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 © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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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 © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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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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Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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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 © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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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 © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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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 © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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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 © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Book Nook: 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 © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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New 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 © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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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

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

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Reaching one million souls with the gospel

It’s not too early to be thinking about Christmas. 

But I’m not talking about sales shopping. I’m talking about considering whom to invite to hear about Jesus, the Light in the darkness. 

Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, says Christmas Eve is the #1 worship service that unchurched and dechurched people are willing to attend. “The Christmas season is actually a pressure point for a lot of people. The suicide rates go up over the holiday season and depression spikes,” he says. “The world is a dark place; it’s been that way since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. What can pierce that darkness? Only Christ—he is the Light in the darkness.”   

A new synodwide outreach campaign called C18 is now available from WELS Congregational Services to help congregations and individuals with this outreach opportunity. The theme, “A Light in the darkness,” is based on Isaiah 9:2: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” The overarching goal of the program? To reach one million people with the gospel message during the Christmas season. 

Every commission from Congregational Services will provide royalty-free resources that congregations and members can use in this effort: 

  • The Commission on Worship is providing worship resources, including worship plans, sermon helps, worship folders, and newly commissioned music, for Advent and Christmas.
  • The Commission on Evangelism is developingpromotionalmaterials such as postcards, banners, and Facebook posts for congregations to use. A Bible study related to the new outreach movie To the Ends of the Earth (coming out this fall) will discuss how to witness and share your faith to help prepare members to invite their unchurched friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors to Christmas Eve services.  
  • The Commission on Discipleship is producing family Advent devotions, with a special emphasis on training and encouraging families to reach out to the unchurched during the holiday season.
  • The Commission on Lutheran Schools is providing WELS school with evangelism training materials for children and teens.
  • The Commission on Special Ministries is developing supplementary materials for the Christmas for Kids program developed by Northwestern Publishing House to allow congregations to offer a service for special-needs children.
  • The Commission on Congregational Counseling is providing materials to help congregations coordinatethisoutreach effort as well as helps for following up on contacts after the holiday season. 

“It all boils down to WELS members growing closer to Jesus so we have a heart that beats with a love and passion for the lost and we are willing to step outside our comfort zone to do whatever we can to share the gospel,” says Hein. “Every commission is thinking about this overall goal of gospel ministry and how they can serve it.” 

Hein says that this needs to be a synodwide effort and that congregations and their members need to work together as a church body. “Our job is to simply share the gospel as zealously as we can. We leave the results up to the Holy Spirit,” he says. “However, if together we would achieve the goal of reaching one million souls, and if the Holy Spirit would bless that effort at a similar rate he has for past programs, it would mean about 1,500 people and their families would join a WELS congregation as a result of the C18 program.” 

This synodwide outreach campaign is the first of three—plans are already being discussed for programs for a fall festival in 2019 and Easter in 2020. Says Hein, “We want this to become part of WELS culture—that we work together to reach out to the unchurched in our neighborhoods.” 

He continues, “The best evangelism is done by individuals looking to share their faith. The second this launches in June, I want laypeople to start thinking about whom they are going to start talking to and spend time developing a relationship with so that they can invite them to attend a Christmas Eve service to hear about the Light in the darkness.” 

Promotional and planning materials for C18 will be available on the Congregational Services resource center in June. Learn more about C18 at wels.net/c18. 


New online resource center 

C18 is just one way WELS Congregational Services is working to help congregations. As part of its five-year strategic plan, Congregational Services is providing multiple resources to assist congregations as they attempt to reach new prospects while simultaneously work to retain current members. 

These materials will be available on a new online resource center, welscongregationalservices.net, which is launching this month. 

While Congregational Services has provided helps in the past, many of those programs were available through conferences and workshops. This includes the popular School of Outreach and School of Worship Enrichment. While Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, says this type of in-person help is ideal, it also can be cost-prohibitive for some congregations and may mean congregations have to wait months or even years for a program to come to their area. “Our thought is let’s provide resources and training online where it can be asynchronous, immediate, and free,” says Hein. “There will always be a need for face-to-face contact, but if we can better utilize technology to help more congregations quickly and at less cost, that just makes a lot of sense.” 

Much of this training will be conducted through high-quality videos and supporting materials. The site will include a wide variety of modules that deal with specific ministry needs like training volunteers, starting a small-group ministry, working with delinquents, and developing a strategic plan. The site will also provide training materials for lay leaders as they serve in different positions in their congregation.  

New resources will be added every six months. Hein says that while many resources are already in the works, Congregational Services will also be looking for grass-roots input at the district conventions this month to discover what kind of help congregations need most.   


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Staff ministry training program turns 25

This year, the staff ministry training program at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., celebrates its 25th anniversary. 

Launched in 1993, the staff ministry training program prepares its students to serve as specialized workers at WELS churches, schools, and parasynodicals. Upon graduation, staff ministers can be called to assist with youth and family ministry, evangelism, homebound and hospital ministry, Sunday school and Bible studies, music and worship, administration, and more. 

Rod Bollinger, staff minister at St. John’s, Oak Creek, Wis., says, “We are sort of ‘Jacks of All Ministries.’” Bollinger fulfills many roles including family counselor; Sunday school superintendent and teacher; confirmation and Bible class teacher; prison minister; and others. 

In the four-year program, MLC’s staff ministry students are given a background in theology and trained in skills like counseling and leadership. In a five-year version of the program, students can earn a second major in elementary education or parish music. Students are also required to intern under an active called worker to gain field experience in staff ministry. 

Jim Boggs, youth and family minister at St. John, Lannon, Wis., believes staff ministry gave him the opportunity he was looking for. He notes, “As someone who wanted to be in the full-time ministry but didn’t have the pull to be a pastor or teacher, I was very grateful for this option.” 

Sarah Enstad graduated from the program with a second major in elementary education and now teaches at Crown of Life, Hubertus, Wis. She is passionate about MLC’s staff ministry curriculum, saying, “The essential skill from my training I use on a daily basis is building and nurturing relationships. This concept was at the core of nearly every class I took.” 

Kristen Koepsell, coordinator of music, elementary education, and fellowship at Cross of Christ, Boise, Idaho, also treasures the bonds staff ministers can create. She describes a memorable moment with one of her students, illustrating how God can work through staff ministers to make connections and provide comfort:  “A student grabbed me around the waist and said quietly, ‘I love you.’ I don’t think it was really me. It was the Holy Spirit showing him that church was a safe place where people cared about him.” 

Looking ahead, Dr. Lawrence Olson, director of the staff ministry program at MLC, says the program will continue to grow in service to the people of WELS: “The scope of training offered in the program is unique to WELS. We will maintain that thoroughness as we move forward, and we will adapt according to our congregations’ needs.” 


