Out of Africa – 10 Things I Learned from 3 Weeks in East Africa Including Corruption and Abuse of Financial Support, by Pr. Rossow

I just got back from three weeks of preaching and teaching in East Africa. I met and talked with several Bishops, pastors, other church workers and laymen. Here are 10 things I learned. Some of them are encouraging and some of them are downright frightening. I plan on expanding on these ten things in future posts.

  1. Lutheranism is alive (but not always so well) in Africa. There are more Lutherans in Africa than on any other continent but in many cases they have not been catechized sufficiently.
  2. Lutherans in Africa are hungry to learn the faith.
  3. Theological teaching for African pastors and evangelists and day schools for their children is a higher priority on the continent than mercy.
  4. Modern Africa is the product of one hundred years of colonialism, corruption and communist/socialist revolt which has created a frontier environment that is not prepared to properly receive financial support from American churches. Our financial gifts to African Lutherans often do more harm than good. What is needed is teaching.
  5. The northwest diocese of the Tanzanian Lutheran Church has a newly elected bishop (Bishop Makalah) who is a fine pastor and great leader from whom we can learn much about how to be a bishop.
  6. Bishop Walter Obare is despised by most of the pastors and leaders of the ELCK (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya). Walter Obare has used money given him by the LCMS for personal use and to fix elections.
  7. Mission work in Africa is flawed at the core.
  8. LCMS pastors and laity need to learn about Africa and its true need before helping them.
  9. I was in Africa for three weeks, in two different countries, met with over forty pastors and evangelists and I did not see one malaria net nor did I hear of anyone who had seen one.
  10. We are fools if we think that the Church can turn Africa into something that we middle class American Lutherans would judge as a decent, clean, healthy, acceptable place to live. This is not the church’s duty nor is it possible for the church to accomplish this.

Many of these conclusions are not intuitive.  Some of them are contrary to the basic approach to missions we have adopted as Lutherans in the last generation. They are all rooted in my first hand experience a few weeks ago but I have also been a student of Africa from a distance for several years and have had several indigenous contacts there for the last few years.

As time allows I will unpack these 10 conclusions here on BJS in the weeks to come. For now I welcome your questions, insights, challenges and other thoughts in the comment section below.

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