Finding a spiritual home in Atlanta

Spenser hadn’t been to church in years. He found himself wandering in faith and unsure of his beliefs. Moving to the city of Atlanta had provided him with a great job, but it did nothing to fill the spiritual void in his life. 

Then, one weekend late in August, Spenser attended a free community festival in the neighborhood of Grant Park. As he walked through a long line of booths selling cotton candy and offering face painting, he saw something that caught his eye. It was a booth sponsored by our volunteers from Intown Lutheran Church in Atlanta. Spenser spun our prize wheel and won a free pair of sunglasses. He also received an invitation to our worship grand opening in just two weeks. Spenser had been Lutheran at one point in his life, and the people at the booth were friendly. He decided to go. 

On Sept. 9, 2018, Spenser stopped by the Elevator Factory event space with nearly 60 other people to kick off worship at Intown Lutheran. About one-third of the people in attendance were unchurched prospects, many of whom had found out about Intown Lutheran from the Summer Shade Festival. Spenser enjoyed coffee and mingling with everybody. He enjoyed the worship service and the Bible-focused message. During the post-service announcements, Spenser heard about our new Bible Basics class starting soon in a local coffee shop. He decided to give it a try. 

Three months later, Spenser joined our church as an adult confirmand. The Holy Spirit had worked powerfully on his heart through his in-depth study of God’s Word.  

“Bible Basics opened my mind and heart to better understand my faith,” says Spenser. “Through this course I was able to learn, ask questions, and grow as a person.” 

Today Spenser remains an active member of our growing congregation. By God’s grace, he has found a spiritual home in the city. 

Intown Lutheran hosted a booth at six different festivals in 2018, gaining dozens of prospects and worship visitors in the process. We’ve gained several members and prospects through the Summer Shade Festival in particular, including three more families who recently finished Bible Basics and joined our church. All costs for the 2018 Summer Shade Festival were paid for by the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society’s First Public Service Fund.We are so thankful for all who contributed to this generous gift so that people like Spenser can find a spiritual home in the city.


Lucas Bitter, pastor at Intown Lutheran, Atlanta, Ga.


 To learn about other home and world missions supported by the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society, attend the group’s national convention in Des Moines, Iowa, from June 27–30. To learn more, visit lwms.org.  


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Author: Lucas Bitter
Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Hope after the storm in Puerto Rico

Three visitors! No big deal on some Sundays . . . lost in the crowd at some churches . . . a below-average turnout on many occasions.
Certainly nothing to write home about (or for Forward in Christ).  

But this is different. There hadn’t been one single visitor at Cordero de Dios (Lamb of God) Lutheran Church in Puerto Rico for months. In fact, there hadn’t even been a worship service there for almost year and a half! 

When Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico in September 2018, it devastated much of the Island of Enchantment, as it is known. Buildings were destroyed, power grids were damaged, and cell phone towers were knocked down. Tragically, lives were lost. Morale deflated quickly. As the days and weeks and months passed with no electricity, water, Internet, or cell phone service, tensions started to rise, hope began to depart, and a feeling of helplessness set in. 

Our brothers and sisters who are members of the three congregations of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church in Puerto Rico were also affected. While one church building was damaged, another wooden chapel was completely destroyed. Worship services at Cordero de Dios in Humacao stopped. There was no place to gather! 

As news of the devastation brought by Maria spread, WELS members responded quickly in love. Generous donations were received for hurricane relief. WELS leaders visited Puerto Rico and assured our fellow believers that we would walk through this together. WELS Christian Aid and Relief provided shortterm help and a longer term plan of assistance. Retired Pastor Larry Schlomer and his wife Marlene spenseveral months in Puerto Rico coordinating relief and reconstruction efforts. Volunteers from the States came to lend a hand. Pastors and leaders and church members worked together to rebuild homes and churchesand hope. 

On Feb. 10, the newly rebuilt (in concrete) chapel in Humacao was dedicated to God’s glory. Members from the three island congregations gathered together to thank God and celebrate his goodness. During the service, long-time member and seminary student Kelly Alvarez was ordained and installed as pastor of Mi Dios Verdadero (My True God) Lutheran Church in San Juan. The message from God’s Word that day included the reminder that we are a holy temple in the Lord, being built up together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:21,22). 

What will happen next in Puerto Rico? Two pastors currently serve in the town of Guayama. One pastor and one student pastor serve in San Juan. A rotation of pastors leads worship in Humacao. There are still jobs to finish, but now plans for gospel ministry can be worked out in order to share the good news with those visitors as well as to reach out to those who likely won’t come on their own. 

What can we learn from all this? God in his wisdom allowed Hurricane Maria to pass through Puerto Rico, but the Lord will not abandon his people or his church. In fact, he often creates opportunities out of challenges. Think of those visitors from the neighborhood who saw the work on the church progressing, shared the excitement, and wanted to be part of that special day. People do notice the fruit of our labor, but they need encouragement. Let’s keep on encouraging, inviting, witnessing and pointing other to Jesus.  

What can we do now for Puerto Rico? Please pray for those three visitors in Humacao. Pray for our three congregations in Puerto Rico, which still face challenges. Pray that the gospel might be preached and believed in Puerto Rico, to God’s glory.  

Because as we look forward to the Last Day, this is our attitude as we live and work for God’s glory and the spread of his kingdom today and tomorrow: The best is yet to come!


Timothy Satorius, WELS liaison to the Puerto Rican church 


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Author: Timothy Satorius
Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Audio: A new voice for WELS Daily Devotions

The audio version of the WELS Daily Devotions now features a new voice: Zach Steinke. Steinke is a senior at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis., with prior experience in the radio communications industry. 

“We are thrilled to have Zach as our new narrator for the WELS Daily Devotions,” says Eric Roecker, director of the WELS Commission on Evangelism. “His experience and expertise will be a blessing to the thousands of souls who listen each day.” 

Before he decided to become a pastor, Steinke produced shows and commercials for four local radio stations for five years. During this time, he took on leadership roles in his home congregation, Peace, Granger, Ind., including serving on the Board of Education, writing for the church newsletter, and leading worship in his pastor’s absence. He had considered the ministry in the past, and as time passed he believed the Lord was calling him again. So he left South Bend to pursue the ministry. 

Narrating the Daily Devotions was an unexpected opportunity. Donn Dobberstein, director of the WELS Commission on Discipleship, was teaching one of Steinke’s classes recently and mentioned that WELS was seeking a new narrator for the Daily Devotions. Dobberstein asked the students to take turns reading portions of some devotional material, and Steinke’s abilities captured Dobberstein’s attention. 

“When it was my turn, I read my paragraph,” Steinke recalls. “Then Pastor Dobberstein asked me to read the next one . . . and the next one.” 

Afterward, Steinke shared his voice demos with Dobberstein and other WELS staff, eventually meeting with them to discuss the opportunity. He was quickly brought on board. 

“I was not planning to audition myself as a candidate, and Pastor Dobberstein was not necessarily looking for a ‘voice’ from the classroom that day,” Steinke explains. “However, the Lord brought this all together, so to him be the glory.” 

Steinke replaces Mike Hintz, retired director for the WELS Commission on Evangelism, as the narrator. Coincidentally, Hintz was once his pastor. Steinke sees this connection as another example of God’s hand in shaping this opportunity. 

“It just shows you that this is something only the Lord can plan and work out,” Steinke says. “I am surprised and honored to be succeeding Pastor Hintz.” 

In 2018, the Daily Devotions had nearly 11,000 subscribers in more than 15 different countries. Thousands of listeners tune in each day. 

“The Lord has already blessed this ministry exponentially,” Steinke notes. “I pray that I’ll be a good steward of this ministry and that God continues to make it fruitful through me and the many writers of the Daily Devotions.” 

For listeners of the Daily Devotions, Steinke shares this message: “As you incorporate these devotions into your day, may the Holy Spirit strengthen your faith as God speaks his gospel comfort to your heart. I’d also like to challenge you to think of people in your life who need to know such comfort. Share these devotions with them so they can know Jesus, their Savior, and how precious they are in his sight.” 


To read, listen to, and subscribe to WELS Daily Devotions, visit wels.net/daily-devotions 


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Issue: May 2019

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Spreading special ministries to Ethiopia

With many prayers, support from WELS members, and a partnership with WELS Special Ministries, the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (LCE), WELS sister synod, is now the owner of a Braille embosser to help the many visually impaired people in Ethiopia learn about Jesus. 

It started when Rev. Dr. Kebede Yigezu from the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia attended the 2017 WELS Synod Convention, where the two church bodies declared fellowship with one another. After founding a confessional Lutheran church in Ethiopia in 2012 and opening a seminary there to teach others confessional Lutheran doctrineKebede learned about the opportunities to reach more of the population with the saving gospel message through WELS Special Ministries. God used Kebede’s meeting with Jim Behringer, director of the WELS Commission on Special Ministries, to open more ministry doors in Ethiopia.  

