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Funke News: A New Season

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.”James 5:7

One of the discussion questions for my Bible study earlier this month was “What season of life are you in right now?” My answer was “winter, but heading into spring.” I felt like we were right on the cusp of new life, and I was right. Praise the Lord!

She’s Home!

The first two weeks of September were our school’s fall break. Thus, most of the month was spent visiting doctors in Mwanza as they tried to figure out why Linda was still having chronic infections, visiting Julia as we waited anxiously for the letter that would let us bring her home and traveling back and forth between Mwanza and Mwadui. The travel and stress were taking a toll on Linda’s body. Finally, on September 18, we decided enough was enough and Linda flew to Dar Es Salaam to find out why our letter, which was supposedly sent three weeks prior, still hadn’t reached us. By God’s grace, the social worker at the Ministry of Social Welfare in Dar was able to find a copy of our letter, which was enough for us to bring her home! Eric and Michael were still in Mwadui because Eric had meetings with international representatives from Sweden regarding the school’s e-learning pilot program. Therefore, we all met up again on Thursday, September 21, and on Friday, September 22, we brought our daughter, Julia Karena Funke, home! It will still be probably another year before the adoption is finalized and we can bring her to visit the U.S., but we rejoice that now we can grow together as a family. If you would like to see more pictures and stories from the day we brought her home, visit our Facebook page.

Answered Prayers— A New Blog Post

As of September 7, we have lived in Tanzania for five years! Wow! Thank you to everyone who has walked with us through all the highs and lows of ministry here. Usually this time of year we put out a “Year in Review” video as a summary of what God has been doing here. This year, with all the illness, travel and now a new daughter to build a relationship with, we’ve concluded that making a video will not be possible. However, we do want to take a moment to acknowledge all the amazing ways God has answered prayers in the last ten months since we returned from the U.S and the ways you all have been answers to our prayers. On our blog, www.AFunkeTimeInTanzania.blogspot.com, you will find ten one-paragraph stories describing some of the answered prayers we’ve experience personally and in our ministry. We hope you enjoy them and will continue to partner and pray with us in the years to come.

Other Moments of Joy

As we were waiting for the letter, Michael needed some special time to just have fun. He had been such a trooper with all of Mommy’s doctors’ appointments, all the road trips and all the irregularities and unknowns in our schedule. Therefore one day while in Mwanza we attended a Mexican Independence Day celebration with other expats, where he hit his first piñata. Another day we took him to the water park in Mwanza with friends of ours. Michael had such a wonderful time!

After a two-year saga of trying to get our resident permit renewals, we are thrilled to share that on September 19 Linda picked up Eric’s permit in Dar Es Salaam. She was also able to retrieve the permits for new GLO missionaries Amber and Austin Reed. Praise the Lord!

On September 24 we celebrated Linda’s birthday. Michael and Julia, who both came home on days around her birthday, are by far the best birthday presents she has ever received!

September 30, we had the joy of celebrating with friends at the wedding of Jeremiah Shauri, our Community Health Evangelism Coordinator and dear friend, to his love Merikinoi. If you would like to see more pictures from the wedding, visit Facebook page. We pray that their marriage will be a blessing to them and to all those around them.

A Busy First Week Back Home

While we are so happy to be home, life has definitely not slowed down since our return. The first week after we arrived back, we had to get Julia’s paperwork set up at the doctor’s office and get her a checkup. We drove to Shinyanga multiple days to get the resident permit stamp in Eric’s passport and to have Linda’s follow-up tests done. We also spent a full day driving back and forth on the bumpy road to Kishapu to have the social worker there sign all the custody forms for Julia. We were very grateful to the good Samaritans that stopped when we got a flat tire and our jack broke. Then we spent another day in offices applying for our national IDs. We are hoping to establish our new “normal” very soon.

After the many medical tests to rule out other possibilities, it was determined that poor quality antibiotics were the cause of Linda’s ongoing problems with UTIs. Thankfully, this latest round of antibiotics (made in Germany) seem to have done the trick. Please pray that her body remains infection-free and recovers from the numerous unsuccessful treatments of the last few months. Please also pray that we can get Julia healthy. She arrived home with giardia and fungal growth on her head. Finally, we pray for healing for Eric. This week he first fell ill with a fever. Then yesterday he suffered from food-poisoning. We hope and pray for healthier days ahead.

