Reflecting on forty-one years of service in Global Mission
Lou-Marie and I arrived in Thaba Nchu (Black Mountain) in late 1982 after being placed there by the Cape Orange Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa. I was called to serve a small congregation in the sprawling resettlement area of Onverwacht/Botshabelo. The town was created by the Apartheid regime as a dumping ground for mainly Sesotho-speaking people who were being forcibly removed from “white” towns and farms in the region. We were both welcomed and challenged, especially by the youth, as the people struggled against the Apartheid homeland system, demanding political freedom and basic human and socio-economic rights.
We were in Chicago for studies when Nelson Mandela and other liberation movement leaders were released from prison in 1990 and then served an Afrikaans-speaking congregation in Gelvandale, Port Elizabeth when the first democratic national elections were held in April 1994. I was able to attend the first public hearing of the Truth and Reconcilation Commission (TRC) chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in April 1996.
We moved to Cape Town in 2000 where I worked as Christian Education Coordinator in the diocese, collaborating with colleagues in the development of Christian education resources and the ELCSA Almanac (lectionary and daily texts) in nine languages.
In 2005 I was asked by ELCA Global Mission to serve as Regional Representative in Southern Africa. Based in Johannesburg for the past 11 years, I have been working with companion churches, mission personnel, companion synods, the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) and ELCA-supported mission outreach and diakonia projects across ten countries in the region.
Throughout this period Lou-Marie has been teaching physics and chemistry in various local high schools, working with countless young people from diverse backgrounds, who wonder about the future and appreciate open and frank discussions about everything from relationships to rap music.
It has been a tremendous privilege and honor to serve and work with so many people over more than 40 years in South and Southern Africa. We deeply appreciate the prayers and support of family, colleagues, sponsoring congregations, companion churches and ELCA Global Mission, now Service & Justice. We have learned and experienced so much on this journey of mutual accompaniment in God’s Mission. But it is a “long walk to freedom”. The journey was and continues to be by God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Thank you for your prayers and support over forty years and for your continuing participation in God’s Mission locally and globally. Please continue to support the Missionary Sponsorship program. Visit ELCA.org/MissionaryGiving
Soli Deo Gloria!
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson
ELCA Regional Representative - Southern Africa
July 11, 2023