Reaching Native Christians: Part 2

Despite challenges, the Word of the Lord continues to grow on the Apache reservation 

Joseph M. Dietrich 

In 1893 Missionaries Plocher and Adascheck first arrived in what is now called Peridot, Arizona, to begin sharing the good news of Jesus with the Apache people. They had many struggles. Where should they set up camp? How will they communicate? Who will translate? How do they overcome suspicion and mistrust toward the white man? By God’s grace, they began to overcome these and other obstacles. The mission took root. From Peridot it spread east to Bylas and north to Whiteriver. Some missionaries became masters in the Apache language. Schools and churches were built. People came to hear the good news of Jesus. Congregations were started. The Word of the Lord grew.  

The challenges of today 

Now it is 2018—125 years later. How is the Apache mission doing? What are the challenges and blessings of today? The challenges are much different than the ones the first missionaries encountered: 

  • Our pastors, teachers and congregational families are not perfect. We admit we are all still learning and growing—sometimes the hard way—by our mistakes. Gary Lupe, one of two Apache pastorson the reservation, says, “A long time ago the Apache needed the White man missionary to make all the decisions; he did a good job. But now, we have been strong in Christ for years, yet too many Apache people rely upon the missionary to make decisions. Our missionaries are working to let go and let members make decisions, and also our people must be empowered to stand up to run our churches. This is a struggle.”  
  • Our communities aren’t perfect, either. Broken homes, substance abuse, and unsupervised children are the new normal for many homes.When caregivers choose alcohol and drugs over electricity and food, children suffer. 
  • Gangs are active in our communities, and vandalism and theft are regular occurrences that plaguethe churches, schools, and homes of our members and missionaries.  
  • Unemployment (75%) and poverty (median family income is less than $20,000 per household) are multi-generational.Health issues plague our people; the average life expectancy is between 45 to 50 years old. 
  • Traditional Apache religion is still a powerful forcethat pulls people off the path that leads to eternal life. Medicine men actively practice witchcraft and have been successful in convincing many Apache people that this false religion is part of their identity as Natives. Christians continue to stumble in their walk of faith and distrust the message of the Bible as well as the messengers who bring it. “The writer to the Hebrews had to always tell people to not follow the old ways,” says Lupe. “I must always tell our Apache people to not go to the medicine man to find out who to blame for your problems or which rock or powder to buy to heal you or take away problems. Like the writer to the Hebrews, I too must always say, ‘Jesus is all we need. Jesus is the only way and the only power.’ ” 

Yes, the Apache mission has challenges, and some of them are so big at times that our missionaries and teachers spend many weekly hours of ministry in unique ways of helping, counseling, transporting, praying with people out on the road and on the phone, talking with tribal security, and repairing buildings. It’s a struggle to the “regular daily work” one would think pastors and teachers are called to do. 

Victories despite challenges 

To keep these challenges in perspective, we turn to the book of Acts, a marvelous book that tells how Jesus’ disciples carried the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. It tells of the magnificent march of the gospel through the powerful Roman Empire. It’s a happy book, a book of joyous victory. From beginning to end you can read how the Word of the Lord grew through Palestine and beyond.  

But the story of Acts is not without its challenges. At every turn, there were struggles and threats to the ministry. Peter and John were put in prison. James was killed. Saul approved of Stephen’s death and started a great persecution. The Jewish leaders joined in on the persecution. They stoned Paul for speaking against traditional religion, the gods that the local people had worshiped for years. Arguments broke out between Jews and Gentile believers. Paul and Barnabas split up after a dispute. Unbelievers beat Paul and had him thrown into prison. People argued over who was the best pastor.  

When you read Acts, you see struggle after struggle, blow after blow, hitting the apostles and believers.  

When you spend time on the Apache reservation, you too can see struggle after struggle, blow after blow, hitting our missionaries and believers. 

Still, the book of Acts is about the spread the gospel. It’s always about the Word of the Lord growing and going to the world. It’s victorious and joyous. When Paul was detained in Rome, Luke ended Acts with the following statement: “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles and they will listen!” (28:28). Boldly and without hindrance Paul preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord.  

The Word of the Lord grew in Paul’s day, and it is growing among the Apache today. 

  • Six missionary pastors serve more than 3,000 Apache members with approximately 1,000 worshipping innine congregations every Sunday. 
  • Almost 300 students attend our two K-8 schools, and 25 students attend our high school. They are taught by20 called teachers. 
  • TheApache Christian Training School program continues to build spiritual maturity and train people for service in God’s kingdom. 

Six of our called pastors, evangelists, teachers, and ministry leaders are Apaches. “I love being a pastor and having that truth that I’m saved for myself, but mostly [I love] sharing it with my Apache people, working with the missionaries, and looking to share the gospel in many ways,” says Lupe, who has begun Wednesday evening street services at Gethsemane, Cibecue, to reach the community better. Lupe also works with lay evangelist Leonard Fall to record sermons in Apache that are broadcast on the radio 

Another Apache pastor, Kirk Massey, is working to equip his members at Open Bible, Whiteriver, so they can better serve this one thousand-member congregation and its community.  

And the Apache people are not content to serve only on the two current reservations in Arizona. They want to reach Native Americans on the 500-plus reservations throughout the United States, to follow the Great Commission as Jesus’ disciples did: “Go and make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matthew 28:19). 

Because despite all our needs and challenges, we are assured that the Word of the Lord will grow, that God’s salvation has been sent to the Apache, and that they will listen.  


Joseph Dietrich serves the San Carlos Apache Tribe as a missionary at Our Savior’s, Bylas, Arizona. 


This is the second article in a three-part series on WELS mission work on the Apache reservations in Arizona. 


Go to nativechristians.org to read more and to get 125th anniversary celebration updates. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Joseph M. Dietrich
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Witnessing: We are light: Empowered by the Holy Spirit: Part 2

When Jesus said, “You are my witnesses,” he also promised to give us the power to be light.

Jonathan R. Hein 

Many pastors wake up in a cold sweat from this bad dream. It is Sunday morning, but they have not prepared a sermon. Being unprepared to preach—that is the stuff of nightmares for a pastor.

It may not have been a dream for you. When your coworkers failed to show up for work, your boss unceremoniously dumped their responsibilities onto your desk. You had never been trained to do their job. You were just tossed into a sink-or-swim situation. If someone asks you to do something that they know you are unprepared to do, at the very least, that demonstrates foolish management. At worst, it is just plain cruel.

Power from on high

Jesus is neither foolish nor cruel. When he asks someone to do something, he always makes sure they are equipped to do what he asks. Jesus empowers us to do what he asks. You see it throughout the gospels.

In Matthew chapter 14, Peter walks on water. How is that possible? Jesus is almighty God. Peter was an ordinary sinful man. So how could he walk on water? Simple. Peter asked Jesus to call him, and Jesus said, “Come” (v. 29). Jesus enabled Peter to do what he commanded: “Come!” If Peter had just jumped out of the boat without Jesus’ command, he would need to start dog-paddling. Same thing if Jesus had asked Peter to come but had not given Peter the power to do so. Splash! Jesus is neither foolish nor cruel, so when he told Peter to come, he also gave Peter the ability to do just that. Peter did not start to sink until he lost faith in Christ’s promise.

In John chapter 11, a noxious corpse reanimated and walked out of the tomb. How does that happen? “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ ” (v. 43). Corpses are decidedly unqualified to walk. But Jesus’ command gave Lazarus the very life he needed to obey.

Those are two examples where Jesus empowered individuals to “come.” On Pentecost, Jesus empowered individuals to “go.”

Not long before he ascended, Jesus told his disciples what their life’s mission now was: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). However, Jesus is neither foolish nor cruel. He knew his disciples were not yet qualified or prepared. Thus, he also told them, “Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). He was going to give them the ability to do what he had asked of them.

What was the “power from on high” the disciples needed? “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). They needed the power of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. The Spirit enabled the disciples to speak in languages they had not studied.

However, the disciples needed more than supernatural linguistic skills. They required more ordinary spiritual gifts too. They needed courage to speak boldly in the very city where their leader had been tortured and killed not even two months prior. They needed confidence that their sins—including abandoning their friend Jesus in his time of need—did not disqualify them from serving in the kingdom. Scripture does not tell us everything the disciples needed to be bold witnesses on that day. It simply tells us that everything they needed, they received. Jesus is neither foolish nor cruel. When he asks someone to do something, he always gives them “power from on high” to do what he asks.

Power to be light

Jesus’ will for believers has not changed: “Go and make disciples.” Take that next-door neighbor who does not know Jesus well. Why do you think God made them your neighbor? So that you might go! Think about that sibling who has drifted away from church. What are you waiting for? If you don’t talk to them, then who will? Go! How about that friend who has toyed with Christianity but never taken it seriously? That is low-hanging fruit, friends. Go!

You might object: “I’m not qualified.” Do you think Jesus is foolish? Do you think Jesus is so incompetent that he would set you up to fail? Nonsense! On that first Pentecost, God let tongues of fire kiss the head of those first disciples. On your personal Pentecost, God kissed your head and heart with water and the Word. The results are the same. You are “filled with the Holy Spirit” and “clothed with power from on high.” When you are presented with an opportunity to witness, Christ promises you, “Do not worry about . . . what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” (Luke 12:11,12).

You might respond, “But I’m scared.” Do you think Jesus is cruel? He knows full well how the gospel can often be met with resistance. Thus, he promises you that when you witness, you do not do so alone. “Surely, I am with you always,” he guarantees (Matthew 28:20).

Jesus is neither foolish nor cruel. He asks us to be zealous in our daily evangelism efforts. He also gives us the ability to do that which he has asked. Therefore, when our evangelism efforts bear fruit, Christ gets all the glory. When Peter walked on water, the disciples were astounded at Jesus’ power, not Peter’s. When Lazarus rose, people praised Jesus, not Lazarus. Likewise, when believers proclaim the gospel and that witness raises the spiritually dead to faith-life, Jesus gets all the credit. He empowered us to do exactly what he asked.

Jesus would not ask you to do something for which you were unqualified. The proof? He did not ask you to try and win your salvation by obeying the law. He knew that would be impossible for you. Instead, he placed himself under the law and kept it all for you. Nor did Jesus ask you to pay for your sins. Jesus knew that if he did, there would be no end to your payment. So, Jesus did that for you too. Because it was Christ’s holy, precious, divine blood that was shed, it did not take forever to pay for sins. Jesus could say, “It is finished.” Jesus did not and would not ask you to do something for which you were unqualified. Jesus is neither foolish nor cruel.

Thus, when Jesus does ask you to do something—to go and make disciples—you can be completely confident that he will give you absolutely everything you need to do just that: the opportunity to witness, the courage, and the powerful words of the gospel. And as you share the gospel with others, you can be confident that Christ will give them the ability to believe.

Jesus will get all the glory, but you will rejoice that the risen and ascended Lord let you play a part in his saving work.


Jonathan Hein, director of WELS Congregational Counseling, is a member at Trinity, Waukesha, Wisconsin. 


