Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Change in Course

As some of you may know, our ministry with ELCA has recently taken a new turn. After serving as ELCA’s East Africa Regional Representatives for four and a half years, we were asked to consider a move to Zambia, to assist the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia (ELCZa) with their educational and leadership development needs.

To make a long story short, we accepted the invitation and have recently arrived in Lusaka, a beautiful city not far from the iconic Victoria Falls. Lusaka is also the headquarters of the ELCZa. This small church, established in 1983, has endured many struggles throughout its history, but now is on firmer footing, having just elected a new lead pastor (similar to a presiding bishop) and leadership team. ELCA Global Mission has been searching for someone with the right skills to accompany this church for over three years now, ever since the former missionary had returned to the U.S. Joe and I bring twelve years of experience living and serving in Africa to this position, and the ELCZa has welcomed us with open arms. We hope that our knowledge and experience may assist this church as they seek to strengthen their impact in Zambia.

We have been warmly welcomed by the church leadership and local pastors here in Lusaka. We have visited three nearby congregations and hope to visit the more far-flung parishes during the coming months.  Stay tuned for more news. Our e-mail addresses have not changed, so feel free to contact us at or

Photo 1: Rev. Deborah preaching at the Garden House Congregation. Her sermon is being translated into Nyanja by Rev. Matilda Banda, the General Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia (ELCZa).

Photo 2: Rev. Deborah and the management team of the ELCZa. From left to right: Finance Chair David Mangenda, General Secretary Rev. Matilda Banda, Treasurer Bernard Mapulanga (in back), Lead Pastor Rev. Geoffrey Njapau, Rev. Deborah Troester, Assistant General Secretary Dr. Evans Lombé.

ELCA Global Mission Support and Contact Information

In all of this, we thank God for you—for your prayers and for your financial support. We couldn’t do it without you! If you wish to support us, you can give through your local congregation or through our new ELCA Missionary Sponsorship Page.

Joe and Deborah are ELCA missionaries living in Lusaka, Zambia, where they are serving with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia. Their daughter, Christa, is a junior at the University of Southern California.

Monday, April 30, 2018

World Hunger Fund at Work in East Africa

Sometimes when we give to an offering, we don’t know where the money goes. In honor of Mother’s Day, on May 13, here are two articles about women being helped by your World Hunger Fund offerings, one in Kenya, and one in Tanzania. We hope you enjoy these stories.

Promoting Girls’ Rights and Education in Kenya

Evelyne in her school
uniform at her
secondary school in
Kilifi County, Kenya
Evelyne first connected with the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church (KELC) women’s work through a seminar in her congregation in Naserian Mission. Here she learned about girls’ rights, the importance of education, and support networks available to women and girls in Kenya. Just a few weeks later, Evelyne needed to access those support networks when her father informed her that he had arranged for her to marry an older man in their community. Evelyne was only 14 years old. She wanted to continue her education, and she did not want to be married.

 Evelyne called many people looking for help to escape this situation, but at first found no one to assist her. Eventually she contacted Alice Mwaringa, the KELC Women’s Department coordinator. Alice quickly found a way to remove Evelyne from her home and take her to a safe place. With help from many people within the KELC women’s network, Evelyne was welcomed into the home of a family near Mombasa and enrolled in a nearby secondary school.

Evelyne receiving
a blessing from her father.
Now in her last year of school, Evelyne has been selected as Head Girl and her teachers praise her for her hard work and good scores. Evelyne is hoping to continue her education by going to university to study accounting.

Evelyne has also been welcomed back into her family home, where she had been barred from returning, after refusing her arranged marriage. Over several years, and with intervention and counseling from KELC leaders and community elders, Evelyne’s father has accepted her decision to pursue education instead of marriage. At the end of last year, Evelyne’s father invited her home, where he gave her a blessing for her future and success in her schooling.

We thank God for Evelyne’s strength and achievements and we pray for equity and justice for all girls in Kenya and around the world.

Thanks to Elizabeth Hendrickson, ELCA missionary in Kenya, for this story and photos. The work of the KELC Women’s Department is funded mainly by ELCA World Hunger funds.

