ELCA NEWS SERVICE
May 28, 2010
CHICAGO (ELCA) — The one thing the Rev. Joseph Livenson Lauvanus has not managed to do is teach Mary Kuck to dance. Lauvanus, president of the Lutheran Church in Haiti, was a student of Mary and David Kuck at the United Theological College of the West Indies (UTCWI), Kingston, Jamaica.
The Kucks are mission personnel of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) serving in Kingston since 1991. For those 19 years, the Kucks have influenced more than a dozen of UTCWI Lutheran students, like Lauvanus, who have become vital church leaders serving in the Caribbean.
Mary Kuck teaches English and research methods at the theological college, and David serves as acting coordinator of UTCWI’s graduate program, teaching New Testament and homiletics. Both work with Lutheran students who attend UTCWI, helping to coordinate coursework, teaching Lutheran polity, following the progress of students and more.
“We watched Livenson grow in knowledge and develop into a mature pastor over the years,” said Mary Kuck. “During holidays he often stayed with us in our home, and we feel almost as if he is a son. We know what he likes to eat, what he cooks well, and how he is so helpful around the house. He never managed to teach me how to dance, though,” said Mary. “Just talking about him makes me smile.”
Born in Haiti, Lauvanus became president of the Eglise Lutherienne d’Haiti (Lutheran Church in Haiti) in 2009, the same year he graduated from UTCWI.
“The impact of the Kucks’ ministry has been felt throughout the Caribbean,” said the Rev. Twila K. Schock, director for global mission support, ELCA Global Mission.
“Over and over I’ve heard pastors speak with gratitude about the Kucks’ formative influence. These pastors spoke not only about the theological training they received, but also about the powerful support that both David and Mary provided in helping them grow in their ministries and adjust to life in a new context. I’ve heard numerous stories of the Kucks’ gracious hospitality and open hearts,” said Schock.
The UTCWI is an ecumenical seminary that trains candidates for ministry for Lutheran, Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Moravian and United Church (Reformed) denominations in the Caribbean. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana (ELCG) supports and sends students to the UTCWI, and the Kucks work on behalf of the ELCG. The UTCWI is part of a mutual ministry between the ELCA and ELCG.
The Kucks enjoy what most teachers enjoy, which is “watching students mature in knowledge, faith and self-confidence,” said Mary.
“Now that we both are more involved with the graduate program, it is even more rewarding to see former students, now mature church workers, return to the college to strengthen and deepen their knowledge on the graduate level so as to enrich the larger churches they serve,” she said.
“The most gratifying thing about teaching here for me is participating in a process of formation in which students develop a mature faith that can stand up to the challenges of ministry and the tough questions of life. Now that we have been teaching here for 19 years, it is also a joy to see former students taking on leadership roles in their churches,” said David.
The Kucks said they enjoy Jamaica’s sunny weather, music, humor, piety and dedication to education of the Caribbean people. “I love to quilt and have quilted with the same group of Jamaican ladies for the whole time we have been here,” said Mary.
But there are challenges, most “related to the slim budgets for everything,” said Mary. “So many things either take very long to accomplish or cannot be done at all due to lack of money. It is a constant struggle just to keep the day-to-day things going.”
She said another challenge is the violence in the society. “The high crime and murder rates cause untold suffering, which the churches try to help their people manage,” Mary said.
“We didn’t really choose to work in Jamaica,” said Mary. “Even while doing parish ministry in the United States, David felt a strong calling to seminary teaching and was surprised by ELCA Global Mission’s immediate interest in him when he sent out a feeler for ‘sometime in the future.’ This position was available, and after what seemed to us a very brief time, we found ourselves in Jamaica with our two teenage children. This is how God works.”
The ELCA has more than 245 mission personnel serving in 48 countries around the world. Mission personnel are supported through ELCA Missionary Sponsorship — congregations and individuals known as “covenant sponsors” make a prayer, financial and communication commitment to support a specific missionary.