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Students sitting outside Bockman

Story Magazine

Second Quarter 2008

International Students Trained to Lead Their Home Churches

by Allison K. Schmitt, '07 M.A.

A group of Luther Seminary's 49 international students gathered early in the year for a Welcome Tea.

Faith Lugazia, Tanzania
"I love teaching," said Faith Lugazia, a Tanzanian and Ph.D. student in systematic theology. "I hope to use my education at home as a teacher of theology. Sharing my faith journey has been my wish." Lugazia, who earned a Master of Theology at Luther in 2001, said she has long felt God's call to serve. In January 2006, Lugazia was ordained in her hometown of Bukoba, Tanzania. She and another woman ordained that day were the first women ordained in the Northwestern diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.

Julius Simaremare, Indonesia
Julius Simaremare, a pastoral care and counseling M.Th. student and ordained pastor in the Protestant Christian Batak Church of Indonesia, will likewise return to his home country and teach at its seminary. Because Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population, it would have been impossible to get the "deeper integrated empirical and academic study in the field of Christian pastoral care and counseling" that he's getting at Luther, he said. It's important to learn from Western society, he said, because it provides a picture of what Indonesia could be. Indonesian churches face the challenge of balancing love and discipline, forgiveness and justice, and freedom and responsibility, he said. Simaremare is learning these lessons from his studies and relationships, as well as practical approaches toward faith and healing, addiction, interdisciplinary pastoral care in a global context and "ministry with."

What is most urgently needed, Simaremare said, is "to provide ministry with Christian characteristics in order to sustain the the hearts of the believers and share the good news of God's love with Indonesian society."

Sanghwal "Hans" Han, South Korea
Sanghwal "Hans" Han hopes to work as a missionary once he completes his Master of Divinity degree and returns to South Korea. He felt the call to ministry so strongly that he limited himself to freelance work so he had time to proclaim Christ to those around him. Isaiah 58:11-12 is his guiding text, which says, in part, that "The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your needs in parched places."

Marie Hayes is Luther's coordinator of International Student Services. She said that the objective of training students to work in their home countries is reinforced by U.S. visa laws, which require that a student go home after completing a degree. Further, those who attend an ELCA seminary on scholarship sign a covenant that they will return home, or else are required to reimburse the denomination for their education expenses. So far, she said, the ELCA has not had to take this step. But fewer students are relying on ELCA scholarships. Of the 49 international students at Luther this year, only seven are receiving full financial support. Although the American standard of living presents a significant financial lure, approximately 90 percent of Luther's international scholars return home.

"It's your own personal commitment to your calling," Hayes said. Students often need a year or two once returning to their home countries "to reconnect to their home churches to see how they can contribute," she said.

Luther's international graduates span the globe, serving in a variety of capacities.

● Paul Gao Feng, '97, was recently elected president of the China Christian Council, which promotes theological education and the publication of the Bible, hymn books and other Christian literature.

● Upon graduating with a Master of Arts degree in 2005, Eustacio "Tacho" Dominguez returned home to south central Mexico with his family to operate the Mazahua Valley Ministries, a residence for children who must leave home to attend the upper grades.

● Another 2005 M.A. grad is Masresha Chufa, who returned to Ethiopia to the Mekane Yesus Seminary to teach Arabic, Islamic studies and theology.

● Among graduates at Luther's May 2007 commencement was the husband-wife team of Thomas Tsen and Laura Hindrianto. Tsen earned a Ph.D. and was elected bishop of the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia in November. Hindrianto earned an M.A. and M.Th. and is now dean of students at Sabah Theological Seminary in Sabah, Malaysia.

● Nihjar Minz Ekka and Neeraj Ekka, who earned a M.Th. and Ph.D. at Luther, respectively, are in the northeast Indian city of Ranchi, Jharkhand state.
They are building--literally--a seminary for the North Western Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church, in partnership with Minneapolis-based World Mission Prayer League.

● Other Luther alumni/ae serve in such places as Germany, Peru, Iceland, Papua New Guinea, El Salvador, Egypt and China--speaking and living out the gospel while using their Luther educations to bless the world. For a complete list of countries where Luther alums are serving, see the cover of Story.