Celebrating the Reformation

WELS congregations are using the 500th anniversary of the Reformation as an opportunity to educate their members about Martin Luther and his teachings, as well as to reach out into their communities to share God’s gospel message. Here are just a few examples. Learn more about synodwide Reformation events at wels.net/reformation500.


Alma, Michigan

It started out as a “small Luther display that we could use to adorn the building for the Reformation celebration,” says John Eich, pastor at Good Shepherd, Alma, Mich. It ended up including a life-sized Martin Luther nailing the Ninety-five Theses to the Castle Church door, several vignettes including the Diet of Worms and Luther’s study in the Wartburg Castle, and a mini-golf course depicting the places Luther lived and worked.

Members Heidi McDaid and Sandy Sheldon, along with Eich, spent hundreds of hours researching the Reformation and Luther’s life and creating the displays. “We started this project with 4 appliance boxes, 19 sheets of cardboard, 10 sheets of foam, Gorilla tape, a gallon of paint, and an endless amount of glue sticks,” says McDaid. Other unique building materials include disposable oil pans, pool noodles, hula hoops, wind chimes, and dryer vent Flex tubes.

Written narratives by each display further educate members about Luther’s life and teachings, and activities such as a working printing press in Gutenberg’s printshop bring the Reformation era to life.

“On Sunday morning, the congregation is always looking for the latest addition to ‘Lutherland’ and as they gather around it, the conversations start, the fingers are pointing, and parents are explaining Martin Luther’s life to their children,” says McDaid. “When you see this, you know it was all worth it!”

But the displays are not only for the congregation to enjoy. Good Shepherd held an open house for the community and a special weekend vacation Bible school, complete with lessons and games for the children and an adult Bible class on the Large Catechism. The weekend ended with a German potluck and a presentation on Martin Luther’s homeland.

Eich says the anniversary of the Reformation is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our heritage as confessional Lutherans and to share it with others. “We can let the community know that there is something different about being Lutheran—we’re not just another Christian denomination. What a blessing this could be if we really promote that in the community, and people begin, by God’s grace, to understand just how special it is to have grace alone, faith alone, and Scripture alone.”

Nepean, Ontario, Canada

Divine Word, Nepean, Ontario, Canada added a special outreach event to the end of its summer vacation Bible school. Building on its theme “Mighty Fortress,” the event included a bouncy castle and jousting, a petting zoo and pony rides, and a barbecue. But the main part of the event was the Reformation walk. Every hour, tour groups visited different stations that explained more about the Reformation, including the nailing of the Ninety-five Theses, John Tetzel and indulgences, the Wartburg Castle, law/gospel and means of grace.

“The event was a hit! We had the community walking off the street to see what was going on,” says Rachel Halldorson, member at Divine Word. “The bouncy castle and zoo animals may have drawn them in, but it was the Reformation walk that shared the truth of God’s Word and taught them about history and how God used Luther to rediscover the gospel truth.”

Tempe, Arizona

The fifth through eighth grade art class at Emmanuel, Tempe, Ariz., made two recycled bottle cap murals of the Luther seal to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Congregation members donated hundreds of bottle caps for the project. “What a neat way for the students to express their artistic abilities and remember what the Luther Seal means to us and our heritage,” says Amber Bode, congregation member.


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Same mission, new services

Across from West Allis High School just outside of Milwaukee, Wis., is a building with a small sign that says Associated Pregnancy Services. On the window is the phrase “You Have Options” with a phone number to call for assistance. What makes this organization so different from other pregnancy centers isn’t evident right away, but this organization’s ultimate goal is to witness for Christ and save souls.

Associated Pregnancy Services, operated under WELS Lutherans for Life, has a mission to protect a child’s right to live and be loved, with the ultimate goal of teaching others about Christ. The center opened in 1982 to provide women with options other than abortion and resources to guide them through pregnancy and motherhood. Whether in person or over the phone, women can talk to advocates about their situation and any doubts or problems they are facing.

Diane Williams has worked with WELS Lutheran for Life for more than 20 years. She currently serves as its accountant, but she previously took calls from the crisis hotline.

One call in particular left a lasting impact on Williams. A woman called the hotline not looking to talk to a counselor but seeking a friend to listen to her, which was exactly what Williams did. The woman explained how she was a student in college who unexpectedly became pregnant and was feeling embarrassed and ashamed. Williams listened to the woman’s story and her fears, encouraging her throughout the call. At the end of the conversation, the woman said that if she had a girl, she would name her Diane.

“I know I touched her heart in a way,” says Williams. “She just needed someone to talk to.”

The organization has grown and evolved during the past 35 years to fit the needs of the community and serve more people. It currently offers diaper supplies to women, as well as parenting classes and a small baby boutique for new parents to find clothes and toys for their children.

The largest addition this year was a new ultrasound machine, which was donated to the center. Executive Director Peter Georgson said having an ultrasound suite available will bring in more women as well as provide the opportunity to save more babies’ lives.

“They say that statistically, after seeing an ultrasound, more than 80 percent of abortion-minded women will choose life,” says Georgson.

A medical team, under the direction and supervision of a licensed physician, has been established to oversee the operation of the ultrasound suite and perform medical tests. Volunteer nurse manager Pam Maske recently retired from her career when she started volunteering with WELS Lutherans for Life. She has helped the team this past year prepare for the opening of the ultrasound suite and will perform ultrasounds when it opens.

“God called me to help these women, and who I am to say ‘no?’ ” asks Maske. “Ultrasounds are a tangible way for these women to see the lives they’re carrying. I’m really excited for the suite to open.”

Gabriella Moline


For more information, visit alife2.com.


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Author: Gabriella Moline
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Question & answer with Nixon Vivar

In May 2017, Nixon Vivar graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI). He was ordained and installed as one of two pastors at Christ, an Anglo-Hispanic congregation on Milwaukee’s south side. Here he shares his journey from Ecuador to the United States, from Roman Catholic to Lutheran pastor.

Q: How did you come to the U.S.?

In 1991, when I was 21, I left Ecuador and joined my brother and cousin in Milwaukee because the economy of Ecuador had gotten very bad. Many young people were moving to countries like Italy, Germany, and the U.S. in search of jobs.

Q: How did you come to attend a WELS church?

I went to St. Anthony, and the priest there said he could help me become a priest. But I wanted to have a family, and I also had lots of questions about the Bible. When I was attending [school] to learn English, I met Andres, a member of St. Peter’s Church, Milwaukee, who was also studying English. He is from Colombia, which has similar customs to those in Ecuador, and he was also alone. We became close friends. Andres said, “Ask my pastor your questions.” Soon I was studying on my days off with Pastor Matt Krenke.

On Jan. 12, 2001, God revealed to me that I could do nothing to add to Christ’s saving work. It was all God’s grace. This was a huge relief. I was able to rejoice in the truth of the power of God’s grace. Pastor Matt also introduced me to a new program of the seminary, the PSI. Right away I knew I wanted to become a pastor. I prayed that I could bring this same joy and hope to other hearts.

Q: How long did it take you to complete your studies?

It took a lot longer than I imagined—15 years. But by God’s grace I was able to take each course in turn. And I met my wife Carla, who has been a great encourager, especially during the bad times. She would remind me that for God nothing is impossible.

Q: What were some of the bad times?

In 2010 and 2011 we experienced some personal losses—Carla’s father was seriously injured in an accident; my mother, whom I hadn’t seen in 12 years, died; and my in-laws lost their home where we were also living. Also, my residency documents were denied, and it appeared I might have to leave the U.S. Things were very uncertain.

Q: But God gave you great joys too?

Yes! In 2015 I opened the letter that said, “Welcome to the U.S.” That was one of my happiest moments! Then I began my final year of studies at Christ Church, working under Pastor Chad Walta. And finally, my ordination and installation, where I was honored to have 14 pastors, including my first teacher, PSI instructors, and the district president, participate. They had seen something in me—that I could serve the Lord.

Q: What plans are there for this Anglo-Hispanic congregation?

[Chad Walta] I see our chief, prayerful goal to be making one “Christ Lutheran” congregation. Language and cultural divisions can quickly turn into spiritual divisions, but this is overcome through Christ.

[Vivar] Yes, but it will take time. It started as two distinct halves because few people were bilingual. Over the years, new believers have developed maturity, both in faith and in being involved in the life of the congregation. With Christ at the center, we feel each other’s pain; we work together.