Life as a Family of Four

In many ways, Julia’s transition into our family has gone very smoothly. Thanks to her big brother’s example, she is now comfortable riding in a car seat, eating at the table and playing with her brother and the neighborhood kids. She mostly sleeps through the night. She does sometimes have nightmares, but greets every morning with a smile. She loves to sing, dance, color, and go for rides in the double stroller with Michael. She has been teaching Michael new Swahili words, and he has been teaching her new English words. Our church family and community have welcomed her with open arms, and her brother Michael has already told us, “I love Julia.” Her giggles are among our favorite sounds in life. We love her so much and look forward to sharing more of our family’s adventures.

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: Bienvenue au Burkina Faso

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

“Bonjour, Monsieur” was the greeting I received from the stewardess as I boarded the plane from Ghana to Burkina Faso. As I took my seat, I overheard African children playing and chattering in French. By merely entering into a doorway, I had passed from one culture into another. I now had a two hour flight and a language translation app to practice phrases I might need upon landing in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. I was greeted by LCMS missionaries Rev. Gary and Stephanie Schulte, who serve as the Area Director of West and Central Africa and the Mercy Coordinator for west Africa, respectively. Thus began a wonderful introduction into LCMS mission work in French-speaking (francophone) west Africa.

God has a way of using even bad things to His glory, and the origins of the Lutheran church in Burkina Faso follows this path. During the civil wars of Liberia in the late 1990s, the Lord called many of His children home, but He also called one man to leave the country and seek refuge in Burkina Faso. This Lutheran man started to share the Gospel with others, and not long after had a number of fellow believers. Realizing the need for an ordained pastor to shepherd this growing flock, he sought out a means for instruction. Learning about the newly-formed French-speaking seminary in northern Togo, he visited, along with a few other men. These men returned to Burkina Faso and have continued to grow the church to this day.

The day after arriving, we, along with missionary Rev. Ryan McDermott, joined one of these pastors and followed him on his motorcycle to visit a local congregation. We traveled on potholed pavement, then gravel roads, two-track, goat trails and finally footpaths to reach a large tree in the middle of a field, where we were warmly greeted by waiting church members. The congregation had just received catechisms in their tribal language of Mòoré from Lutheran Heritage Foundation and were eager for a catechism lesson from our missionary pastors. Several of the men were training as evangelists to help the Burkina pastor and asked many good questions. As we closed, the ladies thanked us with many songs, one even with the chorus, “When our visitor is back in his home nation, he will tell them that the people of Tansega greet them.”

Many parishioners openly shared with me how this one church in Tansesga has impacted the local area. First it drew attention as parishioners made bricks and LCMS helped fund the roof installation and could gather to hear the Gospel, but this congregation on its own has sprouted fourteen other daughter congregations in the nearby countryside.

We visited one of these small daughter churches in Pouswaka. The people still gather under nearby fruit trees as the church is under construction. This once well-forested land has now been cleared for agriculture and animal grazing. Since not enough trees remain to build fires to harden bricks, the sun-baked bricks quickly deteriorated in the rain before the roof could be installed on their church structure. However, a nearby parishioner was excited that a church was being built, and one which he and his neighbors were building themselves.

It was amazing to see God’s handiwork to tell others about Jesus.

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: Hope Through Endurance

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.Romans 15:4

First, to all of you who were affected by Hurricane Harvey, especially our friends at Zion Lutheran Church in Pasadena, Texas, and St. John Lutheran Church in Cypress, Texas, we just want you to know that we love you and our thoughts and prayers are with you.

This past month was one of our harder months in Tanzania, and yet, throughout the month, we have received little gifts of grace and hope.

Adoption Update

While we had hoped to share the happy news that Julia is home, we didn’t get to that point this month. We did, however, make progress. The police report made it to Dar Es Salaam, the approval letter was sent from the Ministry of Social Welfare to the commissioner in Dodoma and the commissioner returned it with his signature. However, instead of calling us when the letter arrived back at the Ministry of Social Welfare, the social worker put the letter in the regular post. For almost two weeks now we have been waiting for the arrival of that letter. We are praying it has not been permanently lost, because if it has, we will have to get another letter from the commissioner, and that will mean another month without our daughter. Please pray with us that it comes soon. We are aching to bring her home.

Graduation of Students with Albinism

On August 4, we celebrated with the eleven women who graduated from the deaconesses’ “Right to Live With Albinism” program. For the last four months, they have been learning how to make clothes and how to start a business to sustain themselves and their families. These women have endured so much stigma, danger and struggle in their lives all because they were born with albinism. We admire their strength and are so thankful to our diocese's deaconesses and other supporters for helping them gain confidence and skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. The deaconesses are currently seeking funds to begin the program again with a new class of students.

A New School for Baraka!

After more than seven months of researching, praying and sending Baraka and his mother to schools for interviews, on August 9 Baraka was finally accepted into a boarding school for the blind. Praise the Lord! He will be attending Mwereni Integrated School for the Blind in Moshi. So far he loves his new school and teachers. His mother took this picture of him playing with the sensory objects. Please pray that he adapts to boarding school well and that they take good care of him.

Travels

We spent a great deal of time traveling this month. The second week of August we traveled to Dar Es Salaam to follow-up on Julia’s paperwork and Eric’s resident permit renewal. Unfortunately, we had to submit yet another application for the renewal (our fourth one in the last two years), and we still haven’t received the actual permit. Our prayers continue for progress in this nightmarish bureaucracy. While we were in Dar, we had the joy of visiting friends and fellow adoptive parents of Forever Angels kids.

We have also gone to see Julia in Mwanza at least once a week for the last six weeks. We are so grateful that friends of ours let us stay at their house during our visits. Finally, this past Monday we traveled with our friend Abel to Sengerema, Julia’s birth place, to learn more about her history from the social worker there. We hope that our days of so much traveling will soon be over and that we can spend time as a family in Mwadui.

Health

Thankfully, with the exception of breaking one of his toes, Eric’s health has been better. Michael had to go back on meds, because the amoeba wasn’t completely out of his system. With all the travels, Linda has been battling a UTI that just won’t quit. The doctors here even inserted a hep-lock one week so they could give her daily IV antibiotics. She is now on her third round of meds, and we are praying that this will be the end of it.

Other News From the Homefront

In between trips to Mwanza, Eric has continued teaching and working on the computer lab. Michael and Linda have enjoyed homeschool and playtime, and Linda’s Bible study group finished another study. School is now on a two-week September break. Last week we also enjoyed a dinner with Taylor and her mom, who was visiting from the U.S. We also gave her a tour of Mwadui and introduced her to the Bible study group.

Finally, we have had multiple new critters next door. The bad news is two deadly snakes were killed on our neighbors property this past week. Please pray that there is not a nest nearby and that this is the last we see of them. The good news is Kiss (one of Maisha's children) now has seven adorable puppies. I think God knew we would need puppy therapy this month.

Julia

Last but not least, our love for Julia continues to deepen. This month she has really warmed up to us. She and Michael laugh and giggle together, chase each other around and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Her shyness is melting away to the point that we have now heard her use full sentences in Swahili. She loves to read with us and even fell asleep in Linda’s arms this week. We can’t wait to bring our little girl home.

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: God’s Work in Ghana

Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 19:14

Little Delbert snuck to the front of the small mud brick church and grabbed the missionary’s hand. “He held my finger during the whole sermon,” chuckled Rev. Dale Kaster, as he shared a recent experience preaching to the people of Tamale in northern Ghana. John visited Rev. Dale and Suzanne Kaster during his first trip to west Africa.

I was truly impressed with the work of the Kasters, with both their blessings and challenges. With the help of local Pastor Konbat, Rev. Kaster continues the efforts of former LCMS missionaries to train men in four different people groups on their path to become pastors. He’s even taken on an effort to translate the small catechism into the language used in Tamale.

Many men are farmers, so pastoral studies occur around planting and harvest, funeral season and dry and rainy seasons. The Holy Spirit is at work in this area where people are tempted by Islam, traditional practices or beliefs promising success and wealth. The Kasters have nurtured many relationships that not only help them find resources but also share with others about Christ.

Back in the Ghana capital of Accra, I noticed a feel different from other Africa cities. The people were warm and friendly. When cued by a red traffic light, young women, carrying upon their heads trays of peanuts, phone cards, bags of cold water and other items, would weave among waiting cars selling goods. Lining the roadways were many billboards advertising special appearances of preachers, prophets or visionaries promising success and prosperity in this earthly life through the Bible. Such messages tempt new Lutherans and pastors away from the Gospel of what Christ has done for us to earn our salvation and life with Him.

My stay in Accra was hosted by long-time missionaries, Rev. David and Joyce Erber, who gave me a quick yet very worthwhile introduction to mission work in Ghana. I had a chance to meet some of the leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, including Rev. Paul Fynn (president) and Rev. Boatang (seminary director), and hear about the ELCG emphasis on training men to become pastors, both through the Mission Training Center (MTC) and seminary programs. I briefly visited the ELCG seminary near the hills in northern Accra, where LCMS missionary Rev. Steven Schumacher teaches. A couple of students had arrived a week early before the fall session. Greek will be their subject for first two weeks. Over the course of their training, the ability to read Scripture directly from the Bible helps pastors arm their congregations against the temptations of false Christian practices.

