Imagine the logistics of gathering children, spouses and grandchildren at the same time from the corners of the globe, or at least three continents. This happened recently in Concordia when the Federwitz family, including Mom Alvina, her four children and their spouses, and her grandchildren, enjoyed a family reunion.
Alvina Federwitz grew up in the town of Wall, S.D., in the 1950s. She had no clue what life held in store for her. But God did.
She and her future husband, Dale Federwitz, a Lutheran seminarian, had each, separately, become interested in foreign mission work. They eventually married, applied as missionaries with Lutheran Bible Translators, and found themselves posted to Liberia in the early 1970s. Alvina and Dale built partnerships there, while advancing God’s mission through translation and literacy work with the Mandingo Bible translation project.
During their career, the senior Federwitzes also supervised the Kuwaa translation and consulted on language projects in Cameroon. They experienced first-hand the ravages of civil war and the uncertainties of emergency situations. While sometimes exchanging soil in one geographic area for another, these unexpected bends in the road, they always knew heaven waited for them as their true home.
While their parents served with LBT on the mission field, the Federwitz children immersed themselves in local culture, were homeschooled, then attended boarding school in Africa, and eventually graduated from universities in the United States.
Dale was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2002 while pursuing his Ph.D. According to Alvina, “the celebration of his ‘home-going’ to heaven brought all my children and grandchildren together in the same place at the same time.”
Following Dale’s death, Alvina pursued her own further education to work in advanced training in literacy and literature development. She continued work in Liberia and Ghana until 2015. After returning to the U.S., she retired from her full-time missionary role in 2017, but continues to serve LBT part time.
The four Federwitz children, Jonathan, Rebecca DeLoach, David and Paul, are married with children of their own. Their roles in God’s mission vary from scripture engagement consultant, to pilot, to information technology coordinator, to regional supervisor directing staff and projects. Their postings range from Africa to Papua New Guinea.
At her retirement celebration, one of Alvina’s children said, “Although you have poured your heart into mission service, I appreciate that you have also poured your heart into your family. I know that we, your family, have always been your number one priority.” Another said, “God showed his faithfulness as he gave you wings to fly in the storm….using your gifts to continue ministry in some very challenging and sometimes discouraging situations over the years. I’m so thankful that I’ve gotten to be a part of this journey, for the example that you have been, and for the influence you continue to be.”
Assembling people from all these places was a complex feat, since some members of the next generation of Federwitzes are approaching adulthood, and currently attend college or boarding school. Alvina says, “Gathering the family in the same room has happened only three times in the last 16 years.”
With some of Alvina’s 14 grandchildren already considering serving God in missions around the world, she realizes how much more challenging it will be in the future to bring everyone together. Multiplying faith through mission work is truly the Federwitz “family business,” represented by the next generation who will bring God’s word to the ends of the earth.