This is the final article of a two-part series on the necessity of Christian witnessing. 


 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Jonathan R. Hein
Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

One church—two locations 

In 2014, Divine Peace, Garland, Texas, began discussing the idea of starting a second congregation in the neighboring community of Rockwall. This area northeast of Dallas is booming, and many families were traveling from the Rockwall area to Garland to attend Divine Peace. Rather than start a separate daughter congregation, Divine Peace decided to become a multi-site congregation.   

John Hering, pastor of Divine Peace, notes, “Initially there was some hesitation from members wondering how it would be possible to start a new location and survive. But, after clearly explaining that we would not be two churches but one church at two locations, the tensions eased and folks supported the effort.”  

In 2016, after Divine Peace conducted community surveys and a demographic study of the area and demonstrated that a strong core of its members would support ministry at a second site in Rockwall, the WELS Board for Home Missions voted to support the mission effort. In May 2016, Gunnar Ledermann, a new graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, was assigned to serve as the second pastor at Divine Peace, with the main responsibility of establishing the Rockwall location.   

Soon, those in Rockwall were worshiping at a wedding chapel just off of the town square. In January of this year, Divine Peace bought the wedding chapel and its property thanks to support from WELS Church Extension Fund.   

“Now that Divine Peace has a second permanent location for ministry, a new door has opened for reaching our community,” says Ledermann, who is excited about the potential the location has for serving as a gathering place for the community.   

Mark Drezdzon and his wife, Michelle, joined Divine Peace in 2013 after completing Bible information classes with Hering. Mark currently serves as Divine Peace’s president. He says, “ ‘One church—two locations’ brings challenges and blessings alike. One of the biggest challenges was splitting our congregational resources and talents between two locations. We have been blessed with many talented and gifted members to cover things, like musicians for all of our services and teachers for our Kingdom Kids Bible study sessions. It takes time to coordinate everything between the two locations, but it has also brought members closer together. But most important, having two locations gives us the chance to achieve the Divine Peace mission—to bring the true Word of God to our community—in two communities.”  

Hering agrees. “Multi-site gives you the joy of sharing the gospel with more people in more places while remaining one church.”  

“Stay tuned,” concludes Drezdzon. “With the way growth continues in the Northeast Dallas Metroplex, we might be ‘one church—three locations’ in the not too distant future!”  


To learn more about multi-site congregations, consider attending the WELS National Multi-Site Conference. WELS Home Missions supports congregations that are establishing ministries in new locations through both multi-site and mother/daughter efforts. To see how a congregation is reaching out by daughtering congregations in the Las Vegas area, watch the May WELS Connection. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author:  
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

By faith, not by sight

We are here to follow the Savior’s voice through the darkness of this chaotic world to heaven’s gates. 

Megan Redfield 

From the day we were married, life was “temporary.” Uncertain. Three more years until Call Day, and then our lives would start. 

Tim was assigned. Maybe now, after three years, when we could settle into a home for more than one year . . . maybe now we would be blessed with a child. And our lives would start. 

But after two more years of poking and prodding, heartache and uncomfortable questions, we felt ready to begin the adoption process. We completed the first application, wrote the first check, and just KNEW that “within an average of 18 to 30 months” we would be parents. And our lives would start. 

We had been chosen, and she would be ours. We were humbled, grateful, and scared out of our minds. She had been born blind. We researched her diagnosis feverishly, scheduled specialist appointments, and set up Early Intervention services. We prepared to travel and counted the minutes until May 28. We knew—we just knew this time—that our lives were about to start. 

Every spring brings a parade of anniversaries—the day we first held her in our arms, the day she was baptized, and so many more. This year we celebrate six years since the day that mountains of paperwork and years of frustrations gave birth to our sweet Elizabeth, seven months old. We would call her Libby. Finally we understood God’s plan completely. Finally all the twists and turns made sense. Right? 

Things were idyllic that first year. Well, idyllic isn’t exactly the right word. We’re still talking about diapers and sleep deprivation and first-time parenting jitters. But it felt like a dream, and there were days that I physically felt gratitude washing over me. There were nights I would continue rocking her long after she was asleep, tears of disbelief drip-dropping onto her tiny footie pajamas. I remembered choosing this very pair as we registered for baby gifts, holding them up and wondering if such a tiny person could possibly exist. And now here she was, filling them out, breathing soundly in my arms as we rock, rock, rocked. 

In those moments, it felt like God had gift-wrapped her and dropped her straight into my life, closing a chapter of questions and doubts with a flourish. I had spent so many years waiting for the next thing, a clearer picture, waiting to see God’s plan all wrapped up, neat and tidy. We just love a happy ending, don’t we?  

Wanting to see God’s plan 

Sometimes we wait patiently for God to show us his plans; sometimes we demand it. 

What is the plan here, Lord? Why this? Why now? Why this illness? Why this hardship? Why this heartbreak? Why my family? Why my job? Why my bank account? What are you teaching me? Where are you leading me? How is this ever going to work for my good, as you have promised? Tell me, Lord. Show me your ways. Wrap it up; give me an “aha!” moment. Make it all clear to me. Show me the answers to the riddles of my life, and then I will tell everyone I know what great things you have done for me. 

This is it,” I thought back then. “My life has started. Now I know exactly why we were unable to conceive. Now I know why our adoption took precisely as long as it did. It was all about her. She was meant to be ours. Look at this amazing thing that God has done! Look how he has shown his wisdom and power!”  

“Look at this beautiful girl of mine,” I still think to myself, pretty much every day. “Look how she learns, how she processes, how she touches hearts. Listen to her sing and play the piano. We daily learn so much from her. God is going to do amazing things through her. I can’t wait to watch the pieces fall into place, to see his plans carried out in her life.” 

Am I wrong? Isn’t it possible that I do understand God’s plan? When I look back on how it all played out, it sure seems to make sense. And yeshis wisdom and almighty power—I can pretty confidently declare that these were fully displayed as he laid our family’s pieces into place in ways I could never have imagined. Am I wrong to wait in wonder about Libby’s future? About how her remarkable abilities, wrapped together with her unique delays and difficulties, will continue to develop and translate into her passions . . . her livelihood . . . her service to her Lord? 

Simple answer: No. 

Longer answer: Perhaps. My life, my family, my child, my dreams for her future, my questions, my praises for his powerful hand in my story—if these are the anchor of my faith, then, yes, I’m way off base. I’m entirely wrapped up in deciphering clues like my life is some great earthly scavenger hunt for a little box wherein he answers all my burning questions. I want clarity, certainty, and to be comfortable. I want to walk by sight. 

Trusting where God leads you 

I am forgetting that he has shown his plan—the only plan I need to know. This plan of salvation was written before eternity. “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Galatians 4:4,5). 

We aren’t here to feel comfortable. This world, since the very day sin entered it, promises none of that. We aren’t here to have our questions answered. We are here to “live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We are here to follow the Savior’s voice in humble obedience through the darkness of this chaotic world. Let him lead you to the place he has prepared for you. Tune out the distractions and discomforts. Better yet, praise him for them! These are the things that fix our tired, desperate eyes heavenward.  

At times, we appear foolish and naïve. We trust, like Abraham preparing to sacrifice his only son or like Noah building an ocean liner in the desert. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5,6). 

There are a lot of dreams for Libby’s future that bring tears to my eyes. I hear it’s a “mom thing.” The older we get, the prouder they make us, the more we cry. At some point I’ll just be crying nonstop and dressing in a water-resistant poncho. But the biggest and brightest dream—the one that can dissolve me in a heartbeat—is when I think of the day she will enter heaven’s gates. Here on earth, she walks with a white cane, cautiously, darkness all around her. On that day that her eyes are finally opened, the very first thing she will ever see is her Savior’s face. And she will run—leap!—into his waiting arms.  

That is the answer to every one of my questions for her future. That is the purpose of my life—to teach her, guide her, and lead her to Jesus, in whom everything becomes clear. 


Megan Redfield is a member at Trinity, Belle Plaine, Minnesota. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Megan Redfield
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Witnessing: Our reason for being: Part 1

Jesus told his disciples, “You will be my witnesses,” and then ascended into heaven. They had a reason for being, as do all disciples of Jesus. 

Jonathan R. Hein 

In philosophy it is called one’s raison d’être, literally “reason for being.” It is the activity that justifies a thing’s existence. To put it another way, if something is not fulfilling its raison d’êtreit may as well not exist.  

Consider the piano sitting in the corner of a living room. You must have some justification for it being there. Maybe someone is taking lessons. Perhaps, at Christmas, your family gathers around it to sing favorite hymns. Maybe no one in your home plays piano. You keep it around simply because it reminds you of your grandparents, to whom it used to belong. In that case, the piano’s raison d’être is to serve as a memento. The point is, something justifies allowing that piano to take up space. If not, you would have gotten rid of it.  

Our reason for being 

So, what is the raison d’être of your congregation? What is the “reason for being” of our synod? What is the activity that justifies our existence?  

Now make it personal. What do you see as your individual purpose for existence? What is the thing that if you aren’t doing it you might as well not be alive?  

The answer to those questions is connected to one of the great celebrations of the church—the Festival of the Ascension. When Jesus’ ascended and sat down on the throne of heaven, it was not like me plopping into my recliner after a long day. Jesus did not ascend to relax. He ascended as he took up the full use of his divine power. Now he directs all things for the good of the church as it carries out its mission.  

And what is that exactly? Shortly before Jesus ascended, he told his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). That was their “reason to be.” If they were not going to be witnesses, there was no reason for them to be alive anymore.  

Two millennia later, the believer’s raison d’être has not changed. It is the most universal of Christian callings. Not every Christian will be called by God to be a spouse or a parent. Not every Christian will be called to serve publicly as a pastor, teacher, staff minister, or missionary. Not every Christian will serve as a Sunday school teacher or on the church council. But all of us are called to be witnesses as opportunities present themselves. We know those opportunities will present themselves, for Jesus does not lie. “You will be my witnesses.”  

Our unique qualifications 

“But I’m not qualified,” some will object. Nonsense! Jesus did not say, “You will be my theologians.” Witnesses! Jesus is not asking us to do something complicated. You do not need a Masters of Divinity degree to witness. A witness simply shares what he has seen and heard. A witness shares experiential information.  

For example, I understand that the wings of an airplane create lift, but I do not have a good grasp on exactly how that works. However, I have observed planes flying. I have experienced it, as I have flown plenty of times myself. So, while I am not qualified to give a lecture on aeronautics, I am plenty qualified to say, “If you need to travel a long way, flying is the way to go!” It’s experiential information.  

So maybe you cannot recite all the books of the Bible. Perhaps you can’t explain the meaning of every one of Jesus’ parables. That does not disqualify you from witnessing. You know Jesus died for your sins. You know that he rose again. Since you know those things, you have experienced peace, certain that hell is not in your future and that the gate to Paradise stands wide open. Witness about that.  

