Two communities, one church

It was a sunny, early 2016 December Saturday when the phone rang at St. Paul, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The voice on the other end identified himself as Jacob Luk. He said that he and his community were members of another Lutheran church in town, and he wanted to come to my office and talk about church. Intriguing and a bit mysterious, I thought to myself. We set an appointment to meet. 

Jacob appeared at my office right on time, along with his wife, Elizabeth. He explained that his South Sudanese community was of the Nuer tribe and that they had been members at a Lutheran Church–Canada congregation for about five years. Once a month they held a Nuer prayer service. They were looking for a new church home because the pastor would not preach his Sunday morning sermon at their Nuer service, and since the church fellowship hall was being rented out to a private daycare facility, there was no place to have Sunday school for their children. His asked if they could use our facility for a Nuer Christmas Day service followed by a Christmas meal.  

And so our relationship began. With approval by St. Paul’s council, the Nuer service was held Christmas Day afternoon. I preached my Christmas morning message. The service ran from 2 p.m. until 4:45 p.m. The Christmas meal took place from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. About 65 Nuer souls attended. 

Starting in February 2017, I led a nucleus group through Bible instruction. All 34 souls chose to join our congregation. On Sept. 10, 21 of the 34 were present to be publicly accepted into membership by profession of faith.  

A monthly Nuer service now is taking place. Nuer members also attend St. Paul’s weekly Sunday services. Our combined kindergarten Sunday school is so large that we had to split it into two classes. Our parking challenge has moved us to negotiate with the University of Ottawa to obtain more off-street parking. The Nuer community has been a gracious and blessed addition to the St. Paul family.  

As Jacob likes to explain it, “Two communities, one church.” 


Harland H. Goetzinger 


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Author: Harland H. Goetzinger 
Volume 104, Number 12
Issue: December 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Book Nook – December 2017

In this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Pastor Nathaniel Biebert brings us Luther at the Manger, in which he translates the five Christmas sermons Martin Luther preached between Christmas Eve and Dec. 27, 1531. Luther preached on Isaiah 9:6, which from the German translates: “For to us a child is born, a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulders, and he is called Wonderful, Counselor, Strength, Champion, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” 

Luther begins his Christmas sermons in amazement that God gave the baby at the manger “to us.” Jesus is for you, and so is his salvation. Luther contrasts what the world considers humble with what God considers wonderful. Luther leads his congregation to marvel at the Everlasting Father through whom we are no longer under the law, but through Jesus have the full rights as sons to everlasting life.  

Sitting at Luther’s pulpit you gain insights into his keen intellect; his down-to-earth manner of speaking; and most important, his clear expression of the gospel. In the foreword, Pastor Biebert places these sermons in their historical context. This is valuable since Luther’s time was different from ours, but the message of Isaiah 9:6 applies to both. Having this historical context aids your ability to fully enjoy and benefit from his message. 

The book offers a guide that you can use to read the sermons devotionally over 24 days in Advent, through the 12 days of Christmas up to Epiphany, or on the same days Luther preached them.  

Luther at the Manger is an excellent addition for Reformation historians, pastors studying Luther’s preaching on Isaiah 9:6, laypeople seeking a devotional study for Christmas, and anyone who wishes to sit with Luther in amazement at the manger and to rejoice in the incarnation. 


Brian Heinitz
Henderson, Nevada 


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Author: Brian Heinitz
Volume 104, Number 12
Issue: December 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Serving pure grace in grace-starved Latin America

Just like the shepherds couldn’t stop themselves from sharing the good news of their Savior’s birth, Jackson, a new Lutheran living in Venezuela, can’t keep the peace he found in the gospel to himself. 

“You fill them up with the gospel and its hope and peace and comfort, and it starts to spill out,” says Mike Hartman, field coordinator for Latin America. “[Jackson] is inviting people into his home to worship.” 

What’s amazing is that less than a year ago, Jackson didn’t have that peace. Living in a country that economically and socially is falling apart—and where there aren’t any churches that faithfully share God’s true Word—Jackson was looking for hope. He saw a Facebook post from Academia Cristo that shared the gospel message and invited him to join a Whatsapp (texting) group that discusses a daily devotion. As he learned more, Jackson began peppering the group leader Henry Herrara, pastor at Most Holy Trinity, Medillín, Colombia (a sister church to WELS), with questions. Herrara invited Jackson to take an online class that he was leading through Academia Cristo. Jackson joined all Herrara’s classes, went through Bible information class, worshiped online with Most Holy Trinity, and within months was confirmed.  

But that wasn’t enough for Jackson. He began inviting people into his home in Venezuela and teaching them what he had learned. He also started offering weekly worship, using the website Iglesia Luterana  Cristo for his worship resources. Just this past summer, he visited people he knew in five different Venezuelan cities and invited them to learn about Jesus and start churches in their communities. 

Jackson is just one example of the people Academia Cristo is reaching. Since its launch almost three years ago, Academia Cristo has reached Spanish-speaking people in different countries with the life-saving message of Jesus. And some of those people, people like Jackson, are sharing that message with others.  

According to Hartman, the goal of this joint effort between World Missions’ One Latin America team and Multi-Language Publications is to “help empower Spanish speakers to know Jesus, to share Jesus, and to go with Jesus.”  

The field is ripe. Hartman says that very few people in Latin America know the basic gospel message, and very few churches teach it. “People are looking for peace because there isn’t peace [in Latin America]. There isn’t peace in their consciences either,” he says. “We serve pure grace in grace-starved Latin America.” 

The use of Facebook helps spread the word about the ministry. With more than 780,000 followers and a reach between 1 to 2 million people a week, the Academia Cristo Facebook page shares daily messages of grace and directs people to the website. At academiacristo.com, people can download free video Bible classes and resources to learn more about their Savior.  

Those who want to dig deeper can register for the Heme Aqui (Here I Am) five-week live online course, which teaches them the essential truths of God’s Word and how to share them. The class’ final project has students videotaping themselves sharing a Bible story with someone else. More than 150 people are active in this course now. 

The final stage is another set of courses, En Vivo (Live), which works through the Old and New Testaments and Luther’s Catechism, again with an emphasis on how to teach law/gospel truths to others. Participants are connected with a missionary or national pastor who will mentor them and help them plant churches in their communities. House churches have already opened in Mexico, Colombia,  and Venezuela.  

