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Funke News: Perseverance

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.Romans 5:2–5

We have heard from so many friends that 2020 has been a particularly challenging year for a wide variety of reasons. As we enter the second half of the year, we are holding Romans 5:2–5 close to our hearts and praying that God may use these challenges to produce endurance, character and hope.

Early in June we submitted the lease agreement, school enrollment and bills necessary to prove residency to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. On July 3rd, we received the best Fourth of July presents ever—Michael and Julia’s Certificates of U.S. Citizenship! They are now officially Tanzanian Americans. Praise the Lord! Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us, encouraged us and donated to the Funke Kids’ Citizenship fund during this long journey. We couldn’t have done this without you.

As we mentioned last month, you can now watch our final presentation at www.youtube.com/EricFunkeGLO. This presentation is what we would have shared with you all if we had been able to visit in person. It includes three sections: 1) a twelve-minute video recap of the past seven years of ministry, 2) a slideshow with more details about the past year and a half since we last visited the U.S., 3) a song with pictures. We hope it will be a blessing to you all. Since we last wrote, we have enjoyed Zoom calls with members of Messiah in Plano, Chapel of the Cross in St. Louis, St. Paul in Plano, and Saint John’s in Fort Collins. Thank you to everyone who joined us for the calls and asked such wonderful questions! You have been such an encouragement to us in this time of transition.

This month we had the joy of camping with Linda’s immediate family over Father’s Day weekend. Our kids greatly enjoyed Vacation Bible School at home with kits and videos from Messiah Lutheran Church in Plano. We also fulfilled our promise to our kids that they would get swimming lessons this summer. While group classes aren’t a great option right now, we are thankful that Linda was a swim instructor at Cooper’s Swim Academy for five summers and that friends are allowing us to use their pool so we can teach Michael and Julia to swim. They are doing wonderfully! Our kids also enjoyed their first Fourth of July in the U.S. as we were able to see fireworks from our front yard.

It has been a rough month for our family health-wise. On June 12, Michael started running a high fever so we went into quarantine mode until we could make sure it wasn’t COVID-19. Thankfully his fever broke after two days. Then during our camping trip, Linda was completely eaten up by chiggers (130+ bites). That week she experienced more pain and itchiness than when she had chicken pox as a child. After that, Eric developed a mean poison ivy rash after working in the backyard, even though he never had an allergic reaction to poison ivy when he used to work at camp. On top of all this, Linda’s doctor continues to try to determine the cause of some of Linda’s longer term symptoms, including running a continual low-grade fever (99–99.5°) for the past few months. Our doctor recommended additional parasite testing. It is expensive, but will hopefully help us find the cause of some of Linda’s health issues the past few years. We are hoping to receive the results in the next few weeks.

News From Tanzania

As the president of Tanzania has declared that there are no longer cases of COVID-19 in the country, Tanzania has begun reopening schools and other sectors in society. Meanwhile, we hear from doctor friends there that they are still seeing several deaths from COVID-19 daily. They have asked for prayers as they anticipate a large number of new cases with schools now reopening. Likewise, the U.S. Embassy continues to caution that “the risk of contracting COVID-19 through community transmission remains elevated.” Mwadui Lutheran Secondary School started classes again on Monday June 29. Please pray with us that none of the students and teachers who returned to campus brought COVID-19 with them.

GLO missionary Cheryl Kruckemeyer is currently co-teaching English classes, helping youth connect by email with penpals in the U.S., and enjoying time with students on the basketball court. Sadly, we found out a few weeks ago that Cheryl’s first work permit application was denied. We knew this was a possibility, especially when the government started denying permits for Peace Corps volunteers and other missionary friends of ours. However, it is still disappointing. Diocese General Secretary Happiness Yorum Gefi traveled to Dodoma on Friday, July 3 to file an appeal. Please pray for a successful and smooth appeal process.

GLO missionaries Dixon and Christy Gbeanquoi are continuing to serve their church community in Mwanza. Dixon has also begun teaching classes again at the Lutheran Bible school. Many of the other missionaries from Europe returned to their home countries, so Dixon is now teaching four different classes. We praise God that they received about $3,000 this past month. That being said, they still need $3,500 to continue their ministry through December. They are particularly in need of monthly donors. By the end of August, Eric will begin receiving a paycheck. Therefore, if you have been a monthly donor, we ask that you consider transferring your monthly donations to the Gbeanquoi family at that time. They are a wonderful family, and we would love for them to be able to continue their amazing ministry in Mwanza.

