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.

Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Rebecca Duerst

Posted on March 15, 2011 by Franklin Ishida

Rebecca taught science in Namibia at Oshigambo High School. She did this for a couple years following studies that led to a PhD in molecular biology and immunology as well as a master’s in teaching. For Rebecca, mission service was a way for taking her into the realm of the practical, a way to serving God and church. After her mission service with the ELCA, she began studies in public health in order to further engage in global mission.

Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Paula Powell

Posted on February 15, 2011 by Franklin Ishida

Paula was in South Africa with the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa where she worked with the HIV/AIDS program. She served July 2006 through June 2010. Prior to her service, Paula resided in Greeley, Colorado.

Look at all the lonely people

Posted on February 8, 2011 by Franklin Ishida

Fishing boats on GangesAfter several days of meetings in early February, I joined the staff of Lutheran World Service India Trust (LWSIT) and partners from around the world for a cruise down the Ganges River in Kolkata.

[LWSIT is an Indian organization that engages in community development, empowerment for women and children, and disaster response in Kolkata and several states of India. LWSIT is supported in part by an ELCA World Hunger grant.]

The river cruise was meant to be a lighter relaxing moment away from conversations and dealings on the programs and great challenges at hand for LWSIT (okay, it was on what is  basically used as a ferry — not very “cruise” like). As we were leisurely making our way down the river, sipping on tea, we came upon dozens of fishing boats (see photo). They were all sitting there, one large flotilla, in what perhaps is a good fishing spot.

Right at that moment, the next song that blared over the sound system of our cruise boat was Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles.

It struck me right then and there: “Ah, look at all the lonely people … All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?” These lyrics were about the people out there.

I’m not saying the fisherfolk floating in their boats were lonely per se, though loneliness is part of the job of fishing at times. But out there; all out there in the world are lonely people.

Kolkata is where Mother Theresa roamed the streets ministering to the poorest of the poor, the neglected ones of the city. She once said: “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” Kolkata is a crowded city; everywhere you go there a people.  As you walk the streets of Kolkata, you see these forgotten people. As you roam the squatter districts, you see these people. Those coming and going; walking, on buses and trains, sitting on the sidewalk; even the well-dressed or those in virtual rags: if you look into their faces, how many are lonely? 

This all has made me think anew the role of the church and church-sponsored agencies that engage communities. It would be easy to overcome poverty in places like India with money and physical attention. But are we not more about building up human dignity, life and community? That is church at its best.

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

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.

Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Benjamin and Margit Coltvet

Posted on December 15, 2010 by Franklin Ishida

The Rev. Dr. Benjamin and Margit were called to served as Pastor of the American Church in Berlin, Germany, in September 2002, where they served until June 2010. Prior to responding to the call to serve in Germany they resided in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Charles Fredrickson and Beth Borstad

Posted on November 1, 2010 by Franklin Ishida

The Rev. Charles and Beth were called to serve as Pastor in the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church. They served July 2006 through June 2010 in Nagoya. Prior to heading to Japan, Charles and Beth resided in Hales Corners, Wisconsin.

Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Marv Kananen and Jean Wahlstrom

Posted on October 25, 2010 by Franklin Ishida

Marv and Jean arrived in Arusha, Tanzania July of 1998. By invitation of the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, Arusha Diocese, Marv and Jean were called to serve at the Maasae Girl’s Lutheran Secondary School. During Marv and Jean’s 12 years at the school, they served as Teacher and Education Developer and Pastoral Counselor. Prior to heading to Tanzania they resided in Bellevue, Washington.