Cross of Christ Lutheran Church - Welch, Minnesota -
Ministry Notes                                 August 2019

I went to see a good friend last night, Pastor Wal Reat.  He’s an ELCA missionary serving in the Gambella region along the border of South Sudan and Ethiopia.  Technically it’s Ethiopia, but the people living there are in refugee camps on the run from tribal violence in South Sudan. 

Wal is a big man, tall, with enormous hands and a warm smile.  With an even bigger heart.  After his presentation I went up to say hi, and extend a hand shake.  He grabbed my hand and pulled me into a bear hug.

I first met Wal about twelve years ago.  We were at a monthly conference meeting of pastors and he singled me out to talk with me.  His accent was hard to understand.  He mentioned there was a group of people in Austin that were looking for a worship space, and he wondered if the church I was serving would be open to the idea. I said, “It wouldn’t hurt to ask.”  
The next Sunday I was leading worship and noticed five well dressed gentlemen near the back of the sanctuary.  One of them was Wal.  After the service I was greeting people as usual and I noticed them leaving the church by a different door. 

I ran after them and caught up with them on the sidewalk.  I met them all, and with Wal as the spokesman, we agreed to meet the next morning in my office. I had a pretty good idea what we were going to talk about, so I contacted all the appropriate leaders and got the go-ahead to initiate a conversation.

The next morning my office was full of people from the Nuer tribe.  We started talking and I was so deeply moved by their stories of faith and resilience.  When we were done talking, I offered to say a prayer.  I don’t even remember what I prayed, but from that moment on we’ve been brothers.

Wal went on to go to Seminary and be ordained in the ELCA.  About three years ago he decided to go back to Africa.  His wife and children live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he visits as frequently as he can. But most of his time is spent in ministry in the Gambella region. 
According to the UN refugee agency, there are more than 400,000 refugees in this area living in various camps.  This is exactly where Wal is setting up churches and commissioning lay pastors to serve them.  Last night he said there are about 4,000 members in all the churches he has set up. Wal talked about the medical needs and the despair.  These are people who want to go back home, but are afraid for their lives.

As Wal was talking, I got a sense of how overwhelming the whole situation was.  So many people, so much need, you hardly even know where to start.  And Wal seemed subdued, he is usually witty and chatty, but last night as he was talking, he seemed broken.

Through his pictures, through his posture, he barred his soul.  When I was talking with him, I shared that we pray for him.  And his eyes lit up!  It was so important for him to know there are people in the world who are remembering him and his work. 

The Cross of Christ mission committee had decided to give his ministry some money and it was my privilege to give it to him.  What we do here at Cross of Christ and Cannon River makes a difference in the world.  We heard that from Karen Anderson a couple weeks ago and I saw it on Wal’s face last night. 

Blessings, my friends…

Deacon Todd Portinga

Church Phone: 651-388-3464 
Pastors Email:  

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