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A Return to Zambia

“Return” was the message of God’s Old Testament prophets after the exile in Babylon. That dynamic command also served as the working title of a continuing education course taught by Professor Paul Koelpin WLS ‘90 to 55 African pastors in Lusaka, Zambia, last summer.

“I wanted to highlight post-exilic history and prophecy, while emphasizing the repentance aspect of the word ‘return,’” said Koelpin. “I guess you could say that the title also had another shading. My wife, Becca, who accompanied me on the trip, grew up as the child of a WELS missionary in Lusaka. For her it was sort of a ‘return’ home.”

Martin Luther College professors assist the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) by supplying instructors for their weeklong summer continuing education series for active pastors. Koelpin followed Professor Daniel Balge WLS ’85, who taught in Zambia in 2011, and Pastor John Boeder WLS ’90, who taught in Malawi in 2012. Another MLC instructor will teach in Malawi in summer 2014.

“I do hope that this program will continue,” Koelpin said. “There is such a benefit for the prof to engage with another culture—to field questions about their concerns and issues. And what a privilege to share in the riches of the Word with fellow believers halfway around the world! I hope the African pastors profited as much as I did.”

Koelpin taught three two-hour sessions each day, four hours in the morning on the “Return from Exile,” and two hours on a New Testament gospel topic each afternoon.

He and his wife also had the opportunity to experience the worship life in Zambia. “We sang Christian Worship liturgy along with them and then listened to the choir sing in African harmonies in their native language. That was a treat,” Koelpin said. 

A trip to the “bush” helped give perspective to the rural setting of many African congregations.  “I had a chance to see one of the pastors I had in class all week in his village. H was so pleased to show me his church building. “ 

Koelpin returned to campus with renewed energy. “I’ve been encouraging my colleagues to consider the chance to see God’s Word at work in another part of the world. The expatriate missionaries took very good care of us. I can’t thank them enough for making our visit such a rich and rewarding experience.”

Lutheran Church of Central Africa

The first WELS missionaries came to Africa in 1945. Worship services were started in Lusaka in 1953. In 1992 the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) divided itself into two conferences –Malawi and Zambia. Several years later, the Bible Institute was placed in Lilongwe, Malawi, and the Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia.


Members: 11,639

Established Congregations: 116
Preaching Stations: 34
National Pastors: 26


Members: 38,506

Established Congregations: 114
National Pastors: 29
Expatriate Missionaries: 6

Statistics from


Read more articles in our Fall 2013 InFocus magazine.