Karla Jaeger


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Author: Karla Jaeger
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Project Titus looks at local outreach

Rachel Goddard has had a busy summer. Besides graduating from Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS), Saginaw, Mich., in May, she participated in two outreach opportunities through MLS’ Project Titus, a program that gives students an opportunity to do cross-cultural outreach and mission work in the United States and abroad.

First, she went to Colombia, South America. Then she went across town.

Goddard, a member at St. Paul, Saginaw, was participating in one of the newer Project Titus opportunities—Project Titus-Local. “For a number of years now MLS has been doing a fantastic job with our Project Titus efforts both domestic and foreign,” says Terry Vasold, professor at Michigan Lutheran Seminary. “We started asking ourselves whether there is something we could be doing in our own backyard.”

MLS started looking for local Saginaw opportunities for students to get involved. Some students volunteered at the WELS Pregnancy Care Center. Last school year about 35 students helped at the local chapter of the Special Olympics. And 11, including Goddard, got involved in a Bible soccer camp this summer at Bethany, Saginaw.

Bethany’s soccer camp is no small affair. Held annually since 2012, the camp offers soccer skill training as well as Bible story teaching to up to 175 children ages 3-12, the majority of whom are from non-member families. Eighty volunteers are needed to make sure the camp runs smoothly. That’s a tall order for a congregation of 188 communicants. “This could not be happening without the MLS kids,” says Mike Nitz, pastor at Bethany.

Nitz says it was natural to get MLS students involved when he and MLS Dean David Koehler started the camp in 2012. “Getting the teenagers to help really bridges the gap between a camper who is maybe 11 years old and the [older] coach teaching the skill,” says Nitz.

Having teenagers involved also is an encouragement to the community. With Saginaw being hit hard when the automotive industry declined, area residents are used to seeing young people leave to find better jobs. “For attendees to see the MLS teens helping us out sends a message that our ministry is connecting with today’s youth and has a bright future,” says Nitz.

Nitz says that the congregation’s free soccer camp has put Bethany on the map and the congregation is slowly growing. Each year’s soccer camp has brought in new members and prospects as well as students for the congregation’s early childhood ministry. “We frequently are complimented on how organized and efficient our camp is,” says Nitz. “And we pass this on to the MLS students—you are the light of the Lord, a living Bible, and maybe the only Bible someone will read and the Lord will use to lead to learning the gospel.”

“My favorite part was teaching the kids,” says Goddard, who has been helping with the camp for the past three summers. “And I like hearing when new people come into the church.”

Goddard, who is a freshman at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., this year, says she appreciates all the opportunities MLS provides to get a taste of ministry. “It helped me see that I wanted to be a teacher,” she says.

“Project Titus-Local has given our students another opportunity to do ministry,” says Vasold. “Whether they go on to MLC or not, it will give them valuable experience for the next time they are called on to serve.”


Learn more about Michigan Lutheran Seminary at mlsem.org and in this month’s edition of WELS Connection.


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

International Lutheran convention

2017 is a special year for Lutherans around the world. 500 years ago Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses in Wittenberg. As part of the celebration, the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC), which consists of confessional Lutheran churches from around the world, met in Grimma, Germany, for its convention. Each church attending was represented by two voting representatives. They came from Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and North America.

Since its founding in 1993 (when it met in Oberwesel, Germany), the CELC has gathered every three years in countries such as Japan, Peru, and Sweden. Over those years, the conference has grown to 22 full member churches and 7 additional associate member churches, with a combined total of 450,000 members.

One of the highlights at this convention was three applications for associate membership. The convention welcomed these church bodies into the CELC: East Asia Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia, and Southeast Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission.

Another highlight was the adoption of a confession entitled, “Ninety-Five Theses for the 21st Century.” The previous convention in Peru assigned Prof. Tom Nass (WELS) and Pres. John Moldstad (Evangelical Lutheran Synod) to draft of the new confession. After the confession was adopted at the conference, representatives of some of the churches were invited to read selected theses for a video presentation. This video, created by Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, Minn., will be available for viewing on Oct. 31, 2017. Portions were shared with the WELS convention this year.

Pastor Daniel Koelpin, outgoing CELC president, spoke of the importance of the group: “Lutheran churches are struggling around the world to keep their confession. Sometimes they think they are all alone in this struggle, and it is so essential for them to know that they are part of something that is far bigger than their respective churches. They leave their own country and meet with others who are going through the same struggles. They always go back edified and strengthened in their own struggles.”

The focus of the essays this year was our Reformation heritage as confessional Lutherans and its importance for us in the 21st century. The essays were supplemented by a showing of the Luther film, A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy. Delegates and visitors also had time to visit Wittenberg for a day and spend an afternoon where Katie von Bora was a nun before marrying Martin Luther.

The conference elected Prof. Gaylin Schmeling (ELS) as its new president. The next convention is scheduled for Seoul, Korea, in 2020. With gratitude, delegates enjoyed the hospitality of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Germany and look forward to the next convention.


John Braun is executive editor of Forward in Christ magazine.


Learn more about the CELC at celc.info.


 

An international connection

The women of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa decided to celebrate the Reformation by making chitenges (skirts) with a Reformation logo. Pastor Davison Mutenami from the Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Zambia arrived early to the CELC convention in Germany for preliminary meetings. He stayed with Pastor Andreas Drechsler and his family and brought Hanna Drechsler the Reformation 500 chitenge from Zambia, which she wore on the excursion to the Grimma convent ruins.


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

What’s so special about WELS camps?

Each summer WELS youth gather in camps across the country. Many attendees describe their time at WELS camps as life changing. Here is camper Anne Ortmeier’s story and then photos and information from some of the WELS camps that took place this summer. To see a full listing of WELS camps, go to wels.net/events.


Since the age of five I have attended, volunteered, or worked at three WELS sleep-away camps, a YMCA sleep-away camp, two summer day camps (one WELS and one YMCA), and a YMCA outdoor environmental education program. That’s more than 142 weeks of my life spent at one camp or another. Why subject myself to bug bites, sunburn, and infrequent showers? Why go back year after year to share a cabin with nine young girls or walk through the woods at night to the bathrooms?

Because of the Holy Spirit. Because I have seen faith blossom over songs sung at campfire and during quiet nighttime conversations. I have seen children lend a helping hand or an encouraging word to a friend in need. I have seen Jesus Cares campers singing praises to God with their whole heart. And I have felt my own faith grow throughout the years as well. Each camp opportunity I had was placed before me by a God who knew exactly what I needed to develop into the person I am today.

Because of the things I have learned. Camp Phillip taught me about servant leadership and having to be available to my campers 23 hours a day for 6 days a week. (We got one hour off every day.) Camp Bird taught me that family is more than being related by blood. The staff I work with there has been my “camp family” for 30 years. And even in the secular camps that I have worked at, I have learned that when proclaiming my faith publicly is not an option, I can still witness through my actions and attitudes.

Because of the kids and the stories. Oh, the stories! To see the face of an inner-city student from Detroit go for her first horseback ride. To share in the elation of a camper who masters a high ropes course element. To be the lifeguard who encourages the boy taking his swim test that, “Yes! You can make it this year.” What an honor to serve my God as he works through me to touch the lives of these young people.


Camp Bird, Crivitz, Wis.

This past July more than 420 WELS youth attended Camp Bird. “Camp Bird for Lutherans is, and has been, my second home since I was 12 years old,” notes one camper turned counselor. “Camp Bird is an amazing place to come and empty ourselves of the burdens of daily life and let God fill us with his Holy Spirit.”

Camp 4 Star, Olympia, Wash.

The four stars in Camp 4 Star’s name represent the four Pacific Northwest churches that brought the camp to life in the summer of 1959. Camp 4 Star now serves WELS/ELS members from around the greater Seattle area.

Camp Lor-Ray, Muskegon, Mich.

Answer a question in Bible study, soak a counselor! Bible leaders at Camp Lor-Ray engage campers during daily Bible study sessions.

Urban Explorers, Wautoma, Wis.

Urban Explorers brings children from Milwaukee to experience Christian camping in a rural setting. Pictured are the 32 campers and some of the staff from the June 21–24 camp.

Training Camp, Ingleside, Ill.

“Just like football players go to their various training camps to prepare for the next football season, so we invite the children within our churches and schools to Training Camp to prepare for their lives as Christians,” says Michael Zarling, camp director and pastor at Epiphany, Racine, Wis.

Rocky Mountain Christian Camp, Leadville, Colo.