In September of 2012, Eric Funke, grandson of Bill and Lola Funke, and his wife, Linda, followed God’s call to Tanzania. Eric taught math and science at a secondary school while Linda worked for the Department of Planning and Development. They worked 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.

Funke News: Lament and Hope

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.Lamentations 3:21–23

The suffering in the world feels so potent right now—so much injustice, so much pain, so much conflict, so much loss. As a friend recently shared her pain over the loss of a loved one, I reminded her that lament is Biblical and that Jesus cried. As I have been thinking more about lament, I have naturally been drawn to the book of Lamentations. I was reminded that “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” In spite of it all, we cling to hope. Here are some of the bits of hope God has shown us this past month.

We hope to be able to reconnect with many of our partner churches in the coming months. You all mean so much to us! In the mean time, after many hours of prep, we are thrilled to say that our video presentation is now online! This presentation is what we would have shared with you all if we had been able to visit in person. It includes three sections:

  1. A twelve-minute video recap of the past seven years of ministry;
  2. A slide show with more details about the past year and a half since we last visited the US; and
  3. A song with pictures we hope will be a blessing to you all.

On May 4, Eric attended a virtual job fair for Garland Independent School District. By the end of the day, North Garland High School issued him a letter of intent. We are happy to announce that he will be teaching Algebra 1 (one of his favorite subjects to teach) at North Garland starting in August. Thankfully, it is only an eleven-minute drive from our new home. We thank God for this answer to prayer!

On May 2, we signed a lease for a rental house in Richardson, Texas, and May 8–10 loaded up a trailer to be delivered to our new home. After more precious time with our family in St. Louis, we drove down to Dallas May 12. We stayed with Linda’s parents for the next week while we waited for our trailer and repainted the three bedrooms and two bathrooms (all of which were pink) and all the ceilings in our new house. May 16–17, our Davis family helped us unload all of our belongings. Unfortunately, we soon discovered that the garage conversion/playroom reeked of cat pee, and we have cat allergies. We squeezed all of our things into the other rooms while the landlord tried to remedy the situation. We tried repainting the closets, using a good enzyme cleaner on the carpet, sealing off the room and using the landlord’s industrial strength air purifier for a weekend, ripping out all the carpet and treating the subfloor with enzyme cleaner and laying Kilz sealant. Nothing worked until finally we discovered that the cat pee had seeped into the baseboards, damaging the sheet rock. Now that the sheet rock is removed, the smell is finally dissipating. Adding to the craziness of the move, as Linda was navigating boxes she tripped on the couch and broke her baby toe!

We’ve spent much of the last few weeks consolidating our possessions for the first time in our married lives, selling unneeded items and searching Craigslist for items that we do want/need. We’ve found many good deals, including a brand new washer and dryer for half price, a dining set, patio furniture for the backyard, and a piano—which was on sale for $20! Hopefully we will finally feel more settled soon.

As chaotic as this past month has felt, we are thankful for finally being able to celebrate Julia’s (February 23) birthday very belatedly with our Davis family, time to camp with Linda’s parents in their trailer over Memorial Day weekend and Linda’s parents hosting a sleepover for Michael and Julia so we could enjoy a romantic dinner at home in celebration of our ninth wedding anniversary.

News From Tanzania

The president of Tanzania has declared that Tanzania is now free of COVID-19. This assertion is in direct contradiction to what some of our doctor friends are seeing on the ground. There continues to be a crackdown on anyone in Tanzania who challenges the government’s claim, and doctors are fearful of sharing what they are seeing. Thankfully, the hospital in Mwadui has had no cases of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, both Lutheran dioceses in Shinyanga and Mwanza received grants from the LCMS to help with COVID-19 awareness and food scarcity issues. They will also receive money to start radio ministries.

This month Cheryl Kruckemeyer began mentoring young women in the community, facilitating a Bible study for other expats in Mwadui, hosting a German agricultural missionary, and helping a few families with food aid. Dixon and Christy also continue to lead and serve their church in Mwanza. Unfortunately, their funding is now extremely low. If they don’t receive $6,500 in the next few months, they will be forced to return to Nigeria. If you can help this wonderful family continue their ministry in Tanzania, please go to globallutheranoutreach.com/support-gbeanquoi.html. Every little bit helps!

