Reflecting Christ’s love to those facing disaster

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

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

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

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

“How were the members of the church affected?”

“How was the local community affected?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018

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

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Serving those who serve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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Author:
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019

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

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Let your light shine: Stern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabriella Moline 


 The Special Needs Family Network 

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


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

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

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Christian Life Resources celebrates 35 years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

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

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Book nook: Ten Things to Tell Your Grandkids

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

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

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

Cindi Holman
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin 


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

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

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Meet the editorial staff: T. Westendorf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

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

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E. Treptow accepts call to be seminary president

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

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

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

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

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


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


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

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

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Small groups are a linchpin for ministry to Millennials

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ministering to Millennials 

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


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


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 12
Issue: December 2018

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

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Great news for WELS Home Missions

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

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

New congregations are being supported in: 

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018

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

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WELS Mission Journeys

Short-term mission trips that inspire a lifelong journey of service and outreach.

SAN CARLOS RESERVATION, ARIZONA 

This past September, four members of Pilgrim, Minneapolis, Minn., and one member of St. John, Minneapolis, Minn., spent a week on the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona to pass out invitations to the Apache mission’s 125th anniversary, to help clean up the church and school campus in Peridot in preparation for the October celebration, and to organize promotional items for the event. They also spent time sharing ministry ideas and encouragement with local Apache church members. “How different the people are who receive the gospel but how the gospel that we all receive isn’t different at all!” says Paula Schmeling, one of the participants. “We were immersed with adults and children who were a different skin color, who were at a different poverty level, who were experiencing different health issues and education levels, but we all held hands in church on Sunday and heard the Lord’s beautiful message of sin and grace! This was the same message shared 125 years ago when the Lutheran church began on the Apache Reservation! God’s love endures forever!”


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


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Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018

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

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A special day of baptisms

“We call this “special ministry,” but it’s really just plain ministry. It is God’s people using God’s Word to carry out the mission Jesus has given us. Because Jesus cares for us, we care for others by proclaiming Jesus our Savior,” says Matt Brown, pastor at Abiding Word, Houston, Texas, when reflecting on the joyous day he performed 13 baptisms for a special family. 

Sharon has adopted 11 children, all with a range of special needs. Her life is hectic, but full of love. Through the Jesus Cares program at Abiding Word, the Holy Spirit also fill her home with Jesus’ love. 

Sharon is not a confirmed member of the congregation, but she’s been taking her kids, as the family is able, to the Jesus Cares program for a few years. More recently, members of the congregation have been making it easier for the family by visiting their house to provide Bible instruction to the children.  

This past spring, Sharon asked if her children could be baptized—all 11 of them, plus one grandchild. While the family was being instructed in the home, one of the aid workers who helps with the children’s medical needs also heard the saving message of the gospel and asked if she could be baptized too.  

On May 5, eight members of the family were baptized at the Saturday Jesus Cares service at Abiding Word. Then, because some of the children were unable to come due to health limitations, a group of members went to the family’s home to witness five more souls receive the washing and rebirth of baptism. These special children were not only adopted into a loving home; now they are also the adopted children of God. 

“Jesus Cares has taught us to recognize the opportunities that God places before us,” Brown says. “It has reminded us that ministry blessings are not necessarily financial or church membership numbers but souls for whom Jesus died, souls to whom we get to tell that good news.” 

Abiding Word has had a Jesus Cares program for over ten years. Each week the Jesus Cares Sunday school gathers around God’s Word. On the first Saturday of each month, they meet for a craft and a snack and then head to the sanctuary for a worship service. A number of the participants have been confirmed after being instructed by congregation members. The program is largely led by lay members who are able to provide instruction through materials and a curriculum from The Lutheran Home Association, Belle Plaine, Minn., the parent organization of Jesus Cares. 

“When you see the blessings of the ministry in this way, it reminds you that it’s truly about souls and serving people with the gospel. It’s not about money or finances or numbers—not that those things are necessarily bad—but it’s about communicating the gospel to people,” says Brown. 


Learn how to begin a Jesus Cares ministry at tlha.org 


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Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018

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

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Congregational planning provides direction and shows opportunities

September was a big month for Trinity, Waukesha, Wis. Not only did its school start its first year as a Wisconsin Parental Choice school partially so it could reach out to the lower-income Hispanic families in its neighborhood but also it found out that a Spanish-English bilingual pastor had accepted the church’s call to minister to those same families. 

This didn’t happen overnight. It was the result of God’s grace—and significant self-assessment and years of planning. 

“You take a solid look at your ministry; you listen carefully to what people are saying; and you open your eyes and take a good look around,” says Aaron Christie, pastor at Trinity. “Then you make some ministry decisions and put down some good plans. Will all these things happen exactly as you plan? Likely not. But can significant things happen in a timely manner? Absolutely!” 

The process started about four years ago when Trinity put together a five-year planning committee. Their plans were put on hold, however, when major church repairs were needed. When the church began to revisit the plans, it decided to use a synod program called Self-Assessment and Adjustment. Developed by the Commission on Congregational Counseling (CCC), this program helps congregations assess their current ministry and provides ideas and strategies for the congregation to adjust its ministry as needed. 

The process started with the congregation spending several months to put together congregational and community profiles as well as to survey its members about their views on the church and its ministry. 

Further assessment continued when a CCC counselor spent a day leading 50 congregation leaders in a Bible study about what Scripture says about various areas of ministry, including worship, outreach, youth ministry, governance, and stewardship. After this study, attendees broke out into small groups and talked about how the congregation was doing in these areas and what could be improved. The counselor then compiled a report of the key findings, listing ideas that the congregation could implement and resources that could help them. 

“You can get so focused on the everyday running of ministry that you don’t always see things that are right in front of your face, let along the big-picture items,” says Christie about the 1,450-member congregation and its ministry. “It was good to have Christian, cordial, and meaningful conversation about how we can serve the Lord of the church best with the people and the abilities that God has given us.” 

Among other things, Trinity determined that it wanted to increase its effort in reaching out in its Hispanic neighborhood. It began offering English as a Second Language classes and quarterly Spanish-language worship services. By winter 2017, the congregation had 40 people in ESL classes. It also spent the year registering its school for the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program. Then in April 2018, Trinity received an enhancement grant from the Board for Home Missions so it could call a full-time bilingual pastor. Now with nine Choice students at its school and a new Spanish-speaking pastor coming, Trinity can move on to its next step to spread the gospel in its community. Each reached goal brings Trinity closer to its vision of becoming a church that is largely Spanish-speaking. 

Jon Hein, CCC director, says that this type of long-range strategic planning can be transformational for congregations. ““The proclamation of the gospel never changes, but how we carry it out might need to be adjusted, depending on our resources and what our community is like,” he says. “Strategic planning is assessing the current reality in your congregation and community, envisioning a desired future, and establishing goals that move you from that current reality to the desired future.  