One pastor I met shared the story of his childhood. As a newborn, the village soothsayer identified him as special child who would one day become a great soothsayer. Trained in the ways of the local traditional religion, he was given a fortune-telling stick. Even after learning about Christ as an young adult and rejecting his ancestral religion, his parents and relatives pressured him extensively to continue soothsaying, tell fortunes and make decisions for the village. He broke his stick, then destroyed it so others wouldn’t think he used it until it fell apart. Today, this man is a pastor.

By God’s grace, the efforts of LCMS missionaries to first spread the Gospel in Ghana in 1958 has resulted now, nearly sixty years later, in a still-growing church body, a seminary to train new shepherds and faithful pastors who teach that, in spite of our sin, God is faithful and just and forgives our sins because of what Christ has done for us.

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: Tears of Joy and Sorrow

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.Revelation 21:3–4

If we were to describe this month in a word, that word would be “intense.” We have experienced great joy—welcoming our friends back from Diakonia, hearing their stories, receiving more computers for the school’s lab, supporting teen girls through the Huru program, learning that the laboratory in Mwanza is now fully funded thanks to St. John Lutheran Church in Cypress, Texas, receiving our approval-to-adopt letter, finally meeting our daughter and getting the next round of paperwork for her in record time! So much joy!

At the same time, all three of us have also experienced bouts of illness and have spent most of the month on one medication or another. We have struggled with setbacks in obtaining Eric’s resident permit renewal and setbacks in the CHE program. We had some really scary moments when two of our students were bitten by snakes this week, but by God’s grace they should recover. Finally, we experienced the joy of meeting our friend Omary’s precious baby boy Joshua, only to grieve Joshua's passing three weeks later. Through it all, we cling to the promise that illness, pain, and separation are only temporary. Someday God will wipe away every tear of sadness from our eyes, and all that will remain are tears of joy. In the meantime, we are grateful for the moments of joy and pray that we can continue to bring Christ’s message of hope and love to a weary world.

Our Daughter— Julia Karena Funke

Thank you all who have been praying for our adoption journey this past month! On July 14 we finally received our letter of approval for a second adoption. Then, on July 17, we headed to Forever Angels in Mwanza to meet the two little girls that were eligible. Over the course of two prayerful days, it became increasingly clear that we were falling in love with Julia and that she is exactly right for our family.

The name Julia is a variation on the multiple names she has had in her short life. Two reasons we love the name are that it is a Biblical name, like Michael’s (Romans 16:15), and because julia is a type of butterfly. With some of the pain she has already experienced in the past few years, we love the butterfly’s imagery of new life. Her middle name, Karena (pronounced ka-REH-na, with a short “e”), was chosen in honor of the many amazing Karens in our lives, especially Linda’s sister and Eric’s mother.

Julia is about 2.5 years old and only recently became eligible for adoption. She is kind, generous, clever, curious and spunky. She has such a wonderful, courageous spirit, and every time we visit we find new aspects of her that we love. We are so thrilled that she will soon join our family! Visit our Facebook page to see an adorable video of Michael and Julia. We hope and pray that the rest of the paperwork will go smoothly and that we will be able to bring her home by early September.

Baby Joshua

On July 9, Omary, his fiancée Zawadi and two-month-old son Joshua came to our house for a visit. We were so delighted to finally meet baby Joshua, for whom we had been praying since we first learned of the pregnancy in September. Only three weeks after that visit, we learned that Joshua was in the hospital with pneumonia. Late on the night of July 29, Joshua was baptized. Only five hours later, Joshua entered his heavenly home. We were in Mwanza at the time, but immediately changed all of our plans in order to return to grieve with our community. The next day, we and several of our neighbors journeyed to Tinde to spend the day with Omary, his mother, his grandmother, Zawadi, her mother and several family friends. Please keep Omary, Zawadi, and their families in prayer as they grieve.

DIAKONIA World Federation Conference

Early this month we joyfully welcomed back Bishop Makala, Matrida Sanga and Grace Mutabuzi from the DIAKONIA World Assembly in Chicago, Illinois. When we met with them, they were bursting with stories about new friends, new experiences and new ideas for ministry here in Tanzania. The conference schedule had included daily times of worship with the 400+ representatives from 28 countries, Bible studies led by various Bible scholars, plenary speakers engaging with each day’s themes and group discussion. They also participated in workshops on “Demystifying Grantmaking” and “Partnerships Among People and Deacon/Deaconess Communities” and deepened their spiritual walk with electives like “The Dancing Church” and “Coloring Prayer.” They also had time to take in some of the sights of Chicago, including their first fireworks show. They returned with a long list of dreams for the future, including joining Diakonia World Federation, holding a day of prayer for the work of Diakonia, strengthening their deaconess community through yearly meetings, diversifying the education of deaconesses, opening a rehabilitation center for people with physical and mental health struggles and teaching project management.

