Question and answer about “Equipping Christian Witnesses”- Part 2

In celebration of its 25th anniversary in 2020, Martin Luther College (MLC), with the approval of the Conference of Presidents, has begun a two-year capital campaign called “Equipping Christian Witnesses.” The synod is looking to raise $16 to $18 million through the campaign. Part of that money will go toward student financial aid. We talked to Michael Otterstatter, vice president of mission advancement at Martin Luther College, to learn more.


Do most MLC students graduate with debts?

Over the past five years, about 75 percent of our graduates have left with an average of $25,000 in loans.

Why is MLC tuition so high?

MLC’s tuition is dramatically lower compared to other similar four-year colleges. However, the net price that students actually pay—which is tuition, room, board, and other expenses minus the average amount of financial aid—is nearly the same. That’s because MLC doesn’t have the financial resources to offer as much financial aid to our students as other colleges do. MLC started the Congregational Partner Grant Program about four years ago to help meet this need.

How will MLC use my gift to help students with paying for college?

Gifts to the campaign will help fund the Congregational Partner Grant Program matching fund.

In the program, MLC matches dollar for dollar, up to $1,000, the gift a congregation gathers to apply to the tuition of their student(s) at MLC. This partnership between MLC and sponsoring congregations can provide up to $10,000 to each student in financial aid support during their years at college. And this is above and beyond all other aid that students might receive!

You can think of this program like two buckets. The first is the bucket of dollars that congregations send in on behalf of their sons and daughters. The other bucket is money that others give to allow MLC to match that gift. Gifts to “Equipping Christian Witnesses” will provide us with the resources to fill the matching bucket for the next five to ten years as we work to make this a regular part of our budget. This also provides a great way for congregations who don’t have sons and daughters going to MLC to help future called workers.

Why is this pillar of the campaign so important?

All three pillars of the campaign really fit together. Under God’s blessing, we’re asking for more called workers to meet ministry needs and opportunities that abound all over the world. If we’re planning on growth and praying for growth, we have to build for growth. So as we ask you in the first pillar to pray for and recruit more students, we also need to have financial aid ready so these students can afford to attend and don’t leave with too much debt. Finally, we need to provide facilities and housing space that will be a home away from home for our students now and in the future.


Learn more about “Equipping Christian Witnesses” at mlc-wels.edu/mlc-campaign.


Sidebar

Jeremy Fluegge, a senior at Martin Luther College studying to become a pastor, appreciates the support—both monetarily and spiritually—that he receives from his home congregation, St. Paul, Onalaska, Wis.: “The pastors and members of St. Paul’s are genuinely excited for my continued success at MLC,” he says. “It’s difficult to put into words what it means that my fellow members of the holy Christian church have my back as I prepare to bring the gospel to all nations.” Money from this campaign will help MLC fund matching grants to the tuition gifts a congregation provides for its student—up to $1,000 a year.


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Volume 106, Number 12
Issue: December 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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A front-row seat to WELS Waukesha campus ministry

Please Lord! Just send two or three college students to our gathering tonight. 

That was my initial prayer in September 2016 for my first campus ministry event held on the campus of Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis. I had a potential list of college students from the national office of WELS Campus Ministry as I started serving as a volunteer campus ministry pastor. I had contacted every student possible. But the basic question remained: Who would attend?

Turns out, my prayer was small. Suddenly one student walked in and then two more. Before the night was over, six students came for Bible study, tasty snacks, a mixer, and prayer. Little did I know that I was receiving a front-row seat to see how good God is and how he brings his people where and when he wills. I was excited to be able to work with busy college students who need contact with God’s Word during a challenging time in their lives. Many of them were living away from the safe protection of parents and fellow Christians for the first time in a brand-new arena where professors and students brazenly question faith, Bible truth, and Christian morality.

God blessed us with steady growth, thanks to the energetic leadership of the students. These students stepped up in planning and organization and also willingly brought their roommates, boy/girlfriends, and classmates (many of whom aren’t even WELS). That first year, six to eight students came regularly; by the second year 8 to 12 were coming to learn more about Christ and his saving love. This October brought the highest student total ever: 29 students. One student reminded the group of the importance of campus ministry: “I didn’t even know there were other students here who shared my faith in Jesus, and it’s so wonderful to find others to encourage me in my walk of faith.”

Not only do these students attend the monthly meetings, but many attend worship and other events at Trinity, Waukesha, my local congregation less than a mile away. This October, 17 college students served the community by sponsoring cars in Trinity’s neighborhood Trunk-or-Treat to connect with our neighbors in face-to-face mission work.

These Christian young people are willing to pray for others and for me, especially during my wife’s bout with colon cancer. They also share Christ openly on campus. Four students attending our campus ministry joined Trinity this past year. Three of them were confirmed as adults. These new members include Brett, who was brought to our congregation by college friends and wanted to be able to take Holy Communion; Morgan, who remarked how her faith grew through the private Bible information classes at the campus coffee house when she opened up her Bible and experienced the free forgiveness of Jesus for the first time; and Michael, who married one of our first campus ministry students and learned about the truth of Scripture.

At age 52, I consider myself the “world’s oldest college student,” and this isn’t only because I regularly am on campus for our campus ministry get-togethers. I actually recently took Spanish classes at Carroll University, and God opened the door for me to baptize my professor’s baby.

What’s in store for the future? Only God knows. But together, we’ll pray for God’s guidance and share his mission to reach out to more students with Christ’s love.

As WELS Campus Ministry celebrates its 100th anniversary this upcoming year, consider this: Does your church have a college campus nearby? If it does, talk with the national WELS Campus Ministry leaders on how to get started sharing Christ’s love with students. Remember: God does great things through small efforts.


Scott Oelhafen, campus pastor for the Waukesha campus ministry, serves at Trinity, Waukesha, Wisconsin.


Learn more about WELS Campus Ministry at wels.net/campus-ministry. Follow Waukesha’s campus ministry at facebook.com/waukeshacampusministry.


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Author: Scott Oelhafen
Volume 106, Number 12
Issue: December 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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Lighthouse Youth Center opens third location

After every school day, Lighthouse Youth Center provides safe, encouraging, Christ-centered environments to children ages 10 to 18 in Milwaukee. Through its healthy outlets for recreation, consistent support for education, and welcoming opportunities for devotion, Lighthouse has reached thousands of children on Milwaukee’s north side, starting at Redemption Lutheran Church in 2006 and expanding to Garden Homes Lutheran Church in 2010.

Now Lighthouse has a new opportunity to reach children on Milwaukee’s south side: its third location opens this month.

James Buske, pastor and founding executive director of Lighthouse, says he spent years searching for the right opportunity to add a third campus. “I probably talked to 20 organizations,” he says. “I was down on my knee, willing to propose to a couple of them, but it just turned out that it wasn’t the right timing.”

The right timing came in July 2018 when several area pastors encouraged Buske to contact St. Andrew, Milwaukee. This congregation was considering closing its church and was thinking about donating its building for future mission efforts.

