Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mission Focus: Rev. Dennis Meeker (March article for church newsletter)

Our mission focus this month starts with a good story, but probably one Hollywood would turn down. It starts with an Iowa hog farmer (that is probably where we lose Warner Brothers) who was called out of that vocation to become a pastor (there went the other studios!). He traveled to Fort Wayne to begin his studies, and met a Kenyan pastor studying at the seminary. This pastor introduced him to a woman in his congregation in Kenya, a woman named Lorna. The rest, as they say, is history, as the seminarian took a break from school and married Lorna, then she joined him in Fort Wayne, becoming part of the deaconess program. When it came time for vicarage, it was only natural that they would serve in Kenya. And so the Vicar from Iowa served God’s people in Africa, teaching, preaching, and learning. It seemed natural for him and his wife to stay in Kenya and serve as LC-MS missionaries. But the LC-MS thought that it knew better, and another student was chosen for that spot. Though they were disappointed, the story did not end there. Instead, this story ends with the Bishop of Kenya’s Lutheran Church, Walter Obare, traveling to Iowa to ordain this one-time hog farmer as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya. Ah, a story only a Lutheran could love!

Rev. Meeker and his wife Lorna then traveled back to her homeland to serve a church in the Kibera slums outside of Nairobi, Springs of Life Lutheran Church. They knew that serving amongst poverty and disease (especially AIDS) would not be easy, but this sinful world had much more to send their way. In the turmoil of presidential elections at the end of 2007, Springs of Life Lutheran Church was looted and burned. You may have even watched it burn, as it made the national news here in the U.S. But at a time when many mission organizations (including the LC-MS, if you want to get me going, ask me about that subject!) were pulling missionaries out of Kenya, the Meekers refused to leave. They sheltered displaced parishioners and were even able to hold a communion service at the church just days after it was burned. It has been over a year since that terrible time, and while the Meekers are still rebuilding, they are also able to continue the wonderful work they had been doing previously. This includes serving an active congregation, but also much work amongst those living in poverty or afflicted with AIDS.

To support the important work of the Meekers, I encourage you to look at the Friends of Mercy, an organization here in the U.S. who is supporting them (along with other projects). Their website is Friends of Mercy does wonderful work in supporting efforts in Africa to care for the victims of AIDS and spread awareness about the effects of that disease. I encourage you to consider supporting the important work that this Iowa farmer and his wife are doing amongst the slums in Kenya. May the Lord bless you as we travel through Lent on our way to the cross!

In Christ,
Vicar Maronde

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