Home mission connections lead to world mission opportunities

“The Lord is opening some pretty big doors around the world,” says Keith Free, administrator of Home Missions.

Why is the home mission administrator talking about world mission opportunities? Because the two areas are coming together in an exciting way. “When leaders in the late 1980s and 1990s began working with cross-cultural ministries, little did they know that what we would do in the United States would have impact and ramifications around the world,” says Free.

When men like Peter Bur, a South Sudanese refugee who settled in Omaha, Neb., and Bounkeo Lor, a Hmong pastor in Kansas City, Kan., hear and learn confessional Lutheran teachings, they want to share it—and not just with their neighbors next door. “What drives us so much overseas are Pastoral Studies Institute graduates who want to go back home,” says E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI).

In the fall of 2016, PSI team members, who work to train, mentor, and equip confessional Lutherans around the world, visited Africa and Asia to further explore new mission opportunities and how best to serve the people in these areas.

Liberia

Sorum traveled to Liberia with Robert Wendland, a missionary in Malawi, to see what the opportunities were for ongoing training and for working with the Confessional Lutheran Church of Liberia. Connections had been made through PSI Bible Institute graduate Isaac David and Pastor Matthew Vogt of Las Vegas, Nev., and WELS pastors had already traveled to Liberia to start training congregational leaders.

“In one village they said I was the first American to set foot in their church. It was one of the most intensely foreign feelings I ever had,” says Sorum. “But they are a warm and friendly people, who are anxious and eager to become more Lutheran.”

Kenya

Bur and Sorum have made multiple trips to Ethiopia and Kenya to train South Sudanese pastors and spiritual leaders who are serving South Sudanese refugees. In 2015, they distributed copies of Bur’s translation of a simplified version of the Small Catechism, complete with artwork by Terry Schultz, a member of the WELS Multi-Language Publications team.

This fall, Sorum, Bur, and Schultz spent three weeks in Nairobi, Kenya, furthering the training of men living in refugee camps in Kakuma, Kenya. They learned that leaders who had received copies of the simplified Small Catechism had not only worn out their copies but also taught what they learned to hundreds of others. “These people are starving not only literally but also spiritually for a lack of resources,” says Sorum. “They come to us for materials and training and then they go home and do incredible things with them in the most difficult of circumstances.”

Vietnam

In November, Jon Bare, international recruitment director, and Sorum traveled to Vietnam with Bounkeo Lor and Hue Thao to meet with 60 leaders of the Hmong Christian Fellowship, a church body with 600 pastors and more than 70,000 members. These men were contacts made through Lor, who has been traveling to Vietnam for the past three years to lead similar workshops. Besides conducting training classes in Hanoi, they traveled to several village churches in the mountains.

The church has grown since the leaders have been teaching the law and gospel lessons they learned from Lor, adding 2,400 members and 40 churches in the last six months.

Says Free, “Who would have thought a step Home Missions took many years ago to reach more cultures in the U.S. would lead to the opportunities we have today? These blessings are just another encouragement that we need to remain faithful in sowing the seed and then watch in amazement as God blesses the sharing of the gospel where and when he wills.”

Learn more at wels.net/missions.


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Volume 104, Number 2
Issue: February 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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Let your light shine: Elle Paveglio

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

Elle Paveglio, a senior at Winnebago Lutheran Academy, Fond du Lac, Wis., saw a need in her community and felt inspired to do something about it.

When Paveglio worked at the Fond du Lac Boys & Girls Club over the summer of 2016, she noticed that some of the children carried white bags home on Fridays. She found out from a coworker that the bags contained food from the Fondy Food Pantry so the kids could eat over the weekend. This experience drove 17-year-old Paveglio to conduct a fundraiser called Tackle School Hunger for the community’s underfed children.

Paveglio set up food drives at four area high schools during their homecoming games. If people brought five food items or $5 to the game, they were entered into a raffle for prizes. Four major donors contributed $1,000 each to the raffle drawings.

In the end, Paveglio was able to drop off more than one thousand food items and $2,000 to the Fondy Food Pantry.

“It was overwhelming how successful the drives were,” she says.

Fondy’s food drive coordinator Lynn Jenkins worked with Paveglio and says she was very organized and ambitious. “You can tell she has a big heart, especially for children,” adds Jenkins.

Paveglio will be attending Northern Illinois University next year, but she hopes to pass on the food drive responsibility to another student.

She says, “Knowing now that I helped more than a thousand people with my food drive, I realize what an amazing opportunity I had.”

Gabriella Moline

 


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Author: Gabriella Moline
Volume 104, Number 2
Issue: February 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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Historic merger leads to formation of present-day synod

The year 2017 is receiving much attention for being the 500th anniversary of the Reformation—and rightly so. A lesser-known, but not unimportant, anniversary is also approaching—the 100th anniversary of the amalga- mation of the Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Nebraska Synods. In 1917, these four separate church bodies merged to form the Wisconsin Synod.

John Brenner, professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., is presenting on this important time in the synod’s history on Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. Tune in to this online presentation titled “From Federation to Final Amalgamation: The Birth of the Wisconsin Synod as We Know It Today” at livestream.com/welslive.

“The merger of Lutheran denominations in 1917 laid the framework for our synod and firmly connected our strong confessional Lutheran approach back to the roots of the Lutheran Reformation,” says Dan Nommensen, vice president of the WELS Historical Institute. “Prof. Brenner brings to life our celebration of God’s grace in our synod as he reflects on the history of the merger in 1917.”

Brenner is also presenting on the same topic at the annual meeting of the WELS Historical Institute, which will be held Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry, Waukesha, Wis.

The Historical Institute exists to preserve and present WELS history. It works closely with WELS’ full-time archivist, Susan Willems.

 


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Issue: February 2017

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New Luther movie explores confessional Lutheran truths

When the Reformation 500 Committee was formed in 2009 to prepare for the upcoming celebration in October 2017, it had two goals: To teach congregations the importance of the gospel truths the Reformation brought back into focus and to share those truths with others.

A new film, A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy, will help fulfill both goals. “If this anniversary is only a special service to commemorate the history we treasure, we have missed a golden moment in history to share our faith,” says John Braun, chairman of the committee. “The film does not just celebrate our heritage, but it provides an opportunity to share the gospel in the powerful medium of film.”

Produced by Boettcher+Trinklein Television Inc., this full-length film explores the life of Martin Luther and his quest for truth, bringing to life the 16th-century events of the Reformation. Commentary from WELS scholars and other experts provides context to the unfolding drama of Luther’s story.

Much of the movie was filmed in the castles, monasteries, and cobblestone streets of eastern Europe. According to producers Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein, Luther scholars were on location to ensure historical accuracy, and every sentence Luther speaks in the film is taken from his actual writings, talks, and sermons.

“It is based on the best historical evidence on the Reformation available today, but it is not just a history,” says Braun, who developed and wrote a new biography called Luther’s Protest to help direct and encourage the film. “It explores the truths of the Reformation: Christ at the center of our faith, the importance of God’s undeserved grace, and the value of Scripture as the authority for all teaching in the Christian church.”

Starting in March, congregations can host a viewing of the movie at their local theaters for their members, prospects, and the community through easy-to-use resources available at wels.net/reformation500.

“We hope the film will give all our congregations an opportunity to confess their faith as Martin Luther did,” says Braun. “Here we stand, confessional Lutheran Christians, willing to be counted at disciples of Christ in our world at this time.”

