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


Sunday, August 17, 2014

We can do no great things -- only small things with great love.

Ann Sponberg Peterson writes:

I have always loved this quote from Mother Teresa.  It seems to float into my life just when I need it and this summer it has been front and center in my mind.  I mention this quote in visits … especially when the conversation turns to Empowering Learners and whenever the good news of the arrival of our sea containers gets mentioned.  

Upon hearing of the two 40,000-pound containers, friends sort of blur their eyes and say something on the order of “good heavens … how many books did you say?  And how far is the drive to the North?” 

In addition to quoting Mother Teresa, I quite quickly add that nothing like this is done alone, or in isolation, but rather is accomplished in full partnership with hundreds of people of good will and with generous hearts over-flowing!   

Last January when I was traveling with our Luther students in Namibia, I wrote about visiting the Josef Shifeta Primary School in Ongenga -- the childhood school of the Kafidi Family and where a new library and computer center will soon be established to honor our dear friend, Namupa Ndeshihafela (Kafidi) Nengola, Luther Class of 1998.  I am pleased to report that the container designated, in part, for the Josef Shifeta Primary School has at long last reached its destination.  (Readers may recall that this was a shared container of educational supplies that also happily benefitted our friends at the Oniipa Primary School.) 

We celebrate – with all the learners and teachers – this development for the Josef Shifeta school.  We are glad for this opportunity to partner with you.  May these many books and computers and encyclopedias and maps serve you well!  

Mrs. Teopolina Kayumbu is the exceptionally capable principal at Josef Shifeta Primary School and she is pictured here. 


Mrs. Kayumbu – as I like to say – stands on the shoulders of a giant. 

Mr. Festus Hauuanga was the long-time principal before Mrs. Kayumbu and when I met him in January, he very kindly reported that he was the principal in charge of the school when all of the Kafidi children studied there.   Needless to say, the Kafidi children have all done well and each of them lives a life in service to others.  Thank you, Lamek Kafidi (Director of the Ministry of Education for the Oshikoto Region and oldest child of the Kafidi Family), for taking this photo.   Mr. Hauuanga, it is important to note, now serves as the head of the school council.     


And these are just a few of the many learners that will benefit from the new books and computers once they are all unpacked and sorted.  Use well young friends! 


Nothing of this magnitude could be accomplished without the hundreds of gifts kindly given to Empowering Learners through the year.   Gifts of all sizes are gratefully received and are put to immediate work to advance this project.  On this special occasion your charitable support: helped to fill the sea containers with the additional items specially requested by Namibian school officials; helped to pay the necessary port fees; and helped to pay for the transportation of these massive sea containers as they were trucked thousands of kilometers across Namibia. 

Thank you for enabling us to assist these dynamic and dedicated school leaders like Mrs. Kayumbu and Mr. Hauuange, and most especially the deserving learners we hold so dear.

Empowering Learners.