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 – 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

Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Bette McCrandall

Posted on September 3, 2011 by Franklin Ishida

Bette McCrandall first went to Liberia in 1973 and later began service as an ELCA missionary in 1984. She was employed as the secretary to the bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia and later served as supervisor of schools of the church. She was responsible for up to 46 schools. Bette was in Liberia during the civil war in 1990. At one point, 600 people, who had taken refuge in St Peter’s Lutheran Church in Monrovia, were killed by the armed forces. During this difficult time, Bette endured the same hardships as the Liberian people and supported them through it. Bette retired from mission service in 2011.

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

Missionaries reflecting on mission service – Peter Hanson and Sarah Grow

Posted on August 13, 2011 by Franklin Ishida

Sarah and Peter Grow-Hanson’s international service began with Peter’s seminary internship and Sarah’s volunteer service in Morogoro, Tanzania. This experience eventually led them to Senegal in 2001, where Peter was called to serve as the director of the Cultural Center Galle Nanondiral (House of Mutual Understanding), an ELCA-founded center providing a wide variety of community programs to a mostly Muslim population in Dakar. In 2008, Peter began serving directly with the Lutheran Church of Senega as theological advisor for leadership development. Sarah has served as academic coordinator for the School for International Training’s (Vermont) study abroad program in Dakar.

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

Thank you for your support of ELCA Global Mission

Posted on June 9, 2011 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Viking Dietrich, an ELCA missionary, has been the West African regional representative of the ELCA. He has had responsibility for theological education, evangelism and interfaith dialogue.  He and his wife, Marissa, have lived in Ghana.

Marissa and Viking Dietrich

Marissa and Viking Dietrich


Dear sponsoring churches,

By participating in the Missionary Sponsorship program of the ELCA Global Mission, you have played an active and important part in what the ELCA accomplishes around the world through its Global Mission program.  As I leave service with Global Mission, I want to thank you for your congregation’s support of ELCA work around the world.

The 21st century will see many changes in the international scene as technology continually binds once distant parts of the world into a more complex web of relationships.  In that global web, West Africa will be central to the vision of the universal church over the next century for two reasons.

First, as the church is changing demographically and growing more and more in the “non-western” areas of our planet. The density of West African Christian population places Nigeria and Ghana at the demographic center of 21st century Christianity.

Secondly, West Africa remains one of the most impoverished and thus marginalized places in the world economy.  (Due to that) we, as members of the ELCA, are compelled to actively participate in the global context and seek new ways of being instruments of God’s redemptive work.

The ELCA, as a whole, has affirmed its commitment to witness and life in the global context.  The churchwide office, when it underwent organizational restructuring in the fall of 2010, retained the Global Mission Unit as one of now only three departments. Also, ELCA synods are developing stronger relationships with companion churches in other countries.  And again, congregations continue to play a major role in the ELCA’s global work through regular offerings (over 50 percent of Global Mission revenue) and also the missionary sponsorship program (over 25 percent  of Global Mission revenue).   ELCA congregations should feel that they own the work and approaches of the ELCA in its global engagement and publish them to their local community.

I pray that you, both individually and as a community active in God’s mission, will support the work of the ELCA globally, particularly in West Africa, even as you support local ministry.

Thank you!  God’s blessings,

News Service features Willie Langdji

Posted on October 4, 2010 by Hand In Hand
Willie Langdji

October 4, 2010

ELCA Representative in West Africa Crosses Faith With Community Building

CHICAGO (ELCA) — Williboard “Willie” Langdji embodies ecumenism. He is Catholic working on behalf of Lutherans among large Muslim communities. As a regional representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in West Africa, Langdji is comfortable talking about and strengthening faith, while helping to support communities in unique ways.

From 2000 to 2009 Langdji was based in Linguere, Senegal, working among the Fulani people — a large, traditional Muslim community in West Africa. Langdji’s work involved projects in agriculture and milk production.

“We crossed the local cow with American, European Holstein cows or Jersey bulls,” said Langdji. “Our results were very good. The cross-breed yields more milk than the local breed.”

“A family went from producing a few liters of milk a day, maybe one liter a day in the dry season, to as much as 10 liters of milk a day. You can see the impact this has from a nutritional point of view, as well as economic — families have more milk to eat and surplus to sell,” he said.

