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Funke News: Change

For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.Psalm 63:7–8

We knew March would be a month of great change for us. We had no idea that it would be a month of great change for all of you as well. In this time of waiting and prayer, we are taking joy in simple pleasures—blowing bubbles, listening to music, talking to friends by phone and laughing with our children. As we all adapt to many changes in our lives and in our world, may we cling to God’s love, which is our constant.

On March 4, we flew from Mwanza to Nairobi to Doha to Dallas. The only snag in our trip was in Nairobi, when we learned that Qatar Airways only allows one free extra piece per child. We had two car seats and a double stroller. Thankfully, we found someone willing to wrap our two car seats together with plastic wrap so that they became one piece, and our journey continued. The trip felt surreal with so many people wearing face masks, and it was a bit unnerving when the person sitting directly in front of Linda, Michael and Julia coughed for the entire sixteen-hour flight from Doha to Dallas. By God’s grace, we had no problems getting through immigration in Dallas. Our children’s green cards will be mailed to us, and their Certificates of U.S. Citizenship should follow after that.

On March 5, we had an overnight layover in Dallas, surprising Linda’s dad at his birthday dinner. He had no idea we were coming! Then on March 6, we flew from Dallas to St. Louis. On March 7 we enjoyed a belated fifth birthday party for Julia with our Funke family in St. Louis.

The following week COVID-19 began to “burst our bubbles,” so to speak. Our original plan was to stay a week and a half in St. Louis and then travel to Texas for presentations. However, shortly after our arrival in St. Louis, Linda became sick with a headache, sore throat, cough and fatigue. Long story short, after eighteen stressful days, antibiotics and a chest x-ray, she was finally eligible to be tested for COVID-19. Her test came back negative, so she was diagnosed with plain old viral bronchitis. Thankfully, she is now well on her way to a full recovery.

Given that most churches cannot meet in person right now, we have postponed all of our presentations for March and April. We will revisit our May schedule in the coming weeks, and we will let you know our new travel schedule as soon as we can. Truthfully, this pandemic has made an already-difficult reentry process even harder. If you would like to learn more about why reentry is hard for missionaries, and how you can support us during this time, go to team.org/blog/serve-missionaries-coming-home. We are so sad that we are not able to see you all right now, but we are also glad to do our part to help “flatten the curve,” to give our medical personnel a chance to respond and to protect those who are most vulnerable to this illness. We are in this together, and you are all in our prayers.

We are still staying with Eric’s parents in St. Louis. Linda spent much of the last few weeks healing, “mom”-ing and supporting friends in Tanzania long-distance. Eric has been homeschooling our kids, sending out job applications and making small repairs on the minivan that his brother’s family generously gave us. Our kids—and we—are struggling with homesickness, and many of their “when we get to the U.S.” dreams are currently on hold. Therefore, we are also trying to give Michael and Julia some good memories from this time of social distancing, including playing games, making homemade ice cream and s’mores, building Lego creations, reading new Elephant & Piggie books, building obstacle courses and chairs out of spare wood and swinging on the tire swing.

How COVID-19 is Affecting Tanzania

As of April 3, Tanzania has twenty confirmed cases of COVID-19 and has one death due to COVID-19. So far, all the confirmed cases have been centered around Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar, and Arusha. The Tanzanian government has closed all schools and canceled all sports and political rallies until at least April 18. Religious services are still permitted at this point. The U.S. Embassy has evacuated all but two of its personnel. Only one airline is now making international flights out of Tanzania. Many of our American friends in Tanzania have evacuated, and others are preparing for a period of isolation in Tanzania. Please join us in praying that COVID-19 does not spread in Tanzania.

Good News from Tanzania

Cheryl Kruckemeyer, the new GLO missionary to Mwadui, completed almost eight weeks of Swahili language school. On March 27, the school driver and Loyce, a teacher from Mwadui, brought her from Iringa to Mwadui by car. Cheryl is now settling into her new home, practicing social distancing and studying Swahili with Loyce’s help. Please keep her in prayer as this is sure to be an especially lonely time for her. If you would like to send her a note of encouragement, you can check out her “Tales of Tanzania” Facebook page.