He continues, “Once you have that vision, it allows you to make bolder moves in your ministry.” 


Learn more about the CCC and its programs at wels.net/ccc. 


 Besides offering counseling to individual congregations, the Commission on Congregational Counseling offers a weekend-long School of Strategic Planning for groups of congregations that want to improve their short- and long-term planning. Jon Hein, CCC director, says more than two dozen of these workshops have already been offered around the country.  

Aspects of this program now will be offered online. Congregations can go through modules that discuss creating a mission statement, clarifying core values, setting goals, and developing a long-range plan through a program called Comprehensive Congregational Planning.  

The first modules are now available at welscongregationalservices.net 


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Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
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Scholarships encourage military veterans

“It’s just amazing how God works,” says Nicholas Mount, pastor at Grace, Geneva, Neb. 

Mount, a 2018 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis., and a veteran, is referring to a scholarship he received from the Lutheran Military Support Group. Mount says the decision wasn’t easy to train for the pastoral ministry as a second-career student with a wife and family. “For us to change direction, we thought, Where is the money going to come from? So every time we received a scholarship, it was an answer to prayer.” 

He continues, “The military connection never dies. . . . So to receive a scholarship from my brothers and sisters in the military who are also Lutheran was really special for me.” 

Prof. Stephen Geiger, WLS director of financial aid, is thankful as well. “These are individuals who have decided that they are interested in serving their Lord, and one of the ways they want to serve their Lord is by serving their country. . . . And now they’re here looking to help God’s people fight in the spiritual battle. The fact that these two are coming together and they’re being thanked for their service to our country in a way that helps them pursue an even bigger mission is a beautiful thing.”  

The Lutheran Military Support Group (LMSG) began offering scholarships during the 2017–18 school year to military veterans or those in the reserves who are studying for the pastoral ministry in WELS or the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). Scholarships were presented to six WLS students and two ELS students at Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary.  

Erhard Opsahl, LMSG president, says the group decided to offer scholarships to encourage prior military service members to become pastors. “We would like to improve the awareness in WELS/ELS congregations of the unique sacrifices and service provided by of our military members and their families. Who better than someone who has personally experienced it?” 

He continues, “In addition to the firsthand knowledge of military life and its ups and downs, prior service pastors also have a wealth of knowledge they can use for counseling their church members with many of life’s difficulties.” 

Mount agrees that his military and life experiences uniquely prepared him for the ministry. He says the military taught him discipline and confidence as well as showed him his knack for languages. As an adult confirmand, his thirst for learning all he could about God’s Word spurred on his study.  

Mount prays that he will be able to use his military past to continue to make connections. “A lot of times, these guys are coming out of the military with questions like, ‘Did I do the right thing?’ Or the guys in combat who think, Did I just murder somebody? It’s so important to be there with God’s grace.” 


Learn more about the Lutheran Military Support Group at lutheranmilitary.org 


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Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018

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New WELS high school is now open

New WELS high school opens 

On Aug. 8, a new WELS high school began its first school year. Kingdom Prep Lutheran High School is serving young men from Milwaukee County, most of whom qualify for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, a government school voucher system.  

“There is a huge mission field right here in Milwaukee,” says Kevin Festerling, the school’s founder and principal. “Hundreds of students graduating from WELS grade schools in the area could not pursue Christian secondary education due to the scarcity of voucher seats available in the existing area Lutheran high schools. I felt like we as a church were turning our back on the Great Commission by turning students away who wanted a Christian education.” 

Festerling recognized that building a Lutheran high school to serve this new group of students’ needs wouldn’t be easy. The school has deliberately focused on providing young men with a kingdom-first mindset. The statistics are grim for boys who are raised in urban areas in the United States, and Milwaukee’s statistics are even worse than most. According to Festerling, many young men in today’s families are navigating the most critical years of their lives without active fathers. To help reverse that trend and build Christian leaders, Kingdom Prep’s vision is for “young men to develop their God-given gifts to lead in the home, serve in the church, engage in meaningful work, and transform community.” 

Daily small-group Bible studies focus on what it means for a man to seek God’s heart with his whole life. Assigned projects help the young men solve real community problems with godly solutions. School decisions are placed in the hands of student leaders. Each facet of the school is focused on helping it accomplish its mission of “building a brotherhood in Christ for lives of purpose.” 

Paul Steinberg, executive director of Chaplains in Schools and one of Kingdom Prep’s spiritual advisors, is helping the school’s leadership maintain its focus on its mission to disciple the next generation of Christian male leaders. He says, “My work will be to spiritually assess each of the freshmen and connect them with a strong Christian mentor. Kingdom Prep students and their mentors will aim to meet weekly for spiritual check-ins, prayer, and Bible study.”  

In 2018–19, Kingdom Prep is serving 60 freshmen boys. Each school year, a grade will be added, along with space for 60 more boys. Each Kingdom Prep student is invited to commit to the school’s mission, carrying out the school’s vision through brotherhood in Christ and hard work.  

“We are there to walk alongside the brothers as they grow,” says Festerling, “celebrating the way each takes responsibility for his own growth.”  

Jim Rademan, director of the Commission on Lutheran Schools, notes, “The Christian love and commitment of the called teachers and staff, led by founding principal Kevin Festerling, is clear. The teachers are sharing with the students the power of the Holy Spirit and the opportunity they have to learn the skills to be leaders in their homes and community.” 


For more information on Kingdom Prep Lutheran High School, visit kplhs.org.  


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018

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Where are they now? Home Missions

Where are they now?  

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

In May 2017, we reported that WELS Home Missions approved funding for four new mission congregations at its March 2017 meeting. 

Here’s a recap: 

After reviewing proposals submitted from its district mission boards, Home Missions supported opening new missions in Hendersonville, N.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Huntersville, N.C.; and Candelas, Colo.     

So where are they now? 

Hendersonville, N.C. 

To bring the gospel to more people, Living Savior, Asheville, N.C., began holding a Saturday night worship service in Hendersonville, N.C., almost two years ago. In January 2018, Paul Zell began serving alongside Caleb Kurbis as pastor at Living Savior. Zell has primary responsibility for the Hendersonville campus while Kurbis oversees the Asheville campus.  

“Yet we really are and intend to remain one congregation at two locations,” notes Zell. 

On Sept. 16, Living Savior, Hendersonville, will make the switch from Saturday evening to Sunday morning services. The group is currently worshiping in a rented space in a commercial area in town.  

Zell and other members from Living Savior canvas Hendersonville neighborhoods three nights per week and recently sent 20,000 postcards to area households.  

“We want to get our name, some Scripture, and a brief summary of who the Savior is in front of as many people as possible,” explains Zell.  

Chattanooga, Tenn. 

A group of WELS Christians living in the Chattanooga area saw the need for a Lutheran church on the city’s growing east side. With no other WELS church within 100 miles, the group asked Home Missions to send a missionary for a new congregation. Eric Melso, a 2017 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., was assigned to be that missionary. 

Melso arrived in July 2017 and spent the first six months of his time planning and strategizing with the core group. He also took time to get to know the Chattanooga community.  

During its launch meetings, the core group chose the name “Living Hope” and developed a mission, vision, and logo for the new church. The group also met monthly for worship in the parsonage.  

Since Easter 2018, Living Hope has been holding public worship once per month at a local cinema. “God has greatly blessed our preview services and allowed us to reach many with the gospel,” says Melso. “We have averaged 38 in attendance since starting our services, having begun with only a dozen in our core group. We even had 52 in attendance at our July service, 13 of whom were first-time visiting prospects.” 

Living Hope is now looking forward to its grand opening worship service on Sept. 9.  

Huntersville, N.C.  

In summer 2016, the pastor at Grace, Charlotte, N.C., realized that many of his members were driving from Huntersville to south Charlotte every Sunday for worship. He began offering worship services in a hotel conference room and asked WELS Home Missions to consider planting a church there.  

Doug Van Sice arrived in July 2017. “Getting assigned to plant a church in a city you’ve never lived in with people you don’t know is daunting,” says Van Sice. “So, I began planting this church by focusing on three main tasks: 1) Get to know the people who would become the launch team; 2) Figure out the city of Huntersville; 3) Plan.” 

In order to devote time and energy to those tasks, public worship was suspended. Van Sice then met with as many city officials as he could, and the launch team took a short survey to their neighbors to gather information about the community and its needs. It also used a survey to choose its name—Huntersville Lutheran Church.  

The congregation is planning its first official public worship service on Sept. 9 in a local elementary school. 

Candelas, Colo. 

Members of Shepherd of the Valley, Westminster, Colo., saw an opportunity to spread God’s Word to those in Candelas, a growing western suburb of Denver. The congregation asked Home Missions to support a second pastor to reach out to this new area. Although Home Missions did grant funding for this position in March 2017, the call was not filled until this summer.  

Jeremy Belter arrived at Shepherd of the Valley in August. He has met with each member of the core group and begun working to get the second location of this congregation launched.   

As the chairman of the district mission board, notes, “This newest mission in our conference has been set up by the good work of Pastor Phil Kieselhorst and the members of Shepherd of the Valley in Westminster, and it looks to be a promising place to share what our Lord has done for the world.” 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018

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

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Connecting for a purpose

Connecting for a purpose 

It’s all about making connections. 

Living Word, a home mission in Waukesha, Wis., is always working to connect with its community. As the congregation is developing plans for the construction of Living Word’s first church building next spring, members decided to include a coffee shop to offer a non-threatening place to interact with community walk-ins and members’ friends and acquaintances. 

But, according to Sherene Nicolai, part of the congregation’s Coffee Shop Task Force, the group is struggling to know exactly how to carry out those plans. 

“We have a group of dedicated people on our committee, but no one has worked as a barista,” she says. “I thought it would be great if we found anyone with knowledge of the best layout, pricing, appliances, the accounting for a business like this, serving, making drinks—any help really. I was looking for a subject matter expert.” 

Enter Lutheran Volunteer Connect (LVC), an online site that directly connects ministries with volunteers. Run by Kingdom Workers, the site offers churches, schools, and organizations of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference* a way to post ministry opportunities that need volunteer help. CELC volunteers who have signed up with LVC can respond to requests and provide needed manpower or expertise to get the job done. 

According to Neil Hankwitz, LVC coordinator, ministry opportunities can range from running a soccer camp to serving as an English teacher to helping with door-to-door canvassing—the possibilities are as endless as the imagination. The perks also abound. Congregations can get a fresh infusion of manpower and/or expertise in specific skillsets that members may not have. Volunteers can strengthen their faith, provide necessary help to others in their fellowship, and get fresh ideas for their own congregations. 

“The whole purpose of LVC is we want to share the gospel—to get God’s Word out into our communities,” says Hankwitz. 

Living Word posted its opportunity to LVC and after two months was contacted by a Milwaukee WELS member who had experience as a barista. “To have someone who can help us hit the ground running when we get in our new building is a big deal,” says Nicolai. “He came to one meeting and offered some advice on the layout, the appliances we would want, and product offerings. . . . He’s offered to advise us in the future even if just being able to answer questions by phone or e-mail.” 

“What a great way to get us to work together as a synod,” says John Borgwardt, pastor at Living Word. “It gets WELS members to fill a need and develops fellowships between our congregations.” 


Learn more at lutheranvolunteerconnect.com. 


*A forum for confessional Lutherans around the world. Thirty-two church bodies are members, including WELS. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018

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

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WELS World Missions updates – October 2018

WELS World Missions updates 

East Asia 

As the Lord blesses the outreach efforts in East Asia and Hong Kong, two new missionaries have been called to serve. Michael Smith (pictured) was commissioned to serve at Asia Lutheran Seminary in Hong Kong in May. Smith previously served as dean of students and New Testament professor at Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary, Mankato, Minn., the Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s seminary. Joining four WELS professors and one national instructor, Smith will teach New Testament courses at Asia Lutheran Seminary.  

In July, Stephen Wiesenauer was commissioned to serve as missionary to East Asia. Earlier this year Wiesenauer completed the colloquy process to become a WELS pastor, after having previously served as a mission developer in East Asia. Wiesenauer will be assisting with the church planting and multiplication effort occurring throughout East Asia.  


One Africa Team  

Stefan Felgenhauer was recently hired to serve as the new director of Africa missions operations. This new layman’s role will take over business operations for the One Africa Team to allow the missionaries to focus more on gospel outreach. Felgenhauer previously lived and served in Malawi as business manager for the Malawi mission field and as field manager for Kingdom Workers. Stefan, his wife, Kathy, and their three children have moved back to Africa, with Lusaka, Zambia, serving as the base of operations. The Felgenhauers are pictured with Kathy’s brother, Wayne Uhlhorn, at Stefan’s commissioning. 

The current political situation in Cameroon, Africa, has created great difficulties for WELS’ Christian brothers and sisters of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon (LCC). The conflict and violence between the English-speaking and French-speaking regions of the country has not ceased, and for that reason WELS missionary to Cameroon, Dan Kroll and his wife, Karen, have been temporarily relocated to Lilongwe, Malawi, while the situation on the ground is being assessed. “We pray that God continue to strengthen members of the LCC and for resolution to the conflict, so our world missionary can return to serve alongside our brothers and sisters in the faith,” says Larry Schlomer, administrator for WELS World Missions. 


Apache 

The Apache mission is celebrating 125 years of God’s blessings in 2018 as the first world mission of WELS. Anniversary celebrations on the reservations are planned for Oct. 26–28. Visit nativechristians.org to find out all the details. 

