A few weeks ago I boarded a plane with several others from the seminary and we flew down to Windhoek, Namibia to go to the Lutheran World Federation Assembly. It was an incredible experience and a great way to finish up my seminary career. I’ll be posting pictures from the Assembly in the near future, but I while it is still fresh, I wanted to offer a few reflections.
First, I learned about (or better said, I was reminded of) the diversity of Lutheranism. That’s not hard to do when you travel halfway around the world to gather with other Lutherans. You see that Americans are just a small speck in this giant world. (A good lesson to be reminded of – something that only really see when you step out of the continent.) You hear that English is not the only language that people speak (another good reminder). And of course many, many Lutherans don’t look-alike either. All of this became obvious quickly when we came together for worship in multiple languages, heard people speak in four primary languages, and saw many people from about 90 different countries. It was especially evident with the election of the new LWF president – who happens to be from Nigeria.
Second, connections are important. We learned that there are approximately 75 million Lutherans in the world. That’s a good number of people, yet still not a huge percentage of the world. At the same time, when you come together at assemblies like this, you start to see that much like national gatherings, synod assemblies, and even congregations, there are a handful of people who are the most engaged and you see them everywhere. They are the ones you want to get to know for multiple reasons. They are the ones who can connect you with many other people. They are the people who get things done.
Third, worship comes in a wide variety. During the assembly, we experienced such a wide range of worship. It was great. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like everything, but that’s ok. It wasn’t about liking everything – I’m sure there were people who didn’t like what I like. That’s ok too. But it’s still good to experience different worship styles. The best worship was the Sunday commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It was in a stadium and the sermon was very powerful. Worship lasted for four hours – but then again, when you have to commune 10,000 people, that takes about an hour.
Fourth, I want to go back to Africa. This was my first time to the continent and I loved it. I can’t wait to go back. I was exposed to a part of Africa that I knew very little about – which is why I wanted to go (I wanted to learn more).
Overall, going to the LWF Assembly was a wonderful trip, a great educational opportunity, and I’m glad I went. Next time though, I want to go as a delegate. Let’s see what happens in the next six years.