Funding from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans made it possible to produce the movie.

 


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Issue: February 2017

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Graduation at Asia Lutheran Seminary

Six men from East Asia were among 27 students who received a degree or certificate in October from Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS), Hong Kong, at the school’s seventh graduation since it was established in 2005.

According to Dr. Steven Witte, ALS president, this is the first ALS graduation that includes pastors who do not live in Hong Kong. “These six students planted eight groups and five local churches during their student years,” he says. “Now they are no longer full-time workers and full-time students—just-full time workers. So things should pick up in terms of planting additional groups in East Asia.”

Ten men—including the six men from East Asia—received Master of Divinity degrees (which means that they are fully trained to serve as pastors); eight received Bachelor of Theology degrees. Others received degrees in Christian Studies as well as certificates for Greek and Hebrew.

Special guests at the graduation included Larry Schlomer, Board for World Missions administrator, as well as members of the East Asia Administrative Committee. “Being a part of the gathering of former mission leaders, national church members, our current mission team, and the friends and families of the students was unforgettable,” says Schlomer. “The prayers and efforts of so many people were blessed in a truly remarkable way. These young graduates will be carrying on the gospel ministry in so many places we cannot go for decades.”

According to Witte, ALS graduates serve in various ways. Some are full-time workers in the nine established congregations in South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM), WELS’ sister synod in Hong Kong; others are starting groups that will eventually turn into local congregations. Many are laypeople who are looking for a deeper understanding of confessional Lutheranism as they serve in leadership roles in their local congregations.

Schlomer says training national workers is a top priority in WELS mission work. “We don’t know how long governments, finances, or persecution will let our missionaries be present. Entrusting this work to reliable men fits the instructions our Lord has given to his church on earth and allows the gospel to be carried on in languages and cultures beyond our own.”

Currently, 53 students are attending Asia Lutheran Seminary, most part time or for single subjects. Another 11 full-time and 24 part-time students are taking courses through a satellite seminary in East Asia. ALS also works closely with Multi-Language Publications to provide theological courses to equip current and future translators of Christian literature. It has also developed an online course in Chinese called “Bible background” that has reached more than 20,000 people in East Asia.

 


WELS president visits ALS

WELS President Mark Schroeder traveled to Asia Lutheran Seminary the week before graduation to visit with the students and staff and meet with SALEM leaders. “It meant a lot for the students to see Pres. Schroeder at ALS,” says Witte. “It helped them know that WELS values ALS and the work they are doing as students—and especially the work they are doing in the kingdom. We tell the students that there are many in America who know about them, pray for them, and support them, but seeing Pres. Schroeder really helped put weight to those words.”

Schroeder says he was greatly encouraged by the graduation of fully-trained pastors from

East Asia and by the work ALS is doing to train future workers. “It is especially encouraging for me to see the work that is being done through the faithful and generous support of WELS members, who through their gifts are taking the gospel to places they will never visit and to people they will never meet until they gather with them around the throne of the Lamb.”

 


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Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017

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Where are they now?

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

Here’s a recap:

WELS members came together to support their brothers and sisters at Crown of Life, New Orleans, La., following August 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, whose aftermath led to 80 percent of New Orleans and its surrounding area being flooded for weeks.

David Sternhagen served as pastor of Crown of Life at that time. He notes, “Most of Crown of Life’s members lived in that area. We lost most of our possessions, and most people lost their jobs. There was no electricity for four months, and no water for three months. Most of our members were living in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and across the country. Homes couldn’t be repaired because there was no one in the area to repair them—their homes were in the same shape. Our church, fellowship hall, and the parsonage all were likewise affected. That is why the Builders For Christ, Kingdom Workers, and Christian Aid and Relief volunteers were so important. They came in and gutted houses and rebuilt the church, fellowship hall, and parsonage along with about 25 houses of members and non-members.”

Thousands of WELS members also contributed to the effort by praying for those affected and donating for relief efforts.

So where are they now?

“With the love of God shown through so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ and with the help of Christian Aid and Relief, not only have buildings been restored, but they are more beautiful and capable than before,” says Jonathan Kehl, Crown of Life’s current pastor. “Our congregation, able to return quickly after the storm—albeit in smaller numbers for a time, has been able to show that same love to those who come to worship with us.”

“We had an opportunity to be a witness that we probably wouldn’t have had otherwise,” adds Sternhagen.

New families in the community have joined Crown of Life and are inviting their neighbors and friends. In particular, the development of a community garden by Crown of Life has become a bridge for spreading the gospel to the church’s neighbors.

In July 2016, five members of Crown of Life completed WELS’ Congregational Assistant Program. As Kehl notes, these men and women have received in-depth training, preparing and equipping them to go and make disciples.

“The Lord has really given them excitement for carrying out ministry here in New Orleans,” says Kehl. “I’m excited to see the opportunities the Lord lays before us in the near future.”

On Oct. 30, 2016, Crown of Life celebrated the 10th anniversary of the rededication of its church. More than 40 visitors, many of whom volunteered in the rebuilding efforts, worshiped with Crown of Life’s members that day.

“What a blessing to be able to return to New Orleans for the rededication service,” says Beth Zambo, who spent many days in New Orleans documenting the Katrina volunteer efforts for WELS Christian Aid and Relief. “The choir sang many of the beautiful hymns that I remember joining in, praising God at a time when God’s Word was the food that fed the people perseverance and hope for the future.”

“There were so many people who put a lot of work into Crown of Life to get us to the point where we are now,” says Kehl. “The rededication service let us thank God for how he has preserved and continued his ministry in New Orleans, and how he has done it through our Christian family.”

 


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Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017

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Conference highlights multi-site strategy

A recent conference highlighted a rising strategy for expanding mission work—multi-site ministry, in which a congregation carries out gospel ministry at more than one physical location.

“More and more congregations as they’re looking to find new places and reach more people with the gospel are considering a multi-site ministry as a viable option,” says Wayne Uhlhorn, chairman of the Board for Home Missions. “It allows them to establish a new spot and reach new communities that otherwise they wouldn’t think of doing.”

A growing number of WELS congregations are using this approach to expand their gospel outreach, and five of the eight new mission starts authorized by Home Missions in 2016 are multi-site ministries.

Divine Peace in Garland, Texas, was one of those congregations that received funding. John Hering, pastor at Divine Peace, says that three years ago the congregation noticed a community across the lake (about 20 minutes away) growing by 160 new families a month. Six families in the congregation already lived in that area. “We saw the opportunity,” says Hering. “We started dreaming and thinking, but we really didn’t know what it would look like.”

When the 180-member congregation applied for funding to call a second pastor, it was just learning about multi-site ministries. Gunnar Ledermann, a 2016 graduate from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., was assigned to serve as Divine Peace’s second pastor and help establish its second site.

Right away Ledermann noticed the benefits of having one congregation with multiple sites, including built-in congregational leadership, structure, volunteers, and shared resources. “It allowed me to come in and not have to worry about these things because they were already taken care of,” he says. “It has freed me up to meet people . . . and allowed both of us to do more evangelism work at both locations because we are one congregation.”

Yet Divine Peace still had questions. “We had a ministry plan in place and we have been laying groundwork, but it was the multi-site conference that helped us connect all the dots,” says Hering. Ten people from that congregation attended the WELS Multi-Site Conference, held Nov. 14–16 at Grace, a multi-site congregation with four locations in Benson, Sahuarita, Tucson, and Vail, Arizona. The conference was made possible by an Antioch II grant.