At a congregational meeting at St. Andrew in September 2018, Buske was given 15 minutes to explain Lighthouse’s mission and its vision for the third location.

Buske says he concluded his message by saying, “This is my promise to you: Lighthouse Youth Center will honor and build off your 123-year legacy of sharing the gospel on this corner. In 12 to 18 months, 30 to 50 neighborhood youth are going to be gathering here. We’re not going to be open just one day a week. We’re going to be open five days a week. Many of these kids don’t even know who Jesus is. So, I want to honor and build off of your legacy.”

By early October, St. Andrew had decided to donate its building to Lighthouse for the price of one dollar.

St. Andrew conducted its final worship service on Oct. 28, 2018. Lighthouse took possession of the building on Nov. 1, 2018. Now, a year later, Lighthouse is ready to open its doors to a new community of children who need to hear about Jesus.

Although the mission is the same, the ministry at this location will be different. Set in a community that is 70 percent Hispanic, Lighthouse’s Polonia campus will be conducting Lighthouse’s first bilingual ministry. This is also the first time that Lighthouse has owned its own building; the other locations are connected to congregational sites.

But Lighthouse is ready for the challenges. It has hired a Martin Luther College graduate who has already spent a year teaching in the Dominican Republic to serve as its site director. It also is working with area congregations to provide support and a church home to its students and families.

“We know God to be a God of faithfulness, and we know he’s going to be faithful in this process as well,” Buske said. “I’m super excited about Lighthouse and the continuation of its mission: to be a beacon for Christ to the youth of the community.”


Learn more about Lighthouse Youth Center at lighthouseyouthcenter.com.


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Issue: December 2019

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Book nook: Purposeful Grieving

One who is grieving is often challenged to find someone who relates to their situation, and Stacey Hoehl is able to offer connection through her writing. In her book Purposeful Grieving: Embracing God’s Plan in the Midst of Loss, Hoehl admits to tantrums and wrestling with God. This helps the reader understand that these behaviors are common in a loss. She shares Scripture that gives the grief-stricken heart permission to plead with God and even to ask why. The fact shared that loss will forever change a person’s life is valuable along with the warning that the heart of faith is open to the attacks of Satan. The author’s wise choice of focusing on Psalm 13 gives her devotions important structure and direction, along with the encouragement from the psalm that God gives aching hearts words to praise him through their struggles.  

More details from the author regarding her own story would enhance the connection with the reader along with the acknowledgment that those we love who die are not always in the Lord, another perspective to some Christian’s grieving. The reader should also keep in mind that the seven weeks of devotions are never meant to complete the grieving process, but rather, to encourage the reader to see God’s hand of purpose to the season of grief, which could and likely will, extend far beyond the seven weeks. 

Most important, without exception, the author points to the cross of Jesus as the only source of comfort. All tasks offered are confirmed as helps in the healing process, not the source of healing. Many Christians will find this book a powerful tool in seeing God’s purpose to their grief. 

Jane Schlenvogt-Dew
Madison, Wisconsin 


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Author: Jane SchlenvogtDew 
Volume 106, Number 12
Issue: December 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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Wrapped in God’s comfort

At the end of a long day, many enjoy burrowing beneath their blankets to receive rest and comfort. For some, a blanket or quilt can mean more than just physical relaxation; it can also encompass emotional and spiritual rest. Comforter Ministry, started by Susanne (Su) Hanson, fulfills a unique opportunity to bring peace to women with cancer through quilts and the message of God’s Word.  

Su began the Comforter Ministry in 2005 after her own experience with ovarian cancer. She still vividly remembers the emotions she felt after receiving a quilt of her own as a gift. 

“I remember being wrapped in the comforter and feeling God’s love in a tangible way,” she says. “His love was physically wrapped around me.”  

The ministry began with just three volunteers and has since grown to include 124 quilters in 20 different states. Comforter Ministry accepts quilts as well as monetary donations to help offset costs from sending women their boxes.  

One of Comforter Ministry’s recent donations came from Huron Valley Lutheran High School, Westland, Mich. What started as an opportunity to give back through a “Pink Out” volleyball game in 2018 turned into an impactful experience for an entire community.  

Brian Kasten, Huron Valley Lutheran High School’s athletic director at the time, found Comforter Ministry after searching for WELS charities that helped cancer patients.  

“Brian told me he ran across our page and that he wanted our ministry to be the recipient of the Pink Out Night’s proceeds,” Hanson explains. “Then after the event he contacted me to tell me the proceeds of the game were more than expected. I was so overjoyed because each donation is so important. This is how God moves hearts.” 

Hanson also found out that this incredible gift went a step further when Gwynn, a passionate supporter of Huron Valley, got involved with the project. After reading about the Pink Out Night, Gwynn approached the school’s staff about creating a quilt of their own to donate. The girls on the volleyball team were thrilled to help with the project.  

“These girls have hearts of gold,” Gwynn said. “They’re always willing to help and will take any idea you have and just run with it. It’s a joy to be around them.”  

To start, she gave the girls pink patches. They filled the small squares with encouraging Bible verses and intricate drawings. When Gwynn received the patches back, she was overwhelmed with the beautiful messages that the girls wrote. And even more incredible—there were enough patches to create two quilts! 

Gwynn recruited three women to help her assemble the quilts. When they were finished, one quilt went to Comforter Ministry and the other went to the mother of a young woman who recently graduated from Huron Valley. After receiving her quilt box, this mother simply hugged the box in her arms, knowing what was inside.  

“This event affected a lot of people, more than we even realized,” Kasten says. “The fact that we could show God’s love and his comfort in this way is truly incredible.”  

Gabriella Blauert


Learn more about the Comforter Ministry at comforterministry.com 


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Author: Gabriella Blauert
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 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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Insights into Lutheran leadership

WELS Congregational Services will host the WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership at the Sheraton Grand in Chicago on Jan. 2123. 

Two of the presenters at that conference, Adam Mueller, pastor at Redeemer, Tucson, Ariz., and Luke Thompson, pastor at St. Paul, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, took time to share what leadership means to them.    

In his presentation Crucifying Consumer Mentality,” Mueller will discuss the danger of allowing the personal preferences of either the community or congregational members to dictate the direction of ministry. Ministry activity, Mueller says, must be directed by Christ’s mission. “Unless Lutheran leaders continually focus on Christ, the means of grace, and his mission to proclaim the gospel, we’ll fail as leaders not only because we’re neglecting God’s will but because we’ve replaced it with our own will or the world’s will.” 

Mueller stresses that the job of leadership is to communicatChrist’s mission clearly and repeatedly and to use the gospel and personal example to motivate members to zealously pursue that mission. “The term ‘leadership’ suggests two things. First, that the leader knows where he’s going, and, second, that there are those who are following him,” Mueller says. 

Mueller has served on various district and synod boards as well as helped train vicars and new pastors. Mueller explains that his time in these various roles showed him that the Lord can encourage anyone to lead. “God’s kingdom is large enough for leaders of all kinds of diverse talents and experiences to lead people from earth to heaven. 

