ELCSA Celebration of Luther Decade

October 26, 2014
Polokwane, Limpopo Province, South Africa
ELCSA churchwide celebration of the Luther Decade on Reformation Sunday

Over 2000 women, men, youth and children together with the pastors and bishops of the seven dioceses of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa gathered to celebrate the Luther Decade on Reformation Sunday 2014 in Polokwane, Limpopo Province under the banner “Towards 500 years of Lutheran Witnessing 1517 – 2017.”

A day-long seminar on the Luther Decade theme for 2014 “Reformation and Politics” was held on the previous day at the Pietersburg Lodge.  Presentations on the topic were given by Bishop emeritus Dr. Musa Biyela (LTI), Rev. Ruth Xaba (ELCSA SED) and Dean NM Myaka (ELCSA SED).  Responses to the papers were offered by Rev. M. Shabele (Principal of the Lutheran Theological Institute LTI), Dr. Mathole Motshekga (Former Premier of Gauteng Province and current ANC member of parliament) and Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson (ELCA Global Mission).

The Reformation Sunday Luther Decade launch rally began with the arrival of ELCSA Presiding bishop NP Phaswana and Mmabishop Phaswana at the sports center in Seshego in a motor cavalcade.  Bishops and clergy entered the venue in a procession accompanied by singing led by a brass band.

The sermon was delivered by the presiding bishop based on the Gospel reading John 8:31-36 “The truth shall set you free.” The bishop began by greeting the congregation in more than 11 languages. Reflecting on numerous challenges in Christian and Lutheran history he asked what it means to be Christian, Lutheran and ecumenical in Africa today in the face of fear, selfishness, poverty and oppression? What stories do we tell our children and neighbors?  How do we witness?  Do we tell them that salvation, people and creation are not for sale, and that the greatest miracle of all is God’s gift of grace through Christ which frees us to love and serve others with God’s gifts?

A member of the youth Ms. Nobuhle Nxumalo (ELCSA SED) recited a poem she had written entitled: “I am a Lutheran.” In an address to launch the Luther Decade in ELCSA Bishop emeritus Dr. Biyela reflected on the Reformation themes of Grace alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone and exhorted the congregation to show the overflowing love of God in service to their neighbors when they return to their homes.

After the offering and service of Holy Communion greetings were delivered by ELCSA partners.  The rally ended with a meal.

Submitted by: 
Philip J. Knutson Rev. Dr.
ELCA Global Mission
Regional Representative – Southern Africa
Johannesburg

Posted by in The Lutheran World Federation
Bread for the World Consultation

Bread for the World Consultation

Steffen Wiese (BftW), Beatrice Moyo (LUCSA) receive a tour from the garden manager, Thabo Motsokolo. Thabo works with the other manager, James, seven days a week to ensure that the produce is well taken care of.

Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) Office in Johannesburg had the pleasure of hosting Steffen Wiese from Bread for the World, based in Berlin, Germany. Steffen had a partner’s meeting with Rev. Dr. D. Tswaedi (Executive Director), Mrs V. Mzezewa (HIV and AIDS Desk Coordinator) and Mr. L. Xhakaza (Finance Officer) to familiarise himself with the work of LUCSA on HIV and AIDS and to discuss specific projects and related information for future cooperations. At the end of the meeting, Steffen had an exposure visit to observe two projects of two LUCSA member churches namely ELCSA-EC and ELCSA-NT.

The first stop was at “Diakonia AIDS Ministry” or DAM, a community intervention ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) Central Diocese located in Jabavu, Soweto. The Programme Director, Rev. SS Mugivhi, welcomed everyone and dove into how DAM is closely working with the needs of the community and how the support of partners and donors is vital to the health of their ministry.

“The need is there, and the funding is why we are walking, not crawling,” Rev. Mugivhi explained.

DAM recently had a fundraising event which brought children from the area to play games and enjoy a delicious lunch. Families could join and purchase a meal ticket as well. The fundraising event was a success for DAM and although their resources for fundraising are limited, DAM is working with its surrounding community to build up the four part ministry.

DAM has a very large after school program that runs Tuesday through Thursday, giving children a healthy meal including vegetables from their garden and from the soup kitchen. The volunteers help with the children’s’ homework and school projects, and often take them on educational field trips. There are also HIV and AIDS support groups that meet to help with the work in the garden and group members can receive support through their contributions to the DAM ministry. DAM also works to educate the after school children and support groups of PLHIV with general health information including HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment. The last part of the ministry is their communications department that releases a quarterly newsletter, “Lobone.”