Jane’s Story: A Person Living with HIV/AIDS Becomes a Peer Counselor and National Health Advocate

Jane Mwalyego displaying some of 
her healthy nutritional products
Jane Mwalyego, the widowed mother of four, lost her husband to HIV/AIDS in 2002. Jane was diagnosed with HIV just before her husband’s death. At that time, due to the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, her husband’s family disowned her and her children. Bereaved and heartbroken, Jane and her children had to travel1500 kilometers (almost 1000 miles) from Musoma, her husband’s home village, to Mbeya where she settled at her brother’s home. There her health quickly deteriorated and she became bedridden. In 2005, a Palliative Care team from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) learned of her case and began to visit her regularly. They nursed her bed sores, managed her pain holistically, and provided counseling. In 2008 she moved to Arusha, in northern Tanzania, where she began Antiretroviral Therapy. Sadly, her eldest, a teen-age son, died of HIV/AIDS around this time. In Arusha, she continued to receive Palliative Care services, including bereavement counseling and psychosocial support, from Selian Lutheran Hospice. By 2015, she had recovered her strength and was invited to attend training for home-based care volunteers so that she could help other patients in her situation to face life again. Although Jane has only a primary school education, she became one of the best peer counselors in the region for patients and families affected with HIV/AIDS.

Jane Mwalyego addressing members
of the Tanzanian Parliament to
advocate better Palliative Care services 
The ELCT Palliative Care Program also introduced Jane to Village Community Banks, which provide micro-loans for income generating activities. With a small loan, Jane started to do small scale farming for vegetables and other nutritional crops. Today she has a small business selling a variety of healthy nutritional products from which she earns a good income. She has been able to pay school fees for her children; one of them recently graduated as a teacher while her youngest is completing her university degree at Dar es Salaam University. In September 2017 Jane had the privilege of testifying before members of the Tanzanian Parliament to advocate for the availability of better Palliative Care services throughout Tanzania.

Thanks to Dr. Paul Mmbando, head of the ELCT Palliative Care Program, for this story and photo. The ELCT Health Department’s Palliative Care Project is funded by World Hunger grants.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Happy New Year!

For our January blog, we would like to give a glimpse of some of the many things we did in 2017 as ELCA East Africa Regional Representatives. Part of our work involves visiting our partners here in East Africa, encouraging them in their work, and reporting back to Global Mission and our supporting churches about the great things happening here on the ground.

Bishop Mameo of the Morogoro, Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. The poster reads, “Don’t exchange girls for cows. Give them an education.”

We had visited Bishop Mameo of Morogoro before, but in October it was time for another visit. A Maasai by birth, Bishop Mameo’s family tradition includes raising large herds of cattle. Sometimes cattle are exchanged for a bride in this culture, often leading to early marriage, so that the girl’s father can increase his herd. This usually means an end to the girl’s education. Bishop Mameo stands up against this tradition. We love this poster that he keeps in his office! Deborah had the chance to chat with him about the ELCA’s International Women’s Scholarship Program, which sends young women from our partner churches to four-year Lutheran Colleges in the U.S. Bishop Mameo is hoping that a couple of young women from his diocese may benefit from this scholarship, and he is encouraging good candidates from his diocese to apply.

Women of the Lake Tanganyika Diocese, proudly displaying their products for sale

In November Lake Tanganyika Diocese in southwestern Tanzania was on our agenda. This is a new diocese without many outside partners. ELCA-Global Mission has supported the Women’s Ministry of this new diocese, enabling them to purchase a farm that will serve as a place to grow vegetables and develop bee-keeping. Above is a photo of some of the women of the diocese, proudly displaying their products for sale: baskets, beadwork, fabrics, home-made bread, and honey. Funds go to promote the Women’s Ministry and to assist community members in need.

Joe and Deborah Troester receiving gifts at the inauguration of the new Women’s Center in Ketumbeine

Another part of our work is helping and encouraging our fellow ELCA missionaries in East Africa. In March, colleagues Dr. Steve and Bethany Friberg celebrated the inauguration of a new Women’s Center in Ketumbeine, where Dr. Steve serves eleven rural clinics. Bethany has worked with the women of their village for twenty years now to develop a bead-making project. Sales from the project have enabled over fifty children to attend school—some even have graduated from college! The money has also helped the women buy goats and other livestock, so that they can earn some extra cash from the goats’ milk or sale of its offspring. This raises the standard of living for the whole family.