Our friends in Tanzania continue to be in our hearts and in our prayers.

In September of 2012, Eric Funke, grandson of Bill and Lola Funke, and his wife, Linda, followed God’s call to Tanzania. Eric taught math and science at a secondary school while Linda worked for the Department of Planning and Development. They worked 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: Greetings in Christ

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.Romans 12:10–13

World-wide we are all discovering the “new normal” in regards to daily life. In Uganda, the countrywide lockdown is slowly lifting, even as the curfew remains in place. Private and public transportation are now allowed on the roads with limited passengers and face masks. From mid-March until late-May people relied on walking or bicycles to get around as a measure to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, many non-essential businesses have been able to resume operations. Country borders, schools and public worship remain closed for now. So, the Lutheran Church of Uganda continues to minister via radio, phone calls and limited gatherings. Like a lot of the world, Uganda is discovering what this means. What elements of life remain the same? What is different?

As we have shared before, greetings hold great value in Uganda. It is a way to acknowledge that you see a person, including their worth and value. Greeting someone and taking the time to listen and talk to them greatly acknowledges that they matter and are an important part of your day’s interactions. While out in Jinja after the lockdown, it was a joy to see people we had not seen in several months.

Observing other interactions, people were joy-filled to be able to greet others as well. Yet, there was some differences on how greetings now took place. Instead of the standard lingering handshake, people now might wave, or raise eyebrows as a quick greeting. Hands are now kept to oneself, but the joy of interacting and sharing about the day are still present. Smiles (albeit some are under masks) are still shared. People are grateful to hear how their neighbors and community members are doing. This presents such an opportunity for the church, and for us as missionaries, as we can continue to share about Christ’s love in the midst of a fallen world.

Life and Mission Update

Despite the many challenges people have endured during this time, it has been a blessing to see the helpers.

The Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU) continues to distribute food to students that attend the Lutheran schools, pastors, and seminary students that are in need. Working with partners, the LCU has been able to make several distributions over the lockdown. We are grateful for their continued care during this time. Likewise, we appreciate the deep care for one another and sharing what is available with those nearby.

Our gratitude also extends to our partnering congregations and individuals in the United States. Thank you for your continued support that allows us to stay in Uganda during these times. We are very grateful for your ongoing prayers and support.

Additionally, we are thankful for the hands-on helpers. We have had several individuals assist with sending out our USPS newsletter when churches were unable to do so. Also, there have been people available to help send handwritten thank you notes on our behalf since Uganda is not able to send or receive mail at this time due to the country’s borders being closed. Those acts of kindness allow us to share communication with friends and ministry partners.

We praise God for the helpers! May we listen to one another, learn from one another, and share in each other’s burdens when appropriate. Our prayer is that we all can continue to serve in Christ’s name, spur one another on, and encourage one another in the one true faith.

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.

Funke News: Life and Death

The phrase “life or death situation” definitely seems to fit these days. We know that some of you are already grieving the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19. You are in our hearts and prayers. With the celebration of Holy Week this past month, we also have been thinking much about life and death. We were reminded that because of Jesus’s death and resurrection, he is Lord over both the living and the dead. We don’t know what the future holds, but for as long as we live, we will continue to live to the Lord.

Since all of our partner churches are still meeting online, we are now preparing a video presentation through which we can share more about our last year of ministry in Tanzania and what is happening there now. We will let you all know when that video is available. We are also hoping to arrange a get-together with each church through Zoom or some other platform. We would still love to be able to see and talk with you all.

Living in the Present

We are currently still living with Eric’s parents in St. Louis. This past month we held our own Palm Sunday reenactment and celebrated Easter with window decorations, egg decorating, an Easter egg hunt, our kids’ first Easter baskets, online worship and an Easter feast.

We are continuing to homeschool Michael and Julia. We love their creativity and curiosity as they create plays for us, make art out of many household materials and rejoice over every new Kindle library book. We are adjusting to wearing masks out in public. (Thanks to Karen Eichinger for making us stylish masks!) We are trying to keep a bit of whimsy in our days. For example, Linda became a dinosaur this month, and we have been taking “Dino walks” around the neighborhood. We also made quick social-distanced visits for our nieces’ birthdays and celebrated Eric’s birthday with oatmeal chocolate chip cake. We’ve realized we are in a time of “and”—we are grieving many things and we are grateful for so many things.

