A new program called WELS Mission Journeys is coordinating short-term trips for WELS congregations and their members to help home mission churches, world mission fields, and existing congregations with outreach events.
Shannon Bohme, coordinator of the Mission Journeys program, says that there is a huge gap between congregations and WELS members who were looking for short-term mission experiences and available options for taking trips like these. With the creation of this new program, WELS Missions will offer opportunities for laypeople to get involved in outreach as well as to experience work in the mission field firsthand. “You will get the joys and the sorrows,” says Bohme, who has had 17 years of international mission experience. “You may invite someone to come to church and they don’t come; that’s real-life mission work. But you may also get the chance to tell someone about their Savior for the first time.”
But the trip will be just the start of each person’s mission journey.
“We’re looking at a way we can grow together in the Great Commission,” says Bohme. “We want everyone to take that excitement from the mission experience, bring it home, and start looking at their neighbors in a different way—to start inviting them to learn about the most important thing in the world, their Savior.”
For the program, members age 13 and up from a congregation or school will sign up for the trip as a group. Training, which includes team building and culture awareness, then will be provided. After the trip, the team and its supporting organization will be encouraged to conduct an outreach event in its own community.
Bohme says the plan is to offer 40 one- to two-week trips in the first year of the program, with 200 trips completed after three years. About three-quarters of these trip will be domestic, with the remaining going to world mission fields. Events on these trips could range from canvassing to helping run vacation Bible schools or soccer camps. “It all depends on what the field needs,” says Bohme. Congregations will fund the trips on their own, with WELS Missions providing the training and coordination needed to make the trips happen.
Three congregations participated in the pilot program: St. Matthew’s, Oconomowoc, Wis., and Goodview Trinity, Goodview, Minn., both sent teams to Ecuador, and St. Martin’s, Watertown, S.D., sent members to East Asia.
The group from St. Martin’s spent eight days in East Asia to conduct an Easter outreach event and meet new contacts. Jeff, a member of the group, says they told the Easter story to 51 people who had never heard it before. “They kept thanking us over and over for sharing the message of Jesus with them. The look in their eyes is unforgettable,” he says.
Jeff had never been on a mission trip like this before. “I didn’t really have any expectations, just that we would hopefully have many opportunities to share the Easter message. I didn’t look at it that I would gain anything, but, wow, was I wrong,” he says. “It will definitely change your life for the better. Your outlook on different cultures, the friendships you will make or strengthen, the memories you’ll make, and your attitude about serving others will all be better than you can imagine.”
While he says he will go again on a trip like this “in a heartbeat,” he also learned lessons he can use anywhere. “Just keep looking for opportunities to share Jesus with more and more people, wherever you are. God will give you plenty of opportunities if you are looking for them. He will also give you the words to say—you just need to be willing.”
Matt, who has had previous experience in East Asia, served as the group’s leader. “My favorite part of the trip was seeing the excitement in my team as they had many new experiences. It was really fun to see the spiritual growth in each of my teammates.”
But he also discovered lessons of his own: “I learned that it doesn’t matter the culture; people are still people. Everyone has hopes and dreams. They also have pains and sorrows. They also have a natural knowledge of God. And because of sin, everyone needs a Savior. It is such a humbling experience knowing that God has used me to share this message with others halfway around the world!’
Matt says the team is working with the congregation to potentially start a local campus ministry to reach out to students at a nearby tech school.
Want to get involved in WELS Mission Journeys? Talk to your pastor about getting a group together from your congregation. Learn more at wels.net/missions or by contacting [email protected].
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Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018
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