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

Work in Vietnam continues – help us reach our goal!

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Lord continues to hold the door open as we share the saving message of grace in Christ Jesus with the Hmong people in Vietnam. Rev. Bounkeo Lor (pictured) recently accepted the call to serve as permanent Hmong Asia Ministry Coordinator. Pastor Lor will continue to oversee the education program that he and members of the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) are currently developing and implementing.

As calls are being made and finalized to staff the theological education center in Hanoi, WELS leaders traveled to Vietnam in June to work through details regarding the building and construction plans. Land has been purchased and cleared, and bids are being gathered for the construction project. Construction should begin later this year.

We are also pleased to report that WELS members and congregations have contributed more than $1.34 million in offerings toward our $2 million goal for this special mission opportunity. We praise our Savior and thank you for your faithful prayers and generous support!

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. Will you help share the good news of Jesus with the Hmong people of Vietnam? Will you offer a gift today to help us meet our $2 million goal for the land purchase, construction, and the initial two years of operational costs? Together, let us pray that our Lord continues to bless the church and his people as we boldly share his grace here at home and throughout the world.

Walking together in God’s grace,
Rev. Larry Schlomer
WELS World Missions Administrator

P.S. Rev. Bounkeo Lor will be commissioned at the Taste of Missions worship service at 4 p.m. on July 13. Join us for this special celebration via livestream.

For the Generations to Come UPDATE

Dear Friend,

WELS membership is declining

The chart to the right shows that for the past 30 years WELS membership has been declining. You will also notice that the rate of decline is increasing. Just consider the past five years, a span in which WELS lost 22,400 baptized members. In 2018 alone, WELS lost 1.6 percent of its members, the largest decline ever. Some of those losses are members going home to heaven. However, most of those losses are people simply leaving our congregations.

WELS’ decline should have us all concerned for the eternal well-being of the souls that are leaving and the impact this will have on WELS’ ability to bring the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ to a dying world. Everything WELS does to fulfill the Great Commission—opening new home mission congregations, sending missionaries to foreign lands, operating a ministerial education system so we have called workers to spearhead mission efforts—is predicated upon us having a base of support from congregations and members. If we lose members and close congregations, it affects our ability to carry out this mission on the scale we desire.

Therefore, last year WELS Congregational Services kicked off the For the Generations to Come campaign. The goal was to raise one million dollars to both fund the work of congregational counselors for boots-on-the-ground assistance to churches and provide online synodwide programs congregations can use to enhance ministry efforts.

So far, halfway to our goal, we’ve already been able to do much! For example, the aim of the “C18” program was to invite one million people to Christmas Eve worship by offering resources to train members how to identify unchurched friends and encourage them to attend Christmas Eve. We surpassed that goal, with closer to 1.3 million people invited. We have heard from 132 WELS congregations that reported their highest Christmas Eve attendance. WELS churches had thousands of worship guests. Our prayer is that many of those guests ended up in a Bible information class and became WELS members. C18 is an example of a synod program that brings people into church.

This fall, Congregational Services is releasing the Welcome Home initiative. There are 155,000 WELS members who rarely attend church. Welcome Home provides congregations training and resources to lovingly follow up with those members to joyfully welcome them back to their church home. Welcome Home is an example of a synod program that keeps members from leaving church.

Programs and resources like these—as well as others you can find at our new website welscongregationalservices.net—are possible because of the gifts provided to For the Generations to Come. But there are many more evangelism and discipleship resources we want to make available over the next five years! We ask for your continued prayers and, if the Holy Spirit so moves you, your gifts.

The numbers in that graph . . . Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit that produces all growth, whether our growth in spiritual maturity or the growth of a congregation or synod. That is his work. However, the way the Spirit produces that growth is through the gospel, and the way he unleashes the gospel is by giving it to his Church and empowering us to do all we can with it. To do all we can with the gospel—that is the goal of For the Generations to Come.

Your servant in Christ,
Jonathan Hein
Coordinator, Congregational Services

Hold up the prophet’s hands!

Dear Friend,

Do you remember the hymn verse, “If you cannot be a watchman, standing high on Zion’s wall, pointing out the path to heaven, offering life and peace to all . . . You can be like faithful Aaron, holding up the prophet’s hands” (Christian Worship, 573)?

The reference is from a famous battle recorded in Exodus 17. As long as Moses held his hands up, the Israelites were winning their battle against the Amalekites. When Moses grew tired and lowered them, the Israelites started to lose. The solution: Aaron and Hur held Moses’ hands up, and the victory was won.

Isn’t it interesting how God brought about that victory? He gave Aaron and Hur the opportunity to participate, to play an active role in accomplishing his mission. God still works that way today. WELS sends missionaries to spread the gospel in this country and all around the world, and each of us plays a supportive role. With our prayers and with our offerings, we get to hold up the prophet’s hands.

One way we can assist our home and world missionaries is by supporting the humanitarian aid projects that they use to meet community needs, build relationships, and open doors to sharing the good news about Jesus.

Here is an example: In Toronto, where 50 percent of the population is first-generation immigrants, Hope Lutheran, a home mission congregation, is using a humanitarian aid grant from WELS Christian Aid and Relief to welcome newcomers with love and compassion. In November, a young family showed up at church because they couldn’t find the address they had been given for another building. They had fled from a Muslim country after converting to Christianity. They had no food, clothing, or medical insurance, and were emotionally alone.

The members of Hope were able to assist them and welcome them to worship. The family cried tears of joy as they attended their first Christian worship service. Over time they were all baptized and now attend worship regularly. The mother shared, “We came here with no family and now we have Christian family with you!”

This past year special humanitarian aid gifts enabled us to hold up the prophet’s hands with $357,403 to support additional projects such as:

  • Medical equipment and supplies for health clinics in Thailand, Pakistan, India, and Nepal
  • Fresh water wells for people in India and Zambia
  • Food and medicine for people in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Albania, Mexico, and Indonesia
  • Financial aid for WELS Central Africa Medical Mission
  • Mosquito nets, sewing classes, and textbooks for higher education level students in Nepal

Dear friend, please consider a special offering to fund new humanitarian aid projects for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Thank you for your prayers and ongoing support that hold up the prophet’s hands!

In Christ,
Pastor Robert Hein
Chairman, WELS Christian Aid and Relief
wels.net/relief | facebook.com/WELSChristianAidandRelief

Sharing the risen Christ across cultures

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20a).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Christ,

“I love your church. It was like I was walking into my own home!” declared Maria. Although she spent decades living within walking distance of church, she never visited until she was invited (repeatedly).

Palabra de Vida is located on a main street in a largely Hispanic area in Southwest Detroit, a neighborhood of around 25,000 residents. Many people drive by our building every day, but very few come in. There are many who, like Maria, might come . . . if someone would just invite them!

That’s why we engage our community through different mercy ministries that allow us to meet basic needs and invite them to hear the gospel. We run “Palabra Kids” ministry with various programs in addition to other community outreach events. Pastor Ismael and his wife connect with people at these events. Then we work hard to follow up and invite people to worship services, new events, and Bible information classes.

While we meet hundreds of new people a year, only a few families will stick around after hearing the gospel. We count rejection as part of the ministry: “You will be hated by everyone because of me” (Matthew 10:22a). Rejection doesn’t deter us, because the gospel is too precious to keep to ourselves. This way people who may have passed by our church a thousand times, like Maria, look differently at our building now—it’s their new “family in Christ,” where truth and love are taught and shown.

Please consider making a gift to Home Missions Multi-Cultural Outreach today, and together we will watch the Holy Spirit change lives. Many congregations, whether they’re just starting out or are in impoverished areas, benefit from your prayers and financial support. This doesn’t just help our church body grow; it lifts up a new believer’s face to see their risen Savior.

Sharing the Easter joy of the risen Christ,

Pastor Ryan Kolander
Palabra de Vida, Detroit, Mich.

P.S. For more on WELS mission work, “like” WELS Missions on Facebook and subscribe to our Missions Blogs.

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The risen Christ is the hope we can share

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20a).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“Pastor, I’m losing my faith . . . quickly.” He was slouched in a kitchen chair after almost everyone had left worship that Sunday. “What’s the point to it all—why?”

This young man’s desperation is shared by many. Lack of financial stability, dependency on drugs, spousal abuse, and societal neglect are some of the challenges that are amplified in an impoverished area as a result of our broken, sin-filled world.

They’re right to an extent. There is no hope, even for a self-proclaimed believer who strolls into church. That is, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). If this poverty, misery, fear, and hatred is it, and then we die . . . well, then I’d join the club of wallowers!

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20a). And that changes everything.

The risen Christ is the hope that we can share with the hurting. He is the best answer we can give to the “whys?” in life. Jesus rose, and that means you and I will rise to a new life too! This Easter joy elevates a soul from the shadows to the heavens.

This is the gospel we are privileged to preach through WELS Home Missions to countless hurting people from many ethnic backgrounds and diverse cultures all over North America.

So, friend in Christ Jesus, be bold with your witness! You have something precious to offer a hurting soul this Easter season. And please consider a gift to Home Missions Multi-Cultural Outreach today. Together we will watch the Holy Spirit change lives.

Happy Easter, friends. Rejoice! Because Christ indeed has been raised from the dead! Alleluia!

Pastor Ryan Kolander
Palabra de Vida, Detroit, Mich.

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