In May, Timothy Leistekow (pictured at his commissioning in July) was assigned out of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to serve Grace, San Carlos, Ariz., and Peridot, Peridot, Ariz. He joins four other world missionaries and two national pastors serving the White Mountain Apache Reservation and the San Carlos Apache Reservation through eight churches, one preaching station, and two Lutheran elementary schools.  


Pakistan 

This past August, a ten-day Bible institute/seminary class was held for 11 men and some of their wives in Pakistan via the Internet. WELS’ friendly counselor to Pakistan and his contact, both based in the U.S., taught the class from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day so it could be held during the daytime hours in Pakistan. The goal is for the men to visit four to five different house churches every week and teach what they learned. There are 56 house churches total. The women will teach the children in Sunday school. The next class is planned for January 2019. Read more about this experience in a Missions blog, wels.net/sun-at-midnight 


Learn more about WELS Missions at wels.net/missions. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018

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

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Providing women opportunities to connect and serve

Providing women opportunities to connect and serve 

It all started with a women’s Bible study.  

After a few years of meeting weekly to grow in their faith and knowledge of their Savior, the women at Cross of Life, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, wanted to do more.  

“It was a natural progression for me personally,” says Marguerite Rouleau. “You just can’t spend that time with women and not grow to love them.”  

Rouleau cherishes that connection with her church family because she knows what it’s like to be without it. Growing up Catholic, she says her experience with church was attending worship on Sunday—and that was it. She later joined a WELS church in Mississauga, but it closed. “I was left without a church,” she says. “For me it wasn’t an option to change churches, so for nine months I had no idea what to do.” When a new WELS church started in Markham, an hour and a half away, she attended as often as she could, but it was difficult with her small children. So when Cross of Life opened 18 years ago, it was an answer to Rouleau’s prayers. 

“Now I have the opportunity to get involved and to be more connected,” says Rouleau. “[Being involved in women’s ministry] was just another chance to be around these women and to be encouraged by them as well as to get things done for the church.” 

Cross of Life’s four-member women’s ministry group coordinates two large events a year, plus a weekly Bible study and multiple fellowship gatherings. All of these opportunities strengthen the connection between the women and with their Lord.  

Cross of Life is not only looking to strengthen the faith of its own members; it also wants to reach out into its community. Perhaps that’s why the women’s ministry’s biggest offering is its annual Advent By Candlelight, an event filled with God’s Word and songs in a beautiful setting to help women focus on Christ during the busy holiday season. While the women’s ministry coordinates the event, it is “all hands on deck” for this 115-member congregation to make it happen, according to Rouleau. “Probably every woman that goes to our church gets involved in some way. We get a lot of support and help from the men too!” she says. 

This past year, Cross of Life posted an open invitation to the event on its Facebook page. More than one hundred people attended—many of them nonmembers from the community.  

“I just can’t believe how blessed we are,” says Rouleau. 

The blessings of an active women’s ministry are also something that Matt Brown can see for his 600-member congregation, Abiding Word, Houston, Texas. SHINE (Serving Him IN Everything) has women involved in everything from spiritual growth to outreach to member assimilation to fellowship activities. “We have SHINE members come to our Bible information class and meet our new members and talk to them about different ways to serve,” says Brown. “What a key role they play to involve people in ministry in congregation.” 

With such an active women’s ministry, Brown says the congregation now is restructuring so it can better connect SHINE with the overall ministry in the congregation, especially where there is overlap. “I think it’s key when a congregation can—in a coordinated, intentional way—have men and women working together in the different roles that God has given to us.” 

He continues, “There are so many ways that you can use women in the congregation. It’s just an important conversation for congregations to have. 

Donn Dobberstein, director for the WELS Commission on Discipleship, agrees. “Women are so compelled by the gospel and the love of their Savior and they want to be of greater service to their Lord within their congregation. What does that look like? I would like to encourage that conversation to be had in every congregation.” 


WELS Women’s Ministry Committee, part of the Commission on Discipleship, exists to assist congregations in nurturing, encouraging, and equipping women to faithfully and fully use their God-given gifts to glorify God. Materials and resources ranging from Bible studies to planning documents to ministry ideas for congregations and for women can be found at wels.net/women


With Christmas fast approaching, one way a congregation can minister to women—both members and nonmembers—is through an Advent by Candlelight program. Through narration, readings, prayer, and music, women can spend time during the busy holiday season remembering what Christmas is really all about—Jesus. “One of the goals of the C18 program is to help WELS members become more comfortable with invitational evangelism,” says Jon Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services. “Our hope is women will invite their unchurched friends to Advent by Candlelight and then invite those friends to come back for Christmas Eve.” A new Advent by Candlelight program that focuses on lessons learned from Lydia connects with the new WELS outreach movie, To the Ends of the EarthWELS Women Ministry also provides planning documents and other Advent By Candlelight programs to get a congregation started. Learn more at wels.net/women.  


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018

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

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WELS Prison Ministry turns 25!

WELS Prison Ministry turns 25 

This year, WELS Prison Ministry celebrates its 25th anniversary. This ministry provides Christian materials and education to jail and prison inmates. Since its start, WELS Prison Ministry has served more than 80,000 people in 1,300 different facilities by mail and in person. 

Helmed by the volunteer efforts of the Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) and WELS Special Ministries, this area of institutional ministry formally began in 1993. Its work originally targeted incarcerated WELS members, but it began to reach non-WELS inmates over time as well. By 1999, the program had expanded so rapidly that a full-time administrator was called. The ministry is currently headquartered in New Ulm, Minn., and much of its work is still completed by volunteers. 

In August 2018, WELS welcomed the newest Prison Ministry administrator, David Hochmuth. A former civil engineer, Hochmuth served as a staff minister of spiritual growth at St. Andrew, Middleton, Wis., for 11 years before accepting the call. 

“It is such a fruitful field for evangelism,” Hochmuth says. “Many people in prison understand that they face problems and that they are in need of help. The Spirit moves them to be honest about their situation. It is a great avenue for learning about the truth of Jesus.” 

Hochmuth quotes Matthew 25:36 when explaining his motivation and interest in leading this ministry: “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” 

Prison Ministry has evolved significantly over the past 25 years. 

“It has developed into more than sending Bible study booklets to inmates,” explains Leon Brands, former WELS Prison Ministry Committee chairman. “There’s been increased interest and concentrated efforts to involve more WELS members in face-to-face ministry.” 

Hochmuth adds that technological improvements have also allowed ministries to share God’s Word via digital Bible studies and other courses. 

Brands is optimistic about the future of Prison Ministry. “The prayer of the Prison Ministry Committee is that the new administrator, Dave Hochmuth—with the help of others—is able to expand and develop better training for individuals who want to go into facilities, and also develop some aftercare and mentoring programs for both released inmates and their families.” 

In the future, Hochmuth says he also hopes to provide the staff of jails and prisons with the spiritual support they need, among other new services. Yet he recognizes that Prison Ministry faces a daunting task and must establish clear priorities in order to serve effectively and efficiently. 

