January/February 2013: Ghana (Pt. 5)

This set of notes reveals the “new” CLEF project for Confessional Lutheran Education throughout the Lutheran world of The CLEF!
The CLEF :


The Beginning:

Recovering the Neglected JEM Seminary

The largest confessional Lutheran seminary in Africa, the Jonathan Ekong Memorial seminary, is located just north of the equator in one of the most neglected and forgotten regions of the continent, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. A small state on the coast of southern Nigeria, Akwa Ibom is just east of Niger River delta, a region that has gained a notorious reputation recently for the periodic kidnapping of foreign oil workers. While Akwa Ibom remains on the fringe of that Situation, has itself, over the last fifty years experienced conflict, having witnessed the destruction and resultant disease and starvation of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-70). Before the war, the area had prospered greatly, a direct result of intense mission Endeavors and education. The now disbanded Synodical Conference of the LCMS, WELS and ELS had been part of that endeavor, beginning work there in 1936, sending initially a single college professor, but then a host of pastors, teachers and Bible translators to work in the burgeoning mission field. In that Nigeria was under the rule of Great Britain, English was the official language, which greatly aided all efforts. By their 25th anniversary (1961), the Lutheran Church of Nigeria was a small but impressive church body, which could boast of 194 congregations, 33 preaching stations, 87 primary schools, and seven post-primary schools. In a large enclosed compound of over 200 acres in the growing city of Obot Idim it had constructed a radio station, a synodical office, housing for missionaries, professors, and teachers, a boarding high school, and a seminary. From that base of operation, efforts were being made to branch out into northern Islamic region of Nigeria as well as the west, where the city of Lagos, the largest sub-Saharan city in Africa in located.

In relatively quick succession, however, a number of events occurred which greatly challenged the Lutheran Church of Nigeria. In 1960, Nigeria became an independent nation with the resultant political ramifications. In 1961 the Synodical Conference disbanded, with the work in Nigeria becoming the sole responsibility of the LCMS. When the civil war began in 1967, the families of the professors, teachers and missionaries were evacuated to the United States. Although many would return after the war, they would discover upon their return that all of the elementary schools of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria had been closed by the government. A final blow? The Walkout of the seminary faculty and student body at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 1975 would also affect the work of the LCMS in Nigeria.

It is not without reason then, that as the Lutheran Church of Nigeria this past year celebrated its 75th anniversary, there is a feeling of abandonment. From the glory days of dozens of professors, pastors, and teachers living and working among them in Akwa Ibom, not a single missionary remains, the last ones to leave were even then living hours away in the capital city of Jos. Congregations and pastors are struggling. The seminary is in disrepair, needing major repairs to its electrical, plumbing, and sewage systems. Buildings remain half built, or abandoned.

The good news?

Since 1961 the Lutheran Church of Nigeria has doubled in size, being now a church body of 439 congregations! And even though conditions at the seminary are rough, it was almost filled to capacity this year, housing 63 students. Among those 63 students, eight different languages were spoken. Upon completion of their education, seminars will be sent not just to the Akwa Ibom region, but all over Nigeria, to other African countries, and even to Haiti! Why Haiti? A majority of the slaves taken to Haiti in the 18th and 19th centuries were taken out of the Akwa Ibom area of Nigeria! There are even still remnants of native Nigerian languages spoken in Haiti. Thus Haiti has begun the missions field for the Lutheran Church of Nigeria!

What can be done?

In the short term, the most pressing educational need for the seminarians is theological educational material and the kind of support that The Confessional Lutheran Education Foundation (The CLEF) offers throughout the world to our partner church seminaries and their Pastoral Continuing Education programs. In that all the seminarians speak and read English, no immediate translation need be done to have an eternal effect.

The problem?

West African seminaries supported by The CLEF are located just north of the equator, the humidity in Nigeria, Ghana, and Togo wreaks havoc with everything, especially printed matter. Shipping of printed matter is also extremely expensive. What is more, seminarians who scratch and claw to come up with the average $300.00 a year for tuition, room and board at the seminary can hardly afford to purchase a textbook printed in the United States. And, The CLEF would soon be “broke” were we to have to depend on buying and shipping books – especially were we to have to purchase them from our own LCMS – CPH. The CLEF gives away the books to the church’s seminaries – no selling – not profits, just pure gifts to God’s Holy People. But our synod decided it must make a profit – that is correct – we cannot even purchase them for an “at cost” amount.

The solution?