Conference workshop topics focused on key multi-site components including communication, staffing, volunteers, budget and finances, merging two or more congregations, and organizational structure. Attendees also had a chance to hear firsthand from others at all different stages in multi-site ministry. “We didn’t want information to come from a book,” says Daron Lindemann, chairman of the conference planning committee and pastor at Holy Word, a multi-site church in Austin and Pflugerville, Texas. “[Attendees] had a chance to rub elbows with about 50 churches represented by 144 people and hear the stories of multi-site churches.”

The conference also gave attendees time to process what they’ve learned and start making plans about how to incorporate it into their ministries.

According to Uhlhorn, while establishing multi-site ministries is popular right now, it is not replacing the traditional new starts authorized by Home Missions. He does, however, see the advantages of this strategy. “It’s a new mission, but it’s also got some real live partners that are working every day together to spread the gospel in new places.”

For more information about multi-site ministry, contact conference planning committee members, Nathan Strutz, pastorstrutz@rlcverona.com, or Peter Kruschel, peter.kruschel@wels.net

 


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Issue: January 2017

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Catechisms to Haiti

What’s the connection between Luther’s catechism, small airplanes, and 23,000 Haitian children? Layman John Kramer, a member at Crown of Life, New Orleans, La., and retired airline pilot, shares the story:

Raphael is the regional director of education for much of northern Haiti. He is also a Christian. He knows the value of learning to read and is particularly concerned that the 23,000 school children in his district learn how to read the Bible. Through our native Haitian missionary, Rona Abraham, Raphael has asked WELS Multi-Language Publications to supply 23,000 copies of Luther’s Catechism translated into Creole for his voluntary after-school programs throughout his district. What an opportunity to share God’s Word!

Now how do we get the materials there? In Haiti, transporting and importing humanitarian items is difficult. Those that import by shipping container or boat experience issues at the docks when customs officials and workers demand exorbitant fees. However, in the northern part of the island, at a place called Cap Haitien, customs allows eight bags of whatever size to be imported free of importation charges as long as they arrive by air.

In September 2016, in two trips by air, WELS Multi-Language Publications delivered the first 3,000 copies of Luther’s Catechism to Cap Haitien through Alas Para Los Niños, translated “wings for children.” This non-profit organization was organized for the purpose of moving catechisms and other humanitarian items to Haiti for the furthering of God’s kingdom. It has an aircraft, a pilot, and motivated helpers who receive shipments in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and store them until an upcoming flight. Missionary Terry Schultz and I made the first two flights before Hurricane Matthew ravaged the island in September. Each shipment of 1,500 books weighed 645 pounds, fit in eight duffle bags, and passed through customs without additional fees. We added about 150 pounds of clothing with each trip, tucked around the books in the duffle bags.

This marked the first delivery of the 23,000 catechisms that Raphael has requested for his school kids. We anticipate more flights early in 2017. What a blessing to be helping God’s kingdom by putting Luther’s catechism right in the hands of Haitian children!

 


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Issue: January 2017

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Moments with Missionaries: Minot, North Dakota

Nate Walther

A funeral. It’s not an uncommon sight in a church. In fact—and I don’t mean this in a negative way—it’s something you just take for granted. If the unthinkable happens and a loved one dies, you know your pastor and your church will be there for you.

Now, imagine that situation without a church home. It was a shadow that Debbie’s family lived with for years. Debbie and her husband had left their WELS church behind a decade ago when they moved to Minot, North Dakota. And while Debbie’s faith remained, it slowly weakened until she reached a breaking point. Three years ago Debbie had a stroke. It changed everything. Complications from the stroke prevented her from continuing in the work she loved. She soon wrestled with depression. Over the next year her life took an ugly turn for the worst.

As God would have it, this was exactly when Grace Lutheran was established as a mission church in Minot. Debbie, along with her husband and daughter, were among our first new members. It was exactly what Debbie needed. Amid her newfound struggles, Debbie loved coming back to church. The message of her Savior Jesus kept her going.

One day will always especially stand out to me. We were sitting together at Panera Bread. I listened as Debbie shared some of her inner demons. I remember thinking that I didn’t know what to say. How could I possibly help with such deep pain?

Yet, there was one thing I could say. “Debbie, this is why we believe what we believe . . . Jesus is the only answer! This is all going to go away someday. When you rise, he will wipe these tears from your eyes.”

There was a pause.

“I know that, Pastor.” And she did. “It’s just so hard.”

Of course it is.

I had no idea this was the last time that I would see her alive on earth. On July 4, 2016, Debbie suddenly passed away at the age of 63. Even with her medical struggles, nobody saw it coming.

The next week was very difficult for Debbie’s family. There were many unanswered questions. But we didn’t have to ask one question: we knew where Debbie was. I gladly attested to her faith in Christ, which I had heard myself!

After the funeral, a former mission pastor told me that it doesn’t quite feel like a church until you have a funeral. That is when it all becomes real and when you realize how much this all matters. This thought magnified what one of Debbie’s daughters told me, “I can’t imagine what we would have done if Grace wasn’t in Minot!”

What if God hadn’t put Grace here? What if Debbie’s faith had continued to crumble? What if she had no place to hear the sweet gospel? These are questions we never had to ask. It reminds me of what was once said about our Savior: “A smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3). I marvel at how Christ kept his promise to Debbie through my feeble hands.

It’s quickly become one of my favorite things about being a mission pastor. What an incredible blessing when a mission church sees growth and new people come to faith! Yet, it’s no less a bless-ing to serve those saints with battle scars who would otherwise have no church.

Nate Walther serves as a home missionary at Grace, Minot, North Dakota. He was assigned from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., in 2014 to serve as Grace’s first pastor.

Learn more about home mission opportunities at wels.net/missions.

 


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Author: Nate Walther
Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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: Jared Stuebs

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

The Lord works in mysterious ways. For Jared Stuebs, his witnessing for Christ began with him singing in the shower.

Stuebs started his basic combat training for the Wisconsin National Guard in March 2015. While he showered, he would sing hymns, such as “Were You There.” His fellow soldiers heard his frequent praises, saw his faith in action, and gained a curiosity about Christ.

Stuebs began Bible studies in the evenings for all who wanted to join him. This started after Stuebs’ dad sent him the book A Ready Defense by Josh McDowell. A member of his platoon was interested in what he was reading and would come to Stuebs’ bunk almost every other night to learn more. Before long, other men became fascinated as well, so Stuebs began introducing them to the book of Galatians. As the group grew, Stuebs asked his parents to send him Bibles. On a good night, Stuebs would have as many as 13 to 20 people in his Bible study.

One day, Stuebs’ drill sergeant called him over to speak with him. The sergeant proceeded to shake Stuebs’ hand and thank him for having the Bible studies because it boosted the group’s morale.

“I’ve always been one to not be afraid to share my faith,” Stuebs says. “I know it’s not me doing it. It’s the Holy Spirit working through me.”

Stuebs is currently a member of the military police in the Wisconsin National Guard and attends Mount Olive, Appleton, Wis.

Gabriella Moline

 


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Author: Gabriella Moline
Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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Staying rooted

The unfortunate statistics about Millennials and church attendance are no secret. According to a 2014 Religious Landscape Study conducted by the Pew Research Center, about four in ten Millennials (adults born between 1981 and 1996) consider religion to be very important in their lives (compared to every other demographic, which were over 50%), and only 28% attend religious services at least once a week.