You might not be able to give the catechism explanation of what it means to pray “in Jesus’ name.” But you know you can pray. Moreover, you have experienced the comfort of being able to carry your problems to Christ through prayer. Witness to that. 

Do you remember what it was like when your child was baptized? You observed God claim that child as his own through water and the Word. You did not understand the nature of faith that the Spirit created in your child. Even one who has his master’s of divinity doesn’t understand that! But you experienced the joy of knowing your child was now wrapped in spiritual armor, perfectly safe for all eternity. Tell others about that joy!  

The world needs our witness 

“You will be my witnesses.” Why has Jesus made this every believer’s “reason for being”? Because witnessing is what the world needs most. The world we live in is dark. It needs believers to be light. The world is rotting. It needs believers to be salt. This world is nothing but death. It needs believers to share the One who is life.  

The world desperately needs witnesses of the power of the gospel. If you are not witnessing—to your children, your friends, your neighbors—then, frankly, why are you breathing? If your congregation is not witnessing—to the faithful and the straying and the lost in your community—then why does it even exist? 

Martin Luther said it well: 

We live on earth only so that we should be a help to other people. Otherwise, it would be best if God would strangle us and let us die as soon as we were baptized and had begun to believe. For this reason, however, he lets us live that we may bring other people also to faith as he had done for us. Luther’s Works Vol. 30, p. 11. 

Luther well knew that Christians can glorify Christ in many ways across multiple vocations. But it would be a gross perversion of the doctrine of the vocation to say, “Because I serve God as a faithful teacher, farmer, or physician, I don’t need to be a witness to my next-door neighbor.” That’s using our vocation to justify refusing to share our faith. 

Chances are that at times—maybe oftentimes—we have lived as though our “reason for being” has been something other than witnessing. Ascension helps there too. Do you think Jesus would have ascended if your salvation were incomplete? Unthinkable! Jesus ascended only because he knew he had made atonement for every last sin, including the sin of failing to witness—of denying our “reason for being.” When the Father looks at you, he sees people who have bold in proclaiming his truth.  

The faith that embraces Christ’s promise of forgiveness then also embraces Christ’s promise of function. “You will be my witnesses.” He ascended and sat down on the throne of God to make it so! He orchestrates our lives so that we might have the privilege of witnessing . . . the joy of playing a role in his saving work. Moreover, he gives us the power to do what he has asked. More on that next month.  


Jonathan Hein, director of WELS Congregational Counseling, is a member at Trinity, Waukesha, Wisconsin. 


This is the first of a two-part series on the necessity of Christian witnessing. 


 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Jonathan R. Hein
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest : Part 6

Nourished by meals with the Messiah

Joel S. Heckendorf

Were not our hearts burning within us? (Luke 24:13-35)  

Already in this series, you’ve nibbled on some fish with Jesus. You’ve broken bread and sipped some wine. You’ve sat in an aroma-filled dining room and a crowded wedding reception hall. I pray you have been spiritually nourished by these meals with the Messiah. But, be warned, you might want to take some heartburn medication before you indulge in the meal set before us today. At least Cleopas got heartburn. What caused it? 

Before we get to that, you should know that Cleopas had a preexisting heart condition, at least, that was Jesus’ diagnosis after examining him for a couple of hours late one Sunday afternoon. Jesus could see it in his face and in his pace, as Cleopas trudged the seven miles between Jerusalem and Emmaus.  

If his outward appearance wasn’t a strong enough symptom, Cleopas’ words certainly were, “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Unable to recognize the one speaking to him as the One on whom he pinned his hopes, Cleopas droned on and on about Jesus, “He was a prophet . . . he was powerful . . . but he was sentenced to death . . . they crucified him . . . it’s been three days since this happened . . . some women said his tomb was empty and that he was alive . . . our friends also said the tomb was empty . . . but they didn’t see Jesus” (cf. Luke 24:20-24). Nor did Cleopas. And he didn’t see Jesus standing before him. Nor did he see Jesus in the Scriptures.  

Yet, Jesus doesn’t diagnose him with having eye problems. It was a heart problem. “How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25 NIV84). 

Has the powerful Jesus ever acted in such a way that your hopes were dashed? Has failing to see Jesus working in your life or in Scripture left you with a mind clouded with doubt and despair? Ever find yourself searching for a spiritual pulse because you have a slow heart? Jesus has just the prescription: it’s his Word.  

And if you need someone to endorse Dr. Jesus, listen to Cleopas. He invited Jesus in for a meal after their long walk, but it was the seven-course meal of Scripture that Jesus spoon-fed him that led him to say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).   

And look what a burning heart fuels: “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem” (Luke 24:33). After Jesus miraculously vanished, basically so did Cleopas and his buddy. They didn’t stick around to do the dishes. They didn’t even finish their supper.  They didn’t care that it was dark outside. Without giving it a second thought, they ran back the seven miles they had just walked. Same road, but what a different journey! No longer were they trying to escape defeat; they were equipped with victory. They were no longer questioning; they were proclaiming. What a different attitude filled their hearts as they realized their Deliver was not dead but alive! How they must have shouted to the huddled disciples, “It’s true! Jesus is alive!”   

You can do the same. Come, Lord Jesus, let these heart-burning gifts to us be blessed! 


Food for thought 

  1. Why do we sometimes fail to recognize Jesus?

 In the case of the Emmaus disciples, the Bible says that they were “kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16). But sometimes we may fail to recognize Jesus because we look for him according to our hope and expectations. For example, if we expect a powerful Jesus who will take away all our illnesses, we may not always see him working in a hospital room where we can witness to a nurse or see him working to work through our suffering (Romans 5:1-5).  

  1. What are some portions of “Moses and all the Prophets” (Luke 24:27) that you have found to be especially heart-burning? 

 Answers will vary. Examples may include any passage that so clearly show God’s forgiveness and care. For example, for a heart-aching person, God’s promise that a “bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3) can be extremely comforting. Or for the heart that aches with guilt, how tremendous to hear our God say, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).   

  1. What is significant about Jesus’ words, “Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things?” (Luke 24:25, emphasis added)? 

The Passion season that we just went through was not by chance. It was all part of God’s plans. Readers may want to consider other things that Jesus “had to do” (e.g., he had to go through Samaria in John chapter 4 to speak to the woman at the well). Being reminded that our Savior is in control of all things, even his suffering, assures us that he is in control of our lives. How comforting to know that, especially when we are “slow of heart.” 


Contributing editor Joel Heckendorf is pastor at Immanuel, Greenville, Wisconsin.


This is the sixth article in a 11-part series that looks at Jesus as a mealtime guest and how he blessed his fellow diners—and us—with his living presence. Find the article and answers online after May 5 at wels.net/forwardinchrist. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Joel S. Heckendorf
Volume 105, Number 05
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Majoring on the minors – Part 4

Amos: What if God had asked you?

Thomas D. Kock

Amos wasn’t a staff minister; he wasn’t a teacher; he wasn’t a pastor. He describes himself as being a rancher of sorts, raising sheep, as well as doing something with figs—though we’re not sure what the fig part entailed (cf. 1:1; 7:14). Amos was a layman, a typical Israelite!

But God had different plans for Amos: “The LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’ ” (7:15).

What if God has asked you? Would you have been ready?

God’s messenger—then

I would imagine that Amos might have wondered, “Why me?!? Why not send one of the prophets?” God didn’t do that; he chose to send a layman.

What if God had asked you? Would you have been ready?

And then there’s the message! God called Amos to bring a difficult message to the Northern Kingdom! The people had rebelled against God over and over. God’s patience was coming to an end. So Amos had to deliver this message: Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land” (7:17).

Ouch! I’m guessing the people weren’t gathering around Amos to say, “What a great ‘sermon!’ I was really blessed by that!” This was a hard message . . . but a message that needed to be brought to the people because they were becoming more and more hardened in unbelief. It was imperative that Amos—the layman—deliver this message.

What if God had asked you? Would you have been ready?

God’s messengers—now

During this month we’ll celebrate Pentecost. We’ll again celebrate how the Holy Spirit was poured out in a miraculous way, giving power to proclaim the Word. And what had some of those proclaimers done previously? They’d been fishermen (Peter, Andrew, James, John), tax collectors (Matthew), and political activists (Simon). In other words, they hadn’t been officially trained clergy. They’d been laymen!

And?

And God touched the world through their message! The message of Jesus spread from person to person! And generally, it seems to have spread through laity! Through people like Amos!

Through people like you.

What if God had asked you? Would you have been ready?

I’m convinced that the answer is yes! You know Jesus; you know his Word.

However, could it hurt to deepen your knowledge? While it’s critical for our church body to train our public ministers thoroughly, it’s also incredibly important that our laity understands the Word of God deeply!

So, if you’re not sure if you’d be ready, head to Bible study! If you think you might be ready, head to Bible study! If you’re pretty sure you’re ready, head to Bible study—both for yourself and for the good of others!

And in the study of the Word, God will make you ready for whatever opportunities he grants you.


Contributing editor Thomas Kock, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Atonement, Milwaukee.


This is the fourth article in a 12-part series on the minor prophets.


Amos

Background: A shepherd and fig-picker from Tekoa (in the Southern Kingdom). He prophesied in the Northern Kingdom from 760-765 B.C.

The book’s major truth: God’s patience with the Northern Kingdom is running out. Judgement!

Key verse: “ ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD’ ” (8:11).


 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Thomas Kock
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Jesus’ victory is a given

“Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1:43

Joel C. Seifert

I think of the young women and men who’ve stood before me and made confirmation promises that were boldly spoken and quickly broken. I write this article the day after another school shooting claimed 17 lives, and I fear the despair and anger that Satan sows into the world my own children are growing up in. I get afraid.

Jesus’ victory is a given

So, Elizabeth’s words amaze me and bring peace to my heart. The virgin Mary was pregnant with Jesus when she visited her cousin. Mary faced dangers. Certainly, those around her considered her guilty of adultery, a sin punishable by death. The world would be opposed to this child; Herod would order the deaths of dozens of children in hopes of killing her baby. The child she was carrying was one the great dragon would do anything to destroy.

If Elizabeth was afraid for Mary, you couldn’t hear it in her words: “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? . . . Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:43,45). I suppose it was simple. Elizabeth was too old to have a child, but God promised she would. It was more than dangerous at her age; it was impossible. But there she was, running her hand over her growing belly. That same God also promised a Savior would come through Israel. Yes, the nation was broken. And yes, there were dangers for Mary. But God promised. So, it would happen.

The dangers to our children’s faith and safety are real. Many churches are confirming another group of eighth graders this month; the seniors receiving diplomas in a few weeks will head to college in the fall. And Jesus makes a promise: no one can snatch his sheep out of his hand. The world and the devil will attack them with lies; these young Christians can and will wander from their faith at times. But Jesus has paid for every sin they’ll fall into. Jesus will bring his people home. His victory is a given.

