By Paula Schlueter Ross
LCMS World Mission has asked its missionaries to Kenya to remain indefinitely in Ethiopia after they attend regularly scheduled meetings there, according to Travis Torblaa, the mission board’s personnel care manager.
The move came in the wake of post-election rioting in the East African country that has left more than 600 dead, hundreds of thousands displaced, and widespread destruction of property, including as many as 10 churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK), an LCMS partner.
LCMS World Mission decided Jan. 30 to temporarily relocate the missionaries — Dr. Paul and Joy Mueller and Rev. Claude and Rhoda Houge — after receiving a recommendation to do so from its crisis-response management service. The two couples will remain in Ethiopia “while we re-evaluate the situation” in Kenya, Torblaa said.
“We are hopeful that it will be for a very short time,” he added.
Dr. Carlos Walter Winterle, former president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil who has been serving for more than a year as pastor of an international congregation in downtown Nairobi, also is leaving Kenya, according to Torblaa. Winterle’s ministry is a partnership of LCMS World Mission and its partner churches in Kenya and Brazil.
Two days earlier, on Jan. 28, Joy Mueller had told Reporter via e-mail that the missionaries had no plans to leave, but were taking precautions, especially regarding their travel within the country. She said U.S. embassy officials there were “very optimistic that the [peace] talks will go well and reconciliation and peace will be restored.” Some ethnic fighting is still taking place in isolated areas, she said.
Mueller said that Bishop Walter Obare of the Kenyan church body met Jan. 25 with political, community, and gang leaders in Kibera, and the group is “working together to bring peace into Kibera and restore harmony in the community.”
In a Jan. 29 telephone interview with LCMS World Relief and Human Care staff, Mueller described the Kenyan people as “very resilient.”
“The people have gathered their strength in the Gospel and they’ve gathered to worship in His name,” she said. “They aren’t waiting for outside help to come in and solve their problems, but they’re getting together, they’re praying together, and they’re going into communities and they’re serving each other out of the love of Christ.”
As of Jan. 15, LCMS World Relief and Human Care had sent $60,000 in emergency grants to the ELCK to help people in need. Mueller said the Kenyan church body is using the funds “to help restore lives, homes, churches” and to “share God’s love with all.”
Contributions to help Kenyans may be sent to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861 — please make checks payable to “LCMS World Relief and Human Care” and note “Kenya Relief Effort” on the memo line. Or, to make a donation by phone, call the toll-free gift line at (888) 930-4438.
To hear the audio interview with Joy Mueller, visit the Web site of LCMS World Relief and Human Care at www.lcms.org/?12981.
Posted Feb. 5, 2008