International Leaders – Women

Posted on January 30, 2015 by Global Mission Support

Lanny Westphal, director of ELCA Global Church Sponsorship

Read on for updates on International Leaders – Women (GCS5000), an ELCA Global Church Sponsorship initiative that is part of Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA to equip more than 200 additional international women leaders through increased scholarships and educational opportunities. To learn more or make a gift, click here.

Jan. 9, 2015


Video: Meet three International Leaders

Meet Sanchita, Sitie and Anna, three women who’ve participated in the ELCA’s International Leaders program. To watch the video, click here.
Nov. 24, 2014
women leaders_group_11-27-14
International women leaders from around the world gathered in Germany.

International women leaders discuss Lutheran identity, leadership

CHICAGO (ELCA) – Women leaders from across the Global South discussed the role and contribution of women in church and society as part of an annual seminar supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) International Leaders–Women program. The seminar, which took place Oct. 26 to Nov. 1 in Wittenberg, Germany, hosted 13 women leaders from Mexico, India, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Madagascar, Palestine, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Serbia and Hungary.

women leaders_3 pastors_11-27-14

Over the course of the event, the women read and discussed excerpts from Martin Luther’s writings, learned the stories of women of the Reformation including Katharina von Bora, wife of Martin Luther, and shared the experiences and contributions of women in each of the participants’ home country and church. Many of the women were paired with other leaders from their home countries (one established leader and one younger woman with leadership potential) to encourage continued mentoring and networking beyond the seminar. In addition to in-classroom discussion, the women visited the sites of Wittenberg, the grave of Katharina von Bora in Torgau, and a special exhibition titled “A Strong Women’s History: 500 Years of Reformation” in Rochlitz.

“The Reformation women and the group we had together this week has strengthened my faith and given me hope that no matter what challenges we face, we can still move forward. There is hope and we believe one day we shall overcome,” said Eva Banda, a seminar participant from Malawi.

“I have discovered that we all have problems. When you are in your country, you might think other countries don’t have problems, but we all have problems. It has reminded me that Jesus came for the weak. Women are considered weak, but Jesus is here for us, and he will make us strong,” said Banda.

The Rev. Martina Helmer-Pham Xuan, ELCA Global Mission regional representative in Europe, attended along with teaching staff Wanda Deifelt, professor of religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa; and Kathryn A. Kleinhans, Mike and Marge McCoy Family Distinguished Chair in Lutheran Heritage and Mission and professor of religion at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Luther and Wartburg are two of 26 ELCA colleges and universities.

“The seminar exceeded our expectations,” said Kleinhans. “I don’t know whether it was more inspiring to share the stories of 16th century women reformers or to hear the stories these 21st century women brought with them.”

Through the International Leaders–Women priority of Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA, up to 100 women from across the Global South will be given the opportunity to participate in the annual seminars over the next three years. The program will also develop more than 200 women leaders from the ELCA’s global companion churches through increased scholarship support and educational opportunities. In total, The Campaign for the ELCA aims to raise $4 million by Feb. 1, 2019, to support the International Leaders–Women program and its initiatives.

“The International Leaders–Women program is our opportunity as a church to invest in the future of women across the world,” said Tammy Jackson, International Leadership Development program director, ELCA Global Mission. “The time has come for a strategic emphasis on the role of women in the life and development of the church and society and The Campaign for the ELCA is our moment to make that happen.”

Information about the campaign is available at .

Sept. 30, 2014

Find this story in a ready-to-use “Mission of the Month” format at under the “Stories” tab.

The Rev. Patricia Cuyatti preaches during a
visit to the Guatemalan Lutheran Church.

Freedom’s responsibilities
By Nathan Schmidt

The Rev. Patricia Cuyatti is an International Leader whose journey through faith has always been first and foremost built on a journey for discovery. In 1974, when she was 7 years old, she passed by the Alliance Christian Missionary Church near her school in Peru and noticed many children attending the church even when school was out. Wondering, “What are these kids learning about?” she joined in the church’s activities the next Sunday, gradually bringing her family into the faith as well. In 1992, she joined the Peruvian Lutheran Evangelical Church as a volunteer and studied at seminary to become one of her church’s first ordained pastors and later president of the church. However, she began to ask why more women did not have the opportunity to be ordained and wanted to be able to contribute more to her church and community.

To gain the opportunity to contribute theologically to her home church, Patricia applied with the endorsement of her church for the ELCA’s International Leaders scholarship program. From 2005 to 2010, she studied at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and earned a Ph.D. in systematic theology. She admires what she calls the program’s “rich view” – its international diversity of students. However, the greatest impact of the scholarship program for her came in its ability to open her up to larger perspectives of her faith and the world. Freedom,” she emphasizes, “and the concept of living in freedom with responsibility … really reshaped my life.”

Patricia holds that responsibility she earned close to her heart. After completing her program, she joined The Lutheran World Federation as the executive secretary for the Latin America and Caribbean desk, helping build relationships between a variety of member churches. To Patricia, this commitment to the church and community is a natural part of faith. “We are people of faith,” she says.

There are many challenges along the way to mutual understanding: Many Latin American women face obstacles in their studies. Forced to choose between their responsibilities to their families and their desire to learn, they continue to struggle for equality and freedom. The ELCA’s scholarships have helped international women such as Patricia gain access to education, allowing them to explore new opportunities in life. But even then, International Leaders have the responsibility to return and help their community grow. For her own part, Patricia says, “My plan is to contribute as much as I can to the work and mission of the member churches,” making the most of the gifts God has given her.

Patricia understands and appreciates the help the ELCA has provided her in her efforts to develop as a leader. “I hope that the ELCA continues thinking about leadership development in other countries,” she says, “because people who are trained go back to their churches – and I hope they go back – or to positions that contribute to their churches.”

Through Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA, our church has committed to help 200 more international women like Patricia gain access to educational opportunities through the International Leaders program. To make a gift or learn more, visit


Fall 2013
God has opened the door

Sanchita Kisku

Click here to read this story of Sanchita Kisku, an international women leader from India.