“It’s disciples who are discipling disciples,” says Hartman. 


Know Spanish speakers who wants to learn more about Jesus? Direct them to academiacristo.com.


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 12
Issue: December 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Let your light shine – December 2017

Don Steinhorst, a member of St. John’s, Fox Lake, had never been out of the state of Wisconsin. But after watching the “Answers in Genesis” series for years, he was compelled to visit the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Ky.  

Steinhorst saw all the riches that God provided him and wanted to share his experience with others. Having no children of his own, he offered to pay for any of the children in his congregation, ranging from nine-years-old to eighth grade, to join him on his journey to the life-sized replica of Noah’s ark.  

“The Bible says store up your treasures in heaven, so I store them in the right direction,” Steinhorst says. “You can’t take your wealth with you.” 

A total of 52 children and adults signed up to make the bus trip. Donna Schmitz, the kindergarten teacher at St. John’s, helped Steinhorst plan the itinerary. On their way to the Ark Encounter, the group went to the Newark aquarium and the Creation Museum, learning more about the wonders of God’s creation.  

In the Ark Encounter, they explored the three decks, which depict the biblical history of Noah. The 510-foot-long structure also features real animals and special exhibits. The congregation then had the unique opportunity to spend the night in the ark.  

One sixth-grade boy on the trip says, “I was amazed at the size. We always think big, but it is huge.”  

Steinhorst says his favorite part of the trip was seeing how excited the kids were. 

Before heading back to Wisconsin, the group visited the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.  

Although the bus ride was long, members of the congregation took this opportunity to grow in fellowship. “I knew I’d have fun on this trip, but I had way more fun than I thought I would,” says one seventh-grade boy. “Besides just seeing all of the places, it was fun to be with so many of my friends and grown-ups from church. I loved the bus ride.”  

After returning home, the children wrote a special thank-you card to Steinhorst.  

“I never could have done this with without Mr. Steinhorst giving us this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says an eighth-grade girl. “It was a true gift.” 


Gabriella Moline 


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Author: Gabriella Moline  
Volume 104, Number 12
Issue: December 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Moments with missionaries: Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado

Christ Lutheran Church is a home mission near downtown Denver, Colorado, that reflects the diversity of the area. Paul Biedenbender, pastor at Christ, says that of its 200 souls, 10 percent are African American, 40 percent are Anglo, and 50 percent are Hispanic. The mission offers weekly Sunday services in both English and Spanish. Here Biedenbender discusses the cultural significance of grandmothers and their unique witness in his congregation. 

The voice of a grandmother 

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (1 Timothy 1:5). 

The voice of a grandmother is unique. It tends to contain the proper measure of wisdom gained through experience, unconditional love, and uninhibited truth (whether we like it or not). In our diverse community, the voice of the grandmother is also very influential. When grandma/abuela speaks, you do well to pay attention. Our congregation is blessed with several grandmothers who are grounded in God’s grace and using their voices to point the next generation to the Savior. 

Recently we laid to rest one of those unique voices among us. After blessing Lorene Dickey with 84 years of life, the Lord fulfilled his promise to her in Jesus, crowning her with the glory of heaven. She will be greatly missed, not only as one of the founding members of our mission but also as one of the most encouraging and endearing personalities. Better known as “Grandma,” “Great Grandma-ma,” “Granny,” and “La Grandma,” she always had a warm hug for everyone, from the person attending church for the first time to each of her fellow members who have been on the receiving end for years. Her speech was filled with words of praise to God, confidence in his plans, and reassurance of his promises. God used her to touch the lives of alcoholics, new Christians, young mothers, and a rookie pastor, among so many others. 

Three days after the funeral, we celebrated God pouring out his grace in Christ through the baptisms of Davashunique, Ke’arre, Za’Marii, and Ry’Lynn. They are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of our member, Brenda Mosley. Two months earlier, Brenda handed me a slip of paper with her daughter’s name and number with the instructions, “Give her a call and set up a time to meet with her.” I found out later that she had given a similar mandate to her daughter: “Pastor Paul is going to call you. Answer the phone and let him come over.” The Lord blessed those encounters. Brenda was beaming with joy that Sunday morning of the baptisms, praising God for his grace on her family. I’m sure Brenda is going to keep in their ears about Sunday school and Bible information class. 

And then it happened again. The phone rang, and I didn’t recognize the number or the voice on the other end. “Hi Pastor. This is Alexandra Navarro. My abuela, Aurelia Chavez, gave me your number. I’d like to talk to you about church and baptism.” We met a few days later at Aurelia’s house and I was able to share the message of sin and grace. Soon her children Xzadian and Yasmine were covered in God’s baptismal grace. 

May the Lord continue to bless the voices of faithful, Christian grandmothers! 


Paul Biedenbender serves as a home missionary at Christ, Denver, Colorado. 


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Author: Paul Biedenbender
Volume 104, Number 12
Issue: December 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Hurricanes offer opportunity to show Christian love

With three major hurricanes affecting the United States this summer, there were many opportunities for WELS members to show Christian love and service to the affected congregations and their communities. WELS Christian Aid and Relief has distributed more than $100,000 in relief aid so far to those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  

In addition, several groups already have traveled to the affected areas to show Christian love by helping with immediate cleanup. 


Florida 

Five men from Salem, Stillwater, Minn., brought a Christian Aid and Relief trailer outfitted with tools and supplies for relief work, to West Melbourne, Fla., in late September, to help members of New Hope, West Melbourne, and Redeemer, Merritt Island, with cleanup following Hurricane Irma.  

It was a homecoming for Jeff Ross, who was stationed in Florida for his military service. “I got laid off from my job, which was not a bad thing, so, I had a little time on my hands,” he says. “God just gave me this opportunity to come down here and help some Floridians out. I know what it’s like to go through a hurricane. So it’s great to get back and help.” 

The group took down trees and cleaned up debris at about 25 homes—both of WELS members and also nonmembers in the community. New Hope Christian Academy school children also helped with cleanup as well as distributed fliers that shared information about the congregations.  

“It’s a great opportunity to live our faith but also to share our faith through our actions and through the conversations we are able to have,” says Ted Petersen, a member of New Hope who helped coordinate the local relief efforts.  

With many retirees in the congregations who find it difficult to do the physical labor, Petersen says it was wonderful to have volunteers come and work on the church’s behalf. “Hurricanes are brutal things. . . . Just to see people come down who say, “We’re going to help you out. We care about you and what you’ve been through and we’re going to do what we can to get you back on your feet”—that means a lot to us,” he says. 