Kindle readers. In the odd situation which is modern Africa, even where basic necessities are lacking, cell phones and cell technology abound! Kindle readers, which can run for almost a month on an overnight charge, can store between 1000 to 3000 books. No seminarian or average pastor has a house big enough for 50 books let alone a 1000.

FREE – ZIP – ZILCH – NADA – FREE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They also feature the ability to highlight text, take notes, and contain an instantly accessible dictionary. In other words, for the Africa seminarian, who is working in English as a second or third language, all that he needs to do is place the cursor in front of a word he does not know, and the definition of that word will instantly appear. Probably most amazing, because Amazon is available in West Africa, the students will be able to download books directly to their Kindles there in exactly the same way we did last night here in Accra, Ghana!

So the plan is quite simple:

1) Purchase Kindle readers ($119.00 plus the screen protector for 10.00 and the USB charging cords and adapters 10.00 ) here and load them with basic theological texts needed by the students. For this initial test of the new CLEF KINDLE PROJECT we loaded with the help of Lutheran Press some 40 complete books.

2) Hand deliver the KINDLE READERS to the students here in Ghana at the Lutheran Seminary.

3) Go and teach the first class of the new Lutheran Seminary student body (at the approval and REQUEST of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana, Rev. Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn, President, and the Seminary President Yaw (St. Louis masters grad) and the Assistant to the President of the ELCG and faculty member Rev. Gordon (Fort Wayne masters grad) – teaching the first class using the KINDLE as THE TOOL FOR EVERYTHING – YOUR KINDLE, YOUR BIBLE (TILL WE DOWN LOAD A GOOD ONE), PAPER AND A PEN – NOTHING ELSE!


Amazingly we have not had much encouragement from most in our own church as they were (even missionaries) severe doubters.


…. the Lutheran parochial grade school in Tema posts all communication to patents, test scores, grades, assignments and such on the personal pages assigned to each of the nearly 500 students – OVER THE INTERNET! So why will The CLEF project not work? Pure unbelief in and denial of the obvious!

…. Amazon (the folks behind the KINDLE – with whom through Lutheran Press we have been working for several years – the big shots) have down loaded over 200,000 books to public schools here in Ghana in the last few months – and yet we still have doubters!

…. And on this Sunday past a major story on the local news was this : IPads and electronic readers (can you say KINDLE) are replacing paper Bibles in worship services and Bible Classes – faster, easier and CHEAPER! – AND YET THERE ARE THOSE WHO DOUBT THE CLEF AND THE LP!

….(and Karl H – we will now be able to drop the International Lutheran Sermon Project “stuff” directly on each KINDLE! When I get back from here and the Philippines we can get with LP and get the stuff coordinated!)
So why Ghana first even though all the first stuff was about Nigeria? The plot was first hatched in Nigeria by Pablo Strawn. But Nigeria has too many students in the 4 different classes to make a reasonable test project manageable – hence the invitation to Ghana from the ELCG – the new class is a max of 10 plus the faculty and secretary and president – so some 14 in all.
Some perspective.

With over 160 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the 8th most populated country in the world, and easily the most populated country in Africa. Over 53% of Nigerians speak English. In fact, only three other countries in the world (U.S., India, and the Philippines) have more people speaking English. That means that there are more English speakers in Nigeria than in Great Britain, Canada, or Australia!
And now add to that the 25 some million in Ghana where English is the language of education, business and government – now we are closing in on 180,000,000 souls that can be taught in English.

The first day here Pablo taught them how to use the Kindle while teaching Luther’s Small Catechism – the first seminary course. The second morning half the students reported having read two of the 40 books! And yet there are those who still doubt!

I have a picture of the Seminary President working on his KINDLE while riding with us to his bus stop an hour drive away.
We have a blind student in the class – we gave him a KINDLE that automatically reads out loud the books – your choice of a man or woman’s voice. There is no other way to actually give the man some 92 files and books that read themselves to him – and no – they are not in Braille and if they were they would not just take up the size of a My Devotions!

And we have discovered that faculty at both St. Louis and Fort Wayne use KINDLES FOR THEIR OWN READING AND COURSE MANAGEMENT!



PS: Last night we received a positive response to our LP and CLEF requests of Amazon – they have developed a new software package that we asked for and it is even better than we could have ever imagined! It does more than hoped for! It will provide us with everything we need to service and manage each of the KINDLES from our places in the USA.



Remember – pray for us and the work we do together. YOU ARE THE DIFFERENCE!