To learn more about MLC’s staff ministry training program, visit mlc-wels.edu. Also, watch the March 27, 2018, “Together” video update at wels.net/together for an interview with Levi Nagel, minister of music and worship at St. John, Milwaukee, Wis. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Let your light shine: Lincoln Heights

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

Every weekend, members of Lincoln Heights Evangelical Lutheran Church gather to assemble and distribute meals to the homeless community of south Des Moines, Iowa. They are led by Paul “Panera Paul” Menzel. 

This homeless ministry began in 2010 when a new location for the bakery and café chain Panera Bread opened in downtown Des Moines. Paul had heard that the chain often would donate leftover bread and baked goods, and he asked for some on behalf of the church to feed the homeless in the area. The management agreed, and the work began. 

Paul recalls one of the first loaves he gave away to a homeless man: “I passed him this enormous piece of bread. It may have still been warm, because he zipped it into his shirt.” 

Before long, other members of Lincoln Heights asked to assist Paul, assembling the bread into sandwiches. With the addition of a bag of chips and a bottle of water, they were soon handing out entire bagged meals. They also included a small card with a message of encouragement from God’s Word. 

Paul was welcomed by those he served, earning the nickname “Panera Paul.” The homeless community now looks forward to his weekly visits. They occasionally ask to pray with him or request one of his signature Scripture cards. 

The ministry takes what Paul called a “soft sell” approach. 

Matt Pfeifer, pastor at Lincoln Heights, echoes Paul, saying, “The attitude we have is that if we can provide a meal and they learn that they are cared for by at least one person—by Christ—then we are doing good.” 

Paul estimates that since 2010 Lincoln Heights’ homeless ministry has given away over 53,000 pounds—nearly 27 tons—of bread and other baked goods. And they show no signs of stopping. “We’ve done it in snow at 20 degrees below zero and in the summer when it was higher than 80,” Paul explains. 

Whether there is sun, rain, or sleet, he and the other volunteers can be found spending their weekends sharing the kindness of the Savior with the less fortunate through the simple gift of a meal. 

Dayton Hamann 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Reaching Native Christians: Part 3

The Native American mission is training Native Christian leaders as it continues moving forward with the message of salvation. 

Daniel J. Rautenberg and Debbie K. Dietrich 

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”  

I can still see that inspirational quote from Will Rogers stuck to the painted cinderblock walls of my seventh- and eighth-grade classroom. Decades later, it crosses my mind as I share with you a vision for the future of WELS Native American missions. 

We are still on the right track, the track that leads to heaven. That track is narrow and winding. It is also treacherous, as the traditional Apache medicine man lurks behind a bush, waiting to attack unsuspecting Christian travelers. But for 125 years, Native Christians in Apacheland have been walking the track with Jesus to heaven. By the grace of God, that has not changed. 

And yet, danger is around us. If we “just sit there,” apathy, dependency, and even comfort threaten to overtake us. We need to recapture the mission spirit, renew our love for the lost, and take our rightful place in the long line of Christians who are dedicated to passing on the good news. 

“Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). 

If Christ’s love is the engine that moves us forward, the Apache Christian Training School (ACTS) is the vehicle that will carry our native Christians into the future. Nearly 20 years ago, the missionaries and congregational leaders serving nine congregations and three schools on the Apache reservations realized something important. They were working faithfully, but they weren’t moving forward. In fact, at times it seemed as if the mission field was slowly losing ground. It was too easy to be comfortable telling the great stories of our past, rejoicing in the generous support of their brothers and sisters in WELS, and thanking God that the communities continued to receive the gospel from faithful servants. They needed to understand the purpose more clearly and trust that God has given all the gifts and potential they needed. To move forward, they resolved to train the people for service in God’s kingdom through the ACTS program. 

God has blessed this work, with many Apache leaders taking classes today. Now our congregations are stronger. Ministry programs are being led by Apaches. Twenty-five percent of our called workers are Apache and more are in training.  

And God is giving us opportunities. Five hundred more reservations need God’s Word! By most estimates, up to 95 percent of the natives living on those reservations are not Christian. There will never be an easy time for us to reach out with the gospel. Satan will fight hard against us. But there has never been a better time than now to start. 

We have the educational resources. We have native connections all over the country. We have 125 years of experience and perspective from teaching the Word to Native people. And we are training new Native missionaries to serve.  

While these Native Christians are trying to move forward, they are pressured from all sides to return to their traditional ways: to go to the medicine man for help, to take part in the traditional sunrise dances, to turn to the Apache traditional religion to prove they are really Apache. But believers like Samantha Thompson are staying close to their Savior. Samantha was raised with 11 other siblings, who all walked up a hill to Peridot Lutheran Mission School. When her parents divorced, her grandma took the children in and had them walk to school and church every day, come home, wash their socks in the river, hang them to dry, and wear them the next day. Grandma made sure the girls did not have a traditional Sunrise coming-of-age ceremony because she knew it went against the First Commandment! Today, Samantha and her husband follow in that strong Lutheran Christian faith. They struggle with the foster children and with the chronic sickness of their adult son. Neighbors are pressuring them to go to the local medicine man for help, but they refuse. They know Bik’ehgo’ihi’ṉań (the triune God of the Bible) is with them and will never fail them. Samantha loves working at the Peridot School and coming to Sunday worship. “That’s where people encourage me to stay true to our triune God in the Bible,” she says. “That is where I am surrounded by my church family.” 


Here is what other Native Christian leaders have to say about how they are serving now:  

Wade Robertson: “I enjoy serving as president of my congregation. I didn’t think I was ready for such a job at such a young age, but my pastor did! Now I also serve on our Peridot-Our Savior’s school board where we have many challenging decisions to make. I really want to see more Apache become full-time and part-time called workers. I’m trying to do whatever it takes to see my people rise up as leaders in our awesome Lutheran church.”  

Brenda Lee: “I love serving in my church. My sisters and I have all taken lots of ACTS classes to grow in our faith—you can’t get enough of those classes and after them you just want to serve in your church and community! I am honored to get to help Debbie bring many Apache ladies to the LWMS rally. We are going to love learning all about the WELS missions and come back strong in faith and eager to serve in our own communities!”  

Roberta Belvado: “I didn’t think I could be useful, and now I’m serving as a weekly Sunday school teacher. The children are our next generation of leaders. I see that in them. I want them to be strong in faith.”  

Leonard Fall: “I served on the Tribal Police and Bureau of Indian Affairs for 25 years, but serving as an evangelist is the best work ever. I feel it’s so rewarding to share the Scriptures I have known since I was young, studied in depth through ACTS Bible classes, and even more intensely when going through the evangelist program at our ACTS Bible Institute. I understand my people. My favorite part of being an evangelist is to preach in Apache, our language. The brotherhood of my fellow called workers is also a great joy. I have such respect for them, we study together and I’m still learning more about God from our sermon studies – another favorite part of being an evangelist.” 

