Central Africa - The state of Gospel technology (panel)

Dan Sargent (Missionary to Zambia)
Rob Wendland (Missionary to Malawi)

Archived discussion

About the presenters

Dan Sargent, Missionary in Zambia
Rob Wendland, Missionary in Malawi


by Dan Sargent

Publications Committee: Pastor Royd Mumba, Pastor Simon Mweete, Mr. Henry Ndau (chair)

Above is a picture of our Publications Committee meeting held on the 15th of September. In front of Pastor Mweete is the LightStream device we received from WELS Multi-Language Publications. Simon is in charge of the device and we have uploaded materials and videos from MLP and have been making them available to all our pastors to download on their laptops and smart phones. We are now organizing to get materials for the 500th Reformation Rallies we will be holding in the country and the device will be used to make materials available to at least one rally most likely in Lusaka. (Last year’s rally in Lusaka had over 600 people attending. We expect even more this year.) We hope to get more devices in the future so all of our seven districts will have one. We will also be taking the device to Kenya on our visit there in October to share our materials with the new group we are working with.


by Dan Sargent

[ Following is very recent information from Missionary Sargent about a trip to Kenya. ]

Made first visit to the Sudanese refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya. They are organized into two congregations. I had the LightStream with me on our visit. A few people had cellphones, but not many. Pastor Peter Bur has been training leaders in Nariobi.

We are in Fellowship talks with the Lutheran Congregations In Mission For Christ. Went to Nairobi for a Doctrine Committee meeting with the LCMC Council. On the way we had a puncture.

Road side service.

Shine your shoes as you wait? Three Lutheran pastors share the gospel message and news about the Lutheran Church with the group that gathered around the visitors getting their shoes polished.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone that asks you for the hope you have." 1 Peter 3:15


by Rob Wendland

Missionary John Roebke

Technology in Malawi is still hard to come by, hard to maintain, and expensive. We have a few technological applications that we are using:

  1. Pastors graduating from the Seminary in Lusaka are given a laptop that is loaded with files from Northwestern Publishing House — from essays from the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary essay files, to commentaries, to pastors’ resources. The Malawi pastors use the computers and the information to remain grounded in the Word, to have resources for personal and corporate Bible study, and to help them with ideas and information to carry out their various Word-based ministries in a scriptural way.

  2. Arriving in Malawi in June 2017, new Missionary of Communication and Publications John Roebke received an updated version of the LightStream device from Northwestern Publishing House. John plans to take the LightStream to pastor’s conferences throughout the country to distribute items related to the conferences and pastors’ reference material to the delegates. When I leave the field in November, I plan to send up the LightStream you [the Christ in Media Institute] gave me a few years ago so that John will be able to use the two of them.

  3. John also set up a listserve named Friends of Africa that anyone may join, and also a FaceBook page. John initially reached out to those who formerly served here or who have supported WELS ministries in Africa in the past with this invitation:

Friend of Africa, Friend of Christ

You know Africa. You know it's not just an exotic tourist destination, or a place where millions endure poverty, disease and warfare. 

You know that Africa may be a place where sin and Satan exert influence, but that Africa is also the place where God's Kingdom is coming in power and might! You or someone you know personally has served WELS World Missions in Africa. You have heard former missionaries and medical workers and volunteers tell the stories of Christ's light dispelling the darkness and gloom. You may have even served on the front lines yourself.

Although you live on the other side of the planet, thoughts about Africa are never far away. You remember the names and the places and faces of people you love, and you pray for those who have slipped away. Your African experience is unique, but the work that is currently going on is familiar to you.

Recognizing that the current African mission teams stand on the shoulders of giants, the WELS One Africa Team is inviting you to join us in our current struggles. We have created an African missions blog called welsfriendsofafricac.com to feed you the latest news updates and prayer requests directly from the mission fields we serve in Africa.

There is no cost to join this blog, and you can unsubscribe at any time you wish. We only ask that if you like our blog, please recommend it to other mission-minded friends of Africa.

[ To subscribe to the Friends of Africa Listserve please click this link. ]

There is hope and things are progressing, albeit slowly in Malawi for the time being. Our immediate goals are to get the pastorate more up to speed with technology and then to continue developing from there.