Rev. Mugivhi and the garden manager, Thabo Motsokolo, gave a brief tour of their produce and future plans for the garden. They have started a small compost, and are growing mainly vegetables such as beet root, lettuce, corn, chard, and spinach.

The next stop was St. Peters by the Lake in Park View, Johannesburg, to meet Stephanie Press who runs the “Special Foster Care Project.” The focus of the project is to give orphaned and vulnerable children a safe and stable home to live in while receiving education and proper treatment for their health needs. Currently the program serves seven households each with one Foster mother and four to five children. Each of the homes are divided by the children’s age groups, and the foster mothers are provided with training and support for their positions in each house. The purpose of having a house mother is to provide supervision as well as a strong role model who encourages the children to become responsible and so that there can be a feeling of stability and family.

Stephanie has been working with St. Peters for less than a year but already has hosted a successful fundraising event through a golf tournament.  She has plans to expand their fundraising events. She has a drive and vision for St. Peters that is going to help the program flourish.

Steffen will continue on his tour of South Africa to learn and monitor projects funded by Bread for the World and attend a Partner Consultation with various partners in South Africa. LUCSA was blessed and appreciates the visit from  their long standing partner, Bread for the World.

Posted by in Diakonia Desk
Monitoring and Support Visit by Malaria Team to Malawi

Monitoring and Support Visit by Malaria Team to Malawi

LUCSA conducted a monitoring and support visit in Malawi from 01 October 2014 – 05 October 2014

The focus was to monitor and support activities in all the three original project districts Nkhotakota, Salima  and  Mangochi.

The aim was to engage with communities (who included community and church leadership, feeding centres, VSLAs, SHGs members and CBEs) and visiting some of the reported projects sites.

The objective of the visit was:

  1. Monitoring the impact made by the church through malaria prevention and control activities to the congregation and surrounding communities.
  2. To assess the relationship the church has with state and other stack holders towards working together on the fight against Malaria.
  3. To identify areas requiring further strengthening and support in the face of the phasing out of the programme.
  4. To monitor livelihoods activities and their benefits to the communities and linkages with malaria, while assessing exit readiness post donor funding.
  5. To monitor utilisation of funds against budget items and advise appropriately

Findings:

At Kapiri and Katema:

  • There was a cordial working relationship between the church and the clinic/government.
  • The church focusing on health education and Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) while the clinic focused on treatment. The church staff is involved sensitising the communities so that they assist the spray operator during Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS).
  • The health facilities were also sources of secondary data collected and used by the church.
  • Community Based Educators (trained church staff) worked well with the government cadre.
  • Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) who were the primary health care givers at grassroots level (Village Health clinics) where they do the diagnosis and treatment of malaria.
  • Contribution by the church in purchasing and supplying gloves, Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs), Fansidar for pregnant mothers and other anti-malarial drugs was indeed appreciated by the Ministry of Health. The clinics had adequate supplies of drugs including RDTs contributed by the church.
  • The church was also involved in purchasing and distribution of LLINs targeted to the pregnant mothers, under 5s and the other vulnerable members of the communities.
  • While some of these nets for under-fives were distributed at the clinic during ANC generally, most were distributed through ELCM feeding centres
  • To alleviate challenges of transporting patients to the health facility, the church has donated bicycle ambulances to the communities which have proved quite pivotal in the health care delivery especially from the remote communities.

Sustainable Livelihoods:

Village Savings Loans Associations and Lending Groups

  • Savings and lending groups were formed by the poor in target communities to provide sustainable and profitable microfinance services (micro savings, microcredit, and micro-insurance), especially in remote places with no access to formal financial services.
  • These groups are self-managed and do not receive any external capital and provide members with a safe place to save their money, acquire small loans, and obtain emergency insurance.
  • They focus on building savings and assets, and provide credit proportionate to the needs and repayment capacities of the borrowers.

Findings:

  • The groups were found to be running well with group members accessing to small loans plus share outs (savings and interest), each member receives at the end of each saving circle.
  • Most members are able to increase their engagement in productive enterprises such as petty trading, fish mongering, livestock rearing and other income generating activities.

SHG members making their weekly contribution in NKotakota
Through this group, members can get access to health care services- members of the group are able to cope with unforeseen shocks such as sicknesses due to malaria as they are able to pay to transport the patient to the health facility.

