by Melanie Ave
The Rev. Jeffrey Kuddes is a Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) pastor of nearly 20 years who has developed an ongoing love for the people of Madagascar, a country 10,000 miles from his southeast Minnesota home. Kuddes currently serves a dual-parish, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran in Waltham, Minn., and St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran in Hollandale, Minn.
In April 2010, after busy Lent and Easter seasons, he wondered if he should get involved in short-term mission work. Later, with the support of his congregations, Kuddes accepted a call for chaplains to accompany an LCMS Mercy Medical Team (MMT) trip to Madagascar. After my first trip, I was changed in so many ways, more than I could detail, he says. Since then, Kuddes has been to Madagascar two more times and led a team there in October 2010 for the LCMS MMT program. He has even helped establish a mission society with other LCMS pastors and laymen that benefits the Lutheran Hospital in Antsirabe, Madagascar, and the Malagasy Lutheran Church.
Kuddes and his wife, Michele, have three children: Caleb and his wife, Chelsea, and Jacob and Naomi. The following is an edited Lutheran Witness (LW) interview with Kuddes (JK):
LW: You recently led a short-term mission team to Madagascar. What was that like?
JK: Leading a team in October 2011 was a bit daunting. While I have become well-acquainted with our Malagasy partners and am in contact with them regularly, I was still nervous about all the preparations to leave, presenting all the documentation (visas and baggage permission) that is necessary for travel, the gathering of the team (usually in Europe) and then proceeding to Madagascar, a 10,000-mile trip.
Additionally, on this last trip, we were a small team of four–three registered nurses and myself; no pharmacist and no doctors. Sinner that I am, I did worry, but for no purpose. As usual, our Lord provided all that was needed. When the day came, all was packed, the documentation was done. We all met in Paris and flew to Madagascar. We flew through customs like weve never done before, and through the week, we ended up treating 1,079 patients in five clinics with the help of some wonderful Lutheran Malagasy doctors and helpers beside us. Thanks be to God! It was more than either of the other two trips. Indeed, God is gracious and merciful and so very forgiving, even of a wretch like me.
LW: We understand you are developing a mission society in Madagascar. Can you offer some more details?
JK: This has become a great joy for me in addition to my call as pastor here in Minnesota. We worked hard on that first trip, and yet I realized that there was so much more to do. On my second trip to Madagascar, I met with [Lutheran Hospital and Malagasy Lutheran Church officials] to establish projects whereby we could provide funds to fulfill needs for the Lutheran Hospital in Antsirabe and for the Malagasy Lutheran Church. To that end, through fundraising here in the United States, we have been able to send a little more than $30,000 for various projects in these areas. I was able to witness the work that had been accomplished there on my third trip. Again, thanks be to God!
Much was accomplished, but there is still so much more to do. Our next major project is to finish the building of a Lutheran school in Nanotonana. I visited the 150 children enrolled, which could expand to 300 or more with help. They are desperate for a roof, additional rooms, tables and chairs, books and more.
We are looking to raise, by the grace of God, around $15,000 to accomplish this goal. Please pray for us, and help us if you can. As Luther said, We are beggars! You can’t imagine how grateful these dear people are that there are those who live over 10,000 miles away who would care about them and their lives, often ones of desperation and dire poverty. They are moved to tears, as are we!
LW: Why do you think its important for Lutherans to participate in these short-term teams?
JK: With respect to the LCMS MMTs, its primarily important that we have willing, talented medical professionals to do the work of mercy in many places where medical needs are currently underserved. I do believe that being Lutheran and making the Lutheran connection, for instance, 10,000 miles away is equally as important. It is easy for brothers and sisters in Christ to feel alone, no matter where they live. To make that connection of faith is not just a wonderful experience but a faith-strengthening experience for all concerned. We are one together in faith and in the confession of that faith–Lutheran brothers and sisters in Christ, our Savior.
LW: How is Christs love shared with the people you are helping?
JK: Christs love is given in body and soul, and the two are together in each person. As the body is helped, it is good for the soul, and the other way is true too. The LCMS MMTs are there for both! To be sure, we are there to provide relief from the ravages of sin to the body. Along with the dedicated and caring knowledge of our medical professionals who are ready to diagnose and treat a variety of physical ailments, there is also medicine and ongoing physical and spiritual care from our local partners.
The love of Christ is given from His people to His people in this way. In addition, one of my tasks as team chaplain is to have devotions, which I did morning and evening for the team. God’s Word gives strength and peace to our teams so that they can then share Christ’s love with others in need.
LW: How can people support these teams?
JK: Support can be given by prayer and money and participation, plain and simple. We should always pray Gods mercy for us and others and for the salvation of the world.
Pray the Lord of the Church that His will is done in your life and that His Kingdom comes to you and through you! To that end, gifts of money are crucial for our work, for your work.
And then there is you! We need you to volunteer and serve. The LCMS MMTs are oriented around providing medical help. We need medical professionals and hard-working laypeople to volunteer to serve for just a few short days. Any and all are invited and encouraged to live the love of Christ by giving as God gives the opportunity–either with talent or treasure.
LW: Is there anything else you would like people to know about the LCMS MMTs?
JK: As I go about doing presentations on these trips, I have heard comments like, Well, Pastor, you know theres plenty of work to do right here at home. And I wholeheartedly agree, and we should be doing that work too!
The issue is resources. Because we are so greatly blessed in the United States, resources for help are many. In third world nations, poverty-stricken nations, nations with inept or corrupt governments, the resources are few to non-existent.
We can, we should, be the resource! We are alive in Christ to resource the world with the love and mercy of Christ. By the grace of God, this is what we do in Madagascar, Haiti, Kenya, India and throughout the world. Would you like to help? Would you please help?
> Learn more about LCMS MMTs at www.lcms.org/mercyteams.
About the Author: Melanie Ave is the Public Relations Coordinator for The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.