Dear friends,

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi owns seven primary schools located in remote parts of the country where Lutheran congregations are situated. The church is facing various challenges due to the increase in pupil enrolment in the ELCM schools. The ELCM Primary School project, with ELCA support, seeks to address the need for learning and teaching materials, sanitation facilities, especially for the girl-child, and a shortage of classrooms which hampers effective learning and teaching.

The project also conducts awareness and advocacy meetings with Parent/Teacher Associations and community members regarding the importance of education and the need for good role-models for boys and girls.

The picture was taken at one of the ELCM schools during a monitoring visit by the project coordinator. Peter (not his real name) is 11 years old and in the 5th grade. Last year the schools were closed due to the pandemic for almost nine months. Peter was very worried because he didn’t know when classes would resume.  This was a very challenging situation for learners, parents and teachers.

After the government of Malawi imposed a number of country-wide COVID-19 preventive measures, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi decided that one way of preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus would be to provide buckets and hand washing soap (sanitation materials) to all the primary schools under the church’s control.  The learners were taught about the importance of washing their hands regularly, as well as masking up and social distancing.  

Peter and his fellow learners are very happy to be back at school and are carefully following all the COVID-19 preventive measures.  

(In Malawi on 23 August 2021, there have been 59,399 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 2,059 deaths, reported to the World Health Organization. As of 20 August 2021, a total of 848,791 vaccine doses had been administered, approximately 4.5% in a population of 19 million.)

ELCA World Hunger and Lutheran Disaster Response programs continue to support sustainable development projects in Southern Africa to assist companion churches as they work to mitigate the impact of poverty, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic in the communities they serve.

Thank you for your prayers, support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  August 24, 2021

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) 

If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

COVID Face Masks made through the ELDS Malawi program

Warm greetings.

Although our biennial “Home Assignment” visits to sponsoring congregations were postponed last year and again this year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic we were able to travel back to the USA this summer to receive the vaccine and take care of family matters.

We remain concerned for companions around the world who are still waiting for the rollout of vaccines.  Less than 1% of Africa’s population of 1,3 billion has been fully vaccinated.  Currently in South Africa only 4,5% have been fully vaccinated.

Some good news is that South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare has been contracted by Johnson & Johnson to manufacture the vaccines in South Africa. The US government announced recently that it will ship nearly 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Nigeria and South Africa with 5.6 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to South Africa.

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that an mRNA technology transfer hub would be set up in South Africa within a year, producing cutting-edge COVID-19 vaccines for the continent.

During the month of July the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in South Africa experienced a wave of violent protests and looting resulting in over 300 deaths and estimates of some $3.4 billion in losses and damage. 

Pastoral letters were sent out by the South African Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the Acting Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa and the Bishop of the ELCSA South Eastern Diocese condemning the violence, looting, vigilantism, inflammatory messages and discriminatory practices.  The letters also called for calm, peace with justice, rebuilding of damaged infrastructure, help for those left destitute by the unrest, as well as prayer, reflection and dialogue on the political, economic and social causes and contexts that have led to the eruption of violence in order to find sustainable solutions going forward. 

ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response continues to support several projects in Southern Africa to assist the churches as they work to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the communities they serve. (See photo above of COVID face masks made through the ELDS project in Malawi)

Thank you for your prayers, support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

July 28, 2021

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Dear friends,

Warm greetings,

Southern Africa, along with many other regions of the world, including parts of the USA, is experiencing a Third Wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with increases in cases and deaths. LATEST CONFIRMED CASES OF COVID-19 IN SOUTH AFRICA (24 JUNE 2021) | NICD We are deeply concerned about this trend and especially for those who are still waiting for the rollout of vaccines. One of our companions conveyed a message a few days ago saying:  “I have tested positive for COVID-19.  I am pretty sick … I pray I will not need hospitalization as the hospitals are full and no oxygen is available.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been calling for global cooperation including a three-year waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines saying:

“We are facing an emergency that is affecting the entire world. And it is wholly unfair and wholly unjust that pharmaceutical companies, as well as certain countries, are refusing to allow this provision to be waived so that there can be mass production of these vaccines, so that we can save lives.”

