Tag Archives: missionaries to America

An African Moses In America

An African Moses
Missionary to America Moses Dangba

Moses Dangba remembers a beautiful place in his native South Sudan. This “place’ appeared regularly even during civil unrest, famine and war – things Moses experienced as a child in his small town of Maridi, near the border

with Zaire. This “place” appeared  when the Christians in his town came to worship. People from different ethnic groups singing the same hymn in different languages brought a transcendent joy, reminding him of the worship St. John described in Revelations 7:9, “I looked and saw a multitude too large to count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

Moses was one of eleven children – certainly a challenge to provide for in war-torn South Sudan. It is not unusual for a relative to offer to take and raise a child, lessening the burden. When he was nine years old his pastor grandfather took the boy under his wing- and changed his African name to “Moses,” because, he said, “This Moses will bring his people to a different life.” This began the boy’s preparation to become a missionary.

“I was following him around, learning from him.” He was taught Bible stories and hymns. As he grew he not only went on pastoral calls with his Pastor grandfather but was supervised to pray in public, to teach and to preach. As a teenager his grandfather sent Moses to Khartoum, North Sudan, to a preparatory boarding school. Only when he graduated from this school would he be allowed to go to college.

When he arrived in Khartoum police in what was then the Northern part of a united Sudan confiscated his Bible. “I never thought they would take my Bible. We needed the Bible for school. When we entered the school each of us had to choose studying Islam or Christianity. While there were books and teachers for the classes in Islam there were no Bibles or teachers for us. So, I led the fifteen Christians who chose not to study Islam. With no Bibles we taught ourselves, sharing what we had remembered. We sang the hymns we learned as children. We had no time during regular school hours for our Christian classes; our ‘classes’ were late in the afternoon and at night. But with God’s help  every one of us passed the exam for Christians.”

His grandfather’s preparation had been a blessing. Then the stakes increased.

Having graduated from the boarding school he was qualified to fulfill his grandfather’s dream – he could attend college, earn a degree and a better life for the family he had left behind. But now the rules had changed. Civil war had broken out. First he and the others would have to agree to join the army of North Sudan to fight the Christians of South Sudan. Some agreed to join; Moses and several others refused, and were detained by the police. There was a good chance they would be shot.

Moses continued to lead the prisoners, as it turned out, to Egypt. He led preaching and teaching the Bible in prison. The hymns and prayers of the former boarding school students were a witness to those around them.  By God’s grace their jail door was opened – the United Nations intervened and took custody of the young men. Fearful the Christians might not remain free Moses and the others were smuggled into Egypt –  left in Egypt to fend for themselves. They had no protection, no funds and no work. Then in 1998 a door opened – to Lebanon. In Lebanon for two years he found work, attended a Christian college, and married a wonderful young  woman he had met in Khartoum. In 2000  America’s door opened, and welcomed the refugees. They found a new home in Lansing, Michigan.

Rev. David Theile, a Lutheran pastor in East Lansing had an opportunity which was turning into a frustration. Young men from Sudan, some of the “lost boys,” had found refuge near his church. They had escaped the murderous civil war in South Sudan to come to a new country that cared for them. Christ Lutheran welcomed the young men, many of whom did not speak English. Pr. Theile needed someone who knew their language and culture, someone from South Sudan who could lead them to Jesus. That is when he met a Christian evangelist from South Sudan, Moses Dangba.

 Moses became the church’s missionary to lead African immigrants from several countries to Jesus. When the Africans worship together, each using their own language to sing praises to God, it is something beautiful. Moses’ grandfather’s prophecy was realized.

Martin Luther in “Admonition to Prayer,”( Luther’s Works, V. 43, p.239) has something to say to Moses’ grandfather, and to you and me. “I strongly urge that children be taught the Catechism. Should they be taken captive in an invasion, they will at least take something of the Christian faith with them. Who knows what God might be able to accomplish through them?”

To see an introduction video click here.

To see the full video interview, click here.

To purchase a biography of a missionary to America, click here.

To donate to support giving a voice to the new missionaries, click here. 

 

How We Hallow

 How We Hallow:Missionary Zerit Yohannes:

Rev. Zerit Yohannes

This morning millions of us prayed “Hallowed be Thy name.” It is later in the day and I wonder if we thought about what we were praying – specifically, what does it mean to “hallow”?.  Dr. Martin Luther thought about it. Rev. Zerit Yohannes, a missionary in America from Eritrea, showed us.

