Central Africa Medical Mission: 60 years of God’s grace

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over… (Matthew 4:23-25).

Dear Friend,

Easter greetings to you in the name of Jesus, our resurrected Lord!

When WELS began work in Central Africa in 1949, it took over a year for the first adult to start taking a doctrine class. Progress was modest by human measurement. It would have surprised the first missionaries to learn that now the church in Malawi is one of WELS’ largest overseas partners! What happened? Under God’s guidance the early missionaries decided to ask WELS members to help with a ministry that would meet the humanitarian needs of the people. The Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) was born.

From the beginning, this visible expression of Christian compassion made a profound impact. These strange foreigners who were talking about love were providing much-needed care for children and the vulnerable in the community. An audience gathered, and the missionaries went to work. God’s Word was shared. Baptisms took place. Churches grew.

At that time, statistics showed that in the areas being served by CAMM, between 13 and 23 percent of children never reached the age of five. In some areas as many as 40 percent of the children were severely malnourished. Measles, tetanus, malaria, pneumonia, and tuberculosis claimed so many lives. When babies died the peopled wailed and mourned “as those who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Death was always blamed on witchcraft, the most prevalent traditional religion in Africa.

Providing for Physical Needs
Over the past 60 years God has given CAMM the opportunity to provide people with physical care in the name of Jesus approximately three million times. The CAMM clinics in Malawi and Zambia serve all of the medical needs short of hospitalization for close to 50,000 people, including:

  • Routine child health and nutrition services
  • Delivery of babies in Zambia (mandated by the government)
  • Pre- and post-delivery care
  • Comprehensive HIV/AIDS health services
  • Outpatient medical services
  • Chronic disease monitoring
  • Making sure villages have safe water supplies and adequate sanitation
  • Teaching on topics such as general health and how to plant and care for nutrition gardens
  • Integrating COVID-19 management strategies to both provide care for and minimize possible infection transmission

Providing for Spiritual Needs
As CAMM assists with physical needs they are also caring for people’s spiritual needs. The CAMM clinics have been built to look like churches with a cross within the brick structure. They are then used as worship facilities for newly developing congregations. Some have been started in witchcraft area. Now there are daily devotions at all clinic sites. Often a national pastor is nearby to speak with those waiting to be seen.

One pastor was able to talk to mothers of two very sick babies as preparations were made to transport the babies and their mothers to the hospital. Both babies were baptized before they left the clinic. Both babies were in heaven by the end of the day. Three other mothers listening as the pastor was talking also asked to have their babies baptized that day before they walked back to their villages.

Continuing—and Expanding—this Work
CAMM is grateful to God for his grace and blessings that have allowed the sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ with many hurting people. CAMM also thanks the many faithful WELS members who have provided countless prayers and generous gifts over the years.

Only about six percent of annual operating support comes from on-field sources. The remaining 94 percent is given by WELS congregations, groups, and individuals compelled by the love of Christ—people like you and me.

Without the generosity of God’s people in the past, Central Africa Medical Mission wouldn’t exist. The same is true as CAMM looks forward to continuing and expanding this important work. WELS World Missions has asked CAMM to share their decades of experience with the goal of enhancing mission work in other parts of the world where similar humanitarian aid is being considered.

As the Lord continues to open doors for ministry through CAMM, please prayerfully consider how you can help. Would you be willing to make a gift to help share the hope that we have in our victorious Savior, Jesus?

CAMM is thankful for 60 years of God’s grace that have led to so many lives helped physically and spiritually. And it is exciting to think about what Jesus has planned. With your prayers and support, CAMM will continue walking through the doors he opens.

Together in his service,
Kathie (Barthels) Wendland,
CAMM nurse 1977-1980, 1989-1990, CAMM Committee 1993-2008, supporting with prayer and resources 1977-2021

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Helping families afford ministerial education for 155 years

Dear Friend,

The year 1865 marked the start of our synod’s ministerial education on the Watertown campus of what is now Luther Preparatory School (LPS). At that time the seminary program had 8 students enrolled; the college with its prep department had 66 students.

The synod’s official newspaper stated, “For food, a room, heat, etc. a sum of $100 is to be paid for the year. With respect to young people who are not able to pay this sum a discount will be granted according to individual circumstances, so that even the poorest can receive an education for the preaching and teaching ministry.”

There you have it: financial aid awarded the very first year of the school’s existence. There are no records indicating how many of the 74 students received aid. We know that the school continued to receive gifts of food and other handiwork from people in the Watertown area, often at the request of the students themselves. A church historian relates, “The keep of the students through the year probably would not have been possible without that.”

LPS students today do not go asking for food in the surrounding area as the students did 155 years ago. But they and their families still rely on the same financial assistance from their WELS church family.

Perhaps you have noticed the ever-increasing list of vacancies in the weekly WELS Call Report. There are 120 vacancies across WELS in the preaching ministry and even more in the teaching ministry, the highest those numbers have been in two decades. Yes, the harvest continues to grow; the workers remain few.

That any 14-year-old boy or girl would consider the vocation of full-time gospel ministry—especially when the church is so maligned—is a miracle of grace. We have 400 of those “miracles” at LPS. These students give testimony to faithful Christian parenting and Christ-centered shepherding from our pulpits and classrooms. The Holy Spirit daily works on these young hearts through the life-giving gospel.

The cost for tuition, room, and board in 2021 is $12,000, and that does not include travel. The cost would be even higher without the synod subsidizing about $5,000 per student. More than two-thirds of our students receive some amount of aid from congregations, relatives, friends, and God’s people across our synod—people like you! Perhaps as many as half of our families would not be able to enroll their sons and daughters and offer them for ministry without some manner of financial assistance. Some parents have as many as three children enrolled at LPS at once. In several instances the costs associated with LPS would total more than half of their gross income.

We thank you for your offerings at church that help lower the cost of ministerial education by subsidizing students’ tuition. We are also humbly ask for any above and beyond gift you might be able to offer for our students as they prepare to bring the life-giving gospel to a dying world.

In our crucified and living Savior,
Matt Crass
President, Luther Preparatory School

Doing good during a bad time

Dear Friend,

“As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). These Spirit-inspired words from Paul’s pen serve as a theme passage and a guide for the work of WELS Christian Aid and Relief. Many people in our world live in a bad situation. We want to do them some good. That starts with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but it doesn’t stop there. Our desire is to do good to all people. This is no small task.

And it’s not getting any smaller. In March of 2020 our world changed. The COVID-19 pandemic brought all kinds of hurt and hardship. It has caused upset to governments, economies, and many lives. It has been, in a word, bad. However, we believe in the God of grace who brings good out of bad. That’s his promise.

Perhaps it’s time to begin thinking of this bad pandemic as a good opportunity—an opportunity to do good, to show love, to share the compassion of Christ.

For months WELS Christian Aid and Relief has been responding to the needs of those impacted by coronavirus. Pastor Marty Valleskey of Costa Maya Ministries in Mahahual, Mexico writes:

The support has been a lifeline for our town. Every week for around nine months now we hand out packets of food staples to 400 families in our town, and a couple hours up and down the coast from us. The spiritual fruits of God’s grace through the COVID relief are very visible. The food packet distribution has allowed us to open a brand-new ministry in the town of Xcalak an hour to the south of us. Every Tuesday new people visit our Bible study. And many are looking forward to the day they will be able to worship with us in person in our new church.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief has also been able to provide pandemic relief through our mission partners in places like Russia, Hong Kong, Columbia, Thailand, and Nepal.

In the U.S., we’ve offered matching grants to congregations providing pandemic relief to those struggling in their communities. Churches have used these grants to feed the hungry, help the homeless, offer counseling to those suffering from anxiety or depression, pay bills for those who lost jobs, and support schools. One teacher responded, “I wanted to thank you for your generosity and kindness. This is definitely what the world needs more of.”

In addition to helping people in need due to the coronavirus pandemic, WELS Christian Aid and Relief assists those impacted by natural disasters, partners with WELS Home and World missions to support humanitarian aid projects around the world, and helps members of our congregations who are facing extreme medical or financial difficulties. We do all of this seeking to touch hearts with the gospel of our Savior. Your special gifts allow us to continue to do good all around the world!

Would you consider making a special gift to the Christian Aid and Relief General Fund? Join us in doing good to all people in Jesus’ name.

In Christ our compassionate Savior,
Pastor Daniel Sims
Director, WELS Christian Aid and Relief

SEIZE and HOLD FAST the gospel and our great privilege

Dear Christian Friend,

Greetings in Jesus, the Light of the world!

Martin Luther once encouraged fellow German Christians not to take for granted the presence of the gospel of Jesus and the opportunity to share God’s good news of forgiveness of sins and eternal life:

Let us remember our former misery, and the darkness in which we dwelt. Germany, I am sure, has never before heard so much of God’s Word as it is hearing today . . . O my beloved Germans, buy while the market is at your door; gather in the harvest while there is sunshine and fair weather; make use of God’s grace and Word while it is there! For you should know that God’s Word and grace is like a passing shower of rain . . . Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can; for lazy hands are bound to have a lean year (Luther’s Works, Vol. 45, pp. 352,353).

By the gracious Spirit of Christ, today’s Christians seize and hold fast the gospel of salvation from sin through Jesus that is still impacting precious souls in our communities and around the world. God has put us in a great position for service to Jesus in his church and the world. As the Epiphany reading describes: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn . . . the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come” (Isaiah 60:3,5). In other words, God gives us the opportunities and resources we need to bring his Word to more people.

It’s amazing what the Lord Jesus has recently done through our church body:

  • We are serving 40 countries around the globe and exploring outreach opportunities in 17 additional countries. In these countries, 39 missionaries partner with more than 400 national pastors to conduct outreach and train more than 380 students for service in Christ’s kingdom.
  • WELS Home Missions approved three new missions in 2020. Overall Home Missions assists 114 congregations across North America in various stages of development.
  • Enrollment is steady at our ministerial education schools with 1,433 students preparing for possible service as pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and missionaries.
  • WELS Congregational Services is guiding our congregations in conducting enthusiastic gospel ministry. Some of this year’s resources provide help with evangelism, youth ministry, worship, military support, family, marriage, and ministry during COVID-19.