GLO missionaries Dixon and Christiana Gbeanquoi and big sister Milcah celebrated the birth of baby Uri on February 9. Dixon is still serving his congregation in Mwanza, Tanzania via a WhatsApp group and in person. Because Nigeria and Liberia have closed borders, they are separated from their families there. Unfortunately, the Gbeanquois’ funding is currently very low. If your income has not been affected by this crisis, please consider supporting this beautiful family in need. Go to www.globallutheranoutreach.com/blog/Gbeanquoi and press the "Give" button to help.

We were thrilled to hear from “Team Baraka” that they have been able to use the money we left to continue Baraka’s physical therapy treatment for his legs. Also, workers were able to finish the floors and plastering on the home for vulnerable children before Mwadui town became closed to guest workers. Linda is currently working long-distance with the Community Health Evangelism team to start a COVID-19 awareness campaign. They will likewise teach the communities how to make “tippy-taps,” which will allow Tanzanians with minimal water to wash their hands more regularly. We are grateful to be able to continue to support these fantastic ministries from a distance.

In September of 2012, Eric Funke, grandson of Bill and Lola Funke, and his wife, Linda, followed God’s call to Tanzania. Eric is teaching math and science at a secondary school while Linda works for the Department of Planning and Development. They work in the East of Lake Victoria Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. Follow their mission work at www.afunketimeintanzania.blogspot.com, where you can also find photos and videos and make donations.

Mission-Minded Manteys: Our Hope Remains in the Lord

Currently we are all living with many unknowns. Our daily routines have changed drastically as people throughout the world are told to shelter in place and limit going out so we can “flatten the curve.” Schools and churches quickly modified teaching and worship. Family life has also shifted, where parents have even more roles in an already chaotic schedule. We know this all too well.

So, what do we do? As Christians, we turn to the Lord. We seek His will and find great hope in His promises. Yes, there are indeed changes, chaos and turmoil in the world right now. Yet, this is such an opportunity to continue to find hope in the Lord and share His great love and mercy with others. It’s a time of connection and community, even in the midst of social distancing.

Psalm 130:5–7 state, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope … O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love.” This is an important message to share with our community. Many churches, in the midst of recent changes, have continued to share this message on Sunday via live streaming. Our own eastern and southern Africa LCMS missionaries have been meeting this way for daily devotions and weekly worship via Zoom. It does indeed offer great encouragement and hope in Christ Jesus.

The Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU) is also navigating these recent changes. Radio programming, phone calls and individual visits have been implemented as a way to share the love of Christ with others. The word of the Lord encourages one another and continues to be preached throughout all parts of Uganda! Yes, there are changes, but God is faithful. The love of Christ and his redemptive message are shared. The Holy Spirit continues to guide, lead, and encourage His people. Our hope remains in the Lord.

In mid-March the Ugandan government put preventative measures in place to help with health and safety. These included temporarily pausing schools and public worship. Similar to the US, the LCU pastors and LTCU faculty and staff had to make quick and decisive actions that would best support the health and well-being of the people, as well as continue to further the work of the Lord.

At the seminary, we used this opportunity to share facts and preventative measures about Covid-19 from the CDC and the Ugandan Ministry of Health, knowing that the students are leaders in their communities and congregations. This allows the seminary students to teach others correct information and ensure that even the most rural communities can learn best practices for preventative care and treatment. This is important because the rural populations do not always receive information right away.

The Lord’s work continues! We safely work from our home in Jinja, Uganda. Yet, we are still able to daily liaise with the LCU. Mark meets regularly with the church and seminary leaders as the seminary still needs to be maintained and developed during this temporary break. He also continues to work on long-term fiscal planning with the seminary leaders.

Megan has been working ahead on curriculum, grading papers and calling students to maintain relationships and encourage one another. Megan also serves as a mental health counselor for other missionaries and expatriates in Jinja, and continues to do that via the Internet. We praise God for the unique opportunities to serve and praise Him in Jesus’ name!

Mark and Megan Mantey serve the Lord through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod as career missionaries in Uganda. Mark serves as the project manager for the seminary, and Megan is the seminary’s instructor of Christian education and counseling. You can follow their work at www.facebook.com/MissionMindedManteys.

Serving the Lord in Sri Lanka: Epiphany

Sri Lanka is a county in great darkness. But in January we always remember the Epiphany of our Lord, His revelation, His shining forth into the darkness. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light … .” (Isaiah 9:2)

In the new year, I have continued to travel into the mountain country to teach church music to youth. We go to the mountains often because that’s where the majority of our partner church people are. Having a church partner means that we missionaries have an open door to proclaiming the gospel. It’s an invitation to build on a pre-existing foundation of Christian communities and relationships without needing to start from scratch. I am grateful, therefore, for the invitation I have from our Tamil brothers to teach Christian church music in their homes and communities, to shine the light of Jesus into the darkness.