It also is rewarding for the volunteers. Bob Wells, one of the volunteers from Minnesota, says, “It’s been nice to go together and work as a group, to know that the congregation and the synod are here to help. And [to see] the people just crying tears of joy after we showed up and got the work done.”  


Texas 

About 50 WELS members from the greater Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Houston area traveled to Edna and Victoria, Tex., in early September to offer support and relief to those communities that were affected by Hurricane Harvey. 

These volunteers partnered with members of Redeemer, a multi-site ministry with worship in both Edna and Victoria, to address the critical needs of the congregation’s members, their friends and family, and also the community. “We hit roughly 60 families, doing work anywhere from tarping roofs to cutting down trees to cleaning up yards,” says Andrew Schroer, pastor at Redeemer, Edna.  

Aaron Glaeske, pastor at Redeemer, Victoria, had only arrived in Victoria a couple of months before the hurricane. He just recently started worship services at the Victoria site and is preparing for a grand opening on Dec. 3. “Our dear Lord gave us an opportunity with Harvey to introduce ourselves to the community in a different way,” he says. “Every opportunity you have to reach into the community to show that you’re interested in them—not just to get people into pews but because you’re really interested in them as people—that speaks volumes about the kind of love that Jesus has shown us.” 


Christian Aid and Relief is still evaluating long-term recovery needs, especially in Houston, Tex., which had massive flooding after some areas received more than 50 inches of rain, and Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Watch for updates at wels.net/hurricanerelief. 


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 11
Issue: November 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Classes offered for chaplaincy program

From police officers to those who are incarcerated, the Chaplain Certification Program is about helping people in special circumstances with special ministry needs. Training is open to all WELS members, both lay members and called workers, with a heart for meeting the spiritual needs of people in circumstances that require particular spiritual care. Specific areas of ministry include those in prison, hospitals, and nursing homes; the military and their families; and public servants such as police officers and firemen and women. 

The Commission on Special Ministries established this program because many healthcare facilities, jails, prisons, and military bases are tightening their requirements for ministry in their facilities, especially if the pastor or layperson wants to reach out to non-members.  

Chaplain Certification Program courses can be taken online through Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. There are four required courses—Communicating Forgiveness, A Scriptural Approach to Addiction Counseling, Your Chaplaincy and Ethical Issues, and Chaplaincy Seminar—and four electives with emphases on prison ministry, ministry to the military, and ministry to the aging. 

DiAnn Krigbaum, a retired police officer, was not only served by a chaplain during her time on the police force, but she also got her certification to serve as a chaplain after she retired. She tells her story in the latest issues of His Hands, the WELS Commission on Special Ministries newsletter.  

When her own family experience a crisis and she didn’t know who to call, she found help through a chaplain. She writes:  

“As the situation escalated, the social worker told me to call 911. I couldn’t. I froze. I was the police! I was supposed to help solve and fix problems. My mind was racing. What would my coworkers and supervisors think of me? The enormous shame and pain from loss and failure left me unable to move.  

“The collateral damage severely wounded every member of my family. I nearly lost my job. Had God abandoned us?  

“But God did not forget about me and my family. He appeared ‘undercover’ in the form of a chaplain. My pastor at the time was also a volunteer police chaplain. He came to my rescue by repeatedly reminding me that God was not trying to harm me but to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-13).  

“By God’s grace, I survived in my career until age 50, when I retired with a police pension and sufficient means to take care of my family as a single mother.  

“That’s when my pastor asked me to take chaplain courses with him through Martin Luther College. He suggested it would help my faith grow and allow others to learn from my experiences. 

“In an online forum with other pastors and lay students, I was able to share my experiences as a police officer and spiritually wounded WELS member. This provided healing, learning, spiritual growth, and friendships with many Christian friends and called workers. In 2014 I received my Chaplain Certificate from Martin Luther College.” 

Learn more about becoming a chaplain at wels.net/chaplains. The next online class, “The Spiritual Side of PTSD,” taught by Paul Ziemer, WELS national civilian chaplain to the military, will begin in January 2018. A limited amount of financial aid is available from the Lutheran Military Support Group for WELS military contact pastors to take chaplain certification courses. Read the rest of Krigbaum’s story at wels.net/special-ministries. 


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 11
Issue: November 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Working together to support congregations

WELS Congregational Services has put together a five-year plan to direct its work. The plan addresses current demographic challenges facing many WELS congregations. Plans include  

  • creating a present-day mission emphasis;
  • better capitalizing on WELS’ historic strengths;
  • focusing on closing the “back door”;
  • striving to strengthen the family;
  • helping aging, rural congregations prayerfully work through their options; and
  • assisting congregations with self-assessment and planning.

Each area of WELS Congregational Services is working on different aspects of the plan, but many times the groups are working together to develop resources to face these challenges. For example, the Commissions on Evangelism and Lutheran Schools teamed up to develop a tool that helps congregations with outreach and allows them to capitalize on one of WELS’ historic strengths—its schools.  

WELS maintains one of the largest private schools systems in the United States. The greatest growth in WELS’ school system over the past 20 years has been in early childhood ministries. Many congregations have started early childhood ministries to reach into their communities to share the gospel with nonmember families and create a gateway for new members to join the church. Research has shown, though, that while these ministries are doing a wonderful job sharing God’s Word with their young students, most are not reaching their students’ families. To help congregations create a harvest strategy that might better share God’s Word with these families, the Commissions on Evangelism and Lutheran Schools created Telling the Next Generation: Utilizing our Schools for Outreach.  

Telling the Next Generation is a daylong workshop that helps congregation and school leaders focus on their joint mission, build relationships within the church and with school families, and develop an organized program to connect school families with the Word. Since the program began in April 2016, 17 workshops have been held in 11 of WELS’ 12 districts. Almost 800 hundred people from 109 congregations have participated.  

“The Telling the Next Generation workshop has had an incredible impact on the early childhood ministry of Apostles,” says Jay Bickelhaupt, pastor at Apostles, Billings, Mont. “We walked away with a detailed ministry plan and a refreshed focus to boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus to children and their families. Our meetings and future planning have become more streamlined as we go forward with our agreed upon outreach and evangelism goals.”  

