Category Archives: Global Scene


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During January term this year, my husband Daniel (final-year MDiv student) and I traveled with a group of seven people from Wartburg Seminary to Tanzania. Our goal on the trip was to witness the work God is doing there, and we spent an incredible two and a half weeks visiting a wide variety of ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) including multiple churches, primary and secondary schools, a university and a vocational training school, a rehabilitation center for people with physical and mental disabilities, a hospital, an orphanage, and even a coffee cooperative. We also experienced the tremendous beauty of God’s creation during safari tours through two different national parks, a definite highlight of the trip!

For me, the most meaningful part of the trip was getting to meet Naomi, the young girl I sponsor through Compassion International, a Christian child sponsorship organization whose mission is releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. After traveling almost 10 hours from where we were staying in Arusha to the capital city of Dodoma, I finally came face-to-face with this girl I’ve been sponsoring for almost seven years.

While there, we had a chance to visit the Compassion center and the church Naomi attends. I learned from the site director that I was only the second sponsor to ever make it to that site for a visit, so everyone was very excited to see us. Naomi was fairly shy and a bit overwhelmed by the whole situation, and I’m sure the fact that we didn’t speak the same language didn’t help much (though we did have a translator there to assist). That being said, she became a little more comfortable and relaxed throughout the day, and she and I were able to share a beautiful moment as we sat and looked through the collections of letters and photos we had exchanged over the years.

After our tour of the site, we walked to a local shop where our Compassion host helped me to purchase items like flour, rice, beans, and cooking oil to present as gifts for Naomi’s family. Then we had the opportunity to walk to Naomi’s home and meet her family.

Her house is very modest, consisting only of 1-2 small rooms with clay walls and a dirt floor. There is no electricity in the house and the only furniture was a few wooden stools and a mat on the floor where the family sleeps. However, we were warmly greeted by the entire family and graciously welcomed inside. Naomi lives with her parents and 3 siblings, but we also met her grandparents and multiple aunts, uncles, and cousins whom we suspect also live in the house or nearby.


After being introduced to everyone, I presented the gifts of food as well as a backpack I had brought along packed full of toys, school supplies, hygiene products, candy, etc. Daniel and I also received gifts from the family: a shawl and several clay cooking bowls for me and a ceremonial bow and arrow set for Daniel. We also exchanged words of thanks and prayed for one another, and of course, took lots of pictures. It was an incredible blessing to witness the work of Compassion first-hand, and it’s a day I’m sure I’ll remember and treasure forever!

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In addition to visiting Naomi and tour her Compassion site, we also happened to visit two additional Compassion sites located at ELCT churches as well as the main Compassion office in Tanzania. We witnessed again and again the work of this amazing ministry and the real difference it makes in the lives of children. We learned there are about 75,000 children in Tanzania who receive assistance from Compassion and have sponsors just like me. My family has been a supporter of Compassion for many years now, and it’s a commitment that Daniel and I knew we wanted to continue when we got married. Daniel and I have even volunteered at several Christian concerts to help find sponsors for Compassion children.

However, it’s one thing to hear the talks, watch the promotional videos, and hold the child packets, and another thing to actually get to see those faces in person, to hug the girl that you send letters and money to each month, and to meet the incredible people who make sure that money actually helps to make a real difference in the lives of those children.

Through all of these experiences we witnessed the amazing work God is doing through the Lutheran church in Tanzania. We experienced generous hospitality from so many wonderful people who are passionate about proclaiming the love and salvation of Jesus through worship, education, and service. We learned about the challenges of ministering in a nation where the average person lives on about $200 a year. We were reminded of the many things we take for granted here in the U.S such as reliable electricity, paved roads, access to affordable education and quality healthcare, and clean drinking water.

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But most of all, I was reminded of the simple yet profound truth that God is God no matter where you go. God’s church in Tanzania is not all that different from God’s church in the U.S., and while we may look different, dress or eat differently, or face different challenges in life, God is still God, and God is still good!