Young Christians need to feel a sense of belonging in their congregations. But many are not making church a priority, and those that go to services tend to find themselves without many in their age group. Church events often are targeted toward families or older members of the congregation.

Groups like Rooted Colorado: WELS Young Adults are making an effort to encourage young Lutherans in their faith through fellowship and God’s Word.

Rooted was created in 2011 by several young people from neighboring WELS churches in Colorado. While it might be difficult for a single church to bolster its young people activities, the idea was made easier by combining the churches in the greater Front Range area. “When the young adult group at St. Peter, Fort Collins, heard of a young adult group forming in Zion, Denver, we decided to get together after the area Reformation service and invite young adults from the surrounding congregations to join us as well,” says Dan Kleist, a member at St. Peter, Fort Collins. “We’ve been meeting ever since!”

The first gathering was just food and games, but these Coloradans were looking to enjoy the great outdoors as well. Now Rooted meets once a month, with a different Colorado congregation serving as host each time. They start with a Bible study, followed by a special activity ranging from disc golf and beach volleyball to bowling and movies. Interspersed between these regular monthly gatherings are big events, like concerts, camping trips, or ski weekends.

There is a special emphasis on studying God’s Word. Bible studies are usually conducted by the host congregation’s pastor, covering a wealth of in-depth topics like evangelizing, homosexuality, atheism, judgment, and marriage. “[A benefit has been] having 20+ people take serious time out of their lives to meet and then having them voluntarily express afterwards that they really appreciated the Bible study,” says James Free, a member at St. Peter.

Rooted not only creates a community of young Colorado Christians, but it also welcomes new faces to the area. Many transplants (myself included) knew no one when they first came to Colorado. The welcoming atmosphere of Rooted not only provided new friendly roots in a new state but also strengthened roots into Christ and his Word.

The success of the group continues even after people leave the area. The Colorado group now has a sister group in the Phoenix area. “We’ve had a couple vicars who have been involved in the past take interest in offering something similar in the area they’ve been called to serve,” says Kleist. Plus, Rooted is not the only group in WELS targeted toward this demographic. Several groups have started in the Midwest as well.

What are the long-term goals for Rooted? Says Amy Maurer, a member at Christ Our Redeemer, Aurora, Colo., “Hopefully we will be able to establish a solid organizational structure so Rooted can be enjoyed throughout WELS for generations to come and grow in their faith.”

Claire Natsis


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Author: Claire Natsis
Volume 103, Number 11
Issue: November 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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Moments with missionaries: Caledonia, Michigan

Moments with missionaries: Caledonia, Michigan

Allen Kirschbaum

When I heard the announcement last year that I would be assigned to serve as pastor at Spirit of Life, Caledonia, Mich., the last thing I thought was that it would be a mission church. I didn’t know where Caledonia, Michigan, was. I didn’t know anything about the people there. I assumed that it was a small farm town.

As I sat down with my wife, Karrie, and examined the call packet, we realized that Spirit of Life really was a mission congregation. What an amazing thing to be at the ground floor of something so special! What was even more exciting is that Spirit of Life recently had built its new facility in a perfect location on a busy highway corner.

If I asked you what kind of mission work you would expect from a Midwestern congregation, I suspect that you would think of the church having an awesome vacation Bible school program, Easter for Kids, or Mommy and me program. If you thought that, you would be correct—we have all of those ministries and more.

But the first day I sat down in my office, I received a call from an unlikely place to do mission work. One of the adult care homes in the community reached out to the congregation, seeking a pastor to come visit. They wanted their residents to be active in the community. This opportunity led to an every-week service at the home.

I expected the regular nursing home experience. However, once again, mission work in an unlikely place blessed Spirit of Life with so much more.

The residents and caretakers began to join us for worship every Sunday. Our members love to walk out to the cars and guide them into our sanctuary. Each month we have activities for those residents, such as making decorations for our Christmas trees and a Christmas play.

Their faith is a massive encouragement to a young mission congregation. But as much as the residents encourage us—the story of one of their caretakers has touched our hearts even more.

Each week, a caretaker named Florence Bish comes to our congregation. She is from the Congo and came to the United States ten years ago. She feels welcomed by our congregation, and we are blessed by her. The thing is—Florence can’t keep up with how fast I speak in my sermons. Her native language is French. Again, here’s mission work in an unlikely place. God led Spirit of Life to reach out to a female refugee from the Congo who speaks French and works at a small-town adult care facility. Now each week, we translate my sermons into French so Florence can understand them better.

In Missions, we work hard to find new ways to share the gospel. But often God gives us new opportunities that we weren’t even looking for—mission work in unexpected places.

Allen Kirschbaum serves as a home missionary at Spirit of Life, Caledonia, Michigan.


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Author: Allen Kirschbaum
Volume 103, Number 11
Issue: November 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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Redefining home

WELS missionaries are sent around the world and asked to acclimate and integrate themselves into a foreign culture. They learn the language, customs, culture, social practices—they truly become part of the country as they work to share the gospel.

In August, a group of former WELS missionaries, some retired and some returning to the United States for new calls, met for a two-day repatriation retreat.

“The retreat is a recognition that people, once they live overseas for an extended period of time, really change in their worldview,” says Larry Schlomer, Board for World Missions administrator. “When they come back to the United States, they’re actually not coming back to their home country, because they know their home country from 7, 10, 20 years ago. Things will have changed drastically in that time.”

Two speakers came to offer counseling, insight, and expertise to the former missionaries and their wives.

Schlomer says, “The retreat is to get several people who have gone through this experience together so they learn from each other and realize there are some common themes they will be facing.”

These themes include seemingly routine things like trying to decipher what products are a good value at the grocery store, ordering at a fast food restaurant, and navigating retirement benefits.

On top of day-to-day tasks that are now foreign, they have left people, friends, a home, and a ministry that they loved. “You get to where you don’t know how to do things in the States anymore, and you feel like an outsider. Nobody is really like you, and people don’t understand you,” says Andrea Wordell, wife of former missionary Brad Wordell, who spend 17 years in Japan.

For Adam Gawel and his wife, Sherri, the roles are reversing. Adam met Sherri while serving in East Asia. The Gawels and their three children moved to Chicago after Adam accepted a new call. This time, it is Sherri moving to a foreign country.

After serving seven years in East Asia, Adam has noticed how ministry work is different. “Being a foreigner in East Asia, it was easy to talk to people,” he says. “They’re willing to engage with you in conversation, even religious conversation. But here in the U.S., people are a little more hesitant to talk about religion and maybe more suspicious if you approach them.”

When Stephen and Lori Lawrenz left for Africa 30 years ago with two small children and one on the way, they treated the experience like an adventure. Stephen says, “Now I look at America like a foreign country, and I have to figure it out too.” They say they know to put their trust in God as they face each new chapter.


MISSIONARY CHILDREN

Missionaries aren’t the only ones having to deal with change when returning from a foreign field. It affects their children too. Here’s what Anna Sherod, whose father served in Japan for 11 years, has to say:

I moved to the States from the Japan mission field when I was 13. The first few years were privately difficult as I tried to fake my way past my reality: ignoring 11 years of growing up speaking Japanese, eating rice, commuting on trains, and having my family life defined by the sharing the gospel. I was successful enough, but I struggled with depression and a sense of drifting through life.