The project is also very good ministry, said Langdji. “It helps provide for the basic needs of people and offers an opportunity to engage with people in their daily lives. We were dealing with people’s culture, life, health and whole family. It is a good starting point to engage people in conversation, which can move into theology, personal beliefs and more.” For Langdji, holistic ministry and witness in word and deed go together.

When the opportunity surfaced, Langdji said he asked many questions among the Fulani people about their work and faith life. “I asked, ‘Why are you doing this?’ The response was simple. ‘We are called to do this work.’ One thing to understand about the Fulani is that they are traditional Muslim people. Our work was an example of Christians and Muslims working together, an important aspect of ministry.”

The engagement between Lutherans and the Fulani people, particularly in Linguere, has existed for some time and continues, said Langdji. “We now have an ELCA pastor working here,” he said.

“I’ve had contact with Muslims and people of other faiths since I was a kid,” said Langdji, who grew up in Cameroon. “In my childhood village there was a sizeable Muslim community. I grew up with Muslim kids, but I never had the opportunity to share my faith with them.”

Serving as an ELCA missionary in Central African Republic and Senegal, and now as an ELCA regional representative, has been “good for me. It has given me opportunities to understand my faith more, grow in my faith and get to a point where I feel comfortable talking about Jesus and (sharing) something that I trust and believe. That has had a positive impact on my faith. And I hope this will be helpful to others,” he said.

Langdji works with his wife, Anne Ruedisili Langdji, and the Rev. Viking E. Dietrich, an ELCA pastor. All three serve as ELCA regional representatives in West Africa — Dietrich’s work focuses on theological education, evangelism and interfaith relationships. Anne Langdji’s work focuses on health ministries, and Willie Langdji’s work centers on development and capacity building. Together they work to foster church-to-church relationships between and among the ELCA and Lutheran churches in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

The three ELCA regional representatives also work with other religious organizations, such as with the Joint Christian Ministry in West Africa and the Good News Theological College and Seminary in Ghana.

Since July 2009, Willie and Anne Langdji have been based in Cameroon. They will continue to travel across West Africa to learn more about Lutheran churches and ministries, and interpret their learning to ELCA constituencies.

The ELCA has more than 225 mission personnel in 50 countries and 13 regional representatives serving around the world.

Viking blog

Posted on September 8, 2009 by Hand In Hand

The Spirit leads a faithful heart in surprising ways.  The Rev. Viking Dietrich responded “Here am I,” when called to serve as an ELCA Global Mission regional representative for West Africa and move from Senegal to Ghana.  The Spirit is also present as Pr. Dietrich ventures into a new virtual world to “tell the story” through his new blog:  Find an excerpt of his first blog, below. 
–Sue Edison-Swift

Getting started
By vikinginwestafrica
I wish I were more at ease with this. I have wanted to start a blog or a facebook page or something in order to share some experiences with friends, but I am on new terrain here. 

I remember 16 years ago, moving to Dakar, Senegal and feeling like I didn’t know where any road would lead me. If I turned or went straight where would I end up?  Day by day, month by month, I explored more and more of the city, learned more and more of its people and culture, felt more and more comfortable; in fact, I eventually felt at home. Sixteen years later, I knew the roads in Dakar: from the Almadies to Yeumbeul, Sacre Ceour to Malika, the Plateau to Keur Massar; Sangalkam to Mboro, to Tivauane to Louga, to Linguere, to Dodji.   From Senegal, I traveled across the Sahel to Bamako to Douentza, Niamey to Maradi, Ouaga to Bobo, Ndjamena to Tibati, Jos to Numan.  A lot of cities, a lot of villages.

But today I am in a new city in West Africa, in Ghana, in Accra.  A place I’ve never been before. New roads to explore in my 2002 Hilux, new intersections to discover like the Tetteh Kwarshie roundabout and 37, new people, new day. I miss the comfort of familiar terrain, familiar languages and conversations. I miss driving the Avensis, the ceebu jeen (rice and fish) and friendly salutations in Pulaar. Mi haali tigi.

Today I am in a new city but not a new place. This is a place where grace is encountered; where the past is little to be counted and the future, unknown as it is, is all; where God rearranges our lives and requires us to question our dependencies and personal merit, and to put our trust in Him, our Creator; to jump off the structures we have created and into the life that God intends for us.

So, boldly go I into this new terrain of blogs and wikis. I have a lot to learn. If I do this, or click on that, I will probably hit some potholes, but I hope to be driving comfortably in this new format, sharing with you our new adventures and from time to time some of the old. 
–Viking Dietrich, ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative for West Africa