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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 182,077 baptized members in 624 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches.

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From the Office of the Bishop


Winnipeg, May 22, 2002 (ELCIC) --The Rev. Greg and Mrs. Marla Kiel and their three children will leave their placement in Esquel and Cushamen, Argentina, on Friday, May 24. For the past three years, the Kiel family has been the human face of the partnership between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and the Iglesia Evangelica Luterana Unida (IELU). They served on behalf of both national churches to announce the good news of the gospel, celebrate the sacraments and give service in Christ’s name. They will continue mission and ministry in the prairie town of Redvers, Saskatchewan in a shared ministry involving Lutheran and United Church congregations, beginning September 1.

The Rev. Cindy Halmarson, Assistant to the ELCIC National Bishop, visited with IELU President Angel Furlan and Executive Secretary Roberto Stein, May 12-18, to discuss the churches’ mission in the Patagonia region of Argentina. Pastor Halmarson witnessed first-hand the vast distances, harsh landscape, and rich potential for mission and ministry in four diverse communities, all of which have become like home to the Kiels during the past three years.

Pastor Kiel had been jointly selected and called by IELU and the ELCIC, an innovation that grew out of and enabled the partner church relationship affirmed by the two church bodies. With the Kiel’s return to Canada, the partnership takes on new dimensions.

One new dimension is territory. The location of the joint IELU/ELCIC mission will expand from two towns in west central Argentina to include the whole of South Patagonia, covering an area of some 500,000 sq. km. On this territory the mission is focused in four communities and the surrounding areas: Esquel (pop. 40,000), Cushamen (pop. 400), Bariloche (pop. 100,000) and Comodoro Rivadavia (pop. 150,000). In each place, a ministry of Word and Sacrament is closely tied to a ministry of service to working mothers, the mentally ill, persons living with AIDS, the unemployed and others. In every place, the mission focuses on the poor, the disenfranchised and the needy.

The second new dimension is in personnel. ELCIC mission in Argentina will no longer be embodied in a Canadian pastor living and serving in Patagonia. Instead, the personnel will be entirely Argentine. A new ordinand, the Rev. Gustavo Gomez, will serve Comodoro Rivadavia (their first pastor in ten years!). Intern Patricia Vargas will serve Esquel and Cushamen. The district dean, the Rev. Octavio Burgoa, who serves the Bariloche congregation, will provide supervision and support to both. Agreements between IELU and the ELCIC will describe a relationship in which the pastors in South Patagonia will be accountable to the ELCIC for telling the story of mission and encouraging mission mindedness in Canada.

Resources for mission are also evolving. All the partners in mission have been grateful to sponsoring congregations for the prayer and financial support that enabled the Kiels to serve in Patagonia for three years. In order to meet expenses for the Kiel’s return to Canada and to continue mission commitments in Patagonia, ELCIC mission staff underscores the need for sponsors to continue financial support through 2002.

For 2003, ELCIC and IELU have agreed to a commitment of $20,000 from the ELCIC to support mission in Patagonia. Beyond 2003, the two church bodies will establish commitment levels based on a long-term strategy for the four ministries in Argentina.

In addition, the four-wheel drive vehicle purchased with the gifts of ELCIC members will be transformed into a new resource for mission. In order to serve the expanded territory, the truck will be traded in for two vehicles -- one a four-wheel drive to be used in Esquel and Cushamen and the other a seven-passenger van for use in Comodoro Rivadavia.

The ELCIC partnership with IELU will continue to grow by personal contacts through the Companion Synod relationship between IELU and the Saskatchewan Synod. To help the ELCIC know the Argentine mission personnel serving in the Patagonia, intern Patricia Vargas will attend the Saskatchewan Synod Convention on July 5–7. She’s a bright, articulate and compassionate young woman who has been interning in Lincoln, Nebraska. Bryan Tastad, chair of the SK Synod Companion Synod Program Committee will host Patricia during her visit to Saskatchewan.

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