I walked the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem for the first time during January Term, 2016. At each station of the Via Dolorosa, we sang and read scripture while the world went on around us. I tried to imagine Jesus roughly pushed out into the street, amidst yelling vendors and children playing loud games. Did everything become silent when Jesus stumbled? Or did the world’s noise just continue?

We entered several small chapels along the way. At the seventh station I sat down in the chapel with a sigh, and reached for my water bottle. No scourging, no cross, no crown of thorns, no crowd screaming for my murder, no betrayal or heartbreak,  but I was still tired. And thirsty. Lord, have mercy.

We marked the last five Stations in the courtyard behind the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was around noon, appropriately. Three people in non-Western robes, with covered hair and dark skin, were there when we arrived. As the bell struck 12, one of the men walked around a domed structure in the courtyard three times. He and I bowed our heads to each other in greeting.

We entered the church through the Ethiopian worship space, passing by two women reading and praying. I thought of Anna, “continually in the temple praising God.” I’d never considered that people today come and sit in the church all day, just to be there.

Continually praising God.

The sites in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were profound, overwhelming, wonderful. After I recovered from the amazement of seeing the tomb, I enjoyed watching others stream into the holy place. I needed to see myself surrounded by the communion of saints, and needed to see them all drawn to the same place I was.

I thank God for the random, blessed intersection of people at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the vendors we walked past, and the construction worker who looked at us as we sang at the First Station, and the two young Jewish boys gleefully laughing, expertly weaving in and out of our group on their way home.


January term is a time of exploration and learning outside the classroom. The “Encuentro”, or encounter, is offered through Lutheran Seminary Program of the Southwest, in Austin, TX. Five Wartburg students went to Texas to encounter the borderlands and the people who live there. This class was centered around the political, social, pastoral, and missional aspects of immigration. This photo is taken at the banks of the Rio Grande, and the experience of the “encuentro” inspired the following poems by two Wartburg students.


Perhaps you have once stood on the edge of something new
The unknown stretches out before you
It has the opportunity for life
Something better
Than what you have lived so far.
But it is a risk to cross.
Es un riesgo, sabes?

Do you have what you need
To make it to the other side?

Here at the border places
People have experienced it all—
Loss, hope, despair, another chance.
There is a thinness here,
Where life and death are only inches apart.

Who will meet you in the beyond if you manage to cross?

You have heard the stories.
There are some who attempt this crossing six, seven times
Only to be dragged back
Half of who they used to be
Because they only crossed with their dignity,
Their human worth,
But that’s the first thing they take away over there.

But you have people who depend on you.
So you will cross.

She’s going to make it.
Si Dios quiere.
She’s going to make it because
They don’t understand how she’s already lived on the borders her whole life.

She knows the ins and outs of shadows and sunlight
Life can be found in both places.
She has already learned how to stand on both sides of the river at once

There are other ways of knowing
And other ways of surviving.
It is worth it, for the sake of her family.
It is worth it, for the sake of her soul.

With la imagen de la Virgen de Guadalupe
In front of her face, her foot touches the water and she transcends space
She overcomes the politics of boundary and finds herself on the blessed earth
Which belongs to no one but God.

Passage. The other side holds many things for her, but first,
She finds her way to a church whose doors are always open
Concrete slab on concrete slab
Another borderland entre el cielo y la tierra,
And gives thanks to God.
Hands still raised in prayer, she walks back outside on this new land, with its new rules
And is intercepted by border patrol.
And though her wrists are now shackled
As she rides in the back of the SUV to the holding facility,
she continues to pray.
Her soul is not bound.
She knows to her very core that God is faithful.
Yo estoy segura que Dios me va a liberar.

BORDERLANDS By Nathan Wicks, 1st Year MDiv Student

January term is a time of exploration and learning outside the classroom. The “Encuentro”, or encounter, is offered through Lutheran Seminary Program of the Southwest, in Austin, TX. Five Wartburg students went to Texas to encounter the borderlands and the people who live there. This class was centered around the political, social, pastoral, and missional aspects of immigration. This photo is taken at the banks of the Rio Grande, and the experience of the “encuentro” inspired the following poems by two Wartburg students.