In 2011, I attended a retreat for adult (former) missionary kids sponsored by the WELS Board for World Missions. The purpose was to offer ongoing support. There I met the very first people outside my immediate family who understood my story. They had all grown up on mission fields too. The lives of their families were also defined by big moves, cross-cultural stories, and sharing God’s love.

We shared stories of grief and loss, guided by a trained facilitator. When we worshiped together at the end of the retreat, the sermon was preached on the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn.” I began to understand that the many “good-byes” in my life had been used for God’s kingdom and could continue to be used.

I started embracing my identity—as a Christian, as a missionary kid, and as someone whose formative years were spent in Japan. Since then, I have volunteered in Japan after a tsunami and earthquake struck, navigated living in Germany and Romania, and now work for Kingdom Workers on an Apache reservation. I know that the way I grew up shaped me—to love languages, to embrace listening to other cultures, and to be fearless about proclaiming Christ’s love. I needed to meet people who had something in common with me, to embrace being “different” in my day-to-day life.


Anna is on a volunteer team putting together the next adult WELS missionary kid conference on April 21–23, 2017, in Minneapolis, Minn. Learn more at facebook.com/WELSMKs or e-mail her at asherod@kingdomworkers.com.


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Volume 103, Number 11
Issue: November 2016

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Encouraging future called workers

To help encourage young people to consider the public ministry, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary created a part-time position in 2015 for a seminary senior—student recruiter.

“Who better to communicate the joys of ministerial education than someone who has recently been through it? Who better to encourage young men to consider pastoral ministry than someone on the verge of becoming a pastor?” says Matthew Rothe, last year’s student recruiter.

The student recruiter travels to area grade schools and high schools and meets with the students to discuss serving in the public ministry. “I hope to get them to see themselves as pastors or teachers for the few minutes I am presenting,” says Paul Spaude, WLS senior and this year’s student recruiter. He also organizes a special grade school chapel service at the seminary in the fall and a 5K run in the spring to get people on campus.

Besides encouraging students, Spaude also has the opportunity to speak with parents and teachers. “I stress that I can only be a recruiter for a few hours, but they can be recruiters in children’s lives for years,” he says.

Spaude recognizes from personal experience the importance of that continued encouragement. He says that in his early high school years, being a called worker was the last thing on his list of careers. But his attitude changed. “My parents never pushed me to go to Martin Luther College or the seminary but allowed me to discover that the ministry is a wonderful job by the service opportunities they put in front of me,” he says.

Now he has the chance to encourage others: “In some small way, God will use the work I do as seminary student recruiter to encourage some for the ministry, and those future ministers will win hearts for Christ.”


Do you know a student you want to encourage to consider the ministry? Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary offers promotional items for individual or congregational use. Contact wls@wls.wels.net for these materials. This year’s special grade school chapel service is on Dec. 9. Contact Prof. Bill Tackmier, 262-242-8169 for more information.

Learn more about the importance of recruiting pastors and teachers in this month’s edition of WELS Connection.


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Volume 103, Number 11
Issue: November 2016

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Moments with missionaries: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Moments with missionaries: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Kevin K. Schultz

When I received the call to St. Matthew, Spokane, Wash., to start a multi-site church across the state line in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, I was excited. Planting another church has always sounded interesting to me. And so, when I asked how many people would be part of the core group in Coeur d’Alene, the response caught me off guard: “Well . . . basically . . . no one.”

No one? I’ve always thought that new churches got started because a core group of WELS people lived in that area. No one? How do you start a church with no people?

After arriving in Spokane, I talked with some of the leaders. It quickly became clear that with no core group in Coeur d’Alene, we needed to recruit members from St. Matthew. These people would partner with me to plant this multi-site church almost an hour away.

But who in their right mind would travel one hour every week to do canvassing, community service projects, outreach events, relationship building, and weekly worship services, when the current church in Spokane is only a few minutes away? I couldn’t imagine that anyone would say “yes.”

One by one I started contacting people in the Spokane congregation. I asked them if they would be interested in being a part of a launch team for two years to get a new church started in Coeur d’Alene.

I was honest and told them that it would take a lot of work and time out of their already busy schedules. They would need to travel almost one hundred miles round trip multiple times every month. They would be going door-to-door in the community talking with people about Jesus. They would be driving right past their current church every week to worship an hour away in a rented facility with perhaps only a few other people. I fully anticipated that no one would agree to do this with me.

But I learned quickly how God works in the hearts of his people. He reminded me not only how the gospel changes hearts but also how the gospel motivates hearts.

Twenty-five people said “yes” to my request. 25! And shortly after that, another 5 people asked if they could be a part of it too. That’s a far cry from the “no one” that I had anticipated. God showed me once again that he is in control. His people are eager to be a part of the greatest adventure on earth—telling other people about Jesus.

Many of these people may not remain a part of our mission in Coeur d’Alene long term once the congregation gets established there. They may return to worship at the main church campus in Spokane. But it’s been humbling for me to see so many of God’s people excited about doing evangelism, outreach, community service, and relationship building for the purpose of sharing the gospel. God is using them to build his church.

Start a church with no people? Hardly.


Kevin Schultz serves as a home missionary at The Vine, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the second church site of St. Matthew, Spokane, Washington.

In 2016, the Board for Home Missions authorized five established congregations, including St. Matthew, to start second site ministries. A National Multi-Site Conference on Nov 14–16 at Grace, Tucson, Ariz., will further discuss this strategy of a church reaching out to more people by worshiping and carrying out gospel ministry at more than one physical location. Find out more at wels.net/events.


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Author: Kevin K. Schultz
Volume 103, Number 10
Issue: October 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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Equipping women to mentor: Women’s Ministry

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” This was the theme for the Women’s Ministry Conference held in July. Approximately 350 women from around the country met at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., to be encouraged and equipped through God’s Word.

The conference explored how Christian women serve as mentors to those around them. Marilyn Miller, chairwoman of WELS Women’s Ministry, says, “Women are natural mentors and do it without even thinking about it. This conference helped Christian women realize how their words and actions reflect Christ wherever they might find themselves. It is our prayer that women will intentionalize their mentoring, letting God use them to shape the character and transform the thinking of everyone with whom they come into contact. God is in the business of changing hearts, and I know he will do just that through some of the women who joined us.”

Presenters led Bible study sessions examining how Christ is the ultimate mentor and how to model one’s mentoring after his.

Dawn Schulz, a member of the Women’s Ministry Committee, led a study titled “Jesus—A mentor for me.” “As a mentor my identity, purpose, priorities, words, and actions are all determined by the fact that I am God’s child because of Jesus,” she says. “Jesus not only shows me how to live in this grace, he teaches me how to mentor it to others by understanding their individual and diverse needs, giving them time to grow, and living transparently in order to set before them a living picture of a life patterned after Jesus.”

The conference also included time for networking, brainstorming sessions, and opportunities to share mentoring experiences.

Su Hansen, a conference attendee from Redeemer, Tomahawk, Wis., summed up the conference with one main word: “Encouragement.” She says, “It’s a very godly way to gather together sisters in Christ and grow together and encourage one another in our various callings.”

WELS Women’s Ministry, part of the WELS Commission on Adult Discipleship, holds a conference every three years; the next conference will be held in 2019.