  • They use this facility to Improve housing- type of housing reflects the household’s economic status and to  buy household assets(furniture and livestock) and instill a spirit of competition within households and thus increase their predisposition to access health care and other health related services including a clean environment.
  • All group members contribute towards the social fund according is used as financial mechanism that support members in times of emergencies like sicknesses or shortage of school fees.
  • Saving groups used as forums for social discussions on issues such as malaria, HIV and AIDS, rights to health and other issues involving families. These savings groups empower women.


Challenges

  • Problems of administration of ACT which is given without RDTS being done in the communities may result in wide spread resistance. Government should enforce proper RDT test before ACT is given out.
  • Distance to health facilities and lack of transport compounded by lack of accessible roads/routes.

Recommendations to the Malawi project staff and the church
The church is challenged to consider issues of advocacy in the following areas noted as requiring attention on the part of Government:

  • That there be more HSAs employed, trained on RDTs testing and deployed to cover effectively all the village clinics. This should help improve malaria management and treatment in the communities.
  • Government challenged to ensure that adequate stocks of anti-malaria drugs are supplied to the clinic so that positive cases can be dealt with as soon as they are identified.
  • The church is challenged to engage government and CHAM to reach a common understanding on issues of charges by the clinic for service delivery including malaria treatment, as this can act as a deterrent in an effort to combat malaria.
  • Lobby for more ambulances to the clinics to facilitate transportation of complicated cases to bigger health facilities. This cannot be left to the owners of the patient alone as private transport is very expensive.
  • The church working with Government should intensify public awareness on the dangers of hoarding and taking ACT without due care as it exposes communities to resistance and deprive others who desperately need the drug.
Posted by in Malaria
A Message from Rev. Dr. Elieshi Mungure

A Message from Rev. Dr. Elieshi Mungure

Dear brothers bishops leaders in the region,

I send you very warm greetings from the LWF communion office in Geneva trusting all is well with you.

I am writing to share some sad news of the passing on of dear brother and former colleague Dr. Eliawony Meena from the Evangelical Lutheran church in Tanzania.  Dr. Meena died suddenly on Saturday –past midnight of October 4th , 2014 at Tumaini University Makumira where he was serving as Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. You may remember Dr. Meena as he served the LWF through the Department for World Service, as Country representative for Botswana and later Malawi. As an LWF-DWS Country representative in the above churches and countries, am sure he worked closely with you at very personal level too. According to the information I received from Makumira, the late Dr. Meena will be laid to rest on Thursday the 9th October in his village in Mamba, Kilimanjaro.

It is due to the above working relationships that I am humbled to share this information with you. If you wish to send a condolence note to the family and the ELCT, kindly send to the General Secretary Mr. Brighton Killewa (bkillewa@elct.or.tz) and copy to the Vice Chancellor of Makumira Rev. Professor Joseph Parsalaw.(vc@makumira.ac.tz)

I wish you God’s blessings,

Rev.Dr. Elieshi Mungure
LWF-DMD, Area Secretary for Africa

Posted by in Christian Education, The Lutheran World Federation
Lutheran Action Against Gender Based Violence

Lutheran Action Against Gender Based Violence

Gender Based Violence is a human rights violation and a form of discrimination against another person on the basic of gender. the prevalence of GBV in South Africa reflects the high level of inequality between women and men in society.

Gender Based Violence hurts children, men, women and families by creating a culture of fear and mistrust that leads to lack of intimacy and safety with familial and intimate relationships. Through prevention efforts aimed at changing attitudes and behaviours perpetuating GBV, homes and communities can become safer places for everyone.

The biblical call to uphold justice is at the very heart of the self understanding of the Church. The Church is not immune to the scourge and the challenge of GBV. The Church can play a major role in shaping societal norms and behaviour and can contribute positively towards ending GBV in society.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) with her members in South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana, commits herself to advocate, stand in solidarity empower, reduce, respond and prevent Gender Based Violence.

Posted by in Gender Violence
Ebola Response and Resources

Ebola Response and Resources

The Ebola virus in West Africa has become a destructive force in the communities and lives of our brothers and sisters. The Lutheran World Federation is calling for action through prayers, donations, and direct response for volunteers and health care providers. The faith communities from around the world are pushing to support these communities as much as possible but the virus is proving to be a crisis, and no longer just an outbreak.

