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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Where chickens sleep in trees

Namibia's north church provides refuge for the vulnerable

When deep orange-red dusk lies upon north Namibia, chickens noisily flap into trees to roost safely above the cobras. They aren't the only ones seeking safety.

In this rural desert, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia is a long-standing refuge for people who are sick or who have disabilities. They are dealing with grinding poverty, the effects of war and liberation from South Africa, and the AIDS/HIV scourge that touches nearly one in five adults, according to Namibian government estimates.

Vistoria Lukas, 20 (left), and Benyamin
Vistoria Lukas, 20 (left), and Benyamin Hileni, 21, are first-year nursing students at Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital in Oniipa, Namibia. If they successfully complete their two-year program, they have guaranteed employment at the hospital

"I think first we went through difficult times, and people learned to trust their problems to God," said Tomas Shivute, ELCIN presiding bishop. He welcomed a seven-member delegation from the Southwestern Washington Synod in May. (It's one of four ELCA synods that has a companion relationship with the Namibian church.)

Besides two schools and a rehabilitation center, the Namibian church owns Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital in Oniipa, where many hundreds of AIDS patients and expectant mothers from throughout the region come every year and where tiny ones end up in a crowded nursery, some victims of malnutrition or accidents.


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December issue

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