Jesus gives us to each other

So, God keeps giving. On May 31, the Christian church celebrates the Festival of the Visitation. We remember the three-month period during Mary’s pregnancy when she

stayed with Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:39-56). One of the chosen readings for that festival is Romans chapter 12. Consider a few encouragements from that passage: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. . . . Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another” (vv. 10,15). It’s a beautiful picture of what those faithful women must have done for each other during those dangerous days.

And it’s a reminder of the privilege we have during these dangerous days too. We won’t stop the devil from being the devil and the world won’t cease being filled with evil, but we can show Christ’s love to each other. We can encourage each other. We can weep and rejoice with each other, not in fear, but out of Christian love.

The Festival of the Visitation falls at the same time as many graduations and confirmations. Consider taking time this month to choose a younger Christian or two whom you might seek to befriend, encourage, and pray for in the years to come.


Contributing editor Joel Seifert is pastor at Beautiful Savior, Marietta, Georgia.


 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Joel C. Seifert
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Confessions of faith: Ally

After worrying for years that she was carrying sins from her family’s past, a woman learns of God’s full and free forgiveness.

Rachel Hartman

Anny Ally spent some of her early years in an orphanage in Rwanda. Today she lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, but she has also had another drastic change in her life. After being born into a Muslim family, Ally is now a Christian who clings to the comfort found in Jesus’ words. She says “For some reason, God has given me a different life, and I don’t want to take that life for granted. I just want to serve him.”

Starting out in Africa

“I grew up in Rwanda, and I lived with my mom and dad,” Ally recalls. Both of her parents, as well as her surrounding family members, were Muslim.

In 1994, when Ally was still a young girl, about 800,000 Rwandans were killed in a span of one hundred days. Both of Ally’s parents died during the genocide. “I ended up going to the orphanage home,” says Ally. The place was called Noel de Nyundo.

Ally stayed at the orphanage until she was ten years old. Then she left with a woman who took her to the neighboring country of Uganda, where she ended up in a refugee camp.

“I grew up considering myself Muslim,” she says. She read the Koran and studied Islam since her parents had been Muslim and she felt she should learn about it.

Ally also visited churches while in Uganda. At one, she found people inside praying for others. “The pastor said everyone had a problem, and they could pray for you—if you have a problem, that’s going to solve it,” she remembers. “I was 14, and the pastor started praying for me. Everyone went down to pray, and he reached for me and pushed my head forward. He told me I had demons.”

The incident left Ally wondering why she had demons inside of her. Familiar with a common teaching that children can end up paying for the wrongs of their parents, Ally worried about her family’s past. “In Africa they say if parents do something, it comes back through the children,” Ally says. “My parents died when I was young, so I didn’t know what they had done.”

Another church she attended had members who appeared to speak in tongues. It seemed everyone there had something special, except Ally. “I said, ‘Okay, maybe God doesn’t like me. Everyone has a gift—some had a gift of a spirit, others can talk in tongues—and I have nothing at all.”

The event left her anxious. “When I was in Africa, I thought that sins were not the same,” she says. “There were some that God forgives and some that God cannot forgive.” She was taught that seemingly small sins, such as lying, could be forgiven. More serious sins, such as murder, were said to be unforgivable.

That teaching coupled with the idea of children paying for the wrongs of the parents left Ally wondering if there was something in her, or her past, that God couldn’t forgive. “I thought, ‘Has my family done something that is coming back to me?’

These experiences left her feeling alone and helpless. “I quit going to church,” she says. “I was kind of lost.”

Living in Canada

A private sponsorship made it possible for Ally to move to Canada at the age of 17. She settled in Ottawa and had two daughters. But it was hard to go to church. “I tried to go to the mosque to pray, but I would just sit there,” she says. “Then I decided I would stay in my house with my kids and thought if God can hear, he’ll hear me at my house.”

One day, shortly after her second daughter was born, it was really cold outside and Ally felt depressed. To cheer up, she took her girls for a walk. While out, she passed St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, which was across from her house.

Out of curiosity, Ally went inside. The service had ended, but a woman still there. She told Ally to go downstairs for coffee. “I thought, Why am I going here? I was just taking a walk,” says Ally.

She headed downstairs and sat down with her girls. “A lady came next to me and she didn’t move; she just asked my name.” says Ally. “Then she told me, ‘I think you should come to church and see how we are. How about you come next week?’ ”

The lady took Ally’s phone number and called her. “She talked to me like she knew me a long time ago,” recalls Ally. She asked Ally if she was planning to come to church on Sunday, and Ally said yes.

Ally went to worship that week, but she wanted to know about the church before continuing much further. She started studying the Bible with one of the pastors

What she found was a message of comfort. “When it comes to the Word of God, it assured me that God died for all our sins. We are human and not perfect; we do sin, but that doesn’t mean God is angry with us. He always loves us,” says Ally. “Since Jesus died for me and my sin, I shouldn’t worry. Now I get to serve him.”

A part of God’s family

Ally now looks forward to going to church on Sunday, and so do her girls. In addition to hearing God’s Word, Ally treasures the community she’s found there. “Everyone is welcoming—it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone is so nice,” says Ally. “It makes you feel that you are a part of something, like you belong.”

She has grown especially close to the woman who first invited her to church. “She calls me her daughter and has become like a grandmother to my two girls. God put her into our lives.”

And while Ally is thankful to be where she is today, she has not forgotten her past. She takes trips back to Africa and uses the opportunity to help others in need. She always takes something to hand out at a camp or orphanage that is low on supplies.

At the end of 2017, St. Paul helped pay for her to visit a refugee camp in Uganda. She went to a place called Imvepi, which has been receiving refugees from Sudan. “Before it used to be a few children, but people are coming from Sudan so there are a lot of kids,” explains Ally.

While there, she handed out Christian material from WELS Multi-Language Publications, toothbrushes, and soap. She also held a Christmas party. “I was able to feed seven hundred children,” she says. “Everyone was so happy and loved the gifts. It made me very happy that I was able to do that. I remember being in the orphanage and wanting someone to give me something.”

Ally also met a girl who had walked three hours to the camp to pick up food and take it back to her home. Says Ally, “I helped her to her house. I visited with her family and told them how I found Jesus.”


Rachel Hartman and her husband, Missionary Michael Hartman, serve in León, Mexico.


Did you know that “Confessions of faith” has been a series in Forward in Christ for ten years? Started in April 2008 to share stories of peoples’ journeys of faith, this series also helps teach the differences between the teachings of WELS and other religions and gives us all the opportunity to rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit. What do you appreciate most about this series? Any favorite stories? Share your thoughts with us at fic@wels.net.


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: What do new moms really need to know?

What do new moms really need to know?

One of the purposes of this column is to support Christian parents. This month we’re focusing on new moms (check back next month for advice aimed at dads)—but the information shared here can boost any parent.

Often advice for new moms adds more stress than it alleviates. The advice from the authors who wrote this month, though, is designed to lighten a parent’s load. Share these nuggets with the moms in your life. Then send us your advice at fic@wels.net. To watch a short webcast that shares more of these parenting nuggets, visit forwardinchrist.net/webcasts.

Nicole Balza


Thanks to social media, I was able to poll many, many moms on what they wished they knew when they were new moms. I was able to take the pieces of advice
and break them down to five basic themes.

1. Stop comparing! All of it! Don’t compare how you look. Don’t compare what your children have or don’t have. Don’t compare how your children behave. Don’t compare how
you’re parenting. This goes both ways. Do not shame yourself for not having it all together and please, please do not judge other moms for doing it differently than you. There are so
many ways to parent, and most of them are God-honoring.

2. Take care of yourself. Continue to date your husband. Make that relationship a priority. Get sleep. Seek out your friends. Find time for solitude. Find time to do things you love.

3. Find a community. Seek out a community of moms. Help each other. Ask for help. Receive it when offered. Cheer each other on and be encouraging. Share with each other. Cry together. If you have a community of moms but they don’t do these things, find another community. My friends have been instrumental in my survival of parenting.

4. You are fully equipped. You know the Scriptures, and they “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). You know the depth of God’s
love for you and your children. You understand forgiveness, and you can turn to the Scriptures for guidance. The Scriptures make you “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (3:17). And you are doing good work.

5. Grace. God’s love lives in you, and you can reflect that love in your day-to-day life. Live in God’s grace. Help your children live in that same grace. Encourage other moms to find comfort and energy in that grace. Remember that our God pursues our children and he loves them even more than we do. He loves you too. Passionately. There is nothing you can do to make him love you more and there is nothing you can do to make him love you less. Just because you don’t feel that way doesn’t make it any less true. Hold on to truth.

As I look at this list, the themes go beyond parenting. They speak to everyday life wherever you are in your Christian journey. Psalm 119:140 says, “Your promises have been thoroughly tested; and your servant loves them.” Trust in his promises. They never fail.


Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have five children ranging in age from 8 to
16. They are also licensed foster parents.


Welcome to the adventure, friend! Parenting is hard and messy, and you’ll never be so tired in your life as you are with a newborn. But it is so worth it. I’d like to share my biggest takeaways from what I’ve experienced with my kids so far (ages 6 and 9), in hopes that they give you something to look forward to during your sleepless nights.

You will sleep again. I remember thinking after my daughter was born that I
would be tired for the rest of my life. While my days of sleeping past 9 A.M. on Saturday are long gone, most nights pass peacefully. So power through that fatigue; it does get better.

There’s no such thing as a weak-willed toddler. Have you ever tried to stuff an octopus into a pillowcase? Me neither. But I have a great idea of what it might be like after having to buckle angry toddlers into their car seats mid-meltdown. It’s hard when you’ve gone from having babies who are dependent on you for everything to little humans with opinions of their own. Patience and more patience will get you through.

This too shall pass. It’s all a series of stages. Tantrums, sleepless nights, leaving
church without actually hearing a word of the sermon due to a squirmy, active kiddo—none of these are forever. If you are stuck in the “random nudist in awkward places” stage of
toddlerhood and just cannot keep pants on your child— don’t sweat it! All parents have been through this, and it does end eventually. (Probably.)

You and your kiddos were paired by God, and you are exactly the person they need. God chose us to snuggle, feed, burp, console, teach, and love these specific little humans. He knew they needed us and we needed them. I hold on to this when stages are
particularly difficult. (Hello, impending teenage-hood!) I am, without a doubt, the right person for this job. Even if I don’t always feel like it. Even if sometimes I want to run
screaming into the woods and embrace life as a hermit. I am meant to be their mom, and they are meant to be my kids. Trust in this when you find yourself questioning your parenting abilities. God knew what he was doing when he put you together. He loves you and your kiddos.


Kerry Ognenoff and her husband, Andy, have two young children—nine-year-old Anna and six-year-old Henry.


The years are short, but the days were long. Even as a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a mommy. When that day finally came, I was over the moon. We brought our precious baby boy home, and he started to cry and cry and cry. An overbearing relative told me that the baby could feel my nervousness. We had just moved, and since this was 1978, there was no Internet and long distance calls to friends and family were expensive. I felt so alone and bewildered that this experience was not the Hallmark moment I had envisioned. The days were long. How foolish of me not to quickly turn to the living, breathing help available at my new church. Eventually I sought the counsel of wonderful Christian mothers who had dealt with colic and ear infections.