What is Ebola?
According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola virus is spread through human to human contact from directly touching blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, as well  as surfaces and materials contaminated with the fluid. A person infected can start showing symptoms as early as two days, and as late as 21 days. The symptoms include fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. From there, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function. Bleeding from the mouth and in stools is known to occur in some cases.

These symptoms are hard to distinguish if the patient is infected with Ebola or malaria, typhoid fever, or meningitis. It is extremely important for the health care providers to test the patients who exhibit these symptoms under quarantined testing to ensure the safety of both the providers and patients. But this also means that there are a lot of patients who are not receiving the care they need because so many of the doctors, nurses, and staff are working to contain the virus.

How can we help?
The LWF reported after the UNHR Council meeting on September 22nd that, “faith based organizations and churches are essential for an effective response to the Ebola crisis in Western Africa.” The Lutheran churches in the infected areas are working to not only respond to the health care needed, but the needs of the community as well. The donations of time, prayer, and money are all important tools in helping to contain and treat the virus. One of the largest concerns is that people may be ignoring the warnings of the virus being spread through human contact and are touching dead bodies, or turning to different methods of treatment to try and cure the virus when in reality it may be spreading the disease more.

As a church community in Southern Africa we may be far from the virus, but we need to be closer to the infected communities. We are all one in Christ  and in these moments where our brothers and sisters are so heavily suffering, we need to respond. LUCSA is asking that you continue to pray for these communities and inform yourself on the current state of West Africa, and support financially in any way that you can.


Donate Directly to Lutheran Disaster Response

By clicking here you can go directly to the ELCA website to donate money to their cause. The money is going to help in responding to the outbreak with food distributions, shipment of personal protective equipment, training health workers, outreach through education about prevention, and construction of an isolation unit at Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing in Liberia.
Your gift designated for the Ebola Outbreak Response will be used in full (100%) to assist those who are suffering and living with the threat of this virus.

Other Ways To Give
Mail
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
ELCA Gift Processing Center
P.O. Box 1809
Merrifield, VA  22116-8009
Write “Ebola Outbreak Response” on your check’s memo line.

Phone
Credit card by phone: 800-638-3522

Posted by in The Lutheran World Federation
Youth Leadership Programme

Youth Leadership Programme

“Together we can make it”

30th March-6th  April 2014

33 young people, youthful young adults from across Southern Africa gathered from the 30th of March to the 6th of April in Johannesburg, representing most LUCSA member churches. The overall Objectives of this training are:

  • To provide young aspiring leaders with essential understanding of their rights, responsibilities and duties as responsible citizens, to exhibit leadership skills, which shall include soft skills in combination with factual knowledge on issues of local and international importance, as well as increased consciousness about ethics and values and the consequences of one’s own actions and inactions.
  • To develop a cadre of future Lutheran church leaders from different LUCSA member churches, different southern African countries and different walks of life which.

The main Values are the following:

  • Key values such as tolerance, openness, personal integrity, respect, hard work, social responsibility, compassion and preparedness to work for the common good stand at the centre of training young leaders.
  • It is an exciting journey, and the second leg is scheduled for early July.  The training is action-based, experiential and highly participatory, and that probably sets it apart from most trainings to date. The high energy levels have been carried over onto Facebook, where discussions continue, and assignments are discussed.
Posted by in Christian Education, The Lutheran World Federation
Professor Gunther Hermann Wittenberg 5th April 1935

Professor Gunther Hermann Wittenberg 5th April 1935

Born to missionary parents in what was then Tanganyika, Gunther Wittenberg grew up within the postcolonial struggles of Southern Africa. He was to make these struggles his own, identifying with and working with those on the margins.

Gunther Wittenberg’s many contributions to the struggle for liberation in South Africa were all shaped by his deep commitment to prophetic Christianity. From his undergraduate studies in Pietermaritzburg, to his postgraduate studies in Germany, to his first parish ministry in Belville in the Cape, to his involvement in the Christian Institute, and the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa), prophetic Christianity provided the parameters for what he did and how he did it.

Because Gunther Wittenberg recognised the ambiguous role of Christianity in apartheid South Africa, he was committed to forms of theological education that would nurture what the Kairos Document (1985) referred to as ‘prophetic’ forms of Christianity. He set about this project, what was to become the central project of his life, with careful consideration and planning. He spent three years preparing himself in Germany, and then returned to what was then the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg in 1973 with a vision to establish the first theological education programme in prophetic contextual theology at a university.