In one of the homes where I’ve been invited to teach music, I noticed an icon of a Hindu goddess hanging on the wall. In that home, I was introducing a musical setting of the Beatitudes from Matthew 5. As I introduced it, I taught them about the Kingdom of God. The Beatitudes begin Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is proclaiming the “good news of the kingdom.”

In that home which still appears captivated by Hinduism, in which darkness still appears to cling, I taught several youth about Jesus in broken Tamil. I said, there are many kings and kingdoms in this world. There are many presidents and prime ministers and governments. But there is only one king of heaven and earth. There is only one Lord of all: Jesus Christ. And He’s a good king; His kingdom is a good kingdom.

There is great darkness in this country. But we thank God for giving us His word. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) God has put that light in us, so we can press on without fear. “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:2).

Vicar Benjamin and Grace Vanderhyde serve the Lord through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) as missionaries in Sri Lanka. In his role as vicar, Benjamin trains up musicians to serve the Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church while assisting the other LCMS missionaries serving in Sri Lanka with their work and learning from them. You can read more about the Vanderhydes at www.lcms.org/vanderhyde.

The Wolf Pack in Kenya: Connected by Christ

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28

“You look lost, may I help you?”

I had been wandering the halls of the university for a bit and a kind lady noticed and offered to help, asking, “What brings you to Concordia St. Paul?” It was the end of July 2019 and I was searching for a CSP magnet for our fridge.

As she showed me the way to the campus bookstore, I explained that I was a LCMS missionary serving in Africa and had just finished a meeting with the acting provost and dean of the business department. Earlier I had met the acting provost through a colleague and shared with him about Project 24 and Christ’s Care for Children—Kenya, the combined effort of the LCMS and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK) to help orphaned and vulnerable children grow up in a Christ-centered environment.

The CSP business department often uses actual mission organizations as case studies for student learning, and my visit followed the provost’s invitation to share with the department leadership about areas we could use assistance. The visit had gone well, but I was advised to reach out to the head of undergraduate studies, who was missing from our meeting.

As we discussed this, I discovered my guide that morning was the very person I needed to speak with. She asked me to share more about the Project 24, and explained to me how students review efforts like these, understand the business case and operations, then at the end of the term provide a presentation of recommendations to the stakeholders.

Fast forward to December 2019, when, by videoconferencing, those involved in Project 24 from various parts of Kenya, North Dakota, and St. Louis, Missouri, watched students at Concordia St. Paul present their final capstone presentation. The opportunity to have a group like this take interest in helping children and provide valuable feedback was a blessing. They provided many good recommendations, but also for themselves, learned ways to become involved and help tell others about Christ.

John Wolf is the Africa Region Project Manager for the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He and his family, with the support of LCMS churches like Saint John’s, are serving in Kenya. Please keep them in your prayers! We encourage you to follow their family blog, www.hereiamsendmesendme.blogspot.com, which is also where you can sign up to their mailing list and make donations.

Funke News: Endings and Beginnings

“Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, am first, and will be with the last.Isaiah 41:4

This month has been absolutely full of endings and beginnings. Truthfully, it has been one of the hardest months physically and emotionally that we have experienced during our entire time in Tanzania. However, God has provided numerous reminders of His presence, such as a stunning rainbow ten days before we left Mwadui and notes of encouragement from many of you.

While our time of living and serving in Mwadui is ending, we are just beginning the next phase of our journey—visiting all of you! We will arrive in St. Louis on March 6. We will be at Saint John’s on May 17. Our last newsletter will be sent out in August after we attend a missionary debriefing in July and after Eric goes on the payroll of a new school. We will continue to keep you informed with updates from Tanzania and about our family’s transition until then.

