Pastor shares talents with two churches

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 28, 2002

"The Lord has really blessed me in many ways," Pastor Bob Seifert begins with his story of his long journey back to the Midwest. He arrived in Austin with his family four years ago, come August, and has since then been serving as pastor with the Faith Lutheran Church (Austin) and Trinity Lutheran (Lyle) churches.

"We like it very much here," he says, smiling sincerely. "I grew up in Wisconsin, so I’m used to the cold, I'm used to the seasons -- road construction and winter, and I’m used to the Minnesota-size mosquitoes."

They came from a four-year, two-congregation assignment in Washington, and before that they had spent four years as missionaries in the southern African country of Malawi.

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During his senior year at the seminary in Iowa,

Seifert remembers the call for missionaries to Africa.

He didn’t give it much thought until, to his surprise, he heard his wife tell some women that’s where they would probably go.

Ultimately, Bob Seifert, his wife, Laura and three children, Jacob, Cassie and Rebecca, ended up in the city of Blantyre, Malawi.

The work of learning the language, Chichewa, was challenging, but fun. Seifert found that learning the native proverbs helped him to understand the language as well as the culture. As an example, he compares our saying, "Don’t cry over spilt milk" with the Malawi one, "There is no medicine for baldness."

With an amused grin, he rubs his balding dome.

"My missionary friends used to tease me about that one," he lets on. "Well, I had a man help me.

He worked on radio, both English and Chichewa. I used a small tape recorder and taped people talking. Then I played it back and practiced, and my language helper translated what I didn’t understand."

So, with the help of a radio personality, a tape recorder and determination (not to mention prayers), Bob was ready to give his first sermon in the native language eighteen months later.

Shortly after their arrival in Africa, four-year old Jacob took a fall that

resulted in severe head injuries -- cracked scull and concussion. The local

hospital was not equipped to deal with Jacob’s condition, but God came

through again. He sent help through an American doctor, connected with the

Seventh Day Adventist Hospital. After looking at Jacob, the doctor

activated his network of contacts that in turn made arrangements to airlift

the boy and his mother to a big hospital in Johannesburg,

South Africa.

Laura, who had never been on and airplane before the trip to Africa now rode

all by herself with Jacob to an entirely different nation on the continent.

Bob’s voice rings with amazement and pride while relating these events.

The neurology surgeon did not want to cut Jacob’s scull to operate, only

gave him medication to reduce the brain swelling.

"So, the doctor virtually

saved his life.

There was a 56-year old man in the same room, with the same

problem as Jacob’s," Bob recalls.

"Sad to say, he didn’t make it."

The Seiferts’ wish to have a baby while in Africa was granted, or so it

seemed, until Laura developed a blood clot in her leg and was bedridden for

a time.

Because of Laura’s medical situation and complications that posed

risks for both mother and baby, the family was granted permission to return

to the United States ahead of schedule.

"A week after Tia was born, and thanks to the Lord’s grace and His glory, it

was a normal delivery and the baby is healthy, the Lord called us out to


Seifert leans back in his chair, smiling. "Yes, the Holy Spirit has been

with us through it all," he says. "Jacob recovered completely and is now a

healthy fourteen-year old boy. And the people here -- our congregations have

made us very welcome," he says, adding that their outreach is mainly

directed at the "un-churched" people. There are so many churches in the

area, and he is not out to draw people away from their own churches, but

rather the church-less. Plans are also in the makings for Vacation Bible

School and community concerts.

"Our congregation is trying to look forward, not just at the present; we are

not trying to duplicate efforts that other congregations are already doing,

but maybe see the opportunity to reach those who aren’t being reached."