by Matthias Prenzler

Legumes such as lentils are an essential part of the East African diet. They’re nutritious, filling, long-lasting, and cheap. But would you ever see legumes as agents for mission? Never underestimate the mission potential of the humble lentil!

In October 2021, Shepparton in Victoria was hit hard by the Delta COVID outbreak. At one stage, a third of the city was in hard quarantine, and essential services like supermarkets were struggling to keep up.

The lockdowns were felt keenly by African members of St Paul’s Lutheran Church, who were cut off from their families, community and church. Our congregation did our best to attend to the physical and spiritual needs of members. One of the only ways we could do this within restrictions was by delivering care packages of culturally appropriate food items, including lentils. These fed the belly and the heart. It also gave us an opportunity to pray with people, satisfying the needs of the soul as well.

But where do you get large quantities of lentils during a pandemic? I rang Gavin Schuster, a farmer from Freeling in South Australia and a member of the Light Lutheran Church. He asked members of his church, and although nobody had any lentils available, they sent money to enable us to purchase legumes locally. Soon after we invited Light Lutheran Church to consider a mission partnership with Goulburn Murray Lutheran Parish.

With the assistance of Craig Heidenreich, the LCA’s Cross-Cultural Ministry Facilitator, and Brett Kennett, LCA Victorian District Pastor for Congregational Support, we have been looking to establish mission partnerships. As well as financial support, these partnerships aim to provide opportunities for prayer, sharing of skills in cross-cultural ministry and mutual encouragement.

For the past six years, the Goulburn Murray Parish has been blessed by the ministry of Kathleen Mills, a deaconess from the USA who has been instrumental with ministry work among the Shepparton African community. Her position has previously been funded by a generous grant from the LCANZ’s Board for Local Mission, but this funding ended in May 2022.

On 31 July 2022, a delegation from St Paul’s Shepparton visited Freeling for a mission festival. Members of St Paul’s African choir sang, Kathleen shared a presentation on her work in the parish, and representatives of the two church bodies signed a Memorandum of Understanding. It was a very joyful and encouraging start to the partnership, and we look forward to seeing it grow and develop.

Light Lutheran Church is raising funds for mission through the work of some innovative farmers from the church. The farmers received permission to crop a plot of government land if they used the profits for charitable purposes. Last year, they got a bumper crop that earned four times what they expected. What did they grow? Lentils, of course!

Pastor Matthias Prenzler serves the Goulburn Murray Lutheran Parish in Victoria.

The full version of this story first appeared in the Victorian District including Tasmania’s District eVoices.

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