Formerly known as “Dutch Guyana”, Suriname lies immediately southeast of Guyana – which was “British Guyana”, and west of the small country of French Guyana.
This country maintains close ties with the Netherlands, and Dutch is still widely spoken, as well as many other languages. Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana are 3 of the 4 non-Hispanic language countries in South America (the 4th being Brazil whose major language is Portuguese). Because of their location on the northeast coast of South America, they are grouped with our companion churches in Haiti and Cuba and considered to be “Caribbean”.
The President of the Evangelisch Lutherse Kerk in Suriname (ELKS) is Yolanda Yehe, having been elected in 2022. There are four congregations in and around Paramaribo. Currently one of ELKS’s pastors, Rev. Danielle Dokman, is studying in the US for her PhD; another emerging leader is Rafael Van Ommeren who is graduating from UTCWI in Jamaica. The most recent trip to Suriname was in October of 2019, though another is planned for late 2023. There is a desire on the part of ELKS board members to come to the USA for an immersion trip in the future.
Since 2020, the Florida-Bahamas Synod has partnered with ELKS and the ELCA Area for Service and Justice in the arena of gender justice. Global Mission has provided funds to help sponsor two rooms in a shelter named STICRIS, a private-public partnership in Suriname providing housing and support services to abused women and their families (pictures below). We also supported and attended a virtual symposium on the topic in October 2021, hosted by ELKS. Finally, members of the Suriname Team worked with ELKS and other companions to create a devotion for the Sixteen Days of Advocacy for Gender Justice in December 2021. It can be found at the following YouTube link: https://youtu.be/Ax0561UpBn8