Thompson’s presentation Growing Young: Steps Toward Touching the Hearts and Minds of Millennials and Generation Z focuses on the role leaders play in retaining and gaining members from younger generations.  

Besides serving as pastor at St. Paul, Thompson is the campus pastor to students at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. Through Bible studies, counseling, and mentorships, Thompson has served hundreds of young people.  

What does Thompson see as the key to reaching these younger generations? “The best tool God has given Lutheran leaders is a clear understanding of law and gospel,” Thompson says. “All that’s left is generating the courage to use it and the patience to let law and gospel be what the discussion is about. And this all happens best in the context of a committed friendship.” 

Thompson’s presentation illustrates the goal Congregational Services had in holding this conferenceaddressing common concerns among our congregations. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of Congregational Services, says, “Almost every church we consult with says how it is getting harder and harder to retain or gain younger members. This presentation will share some strategies that the Lord seems to be blessing.”   

Thompson says he is eager both to teach and learn at WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership. “God gives us the exact mentors and tools we need for our vocations, and leadership conferences like this will be one of the places you find those.”


Want to hear more? Register to attend the conference at lutheranleadership.com. 

 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 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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Question and answer about “Equipping Christian Witnesses”

In celebration of its 25th anniversary in 2020, Martin Luther College (MLC), with the approval of the Conference of Presidents, has begun a two-year capital campaign called Equipping Christian Witnesses.The synod is looking to raise $16 to $18 million through the campaign. We asked Mark Zarling, MLC president, to share more.


 Why the name “Equipping Christian Witnesses”? 

The name for the campaign is taken from MLC’s mission statement. It states: The mission of Martin Luther College is to train a corps of Christian witnesses who are qualified to meet the ministry needs of WELS and who are competent to proclaim the Word of God faithfully and in accord with the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord. The statement then goes on to highlight how MLC, as the WELS College of Ministry, equips students for various tracks of ministry. 

The mission statement emphasizes training corps of Christian witnesses so that students are reminded of who they are through their baptism. They are salt and light and part of the priesthood of all believers. They will always keep their identity as baptized children of God, no matter what vocation they choose. They remain a corps of Christian witnesses.” Even as the campaign is emphasizing recruitment for public ministry it also underscores the truth that every recruit, every student, will be equipped as a Christian witness even if they don’t continue or finish at MLC. 

What are the main goals of the campaign? 

The campaign has three pillars to support the mission and ministry of Martin Luther College.  

The first pillar is recruitment. It is our prayer that the Lord uses the campaign to raise up many more candidates who will prayerfully consider serving in the public gospel ministry. We want everyone to pray what Jesus said: The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field (Luke 10:2). 

The second and third pillars support the first goal of more students. The second pillar is to provide increased financial aid for our students, and the third pillar provides enhancements in campus facilities. Both of those pillars aid in the recruitment and retention of students. 

Why is recruitment a part of this campaign? 

You may already be aware of the vacancies in pulpits and classrooms in our church body. After assignment days last May, significant vacancies remained—more than 100 pastoral vacancies in our pulpits and over 80 classrooms not yet filled. There is also an urgency to recruit more gospel workers because of the large classes of “baby boomers” who are reaching retirement age. 

It is important to note, however, that the strategic plan of MLC is to recruit students with a fieldsareripe mentality and not with a fillthevacancy mindset. Our gracious Savior God is pouring out abundant opportunities around the world and here at home to send workers out with the message of Jesus, our Savior and Substitute. May the Spirit fill our hearts with a burning passion to see the billions around the world who have yet to hear the Saviors loving voice in the saving gospel. 

How can WELS members help with recruitment? 

No doubt you can think of daughters and sons in your own congregation that exhibit God-given gifts for ministry. Encourage them. Tell them, “Youre a magnet for little children. Ever think about being a Christian preschool teacher?Or, God has given you a gift for (music, athletics, speaking, etc.). I can see you using that gift in serving Jesus as a (teacher, staff minister, pastor).” Perhaps, God has given you a heart for Jesus and a heart for people. Have you thought about being a pastor? 

Also pray! Pray without ceasing! 


Submit names to MLC of possible ministerial candidates at mlc-wels.edu/go/recommendLearn more about “Equipping Christian Witnesses” at mlc-wels.edu/mlc-campaign


Sidebar 

Raquel Freese, a fifth-year senior at Martin Luther Collegeprovides encouragement to potential future called workers: “While my decision to go to MLC was very easy, I know that for many others, the decision is much more difficult. It’s okay to be unsure of your future. Rest assured that the Almighty God already knows and holds you in the safety of his guiding hands. Listen to the advice of family and friends. If those closest to you believe you have the gifts to be a pastor, staff minister, or teacher, then you should strongly consider MLC. 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 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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Gospel outreach opportunities in Africa

Opportunities for gospel connections are flourishing across Africa. Christian groups in Uganda, Liberia, Mozambique, and more are learning about WELS and Lutheran doctrine and reaching out for fellowship. One of these church bodies, Lutheran Congregations in Ministry for Christ in Kenya, reached out to WELS and was officially welcomed into fellowship at this summer’s synod convention. More small and scattered church bodies that hold true to confessional Lutheran doctrine are working toward that same possibility.  

The One Africa Team, working under WELS World Missions, assesses the teachings and validity of these groups and how WELS may help. They work closely with the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) in Zambia and Malawi, which started as WELS world missions decades ago and are now independent church bodieson this process. 

“The One Africa Team appreciates the cultural insights that our brothers in the LCCA have,” says Missionary John Hartmann, member of the One Africa TeamComing from the United States, we may not so easily pick up on some nuance, or understanding, or misunderstanding, which comes naturally to them. When we are visiting new places and new groups of people, we appreciate taking a pastor from one of our established church bodies in Africa along so that we can more adequately assess the situation. To be honest, not all groups come because they want Gods Wordsome are only interested in social programs and money. African Christians help see through what is being said to help assess true motives. And in teaching, they might be able to share an African story that helps illustrate a point. 

Representatives from the One Africa Team and the Pastoral Studies Institute met with leaders from the two church bodies in Liberia earlier this year to offer training and to discuss how to combine the two church bodies into one group for training in the future.

The genesis of theschurch bodies and their initial contact with WELS differsbut mostly they are seeking a larger organization with which to partner to share in the truth of God’s Word and to gain insight beyond the training they have access to locally. 

I am sure there are a combination of factors that God is using to build his church,” says HartmannOne thing is the Internet, which makes communication so much easier than ever before. More interested people know about WELS and its insistence on holding onto the Bible as Gods Word as the basis for our faith and lives. There are so many Christian churches out there that do not offer the comfort and certainty of God’s love and forgiveness as we have in the Lutheran churchThese groups [that are contacting WELS] are looking for the truth and appreciate finding and fellowshipping with a like-minded church body that holds onto something sure and stable.” 

He continues, Along with that, many of these groups are new to good biblical teaching and want training for their pastors in the firm Bible foundation that we have and have had for so many years. 