The World Health Organization has announced it will be setting up a hub in South Africa to help poor and middle-income countries produce their own COVID-19 vaccines in the next nine to 12 months. The U.N. agency is calling on pharmaceutical companies to share their technology to make the plan successful.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has joined with faith leaders and medical professionals across the United States to ensure that all our neighbors have access to COVID-19 vaccines. Faiths4Vaccines is a multifaith movement seeking to increase vaccination rates by promoting equitable vaccine distribution and combating vaccine hesitancy. Learn how faith leaders are helping promote the vaccine. #Faiths4Vaccine https://faiths4vaccines.org/stories/

ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response continues to support several projects in Southern Africa to assist the churches as they work to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the communities they serve.

Thank you for your prayers, support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

June 24, 2021

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Dear friends,

Warm greetings from Southern Africa!

On Sunday May 23 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa consecrated Bishop Naledzani Sikhwari as the first female bishop in ELCSA and the first female Lutheran bishop on the African continent.  

Bishop Sikhwari was born in Limpopo Province and after high school obtained Bachelor’s degrees in Commerce and Theology followed by an Honours Degree in Psychology. She served as a pastor and then as Dean for three consecutive terms in Mphome Circuit of the Northern Diocese.

Following national COVID-19 protocols a maximum of 250 people were invited to gather at the Ngwako Ramatlhodi Sports Complex, Seshego, Polokwane in Limpopo Province for the consecration service which was also live-streamed on several virtual platforms.

Bishop Sikhwari based her sermon on the Epistle and Gospel readings for Pentecost from Acts 2 and John chapter 15, saying: “We need to be taught again by the Holy Spirit to be a teaching church…we are also expected to be united as ELCSA … but unity does not mean uniformity … language should not be a barrier … gender should not be a barrier and COVID-19 should not be a barrier for us to remain in fellowship…Let us allow the Holy Spirit to lead us … to be light and salt for the world.”

Messages of support were shared with Bishop Sikhwari including a greeting from the ELCA Service and Justice Home Area and the  ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod (Bishop Dr. Laura Barbins) which is a companion to the ELCSA-Northern Diocese. 

Thank you for your prayers, support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  May 27, 2021

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Dear friends,

Warm greetings from Southern Africa!

In mid-April the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe held a workshop at the Njuba Youth Center in Bulawayo on Worship, Liturgy and Music in the context of COVID-19 for bishops, deans, pastors and program coordinators from the three dioceses. The gathering was held in collaboration with the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA).  The program included presentations on liturgy and worship in the life of ELCZ congregations, liturgy and contemporary worship,  the ministry of Word and Sacrament including gifts of the Spirit, ELCZ policy regarding marriage, separation and divorce as well as matters relating to justice and counselling in the context of COVID-19.

I was invited to give two (virtual) presentations on Theology and Worship.   (The ELCA Upstate New  York Synod is a companion to the ELCZ.)

On Sunday April 18 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa consecrated Bishop G.A. Seane as the fourth bishop of the ELCSA Central Diocese.  Following national COVID-19 protocols a maximum of 250 people were able to gather at the ELCSA Central Diocesan Center in Jabavu, Soweto.  The service was also live-streamed on several virtual platforms.

Bishop Seane based his sermon on Luke 24:36-48.  “As the risen Lord appeared to the disciples and said ‘Peace be with you’ Jesus also comes to us when we are afraid and gives us peace…  COVID-19 has changed many things, including the way we worship.  We have lost loved ones, jobs and income…But Jesus opens our minds to the Scriptures and calls us back to the core business of the church – to cross boundaries that divide and to proclaim repentence and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name to all nations…”   Holy Communion was shared with wafers in plastic ziplock bags and wine in disposable plastic cups.

At the end of the service messages from companions were read out including a greeting from the ELCA Service and Justice Home Area and the ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod which is a companion to the ELCSA-CD.

Thank you for your prayers, support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  April 20, 2021

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Dear friends,

Consecration of Bishop V. Mhaka ELCZ Eastern Diocese (Zimbabwe) Photo: D. Mangenda

Easter greetings from Southern Africa!

It is a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implimentation of lockdowns and other measures by countries around the world to curb the spread of the virus.   The South African government has announced a three-phase vaccine roll-out strategy beginning with the country’s estimated 1.2 million frontline healthcare workers, with a target to vaccinate 67% of the population by the end of 2021.

