About four years ago I began a journey down a road I didn’t expect to take.

 

While finishing my seminary education, I was asked to work in the archives at Wartburg Theological Seminary to catalog documents relating to the struggle for Namibian independence and the efforts in the United States that centered at WTS.  From this work, I was to write a thesis on the topic.

It was overwhelming, I barely began the project, I wrote more than I ever thought I would on one subject, and most importantly invested my heart in a people I had never even met.  Since then, through one trip and the companion synod network, I have continued to learn from the stories of our Namibian brothers and sisters.

Onamibia1ur relationship with Namibia is long and reaches back decades, to before the nation gained independence from South Africa.

 

Many people in the area remember hearing their stories during the occupation and the efforts made in the United States to divest and provide assistance.

Though the relationship is well established, we are constantly learning how to be ministry partners.Our relationship with Namibia is long and reaches back decades, to before the nation gained independence from South Africa.

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Like any relationships, the ones we have with companion synods evolve with the times. 

In our relationship with Namibia, we have most recently found benefit in having visiting pastors come to participate in ministry here, and to send pastors from here to learn about ministry from our brothers and sisters in Namibia.

Surprising to many is that this sparsely populated nation is not only 90% Christian, most of those Christians are Lutheran.  These Lutherans are facing many of the same challenges we are, other challenges they face are very hard for us to understand, but it doesn’t take long to see that they have much to teach us about faith and about being the church.

namibia2-1Challenges to our relationship highlight a need for patience and respect.  Communications are not always easy.  The developing nation still only has limited internet connections, making many of the ways we communicate in other relationships difficult, if not impossible.  Travel is expensive and frequently not practical.

A bigger challenge is the American desire to help by giving money and things.  In Namibia, the people live in a communal culture.

 

It can be divisive when some congregations or individuals receive gifts and others do not.

 

As we interact with their culture, it is important that we be sensitive to this tendency and only give as we are able to help all equally, a much more complex task.

Every companion relationship is unique, just like every personal relationship is unique.  Sometimes we learn lessons the hard way.  Other times we discover things in others or in ourselves that are beautiful and reveal the crucified and risen Christ in our world.  In those times, we are reminded why we have partnered in the first place.  In the midst of the challenges, we find ourselves in an amazing ministry partnership, through which the gospel is proclaimed and lived.

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As individuals and as a congregation, we can respond as opportunities arise for us to learn more and be involved in these relationships.  One of the most important things we can do on a regular basis is pray for our brothers and sisters in our companion synods.  As we remember these people in our prayers we are reminded of how big the church of Christ is, and how God cares for and redeems a diverse and amazing world.

Holy and mighty God, you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem the world.  We pray for your people all around the globe, especially your church in Hungary and in Namibia.  Bless them in their ministry and lead and guide us all to share the good news wherever we are.  Amen.

If you would like to be part of our Namibia Companion Synod Network contact Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.

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