Thank you again to all who helped make this opportunity possible! A special thanks to Claire Schoepp for helping make arrangements for them, to the Byerly family for hosting them the first and last night, and to Dieter and Diane Schulte for driving them around. We praise God for all that has come out of their time in the U.S. and will continue to come out of it in the future. Please visit our Facebook page to see more pictures or read more stories of their adventures.

HURU Project

On July 15, Linda had the joy of assisting our friend Taylor German and her counterpart Leah with the Peace Corps’ Huru Project at our school. Over the course of the very full day, they led the Form 2–4 girls in activities about self-esteem, self-awareness, gender, puberty, risky behaviors and how to be assertive. At the end, each girl received a kit with reusable menstrual pads so they will never have to miss a class due to menstruation. If you would like to see more pictures from this inspiring day or learn more about Huru, please visit our Facebook page. What a joy it was to take part in this amazing program!

We thank God that the joys outnumber the sorrows, and that even in the hardest times we find comfort in God’s promises and in community near and far. Thank you all for being part of that prayerful community.

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: Carried By Christ

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.Proverbs 3:5–6

I have a friend in the U.S. who shared a simple formula to calculate the time to complete his home projects. Given the amount of time he estimated, he’d multiply that by seven, and maybe result in the actual time take to finish his projects. The same seems to hold for Kenya as well.

Although it’s not comfortable to talk about one’s self, we are encouraged by fellow missionaries to sometimes share what life is like in the field. We get used to dodging potholes, cows and people on the roads, stocking up on supplies, things taking more time and locking up the house early at night. We learn to be flexible. Yet sometimes God gives us “opportunities” to rely on Him rather than ourselves.

As our fiscal year ended, things became busy with finalizing the status of projects, identifying needs, coordinating support, posting online, preparing for the next year, writing thank yous to project donors and visiting project sites. Family life continued with school, weekly chapel with missionaries, after-school sports and activities, boy scouts and evening devotions. Life’s humming along, and we’re running to keep pace.

Then our truck stops working. For a week, mechanics troubleshoot while the vehicle remained in the office parking lot. Between borrowing cars and taxis, we try to continue family life. (Lord, thank you for diligent mechanics and helpful friends.)

Then a sad event within a partner church. We coordinate with missionaries as we work with church and community leaders. The days were filled with emotions, grief, delicate discussions and prayers. (Lord, please heal this community.)

Then, the water heater breaks (this will take two weeks to fix?), the uphill water tank springs a small leak (drain water from house?), a visa for a trip is now required before I depart in two weeks (Lord, please give the embassy workers time to help me), when driving home from the most wonderful ballet ever—ok, I’m biased, three kids and Jenn were deeply involved in it—I made a wrong turn into a less than stellar neighborhood, and my GPS quits (God, please lead us out), our international driver’s licenses become due for renewal (Lord, we trust You’ll provide help) plus a few other challenges (Lord, please grant us patience).

Then I got sick, flat on my back. And all the tasks must be done before I depart to visit our missionaries and projects in West Africa. I had read Psalm 27 the week prior and some images came to mind: in the day of trouble … conceal me under His tent … Lord is my stronghold … army camped against me … I will not fear … wait for the Lord … be strong, and let your heart take courage … wait for the Lord! Through all of this, God was showing me to trust Him and put all things into His hands.

It had been years since I had taken a long hot bath, but suddenly it seemed like a good idea. I huffed four large kettles of hot water upstairs (remember, the water heater broke), but now aching muscles were able to move. A friend helps to drive, so I’m able to apply for visa. I get stuck in the same bad neighborhood again, but God provided an easy way out. Problems become easier to deal with. Setbacks with drivers license occur—“Come back Monday”—but the psalmist says “take courage; wait for the Lord!

Although our primary role is telling people about Jesus, there are many blessings and challenges that are part of missionary life. Even long-term missionaries encourage us as they share stories of blessings from situations they experienced. Roadside vehicle assistance, trustworthy relationships with local mechanics and community leaders, helpful people in government offices and prayers from friends were unexpected blessings. It’s not just those we serve who need Christ; our missionaries joyfully rely on Him too!

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: Taking Up the Cause

Since most of the students go home for June break, the month of June always provides us with some different opportunities for ministry. This month we had the joy of supporting and encouraging others who are taking up the cause to serve some of the most vulnerable in our society—orphans, families living in poverty and people with albinism.