Bernard Dale: “I’m an assault survivor, former alcoholic, and former drug addict. I’m grateful to be alive by the grace of God. I’m soaking in God’s Word at ACTS classes and applying it to my life. I suffered a lot of trauma, and in a way, it made me hard. But the Holy Spirit turned my heart back, and it proves that God is real. I was made new to serve the Lord, and one day, hopefully, that means in some official way by graduating from many ACTS Bible classes. I already have the honor to serve in music ministries, on our McNary church council, teaching Sunday school, and helping in our recovery ministry. I have a hunger. I want to hear more of Jesus. It never gets old.” 


Daniel Rautenberg is the Native American mission field coordinator. Debbie Dietrich is the Native American mission communication coordinator. 


This is the final article in a three-part series on WELS mission work on the Apache reservations in Arizona. 


Go to nativechristians.org to read more and to get 125th anniversary celebration updates. 


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Author: Daniel J. Rautenberg and Debbie K. Dietrich 
Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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A new way to start your mission journey 

A new program called WELS Mission Journeys is coordinating short-term trips for WELS congregations and their members to help home mission churches, world mission fields, and existing congregations with outreach events. 

Shannon Bohme, coordinator of the Mission Journeys program, says that there is a huge gap between congregations and WELS members who were looking for short-term mission experiences and available options for taking trips like these. With the creation of this new program, WELS Missions will offer opportunities for laypeople to get involved in outreach as well as to experience work in the mission field firsthand. “You will get the joys and the sorrows,” says Bohme, who has had 17 years of international mission experience. “You may invite someone to come to church and they don’t come; that’s real-life mission work. But you may also get the chance to tell someone about their Savior for the first time.” 

But the trip will be just the start of each person’s mission journey. 

“We’re looking at a way we can grow together in the Great Commission,” says Bohme. “We want everyone to take that excitement from the mission experience, bring it home, and start looking at their neighbors in a different way—to start inviting them to learn about the most important thing in the world, their Savior.” 

For the program, members age 13 and up from a congregation or school will sign up for the trip as a group. Training, which includes team building and culture awareness, then will be provided. After the trip, the team and its supporting organization will be encouraged to conduct an outreach event in its own community. 

Bohme says the plan is to offer 40 one- to two-week trips in the first year of the program, with 200 trips completed after three years. About three-quarters of these trip will be domestic, with the remaining going to world mission fields. Events on these trips could range from canvassing to helping run vacation Bible schools or soccer camps. “It all depends on what the field needs,” says Bohme. Congregations will fund the trips on their own, with WELS Missions providing the training and coordination needed to make the trips happen. 

Three congregations participated in the pilot program: St. Matthew’s, Oconomowoc, Wis., and Goodview Trinity, Goodview, Minn., both sent teams to Ecuador, and St. Martin’s, Watertown, S.D., sent members to East Asia.  

The group from St. Martin’s spent eight days in East Asia to conduct an Easter outreach event and meet new contacts. Jeff, a member of the group, says they told the Easter story to 51 people who had never heard it before. “They kept thanking us over and over for sharing the message of Jesus with them. The look in their eyes is unforgettable,” he says. 

Jeff had never been on a mission trip like this before. “I didn’t really have any expectations, just that we would hopefully have many opportunities to share the Easter message. I didn’t look at it that I would gain anything, but, wow, was I wrong,” he says. “It will definitely change your life for the better. Your outlook on different cultures, the friendships you will make or strengthen, the memories you’ll make, and your attitude about serving others will all be better than you can imagine.” 

While he says he will go again on a trip like this “in a heartbeat,” he also learned lessons he can use anywhere. “Just keep looking for opportunities to share Jesus with more and more people, wherever you are. God will give you plenty of opportunities if you are looking for them. He will also give you the words to say—you just need to be willing.” 

Matt, who has had previous experience in East Asia, served as the group’s leader. “My favorite part of the trip was seeing the excitement in my team as they had many new experiences. It was really fun to see the spiritual growth in each of my teammates.” 

But he also discovered lessons of his own: “I learned that it doesn’t matter the culture; people are still people. Everyone has hopes and dreams. They also have pains and sorrows. They also have a natural knowledge of God. And because of sin, everyone needs a Savior. It is such a humbling experience knowing that God has used me to share this message with others halfway around the world!’ 

Matt says the team is working with the congregation to potentially start a local campus ministry to reach out to students at a nearby tech school.  


Want to get involved in WELS Mission Journeys? Talk to your pastor about getting a group together from your congregation. Learn more at wels.net/missions or by contacting missionjourneys@wels.net.  


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Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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New MLS president

Mark Luetzow, pastor at Bethel, Bay City, Mich., has accepted the call the serve as the next president of Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS), Saginaw, Mich., one of the WELS ministerial training schools. He will be taking over for Joel Petermann, who after six years serving as MLS president, took a call to Zion, Torrance, Calif. 

“Pastor Luetzow combines the heart of parish a pastor with a keen understanding of the work of a preparatory school,” says Paul Prange, administrator for Ministerial Education.  

When Luetzow as a young boy decided he wanted to pursue the ministry, his parents supported that path by sending him to Northwestern Preparatory School (now Luther Preparatory School) in Watertown, Wis. Luetzow has had a heart for the mission of the WELS ministerial education schools after his experience at Northwestern Preparatory School. “I’ve always had a deep love for our prep school system and in some respects I feel like this is a neat way to give back to something that has given so much to us and the WELS members who have supported us,” he says. 

He continues, “Michigan Lutheran Seminary has such a rich history and it’s very much loved by its alumni and the district as a whole. I’m hoping that that love for the prep school will continue to grow—and not just in Michigan but in the entire United States so that we can have a bigger reach.” 

Luetzow has served as a parish pastor since 2003. He says he loves being a pastor, so it will only be natural for him to encourage to do what he loves. “One of the things I’m looking forward to at MLS is being an encouraging voice for young men and women to consider full-time ministry for the Lord.”  

Prange says, “In area after area, President Luetzow should be able to hit the ground running and advance the MLS mission of preparing high school students for the public ministry of the gospel.” 

Luetzow will transition into the role of MLS president following this school year. 


Learn more about Michigan Lutheran Seminary at mlsem.org. 


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Author:  
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Awake and Alive supports young adults

Gabriella Moline 

Musician and ministry leader Mike Westendorf describes a young adult’s life like a Rubik’s cube. Before individuals go off to college or start their professional lives, all the colors of the cube are lined up in order. But as they enter adulthood, learn more in their studies, and develop deeper critical thinking, the colors start to get jumbled. Difficult questions are asked, and sometimes the answers are unclear.  

