Jeremiah 31:27-34 – The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
Genesis 32:22-31 – Jacob wrestles with the angel at Peniel.
Psalm 119:97-104 – Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all day long.
Psalm 121 – I lift my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come? He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5 – Jesus will judge the living and the dead. Proclaim the message. Be persistent.
Luke 18:1-8 – Parable of the Judge and the Widow (pray and don’t lose heart)
Central African Republic Sunday:
Pray and Do Not Lose Heart
What does your baptism mean to you? (Ask people to think and write some ideas down if you are in a Bible study or small congregation. Let them really think about it.)
For some in the Central African Republic, baptism means being shunned by your family. For some it means losing their livelihood. Their flocks are taken away. So when someone of another faith becomes Christian and is baptized the people of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic bring livestock and support to the table. This is the beloved community.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic (L’Église Évangélique Luthérienne de la République Centrafricaine) is one of our two global companion synods, here in the Gulf Coast Synod. Many of our congregations are setting aside October 20, 2019 to celebrate the ministries of this companion synod and pray for them. If you’re in another synod and reading this, why not use this Sunday to lift up your synod’s global companion(s)?
You can observe this day in several ways:
- Pray for peace and stability in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic. HERE are some prayers you may use.
- Invite a member of our synod’s CAR Team to come and speak. Contact CAR Team Chair Carolyn Jacobs for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Take an offering to support the church (for the Gallo Health Clinic, for church roofs, for education and more…).
- Include the church in your sermon. (See sermon ideas below.)
- Commit to be an annual partner with the church in the CAR. Check out the card below.
- Use with this BULLETIN INSERT.
The bishop of the Lutheran Church in the CAR is President Samuel Ndanga Toué. The number of congregations and members have moved up and down during the armed conflict, but at one point they reported 55,000 Lutherans in 300 congregations. This church grows rapidly when the conflicts die down. Challenges are water, wells, adequate food, infant mortality, malaria and other illnesses. Many of the congregations are in poor, rural areas. Pastors serve 3-7 congregations each.
In 2003 François Bozizé siezed power in the Central African Republic. The following year fighting began. From 2004 to 2007, the Central African Republic was embroiled in a war called the Bush War. This was a struggle between the government and some rebel forces (The Union of Democratic Forces). The government reached a peace agreement in 2007. It is incredibly challenging and also important being the church in this context.
Our synod has participated in several joint visits to the church in CAR with the other two U.S. companions, the Eastern and Western North Dakota Synods. There were trips in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 (including at various times Carolyn Jacobs and Lucky Sahualla of Christ the King Houston, Steve Cauley from Advent Houston, Emmanuel Jackson from Living Word in Katy, Charles Short from St. Paul in Baton Rouge, Mark Warpmaeker from Kinsmen, Peggy Hahn from Faith Bellaire, Alan Kethan from St. Paul Columbus, and Bishop Mike). What we found was a beautiful country with many poor people, living by subsistence farming, but vast natural resources. We found a vibrant, growing church that was receiving many newcomers to the faith. At the time of these visits the President of the ELC-CAR was Andre Golicke.
2011 trip video: https://youtu.be/8RxA5f52nb0
In 2013, things started to heat up in the Central African Republic (CAR). Armed conflict starting boiling over again. A peace agreement between a new government and a number of armed groups was signed last February but there is still violence. Human rights abuses are reported in 70% of the country. Over half (2.5M) the population (4.6M) is in need of humanitarian aid. The spirit is there. The church is there. You are there.
Despite a peace agreement, things are still very tense in the CAR. Currently there are about 650,000 displaced people in the Central African Republic, due to internal armed conflicts. This is an increase of 15% in the first half of 2019. 53 health facilities have closed because of the conflict. This is our companion synod. We cannot turn our heads the other way.
Sometimes these problems seem overwhelming. What can we do from our position here? In Luke 18, Jesus tells a story that suggests one answer.