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


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Volume 103, Number 10
Issue: October 2016

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Our Savior’s love compels us

“Our mission to share the gospel is so important that it demands nothing less than our very best,” says Rob Guenther, pastor at Grace, Kenai, Alaska, and chairman of the Continuing Education of Called Workers Task Force. “We want to always strive for excellence in all that we do and push ourselves to be better not only because eternal souls are at stake but especially because our Savior’s love compels us. And because we each have a sinful nature that is very active, we want others to push us and encourage us to stay focused on that task.”

Guenther explains that these thoughts drove the work of the Continuing Education of Called Workers Task Force, which was created at the direction of the 2013 synod in convention. Convention delegates resolved that a special task force should be appointed to develop a continuing education process for pastors and staff ministers “so that progress toward professional growth for pastors and staff ministers can be more formally encouraged and reported.” In recent years, special emphasis has been placed on professional growth for teachers, so this task force’s work helped formalize growth for other called workers.

As the task force began its work, it quickly recognized that spiritual and professional growth is taking place throughout the synod. “For that we are thankful to God and his grace,” says Guenther. “But we’re also glad to 1) keep pushing that growth with an online newsletter to encourage it; 2) better track that growth through regular reporting to circuit pastors and district presidents; and 3) help create and locate resources to help with that growth and present a toolbox of resources.”

The first issue of this newsletter, titled The Four Branches, will be e-mailed to all pastors at the end of September. Each issue will contain one article on each of the four traditional branches of theology—systematic, exegetical, historical, and practical.

As Joel Seifert, editor of The Four Branches, explains, “More than anything, the newsletter is meant to be a starting point for self-guided continuing education. The articles all have links to other online resources for those who want to take their study a little deeper. Even those who just read the short articles should receive a little more insight into some Scripture or dust the cobwebs off some learning they once did long ago.”

Much of the task force’s work was in conjunction with Grow in Grace, the institute for pastoral growth at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. One such project became known as Fan God’s Gifts into Flame, an essay and workbook to help a called worker develop a well-designed annual plan for growth. Grow in Grace is also housing an ever-growing list of growth tools that a pastor or staff minister can use to pursue growth. This toolbox of resources includes listings of articles, essays, books, videos, websites, podcasts, courses, workshops, and more. These tools are available at wls.wels.net/grow-in-grace.

Now that these resources have been created and compiled, the Continuing Education of Called Workers Task Force is praying that called workers and their congregations use these tools.

“My encouragement to congregations is to make continuing education a part of your annual church budget,” says Guenther. “It shows your called workers that there is an expectation to grow and improve. . . . Give them time to grow as well. Time spent at conferences, at workshops, and in the study is not time wasted. It’s critical to becoming a better servant of our Savior.”

Guenther continues, “My encouragement to called workers is to continue to make use of what’s right at your fingertips. Read what you’re sent. Invest in good books, and make time to read them. It doesn’t need to be huge leaps forward, but regular improvement in an area of ministry will pay big dividends in the long run.”


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Issue: October 2016

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Lessons in Ukraine

Teens and adults from Grace, Oskaloosa, Iowa, and Faith, Sharpsburg, Ga., taught—and learned—some valuable lessons this summer when they traveled to Ukraine to help a local congregation with its vacation Bible school.

Three youth and three adults planned and taught Bible stories, crafts, music, and English lessons to around one hundred children at Church of the Holy Cross in Kremenets, one of 18 congregations in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. In exchange they learned about Ukrainian culture and what it’s like sharing the Word in a different country.

Renee DeMarce, a member at Grace and junior at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, especially appreciated learning about the hardships the Ukrainians had to go through for their faith. “My favorite part was hearing the story that was told to us by Deacon Stepan about when he was younger and put in a prison for teaching God’s Word when Christianity was new in Ukraine,” she says. “They gave him chances to change his ways, and he stayed true to his Christian beliefs. When he went to sleep one night he was surprised when he woke and noticed that all of his hair had gone white overnight. This was a sign to him that God was with him still and his hair changing overnight lead him to stay strong in his faith and continue teaching the Christian faith and being part of it to this day. This story will stick with me my whole life and reassure me in times of trouble that God does not leave us.”

Although in many ways this was just like teaching vacation Bible school in the United States, there were some notable differences.

“The biggest difference was the language barrier—every word we said had to go through an interpreter,” says Sarah Kvidt, a member at Faith. “This took TIME! Pentecost was a huge gift from God!”

One of the interpreters even “translated” the Ukrainian songs phonetically so the volunteers could learn them. “After the Sunday afternoon performance, I was approached by the mayor of Kremenets and congratulated on having learned the right words to their songs,” says Brenda DeMarce.

Although having translators was a necessity for sharing the stories, Renee says they weren’t necessary to make connections. “The children knew that what we were teaching them was important even before they knew what we were saying.”

Tenth-grader Noah Kvidt also saw that Christian love trumps language barriers: “The language barrier was tough, but the love from and for the kids was not hindered,” he says. “One boy, Max (age 10), was sitting by me during music. He looked up to me, hugged me, and said in his best possible English, ‘Noah, I love you.’ I will always cherish that moment forever.”

This isn’t the first time WELS members have helped with conducting vacation Bible school in Ukraine. Past programs were coordinated through the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and Thoughts of Faith. This time, Roger Neumann, World Missions’ liaison to the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, led a local effort to coordinate volunteers from his congregation in Iowa and from Sharpsburg, Ga. “They hadn’t had a VBS for three years, so we decided we needed to revive this,” says Neumann. “Our volunteers were great witnesses and well received by the church and townspeople of Kremenets.”


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Issue: October 2016

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LWMS convention: mission work

LWMS convention highlights mission work

The Chicago Area Circuit of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) welcomed nearly 1,100 WELS women from around the world to praise God and show their support for WELS mission work. “Christ Alone, Our Cornerstone” was the theme for the 53rd annual LWMS convention, held June 23–26 in St. Charles, Ill.

During the convention, members attended several workshops and learned from home and world mission speakers about what God is doing through WELS missionaries—and through all of his people. “As a mom, I definitely want my kids to learn that missionaries aren’t just people that maybe live in a different country,” says Katherine Schmoller, a member at Lamb of God, Lafayette, Ind. “We’re all called to be missionaries for Christ and we can do that whether we live in Zambia, or whether we live in Indiana or Wisconsin or anywhere (that) Christ has called us to share the good news.”

Missionary Terry Schultz, the preacher for opening worship, was amazed at the enthusiasm of the attendees. “To stand up on stage and see over one thousand women have such a passion for missions—it’s like no other church service you can imagine,” he says. “Their support through their prayers, volunteer work, and their gifts allows WELS to bring that Bible-based truth to all ends of the earth.”

About $53,000 was gathered during the convention for mission projects, and more than $143,000 was received throughout the year from LWMS chapters and its k.i.d.s. care program.

“Such faithful support isn’t taken for granted,” says Keith Free, administrator of Home Missions. “It is another evidence of the power of the Lord’s love moving hearts to support the work we do in WELS through Home and World Missions,” Karen Fischer, LWMS president, sums up the convention: “It was a wonderful, emotion-filled convention that underscored how God takes all of us—little pieces of rubble—to build his church as he sees fit, making more of us together than we could ever make individually and building a diverse church full of saints around the world.”

Next year’s convention will be held June 22–25, 2017, in Orlando, Fla.

Learn more about LWMS at www.lwms.org.