During this point, notes Westendorf, it’s crucial that young adults have a community where they can grow and discuss key questions, especially regarding religion. This is where Awake and Alive comes into play. 

“Awake and Alive has three primary goals,” Westendorf says. “One is to help people know the gift of grace, the second is to own the gift of grace, and the last is to make the gift known.”  

Westendorf has worked with 18- to 25-year-olds for the past eight years through WELS campus ministries in Milwaukee, and he saw the need to encourage them in their faith. He started Awake and Alive five years ago and has held one-day events in the past.  

This past January, Awake and Alive held its first two-day conference at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis. More than 100 people attended, growing closer in their relationship with Christ and each other. 

Elicia Engel, a senior at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, was introduced to Awake and Alive during the winter conference. She notes, “Awake and Alive is a really great way to hear some important messages and to be surrounded in fellowship with other young adult believers.” Engel said one of the greatest moments was listening to Pastor Wayne Shevey talk about the need for God’s grace. 

Twenty-four-year-old Sammy Unnasch was one of the people who urged Engel to attend the conference. Unnasch turned away from God in college but eventually found his way back to the gospel with a new passion for young adult ministry.  

“I became invested in Awake and Alive because my generation has been asleep spiritually,” he says. “It breaks my heart to see them pursuing things, or people, or experiences that never satisfy them the way Jesus’ love and grace do.” 

The Awake and Alive winter conference was made possible through donations from the Antioch Foundation, WELS Campus Ministry, and other organizations. The WELS Campus Ministry grant, which offers up to $2,000, is available for any WELS campus ministry group that wants to hold a retreat.  

Charlie Vannieuwenhoven, chairman of the WELS Campus Ministry Committee, said Awake and Alive is the first group to take advantage of this grant, but that he hopes more groups will apply in the future.   

“Any time you can get more college students together around God’s Word, the more they will be strengthened,” Vannieuwenhoven says.  


The next Awake and Alive conference will be held June 10 at St. Paul’s, Muskego, Wis. It also will be livestreamed. For more information, visit awakealive.com. 


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Author: Gabriella Moline 
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Same mission, new methods

One hundred twenty-five years ago WELS sent its first world missionary to the Apache reservation in Arizona to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

Following that first mission initiative, WELS World Missions has sought to reach many corners of the globe. Recently new opportunities have arisen to support confessional Lutheran church bodies and other groups of Christians who have reached out to WELS for help. Now WELS Missions has a presence in 50 countries, with 14 prospective new fields and 44 missionaries.

Larry Schlomer, administrator for World Missions, says, “After 125 years of work in Apacheland and 60-plus years in other countries, our mission partners have achieved a great level of maturity. That allows us to approach our mission work as partners, not as owners, and this is what makes just about any partner church a ‘world mission.’ ”

One way WELS Missions is teaming up with sister churches and new mission partners is through helping train fellow confessional Lutherans around the world through the Pastoral Studies Institute, a ministry of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. More efficient transportation and communication vehicles make this work possible.

“One of the biggest changes is how we’re immediately training the people groups and locals to be their own proclaimers of the gospel,” says Sean Young, director of Joint Missions Operations. “It eliminates anywhere between three and seven years of a WELS missionary landing in a foreign field getting to know the people, getting to know the culture, and finding the best way to approach them with sharing the gospel. To train someone at that level to share the gospel is far more cost-effective and far more expedient than it is for one of our missionaries to get to know the culture and the area and the language.”

How WELS comes to work with these different fields is varied. One common avenue is immigrant people groups in the United States who learn about what the Bible teaches and want to share it with their family and friends in their home country. Sometimes, these national church leaders find WELS through the Internet. In 2018, the WELS website, wels.net, has had visitors from more than 100 countries.

One recent example of this is the Philippines. A church leader there contacted WELS Missions after discovering what WELS teaches through its website. Schlomer explains, “He never needed our help to do the work but rather craved the Bible fellowship we could offer. The partnership has been noticed by other leaders who are now being trained in two additional church sites. Our role is to offer the training tools and supplemental teachers to aid the church leader in training these new men to be leaders.”

WELS World Missions also offers support through humanitarian aid, which can lead to opportunities to spread the gospel. In Puerto Rico, an opportunity to help came following Hurricane Maria. While WELS has historical mission roots in Puerto Rico, the Evangelical Lutheran Confessional Church (ELCC) has been operating independently for years. But after the hurricane hit, WELS, through World Missions and Christian Aid and Relief, is providing a missionary to assist with relief planning support as well as to help train the next generation of young men as public ministers. While the missionary’s stay in Puerto Rico is meant to be temporary, the training work will be continued online, supplemented by short visits for seminars.

“There may still be times and places where missionaries are on the ground preaching, teaching, baptizing, and serving the Lord’s Supper,” says Schlomer. “However, when we have a national leader in place, we have always been eager to allow that national to step into those roles and our missionaries serve much more as teachers and mentors.”


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


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Christian Children’s books available in braille

Learning to read is a milestone in every child’s life. But can you imagine teaching a child who can’t see the words on the page? 

“Her hands are her eyes,” says Timothy Redfield, pastor at Trinity, Belle Plaine, Minnesota. He is talking about his six-year-old daughter Libby who was born blind due to an optic nerve condition.  

Redfield and his wife are teaching Libby how to read Braille. Even though she is still learning how to read, “once she got the idea that reading time mean bumps on the page, she likes to feel the page and know the Braille is there,” says Redfield. 

While the Redfields are able to get free children’s books in Braille from the state and county, they also wanted Libby to be able to read about her Savior. They began working with the Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI), a ministry of WELS Special Ministries that provides Christian literature to those who are blind or have a visual impairment. They sent several of their favorite Christian story books to the MVI. Volunteers then produced and positioned clear Braille stickers into the books so Libby could read along. 

“As a parent, I can read all the words on the page while Libby feels the Braille,” says Redfield. Redfield says he guides Libby’s hands over the words in Braille while he reads them so that she can learn how to read it on her own. 

The Mission for the Visually Impaired also provides weekly Christ-Light Sunday school lesson in Braille so that Libby can follow along while her teacher reads the story.  

Manned by volunteers and headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., the Mission for the Visually Impaired produces devotional and other materials in Braille, large print, and on cassette tape, which are distributed free to WELS and non-WELS visually impaired people. It currently is working on a project to have downloadable Christian audio resources available online.  

“Our goal is to spread his Word—in any way we can!” says Bill Bremel, MVI director.  


