Incredible Act of Service by an Architect for Lutherans in Africa (LIA), by Pr. Rossow

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 me0603161443ans 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.)

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Incredible Act of Service by an Architect for Lutherans in Africa (LIA), by Pr. Rossow — 14 Comments

  1. “Pressure was put on the LCMS by Catholic dioceses in Africa and the response was to remove Rev. May from the field.”

    If this statement can be supported by evidence, it would warrant the removal from membership in the LCMS of those officials who gave into Romanist pressure to have Rev. May removed from the field.

    Can a motion for an independent investigation of this incident be made and seconded by delegates at the 2016 Convention?

  2. Vehse,

    A hundred other manufactured reasons would be given so as to maintain innocence. 🙂

    Oh, and its been over 50 years since an LCMS convention did anything meaningful and with teeth in it so I am not holding my breath. 🙂

  3. I continue to get updates from an old post, and I am worried. “There is a new comment to Pastors Protest Rev. Walter Obare’s Dictatorial Leadership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya, by Pr. Rossow.” Allegations seem to fly back and forth, mostly concerning money. I am worried that the work that “Lutherans in Africa” is doing will have a similar outcome. What is being done to keep the folks out there from fighting over the outside resources. Anybody wants to discuss this “off line” you know how to contact me.

  4. What I’m wondering is why, on page xxiv (PDF page 24) of the 2016 Convention Workbook, Walter E. Obare, Nairobi, Kenya, is listed under “Registered Delegates and Representatives.” Does this mean he will show up at the convention? I thought LCMS, Inc., finally had him figured out.

    God’s Blessings,
    Ginny Valleau

  5. @Theodore Kuster #3

    Is Lutherans in Africa being subsidized like ELCK? I rather doubt it.

    Lutheran Heritage Foundation helps with translation and provision of basic Lutheran texts. If they are operating the same way as in Southeast Asia, they send ordinary parish pastors to conduct intensive “summer school” classes. [I know one of the men who has taught several years in SE Asia.]
    None of these things is designed to build a fiefdom or enrich anyone involved.

  6. Theodore,

    Helen is right. The whole point of LIA is to do the exact opposite of what our synod does. Instead of giving money to Africans, LIA (and LHF for that matter) only gives out the Gospel. All money that goes to LIA goes to teaching Africans how to be Lutherans. By intention, LIA does not give out money for acts of mercy.

    Ginny is also right. Our synod would do a great thing for the Gospel if it would disinvite Obare.

    In defense of the synod, they are simply following policy. Obare is the Bishop and that is the policy. You invite the Bishops from partner churches to come to the convention.

    However, as we have documented here, Obare is evil, cunning, ruthless and power hungry and a majority of rightly documented delegates frm the ELCK elected someone other than Obare. What did Obare do? He locked them out of the convention and turned around and unilaterally defrocked the other bishops because they would not support him. They finally saw through the money he handed out to them to buy their support (which he got from the LCMS).

    Our synod knows all of this. It could easily decide to disinvite Obare and stand with the majority of Lutherans in the ELCK. In good bureaucratic style they could just say “Obare is too controversial and we will not invite him” but instead they have decided to put personal friendship ahead of what is right.

    Now Mr. Custer, I reprimand you for getting off the topic of this post. I even praised the synod in the post above. I intentionally left that topic of Obare out of it but you had to bring it up. If anyone else gets off the topic of this post your comments will be deleted.

    Jason Stephens is giving three years of his life and his family’s life to oversee the construction of a Center that will give out the Gospel and teach the Lutheran Confessions. This is a far cry from what our synod does. Our synod takes your gifts and funds a photographer in Africa and calls him a “missionary.” Let me say again, LIA despises that sort of shell game and understands that the most merciful thing you can do for an African is teach them the Gospel, and not give them a mosquito net and then have a “missionary” take their picture and publish it in America so more money can be raised for more mosquito nets for these Africans who do not know the Gospel.

  7. Ok, I guess I touched a nerve, but you did indeed get me on the technicality of going off post. Forgive me. I know what a synodical mission does and what a missionary is expected to do in a foreign country. I did that for 32 years. That’s why I am so jumpy about the dependency issue. My last name is Kuster with a K.

  8. I understand the topic at hand, yet I urge you, brothers in Christ, to consider the eigth commandment as you discuss opinions. Calling into question a fellow brother’s status as a missionary sent by our church body by rudely putting quotation marks around the word, “missionary”, is not only disheartening and discouraging, but it is hurtful. Name calling does not build up the body of Christ, but rather gives satan a foothold to cause strife and division. Please consider how you talk about fellow Christians you do not even know.

  9. Rachel,

    I am not sure we are defining missionary in the same way. How do you define it?

    Also, is there ever a time when it is appropriate to “name call?” The phrase “white-washed tombs” comes to mind.

  10. Pastor Rossow,

    I would define a missionary as one appointed or called and subsequently sent on behalf of God’s church to share the gospel of Christ. Lutheran missionaries do so of course, by directing others to His gifts in Word and Sacrament, and always teaching and bearing witness to Christ’s saving work. Sometimes this will be in a classroom, or from a pulpit, in a taxi, or a home, depending upon the missionary’s vocation and opportunities that arise. Perhaps part of their service will be sharing with brother Christians through photography, print, or by word of mouth, what is happening on the field. I mean not to upset by my comment, simply to lovingly urge away from blanket statements or assumptions about another’s service in Christ’s name.

    Mercy work is only such insofar as it is connected to the proclamation of the gospel. Absolutely.

    And certainly name calling is never appropriate or loving.

    Peace in Christ.

  11. Rachel,

    Jesus name-called frequently. Was he wrong?

    Your definition of “missionary” is of no use. According to you, every Christian is a missionary and therefore, we do not need the word “missionary.” It is useless.

    You are a victim of the post modern world on both fronts. It wrongly teaches that tolerance is the highest value and there is never anytime when it is appropriate to say something negative about anyone. Thankfully neither Jesus nor Paul fell victim to this false teaching.

    You are also wrongly post-modern in your very lose use of language. You try to rescue your false definition of “missionary” by saying that missionaries “direct” people to Word and Sacrament. You know enough of Scriptural truth that a missionary needs to be tied to word and sacraments but then you equivocate by introducing the word “direct.”

    Missionaries do not “direct” people to word and sacrament. They administer word and sacrament. When we start calling photographers “missionaries” we have lost the use of our language because every and any Christian is a missionary.

    The Bible tells us that every Christian is to do good works and then give the credit to God. The Bible also tells us that God has instituted the office of the ministry to administer word and sacrament. When we send a holder of the office of the ministry to evangelize people we call him a “missionary.” It is only since the dawn of the very dangerous era of post-modernism, where language is greatly abused, that people have started calling everyone a missionary. This is not a helpful development and frankly, it makes no sense.

  12. Is it correct that in order to be a “missionary” you need to be “called” or “commissioned” by a church to serve? I have always understood the LCMS definition to include that important detail. Who are the Pastors you mention in your article called/commissioned by?

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