So, tell us about yourself – describe your home country, your hometown, and your home church.
My name is Emmanuel S. Tengbeh, born 1983. I am from Liberia, situated on the West African coast, bordered by Sierra Leone to the northwest, Guinea to the north, and the Côte d’Ivoire to the east. Approximately 40% of the Liberian population is Christian. I have four sisters and one brother, and our family belongs to the Kissi speaking tribe. I grew up in a small town called Boyah, close to the Liberia-Sierra Leone border. There are three churches in Boyah – two are Pentecostal, the other, a Lutheran church, also has a preschool. After completing high school in Sierra Leone, I received a Diploma in Theology from the Lutheran Coordinating Center for Theological Studies (CCTS), Baoma Chiefdom, Bo District, Sierra Leone in 2008.
I am a member and an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Liberia Synod. It has an estimated membership of between 10 and 15,000, with about 3-400 congregations around the country. We have about 150 trained pastors, and St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran church, Wood camp, Reed light, Monrovia is our headquarters. In my home district, Foya, Lofa County, Liberia, we have a total of 3,600 members in 24 congregations. We also have two primary schools.
Briefly describe your experience at the LTS
This is my second year at LTS. I came here in 2012 with 10 other Liberian brothers and sisters. Seminary life in that year was not too difficult for me. We had students from 8 different countries and we were all friendly and could share with one another, even though our monthly stipend was not much. That year I also received help from my late father, in whose care I left my wife and children. At the LTS prize giving that year, I received the award for best student. Unfortunately, due to a lack of funds, we Liberian students could not return to the seminary the following year. But in 2016, my senior pastor told me that Dr. Weber had found a sponsor for me. I do not know his name, but I thank God for his help. May the Almighty God richly continue to bless him for his kind gesture in my life!
I am very motivated by the love and privilege God has shown to me and want to follow my calling to be trained and serve His people in the Christian church, beginning in Liberia.
I enjoy meeting new friends, professors, and lecturers, being introduced to so many theological experiences and the like. But I know that seminary life will not always be smooth sailing. We have to deal with many challenges.
Please share some of your challenges and joys with us.
Some of my many challenges of studying here are: (A). Finances: In our country, pastors are not paid as they are in Western countries, so I found it difficult to obtain the passport, visa, and other documents that pertain to visa application, and to come up with travel expenses. (B). Family: As a pastor wanting to live a faithful life with my wife, who is still back home, is very challenging, especially since I will be away for another four years in total. Some families cannot take such a strain, resulting in separation or divorce. I pray the Lord would grant strength. Also, one of my sons took ill. He needed blood transfusions on three different occasions that cost more than $1,000 USD. I couldn’t afford a single dollar. (C). Food: Sometimes the food is very different to what we are used to!
Joys? My greatest joy is that November is coming, when I can go home and be with my family, but I do wonder: “How am I going to meet my family as a husband and father?”
What are you hoping to gain from your seminary studies, and how do you plan to use what you learn here?
This is an interesting question. As I mentioned above, I am a high school graduate, and I hold a diploma in theology, so, my hope and expectation for my studies here is to graduate with a degree or equivalent.
I have already begun to use the knowledge acquired from LTS. Drawing on the knowledge from my first year and my previous studies, I became the theological training director for our district of 24 local congregations with a total membership of 3600. I serve on the ordination committee of our national church body and on its board for theological training. I am a presenter on the Lutheran Radio Ministry under the support of African Radio Ministry (ARM). I was able to start a primary school in one of our district parishes. I also organized weekly training for pastors and lay preachers to make sure the ministry of the word and sacraments is properly conducted, using Luther’s Small Catechism. When I graduate from the LTS, I look forward to doing even more with the help of God
What would you say to those considering coming here – what role does the LTS play in the kingdom of God?
If any of my friends from Liberia should wish to come here, and if sponsors are found for them, I would offer to facilitate interviews with them to determine their level of education, their financial and family background, and their expectations. I will be able to tell them what life is like at the seminary, and help them to work together and consult with the seminary rector. That would help people to have realistic expectations before coming.
In closing, I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to the Rector, Dr. Wilhelm Weber, whose good leadership experience, connections, humanitarian efforts and above all, godly love in keeping with the great commission got me where I am today. I will never stop praying for God’s favor, protections and wisdom to be bestowed on him. Thank you for selecting me for this interview.