The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana was founded in 1743 and is the second oldest Lutheran church in South America. Located on the northeast coast of South America, Guyana is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Venezuela to the west, Brazil to the south and west and Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) to the east.
The Guyana Mission Network is one of several North American groups that assist the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana in various ways. They focus, among other things, on providing Bibles and study materials for the church. Upon the publication of the new “Lutheran Study Bible,” the Guyana Mission Network promptly sent 40 copies for the pastors, deacons/deaconesses and lay leaders-in-training for the diaconate.
In April 2009, copies of the study Bible were presented on behalf of Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana’s president, Errol Inshanally, and secretary, Samuel J. Goolsarran, during their visit to St. Paul, Minn.
An interesting connection with the “Lutheran Study Bible” is that Winston D. Persaud, born, baptized, confirmed and ordained in Guyana and now an ELCA pastor and professor of systematic theology at Wartburg, wrote the article “The Bible and God’s Mission” in the “Lutheran Study Bible.”
Persaud, who is co-director of the Guyana Mission Network along with Paul A. Tidemann, begins the article with, “God’s Word in the Bible has come to us shaped by and bearing the marks of a diversity of cultures, competing religious worldviews and tribal and ethnic distinctiveness and intermixing.”
Since the 1920s, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana has partnered with North American missionaries who have come for terms of various lengths to serve the church there. Currently, Richard Young, a pastor and medical doctor, is the only ELCA missionary serving in Guyana.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana began a program in 2006 called the Lutheran Lay Academy to meet its needs for effective ministry and mission.
The church does not have as many ordained pastors as in the past, so it has begun a training program to enable the laity to serve in a diaconate for the church and, after a period of training, some of those certified as members of the diaconate will be authorized by the church to provide word and sacrament ministry under the supervision of a pastor. In 2008, 20 lay leaders completed the first set of courses.
The Guyana Mission Network has been providing not only “Lutheran Study Bibles” for those in training, but also other theological and biblical study books.
In addition to providing “Lutheran Study Bibles” in 2009, during the last several years the Guyana Mission Network has provided about 100 copies of the “Good News Bible” for the use of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana congregation members. The church’s Christian education department has distributed these Bibles to those who need them.
The Guyana Mission Network began in 1990 as an effort by several people, including Persaud and Tidemann, with roots and missionary service in Guyana. Persaud served an Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana parish for some years after completing a doctoral degree in theology at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
He returns to Guyana every year to visit family members and the churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana. Tidemann, an ELCA missionary in Guyana, 1974-78, returned for visits to Guyana while he served St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church an ELCA congregation in St. Paul, Minn., until his retirement in 2006.
In the intervening years, the Guyana Mission Network has served alongside with and in support of the efforts of the ELCA to provide support and resources for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana, including the editing and publication of a revised and expanded “Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal” for the church in Guyana, which was made available in 1993 when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana celebrated its 250th anniversary.
Now, the “Lutheran Study Bible” is a most welcome resource for God’s mission in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana.