Take a look in any American pastor’s study and you’re likely to see books – shelves overflowing, even piles of books on the floor.
But in poverty-stricken areas of the world like Africa and Haiti, many pastors consider themselves fortunate if they have even one or two theological books written in a language they can read and understand.
Now, through the faithful support of countless LHF supporters, French-speaking Lutheran pastors and seminarians throughout West Africa and Haiti will have three new volumes to help them become better shepherds of their people.
Thousands of copies of the French Book of Concord (already received in Togo), a three-volume set of Dogmatics and A Manual of Christian Doctrine are on their way to the Lutheran Center for Theological Studies (CLET) in Togo, where more than 30 students are expected this fall.
“Every pastor in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod knows the importance of studying a dogmatics (study of doctrine, or teachings) text,” said Rev. Jacob Gaugert, an LCMS theological instructor at CLET. “These texts help pastors and evangelists with their tasks of teaching the faithful.”
“Our pastors have the benefit of standing on the shoulders of theological giants,” agreed Rev. Matthew Heise, LHF executive director. “But for pastors and seminarians around the world who don’t have our good theological books, written in a language they can understand, they’re left to answer the hard questions on their own.”
Yet for seminary students coming to CLET from countries like Benin and the Republic of Congo, where finding clean water and food must take priority, books are an impossible luxury.
“Many of our students will not be paid at all when they go back to the parish to be ordained,” Rev. Gaugert said. “They will have to work their own fields or another job alongside their pastoral duties to survive.”
The same is true in French-speaking Haiti, where Rev. Eliona Bernard, president of Concordia Theological Seminary of Haiti, is greatly anticipating their shipment of theological books.
“It is not a secret, but it is a shame that Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere,” Rev. Bernard shared. Most Haitian Lutheran churches are not able to provide stipends for their pastors, who must grow gardens for their families’ food.
“We need these books because they are the main ones we use in Bible study, in our seminary and for training church leaders,” Rev. Bernard said. “Before, our pastors did not have these books, but with the new ones LHF is sending, each pastor will have one for his personal study, and we will have some available at the seminary.”
The Lutheran Church in Haiti has already seen the benefit of having simpler books like LHF’s French Small Catechism available for their members.
“One of the challenges of the Lutheran Church in Haiti is infant baptism. It takes time for someone who grows up in the Baptist Church or Church of God to accept infant baptism,” he explained. “But fortunately we have an important document to face this challenge: the Small Catechism. We give thanks to God that most of our members now have a copy of this book that we love so much and is so easy to understand.”