From Uganda, Pastor Makisimu Musa of the Obadiah Lutheran Church first contacted WELS via the Internet in December 2017. WELS and LCCA representatives have visited twice, following e-mail and phone correspondence. They are planning a third visit this year. Obadiah Lutheran Church comprises more than 700 baptized members, 7 pastors, and 11 churches.  

Mozambique has an entirely different story. Over the years, pastors of the LCCAMalawi and LCCAZambia started mission churches across the border into Mozambique. However, since the start of these missions, the Mozambique government has demanded official registration for churches, and the mission work has been suspended until registration is completed. The One Africa Team is working with the LCCAMalawi to register as a church body in Mozambique so work can continue. 

Liberia also has its own unique beginning. Two men from Liberia immigrated to the United States almost 15 years ago. Over the years they joined WELS churches and then studied under the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI), a program of the Wisconsin Lutheran SeminaryMequon, Wis., to become pastors serving fellow immigrants in their local areas. In time, they were summoned by their own people in Liberia to bring God’s message back home. Since then, two Lutheran church bodies have been registered in Liberia, and numerous trips have been made in the past few years for trainingAbout 5,000 Liberian Lutherans worship in these two church bodies. 

Hartmann says that the One Africa Team and LCCA leaders hope to have three face-to-face visits a year with these emerging Lutheran groups if funding is available for travel. During these visits, they present the basic teachings of the Bible found in Luthers Catechism, which serves as the basis for fellowship discussions. 


Learn more about outreach work in Africa in this month’s edition of WELS Connection and at wels.net/africa. 


Working with refugees 

WELS has declared fellowship with two new African church bodies in the last two years: the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia in 2017 and the Lutheran Congregations in Ministry for ChristKenya in 2019.  

Left to right: Grace and Mark Onunda and Martha and Peter Bur

These connections are offering new opportunities to work with members of the Nuer tribe from South Sudan who live in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. Five Nuer men from Gambella, Ethiopia, are studying with Dr. Kebede at Maor Theological Seminary in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, and Pastor Mark Onunda from LCMC–Kenya is assisting with visiting and training refugees living in Kakuma, KenyaThis ministry is being coordinated with the work being done by Pastor Peter Bur, a Pastoral Studies Institute graduate who serves as the South Sudanese ministry coordinator for the Joint Mission Council. 

Onunda and Bur were able to meet to talk about ministry plans at the 2019 synod convention in New Ulm this summer. 

Learn more about Sudanese ministry in North America and around the world at wels.net/sudanese.


Central Africa Medical Mission update 

The Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) has been operating a clinic in Mwembezhi, Zambia, for almost 60 years. Part of its mission is to turn much of the operations over to Zambians. CAMM recently hired Alisad Banda as clinic administrator, an important step in nationalizing the clinic.  

The Banda family

Banda first came to the clinic in 2005 in conjunction with work he did in health & development. He was impressed how the clinic worked so closely with the Lutheran church and enjoys knowing that Christians are showing compassion, care, charity, and integrity in a hospital and clinic setting. Both his mom and dad were Lutherans and instructed Alisad and his siblings in the teachings of the Lutheran church. Alisad lives in Lusaka with his wife, Cecilla, and their two children.  

Besides the clinic in Zambia, CAMM operates a mobile clinic in Malawi. Medical services include preventive health care for children and expectant women, as well as treatment of patients with illnesses such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, parasitic infections, and tuberculosis. The clinics in Zambia and Malawi serve over 80,000 patients a year.


Learn more about CAMM at wels.net/camm.


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 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 partners in Christ through Convention

Representatives from church bodies in Kenya and Taiwan traveled a long way to be at the synod convention in Minnesota this summer—and not just in miles. 

Their journeys were very different but their destination the same—to work hand in hand with WELS in spreading the Word to their homelands. Delegates welcomed these two church bodies into confessional Lutheran fellowship at the convention. 

Kenya 

My wife and I have traveled far to be with you these few days,” said Mark Anariko Onundapastor and chairman of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for ChristKenya (LCMC) when addressing the delegates. “Our short time together will secure a lifelong partnership to advance our positions in many fields of battle.” 

The LCMC–Kenya, a church body of 25 pastors, 46 congregations, and between 3,000 and 5,000 members, is relatively young. Registered as an independent church body in Kenya in 2013, it formed after several of its pastors and churches broke away from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya because of false teachings. This fledging church body immediately began searching for like-minded confessional Lutherans. After they made contact with WELS World Missions in 2014, Prof. E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute, visited Onunda for the first time in Kenya in 2015. The Lutheran Church of Central AfricaZambia, WELS’ sister synod, declared fellowship with the LCMC–Kenya last September. 

“We are like youThat is why we are coming to you—so we can work together,” says Onunda. “With our blessed partnership in place, your brothers and sisters in Kenya can now attend to our most pressing challenges.” 

Onunda’s first goal is to work to restore confessional Lutheranism in Kenya through better and continued education of pastors and leaders. The LCMC–Kenya also wants to be aggressive in its outreach within Kenya. This includes providing physical and spiritual aid to South Sudanese refugees living in Kakuma, Kenya. 

But Onunda isn’t content with just focusing on Kenya. “Our partnership is going to give birth to more churches outside Kenya,” he says. He mentions Rwanda and Uganda and South Sudan—all areas WELS and the Lutheran Church of Central Africa, WELS’ sister synods in Africa, are working to reach.  

“This man will become our partner in expansion throughout the entire continent of Africa, so we’re gathering up church bodies and our team becomes larger and stronger,” says Sorum. 

Taiwan 

Pastor Peter Chen and Mr. Michael Lin attended the convention to represent the Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church (CLEC) in Taiwan. The CLEC started as a mission of WELS, with missionaries serving there from 1979 through 2013. Now it is an independent church body.  

“We are happy to be united with WELS in faith,” said Chen to the delegates. “WELS is like a mother to us.” 

Chen notes that church members were unsure about what would happen to their church when the missionaries left. When I go back, I can let my members know WELS hasn’t left us!” he says. Now they declare we are in fellowship with each other so even if there are no missionaries in Taiwan, it doesn’t make a difference. We are one.” 

Chen was also impressed by the theme of the convention, “For the Generations to Come.” He is training Lin to be a leader in the CLEC. Lin will finish his training this year. “This is a good chance to pass on the whole idea of who we are and who we belong to for the next generation,” he says. 

This was Lin’s first trip to the United States. He was amazed by the opening worship service. “I will go back [to my congregation] with lots of pictures and stories. I can tell them this is the way our mother church is,” he says. 

The CLEC has four congregations, one pastor (Chen), and about 100 members. Three men, including Lin, are training to serve congregations as tent ministers. It is reaching out in a country of 23 million people, of which 5 percent are Christian. “Please pray for us,” says Chen.  


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 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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Lutheran Leadership Conference coming in 2020

WELS Congregational Services will host the first WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership at the Sheraton Grand in Chicago, Ill., Jan. 21-23. WELS Congregational Services works under the Conference of Presidents to help congregations assess, plan, and carry out gospel ministry.  

The conference will have five keynote presentations that deal with major cultural challenges before every WELS congregationTwenty-five breakout sessions will deal with issues specific to certain congregations, including overcoming a consumer mentality in church, Christian apologetics, increasing volunteerism, retaining and gaining young members, fully utilizing the gifts of women in ministryrural ministry, church governance practices, equipping people for personal evangelism, having a “high-expectations” church, strategic planning, using social media for outreach, operating a financially sustainable elementary school, and more.  

“I hope individuals walk away from this conference with three things,” says Jonathan Hein, coordinator of Congregational Services. “First, I hope they are motivated to throw themselves into gospel ministry in every way: feeding the faithful, reaching the lost, and pursuing the straying. Second, I hope attendees better understand the massive challenges before our congregations but also realize that God will help us meet those challenges. Finally, I hope that they can take home some practical resources from the breakout sessions that they can immediately implement in their mission efforts. 

The National Conference on Lutheran Leadership is open to all: pastors, teachers, lay leaders, and even those without formal leadership positions within their organizations. Called workers and lay leaders, men and women, lifelong Lutherans and new congregants are all welcome.  

Congregations are encouraged to send multiple participants to the conference. “A church gets the most out of a conference like this when there is a critical mass of members attending,” Hein says. “They can divide up and hit every relevant breakout. They can present a united, excited voice when they go back to their congregation.” Travel rebates are available for congregations that send three or more individuals to the event. 


Registration is now open, with an early registration discount through Oct. 31. Register online at lutheranleadership.com. There you can also find free promotional materials—including a video, posters, social media graphics, and other digital images—to help build interest.  

 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 10
Issue: October 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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A summer of faith, fellowship and fun

This summer, WELS members have been blessed with countless opportunities to connect with others in fellowship and faithEnjoy these photos and takeaways from some of the synod’s biggest summertime events!


WELS EdTechLead SummitJune 25-27 

About the event: 

The WELS Education, Technology, and Leadership Summit (EdTechLead) brought more than 400 teachers, pastors, and other synod leaders together at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., to explore ministry tools, techniques, and best practices. 

A unique moment: 

John McHugh, director of Corporate Communications, Leadership, Development, and Training at Kwik Trip, Inc., La Crosse, Wis., was the EdTechLead keynote speaker on June 26. He encouraged attendees to promote and participate in a mission-driven culture at their organization. 

An attendee’s thoughts: 

I think at times you can work within your little bubble, just teaching a certain subject or working at a certain school. Here you can meet others in related fields. By learning from their experiences, you can implement what they’re doing. You can share your own stories as well.”Mr. Dan Albrecht, teacher at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School, Jackson, Wis. 

Learn more at welsedtechlead.com.


Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society conventionJune 27-30 

About the event: 

The Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) welcomed nearly 950 attendees from 821 WELS congregations to Des Moines, Iowa, to praise God and show their support for WELS mission work. 

A unique moment: 

Pastor Titus Tse and members of the Southeast Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM) traveled from Hong Kong to join Rob Siirila of Asia Lutheran Seminary onstage for a special keynote presentation. 

A first-time attendee’s thoughts:

“It was so exciting to see all of the amazing things happening at home and around the world. The fellowship and support are so encouragingI can’t wait to go back to my home congregation to share what our synod is doing around the world and hopefully encourage even more outreach into our community.”Betty Schwede 

Learn more at lwms.org.


WELS Night at Miller ParkJuly 12 

About the event: 

More than 2,400 WELS members enjoyed a beautiful summer evening of baseball and fellowship at the sixth annual WELS Night at Miller Park. Despite the Brewers’ loss to the San Francisco Giants, WELS members were able to have plenty of fun taking part in the festivities. WELS First Vice President Jim Huebner threw out the ceremonial first pitch, while eight-year-old Addison Bauer, from Good News, Mt. Horeb, Wis., was chosen as a junior announcer. 

A unique moment: 

Recent Wisconsin Lutheran High School graduate Fernanda Rocha led over 41,000 people at the game in singing the national anthem. 

A leader’s thoughts: 

The hundreds of WELS members wearing their bright blue WELS shirts really stood out in the near-capacity crowd, and it was great to greet them as I passed them in the concourse. Many of them suggested dates for me to consider when I schedule next year’s seventh annual WELS Night event.”— Lee Hitter, WELS communications director 

Find videos and photos at wels.net/wels-night-a-hit/


Taste of MissionsJuly 13 

About the event: 

WELS Missions hosted more than 400 people at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., for the first Taste of Missions event. At the gathering, attendees enjoyed connecting with missionaries, sampling international foods, and participating in a special worship service. 

A unique moment: 

Three new world missionaries—Bounkeo Lor, Abram Degner, and Dan Witte—were commissioned during the worship service. 

A leader’s thoughts: 

“God’s people walked away feeling ignited for the mission work that’s taking place both in the United States and around the world! I felt that the atmosphere was electric from the start and just kept building.”Sean Young, director of WELS Missions Operations 

Learn more at wels.net/missions.


Women’s Ministry ConferenceJuly 18-20 

About the event: 

More than 300 WELS women from 17 different states gathered at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., for the Women’s Ministry Conference. The event’s theme—“Living Stones: Positioned to Thrive”—explores God’s design and purpose for Christian women. A dozen breakout sessions and four keynote addresses discussed additional topics such as teamwork, evangelism, family, and more. 

A unique moment: 

Jenna Keller, Kayla Priebe, and Delaney Leffel hosted a panel to discuss witnessing for Christ and encouraging Christian leadership on secular college campuses. As recent college graduates or as current students, they were able to share unique anecdotes and insights about their challenges and successes. 

An attendee’s thoughts: 

“I loved everything about the conference. It was an emotional experience for me and gave me insight into my personal gifts. I never realized I had any before this.”Anonymous 

Learn more at wels.net/womens-ministry. 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 9
Issue: September 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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Learning about God’s timing

In April 2018, WELS Board for Home Missions approved funding for a new mission in Joplin, Mo. In May 2019, Jordan Bence was assigned to serve as the home missionary in Joplin, Mo. What did the core group in Joplin do as it waited for its first pastor?  

“Well, the first thing we had to learn was patience,” says Wendy Wright, a member of the core group. “This was God’s timing, not ours! We learned a lot about the divine call process, as we extended ten calls during this year.” 

Wright adds, “The waiting would have been much harder had we not started a weekly Bible study last July, led by Pastor Aaron Schumann, who serves at Faith, Pittsburg, Kan.”  

The Bible study began as a way for the core group to enjoy fellowship and biblical encouragement together. “But then, several of the group invited guests . . . and they came . . . and they stayed!” says Wright. “We were excited to have three guest families join us, and two have continued regular attendance.” One of the guests even offered space at her real estate office for the group to meet. 

“My role was every pastor’s dream—I showed up and taught them and their friends God’s Word every Wednesday evening for one year,” says Schumann. “The core group took care of all of the details, filled out all of the necessary paperwork, put together the proposal to synod, and invited their friends and their coworkers to the Wednesday night Bible study. They were awesome. My role was to bring them Jesus on a weekly basis and to encourage them in what they were doing. Their motivation to serve their Lord and tell others about Jesus is what has driven this mission.” 

So what was it like to find out that a pastor was assigned to them from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s graduating class of 2019? 

“On Call Day the whole core group was waiting anxiously to find out who would be assigned to our home mission,” says Wright. “We were all watching on our laptops or phones at work and at home. When we saw that at the top of the list Jordan Bence was assigned to our mission, we were ecstatic!”  

And Bence’s reaction? “I guess it was just pure shock,” he says. “You try to prepare yourself for that moment, but you really can’t. When President Schroeder read my name and assignment, I was just overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with the fact that God had chosen me for such a task. Overwhelmed with the opportunity that God placed before me to love these people by continually building them up in his unconditional love. It’s truly a humbling moment of God’s grace. It was something I had been dreaming of since kindergarten.” 

Bence continues, “The training program of our synod has given me many experiences to not only build my own faith but also prepare me to serve the Joplin, Mo., (JOMO) mission. I have helped out multiple mission churches throughout the United States going all the way back to high school. 

Finally, Bence says, “When it comes to the JOMO mission, I guess a summarizing statement for this group might beambitious to serve. These people are filled with the spirit and are ready to go out and proclaim the good news!


To learn more about the JOMO mission and other home mission congregations, visit wels.net/missions 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 9
Issue: September 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 Bible translation available – EHV

A new translation of the Bible—the Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV)—is now available from Northwestern Publishing House (NPH). 

More than one hundred people—pastors, professors, teachers, and laypeople—have been working on the translation since 2013, all under the direction of the Wartburg Project, an independent Lutheran Bible translation effort by WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) pastors and professorsAbout 40 WELS and ELS pastors and professors were involved in translating, and 100 people served as proofreaders and popular reviewers. “By the time it was done, at least ten people have read every book,” says John Brug, general editor and Old Testament editor. All are volunteers, except Brug, who worked full time on the project. 

The EHV aims to provide a balanced translation that is good for all uses in the church, according to Brug. This means it preserves traditional familiar biblical idioms while also looks for better ways to say things that may be confusing in other translationsBeing balanced also means that sometimes you have to be a little more literal in your translation, and sometimes you have to be a little more free,” says Brug. “We tried to look at each passage in its own case and not have one rulebook that covered everything.”  

While only WELS members and those in fellowship with WELS worked on the translation, Brug is quick to note that this is not a “WELS Bible” and it is not just for Lutherans. The Bible is called Evangelical because of how it centers on the gospel, but “no one should be able to say there is a Lutheran slant in the translation, Brug says.  

The Wartburg Project is working on content for an EHV study Bible that will provide Lutheran commentary on the passages. It hopes to have an electronic version available by the end of the year.  

The new edition of Luther’s catechism from NPH using the EHV translation will be available this fallThat catechism already is available using the English Standard Version and the New International Version 2011 translations. This is an example of NPH’s use of the eclectic approachwhere possible offering multiple translation choices for a single resource.  

Brug says he has been blessed to have been able to take part in a project of this scope. “I certainly learned a lot, but the greatest thing is the spirit with which the participants worked,” he says. “To work together with my brothers and sisters in Christ on God’s Word—the whole Bible—intensely for five years is a great blessing, and we hope it will also be a blessing to those who use what we developed.”


Learn more about the EHV translation at wartburgproject.orgOrder the translation at nph.net.


A committee appointed by the Conference of Presidents has reviewed the EHV. In its report in the 2019 Book of Reports and Memorials, it writes 

The EHV presents us with another tool for communicating God’s Word. As a new translation, it doesn’t always have the “spit and polish” one perceives in translations that have gone through several editions. There is room for improvement in its English style and overall consistency. In some places its translators have produced fresh renderings that surpass the clarity and fluency of other translations. . . . Several of our reviewers expressed the hope that the EHV will continue to go through an editing process in anticipation of future editions. . . . At the same time, we find the translation accurate and faithful, and can recommend it for use in our church.” 

Brug says that the Wartburg Project welcomes suggestions to improve the translation. He anticipates reviewing changes for revisions after three to five years. 

Read the full review at synodadmin.welsrc.net/cop-resources. 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 9
Issue: September 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 welcoming congregation

As part of its Welcome Home initiative, WELS Congregational Services has released a series of videos to address some of the most common reasons Christians stop attending church and how to show love and minister to these members. Nate Bourman, pastor at Mount Lebanon, Milwaukee, Wis., was featured in the videos discussing how to be a welcoming congregation. 

Forward in Christ: What is your definition of a welcoming church? 

Bourman: A church where no one stands or sits alone; everyone feels comfortable and safe. A place where everyone knows what is going on and feels that they can navigate the facilities or get information about our congregation. A place where parents, adults, and children feel safe to hear God’s Word and can easily participate and are welcome to participate. 

FIC: What are some common reasons you’ve heard from members who felt unwelcome at church? 

B: I think the primary reason people don’t feel welcome is that no one talks to them. People will walk into a church and no one greets them; they don’t know what’s going on and are left to feel like they didn’t belong there or are clearly the outsider. Members are often so busy in their “holy huddles” that the guest, visitor, and sometimes even other members are left on the outside looking in. It’s possible to be a stranger in your own house. 

FIC: How can members participate in being a welcoming church? 

B: Care and concern for the members of the church is not just the pastors job. It is not just the elders job. It is the job of each and every member. Love calls us to participate. None of us sits on the sidelines when it comes to welcoming God’s people home. . . . All are coming to church with sin and weakness and brokenness and frustration. Be part of the throng rejoicing to gather for worship with each other. 

FIC: How can congregations maintain the “welcome home” practices and culture beyond the synodwide Welcome Home Sunday? 

B: 1) Make it a yearly effort at your churchAt Mount Lebanon we are going to go “small” this year and make this a regular part of our congregational outreach each year. 2) Consistent follow-up and outreach to inactive members is vital for their souls. We are working with our elders and a shepherding team to keep reaching out to our members. 3) Regularly talking about hospitality in sermons, Bible studies, and newsletters. We like to think we’re friendly, but if we asked a stranger to honestly evaluate us, what would they say?   

FIC: What do you hope viewers take away from the videos? 

B: Love your fellow members. Deeply. Bend over backwards. Be nice. Do whatever you can to give the gospel the opportunity to be heard. Get into their shoes and try to understand how they feel. Sympathize with their needs, their hurts, and their struggle. Love them!


All congregations are encouraged to participate in Welcome Home Sunday, either Oct. 20 or 27. The mission is to “pack the church” with every member. The four videos and accompanying Bible studies are available at welscongregationalservices.net.   


