NICARAGUA – An eruption at Nicaragua’s San Cristobal Volcano on March 9, 2021 showered the nearby area, including the city of Chinandega, in ash but otherwise caused no major damage.
Following the eruption, Nicaragua’s National System for the Prevention, Mitigation, and Attention of Disasters encouraged locals to remain calm but stay two kilometres from the crater of the volcano. San Cristobal is Nicaragua’s largest volcano and is considered moderately active.
The Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua – ILSN) is headquartered in Chinandega, and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) has a mission centre in the city. ILSN President Marvin Donaire confirms that people in the area are doing fine despite a bit of ash in the air, and that they are grateful the eruption proved to be minor. Staff at LCC’s mission centre also write that the volcano has returned to its normal state.
Rev. Mark Smith, Lutheran Church–Canada’s Missions Executive, expressed thanks that the situation in Chinandega seems to have returned to normal. He also encouraged Lutherans around the world to remember their Nicaraguan brothers and sisters in prayer:
Almighty God, whose loving care is everlasting, with relieved hearts we are grateful that the latest volcano eruption of San Cristobal in Nicaragua wasn’t as severe as first feared. We implore You to continue to watch over and protect Your people in Nicaragua, especially those faced with dangerous ash and debris in the air. We also pray that You strengthen the faith of Your Church through Your Life-giving Word that she may bring comfort and aid to those in need; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua and Lutheran Church–Canada are both members of the International Lutheran Council.
WORLD – Lutherans across the world continue to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with spiritual and physical care. In this post, we highlight the response of member churches of the International Lutheran Council in Germany and Nicaragua.
Germany has reported 183,564 cases of COVID-19, with 8,605 deaths. The country acted quickly to enact lockdown measures after the disease began to spread, leading to the closure of schools, the closure of national borders, and the imposition of curfews and stay-home orders in various parts of the country. Restrictions were also placed on church gatherings. Recently, some of these pandemic containment measures have begun to be relaxed.
From the beginning of the crisis, Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche – SELK) has worked hard to provide continued pastoral care to members in unusual circumstances. A special crisis group was struck to provide pastors and congregations guidance and assistance about how to deal with the situation, as well as offering comfort and spiritual guidance. Churches moved quickly to offer services and other programs online, as well as offering services over the phone for older parishioners. Devotional resources for holding home services have also been made available.
“All the things that developed in our congregations with the various online services are a cause for much gratitude,” noted SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt. “How many possibilities are suddenly arising in our congregations which—without this insidious virus—we would likely never have thought of.” Bishop Voigt is also Chairman of the International Lutheran Council.
The SELK was clear from the beginning the Lord’s Supper could not be consecrated online. Some churches have been able to resume in-church services since May 17, albeit with reduced numbers of parishioners, so pastors are working hard to administer communion to members who have gone without—sometimes conducting two or three services each Sunday in order to accommodate the reduced number of participants allowed to attend each service.
In this time of turmoil, Bishop Voigt encourages Christians to take comfort in the words of Jesus Christ: “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart: I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
“In these days,” Bishop Voigt comments, “may this promise be our strong consolation.”
Nicaragua currently reports 370 cases of COVID-19 and 35 deaths. The country has refrained from mandating the social distancing and quarantine measures common in other parts of the world.
The Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua – ILSN) reports widespread concerns that there may be more sick than currently verified by testing. In the midst of this unease, the church is offering spiritual support and guidance to people as they are able.
The ILSN took steps early on to keep members and their communities safe, suspending normal church meetings and activities. Large gatherings were suspended, with pastors instead meeting with small groups of people at a time to administer the means of grace. They have also distributed printed devotional material as well as offering services and messages online.
Some programs have had to be suspended for the time being, including the church’s large education program for children. The children’s feeding program, however, continues to be offered by deaconesses and volunteers, as it supports people in some of the poorest parts of the country. The program has been adapted to follow appropriate safety guidelines: rather than gathering children together in church buildings for meals, prepackaged food items are instead being delivered to the houses of impoverished children and families.
“We see how blessed our deaconesses in Nicaragua are in their dedication and service to the poor in their communities,” notes a recent update on the ILSN situation via The Canadian Lutheran magazine. “Their faith has opened their eyes to the needs of the people, and has inspired and led them to find ways to address those needs, even in the face of a daunting pandemic.”