Kebede was particularly interested in the Ministry to the Visually Impaired (MVI) and Prison Ministry. 

Right there in the convention during a break, I got the opportunity to talk with the leader of the WELS Special Ministries about how we can get resources for these two special ministries,” recalls KebedeHe promised to consider ways in which we in Ethiopia could receive the hard copies of books for prison ministry and a Braille machine for ministry to the visually impaired in Ethiopia. Some months later in 2017, he sent a package of Prison Ministry booklets with the answer sheetwhich we are in the process of translating into two languages (Amharic and Afan Oromo), which is spoken by about 70 percent of the population of Ethiopia. Then we started communicating about the Braille machine with Brother Larry Povinelli and Brother John Roebke of the One Africa Team. With prayers throughout the next year and a half, the Braille machine for the ministry in the LCE became a reality. 

Povinelli, a member of the WELS Ministry to the Visually Impaired as well as the National Federation for the Blind, is well positioned to know what questions to ask about needs, language, and specifications to help pick out the right Braille embosser. Roebke serves on the One Africa Team, and coincidentally, was Povinelli’s pastor previously in his ministry. God was working to bring all the right people together. 

These people include a member of Kebede’s growing churchTruye has a master’s degree in foreign literature, has taught English, has translated English-language news into three different languages spoken in Ethiopia, and has even taught advanced English and academic writing at the LCE’s Maor Lutheran Theological Seminary. She is also blind, knows Braille, and can use a Braille embosser. 

She can teach writing and reading Braille and has good network with the visually impaired population [850,000 to 900,000 individuals in Ethiopia]. She uses English, Amharic, and Afan Oromo very well,” explains Kebede.   

The LCE’s first project for the new Braille embosser will be Luther’s Small Catechism. The church wants to produce Braille versions in English, Amharic, and Afan Oromo. It also is planning audio versions, so the visually impaired can listen on their mobile devices. Next the LCE is looking at reproducing Prison Ministry booklets in Braille and the three languages to help the visually impaired and others learn the basics of Christianity.  

“For the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia, this means reaching people who are undermined and left because they are physically impaired and because the only prison ministry is run under the church in Ethiopia,” says Kebede. These resources will help not only those who are in prison physically and blind physically; these resources also help free people who are in prison spiritually and blind spiritually. Furthermore, we hope that God can use these ministries to reach the families, relatives, and friends of the prisoners and visually impaired with the gospel of our Lord.” 

He continues, “These resources are giving us opportunities to work more on translation, communication, and publication projects, which are strengthened by the collaborative efforts of WELS Multi-Language Publications, the LCE, and our Maor Lutheran Theological Seminary. We would like to say ‘thanks’ to our WELS brothers and sisters for your prayers, encouragement, and gifts, which have meant a lot to us.”


Learn more about the work of Special Ministries at wels.net/special-ministries.


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Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

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WELS Mission Journeys: Short-term mission trips that inspire a lifelong journey of service and outreach

Escondido, California 

This past February, 11 members from Resurrection and Life, Rochester, Minn., traveled to Ascension, Escondido, Calif., to assist the congregation with local outreachTogether, they canvassed the neighborhoods of Escondido and San Marcos, Calif., sharing the gospel in nearly one thousand homes and inviting many people to Ascension’s Neighborhood Safety Night. Though the task seemed intimidating at first, the volunteers from Resurrection and Life, led by their pastor, Joseph Koelpin, were encouraged by the experience. “I was reluctant to go, but Rev. Koelpin asked that I pray on it,” says Lisa Fabian, one of the volunteers. “A couple weeks later, I decided, after prayer, that I would go. It was the best decision I think I’ve ever made.” Koelpin saw the experience as a valuable blessing to both congregations. “Our people were encouraged by God’s Word and by the opportunity to serve not only the community but also one another,” he reflects. “Our group shared an experience to bring back to Rochester and infuse some excitement and enthusiasm into our congregation as well.” 


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Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

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Let your light shine: Justman

When Herbert Justman, a member at Zion, Allenton, Wis., learned about the opportunity for WELS to establish a theological training facility for Hmong pastors in Hanoi, Vietnam, he said he jumped for joy.  

This ministry touches his heart because he has a special connection to Vietnam—he served his country there for eight months during the Vietnam War. 

Justman served as an Army cook and truck driver outside the town of Quinhon. His company was responsible for hauling airline fuel. He says the area he was stationed in was in a “safe zone” so he had many opportunities to interact with the local villagers.  

But his experiences also put him in many dangerous situations. He shares that on his first day there, he had to ride “shot gun” to a nearby Marine camp to pick up water for his unit. He saw the chaplain giving Marines last rites before they went into the jungle as well as Marines carrying rifles with them to the showers. “You never know when you will be attacked by the Viet Cong,” he says. “I was scared, but the Lord was watching over us.” 

His parents had impressed God’s Word on him since he was little. “They always made sure we had the Word of God not just in our minds but in our hearts as well,” he says. 

About four months after Justman arrived in Vietnam, he was sent home for a 30-day leave because his mother died. While he was home, his father died as well. Justman returned to Vietnam but was granted an early release just a few months later. 

“I served my country and helped our brothers and sisters with the love of Christ,” he says. “I made a lot of friends there. I loved the country, and the people were so great. Loving! I’d love to go back to see them again but the money is not there. I’ll just pray for them.” 

Now besides praying for them, Justman is also supporting a way for God’s Word to be spread in Vietnam. “I knew we did not fight this war for nothing,” he says. “My Pastor Bode always says, ‘Out of something bad, something good will come.’ God made sure of it. I love God for that.” 

Besides supporting numerous WELS ministries, Justman volunteers at the local nursing home, bringing people in wheelchairs to weekly chapel services. He also is known as the “card man” because he sends Christian get-well cards to members who are sick. “I look for opportunities to talk to people about Christ,” he says. “It’s our job to do that. We’re supposed to be missionaries right here at home.” 

Justman also talks about grace to the fellow Vietnam veterans whom he meets. He says that after they greet each other and share their experiences, he always tells them, “By the grace of God, we came home alive. Isn’t God great?” He says some agree and some walk away. “But that’s the point I want to get across,” he says.  

And now, as he thinks about the unexpected and unbelievable opportunity to reach out with God’s grace in Vietnam, he says he can just sit back and say, “Isn’t God great!”  


Learn more about the opportunities to build a training center in Vietnam at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach. 


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Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Novotny takes over for Jeske at Time of Grace

Pastor Jeske leaves a legacy of teaching the Bible in a way that is accessible, interesting, and grace-centered,” says Mike Novotny, pastor at The CORE, Appleton, Wis. “The most frequent feedback heard at Time of Grace is that Pastor Jeske always teaches you something new while still coming back to the old story of Jesus’ love. 

Mark Jeske, pastor at St. Marcus, Milwaukee, Wis., helped launch Time of Grace in 2001. Since then, he has served as the lead speaker for the half-hour weekly television program as well as the writer of many Bible studies, devotions, and books for Time of Grace’s international outreach media ministryJeske will appear for the last time as the main speaker of the program on April 21. Mike Novotny will then take over as the lead speaker. 

Pastor Mike knows his Bible well, is a great story-teller, has a terrific smile and sense of humor, and really seems to grasp the power and delight of mass media ministry,” says JeskeHe has a deep passion for people and gospel outreach.”  

Novotny developed a rapport with Time of Grace’s audience when he became one of the presenters of Time of Grace’s video devotions, “Your Time of Grace” (now known as “Grace Talks”). Launched in 2016, these short video devotions are followed by more than 270,000 people on Facebook and YouTube. So, Novotny’s face is a familiar one to many in Time of Grace’s audience. In addition, Novotny has been serving as a guest speaker on the Time of Grace television program as he transitions to taking over full time for Jeske 

What interested Novotny in taking on this role? 

As he explains, Time of Grace takes the gospel you hear locally and shares it globally. When I preach about Jesus to my congregation, there may only be a few hundred faces in front of me, but through the lens of the camera is a crowd that no stadium on earth could contain. These are real people with real stories and real souls who get to hear about a real Savior. That fires me up in a big way! 

Tim Lehman, president and CEO of Time of Grace, reports that the Time of Grace television program averaged 438,000 viewers each week in 2018. “Based on research, we know that 15 percent of the television audience states their religious affiliation as atheist/agnostic/none,” says Lehman. “So each week 65,000 people who are not connected to Jesus hear the gospel message. In addition, Time of Grace can be a resource for those unable to make it to church and as a supplement to those who can.” 