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 9
Issue: September 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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Academia Cristo brings new opportunities to share the gospel

Academia Cristo began in 2015 with a primary goal to help people start churches in Latin America that faithfully preach and teach God’s Word. “We provide resources, and train and connect people to a network of mentors as they work to share their faith and start churches,” says Missionary Mike Hartman, coordinator of Academia Cristo and Latin America Missions.  

Academia Cristo, academiacristo.com, offers self-study Bible studies, music, and training courses for leaders. More than eight thousand people have signed up for Bible courses through Academia Cristo. Its Facebook page, where it shares daily Scripture-based messages and regular live devotions, has more than one million followers. “We want to be known as an entity that has a Christ-centered, biblical message,” Hartman says. 

This online presence has led to mission opportunities throughout Latin AmericaIn these places, church leaders have connected with Academia Cristo to access the available resources. During the last years, “we saw a lot of people in Paraguay signing up for courses,” Hartman says.  

To make face-to-face connections, missionaries traveled to the country to meet with Academia Cristo students who were interested in using the resources to share the gospel with others. Later in 2019, two WELS missionaries, Abram Degner and Joel Sutton, will be moving to the city of Asunción, Paraguay, to continue meeting with these individuals. There they will study with them and show leaders how to share the resources with others. 

The missionaries will be located near individuals such as Carlos Fernandez in northern Argentina. Fernandez started studying with Academia Cristo more than two years ago. Previously, he had served as a pastor and missionary for a different church body. He left the church 10 years ago for doctrinal reasons. “I realized I was just preaching and teaching rules that people had come up with, rather than teaching people about Christ,” Fernandez says.  

As he studied the Bible and read it on his own, he realized salvation is through faith by grace. Fernandez, who lives in the Chaco province of northern Argentinawanted to start a church that was faithful to Scripture. In his search for truthful resources, he came across Academia CristoDuring the last two years, missionaries have visited him three times, and now Fernandez is in doctrinal agreement with WELS.  

Now a missionary mentors Fernandez, who then trains other men in the Chaco province who want to start Bible-based churches.  

For years, WELS members in the United States have reached out to missionaries in Latin America in an attempt to share the gospel with loved ones in other countries. Academia Cristo is able to help these members connect with family and friends in Spanish-speaking areas and share the gospel with them. For instance, several years ago, members of a WELS church in Sarasota, Florida, began working with contacts they had in ParaguayThrough Academia Cristo, they can coordinate with WELS missionaries to share the gospel with people in these areas.  

Another WELS church in Arizona has contacts in Cuba. Together with missionaries, members are using Academia Cristo to learn how to share the gospel and start churches in Cuba. Missionaries mentor these members and their connections to help them set up a ministry plan and reach more.  

“People are interested in these areas and searching for the gospel,” Hartman says. “They are looking for someone who will teach them about the Bible and Christ.” 


Rachel Hartman 


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Author: Rachel Hartman 
Volume 106, Number 9
Issue: September 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: Hendersonville, North Carolina

Paul E. Zell 

I was practicing my sermon on a recent Sunday morning when I got a phone call. Doris* wanted to confirm what time the service was. “I can’t come to church today, Pastor. I’ve got a family commitment. But I’ll be there next Sunday for sure.” I vaguely recalled meeting Doris when Ron and I were out canvassing. She and I had talked in her driveway for so long that Ron was wondering what had happened to me. But how long ago had that conversation taken place? I had to scroll back a bit through my calendar . . . ten weeks! 

It takes a while. 

Keith* and his wife, Shawn*, brought their eight-year-old son, Bryce*, to our soccer camp in June. Each sweltering afternoon they would find refuge under a shade tree, keeping an eye on Bryce and chatting with the church members who were prepping snacks and handing out water. The three of them came to our worship service at the end of the week. We never saw them again. Not until the first Sunday in January, when they came to worship a second time—six and a half months later! 

Few folks seem to be in a hurry to get connected to a church. 

I stopped at Jean’s front door three days after she attended a worship service with her niece Terrie. The conversation was pleasant and brief. I gave her a “welcome gift” and was on my way. That seemingly was the end of Jean’s interest in what we have to offer. Until there she was, sitting next to her niece and worshiping with us on Christmas Eveten months later! 

What is it that keeps individuals from responding more quickly to our invitations? I suppose I could spin all sorts of theories. Experts have offered their own well-researched explanations as well. But it’s hard to get beyond the unholy trinity so often referenced by Luther. People are slow to respond to our visits and encouragements because they are constantly being delayed by the devil, the world, and their own sinful flesh. 

I don’t want to respond to this phenomenon with cynicism or become callous to it or even accept it as inevitable. I would rather commit myself and my members to a more aggressive follow-up schedule. In addition, Jesus invites me to pray frequently on behalf of these blood-bought souls. Mostly, however, I want to be mindful that even the Son of God himself found his most frequent listeners to be “slow to believe” (Luke 24:25). If Jesus’ ministry is the model for outreach, then why should I ever be discouraged when people take their time responding to my church’s outreach ministry? 

I’m pleased to announce that after her ten-week delay, Doris actually did worship with us the following Sunday. And starting that first Sunday in January, Keith, Shawn, and Bryce haven’t missed a Sunday. They’re already signed up for the next “Foundations” class. And Jean was confirmed on Palm Sunday and is now a communicant member at our church.  

What do you think? Someday should I ask each of them why it took them so long? Nah! I’d rather keep telling them how grateful I am that our church can serve them with the gospel of our merciful, patient, long-suffering Savior and of the timeless life he’s won for them and for me. 


Paul Zell is a home missionary at Living Savior, Asheville/Hendersonville, North Carolina. 


*Names have been changed. 


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Author: Paul E. Zell
Volume 106, Number 6
Issue: June 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 World Missions updates

Vietnam 

In April, WELS leaders, including Mark Schroeder, WELS president; Larry Schlomer, World Missions administrator; Sean Young, director of Missions Operations; and Bounkeo Lor, Hmong Asia ministry coordinator, traveled to Vietnam to finalize the needed steps to purchase property in Hanoi on which to build a theological education center for pastors and leaders in the Hmong Fellowship Church.  

A memorandum of understanding was signed with the Vietnamese Fellowship Church, who will be facilitating the legal steps to make this happen. Once the land is purchased, building will begin. If the Lord allows, by the end of this year WELS will have an educational facility in Hanoi that can train Hmong pastors and regional leaders.  

“Leaders of the Hmong churches in Vietnam are one step closer to a dream they thought might never happen,” says Schlomer. “This is a huge milestone. Careful negotiations with church and government leaders have been blessed by our Lord. There we were, in Vietnam, standing on property the government is allowing us to use for a purpose that in the recent past seemed impossible. God is reminding us all that this is in his hands. It is time for prayers of thanks as we continue to ask God to bless this unprecedented opportunity.”  

 Learn more about this opportunity and how you can be involved at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach 


Latin America 

The Latin American mission team continues to grow and expand Academia Cristoacademiacristo.com, since its start in 2015. The team’s goal is to use technology to reach Spanish-speakers with the gospel, train them through online classes, and help them plant and lead churches that faithfully proclaim God’s Word. Current statistics include:  

  • 1.3 million followers and a reach of 2 million people on Academia Cristo’s Facebook page. 
  • An average of 40,000 visitors per week to Academia Cristo websites for self-study classes and opportunities to sign-up for live classes.  
  • More than 8,000 people signing up for live classes and further training. 
  • 18 current or potential church planters in Latin America with whom missionaries are working. 

The team is currently updating its website and working with WELS Multi-Language Publications to develop a mobile app. 

Since the beginning of 2018, the Latin American mission team and Spanish-speaking national pastors have visited countries like Ecuador, Paraguay, Argentina, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to meet with Academia Cristo students and explore potential church planting opportunities. New opportunities are also popping up in existing fields like Colombia and Mexico. 

In order to respond to these new opportunities, the Latin American mission team is calling a new missionary and deploying another to Asuncion, Paraguay. Two other missionaries moved to Quito, Ecuador, in 2018. The remaining two live in Miami, Florida, and work with Spanish-speakers in US congregations who want to reach back to their home countries. 


Learn more about this work at wels.net/latin-america. 


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Volume 106, Number 6
Issue: June 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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New location for Northwestern Publishing House

Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) has moved. In May, it packed up its offices and relocated to its new home, the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry (CMM)the synod’s headquarters in Waukesha.  

“We strive to be the best stewards of the funds we have available. With that in mind, it makes the most sense to make use of the space in the synod office and sell our current building,” says Bill Ziche, NPH president. “We will continue to publish all the same materials we have in the past. We have now, God willing, put ourselves on a financial path to be able to do this.” 

NPH’s past location in a 46,000-square-foot building off of Watertown Plank Road in Milwaukee used to house a retail store, warehouse, and office space. With NPH closing its retail store last fall and transitioning its warehousing and distribution to an outside fulfillment partner, it no longer needs as much space. Its new location in the newly built-out lower level of the Center for Mission and Ministry will allow it to consolidate as well as to work more closely with different synod areas of ministry, including WELS Congregational Services. “The move offers great opportunities for us to collaborate more closely with them and support them with our experience in developing content, printing, and distribution,” says Ziche. 

NPH has moved before when publishing needs and trends have changed. This is another one of those adjustments to changing circumstances,” says WELS President Mark Schroeder. “But in many ways, we believe this will be a positive change that will enable NPH to continue to take care of the publishing needs of our synod well into the future. We are happy to have NPH join us at the CMM.” 

A WELS subsidiary and non-profit organization, NPH has served customers for more than 125 years with Christ-centered resources. NPH is continually adding Christian books, music, gifts, and church supplies to its website, nph.net, or by calling 800-662-6022. Churches in Southeastern Wisconsin can even pick up music and church supplies like communion wafers and cups from NPH’s new location.  

NPH is producing new Christian resources as well, adding titles such as Look Up From Your Phone So I Can Love You and My 180: Loving God More in the last year. It also is continuing its work on the new hymnal and its accompanying resources, which are scheduled to be available by Advent 2021. 


WELS members are welcome to visit NPH’s new location and learn more about the synod’s publishing house. Call 414-615-5727 to schedule a tour. 


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Volume 106, Number 6
Issue: June 2019

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Congregational Services launches Welcome Home

“Welcome home.” It’s what one says to a spouse who’s been gone on a business trip or to child who’s been away at school. With a new program from WELS Congregational Services, it’s what WELS members will be saying to their Christian family when they see each other at church. 

There are approximately 155,000 WELS individuals who attend worship three or fewer times a year. Many of those have not set foot in church in multiple years. These are members of our Christian family who are at risk of further drifting away.  

WELS Congregational Services has developed a new initiative called Welcome Home to aid congregations in reminding members that church is their home where they worship, receive the means of grace, and fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s where they can go to find Christian love, and, most important, it’s where they hear about God’s grace. 

Donn Dobberstein, director of WELS Discipleship, explains, “Our churches want to welcome all our members home to the blessings Jesus wants to give themthe gospel, the means of grace, worship, and the fellowship of believers.” 

The name for the program, Welcome Homewas chosen because the word “home” invokes the idea of “family.” As Dobberstein explains, when someone goes missing from family, the concern for their welfare and whereabouts is immediate and immense. 

With the Welcome Home initiative, Congregational Services is introducing a series of resources, including worship helps, aimed at “welcoming home” all members. Congregations are asked to pack the churchwith the goal of 100 percent attendanceat a special service to be held either Oct. 20 or Oct. 27. Additional resources will look to strengthen the sense of community, or family, within WELS congregations, so that all members feel like they’re coming home when they come to worship. A video-based elder training series is also being developed for pastors and church leaders who want to better prepare themselves for this spiritual task. 

In today’s increasingly post-Christian society, it’s becoming more imperative that people understand the importance of worship and the means of grace. Dobberstein outlines five main reasons that people fail to prioritize attending church.  

  1. Failure to appreciate the means of grace.It’s possible to grow up in church your entire life and yet not totally appreciate the means of grace that God has given believers. This is ofteexasperated by the self-absorbed culture we live in.  
  2. Bad prioritization.Society has made it too easy to not make worship a priority. The world offers many alternatives and distractions to a regular worship life, and slowly but surely, church gets pushed lower and lower on the priority list. 
  3. Conflict with the pastor or members. Perhaps the pastor said something someone didn’t like, or another member does or says something “unchristian.” All people, even church members, are imperfect, which is why Christ set the perfect example of what grace and forgiveness looks like. 
  4. Guilt over sins. Guilt is a major reason for people drifting away. Maybe it’s something they did or said, or maybe it’s a selfawareness that they haven’t been to church in a while. Guilt can be paralyzing, but it is also why sinners need to hear about God’s grace. 
  5. Conflict between doctrine and what society says.In a culture where everything is polarizing yet permissible, the messages that are heard from the world can easily permeate and create doubt about what God’s Word really says. 

Dobberstein says the Welcome Home initiative draws a lot of parallels to the parable of the lost son (Luke 11:15-32). The younger brother goes away because he doesn’t want anyone telling him what to do. Tempted by the devil and the world, the younger brother strays and finds himself in need, hurting. He wonders whether he will be welcomed back. However, as Dobberstein explains, there’s also lesson to learn from the older brother who refused to welcome him back.   

“We want to better equip the members of our congregations to reach out to their fellow members with the extravagant love of the heavenly Father,” says Dobberstein. “ Come on back, no questions asked.’ ”   

He continues, “Welcome Home gives the members of our congregations the opportunity to put on display the kind of loving heart and caring attitude Jesus put on display to those who needed it most.”


Welcome Home resources will be available at welscongregationalservices.net in June. Learn more about this initiative in this month’s edition of WELS Connection. Read a personal story about coming back to a WELS church in FIC. 

 


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 6
Issue: June 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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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
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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
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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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Author:
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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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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Author:
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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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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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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Author:
Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

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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

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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

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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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