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Jesus tells the story of a judge who has no respect for God or people, and yet, because of the widow’s persistence, because of her relentless pursuit of justice, he grants her that justice. If a crooked judge will do that, won’t God at least the same for those who pray constantly, day and night?
And so our response begins with relentless prayer. If we want to see justice, we will need to pray right here in worship for the church in the Central African Republic every week. You will need to pray for them in your daily prayers. I believe those prayers will bear fruit. God will hear, and our hearts will be changed. Prayer will spark our generosity and commitment. And this work has already begun.
You are there
There are a number of crucial ministries there for which we pray and to which we give.
The Emmanuel Health Center in Gallo serves a life-saving purpose in the CAR, which is one of the poorest and least developed nations. Infant mortality is very high. Getting women the health care they need is one of the commitments of the church.
The church has a seminary, a bible school (to train catechists and evangelists), a strong women’s organization (Women for Christ), and a youth program. Meeting the needs of the people is an integral part of the church’s mission of sharing the Gospel, and it has many ministries in education, healthcare, agriculture, and water development. Through its ministries, the church helps meet the urgent need for safe drinking water and adequate food, works to lower the rate of infant and maternal mortality, combats AIDS, malaria, and other illnesses, provides basic education, develops women’s leadership, and more.
Each year we raise funds to support this church. This year our ministry fund goals are the following:
- Capacity Building and Training – $10,000
- Church Roofs – $5,000
- Motorcycles for Pastors – $6,000
- Emmanuel Health Center at Gallo – $5,000
- Village School Operations – $4,000
- Village Permanent School – $4,000
- University Scholarships – $4,000
- Veterinary Project – $2,000
- PASE – Water Development – $2,000
- Translation of Sunday School Materials – $5,000
- Visits and Communication – $3,000
If you want to give to any of these ministries, you can write a check right now, and put Central African Republic or CAR in the subject line. Drop it in the offering plate.
Congregations are invited to become CAR Mission Partners. These partners commit to pray monthly in worship for the church in the CAR. They commit to giving an offering at least once a year. They commit to having one educational event per year on the church in the CAR. To become a CAR Mission Partner, simply fill out this card:
Make A Difference
This work makes a difference. This tribal chief was all smiles when, after hours of driving on deeply pot-holed, single-laned dirt roads through the woods, our Gulf Coast delegation pulled into his village of Mbartoua-Ngangene. There is one church in this town, a Lutheran Church. The Lutherans have built the school here as well. The only school. In a society that generally discourages the education of girls, the daughters of this Muslim chief were learning to read and write at the school. The smile on his face said it all. There is no electricity in this village, and no running water. This did not stop them from showing generous hospitality. They killed the fatted calf, and the chief invited the delegation into his own home for a meal and conversation. It was a dear moment.
If you ask leaders of the church about their evangelism strategy, they talk about their efforts to reduce infant mortality. They talk about Lutheran schools. They talked about Muslim Fulani Tribesmen coming for baptism. They don’t separate evangelism and social ministry. They view the work of Christ in a holistic way.
Worship in the CAR is vibrant and enthusiastic. Worshippers pack adobe buildings they have built, some with roofs supplied by global partners. They sit on the floor and on wooden benches, singing at the tops of their lungs in Baya, Sangho and French, usually accompanied by two bongo drums (pictured left, standing).
People around here sometimes see rousing worship with dancing and singing, and they say, “That’s not Lutheran.” What they mean is it isn’t “European.” Since most Christians live south of the equator now, the geographical center of Chrsitianity is now in Africa. There are more Lutherans in Tanzania than in the ELCA. If we want to see what a Lutheran is today, maybe we need to turn to our companion synod in the Central African Republic.
If your neighbor wants to know what a Lutheran Christian is they will likely look at you. So I ask you, what does your baptism mean to you? To what kind of prayer life does your baptism call you? For whom are you praying each day? For what does your baptism call you to give? Do you believe in prayer and generosity? Will you keep banging on the door relentlessly until there is justice in the world? Truly I tell you today, pray, and do not lose heart.
Please consider taking a special offering for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic.