Mark G. Schroeder
Anyone who has visited New Zealand will tell you that there is simply no place on earth like it.
One of the most striking things about New Zealand is its unrivaled natural beauty. Most visitors arrive on the north island in the capital of Auckland, a large city located on a beautiful harbor. Drive only an hour to the south and you find yourself in rolling hills with thousands of grazing sheep. Travel another hour and you are standing on the shores of a strikingly beautiful lake created by an ancient massive volcanic eruption. Keep driving and you will have an opportunity to hike on any one of four volcanoes (thankfully dormant).
The South Island is just as striking. You’re first greeted by flat sandy beaches. But only hours later you find yourself gasping at the grandeur of the Southern Alps. A little later you stand in a humid, tropical rain forest. But then you look up and towering above you only miles away is the massive Franz Joseph glacier. All this from the creating hand of a powerful and gracious God!
At year’s end, I invariably take time to recall some of the things that have taken place in our synod during the previous 12 months. Seeing God working through his Word is always a reason to marvel and to give thanks. But it’s not just the amount and scope of the work that God has done to build his church; it’s also the variety in the ways that God is blessing the spread of his gospel.
In our congregations, God feeds the faith of his people regularly with Word and sacrament in worship and in classes. Many congregations sacrifice to provide Lutheran elementary schools, high schools, and a college—not only for their own children but for mission prospects as well. The growth in the number of early childhood programs is staggering.
Beyond congregations we see dozens of WELS-affiliated organizations carrying out specific ministries designed to serve people and spread the gospel.
On a synodical level, we see how God enables us to maintain schools that train future called workers and how he provides the young people who have been moved to say, “Here am I; send me!”
The synod’s Congregational Services provides resources to congregations and individuals to assist them in stewardship, evangelism, discipleship, worship, and ministry to those with special needs.
I consider the many ways in which our Board for Home Missions is busy spreading the gospel: planting traditional mission congregations, working with existing congregations to open second campuses or plant daughter congregations, and providing campus ministries that serve our own students and that reach out to other students on college campuses who so desperately need to hear God’s truth.
I am amazed to see how our world mission efforts are reaching people from the refugee camps in Sudan to the mountain villages of Nepal. Through online instruction we are training spiritual leaders in every country in Latin America; we have requests from nearly a thousand others from around the world for theological training. WELS students teaching English in East Asia have helped to establish a new Lutheran synod there. Now we have been invited by the government of Vietnam to establish a school in Hanoi where ethnic Hmong pastors will learn what it means to be Lutheran.
The list could go on.
New Zealand is striking and beautiful and varied in its unforgettable geography. But nothing compares to the many and various ways in which God is building his kingdom among us. We marvel at what God is doing. And we thank him for the privilege of being a part of it.
Mark Schroeder is president of WELS.
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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018
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