Walking the Adoption Road with Friends

Since adoption here is such a long dynamic journey, we have been so grateful to walk with other families who are on the same road. Early this month, we had lunch in Mwanza with Stephanie and Aaron Boon, friends from our language school days, just before they brought home their son from Forever Angels. We are thrilled for their family and pray that the foster period and court hearings go smoothly. We also love that we have pictures of their son Isaya and our Michael together as babies.

Later that week, we had the joy of hosting Michelle and Dave Heed and their daughter Olivia, friends from Kigoma, for a few days as part of their vacation trip to Mwanza. Linda and Michelle met at a retreat at the very beginning of our families’ adoption journeys. While we have been supporting and praying for each other for years, this visit was our first opportunity to meet each other’s children. We greatly enjoyed worshiping God together in English, exchanging parenting resources, and watching the kids play together.

Reeds’ Field Visit

This month we also welcomed Amber and Austin Reed, future GLO missionaries to Shinyanga. Amber and Austin will be focusing on serving young people with albinism. This will serve as Amber’s Director of Christian Education internship through Concordia University in Austin, Texas.

During their week-long visit, we introduced them to organizations that support people with albinism, including SHADE, which teaches young adults soap-making, batik-making and other entrepreneurial skills, Buhangija Center, which houses and protects children with albinism, and our diocese’s Right to Live With Albinism program, which teaches young girls sewing and life skills. They also visited Forever Angels in Mwanza, where they will volunteer in the future and learn more about supporting vulnerable families. We also began their paperwork for permits, showed them around Shinyanga, and introduced them to their new home church, Ebenezer Cathedral.

They have now returned to the U.S. to gather support and will hopefully begin language school this fall. We enjoyed our time with them and eagerly anticipate their return.

DIAKONIA World Federation Conference

After so many months of fundraising, prayer and preparations, we finally have three representatives at the DIAKONIA World Federation conference. Thank you again to all of you who helped make this dream possible! Bishop Emmanuel Makala, Deaconess Matrida Sanga (Coordinator for Diaconal Ministries) and Grace Mutabuzi (Director of Education) are currently in Chicago finishing up an amazing week of worship, learning and networking.

Representatives from over 28 countries gathered together for this event. The overall theme was “Shaken by the Wind,” which explored how the Holy Spirit moves in the world. Each day also had a theme—to be gathered together, to create community, to rock the foundations, to face the chaos, to explore the unknown, to find a new perspective, to nourish hope and to be scattered to serve.

Many of Linda’s deaconess sisters have sent pictures of our friends enjoying the conference. Please keep them in prayer as they begin their trip back to Tanzania. We look forward to sharing many more pictures and stories after they return.

Adoption Update

After waiting for over three weeks for our approval letter to be typed, the letter was finally sent to Dodoma for the commissioner’s signature. Because the commissioner now lives seven hours away from the main office in Dar Es Salaam, we’ve heard it takes about three weeks to get anything signed and sent back. Long story short, we expect to receive our letter any day now. Please keep us in prayer as the next step will be to prayerfully decide which child is meant to be our daughter.

Mwanza School Laboratory

We want to extend a huge thank you to St. John Lutheran Church in Cypress, Texas. Not only have they offered a $7,000 matching grant for building the laboratory at the new Mwanza Lutheran Secondary School, but they also raised $3,350 through their Vacation Bible School this past month! Fellow missionaries Dixon and Christiana Gbeanquoi have also raised $1,300 towards the laboratory. Thus the school only needs $2,350 to complete the match grant and finish the laboratory. Once the science lab is finished, the school can finally open!

If you are able to help, please go to GlobalLutheranOutreach.com/support-gbeanquoi.html and write the donation amount next to GBEANQUOI: MWANZA LAB. Or you can write a check to "Global Lutheran Outreach" with GBEANQUOI: MWANZA LAB in the memo line and send it to Global Lutheran Outreach; 6709 Ficus Dr., Miramar, FL33023. We would love to see this school opened so that it can begin to nurture students academically and spiritually!

Home and School

We enjoyed a relaxed Father’s Day this month with homemade cards, a home-cooked steak dinner, homemade cinnamon rolls and movie night after Michael went to sleep. Eric also spent over eleven hours of break cutting ethernet cable and getting the computer lab set back up. We used the rest of the break to get some home repair projects done and spend some quality time together.

School is back in session now, and we are settling back into our rhythm. We look forward to seeing what new activities and causes God will bring into our lives this next month!