Bickelhaupt also reports that within two weeks of the workshop, God blessed Apostles with two preschool families in the congregation’s Bible basics class. As he notes, “Telling the Next Generation has empowered our ministry team spiritually with the gospel and has provided the practical lessons we needed to position our early childhood ministry as an outreach arm to our community.”  

WELS Congregational Services will continue to work on other aspects of its five-year plan and release new tools and resources as they are developed.  


Learn about the ministries supported by Congregational Services at wels.net/congregational-services. Discover more about the current demographic challenges facing WELS and Congregational Services’ plans in the November edition of WELS Connection. 


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 11
Issue: November 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Choral Festival offers lifelong blessings

“Joyful.  Exciting.  Amazing.  A taste of heaven.”  These are just some of the words used to describe the WELS National Choral Festival which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary November 10-12, in La Crosse, Wisconsin–the place where it all began. 

“Choral Fest allowed my choir family to grow along with my faith…We all stood together as one in faith and in song.”  Shelby Cary, Luther High School 

Luther High School, Onalaska, has a long tradition of musical excellence.  Frank J. Italiano directed the Luther High School band for many years.  It was an outstanding group and popular with the students. “Of the 60 kids in the school, 59 were in band,” recalls Dave Adickes, who inherited the Luther choral program early in his ministry.  Italiano held the first Lutheran band festival at Luther in 1960 and Adickes thought, “We should do the same!”  He dreamed big, calling it the National Lutheran Choral Festival and inviting eight WELS prep and high schools to sing in the first festival.  Nearly 300 students gathered to “celebrate God’s gift of music” and get a “sneak peek of heaven” as well as gain exposure to a wide variety of directors and techniques.  (D)MLC’s head of choral music, Professor Martin Albrecht, directed the mass choir, which fulfilled another objective–getting students to “love DMLC,” according to Adickes.  From the beginning, Friday night’s concert was a secular concert performed by the individual choirs in which “everyone cheered for everyone.”  Saturday was a day of rehearsal and fun, culminating with Sunday’s mass sacred concert.  The location of Choral Fest changed as various WELS high schools hosted the event.  Traveling to Choral Fest was “exciting for the kids and us.”  

“Some of the non-musical activities make Choral Fest Choral Fest even more than the singing!  These are often the most memorable, along with praising God with our talents for a whole weekend.”  Cameron Schroeder, Luther High School 

As the years went on, changes to Choral Fest included specialized clinicians, regional and national festivals held in alternate years with up to 21 high schools participating.  In 1982, the 25th anniversary of Choral Fest, Adickes again hosted the gathering at Luther High School.  This was the first time a special piece was commissioned for the festival, a tradition which has continued throughout the years.  Adickes says it’s “great to see how [Choral Fest] has grown and how the directors have grown and how much the quality of the music has improved.”  Choral Fest has “helped unite the schools and bring the congregations together” as students, directors, families and friends meet new people and enjoy God’s wonderful gift of music together.  Choral Festival continues “to do what we hoped it would do from the beginning,” says Adickes.   

“My kids love Choral Fest.  They make new friends, they are exposed to the directing styles of different directors, and they always express the deep joy they experience from singing beautiful music to God’s glory with fellow Christians.  As a teacher and director, what more could I want for them?”  Ned Goede, WISCO 

As Choral Festival celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, Luther High School will again serve as host, this time under the direction of Dave Adickes’ son, Paul.  Paul Adickes, former Choral Festival attendee, director, clinician and previous host, says “it’s really exciting for me to be hosting the 50th anniversary right here in the Coulee Region where it all started.  Each Festival has been a unique and wonderful experience for me and my students.”   

This year’s festival will be held at the La Crosse Center with “plenty of seating for everyone,” according to the younger Adickes.  Music from the past five decades, an alumni choir and commissioned works by Sarah Siegler and Dale Witte, including the final piece, an arrangement of “God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage,” which also serves as this year’s theme, are highlights of the anniversary.  The image of the Mississippi River Bridge, “an iconic feature in La Crosse,” adorns the posters, symbolizing how “Choral Festival 2017 will bridge the music of the past, present and future with the timeless heritage and hope that we have in the living and enduring Word of God,” says Paul Adickes.   

“I feel honored to be able to play at Choral Festival this year…Choral Fest honestly played a huge part in inspiring me to become a music teacher.  I knew that someday I wanted to be able to lead students to praise God and witness together just like my grandfather and father have.”  Jennifer Adickes, MLC 

Paul Adickes continues, “Choral Festival has endured for so many reasons beyond its musical value…The friendships that are created, the bonds of faith that are reinforced, and the words of faith proclaimed in song resonate in the hearts of our students long after the concerts. Choral Festival gives them an experience that is a lifelong blessing.” 


Please visit www.welsfinearts.org for more information about Choral Festival 2017, to register for the alumni choir or view a livestream of the secular and sacred concerts.


How God has blessed 50 years of the National Lutheran Choral Festival! From founder to director, present to past Choral Festival participants, so many had so much to say about their amazing experiences. Read on for a wonderful listing of God’s grace through his gift of music to these individuals and know that the blessings were multiplied many times over in the thousands of participants and listeners over the years. To God be the glory!  


MORE INTERVIEWS

Dave Adickes, retired teacher, Luther High School, Onalaska, Wis., and founder of the WELS National Lutheran Choral Festival: 

Dave Adickes recalls taking the choir for Luther High School to Choral Festival in Arizona with a side trip to the Grand Canyon. “We tried to sing at a chapel on a promontory overlooking the canyon,” he says. “We sang but were kicked out, so we sang outside.”  

Paul Adickes, teacher, Luther High School, Onalaska, Wis.: 

“I remember how exciting it was to be in Phoenix as a student, seeing the desert, and meeting fellow WELS students from all over the country. This was my first experience in a choir that large. It was amazing to hear that many voices singing together, praising God.”  

“I remember our coach bus getting stuck in the mountains at 12,000 feet while traveling to a Festival, and doing the Macarena with Lakeside’s choir on Interstate 80 somewhere in Nebraska.” 

“I remember the wonderful weekends I spent becoming friends with my fellow WELS choral directors, and I remember how much I have learned from them over the years.” 

“As a director, I remember several times being so moved that I was unable to sing during the sacred concert. The impact of hundreds of young people proclaiming their faith in song with such conviction is unlike anything else.” 