[ The man in the photo above accompanying the Friends of Africa invitation is Vicar Mendevu, pictured in front of the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Lilongwe, Malawi. Now Pastor Mendevu, he is pictured below with his family in front of his parsonage in Kalama. ]

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Daniel Sargent (zambia) 2017-10-24 1:23:56am
I have found the WELSFRIENDSOFAFRICA.com sight a great way to know what is happening in AFRICA.
John Roebke (Malawi) 2017-10-30 9:42:11am
Welsfriendsofafeica.com is a blog site created with WordPress. We use MailChimp to manage the subscriptions. Since we started in August of this year we currently have 107 subscribers. I can manage the blog site and the listserve either from my PC or smartphone using program specific apps, although I prefer the pc for the blog because it's easier. Upload speeds are very slow in Malawi so it takes me 1-2 hours to prepare each post. Once it's on the site, MailChimp picks up the RSS automatically and delivers it to our subscribers inboxes. They can use their mail client to read it or view in a browser.
Bob Anderson (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2017-10-24 11:02:03am
Can LCCA pastors and LCCA sem students get involved in developing media files for the light stream that could be shared on cell phones to members in the congregations?
John Roebke (Malawi) 2017-10-30 9:31:57am
The LCCA Zambia and Malawi pastors are very active on what's app. They have created a closed group. They shared a large number of photos and videos from the 500th anniversary of the Reformation celebrations across the country.
Daniel Sargent 2017-10-29 1:50:19am
Yes we are doing that now. We have arranged to put the Lutheran Christian Magazine we produce quarterly on line and also other materials we have at the Press. We are making them available today at our Reformation Rally. We have one challenge. We only have one unit and heed more for all the 9 districts.
Caleb (Bethany Lutheran College) 2017-10-30 8:54:19pm
The article was very interesting! Being a student that enjoys seeing technology improve lives, and be put to a good cause, it was really great to hear about this happening on the other side of the world. I wasn't aware of the improvements in technology in the missions in Africa. I hope that this helps more people come to faith, as well as strengthen those who are already believers.
Daniel Sargent 2017-10-31 10:51:39pm
I have been in Zambia for 29 years. It is amazing to see what the CEL phone has brought to this developing country. It is becoming a great outreach tool.
Jonathan Fleischmann (Martin Luther College) 2017-11-01 11:05:40pm
Pastor Sargent and Pastor Wendland,

I appreciate the thoughts concerning the use of technology in the mission field in Malawi, Zambia, and Kenya. I never really thought about having the use of technology over there. While reading your posts, I cannot help but think about how challenging it would be, going from somewhere where technology is constantly in our faces to a place where not everyone has a cellphone and internet access is rare.

After reading your posts, I was curious about the LightStream. After following the link to their website, I found it to be a very interesting piece of technology. It seems like an odd thing to me that many people who lack electricity and internet would have access to cellphones. I was interested in that. How do people in places, such as Malawi, Zambia, and Kenya have and maintain cellphones?

Thank you for the wonderful thoughts and also for the reminder to continue praying for our missions.
Daniel Sargent 2017-11-04 12:28:01am
Thank you for your comments. Cell phones come into Zambia in the early 90's. Cell phone companies found a lucrative business with pre-pay phones. You do not have to pay to receive call so it is very attractive to the Zambian's especially the rural poor. It has greatly improved communication. Companies from South Africa have cell towers in every district in Zambia. You have about 60% coverage of the country. The Ministry of Health uses sms to all phones for health information and the government does the same for important information. We are taking advantage of this now because the smart phone is becoming more affordable in this part of the world. You can get a Chinese phone for @ $30
Douglas Weiser (Nigeria mission) 2017-11-06 5:24:01pm
Jonathan. I'll piggy back on your comment re Central Africa. Check out the West Africa session. How do our people maintain cell phones? They buy minutes for their SIM cards almost anywhere. Many vendors buy time cards wholesale and resell them on the streets. Two main issues are power and reception. With almost no rural electric grid power supply, people charge their mobile phones any chance they can grab. Any working outlet may have from 5 to 20 phones charging at once. While cell towers are in cities, they are more rare in villages. So reception is often spotty. When on the road, texting is best, since it operates whenever you happen into range of a tower.
Gretchen Nemmers (Martin Luther College) 2017-11-02 10:53:34am
Pastor Sargent and Pastor Wendland,

I really enjoyed your article and appreciate the work you are involved in over in Central Africa. It is wonderful to read an article like this and to realize that I have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world. As a student of Martin Luther College, I often get comfortable knowing that all my classmates are of my same faith, but reading this reminds me that we are all connected through faith throughout the entire world. That is truly amazing!

I also thought it was interesting that your pastors graduating from the seminary in Lusaka received a laptop with loaded files on it. I realized how important technology can be when relaying ideas, asking question, and researching Biblical topics. Fellowship and communication is very important for pastors. This led me to wonder, how connected are you with pastors nearby? I am used to having pastor and teacher conferences regularly.