Mr. M. Mallumbo, ELCT Deputy Secretary General for Planning and Development, addresses a group of visitors including: Deborah Troester, Rahel Mwitula Williams, and Andrew Steele

In September we were blessed by the visit of thirteen people from ELCA Mission Advancement: nine ELCA church leaders and four ELCA staff members. They were touring ELCA-sponsored projects in Tanzania and Rwanda. We helped organize their visit, and assisted in making some videos showing the work of several ELCA missionaries and local partners. They visited the Headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, and met its leaders.

The Reconciliation Lutheran Center in Juba, South Sudan

Finally, perhaps the biggest project in our region was completed and inaugurated this past November 16: The Reconciliation Lutheran Center in Juba, South Sudan. This beautiful center includes a sanctuary for worship, office space, classrooms, and a clinic. The project has brought together people from several of South Sudan’s warring ethnic groups. Together we worshiped in peace as the center was dedicated. A special t-shirt was made for the celebration, and people danced in the street before enjoying a huge meal together.

A special t-shirt made for the inauguration 

Women dancing in the street during the inauguration of the Reconciliation Lutheran Center in Juba

So maybe this gives you a taste of what we did in 2017. We thank all of you for your continued support and prayers that made all of this, and much more, possible.

Joe and Deborah are missionaries living in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and work in Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Their daughter, Christa, is a sophomore at the University of Southern California.

Joe and Deborah can be contacted at and

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tumshukuru Mungu!

Tumshukuru Mungu—We thank God—is a phrase we often hear in Tanzania. Tanzanians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving as a once-a-year national holiday, yet, in their everyday lives, they often express gratitude to God for their blessings. Nearly every church will have a special Sunday for Thanksgiving, usually around the time of the corn harvest in October. Also, people who want to show their gratitude to God for a special blessing, such as recovery from an illness, will often make a special offering. They will come to the front of the church to present their gifts, receive a special blessing and perhaps give a testimony of God’s goodness in their lives.

Recently Deborah was visiting Sumbawanga, the headquarters of Lake Tanganyika Diocese, one of the newest dioceses in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. When it came time for the offering, people came singing and dancing up to the front to place their offering in a wooden box. The photo above is of the box labeled, Shukurani—Thanksgiving Offerings. There are other boxes for different kinds of offerings, such as tithes and pledges.

As is often the case in Tanzania, people also brought up sacks of corn, watermelons, eggs, and even two live chickens. The women of the church had baked about a dozen loaves of bread. Some people brought handcrafts they had made themselves. These items were auctioned off after the service and the sale price was added to the offering. In this way, people with little cash on hand could still contribute to the work of the church. Church in the U.S. might be a little more interesting if we had this custom!

As we approach Thanksgiving, we are especially thankful for visits from folks from the U.S., including a group from ELCA Mission Advancement in Chicago who came to visit projects and missionaries sponsored by the ELCA and to make some videos of mission work in Tanzania. We are also thankful for safe travels around Tanzania, a trip to Nairobi to visit the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church, and a safe journey to South Sudan, for the dedication of the new Lutheran Center in Juba. We are especially thankful for our wonderful supporters in the U.S., many of whom we got to visit this past summer.

Whatever you are thankful for, we pray that you will have a blessed Thanksgiving. Remember, Tumshukuru Mungu!

Top Photo: Offering box at church in Sumbawanga, Tanzania labeled Shukurani (Thanksgiving in Swahili).

Middle Photo: Offering boxes at church in Sumbawanga, Tanzania labeled Fungu La 10 (tithes) and Ahadi (pledges).

Joe and Deborah are missionaries living in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and work in Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Their daughter, Christa, is a sophomore at the University of Southern California this fall.