Lehman adds, “Time of Grace would not be in the position it is today without Pastor Jeske’s tireless efforts. He stayed grounded at all times and knew this was about telling people of Jesus, it was not about Pastor Jeske. His messages connected people to Jesus so they knew they were loved and forgiven because of what Jesus did.


To learn more about Time of Grace, visit timeofgrace.org 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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New mentoring program helps congregations reach those in need

What do you do when someone comes knocking on your door asking for help? 

That’s a question the pastors and several members of St. Paul’s, New Ulm, Minn., asked when people would stop at the church looking for a handout. Or when recently released inmates from the nearby county jail would visit because they had nowhere else to go. A gift card to the local gas station or money to help them get by just didn’t seem like the right answer. “You’re trying to help but what you’re doing doesn’t really help them,” says Nate Scharf, pastor at St. Paul’s. “You feel like an enabler. That was what was on our hearts.” 

So they contacted WELS Prison Ministry and Institutional Ministries* to find out what else they could do to help both the ex-convicts in the area as well as others in the community in need. 

From there, the New Ulm-area congregations created the Minnesota River Valley Mentoring Program, which offers a Bible-based, Christ-centered growth program to those just released from prison as well as others in need. “For our congregation, it went for a large part from a system of well-intentioned handouts to a system of how do we engage [people in need] and point them to Christ,” says Scharf. “We don’t want to ignore their needs, but we want to meet their needs in the right order.” 

Scharf says the group started by developing boundaries and safeguards for both the mentors and the mentees and compiling a list of community resources and aids to which they could refer people. Workshops were held to train mentors who would be willing to help and support people in need.  

Jeff Boyce is one of those mentors. When he attended his first mentoring training session, he wasn’t so sure he was cut out for it. “I had a lot of questions and concerns. We were talking about people in prison or getting out of prison. It was dealing with an entirely different slice of life that I knew nothing about,” he says. “It was truly a case of the Scripture verse that says, ‘In your weakness, my power is made perfect.  

Once Boyce decided to become a mentor, it didn’t take long for him jump in. A few weeks after training, Scharf asked him to witness the baptism of a man who was out on parole. Boyce began working with this man, but after only a few weeks, the man broke parole and ended up back in jail. “That’s when my ministry changed to ministering to those in prison,” says Boyce. He began visiting the man in jail, e-mailing him encouragement, and correcting the Bible study tests he took from the WELS Prison Ministry booklets. When he was released, Boyce helped the man find a place to live and connected him to community services for other helps. Boyce also helped him find a job and then worked with him to get financial aid when he wanted to go back to school.  

And all the while, Boyce let Christ shine. “One of my jobs as a mentor is to give them a new way of looking at things, and the best place for that new look to come from is the Scriptures,” says Boyce, who shares that he likes to use verses from Proverbs to encourage those he is mentoring. “And whenever I share the Word, I end up being strengthened as well.” 

Boyce shares that being involved in this program also has changed his outlook. “It made those words of Jesus about loving those who are in great need very real to me,” he says.  

Currently the Minnesota River Valley Mentoring Program has about 8 active mentors. More than 30 more people have gone through training. The mentors support and encourage people who have gone through a crisis, ex-convicts who are trying to re-establish themselves in society, those struggling with alcoholism, and even members who just need help dealing with life issues. Monthly meetings allow the mentors to encourage and offer advice to one another.  

The Minnesota River Valley Mentoring Program also is sharing resources and information with other area congregations that are interested in getting involved. 

“As Christians, we have something to offer,” says Scharf. “We have the Bread of Life to give.” 


If you are interested in exploring a mentoring program like this for yourself, your congregation, or another group, contact Dave Hochmuth, director of WELS Prison Ministry, at prisonministry@wels.net414-256-3243. 


*A WELS parasynodical based in Wisconsin that partners with WELS Prison Ministry. 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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New Kids Connection segment can star your church or school

My School is a special new segment of the monthly video news magazine Kids Connection. Each month, Kids Connection will visit a school or church to share a story of that organization’s unique ministry efforts in God’s kingdom. 

“The idea originated with people saying, ‘We would love to have Kids Connection come to our school,  explains Steve Boettcher, producer of Kids Connection. “We thought if we create an easy way for people to reach out to us with an email and an idea, we could make it happen.” 

The first My School segment appears in this month’s episode and features Zion Lutheran School, Columbus, Wis. Students and staff at Zion raised money for a local Make-A-Wish Foundation child named Lucas, who suffers from leukemia. Collecting donations and hosting raffles, the school raised more than $1,800 to send Lucas on a vacation to Florida. The amount was revealed at a pep rally at the schoolThe Lakeside Lutheran High School marching band played, and the crowd dressed in blue, Lucas’ favorite color. 

“We wanted to let our light shine and show that we believe in God and be kind to others,” said Grace, a sixth grader at Zion. 

This story shows the focus of My School: to celebrate the special ways WELS churches and schools and their young people share God’s love and mercy. 

Though submissions have only recently begunKids Connection has already been blessed with several uplifting storiethat will be featured in upcoming videos: 

  • A school in Green Bay, Wis., works on a unique community project each year.
  • A school in Citrus Heights, Calif.,organizes a local basketball league. 
  • A school in Tomah, Wis., provides therapy animals to serve in their area.

Kids Connection is a ministry of WELS Discipleship.


Would you like Kids Connection to visit your school or church and feature your story in an upcoming episode? Send an email invite to kidsconnection@wels.net. To learn more about subscribing to Kids Connection for your church or school, visit wels.net/kidsconnection.



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Author:
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Moments with missionaries: Waukegan, Illinois

Two Cultures. One Ministry. 

Seth P. Haakenson 

I often tell people that the first thing theyll say in heaven is not Wow!, but Oh! In other words, in heaven we’ll have a better understanding of the reasons why God did things here on earth. I’m sure I heard that line somewhere along the way by one of my own pastors. It’s a line I’ve used several times with the Martinez family in the wake of their daughter’s death.   

When the Lord called Susell to heaven in November 2018 there were a lot of why? questions. Why did God give her only four years? Why did she have to live three of them battling a brain tumor? Rather than spend our time answering questions God hasn’t given us the answers to, we turned to the questions that he has answered. 

Such as . . . iSusell in heaven? That answer is a resounding yes. How do we know? Susell was baptized, and in Baptism the Holy Spirit had graciously clothed her with Christ.  

How about: Was God angry with her family? No. All of God’s anger toward sin was satisfied by Jesus as he hung on the cross. The good news we can now share with people is that, in Jesus, God has reconciled the world to himself.  

Today that same world continues to come to America. Oftentimes, the immigrants of this vast planet come walking right through our church and school doors. What to do? No doubt the answers vary, but the following is what Gods people did at Immanuel in Waukegan, Illinois., when this Spanish-speaking family walked through the church’s doors five years ago. 

First, they taught the Martinez family English. Second, they visited them in their home. Third, they prayed for the family. When Susell was diagnosed with her brain tumor, our elderly members started a weekly prayer group for her, a group that continues to exist today. Who knew? Who knew that God would use a four-year-old girl to impact the prayer life of an entire congregation 

And then this same congregation used Susell’s death to honor Christ by holding a Christian funeral. Dont let that adjective go unnoticedThey gave her a Christian funeral. Through it, two hundred people heard in their native language of Spanish that the dead in Christ will rise. They heard that Susell will rise. They heard that the reason she will rise is because Jesus lives victoriously over death. How many of those people came to faith that evening? Only God knows. 

What we do know is that in heaven we will better understand why God decided to use this crazy, messy, and mixed-up melting pot of a nation as a staging ground for the hearing of the gospel. Some of those who hear the gospel will join our churches. Others will move on and take the gospel someplace else. You and I dont know how it will all work out. But God does. And when we get to heaven, one of the things we‘ll find ourselves saying is, OhNow I get it! And well praise God for that.



Seth Haakenson has served as a home missionary at Immanuel, Waukegan, Illinois, since 2017. He works with the congregation to reach out to the Spanish-speaking community. 



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Author: Seth P. Haakenson
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Book nook: Quick to Listen: Understanding Viewpoints that Challenge Your Faith

The very first sentence of the forward perfectly prepares the reader for this book: “This is not an easy book. You, dear reader, should know what you’ve gotten yourself in to. 

Reading Quick to Listen: Understanding Viewpoints that Challenge Your Faith demands your ability to momentarily put aside your faith lens and to see the world through the eyes of others. This is not an easy task. While reading the book, you will often feel the knee-jerk reaction that we, as Christians, have when someone questions our faith. However, if you can get past that reaction, you will find that the ability to listen first and to seek understanding is an essential practice that followers of Christ need to learn if we will ever create meaningful relationships and share the truth with those outside our faith family. 

