carol Sack.

Major typhoon hits Japan: Missionaries okay

Posted on October 8, 2009 by Franklin Ishida

A major typhoon struck Japan Oct. 7, the first to directly hit the mainland in two years.

Typhoon Melor made landfall right around the central Japan city of Nagoya. And this is where ELCA mission personnel Charles Frederickson and Beth Borstad are serving at Meito Lutheran Church.

“We are hunkered down, wind is bad and so is the rain,” wrote Charles. “Around our area there are a lot of leaves and minor branches down but nothing to serious. We have electricity.” Schools in the whole area were cancelled and the whole family was home together.


Elsewhere, two people were killed and more than 40 injured as the storm moved across densely populated central Japan, with winds gusting up to 198km/h (123 mph). Heavy rains flooded roads while the strong winds ripped the roofs off houses and knocked over vehicles on the highways. Many transportation systems, including trains, were brought to a halt before the storm.

Among Lutheran churches in the affected area, a tree at Chita Lutheran Church toppled over, causing damage to a neighboring house roof. According to the Rev. Naoki Asano of the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church, “this damage is small compared to other places.”

In the meantime, your prayers and support are appreciated for other disasters in Asia: the typhoons that swept through the Philippines and other parts of southeast Asia, the tsunami that hit Samoa, and the earthquakes in Indonesia. Check ELCA Disaster Response for more information on how you can help.

Y. Franklin Ishida
Director for Asia and the Pacific, ELCA Global Mission

Peru prayer request

Posted on June 11, 2009 by admin

invitacion-793827The Rev. Dana Nelson and her husband, Thomas Ososki, are ELCA missionaries serving in Peru. Pastor Nelson sends this request for our prayers.–Sue

Please, from wherever you are, pray with us for an end to the violence in the Amazon rainforest of Peru where the native people and national government officials are killing each other over land rights. The area where the native people have been living for generations has oil and gold in it.

Please pray with us. The Church of Sweden is joining us in prayer together with our Peruvian Lutheran Church (ILEP) and churches of all denominations around Peru.
Pastora Dana in Lima