Possible new mission fields in East Africa
At the end of January, Dr. Mike Rodewald and Rev. Rich Rudowske traveled at the invitation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) to visit Tanzania and Ethiopia to determine possible translation, ministry, and Scripture engagement needs. “These Lutheran church bodies challenge us, as LBT, in new ways of partnership as together they account for 12.5 million Lutheran Christians in East Africa. These churches are very mission-minded in their outlook and understand the need to reach out to people through their own languages,” said Mike.
In Tanzania, Bishop Gulle of the East of Lake Victoria Diocese requested that LBT come to see and assess the needs for translation work among the Kerewe people on the remote islands of Lake Victoria. There are around 100,000 people within this language group, and the majority of them are involved in the fishing industry. The ELCT is very mission-minded and hopes to implement an outreach ministry to those who practice African traditional religion. By assisting in the translation of Scripture and Scripture teaching tools, LBT would help the ELCT in their outreach strategy.
Work in Tanzania would not begin immediately, since “LBT will be doing ground work to make sure the situation works logistically for missionaries to be sent there. It also takes us around 18-24 months to properly train and fund a person to deploy,” Rich explained.
Kaisers already serving in Ethiopia
LBT missionaries Jim and Susan Kaiser were recently deployed to Ethiopia to work with several translation and Scripture engagement project needs. Mike and Rich have planned their meeting to formalize the working partnership between the EECMY and LBT. As opportunities are explored for program partnering with the Church, the hope is to build a relationship that would enable LBT to place missionaries in Ethiopia with church support for work and residence permits. In November, Rich plans to return to Ethiopia to visit Jim Kaiser as they explore ways to develop network relationships and assess the translation needs.
The immediacy of working in Ethiopia largely depends upon the needs of the Church, whether it’s exegetical, literacy and education materials, or other needs. Right now, as a consultant, Jim is working on step eight of the translation process, which is to review the translation and receive formal approval by the United Bible Societies (UBS), “the world’s biggest translator, publisher, and distributor of the Bible.” (https://www.lbt.org/our-work/the-translation-process/).
God prepares the way
“I marvel at how God uses His people to accomplish His purpose,” said Mike. “Rev. Michael and Jo Ann Megahan served years ago in the Tanzanian context. That presence prepared the way for an invitation for LBT today. The same in Ethiopia, where the relationships I made as I served as regional director for the LCMS prepared the way for new relationships for LBT. We can’t see into the future but we can trust that God uses each of us in ways we can’t plan for.
“I am really excited that we can use these relationships to explore new opportunities with the emerging Lutheran churches in East Africa – that God’s Word might go forth to the marginalized peoples even to the ends of the earth.”
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“We can’t see into the future but we can trust that God uses each of us in ways we can’t plan for.” I appreciate LBT’s step of faith reflected in those words by Dr. Rodewald in reaching out and exploring the opportunities God is placing before LBT in East Africa.