Joe and Deborah can be contacted at and

Monday, June 5, 2017

Troesters to Visit Supporting Congregations in the U.S. in Summer 2017

This summer we plan to visit congregations and other community gatherings to give a presentation on our work for the ELCA in East Africa. We will concentrate our visits on our supporting congregations in Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Our itinerary is below; however, there are still a few events pending. We are greatly looking forward to meeting new people and greeting old friends.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Joe and Deborah Troester
East Africa Regional Representatives for the ELCA
P.O. Box 1770, Arusha, Tanzania 

Troester Itinerary

·         July 9: Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jonesboro, Illinois
·         July 16: Christ Community Church in Columbia, Illinois
·         July 20: Supper Club at First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, Illinois
·         July 24 to 28: Summer Missionary Conference near Chicago, Illinois
·         July 29 and 30: Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania
·         July 30: Trindle Spring Lutheran Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
·         August 1: St Peter's Lutheran Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
·         August 2: Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Pearl River, New York
·         August 5 and 6: St John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oak Harbor, Ohio
·         August 20: Epiphany Lutheran Church in Carbondale, Illinois
·         August 27: First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, Illinois
Other events pending

Photo Caption: Map showing the states we will be visiting this summer: Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York

Joe and Deborah are missionaries living in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and work in Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Their daughter, Christa, will be a sophomore at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts this fall. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother’s Day from Tanzania

Happy Mother’s Day to all our friends and supporters, especially those of you who are moms. Here in Tanzania Mother’s Day is not as big a day as it is in the U.S., but people here do honor their mothers in many ways. Often a mom is referred to using the name of her first-born child. For example, I might be called “Mama Christa,” since our daughter’s name is Christa. 

Mothers in Tanzania and throughout Africa are often expected to do the main tasks of childrearing—not only cooking and cleaning, but also providing much of the food for the household and paying for school fees. This is especially true in the case of widows or those who may have been abandoned by their husbands.

When our colleague ELCA missionary Bethany Friberg arrived in Tanzania over twenty years ago, she noticed that many women struggled to put food on the table and often the family didn’t have money to educate their children. Bethany and her husband, Dr. Mark Friberg, live out in Maasailand near the border with Kenya, where Mark serves in Lutheran health clinics ministering to the Maasai.

Bethany admired the beautiful traditional beadwork that the Maasai women make. These items are often sold to tourists, so she had the idea of forming a women’s cooperative to make and sell beadwork. Twenty years later, some thirty women are working together in the Naapok Bead Project. Between them all, they have sent over fifty of their children to school, some of whom have even graduated from university, a goal that in the past only seemed a distant dream. They earned money to buy goats, seeds for gardens, and other agricultural projects that have enriched their families’ diets.

Recently, Joe and I attended the dedication of Naapok’s new center, where they now have a cement building where they can meet to work together and can safely store their bead-making materials. They also built an outdoor shelter, suitable for holding meetings or church services, and even constructed restrooms with flush toilets—a real luxury in the Tanzania bush! The women served us a delicious lunch of beef, goat, vegetables, and rice—typical for this part of the world.

We are happy that as the ELCA East Africa Regional Representatives we can encourage Bethany and Mark in their work.

Top Photo: Bethany Friberg and members of the Naapok beading group. Our ELCA Land Cruiser is in the background.

Second Photo: Joe and Deborah receive beaded key chains as gifts from a member of the Naapok women’s cooperative.

Joe and Deborah are missionaries living in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and work in Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Their daughter, Christa, will be a sophomore at the University of Southern California this fall.

Monday, July 25, 2016

‘I grew up in this church’:

A video story of faith formation in Tanzania

The Living Lutheran just published a video story of Rahel Mwitula-Williams, a third-generation Lutheran Rahel tells about growing up in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. Her faith was shaped in part by her grandfather, who was one of the first local missionaries in Tanzania, trained by Lutheran missionaries. Rahel now works as a manager for global relations for the ELCA. You can watch the complete video by clicking on this link.

Photo: Half-way through the video is the above photo, which Joe took of a procession of bishops at Bishop Ambele Mwaipopo's installation service in Sumbawanga, Tanzania, in September, 2014.

Joe and Deborah are missionaries living in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and work in Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Their daughter, Christa, will be a freshman at the University of Southern California this fall.