(Editor’s Note: Jon writes a column for us titled “I Desire Mercy and Not Satire but a Little Satire is Good for the Soul.” This post has no satire but describes a very serious situation that calls for our support and prayers.)
It was a cold and snowy Sunday in January of 2005 when I first saw Bishop Elisa. He slowly stepped into the pulpit of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Dearborn. He spoke slowly too, so that we could understand the sermon he gave. My then two year old son, Alistair, was bouncing around on the kneeler, my knee, the pew – you name it – so I didn’t catch every word of his sermon (I am sure many good Lutheran parents can relate), but I did catch this: He said that when we suffer, Jesus is close to us and that the people of Sudan are suffering and that we, the folks in Dearborn at Emmanuel also have many things we must suffer.
I thought to myself, “How can he say that we are suffering? Our sufferings are nothing compared to what his people are enduring!”
I became very interested in the ELCS after this visit and also in the Lutheran Heritage Foundation that sponsored Bishop Elisa’s visits to many Lutheran congregations and also his study at Fort Wayne.
As I started to get literature about the ELCS and the LHF, a quote from Bishop Elisa stuck out to me “…we need transportation.” About the same time my neighbor who owns warehouses used by the Salvation Army told me how one of his warehouses was stocked with bicycles. I asked him if I could have them for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sudan. He said that they were already allotted for another purpose, but he would set up a meeting for me with the Salvation Army Captain to see if they could help me out.
I called Rev. Rahn from the LHF with the plan: Get bikes from the Salvation Army and send them to the ELCS. He went with me to the meeting and the Captain at the Salvation Army agreed to give us 50 bikes.
Bishop Elisa was informed and was happy about the plan. In November of 2006 we drove down to Fort Wayne to see him. He was staying in the basement of Prof. Nuffer’s house (and a very nicely finished basement at that!). My wife and I sat and talked with him for a few hours, while our boys kind of played (I use that term loosely) in the background. Bishop Elisa showed us pictures from Sudan – Baptisms, Churches (some of which the government conveniently build a road through), the Educational Center in Baguga, St. Paul’s Charity Hospital, pictures of his family eating termites (a local delicacy), pictures of his farm and a picture of him lying in a hospital bed with an iv. He told us he has malaria and every now and then it breaks out and if he is given the right drugs, he is ok. But he told us of one scary incident in which he had a malaria episode, was rushed to a hospital and the doctors wanted to perform open heart surgery on him. Luckily his wife came and got him and took him away, because there was nothing wrong with his heart and this was surely an attempt to silence him.
Six months passed and I got the call from the Salvation Army, “We have 50 bikes for you in Pontiac, MI.” A former boss and now friend, loaned me a dump truck and a trailer to pick them up and came with me to help. The quality wasn’t so great, but I decided to make the best of it. Concordia in Ann Arbor was gracious enough to let me use their barn to store them – through Rev. Rahn’s intercession. I then convinced 6 guys from my office to go help me do repairs and package them; only one of them was Lutheran. I had a colleague call in a favor with a trucking company and we had them moved to Orphan Grain Train for transport to Sudan. Unfortunately, because of quality concerns, Orphan Grain Train had to make some further repairs and packaging. I honestly don’t know if the bikes ever made it. I hope so. Someday, I would like to organize a way for them to get good transportation – brand new bicycles, rather than what was discarded.
As 2008 draws to a close, the man who preached to us in Dearborn about suffering is himself in great suffering. He is lying in a hospital in Nairobi Kenya. Two months ago he was diagnosed with swelling in his brain. His ability to talk was severely impaired. He was sent to a hospital in Jordan where the doctors wanted to perform surgery or send him on to England or Austria for further help from nuero specialists. Unfortunately he is ill in many other ways – he has blood sugar problems – and the surgery would have most likely killed him. He and his family came back to Khartoum and his condition worsened. He was taken last Friday to Nairobi Hospital. He now has pneumonia, for which he is being treated, but they have stabilized his blood sugar. The course of further treatment will be radiation and medicine.
Last night, I was at a Christmas party thrown by my former boss and now friend, who helped me pick up the bikes. He asked me if the bikes made it. I said, “I don’t know, but I do know that the man who was our contact in Sudan, Bishop Elisa, is very very ill with a brain disorder money is needed to treat him.” He took forty dollars out of his pocket and said, “It ain’t much, but please make sure that this goes to help him.”
The ELCS is a bold witness to the Gospel in Sudan and to the correct understanding of Christian doctrine as contained in the Book of Concord. Through Bishop Elisa’s work and sacrifices many good things have come to pass in Sudan – aided by the Lutheran Heritage Foundation.
The bills are mounting for his treatment. It is a horrible economy, and our churches need our offerings and help, and other organizations need it too, but any donations would be deeply appreciated to help care for the dear Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sudan, Andrew Elisa. Prayers for his recovery and for his family are also requested.
For more info on how to donate please go to: www.lhfmissions.org
Or send a check to:
Lutheran Heritage Foundation
51474 Romeo Plank Road
Macomb, MI 48042
Please write “Medical Expenses for Andrew Elisa” in the memo line.