Preparing for the Future

We are still trying to figure out what our next chapter will look like. We’ve chosen to move to North Dallas, because there we will be close to family, have the opportunity to interact with a large Tanzanian-American community (and keep practicing our Swahili) and enjoy a warmer environment, which will hopefully alleviate some of Linda’s physical pain. This month we’ve been gathering information about potential elementary schools in the area for our kids.

Eric submitted job applications to five different school districts and a few private schools in North Dallas. He also attended numerous new teacher webinars this past month. One school in Dallas has already expressed interest in him. They put him through two rounds of online interviews and had him present a mock lesson via Zoom. They said they will offer him the job, but that school would require a forty-minute commute each way. Many closer school districts are behind in their hiring and won’t be interviewing until June.

Please pray for wisdom and discernment as we make difficult decisions. This month Linda completed a sixteen-hour video course in preparation for the LMSW exam to become a licensed social worker in Texas. She will continue studying for the four-hour exam, and hopefully testing sites will open again soon. Since her driver’s license expired while we were in Tanzania, she will also need to take a driving test once DMVs reopen!

With the help of Linda’s dad and a realtor friend providing virtual tours, we’ve found a rental house in Richardson. Lord-willing, we will sign the lease and move down to Texas in the next few weeks. We need to sign a lease soon because we found out that we are required to provide proof of residency to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before July 2. If we can’t provide it by then, Michael and Julia’s immigration papers will be canceled, and they will be denied U.S. citizenship. Most of our furniture and belongings are still in Eric’s parents’ basement in St. Louis, so we are now researching moving services. We still aren’t quite sure how this move will work. The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely complicated our repatriation process. We greatly appreciate your prayers.

Also, just as a reminder, we will continue to need financial assistance until we have a steady source of income. We still have living costs, moving costs, and medical costs (including the $760 worth of emergency dental care for Linda this past month). If it is possible for monthly donors to continue their contributions until Eric’s first paycheck in August, we would greatly appreciate it.

News From Tanzania

As of May 1, Tanzania has 480 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 167 recovered and 17 deaths. However, these numbers are not an accurate reflection of the situation. The president of Tanzania, who is up for reelection this year, is arresting or fining any reporters who publish information not cleared by him. Tests are also hard to come by. There is no incentive for people to be tested, because they do not want to be quarantined. Health centers likewise do not want to test people, because if they do, they are required to close until the results come back. Schools remain closed. There are no international flights going in or out of Tanzania at this point. Churches are allowed to hold services, but attendance and giving has understandably dropped. As such, the Lutheran church is struggling to pay its workers. Adding to the problems, Tanzania (and all of East Africa) is also facing flooding and a plague of locusts which are eating up crops. Linda has been working with the diocese to put together an LCMS grant application to cover COVID-19 awareness campaigns and food relief.

Thankfully, our GLO missionaries in Tanzania are still well. Cheryl Kruckemeyer continues to study Swahili with a tutor, learn more about Tanzanian culture, read books and articles about cross-cultural ministry in preparation for her future ministry and go on daily walks around Mwadui. The Gbeanquoi family continues to serve their congregation in Mwanza. They are still severely under-funded, so if you would like to help this beautiful family, please go to www.globallutheranoutreach.com/support-gbeanquoi.html. Please keep these missionaries and all of our dear friends in Tanzania in your prayers.

In September of 2012, Eric Funke, grandson of Bill and Lola Funke, and his wife, Linda, followed God’s call to Tanzania. Eric taught math and science at a secondary school while Linda worked for the Department of Planning and Development. They worked 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: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

As we continue to see the effects of COVID-19 throughout the world, we also witness those that are helping to support people in need. In Uganda, there have been various shut-downs and self-isolation initiatives, similar to other countries in the world. As a country that has experienced Ebola and HIV/AIDS epidemics, the country is very proactive with preventative measures.