“At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and, at once, see through serpent and eagle eyes.” – From: La Frontera/ Borderlands by Gloria Anzaldua

The “American Dream” is a history of lines
And who has the power to draw them.
The earth is just the earth, the lines are ours,
And the reason, be it theft or money or slavery or death,
Can be justified and erased in the history books in one generation.
“Our Land” is the history of facilitating
The travel of money from place to place.
“Our Land” is not defined by these lines, or this land,
But sold for cheap in the definition of “us”.
The “American Dream” is a dream of us, the U.S.,
And it looks like the detritus of plastic wrappers and shopping bags
Blowing across the landscape, washed into rivers,
A dream stuffed into our souls to muffle the terror growing in our hearts.
The land cries out, and the rivers swell, enraged at the injustice.
They are calling for judgement,
But it is for those upstream who never feel the punishment,
The ones already bearing the heaviest of burdens,
The real hope and disappointment
Of the “American Dream,” feel the pain.
They suffer for us, yet we walk in a fever dream,
Sleepless, unable to awaken and see ourselves downstream, face to face.

And of course “America” is something else entirely,
A land stays put wherever lines may be drawn,
A U.S. dream of identity doesn’t change the face of the land,
And we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.
A dream is not a denial or escape from reality,
It is the place communicating to its people,
It is the Spirit speaking plainly about the Kingdom.
And those who are seeking first the Kingdom,
What will be given to them?

We came here to look at a river.
We, narcissistic, delusionally dreaming,
Came to see ourselves in this river,
And all we see are shadows.
But why am I struck blind at the sight?
When the invisible is seen there is a glaring darkness,
A shaded shape glimpsed in outline in front of a bright light.
What does your reflection look like, Narcissus?
Is it what you expected?
As your eyes adjust you will look up and see,
It is far more beautiful and full of life than
You ever thought you could be again.

Yes, this American Dream is still a shallow grave,
This is still no Promised Land.
It is an escape from violence through violence into violence.
But in which dream is the Spirit growing?
Thorny, gnarled unfurling, vibrant color in the desert places,
The richest Earth in the “American Dream,”
A threshold of epiphanies, a thin place in between places.
And what are they dreaming about here, in the Borderlands?
Is someone standing here
Broadcasting the corn far across the land,
The seeds of another Kingdom?

And here we are, gathered at the river,
Seeing this place where everyday life goes on
While something is seeking a mending of the breach,
This open wound borne in the bodies of many who have crossed it,
Baptized into something else entirely.
There are people who come together here
And cast a very different line
Across, towards each other.
It is not as grandiose as that other line,
But it is more real; nearly invisible,
Tiny, but tangible and full of hope,
And they are hungry and trying to catch some fish.
I see them reaching towards each other,
Throwing out little lines of longing,
Yearnings for wholeness, prayers of a normal life,
Seeking nourishment for their human need,
Sustenance from the life of this river
As people have done for centuries,
A life to which this river has drawn people
As a point of communion.
They are fed.
Their bodies bear this mark of knowing,
The dream of a New Creation.
The body of Christ is alive and well here,
The Spirit is flourishing on the food of this Tierra.


Wartburg’s campus has been enriched by the presence of international students for decades. Second year Michaelo Abasori, who is from Ethiopia, shares his passion about God’s work in the world and his own call to ministry.

“I am called to serve everybody,” Michaelo asserts. “I’ve been in ministry since I was young; I serve every people in every culture. God has called us to serve every people in every culture, the big, the small, the rich, the poor.”

Michaelo’s gifts and passion for ministry were recognized by others at an early age. At fourteen he began to take on leadership roles in his church, which was Lutheran. He lead choir, Bible studies, prayer, ministered to people, heard their stories, and worked on building community, bringing people together from different backgrounds, cultures, and languages.

As a child, his foundation of faith was built through attending church, Sunday school, confirmation, and hearing the pastors’ teachings. “I started to have faith in God, learning about people around me, [and] how to love people. That’s the foundation,” recalls Michaelo.

