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.

Troesters are moving to Tanzania

Posted on November 7, 2013 by Hand In Hand

Joe and Deborah Troester, long-time ELCA missionaries in the Central African Republic, are taking a new assignment in Tanzania. You can read more about their work in their blog, “African Water Log.” To support the Troesters, or another of the ELCA’s over 240 missionaries in the global church, go to

troesters-map-11-5-13We’re moving! Because of the continued insecurity in the Central African Republic, Deborah and I have accepted a new assignment in Arusha, Tanzania. We will be the East Africa regional representatives of the ELCA, helping to oversee projects in Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

While we miss the Central African Republic, and especially our friends and colleagues in the Lutheran church there, we look forward to establishing relationships with new friends and colleagues in the East Africa region. This is an exciting time to be working in Africa. Churches here are growing faster than in almost any other part of the world; there are even more Lutherans in Tanzania than in the ELCA!

We are grateful to those of you who have continued to support us throughout this transition by your prayers, gifts and words of encouragement. Due to the uncertainty of our plans this summer, we were unable to visit many of our supporting congregations. We hope to make up for this on our next visit to the U.S. and thank you for your understanding.

We welcome your continued support through ELCA Global Mission. However, if you prefer to support another missionary working in the Central African Republic, or with another project, we certainly understand. For more information on sponsoring us, or other missionaries in the ELCA, contact the Rev. Lanny Westphal at Rev. Westphal can also give you information about specific projects supported by the ELCA in Africa and around the world.

We look forward to writing more blogs from the East Africa Region, so stay tuned!

Joe and Deborah Troester
ELCA missionaries to East Africa

A medical update from Tanzania

Posted on April 2, 2013 by Hand In Hand

Dr. Stephen and Bethany Friberg are ELCA missionaries in Tanzania, where Stephen is a physician. In this newsletter he provides an update on the health situation in the rapidly growing country. To support the Fribergs, or another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries in the global church, go to

The Ketumbeine clinic offers vaccinations for children, prenatal care and family planning services.

The Ketumbeine clinic offers vaccinations for children, prenatal care and family planning services.

As followers of Jesus we are all trying to see that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. In missions we have to strike a balance in meeting spiritual, physical, emotional, economic and community needs. Jesus calls us to care for the whole person.

In 50 years, Tanzania’s population has increased from 8 million to 44 million. Limiting family size and spacing children reduces poverty and improves health. Infant mortality in Tanzania is still 10 percent (one in 10 children do not reach the age of 5).  When populations double every 20 years, it is impossible for employment and infrastructure to keep up. Fortunately, as women get access to education, they choose to have smaller families. In 1994, the average Tanzanian family had eight children. Ten years later, the average had fallen to four per family. The U.S. government provides free contraception to women, and we believe this is one of the most effective forms of aid to African countries.

Educating and encouraging Maasai women to benefit from contraception is an important component of our medical work. In our area, infant mortality is as high as 20 percent. Women begin childbearing in the early teen years when the risk of complications is high. Traditionally, Maasai men have multiple wives and very large families. With global warming (the glaciers on top of Mount Kilimanjaro are rapidly disappearing) and surging population growth, there is significant environmental degradation and loss of livestock. Malnutrition is common in women and children during the five-month dry season.

Ten years ago there was tremendous cultural resistance to family planning. Only women with eight or 10 children requested it, and it had to be done secretly. There were many years of repeating the message with little to show for it. During the drought of 2009 when half the cattle died, we distributed milk powder and high protein flour to pregnant and nursing mothers. This was an ideal situation to explain the advantages of small families. Many women were convinced and suddenly we began to run short of Depo-Provera injections, oral contraception, and five-year implants. It is very encouraging that most of the younger men now support this.

We thank you for being connected to our work here: 10 small medical clinics, two camel projects, 60 women in the bead project, scholarships for theological training, hosting mission teams to assist church construction. Often we see God’s Spirit open unexpected opportunities and then provide the resources.


Steve Friberg, M.D.
Ketumbeine, Tanzania

Giving thanks in Tanzania

Posted on November 13, 2012 by Hand In Hand

Dr. Mark and Linda Jacobson are ELCA missionaries in Tanzania where they work with the medical center in Arusha. To support Mark and Linda, or another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries, go to

A patient at the Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre.

A patient at the Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre.