Our last big fundraising project is also just beginning. As we shared last month, over the past seven years Mwadui Lutheran Secondary School has moved away from harsh corporal punishment and shaming of students, recognizing that teachers need to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in their interactions with students. They want to share this idea with other Lutheran schools throughout the diocese. However, school cultures are difficult to change, especially when teacher retention is low across Tanzania and almost all schools in Tanzania beat students. Thus, the diocese wants to start a three-year initiative to train up Lutheran teachers in how to use alternative forms of discipline and how to develop the fruit of the Spirit in the classroom. This program will cost $9,000 and will be our legacy project. We hope to have the money raised by August. If you would like to read more about this project or make a secure online donation, please go to globallutheranoutreach.com/blog/safeschoolsinitiativeproject/. Checks can be made out to “Global Lutheran Outreach” with “Safe Schools Initiative” in the memo line, and mailed to Global Lutheran Outreach, 6709 Ficus Dr., Miramar, FL 33023. Thank you for your help in advocating for students and joy-filled, Christ-center learning in Tanzania!

At the beginning of the month, we joyfully welcomed Sarah Kanoy and Rev. Jonathan Clausing, LCMS missionaries serving in Moshi, as well as their colleague Miriam Kimath. Sarah and Miriam have started a Community Health Evangelism (CHE) program in Moshi, and therefore met with our CHE team to exchange ideas and discuss possibilities for partnership. It was such an encouraging and helpful meeting! They also visited the Makala Bible Training Center and our new clinic at school. We are excited about the possibilities for future partnership. After saying goodbye to our guests, we made a three-day trip to Mwanza to meet with a representative from the U.S. embassy, to explore more of Julia’s history and to run errands.

Unfortunately, the very next week all four of us came down with the flu. All of us experienced coughing, runny nose, sore throat and fatigue. Eric, Michael, and Julia also had extremely high fevers. Our lowest moment was when Eric’s fever spiked to 104 degrees and less than an hour later Michael vomited from coughing so hard. Unfortunately, with so little time left in Tanzania and our yard sale coming up, we had to push through a lot of illness. Thankfully, the fevers broke in time for the yard sale at a friend’s house in Mwanza on February 15.

That Saturday we also welcomed Pastor David and Diane Bahn, Leroy and Martha Warnasch and Carl Benton from St. John in Cypress, Texas. The team greatly blessed our lives and the lives of this community. They brought requested items such as a boot and compression vest for Baraka, Alcoholics Anonymous books in Swahili for the diocese, soccer balls for the schools, a computer for the new school and other items for various missionaries. Pastor Bahn gave a well-received sermon on Sunday. They also encouraged the staff at our school and participated in the grand opening of Mwanza Lutheran Secondary School. Wednesday and Thursday, while they enjoyed the beauty of the Serengeti, we underwent pre-move physicals, during which Linda was diagnosed with a bacterial chest infection. We also took our kids to the Sukuma museum and sold more items. Finally, on Friday the team helped us begin our move by taking five suitcases back to the U.S. for us. We are so grateful that they came out to see us and to celebrate with us.

Our Last Week in Tanzania

Our last week in Tanzania included Julia’s fifth birthday party, Linda finishing her guidance and counseling curriculum and holding a training on it, Linda leading a last Bible study and last CHE meeting, Eric doing last updates on the school computers and Linda surviving a bad reaction to medication. We also attended a farewell party at our school and a farewell celebration at our church, packed eight suitcases and five carry-ons, sorted through and cleaned out our house and pulled together lots of little details in our ministry.

We will share more in the coming months about how God has been at work in those details. For now, we are filled with sadness as we leave beloved people, with gratitude for all God has done in our lives here, and with hope for all that God is beginning in these coming months.

In September of 2012, Eric Funke, grandson of Bill and Lola Funke, and his wife, Linda, followed God’s call to Tanzania. Eric is teaching math and science at a secondary school while Linda works for the Department of Planning and Development. They work in the East of Lake Victoria Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. Follow their mission work at www.afunketimeintanzania.blogspot.com, where you can also find photos and videos and make donations.

AoR: What is God Up To?

Unfortunately, neighbors who have killed neighbors is everyday reality for pastors in Rwanda. Wounds are still deep twenty-five years after the Rwandan genocide.

One year ago, Bishop Selestine Seburikoko approached local missionaries for “trauma counseling” training for his pastors of the Lutheran Mission in Africa--Synod of Thousand Hills (LMA-STH) in Rwanda. These Missionaries, in turn, asked Ambassadors of Reconciliation for help.

