Christ for all, Great News for Africa!

Dear Friend,

Africa is BIG. The land mass itself is phenomenal. Insert three USA’s within her borders and there is still plenty of room to spare. The continent also boasts BIG things: wide plains, long rivers, high mountains, deep gorges. Big describes anything from crocs to craters, buffalo to baobab trees; even some of Africa’s insects can leave a person, well, open-mouthed and bug-eyed!

And so can something else—something far more important: the opportunity for WELS gospel outreach on the African continent. The need is so enormous right now that it staggers the mind and stirs the soul. It’s not just that the door is big; it’s also open. Wide open!

Liberia. Uganda. Zimbabwe. Mozambique. Rwanda. The list goes on.

But amazingly, and maybe surprisingly, it’s not that One Africa Team missionaries are beating the bush in these far-flung countries looking for wandering sheep and lost lambs. Instead, they are rushing around, scratching their heads trying to do their best to answer every knock on the door and every cry from the dark: Come and help us!

The stream of requests for visits and teaching keeps flowing; the e-mails and phone calls keep landing on the desks of WELS World Missions and the One Africa Team. We are all standing wide-eyed and tippy-toed, eagerly awaiting to see what God will do with all these opportunities he’s handing to us. And yes, we are more than willing to go!

We’ve already made some inroads into Zimbabwe, and we’ve started teaching in Uganda and Liberia. We are working on a national church registration in Mozambique and made initial visits to Rwanda.

To say we are excited about these gospel outreach opportunities is an understatement. The reality that Christ can come at any time energizes us to work while it is still day. The One Africa Team has bound our core focus and passion around these monumental words: Christ for all, Great News for Africa!

But we need your help! Come and help us is not only their request to us—it’s ours to you. Can you “come and help us” in these outreach opportunities in Africa with your prayers and financial support? By God’s grace, we can take the truth that is so desperately needed and so disappointingly absent­—Christ crucified and risen—into these parts of Africa.

We are so grateful to God for the generous past support of our WELS members. Thank you! For many of you, it’s the time of year to celebrate Thanksgiving. I don’t know how big your turkey or table or gathering will be, but I do know that we all have reason to give thanks to our God who has given—and continues to give—bountifully. Yes, Africa is big (you should see some of the spiders!), but God and his love are bigger still. Unfathomable. Unimaginable. In one of those “hand-over-my-mouth” moments, I can only stand in awe, pondering “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18).

Huh? I just heard something. Oh, excuse me, I’ve got to run. There’s a knock on the door. Another cry for help . . .

In his service,
Missionary John Holtz, One Africa Team

P.S. Check out the November edition of Forward in Christ to learn more about all the amazing outreach opportunities happening in Africa.

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Help us reach our goal!

“I want to say thank you to WELS because you have given me peace. I did not have peace until I learned the gospel in these classes. All of us here are learning so many things. We take the things we learn here and teach them to our people. The printed materials, translated into our language, are very useful to us. All of us are baptized now, including our babies. We have peace and joy from the true teaching of God’s Word.” PASTOR CHAPLAI, HMONG FELLOWSHIP CHURCH

In 2018, God’s grace opened the door to an unprecedented mission opportunity for our synod. The communist Vietnamese government invited WELS to build a theological training facility in the capital city of Hanoi.

In December 2018, WELS began collecting a special offering with the goal of raising $2 million to purchase land, construct the campus, and cover the initial two years of operational costs for the training facility. Since then, WELS members like you have contributed $1.7 million towards our $2 million goal. Thank you for your generous support!

THE TRAINING CONTINUES

Rev. Bounkeo Lor has accepted the call and was commissioned to serve as permanent Hmong Asia Ministry Coordinator in July. Pastor Lor will continue to oversee the education program that he and members of the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) are currently developing and implementing. Other calls are currently being made to staff the theological education center in Hanoi once it is built.

CONSTRUCTION UPDATES

In April, a memorandum of understanding was signed by WELS and Vietnamese Fellowship Church representatives confirming we can move forward with all land purchase, construction, and training plans. Land has been purchased and cleared, and construction negotiations are currently underway. Construction begins in October.

WILL YOU HELP US REACH OUR GOAL AND SHARE THE LOVE OF JESUS WITH OUR HMONG BROTHERS AND SISTERS?

WELS and Vietnamese Fellowship Church leaders at the construction site for the future theological training facility.

There are more than 120,000 members of the Hmong Fellowship Church and 2 million Hmong people throughout Southeast Asia who are hungry to hear the truth of God’s grace. Our synod has the unique opportunity to train 3,000+ pastors within the Hmong Fellowship Church, who will take the message of God’s grace to the nine districts throughout Vietnam.

This mission opportunity was completely unexpected. Our WELS World Missions team is working quickly to ensure funds are in place to take full advantage of the time the Lord has provided. We need your help to make the most of this opportunity. Will you offer a gift today to help us meet our $2 million goal?

Your prayers and gifts will assist us as we share the message of God’s grace with even more Hmong people in Vietnam and the surrounding countries. Join us as we watch the Holy Spirit change earthly lives and open the door to eternal life for our Hmong brothers and sisters on the other side of the world.

Thank you for your consideration in support of this unprecedented opportunity!

“Thank you for supporting these classes. When we look back on our past selves, we see that we were like the Pharisees. In our sermons we were telling people that they needed to be better in order to be right with God. But now we know the gospel and are living with joy. We have given the blessings of baptism to all our children and infants. I am very happy that I can come to Hanoi to learn more about the Lord. The members are happy. The elders are happy. I am so happy.” PASTOR LONG, HMONG FELLOWSHIP CHURCH

Equipping Christian Witnesses

Dear Friend,

We are embarking on extraordinary times! Our gracious Savior, who “is not willing that any should perish,” is opening mission doors in the 21st century that are beyond our imagination! More new mission starts, thriving preschools, and growing urban schools are just some areas where we need more Christian witnesses—more pastors, teachers, and staff ministers—to share the love of Christ.

At Martin Luther College (MLC) we have the privilege of preparing those called workers. We’re excited about our new campaign, EQUIPPING CHRISTIAN WITNESSES, in which, by God’s grace, we will prepare even more called workers by expanding our reach in three areas: recruitment, financial aid, and facilities.

Recruitment: Large numbers of Baby Boomers are retiring, and we simply don’t have enough candidates to replace them—or to fill those new mission doors opening up across the globe.

You can help! Pray that the Lord of the Church send more workers, and encourage a young person yourself: “You did a great job speaking in front of the church. I can see you as a pastor or teacher.”

Financial Aid: College debt is a challenge across our nation, including at MLC. Even though we strive to keep costs low and have been recognized nationally for quality and affordability, our debt figures are still cause for concern: Since 2015, 75 percent of MLC students have graduated with debt averaging $25,000.

One program already alleviating the burden is the Congregational Partner Grant Program, through which MLC matches congregations’ gifts for their students’ tuition—dollar for dollar, up to a $1,000 per year per student. In 2019-2020, this program is resulting in almost a million dollars applied to students’ tuition accounts.

You can help keep this successful program going! Your gift will supply the matching funds that MLC provides, establishing a solid foundation for the Congregational Partner Grant Program for years to come.

Facilities: It may be hard to believe, but we built our newest dormitory about 50 years ago. We need to update our students’ living and learning environments, and we need to avoid overcrowding.

You can help! Your gift to EQUIPPING CHRISTIAN WITNESSES will allow us to construct a new residence hall: Luther Heights. Overlooking Summit Avenue, this beautiful air-conditioned facility will include an exercise room, kitchen, laundry, and study lounges. And we know our students will love these new living quarters: two-bedroom suites, where four students will share a bathroom and shower.

A second facility in our plans is the 36,000-square-foot Knight Center, which will help us meet the pressing needs of our physical education department and athletic programs. It includes locker rooms and showers, and a large turfed field for baseball, softball, soccer, football, intramurals, fitness, and physical education classes.