Dear friends in Christ,

What an exciting time of great thanksgiving this is for our ministries in Tanzania. In the U.S. you are gearing up for the Thanksgiving holiday, while we in Tanzania have just celebrated our “Harvest Festival” at the end of the growing season. It is a time to pause and reflect upon the richness of God’s blessings in our lives and in our efforts to serve.

The many great developments at Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre ( are a constant source of blessing.

  • Our training efforts to address the huge shortfall of health care professionals have leaped ahead. In the last few months we have been registered as a training center and our assistant medical officer training program has been accredited.
  • We have taken the final steps toward opening our own nursing college in February 2013!
  • We have become an international training center for African surgeons to study laparoscopic surgery and join the global movement to this video surgical care.
  • Last month we broke ground for construction of the new Plaster House, a short- and intermediate-term rehabilitation facility for children following orthopedic and plastic surgery. Many of you contributed to support this development last year and now it is underway!
  • Our program for operating on crippled children and those with cleft lips and palates or burns really continues to grow. Just this week we have operated on another 40 kids with challenging problems for living their everyday lives.
  • Many visiting doctors and students are a part of the exciting mix we have in practicing Christian health care. Linda runs the hosting side of our ministry for these folks and for the congregational visits which are wonderfully welcome.

These are some of the programs and ministries that you have been supporting so generously. We have great opportunities to serve and to share together in these ministries and outreach.

Thank you and God bless,
Mark and Linda Jacobson

AIDS prevention in Tanzania

Posted on October 16, 2012 by Hand In Hand

Barbara Robertson recently explained some of the work she does as an ELCA missionary in Tanzania. Much, but certainly not all, of that work is educating people about preventing AIDS. To support Barbara, or another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries, go to

Barbara Robertson discusses AIDS prevention with young men in Tanzania.

Barbara Robertson discusses AIDS prevention with young men in Tanzania. (Photo courtesy of

I have lived and worked in Tanzania since 1999. I am at my second work station (Morogoro) and have been here since 2006. These 6½ years have flown by rather quickly.

My official position is HIV and AIDS program officer and I am based at the diocese’s headquarters in Morogoro. Our diocese’s primary HIV focus is prevention through education. I am a department of one and work in cooperation with other members of the diocese — pastors, parish workers, evangelists, etc. Over these past six years, we have educated hundreds and hundreds of people. (Actually, in truth, thousands and thousands have been educated, but I’m not very good at blowing my own horn.)

In the earlier years, the main topic was how one was infected and the way the virus worked. Caring for the sick was always included, as those caring for infected people were scared to death they would be infected. For the first three years, my work focused on educating women, as they are the most infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.

In the past 2½ years, we have shifted our focus to youth and young adults. It has been very rewarding work. And I have seen a change in attitude over the years. One of the most apparent is the change of attitude in the area of testing. Far more people know their HIV status now than even five years ago. And young adults are much more willing to know their status.

In Tanzania, HIV is a very cross-cutting issue. One can do just about anything and it touches on the topic of HIV. Knowing that, you will not be surprised then that I have also done a lot of work with one of my colleagues in advocating for the end of female genital mutilation and cutting. There are a number of ethnic groups in the area that still practice this ritual.

Grace and peace be with you!
Barbara Robertson

Cindy and Sam Wolff: A life in missions

Posted on October 2, 2012 by Hand In Hand

Wolff video screenshotCindy and the Rev. Sam Wolff have recently retired from 32 years as ELCA missionaries. They served in Tanzania, Germany and twice in Kenya, where they most recently were in parish ministry in Nairobi. They recently talked about their lives as missionaries and what the experience has meant to them. To watch the video, click here. Thank you for supporting Cindy and Sam. To support another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries, go here.

A life of service in Tanzania

Posted on September 5, 2012 by Hand In Hand

Nancy Stevenson has concluded her service in Tanzania as an ELCA missionary. While in Tanzania, she taught English and communication skills at Makumira University College, a school of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. She recently reflected on her service in Tanzania, which began in 1979. To watch the video, click here. Thank you for supporting Nancy’s ministry. To support another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries, go here.


Beauty and beads in Tanzania

Posted on March 3, 2012 by Hand In Hand

In the summer of 2011, Megan Nuehring, a Wartburg College student, visited ELCA missionaries Steve and Bethany Friberg in Mto wa Mbu, Tanzania. To support the Fribergs or any of the other nearly 230 ELCA missionaries, go to

Megan Nuehring saw close-up the results of the women’s bead project in Tanzania.