Last March, Ted and I traveled to Rwanda to present reconciliation training to these pastors and their wives. The experience was life-changing for them and for us! You can read about our trip at aorhope.org/rwanda-report. Your support made these miracles possible! The impact from that one trip was so great the opportunity to equip reconcilers in Africa is exploding! We have been invited back to East Africa to train hundreds of reconcilers including:

  1. Teaching reconciliation to rural pastors in Uganda;
  2. Teaching at the Lutheran seminary in Jinja, Uganda;
  3. Reconciliation training for LC-MC missionaries and families serving East and Southern Africa;
  4. Continued reconciliation training for pastors of LMA-STH in Rwanda;
  5. Reconciliation Seminar for 100 pastors of the Christ Evangelism Ministry Network of Nairobi, Kenya;
  6. Equipping leaders of African Leadership and Reconciliation ministries (ALARM) in Sudan, South Sudan, Democratic republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda; and
  7. Partnering with Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY—a church body of 10 million!) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, through a multi-year initiative to equip reconcilers and establish a biblical process of reconciliation and adjudication for that church body.

We find ourselves asking “What is God up to!?!?” We simply seek to be faithful to His call as He opens these doors. Your gifts make all of this possible and we invite you to be an Ambassador of Reconciliation to East Africa!

In February and March, Dwight and Rev. Dr. Bruce Zagel will visit Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda to accomplish items six and seven, above, for future trips later in 2020 and into 2021. The cost of this five-week mission trip is $30,000. The mission organization requesting our help has arranged to cover about a third of this cost. The remainder is to be raised by AoR.

Your prayers and financial support are vital for this mission opportunity. You will ensure people of East Africa hear and learn to apply the Gospel in the face of the unthinkable. Help us raise $20,000 this month to make this mission a reality.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.Romans 15:13

Thank you in advance for being an Ambassador of Reconciliation to East Africa!

Former Saint John’s member Dwight Schettler is President of Ambassadors of Reconciliation, an international ministry founded to help Christians and their churches in carrying out their peacemaking responsibilities as Christ’s Ambassadors. You can find much more about their work at www.aorhope.org.

Mission-Minded Manteys: God Provides … Amen

Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

Psalm 33:22

The simple yet truthful statement “God provides” can hold different meanings depending on the circumstances. Yet, it holds profound truth. We have especially witnessed this during our time in Uganda, and have specifically thanked God for his continued provision during the 2019/2020 school year at the seminary.

Seminary life in Africa is hard. We do not say this to discourage, but rather to state the truth and share about what students endure. There are often great challenges that occur during the course of a school year that can bring discouragement and hardship. This ranges from financial commitments back home to being sick during the semester. Whenever we ask students how they are doing, a common reply is “I am here” and “God provides … Amen.” What can be seen as simple statements carry profound meanings. It acknowledges the challenges, yet clearly states God’s continued care and provision.

As Americans, it is not easy for us to hear about challenges. We often want to take charge and do something to help. Yet, as we continue to live in community with the Lutheran Church of Uganda, we see this is not the focal point. Instead, the focus is on Christ Jesus, being in community and sharing the burden together. Our actions are not in problem-solving, but instead listening, praying, acknowledging and enduring together.

This was especially true when a fourth-year seminary student from the seminary passed away on Christmas Day. Instead of trying to take away the hurt, we strive to be present with the community, to share in the heartache but also rejoice in the hope and promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus. We do not fix the problem. We do not take away the pain. Instead, we endure together. We put our hope in Christ who redeems us. We pray, praise and give thanks knowing that God provides … Amen.

Life and Mission Update

During the Christmas break, work continued on the Lutheran Theological College Uganda chapel/multi-purpose hall.

We are very thankful for the amazing supporters and donors through Mission Central and the LCMS that have generously given resources to bring the building to a usable level. It is exciting to see the new roof and the new stage that will be used for graduation this June. The Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU) had people working on the building during the holiday season and the excitement is growing at the seminary and the local congregation, Our Savior Lutheran, as they prepare to transition over to the chapel building. As each building gets finalized at the Lutheran Theological College Uganda (LTCU), the LCU builds it with the intention of lasting 150 years. They want the buildings and ministries to be viable and used to serve God. We thank God for the various ways the building will be used for ministry for years to come!

Mark continues to serve alongside the principal of the LTCU and the LCU church leadership. His role entails working and mentoring the seminary’s Finance Administrator in the daily needs of the seminary. Some days this is planning the monthly budget and accounting for requisitions, while other days involve larger logistics for working towards stability and sustainability in funding. Megan proceeds to teach Christian education and counseling classes. She is also working with the church to add on a few more counseling courses to help prepare the seminary students for care giving in their home regions. We praise God that all of this work glorifies Him and gives opportunities to share the love of Christ with seminary students and community members alike.