Did he always know one hundred per cent that he was called to being a pastor? He answers, “When I was young I had mixed feelings. I knew that I lived to serve the community [and] the church, but [at] the same time, I didn’t know that it was the right thing for me, so I struggled with that feeling. That’s how it starts. People liked what I did in the church, how I prayed with them, how I led worship or Bible study, and they said this is your gift, you’re going to make a good pastor, but I didn’t like it! I think everybody has that kind of feeling, right?” Michaelo laughs.

“Through time, through my struggle, I came to know that [this] is what God’s calling me to do, because I’ve seen that the ministry that we do in the church and in the community has great impact in the community and world [and it] is changing lives. So I decided there’s nothing better than this to do in my life. I committed myself to the call.” Michaelo was around 20 years old.

Michaelo’s commitment and call has led him to Wartburg Seminary. “When I came to United States, I was looking for a way in which I could serve the church of Christ,” recalls Michaelo. “Through prayers and through time, I knew God was guiding me through the Northeast Minnesota synod, by the support of brothers and sisters there.” Now, Michaelo is in his second year of seminary at Wartburg “to learn more and engage the gospel in the context of the culture.”

From Ethiopia to the US and beyond, Michaelo sees God at work and finds much hope in that. “God is not only working in this century; God is working from the beginning in every culture, in every society, all over the world. The hunger [and] the hope the church has right now—it’s great. There is hope for the church. God is working through them, through us, you know,” he nods.

Michaelo is encouraged by people’s response to the gospel. “God is working in people’s lives—in everybody’s life, that’s what I’ve seen. God is doing great things here in the US and other parts of the world.”


As representatives of the ELCA journey to South Sudan to break ground for a Lutheran Center in Juba, they join representatives who are already witnessing to hope of peace and reconciliation in a war-torn area. Of those working in South Sudan is Bishop Samuel Peni, bishop of the Nzara Diocese in the Episcopalian Church of South Sudan (ECS). As a part of his travel to the U.S, Bishop Peni joined Wartburg students and faculty on Nov. 2 during a luncheon sponsored by the Center for Global Theologies to share his perspective on the intersection of the ECS and the current situation of South Sudan. A 2009 graduate of Wartburg Theological Seminary, he noted that his study here helped enhance his ability to live out his call in the ECS. While at Wartburg, he knew full well that he would be returning to a country ravaged by violence. But what he did not know, however, is that the level and character of the violence in South Sudan would change in the time that he was studying in the U.S.

As Bishop Peni spoke of continued dissension and conflict in his home country, he continually returned to themes of power, religion and tribal differences. Though Sudan has a long history of violence resulting from various power struggles, the region has most recently been negatively affected by two civil wars. Following a brief period of peace after the first civil war, the second civil war began after President of the Republic of Sudan, Gaafar Nimeiry, declared Sudan an Islamic state in 1983. The civil war continued until 2005 when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in Nairobi. Though this document was signed, Bishop Peni attested to the continued violence even after 2005. By July 2011, South Sudan declared its independence from the Republic of Sudan.

However, since South Sudan gained its independence, conflict surrounding the availability of oil resources and tribal differences has continued. During the civil war, the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army/Movement committed violence against many villages in an attempt to disarm rebellions. As a result, inter-ethnic fighting has intensified. Bishop Peni spoke to this reality, noting that people often look at each other first in light of their tribal association.

In an attempt to help foster an environment of peace and reconciliation among tribes, Bishop Peni helped organize leaders of different church bodies to work together against the effects of continued violence and discrimination in their country. He took this group of leaders to Rwanda where they learned about the effects of the Rwandan genocide and how Rwanda has healed from its past and embraced new beginnings. From there, these leaders engaged in conversation and training, helping them embrace a future of peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.

Now, Bishop Peni notes that he, along with other church leaders, are integral in the effort to unite tribes and influence government on the county and state levels. Bishop Peni explained that while the church’s connection with legislative bodies has changed over time, that he and other church leaders have been invited to offer prayer at government meetings. In doing this, Peni stated that this gives him – and other church leaders – an opportunity to state their voice in the midst of discussion.