“There are over two million people behind bars in our country. As a relatively small church body, our resources may seem inadequate,” says Hochmuth. “But two fish and five loaves seemed inadequate for the task too.” 


To learn more about WELS Prison Ministry, visit wels.net/prison-ministry or contact David Hochmuth at dave.hochmuth@wels.net. Subscribe to the Special Ministries e-mail newsletter His Hands for the latest updates about Prison Ministry and other special ministries. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018

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

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Evangelical Lutheran Synod celebrates 100 years

This past June, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) observed the centennial of its organization during its annual synod convention held on the campus of Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, Minn. 

The ELS was first organized in 1853 as the Norwegian Synod and has been in fellowship with the WELS since the formation of the Synodical Conference in 1872. In 1917, the Norwegian Synod merged with other Norwegian Lutheran church bodies. A small group of pastors and congregations refused to enter into this new synod because of false teachings, so they reorganized the synod that is now called the Evangelical Lutheran Synod in 1918.   

WELS President Mark Schroeder addressed the ELS convention, saying, “One hundred years ago a very small number of faithful pastors and laymen stood firmly on God’s Word and made a very bold and courageous decision. . . . We are so thankful today to have you as partners in the gospel, to be joined and united with you in a common faith and a common mission, and to recognize that as we carry out that work together, it all depends on one thing—on one person really—on our gracious God in his Word.” 

Since its small beginnings, the ELS has grown to 131 congregations in 18 states with 17,000 members. It has mission work in seven foreign fields, including 50 years of outreach in Peru. It, along with WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Germany, was pivotal in starting the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, a group of 32 member churches worldwide united by a common faith and confession.   


Learn more about the Evangelical Lutheran Synod at els.org. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018

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

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Women gather to support missions

From June 21-24, 1,450 women attended the 55th annual Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) Convention held in Green Bay, Wis. Special guests included members from WELS’ mission field on the Apache reservation and members of South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission, WELS’ sister church body in Hong Kong. 

The LWMS serves Jesus “by increasing awareness of, interest in, and support of the mission outreach of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.” The convention features WELS missionaries sharing stories from their mission fields, worship services and devotions, and displays that offer more information about WELS’ missions and the organizations that support them.  

One highlight of this year’s convention was the keynote presentation by Kirk Massey, Jr., and Gary Lupe, Apache pastors who told attendees about the 125 years of God’s grace that WELS has been sharing God’s Word on the Apache reservation. As Massey presented the history of the mission field, Lupe entertained the audience with stories from his life and ministry.  

Wendy Wright, a WELS member from Joplin, Mo., shared her story of how she was inspired by a presentation at the 2017 LWMS Convention to pursue opening a home mission in her community. As she noted, “On April 12, [our core group] heard that we were selected as a new WELS mission! Only 10 months after God provided the seed at the last convention, he prepared the soil and watered it . . . and we are now rejoicing in seeing a home mission sprout up in Joplin, Mo.!” Wright encouraged attendees to consider how the Lord may be speaking to them at the convention. 

Laura Lemke, a convention attendee and member of Trinity, Sturgis, S.D., echoed her sentiment. Lemke says, “The most essential part of attending a convention is the strong desire I take with me to be a missionary right where I have already been planted, even when the ways feel small or insignificant. The Holy Spirit can truly work through any of us.”

Every year, local LWMS circuits collect offerings for one Home and one World Missions project. At the 2018 convention, the LWMS presented these offerings to WELS Missions. Over the course of 2017–18, the LWMS raised $37,985 each for Cameroon projects and the Caribbean Scholarship Fund. The LWMS also raised $49,443.57 for feeding Jesus’ lambs in Nepal through its kids c.a.r.e program.  

“We thank the women of the LWMS for this generous support,” says Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions. “The LWMS is an active partner with both Home and World Missions.” 


For information on the 2018-19 mission projects and to learn more about the 2019 LWMS Convention being held in Des Moines, Iowa, from June 27–30, visit lwms.org. To view recorded sessions from the 55th annual LWMS Convention, go to livestream.com/welslive 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018

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

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For the generations to come

Encouraging and equipping your congregation for gospel ministry 

Telling the next generation 

When the doors to Apostles Lutheran Preschool in Billings, Montana, open this fall, the preschool staff hopes that parents and their families won’t only see the bigger reception area complete with refreshments, a library filled with parenting materials, and a ready smile from the teachers and pastor. They pray that the parents will also see Jesus. 

“We developed a guarantee in our [church] leadership team,” says Jay Bickelhaupt, pastor at Apostles. “The guarantee is that if someone comes on our campus they will experience the love of Christ.” 

And this guarantee isn’t just the responsibility of the staff; it’s a direction for every volunteer at every church event that preschool families attend. 

This is all part of Apostles’ harvest strategy—a detailed outreach plan to connect non-member families to the means of grace. The ultimate goal of Apostles’ strategy? “To have 100% of our families hear about the good news of Jesus’ salvation through a worship service, preschool event, or law and gospel presentation.” 

A large part of that plan is building relationships, whether at fellowship events held at the church and preschool or just a friendly greeting every morning. “From start to finish, from the beginning to the end of the day, we are trying to focus around this harvest strategy,” says Melissa Bickelhaupt, the preschool’s director. “We are looking for any opportunity we can have to be a part of their lives.”  

While serving as an outreach arm for the congregation has been the mission for this preschool since it began in 2005, Bickelhaupt says a WELS workshop the staff attended in 2017 called “Telling the Next Generation” helped them develop this laser-like focus on evangelism strategies, including developing their written plan of goals, philosophies, and intentional outreach experiences—special events held throughout the year to build relationships and to provide gospel-sharing opportunities. 

“It was a six-hour drive to the conference, and on the drive home we used that opportunity to talk about all our takeaways and to give ourselves goals,” says Melissa. “And then we discussed how to hold ourselves accountable to implement them.” 

Part of holding themselves accountable was developing the actual written plan. “The harvest strategy gave us a shot in the arm,” says Jay. And he was happy to say that they accomplished their goal of sharing the gospel with all of their nonmember preschool families last school year—27 out of 31 families. “It was awesome to have this written down so we could go and reflect and see where we are at,” he says. 

WELS Commissions on Evangelism and Lutheran Schools piloted “Telling the Next Generation” workshops in April 2016 to provide planning and resources help to congregations implementing outreach strategies through their Lutheran elementary school and/or early childhood ministry. Since then 174 congregations have attended a workshop. 

“More and more of our schools are welcoming community families into the school. As we open our doors to communities, we’re opening our doors to opportunities to connect people with the means of grace, to share that precious gospel,” says Cindi Holman, WELS coordinator of early childhood ministries. “The goal of ‘Telling the Next Generation’ is to help congregations have an intentional plan so that we won’t miss any opportunity to connect people with that message of grace.” 