Mark and Megan Mantey serve the Lord through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod as career missionaries in Uganda. Mark serves as the project manager for the seminary, and Megan is the seminary’s instructor of Christian education and counseling. You can follow their work at www.facebook.com/MissionMindedManteys.

Serving the Lord in Sri Lanka: Merry Christmas!

This past month we’ve shifted strategy in a positive way. Our original thinking for the music program was to have youth come from their homes to a central location once or twice a month for a music lesson. After a few months of this, it was becoming clear that we had underestimated how difficult it is to get around in the Up-Country, especially given school schedules. We were asking some youth to travel over an hour’s distance from their homes for a two-hour lesson. It wasn’t working.

So, we decided to try traveling to their villages and homes to teach them. The local pastors and evangelists supported the idea. In the last month, we visited many of the villages where Lutheran churches are found. I brought with me a CD I made with about 45 minutes of music lessons on it. It teaches the Indian solfege (do-re-me-fa-sol) for one Tamil hymn and it also teaches Mary’s Song (The Magnificat) in Tamil. The CD is designed to facilitate practice sessions while I’m away so that more learning can happen despite my only being present in the flesh once a month.

It has been terrific visiting these places, not just for the sake of the music teaching, but because each visit is an opportunity to learn about the Tamil people, spend a little time with them, share Christ with them and pray with them. It’s also an opportunity to get to know the local pastors better, who are so graciously arranging these visits. It’s a challenge. We’re constantly reminded of the need to progress in the Tamil language. But the little we know is well-received and we feel encouraged to keep trying.

Most importantly, God is keeping us and the children safe. Please pray that He continues to do so. Thank you for your support and prayers. We wish you a Merry Christmas!

Vicar Benjamin and Grace Vanderhyde serve the Lord through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) as missionaries in Sri Lanka. In his role as vicar, Benjamin trains up musicians to serve the Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church while assisting the other LCMS missionaries serving in Sri Lanka with their work and learning from them. You can read more about the Vanderhydes at www.lcms.org/vanderhyde.

Funke News: Trust

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.Psalm 37:5

’Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions. Here are some of our goals for 2020: pass off our responsibilities here in Tanzania, sort through everything in our house, finish well, say goodbye to beloved friends, fly to the U.S., get U.S. citizenship for our kids, buy a car, present at all of our partner churches one last time, move to Dallas, get professional licensure, find jobs, find a place to live, find a good school for our kids and figure out how to live in the U.S. again. Truly, the tasks ahead seem huge and exhausting, yet we have an amazing God. In my personal devotion time, the word “trust” keeps coming to the forefront. This year will require us to trust God in so many aspects of our lives.

This past month we have been inspired by others who have likewise demonstrated their trust in God.

We are so excited to share that Cheryl Kruckemeyer has reached her financial goal for departure! Thank you to all who contributed to her upcoming ministry! She still has more money to raise in order to be fully funded for the year, but with trust in God’s ability to provide, she will be flying to Tanzania January 22–24. She will spend a week with us in Mwadui so that we can introduce her to more people and help her settle. Then she will travel to Iringa on February 1st for two months of Swahili language school. She will arrive back in Mwadui in time for Easter and will begin teaching at Mwadui Lutheran Secondary School after the Easter break. Praise the Lord!

On December 7, we traveled to Kahama so we could celebrate with five new deaconesses, eight new pastors and many new parish workers and evangelists as they graduated from the Makala Bible Training Center. Linda spoke at the graduation and presented each new deaconess with a deaconess stole from her deaconess community in the U.S. She also presented a beautiful banner to all of the Tanzanian deaconesses which was handmade by some of her deaconess sisters in the U.S. They loved it! We stayed the night in a hotel in Kahama and returned to the church the next day for the grand celebration. During the five hour service, Bishop Makala installed new staff members, members of the executive counsel and district pastors, consecrated the new deaconesses and ordained the new pastors. We are so thankful for all of these servants of God who trust God with their lives and are committed to serving God and their communities.