“As a clinician, I remember how humbling it is to stand in front of so many talented young people and to work with them. To be able to talk about our common faith, how it ties into the words and music and how the Holy Spirit would use that to reach the audience.”  

“Growing up, I always looked forward to Choral Festival, and I knew how much it meant to my father when he was directing. I sat in the audience for many Choral Festivals long before I was ever in high school. I guess I caught that passion from my father.” 

“I strongly believe that as long as we value music as one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind, there will be a Choral Festival. The next generation of musicians coming out of our WELS colleges is well prepared to take Choral Festival into a very bright future. Lord willing, I look forward to attending the 75th anniversary of Choral Festival!” 

Ned Goede, teacher, Wisconsin Lutheran High School, Milwaukee, Wis.: 

“I did attend the first Choral Festival at Onalaska Luther in the fall of 1967. I was a senior at Luther Academy in New Ulm. Our music professor, Eldon Hirsch, selected 12 seniors to represent the school at this festival. We rehearsed in the evening right after football and other practices and didn’t have time to shower. So we began calling ourselves the ‘Dirty Dozen’ after a famous movie at that time I still think of that group as the ‘Dirty Dozen.’” 

“The first Choral Fest secular concert (now called the Pops Concert) was a madrigal concert with each group singing one madrigal and one secular piece. There were no microphones and definitely no dancing. It’s very different today with each group doing specialized choreography and having sound and light options.”  

“I remember that the singers were packed in like sardines for the sacred concert, but we had fun and friendships that continued for many years afterward.” 

“Hosting the 40th anniversary at Wisco was a personally joyous and satisfying experience for me. But, the memory that will most be with me is watching these wonderful young men and women sing beautiful songs of faith from hearts of faith. I get emotional every year as I experience this.” 

“I never thought that I would be a part of the Choral Fest experience. I actually was not even sure I wanted to go into ministry at that time. So thankful the Lord guided me to choose ministry. (This is my 48th year in ministry.)”  

Cameron Schroeder, student, Luther High School, Onalaska, Wis.: 

“I love getting to meet students from other schools that are so similar to mine. We are from pretty much the same world, and now those different parts of WELS collide in one spot, and it’s a blast! I’m also very musical and so getting to sing in a choir of this size is a HUGE privilege that not too many people get to have. It’s a ton of fun!”  

“Last year, it was a free period between group rehearsals, and my friend and I wanted to meet people from other schools, so we both sat in office chairs with wheels that we found in our meeting room and then wheeled around the hallways, visiting other rooms and saying hi. Some of the non-musical activities make Choral Fest Choral Fest, even more than the singing! These are often the most memorable, along with praising God with our talents for the whole weekend.”  

Shelby Cary, student, Luther High School, Onalaska, Wis.: 

“Last year, I attended Choral Fest for the first time with virtually no expectations on what it would be like. I traveled with my show choir from Wisconsin to Nebraska in a bus. Upon arriving at Choral Fest, I realized that this would be an experience unlike any I had ever had. The atmosphere was fun, inviting, Christian-based, and we all got the opportunity to connect with students from around the country. We all had the same goal in mind: to work hard and do our best to praise God with this very special event. It was so incredible to work with the talented musicians who were our clinicians and the students who shared the same love of music and singing as we did. Choral Fest allowed my choir family to grow along with my faith.” 

“My favorite memory of Choral Fest was working with all of these student to create something beautiful. We all put in months of hard work and dedication in preparation for this one event, and it all proved worth it in the end. Singing with a group of hundreds of others just like me sent chills through my body. We all stood together as one in faith and in song.”  

Sam Wetzel, student, Luther High School, Onalaska, Wis.: 

“The reason Choral Fest is so special to me is because of the amazing feeling of Christian fellowship. I loved the camaraderie, but moreso the ability to praise God en masse. I remember that the individual choirs would occasionally and spontaneously break into song. Also, one night my friends and I stumbled upon a group of 50 or so kids crammed into a room. In the hollow center of the assembly, people would, one at a time, go into the clearing and display a skill to a roaring crowd. We spent a good ten minutes cheering on a yo-yoer.”  

Lauren Stuebs, student, Luther High School, Onalaska, Wis.: 

“There are many special things about Choral Fest. The one I would like to zero in on is the opportunity to meet with all our fellow Lutheran high schools. We get the chance to meet with over 400 young Christians. It’s a really wonderful experience to be able to get to know the people who will someday be the leaders in our synod. “ 

“I’ll admit that it is very hard to choose one specific memory. During the last song, ‘Oh, Church Arise,’ I remember getting chills. Everyone was really into the song, and the message was just uplifting and encouraging.”  

Jennifer Adickes, student, Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.: 

“Choral Festival is special because of the connections people make with each other. I am currently a senior at Martin Luther College. When I began my freshman year, I knew many of my classmates already through Choral Fest. We bonded immediately, reminiscing about singing together and the shenanigans that went along with it. In fact, this summer, I attended a wedding of a couple of my friends who met each at at Choral Fest my junior year! In addition to Christian fellowship, Choral Fest provides the opportunity to lift our voices together in praise to God. I remember looking over the sea of students and the congregation one particular National Choral Fest and feeling amazed that we were all gathered together, singing praise to our Father. Worshipping with such a large body of students who share my faith is an experience that may only be topped in the heavenly choirs.” 

“I have many wonderful memories from Choral Fest. I’ve attended ten of them! When I was younger, the Friday night Pops Concerts were my favorite. I knew that someday I wanted to perform a showy number (including choreography, of course!) with the Sound Foundation [Luther High School, Onalaska, Wisconsin]. I also got the unique opportunity of making connections and forming relationships with many high school choral directors. Now that I’m at MLC, having those connections has been a huge blessing to my ministry! I also have fond memories of ‘homeroom’ times during the festivals. This was a time where we had the option to relax in our designated rooms between practices. Instead, however, we chose to wander to the homerooms of other schools and make friends. We talked, joked around, and became friends. Many people that I met this way at Choral Fest are still dear friends to me!” 

“I feel honored to be able to play at Choral Festival this year. My grandpa is an incredibly driven, talented, loving man. It’s crazy to think that 50 years ago, Choral Fest had its start with him! I’ve been watching my dad conduct at Choral Festivals for as long as I can remember. Even when I was a little kid, I loved telling everyone, ‘That’s my dad!’ Because of the example set by both my grandpa and father, I decided to be an elementary education and secondary vocal music double major at Martin Luther College. Choral Fest honestly played a huge part in inspiring me to become a music teacher. I knew that someday I wanted to be able to lead student to praise God and witness together just like my grandfather and father have.”  

