After 23 years of dedicated ministry to the people of El Salvador, Rev. Brian Rude has announced that he will retire from active ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) at the end of this calendar year.
Rev. Rude began his ministry in El Salvador serving as chaplain in an orphanage and teaching Christian formation, as well as working in the communications department of the Lutheran church. His ministry was one of accompanying the El Salvadorian people during armed conflict which occurred within the country. Following the Peace Accords of 1992, and the closing of the orphanage in 1994, his ministry expanded to include people living with HIV/AIDS in prisons, parishes and hospitals. Brian co-founded the Quetzalcoatl foundation – an organization which seeks to understand gang violence by working with prison personnel and inmates (especially gang members) and at-risk youth in their neighbourhoods, with a focus on mental health and on increasing opportunities and reducing social violence. He was involved in this ministry until 2011. Currently he is involved in restorative justice ministry in the prison system throughout the country and surrounding areas.
The news of Rev. Rude’s retirement comes following a difficult decision made by the ELCIC’s National Church Council (NCC) at its March meeting. NCC members determined that due to severe budget constraints it would no longer able to sustain long-term missionaries. There were significant cutbacks in several other areas of ELCIC programming, however the ELCIC will continue to support the indigenous missionaries of the Amazon mission and in Argentina.
"This was a very painful decision for us," says ELCIC National Bishop Susan C. Johnson. "Supporting ELCIC members in mission around the world has been an important part of the ministry of this church and its predecessors. Fortunately, through our partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Global Mission, ELCIC personnel can continue to serve."
Bishop Johnson commended Rev. Rude for his extraordinary service to the church. "He serves as a role model of being In Mission for Others for his accompaniment with the poor and marginalized in El Salvador," she says. "There are few in the ELCIC who have not heard of Brian and the stories, newsletters and messages which he has so graciously provided over the span of his ministry. We are grateful for the work he has accomplished in his years of ministry."
Reflecting on his ministry, Rev. Rude speaks of the seed that flourished into his becoming a long-term missionary which came following the hosting of two educational delegations to Central America (the ecumenical "Ten Days for World Development" focus at the time). "I was envisioning, with Salvadoran refugee friends in Calgary, the possibility of this longer-term mission to El Salvador after receiving enthusiastic affirmation from Lutheran Bishop Gómez in El Salvador," says Rev. Rude.
"As a church, we have been graciously welcomed into the orphanages, the war zones, the displaced peoples’ camps, the campesino villages of repatriated refugees, the earthquake and hurricane disaster zones, the AIDS wards, the gang barrios, the prison dungeons and the back alleys of El Salvador, the land of The Saviour," continues Rev. Rude. "In these sacred spaces, we have discovered Jesus already present, loving God’s crucified people, inviting us to join in his mission of incarnation, of solidarity. In mission with our sisters and brothers of El Salvador, we have been learning to follow Jesus ever more faithfully."
Rev. Rude expresses his sincere thanks to all throughout the church, "especially to those who have supported and enriched me and this ELCIC El Salvador-Canada ministry over these many years, in so many ways. To God be the glory!"
Peru Long-Term Missionary also to move on to new opportunities
Following four years of ministry in Peru, Rev. Fran Schmidt has decided not to renew her contract at the end of her term this June.
Rev. Fran Schmidt began her dedicated service to the Lutheran Church of Peru (ILEP) in 2008 following her ordination. She has provided ministry to the church of San Juan Camino de Esperanze and was an interim pastor to the congregation of Emaus. The ILEP churches were blessed to benefit from her music leadership as she taught music lessons, liturgy courses and conducted choirs. Rev. Schmidt returns to Canada at the end of June and will take part in four months of reorientation.
"We give thanks to Rev. Schmidt for her dedicated service to the church and to her missionary church," says Bishop Johnson.
Rev. Schmidt says she leaves Peru and the ministry there, "with an incredible sense of gratitude and humility. Being able to serve ILEP through its partnership with ELCIC has been a great joy and privilege and we have all learned so much in this journey together. We have worked side by side in God’s vineyard, accompanying one another, challenging one another, and learning what it means to be the body of Christ."
She extends her thanks to her brothers and sisters in Christ in the church in Peru for their generous hearts, open spirits, kindness and patience. "They have taught me, and us, as ELCIC, what it means to proclaim Gospel in the world," she shares. "We are richer for the experience of accompanying one another and meeting Christ in our journeying together. I also wish to thank the many ELCIC congregations and members who have regularly sent emails, cards and letters; their prayers and support have meant more to me than they can ever know! My prayers remain with ILEP as they vision and grow."
Ministry of long-term missionaries to be celebrated
ELCIC members will be invited to share their thanks for the ministry of Rev. Rude and Rev. Schmidt. Details will be announced shortly of ways that members can personally share their gratitude for this mission and ministry.
ELCIC Global Mission support and opportunities
Years ago, ELCIC churches in Canada had a vision to plant churches in many areas of the world. Long-term missionaries were supported by the faithful back in Canada and assisted in the establishment of many new churches. Today those planted churches, through their own efforts and the efforts of The Lutheran World Federation, are becoming sustainable as institutions. The way in which the ELCIC supports these churches has changed as the ELCIC moves into partnerships of accompaniment and responds to the invitation to be present.
"It is no longer as much about us sending people," explains Rev. Carla Blakley, assistant to the National Bishop for Global Mission. "The ministry of global mission continues to evolve. Many of our partner churches have established seminaries and are training local pastors. They are now asking us to partner with them in supporting their churches and their pastors. This is exactly what we see with our relationship within the Amazon mission and in Argentina."
ELCIC Global Mission (GM) remains committed to the full administration, funding and supervision of missions in Peru (Rev. Yoli Zavaleta in the Amazon Mission) and Argentina (Rev. Gustavo Gomez and Rev. Sergio Utz).
In Peru, ELCIC GM continues the work of Rev. Katharine Bergbusch through the financial support of a local pastor in the ministry at the mission congregation of Fiel es Dios (God is Faithful).
In Southern Argentina, ELCIC GM shares a joint mission with the United Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELU). Rev. Utz is a pastor at Esperanza del Sur (Hope of the South) congregation in Esquel and Cruz del Sur (Southern Cross) congregation in Bariloche and works with Mapuche aboriginals at Cushmen. Rev. Gomez is a pastor at San Juan Bautista congregation in Comodoro Rivadavia and oversees the congregation’s daycare.
The ELCIC also carries out its ministry of global mission through a key partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Global Mission. ELCIC members interested in serving as missionaries have access to opportunities through the ELCA Global Mission office.
ELCIC members who have supported the mission and ministry within the regions of El Salvador and Peru are asked to please consider continuing financial support to enable ELCIC Global Mission to be In Mission for Others through the ministry of other program areas. Further information on how to provide support is available online at www.elcic.ca/Global-Mission.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 145,376 baptized members in 594 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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