Throughout the book, you hear the words of people who take various viewpoints contrary to what WELS believes. The book then offers a view into the thoughts behind their beliefs. It’s not a textbook of what to say in response, but an encouragement for all of us to really listen to our neighbors and to understand them before we begin to share our faith. Besides creating clear pictures of what the participants believe, the writers provide the Scripture that supports what we have been taught in our church body. In reading the book, I enjoyed the challenge of trying on another perspective, holding it opposite to my thoughts, and carefully examining the two.  

The authors illustrate wonderful examples of Christian love and patience as they model through their questions and writing how we can understand and listen in love. It challenges us to show Christ’s love through our ability to connect with others by being quick to listen. This is an excellent book for readers who are strong in their faith and looking to expand their knowledge of how to reach others with varying faith backgrounds and viewpoints. 

Leah Adams
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 


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Author: Leah Adams
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Where are they now? Divine Savior Ministries

In Forward in Christ, we report the news but aren’t always able to follow up. “Where are they now?” is our way of giving you the rest of the story. 

In 2014, we reported that Divine Savior Academy, Doral, Fla., was embarking on another building project—an 88,000-square-foot high school, that would double the size of its campus. It’s five-year-goal was to have 1,000 students from PreK-3 to 12th grade getting a quality education and learning about their Savior. 

So where are they now?   

Divine Savior Academy–Doral has 950 students and still is growing. Divine Savior Church reaches out to the school families and community in Doral as well as serves more than 400 members with Spanish and English ministries. 

But perhaps the biggest change is that its church/school model has now spread, with four additional Divine Savior campuses in Florida and Texas.  

“As a group, we had always focused on outreach—not only in our community but kingdom wide,” says Carlos Leyrer, president of Divine Savior Ministries.  

Leyrer says that for years Divine Savior–Doral had been using a percentage of its budget to give grants to congregations across the country. Several of these congregations asked for more help with long-range planning and program development. “That led to a consulting arrangement,” says Leyrer, noting that they were happy to share best practices and advice. 

But when another South Florida congregation approached Divine Savior–Doral for help on potentially starting a school, Divine Savior offered more than just advice. It merged with the group and with another congregation in South Florida, and they all worked together to start a new church and school in Delray Beach (read the full story on p. 26).  

Soon after, two additional sites were added in Texas—one is an existing school in Sienna Plantation and another is a new mission church looking to start a school in Liberty Hill. 

“We did not look for new campuses. That was never the goal,” says Leyrer. But these are just God things.” 

As a multi-site ministry, Divine Savior is both collaborative and independent. This network of churches shares a logo, brand, website, school system, and philosophy of ministry, yet each congregation and school remain autonomous as they conduct the day-to-day work. Offerings stay at each campus and each congregation has its own budget and council, yet all contribute to a global fund that supports marketingcommunication, and other joint efforts across all the sites. The pastors meet regularly to plan sermons seriesBible studies, and worship plans, yet each congregation has its own events and ministry plans that work within their unique communities. 

To coordinate and support the growth of these ministries, a new organization, Divine Savior Ministries, was formed, which provides financial, long-range planning, communication, education, and administration systems and expertise for all the sites. 

Leyrer shares that where you can really see this efficiency is in thaccreditations that Divine Savior Academy in Doral holds as well as in the specialized school systems like a tuition payment app that the academy spent years to develop. Any site that shares its name can share in those benefits.  

“We’re not innovators,” says Leyrer. “We’re just doing what everyone in the world does, which is don’t do something twice when you can do it once.” 

Divine Savior Ministries has big goals for its future. It is hoping to break ground on Divine Savior Church and AcademySanta Rita Ranch this summer, opening this new Liberty Hill school in the fall of 2020. It is working to increase enrollment at the new academy that just opened this past fall in Delray Beach. Finally, it is looking to open a school on the Doral campus for children with special needs.   

John Boggs, pastor at Divine Savior–W. Palm Beach, Fla., says this ministry model could not exist without the support of the synod as a whole. More than 70 MLC-trained teachers work at Divine Savior Schools, and several of the congregations are home mission churches. WELS CEF provided grants and loans for both the Santa Rita Ranch and the Delray campuses. “We are thankful for the support of the synod and our joining together in the same exact work that our brothers and sisters around the world are doing,” says BoggsYes, it looks different, but God is blessings all of us as we move forward to his glory.”


Learn more about Divine Savior Ministries at divinesaviorministries.org. 



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Author:
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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WELS members support Christmas outreach program – C18

Approximately 70 percent of WELS congregations participated in the synodwide Christmas outreach program known as C18. WELS Congregational Services created a myriad of materials for congregations to use to encourage members to reach out to the unchurched and to promote the theme “A Light in the darkness.”  

When we began C18,” says Jon Hein, director of Congregational Services, “we said our goal was to reach one million souls prior to and on Christmas Eve. I realize reach is a nebulous term. That was intentional. It is impossible for congregations to track how many people a member invites to Christmas Eve. So it is hard to quantify. What I can report is that at least 1.2 million ‘A Light in the darkness’ Christmas Eve postcards were shared.” 

Hein also notes that through follow-up surveys, he has discovered ancillary benefits to this Christmas outreach effort. One of those benefits is a renewed focus on evangelism in some congregations.  

One survey respondent commented, “I have prayed for years for God to make me bold enough to share the gospel. I have now done this . . . several weeks in a row for C18 and have had very positive results. I plan to continue this method of inviting neighbors to my church year-round for different events. 

Another said, “Our congregation did more evangelism in the past 3 months than we have done in the 20 years I have been a member here. 

In addition to evangelism materials, Congregational Services offered worship resources to congregations. Hein believes these resources helped congregations see the potential for worship in two ways. First, they illustrated the potential for liturgical variety. Liturgical worship has been proven for centuries to let the gospel predominate. When done properly, it also demonstrates a rootedness, illustrating that the Church deals with ancient threats and universal problems. However, the liturgy also allows for appropriate flexibility, opportunities to bring out . . . new treasures as well as old (Matthew 13:52). It seems people appreciated that. Second, C18 illustrated the potential to use worship as a part of your congregational evangelism efforts. Worship folders make it extremely easy for someone who has never been to church in their life to follow along and not get lost. 

This was borne out by one survey respondent who commented, “I have at times been afraid to invite friends to church because I was not sure if they would get how it works. The worship folders take away that fear. It was the first time my church has used them. I hope we use them more often. 

Congregational Services also used this Christmas program as an opportunity to promote family Advent devotions. Thousands of families used the materials developed by WELS Discipleship and WELS Evangelism, based on the popular WELS Daily Devotions. 

As one WELS member wrote, “I loved that C18 focused on reaching unbelievers. But I also love that it stressed feeding our children with God’s Word.” 

After hearing from WELS members about the blessings that this Christmas program offered, Congregational Services is now planning resources for C19.  



To read Jon Hein’s full report about C18, visit welscongregationalservices.net/c18-our-christmas-efforts 



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Author: Gabriella Moline
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Women’s ministry conference – being “living stones”

“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). 

The focal point of the upcoming 2019 WELS Women’s Ministry Conference, being held at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., July 18–20, is living stones and how Christian women are called to be a part of something bigger. Dawn Schulz, conference coordinator, says the committee chose 1 Peter as the conference’s inspiration because it’s a great encouragement to women.  

“A living stone is a woman who uses her God-given talents and gifts to build up God’s kingdom and bless those around her, wherever that may be,” Schulz says. “Just like Jesus, we are special to God. We are chosen for a reason.”  

A range of speakers will discuss the topic of living stones in keynote addresses and breakout sessions. One of the main points of the conference is how Christians fit together, like stones on a building. Each stone possesses unique qualities to serve God’s kingdom. To emphasize this point, the speakers have a range of backgrounds, including a lawyer, a pastor, and a ministry coordinator.  

“We wanted to provide opportunities for a wide scope of presentations,” Schulz says. “The speakers that were chosen are people that have been speaking and researching God’s Word and will bring light to the fact that God uses every single person in his kingdom.” 

The conference will also dive into how Christian women should look at the individuality of each person to more effectively share the gospel. For example, a young adult ministry professional as well as a panel of college students will emphasize how to reach younger generations today. 

At the end of the conference, Schulz hopes women walk away feeling more confident in their purpose as a part of God’s spiritual house. She says, This conference is going to nurture women in God’s Word, encourage them by bringing them together with other Christian sisters, and equip them with resources.” 


For more information on the Women’s Ministry Conference and to register, visit wels.net/wmconference. 