More “Telling the Next Generation” workshops are scheduled for this fall. WELS Lutheran Schools is also working to make workshop materials available online to help those who can’t attend in person. Learn more at wels.net/tellingthenextgeneration  


Another great opportunity WELS schools have for reaching families is that as students learn about Jesus at school, they take that message home to their parents. As Jay Bickelhaupt, pastor at Apostles, Billings, Mont., puts it, “We’re training 32 little evangelists.” 

As the synod prepares for C18 and the opportunity to reach 1 million people with the gospel message this Christmas, WELS Lutheran Schools is preparing materials to help teachers train their students on how to live and share their faith with the friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors. 

“The children in our Lutheran schools are greatly blessed to have friends who are fellow Christians. However, most of those WELS children also have friends who do not have a church home—kids from the summer soccer league, kids from dance classes, or simply the next-door neighbor kids. Let’s teach our children how to be what Jesus wants them to be now, even when they’re young—witnesses,” says Jon Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services. “Children who are trained to witness in simple, basic ways become adults who are bold ambassadors for Christ.” 


Learn more about C18 and its witnessing opportunities at wels.net/c18. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018

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

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2018 Youth Rally brings WELS teens together

From June 26-29, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Bowling Green, Ohio, hosted the 2018 WELS International Youth Rally. Approximately 2,100 WELS teens and youth leaders gathered for praise, learning, and fellowship under the theme “Never Alone.” This theme was based on the message of Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Attendees were assured that God is ever-present in their lives and that they are not isolated in their belief. 

Organized by the WELS Commission on Discipleship, teens and leaders alike were encouraged and entertained by the events of the rally. Attendees took part in daily worship, devotional sessions, keynote presentations, educational workshops, networking opportunities, and fun activities across the BGSU campus. 

“It’s been really incredible. I’ve never been with so many people who share the same faith,” says Sophia Busse, a member at Trinity, Waukesha, Wis. This was Busse’s first time attending the rally, and she called it a “really cool experience.” 

Tabitha Vannieuwenhoven, Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., enjoyed discussing topics of faith with new people at the rally. “I loved all the workshops and hearing everybody else’s point of view on stuff that my friends and I talk about.” 

Young adults weren’t the only ones to grow from this experience. David Denninger, a youth leader at Redeemer, Maple Grove, Minn., gathered a great deal of knowledge from other leaders to take back to his home congregation, “It’s eye-opening, and you know you’re not alone. There are resources out there, and they’re plentiful. People are giving you ideas about what you can do, and you can do it in your church no matter what the size.” 

Donn Dobberstein was installed as the director of discipleship for WELS’ Congregational Services on the final day of the rally. Affirming the mission of the event, he shared a story he heard from a Florida pastor about his group of teens: “One of them was a teen girl who had just been baptized six months ago. To be able to see this event through her eyes—the eyes of someone who is new to the faith—and then to experience it on a large scale with youth from all over the nation . . . to me, that is what the event means: To let the kids know, like the rally theme says, ‘You are never alone.’” 

John Boggs, a member of the rally planning committee and chairman for the WELS Commission on Discipleship, hopes that the event has a lasting impact on the attitudes of all the WELS teens who were in attendance. “It’s to give them—even if it’s just for a few days—an opportunity to celebrate the fact that their God knows who they are, their God deeply loves them, and he has put people in their lives who want to build them up instead of tear them down,” says Boggs, pastor at Divine Savior, West Palm Beach, Fla. “That’s hopefully something they’ll take with them throughout their lives.” 

The next WELS International Youth Rally will be held in 2020. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018

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

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Let your light shine: Shepherd of the Hills, Custer, S.D.

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

Shepherd of the Hills, Custer, S.D., recently faced an unexpected ministry opportunity. 

On March 19, a young man was driving toward Custer with his girlfriend when he spotted a South Dakota highway patrol car. Though the officer did not pursue them, the man sped away. Losing control, he swerved into a ditch. The car flew into the air and landed on Shepherd of the Hills’ sign and cross. 

Members of Shepherd of the Hills quickly arrived and flipped the breaker to the sign to prevent further injuries. The driver was taken to the Custer hospital while his passenger was rushed to Rapid City in critical condition.  

Those at the scene commented that the two were literally “saved by the cross.” Had the car not hit the cross, it would have rolled, and because the passengers were not wearing seatbelts, they likely would have been killed. 

Local media picked up “saved by the cross” as a headline for their reports. 

While the sign was salvaged for repairs, the cross remained, standing at an odd angle but standing nonetheless. 

The congregation soon discovered that the young woman faced life-threatening injuries, and they sent her cards and prayers. 

When the time was right, the congregation asked the young woman and her family if they were open to a pastoral visit. Sure enough, they welcomed a Shepherd of the Hills pastor to the hospital and happily listened to the gospel message. 

One day later, the young woman was transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Sioux Falls. Shepherd of the Hills immediately contacted nearby WELS churches to provide her with continued spiritual care. 

The young woman has since recovered and remains in contact with a member of Shepherd of the Hills. The man’s prison sentence was suspended under the conditions that he found a stable job and made monthly restitution payments to Shepherd of the Hills. 

The congregation continues to pray that this couple come to understand what it truly means to be “saved by the cross.” 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018

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

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Getting to know your district presidents

Dennis Klatt 

On June 13, Dennis Klatt was elected to serve as the district president of the Minnesota District. Klatt is pastor at Holy Trinity, New Hope, Minn. 

Q: What was your upbringing like and how did you come to be a pastor? 

A: I was born and raised on a dairy farm west of Menomonie, Wis., the fourth of eight children. God planted the desire to serve in the pastoral ministry in my heart at the age of five—largely due to my respect for and admiration of Pastor Martin Schwartz who served St. Paul’s, Menomonie. My parents provided strong encouragement toward ministry as my school years progressed.  

Q: What ministry and service opportunities has God placed before you that helped prepare you to serve as district president?  

A: For 30 years God has given me the privilege of serving as a parish pastor in both rural and suburban settings. My current congregation, Holy Trinity in New Hope, Minn., is a diverse group of believers from European, Asian, African, and Hispanic backgrounds. I am currently involved with coordinating and teaching two Pastoral Studies Institute students. Also during my ministry I have had the joy of serving the Minnesota District in a variety of roles—Commission on Evangelism member, Commission on Adult Discipleship chairman, circuit pastor, and district vice president.  

Q: How would you describe the role of the district president?  

A: The district president is a servant. He serves God and his district by encouraging and fostering faithfulness to God’s Word in doctrine and practice along with making use of every opportunity to reach the lost and nurture the found. The president also assists congregations and schools in the process of calling pastors, teachers, and staff ministers to carry out the ministry of the Word among them. 


Snowden (Gene) Sims 

Gene Sims was elected to serve as the district president of the Michigan District on June 12. Sims is pastor at St. Paul’s, Columbus, Ohio. 

Q: What was your upbringing like and how did you come to be a pastor? 