Learn more about the Mission for the Visually Impaired and the resources it provides (including a large-print edition of this magazine) at wels.net/visually-impaired


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Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Study highlights trends and opportunities

At the 2017 synod convention, Jonathan Hein, director of WELS Commission on Congregational Counseling, published the findings of a two-year study that looked at the demographics and trends of WELS’ membership. The study demonstrated that Christian churches in America are experiencing some significant declines and that WELS is not immune. WELS has approximately 56,000 fewer members than it did 25 years ago.

Hein cites a number of reasons for the statistical decline. In the last decade, at the same time WELS has seen a steep decline in the number of infant baptisms, it has seen an increase in the percent of members who are dying annually. WELS also has averaged about 8,000 “back-door losses” annually for over two decades. Back door losses are when WELS members join another Christian church or when they simply quit church altogether.

Adding to the challenge, Hein notes that adult confirmations are trending down. The study demonstrated that WELS has 15% fewer adult confirmations in 2016 than in 2012. Synodwide, annually, WELS will have only one adult confirmation for every 83 communicant members.

Part of the study forecasted WELS’ membership in the future if current trends would continue. “If the current rates of decline would hold steady, in 20 years, WELS would lose about 21% of its current membership—about 73,000 souls,” says Hein. “That would translate to approximately 300 fewer congregations in just one generation.”

The study also contained what Hein called “prayerful projections,” a forecast of what could happen if WELS congregations were able to increase their gospel efforts andmore important, the Holy Spirit were to bless those efforts. One hypothetical scenario had WELS congregations cutting back-door losses by one-third through increased elder work and greater efforts at retaining young members who go off to college. This scenario also had WELS members increasing their personal evangelism efforts, so that the ratio of communicant members to adult confirmations went from 83 to 1 to 45 to 1. In this scenario, WELS would gain 33,000 new souls for Christ in the next 20 years.

“Our only job is to proclaim the gospel as zealously as we can,” writes Hein in the study. “The Holy Spirit then produces the results when and where he sees fit.  Moreover, our satisfaction in ministry comes only from serving Christ, not by achieving numerical success. . . . [These projections are] simply a snapshot of what is feasible if we were able, walking together, to increase our ministry efforts, and if the Holy Spirit saw fit to bless those efforts according to our prayers”.

Congregational Services is producing a new synodwide campaign called C18 in an effort to reach one million souls with the gospel this upcoming Christmas season. Look for more on this next month.


Read the full report at wels.net/ccc. See how you can make a difference through personal evangelism.


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Book Nook: “There’s a Prayer for that. . . “

When faced with life situations of all kinds, would you like to be a more effective prayer warrior but find it hard to think of how to pray? Or would you like to align your thoughts and prayer life more with the special holidays?  

There’s A Prayer For That is filled with every kind of prayer anyone could imagine. Not only will you find prayers for help, but you will also find prayers of praise and thanksgiving as well as prayers for each kind of family member and prayers to use during grieving and when facing personal trials.  

Have you ever thought of praying for people who clean up after public places or those who keep the power grids going? How about special prayers for schools, called workers, athletes, and those in the service of our country? The variety of prayers will broaden every believer’s scope of prayer.  

While the Table of Contents appears to be rather random, each short prayer is numbered and organized in an appropriate category. The first reading of each prayer will touch your heart and leave you with a resolve to pray more, for more, and with more fervor.  

Do you want to pray for situations in the workplace? Or for special occasions in your family, beyond birthdays and confirmations? How about prayers for spiritual gifts or personal goals? The format for this book is small enough to fit in a pocket or a purse. 

No matter what issues a person could face, this book has a prayer for that. Written from the hearts of more than two dozen pastors, this volume would make a wonderful gift and companion for any Christian.  


Marilyn Sievert
West Bend, Wisconsin 


Order at nph.net.


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Author:  
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Reaching Native Christians: Part 2

Despite challenges, the Word of the Lord continues to grow on the Apache reservation 

Joseph M. Dietrich 

In 1893 Missionaries Plocher and Adascheck first arrived in what is now called Peridot, Arizona, to begin sharing the good news of Jesus with the Apache people. They had many struggles. Where should they set up camp? How will they communicate? Who will translate? How do they overcome suspicion and mistrust toward the white man? By God’s grace, they began to overcome these and other obstacles. The mission took root. From Peridot it spread east to Bylas and north to Whiteriver. Some missionaries became masters in the Apache language. Schools and churches were built. People came to hear the good news of Jesus. Congregations were started. The Word of the Lord grew.  

The challenges of today 

Now it is 2018—125 years later. How is the Apache mission doing? What are the challenges and blessings of today? The challenges are much different than the ones the first missionaries encountered: 

  • Our pastors, teachers and congregational families are not perfect. We admit we are all still learning and growing—sometimes the hard way—by our mistakes. Gary Lupe, one of two Apache pastorson the reservation, says, “A long time ago the Apache needed the White man missionary to make all the decisions; he did a good job. But now, we have been strong in Christ for years, yet too many Apache people rely upon the missionary to make decisions. Our missionaries are working to let go and let members make decisions, and also our people must be empowered to stand up to run our churches. This is a struggle.”  
  • Our communities aren’t perfect, either. Broken homes, substance abuse, and unsupervised children are the new normal for many homes.When caregivers choose alcohol and drugs over electricity and food, children suffer. 
  • Gangs are active in our communities, and vandalism and theft are regular occurrences that plaguethe churches, schools, and homes of our members and missionaries.  
  • Unemployment (75%) and poverty (median family income is less than $20,000 per household) are multi-generational.Health issues plague our people; the average life expectancy is between 45 to 50 years old. 
  • Traditional Apache religion is still a powerful forcethat pulls people off the path that leads to eternal life. Medicine men actively practice witchcraft and have been successful in convincing many Apache people that this false religion is part of their identity as Natives. Christians continue to stumble in their walk of faith and distrust the message of the Bible as well as the messengers who bring it. “The writer to the Hebrews had to always tell people to not follow the old ways,” says Lupe. “I must always tell our Apache people to not go to the medicine man to find out who to blame for your problems or which rock or powder to buy to heal you or take away problems. Like the writer to the Hebrews, I too must always say, ‘Jesus is all we need. Jesus is the only way and the only power.’ ” 

Yes, the Apache mission has challenges, and some of them are so big at times that our missionaries and teachers spend many weekly hours of ministry in unique ways of helping, counseling, transporting, praying with people out on the road and on the phone, talking with tribal security, and repairing buildings. It’s a struggle to the “regular daily work” one would think pastors and teachers are called to do. 

Victories despite challenges 

To keep these challenges in perspective, we turn to the book of Acts, a marvelous book that tells how Jesus’ disciples carried the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. It tells of the magnificent march of the gospel through the powerful Roman Empire. It’s a happy book, a book of joyous victory. From beginning to end you can read how the Word of the Lord grew through Palestine and beyond.  