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Volume 103, Number 10
Issue: October 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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Training strong school leaders

“I know I’ve only been a principal for two months, but it’s a neat job that I wouldn’t trade for anything,” says Bill Fuerstenau, principal at Bethany Lutheran School, Hustisford, Wis.

Fuerstenau originally wasn’t planning on being a principal—or even a teacher. But as a sophomore at UW-Eau Claire, he still didn’t know what he should major in. After attending a recruitment Sunday that shared more about the mission of Martin Luther College (MLC), both he and his now wife decided to go to New Ulm, Minn., to train as called workers.

“I got this feeling that I’d like to be a principal—not in charge of a faculty but working with them and helping other teachers by making their job easier,” he says.

After his graduation in 2011, he was assigned as a teacher at St. John, Montello, Wis. One of the school board members saw his potential and recommended him for the Leadership Candidate Training program, a one-year program that helps prepare teachers to be principals or early childhood directors.

The Commission on Lutheran Schools started this program to address the need for additional principals and early childhood directors. The goal is to identify teachers already serving in WELS schools who have leadership gifts and provide training and mentoring to prepare them for leadership roles.

With many current principals reaching retirement age and the increase in early childhood ministries, the need for these leaders is great. Twenty-five new WELS principals and ten new early childhood directors were needed in each of the last two school years. While some of these positions were filled temporarily by pastors and interim teachers, 14 men were assigned directly from MLC as principals and 10 women as early childhood directors. “The goal is to have principals and directors who first have been able to become strong teachers before asking them to serve in leadership roles,” says Jim Rademan, director of Lutheran Schools. “That’s what would be best for the growth of those teachers and, most important, for the children entrusted in their care.”

While Lutheran Schools does provide training and mentoring for those assigned to leadership roles directly after graduation, it is working to find and train experienced teachers in the field to serve in these roles instead. That’s where the Leadership Candidate Training program and graduate coursework comes in.

Fuerstenau was one of eight men and seven women who participated in the program during 2015–16. These teachers attended several leadership conferences and seminars and were assigned a project during that year. They also were matched up with an experienced principal or early childhood director to mentor them.

“To hear all the things they do to be effective leaders was a really awesome experience,” Fuerstenau says about the conferences he attended. “And then bringing it all home and having one-on-one time with my mentor . . . has been really invaluable in preparing me to be a principal.”

Fuerstenau received his call to be principal and fifth through eighth grade teacher at Bethany about two-thirds of the way through the program. He’s excited about his new administrative responsibilities, which include working on the curriculum, the budget, faculty development and communication, and school accreditation.

He’s also happy that his school board recognizes that he needs time for these new duties. “They set up a part-time teacher to teach half days so that I can focus on accreditation,” he says. Bethany is going to help him finance his continuing education as well, which includes enrolling in Martin Luther College’s master’s program.

Even though the program is developing new leaders, Rademan says that principal and early childhood director vacancies will continue in upcoming years. He also says that there are shortages of teachers who speak Spanish and who are prepared to serve in urban areas. “These are three key areas where we really need to pray for additional people who are willing to serve and be trained.”

Learn about the Principal Training Program, another way Lutheran Schools is training future school leaders, in this month’s edition of WELS Connection.


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Author:
Volume 103, Number 10
Issue: October 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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Called worker compensation changes discussed

In 2015, the Compensation Review Committee of the Synodical Council began a comprehensive examination of the synod’s compensation guidelines at the request of the 2015 synod in convention. The goal was to simplify the guidelines if possible, to address the question of whether the guidelines can or should do more to provide increased compensation for increased responsibilities, and to analyze whether the current way that years of experience are compensated is functioning as it should.

Earle Treptow, chairman of the Compensation Review Committee, says, “The committee, after about four months of work, came to the realization that many of the concerns about the present compensation guidelines were actually addressed in the current guidelines adopted in 2003. The problem has been that calling bodies haven’t consistently applied the guidelines’ recommendations. The Compensation Review Committee decided to focus on a repackaging of the guidelines, with some revisions, rather than a radical reworking of them.”

The committee presented preliminary thoughts in the 2016 Report to the Twelve Districts and sought comments and input from district convention delegates. District convention delegates had a wide range of opinions.

One area that Treptow says the districts unanimously supported was the production of a user-friendly, web-based tool to assist calling bodies in determining appropriate compensation. The committee is now working with WELS Technology to prepare an online form to help calling bodies with this important work.

A proposal that most districts rejected was the suggestion of reducing the salary matrix from 32 years to 22 years. The committee’s intention in offering that proposal was to have compensation based more on duties and responsibilities than simply on the number of years someone has been serving in the public ministry. Treptow notes that the Compensation Review Committee was not suggesting that workers with more than 22 years of service ought to have their salaries frozen for the remainder of their service, but that was a concern of district convention delegates.

“Our intention was to encourage calling bodies to be more mindful in their approach to compensation,” says Treptow, “spending a little more time reflecting on what they are asking of their called workers—instead of merely pulling a number from a matrix—and that the result would be a greater appreciation for the time and effort those workers are expending with compensation reflecting that. The districts that rejected the proposal thought it would fly in the face of our goal to have compensation that shows double honor to public ministers of the gospel. From their perspective, the proposal was a bit naïve or at least idealistic.”

Treptow notes that this suggestion was removed from the committee’s considerations at its July meeting when the committee began to consider the districts’ feedback.

The Compensation Review Committee will bring its final conclusions and any recommendations to the Synodical Council as it develops the ministry financial plan for the next biennium. Any changes in the compensation guidelines would need the approval of the 2017 synod convention.


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Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

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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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2016 Youth rally impacts teens

More than 2,500 WELS teens and their adult leaders from across the country gathered at Colorado State University–Fort Collins, Colo., June 28–July 1 to worship, study, have fun, and celebrate the One who has washed away every sin.

The 2016 WELS International Youth Rally, organized by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry, featured worship, two keynote speakers and several educational workshops focused around the theme “Our God Reigns,” based on Isaiah 52.

“The whole rally experience is designed to meet the kids where they are at today,” says John Boggs, chairman of the Commission on Youth and Family Ministry. “It is designed for them to have fun, to be edified, and to understand and cherish the truth that they are not alone, that they have brothers and sisters throughout this country who are involved in the struggle with them, who know Jesus, and who share the truth and joy that they have in him.”

The rally’s mission is to provide teens and adult youth leaders with Bible-focused worship, education, and fellowship opportunities that deepen their commitment to Christ and the church. Here is what some rally-goers said about their experiences . . .

Duke Backhaus, 18, from St. Paul’s, Tomah, Wis., was impressed by the presentations offered. “The workshops were amazing; I really loved them. They all pointed me toward Christ and taught me a lot. I know now I’m going to be a pastor.”

Emily Gage, 18, from Good Shepherd, Woodlands, Tex., explains what it is like to worship daily with more than 2,500 other teens: “It was awesome to praise God with so many fellow Christians my age and to know that everyone is here for the same reason.”

Grant Kloosterman, 16, from Living Word, Gray, Tenn., sums up his thoughts on his first rally: “WELS really is like a big family. It seems everyone knows someone and nobody here at the rally feels like a stranger. We all love each other. It was great to end each day with evening reflection time. It was a time to relax, discuss, learn, and listen with your youth leaders and friends on the incredible day we all experienced.”