As the church continues its work in South Sudan, Bishop Peni stressed the need for theological education of church leaders, asking numerous times for students, pastors and professors to come to South Sudan to teach. He spoke very highly of his education at both Wartburg Theological Seminary and of his short time at the University of Dubuque Theology Seminary and stated that the future of the ECS is intrinsically related to its continued education. Additionally, he stressed the ECS’s continued role in systems of government to advocate for peace and reconciliation. Finally, Peni noted that the ECS has a good working relationship with the Catholic Church, helping to foster more relationships in pursuit of peace. With a connection of both education and work for justice, Peni witnessed to a hope for a new day in South Sudan.

As Bishop Peni continues his work, he noted that he must often consider his and his family’s safety. He noted that often needs to sleep in different homes throughout the journey of a trip in South Sudan to protect himself. He spoke of how his bodyguards protect him so that he can continue to do his work, and he shared that his family is temporarily living in Uganda based on the volatile situation in South Sudan. But even in light of this, Peni spoke with hope concerning his work and the work of the ECS. He openly asked for prayer and for people to learn the story of the Sudanese, imploring us to embrace a vision of peace and reconciliation for all peoples as a part of God’s good creation. As people united in Christ, we join Bishop Peni’s quest for peace and give voice to the continued story of struggle in South Sudan.

BREAKING THE CYCLE OF POVERTY…THROUGH HANDMADE PRODUCTS by Koren Lindley, Final Year Diaconal Ministry Student

Imagine not having the financial means to feed your own children.  Imagine feeling you have no other choice than to work long days in a sweatshop or to turn to prostitution to gain enough income to provide at all for them.  Imagine feeding your child pies made out of clay because that is all you have.  For most of us in the United States, this is not our reality, but for women in many other countries this is a daily struggle.  Not only are they not able to feed and provide for their children, but they are living in gang and drug-infested neighborhoods.  They are caught up in a cycle of poverty that one must live in to completely comprehend.

In March, 2015, while on her husband’s pastoral internship, Wendy Daiker, a Wartburg Theological Seminary spouse, felt a call to help women.  Initially, Wendy felt these women were local to the Iowa town where she was living, but she soon learned that God was calling her to a much broader community.  This was affirmed when Wendy’s husband, Joe, connected her to a friend who was a Compassionate Entrepreneur for Trades of Hope.  Wendy quickly realized that God was calling her to help women through Trades of Hope on a global scale.  It was then that Wendy became a Compassionate Entrepreneur for Trades of Hope.

Trades of Hope was started in 2010 and was created to empower women worldwide and to create jobs for them.  According to the Trades of Hope Fall 2015 catalog, “We want every mother to be able to break the cycle of poverty-for herself and her children.  Parents who are working can provide basic necessities, support, and protection for families.”  Trades of Hope does this by marketing the handmade products of artisans through a home party model.  Compassionate Entrepreneurs (CEs) bring the products (jewelry, handbags, home décor, etc.) into homes and share both the products and the stories of the artisans who have made the products.  Products are sold and the artisans are given a fair wage for their work, a wage that helps them support themselves and their families.  Currently, Trades of Hope represents 28 groups of artisans (over 6500 artisans!) in 16 countries.

The artisans are mainly women and their stories are as varied as their fingerprints.  Some are trying to create a better life for their family.  Others were rescued from the sex trade industry or have diseases such as AIDS or leprosy.  Still others have aged out of orphanages and have nowhere to go.  They are women who do not want charity, but do want an opportunity to better their lives.  These artisans are given new hope and confidence that they can break the cycle of poverty through their handmade goods and with the accompaniment of Trades of Hope.  Wendy’s favorite part of being a Compassionate Entrepreneur is “knowing that what I do empowers other people and makes a difference.”

You can learn more about Trades of Hope by visiting Wendy’s Trades of Hope website or by liking her Facebook page “Wendy Daiker Trades of Hope.”