But I quickly fell head first into the quagmire of parental self doubt when I met my very first “Supermom.” Her house was always tidy, her children immaculate. They sang hymns in
four-part harmony at bedtime. And so I agonized over inviting other moms into our modest and quite often messy home. This was brought home to me rather forcibly after an attempted burglary on our house. The burglars had gotten into our basement but had not gained access to the first floor. A police officer who joined the investigation as it was ending
looked around that unburgled first floor with a horrified expression and said, “Look what they did to your house!” My own mother gently reminded me that nobody does everything. Something usually gives. And the days were very long.

God granted me a wonderful friend who truly loved all children and welcomed them into her totally child-centric home. You can imagine the wonderful jumble of planned activities
and the spaces for unplanned creative play. She was totally engaged with the children who entered. My children never wanted to leave her house. And so I felt guilty that I didn’t let
my children paint in the living room or drop playdough on the carpet. Guilt vied with yearning as I snuck furtive looks at the clock to see if it was bedtime for kiddies. I was sure that her days were as long as mine, but she was enjoying hers more. My husband and I thought it was important that we invite children and adults who were not invited elsewhere to our home. As I was explaining this yet again before an Easter dinner, one of my children asked rather wistfully, “Are we ever gonna have just our family for holidays?” I felt I had somehow fallen short in the mommy role. The days were long, and some dinners were extremely long.

And suddenly they are grown, with children of their own. We watch in humble gratefulness as we see our children as loving and already wise Christian parents who continually seek to improve. We admire their willingness to learn from others and marvel at how many seek their counsel. We applaud their prioritization of Christian values in the face of popular parenting myths. We support their efforts to spread the Word to the uninformed or excluded through their love for the marginalized and disenfranchised. We meet the diverse friends they have gathered as family and embrace them as our own. We praise the Lord for his people and his Word in this yet unfinished parenting journey.

The days were long, but the years are short.


Mary Clemons lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Sam. They have three grown children and seven grandchildren.


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 105, Number 05
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Salt of the earth: Part 11

So much death! Why? Evil oppresses us and seeks to squeeze the last drop of hope from us. But we will not be overcome!

Glenn L. Schwanke

“So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?”

So spoke Théoden, the once mighty king of Rohan. He stood mute. He was little more than a husk of a man who held his right arm tightly against his side to stem the flow of blood caused by a spear that nearly killed him. Then came those words that fell from his lips like a whimper.

And the look on his face? It was the haunting image of a man beaten down by life, his eyes betraying a sadness that welled up from the very depths of his soul.

Why? The impossible had happened. Rohan’s army, though aided by the Elven elite, had all but been annihilated. The impregnable fortress at Helms Deep had been overrun by the hellish hoards called the Uruk-hai—nightmarish creatures of immense strength who were “bred from the heats and slimes of the earth” in the pits beneath Isengard, home of the evil wizard, Saruman. One last massive oaken door was all that protected the few surviving defenders. But as the Uruk-hai smashed their battering ram into the door with infernal might, the oak groaned, splintered, and shattered. And Théoden’s courage and hope vanished.

Just a movie of fantasy?

At least that’s how I remember the scene from a movie that is, perhaps, little more than dusty ancient history to anyone under the age of 40. For you see, I’m envisioning a scene from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (2002). The movie was based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous work Lord of the Rings, which was published in three volumes from 1954 to 1955. So, of course, the movie is little more than fantasy.

Well, maybe not.

Tolkien once shared this insight about his epic novel. “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious . . . work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism” (J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter 142).

Overcome by evil

Why am I taking you down this memory lane of movie trivia? Because Théoden’s words came flooding back into my consciousness this past week. “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” I recalled the words the minute I heard about the Valentine’s Day school shooting. Seventeen people were gunned down, both high school students and staff, at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida, located in the greater Miami metropolitan area. The alleged shooter: a troubled 19-year old who had earlier been expelled from the school.

The shooting has prompted the usual response in our nation. Calls for more gun control. Passionate pleas for more help for those who are mentally unstable. Demands for better security at our schools. A tighter monitoring of threatening posts on social media combined with some type of proactive action on the part of law enforcement. Outrage. Disbelief. Helplessness. Hopelessness. And a numbness that nibbles away at our collective heart and mind, as we wonder, “Why so much death . . . such reckless hate?”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas (17 killed, Feb. 14, 2018); the Route 91 Harvest music festival at the Las Vegas strip (58 killed, Oct. 1, 2017); Sandy Hook Elementary (27 killed, Dec. 14, 2012); Virginia Tech (32 killed, April 16, 2007).

Our country struggles to find answers to such reckless hate but can’t because we live in a nation that has accepted the notion that people are basically good inside. But I pray you and I know better. These atrocities and so many more that could be listed are the inevitable, nightmarish products of a human race that was plunged into sin by our first parents in Eden.

Why “so much death”? The apostle Paul explained, “So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, so also death spread to all people because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Sins happen because we are a race of sinners. And sadly, we’re experts at it.

Why “such reckless hate”? Our sinful natures have helped. There is a hellish army headed by Satan that relentlessly seeks to batter us Christians down. As Paul warns us through the inspired Word, “For our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). After a while, even the strongest Christian may sigh with a whimper, “Too much, Lord, it’s no use! I give up.”

Do you want to know why I thought of Théoden when I heard about the Valentine’s Day shooting? Because I looked in the mirror and saw him. Inside I heard him. “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” Broken. Empty. “Overcome by evil.”

Or maybe not.

Overcoming evil with good

If you remember the Two Towers movie, then you know the battle was not lost at Helms Deep, but rather won. Just as the enemy was about to burst through the door, Gimli the dwarf whispers, “The sun is rising.” As a ray of light breaks through the window, the reenergized survivors ride out into battle, guided by the promise given by Gandalf, the white wizard. “Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east.”

That’s “the story and the symbolism.” Here is the fact. Our riding out into the wearying, daily fight of faith will not somehow turn the tide of this war with evil. Jesus won this war long ago, all by himself, when he shouted from his cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

Here is the fact. You and I look to the dawn of the third day that we know as Easter. There we see a rolled away stone, an empty tomb, and angelic messengers who announce, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has been raised!” (Luke 24:5,6).

Not death, not hate, not a world filled with devils, not even hell itself can conquer us! Rather, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

Jesus’ victory gives us the strength to be salt for yet another day. Not bitter, but bold. Not hopeless, but confident that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

And in this way, dear friends, we will “overcome evil with good.” Victorious salt amid so much death!


Contributing editor Glenn Schwanke, pastor at Peace, Houghton, Michigan, also serves as campus pastor at Michigan Technological University.


All Scripture references are from the Evangelical Heritage Version.


This is the eleventh article in a 12-part series about Christian love in action and how we can be salt in this world.


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Light for our path: Changing translation of the Lord’s Prayer

There have been news stories of Pope Francis wanting his church to change the translation of Lead us not into temptation in the Lord’s Prayer to something like “Do not let us fall into temptation.” What does our church body think about this? 

James F. Pope 

There is no need to change the translation of that petition in the Lord’s Prayer. There is a need to understand better what Jesus meant with those words. Your question provides an opportunity for that. 

An accurate translation 

There is no mistranslation involved in the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. “Lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13) is an accurate translation of the Greek. The verb can mean “lead,” “bring in,” or “carry in.” As the Address of the prayer indicates, we make that petition of our Father in heaven. The traditional wording of the Lord’s Prayer—asking God not to lead us into temptation—is accurate. 

Most Bible translations render the Greek in similar ways. There are a few exceptions, including: “And do not cause us to be tempted” (Expanded Bible), and, “Keep us from being tempted” (Contemporary English Version). Those translations drift away from a strict literal translation. 

A consistent meaning 

As far as explaining the petition, I certainly cannot improve on Martin Luther’s explanation in his Small Catechism: “God surely tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or lead us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins; and though we are tempted by them, we pray that we may overcome and win the victory.” 

Luther offered similar thoughts in his Large Catechism: “This, then is leading us not into temptation, to wit, when he gives us power and strength to resist, the temptation, however, not being taken away or removed. For while we live in the flesh and have the devil about us, no one can escape temptation and allurements; and it cannot be otherwise than that we must endure trials, yea, be engulfed in them; but we pray for this, that we may not fall and be drowned in them.” 

Luther’s thoughts point to James 1:13-15: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” 

Scripture clearly teaches that God does not tempt anyone to sin. Scripture plainly identifies Satan as “the tempter” (Matthew 4:3). When we use the prayer Jesus taught us, we do what he first told his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Mark 14:38).  

A meaningful petition 

Because you and I wage daily spiritual warfare against evil, we have reason to speak the words of the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer on a regular basis—not in a mechanical way but in a meaningful way. We do that when we recognize our own frailty and seek God’s strength to withstand the temptations that come our way. We do that when we recognize who is the tempter and who is our Friend.  

The wording of the Sixth Petition is like other parts of Scripture in that we need to let “Scripture interpret Scripture” to know what it means and does not mean


Contributing editor James Pope, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. John, New Ulm.


James Pope also answers questions online at wels.net/questions. Submit your questions there or to fic@wels.net.


 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: James F. Pope
Volume 105, Number 05
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Fools

Andrew C. Schroer

It all began with an edict by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The Julian calendar used by most of the Western world had some problems. Among other things, seasons and solstices did not always line up because the calendar did not accurately calculate leap years.

The new calendar, called the Gregorian calendar, established a more accurate number of leap years as well as other innovations. Pope Gregory’s calendar also established Jan. 1 as the official beginning of the year.

Though Jan. 1 had traditionally been the first day of the year on the Julian calendar, by the Middle Ages many Western European countries celebrated the new year on different days. In some countries, New Year’s was celebrated at the end of March and the beginning of April.

When Pope Gregory published his new calendar, there was no Facebook and no CNN. There wasn’t even radio. News about the changes spread slowly. Many continued to celebrate New Year’s on their traditional dates decades, and even centuries, later.

Those who continued to celebrate the New Year at the end of March and the beginning of April, either due to ignorance or just plain obstinance, were soon mocked by their fellow countrymen. They were called fools, and practical jokes were played on them.

According to some historians, thus began the celebration of April Fools’ Day.

Much has been made in the media about the fact that Easter this year falls on April Fools’ Day. It’s ironic. As Christians we often play the role of the fool for believing the Easter message.

For those who don’t believe in Jesus, what we believe seems ridiculous. We believe that because God was born as a man, nailed to a piece of wood, died, and came back to life, we are now free from any guilt or punishment for every bad thing we do. We believe we will live forever with him one day in a perfect place of happiness called heaven somewhere beyond our existence here on earth.

Many of the greatest scientists and scholars of our age mock us and call us dumb for believing the Bible. Even the apostle Paul was laughed off by the educated elite of his day (Acts 17:32). As Christians we are fools. To be more accurate, though, we are sophomores. You see, the word sophomore literally means “a wise fool.”

