Sunday, June 8, 2008

Two Teaching Tours in Africa: Late April-May 2008

I had the great pleasure of teaching Philippians to 16 students at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane (Pretoria, South Africa) for three weeks in early to mid May, following a two week stint of teaching Romans to 9 students at Matongo Lutheran Seminary (Sondu via Kisumu, Kenya) in late April. I am pleased to report that the students at both seminaries were hungry for the Word of God, asked questions, made many connections between the biblical text and congregational ministry, and were fully devoted to the enterprise of learning these portions of God’s Word in Greek. As I had three periods of instruction per day with students at both seminaries, I spent the first two periods on the two Pauline letters (Roman, Philippians), then the final period each day on Greek for its own sake, beginning with “the basics” (verb forms, declensions, adjectives, participles, etc.), then increasingly on such finer points as accents and composition. I teach Greek aggressively—whether in America or Africa—and it was great to see the students rise to the occasion, take to Greek, and so get the most out of my limited time with them. Indeed, I very much feel that Lutheranism in Africa (and anywhere else) would be well served if pastors-in-training were able to learn Greek better, so perhaps one day I will have the pleasure of having some Africans in my Summer Greek class. It was somewhat humbling for this Greek professor to realize that these African students knew at least three languages (some knew five or six), making it possible for one student—Paul Okeyo—to translate for me when I held forth on John 14:15-21 at Orengo, Kenya, on the sixth Sunday in Easter: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments...” The needs are quite concrete in Africa: food, water, bare necessities, gainful employment, etc., so an African Lutheran—who has lost both parents to AIDS, for example—may have far more insight into the following promise than the average American churchgoer: “I will not leave you orphaned, I am coming to you...” (John 14:18, from the same text for Easter 6 A). That promise anticipates the festivals of Ascension, Pentecost, and the Holy Trinity, for which also I was wonderfully privileged to preach in Africa. But those are other stories, and space fails me here to relate more. Suffice it to say that I learned much more from my students than I ever taught them, have missed the students and Africa since my return home, and would like someday soon to return to teach—and to be taught—by the Lutheran Christians there.

Dr. John G. Nordling
Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology (NT)
Concordia Theological Seminary
Ft. Wayne, IN

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Violence in South Africa

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I recently read on Fox News that there has been violence in South Africa directed against foreigners. I emailed a number of the men at LTS to let them know we are praying for God's protection and continual guidance. Jerome emailed me back yesterday and informed me that so far they are OK but things are tense for them. Please keep these men, their families, our American volunteers, and the faculty in your prayers.

Your brother in Christ,
Jesse Burns

Monday, May 5, 2008

Article on the Seminary

This article (with a couple minor changes) originally appeared in the 'Missions Corner' of the Cornerstone, Concordia Theological Seminary's student newspaper:

Missions should be simple, right? Send a pastor to preach the Gospel, and let the Word do the work. Perhaps even drink some Wittenberg beer while you’re at it. But no, Christ has chosen sinful human beings to proclaim the Gospel, and that can often lead to problems. Spending three weeks in South Africa definitely made me aware of this. One hundred and fifty years ago, German missionaries came to that country to spread the Gospel. They set up mission stations and big, beautiful churches. Souls had the Gospel preached to them, they were baptized and received the Lord’s Body and Blood. However, events completely out of their control threatened to derail the Lord’s work there. The Boer War and two World Wars saw many German missionaries placed in concentration camps, unable to serve their flock with the Gospel. During Apartheid, forced removals of blacks meant that church buildings were abandoned or destroyed. But the Lutheran Church survived, thanks in large part to native pastors trained by the Germans.
Every country (and every person) is a product of its history, and South Africa is no exception. Apartheid has left deep scars, and issues that affect the Lutheran Church as well as the country within which it dwells. The country has a lot of tension, and several racial incidents while we were there did not help matters. This tension is also manifest in the Church. Needless to say, missions in a country that has such deep racial issues can become quite complicated.
This is precisely why the seminary in Pretoria, Lutheran Theological Seminary- Tshwane, is so important. In, fact, I will boldly say here as I plan to do at every presentation I make that this seminary is absolutely VITAL to the survival of confessional Lutheranism in Africa. Let me say this again- LTS-Tshwane is a strong bulwark against the Lutheran World Federation, and without it, we may wonder if confessional Lutheranism would survive in Africa. Now I am not saying that other seminaries are also combating LWF, but the international character of this seminary, the vision of Dr. Weber, the expansion of the seminary campus make Pretoria an indispensible cog in the task of spreading the Gospel in a continent stuck in the mire of LWF blackmail. And how do they do this? By training pastors. Lay volunteers do help in the mission field, but ultimately, the people of Africa need men to proclaim the Gospel and administer the sacraments to them. The Office of the Holy Ministry is a mission office, as God works through a sinful man to give life, to bring people to faith. The seminaries in Africa, and especially this particular one, need our support and prayers as they bring the Gospel into the midst of conflict and poverty.
As I noted in the brief history lesson that began this article, missions can often be derailed by things outside of our control. War and racial problems hindered the spread of the Gospel, putting missionaries into camps and moving churches. Only the seeds planted by these German missionaries, and the men raised up and trained to serve allowed the Lutheran Church to survive. Today, the seminaries in Africa seek to raise up and prepare Africans to serve, so that despite what this sinful world might throw at the Church, the Gospel might be proclaimed.

Christopher Maronde

Thursday, May 1, 2008

This is Jesse Burns. I am one of the students who traveled to Tshwane. I want to thank Chris for setting up this blog. I think that it will become a vital part to our spreading of the news about our sister seminary in South Africa. The seminary is such an important place for Lutheranism in Africa and across the world. They are training men who will not only be pastors in South Africa but also men who are the future pastors of many countries on the continent. Please keep Tshwane, the professors, and the students (and their families) in your prayers. These men and their familis have made huge sacrifices to study for the Office of the Holy Ministry.


Hello! My name is Christopher Maronde. I am a second year seminary student (soon to be vicar) at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. At the end of February, I traveled with sixteen other students and one professor to Tshwane Lutheran Theological Seminary, located in Pretoria, South Africa. Returning from this trip, we all sought to support the work of the seminary in some way. One of those means has been congregational presentations. Another is this blog.

I will not take credit for coming up with the idea of a blog- that idea came from one of the supporters of the seminary, Rev. Wolfmueller of the Rocky Mountain District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. It has probably been close to two months since he gave me the suggestion, and now finally it is ready to launch. The plan for this blog is to be a place where information can be shared about the seminary by people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. We hope to have visiting professors, resident professors, the students, various supporters here in the U.S., and the sixteen American students who traveled to South Africa in February and March write about the seminary. I am the 'administrator' of this site, so to speak, but all of these groups will have access to write.

Just for your information, there are primarily two groups involved with the seminary (someone correct me if I am wrong): The Rocky Mountain District and Southern Illinois District of the LC-MS. The links to their websites are (or soon will be) on the side of this page. That's it for now- take a look at the other sites and check here for updates as we seek to inform many about a seminary that is preparing pastors for all of Africa.