“Build something out of paper!” counselors challenged campers. Rocky Mountain Christian Camp began in 1969 to serve WELS congregations in the Colorado area.


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Updated tool to find WELS churches

The WELS Locator tool has received a makeover. The trusted online tool that helps WELS members find churches when they travel the country or recommend churches to friends and acquaintances has new and updated functions.

The previous WELS Locator application was rewritten and enveloped into the existing WELS Online Yearbook. Now, with the locator integrated into the online Yearbook, you can find a church or school by its proximity to the criteria you enter. For example, you can enter an address, city, state, or zip code and find all organizations within a radius of miles you determine.

Also available within the Locator is a function to filter your search results by special criteria including church, pre-school, elementary school, high school, counseling center, and care facility. Other filters relate specifically to worship, like signed services, hearing loop, personal sound equipment, livestreaming, and languages offered.

Besides having enhanced Locator functionality, the Online Yearbook gives you access to called workers’ profiles and contact information. You can search by a called worker’s name or a specific city and receive a listing of matches. Clicking on a called worker’s name will reveal a profile that shows contact information, year graduated, and what organization he or she works for.

The Yearbook/Locator can be found on the synod’s Website, wels.net, by clicking on the “Find a Church/School” (formerly “WELS Locator”) at the top of the page. This will take the visitor directly to the Organization tab of the Yearbook app. You also can visit the Yearbook site directly at https://yearbook.wels.net, or the Locator portion at https://locator.wels.net.

The Locator is available on the side menu of the WELS Mobile app. You also can find the Yearbook in the app under the Synod Reports area. Download the WELS Mobile app at http://m.wels.net.


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 7
Issue: July 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Pre-Convention News

WELS’ 64th biennial convention is being held at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., July 31–Aug. 3, under the theme “Our Great Heritage.”

The biennial synod convention provides the opportunity for grassroots input and decision-making when it comes to the work that we do together as a synod. delegates—including pastors, male teachers, male staff ministers, and laymen— representing congregations across the synod come together to adopt a ministry financial plan (or budget), which describes in detail how we will use the financial resources God provides to carry out his work. The convention helps set the priorities and charts the direction of the synod’s areas of ministry in the coming years.

What’s happening at this year’s synod convention?

  • Worship services: The convention’s opening worship service takes place on Mon., July 31, at 6:30 P.M. CST. The closing worship service will take place on Thurs., Aug. 3, when the convention business concludes.
  • Devotions: Each morning before the convention business begins, a pastor delegate will present a devotion.
  • Missionary presentations: Four world missionaries are attending this year’s synod convention. These missionaries will present about the mission fields that they serve on Tuesday evening from 7-8:30 P.M. CST.
  • Area of ministry presentations: Area of ministry administrators and committee chairmen will share ministry updates and tell delegates about their areas’ blessings and opportunities.
  • Essay: John Brenner, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, will present an essay titled God’s Word is Our Great Heritage on Tuesday afternoon.
  • Elections: delegates will elect the synod’s first vice president and secretary as well as board members for synod commissions, boards, and committees. Interested in the candidates? Visit wels.net/2017synod convention to view ballots and candidate biographies.
  • Declarations of fellowship: The WELS Commission on Inter-Church relations is recommending that WELS declare fellowship with three foreign church bodies—the East Asia Lutheran Synod, the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia, and the South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM) in Hong Kong. representatives from each of these church bodies are attending the convention and will greet delegates with a short message.
  • Greetings from sister church bodies: delegates will get to hear from representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Germany.
  • Floor committee meetings and resolutions: The work of the convention takes place as delegates meet with their assigned floor committees to consider the reports that pertain to their area of ministry. Floor committees write resolutions on the topics that they feel should be addressed and present their resolutions to all the delegates. delegates can then discuss and vote on these convention resolutions, helping set the stage for work that will take place over the next biennium.
  • 95 Theses for the 21st Century presentation: The Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) commissioned the writing of a new set of 95 Theses for the 21st Century. With input from Lutheran church bodies around the world, these theses are first being presented at the CELC convention in July. Prof. Thomas Nass, who helped coordinate this project, will present a compilation of these 95 Theses at the synod convention.
  • Reformation 500 celebration: With the theme “our Great Heritage,” convention organizers have focused many aspects of the convention around the 500th anniversary of the reformation, including a special viewing of the film, A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy.

What does the proposed ministry financial plan look like?

Congregation Mission offerings (CMO) are the backbone of the synod’s ministry financial plan but have been flat for about 10 years.

As Todd Poppe, chief financial officer of WELS, explains, “The proposed ministry financial plan keeps WELS on solid financial ground, but projected near-flat Congregation Mission offerings when costs are increasing 3.5 percent could challenge WELS’ ability to maintain ministries beyond the 2017–19 biennium.”

In order to maintain existing ministry with these rising costs and flat revenue, the Synodical Council authorized a greater use of reserves in the ministry financial plan being presented for the upcoming biennium. of course, as these reserves are drawn down, funding future ministry becomes more difficult unless offerings increase.

“Congregational support has been the bedrock and foundation of our work together,” says Mark Schroeder, president of WELS. “It’s that support that has enabled us to prepare well-trained pastors, teachers, and staff ministers. It has made it possible for us to enter new world mission fields with the gospel. It has resulted in the planting of dozens of new home mission congregations in the past few years alone. As the cost of mission and ministry continues to increase—and as God continues to open new doors for the gospel—we pray that God will continue to move our members to grow in their joyful support of the work that we do together as a synod.”

What are the findings of the Compensation review Committee?

The 2015 synod in convention approved a resolution calling for a “thorough review” of the WELS Compensation Guidelines by the Compensation review Committee of the Synodical Council. Since the conclusion of the 2015 convention, the Compensation review Committee has met regularly to work on preparing a set of revised compensation guidelines for the 2017 convention.

“In the early stages of the project, the committee envisioned a radical reworking of the guidelines currently in place,” explains Prof. Earle Treptow, chairman of the Compensation review Committee. “The more we wrestled with the issues, however, the more we recognized the excellent work that had been done in putting together the current compensation guidelines. The problem has been that calling bodies haven’t consistently applied the guidelines.”

Once the committee arrived at that realization, the focus shifted away from a complete revision toward a modification of the current guidelines.

As Treptow notes, “Much of the inconsistency in applying the guidelines stemmed from a lack of understanding. So, the Compensation review Committee committed itself to repackaging the compensation guidelines in such a way that calling bodies would find them easier to apply. only slight modifications were made to the current guidelines, so the financial impact on the work we do together as a synod should be minimal.”

Dennis Maurer, director of WELS Human resources, believes that “the greatest result of this two-year project has been the emergence of a simplified tool for calling bodies to determine a fair and equitable compensation package for their called workers. WELS Technology created a user- friendly, web-based calculator to replace the existing Excel worksheet that Human resources provided to calling bodies working on called worker compensation. This called worker compensation calculator automates many of the tasks that previously required research and data entry on the user’s part.”

Treptow concludes by saying, “What the Compensation re- view Committee desires, above all else, is that calling bodies would approach compensation matters prayerfully, thought- fully, and carefully. We want calling bodies, through their leaders, to think about the gospel ministry being carried out in their midst. More specifically, we want them to reflect on the responsibilities entrusted to each worker, the time that is being invested in carrying out those responsibilities, and the additional education the worker has pursued. Instead of simply pulling a number from a matrix, the calling body can determine a salary based on knowledge of, and appreciation for, the important work the Lord’s servant is doing in their name.”

The synod convention floor committee assigned to review the Compensation review Committee’s recommendations will meet, discuss the committee’s recommendations, and then present one or more resolutions to the synod convention for consideration by all the delegates.

How can I learn more about the convention?

PRE-CONVENTION

Visit wels.net/2017synodconvention to see who the nominees are for election; to read the Book of Reports and Memorials, which includes reports from all the areas of ministry and will guide delegates in their work at the convention; and to see a list of delegates and the floor committees on which they’re serving.

CONVENTION

Plenary meetings, missionary presentations, and the opening worship service will be streamed live at wels.net. other communication vehicles include:

Video news updates—At least two updates per day will inform WELS members about the important work and decisions being made at the convention and will feature interviews with key synod leaders and delegates.

Social media—WELS’ Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages will be active each day.

News articles—As decisions are made, articles will be posted to wels.net. Each evening, an issue of “Together,” WELS’ e-newsletter, will be delivered to subscribers as a wrap-up of the day’s events and a look ahead to the next day.

