Mission Trip to Dubai
By: the Rev. Melinda H. Jones & the Rev. Wendy A.W. Berthelsen
In February, just prior to the start of the COVID-19 crisis in the USA, together with Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba, we traveled to Dubai. Pastor Jones represented the NALC Executive Council. Pastor Berthelsen represented Hope Lutheran Church (Cedar Hill, TX), who serves as both a prayer sponsor and a fiscal agent for Pastor Martha Shanka, a new global worker for the NALC. The goals of the journey were as follows:
- To have an NALC presence at the commissioning of the NALC’s newly called global worker, Pastor Martha Shanka, as a result of the recent action of the NALC Executive Council.
- To teach the first graduating class of Leadstar Theological College (LTC) in Dubai
- Pastor Jones: Law & Gospel in Preaching
- Pastor Berthelsen: Discerning God’s Call
- To attend the graduation ceremony of LTC and participate in the worship of the one, true, living God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- To develop a relationship with Pastor Martha Shanka and the other graduates
- To hold an intentional time of prayer and discernment in various Emirates (Kingdoms) in UAE, that God may reveal where a congregation may develop
Pastor Martha Shanka is of Ethiopian descent and is connected with a wonderful group of very passionate Ethiopian Christians in Dubai. The relationship with Pastor Martha developed through her reaching out to the Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba and her desiring to train Christians in Dubai. Ethiopian Christians have dispersed all over the world – due to both the need for employment and further back in their history, persecution.
The above goals for our journey were ambitious; nonetheless, God provided a way for us to exceed even these for we developed relationships:
- With other Leadstar Theological College locations (Ethiopia, South Africa, Dubai)
- With the ACNA, represented by Father Andrew Schmutzer, of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Sharjah, UAE. Father Andrew is working with Pastor. Martha on her visas, space for the congregation to worship, and permits for preaching and teaching the Gospel.
- With the many associates Dr. Gemechis Buba utilizes to unite the world under the cross of Christ Jesus, our Lord, and Savior.
Ongoing Ministry of Pastor Martha Shanka:
Pastor Martha and other leaders are pressing on in the kingdom work of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Presently, her weekly kingdom work includes the following:
- She is continuing to share the Good News in Dubai, with intentional and specific connections to their Muslim neighbors.
- In turn, she is training these new believers and disciples of Christ Jesus, our Lord, in the Word and kingdom ways. They meet twice at least twice per week.
- She is still offering classes for new Bible School students with students from four towns in the Emirates. They have classes for several hour, at least twice a week.
- Through an online worship and prayer ministry have continued. The kingdom of Jesus continues to grow in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, throughout the Middle East, and other places in the world. Not just reaching current Christians, but also new believers being added to their number.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, as Dubai has extended a very strict 24/7 lockdown until recently, all of the above continues through electronic media.
- Pastor Martha and about half of the recent graduates have plans to plant a new church in Dubai when the virus crisis has passed.
Potential for the Future:
- The NALC has a critical mission and evangelism outpost in the Middle East for Gospel ministry, another international extension of our ministry here. We could learn from their experience, particularly in evangelizing people of other religions.
- Some of the students in Dubai are considering future training through North American Lutheran Seminary, Masters of Divinity degrees and other advanced degrees.
- These young adults may be an instrument for renewal amongst young adults and youth in the USA.
What can you do?
- Certainly, earnestly pray for Pastor Martha’s ministry, the church plant, and all those associated.
- Consider partnering to support their ministry, either as an individual or as a church under the NALC recommendation. For more information: thenalc.org/partners/martha-shanka/
- Develop a relationship with Pastor Martha, the students, and the potential church plant.
Pastor Jones’ Reflections on the Trip:
The experience was, most certainly, life-changing in many ways. I never dreamed that I would go to the Middle East; I never dreamed I would be sent by God to proclaim the Gospel in a land so utterly unfamiliar to my own. I never dreamed I would teach brothers and sisters who spoke a different language than me; I never dreamed I would leave with new friends; I never dreamed of such adventure. All in all, the many days of travel and the four whirlwind days of ministry were unforgettable and faithful to the mission of the North American Lutheran Church to take the Gospel to the nations and make disciples! I believe I became a better disciple, and for that, I also give thanks.
Pastor Berthelsen’s Reflections on the Trip:
Overall, I came back from this trip renewed and inspired by the faith, prayerfulness, hospitality, and friendship of these young adults in Dubai. I share many of Pastor Jones’ sentiments. I greatly enjoyed the partnership with Pastor Jones, who I previously did not know and now consider a wonderful sister and friend in Christ. I am excited about the kingdom potential of the many relationships developed on this trip. I was overwhelmed with joy by all that happened in a few short days.
Pastor Jones and Pastor Berthelsen would like to thank the Executive Council of the NALC for the opportunity you afforded us to represent the NALC and be an ambassador to our brothers and sisters in Dubai, UAE. We are available to answer questions and inquiries about Pastor Martha and her ministry.