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Okach Opiew:

Why I Am a Lutheran

 
Okach Opiew is a man who belongs to a tribe of people called the Anyuak, who live primarily in Ethiopia and South Sudan. Like many Anyuak, Okach was born to a Christian family. (Read his story here.) 

His life story has had many twists and turns, and we at LHF wanted to learn more about his journey to the Lutheran faith.

LHF: Where did you first hear of the Lutheran faith?
Okach: I first heard about the Lutheran’s faith when our congregation was praying under the tree in Alari Refugee Camp. At that time, Rev. Henery Okumo gave our congregation two copies of Luther's Small Catechism and one copy of Lutheran Church History. Since 2005 up to now, I have been reading the catechism and I realized that it was the correct Christian doctrine. That is why I translated it into the Anyuak language - to help my tribe.

LHF: When did you become a Lutheran?
Okach: I become a member of the Lutheran Church in October 2005 at the Alari Refugee Camp, Pochalla County, in South Sudan. This was when Mr. Agwa Bwobo (who belongs to the Anyuak tribe) came from Minnesota in the USA and Rev.Henery Okumo from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya come to Pochalla County to establish a Lutheran church there.

LHF: Why do you want to be a Lutheran?
Okach: I would not say I want to be a member of a Lutheran church, because I already am a member of the Lutheran Church because of its sound biblical doctrine. I have experienced both the Lutheran faith and other churches' faith when I was in Ethiopia, and even here in Kenya as well as in South Sudan.

When I compared the Lutheran faith and other Christian churches’ faith, they were different. The Lutheran Church believes in justification by Grace, through Faith in Christ, as is taught in Scripture; but other Christian Churches believe in justification by good works.

The Lutheran Church believes what God has done through Jesus Christ; but other Christian churches believe in what they are doing. Also, in the Lutheran Church, those who receive instruction are to be baptized after they have been instructed in the main articles of the Christian faith; but other Christian churches baptized people before they instructed them; for example, when I was baptized, I was not instructed in the main articles of the Christian faith.

Lutherans baptize all people, young and old; but other Christian churches baptize old people only (for example, the Baptist churches). In other words, they are rejecting the Great Commission in Matthew 20:19-20 and they are denying the original sin. Finally, in the Lutheran Church, pastors are not ordained until they have attended seminary, but other Christian churches ordain pastors before they join the seminary.

LHF: You've done a lot of hard work to translate and edit the Small Catechism into the Anyuak language. What, to you, is so special about this book?
Okach: I believe that it is important to have Luther’s Small Catechism in our mother tongue due to the following reasons. First, as a result of my constant reading of the catechism, I realize that it is founded on sound Biblical doctrine, which I believe Anyuak’s churches need to expand God’s kingdom on earth. The Anyuak churches have no strong foundation of faith, due to lack of enough educated theologians. Since 1956 when the first American missionary, Dr.Don McClure, stepped in Anyuak land, only a handful of pastors - about 20 - were ordained, and the majority of them are illiterate.

Secondly, its translation into the Anyuak language will help our community or churches greatly to have access to this wonderful sound Biblical doctrine. This is because about 90 percent of the Anyuak people are illiterate in other languages. They only know how to read and write in our mother tongue.

Thirdly, this may pave way to open more Lutheran churches in our community. Right now, there are only a few Anyuak Lutheran churches in both South Sudan and Gambella, Ethiopia. I believe that when people read doctrine printed in their mother tongue, they will understand well and respond positively.

Finally, Luther's Small Catechism can guide pastors in Anyuak community during Holy Sacraments service. 
 
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