POST-CONVENTION

A special issue of “Together” will be sent to subscribers to summarize the actions of the entire convention. Additional convention coverage will be included in the october editions of Forward in Christ and WELS Connection.


To subscribe to “Together,” visit wels.net/ subscribe.


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 7
Issue: July 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Moments with missionaries: Falcon, Colorado

Falcon, Colorado

Steven H. Prahl

Before our church’s grand opening in October 2016, we held three “preview” services to get used to setting up our equipment and chairs in the school we were renting for worship. It was the week of our last “preview” worship service when God gave us an opportunity to do what I call “granola bar evangelism.”

That day, shortly after everyone had gone into the gym for worship, one of my daughters went into the hallway and saw two girls grab some granola bars from our hospitality area and run out the door. My daughter told my wife, Jill, who followed them out. The girls were getting on their bikes, but one had a problem with her bike. Instead of accusing them of stealing, Jill offered to help. She found a granola bar had fallen into the gears of the girl’s bike in her attempt to make a “dine and dash” getaway. The object of her sin had literally derailed her! Jill helped her fix her bike and told the girls that they didn’t need to run off. They were welcome to come in for church anytime. The girls said, “Okay,” and took off on their bikes.

Eight minutes later, those same girls and three other kids walked into the middle of our service! They sat down, and during the next hymn I went and talked to them. I asked if they wanted to go to FoundationKIDS (our Sunday school), which was about to start during the sermon. They said they didn’t know what Sunday school was . . . they had never gone to a church in their lives. They went to FoundationKIDS and stayed for the rest of the service, adding their loud “Amen!” at the end of the Lord’s Prayer.

After worship, all five kids (ages 6-13) asked to help with our door hangers that day promoting our grand opening. I told them they had to ask their parents if they could go, expecting their parents would be skeptical and likely say no. In minutes, they were back with their parents’ permission! They were awesome helpers, running from house to house and even taking invitations home for their parents and friends.

Those same five kids came back two weeks later for our grand opening (without their parents). Since then, they have consistently come back to worship with us, even asking if they could come to our Bible Basics class for new members! Better still, they regularly bring friends to worship! They wear the T-shirt from our grand opening to school and are always eager to shout, “Hey, Pastor Steve!” when they see me.

That Sunday, with much of our attention and energy focused on preparing for the grand opening, God gave us a great reminder of why we are here and doing what we are doing. He also reminded us that we never know whom he will bring into our lives and how he can use what seem like “chance” encounters—hungry kids coming to play on the school playground during church—to give us opportunities to witness.


Steven Prahl serves as a home missionary at Foundation, Falcon, Colorado. Foundation had 95 people—50 of them local prospects—at its Easter service this year.


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Author: Steven H. Prahl
Volume 104, Number 7
Issue: July 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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: Kakuma, Kenya

Kakuma, Kenya

E. Allen Sorum

Kakuma is a development on the western edge of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. Temperatures usually range up to 100 degrees by day and 75 degrees by night. It’s desert here. The wind blows, but it’s not cool or refreshing. Food doesn’t grow here. This land should be left to the snakes and scorpions that don’t know how miserable this place is.

But Kakuma is a human development, so to speak. The UN Refugee Agency reports that approximately 200,000 residents are jammed into this desert camp. One hundred thousand of these refugees are South Sudanese Nuer seeking asylum from the Dinka government in their homeland that seeks to exterminate them.

When new residents arrive in the camp, the family receives a piece of thick plastic that is 180 square feet. This will serve as their shelter, assuming the family can find sticks or some other means to support the tarp. The only food or water this family has access to is handed out irregularly by refugee support agencies. There is food on the black market, but there is no way to earn money to buy food. Extreme conditions breed anger and despair. Add uncertainty because the government of Kenya has announced plans to close their refugee camps as a security measure against the rising tide of terrorism.

Does this sound like an ideal spot in which to plant a church? Would it be wise to send a WELS missionary to live just outside this camp—for as long as it remains open—to preach the gospel?

Sounds absurd. Yet the gospel is needed in this place of despair—and people want it. Kakuma resident James Dobual is part of a group of South Sudanese refugees organized by WELS pastor and refugee to North America, Peter Bur, to start and to serve congregations in the refugee communities of Kenya and Ethiopia. Peter Bur and his team delivered a translation of Luther’s Catechism to the spiritual leaders of these refugee communities and taught it to them in the fall of 2015. In the fall of 2016, Peter Bur, Terry Schultz, and I returned to Kenya with more training and encouragement.

But James did a better job of encouraging us than we could ever do for him. He and his assistant Michael Tut reported that between our visits, they had taken 150 people from the camp in Kakuma all the way through the Catechism. On a given Sunday, almost 300 people gather to worship in a place that does not want to support human life. But James is preaching the Word of Life. He is proclaiming a message that refreshes weary souls. His church is thriving.

A cynical voice within wants to challenge these reports. That voice in me was silenced when I saw Michael pull out his copy of the catechism (pictured). He lifted it up to show me its wear. He held it like it was a treasure. He keeps it close because he is memorizing it. That catechism, Michael reported, changed him from a refugee camp resident into a Lutheran evangelist.

After our two-week training event in Nairobi, James and Michael went back to Kakuma. They were eager to get back to their people, to their thriving church. May God help them. And may God help us to help them.


E. Allen Sorum is the director of the Pastoral Studies Institute of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. He and Peter Bur are planning another trip to Kenya in October.


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Author: E. Allen Sorum
Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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A lifelong Christian resource

Northwestern Publishing House is releasing a new edition of Luther’s Catechism. While retaining the strengths of the familiar blue catechism in use for many years, this completely rewritten exposition promotes a lifelong study of the catechism for a new generation.

Stephen Geiger, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and one of the contributing editors to the new catechism, says, “The catechism takes the teachings of Scripture found in so many places in those 66 books and arranges them in an orderly way, so that one can see how the context of Scripture works together. Doctrines are presented in an orderly fashion, with key Bible verses leading the reader to God’s answers for catechetical questions. Where helpful, lengthier explanations probe and explain key points of understanding.”

New to this edition of the catechism is a section titled “Connections” at the end of each unit. As Joel Otto, Geiger’s colleague at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and a fellow contributor to the new catechism, notes, “The ‘Connections’ section is meant to be devotional in nature. There is a short paragraph introducing a larger section of Scripture, usually from Bible history. Then, there are a couple of thought questions designed to elicit discussion. A quote from Luther follows and then a few stanzas from a hymn. This is my favorite addition to the new edition. It is my prayer that this can become the basis for home devotion with catechism students and their families or serve people in a lifelong use of the catechism.”

The new catechism also includes full-color illustrations and diagrams for visual learners. It is available in both English Standard Version and New International Version (2011) translations. In addition, a student workbook and a downloadable file with the book’s diagrams are available for those who use the book during confirmation instruction. An e-book version of the catechism itself will be released later this year.

Geiger reminds Christians, “The Small Catechism is for you. It always has been. With this new edition, you can rediscover those treasures that are, and with God’s gracious blessing always will be, the foundation of your faith.”


To learn more and to preorder your copy, visit nph.net/catechism or call 800-662-6022.


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Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

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Mirror motivation

Melanie Rittierodt, a senior at Evergreen Lutheran High School, Tacoma, Wash., felt motivated to uplift the girls at her school, and it all started with a Pinterest post. Rittierodt saw a post on her newsfeed about a motivational mirror and decided to start one in the girl’s bathroom at her school.

“I just wanted to show my love for my Savior,” says Rittierodt, a member at Light of Life, Covington, Wash. “And I wanted to show the girls that sometimes the simplest ways to lift someone up are through what you write and what you see.”

Rittierodt recruited girls in her class to help write encouraging words on sticky notes to post on the mirror. The notes include anything from Bible passages to inspirational quotes and sayings. Instructions on the mirror tell girls to take a note if they want it and to add new notes as well. Although it started out with just the senior girls writing messages, it has expanded to include notes from other people, including visitors from other schools.

Ted Klug, principal at Evergreen Lutheran High School, said he has seen a positive impact from the motivational mirror all throughout the school.

“In the midst of this storm of life called high school, sometimes the biggest foe to a teenager is the mirror,” Klug says. “But as [teenagers] grow and change, a few things stay the same—God’s love for them and his Word.”

In the fall, Rittierodt is going to San Diego State University, but she says she hopes students continue to post encouraging notes after she graduates.