Observing health protocols the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi held a workshop on Worship, Liturgy and Music for some 20 pastors and Deans in mid-March. The gathering was held in collaboration with the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA). 

I was invited to give two (virtual) presentations on Theology and Worship.   (The ELCA Northwest Synod of Wisconsin is a companion to the ELCM.)

On Sunday March 21 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe consecrated Bishop V.  Mhaka as the new bishop of the ELCZ Eastern Diocese.   Bishop Kenneth Sibanda was installed as the new Presiding Bishop.  Bishop Mhaka based his sermon on the Annunciation in Luke 1:46-55 saying “God is the liberator of the marginalized… Luke does not hesitate to show women as disciples at the beginning and end of Jesus’ life and ministry. The woman is untouchable – in isiZulu they say ‘wathint’ umfazi, wathint’ imbokodo’ [If you strike a woman, you strike a rock]. Don’t touch her, the Savior is watching over her!  … Let’s sing with Mary her song of praise and see this world transforming to God’s desire. Amen!”         (The ELCA’s Upstate New York Synod is a companion to the ELCZ.)

ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response continues to support several projects in Malawi and Zimbabwe to assist the churches as they work to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the communities they serve.

Thank you for your prayers, support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  March 30, 2021

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Dear friends,

It is almost a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implimentation of lockdowns and other measures by most countries in the world to curb the spread of the virus.  

Globally, as of 10:15am CET, 26 February 2021, there were 112,456,453 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2,497,514 deaths, reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). https://covid19.who.int/    South Africa has reported about 1.5 million infections and over 50,000 related deaths. 

Several coronavirus vaccines have been developed and approved for use but access, cost and distribution are matters of deep concern.   In an open letter to the leaders of the G7 countries The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge noted: “Wealthy countries have secured their doses, sometimes in more quantities than they need, while other countries and their populations have inadequate or no access at all.” https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/covid-19-until-all-are-safe-no-one-safe

The ELCA’s Lutheran Disaster Response has responded to appeals from companion churches in Southern Africa to support several programs during the first and now second wave of the pandemic.  Activities include distributing relevant information about the pandemic, Personal Protective Equipment and food hampers to vulnerable communities.   Lockdowns and restrictions on the numbers of people allowed at funerals and church services have also affected the pastoral, financial and evangelism work of the churches. 

However, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi reported that evangelism training workshops were held in 2020 for pastors, evangelists and youth leaders.   The report stated, “The evangelism work has been hard especially during this period of Covid-19. But despite this… trainings and meetings have been going on very well.” The report included the story of Mr. K. who attended one of the training workshops.  He is an elder and Confirmation teacher in a local congregation.  (In the photo Mr. K. is holding up Sunday School and Confirmation resource books translated into Chichewa, the official language in Malawi.) 

In a recent email ELCM Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe wrote: “Kindly please convey our appreciation to the Global Mission office in Chicago and the ELCA members who always support our efforts for the sake of the mission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Thank you for your prayers, support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  February 26, 2021

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Food distribution to vulnerable communities by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Angola
ELDS training local artisans to make face masks (PPE) in Malawi

Dear friends,

With mixed feelings we reflect on the past year and look ahead to the coming year.  There is sadness at the loss of life due to the corona virus pandemic affecting communities and families across the region and around the world.  There is also admiration and appreciation especially for health care and frontline workers.  There is hope for the roll-out of effective vaccines but concern over uneven access and slow distribution especially in poorer countries.  The World Health Organization Director General Dr. Ghebreyesus has stressed that “the only way to end the pandemic anywhere is to end it everywhere” by working together as “one global family.”

ELCA Global Mission – Lutheran Disaster Response is supporting various COVID-19 emergency response programs initiated by companion churches around the world.

In Southern Africa, over the past six months:

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Angola has distributed essential food items and Personal Protective Equipment to vulnerable families in several communities in southern Angola.

The Evangelical Lutheran Development Service (ELDS) in Malawi is working with volunteer community change agents to distribute posters and pamphlets and conduct door-to-door awareness campaigns to prevent and control the spread of Covid-19.

