Despite the COVID pandemic, John had a very busy and fruitful 2020 and is looking forward to an even busier 2021.
In January, John oversaw the maintenance for LCMS missionary housing at the ELCK seminary in western Kenya. With the expected arrival of two new missionary families, repairs were done on two homes and completion of construction of the third.
In February, John travelled with his local rep for Lutheran Heritage Foundation (Tuomo Sumajoki) to attend a gathering of church leaders from the confessional Lutheran, French-speaking, church bodies in west and central Africa. This was his first time at the annual meeting held at the Center for Lutheran Theological Studies in northern Togo. He was thankful to hear so many stories of people who receive the Good News of Christ in countries like Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, both Congos, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Benin. This visit allowed him to work more closely with these church leaders and pastors to support projects in their countries.
Kenya, in mid-March, shut down the borders and schools (with all the students sent home) and set a strict curfew. John was unable to check in person on the progress for the missionary housing projects, because their Kenyan church partners outside Nairobi county were able to move around. He was able to receive progress updates and photos via his phone.
The school closures in March meant that the youth at the Project 24 boarding centers for vulnerable children were returned to their caretakers and extended families. However, the site managers, pastors, and deaconesses made monthly visits to the 250+ children to bring food staples, pray, counsel, sing, and encourage. Neighbors noticed the visits and asked pastors to come into THEIR homes to pray and share the Gospel.
During October, students in grades 4, 8, and 12 were permitted to return to school. All other grades have had to wait until January to resume school. (Project 24 is a joint effort of the LCMS and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya to provide housing in seven centers for orphaned and vulnerable children in the church who wouldn't otherwise have access to school, regular meals, nor hear the Word of God).
The Word continues to go forth even during this time. In a number of countries, John has coordinated with church leaders to provide some relief from COVID through resources for handwashing, food stuffs and masks.
In Rwanda, as the case numbers decreased, the church body was anxious to open the 5 new churches they had roofed before the pandemic. New regulations required a water source at each church. The Lord provides in His good timing, and gifts were made available that helped procure water tanks and collection systems to allow the churches to reopen.
Two other countries used their COVID support to broadcast weekly services and bible studies on the radio waves. In one country we have been told of conversions and people coming to Christ. There are many similar stories in the 18 African countries the LCMS helped with COVID relief.
Despite all the COVID challenges, they have been blessed that their Africa team is still able to gather, using online videoconferencing for daily bible study and worship on Sundays. In Kenya, they are grateful that church services have been allowed to resume, with requirements to wash hands, log body temperatures, wear masks, and maintain a designated separation. Additionally, there are limits on the age of those attending, the duration of the services, and the use of elbow bumps or waving instead of the more traditional handshakes.
Below are many of the efforts that their field has supported since the outbreak reached Kenya in March 2020:
- 23 Church bodies in Africa
-1400+ to P24 homes
-12 systems in 3 countries
Radio Ministry Broadcast
- 3 countries
- 8 reopened
- many by local pastors
- 11 installed in 3 countries