And she wants to start a new motivational mirror at her college. “I’m hoping this will help me proclaim my faith more and use the gifts that God gave me,” she says.

Gabriella Moline


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Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

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Serving the Castle Rock community

Each home mission has the same goal—to reach out in a new area with the saving message of Jesus Christ. But while the goal is the same, each mission field brings with it unique opportunities and unique challenges.

Take Castle Rock, Colorado, as an example. When Jared Oldenburg, pastor at Eternal Rock, Castle Rock, arrived in 2010 to start a new mission, he quickly discovered that he couldn’t use the same ministry plan he used when starting a mission church in Covington, Washington. “You have to try to find what’s unique in your community,” he says.

He learned that Castle Rock is an affluent community, located in one of the top 10 wealthiest counties in the U.S. People from multiple different states and backgrounds are constantly moving in and out of the area. Many are families with children, where both parents work. They are active and searching for ways to get involved.

“They’re looking for something, no matter how successful they are,” says Oldenburg. “There still are problems, and there is still is an emptiness. My job is to show people that there still is going to be emptiness until they find value in their Savior, until it gets filled with the one thing that can fill it up.”

Due to the transient nature of the area, Oldenburg says the 170-member congregation works to help people feel connected—to Christ and to each other. “It’s providing a place where they can have community in church,” he says. Because people tend to make friends quickly in Castle Rock, the congregation wants Eternal Rock to be “a place to get to know some other people and to get to know God’s Word, a place where they feel supported and feel that there’s genuine people who care about them,” says Oldenburg.

Finding or building a permanent facility wasn’t high on the list at first, so Eternal Rock has been worshiping in a middle school since 2011. “Land is expensive, and buildings are expensive here,” says Oldenburg. “We’re waiting and saving money to build the right size when we do.”

Instead Oldenburg says the congregation has kept to basics—providing Bible studies and worship plus multiple ways to serve and interact in the church and community. New members and repeat visitors get plugged in quickly—even if it’s just picking up donuts for fellowship time or packing up chairs after worship. “People are pretty quick to move on if they don’t click,” says Oldenburg. “You have limited time.”

The congregation also gets involved in their community. “We worship God with our words and our actions,” says Oldenburg. Last December, members provided one thousand lunches to give to the homeless in Castle Rock. They also look for ways to help the middle school where they worship—including bringing in treats for the teachers, giving them gift cards at Christmas, and even building a shed for school use. “During that time of service, you get a chance to talk and a chance to let your light shine,” says Oldenburg.

Letting their light shine is something Oldenburg encourages in all his members. He says 90 percent of the congregation’s visitors are from members or prospects inviting their friends and neighbors to church.

Eternal Rock now has a new opportunity to engage in the community. In April, the congregation received a WELS Church Extension Fund loan and grant to buy land and an existing building in the historic downtown. Future plans are to renovate the building into a church. Oldenburg says local business are already asking about using the congregation’s facilities and noticing how the church is contributing to the community. “[They say,] ‘These are the people who go to this church. They’re trying to make downtown better.’ . . . But we’re trying to make their lives better in a way bigger sense—here’s my value in Christ,” says Oldenburg.


Learn more about Castle Rock and its outreach opportunities in the June edition of WELS Connection. Learn more about Home Mission opportunities at wels.net/missions.


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Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Construction work builds more than homes

A Builders For Christ project is building more than homes on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona. It’s also building learning opportunities for local residents and a chance for volunteers to show Christian love in action.

Anna Sherod, Kingdom Workers’ field manager for the White Mountain and San Carlos Apache Reservations in Arizona, discovered this opportunity when church and community members approached her for help with their homes after they noticed construction projects to improve WELS church properties on the reservation. She started looking at housing statistics and realized that many homes were in extreme disrepair, overcrowded, and unsafe to live in. This led to a connection with the local Tribal Housing Authority, who was fighting an uphill battle to keep up with requests for help. “We talked to them about how we could piggyback on efforts that were already happening and try to add extra manpower to them,” she says.

Enter Builders For Christ (BFC), an arm of Kingdom Workers that offers volunteer labor to help build churches and other facilities. BFC volunteers came in for four weeks in 2016 and six weeks in 2017 to rebuild houses on the reservation. In 2017, 26 BFC volunteers over the course of those six weeks worked on three homes from demolition to dry wall, complete with electrical and plumbing hook-ups—close to move-in ready. “By us putting in extra labor on these three homes, [the Tribal Housing Authority] is able to save enough money to renovate another three homes in this calendar year,” says Sherod.

But that’s just a start in the difference these volunteers are making. Through community focus groups, Sherod also discovered that there is 75 percent underemployment or unemployment on the reservation. “People needed things to do in the community that were constructive and meaningful,” she says. These building projects gave local church and community volunteers an opportunity to work on something productive, keep up their construction skills, and get further job-skill training from experienced BFC craftsmen.

“And whenever you get a BFC team in a location, you’re going to have incredible opportunities for fellowship and spiritual strengthening,” says Sherod. Besides daily conversations between the workers, lunchtime devotions conducted by pastors from the local WELS churches offered hope and comfort from God’s Word.

Projects like these don’t only help the local communities—they also motivate and encourage the BFC volunteers. Howard and Nancy Wilch, members at Trinity, Jenera, Ohio, volunteered both years to help on the Apache reservation. “We were blessed with the opportunity to not only rebuild Apache homes, but more important we were blessed with the opportunity to share our faith with the Apache people,” says Howard. “During Holy Week we were able to attend church with our fellow believers in Christ and were able to take Communion together. What an awesome experience to share Christ with both our volunteers and the Apaches.”


Kingdom Workers spreads the gospel by mobilizing Christians to create locally sustainable ministries addressing spiritual and physical needs in communities around the world. Do you want to volunteer? Learn about available Kingdom Workers’ opportunities at kingdomworkers.com/opportunities.


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Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

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Reformation 500 updates

Success of A Return to Grace

Hundreds of WELS congregations and groups have already hosted screenings of the Martin Luther film A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy in their local communities, and hundreds more are planning showings in the upcoming months leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this October.

Lee Hitter, director of WELS Communications, says he is thrilled to see WELS congregations take advantage of this opportunity to highlight God’s grace and the anniversary of the Reformation in their communities. “The reaction from our members that have seen the film is tremendous,” he says. “Every Lutheran should make it a priority to see it on the big screen. Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Reformation is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”

Congregations can still host local screenings of the film. Find out how at wels.net/reformation500.


Movie and resources available for preorder

DVDs of A Return to Grace are available for preorder through Northwestern Publishing House. They will be available in November.

Other resources based on the movie are also available for preorder, including:

A Return to Grace four-week Bible study. This resource will use film segments to help viewers explore the life, times, and importance of Martin Luther. Available early summer.

● “Reformation: Grace, Faith, Scripture” film vignettes and Bible study resources. These 12 three- to four-minute vignettes will highlight the important truths of the Reformation. Both a five-minute and a full-length Bible study will be available to use with these vignettes. Available early summer.

God’s Plan for Luther and Me, a children’s film to help children explore what it means to be a Lutheran Christian today as well as a curriculum of classroom activities to go with the film. Available in fall.

Learn more at nph.net/returntograce.


Outreach resources available

The Commission on Evangelism, Board for Home Missions, and Northwestern Publishing House have prepared materials for congregations to host four different outreach Sundays in late 2017 and early 2018. These worship resources will focus on the four solas, the “alones” of the Reformation.

Nov. 5—Reformation and a focus on Scripture alone

Nov. 26—Christ the King Sunday and a focus on Christ alone

Dec. 17—Third Sunday in Advent and a focus on grace alone

Jan. 7, 2018—Epiphany and a focus on faith alone

Michael Hintz, director of the Commission on Evangelism, says these services are wonderful ways to review the history of the Reformation but also a great opportunity to share its message with unchurched family and friends. “It’s important to learn more about what the Lutheran Reformation is all about,” he says, “but most important is what God is revealing to us about himself in the Bible.”

Materials will include text studies, suggested sermon outlines, children’s message ideas, music suggestions, worship service outlines, and tips for visitor follow-up.

Download these free resources by early June at wels.net/reformation500.


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Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

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Funding for new and enhanced ministries

In late March 2017, the Board for Home Missions approved funding for four new Home Mission starts and three ministry enhancements for existing congregations.