For more news and information from the International Lutheran Council about the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.
GERMANY – The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche) held its 14th National Church Synod from May 21-26, 2019 in Balhorn, Germany, during which time the church declared fellowship with six church bodies from Europe, North America, and South America.
The SELK’s new fellowship partners include the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (IELA), the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF), the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (ILSN), the Evangelical-Lutheran Diocese in Norway (DELSiN), and the Mission Province in Sweden. (The Mission Province still needs to ratify the agreement with SELK before fellowship between the two churches will take effect.)
SELK also declared fellowship with Concordia Fellowship, an Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Celle, Germany.
“It’s a joy to recognize fellowship with our brothers and sisters around the world,” noted SELK Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt. “We look forward to nurturing the growing relationships between our various church bodies, and looking for new opportunities for cooperation and partnership in our proclamation of the Gospel.”
The resolution to declare fellowship was followed by a standing ovation and a hymn of thanksgiving. The heads of three of the new partner church bodies—Bishop Thor Henrik With (DELSiN), Bishop Risto Soramies (ELMDF), and Presiding Pastor Curtis Leins (AALC)—were all on hand for the event.
SELK’s 2019 Synod met under the theme: “Good News in a Fake News World. Speakers for the event were Professor Dr. Christian Neddens (Oberursel, Germany) and Rev. Dr. Robert Kolb (St. Louis, Missouri). Among other business, the church accepted a new document from SELK’s Theological Commission on “The Lutheran Church and Judaism,” discussed the role of women in the church, and conducted elections for various boards and commissions.
SELK, the AALC, IELA, ELMDF, ILSN, DELSiN, and the Mission Province are all members of the International Lutheran Council, a growing association of confessional Lutheran churches around the world.
NICARAGUA – As Nicaragua continues to face unrest, the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua – ILSN) and its mother church Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) are calling for prayer.
Civil unrest in Nicaragua broke out in April 2018, and the situation has increasingly deteriorated over the past few months. More than 180 people have died over the crisis, and recent talks for peace—mediated by Nicaragua’s Roman Catholic church—collapsed earlier this week. Several governments, including Canada and the United States of America, have advised citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the Central American country. The ILSN has likewise advised LCC that it no longer considers it safe to receive short team mission teams or international church representatives in the present situation.
LCC and the ILSN are working in close cooperation as they respond to the current crisis. LCC has sent the ILSN emergency funds to help with food costs during the ongoing crisis, and stands ready to provide further assistance as necessary.
Lutheran Church–Canada’s Committee for Missions and Social Ministry Services has issued the following prayers for the use of LCC congregations as they keep the situation in Nicaragua in prayer:
Heavenly Father, God of all concord, it is Your will that harmony prevail in every land, in order that the daily bread You provide may be received in peace. Give Your wisdom to guide the leaders in the government, businesses, churches, and movements in the nation of Nicaragua, that violence and strife may be ended, life spared, and order be restored, only for the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, the Wisdom from on High, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God forever. Amen.
God of grace and Lord of all power and might, You rule the nations through the authorities established by your gracious will. We earnestly pray for the government, the police forces, and the people of Nicaragua, that by the working of Your generous and strong hand, peace will be restored among them. Protect all who are in danger, direct those in power to serve the cause of justice and equity, grant honesty to prevail. Guide Your church, that in the midst of every uncertainty, she will boldly proclaim Your faithfulness and the forgiveness that heals all wounds in Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.
Lutheran Church–Canada and the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua are both members of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
NICARAGUA – Late on June 9, a major earthquake struck Nicaragua near the community of Chinandega, damaging multiple buildings and homes.
The Lutheran Church—Synod of Nicaragua (Iglesia Luterana—Sínodo de Nicaragua – ILSN), has been hit particularly hard by the quake. “Our communities were severely affected by the earthquake,” ILSN President Marvin Donaire explains. “The people of La Joya, El Piloto, Rancheria, La Villa 15 de Julio, and Tonalas Morazan are sleeping on the street, because the earth continues shaking.”
The initial quake, which measured 6.1 on the Richter Scale, had its epicenter near Chinandega. The western coast of Nicaragua has suffered a series of aftershocks in the days following the earthquake, with magnitudes ranging from 4.4 to 5.1 so far. Aftershocks are expected to continue for weeks or even months.
