This past spring an incredible gift was given by God to Lutherans in Africa (LIA). On a recent fund-raising trip to Missouri and Texas where several congregations gave wonderful financial gifts to Lutherans in Africa, one congregation gave a nearly priceless gift – an Epaphroditus of sorts.
During the LIA conference on missions at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, LIA Director Rev. James May met Jason Stephens, a member of Our Savior and an architect/designer/landscaper. Before the next day had passed, Jason had decided to go to Africa for three weeks to help Rev. May layout the new million dollar Lutheran Center that LIA is building outside of the transportation capital of Africa – Nairobi, Kenya. The land was purchased last year and what was needed next was some professional expertise to fit all the pieces (student dorms, translation lab, chapel, school, etc.) in the proper arrangement. That is exactly what Jason volunteered to give to LIA.
But wait, it gets better. After that three weeks last January, Jason decided to move his entire family to Kenya for three years as a volunteer to oversee the entire building project. Next month, Jason, his wife, and three children will be going on a three year adventure/service project in Africa.
This is very important because it frees up Rev. May to continue travelling the continent of Africa to conduct training seminars for pastors and catechists. It also allows him to teach those same pastors and catechists in the new Center where very soon students will be coming to stay for weeks at a time to learn what it means to be a Lutheran according to the Small Catechism and the rest of the Lutheran Confessions. Dozens of Lutheran bishops from the Congo to South Africa have requested Rev. May and the teaching of LIA to their pastors and catechists and the new Lutheran Center will help LIA to do this and Jason Stephens is helping to see the project through.
Since its inception in 2010 Lutherans in Africa (LIA) has been growing the confessional understanding of Christians who are Lutherans in Africa. It is a well-known fact even though there are several times more Lutherans in Africa than in the United States, these Lutherans are often Lutherans in name only. That is why the Fort Wayne Seminary, the Lutheran Heritage Foundation (LHF), LCMS missions and LIA invest so much time not just evangelizing Africa but making real Lutherans out of the Lutherans who are already there. In addition to Jason’s crucial work, LIA is also adding another full time missionary this summer, a pastor from the Lutheran Church in Australia, to work with Rev. May teaching the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions to Africans.
Like Jason Stephens, Rev. May also has an interesting story. Ironically, Rev. May is a first career architect and second career pastor. Right out of the seminary he was sent as a missionary to Africa. After a few years he was unceremoniously yanked out of Africa by the previous LCMS administration for baptizing babies. Yes, for baptizing babies. It cost the equivalent of $2,000 for some African Roman Catholics to have their babies baptized. Rev. May made connections with many of these folks and freely baptized their babies, and for free! Pressure was put on the LCMS by Catholic dioceses in Africa and the response was to remove Rev. May from the field.
The Lutheran Heritage Foundation then called Rev. May to be the director of their work in Africa. After the economic downturn several years ago, negatively affected donations, Rev. May volunteered to go independent and raise his own support. That was the genesis of Lutherans in Africa. He is still the LHF Director for Africa and dovetails the work of translation and distribution of Lutheran materials with the work of teaching and training African Lutherans that he does for LIA.
In the spirit of Jason Stephen’s three year donation of his life to LIA, we hope you too will consider supporting LIA and minister to LIA’s needs just as Epaphroditus ministered to Paul’s needs. Not only is the ministry growing, the number of supporting congregations and individuals in the US and around the world is growing. We hope you will join this growing group. Here is a sample of some of the things you can do for LIA.
- Add LIA to your daily prayer list. Pray that the devil and ignorance be thwarted and that the Lutherans in Africa learn the true meaning of the Scriptures as taught in the Lutheran Confessions.
- Request prayer cards for your congregation detailing Jason and his family and their work in Africa.
- Go to the Lutherans in Africa website and make a donation.
- As your pastor to put LIA in your churches annual budget.
- Pastors – consider going to Africa to teach for a week or two alongside Rev. May.
- Invite Pastor May or another LIA representative to come and speak at your parish. (Contact me at [email protected] if you are interested.)