Every winter, the board reviews proposals for funding and, based on how much money is available, determines where these gifts to ministry can best serve the Lord’s church. The $554,000 of new project funding for fiscal year 2017–18 is possible through a portion of Congregation Mission Offerings, an endowment payout from the WELS Church Extension Fund, and gifts to the “Every Neighbor, Every Nation” mission campaign.

Shepherd of the Valley, Westminster, Colo., received funding to call a second pastor to start a second campus in the new growing community of Candelas. The multi-site concept, a growing model for congregations around the synod, allows a church to expand its ministry footprint but keeps both sites under one financial budget and one leadership team.

Phil Kieselhorst, pastor at Shepherd of the Valley, says, “The second site campus pastor will focus on organizing and leading consistent outreach efforts, training and coordinating the core group, following up on prospects, teaching and preaching, and providing pastoral assistance to new members.” Current Shepherd of the Valley members already have been canvassing and reaching out to new residents for two years. The congregation is positioned to be one of the first neighborhood churches in this growing area.

At Mt. Lebanon, Milwaukee, Wis., new funding will help with calling a second pastor, allowing Aaron Bublitz, the congregation’s current pastor, to focus on the pastoral needs of Mt. Lebanon’s elementary school students and their families. The school is part of Milwaukee’s School Choice program, and many of the students come from unchurched families in the neighborhood. Since 2011, 128 people have been baptized through the school, including students and their family members.

“Up until now we have been trying to serve a congregation of 400 souls and a school of 220 (many of whom are unchurched), and at the same time aggressively reaching out to our neighborhood, with one pastor and one part-time staff minister. The Lord has blessed us with a vibrant ministry and a ripe mission field, but it has been difficult to take advantage of all the opportunities God has placed before us because of resources,” says Bublitz. “This support from the Board of Home Missions will allow us to double our pastoral staff to share the means of grace and equip our congregation to serve, allowing us to reach more people with the life-saving and changing gospel.”

Three additional new mission starts will be funded in Hendersonville, N.C.; Huntersville, N.C.; and Chattanooga, Tenn. In multicultural ministry, Immanuel, Waukegan, Ill., will receive funds to assist with a growing Hispanic ministry. King of Kings, Little Rock, Ark., also received funding to call a full-time pastor.

“Home Missions is about reaching as many of our neighbors as possible with the gospel,” says Keith Free, administrator for Home Missions. “This can be through starting new churches, expanding multicultural outreach, or reaching more families through enhancing existing ministries. This year, Home Missions has been blessed to be able to support different types of ministry work that all have the same goal—sharing God’s Word with our neighbors.”

To learn more about WELS mission work, visit wels.net/missions.


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017

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Making connections with sisters in Christ

“We are ordinary Christian ladies,” says Rebecca Wendland, “committed to serving Christ as a priority, following our husbands in their ministries, living in faith, daily trusting that our God will provide and follow through on his promises and give us what is needed to cope with whatever may come our way.”

Wendland, who has spent 14 years in Malawi, Africa, with her husband, Robert, was one of 24 world missionary wives who gathered together in Athens, Greece, from Feb. 23–27. This conference, the first of its kind, was funded by the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society.

As Julia Wagenknecht, a member of the conference planning committee who has spent time on many different world mission fields, explains, “The theme for our precious four days together was ‘(En) Courage in Christ,’ and that theme weaved into areas of family life, ministry, and cross-cultural experiences. Many hugs were exchanged along with stories of blessings and challenges from those recently new to a mission field to some who have spent 30-plus years in world mission service.”

Throughout the weekend the women had opportunities to tour the sites of Athens and learn the history of Greece while making historical connections to biblical stories and the spread of the early Christian church through the Bible study on the book of Acts led by Andrea Wordell, who served with her husband, Brad, in Asia for many years.

“Having a devotion ‘on location’ of certain Scripture references—such as the Bema in Corinth—was profound as it deepened my understanding of the meaning in context,” says Wendland. “Studying the Word with the other American WELS women was so precious because we don’t have those opportunities very often.”

In addition to sightseeing and Bible study, the conference included worship, breakout sessions, and time for the women to get to know one another.

Susan Nitz, who serves alongside her husband, Paul, in Malawi, says, “By the end of the conference, it seemed as if we were all close friends instead of strangers, and it was evident that the goal of our conference had been met—to make connections with sisters in Christ serving in distant places and form friendships and relationships that will certainly continue after our brief four days together.”

Wendland notes that the group has been keeping in touch since the conference ended through an instant messaging smartphone app. She says, “I am so encouraged by the ladies as we all pray for each other. It is wonderful to get to know the women and their varied ministries. Some have sent updates and pictures from their latest programs, which are inspirational. Some are sharing photos and updates of daily ministry and living. We’ve recently ‘traveled through Russia’ as Luke and Jennifer Wolfgramm made a road trip to deliver supplies to a far away congregation. It brings a sense of togetherness in our united world mission work that we have never known before.”


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Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Meet the editorial staff—uncut: Prange

Ever ask yourself, “Who are these people who write for Forward in Christ?” Through this series you can find out.

Simply titled “Devotion,” every issue of Forward in Christ includes a meditation on a Scripture passage penned by a contributing editor. The newest writer for this series is Peter Prange, pastor at Bethany, Kenosha, Wis.

Prange was born in Janesville, Wis., on April 18, 1972, to Pastor Victor and Ana Prange. He became God’s child through Baptism on April 30. He spent his grade school years in local public schools and attended Northwestern Preparatory School and Northwestern College in Watertown, Wis. He completed his training for the public ministry at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. His vicar year was spent at three New Orleans area congregations. In May 1998, he graduated and was assigned to Good Shepherd, Jacksonville, Fla. In addition to his time in Florida, Prange also served at Jerusalem Lutheran Church and School, Morton Grove, Ill., and Living Word, Johnson City, Tenn.

Why did he become a pastor? Prange comes from a long line of pastors on both sides of his family. “It’s kind of in the blood, though I was never pushed into pastoral ministry,” he says. “Good models, good teachers, and, most of all, a gracious Savior led me to pastoral ministry. Any competency I have comes from him alone (2 Corinthians 3:5).”

Prange met his wife, Tarren, when he was in Florida, and the couple was married in December 2003. Tarren works in the Infant Special Care Unit at the Evanston Hospital in Illinois. She is currently pursuing her license to become a nurse practitioner. The Pranges are blessed with two children, Lucas, 12, and Grace, 10.

Prange uses his free time for “family, theological reading, listening to various kinds of music, and cheering his family’s beloved Chicago Cubs.” A special interest is family and church history. He’s not new to writing either, co-authoring Jars of Clay: A History of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (1863-2013) for the seminary’s 150th anniversary. He also was a member of the committee that produced Christian Worship: Supplement.

Prange currently serves on the WELS Commission on Inter-Church Relations, which represents the synod in doctrinal discussions with US and worldwide Lutheran church bodies. “In recent years there has also been increasing coordination with the WELS Board for World Missions and Board for Ministerial Education as we work together to encourage and, when appropriate, carefully shepherd burgeoning confessional Lutheran churches and communities around the world, especially in second and third world countries,” he says. “This development in the last ten years has been really astonishing to see.”

Prange’s devotions will appear several times throughout the year. “My prayer is that these devotions will highlight the profound gift of grace our Savior so freely gives to broken people like us and that his grace is a dramatic reflection of the fact that his thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways his ways.”

He closes, “Simply . . . I’m privileged to serve our Savior and his people.”

Ann Ponath


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Author: Ann Ponath
Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

WELS districts plan Reformation 500 celebrations

Lutherans around the world are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year. Several WELS districts are planning their own celebrations.

“This 500th celebration is a great opportunity to teach everyone, but especially our children, about the blessings that came out of the Reformation,” says Kerry Kronebusch.

Kronebusch is coordinating a Reformation Day for the Nebraska District on Oct. 21 at Nebraska Lutheran High School, Waco, Neb. The centerpiece of the day will be a Reformation Walk, which will include 10 stations where visitors will learn about the Reformation.

The Nebraska District is also holding a Reformation 500 worship service on Oct. 29 in Lincoln, Neb.

The Western Wisconsin District is hosting a “sacred commemorative event at the Dane County Coliseum in Madison, Wis., on Oct. 29,” says Richard Lehmann, co-chairman of this Reformation 500 celebration. “This will include a festival worship service that will feature Scripture readings in Spanish, German, and English—the languages of worship in our district. A district mass choir, a teen choir, and a children’s choir are being planned. We really want it to be a district celebration with district members performing and district members uplifted in the audiences.”