Penny Nell Mielke, teacher, Crown of Life Lutheran School, West St. Paul, Minn.:  

“Looking forward to this year as [my daughter] Maddy is blessed to participate. My sister and I [Winnebago Academy, Fond du Lac, Wis.] both have great memories of the 25th Choral Fest, and our mom was in the first one!”  

Beth Biedenbender Henry, teacher, Trinity Lutheran School, Coleman, Wis.: “My first Choral Fest was in Arizona. I went with my sister Rachael. It was the most memorable for me, not only to sing with so many other talented voices but also it created friendships that are still around today. I met cousins I didn’t know from California, stayed with my godparents who moved to Arizona from Michigan, got to experience God’s marvelous creation of the Grand Canyon, and sing his praises for all who came. That was the start of eight wondrous years from high school [Michigan Lutheran High School, St. Joseph, Mich.] through college of singing and enjoying it. Each year after that you couldn’t wait to see your friends again and make new ones!”  

Jane Falck Grobe, teacher, Salem Lutheran School, Stillwater, Minn.: 

“Fun and fellowship! Great memories and wonderful choirs! The one I attended [as a member of Fox Valley Lutheran High School choir, Appleton, Wisconsin] was at St. Croix ironically!”  

Jessie Bilitz Polzin, stayathome mother, Hugo, Minn.: 

“I met my eventual husband my junior year at Choral Fest. We reconnected later in college with a ‘Hey! Didn’t I meet you at Choral Fest?!’ The rest is history!”  

Rebekah Haag Thoma, teacher, St. Peter’s Lutheran School, Sturgeon Bay, Wis.: 

“It was a taste of heaven! It felt as if I was singing with the heavenly choirs!”


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Author: Ann Ponath
Volume 104, Number 11
Issue: November 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

New director of discipleship

“Encouraging and equipping congregations for faithful and fruitful gospel ministry.”  

That’s how Donn Dobberstein describes his new position as the director of discipleship for WELS’ Congregational Services. In this new role, Dobberstein will serve the WELS Commissions on Adult Discipleship and Youth and Family Ministry.  

Dobberstein is not a stranger to Congregational Services, having served as the chairman of the Commission on Evangelism for the past 10 years. He also says, “Twenty-two years in parish mission settings have given me ministry experiences showing the importance of and the connect between ‘making disciples’ and ‘continuing to disciple.’ Evangelism and nurture are not at odds with each other but are complementary.”  

Dobberstein and his wife, Beth, are moving from their current home in Port Orange, Fla., to the Milwaukee, Wis., area as Donn begins his work at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry in Waukesha, Wis. The couple have four children, two of whom still live at home.  

Dobberstein clearly feels a sense of urgency for this ministry. He notes, “After years of the position being ‘dormant,’ clarifying a sense of direction and vision will be a priority. Evaluating and prioritizing resources needed for WELS congregations will help us set goals for the next five years. My intention is to listen and learn, and to support and serve my fellow coworkers and God’s people. I believe God has given us a unique moment in his kingdom that can be seized that, God-willing, can lead to ministry activity.” 


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 11
Issue: November 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Spreading the Word in Germany

Being able to speak in “one voice”—a voice that shares the pure law and gospel message—is something Michael Herbst, pastor at St. Johanneskirche, Zwickau-Planitz, Germany, saw and appreciated at the recent synod convention. Herbst and his son, Daniel, represented the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) in Germany at the WELS convention during this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation. 

“It was so good to get the Lord’s Supper together with all of us,” he says, in reference to the opening worship service. “It’s good to see and hear that we are one voice.” 

That fellowship with WELS and other sister churches in the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference means much to the 1,250-member German church body, especially because many people in their country don’t want to hear the gospel message. According to Herbst, while many claim to be members of the State Church (a mix of Lutheranism, Reformed, and United Protestant) or the Catholic Church, they are not really interested in attending. And the message they hear from these churches can range from moderately conservative to extremely liberal. The State Church waters down the law and is tolerant of anything that is preached. “I have to say first [that people] are lost because they are sinners, but that is not the message in the State churches,” says Herbst.  

But the 16 congregations in the ELFK are not afraid to share the law and gospel, a message Martin Luther stressed, even at a time when many Germans are tired of hearing about the Reformation.  

In fact, they are using the Reformation to reach out into their communities. A series of lectures called “Das Wort Hat Getan” (the Word did it) will give ELFK pastors an opportunity to share more about Luther’s teachings. Herbst’s congregation in Zwickau-Planitz is also hosting a synodwide special worship service on Reformation Day for all its congregations and the local community to celebrate and share the gospel message for which Luther fought. 

Joint gatherings for choirs, youth, brass, and more are not uncommon for the ELFK congregations. The ELFK also runs a large bookstore filled with conservative Lutheran materials and trains called workers in its own seminary in Leipzig. An independent elementary school run by an association of ELFK churches, Dr. Martin Luther School in Zwickau-Planitz, offers an education and the gospel message to many students who are not members. “These children have heard God’s Word, and God can plant his Word in their hearts,” says Herbst. “It’s not important for me that they come to our congregation. For me it’s important they come to Christ.” 

Challenges still abound. The seminary currently has no students, and outreach is difficult due to the indifference to religion of much of the German population. But the ELFK continues to stand firm in the Word in the land of Luther. 


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 10
Issue: October 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Synod convention overview

Synod convention celebrates our great heritage 

From the opening hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”—complete with a 45-voice choir, instruments, and organ—to the closing anthem “God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage” sung acapella three days later, the 64th biennial convention of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod highlighted the blessings of our Lutheran heritage. 

More than 400 delegates and advisors attended the convention, held July 31–Aug. 3 at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis. The convention theme, “Our Great Heritage,” connects with the important anniversary confessional Lutherans are celebrating in 2017—the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. 

In the opening President’s Report, WELS President Mark Schroeder stressed the importance of the blessings God gave to the church through Martin Luther and the faithful witnesses that followed him. “We can’t help but thank God for the many blessings that God has passed down through the generations to us,” he says. “It’s a rich and priceless inheritance—not of money or property but of the truth of his Word and the life-giving power of the gospel. It’s a heritage that has been treasured, protected, and preserved, and which has now been entrusted to us. It’s a heritage for us to defend and hold on to, so that we can share it with others now and with generations to come.” 

