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Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

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Rob Penumaka

Pastor Penumaka's passion is to study and to teach. He would like to return to Hong Kong to teach in a Lutheran school. "I want to help people realize the purpose of life and to recognize the suffering we bring into our own life."

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Student Profile: Joshua Emmanuel Penumaka

Degree: 2013, Th.M./Ph.D.

Despite his father's desire that all three of his sons would be Lutheran pastors, Emmanuel Penumaka started out as a lawyer. He did not want to be a pastor. Instead, he studied law and became a junior lawyer in the public prosecutor’s office.

"I spent one year full-time and three years doing it part-time and I realized I was not happy dealing with criminal cases,” Emmanuel says. “That’s when I went for theological studies."

He earned a bachelor of divinity degree in Bangalore, where he studied Hebrew and Old Testament with Theodore N. Swanson, father of LSTC professor Mark Swanson. Pastor Penumaka first served a rural parish, then one in a town, and finally a parish in a city of six million people.

Pastor Penumaka saw the suffering of the poor and how the caste system caused suffering among the people he served. Those experiences stayed with him as he traveled to Hong Kong to do a master's degree.

In Hong Kong, he became a missionary pastor for a Chinese congregation, part of the South Asia Mission Project. He was disturbed by a different kind of suffering he observed.

"People in Hong Kong were workaholics. Their families suffered because they did not have quality time with their families. Children became victims. They didn’t have the love and care that can create something different in society. This destroyed family culture," Emmanuel says.

Seeing this suffering and thinking about theology of the law, Emmanuel came across Vítor Westhelle's book, The Scandalous God. This inspired him to apply to the Ph.D. program at LSTC.

"Moving to Chicago and making the shift from pastor to student was difficult," Emmanuel says. He feels supported by the professors, worship at LSTC, and the community he and his family have found at Augustana Lutheran Church in Hyde Park.

Pastor Penumaka’s passion is to study and to teach. After earning his degree, he would like to return to Hong Kong to teach in a Lutheran school. "I want to help people realize the purpose of life and to recognize the suffering we bring into our own life."

Page last modified Oct 31, 2014