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: This is the Church We Were Looking For

As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath … many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas … urged them to continue in the grace of God.Acts 13:42–43

Last June, as we prepared to deploy, a couple churches we visited were preparing for their vacation bible schools. Their programs featured an effort to help local Africa congregations complete their church buildings. After gathering stories of the Lutheran church growth in Africa and how pastors teach so many children and families about their salvation in Christ, we were able share with VBS children some faces and stories about the “Tin Roofs for Africa” project.

Since that time, many more African congregations have benefited from generous gifts provided by VBS children and their churches. One particular church is in a refugee camp in Uganda. Recently, we shared the story of Rev. Oti Charles, a Lutheran pastor from South Sudan, who as a child escaped with his family to Uganda and learned about Christ while in a refugee camp. Although Rev. Charles now serves in South Sudan, there are still many from that country living in refugee camps in Uganda, and who can learn about Christ through congregations and pastors there. By February, a congregation in the Nakivale refugee camp had already formed many of the bricks needed to build a church building. By working with the Lutheran Church in Uganda, funds from the Tin Roofs in Africa project is now helping the congregation procure cement for mortar, timber and metal sheets to build the roof structure. Through Tin Roofs in Africa, eight congregations in four countries are roofing their locally-made church buildings, and nine more will be soon.

The Lutheran church continues to grow. As part of his work, John gets to work with missionaries in other parts of Africa. One is a partner missionary from the Lutheran Church in Brazil, Rev. Carlos Walter Winterle, who serves in Mozambique. He shared with John a heartwarming story from that country. Lutheran pastors visited the town of Chimio, where an elderly Pentecostal pastor asked for help to shepherd his nine congregations. Six hundred people gathered to hear the visiting pastors share about salvation by grace, by faith alone. The people asked, “but we don’t need to do something to be saved?” For two days, the pastors shared God’s Word and about Christ’s sacrifice for us that earned us salvation. People affirmed that this was the church they were looking for.

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: Tending the Garden

Earlier this month our friend Abel invited Michael out to the school’s garden, teaching him how to pick okra and hoe the earth. As he worked, I thought about how planting the seeds are not enough. Gardens generally take consistent maintenance and care, and, even then, only God can make the plants grow. We are currently in one of those seasons where many seeds are planted—projects started and papers submitted—and now we continue to tend the garden, trusting that God will bring forth a harvest. We rejoice in the many buds of progress so far!

Diakonia World Federation Conference in Chicago

Wonderful news! The trip for our Tanzanian colleagues is now fully funded, and Matrida received her passport. Thank you all for your contributions and prayers! We also managed to get a great price on tickets. We basically bought three round-trip tickets for what we normally pay for two. These savings are especially helpful since the trip to Dar Es Salaam to get their visas is going to cost more than we originally anticipated. Their visa interview at the U.S. Embassy is scheduled for June 12. Please keep them in prayer. Lord-willing, by the time our next newsletter comes out they will be in Chicago with representatives from dozens of other countries.

School

We spent a large amount of time at school this month. In addition to teaching computer and physics classes, Eric oversaw a complete rewiring of half the computer lab. He was alerted to problems when both he and a student received a shock from a computer that was turned off. We are so thankful that he discovered the problems before anyone was hurt. An electrician was called in to run new wire to ensure the safety of the students and building.

Meanwhile, Linda led the yearly 6.5 hour Saturday seminar on Sex and Relationships, with the help of the school nurse and fellow teachers. It covered the basics of sex, abuse, the physical, emotional and spiritual ramifications of sex and how to develop healthy relationships and make decisions for their futures. We always separate the boys and girls at the end, so Eric and other male teachers can answer the boys’ questions and Linda and other female teachers can answer the girls’ questions. This month, Linda also taught a lesson on bullying—what it is, what causes it, how can we respond to it and we keep it out of our school. We’ve also hosted a few movie nights to give the students a fun way to continue learning English.

Now we are preparing for the June break, when all the students will return home except the Form 4 students preparing for national exams. Eric will be heavily involved in getting all the grades logged and preparing grade report sheets for families. This month we also received our order of 107 books for Form 5 and 6, funded by the money brought in for books last November/December. Thank you to all who helped add more books to the school’s library!

Mid-South District Visit and the Future Clinic

This month we had the joy of welcoming back returning friends and some new friends from the Mid-South District. They spent most of their week in the villages of Maswa district, but were able to come one afternoon to see all the progress at our school.