Daily devotions reflected on the three solas of the Reformation, grace alone, faith alone, and Scripture alone. John Brenner, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., also presented an essay entitled “God’s Word is our great heritage,” which focused on one of the teachings brought back to the light by the Reformation: The Bible is the totally inspired and inerrant Word of God. 


Learning about work being done 

Reports from WELS areas of ministry shared how WELS is working to spread this ageless, unchanging gospel message.  

  • LarrySchlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions, gave an overview of expanding gospel-outreach opportunities around the world.He reported that since the last synod convention in 2015, WELS has made contact with and been involved in some capacity with 14 new mission fields around the world. Now WELS works with close to 50 world fields, ranging from places where WELS sends missionaries to locales with contacts from national churches to groups that are using materials from Multi-Language Publications. Delegates also heard firsthand about world mission work from missionaries who live in Africa, Russia, and East Asia.
  • Outreach opportunities in the United States and Canada were also highlighted—including new and enhanced ministries started in 2017 in placessuch as Waukegan, Ill.; Hendersonville, N.C.; and Milwaukee, Wis. Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions, also underscored growing cross-cultural ministries to the Hmong, Sudanese, Vietnamese, and Spanish-speaking populations.
  • Training called workers to preach and teach is an important part of preserving our heritage. Paul Prange, administrator of WELS Ministerial Education, talked about quality and quantity of workers as he looked at the ministries of the four ministerial education schools—Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.; Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis.; Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.
  • Representatives from the Congregational Supportshared updates on resources and information that can help congregations in the areas of outreach, education, discipleship, worship, and member assistance. A special report from Jonathan Hein, director of the WELS Commission on Congregational Counseling, highlighted key findings from a comprehensive demographic survey of WELSconducted over the past two years.

Highlighting Reformation 500 

Celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation continued with presentations that highlighted Reformation history as well as shared materials and ways for congregations and individuals to celebrate the Reformation. 

Michael Herbst, vice president of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) in Germany, was a special guest of the convention and shared more about the history of our sister church and how the ELFK continues to reach out in the land of the Reformation. 

Herbst was not the only special guest at the convention. Representatives came from three Lutheran church bodies with whom WELS will be declaring fellowship during the convention: the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia; South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (Hong Kong); and East Asia Lutheran Synod. Guests from the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Church of the Lutheran Confession, and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod also attended. 

John Braun, chairman of the Reformation 500 Committee, reported on available Reformation 500 resources, including Bible studies and a children’s film taken from the popular Martin Luther film, A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy. Delegates were treated to a viewing of A Return to Grace, which included a question-and-answer period with the film’s executive producer, Steve Boettcher, and author of the companion book Luther’s Protest, John Braun.  

To celebrate the anniversary, the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) decided to prepare a new “Ninety-five Theses for the 21st century.” Fifteen pastors from around the world put together the document, which was approved by the CELC at its triennial convention in Grimma, Germany, this past summer. A video of confessional Lutherans from around the world reading some of these theses was shown to the delegates.  


Go to wels.net/2017synodconvention to read the President’s report and the essay, to view presentations, to look at photos, and to watch news videos filmed at the convention. 


Convention resolutions set direction for the future 

During the convention, 21 floor committees met to consider information that pertained to their assigned area of ministry and to offer reports and resolutions to the convention floor that will set the course for the next biennium. 

Delegates adopted the resolution approving the Synodical Council’s proposed ministry financial plan (budget). This plan keeps WELS on solid financial ground, but, according to Todd Poppe, WELS’ chief financial officer, near-flat Congregation Mission Offerings and increasing costs could make it difficult to maintain ministries beyond this biennium. The Synodical Council authorized a greater use of reserve funds to maintain ministry for 2017–19. 

Delegates did express some concern about the amount of support for the Board for Ministerial Education, particularly for Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn. The amount of debt for Martin Luther College graduates has been an issue of concern in recent years. Other delegates noted that adding support to one area of ministry means that support would need to be removed from another area.  

The Synodical Council’s unfunded priority list, which helps allocate additional resources received above those projected by the ministry financial plan, was also adopted. Some of the prioritized ministry programs not in the current ministry financial plan include Publication Coordinating Commission theological works, more new Home Mission starts, enhancement of World Missions, financial assistance to MLC students, another Christian giving counselor, capital projects at ministerial education schools, and support to various Congregational Services ministries like Military Services and Prison Ministry. 

A resolution to support the synod’s new long-range plan was adopted. Titled “Our Great Heritage,” this plan will help guide the work that WELS will undertake from 2018–25. 

Delegates adopted a resolution that will constitutionally change the name of the Congregation and Ministry Support Group to Congregational Services. The Congregation and Ministry Support Group recommended the change because it wanted a shorter and more memorable name that better communicates the central mission of the commission. 

Recommendations of the Compensation Review Committee were reviewed and adopted by delegates. The 2015 synod in convention called for a thorough review of the WELS Compensation Guidelines. The Compensation Review Committee of the Synodical Council recommended only slight modifications to the current guidelines but also worked on repackaging the guidelines to make them easier to apply by calling bodies.  

Discussion ensued when a resolution was presented to require all early childhood and Lutheran elementary schools to require a $7.50 annual fee per student and all high schools to pay a $4.00 annual fee per student to help support the work of the Commission on Lutheran Schools. Since 2007, schools have been encouraged to give a voluntary supplemental contribution to assist with Lutheran Schools’ operating costs. Delegates who spoke against the motion believe that these costs should be included in the WELS ministry financial plan. The motion was defeated. A motion did subsequently pass urging delegates to “strongly encourage all of their schools to participate in the voluntary supplemental contribution.” 

Synod leaders now will move forward during the next biennium to carry out the direction that was supported by convention delegates. The next synod convention will be held in 2019 at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. 


 Read all the convention reports and resolutions as well as learn more about the new long-range plan, the unfunded priority list, the recommendations of the Compensation Review Committee, and details of the ministry financial plan at wels.net/2017synodconvention. 


A growing Lutheran family 

The synod in convention had the joy of officially welcoming three Lutheran synods from around the world into fellowship.  

