A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary
Global Vision - Fall 2009
View more articles in the Fall 2009 issue.
Dana Nelson Leads Peruvian Congregation to be 'Fishers of People'
by John Klawiter, M.Div. Middler
Dana Nelson and her husband, Thomas
Ososki, with their children Tana and Anthony
Having spoken Spanish for more than twenty years, Dana Nelson, '07, long felt the call to global mission, a call that she hoped and prayed would be in a Spanish-speaking country. Her prayers were answered when she accepted her first call at Congregación Evangélica Luterana Cristo Rey (Evangelical Lutheran Congregation Christ the King), located in Lima, Peru in 2007. Her family is serving as missionaries through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Cristo Rey, established 1988, began as part of the German Lutheran Church in Lima, a Spanish congregation for non-German speaking people. It eventually developed into an independent Peruvian Lutheran congregation. It is affiliated with the Iglesia Luterana Evangelica Peruana (ILEP), which was formed in 2004 and has 15 churches, two of which have been built since Nelson's arrival.
The chapel is located in a building that originally housed a fish restaurant, an irony not missed by members of the congregation. "When the congregation was first established people took it as a good sign that they, the 'fishers of people,' would worship in a building that was originally a fish restaurant!"
Nelson appreciates that her congregation is small, about 50 members, because it allows her to build relationships with each member, who, she says, guide her ministry. "I can listen [to them], that—the main thing—hearing their stories. Before I came they didn't have a pastor for two years. It is important that I am approachable and they know I take [them] seriously. Some people have never talked to a pastor before."
Being affiliated with the ILEP also means that Cristo Rey is highly involved in social justice programs and human rights. "This sets the ILEP apart," says Nelson. "Faith and life go together. [Lutheran] is a new faith community and the gospel of grace [offers] so many ways to get to God."
Lutherans are a small minority in Peru. The Peruvians who attend the Lutheran church find it appealing because they feel welcomed and embrace the message of social justice. "Some [Peruvians] were raised Catholic, [then] went to [a] Pentecostal church, [where they found a] lot of rules. But in the Lutheran church, they feel a great freedom," says Nelson. "This absence of rules is of radical interest to people because it joins hands with [the whole] society."
Two years later, Nelson, her husband, Thomas Ososki, and two children Tana (6) and Anthony (4), now consider Peru to be home. Ososki, an architect, has found opportunities to assist in constructing buildings for the ILEP church, and their children have both had the opportunity to learn Spanish in the bi-lingual Peruvian school.
Ultimately through her ministry at Cristo Rey, Nelson found her call to global mission was answered. And in turn, Cristo Rey's casting of a wide net allowed them to find a life-changing pastor.
Learn more about Cristo Rey by visiting their Web site
Learn more about the ELCA Global Mission