On Sunday Dec. 15, we celebrated the confirmations of many young people in our home church, including five boys who we have had the privilege to watch grow up these past seven years. After a wonderful service, during which these young people confessed their trust in Jesus, we enjoyed party-hopping and rejoicing with our dear friends. Since two of the boys were our neighbors, one of the parties was held in our backyard. The other party was held at the home of the Medard family. It meant so much to us to be a part of their special day.

By God’s grace, we finally received stones for the foundation, and the new home for vulnerable children in Mwadui is well-underway. The home will have space for eight boys and eight girls who are in crisis situations. The location is ideal, because it is right next to the secondary school’s soccer field and clinic and the children will be able to attend school at one of the primary schools in Mwadui. Only time will tell whether the home will open before we move, but we trust that God will use this new ministry in mighty ways.

The week of Christmas was filled with making Christmas cookies, hosting a cookie decorating party for neighborhood kids, helping Pastor Julia deliver three goats, other food supplies and underclothes to the children at Buhangija Center and hosting a showing of The Nativity Story movie at our church. On Christmas Day we celebrated the birth of Jesus with our church family, opened presents from our family in the U.S. (which by God’s grace arrived the day before), showed our kids the video we had put together of our family safari earlier this year and enjoyed a delicious lunch with the Nzelu family. The weekend after Christmas we traveled to Mwanza to visit friends. We are thankful to the Berry-Stableins for watching our kids so we could see The Rise of Skywalker. Our New Year’s Day got off to a rocky start as Linda was diagnosed with an amoeba. However, while Linda rested Eric and the kids enjoyed a delicious lunch with our dear friends Abel and Mercy, who also happened to host us for our very first New Year’s in Tanzania seven years ago.

Thank you to all who sent us Christmas letters! It has been so fun to see pictures and hear stories from many of you. If you did not receive a copy of our Christmas letter and would like to, you can find a digital copy at our website—www.GlobalLutheranOutreach.com/blog/Funke/newsletters.

This month we finished out the 2019 school year both at the secondary school and in homeschooling our kids. On December 10, Eric led a training at our school for administrators from six different area schools, teaching them to use the gradebook and scheduling programs he designed. On December 19, we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of our neighbors and dear friends, Yohana and Lilian Nzelu. Last but not least, on December 22, Michael lost his second tooth! We have had so many causes for celebration this month, and we trust that God will continue to lead us and this community in 2020!

In September of 2012, Eric Funke, grandson of Bill and Lola Funke, and his wife, Linda, followed God’s call to Tanzania. Eric is teaching math and science at a secondary school while Linda works for the Department of Planning and Development. They work in the East of Lake Victoria Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. Follow their mission work at www.afunketimeintanzania.blogspot.com, where you can also find photos and videos and make donations.

The Wolf Pack in Kenya: Walking Alongside

And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.Acts 15:41

2019 has been a busy year full of many blessings. We give thanks to God for his provisions and your support that has allowed us to serve as missionaries in Africa. Please let us share with you some of the events from this year!

In April, my wife Jenn and I traveled to Togo to meet with our missionaries about projects in French-speaking Africa.

Between February and June, I made several trips to western Kenya to support Project 24 and the Christ’s Care for Children—Kenya child sponsorship program that the LCMS does in partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, as well as begin efforts to improve and complete housing for our missionary professors at the ELCK seminary there.

In July, our two oldest boys traveled with me to the U.S. to promote Project 24 and CCC-Kenya at the National Youth Gathering in Minneapolis, at a Higher Things youth conference, and the synod convention in Tampa, as well as a number of churches in the midwest (Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin). God provided relationships that would help later in the year.

In August I visited the seminary in Nigeria to observe library and dormitory projects, assess how resources were used and report back to donors. This was the culmination of a review that I had started earlier this year in March. God certainly helped make this trip happen, and it was a blessing to see His hand at work in this country.

In September, our family travelled to Ethiopia to visit the seminary our missionaries teach in. This country has the largest body of Lutherans (over eight-million and growing). In October, I travelled to French-speaking Burundi with our missionaries from west Africa and Lutheran Heritage Foundation to assist with a catechism seminar and learn about the growing church in this mountainous country.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. May God grant you a Blessed Advent and a very Merry Christmas!

John Wolf is the Africa Region Project Manager for the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He and his family, with the support of LCMS churches like Saint John’s, are serving in Kenya. Please keep them in your prayers! We encourage you to follow their family blog, www.hereiamsendmesendme.blogspot.com, which is also where you can sign up to their mailing list and make donations.

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