Both Luther Heights and the Knight Center will enhance our recruitment efforts. We function in a competitive marketplace as we help high school students consider MLC and the full-time ministry. By providing up-to-date facilities, we demonstrate that we care about these young people developing all their gifts in a safe and supportive learning environment. We want them to give MLC a try!

You can see how excited we are about the extraordinary opportunities God is presenting to us today through EQUIPPING CHRISTIAN WITNESSES. Will you help?

In Christ,
Rev. Mark Zarling
President, Martin Luther College

P.s. To learn more about this two-year campaign, recommend a potential student, or establish a pledge, go to mlc-wels.edu/mlc-campaign.

Encouraging church bodies in our fellowship

Dear Friend,

Welcoming church bodies from around the world into fellowship with us is a highlight of a synod convention. In the summer of 2019, we welcomed representatives from Kenya and Taiwan. It was amazing to hear their stories. We marveled at what it took for them to remain true to Jesus, the Scriptures, and the Lutheran Confessions in spite of many difficulties in their home countries.

What happened after the synod convention? The representatives returned to their homes and continued their efforts to proclaim salvation through faith in Christ Jesus in their countries. Here in the United States we planned how we would stay in touch and offer our support.

One way we stay in touch with members of the 34 church bodies in our fellowship around the world is the triennial convention of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC). These meetings are key times for encouragement of the small groups who remain true to the faith. After the last convention, one of the attendees wrote:

“I appreciate the opportunity for worship and study with brothers from around the world. In my own country I can feel isolated. Since God opened my eyes for confessional Lutheranism, I desire the personal encouragement from like-minded Christians.”

The next CELC convention is scheduled to take place in the spring of 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. WELS representatives are planning to go. But many of the small church bodies in our fellowship struggle to pay the visa and travel costs for attendance of their representatives.

The WELS Commission on Inter-Church Relations (CICR) would like to give you the opportunity to help with those expenses. They are not a normal part of the CICR budget, so every gift will be helpful. The small church bodies will work hard to participate, but a contribution from the CICR may make the difference in allowing someone to attend.

At the synod convention, Rev. Mark Onunda from Kenya said, “My wife and I have traveled far to be with you these few days. Our short time together will secure a lifelong partnership to advance our positions in many fields of battle.” God grant similar blessings from the 2020 CELC convention in Seoul.

Cordially in Christ,
Rev. Paul T. Prange
WELS Administrator for Ministerial Education and Inter-Church Relations

Growing together with God and with our communities

Dear Christian Friend,

The Vine, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is a mission church that started in 2017 with the help of Home Missions and you, my fellow WELS members. We’re all about #GrowingTogether in our relationship with God, with each other, and with our community.

Recently, we held a “Faith in Action Day” where we did four community service projects in one day in order to grow together with our community.

  1. Sweet treats for first responders: Our members baked a whole bunch of sweet treats and then delivered them to the first responders in our community (firefighters, police officers, hospital emergency room staff, county sheriff, paramedics, etc.) as our way of thanking them for serving our community so faithfully. They absolutely LOVED taking a break from their work to try some of the delicious homemade cookies we brought them.
  2. Visiting the elderly: We visited the residents at one of the local nursing homes and spent time getting to know them, singing songs with them, and sharing Jesus with them. God blessed our time with these elderly folks, and it brought smiles of joy to their faces.
  3. Food drive: We held a food drive to support our local Coeur d’Alene food bank. When people donated food, we gave them a thank you note with an invitation to our church.
  4. Batteries giveaway: On the eve of Daylight Savings Time, we gave free nine-volt batteries to local residents in the Walmart parking lot as a reminder to change the batteries in their smoke detectors. People were pleasantly surprised and thanked us for the gift and reminder.

After we were finished with the projects, one family stopped by our church to check us out and thank us for caring so much about our community. “My husband and I were so impressed with what your church did today and how involved you guys are in the community. How often does your church do these kinds of things?” I told her that we try to do at least one community service project or outreach event every month. I said, “It gives us an opportunity to show that we care about our community as we look to tell them about our Savior Jesus.”

