Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hello my brothers. Hello my sisters.

Ann Sponberg Peterson writes:

I was pleased to recently be in Washington DC to attend a donor reception at the Tanzanian Embassy, at which I met Her Excellency Liberata Mulamula, Ambassador of Tanzania to the United States.  This lovely reception was for Books for Africa donors, and through our collaborative work together, I was invited to attend.  It was a wonderful gathering and, as always, it’s terrific to be in the shared company of Africans and Americans dedicated to educational empowerment. 

Good new connections were made and I will look forward to renewing these acquaintances when I return on future trips.  I also had to smile when being introduced to the occasional BFA Board Member – in addition to being called a “container captain,” I was referred to as “the Namibia woman.”   In so many ways, that’s worth smiling about!   

When Her Excellency greeted the assembled group – “Hello my brothers, hello my sisters,” it all felt so right.  And so right to be welcomed to Tanzania, since we were indeed on their sovereign soil. 

It’s been a good spring in this way – being able to experience things in new ways and having so many seemingly isolated occurrences building upon one another so as to make for an impressive and cohesive whole. 

Just after returning from DC, I received a letter from Bishop Nambala of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN), asking for members of the Luther College community to pray for the candidates who would soon be ordained into Lutheran ministry on Sunday, April 26. 

April 26 was Good Shepherd Sunday and that following Friday I was scheduled to speak in chapel.  At the close of chapel my colleagues in college ministries graciously fulfilled this request to collectively pray for these 17 new pastors in Namibia.   Seven men, and ten women were ordained into Lutheran ministry in what was the 57th service of ordination since the first ordinations in 1925. 

So these small details keep aligning in an otherwise much larger spring, with so many things reminding me of the rich interdependent nature of our lives.  But then, my brothers and sisters, this is the meaning of ubuntu – a person is only a person through other people.

Thanks to Susan Bauer who reminded me through her book, Choosing Africa: A Midlife Journey from Mission to Meaning, of the importance of understanding ubuntu.  Susan Bauer chronicles her life and experience of teaching at Paulinum Seminary in Namibia.  It’s a good read and it’s especially wonderful when you can see perfectly some of her experiences as your own.  My thanks to Pastor Rebecca Bourrett who kindly gave me this book in the fall of 2013, after I spoke to the members of her congregation, Christ Lutheran Church in Natick, Massachusetts, about Empowering Learners. 

Today, just a quick update – the drought continues in the North of Namibia and so the building of our new schools has been delayed further.  It seems best and most appropriate to unite with our brothers and sisters in prayer for rain and in hope for the future for all.   Undeterred we continue in our current and long-term fundraising efforts and in the building of the Empowering Learners Endowment Fund.  

There remains much to do, and as a people of faith we are embolden to continue what we have started. Thank you for all you do to support the mission and vision of this project. God is good. God is always, always good.

Empowering Learners 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

An Oshigambo Anniversary

Ann Sponberg Peterson writes:  

Greetings family and friends!  This entry is short on this snowy winter evening but no less sincere.  I have been thinking about what to write all day, since today, January 15, is the fifth anniversary of the day I first visited Oshigambo Lutheran High School in Namibia. 

A visit that changed my life. 

Let me first say thanks and how grateful I am for my husband, Gregory Peterson and our dear friend Tim Peter, who together invited me along on the 2010 Choral Singing in Namibia and South Africa travel course.   Being on that trip and visiting that special place, Oshigambo, buoyed my spirit and vocation in new and wonderful ways.

A few months after that journey – on a night just like tonight, after Empowering Learners was formed and was gaining momentum – we were gathered with Tim and Sandra Peter in their home.  At the close of the night, as we were saying our goodbyes, I remarked to Tim how much it meant to me that I went with the choir to Africa.  How newly opened up I had become to the potential of our efforts, and what good and worthy work this was being in partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia and together helping to provide for the ELCIN schools and learners.  I spoke about how there was always now something more to do, more funds to raise, more stories to tell, more people to meet, more shipments to make. 

With great emotion I said, “I now know why I was on that trip.” 

Tim smiled and said … “Isn’t it great?  God works like that!”

And so on this winter night, five years to the day after this all began, I say thanks to you all, for everything.   God is good and God works just like this, in and through us all. 

Thank you friends for your many gifts.  Your generosity is truly beyond measure!  Through your kind giving you made 2014 the best year yet in program fulfillment and financial support.  Stay tuned good friends.  There is more to come and more to do!

Empowering Learners.   

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

There's a humility that comes from others having faith in you.

Ann Sponberg Peterson writes:

Over coffee recently some friends asked me, “So much good has happened in recent days with Empowering Learners.  What comes next?” 

I had to laugh and think … how very typical of good friends at Luther College to not just celebrate the happy news and updates, but also to raise the expectations and to keep pushing forward.  Since I am cut from that same restless cloth, I know that sentiment well – and I must admit I am grateful for their steadfast encouragement and support of this project.

So indeed … what comes next?  Good news has been all around us this summer into fall and just a few days ago the news got even better.     

Enthused about the work of this project and the way in which we reach our goals, Arne and Ruth Sorenson – wonderful friends of the church and of education – have pledged an amazingly generous $5,000 match for gifts given this fall to Empowering Learners.   Thank you, Arne and Ruth!

Now … if you wish to move your mouse on over to the DONATE button right this very moment – you’re entirely excused! – I’ll completely understand and I encourage you to do so as this match is quite simply fabulous news for our efforts!  Please also know, news of this match will also be included in our fall appeal soon to be in the mail.

This matching gift has raised and renewed my spirit of outreach.  I was speaking last weekend at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.  Friends at this congregation have been interested in Empowering Learners for some time and have wanted a presentation given to their adult forum and coffee hour gathering.  Goodness!  It was a record-setting Sunday morning attendance for our project and I was pleased as punch to see a number of brochures and the all-important courtesy reply envelopes leave with all those guests.

During this Sunday conversation, as I was sharing my commitment to this project and to the friends and family I hold so dear in the North of Namibia, I got a little caught up emotionally.  I found I was vividly remembering the quote by Lilla Watson I have mentioned on previous occasions:  “If you have come here to help us, you are wasting your time.  If you have come here because your liberation is bound up with ours, then let us work together.” 

These words were swirling in my mind and I realized just how personally bound up I am in this work.   In many ways, in these 50-something years I’m living through, I am profoundly consumed by this work.  As such, I am entirely grateful for every wonderful donor who decides that they can live into this project as well through their personal giving.  And I am deeply moved by Arne and Ruth Sorenson who have provided a catalyst for us to achieve even more.

To all of you who agree that this is worthy and important work, your support is an amazing blessing.  You are the good friends who push all of us forward and we are humbled by your kind generosity and good words.

We have pledged to the ELCIN that we would provide the funding needed to construct one new kindergarten every year.  This takes $5,000 USD.  Our stretch hope – in addition to maintaining all our current initiatives – is to underwrite the building of TWO such schools every year.   Through the generosity of the Sorensons, as we meet this matching gift challenge in the days ahead, we can now be assured that we will meet this expanded two-new-schools-a-year goal! 

Interested in helping us meet the match?  Just move your mouse right on over to the right.  Thanks friends!

Empowering Learners