ELDS also facilitated identification and selection of artisans (tailors) in targeted villages to make masks that meet the WHO/Ministry of Health standards. The training included information on how to wear and care for cloth masks effectively.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe and the Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum have  distributed food hampers to vulnerable families and purchased hospital beds to meet the growing need to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

Leaders and members of Lutheran churches in the region appreciate the ongoing companionship of the ELCA Global Mission and ELCA Companion Synods and offer their prayers in return.

Thank you for your support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  January 25, 2021

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Dear friends,

Every other year the ELCA churchwide office invites an artist from a global companion church to design a Christmas card.  This year several art students at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Art & Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift in South Africa submitted ideas. A silk screen print of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus riding on a donkey by Mr. T.  Mpanza was the one selected.

The ELC Art & Craft Centre was established in 1962 by the Church of Sweden Mission.  In the 1970’s the American Lutheran Church (ALC) provided several art teachers.  The centre now operates under the umbrella of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) – South Eastern Diocese, which is a companion to the ELCA’s Southwestern Minnesota Synod.

At a time when the oppressive Apartheid system denied learning opportunities to black South Africans Rorke’s Drift was one of the few institutions that provided space for creative expression and study in fine art, textile tapestry weaving, pottery and silk screen print-making. Rorke’s Drift had a significant impact on the development of South African arts and crafts in the 1960s and 1970s and boasts several world famous artists as alumni.

The ELC Art and Craft Centre continues on a smaller scale to produce tapestries, silk screen prints and pottery and is offering a one-year accredited certificate course in art for about 15 students. 

2020 has been a difficult and challenging year.  The President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and Archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN), Dr Panti Filibus Musa put it well: “My hope and prayer is that state actors and governments will not retreat into themselves in this time of crisis. My call, if I can borrow the theme of the UN Sustainable Development Goals which we are also using, is that no one is left behind, as we begin to hope and see a post COVID-19 period.”

ELCA Global Mission continued to accompany companion churches and provide support for mission personnel, mission outreach and Diakonia/World Hunger development and disaster response programs.  Leaders and members of Lutheran churches in the region have expressed their appreciation for the ongoing companionship of the ELCA Global Mission and ELCA Companion Synods and offer their prayers in return.

Thank you for your support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

May you have a blessed Christmas.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  December 17, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please visit my fundraising page. (Note: This fundraising page is set up for individuals’ gifts only.) If you are donating on behalf of a congregation or organization, please visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving for online giving.

Worship, Liturgy & Music Workshop, Zambia

Dear friends,

Warm greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa.

How do we worship, conduct the liturgy and use music as Lutheran churches in Southern Africa coming from diverse traditions, cultures and languages?  What are some of the challenges churches face? What is our tradition and what are our gifts? How do we worship in the time of a pandemic and how can we learn from and teach each other, deepen our fellowship and strengthen the proclamation of the Good News? 

LUCSA member churches are currently engaged in a three-year project focusing on worship, liturgy and music.   (The Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) is the sub-regional expression of the Lutheran World Federation with 15 member churches in ten different countries.) 

A number of planned gatherings had to be postponed because of COVID-19 travel restrictions but recently workshops with in-person and virtual on-line presentations and participation took place in Botswana and Zambia.

One of the organizers of the workshop in Zambia wrote the following:

“…This was an historical workshop because it was the first of its kind … for worship and music leaders. We pray that it will not be the last one, as all participants requested that we should have similar workshops at least once a year.

We give thanks to [all the presenters] who took time to facilitate at the workshop. For our international facilitators, we were connected via Zoom with few difficulties and the audience was able to hear them loud and clear.  This clearly indicated that we can host more e-workshops in future.  Thank you so much and we wish you God’s endless blessings.”

An important joint study on worship and liturgy published in 1996 by the Lutheran World Federation observed that Lutheran worship is cultural, counter-cultural, inter-cultural and trans-cultural.   Through LUCSA workshops musicians and worship and choir leaders are sharing knowledge and being encouraged to develop and write new music, songs and liturgies that are Gospel-centered, contextual, inclusive and relevant, remembering that prayer and praise without justice and mission is incomplete. 

Thank you for your prayers and support and your participation in God’s mission locally and globally.

Yours faithfully,

Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson

ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative – Southern Africa 

Johannesburg,  November 20, 2020

My blog page address is: https://southernafricanconnections.wordpress.com/

Please note the link for online giving can be found at https://community.elca.org/MissionaryGiving

Giving Code: MSG0245