A: I was born in Lima, Ohio. My mother moved from Lima, taking me and an older brother, Gregory, to Milwaukee, Wis., when I was six. My first contact with a Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran church came through Sunday school at St. Marcus Lutheran Church. My brother and I were enrolled in Jerusalem Lutheran School and baptized and confirmed at Jerusalem. I spent my high school years at Wisconsin Lutheran High School.  

One day in my sophomore year, two teachers asked if I had ever thought about becoming a pastor. My answer was “no” at the time. They continued to encourage me to think about it. I enjoyed reading the Word, living it, and sharing it. My junior year, our swing choir director, Pastor Mark Bitter, drove me six hours to meet my family in Ohio after a performance over a holiday. We talked about ministry most of that time. 

Q: What ministry and service opportunities has God placed before you that helped prepare you to serve as district president?  

A: After graduation, I served as a tutor, teacher, professor, and dean at Northwestern Preparatory School/Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, Wis., over the course of two different calls. My time there gave me valuable insight into addressing different situations and dealing with people in crisis along with parents. My relational skills were definitely sharpened. Early in my career I also served at Salem, Milwaukee, with three other pastors, one of whom was a retiring district president. I also served as the vicar to a district president.  

Q: How would you describe the role of the district president?  

A: I guess a way to sum it up is that the district president is in a position that assists in making the body of the district function as a member of the body of the synod, and, more important, as a member of the body of Christ.  

Current district presidents 

Arizona-California: Jon Buchholz 

Dakota-Montana: Douglas Free 

Michigan: Gene Sims 

Minnesota: Dennis Klatt 

Nebraska: Philip Hirsch 

North Atlantic: Donald Tollefson 

Northern Wisconsin: Joel Zank 

Pacific Northwest: John Steinbrenner 

South Atlantic: Charles Westra 

South Central: Donald Patterson 

Southeastern Wisconsin: David Kolander 

Western Wisconsin: Michael Jensen 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 8
Issue: August 2018

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

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Unprecedented opportunities in Vietnam

“You have brought us the truth—and that has changed our lives.” 

Until a few short years ago, Chonghoua Vang, a pastor in the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC) in Vietnam, lived by the law. And he taught the law. “I treated people with contempt. If I saw a member committing sin, I hated them. If they had addictions, I hated them. Now, as I look back, I see that I was a Pharisee at that time.” 

It was what he saw growing up as a Christian and what he was taught in his studies as a pastor. “Looking back, I see that while we talked about Jesus as our Savior, we didn’t understand law and gospel and we promoted a lot of work righteousness.” 

Vang began to understand grace when he started attending training sessions conducted by Bounkeo Lor, Hmong Asia ministry coordinator, in 2015. The church leadership had invited Lor to Vietnam in 2013 to train them after they saw sermons he had posted online. Lor and members of the Pastoral Studies Institute have made more than 24 training trips since then to train 60 HFC leaders. 

“Now I see Christ at the center of the Bible and the center of everything that is taught,” says Vang. “I truly believe that salvation comes through faith alone, through Christ alone, through Scripture alone. This foundation has made me confident as a Christian and confident in my salvation.” 

And this is something he shares with his 140-member congregation and the 12 additional congregations he oversees. “Before the training, so many others were just like me. My members were just like me. But now we have compassion and love. And now we have joy.” 

Members and leaders don’t only have joy; they have unity. Tsavxwm Ham, HFC chairman, says that in the past the HFC pastors interpreted the Bible based on their own ideas or from what they had learned from other church bodies. “Now we have both physical and spiritual unity. The Lutheran doctrine has brought peace and harmony to the people in the villages—and as a result, our members are sharing their faith and our churches are multiplying.” In the years WELS has provided training, the HFC has grown from 65,000 to 100,000 members and formed 53 new churches. 

The changes are so visible that the Communist government has noticed. And it likes what it is seeing, so much so that it is offering WELS an opportunity to build a permanent facility in Hanoi for theological training. 

“WELS is being given a priority that other [foreign] church bodies don’t have,” says Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions. “It’s an unprecedented, unique door that God is opening up for us.” 

Schlomer and Sean Young, director of WELS Missions Operations, traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam, in June to meet with leaders of the HFC and the Vietnamese Fellowship Church (VFC) to discuss the possibilities. The HFC is a subset of the Vietnamese Fellowship Church, a Protestant church body that is officially recognized by the government. WELS will need to work closely with the VFC to build a training facility because foreign church bodies can’t legally own land in Vietnam. 

While the VFC has its own government-approved training facility in Ho Chi Minh City, the facility is not big enough to train all the Hmong pastors. Lessons also are taught in Vietnamese, which many of the Hmong do not understand. “They want us to build a training facility for the ethnic minorities, and there is a clear understanding that we will teach Lutheran doctrine,” says Schlomer.  

Building a new facility will allow the HFC more autonomy to set its own schedule for training; will give students from the hill country outside Hanoi a place to stay when attending classes; and will provide worship space for local Hmong to attend services.  

Schlomer and Young plan to return to Vietnam in the fall to work out more details. 

Says Young, “This opening in communist Vietnam is an incredible gift from God. There are tens of thousands of Hmong people who are thirsty for the Word, and this opportunity is ready to go.” 


Learn more about opportunities in Vietnam at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 8
Issue: August 2018

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

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Witnessing key feature to new outreach film

When Mike Hintz, retired director of WELS Commission on Evangelism, traveled to Ouarzazate, Morocco, earlier this year supervise the filming of the new WELS outreach film To the Ends of the Earth, he didn’t expect many openings for witnessing.  

But God had other ideas. “The movie dialogue was carefully written to point to Jesus as the Savior of the world and the only one through whom we have the gifts of forgiveness of sins and eternal life,” says Hintz. “As the actors and actresses worked through their lines and the production staff listened to them, it generated numerous opportunities for me to speak to them about why we wrote it that way. People asked questions, and the conversation regularly turned to an opportunity to witness about Christ.” 

Encouraging witnessing is an important feature of the film, which tells the story of the apostle Paul and his work in Philippi. Its title is taken directly from Jesus’ command to his disciples at his Ascension: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The film highlights four major events from the book of Acts—the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus, the conversion of Lydia, the casting out of a demon from the slave girl, and Paul and Silas in prison followed by the baptisms of the jailer and his household. “Since the movie focuses on mission activity, it reminds us of the important work that we have as we serve Christ—to reach out with the gospel to the ends of the earth,” says Hintz. 

That’s why film resources, including worship materials; adult, small group, teen, and children Bible studies; an Advent by Candlelight program; and personal reflections, will discuss how to witness and share your faith.  

