Monday, March 12, 2007
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana
(Kereke ya Luthere ya Efangele mo Botswana)
Bishop Dr Cosmos MOENGA
|Affiliations:||Lutheran World Federation|
The ELCB is a United Church. Its origin relates to the missionary work done by Western countries such as Germany, Sweden, Finland and by the Namibian Lutheran Church.
Since 1862 the Germans established congregations in the Southern part of the country (Hermannsburg Mission - ELM). The Berlin Mission also founded a congregation in the South Western Circuit region in 1951. Around the beginning of the 1970's, the Church of Sweden Mission established itself in the South Eastern region of the country especially in the mining district of Phikwe. The Finnish Evangelical Mission Society (FELM) also worked along the Northern region and established together with the Germans, congregation around the Francistown District.
At around the same time, The Lutheran Church in Namibia (with support from the Rhenish Mission - U.E.M) started a vigorous mission work in the Kgalagadi Desert within the North - Western Region, to the South Western part of the country (Kang- Hukuntsi Mission), (Sehitwa Mission).
Towards the end of the 1970's, there were important moves at uniting these diverse mission congregations and structures. The Church was officially registered in September 1979.
The Church currently has a membership of approximately 25,000. in a country of about 1.8 million inhabitants. There are at present 31 local pastors, plus 11 expatriate increasing the number to 42 pastors on full time service. There are 9 congregational workers or evangelists, 2 youth workers, 3 deaconesses, 5 retired pastors and 2 evangelists. The Church also boasts of 78 various support staff and professionals of various types in specialists departments. The church has been structured into three regions, called Circuits, each under the pastoral leadership of a dean. There are 43 congregations, each with a pastor or congregational workers and more than 61 preaching places, served periodically by the pastor or congregational workers. The local staff constitute over 76% of the whole church staff, and just about 24% from abroad.
Financial self-reliance is among the main priorities and activities to be considered by the congregations. However, the bulk of the members live in rural communities, depending on both crop and stock agriculture and the country is prone to droughts, which periodically devastate both animals and crops, leaving these communities dependent on relief supplies.
Political and socio economic situation in the country
The constitution provides for a democratic republican form of government headed by the President. Botswana is Africa’s longest continuous multiparty democracy. It is among the continent’s most stable countries, relatively free of corruption and has an outstanding human rights record.
In the late 1800s Britain formed the protectorate of Bechuanaland, preventing territorial encroachment of Boers from the Transvaal or German expansion from South West Africa.
Since independence in 1966 the Republic of Botswana has had three changes of Presidency. The same political party, the Botswana Democratic Party or BDP has been in power since independence. Elections occur every 5 years with 10 - 15 parties vying for power.
All changes in power have been peaceful and democratic and have followed the guiding principles of the Botswana constitution.
Botswana provided a haven for refugees and anti-apartheid activists from South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, but had to tread carefully because of its economic dependence on the white-ruled neighbor, and because of South Africa’s military might.
Political freedom is extensive and peaceful, though heated political rallies by ruling and opposition parties are a regular feature throughout Botswana.
Botswana is the largest gems stone diamond producer in the world and also protects some of the continent’s largest areas of wilderness.
The Kalahari Desert, home to the dwindling group of Bushman hunter-gatherers, makes up much of the country and most areas are too arid to sustain any agriculture other than cattle.
Botswana has become a victim of its own economic success as infrastructural development has led to better transport links, which in turn have aided the spread of HIV-AIDS.
The majority of the population lives in rural areas along the Eastern corridor in some of the largest villages in Southern Africa. The rest of the Country, especially the Western part, is sparsely populated.
In Botswana in 1993, life expectancy was at 61, today it is at 47, and may fall to 41 by 2005. The country is expected to loose one fifth of its adult population in the next decade. There is a high level of unemployment in the country, which is fast approaching 30% mark.
Latest analysis by the Ministry of Health and UNAIDS is that almost 30 percent of the population is affected directly. Studies also show that to treat close to 200,000 people affected would require 29% increase in the number of medical personnel, 179% growth in pharmacists, 115% increase in lab technicians.
Government ambitious schemes of nation wide programme for the provision of free anti - retroviral drugs to HIV patients and other related programmes was to cost over 180 million during 2003. The country is expected to have over 300,000 AIDS patients by the beginning of 2005. Again the country has a total of over 11,450 patients currently on ARV treatment.
The ELCB has recognized the need to play a decisive role in the fight against AIDS. Realizing the importance of this ministry, the 2001 Church Synod put the emphasis on education counseling, care and support for those who are sick and directly affected.
To this end the Church has started an “AIDS CARE AND HOME BASED CARE PROGRAMME” in towns and rural centers. The emphasis is on using biblical teaching and methodologies in providing care and comfort to the victims. There is heavy reliance on the use of congregational structures and resources.
The Church is very careful to maintain and carry out an AIDS ministry which is part of the worshipping community and not to create a separate ministry outside of its normal life.
The Church is increasingly forced to expand its ministry so that it could play an “active advocacy role”.
Poverty and Destitution
Poverty and social destitution continues to pose a major challenge to the development efforts. The Church cannot increasingly expand its evangelization mission when vast majorities of people in the countryside are crying for bread in daily life.
The challenge for the Churches is to assist government in the preparation of a “National Poverty Reduction Strategy”. The church should also use its extensive network in the rural areas to formulate data on the nature and extent of poverty in Botswana.
The rural population is rapidly becoming destitute mostly from the effects of AIDS and poverty. A diversified ministry of participation is needed in all the facets of human life.
Main priorities and activities
The church emphasis and activity with regard to mission has had to increase in order to match the accelerated migration of people from rural to urban areas in search of better opportunities for work and education. The ELCB is quite involved in cities where literacy and further education programs for young adults, women, youth and children, including street children, have been set up. The church is also very much involved in rural development work.
The ELCB is running the Thuso Lutheran Rehabilitation Center for the physically disabled, supported by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission and Christoffel Blinden Mission.
There is also the LTS Woodpecker College (Seminary) where most of the training for both lay and ordained leadership is done, and where a Bible school program for students during vacation is conducted. The church also has an active involvement in the running of the Bamalete Lutheran Hospital in Ramotswa.
Since the impact of HIV/AIDS, the church has had to set up projects and programs to mitigate its effects. It has now ongoing projects such as the Kgothatso Home Based Care for the Gaborone Congregation, the Sehitwa Counseling Centre, and the Kang Drop in Centre (at initial stages currently) and the planned expansion at Maun for another counseling centre. Elsewhere many of its members are engaged throughout most of the congregations in various intervention activities and mitigations through their own Church Committees to organizers and activists.
Bilateral partners in mission and development
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana is supported in its work by the following missions with personnel and funds:
|Finnish Evangelical Mission (FELM)|
|United Evangelical Mission (UEM)|
|Danish Evangelical Mission (DEM)|
|Evangelical Lutheran Mission (ELM)|
|Berliner Missionswerk (BMW)|
|Church of Sweden Mission (CSM)|
The ELCB is member of the Botswana Council of Churches (BCC), Kgolagano College of Theological Education by Extension, Church Radio Council. On regional level, the ELCB is a member of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA).