Evangelical Lutheran Church in Suriname
Who is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Suriname (ELKS) and what are its ministries?
Pastor Kevin Jacobson with some members of the Martin Luther Church
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Suriname (ELKS), a member of the Lutheran World Federation, has about 4,000 members in five Lutheran congregations. Three of the congregations are in or near Paramaribo, the capital city: Martin Luther, Bethlehem, and Community of Hope. Two congregations are outside the capital city, one in the city of Nikerie and the other in Lelydorp. Martin Luther was the first congregation begun by Dutch settlers in 1742 and has the oldest church building, an historic edifice built in 1834.
Weekly worship services, pastoral ministry to its membership, education and health care are the most important ministries of the ELKS. The ELKS has a full-time chaplain serving one of the local hospitals. For higher education, Biblical and theological study, the ELKS has links with the local Moravian seminary and with the United Theological College of the West Indies in Jamaica. From 2000 - 2007 the ELKS developed an outreach program in an area of Paramaribo called Mattenshoop. A congregation was formed and a church building erected and dedicated 2007.
Lutheran Church Camp for Children
Interior of the Martin Luther Church in Paramaribo
The ELKS participates ecumenically in the Council of Christian Churches (CCK), along with Roman Catholics, Moravians, the Salvation Army, and Reformed churches. The CCK and its member churches are involved with many social projects in the community. Also, the ELKS appears on local television and radio stations with short meditations on a regular basis.How do the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Suriname and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America accompany one another in ministry?
Through the churchwide ELCA Global Mission unit, the ELCA relates to and is in bilateral relationship with over 80 companion churches and institutions and stewards relationships with the ELKS. This relationship is deepened and extended by its relationship, through the ELCA Companion Synods program, with the ELCA Florida-Bahamas Synod.
Churchwide funding through the ELCA Global Mission unit supports key priorities identified by the ELKS, including leadership development with personnel. The ELCA has one missionary primarily serving Martin Luther Church and assisting the ELKS in implementing a leadership development plan. The ELCA encourages regional cooperation between the Lutheran Church in the Caribbean and the Lutheran Churches in South America. The ELCA Florida-Bahamas Synod, besides offering personnel exchanges, work teams and pastoral visits, has supported various youth activities and assisted in completing the church building in Mattenshoop.Suriname: The context in which the ELKS in Suriname serves
Suriname is a constitutional democracy that gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1975. Almost 437,000 people live in Suriname. Dutch is the official language, but English is widely spoken, as well as Sranang Tongo (native language of the Creoles) Hindustani and Javanese. Ethnically, the Surinamese come from many different backgrounds: Hindustani (37%), Creole (mixed black and white 31%), Javanese (15%), Black (whose African ancestors were brought over as slaves 10%), Amerindian (3%), and Chinese (3%). The religious practices are: Hindu (27%), Protestant (predominantly Moravian 25%), Roman Catholic (23%), Muslim (20%), and indigenous beliefs (5%).
Suriname has a small foreign debt and depends on its exports for its ability to repay the loans, but inflation is high. The bauxite industry (in decline for two decades) accounts for 15% of the Suriname GDP. Most politicians see the integration into Latin American and Caribbean markets as critical for Suriname. The Dutch offered loans in 2001 to help Suriname develop bauxite and the gold mining industry. Unfortunately, the development policy threatens deforestation because of timber exportation and pollution of waterways through mining. Government patronage hinders reform. Financial independence from the Netherlands is dependent on economic development.
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