Congregations can use the film and its accompanying materials for several different purposes: 

  • As an option for celebrating asynodwide Mission and Ministry Sunday planned for Oct. 21. “It’s an opportunity to give thanks as we look at the ways we in WELS as congregations and a synod work to reach out with the gospel, but also to look at opportunities that are still around us and how to make the most of them as we continue to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth,” says Hintz.  
  • As a training resource for the upcomingsynodwide outreach campaign called C18. “We want to reach one million people with the gospel by Christmas Eve 2018. That will only happen if all WELS members look for ways to share their faith,” says Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services. “We’re hoping that this fall congregations will use the witnessing training materials that work with this film to prepare their members to talk about Jesus, the Savior of the world, this Christmas.”    
  • As a giveaway to congregation members and prospects. Hintz saysthat his experiences while filming in Morocco reminded him of the witnessing opportunities this movie can provide for all WELS members: “It can help them start a conversation with their friends and relatives about Jesus and how important he is for their lives,” he says. “He is the one that gives them the peace and joy of salvation.” A special bulk order price will be available until Sept. 7. 

This movie is the final installment in a series of four outreach movies that are a collaboration between WELS Commission on Evangelism, WELS Commission on Discipleship, Northwestern Publishing House, WELS Multi-Language Publications, and Boettcher+Trinklein Television, Inc. Funding from CM CARES, the Church Mutual Insurance Company Foundation; WELS Foundation’s Shared Blessings donor advised fund; WELS Multi-Language Publications; and gifts from groups, congregations, and individuals helped make this film possible.  


To the Ends of the Earth will release on Sept. 1. View a trailer and learn more about the film at wels.net/totheendsoftheearth 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 8
Issue: August 2018

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

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Book Nook: On Giving Advice to God (both volumes)

I think I know better. Too often my thoughts and actions suggest that I think I even know better than God! I wish God would see things my way. Shall I give advice to God? I am not the only one. Adam’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden; Jesus’ doubting disciples; our pride today – people have consistently considered their foolishness greater than God’s wisdom. Such is the nature of our sinful wisdom which only leads to destruction in this life and the next. 

That’s why we so desperately need God’s Word, His wisdom. That’s where Daniel Deutschlander takes us – to God’s Word – with his two-volume devotional, On Giving Advice to God. The first volume focuses on the life and work of Christ for our salvation as it follows the half of the Church year from Advent, Christmas and Epiphany to Lent, Easter, and Jesus’ Ascension. The second volume spans the Pentecost/Trinity half of the church year, with emphasis on our maturing in the faith and sharing it with others. 

Valuable for Christians seeking daily spiritual refreshment, each devotion highlights a Bible passage, contrasting what amounts to our sinful opinions and advice regarding life’s problems with God’s merciful and gracious solutions. Reading each devotion, I was reminded how my ways and any advice I would offer fall short of God’s perfection. If I had my way, the result would be a life of sorrow and disaster. Then, with fresh insights into familiar Bible stories, Pastor Deutschlander points me to the Bible where I see God’s wisdom and perfect plan which rescues me from myself, the devil, and eternal death. Pastor Deutschlander points me to Jesus and the cross, and I see God’s abounding grace. 

Brian Heinitz, Henderson, Nevada


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Author: Brian Heinitz
Volume 105, Number 8
Issue: August 2018

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

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New director for Commission on Evangelism

Eric Roecker has accepted the call the serve as the director for the WELS Commission on Evangelism, a ministry of WELS Congregational Services. He will transition to this new role in August, replacing Mike Hintz who has retired. 

Roecker has been serving as pastor at Pilgrim, Menomonee Falls, Wis., for five years. Prior to serving at Pilgrim, he served Resurrection, Chesapeake, Va., for 15 years. 

Roecker says, “One of the things that affected my decision to accept the call was that I had the opportunity to serve in an outlying district as well as the opportunity to serve here in the Midwest in a congregation with a grade school. I thought that’s probably a good thing for this position, to have experienced both, because I’ve discovered there’s some major differences in the area of outreach between those two ministry settings.” 

He says he’s looking forward to working with a broader segment of WELS members and energizing and helping them share the good news of Jesus. 

“Every WELS member wants to evangelize, and we know that because Christ lives in them and Christ wants us to evangelize. All of us want to tell others about Jesus, but there are things that get in the way of that, whether it’s our own sinful natures or our fear of not having answers or not knowing how to do it. The two things I’d like to encourage the members of WELS to do are, first of all, just start reaching out. As you do it, you’ll learn how to do it better through experience. And second, prepare yourselves to do it. That’s where we hope we can help by providing resources to help people prepare to evangelize,” says Roecker. 

Roecker will continue to reside in Menomonee Falls with his wife and two children. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 8
Issue: August 2018

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

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NPH adjusts to current market

Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) has announced it will close its retail store in the fall. The store, located in Milwaukee, offers Christian books, music, gifts, and church supplies. These items will continue to be available at NPH’s website, nph.net, or by calling 1-800-662-6022.

A WELS subsidiary and non-profit organization, NPH has served customers for more than 125 years with Christ-centered resources. Going forward, NPH remains committed to developing new materials. Planned titles include Ten Things to Tell Your Grandkids  and Look Up From Your Phone So I Can Love You. The final books in the Peoples Bible Teachings and Bible Discovery series are also being developed. In addition, NPH is continuing its work on the new hymnal and its accompanying resources, which are scheduled to be available by Advent 2021.

As the announcement of the store’s closing was made, NPH’s customers reacted to the news with both sadness and understanding. Many reminisced about the special atmosphere and products for which the store is known. Others voiced their support for NPH and its mission.

“A sad announcement but a practical one,” wrote Johnold Strey, pastor at Crown of Life, Hubertus, Wis.

“Glad you’re still going to have an online store, which reaches so many more people than one brick and mortar building could,” shared Lorraine Goward, a member at Christ, Oakley, Mich. “Sounds like an excellent use of your resources to close the store and pour more into the website.”

In a letter to customers, Bill Ziche, president of NPH, explained that Christian publishing has faced many challenges in recent years. “Publishers affiliated with church bodies have declined significantly in number and size,” noted Ziche. “For many retailers, there has been a dramatic shift by their customers toward purchasing online rather than at physical retail store locations. Northwestern Publishing House has been impacted by these trends as well.”

NPH’s retail store currently represents about 17 percent of total sales. As the store’s sales have fallen, NPH’s leadership began to anticipate this change and upgraded its website at nph.net. The site now provides better search capabilities and an improved customer interface.

In spring 2019, NPH will implement another cost-saving measure by transitioning its warehousing and distribution to an outside fulfillment partner that will ship orders to customers. NPH’s staff will also move its offices to the synod headquarters at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry. These changes will allow NPH to sell its current building and use the money to continue publishing Christian resources while developing even stronger relationships with WELS areas of ministry and commissions.

Mary Sieh, a member at Good Shepherd, Burnsville, Minn., voiced many people’s thoughts when she wrote on Facebook, “Thankful for you, NPH and staff! May God bless your efforts as you move forward in continuing to provide us with the biblically sound material we’ve come to know and love from you.”


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018

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

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