But the story of Acts is not without its challenges. At every turn, there were struggles and threats to the ministry. Peter and John were put in prison. James was killed. Saul approved of Stephen’s death and started a great persecution. The Jewish leaders joined in on the persecution. They stoned Paul for speaking against traditional religion, the gods that the local people had worshiped for years. Arguments broke out between Jews and Gentile believers. Paul and Barnabas split up after a dispute. Unbelievers beat Paul and had him thrown into prison. People argued over who was the best pastor.  

When you read Acts, you see struggle after struggle, blow after blow, hitting the apostles and believers.  

When you spend time on the Apache reservation, you too can see struggle after struggle, blow after blow, hitting our missionaries and believers. 

Still, the book of Acts is about the spread the gospel. It’s always about the Word of the Lord growing and going to the world. It’s victorious and joyous. When Paul was detained in Rome, Luke ended Acts with the following statement: “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles and they will listen!” (28:28). Boldly and without hindrance Paul preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord.  

The Word of the Lord grew in Paul’s day, and it is growing among the Apache today. 

  • Six missionary pastors serve more than 3,000 Apache members with approximately 1,000 worshipping innine congregations every Sunday. 
  • Almost 300 students attend our two K-8 schools, and 25 students attend our high school. They are taught by20 called teachers. 
  • TheApache Christian Training School program continues to build spiritual maturity and train people for service in God’s kingdom. 

Six of our called pastors, evangelists, teachers, and ministry leaders are Apaches. “I love being a pastor and having that truth that I’m saved for myself, but mostly [I love] sharing it with my Apache people, working with the missionaries, and looking to share the gospel in many ways,” says Lupe, who has begun Wednesday evening street services at Gethsemane, Cibecue, to reach the community better. Lupe also works with lay evangelist Leonard Fall to record sermons in Apache that are broadcast on the radio 

Another Apache pastor, Kirk Massey, is working to equip his members at Open Bible, Whiteriver, so they can better serve this one thousand-member congregation and its community.  

And the Apache people are not content to serve only on the two current reservations in Arizona. They want to reach Native Americans on the 500-plus reservations throughout the United States, to follow the Great Commission as Jesus’ disciples did: “Go and make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matthew 28:19). 

Because despite all our needs and challenges, we are assured that the Word of the Lord will grow, that God’s salvation has been sent to the Apache, and that they will listen.  


Joseph Dietrich serves the San Carlos Apache Tribe as a missionary at Our Savior’s, Bylas, Arizona. 


This is the second article in a three-part series on WELS mission work on the Apache reservations in Arizona. 


Go to nativechristians.org to read more and to get 125th anniversary celebration updates. 


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Author: Joseph M. Dietrich
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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One church—two locations 

In 2014, Divine Peace, Garland, Texas, began discussing the idea of starting a second congregation in the neighboring community of Rockwall. This area northeast of Dallas is booming, and many families were traveling from the Rockwall area to Garland to attend Divine Peace. Rather than start a separate daughter congregation, Divine Peace decided to become a multi-site congregation.   

John Hering, pastor of Divine Peace, notes, “Initially there was some hesitation from members wondering how it would be possible to start a new location and survive. But, after clearly explaining that we would not be two churches but one church at two locations, the tensions eased and folks supported the effort.”  

In 2016, after Divine Peace conducted community surveys and a demographic study of the area and demonstrated that a strong core of its members would support ministry at a second site in Rockwall, the WELS Board for Home Missions voted to support the mission effort. In May 2016, Gunnar Ledermann, a new graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, was assigned to serve as the second pastor at Divine Peace, with the main responsibility of establishing the Rockwall location.   

Soon, those in Rockwall were worshiping at a wedding chapel just off of the town square. In January of this year, Divine Peace bought the wedding chapel and its property thanks to support from WELS Church Extension Fund.   

“Now that Divine Peace has a second permanent location for ministry, a new door has opened for reaching our community,” says Ledermann, who is excited about the potential the location has for serving as a gathering place for the community.   

Mark Drezdzon and his wife, Michelle, joined Divine Peace in 2013 after completing Bible information classes with Hering. Mark currently serves as Divine Peace’s president. He says, “ ‘One church—two locations’ brings challenges and blessings alike. One of the biggest challenges was splitting our congregational resources and talents between two locations. We have been blessed with many talented and gifted members to cover things, like musicians for all of our services and teachers for our Kingdom Kids Bible study sessions. It takes time to coordinate everything between the two locations, but it has also brought members closer together. But most important, having two locations gives us the chance to achieve the Divine Peace mission—to bring the true Word of God to our community—in two communities.”  

Hering agrees. “Multi-site gives you the joy of sharing the gospel with more people in more places while remaining one church.”  

“Stay tuned,” concludes Drezdzon. “With the way growth continues in the Northeast Dallas Metroplex, we might be ‘one church—three locations’ in the not too distant future!”  


To learn more about multi-site congregations, consider attending the WELS National Multi-Site Conference. WELS Home Missions supports congregations that are establishing ministries in new locations through both multi-site and mother/daughter efforts. To see how a congregation is reaching out by daughtering congregations in the Las Vegas area, watch the May WELS Connection. 


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Author:  
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Social media expands reach and offers more connections

It started with wanting to offer more women in a congregation the opportunity to study together. 

Corissa Nelson, wife of the pastor at Good Shepherd, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, decided to start a midweek women’s Bible class using 2000 Demons by E. Allen Sorum as the base of the study. With short chapters, already included questions, and a riveting topic, the book seemed a perfect fit. 

The problem: finding time during the week when most women could meet. Also congregation members are scattered, many living at least half an hour from church. 

The solution: social media. 

Nelson decided to create a Facebook group, where she would post a question or two a day related to that week’s reading. Members of the group could comment and share their thoughts and ideas. While a small group from the church still met in person each week, this allowed more people who couldn’t make weekday meetings to participate. 

But Nelson didn’t stop there. “Once I realized that we had bridged those miles, I determined we could invite anyone to be in the study,” she says. As part of the WELS Women’s Ministry Development Committee, Nelson thought offering this online opportunity for Bible study would be a great way to build community for all WELS women. So WELS Women’s Ministry began promoting this Bible study opportunity on its Facebook page. 

More than 600 women from around the country (and even some from abroad) joined the group throughout the course of the monthlong Bible study, which concluded this past February. Nelson said between 300 to 500 of these were active, returning often to the site even if they didn’t always post comments. 

Nelson says that having this broader group involved helped Good Shepherd, a smaller, isolated congregation, feel more connected to the synod and other WELS members. “They were able to connect with more mature Christians and learn from them,” she says.  

Others commented on Facebook that they too had difficulty getting to a Bible study and appreciated this additional opportunity to study God’s Word. “Although it’s not as perfect as everyone sitting around a table and sharing ideas, it really can encourage more people to have some personal study and connect with other women,” says Nelson. 