But even though the world considers us foolish, we have true wisdom. To the world, what we believe as Christians is weak and foolish. The apostle Paul reminds us of that but concludes, “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

How can anyone believe in what so many think is for fools? Only through faith can a person see its true wisdom and power.

Through Jesus’ humble death and glorious resurrection, we have become heirs of heaven. We are now sons and daughters of the King of all creation. Through faith, we have true understanding, but we can’t prove any of it. The world cannot see it. It seems foolish to them.

But instead of getting upset when the world calls us fools, instead of getting embarrassed, instead of feeling like you have to defend or prove what you believe, embrace the foolishness of the cross. Accept the fact that the world does not and will never understand. Jesus told us it would be that way. Some will mock us. Some will point and call us fools.

Don’t worry about it. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t back down. One day, God will reveal who the true fools really are.


Contributing editor Andrew Schroer is pastor at Redeemer, Edna, Texas.


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Andrew C. Schroer
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Social media expands reach and offers more connections

It started with wanting to offer more women in a congregation the opportunity to study together. 

Corissa Nelson, wife of the pastor at Good Shepherd, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, decided to start a midweek women’s Bible class using 2000 Demons by E. Allen Sorum as the base of the study. With short chapters, already included questions, and a riveting topic, the book seemed a perfect fit. 

The problem: finding time during the week when most women could meet. Also congregation members are scattered, many living at least half an hour from church. 

The solution: social media. 

Nelson decided to create a Facebook group, where she would post a question or two a day related to that week’s reading. Members of the group could comment and share their thoughts and ideas. While a small group from the church still met in person each week, this allowed more people who couldn’t make weekday meetings to participate. 

But Nelson didn’t stop there. “Once I realized that we had bridged those miles, I determined we could invite anyone to be in the study,” she says. As part of the WELS Women’s Ministry Development Committee, Nelson thought offering this online opportunity for Bible study would be a great way to build community for all WELS women. So WELS Women’s Ministry began promoting this Bible study opportunity on its Facebook page. 

More than 600 women from around the country (and even some from abroad) joined the group throughout the course of the monthlong Bible study, which concluded this past February. Nelson said between 300 to 500 of these were active, returning often to the site even if they didn’t always post comments. 

Nelson says that having this broader group involved helped Good Shepherd, a smaller, isolated congregation, feel more connected to the synod and other WELS members. “They were able to connect with more mature Christians and learn from them,” she says.  

Others commented on Facebook that they too had difficulty getting to a Bible study and appreciated this additional opportunity to study God’s Word. “Although it’s not as perfect as everyone sitting around a table and sharing ideas, it really can encourage more people to have some personal study and connect with other women,” says Nelson. 

Nelson plans to offer another women’s Bible study, starting April 9. This one, written by her husband Pastor Marques Nelson, will be on getting women involved in evangelism, based on the book of Acts. To join, go to facebook.com/groups/WMStudyGSLCR 


Learn more about WELS Women’s Ministry at wels.net/women. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author:
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

New start in South America

This summer two missionaries from the One Latin America (1LA) mission team—Nathan Schulte and Phil Strackbein—will be moving to Ecuador. This will be the first time WELS will have an active mission presence in this South American country. Schulte currently serves in Mexico, and Strackbein serves in Bolivia. 

“In the beginning of November all the 1LA missionaries met in Mexico City to discuss a major training program we are developing and the relocation of different missionaries to best accomplish our goals as a team,” says Schulte. “We want to reach as many people as possible and to train people to be leaders in their own multiplying groups. The team had done extensive research on a number of major cities in Latin America. Quito, Ecuador, eventually came to the top of the list.” 

One of the main contributing factors to the decision was the large number of Facebook users in Ecuador who follow Academia Cristo online—more than 60,000. Academia Cristo is a Spanish-language website that offers video and audio Bible studies and live online training to reach out to non-Christians as well as to teach Latin American church members how to share their faith.  

This location in Ecuador also puts the missionaries closer to other countries in South America where WELS can’t permanently locate a missionary for safety or political reasons but where interest in the gospel message has been demonstrated through active use of the Academia Cristo website. 

A third reason is, while WELS has never officially had a mission in Ecuador, Martin Luther College Spanish Professor Paul Bases has been taking groups of students there for years to teach English, and, through that work, valuable connections have already been made. 

Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions, says the main goal of the missionaries is to “facilitate the planting of small group churches in Quito and beyond.” He says, “The idea is to connect Ecuadorean Christians to the online materials and relationships so that they’re able to keep the ministry rolling even after our missionaries might leave.” 

Schulte says, “I love the fact that, from the start, we are focused on training Ecuadorians to study God’s Word and to share it with others. They know their culture and situations better than I ever will, and God has already placed them in their own unique contexts with their own connections and opportunities. I’m really looking forward to working to help them to do just that—share God’s grace with others.” 

The missionaries’ first priorities will be finding a location for a Christian training center and doing boots-on-the-ground work—meeting their neighbors and learning more about the community. To help this effort, two congregations—St. Matthew, Oconomowoc, Wis., and Goodview Trinity, Goodview, Minn.—will be sending volunteers in May and June to host introduction workshops open to the Quito community. These two volunteer groups are the inaugural groups for the new WELS Mission Journeys program, which coordinates opportunities for WELS members who want to volunteer in a mission field. 

“Ecuador, like all Latin America, is in desperate need of God’s grace. It is grace-starved. Even in many churches and Christian groups, the emphasis is not on Jesus and what he has done for us in our salvation,” says Schulte. “We want to bring people to the source of that grace—the Bible—and to teach them to learn from it and share it with others.” 


Learn more about WELS Missions at wels.net/missionsCheck out Academia Cristo at academiacristo.com. Find out more about WELS Mission Journeys in the upcoming June issue. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author:
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Native Christians look to the future

This year marks the 125th anniversary of WELS World Mission work on the Apache reservation in Arizona. While the Native American Mission is planning to celebrate its history and God’s blessings over the years, it also is looking forward to how it can share the gospel message in the future. 

“Our past is amazing,” says Dan Rautenberg, the Native American Mission field coordinator. “We honor that, but at the same time we’re not just looking back at the amazing things people did long ago. Our people have the same potential now, and we have new opportunities.” 

He continues, “That’s what Christians do—we receive the gospel, we get on our feet, and we spread the gospel. We need to take our part in that long line of Christians throughout history.” 

The mission has its eyes on the 500-plus other reservations throughout the United States. Rautenberg says 95 percent of the Native Americans on these reservations aren’t Christian.  

While the mission has some contacts on other reservations, it is hoping to broaden its reach through its new website, NativeChristians.org. Developed as part of the anniversary celebration, the website is working to establish an identity that’s wider than just the two current reservations, hence the name Native Christians. The site currently shares 125th anniversary plans and historical articles about the field, but future plans call for making the site an evangelism tool that Native Christians can use to share the gospel with their friends, family, and acquaintances—no matter where they’re located. “We have the unique ability to personalize it from natives for natives,” says Rautenberg. 

The ultimate goal, according to Rautenberg, is to be looking at two new prospective mission sites in the next three years.  

He knows that won’t be easy. “But it wasn’t easy to start a mission 125 years ago either,” he says. “That’s our challenge. To take a church that’s done so much in the past but still has energy to go out into the future.” 


Check out the new website at NativeChristians.org. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author:
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Teen Talk: Facing persecution

Don’t let others stop you from showing your faith.

Taylor Wolfram

Most of us have never faced the threat of death because of our faith, but everyone has faced persecution. As soon as we speak about our faith, we are stereotyped as ignorant, unaccepting, and hypocritical. We learn not to bring up religion. Christianity is seen as an unspeakable topic that causes divisions.

When I was younger, Jesus was new and exciting, something that everyone needed to hear. So I told everyone. It was a conversation starter. Now when I meet new people, one of the logical questions they ask is where I go to school. After scores of disappointed responses to my answer of a Lutheran high school, I just gave up. I gave them a city, and that seemed to satisfy them. But that seemed to deny Jesus, and I didn’t want to do that.

It’s so easy to say that you’re proud of being a Christian among hundreds of Christians in church on Sunday. It’s easy to say that you’ll follow Christ into death while in your high school religion class. But once you’re out in the world, it’s not as easy. God doesn’t promise rainbows and sunshine if we become Christians. He warns us that it will be hard. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

We may have to endure glares, lose friends, and handle being ridiculed for now, but our suffering is not in vain. Romans 5:3,4 says, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

And we are not really alone when we confess our faith. The whole world may be lined up against us, but we have God on our side. If God is for us, who can be against us? Plenty of people may stand in our way, may poke fun at us, or may ridicule us, but God will help us persevere. He won’t give us more than we can bear, and he will see us through everything and anything we are going through

So if you’re going through a rough patch, don’t lose hope. Pray to the Lord. Read your Bible. You will get through it. This world is temporary, but your salvation is eternal. Hold steadfast, and no one will be able to separate you from Christ. No trouble, hardship, persecution, or temptation will be able to lure you away from what really matters. You could go along with the world and gain tons of friends, but none of that will matter if you lose your eternal salvation.

If others forsake you for your faith, your witness is a bold confession for all to hear. You are living your faith as God wants you to. Don’t be afraid of persecution. It’s just showing that you are not from this world, you don’t agree with it, and you won’t consent to the temptations of it. You are looking forward to the world to come.

Don’t lose sight of that. “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).


Taylor Wolfram, a junior at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, is a member of St. Paul, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.


 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: KTaylor Wolfram
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Grass roots in action

Mark G. Schroeder

Our synod is organized into 12 geographical districts. In June of even-numbered years, each district holds a convention to consider important matters facing the synod and to conduct other business. Plans are already underway for this year’s district conventions.

Delegates to the district conventions include every pastor, every male teacher, and a representative from each congregation in the district. That makes the district conventions an opportunity for truly grassroots participation in the decisions and direction of the synod.

One of the most important responsibilities of the district conventions is to elect people to serve in various important positions. Perhaps the most important of these is the position of district president, who is elected for a two-year term at each district convention.

The district president serves as the pastor of the entire district. In that role he is responsible for overseeing all doctrine and practice in the district. He is tasked with providing spiritual leadership to the called workers and congregations of the district, encouraging faithfulness to the Word of God and the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions. He is also responsible, along with the other officers (the two district vice presidents and the district secretary, who are also elected at each district convention), for carrying out discipline when called workers or congregations stray from the truth.

Another important role of the district president is to assist congregations in the calling process. When a vacancy at a church or school occurs, the district president consults with the congregation about the congregation’s ministry needs and then, when the congregation is ready to issue a divine call, provides a list of candidates along with pertinent information about those candidates.

The district president also serves as a member of the Conference of Presidents (COP). This group has the responsibility for overseeing the doctrine and practice of the entire synod, working together to provide support and guidance to congregations and to look out for the needs of called workers.