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Author: Gabriella Moline
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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WELS EdTechLead conference to be held in 2019

The 2019 WELS Education, Technology, and Leadership Summit (WELS EdTechLead) will be held June 2527 at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis. 

This new event combines the National School Leadership and the WELSTech conferences into one expanded convention. It offers information and fellowship to those interested in exploring ministry tools, techniques, and best practices in the areas of education, technology, and leadership.  

Created to be more sensitive to the time and funds of those who may have been interested in attending both conferencesWELS EdTechLead also aims to draw a broader audience than either conference might be able to alone. 

“I think the conference really is for almost anybody in ministry,” said Martin Spriggs, chief technology officer at WELS. “It’s an opportunity to help everyone put a bit more brainpower and a bit more passion into their efforts. It just makes sense to share that knowledge and energy and come up with better ministry plans and strategies together.” 

The speakers and sessions offered at WELS EdTechLead are not simply related to one of the three topics of education, technology, and leadership. Many demonstrate the intersections between the topics. For example, teachers will be able to learn about instructional technology at the conference, and school principals and early childhood directors will have opportunities to develop their leadership skills. 

The schedule is organized to allow attendees to experience a variety of workshops from each of the three fields. Half-day and full-day preconference sessions are also available to allow visitors to dive deeply into a specific subject. 

It’s to strengthen the network of support we have with one another in ministry,” said Jim Rademan, director of the Commission on Lutheran Schools. “You are going to learn some tips and some tools, but, in many ways, this conference is to inspire you to move forward in your ministry.” 

Rademan envisions the summit to continue in this form in the future, recurring on a 3- or 4-year cycle like other flagship WELS conferences such as the National Worship Conference and the International Youth Rally. 


Registration for WELS EdTechLead is now open, with early bird discounts through May 1. Visit welsedtechlead.com to learn more and register. 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Students put their faith into action

Not all college students are planning to lie in the sun or ski the slopes during their Spring Break this year. WELS Mission Journeys is working with campus ministries at several colleges and universities to coordinate short-term mission trips this March. 

Teams from Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC), Milwaukee, Wis., and the campus ministries at Michigan Tech, Houghton, Mich., and the University of Wisconsin—Madison are traveling to help missions in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Spokane, Wash. 

Shannon Bohme, coordinator for Mission Journeys, highlights the importance of providing these opportunities for college students. “They’re the future leaders [of our church],” he says. “The younger generations want to put their faith into action, so we’re trying to give them the opportunity to go and serve.” 

While some WELS high schools and colleges already have mission trip programs, Bohme says many don’t have the resources or contacts to do it on their own. By working with those schools, he can offer more students a way to experience a mission trip. He also plans to work with schools with existing programs to help coordinate needs and opportunities.  

Wayne Shevey, WLC campus pastor, says he appreciates the coordination that Mission Journeys provides. “[Mission Journeys] shares with us what their needs are. They do a lot of the leg work and then we connect them with the necessary students.” 

He continues, “This gives students a different experience than what they’re used to. Rather than being served as people in congregations, this gives them the opportunity to be of service.” 

WLC sent out its first group through Mission Journeys in January, when seven students traveled to Sahuarita, Ariz., during the college’s J-term to help Grace Lutheran Church with community outreach, English as a Second Language classes, and church property clean-up.  

Ryan Heiman, pastor at Grace, says the students’ work provided a boost to Grace’s ministry and its members. He also took this as an opportunity to expose the students to many different aspects of ministry work. “This might lead them down a path of being a pastor or a teacher or just get them excited about outreach and mission work wherever they may end up in their vocation.” 

While the students were able to help Grace with some practical tasks, they also learned lifelong lessons. “I learned that it often takes more than one encounter to engage others when it comes to speaking about church or Jesus. . . . Maybe the door in the face one time can lead to listening ears the next time. Who knows what God can work after that!” says Elizabeth O’Connor, a WLC sophomore and member at St. John, Lomira, Wis.  

David Wilson, a junior at WLC and member at St. John’s, Pardeeville, Wis., says that he could see some of the ideas and programs he learned about on the trip working in his home congregation as well as in his personal life. “I plan on taking this experience and utilizing what I learned to interact more with those I know who don’t understand the joy we have in Christ.”  

Both say that they would go again “in a heartbeat.” “These trips teach you how to engage others and instill a heart of service,” says O’ConnorFor those of you considering a mission trip, I strongly encourage you to go. There is nothing like it! You dont have to worry that you are too young, too inexperienced, too nervous, etc. God will use you! 


Learn more about Mission Journeys at wels.net/missionjourneys and in this month’s edition of WELS Connection. 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Short-term Mission Trips that inspire a lifelong journey of service and outreach

QUITO, ECUADOR 

Greta Pagels,  junior at Luther Preparatory School

Six members of St. Matthew’s, Oconomowoc, traveled to Ecuador in May to help one of the new WELS missionaries in Quito invite locals to attend a Bible study workshop as well as promote a future new Bible training center in the downtown area. St. Matthew’s member Greta Pagels, a junior at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., says, “I was really excited to see what we could do in a week, but I was also worried that any impact we would make would be minimal due to the fact that we only had one week and none of us spoke Spanish. We basically just walked up to people in parks and tried to spark a conversation with them, show them a video, hand them a flyer, and invite them to our event. It was very difficult for me at first, but it gradually got easier—having in the back of my mind exactly why we were doing it. It makes you a lot less scared to walk up to someone and talk to them when you think about how your conversation with them could ultimately lead to them hearing the gospel for the very first time. That’s what really pushed me to step out of my comfort zone.”  


Learn more about Mission Journeys and how you can be involved at wels.net/missionjourneys. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Encouraging young people for ministry

Do you know a young person whom God has blessed with the talents to be a pastor or teacher? Perhaps it’s the eighth-grader who patiently helps the preschoolers in Sunday school and vacation Bible school. Or the high school freshman who bravely stands up for a classmate being bullied. It could be the teen who coordinates service opportunities for your congregation’s youth group.  

Brad Gurgel, principal at St. Peter, St. Peter, Minn., decided to make your next step easy. He developed a card to give to young people who you feel that God might be equipping for full-time ministry. The card (pictured, right) can be personalized for each situation.  

“I strongly feel that if we strive to more regularly give out personal words and letters of encouragement about considering the public ministry to the young people in our lives, many more would be led to consider serving God in this way,” says Gurgel. “With this in mind, I attempted to design a card that would make it quick and easy for anyone to let a young person know that they recognize gifts in them that could be used in the public ministry. Taking just a few minutes to fill this out for someone in your life might make all the difference in helping them to decide to move forward in pursuing the goal of becoming a pastor or teacher someday.” 

Gurgel knows from personal experience how much of an impact it has on a young person to be encouraged to use their gifts to serve in the ministry. He notes, “When someone took the time to personally communicate this to me, it caused me to stop and reflect on the gifts and talents that I had and to think seriously about the possibility of the ministry. I know it gave me confidence and reassurance that, yes, I truly did have certain talents and gifts that I could use to serve God as a pastor or teacher. These little reassurances that I received were vital to me eventually choosing to become a Lutheran school teacher.” 

As WELS continues to experience a shortage of pastors and teachers, this type of encouragement is an easy way for all members to help with recruitment. “When people present themselves at Martin Luther College to train for the ministry, almost all of them have a story about someone who encouraged them to do just that,” says Paul Prange, administrator of WELS Board for Ministerial Education. “A card or comment like this could make all the difference!” 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Meet the editorial staff: Enderle

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


This month, Forward in Christ welcomes Jeff Enderle to the editorial staff as the newest Bible study contributor. 

The gospel is the focus of Enderle’s Bible studiesHe hopes to demonstrate how the message that Jesus lived, died, and rose again for us should be central to daily life. 

“Sometimes we get so caught up in our responsibilities that we treat the good news as an afterthought rather than the main concern,” he explains. “It gives us the power, strength, peace, and comfort to meet other challenges. If the gospel is the key part of our lives, it will come out in all the things that we do.” 

The gospel message was part of Enderle’s daily activities from an early age. His father served as a pastor at Christ, Grand Island, Neb. Enderle recalls helping his father with basic Sunday worship preparations such as using a mimeograph machine to print out the weekly bulletins. Occasionally, he or one of his siblings would travel with his father to a mission site for a second Sunday worship service in the afternoon. 

Seeing his father serve and developing a love for sharing God’s Word, Enderle pursued the ministry himself. He attended Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran High School, Waco, Neb.; Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., graduating in 2002. 

Enderle currently serves at Christ the Rock, Farmington, N.M. He was called to the congregation “to reach out to the cross-cultural communities of the Four Corners,” including the Navajo nation and Hispanic groups.  

“We’re blessed that our church reflects the whole of our community,” he says. “We have a diverse congregation.” 

