Sudan church leader dies

Rev. Andrew Mbugo Elisa, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan (ELCS) — an emerging Lutheran church body that works with LCMS missionaries and others — died Dec. 31 as the result of an aggressive glioma (tumor) in the brain stem. Elisa.jpg

Rev. Elisa would have been 43 years old Jan. 1.  He is survived by his wife, Linda, and their four children: Hipai, 19; Nako, 17; Zereda, 15; and Zaniwe, 8.

A funeral service for Rev. Elisa took place Jan. 9 at the Yambio Lutheran Church in Yambio, Sudan, with 15 pastors who serve ELCS congregations making up a special honor guard. Interment followed on the premises of the church.

Elisa was instrumental in establishing the ELCS in 1993 and, for a while, was its sole pastor. 

A Jan. 6 news release from the Lutheran Heritage Foundationnotes that “15 years ago, the Lutheran Heritage Foundation sent [him] five copies of Luther’s Small Catechism and The Book of Concord.  Excited by what he read, Andrew eagerly shared this good Lutheran doctrine with everyone he met.”

Today, the church body has more than 80 congregations, five elementary schools, and two kindergartens throughout Sudan — attended by 15,000-plus baptized Lutherans. More than a dozen men attend its seminary in Baguga.

“I’ve always been led by faith, full of optimism,” said Rev. Elisa in a 2005 interview, as he reflected on the growth of the ELCS.

In a Dec. 31 letter to Bishop Elisa’s family, LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick wrote, “We thank and praise God for all that Bishop Elisa accomplished in his short life and for the blessing that he was to so many people. We share with you the human grief associated with his passing. At the same time, we rejoice in the victory that is now his in Christ. How thankful we are that God gave Andrew the eyes of faith so that he could see the salvation that God has prepared in the presence of all peoples.”

Rev. Claude and Rhoda Houge, LCMS missionaries based in Kenya, wrote, “We thank God for Bishop Andrew’s leadership. He has been the head of the ELCS since it began in 1993. He traveled to the United States many times, studying at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., and making other contacts, so he is well-known throughout the LCMS.”

Memorial gifts to help cover the expenses of Rev. Elisa’s funeral and medical care may be mailed to Lutheran Heritage Foundation, 51474 Romeo Plank Road, Macomb, MI 48042.  Note “Andrew Elisa Memorial” on the memo line of checks.

Posted January 15, 2009

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