Western Iowa Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church in America personnel have found that the Lutheran religion is strong throughout the world. They have teamed up with Lutheran Churches in Tanzania and now are teaming up with churches in Chile.
There is much to learn, yet, about the Chile churches, but it will come just as it did with their friends in Tanzania; though their culture is different and their home is thousands of miles away, they have cemented their notions that their spirituality is quite similar to that of the beliefs found in the Western Iowa Synod.
At the recent annual assembly of the Western Iowa Synod, held in Spencer, Bishop Michael Last, Western Iowa Synod, and Pastor President Luis Alvarez, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chile (IELCH), signed a covenant of companion synod relationship.
"Together in this relationship, both church bodies will pray with and for one another, share talents and resources, share in the vision and mission of Christ, and work to resolve the global challenges before us - all in living out the companion verse, 'that they may all be One' (John 17:21a)," shared Cindy Wells, Storm Lake, Global Programs Coordinator.
Technology made it possible for the 350 in attendance at the assembly in Spencer to see and speak to members and choirs from Chile via Skype. Each church body expressed their commitment to the relationship and even sang with one another in mutual celebration.
Companion synod relationship values include walking together in mutuality, developing sustainable activities, accountability in actions and commitments, and transparency with each other and within each church body.
"One strong reason to be in relationship with Chile has to do with their sense of isolation," Wells said. "This isolation is a result of being so far away from each other in a long, thin country, and in a highly Catholic country. Additionally, they are far away from other major Lutheran bodies in the world. Walking alongside the Western Iowa Synod will hopefully strengthen and support them in spirit and in mission."
She added, "The American desire stems from wanting to connect with other cultures as an extension of our church identity, to reach out further in mission, to learn and experience deeper ways of Christian expression, and to better understand the Hispanic church culture and issues."
Besides attending the annual assembly and meeting with many WIS entities interested in this partnership, the visiting group of Pastor President Luis Alvarez, his wife, Maria Elena Esparza, and the IELCH Treasurer, Roberto Dassť, also visited the United Community Health Center and Hospice Program in Storm Lake, the Russ and Beth Winterhof turkey and wind farm in Aurelia, the domestic abuse shelter, St. Olaf Lutheran Church, and the Church of the Damascus Road prison ministry - all in Ft. Dodge - Okoboji and Lutheran Lakeside Bible Camps in Okoboji, and worshipped at First Lutheran in Milford and Immanuel Lutheran in Forest City.