Mid-19th century: Europe is simmering. Germany experiences a revolution in 1848. Ships bring exotic spices and stories of mysterious lands and people from faraway colonies.
“But this is life eternal, that they may know you, who alone are true God and whom you have sent, Jesus Christ.” This verse (John 17:3) would not let the young theologian Ludwig Harms go. The flip side of the sentence meant that there were unsaved souls of millions of people in Africa, Asia and America crying out for salvation. For Harms and the many listeners of his sermons, this was an urgent call to action. Immediately! It was not only in the small rural village of Hermannsburg near Celle, where Harms was pastor, that this appeal for salvation was heard. In many places in Germany, during the height of the colonial era, the mission to the “heathens” was seen as an urgent task in mission societies and institutions.
This happened mostly in home groups, or as fundraising associations of people “on fire for missions.” And some of them made great efforts when young people “heard the call to go into the mission field.”
For Harms, these called people were a problem, because the peasant sons from his community did not have sufficient schooling to study theology and then go to Africa as missionaries. So he founded the “Mission Seminary,” which trained theologians up into this decade with the special mission of working abroad.
In the meantime, the mission seminary has become the Fachhochschule für interkulturelle Theologie. Here, young people from all walks of life study intercultural theology, service, church leadership and religious studies.
The world has changed: Colonies have won independence. And from the “mission field” independent churches have also grown. The missionary associations have become the “foreign ministries” of the national churches. In the same way the Hermannsburg Mission Institute has become the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Lower Saxony (ELM), an institution of the Lutheran state churches of Hanover, Brunswick and Schaumburg-Lippe.
Today, for us Europeans, the phrase “go into all the world” is ordered behind this sentence of Jesus: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you: To preach to the captives that they may be free, to the blind that they may see, to the brokenhearted that they may be free” (Luke 4.18). Today, theologians in the local context are primarily responsible for baptizing and teaching.
The ELM divides its work into three major areas:
- Justice: practice of faith in social responsibility; cultural and individual self-determination; social justice and empowerment; the socio-politically present church.
- Theology and faith: intercultural communication of the gospel (missional theology); theology of religions; models of church and church organization; theological and ecclesial formation.
- Ecumenical relations: Church as an international ecumenical community; developing and shaping partnerships; facilitating and accompanying encounters; exhcange programs
Through its work, the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Lower Saxony (ELM) is part of a large network made up of twenty-two churches in seventeen countries.
Evangelical-Lutheran Mission in Lower Saxony
Tel.: +49 5052 69-0
Fax: +49 5052 69222