All nations—right in the backyard
Sharing the gospel with all nations takes on a new meaning at Holy Trinity, Des Moines, Wash. Located within a melting pot of cultures—one of Holy Trinity’s pastors has Somalian Muslims, Filipinos, and Hispanic immigrants living within a block of his home—Holy Trinity has opportunities to reach the world right in its own neighborhood.
“So often in the Wisconsin Synod [the Great Commission] means sending in our mission dollars so that people can go to Malawi,” says Tom Voss, pastor at Holy Trinity. “But it’s been so awesome to see that it doesn’t always mean we have to go across oceans.” Instead God has been bringing opportunities right through the congregation’s front door.
In January 2013, three Sudanese men attended worship at Holy Trinity to find out more about what WELS teaches. They were told to “go find Wisconsin” from fellow Sudanese Peter Bur, who is a member at Good Shepherd, Omaha, Neb.
Voss soon began Bible information classes with a group of 11 Sudanese adults. According to Voss, the Sudanese hesitated about attending classes since they were already Christian. But that quickly changed. Says Voss, “After three to four weeks one of them said, ‘This is really good. I’m glad we’re doing this. In all the churches we visited this is the first time anyone ever sat down and taught us about what the Bible says.’ ”
In July 2013, the congregation welcomed 45 Sudanese into their congregation, including confirming those 11 adults. The group now attends regular Sunday worship at Holy Trinity. It also holds worship in the Nuer language twice a month.
Voss says now he is concentrating on building a solid foundation for their faith. “The plan is to train leaders,” he says, “to have them continue to grow in the grace and knowledge or our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We’re equipping them to feed their own flock and to take the Word of God into their community.”
Since the Sudanese are a tight-knit group, that community could include Des Moines, Washington, or another city across the country where other immigrants have settled. The group is also passionate about returning to South Sudan to spread the gospel. Sudanese ministries in WELS congregations around the country are working to coordinate outreach and training.
Another opportunity God brought to Holy Trinity came in the form of Youn Soo Park, a Korean pastor looking for a place to hold worship for his small congregation. He became a WELS member in 2001. “I started out as a Korean minister of another Christian religion and was able to go to school through the WELS’ educational programs while working to support my family and my congregation to become an ordained WELS pastor,” says Park. Park graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 2010.
Funding from the Board for Home Missions as well as other individual grants allowed Park to sell his laundry business and serve full time at Holy Trinity Korean Lutheran Church. “It is welcomed to know that we are accepted as part of the Holy Trinity campus and that both churches will work to together to make this a long lasting relationship,” says Park.
Holy Trinity Korean currently has 57 members. Besides weekly worship in Korean, Park and the congregation are reaching out to the Korean community in Des Moines, offering English as a Second Language classes (using Holy Trinity volunteers to teach), Saturday classes for the family, and Bible study on the campus of the University of Washington. Park also teaches catechism and serves as a mentor to the Korean children attending Holy Trinity’s school, many of whom come as international students. The congregation wants to start an after-school program, and Park also would like to conduct an evangelism seminar to train his members to share the gospel. “It is truly a blessing to me to be able to share the law and gospel with people of my own background yet grow with them as I too continue to learn,” he says.
Koreans who want to worship in English also can attend English services at Holy Trinity. Mark Schewe, pastor at Holy Trinity, appreciates seeing Sudanese, Korean, Hispanic, and Anglo members all worshiping together. He also notes that families from other cultures—including Samoan, Sikhs from India, Ukrainians, and Russians—are learning about the Savior through attending the school. “You can look around and see how the gospel is for all—and all are coming to hear it.”
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Volume 101, Number 8
Issue: August 2014
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