Slowly, under his leadership, what was to become the School of Theology (now part of the School of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics) emerged in 1985, a nationally and internationally recognized pioneer in the area of prophetic contextual theology. And some years later, Gunther Wittenberg’s vision for a truly ecumenical theological education project was realised when the Pietermaritzburg Cluster of Theological Education was established in 1990, bringing together the many theological seminaries in the area, including the newly formed Lutheran Theological Institute.

But Gunther Wittenberg was not content with a form of theological education that remained restricted to educated elites. And so he began work on a related community engagement project, one that would forge an interface between socially engaged biblical and theological scholars and ordinary Christians in poor and marginalised communities. Having visited the base-community projects of Brasil in the mid-1980s, Gunther Wittenberg established a South African equivalent, the Institute for the Study of the Bible (what is now the Ujamaa Centre for Community Development and Research), in 1989. The Ujamaa Centre worked (and continues to work) with local communities, using scholarly biblical and theological resources for social transformation. The Ujamaa Centre remains an internationally recognised model of university-based community engagement and research.

Scholarship was central to Gunther Wittenberg’s vocation. Recognising that the Bible was a significant text in our South African (and African) context, Gunther.

Wittenberg sought to harness the considerable resources of academic biblical scholarship to show how the Bible could be a potential resource for liberation rather than a source of oppression. In taking up this task he combined careful and responsible biblical scholarship with a socially engaged and accountable immersion in context, becoming one of the pioneers of ‘contextual biblical hermeneutics’.

He was nationally and internationally recognised as one of South Africa’s leading biblical scholars, as familiar with the scholarship of Europe and the United States as he was with the contextual contours of South African life. He was a regular participant in the scholarly societies of his discipline, particularly the Old Testament Society of South Africa. He published regularly and widely, constructing an impressive and coherent body of work over more than thirty years. As an Emeritus Professor and Honorary Research Associate of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, he was still publishing academic work in the final years of his life.

Gunther Wittenberg mentored many, nurturing another generation of socially engaged scholars who continue to walk and work in the trajectory he charted. Everything he did he did with a gentleness of spirit, serving others with care and a deep commitment to justice. He died surrounded by his family, his wife, Monika, his children, Martin, Inge, Gertrud, and Reinhild, and many grandchildren. We mourn his passing, and we celebrate his life. Hamba kahle, baba.

Issued by
Prof JA Smit
Dean and Head of School: Religion, Philosophy and Classics 

Posted by in The Lutheran World Federation
Memorial Service

Memorial Service

Gunther Hermann Wittenberg

Unser leiber Mann< Vater, GroBvater ist heimgegangen zu dem, auf den er sich gegründet hat. Die Trauerfeier findet am 4. April um Uhr in der Kreuzkirche, Hayfields statt.

Our beloved Husband, Father, Grandfather has gone home to the one on whom his life was founded. The memorial service will take place on 4 April at 10am in the Church of the Cross, Hayfields. Veiwing as from 9am

Not many people in the Lutheran family on the African continent and across the world would have been so unfortunate not to have met Professor Dr Gunther Wittenberg. Whoever came across him would be influenced one way or the other.

Having been salted by the abundant grace of his Redeemer Jesus Christ, he salted so many in the church and outside of it, from the lowest to the highest in power or education.

Indeed his contribution to better understand and use the message of Scripture from the lecture, pulpit, schools and house to the streets has been documented and has salted many more still.

On behalf of the LUCSA and its member churches listed below, we convey to his dear family and church the consolation coming from the Oculi epistle reading,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trouble, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God”., 2 Cor 1:3-4.

Rev. Dr. DP Tswaedi
Executive Director

Posted by in The Lutheran World Federation
The New Executive Director of LUCSA

The New Executive Director of LUCSA

In pouring rain in the woods of the Woodpecker Seminary, the new ELCB bishop Mothusi Letlhage was consecrated in the presence of a jubilant congregation. The out-going Bishop Dr Moenga, assisted by the retired Bishop P.J. Robinson officiated , ably assisted by the Namibian bishop.

The occasion was graced by the ecumenical family in Botswana and from afar.

On the same day and venue, Dr Noko the Interim ED handed the baton to the incoming ED, Pastor Tswaedi.

May the LORD of the church continue to bless the new Bishop of the ELCB as well as the new LUCSA ED, and may the retiring brothers find peace and calmness of mind in their new roles.

Tswaedi D.P.

Posted by in The Lutheran World Federation
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