President Donaire has called on the international Lutheran community for prayers and support. “Brothers, we need your prayer,” he said. “We need help for our brethren through your prayers. The entire western region has been damaged: homes have been destroyed and our churches severely damaged. May God bless you for your prayers.”
The ILSN was founded through the missionary activity of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), which is working with the ILSN to determine appropriate relief efforts. LCC is still assessing the full extent of the situation and determining how best to assist the Nicaraguan church. In the meantime, it is sending $3,000 USD immediately from its Emergency Relief Fund to assist with primary level needs, including purchasing food, blankets, and clothing to distribute to people in the affected area.
Roberto José, the administrator of LCC’s Mission Centre in Chinandega (which is near the epicenter of the quake), is conducting field visits in order to prepare estimates of additional needs. “We are waiting on additional details from the Mission Centre at this time,” explains Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel, LCC’s Executive for Missions and Social Ministry. “We are ready to send additional funds to help with relief efforts as needs become better known.”
The ILSN and LCC are both member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
ARGENTINA – On September 25, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) welcomed three new church bodies from Russia, Nicaragua, and Norway into membership. The ILC is currently holding its 2015 World Conference in Buenos Ares, Argentina.
The Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC), the Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (ILSN), and the Lutheran Church in Norway (LKN) were all accepted unanimously into membership during the afternoon session of September 25. Their acceptance brings the current number of ILC member churches to 38, with a number of other Lutheran church bodies around the world expressing interest in joining the ILC.
Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin (SELC), President Marvin Donaire (ILSN), and Acting Bishop Torkild Masvie (LKN) were all present at the convention on behalf of their church bodies and celebrated their admissions into the International Lutheran Council. ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt greeted each of the church leaders personally to express his congratulations, while the convention at large applauded each of their inductions in turn.
New ILC Members at a Glance
Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC) Сибирская Евангелическо-Лютеранская Церковь 2,100 baptized members
19 clergy (1 bishop, 14 pastors, 4 deacons)
While Russia at one time counted more than a million Lutherans as citizens, the 1917 revolution led to the exile or execution of most Lutheran pastors and the closure of Lutheran churches by 1939. SELC grows out of evangelistic efforts by their current bishop, who began preaching Christianity in Novosibirsk, Siberia in the early 1990s. The mission became associated with the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1993, and eventually became an autonomous church body in 2003.
Prior to that, SELC formally contacted The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) for doctrinal discussions in 1998. In 2010, the two church bodies declared fellowship with each other, an act that was subsequently ratified at the LCMS’ 2013 convention.
Among other work, the church has established its own seminary program to serve SELC and other Russian speaking Lutherans.
Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua (ILSN) Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua 1,800 baptized members
23 congregations (plus missions in Nicaragua and Costa Rica)
The Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua was born through the mission efforts of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), which began work in the Central American country in 1997. Following Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and subsequent relief efforts, receptivity to LCC’s outreach increased dramatically. By 2008, the Nicaraguan people were ready to found their own church body and the ILSN was born.
In addition to serving Nicaraguans, the ILSN participates in mission work in Costa Rica and Honduras. It runs a very successful Children’s Education Program (led by the church’s deaconesses) through which more than 700 children benefit from nutritious meals, after-school tutoring, and Christian education.
The Lutheran Church in Norway (LKN) Den Lutherske Kirke i Norge 50 baptized members
8 preaching points
3 pastors (plus 1 retired pastor)
The Lutheran Church in Norway’s origin dates to the 2005 founding of The Church of the Messiah. The LKN currently operates through a multi-site ministry strategy where services in one location are live-streamed to preaching points elsewhere. Audio and video links allow several hundred people to benefit from the church’s services regularly. A majority of the church’s members are young adults.
The pastors of the LKN all formerly served in the Church of Norway. Because the church is small, three of the pastors serve on a voluntary basis, while the Acting Bishop, who serves as pastor in Oslo, receives a half-time salary. The church also offers a theological education program called AdFontes. Despite its small stature, the Lutheran Church in Norway has begun to receive significant media coverage as more Norwegians worried about the theological direction of the state church begin to look for alternatives.