Representing the synods at the convention were Rev. Dr. Kebede Yigezu from the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (LCE), Rev. Titus Tse from South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM) in Hong Kong, and two pastors from East Asia Lutheran Synod. 

Kebede founded the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia in 2012 and, at the same time, added a seminary so that he can teach other Christian pastors, in addition to Lutheran pastors, the pure Word of God. Today, the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia has nearly 400 members and has already seen graduates from its seminary. Kebede says the declaration of fellowship is a historic moment for the LCE. “It is meaningful for us because faithfulness to Scripture is a very important matter of life and death. Jesus says ‘If you hold to my teaching . . .’ So, faithfulness to what he says, what the Scriptures say from Genesis chapter 1 to the last chapter of Revelation, is very important. We are very happy because we know that WELS is faithful to the Scriptures and is a confessional Lutheran church.” 

Founded in 1977, SALEM has 10 congregations and six pastors. The synod’s history is tied closely to Asia Lutheran Seminary, the WELS ministerial training school located in Hong Kong. Tse says, “We recognize that it’s important that we’re keeping the faith, and we can share with future generations the importance of keeping the faith because of this relationship with WELS, a church that shares our faith.” 

East Asia Lutheran Synod was established in February 2017. It was formed from five Lutheran groups and has 280 baptized members. The synod is just getting started but is already looking ahead to how it can expand and grow as well as begin international mission work. One of the pastors said, “It’s a numerous number of people who come to convention, and it’s a blessing to see there’s a huge church group at our back to support our church even though we are very far away and in a very different situation.” 


To learn more about of WELS’ sister synods, visit celc.info. 


Bible study important part of compensation guidelines 

One of the important issues coming in front of delegates at the 2017 convention was a set of revised compensation guidelines put together by the Compensation Review Committee to help calling bodies determine adequate compensation for their called workers. The delegates adopted the guidelines through a resolution put together by Floor Committee #8. 

But Michael Woldt, pastor at David’s Star, Jackson, Wis., and chairman of that floor committee, says the numbers and guidelines and new compensation calculator were only part of his committee’s discussion. “The message that the floor committee really wanted to get out was not just adopting the calculator and guidelines but looking at the Bible study and the prayerful, thoughtful approach to compensation as the most important element and the starting point,” he says. 

The compensation guidelines begin with a Bible study that explores the guidance God’s Word gives about what compensation full-time called workers should receive. In a report presented to the convention, Floor Committee #8 wrote, “Special thanks is given for the Bible study portion of the report. We strongly encourage all calling bodies to review this Bible study on a regular basis.” The report also noted that the Compensation Review Committee is planning future Bible studies and instructional videos related to called worker compensation issues. 

Notes Woldt, “The calculator is not where you start. . . . You start with the Bible study and make that front and center.” 

The report also included one final note: “No guidelines or resources, no matter how well-crafted, will ever eliminate selfishness, greed, or discontent in the hearts of those serving in the public ministry or in the lives of those being served by faithful ministers of the gospel. That is the work of the Spirit. No guidelines or resources, no matter how well-crafted, will ever provide the financial means for struggling congregations to compensate their called workers according to synodical guidelines. That too is the work of the Spirit as God’s people grow in the grace of giving.” 


 The compensation guidelines and calculator as well as a new video Bible study presented by Prof. Earle Treptow, chairman of the Compensation Review Committee, is now available online at welsrc.net/human-resources. 


Elections 

The following individuals were elected at the 2017 synod convention to serve on various boards and commissions: 

First vice president 

Rev. James Huebner 

Recording secretary 

Rev. Robert Pasbrig 

Synodical Council  

Pastors-At-Large—Rev. Joel Jenswold, Rev. Jonathan Schroeder 

Teacher-At-Large—Mr. James Moeller 

Board for World Missions 

Chairman—Rev. Paul Janke 

Layman—Mr. Arlin Bornschlegl 

Board for Home Missions 

Chairman—Rev. Wayne Uhlhorn 

Board for Ministerial Education 

Chairman—Rev. Duane Rodewald 

Teacher or staff minister—Mr. Gerald Zeamer 

Laymen—Mr. Paul Hahm, Mr. Dean Waldschmidt 

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Governing Board 

Chairman—Rev. Jonathan Scharf 

Board of Appeals 

Pastor—Rev. Joel Leyrer 

Teacher or staff minister—Mr. James Moeller 

Layman—Mr. Kennith Gosch 

Commission on Evangelism 

Chairman—Rev. Donn Dobberstein 

Commission on Lutheran Schools 

Chairman—Mr. James Sievert 

Northwestern Publishing House Board of Directors 

Parish pastor—Rev. Joel Schroeder 

Teacher or staff minister—Mr. Matthew Groth 

Laymen—Mr. Joel Raasch, Mr. Edward Wolf 


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 10
Issue: October 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Celebrating the Reformation

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


Alma, Michigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nepean, Ontario, Canada

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

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

Tempe, Arizona

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


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Same mission, new services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabriella Moline


For more information, visit alife2.com.


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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Question & answer with Nixon Vivar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What were some of the bad times?

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

Q: But God gave you great joys too?

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

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

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

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

Karla Jaeger


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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Project Titus looks at local outreach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

International Lutheran convention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


John Braun is executive editor of Forward in Christ magazine.


Learn more about the CELC at celc.info.


 

An international connection

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


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

What’s so special about WELS camps?

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


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

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

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

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


Camp Bird, Crivitz, Wis.

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

Camp 4 Star, Olympia, Wash.

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

Camp Lor-Ray, Muskegon, Mich.

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

Urban Explorers, Wautoma, Wis.

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

Training Camp, Ingleside, Ill.

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

Rocky Mountain Christian Camp, Leadville, Colo.

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


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Updated tool to find WELS churches

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 7
Issue: July 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Pre-Convention News

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

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

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

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

What does the proposed ministry financial plan look like?

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

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

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

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

What are the findings of the Compensation review Committee?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can I learn more about the convention?

PRE-CONVENTION

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

CONVENTION

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

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

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

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

POST-CONVENTION

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


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


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Volume 104, Number 7
Issue: July 2017

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Moments with missionaries: Falcon, Colorado

Falcon, Colorado

Steven H. Prahl

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Moments with missionaries: Kakuma, Kenya

Kakuma, Kenya

E. Allen Sorum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Mirror motivation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabriella Moline


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Serving the Castle Rock community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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Author:
Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us