Each district has a lay representative serving on the Synodical Council (SC). Elected by the district convention, this representative gives each district both a voice and a set of ears in the important work carried out by the SC—another opportunity for ongoing grassroots participation in the decisions affecting the entire synod. Elections for people to serve on various district committees also take place at the district conventions.

The district conventions provide called workers and lay delegates with the opportunity to hear reports from all synodical ministries and offices. Those reports typically look back and review what has been done in the past year, and they also look forward and present plans, opportunities, and challenges for the future. These reports are published in the Report to the Twelve Districts, which is sent to every delegate and congregation before the convention and also posted on the synod’s website.

District conventions also give delegates the opportunity to express opinions and grassroots input regarding matters that will come before the synod convention in the following year. They can express support or opposition to proposals through the resolutions they pass. They can also provide input of their own choosing by asking the synod convention to address specific topics or needs.

As summer approaches, please keep these gatherings and their delegates in your prayers. Talk to your representatives about what they will be considering and give them your encouragement. They represent you and your congregation—a true exercise in grassroots participation in the work of your synod.

Find dates and locations of this year’s district conventions at wels.net/events.


Mark Schroeder is president of WELS.


 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Book Nook: April 2018

Understanding church fellowship

Deathtraps are those things that hinder faith or prevent sinners from coming to faith.  We avoid deathtraps when we are in the Word. The Joy of Gathering Around the Truth is the subtitle to Escaping the Deathtraps and tells us how to escape the deathtraps.

Church fellowship can be a deathtrap when it is misunderstood or misapplied. This book, written by Dr. Terry Schultz, explains church fellowship and answers questions many of us have about fellowship in a series of 21 Bible studies. It is set in a Peruvian village, but it could be anywhere. The studies begin with questions from the congregation. Pastor Pedro uses stories and God’s Word to answer the questions. Sometimes the stories are told by the church members.

The stories are told orally, with pictures, with music, with drama, and with humor. The stories teach biblical doctrines so that, with a clear understanding of doctrine, church fellowship practices are better understood.

Don’t expect to read this book in one sitting. Use it instead for group Bible study, book clubs, personal or family devotions. Read a story—a chapter—a week or even a chapter a day and answer the study questions at the end of each chapter. The questions will help with practical applications. You will have a better understanding of what we believe and how we can share God’s love with our neighbors.

Teaching methods vary, and this book shows you don’t have to sit still in a classroom or lecture hall to study God’s Word. You can laugh; you can dance; you can sing; you can cry; you can even use practical jokes. Telling stories to teach biblical truths worked well and brought joy to the members of this Peruvian church—as it will for you.

Mark Schulz  
      Milton, Wisconsin 


Price: $18.99 nph.net


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author:
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

New training to help protect children

A new training program to help people recognize and respond to child abuse is being released in April by Freedom for the Captives, a WELS organization that works to protect children and empower survivors of abuse.  

The program—entitled “Standing up for Children: A Christian Response to Child Abuse and Neglect”—consists of four videos that review dealing with physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse and provide a theological basis for the importance of protecting children. The course also highlights how to create and enforce a child protection policy for a church, school, or organization.  

“We want to make it as easy as possible for pastors, teachers, and lay leaders to get some fundamental training on how to keep children as safe as possible,” says Ben Sadler, chairman of the Freedom for the Captives committee and pastor at Goodview Trinity, Goodview, Minn. He recommends that all pastors, teachers, and lay leaders for children’s ministries go through ongoing training like this. 

Sadler says that having a child protection policy in place at a congregation or school and having ongoing training for those who work with children also encourages survivors. “When going through this training, it raises awareness in the congregation on how we might better help people who’ve been abused,” he says. “It lets those who are suffering in silence know that [the church] cares about them.” 

Sexual abuse is widespread in our communities. The Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study, conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 1997, shares that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused as children. “I think there is still the idea that this is somebody else’s church’s problem,” says Sadler. “Avoiding the issue won’t make it go away. We need to offer hope that we can encourage and help people who have gone through these difficult situations. And we need to provide the tools to keep our children safe.” 

Funding from Antioch Foundation helped make this training program possible. This funding also is allowing committee member Victor Vieth, a worldwide advocate for children, founder of the Gunderson National Child Protection Training Center, and member at St. John, Lewiston, Minn., to present at congregations, schools, and conferences in person. E-mail freedom@wels.net to get access to the free training videos.  


To learn more about Freedom for the Captives, a part of WELS Special Ministries, go to freedomforcaptives.com. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author:
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever

John A. Braun

Kingdom? So often we think in such narrow terms about the word kingdom. We consider it defined by our personal experiences and activities. Even if we consider kingdom as Christ’s kingdom, we still see its shape and contours by what we know. 

That perspective is good and healthy as far as it goes. We praise God for finding us in the span of history, calling us by the gospel, and making us part of a kingdom. We—most often we think and say I, using the singular—are chosen, royal, holy people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9). We have all that by grace through faith. We are—I am—called by the gospel, enlightened, and incorporated into his church. 

But then that enlightened heart expands our vision. I am not alone; others belong to that kingdom. We are together—his. But that still becomes too narrow. We are here at this time and this place. Even time and place confine Christ’s kingdom. His kingdom stretches over all time to include those who have gone before us and those who will come after us. Place is just as limiting. Place might imply culture, social, racial, and economic similarities, but those are also gone—one kingdom, one head, Jesus and all who believe in him together. 

Our vision of his kingdom can come into focus when we say his prayer together in our worship. For two thousand years Christians have prayed to their heavenly Father using the words Jesus taught us. And they haven’t all spoken his prayer in English or in churches with pews.  

Yours is the kingdom! We simply find ourselves citizens now with so many others over time and geography. His power sustains that church. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). That power made us believers and still sustains us. It is the means by which God keeps us in his kingdom and converts new hearts to marvel at his grace.  

But I think we most often think of Christ’s almighty power. That’s okay, for he rules all things for the benefit of those in his kingdom. He controls the stars and still sees our struggles as well as our joys. He knows the number of hairs on our heads and tells us that not one sparrow falls to the ground without his knowledge (Matthew 10:29,30). We depend on his power for daily breath, for strength, for care, and for the ability to use our talents for him and for others. He even invites us to pray that he will use that power for us in our needs. Yours is the power, Lord. 

Naturally we conclude, “Yours is the glory!” What else could we possibly say or think? We are not worthy of anything, but God has made us recipients of so much. But now our hymn of praise is imperfect. We are still tied to life here with its trials, troubles, and traumas. At times it is not easy to give him glory, but we do, even while we anguish over some pain or problem. But at other times, when the Holy Spirit helps us see clearly all that God has done for us, we praise him without complaint.  

We look forward to the time when our praise will be perfect and we will join those in heaven to sing, “Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever” (Revelation 7:12). Here we simply say together, “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever.” 


John Braun is executive editor of the Forward in Christ magazine.


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: John A. Braun
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Easter emotion and faith

The angel’s message at the tomb brings comfort, joy, and relief.

Daniel M. Solofra

I was once told that it is difficult to effectively counsel someone within 24 hours of a traumatic event. If you have ever made a visit to an emergency room you know how overwhelming the experience can be. Sometimes people go into shock. Others describe the ordeal as surreal. For this reason it is difficult to process information and to think clearly at that moment.

When dealing with individuals who experience tragic events, we especially try to be sensitive and understanding. Taking into account their fragile condition, we try to comfort and encourage as we help them process their life-changing events.

Death is coming

It is with this type of consideration of human weakness that I picture the angel engaging the women on Easter morning. The angel had a strong and powerful message, but it was delivered to a fragile and struggling audience.

The first Easter message is one of comfort. “Do not be afraid,” the angel said. These words speak volumes. The women did not need to be afraid. They did not need to be afraid of the angel and more than they did not need to be afraid of the absence of the body of Jesus. And, most important, they did not need to be afraid of death.

Because let’s face it, death is scary. Death always seems to take us by surprise. The death of Jesus took these women by surprise. They couldn’t believe it. For us it’s the same thing, whether it’s the sudden death of someone too young to die or the anticipated death of an elderly relative.

Have you experienced an encounter with death? A close call for you or someone close to you? Death reminds us that we and those we love are mortal. It reminds us of a sin problem that causes death. It captures our attention and whispers, “Are you ready to meet your God?”

We don’t need to fear death

God’s first words to the women at the tomb and to us as we face death go against every emotion we feel. He says, “Don’t be afraid!” The angel quickly adds, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:6).

For the women at the tomb, it was obvious why this message would bring joy, happiness, and relief. Their friend was no longer dead. Jesus was alive. In a very short period of time, they would see him and talk to him.

But Jesus’ life means so much more to these women—and to us. The death Jesus died three days earlier was no ordinary death. Jesus’ death was preceded by a perfect life. He came into this world to live the perfect life that God demands of us and to die in our place as a payment for sin. Jesus’ resurrection was not only his victory, but ours as well.

For the women, Easter morning started with fear and hurt and heartache. But all of this changed with an invitation to view an empty tomb. “The women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples” (Matthew 28:8). I am sure the day seemed surreal. But the significance of the angel’s message, “He is not here, He is risen!” would continue to shape their hearts and lives.

Jesus’ resurrection does not mean that death won’t visit your door one day. But it does mean that when it does, with Jesus by your side, you will be ready to face it.


Daniel Solofra is pastor at CrossWalk Lutheran Ministries, Laveen, Arizona.  


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Daniel M. Solofra
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Moments with missionaries: Grenada

Ib Meyer 

It’s called “oil down.”* It’s the national dish of Grenada. The ingredients include dasheen (calallo) leaves, chive and thyme, carrots, Scotch bonnet (or habenero) pepper, dumplings, pig tail and snout, turmeric (locally called saffron), salt fish, breadfruit, coconut milk, and onion. All these ingredients—prepared, layered, and cooked over a long period of time—blend together to create a tasty and nourishing meal. 

That is what Grace Lutheran in Grenada is—a blend of God’s children from different social and religious backgrounds, brought together by the gospel, gifted with God-given skills and abilities, working together as one congregation to serve the tasty and life-giving meal of the gospel of Jesus. 

Grace is overseen by the South Atlantic District Mission Board, but we are not your usual home mission. We are the only Lutheran church in the country. We are diverse, different, unified, and truly blessed by God. 

Our “oil down” (ministry), just like the meal, is layered. It is made up not only of spices (people) but also of “provisions”—the staples and substance of any good meal. Our ministry is blessed to include three layers—church, community outreach, and a primary school (preschool through grade six). 

Let’s meet two of the people who make up our “oil down”—Elder Terry Louison and church secretary Neisha Roach. 

Neisha is the younger of the two but has been at Grace the longest. She is married to Patrick, who leads our youth and music ministry, and they have a two-year-old daughter called “Nana.” Neisha, like many of the members of Grace, was raised in the Pentecostal church. She came to Grace almost 10 years ago and stayed because of the nourishing gospel.  

