Greetings from Liberia!
I have a ministry story to tell you but, first, a little bit of background on the church and rostered ministries of the Lutheran Church in Liberia.
The Lutheran Church in Liberia has 55 parishes, each of which has between 1 and 30 preaching points. Preaching points are congregations that are started by the parish. In other words, people from the parish are sent out to the neighborhood to start a new congregation. When the preaching point is worshipping 50-100 people, and can support themselves apart from the parent parish, they can apply to become a parish. The LCL is committed to congregations growing and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the parishes are essential to getting the Word out.
In the Lutheran Church in Liberia, there are three categories of professional ministers. There are ordained Pastors who for the most part have Bachelor’s degrees or Master’s degrees and, in the Liberian church, one who has a PhD. The next level are ordained Deacons. These are people who have been serving their churches as Evangelists, have gone on for additional training and been chosen by their parish to be ordained as Deacons. They serve as heads of preaching points. Ordained deacons can baptize and serve communion. Evangelists are people who have been raised up from the parish and lead preaching points like the Deacons/Deaconesses do, except they are not to do baptisms or administer Holy Communion. After going through additional training (often at the residential training at LTB where I teach), Evangelists can be eligible to be ordained as Deacons or Deaconesses.
All of them serve in their ministry positions without much financial incentive.
Recently the Dean of the Kakata District of the Lutheran Church in Liberia invited the faculty of LTBLLMTC to come and do a five-day training for the Evangelists of the District. The District Deans are appointed by the Board of Ministry and the Bishop to oversee one of 9 districts of parishes in Liberia. Dean Robert Gonoe, an ordained pastor of the LCL, asked us to come and train the Evangelists from the district in Sacramental Theology, Lutheran Identity, Preaching, and Leadership Development.
We went expecting around 30 people and were thrilled to have 64—-64!!—Evangelist who came for the whole five days, never missed a class session, and were full of interesting and challenging questions.
Here are some of the things we worked on:
1. Why baptize infants and small children?
2. How did the Lutheran Church begin 500 years ago?
3. What is Law? What is Gospel? Why are they important?
4. Why do we have to prepare a sermon? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit speak through us?
5. Who is in charge in a church: the evangelist or the council?
6. How do you explain grace to someone? What does “grace” even mean?
7. How do I deal with a big confusion among the members of my church?
In addition to the classes and the great discussions, we worshiped God in Word and Song.
It was a great time!
I forgot to mention a couple of things:
1. We were supposed to meet through Sunday. It was evident that the evangelists wanted to be back with their congregations on Sunday so we ended with the session on Saturday.
2. Most people don’t have cars here in Liberia so many of the evangelists walked or traveled by motorcycle taxi to get to Haindi for the training. One evangelist walked 3-4 hours and was there ready for class on Wednesday morning. He walked back home that Saturday so he could lead worship on Sunday morning.
3. Dean Gonoe had this to say after the event: “Learning is power. It is good to empower our evangelists who are at the forefront of ministry.”
In a world, where so many of us approach things with “what’s in it for me” thinking, it was inspiring and hope building to be with people who worship God with their whole being and are wholly committed to the ministry where God has called them.
I learned so much from them. I’m hoping that their witness is a blessing to you today.
God’s blessings to you and yours. Enjoy the pictures from the evangelist training that I have attached.
Linda Johnson Seyenkulo
Rev. Linda Johnson Seyenkulo
Louis T. Bowers Lay Leaders and Ministers Training Center
Associate Pastor, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church
Totota, Liberia and Monrovia, Liberia