The School for Asian Lutheran Theology (SALT) is a joint project by The Institute of Lutheran Theology (ILT) and and Lutheran Asian Ministries at Morningside Lutheran Church Sioux City, IA (LCMC). Between March 30th and April 13th, I traveled to three countries in Southeast Asia to teach seminars on Lutheran theology to pastors and lay leaders. This is the beginning of ILT’s teaching in Southeast Asia in regard to the new school we are starting in theses countries. Much happened on this trip to further the reach of Lutheran theology worldwide. Much also happened on this trip to expand my awareness of the need for Lutheran theology to be taught.
There had been a lot to do to get ready for the trip to Southeast Asia, and I had failed to look into this detail. I needed to renew my passport, get three visas, flights, insurance, shots and malaria pills. Truthfully, I was a little apprehensive: one stop on my trip has government approved church list and I wondered what they would think of the bundles of Augsburg Confessions in my luggage. More than once, I wondered just what I was getting myself into.
The teaching was wonderfully received, we have great allies in our national leaders, and charming, hard working, faith-filled students in each country I visited. I had more than a wonderful time -- on the last day of my trip to the second country I awoke to the thought “I hadn’t counted on the joy.” That is, I knew it would be an honor to represent ILT, and I was glad to do the work, but I was not prepared for the outpouring of love, joy and kindness. I thought it would be work, but it turned out to be a pleasure.
What a pleasure to discover that there were humble pastors laboring nearly anonymously, preaching the same gospel we do, halfway around the world in countries that never had been the focus of Lutheran missionaries.
In the first country we are working with an American missionary who married a woman from there (I am not giving the name of the country here in order to ensure their security). They have many young people in their fellowship group who want theological training and desire to be trained from a Biblical Lutheran perspective. I was able to teach a two day seminar to the young people of this country, focusing specifically on the Lutheran doctrinal perspective.
The next country we visited was home to LCMC Cambodia, where ten pastors are serving fifteen congregations. While a few of these pastors have graduate degrees, only their leader, Rev. Samuel Chim, has been to a Lutheran seminary. The rest of the pastors live in the countryside and could only have dreamed of getting a substantial education of any kind. I began to teach on Sunday night, and the joy and utter devotion they displayed, while listening to Rev. Samuel’s translation of my teaching, was wonderful to behold. Most of them had traveled for hours on the bus from their home church to attend my class, and they were so enthused that they chose to have class for three and a half hours straight!
The third seminar was with the Lutheran Church of Myanmar. They too have ten pastors who do not really have an opportunity to get high quality education. Our aim with SALT is to teach Law and Gospel, the Means of Grace, Word and Spirit theology to students who will see in their lifetime the rise of the Lutheran church in Asia.
Only one in twenty people in these three countries are Christian. What an opportunity!
I want to stress that there are multiple ways for you to get involved. First, pray for the students, the instructors, and the material ILT’s needs to make this SALT an ongoing reality. Second, since this is going to be a big and ongoing project, we need donors to sign up to support it over multiple years. Your support will help in the training of pastors who cannot afford on their own a Biblically sound Lutheran theological education.
For more information on ILT’s International Educational Ministries, contact Rev. Doug Morton, Dean of Educational Ministries, Dr. Brad Miller, Assistant Dean of Educational Ministries International, and myself Rev. Eric Swensson, ILT International Relations.
Help us help others all over the world to train pastors and church leaders so the good news of Jesus might have a voice for the salvation of many people!
Rev. Douglas Morton - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Brad Miller - email@example.com
Rev. Eric Swensson - firstname.lastname@example.org
Take it to your church! Let the pastoral staff and church council know you think this is a winner. It is. It is a chance in a lifetime! And not only to support, but to visit. Particularly in Cambodia, they need to build buildings. They can also use volunteers in many ways. For example, LCMC Cambodia has a national youth gathering where they bring in a couple hundred of their youth (each brings a non-Christian friend!) and they would love to work in a sister relationship with some LCMC youth and youth workers. For you more adventurous, the first country is going to build a Children’s Education Center in the country not too far from the capital, and they are going to have a guest house for volunteer staff. The Lutheran Church of Myanmar has a school, an orphanage, and a farm. All of the countries could use ESL teachers. They would love to have book donations. So many opportunities! Let us know at ILT how you might like to get involved.