I assume you know to “hallow” is to “make holy.” But how does a human hallow God’s name? In his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer’s first petition Luther points out,“God’s name was given to us when we were baptized.” Then this: “it becomes holy when both our teaching and our life are godly…” (The Large Catechism). 

 In my understanding the petitions following  “Hallowed be Thy name” explain how we do that, how humans “hallow” the Name of God. For instance “They kingdom come.”  We hallow God’s name when we help to usher in the Kingdom of God. We hallow God’s name when we pray “Thy will be done” – trusting God loves us and His will for us is for always good. “Give ‘us” this day our daily bread;” not only me, but the “us” of those around us, especially those in need.  When we pray “Forgive us our sins AS WE FORGIVE” we hallow God’s name, if we really mean what we are saying. As we pray “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us in the time of trial,” we are preparing to hallow the Name of God. We pray all these things because we know “Thine is the kingdom.” We do not rule ourselves – we want to live under the kingship of our Father in heaven. Which brings us back to the second petition. 

Although never fully realized here on earth, the Bible has much to say about signs that God’s kingdom is coming. 

When John the Baptist  (Mathew 11:3) called out to Jesus,”Are you the Coming One?” In his answer Jesus enumerated signs the prophets used to describe the coming of God’s kingdom “Go tell John …the blind see and the lame walk; lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (see Isaiah 29:18, 35:4-6; Psalm 22:26; Isaiah 61:1; Malachi 3:1).

God’s name is hallowed when those in distress hear the good news of Jesus and see His love in action.  Zerit Yohannes was an instrument God used to bring in the kingdom. At times it was harrowing.

Rev. Yohannes lived through “The Red Terror” in Eritrea. Through that time in the 1970s his faith held and grew; he was a missionary during the worst times,  an instrument to usher in the Kingdom to a war torn people .

Missionary Yohannes graduated from the largest Lutheran seminary in Africa, in Tanzania. He spread the good news of Jesus throughout Africa as a missionary broadcasting over the radio in Nairobi, Kenya, and through mercy work. He began a ministry among immigrants arriving in Kenya fleeing war and famine, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked. An instrument to usher in the Kingdom of God. Zerit was hallowing God’s name as he made God’s kingdom real in that place and time.

The African Christians hallowed the name of God when they developed programs to aid victims of HIV, hunger and poverty: the church’s role as a servant of the people made lasting impressions in Tanzania and in Eritrea. Then, A door opened for Zerit and his family to go to Canada, where he began ministry to African immigrants in Toronto. He also attended Concordia Seminary in St. Catherine, as well as at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. 

The Kingdom of God was made concrete, the mission in Canada grew, the poor heard the good news and experienced it in the work the churches did. Then a call came for Pr. Yohannes to return to Eritrea to teach mission work at the Church’s seminary. For nine years he worked to equip new pastors and missionaries to usher in the Kingdom of God. He was hallowing the name of God. 

Rev. Zerit was called back to North America, to St. Luke Lutheran Church in Lansing, Michigan, to train missionaries from Africa to the United States. When we recently spoke via Zoom, Rev. Yohannes with his fellow pastors of St. Luke Lutheran and Rev. Todd Jones, Mission Secretary of the Michigan District, were preparing to teach about thirty missionaries (men and women) who came from the Democratic Republic of Congo making God’s love real in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Iowa and South Dakota. “Hallowed be Thy Name.” His insights on mission work are important for all who would bring the lost to Christ in America, for all those who hallow God’s Name.

St. Luke Lutheran Church, Lansing, MI. 

Each petition of the Lord’s prayer is, finally, a way to hallow God’s Name. The next time you pray the Prayer – think about how you can hallow God’s name in the coming day – pray “Thy Kingdom come” -and then go out afterwards to heal and preach the gospel to a hurting world.  

It is a a gift of His grace that you and I have been allowed to pray the Lord’s  Prayer – and this day to hallow the Name of God. 

To see a short video introduction to the work of Rev. Yohannes, click here.

To see the complete video, click here.

To purchase a biography of a missionary to America, click here.

To listen to the opening chapter of our coming audio book, No Accidental Missionary: the life of Dr. Tesfai Tesema, click here.

To order the new audio book, click here

To donate to Mission Nation and give a voice to more missionaries to America, click here.