Following the festival service, a hymn-sing will be led by the Christian band Koiné.

The Dakota-Montana District is holding a worship service for those in the eastern part of the district on Oct. 25 in Watertown, S.D., and in the western part of the district on Nov. 4 in Roscoe, S.D. The Great Plains Lutheran High School choir will sing at both services.

On Oct. 28, the Northern Wisconsin District is hosting a Reformation celebration at the Performing Arts Center in Appleton, Wis. The Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Choir will participate during the worship service.

The Arizona-California District is planning a Reformation celebration at its joint pastor and teacher conference on Nov. 2 and 3. Some activities, such as the festival worship service on the morning of Nov. 2, will be open to the public.

The Michigan District is hosting a worship service at St. Paul, Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 4, and at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw, Mich., on Nov. 5. Huron Valley Lutheran High School, Westland, Mich., is serving as the site for Luther Fest 500, an Octoberfest celebration, on Oct. 28.

For more details about these events and to find other Reformation 500 celebrations, visit wels.net/reformation500/reformation-events.


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Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Baptismal stones remind members of baptism

There are small ways that Christians can remember their baptisms, such as looking at photos or talking to their sponsors about the day. The members of St. Peter, St. Albert, Alberta, Canada, now have a physical reminder of their baptisms in their baptismal font. The font, located at the entrance of the church, holds baptismal stones with a name and baptismal date inscribed on each stone.

The idea for the font came as St. Peter’s was refurbishing the church. The design team incorporated the natural fountain look seen in the yards of nearby houses with the rock-solid structure symbolizing God’s truth. A river made of stones leads from the font to the front of the church. From the river came the idea for the baptismal stones to always remind members of their connection to St. Peter’s, as well as remind them of their baptisms.

On Jan. 8, Baptism Sunday, the church held a special service where the engraved stones were laid out on a table, corresponding to each baptized member from the past ten years. Members, old and young, helped each other to find their stone and place it in the water of the font.

“It was probably one of the highlights of my ministry here,” says Dan Habben, St. Peter’s pastor. “It was a very Christian, caring moment—the kind of picture that the church should always be.”

The tradition of the stones is still being forged. Habben says he hopes to continue the service each year on Baptism Sunday. Anyone who was baptized in the last year would then receive a stone at that service to put into the water.

“You don’t really foresee how something like this can touch someone, but a lot of times it does,” notes Habben.

Gabriella Moline


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Author: Gabriella Moline
Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

A new way to support MLC students

A new program is allowing congregations to further support sons and daughters of the congregation who are studying at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., to be WELS’ future called workers.

The Congregational Partner Grant Program started as a pilot project during the 2016–17 school year. Through the program, congregations could give grants up to $1,000 to freshmen at MLC; MLC then matched the grant, doubling the assistance given to students. More than 78 congregations participated, supporting 108 incoming first-year students—more than half of the freshmen class.

St. Paul, Onalaska, Wis., already had a scholarship program set up to provide help for ministerial education students from the congregation. The grant program allowed money for the four freshmen from the congregation to be doubled. Norris Baumann, one of the pastors at St. Paul, says it also gave the pastors an opportunity to remind the congregation about supporting these students. “Communicating with the congregation about these students and praying for them is important,” he says. “[We need] to highlight these special future servants—make the congregation aware of these gifts, because these students are gifts!”

Jeremy Fluegge, a member at St. Paul’s who is at MLC studying to be a pastor, appreciates the congregation’s support—both monetarily and spiritually. “The pastors and members of St. Paul’s are always inquisitive concerning my studies at MLC. They genuinely are excited for my progress and continued success,” he says. “It’s helpful to know that other Christians are praying for you and hoping for the best for you. It’s truly difficult to put into words what it means to hear that my fellow members of the holy Christian church have my back as I prepare to bring the gospel to all nations.”

Making that personal connection to students is an important reason the grant program was started, according to Mike Otterstatter, vice president of mission advancement at MLC. “It’s one thing to give to worker training; it’s a whole other thing to give to worker training and have it connected to a face and a name of a kid who maybe you saw baptized as an infant and grow up over the past 18 years. It just makes it so personal.”

Otterstatter says he still feels that personal connection to the congregation in which he grew up—Christ, Eagle River, Wis.—whether it was through money the church sent to help him with his school payments or the support he received when preaching his first sermon there or the continued shared memories when he visits while on vacation. “I have fond memories of that support from my brothers and sisters in the faith—those people who treated me like theirs for all those years. That’s the love and connection and the beauty of our little WELS world.”

For the 2017–18 school year, the Congregational Partner Grant Program will also include sophomores. The hope is that eventually it will be open for all students—just another way to help reduce their debt upon graduation.

Learn more about the Congregational Partner Grant Program by watching this month’s episode of WELS Connection or by visiting mlc-wels.edu/go/cpgf.


Encouraging future called workers

With a large Lutheran elementary school connected to the church and an area Lutheran high school close by, St. Paul, Onalaska, Wis., has many opportunities to encourage its young people to consider the ministry. Next school year, 14 members will be attending Martin Luther College, and 1 will be attending Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. “We are a blessed congregation,” says Norris Baumann, pastor at St. Paul, “and we felt we needed a program to support these students.”

The congregation set up a scholarship fund seven years ago to help these students with college tuition. It also sends gift cards for gas, food, and other expenses at Christmastime for that mid-year boost.

But these aren’t the only ways the congregation supports these future called workers. The congregation offers the students ways to get involved when they come home—whether it’s through playing music in church on the weekends, participating in early field experience at St. Paul’s Lutheran School, or reading the Scriptures during Sunday services. Baumann says these activities not only help train the students but also make them visible in the congregation. “They’re the future shepherds, teachers, and staff ministers of our church body. We need to support them.”


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Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Worker training opportunities around the world

WELS has 41 serving around the world. But, according to Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions, that number doesn’t tell the whole story.

“The pastors and leaders those missionaries train are the heart of WELS world missions,” he says. “A growing army of over four hundred men are now serving as national pastors in countries all around the globe. One hundred seventy more are currently in training, and we have requests to train nearly three hundred more. Praise God for the answered prayers as these workers prepare for service in his harvest field.”

That’s why an important part of WELS World Mission work is training national leaders. Here WELS missionaries and friendly counselors share photos and information about several worker training programs around the world as well as insights on the importance of training these national leaders:


India 

The Lutheran Seminary in India currently has 36 students, 20 in their first year and 16 graduating in May. One friendly counselor shares the following about the worker-training program: “Incoming students speak either Telugu or Hindi as their primary language, with some limited English as well. We use national pastors as translators (interpreters) in the classroom. They not only translate from English to the local languages, but they are also able to help us better understand local customs and ways of doing ministry here.”


South Asia

Currently 14 men are studying to be national pastors in a country in South Asia. Christian Leaders’ Workshops are also held for the 42 leaders of the 42 congregations in the area.

Friendly counselor Mike Duncan says these national leaders are key to outreach in the area. “Local leaders are ‘the engine that drives the train.’ The apostle Paul said to the pastor, Timothy, ‘The things you heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others’ (2 Timothy 2:2). Notice the numbers of the book, chapter and verse—two, two and two. One person teaches another (two people) and that person teaches another (two people) and that person teaches another (two people). We multiply leaders in our worker training—two becomes four, four becomes eight, eight becomes sixteen. This means more outreach, more evangelism, more expansion of the church into new districts and countries.”


Bulgaria 

Outreach to Roma is an effort to share the gospel with the western world’s most mistreated ethnic group, a group numbering about 10 million people who are scattered across Europe. “The fact that I am a Roma makes me uniquely suited because I know the psychology of the gypsies,” says Itsov. “I think it will be easier for them to listen to me than to a nongypsy.”

Learn more about worker training programs in Hong Kong and Cameroon in the April edition of WELS Connection.


Academia Cristo

In Latin America, education is done through the website Academia Cristo, which offers free Spanish video and audio resources for those new to the faith, Bible studies and materials for local lay leaders to use in their communities, and live online training. In Colombia, Most Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Medillin, part of WELS’ sister synod in Colombia, started house churches in four different cities in 2016 from contacts made through Academia Cristo. Check out the site at academiacristo.com.


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 4
Issue: April 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Planting the seed of God’s Word with international students

Did you know?

During the 2016–17 school year, 435 international students are attending WELS high schools.


“We had grown accustomed to teaching a high school religion class where all the students could open their Bibles and turn to book, chapter, and verse in no time,” says Matt Herbst, principal of Michigan Lutheran High School, St. Joseph, Mich. “They understood God’s plan of salvation and could recite enormous amounts of God’s Word that they had memorized from the times they were little kids. Now, we have a growing population of students who really don’t have a prerequisite to start ninth grade Religion.”

This “growing population” that Herbst is referring to is the school’s international students, primarily made up of students from Korea and China. The school began hosting international students for the 2013–14 school year.

To meet the needs of these students, Michigan Lutheran High School began offering a Bible basics class to introduce international students to Christianity. Families in local WELS congregations also pick up the international students who live in dorms and bring them to church. Some families host these students over the weekend, offering home-cooked meals, good discussion, and an example of Christian living.

As Herbst notes, “This has been embraced by a number of our families, and great relationships have been built, great discussions about God have happened, and wonderful memories are being made.”

In addition, baptisms are taking place. In fact, the first Chinese student to attend Michigan Lutheran High School asked to be baptized at the end of his first year there. Almost half the student body attended the worship service during which he was baptized.

“It was evident right at the beginning of this program that our student body wanted to take hold of this new and exciting portion of our ministry,” says Herbst.

Many students at Shoreland Lutheran High School, Somers, Wis., feel the same way. Each international student at Shoreland is assigned an American student to help him acclimate and integrate. Noah Marquardt, an American student in his junior year, participates as a “Shoreland Light.”

He says, “Being a Shoreland Light is an incredible experience. . . . I have created unique bonds with several of these students. In addition to knowing their American names, I am now learning their Korean and Chinese names so that I may call them by both. For me, this is a good bridge to create specific relationships with each of them, so they know that I care about them individually. . . . Whether they are from America, China, Korea, or anywhere else, we are all under the beautiful umbrella of God’s saving grace and unconditional love, and everyone deserves that love to be shared with them.”

Paul Scriver, principal at Shoreland, says that the school opened its doors to international students because it is “a wonderful way to share the gospel with young people that don’t typically get to hear it. It has been a tremendous blessing for these young people and for our school.”

As Herbst notes, “Some of our students may never outwardly confess their faith before they leave, but our prayer is always that they know the One whom they can call on in that hour of darkness, repent, and believe because of the seed that was planted while they were here with us.”


Watching God’s Word take root

When Bill Wang applied to Shoreland Lutheran High School, he wrote in his letter of introduction to his host family: “I don’t believe in God or that God created the universe or human, but I definitely believe that there are forces beyond human and if I do good things, good things will come back at me. Although I’ll be glad if someone can really convince me to believe in God, but please don’t be pushy on it.”

Wang began studying at Shoreland in August 2015. In February 2016, Wang became a child of God through baptism at St. John’s, Oak Creek, Wis.

This past fall, Wang was asked who his role model is during Shoreland’s football banquet. He told everyone in attendance that he wanted to be a teacher and coach like Mr. Edgington (a faculty member at Shoreland) so that he could tell his students about Jesus, their Savior.

Wang is graduating from Shoreland this spring and plans on attending Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., this fall. He will be confirmed in May.


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 4
Issue: April 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Movie A Return to Grace premieres

On Feb. 15, almost 800 people attended the premiere of A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy, a new feature-length film that explores the life of Martin Luther and his quest for truth.

Three congregations—Mount Olive, Appleton, Wis.; Holy Word, Austin, Tex.; and Peace, Mankato, Minn. (an Evangelical Lutheran Synod congregation)—served as pilot locations, hosting screenings in local movie theaters for their congregation and community.

“Our congregation is looking at this year and next year as a way to key in on what it means to be a Lutheran,” says Jasper Sellnow, one of the pastors at Mount Olive. “This movie is a good way to start this conversation.”

The movie also provides opportunities for local community outreach. “It gave a lot of our members something to invite their friends to that was less intimidating than inviting them to church,” says Don Patterson, pastor at Holy Word. “The presentation is so clear that anyone who comes finds that it’s all about Jesus and his grace.”

Funding from Thrivent Financial made it possible to produce the movie. Learn more about the film and hosting a screening at wels.net/reformation500.


5 lesser-known facts attendees learned about the man Martin Luther

  • He suffered from depression.
  • He was estranged from his father.
  • He and his wife, Katie, had six children, two of whom died at young ages.
  • He advocated for training girls as well as boys, bringing reform in education.
  • He was a prolific writer. A large percentage of the literature printed on the new printing presses was his writings, making Luther a local celebrity.

5 takeaways from the movie

“Every Lutheran should see this film to understand where we came from and to see how one man was willing to stand up for what he believed in.”—Leslie Granberg, teacher at Immanuel, Greenville, Wis.

“It was a real pleasure to see our own WELS pastors sharing our history and God’s grace for us on the screen. It reminded me that God’s Word really is our great heritage and made me proud to be part of a church that clings to it.”—Adam Gould, member at Holy Word

“I like how this movie re-centered my focus on things above—it’s not my words or actions exactly, but what I can do to spread God’s truth in my little reaches of the world. I may not be breaking away from a national religion or translating the Bible for an entire language, but God has me in my life where I need to be to reach who he wants me to reach!”—Ashley Crane, member at Holy Word

“The film features so many things about Luther you don’t get in books—his bout with depression and the way in which he aged, the way his father’s death impacted him. It was very insightful.”—Joel Zank, pastor at Mount Olive

“It was fantastic . . . really well done. One of the things I really appreciated was my daughter is ex-Catholic, and after she watched the film I had the chance to talk to her about all the things Luther taught us.”—Brian Zuberbier, member of Mount Olive


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 4
Issue: April 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

 

Worker training in Indonesia

Gregory L. Bey

I served in Indonesia briefly in the early 1990s and returned in 2011 as a professor at Sekolah Tinggi Teologi Lutheran (STTL), the worker training school of Gereja Lutheran Indonesia (GLI). Most of my fellow “dosens” (seminary professors) with whom I now serve were students my first time around. What a thrill it is to be able to work shoulder to shoulder with them now as colleagues in Christ who are banded together to train the next generation of GLI pastors.

To maintain and improve our status as a school that can issue an accredited Bachelor of Divinity degree, STTL works together with the appropriate governmental agencies as well as local and regional authorities. Wading through the laws and regulations is something that would be almost insurmountable for an outsider. What a blessing it is to have a seminary chairman like Pastor Bambang, who is knowledgeable in such matters.

A similar example is the STTL curriculum coordinator, Evangelist Agus. He needs to harmonize our specific set of studies with the recommended national guidelines for all seminaries in Indonesia. This is no small task. In fact, it is essential for securing our position as an accredited school so that our students can receive a degree recognized by the government. Simultaneously, we need to provide courses necessary to our goal of producing a steady stream of servants who will minister to the people of GLI and reach out with the gospel.

But apart from the administrative necessities that can be handled so much better by the national dosens are the obvious benefits of being instructed by someone whose language is the same as yours. As good as the “orang asing” (foreigners) become at the language of their host country, there are linguistic nuances that often elude us. The depth of our vocabulary is rarely as deep as the treasure trove of words that the national instructors have at their fingertips. Men like Pastors Sutarno and Supriyanto adeptly apply various synonyms and antonyms as they explain finer points of doctrine and critique student sermons. They, along with their Indonesian colleagues on the faculty, deftly direct regional called workers and lay leaders who assist them in planning and providing opportunities for our students to participate in early field experiences.

Additionally, the national dosens always have a better understanding of what it means to be an Indonesian. They can better sense and deal with the realities of life faced by young men who often are away from their families for several months or even a few years as they prepare for the ministry. Younger dosens like Evangelist Mikael and Vicar Lefinus, who serve part time at STTL, can more easily bridge the natural generation gap between young men in their late teens and 20s and older dosens in their 50s and 60s.

Often I joke with some my colleagues and say, “You used to be my students; now you are my bosses!” But it’s not a joke. It is a blessing from the Lord who has equipped them with the spiritual gifts needed to train our future coworkers in Christ here in Indonesia.


Gregory Bey currently is serving as the friendly counselor to Gereja Lutheran Indonesia.


GLI has 5 congregations and 25 preaching stations. Sixteen pastors (as of June 2017) serve 1,362 members. Currently 10 students are studying at STTL.


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Author: Gregory L. Bey
Volume 104, Number 4
Issue: April 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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