Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Glen Cary Lutherans get renewed mission focus with Malawi trip

One who went to Africa, the author of this article, is 95 years old!

On October 18, 2005, a group of eight women boarded a flight for Amsterdam. Accom-panying five travelers be-longing to Glen Cary Lu-theran Church, Ham Lake, Minnesota, were two more from New Life Lutheran, Oak Grove, Minnesota, and one from St. Stephen Lutheran, Denver, Colorado.

Amsterdam, however, was not the destination for this group, one of whom (the writer of this article) was 95 years old. They were on their way to the country of Malawi, in southeast Africa.

Why Malawi? In 2002 Bishop Joseph Bvukmbwe, who leads the Evangelical Lutheran Church there, took time off from study at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn-sota, to visit and preach at Glen Cary Church. That “Mission Sunday” sermon was followed by return visits, during which the bishop shared with members at adult forum sessions.

The inevitable question arose: How could members of Glen Cary help the Lutheran Christians in Malawi? The bishop’s answer was down-to-earth: “Build a church [building].”
Bvukumbwe explained that African church members would make the bricks and volunteers would do the actual building construction. But there was a need for money for the roof, doors, windows and cement.

Members of Glen Cary’s mission committee adopted the Malawi Lutherans. Beginning in 2002, Glen Cary members have been investing in the African church. They’ve helped to construct a church building and then a parsonage.

Finally, it was time to go to Malawi and see first-hand what had been done. We wanted to meet the people with whom we were working. We wanted to let them know that we were interested in them, not just in buildings.

Members of New Life congregation had become acquainted with the Malawi Lutherans through a meeting with some of them at Camp Wapogasset, an ELCA church camp in rural Minn-esota.
In our 12 days in Malawi, we had a variety of experiences. On two successive Sundays, we attended Cathedral Lutheran Church at Lilongwe and a rural congregation at Chamasowa. The churches were packed, even though everyone had to walk — some from as far as two miles away.

We won’t forget the spirited music by the church choirs, nor the four-hour-long worship services! Singing and dancing as they came forward, the members brought gifts for us — bananas, mangos, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages, carrots, eggs and a (live!) chicken. All these gifts were laid, joyfully, at our feet.

We were greatly im-pressed by the 125 feeding stations sponsored by the church. At each of them, volunteer staff members cook porridge consisting of corn and soybean meal, along with vitamins. Three times a week the most vulnerable — usually or-phaned children — receive a cup and a half of porridge.

Before we went to Malawi, members of Glen Cary declared every Sunday in September to be “Undie Sunday.” Over 2,400 pair of underpants were donated and taken to Africa in our luggage. We also took along over-the-counter medications, sewing supplies and personal hygiene items.

Everywhere we went we asked what we could do for the African Lutherans. To us the real need appeared to be food, but their first response was always, “Pray for us.”

For many years these people, who are mostly subsistence farmers, have not been able to raise enough food even for their own use. Drought and government mismanagement have led to widespread famine.

All who went to Malawi agreed it was a good trip to take. We now understand the challenges faced by the Lutheran Church there, and have made friendships with many of its members. We will not forget them, or the difficulties they face daily.