Text: Luke 4:14-21
It is only in retrospect that those of us who were there realize how remarkable the events were that took place thirty-five years ago at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. I had arrived in the fall of 1974 with my husband Terry and our 9-month-old son Jonathan in protest, dreading a future in ordained ministry for our family. But it did not take low, to be taken in by the transformative influence of the seminary community and the wonderful friendships that formed and grew through a rich mix of people, many from other parts of the world.
Among the most compelling and engaging was the gracious and charismatic pastoral family from Namibia, Abasai and Selma Shejavali together with their two daughters. Because of the warm bonds that 1Ormed with I he faculty and families of students during the years that Abasai pursued his doctoral degree at Aquinas Seminary, concern For the safety of their family when they returned to Africa in 1978 was the cause and inspiration for organizing the seminary's involvement in and commitment to Namibian independence. It is not possible to summarize the history of National Namibia Concerns without beginning with the Shejavali family and the story they told about the important work and courageous witness of Namibian Christians who struggled to survive under the cruel occupation of the South African government's apartheid regime.
During the years they lived in Dubuque, the Shejavali family maintained a busy speaking schedule, accepting invitations from congregations and community groups in the region to explain, time and again, the true nature of apartheid, the inherently racist structure of separatism imposed by the white supremacist government in South Africa, which was enforced by a brutal military presence that punished anyone of any age or gender who expressed opposition. Abasai and Selma worked tirelessly to get this message out, even as publicity endangered their loved ones at home. Since so few people had ever heard of Namibia or fully understood the inhumanity of apartheid, they were determined to inform American Christians to exercise their political freedoms and advocate the U.S. and South African governments to press for change.
Most congregations viewed Africa through a lens of distant evangelical outreach by missionaries, who returned to tell stories of living and working among the heathen, Rut Selma and Abasai had more to share than quaint details of a distant African mission. Their...