The teachers selected Eric to be the chairperson of the fundraising committee for our school’s new clinic. As such, he shared with the group the school’s goal of raising $30,000 to finish the clinic buildings by January. During the June break, students will be trying to raise $10 each and teachers will be raising $25 each, with some prizes as an incentive. Another fundraiser will be held during the school’s graduation on October 7. While the school hopes to raise $13,000 with these fundraisers, they will still need $17,000 to complete the buildings. Eric shared with the team that we are hoping to find four or five groups or churches in the U.S. willing to raise $3,000–5,000 toward finishing the clinic buildings.

Every year our school spends almost $7,500 on medical costs for students who have to go to the local expensive hospital for any medical care. This clinic will cut down student costs and will also offer a more affordable option to communities near the school. The clinic will thus give the school another source of income and will be an outreach tool for the church into the community, demonstrating God’s unconditional love and mercy for all people. If you know of a group or church that might be willing to partner with our school to help build this clinic, please email Eric at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Preparing for the Reeds

This month we have also been preparing for Amber and Austin Reed’s field visit—setting up appointments, sending them information they will need for their trip and preparing documents for their future work and resident permits. We also visited SHADE, one of the ministries with which they will be partnering. SHADE tutors young adults with albinism in academic subjects, teaches them entrepreneurship skills and trains them in making batik cloth and soaps. Since the students will be on break during the Reeds’ visit, we went ahead to get a few pictures of them. We were very impressed with their work.

Celebrations

Earlier this month, Michael and Eric made Mommy homemade flowers and gave her lots of hugs and kisses in celebration of Mother’s Day. Then this past weekend (May 29) we celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. Thanks to our families, we were able to spend two days at Wag Hill Lodge, about thirty minutes outside of Mwanza. We enjoyed breathtaking views of Lake Victoria, delicious foods, a fun motorboat ride and a boat-driving lesson for Michael, the opportunity to pet horses and camels, steep hiking paths, climbing obstacles, games at the pool table, a brisk swimming pool and a glorious morning canoe trip. It reminded us of our days at camp. We are so thankful for six beautiful years of marriage and for this opportunity to make new memories together.

Adoption Update

Last but not least, we’ve heard that the social workers at the Ministry of Social Welfare have received and approved our application. Now we are just waiting for the signature of the Commissioner in Dodoma. After the documents go to Dodoma and return to Dar Es Salaam, they will send our approval letter. Then we will be able to identify and meet our daughter! We hope and pray that will be soon.

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: Christ Who Lives In Us

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.Galatians 2:20

“Things change when we spend time in God’s Word in prayer,” shared a long-term missionary in Africa. “It helps make projects less money-focused and more ministry-focused, and our work is about getting Jesus into the lives of people. If we aren’t doing that, then why do a project? Not for the simple sake of doing something good, there are plenty of other people doing that.”

Similar wise words have been shared with us from many other experienced missionaries who have mentored us. There are so many worthwhile opportunities to help those in need. But where to start? Which efforts will have long-lasting effects? Which assistance is helpful (and what is harmful)? What are the vision and needs of our partner churches? I’m beginning to see the challenge of project work in Africa: despite the many opportunities to improve lives, helpful efforts are those which share God’s Word to help meet spiritual and bodily needs.

This month has been a great deal of learning about the many projects our LCMS has currently in Africa: efforts to help young church bodies in many countries train new pastors, efforts to bring the Word to refugees and those in need and efforts for mercy through water, bibles, literacy, children’s education and health care.

Through this, I have met many wonderful folks: our missionaries (to learn about their work and the needs of the people they serve), our regional business manager in Africa, support teams in St. Louis (who taught me about resources we have for particular project areas), communications personnel (who encouraged me in ways to tell people about LCMS projects, and advised in developing a project catalog and website). I’ve also been able to work closely with mission advocates at Mission Central and in St. Louis, who interact directly with people who want to walk together with our mission activities and with brothers and sisters in Christ in Africa.

Last summer, our region coordinated with Vacation Bible School programs through CPH to bring awareness to the need for roofs for many new churches in Africa. The response was overwhelming, with nearly 600 churches in the US providing support to the “Tin Roofs for Africa” project (that was a lot of thank you’s to write!).

This summer, with our Project Catalog for the Africa Region, churches may choose from a variety of projects to support through vacation bible school, mission festival, LWML rallies or other activities. With the recommendations of other missionaries, each page has been formatted for individual use as a flyer if a church group desires to focus on just a few efforts. Our Project Catalog is ready and downloadable from our “LCMS in Africa” webpage at LCMSinAfrica.wordpress.com>. This page is continually updated, so please visit (and visit again) to learn more about how our church is helping spread the Gospel in Africa.

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.