The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the poorest and least developed nations. Its land-locked economy offers limited trade options. Most of the people live in rural areas from subsistence farming and informal means. Natural resources include timber, diamonds, and gold, but these are not well developed and are affected by rebel groups and corruption. Wealth is unequally distributed and political instability has not favored economic development. Since independence in 1960, there has been much political instability and rebel activity with numerous coups alternating with elections. The latest coup d’état by the Seleka rebel coalition in 2013 led to civil war with sectarian manifestations. In the post-conflict situation, there are many humanitarian needs and many refugees, both internal and external. Numerous NGOs work in the CAR.
Our Companion Synod
Our companion synod, the Eglise Evangéliqe Luthérienne de la République Centrafricaine (EEL-RCA) [Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic] has an estimated 55,000 members in 300 congregations. Its presence is strongest in the Western province of Nana Mambéré, near Cameroon, although there is also a well-established congregation in the capital of Bangui.
The church has a seminary, a bible school (to train catechists), a strong women’s organization (Women for Christ), and a youth program. Meeting the needs of the people is an integral part of the church’s mission of sharing the Gospel, and it has many ministries in education, healthcare, agriculture, and water development. Through its ministries, the church helps meet the urgent need for safe drinking water and adequate food, works to lower the rate of infant and maternal mortality, combats AIDS, malaria, and other illnesses, provides basic education, develops women’s leadership, and more.
Many of the Lutheran congregations are in scattered villages and are very small. Pastors serve several congregations at once, rotating among them to officiate at communion and perform baptisms. Catechists serve individual congregations on a day-to-day basis.
The leaders of the EEL-RCA chosen at the 2015 Churchwide Assembly include President (Bishop) Rev. Dr. Samuel Ndanga-Toué, Vice- President Rev. Rachel Doumbaye, and Treasurer Michel Doko (current and past).
Our Opportunities for Companionship
Our synod has been involved with the EEL-RCA since the 1990s. Our affiliation began when Pastor Andrew and Barbara Hinderlie and Pastor Boyd Faust were missionaries in CAR.
Beginning in 2000, three church presidents (equivalent to our bishops) have visited our synod: Rev. André Zoulé in 2000 and 2005, Rev. André Golike in 2010 and 2014, and most recently, Rev. Dr. Samuel Ndanga-Toué in 2016. Other Central African visitors have included the first ordained woman of the EEL-RCA, Rev. Antoinette Yindjara Beanzoui, Madame Simone Baigo-Dari, President of Woman for Christ, two youth attending the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering, Ornella Golike Ama and Frederic Vouti Samba, and two youth attending the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering, Yvette Ari and Modeste Nagbata.
Several representatives of our synod have visited CAR over the years, including Bishop Rinehart. Visits in both directions are few and far between. Due to geography, it is apparent our relationship with the CAR will be quite different from our relationship to Peru.
Our synod’s focus as we accompany our sisters and brothers includes:
- Praying for our companion synod and its ministries
- Becoming educated and aware of the culture and needs
- Developing a closer relationship with the missionaries serving CAR
- Working with other partners in mission with the EEL-RCA
- Helping raise money and supplies for and awareness of the many ministries of the EEL-RCA
U.S. Based Partners
- Companion Synods: Eastern North Dakota, Western North Dakota, and Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast
- ELCA Congregations and Individuals: Many congregations and individuals provide support for the ministries of the EEL-RCA through their prayers, visits, and generous gifts to World Hunger and Global Gifts.
- Global Health Ministries (GHM): Providing support to the health ministries of Lutheran churches around the globe, GHM was instrumental in the construction and initial funding of Emmanuel Health Center at Gallo.
- Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry (LPGM): A long time partner with the EEL-RCA, LPGM has supported St. Timothy’s Parish in Bangui, the Martha and Mary Women’s Center in Bouar, the Emmanuel Health Center at Gallo, the Village Education Program, and the Village Savings and Loan Associations.
- Evangelical Lutheran Mission (ELM), Germany
- Mission Afrika (MA), in Denmark
- French Protestant Mission (Défap)
- Lutheran Commission for Relations with Overseas Churches (CoLuREOM), France
ELCA missionaries serve in the Central African Republic with the assistance of supporting congregations and ELCA churchwide resources.
Anne and Willie Langdji are regional representatives for West and Central Africa. They work with companion churches and missionaries in several countries, including CAR, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Anne focuses on health ministries. Willie’s focus is sustainable development and capacity building. He has worked with the Lutheran church in CAR on financial issues, leadership training, and other matters, while Anne has worked with the church’s health programs and clinics.
Dr. Susan Smith has ended her term as advisor to the education programs of the EEL-RCA. At this time, no new missionaries have started in CAR.
How can I help?
- Pray for the Lutheran Church in the Central African Republic and its ministries
- Support the ministries of the EEL-RCA
- Consider joining the CAR Team
As it is, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you.”
~ 1 Corinthians 12:20-22a