Thank you for your contribution to the conference!
Daniel Sargent 2017-11-04 12:33:45am
I started my ministry in Zambia as a bush Missionary Pastor serving congregations as their pastor. After 20 years of service in that ministry the Lord blessed my work and I was able to help place 10 pastors in 10 parishes in the Eastern Province of Zambia. I am no longer serving congregations but am now serving as a circuit Pastor with all the pastors I have placed. We hold monthly pastors' meetings in the local parishes (rotation basis) hosted by the congregations. I meet regularly with them as an advisor now. I also have meetings with a second group of pastors in the North of the Country near Ndola.
Elise Sloey (Wisconsin Lutheran College.) 2017-11-06 10:24:15am
We really take for granted how fortunate we are in the U.S. to have such a technologically advanced society. Reading this truly opens one's eyes to the fact that certain cultures are not nearly as blessed with these advances. The power and the connections that can be developed via technology are countless. It is exciting to see what fellowship can come from these improvements!
Daniel Sargent 2017-11-06 9:08:24pm
Yes it is exciting even here in Central Africa. I am in Lilongwe Malawi today. I met with Missionary Roebke. He was helping me to put more materials on the Light Stream so we could have them ready for use at future meetings with pastors so they can down load the Reformation Materials received from MLP.
Colin Dewey, Elise, & Travis (Wisconsin Lutheran ) 2017-11-09 9:33:33am
Thank you for this update from Zambia, Kenya, and Malawi, it has been very interesting to compare the unique challenges facing different regions of the continent during this year's conference. It seems that you have great people on the ground to spread the word of God and are just waiting for the infrastructure and dissemination of technology to catch up. I think many are quick to stereotype the state of affairs in developing African countries, and this post goes a long way to dispell some of those negative connotations.
Daniel Sargent 2017-11-10 2:24:30pm
Yes there are many misconceptions about Africa. My son Nathan was born here in South Africa. He grew up in Zambia and is now a Freshman at Wisconsin Lutheran college. He wrote this in his Luther Prep year book. "I just want to set the record straight....Africa is not a country!.....No I do not speak African!......I do not live in a grass hut...it is actually a mud hut with a grass roof." Africa is a continent with many countries in it. There are over 3000 spoken languages in Africa. There are many modern cities in Africa.
Hannah Mills, Bethany, Rachel, and Juan (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2017-11-12 9:46:44pm
We found this article very interesting! We have had friends going to Zambia for their nursing trips, so it was very interesting to read about all the technology updates that you are trying to put into place there. I did not think that people in that area would really have access to phones. I know that many of my friends could only go on their phones while at the hotel on their wifi. Is technology becoming bigger there than we have thought, and is it odd seeing technology in a place that you would not really expect it?
Daniel Sargent 2017-11-12 11:58:44pm
I am very involved in the arrangements for the Nursing Students' visit and really enjoy spending some time with the students. One interesting thing is that the students come here under the direction that they leave their phones and other devices and go for two weeks off the grid so they can concentrate on what is happening here in the medical field.
Joe Hanson (WLC) 2017-11-13 11:19:11am
It is amazing how God's word can turn such dire situations into a moment of grace, where we can grow in faith. Although the population is struck with poverty and disease, they can be confident that God is with them, thanks to you sharing His word.
Shawna Abbott, Erin, Abby (WLC) 2017-11-13 3:30:24pm
I want to first start off by saying thank you for including the photos. Back in 2013 I was a part of a mission group from Wisconsin Lutheran High School and we visited Zambia, many of the photos reminded me of my time there. I think that it is interesting how many different languages there are an how that can cause some challenges in spreading the word. I am close friends with Chris Pluger and saw how hard he worked in crafting the Chewa Translation of the New Testament. Whether it is spreading the Word or spreading technology I think that there is challenge that we face. As someone who has visited the villages, it made me more aware of how much we take for granted as Americans. I recall having to use a cell phone one evening and realizing then (in 2013) how rare this might be for the common person. While on my mission trip we did see some WiFi coffee shops and I was taken back by how far and few even those were. I think that the development of technology will still take some time, but has evolved over the last four years. I pray that the advancements are able to continue to grow that that it can reach more cities, more congregations, and more people.
Kenny Dryden (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2017-11-13 11:39:46pm
It is hard to imagine having basic technology. I sit here trying to remember a time before I had the gift of technology in my life; and find it hard to remember a time. I think technology is greatly taken for granted in our modern societies. We could definitely do better as a society to help with this mission. Most of us probably have multiple devices that are outdated (to our standards) laying around collecting dust, that we can send to help with the ministries. I love your dedication to making their spiritual lives better through technology, I think its a powerful way to keep these people connected not only to each other but to Christ.