Community service projects like these help us and other WELS home mission congregations to connect with neighbors, show them the love of Jesus, and invite them to church to hear more about their Savior. It is our passion, and we look forward to doing it every month. But we aren’t able to fund these types of outreach activities on our own.

Would you help by considering a gift today to the WELS “Tools for Outreach” fund that makes it possible for home mission churches to do community service projects and outreach events? The Lord has given us wonderful opportunities to serve others. We want to take full advantage of it while we can.

Connecting to our community is making a difference at The Vine. With your prayers and support, we can all make a difference by reaching many more lost souls for Jesus through home mission congregations across the U.S. Thank you for allowing me to share this great opportunity to support Home Missions with you. And thank you for partnering with us to accomplish this goal. “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3).

Serving Christ with you,
Pastor Kevin Schultz
The Vine, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

People group ministry

Dear Friend,

We call it “people group ministry.” Immigrants who have joined our fellowship in the U.S. and Canada take the gospel back to friends and family in their countries of origin. We praise God for so many opportunities!

This month’s WELS Connection shares the story of Dr. Paul contacting WELS for ministry resources for Pakistan. Eventually God brought Dr. Paul to the U.S. where he became a WELS pastor. He now plants International Friendship Centers that reach out to the local South Asian population through fellowship, educational, and faith-related activities.

Maybe you’ve heard of the opportunity God has given us in Vietnam. When the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC) found online sermons posted by WELS Hmong pastors, which clarified their understanding of law and grace, they asked WELS for training. WELS began working with them and, by God’s grace, their church body has grown from 55,000 to 100,000. The HFC hopes to eventually reach as many as two million Hmong in the greater area!

Here are some other examples of “people group ministry”:

  • More than a hundred WELS churches serve a Hispanic population and are working with the Latin American missions team to bring the gospel to Latin American countries.
  • Eight WELS congregations have assisted South Sudanese refugees, which has led to outreach to refugee camps in Ethiopia, Kenya (pictured), and Uganda.
  • Various WELS congregations provide devotional materials to East Asian members to share with family and friends locally and back in East Asia.
  • Two Liberian refugees (in Las Vegas, Nev.; and New Hope, Minn.) are training to become WELS pastors. These men lead congregations in the U.S. and have strong connections to congregations in Liberia, Africa.
  • Two WELS congregations serving Korean members are partnering with WELS’ sister synod in South Korea as people reach back to their home country.
  • A congregation in the Boise, Idaho, area serving Vietnamese immigrants is sending individuals to Vietnam to teach English and share the gospel while also assisting students in the country with coming to the U.S. to study at our schools.
  • We have been contacted by a Detroit-based immigrant from a predominantly Muslim country in Asia who has become a WELS member. He has experience instructing Muslim refugees in the Christian faith. He operates three Christian schools in Asia and is looking for doctrinal guidance.

Funding for these efforts comes primarily from the WELS Missions Endowment Fund. Member gifts of cash, appreciated assets, and planned gifts (through a will, trust, beneficiary designation on a retirement account, or insurance proceeds) go into this permanent fund designed to make steady annual distributions that increase as the fund grows.

At this point the WELS Missions Endowment Fund distributes about $480,000 each year. I am asking you to give to this endowment to increase these annual distributions so that we can keep up with the amazing people group ministry opportunities our Savior is providing.

Chenna was reached through the International Friendship Center when Dr. Paul and his wife saw him unloading luggage from a U-Haul and offered to help, introduced themselves, and invited his family for dinner. This kindness led Chenna to Bible study and then confirmation. Chenna is an example of the ultimate goal—reaching souls with the good news of Jesus. Please pray for these efforts and consider a gift today to fund people group ministry through the WELS Missions Endowment.

Cordially in Christ,
Rev. Paul T. Prange
Chairman, WELS Joint Mission Council