The story of how Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Phoenix Arizona became a sister church to Holy Cross Emmaus Lutheran Church in Milimani Kenya is one that could only be written by God.
On May 17, 2009, we at Holy Cross in Phoenix had three new visitors in our worship service – Anna Sagala, her daughter-in-law Ruth and grandson Jay. Even as people were being ushered out of church that Sunday, a special rapport was already apparent between our congregation and these three guests.
Anna was confirmed as a Lutheran back in the 1960’s. When she married, she and her husband moved to an area where there was no church. Even though many years passed, she held fast to what she learned from her Lutheran pastor. In a way, she was a Lutheran in exile all those years. She is now a widow.
On her first Sunday here she remarked several times to Pastor Maas how glad she was to find a church that taught just as Martin Luther taught, because Luther was faithful to the Scriptures.
Pastor Maas met with her and Ruth several times over the following months. One thing Anna shared was her sadness that so many children in her village were orphans due to AIDs. Even before she traveled to the U.S., she envisioned how different the future of her village could be if these children were to be raised in the Christian faith – specifically the confessional Lutheran faith. The blessings would manifest themselves on every level, most importantly on the spiritual level.
The more we talked, the more they wondered, “Why not?” And so we began to talk about what it would take to build a school and a church there. It did not take long to sense that this could be more than a dream!
Anna has a piece of property that she is willing to donate for a site upon which to build a school and church. Their goal is for the school/church to be as self-sufficient as possible.
We invited Pastor Nathanael Mayhew, the CLC’s East Africa missionary, to preach for our Mission Festival. He met with Anna and prepared to visit her and her village on his November 2009 trip to East Africa.
With a view toward supporting her in the commencement of Christian instructions for the children of the village, Holy Cross sent with her pencils, sharpeners, erasers, etc. for Sunday School. She was given many CD’s of worship services. When Nathanael went to visit her in November, we sent along with him several boxes of Sunday School materials. She also received many copies of The Lutheran Spokesman, Bibles, etc.
Here are some quotes from Nathanael’s blog regarding his visit there: “We pulled into the beautiful Sagala property. You could easily tell that someone has a very green thumb and loves to work outside in the garden. The buildings are also well cared for and maintained. Upon our arrival, the yard fills with people. We are greeted by Anna and her son Eric as well as a group of young children. Introductions are made, while the children sing for us (in English!).”
When we arrived at the building site, “a tent had been set up and there was a group of about 50 people gathered there. Larry, Russ and I were each asked to participate in the planting of a tree as a dedication of the property to the LORD for His work. After this ceremony, we were introduced to the group, and we were given the opportunity to speak to the people. During the course of our stay there, the number of people continued to grow to somewhere in the vicinity of 100 people! We directed their attention to the importance of the Word of God as the primary responsibility of Christ’s Church and the need to know and hold on to the truth of His Word throughout our lives.”
“They have several young men that are interested in going to seminary so that they can be the spiritual leaders of the congregation here in the future. It is an exciting opportunity here!”