While cross-cultural ministry has its challenges, those challenges can bring about opportunities to share the gospel message. 

“We had a funeral for a gentleman who was a member, but he hadn’t been coming to church for a while,” Enderle recalls. “After his funeral, we were able to reach out to his wife and her family, who are Navajo. She began to come back to church. I would visit her parents on the Navajo reservation in the same way I would conduct a regular shut-in visit.” 

Soon, a few members of this family began taking Bible Information Classes. 

“It’s a tragic, heartbreaking situation,” Enderle continues. “But, because of it, we are blessed with an opportunity as they turn to their church, their pastor, and the gospel.” 

The next nearest WELS church to Christ the Rock is about three hours away. Knowing this, Endrele is thankful for the connection he and the members have to the synod, which will hopefully be enriched even further through his Bible studies in Forward in Christ. 

“Our people really appreciate the strong bond of faith and prayer we have with WELS,” says Enderle. 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Book nook: Look Up From Your Phone So I Can Love You

The back cover of Look Up From Your Phone So I Can Love You by Amy Vannieuwenhoven says that the book is “an interactive journal that helps parents communicate with their grade school and high school children about smartphone usage and genuine connection.” My 12-year-old daughter Julia and I worked through the journal, and we found it to be that and so much more.  

Although Julia doesn’t have a smartphone yet, the journal was a great tool for her and me to learn more about each other. More than half of the book has nothing to do with smartphones, and the part that does can be easily translated to other electronic devices (for example, Julia has an iPad). Vannieuwenhoven has a relatable writing style—Julia loved her use of emojis and her sense of humor—and she’s found a great format to help parents with a relevant topic.  

Most children yearn to spend meaningful time with their parents—whether they’re willing to admit it or not. This book helps parents and children share important details of their life with one another in a safe space—the journal. It helps build a foundation for a solid relationship with one another. It also helps equip children to have the responsibility of using a smartphone.  

Finally, Vannieuwenhoven weaves God’s Word throughout the journal. She shares Scripture, statistics, and advice, all with a casual tone. I hope that many parents and their children work through this journal together and find it to be the blessing that Julia and I did.  

Nicole Balza 


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Author: Nicole Balza
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Being a good Samaritan

Prayers are answered in many different ways. For 10 years, a building sat empty on the property of St. Matthew, Appleton, Wis., after the church’s school closed. There were numerous prayers and discussions on what this space could be used for. Through God’s grace, it now serves as a resource center for the homeless population in the Fox Valley area, providing hope for many and a unique way to spread the gospel. 

This endeavor began when Betsy Borns, a member at Immanuel, Greenville, Wis., started her fieldwork as manager of Project RUSH (Research to Understand and Solve Homelessness). Borns conducted research through an experiment where she lived as a homeless individual for three days.  

During this time, she discovered what resources were available to this population and what was missing. She found that there was a large gap in the area for daytime housing. 

“I saw that there were a few places that tolerate homeless people, but there wasn’t anywhere that actually welcomes them,” Borns says. “Learning these things firsthand helped me conceptualize a place where people would be welcomed to relax, get warm, and receive additional help.”  

While Borns was doing research, Jonathan Kuske, pastor at St. Matthew, was ardently praying for an opportunity to use his congregation’s empty building to serve the community. His prayer was answered when he met Borns. 

“You often pray for guidance and don’t know what form it’ll take,” Kuske says. “Creating a resource center wasn’t what we were originally expecting to use the building for, but it’s been a great way to introduce people to Christ and to show good Samaritan love.”  

This meeting between Borns and Kuske was the inception of the new Day Resource Center in Appleton, a place for community members to receive support both physically and spiritually.  

A lot of work went into the building’s opening in September of 2018. To begin, Borns conducted extensive research on other communities’ homeless shelters. Homeless Connections, now a part of the non-profit group Pillars, was brought on board to manage the project.  

After serving the homeless for just a few short months, the resource center is already flourishing. “When I talk to the leaders in the shelters, they discuss all the time how people’s spirits have lifted,” Borns remarks. “We’re giving people a little hope, and it makes us really proud.” 

The center provides counseling for mental health and addictions, as well as educational resources. But most important, it offers Bible studies and spiritual discussions with Kuske at the church next door. Four individuals have even attended church at St. Matthew.  

“There is so much good being done for these people who are destitute,” says Kuske. “At times, it can be a long road out of their current situations, but coming here gives them some encouragement that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”  

Gabriella Moline 


Want to learn more about this project? Borns is part of a panel discussion exploring how our churches can be good neighbors at the upcoming Christian Leadership Experience, March 15–16, in La Crosse, Wis. Learn more at christlead.com 


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Author: Gabriella Moline
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Reflecting Christ’s love to those facing disaster

Tornadoes, hurricanes, heavy rainfall, forest fires—it’s been a busy fall for WELS Christian Aid and Relief, which responds on behalf of WELS members to reflect Christ’s love to people facing natural disasters and other hardships.

As Robert Hein, chairman of Christian Aid and Relief, explains, “When we hear a natural disaster has struck a community, we contact the local pastors in the affected area and, often, the district president. These leaders may also contact us when a disaster arises.”

A representative from Christian Aid and Relief asks these leaders a series of questions.

“How were the church, school, and called workers affected?”

“How were the members of the church affected?”

“How was the local community affected?”

“Are there ways the congregation wishes to reflect Christ’s love by reaching out to meet a community need?”

As Christian Aid and Relief receives answers to these questions, the organization can determine how to support the congregation, including the level of financial support needed and whether an onsite assessment or outside volunteers may be necessary.

“We personalize our efforts working through pastors, missionaries, and churches whenever possible,” says Hein. “This allows us to have careful oversight of the projects and involves God’s people in the relief effort.”

Six disaster relief trailers stand ready to help congregations following a disaster. These trailers are stocked with items such as generators, chainsaws, rakes, brooms, ropes, buckets, helmets, and gloves. They are stored in Oskaloosa, Ia.; Pewaukee, Wis.; Stillwater, Minn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; and Houston, Texas.

In August and September, the trailers in Pewaukee and Stillwater mobilized to help flooding and tornado victims in Wisconsin.

Brian Roeller, a member of Salem, Stillwater, Minn., drove the Stillwater trailer to Brownsville, Wis., over Labor Day weekend to help clean up the damage from the F2 tornado that struck there on Aug. 28. Roeller has volunteered for Christian Aid and Relief projects many times over the past five years. “I love to see the reaction on people’s faces when we show up,” he says. “Often they’re in despair, and it makes their day to see us showing Christian love.”

The Jacksonville, Fla., trailer may be mobilized to help with clean up following Hurricane Florence. Christian Aid and Relief is staying in close contact with those congregations that have been affected by the storm and its aftermath and has already supported efforts by Amazing Grace, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Ascension, Jacksonville, N.C., as they’ve helped community members in need.


For more information, visit wels.net/relief or visit facebook.com/WELSChristianAidAndRelief.


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Serving those who serve

The Care Committee for Called Workers (CCCW), part of the WELS Commission on Special Ministries, exists to help congregations provide spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional care to their pastors, teachers, and staff ministers. This can take on many forms, depending on the needs of the workers and congregations, but one constant is that congregations with a CCCW place a high value on aiding and supporting those who serve them. 

Kurt Holzhueter, an investment advisor and member at Christ Our Savior, Rockford, Mich., was asked to produce information on retirement planning for the CCCW a few years ago. He’s now the chairman of the group. While retirement planning is his specialty and one of the latest efforts from the committee, Holzhueter says that other areas such as help when moving for a new call and acclimating to a new community, confidential spiritual care or counseling, and continuing education are also ways a congregation’s care committee can help its called workers. 

Lisa Schroeder and her husband, Bob, have been serving on the CCCW at Immanuel, Greenville, Wis., for about 10 years. At Immanuel, Lisa explains, the committee is made up of couples, and while it doesn’t need to be that way, it works out well as they try to support the called workers and their families. Each committee member has “designated” workers whom they follow up with and help as needed.  

“The reason we got involved is because the called workers are so important to us and we want to make sure they have support and know that they’re appreciated,” says Schroeder. “We try to meet with them periodically, once to twice a year, to get together with them and see how things are going and if there’s something we can do to be of service to them. We always mention if they have any concerns they’d like to bring to us anonymously or would like any assistance with, we’d be glad to help with that. And, also we let them know we’re praying for them and praying for their ministry.” 

One aspect that Schroeder coordinates is helping new workers move to Greenville, whether it’s organizing a moving company, getting volunteers together to help unload boxes, or getting a meal together for the family on their first night in town. 

“Our called workers are giving their lives to share the gospel and they need our support, and it’s so good to get to know them on a level you might not otherwise,” says Schroeder. “It’s just been such a positive experience. 

Holzhueter says that many congregations do not have an active CCCW but he would like to see more congregations do something, even if it’s not a formal committee, to make sure its workers’ needs are being met. “To get more participation from congregations, we’re trying to make things simpler, easier to get started, and a little less formal,” he says. 

The CCCW has many resources available online, including a quick-start guide, to help a congregation get started on forming a care committee for their workers, as well as additional aids for specific areas of assistance.  


Find more information about Care Committee for Called Worker resources at wels.net/cccw. Also, in this month’s edition of WELS Connection, learn about how congregations can help and support new pastors through a mentoring program.  


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Let your light shine: Stern

In the spirit of Matthew 5:16, we’re sharing examples of people who live their faith.  

Ben Stern loves being around his sister. The siblings discuss sports and their jobs and spend quality time together with Ben’s three children. Ben was never embarrassed to have his little sister around when he was growing up but would invite her to join in his and his friends’ activities. 

Amanda Stern has down syndrome, but it’s not what defines her relationship with her brother. 

“I don’t think of my sister as having a disability,” Ben, a chemistry teacher at Fox Valley Lutheran High School, Appleton, Wis., remarks. “I think of her as my sister.” 

From the age of 12, Stern has been involved in a community program called Sibshops that connects siblings of individuals who have disabilities. Sibshops, offered by the organization WisconSibs, provides educational components but primarily focuses on creating community and sponsoring fun events. The organization also allows opportunities to ask questions about specific disabilities or long-term illnesses and to grow in understanding each person.  

“Being able to bond with other siblings and see them have fun with each other helps to normalize everyone’s situation and see everyone for who they actually are,” Stern says. “I continually see the impact that this has on people’s lives.”  

Stern started out as a member of WisconSibs and eventually served on the Board of Directors and the program committee. He sees the organization as a way that God has used him to serve others. It was also a motivating factor in him becoming a teacher. 

“It helped me realize that I want to help people in my career,” Stern says. “That was God’s direction in my life. It gave me an opportunity to be the hands of Christ and show his love.”    

Gabriella Moline 


 The Special Needs Family Network 

Is your family looking for Christian resources, support, and encouragement as it cares for a child with special needs? The Special Needs Family Network, coordinated by WELS Special Ministries, offers resources and parent mentoring. For more information, e-mail specialneeds@wels.net 


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Author: Gabriella Moline
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Christian Life Resources celebrates 35 years

Since 1983, Christian Life Resources (CLR) has been helping people of a variety of backgrounds navigate family and life issues in God-pleasing ways. CLR’s mission is to use these issues “as bridges to convey the love of God and to share the message of salvation through Christ.” 

CLR’s origins precede its official inception. When abortion was legalized in the United States in 1973, many WELS laypeople and pastors were inspired to respond. Soon, the first WELS pregnancy resource center opened in Palatine, Ill. Similar facilities popped up throughout the country shortly after. 

The leaders from these centers came together for their first convention in the fall of 1982. The following spring, WELS Lutherans for Life was formed at Shepherd, West Allis, Wis. This national organization would later be renamed Christian Life Resources. 

Robert Fleischmann, who has been serving as CLR’s national director for 30 years, notes that the ministry has changed significantly since he began. 

“When I started in 1988, there really was a single primary issue: abortion,” he explains. “Today, we provide resources on the Christian perspective of a wide spectrum of life and family issues including infertility, birth control, challenging pregnancies, birth defects, cancer treatment, medical directives, health care, gender issues, transplants, stem cells, and many more.” 

Fleischmann says that CLR often gets requests for information from church leaders and laypeople on these complex and often challenging topics. 

“In a Bible Information Class, a woman asked me about vaccines,” says Philip Janisch, outreach pastor at Trinity, Brillion, Wis. “I e-mailed CLR and was quickly provided with a wealth of information that explained the history of vaccine creation and a Christian judgment on whether Christians can use vaccines in good conscience. Christian Life Resources is a wonderful source of information for tough questions dealing with life issues.”  

Besides its central office located in Wisconsin, CLR has 14 pregnancy resource centers in eight states. Together, the centers see 4,000 to 6,000 clients a year. On average, about 19 percent of those clients are non-Christian or have no church affiliation, offering opportunities for outreach. A total of over 100 volunteers serve in these centers. 

CLR is also associated with New Beginnings–A Home for Mothers. Located in Milwaukee, Wis., New Beginnings provides a safe, caring, Christian environment for single mothers and their children. General education, career training, and spiritual guidance are all available to the residents to help them develop the confidence and skill to live independently. 

Fleischmann anticipates that the ministry of CLR and its associated organizations will continue to expand and adapt in order to respond to developments in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and other social issues. 

Despite the difficulties that may be ahead, Fleischmann says that CLR is committed to reflecting the selflessness of Jesus Christ in all that they do. “We have the opportunity to talk about what it means to have someone sacrifice for you—and that someone is Jesus. He sacrificed for us. Dare we be any less loving?” 


To learn more about CLR, visit the newly updated christianliferesources.com.


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Book nook: Ten Things to Tell Your Grandkids

One of life’s greatest joys is becoming a grandparent. One of the most fervent prayers of grandparents is that the Lord would keep their grandchildren close to him. The new book Ten Things To Tell Your Grandkids is a wonderful resource to help Christian grandparents as they look for ways to talk to their grandchildren about Jesus.  

As we think about how to approach conversations with our grandchildren, we can sometimes be a little hesitant or unsure. We’re hoping to say the right thing or wondering how they will respond. In each chapter, Laura Selenka starts with an article sharing ways to approach this conversation. She provides helpful tips, personal anecdotes, and some great food for thought. I especially loved the next section that includes the thoughts of grandparents who read the articles and then put Laura’s encouragement to practice with their own grandchildren. The responses are honest, insightful, and sometimes humorous. She wraps up each section with suggestions for next steps for you and me.  

This easy to read and thoughtful book covers topics that include Baptism, trusting God, finding a spouse, and heaven. This book would be a great gift for any grandparent you know or a gift for yourself as we look to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 78:4). 

Cindi Holman
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin 


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Author: Cindi Holman
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Meet the editorial staff: T. Westendorf

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

This month, Forward in Christ welcomes Timothy Westendorf to the editorial staff as the newest interactive Bible study contributor. 

Westendorf’s first Bible study series begins with the end; he is tackling a 12-part series on the book of Revelation.  

“Revelation intrigues some, and intimidates others,” he notes. “But God intends rich comfort to his church through this book with the message of Jesus’ ultimate victory over every enemy.” 

Westendorf currently serves at Abiding Word, Highlands Ranch, Colo. He grew up in Wisconsin and is the son of James Westendorf, who served at Christ the Lord, Brookfield, Wis., and, later, as a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon.  

The young Westendorf remembers fondly the kindness that he felt from others at his home church. “I was always impressed with how warmly I was embraced by the older people within the church,” he explains. “They had no reason to care for me other than the fact that I was their pastor’s son and they saw me as a fellow Christian.” 

He also recalls moments when his young mind didn’t quite yet grasp some of the more challenging vocabulary of the liturgy: “I would hear my dad introduce the spoken Psalms with the phrase, ‘We will read the verses responsively.’ But I thought he said ‘responsibly.’ I sometimes worried I would accidentally read the words ‘irresponsibly!’ ” 

As he grew, he continued to be inspired by his father and the many teachers, professors, and other leaders he encountered in WELS schools. In his education to become a pastor, he attended Northwestern Preparatory School (now Luther Preparatory School), Watertown, Wis., and was part of the first graduating class at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Afterward, he pursued the ministry at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. He lists then-president of Northwestern College John Braun, Daniel Deutschlander, Thomas Nass, Phil Hirsch, and many others as his role models throughout his education. 

“I could give you a hundred names,” he notes. 

Westendorf is married with four children. His wife, Kelly, has a nursing degree and works part-time for Visiting Angels, an in-home elder care service. Their boys—John, 13; Micah, 11; and Benjamin, 8—all enjoy baseball, basketball, and football. Their daughter, Makenna, 6, prefers gymnastics. 

When asked what message he has for Forward in Christ readers, Westendorf says, “It is my prayer that the readers keep their focus on Christ and the full and certain blessings they have in him.”  


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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E. Treptow accepts call to be seminary president

On Oct. 1, Earle Treptow accepted the call to succeed Paul Wendland as president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., at the end of the 2018–19 school year. Treptow, the seminary’s vice president, joined the faculty in 2016. He teaches systematic theology and Old Testament.  

“Prof. Earle Treptow is an experienced leader, an excellent scholar, and a gospel-hearted and humble man. He will make an outstanding president,” says Wendland. 

Wendland, who joined the faculty in 2001 and has been serving as president since 2004, will remain at the seminary and transition to a teaching-only role.  

“I’m grateful for this transition time,” notes Treptow. “I will have time to observe a bit more carefully what the president is asked to do and to talk with him about why we do what we do. I have been trying to remind myself, though, that I have not been asked to replace Paul Wendland but to take over the duties he has carried out. There is only one Paul Wendland. The combination of his love for the gospel, his intellect, his passion, and his zeal for missions have been a great blessing for the seminary and our synod.” 

Jonathan Scharf, chairman of the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Governing Board, agrees. “We thank President Wendland for his work leading the seminary,” says Scharf. “He has kept the seminary focused on its mission of preparing workers to serve God’s kingdom in the pastoral ministry. We’re also thankful to the Lord of the church that he’s given the seminary a man such as Prof. Treptow, whose many gifts will be a blessing to our church body as he serves as seminary president.” 


For more information on Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, visit wls.wels.net 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Small groups are a linchpin for ministry to Millennials

“I started going to growth groups here, and that fueled my faith like never before,” says Jackie Torres, a 29-year-old member of St. Marcus, Milwaukee, Wis. “Finding people who wanted to talk about Jesus was awesome as well as seeing firsthand how fellow Christians would filter their lives through what God says. And to dive deeper into his Word and become a closer community of Christians is such a powerful thing.”  

James Hein, a pastor at St. Marcus, says that Torres is a good example of a Millennial—someone who was born from 1980–1995. “Millennials are looking for close relationships,” says Hein. “We try to ensure that small group ministries are an essential part of the St. Marcus culture. We currently have 12 to 15 small groups running, and virtually all of our leadership comes from and is involved in these small, relational study groups.”  

Hein himself prepares the material for most of these groups, often based off of the previous Sunday’s sermon. A lay facilitator then presents the material to the group and helps group members work through it. Usually these groups meet in members’ homes over a meal, but they can also meet in coffee shops or bars. The location is not as important as the relationships that are built as members get to know one another and share life experiences with each other.  

As Hein notes, “Small groups play an enormous part in peer-to-peer relational ministry. If you look at the design of the average sanctuary, all pews or seats are facing one direction. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not horizontally relational. Therefore, your congregation needs to intentionally provide spaces where people face one another. Small groups are when people gather around the Word facing one another. It creates a transparent dialogue in which people can share struggles, confess sins, receive encouragement, and grow together as they’re growing in Christ. Not having a robust small groups system is not an option for churches that desire any sort of dynamic Millennial ministry.” 

Torres agrees. “I attended a growth group at a friend’s house soon after I joined St. Marcus, and now I lead one with my fiancé. We get the opportunity to have real conversations about faith and how to put it into action in our lives in a like-minded Christian community. I depend on it.” 

Luke Thompson, who serves as a pastor at St. Paul, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, puts it this way: “Consider Jesus’ ministry. We know he spent three years preaching and teaching, but what did that look like? Dinner parties. And lots of them. In fact, one of the chief attacks against Jesus was that he was eating with the wrong sorts of people. In other words, he was building meaningful relationships and friendships in the best way possible—over a meal. He was breaking through the devices that caused loneliness in his own time, often-times showing people the heart of God by befriending them. And he invites us to do this today.”  


Ministering to Millennials 

WELS Congregational Services offers training materials on a wide variety of ministry topics at welscongregationalservices.net. Four videos with accompanying discussion guides are available on the topic of “Ministering to Millennials.” A “Ministering to Millennials” playbook also details 10 important ministry behaviors for congregations to consider as they reach out to this age group.


Visit welscongregationalservices.net, choose the “Modules” dropdown menu, and then choose “Discipleship Modules.” 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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Great news for WELS Home Missions

The WELS Board for Home Missions celebrated a number of milestones this September. During its fall meeting, the board approved funding for three new missions starts.  

“The significance of Home Missions authorizing three new missions is that we now have three more dedicated locations where first and foremost the gospel of Jesus Christ will be proclaimed,” says Keith Free, administrator of the Board for Home Missions. “The mission pastor and mission members will have as their first objective to reach more people with the message that makes all the difference now and in eternity—Christ crucified for the sins of all.”  

New congregations are being supported in: 

  • Bluffton, S.C.,which has developed through the efforts of Risen Savior, Pooler, Ga. The new mission in Bluffton is likely to be part of a multi-site ministry effort with Risen Savior. This effort is spearheaded by Eric Janke, a 2018 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., who deferred an assignment due to his wife’s three-year residency to become a doctor. Janke has worked with Risen Savior’s pastor and members to develop a strong ministry plan for this new mission site. 
  • Mansfield, Ohio,where a Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregation is closing and contacted WELS to see if our synod might be interested in opening a mission in this area. The new mission will be buying the land and building of the former LCMS church. Some of the church’s members are planning to join the new WELS mission and are working with WELS members in the area to launch this new congregation. 
  • Richland Center, Wis., which is part of a multi-site effort being supported by St. John, Hillpoint, and Trinity, Lime Ridge, both in Wisconsin. St. John and Trinity currently share one pastor, who has been exploring the viability of a mission in Richland Center. The area seems well suited for a WELS mission start, and members of St. John and Trinity are excited to support this effort.  

These new starts are being supported by a $1 million special grant from the WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc. (CEF). CEF helps provide financing so mission congregations and established congregations with mission-focused initiatives can purchase land and either build or renovate a worship facility. CEF funds its loan program through individual WELS members’ and congregations’ investments in CEF financial products. CEF’s grant program is funded primarily through operating earnings of the CEF portfolio of loans and investments. 

“CEF’s financials are strong,” says Scott Page, executive director of CEF, “allowing the board to approve this special grant while continuing to provide a sound investment vehicle for WELS members and congregations.”   

As Free notes, “Over and above its loan and grant program, since August 2015 CEF has given more than $4.3 million to Home Missions’ operations budget. This has helped fund many of our new mission congregations and helped enhance outreach throughout the United States, Canada, and the English-speaking Caribbean.” 

Free is also excited to announce that many mission congregations launched their first public worship services in September, a milestone for these young churches. Launch services were held by Living Hope, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Intown Lutheran, Atlanta, Ga.; Good News, Lehi, Utah; Huntersville Lutheran, Huntersville, N.C.; and Grace in the Ward, Milwaukee, Wis.   


For more information on WELS Home or World Missions, visit wels.net/missions. For more information on WELS Church Extension Fund, visit wels.net/cef 


Living Hope, Chattanooga, Tenn.: “Preparing for a church grand opening can be tough,” says Eric Melso, pastor at Living Hope, Chattanooga, Tenn. “You have no idea how many people will show up or how many donuts you’ll need. A grand opening in a movie theater has its own challenges. Which size theater auditorium to book? Will it look full or empty? What if people fall asleep during the sermon in those nice, reclining, leather seats? As those thoughts run through your head, God simply speaks from his Word, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10). And he also proves he is a gracious God. Sixty-eight people came to be filled with hope at Living Hope’s grand opening, but the most exciting part was seeing 20 new faces from the community and 18 returning prospects.” 

Intown Lutheran, Atlanta, Ga.: Lucas Bitter, pastor at Intown Lutheran, Atlanta, Ga., preached about “A God worth knowing” in his sermon during Intown’s opening service. Bitter talked about the beautiful message of grace that lies at the heart of Christianity. After the service, four first-time visitors signed up to attend a Bible basics class.  

Good News, Lehi, Utah: “We had a great turn out for our first worship service,” says Daniel Heiderich, pastor at Good News, Lehi, Utah. “Almost all of our core group was there. A couple of people we were able to personally invite joined in worship and stuck around for the meal. Plus, we had a couple of families come from door hangers.”  

Huntersville Lutheran, Huntersville, N.C.: Doug Van Sice, pastor at Huntersville Lutheran, Huntersville, N.C., says, “As I sat in my office the day before the launch, I prayed that God would bless our launch regardless of who or how many showed up. At the end of the day, numbers are not what is most important. What is most important is that the changeless message of the gospel is preached in its truth and purity and that God’s people are edified by that very truth. Not only did God bless our worship with his Word, but he blessed it with people. He brought 62 people through Huntersville Lutheran’s doors. It was incredible! More than I could have asked for or imagined.” 

Grace in the Ward, Milwaukee, Wis.: Grace, Milwaukee, Wis., one of the oldest WELS congregations, opened a second site in Milwaukee’s Third Ward earlier this year. Grace in the Ward celebrated its grand opening worship service on Sept. 16 with a picnic following the service and a food drive for Hunger Task Force, all open to the community.


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

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

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

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

 

Author:
Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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