Nelson plans to offer another women’s Bible study, starting April 9. This one, written by her husband Pastor Marques Nelson, will be on getting women involved in evangelism, based on the book of Acts. To join, go to facebook.com/groups/WMStudyGSLCR 


Learn more about WELS Women’s Ministry at wels.net/women. 


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Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

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New start in South America

This summer two missionaries from the One Latin America (1LA) mission team—Nathan Schulte and Phil Strackbein—will be moving to Ecuador. This will be the first time WELS will have an active mission presence in this South American country. Schulte currently serves in Mexico, and Strackbein serves in Bolivia.

“In the beginning of November all the 1LA missionaries met in Mexico City to discuss a major training program we are developing and the relocation of different missionaries to best accomplish our goals as a team,” says Schulte. “We want to reach as many people as possible and to train people to be leaders in their own multiplying groups. The team had done extensive research on a number of major cities in Latin America. Quito, Ecuador, eventually came to the top of the list.”

One of the main contributing factors to the decision was the large number of Facebook users in Ecuador who follow Academia Cristo online—more than 60,000. Academia Cristo is a Spanish-language website that offers video and audio Bible studies and live online training to reach out to non-Christians as well as to teach Latin American church members how to share their faith.

This location in Ecuador also puts the missionaries closer to other countries in South America where WELS can’t permanently locate a missionary for safety or political reasons but where interest in the gospel message has been demonstrated through active use of the Academia Cristo website.

A third reason is, while WELS has never officially had a mission in Ecuador, Martin Luther College Spanish Professor Paul Bases has been taking groups of students there for years to teach English, and, through that work, valuable connections have already been made.

Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions, says the main goal of the missionaries is to “facilitate the planting of small group churches in Quito and beyond.” He says, “The idea is to connect Ecuadorean Christians to the online materials and relationships so that they’re able to keep the ministry rolling even after our missionaries might leave.”

Schulte says, “I love the fact that, from the start, we are focused on training Ecuadorians to study God’s Word and to share it with others. They know their culture and situations better than I ever will, and God has already placed them in their own unique contexts with their own connections and opportunities. I’m really looking forward to working to help them to do just that—share God’s grace with others.”

The missionaries’ first priorities will be finding a location for a Christian training center and doing boots-on-the-ground work—meeting their neighbors and learning more about the community. To help this effort, two congregations—St. Matthew, Oconomowoc, Wis., and Goodview Trinity, Goodview, Minn.—will be sending volunteers in May and June to host introduction workshops open to the Quito community. These two volunteer groups are the inaugural groups for the new WELS Mission Journeys program, which coordinates opportunities for WELS members who want to volunteer in a mission field.

“Ecuador, like all Latin America, is in desperate need of God’s grace. It is grace-starved. Even in many churches and Christian groups, the emphasis is not on Jesus and what he has done for us in our salvation,” says Schulte. “We want to bring people to the source of that grace—the Bible—and to teach them to learn from it and share it with others.”


Learn more about WELS Missions at wels.net/missionsCheck out Academia Cristo at academiacristo.com. Find out more about WELS Mission Journeys in the upcoming June issue.


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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Native Christians look to the future

This year marks the 125th anniversary of WELS World Mission work on the Apache reservation in Arizona. While the Native American Mission is planning to celebrate its history and God’s blessings over the years, it also is looking forward to how it can share the gospel message in the future. 

“Our past is amazing,” says Dan Rautenberg, the Native American Mission field coordinator. “We honor that, but at the same time we’re not just looking back at the amazing things people did long ago. Our people have the same potential now, and we have new opportunities.” 

He continues, “That’s what Christians do—we receive the gospel, we get on our feet, and we spread the gospel. We need to take our part in that long line of Christians throughout history.” 

The mission has its eyes on the 500-plus other reservations throughout the United States. Rautenberg says 95 percent of the Native Americans on these reservations aren’t Christian.  

While the mission has some contacts on other reservations, it is hoping to broaden its reach through its new website, NativeChristians.org. Developed as part of the anniversary celebration, the website is working to establish an identity that’s wider than just the two current reservations, hence the name Native Christians. The site currently shares 125th anniversary plans and historical articles about the field, but future plans call for making the site an evangelism tool that Native Christians can use to share the gospel with their friends, family, and acquaintances—no matter where they’re located. “We have the unique ability to personalize it from natives for natives,” says Rautenberg. 

The ultimate goal, according to Rautenberg, is to be looking at two new prospective mission sites in the next three years.  

He knows that won’t be easy. “But it wasn’t easy to start a mission 125 years ago either,” he says. “That’s our challenge. To take a church that’s done so much in the past but still has energy to go out into the future.” 


Check out the new website at NativeChristians.org. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Book Nook: April 2018

Understanding church fellowship

Deathtraps are those things that hinder faith or prevent sinners from coming to faith.  We avoid deathtraps when we are in the Word. The Joy of Gathering Around the Truth is the subtitle to Escaping the Deathtraps and tells us how to escape the deathtraps.

Church fellowship can be a deathtrap when it is misunderstood or misapplied. This book, written by Dr. Terry Schultz, explains church fellowship and answers questions many of us have about fellowship in a series of 21 Bible studies. It is set in a Peruvian village, but it could be anywhere. The studies begin with questions from the congregation. Pastor Pedro uses stories and God’s Word to answer the questions. Sometimes the stories are told by the church members.

The stories are told orally, with pictures, with music, with drama, and with humor. The stories teach biblical doctrines so that, with a clear understanding of doctrine, church fellowship practices are better understood.

Don’t expect to read this book in one sitting. Use it instead for group Bible study, book clubs, personal or family devotions. Read a story—a chapter—a week or even a chapter a day and answer the study questions at the end of each chapter. The questions will help with practical applications. You will have a better understanding of what we believe and how we can share God’s love with our neighbors.

Teaching methods vary, and this book shows you don’t have to sit still in a classroom or lecture hall to study God’s Word. You can laugh; you can dance; you can sing; you can cry; you can even use practical jokes. Telling stories to teach biblical truths worked well and brought joy to the members of this Peruvian church—as it will for you.

Mark Schulz  
      Milton, Wisconsin 


Price: $18.99 nph.net


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Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

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New training to help protect children

A new training program to help people recognize and respond to child abuse is being released in April by Freedom for the Captives, a WELS organization that works to protect children and empower survivors of abuse.  

The program—entitled “Standing up for Children: A Christian Response to Child Abuse and Neglect”—consists of four videos that review dealing with physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse and provide a theological basis for the importance of protecting children. The course also highlights how to create and enforce a child protection policy for a church, school, or organization.  