Megan Nuehring saw close-up the results of the women’s bead project in Tanzania.

This past summer I embarked on a journey of a lifetime. This journey led me to Tanzania, where I, along with members of my family and ELCA congregation, joined in to help and support the mission of ELCA missionaries Steve and Bethany Friberg. Being with them for a period of time allowed me to see how they are truly the hands and feet of Christ.

We were able to experience two parts of their ministry, women and medicine.

I was most impacted by the people of Tanzania — specifically the women’s bead project. Bethany started a program that empowers the women in Tanzania — bringing them together. The women make things like necklaces, bracelets, animals and more out of beads. This opportunity has helped the woman raise money and support each other. The community and the love for one another in this village were incredibly powerful and inspiring.

This love was, in part, because of the work of Steve and Bethany. Being able to join with and witness the amazing work of missionaries has offered me a time of reflection and cultural immersion. The work of the almost 230 ELCA missionaries around the world is possible because of the support from people like you. ELCA missionaries are truly the hands and feet of Christ.

Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Kristopher and Rebecca Hartwig

Posted on January 7, 2012 by Franklin Ishida

Kristopher and Rebecca Hartwig served in Tanzania from 2004 to 2011, though they both had lived there when they were younger. Kristopher is a palliative care/hospice physician by training and Rebecca is a nurse. They both worked with a palliative care home-health team out of Selian Lutheran Hospital, helping terminally ill people with control of their symptoms, emotional and family support, and spiritual care.

To support any of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to


Bracelets for bati

Posted on October 11, 2011 by Hand In Hand

Steven and Bethany Friberg are ELCA missionaries in Tanzania. Steven is a physician. They have helped establish rural clinics for the Maasai. Bethany also works with Maasai women in their income-generating projects, which mostly involve beadwork. To support the Fribergs, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to

The Maasai women make beaded bracelets to raise money to build homes.

The Maasai women make beaded bracelets to raise money to build homes.

Sixty Maasai women in northern Tanzania have a goal — that each one will build a two-room permanent home with a roof of corrugated metal roofing sheets, called “bati” in Swahili. These would replace primitive, thatched-roof huts. Building houses has traditionally been women’s work so this idea came naturally when a supply of beads was donated to Naapok Project. By making and selling extra bracelets, the women have money to put aside for bati and trusses.

With the help of family and friends, the walls are made of termite-resistant cedar poles, horizontal branches, small stones and plaster of ash, dirt, sand and manure. Once the roof is on, the local evangelist is called to dedicate and bless the home.

So far 15 houses have been built. Many of you have been crucial in the process of turning bracelets into bati.

Thank you for buying bracelets!

Bethany Friberg

A new form of missionary sponsorship

Posted on September 13, 2011 by Hand In Hand
The profits from “Collectible Recipe Tins and Boxes” will help support the work of Nancy Stevenson.

The profits from “Collectible Recipe Tins and Boxes” will help support the work of Nancy Stevenson.

Mike Amstutz and his mother are both teachers and collectors. Some of their collections include over 500 nativities, 700 Madonnas, nearly 500 crosses, and a combined collection of 400 recipe boxes. Pieces from their recipe box collection date back to 1938 and come from around the world. As Mike approached retirement from teaching after 35 years, his wife proposed a project. She suggested that Mike and his mother put together a book showcasing their varied collection of recipe boxes, since there was no pictorial guide or price list anywhere.  Mike agreed. As a labor of love they published a brief history and guide to this “sleeper niche” of collectibles. The book includes over 200 pictures of boxes from their combined collections. Much like the people who have shared recipes and food from these boxes, they wanted to give the profits of their book to help others.

Nancy Stevenson is a missionary working in Tanzania, she also happens to be Mike’s cousin. It was decided that the profits from their book would go to Nancy and the work she has done at Makumira Theological Seminary for nearly 30 years. As Mike says, “We are truly a global community and this is just a small way in which we can reach out and share our blessings with others.”

If you are interested in purchasing the book “Collectible Recipe Tins and Boxes” for $20, please e-mail Mike at

ELCA missionary Nancy Stevenson teaches communications skills and study methods to first-year theology, education and music students at Makumira University College, a school of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. To support Nancy, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to