Grenada’s society has strong matriarchal undertones. Neisha knows the culture, and she knows her Savior. She is patient and humble, strong and committed. Her quiet demeanor invites confidence and trust. Members will come to her and ask for advice or inform her of a matter, knowing that she will pass it on to the pastor if appropriate. Neisha is currently enrolled in the Martin Luther College Congregational Assistant Program, and upon completion, we want to call her as our deaconess.   

Terry joined Grace about three years ago. He worked in the US and also studied and worked in Cuba. His spiritual journey, beginning in the Roman Catholic Church, is a windy, twisting long road that reveals God’s mercy in action. He is a scholar of history and of God’s Word. If you want to know anything about Grenada (history, flora, fauna, culture and more), Terry is the person to ask. If you want to be spiritually enriched, speak to Terry. You will leave the conversation a wiser person and blessed by the Lord. 

Terry is a master tour guide operator. He owns a bus (a van really), which he uses for his tour guiding. However, as many of our members do not have cars, he transports them to and from church on Sunday. While driving, he listens to the members and encourages them. He proclaims the gospel not only in words but also in a life that gives glory to God. 

These are just two of many wonderful, spicy, flavorful souls whose lives the gospel has touched here in Grenada. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8 NIVUK). 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Ib Meyer 
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

God’s map

We might not know where we’re going, but God does. 

Nicole Peterson 

“Sweetheart, the map is not wrong.” 

“Tim. It is. We followed exactly the roads indicated on this map and here we are.” 

“Nic, clearly we didn’t.” 

Tim and I, barely thirty years old and just days into our new marriage, were standing at the top of the Waimea Canyon at a dead end road squarely in the middle of Nowhere, Kauai, Hawaii. We were nowhere near the visitor center and trailhead that were supposed to be right here. 

“That’s why I’m saying the map is wrong. We turned at the third tiny road to the left, then again to the right at the second smaller road, and here we are. Obviously, they did not draw on every tiny trail and road on the map and that is why we are here. It wasn’t me.” 

“Okay, Sugar, I understand.” 

“Don’t do that! I know you’re just humoring me! The map is wrong. Do you see how the map is wrong?” 

“I do, Nic. I really do.” Never mind the smirk on Tim’s face. 

That was February of 2002. And although I admit I have an awful sense of direction, I did have my road in life mapped out. My road was the one where I go to college, meet a nice boy, get married, work a bit, have four adorable babies, live in the northeast suburbs my whole life, and raise these kiddos with my husband until they’re off on their own. 

Feeling off-course 

But clearly my map was wrong. Just 14 short years later after our wedding, after we played soccer in the rain with our kids and their pals, Tim left the field in his truck with our littlest son. Our two middle children and I followed in a vehicle behind. His last words to me were, “Follow me. I don’t know where I’m going.” Minutes later my children and I hugged and cried as our 45-year-old vibrant, faithful, genuine, kind, joyful, funny, strong, ambitious husband and daddy passed away on the grass in front of us from a sudden massive heart attack. 

That road definitely was not on my map. My road was to be the smooth one that Tim and I had agreed on—the one on which we’d grow old together. The one where Tim, body worn but mind sharp, would boss me around as I, strong in body but absent-minded, would push him in a wheelchair and threaten to send him down a hill when he got too sassy (because we knew he would be). It was a joyful, safe, familiar road.  

Never in my mind’s eye did I imagine that the pleasant road we were on would turn so abruptly, so frightening, so dark and lonely, for me to travel alone as a heartbroken, too-young widow. Never did I expect to plunge into valleys so deep that only God’s outstretched hand would enable me to climb out—not for me but for the sake of my tender kids who needed me. Nor did I anticipate it could be followed by such beauty that I never would have seen before the dark parts of the journey forced me to travel closer to the light of Jesus. 

With Jesus, I can be brave enough to look at the road just within my view, not straining to anticipate the curves or speeding up or slowing down. But I can’t see too far ahead. My journey, with only Jesus as my guide, would reveal blessings of faith, courage, strength, and perspective I never knew possible. But none of this was on my map. 

Discovering a new road 

New Year’s Eve 2017 also wasn’t on my map. An amazing man invited me and my little passengers on a completely new road that we would travel together. That night, in front of hundreds of Carnival cruise ship passengers, Greg got down on one knee and proposed to me. And I joyfully and emotionally said that I would gladly travel this road with him, wherever it may take us.  

As I plan to marry this good man God so unexpectedly put in my path, I know now more than ever that God lights our path and reveals the way forward if we just trust in him and the perfection of his map for us. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105). 

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared as I try to map out this new journey. I’m scared for my ability to help my kids understand, accept, or even love this path. I’m scared that others will misinterpret or even judge how quickly this change in course came about. I’m scared of what life change this brings and how we’ll stand up under it as we’ve already been through so much. I’m scared of how much I love Greg and how vulnerable it feels to feel this way again, even as I continue to nurse a broken heart that will always love Tim.  

Trusting in God’s path 

But then I remember that drawing the map is not my responsibility. The major milestones on my map belong to God. If I continue to lean on him, my fear calms and trust and optimism replace it. Trust that God brought Greg and I together and blessed us with this unexpected and beautiful love. Trust that together we can navigate this ruggedly beautiful road because our hearts first belong to God and then to one another and our children. Trust that no matter how challenging the terrain gets or how uncertain that next turn seems, God will light the way and fill us with all that we need. Optimism that we’ll blend our Brady bunch together and create a faith-filled, loving, fun family life that will bless not only us, but also others we meet along the way. Optimism that although my children and I loved where God originally put us on the map and it’s easy to want to stay put to avoid bumps along that way, that we’ll instead look ahead to all the goodness that awaits us. Optimism that we’ll continue to be humbled and overwhelmed by God’s goodness, faithfulness, kindness, creativity, and brilliance, as we remember he’s led us through so many miles already. We’re clinging tightly to his hand as we’re “comin’ in hot” around this new curve, and we realize there really is no place for fear when we are focused on God and his path for us. 

So as we continue our journey, I thank God for the sweet gift of the miles I traveled with Tim at my side. I thank him for the unexpected gift of Greg on this new leg of our journey. And most of all I thank him that I trust his map isn’t wrong, that by guiding me through the rockiest parts he’s blessed me with confidence to follow.  

After all, contrary to what I may like to think, I don’t always know where I’m going. What I do know, without a doubt, is that it’s bound to be a beautiful and exciting ride.   


Nicole Peterson is a member at Bethlehem, Lakeville, Minnesota. 


Listen to a radio interview conducted with Nicole one year after her husband’s death. Find the link at wels.net/forwardinchrist 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Nicole Peterson
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Reaching Native Christians 

WELS’ first missionaries to a foreign nation stepped off the train in Arizona determined to share the gospel with the Apache people. 

Daniel J. Rautenberg and Debbie K. Dietrich 

“This is the worst of times to begin an Indian mission.” So said a veteran missionary in 1876 as the Iowa synod was deciding whether or not to begin a gospel outreach effort to American Indians.  

It certainly seemed like he was right. Days later General Custer and his men would die at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The next year an effort by the Joint Lutheran Synod to begin an Indian mission failed miserably when the missionary called to begin the work chose instead to focus on German Lutheran immigrants going to California. The Iowa Synod closed down its Indian mission. No other mission societies could be found to be partners in this venture. Time, money, and workers were lacking. 

Then was the best time 

But the desire to do mission work did not die. Undeterred by the obstacles, our forefathers continued to plan and work to begin their mission efforts. And when they found a group of people in Arizona unreached by the good news of the gospel, they decided that it was indeed the best time to bring the gospel message to the Apache Tribes in Arizona Territory. 

In October of 1893, John Plocher and George Adascheck stepped off the train in Arizona Territory in what was then known as “Hell’s 40 Acres.” It was a harsh new environment. Desert heat without air conditioning. The strange barren landscape stretching in front of them foretold of isolation and loneliness. The only green things in sight seemed to be the missionaries.  

As Rev. Alchesay Arthur Guenther, a longtime missionary to the Apache, wrote, “No real town. Just scattered small teepees or wikiups constructed of cedar poles covered with bear grass, tied with cactus rope. A tus (pitch covered basket) for carrying water, burden baskets for carrying corn, flour, salt, jerky, coffee, yucca bananas, wild onions, acorns, walnuts, and anything else. A scrawny horse and a couple of patient donkeys. Little ones with matted hair, bare feet and ragged clothing. These were to become his ‘congregation.’ Did this early white intruder from the East feel in his pocket for what just might be a return ticket?” 

Aside from a theological education, the early missionaries were completely untrained for this new endeavor in this new culture. Their task was to preach the gospel to people who spoke a different language and had all the skepticism, cynicism, and hostility that comes from being defeated and betrayed. But the missionaries were determined to share the message of God’s love.  

And they found people willing to listen. Try, fail, innovate, adapt, try again. Showing love, patience, and perseverance, our missionaries built a relationship with the Apache people. Over the last 125 years, not everyone who came to share the gospel could stay long. But the graveyards on both reservations pay silent tribute to those who did. 

Now is the best time 

One hundred twenty-five years later, not so silent tribute is paid every week by thousands of Native Americans who gather to offer praise to our gracious and merciful God! The powerful gospel has done incredible things on the Apache reservations in Arizona and continues to work in the hearts of fourth- and fifth-generation Christians. Children still fill the schools to learn about Jesus, and adults who were raised in the mission’s nursery are now leaders in the nine congregations. With more than 3,600 members, the Native American Mission now is raising up Apache men and women to take the gospel to their own people and, God-willing, to many other Native American tribes in the future. 

We remember our history, because the attitudes displayed, lessons learned, and examples shown continue to guide and inspire us today! Not many of us will visit sick members after catching skunks and rendering their oil so that we can wrap our members in foul-smelling tar paper and torn flannel shirts like one of our early missionaries did! But we still show love and compassion. We may not have to live in a half cave with an Ocotillo cactus fence door or put together a house ordered from a Montgomery Ward catalog like those early missionaries, but we can improvise and innovate and find ways to do ministry and communicate the gospel. Most of all, we can, with the Holy Spirit’s help, always keep that fire to share the gospel burning bright. Despite the obstacles that Satan will put in front of us, our God is stronger and the Word of Life is powerful and urgently needed by more people. 

So from your Native American brothers and sisters: A shoog’ (White Mountain Apache language), Ahi’ ye e’ (San Carlos Apache language). “Thank you!” to all of the WELS people today and to our ancestors 125 years ago who, undeterred by trials, take the gospel across the street, across the country, and across the oceans! We pray with you that we all use every opportunity to share the good news like the first world missionaries did 125 years ago—undeterred and fueled by the Holy Spirit, with new approaches and techniques, to new people, despite economic and political climates. “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).  

May God bless all our efforts. 


Daniel Rautenberg is the Native American Mission field coordinator. Debbie Dietrich is the Native American Mission communication coordinator. 


This is the first article in a three-part series on WELS mission work on the Apache reservations in Arizona. 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Daniel J. Rautenberg and Debbie K. Dietrich
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us