The Ugandan government put actions into place to protect their people and limit the spread of the virus. Currently, only essential stores are open. Transportation, by public or private means, has been restricted. This effort, as well as a curfew, has limited the movement of everyone. Some of the challenges initially started in the urban and suburban parts of the country. A lot of people rely on daily income for their food needs. Because of either not being able to work, the price of food, or having more people home since schools are on a hiatus, there are challenges with being able to access food. Likewise, seminarians in the rural communities were not able to plant crops as they were at the seminary studying. Thus, there have been hardships for them as well in being able to access food and supplies.

We are grateful for the response of the Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU) as they share the love of Christ and help with daily needs. Along with their ministry partners, they have worked diligently to assess the challenges with the Lutheran schools, their congregations and communities. Each deanery (district) has unique situations, so the LCU coordinates those needs through the local leadership. We are thankful that God continues to provide for his people through the hands of the Lutheran Church of Uganda. We praise God that in the midst of challenges, He meets our daily needs. Please pray for those in Uganda who are serving in Jesus’ name and also those receiving care and provision.

During the past month, we continue to do the work the Lord has called us to do. Primarily we are working from home, but are grateful to continue interacting with leaders of the Lutheran Church of Uganda, seminary students and colleagues throughout East Africa.

Our Easter was spent with the opportunity to participate in worship with the LCU via the radio and our East Africa missionary team, led by colleagues in Ethiopia over the internet. Our neighbors were able to join us for worship and a meal afterwards. It was great to worship our risen Lord together with colleagues throughout parts of Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania. We praise God for these opportunities.

Missionary Care Team

Over the past several years, Megan has been working with the East Africa Area Director to build on foundations for care ministries for the East Africa missionary team. Living overseas oftentimes presents unique challenges and opportunities for missionaries and their families, and it is crucial to provide support, encouragement and resources.

Megan is part of a regional Missionary Care team of four people who get to provide care and caring opportunities for the missionary families throughout East Africa. The team has been planning and developing for some time, but they are now serving the East Africa team at large. The team will focus on providing care in a Stephen Ministry format, have the ability to give one on one counseling as needed and serve as resources for promoting spiritual and emotional wellness. Megan is thrilled to utilize her counseling background for this needed ministry. Please pray for the Missionary Care Team in East Africa and for their fellow missionaries as they serve and care for one another

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.

The Wolf Pack in Kenya: Showing Mercy

Let brotherly love continue. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.Hebrews 13:1,3

“No photos inside; it’s not permitted.” A pastor shares with me about how his church shares the Gospel in the prisons of his country. The government guards are strict, but allow the pastor and a small group of lay people to visit weekly to encourage and comfort the inmates.

During their visits, groups of thiry to seventy prisoners may be allowed to gather to pray and hear the Gospel preached. Singing is not allowed; however, the group is permitted to distribute food and toothbrushes, as well as administer medical care to relieve inflammation and illness that result from confinement. On other days, the group makes hospital visits.

The few Lutheran pastors in this country use prayers and services for the infirm and sick that they learned while students at the CLET in northern Togo. This LCMS-supported seminary provides training for men to become pastors and return to one of eight French-speaking countries in west and central Africa to share the Gospel in their own languages and in difficult situations.

Annually, church leaders and delegates from twelve confessional French-speaking Lutheran church bodies in these eight countries gather as a union to discuss the state of, plans, and future for theological instruction and Lutheranism in their countries. The gathering is known as the Conseil Administratif de l’Union (CAU)—the “Administrative Counsel of the Union”.

This February, I was finally able to attend this meeting, and learned stories and histories from many leaders, as well as heard the progress of projects supported by their church body and the LCMS. The above story is one told to me during the three-day meeting. It was a blessing and eye-opener to hear firsthand how, despite strife and long-suffering in some countries, the Lord uses such events to grow His Church.

During his visit to Togo, John was joined by the Lutheran Heritage Foundation representative who lives in Africa, Tuomo Sumojoki. LHF has been working to translate catechisms and hymns so graduates of the CLET can tell people in their own local languages how salvation comes through Christ alone and not our own actions or deeds.

At the moment, we and many other LCMS missionaries are limiting our movement and hunkering down in our homes in eastern Africa due to national precautions in response to the COVID-19 virus. Mission work continues, though: connecting with churches, visiting families rather than gathering in public and sharing how people are drawn to Christ even during these interesting times. Project 24 brought food to students who returned to their extended families following early closer of schools.

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: 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.

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