Friday, November 14, 2008

A Lutheran Bishop Hospitalized in Jordan

Thanks to a note posted at Father Kent Schaaf's blog I just learned troubling news about Bishop Andrew Elisa, bishop of the Lutheran Church of Sudan. Bishop Elisa has been having trouble with his balance, and now with speech, due, evidently, to a swelling in his brain. I encourage all to go to the web site of Lutheran Heritage Foundation, not only because the Reverend Robert Rahn's summary of Elisa's situation will be found there, but for a couple other reasons as well. 1. You can log in, and sign up to get email updates. I just did so myself, and I can tell you that the initial sign up is easy, but you will have to wait a day or two apparently to be able to "manage e-communications," in other words, to sign up for the updates on Elisa. 2. Note well: The LHF is taking donations which are earmarked specifically for Bishop Elisa's medical expenses. It is very easy to do this.

In his report at the Lutheran Heritage Foundation web site, the Reverend Robert Rahn, being the type of Lutheran he is, bless his heart, repeatedly refers to Elisa as "Rev. Elisa." Therefore let me clearly state, so that all who may read this may understand, that the Most Reverend Andrew Elisa is not only a priest, but is in fact the Bishop of his Church.

Let me share with you an experience in which Bishop Elisa made an impact not only upon me, but several others as well. Not long ago, during one of his trips to Fort Wayne for his course work at the seminary, I saw Bishop Elisa show up at Mass at Zion Church, and so after Mass, I walked up to him, and invited him to come to my house for dinner. I am not completely sure how feasible, or desirable, it would be for a politically unconnected man like me to get a Missouri Synod president or district president to come to my house for dinner. Bishop Elisa, however, sees himself more as a churchman than as upper management. Nevertheless, I was not sure he would have the time to spend with someone like me. To my delight he did not say no. Instead, he gave me his number, and asked me to call him later that day, so we could set up a night that would work for both of us. Of course, after we made our dinner date, I then got, I suppose, ten or a dozen of my local friends to agree to join us. About a week later, Bishop Elisa enjoyed my wife's cooking, and we all enjoyed learning from the Bishop's experience in Sudan and his spiritual wisdom.

He later told me that, while often church leaders will take him out to a restaurant, and there is nothing inherently wrong with this, he found it refreshing and somehow ideal, to gather in a home with a group of Christians such as we had that night. My wife learned early in our marriage how to make a nice pan of baklava in the Albanian way. It is sine qua non for the Albanian diet, not daily, mind you, but on special occasions. So we had baklava and coffee for dessert, and the Bishop was pleased with this almost more than anything else. He asked me if my wife made the baklava because we found out he loves it so much. It turns out that Sudanese and Albanians share, with other peoples in that part of the world, a love of baklava.

Aside from my personalization of this story, which I wanted to do to demonstrate something of the character of this man, please know that Bishop Elisa is a bishop who is fighting for the Gospel as it is purely taught in the Lutheran Confessions, in the midst of a hostile environment. By 'hostile environment' I mean not only the Muslim government in Khartoum, but other, more subtle enemies as well, such as modern Lutheranism, the modern ecumenical zeitgeist of the LWF and the WWC. He is a man spiritually wise enough to also see the dangers of Western materialism. His concern is for the spiritual care of his people, the ongoing need for catechesis, the training of seminarians, the availability of the Sacraments in the country (if there ever were a place in which a church could rationalize a need for violating the Confessions by establishing a "Specific Ministry Pastor" program, it would be the Church in Sudan, but in Bishop Elisa we have a man who will have none of this), and in these simple, non worldly, yet not so easy goals he faces great challenges. By God's grace he has accomplished much. By God's grace Bishop Elisa's church will continue to grow, and to continue the struggle in this world. I find him and his church to be a great example for us in the U.S.

Please pray for Bishop Andrew Elisa, pray for his church, and consider doing what you can for his medical expenses, and for the ongoing work of his church, whether personally, or as a group within your school or parish, or indeed as a parish.

Now that Fr. Schaaf's post has forced me out of my writing funk, I will attempt to get back into my other material this weekend, which is on deck.

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