“We want to make it as easy as possible for pastors, teachers, and lay leaders to get some fundamental training on how to keep children as safe as possible,” says Ben Sadler, chairman of the Freedom for the Captives committee and pastor at Goodview Trinity, Goodview, Minn. He recommends that all pastors, teachers, and lay leaders for children’s ministries go through ongoing training like this. 

Sadler says that having a child protection policy in place at a congregation or school and having ongoing training for those who work with children also encourages survivors. “When going through this training, it raises awareness in the congregation on how we might better help people who’ve been abused,” he says. “It lets those who are suffering in silence know that [the church] cares about them.” 

Sexual abuse is widespread in our communities. The Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study, conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 1997, shares that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused as children. “I think there is still the idea that this is somebody else’s church’s problem,” says Sadler. “Avoiding the issue won’t make it go away. We need to offer hope that we can encourage and help people who have gone through these difficult situations. And we need to provide the tools to keep our children safe.” 

Funding from Antioch Foundation helped make this training program possible. This funding also is allowing committee member Victor Vieth, a worldwide advocate for children, founder of the Gunderson National Child Protection Training Center, and member at St. John, Lewiston, Minn., to present at congregations, schools, and conferences in person. E-mail freedom@wels.net to get access to the free training videos.  


To learn more about Freedom for the Captives, a part of WELS Special Ministries, go to freedomforcaptives.com. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Moments with missionaries: Grenada

Ib Meyer 

It’s called “oil down.”* It’s the national dish of Grenada. The ingredients include dasheen (calallo) leaves, chive and thyme, carrots, Scotch bonnet (or habenero) pepper, dumplings, pig tail and snout, turmeric (locally called saffron), salt fish, breadfruit, coconut milk, and onion. All these ingredients—prepared, layered, and cooked over a long period of time—blend together to create a tasty and nourishing meal. 

That is what Grace Lutheran in Grenada is—a blend of God’s children from different social and religious backgrounds, brought together by the gospel, gifted with God-given skills and abilities, working together as one congregation to serve the tasty and life-giving meal of the gospel of Jesus. 

Grace is overseen by the South Atlantic District Mission Board, but we are not your usual home mission. We are the only Lutheran church in the country. We are diverse, different, unified, and truly blessed by God. 

Our “oil down” (ministry), just like the meal, is layered. It is made up not only of spices (people) but also of “provisions”—the staples and substance of any good meal. Our ministry is blessed to include three layers—church, community outreach, and a primary school (preschool through grade six). 

Let’s meet two of the people who make up our “oil down”—Elder Terry Louison and church secretary Neisha Roach. 

Neisha is the younger of the two but has been at Grace the longest. She is married to Patrick, who leads our youth and music ministry, and they have a two-year-old daughter called “Nana.” Neisha, like many of the members of Grace, was raised in the Pentecostal church. She came to Grace almost 10 years ago and stayed because of the nourishing gospel.  

Grenada’s society has strong matriarchal undertones. Neisha knows the culture, and she knows her Savior. She is patient and humble, strong and committed. Her quiet demeanor invites confidence and trust. Members will come to her and ask for advice or inform her of a matter, knowing that she will pass it on to the pastor if appropriate. Neisha is currently enrolled in the Martin Luther College Congregational Assistant Program, and upon completion, we want to call her as our deaconess.   

Terry joined Grace about three years ago. He worked in the US and also studied and worked in Cuba. His spiritual journey, beginning in the Roman Catholic Church, is a windy, twisting long road that reveals God’s mercy in action. He is a scholar of history and of God’s Word. If you want to know anything about Grenada (history, flora, fauna, culture and more), Terry is the person to ask. If you want to be spiritually enriched, speak to Terry. You will leave the conversation a wiser person and blessed by the Lord. 

Terry is a master tour guide operator. He owns a bus (a van really), which he uses for his tour guiding. However, as many of our members do not have cars, he transports them to and from church on Sunday. While driving, he listens to the members and encourages them. He proclaims the gospel not only in words but also in a life that gives glory to God. 

These are just two of many wonderful, spicy, flavorful souls whose lives the gospel has touched here in Grenada. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8 NIVUK). 


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Author: Ib Meyer 
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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WELS Home Missions approves new mission starts

On April 13, the Board for Home Missions approved support for seven new mission congregations as well as support to enhance mission-minded ministry at seven other congregations.

“Being a part of the process that determines which new starts and enhancements to support is challenging but rewarding,” says Rev. Wayne Uhlhorn, chairman of the Board for Home Missions. “Our Home Missions Executive Committee takes a thorough look at each request to prayerfully determine which requests give us the best opportunity to reach more souls with the saving gospel of Jesus. We also try to determine which requests are ready and which ones might need a few more months of preparation. That is the challenging part. The rewarding part of the process is when we leave our meeting and know we’ve been blessed to start 14 new ministries that give us ways to spread God’s life-giving Word.”

The ministries receiving financial support for a new mission include:

• Reno, Nev.—Two area congregations are partnering to start this congregation in the Northern Valleys area of greater Reno. On March 25, the first worship service was held; 63 people attended.

• Phoenix, Ariz.—Crosswalk, Phoenix, is opening a second site to reach out into downtown Phoenix.

• Joplin, Mo.—A strong core of WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod members from the two nearest churches are helping support this mission.

• Brandon, S.D.—Near Sioux Falls, this new congregation includes core members from two WELS churches and an Evangelical Lutheran Synod congregation.

• Milwaukee, Wis.—Grace in downtown Milwaukee, one of WELS’ original congregations, is establishing a new location in the area known as the Third Ward.

Two new multi-site starts are being subsidized by their original congregations. Home Missions will provide assistance through its district mission boards, mission counselors, and synodical support staff but not provide direct funding. These include:

• Hobart, Wis.—Mount Olive, Suamico, Wis., is starting a second site in Hobart. The congregation is calling a second pastor to begin this new ministry.

• Horicon, Wis.—Members of St. John’s, Juneau, Wis., see an opportunity to reach out in nearby Horicon, where 90 members of St. John’s live. Saturday worship services are scheduled to begin in Horicon in June.

Home Missions is also financially supporting mission-minded enhancements to these existing congregations:

• Crown of Life, Corona, Calif.;

• Faith, Anchorage, Alaska;

• Grace, Seattle, Wash.;

• Ascension, Harrisburg, Penn.;

• Shepherd of the Hills, Knoxville, Tenn.;

• Trinity, Waukesha, Wis.; and

• Epiphany and First, Racine, Wis.

“It is our prayer that through these new starts and enhancements more souls will be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ and be brought to faith in Jesus as their Savior from sin,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions.


Free reports that Home Missions currently supports 99 subsidized and 33 unsubsidized missions. For more information on WELS Missions, visit wels.net/missions.


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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