On 30 October, in the remote region of Kimuka, about an hour’s drive from Nairobi, in Kenya, Africa, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” was sung in Swahili. German sausages and cabbage were consumed on Chapatti bread, Luther’s Small Catechism was being shared with tribal Africans, and people of all walks of life came to find out what the Lutheran Reformation was all about.
Between 170 and 200 people participated in the Sunday afternoon event at the Lutheran School of Theology (LST) with Lutherans in Africa (LIA), where deployed CLTS professor, Dr Harold Ristau, and his family moved last summer. Functioning temporarily as LST’s Academic Dean, Dr Ristau has been shared by our seminary with this ministry and school in support of pastoral formation in Africa.
Part of the mission involves outreach and mission to surrounding regions. About a third of the guests at the Reformation event were children, many of whom come from a poverty-stricken school where the students pick up sticks on their way to school each day in order to cook a communal lunch. The school is so grateful for any help that they can receive. Pastors May and Ristau teach religion to the students weekly, and also two of the Ristau children, Katelyn and Simon, volunteer at the school teaching English writing, spelling and grammar, and mathematics. Although none of the children are Lutheran, they all have virtually memorised the Small Catechism, and the school board encourages the teaching of Lutheran doctrine.
On the Eve of the Reformation, violins, trumpets, piano, and a hymn sing followed games for children and preceded a community supper. A visiting pastor, Rev. Randy Bell, was on site teaching a course titled “Preaching Law and Gospel” using C. F. W. Walther’s “God’s Yes and God’s No”. The three pastors preached short sermons—some directed to the adults and some to children—during the hymn sing in a chapel that was full to the brim.
As a gift for attending, all the guests received various Lutheran materials, such as the Small Catechism, CPH tracts and New Testaments in their native languages: Swahili and Maasai. Rev. May, fluent in Swahili, previously participated in the translation of Christian and Lutheran confessional material for the Lutheran Heritage Foundation who, in return, provided LIA with free materials for the event.
The pastoral candidates oversaw the whole servant event. It did not only act as an outreach to the neighbours and surrounding tribal communities, but also as a hands on experience for them to learn how to organise and lead such programs and festivals in their own contexts.
Lutherans in Africa forms pastors from all over Africa, but also serves the surrounding communities in humanitarian ways by providing education and provisions of water supply, building roads, and doing relief work, to name a few. LIA also provides jobs for locals as it continues to grow with new buildings for its campus. Approximately 100 people live on site. A constant flow of international volunteers share their gifts with the ministry on site for several weeks or months at a time.
The loving relationships being built between LIA and Kenyans are remarkable as the institution becomes increasingly known as a light on the “Dark Continent”. People see all the charitable work being accomplished and the Good News message of Jesus Christ as Saviour being spread. LIA is involved in a wide array of projects to advance the Gospel. These include a recently received invitation to provide advanced chaplain training to prison chaplains from various Christian denominations in connection with the prison ministry in which LIA is involved.
This summer, LIA is seeking a volunteer to come and teach part time ESL to students through Bible studies. If a volunteer could spare the time and find funding for travel, LIA would gladly cover the room and board. Please keep all Lutheran ministries in Africa in your prayers.