I know that you seize and hold fast the great privilege we have received in knowing and sharing Christ. Even as we see the apparent decline of Christianity in America and the challenge that believers face around the world, it’s clear our window of opportunity for sharing Jesus is not closed. Thank you for praying that our heavenly Father will bless WELS ministry and for supporting gospel outreach through your offerings at church as well as your direct gifts to WELS. We thank God and you for your partnership! Please consider donating today to help support all that we will do together in this new year. I know you are as excited as I am to work while it is day (John 9:4) to proclaim the glory of our Savior throughout the earth.

Yours in Christ,
Rev. Kurt Lueneburg
Director, WELS Ministry of Christian Giving

More than all we ask or imagine

Dear Friend,

During the last two years our Latin America mission team wondered, “Will we see on-the-ground results?” In 2020, we got an answer. But before I share that answer with you, let’s back up a bit.

During the last couple of years, our Latin America mission team has used the Academia Cristo (Christ Academy) website to distribute ministry resources. These are in Spanish, available online, and offered for free to anyone interested in learning about the Bible. Furthermore, individuals can receive training to teach the message of Jesus to others, lead congregations, and access worship resources for in-person gatherings.

Academia Cristo quickly gathered a strong online presence. Today it has more than one million followers on social media and hundreds of thousands of Internet users download its biblical resources. Thus, as a mission team, we could look at our computer screens and see a clear message: hungry souls in grace-starved Latin America were being touched with the gospel online. Yet we longed to see the gospel clearly proclaimed in an on-the-ground way in Latin America.

This year, God has granted a “yes” to that lingering question of whether on-the-ground results would formulate. Consider what Academia Cristo followers have carried out in recent months:

  • Santos, who lives in a village in rural Honduras, holds weekly gatherings where he shares the message of sin and grace with more than 100 people.
  • David of Punta Arenas, Chile, takes the online instruction he receives to prisons and shares the love of Christ with inmates.
  • Artemio, who resides in the outskirts of Mexico City, leads a confessional Lutheran Bible information class with dozens of locals in a nearby clothing factory.
  • Fabiola in Quito, Ecuador, gathers around the Word of God with her sisters in their home where they make plans to invite friends to their gatherings.
  • Pablo of Asuncion, Paraguay, shares lessons he has learned with those who attend the small house church he has established.

The list goes on. Stories such as these are unfolding in every single country in Latin America! As travel resumes, our missionaries are following up in person with individuals who have learned about the gospel through Academia Cristo and shared it in the streets. During these visits, the missionaries are providing one-on-one instruction, mentoring, and encouragement. Join us in breaking out in song to God, just as Paul did in the midst of his letter to the Ephesians (3:20). We praise our God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine!”

This Christmas season, as WELS families across the world rejoice in the gift of Jesus, our newborn King, we also look to the future. It is with prayer and support from people like you that many more souls will be touched with the saving message of Jesus. Would you prayerfully consider making a gift today to help with this work in Latin America?

We who serve in Latin American missions thank you for your partnership. It is a privilege to share the gospel message to the ends of the world! Feliz Navidad, dear family of believers!

Sirviendo a Cristo, nuestro Rey recién nacido (Serving Christ, our newborn King),
Dr. Michael Hartman
Latin America team leader

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God’s blessings in East Asia in 2020

Dear Family of Believers,

In Chinese culture, there’s a common response to compliments and thank yous. You say, “Where? Where?” to deflect the praise. It is as if you don’t understand where this praise is coming from or to whom is it being directed. “It can’t be me; I didn’t do anything.”

When I think of the amazing ways our Lord Jesus has blessed our field this year, I have to say thank you to you. And as I do I can’t help but think of the phrase, “Where? Where?” This instant deflection of praise is also part of Christian culture. I truly am grateful for your support and your prayers and yet Christians say, “Where? Where? Who really did that?”

How have we been able to relocate the team and refocus our work as the East Asia One Team?

How have we been able to increase the number of teachers and therefore double the number of students we can reach?

How have we been able to, through a new media specialist, reach and enroll 200 new students for online courses?

How was Asia Lutheran Seminary able to confer 21 Biblical Language Certificates, 6 Biblical Theology Degrees, and 9 Masters of Divinity degrees on November 8 to Christians serving the church?

How has our social media reached nearly half a million people through devotions, prayers, and Bible study materials?

How have we been able to rewrite our courses to reach more students online with an emphasis on immediately using what they learn in the groups they serve?

How? Where is the help coming from? From you. Through your prayers and support. And you say, “Where? Where? Not me—from our loving God.” In all these big things God is blessing the work in East Asia so that East Asian Christians can share Jesus’ love and salvation, one to another.

Brothers and sisters, as you sit down and give thanks for all of God’s blessings this Thanksgiving, we ask you to continue to pray to God on our behalf and thank him for all the prayers he has already answered for East Asia. If you haven’t had the opportunity yet, please consider making a gift today as we watch God’s plan unfold. Where does my help come from? “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

Serving Jesus,
Peter
East Asia Missionary

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