Boggs says, “The young people of our synod are not just the future of our synod; they are the here and now of our synod. They need to be in worship and Bible study, and they need our prayers, support and attention now.”

The next WELS International Youth Rally will be held in 2018.

To watch video presentations from the rally, go to wels.net/youth-family.


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Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

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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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District conventions 2016

Each of WELS’ 12 districts met in convention this June, considering local ministry topics along with issues that apply to the entire synod.

Lay delegate Paul Giovinazzo, a member of Good Shepherd, South Attleboro, Mass., summed up his North Atlantic District convention experience by saying, “When you come from a congregation that is isolated from other like-minded believers, you often feel like you are on an island all by yourself. It is so nice to be reminded that you are part of something bigger, that there are other Christians who share your faith and an appreciation for the truths found in God’s Word.”

Each district held elections for district officers. Four new district presidents were elected—Philip Hirsch, Nebraska District; Charles Westra, South Atlantic District; David Kolander, Southeastern Wisconsin District; and Michael Jensen, Western Wisconsin District.

In addition to elections, worship, Bible study, and presentations, delegates considered information reported by the areas of ministry in the Report to the Twelve Districts.

Delegates also had a sneak peek of the new Luther movie being developed by Boettcher+Trinklein Television, Inc., through the support of Thrivent Financial, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in October 2017. The movie will be shown on PBS. To view the trailer, visit wels.net/reformation500.


Four new district presidents elected

As Mark Schroeder, synod president, notes, “A turnover of one-third of the district presidents is rare.”

Yet in 2016, four new district presidents were elected. This took place because three district presidents—John Guse, South Atlantic District; David Rutschow, Southeastern Wisconsin District; and Herb Prahl, Western Wisconsin District—announced before the conventions that they would not seek re-election as they were considering retiring from the full-time ministry and because Nebraska District President Earle Treptow accepted a call to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.

The president of each district plays an important role in the ministry of the synod. His responsibilities include

• overseeing the doctrine and practice in his district’s congregations;

• providing congregations with call lists to fill vacancies;

• encouraging the called workers in his district and providing them with individual counsel; and

• serving on the Conference of Presidents.

Meet the men who were newly elected in June to serve as district presidents.


Philip Hirsch, Nebraska District

Currently serves: Hope, Manhattan, Kan.

Family: He and his wife, Kristi, have seven children

What do you view as your most important job as district president? To help the brothers proclaim the unconditional gospel of Jesus Christ at a time when it is so easy to take one’s eye off the ball and do some other nice or even churchy thing—something other than proclaim the unconditional gospel of Jesus Christ to the sinner-saints.

What are some ways that God has blessed the Nebraska District? The Nebraska District is 89 congregations spread all around mid-America and the Rocky Mountain West, gathering in the name of the Lord of the church and trusting in his presence. We’re blessed with older brothers and sisters who have seen the trends come and go and yet are pleased and thankful for the gospel, above all. We’re blessed to serve dyed-in-the-wool confessional Lutherans who know what that means. And we’re blessed to serve many new converts to the faith who are simply overjoyed to know the peace of God in Christ Jesus. We’re blessed with Lutheran school principals and teachers who recognize the privilege of serving the gospel. We’re blessed with two district mission boards that take seriously the business of planting churches in the world’s third largest mission field—the United States of America.

Michael Jensen, Western Wisconsin District

Currently serves: St. Mark’s, Watertown, Wis.

Family: He and his wife, Jane, have seven children and three grandchildren

What do you view as your most important job as district president? Being a servant/pastor of Christ to the called workers, congregations, schools, and people of our district.

How has God prepared you to serve as district president? As I look back on my life and the people Christ has placed in my life, I see the gracious hand of my Savior in every aspect of my life. I’ll also add my voice to the apostle Paul’s: “Our competency comes from Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

What are some ways that God has blessed the Western Wisconsin District? The Western Wisconsin District includes

• 172 congregations filled with faithful people and faithful pastors listening to and proclaiming Christ’s gospel;

• 104 Lutheran elementary and preschools, three area Lutheran high schools, and a synod preparatory school, all filled with hundreds of faithful gospel teachers serving and children hearing of their Savior every day; and

• countless opportunities for outreach even in an established district.

Any other thoughts? I’m just another sinner-saint, claimed and kept by God’s underserved love in Christ, “pressing on toward the goal for which Christ took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).

David Kolander, Southeastern Wisconsin District

Currently serves: Christ the Lord, Brookfield, Wis.

Family: He and his wife, Lu, have three children.

What do you view as your most important job as district president? To seek to apply God’s Word to people and situations in a Christ-centered, evangelical manner. In that connection it is also important for the district president to encourage the called workers of his district to “watch their life and their doctrine closely,” as the apostle Paul encouraged Timothy. As called workers, we want to say what God wants us to say, and we want to live in a way that is consistent with God’s wonderful message of forgiveness.

What are some ways that God has blessed the Southeastern Wisconsin District? The Southeastern Wisconsin District is blessed to have such a high concentration of WELS members, congregations, and schools. One thing this allows us to do is to provide extra opportunities to worship, fellowship, and serve. Our challenge is to not take these many opportunities for granted but to be grateful to God for the extra chances we have to be built up and edified in our Christian faith and life. It is a joy to see so many people in one area look at God’s Word in the same way with humble love, gratitude, and respect.

Any other thoughts? Please pray for all of us who serve you in this way, that God might give us joy, patience, wisdom, firmness, and love.

Charles Westra, South Atlantic District

Currently serves: Christ Our Savior, Columbia, Tenn.

Family: He and his wife, Deb, have four children

What do you view as your most important job as district president? I have been called to serve as pastor to the called workers and congregations of our district. That is an immense privilege and tremendous responsibility. That pastoral responsibility could bring many different challenges and duties. I am comforted by the simple fact that it is all “means of grace” ministry and that the Lord of the church remains in control of his church.

How has God prepared you to serve as district president? He declared that I am innocent through the work of his Son. He claimed me as his own in baptism. He continues to nourish me through his life-giving Word and sacrament. Over the years of representative ministry he has also given me opportunities for experience in our congregation and in working with many other congregations in our district and beyond.

What are some ways that God has blessed the South Atlantic District? God has blessed the South Atlantic District with a faithful and evangelical district president for more than three decades. We are thankful to God for Pastor John Guse and his leadership among us. Through Pastor Guse, God has given an example of mission spirit and faithful ministry.


Members of the Conference of Presidents

Mark Schroeder, synod president

James Huebner, first vice president

Joel Voss, second vice president

Jon Buchholz, Arizona-California District president

Charles Degner, Minnesota District president

Douglas Free, Dakota-Montana District president

Philip Hirsch, Nebraska District president

Michael Jensen, Western Wisconsin District president

David Kolander, Southeastern Wisconsin District president

Donald Patterson, South Central District president

John Seifert, Michigan District president

John Steinbrenner, Pacific Northwest District president

Donald Tollefson, North Atlantic District president

Charles Westra, South Atlantic District president

Joel Zank, Northern Wisconsin District president

Robert Pasbrig, synod secretary (advisory member)


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Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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Helping youth workers transform their ministries

“About two-thirds of the young people who are confirmed in WELS churches are still attending church as often as once a month by the time they are 19 years old.” That is one of the findings of a study WELS conducted in the early 2000s about youth membership in our churches. It was also estimated that less than 20% of WELS young people are retained in the church from the time of their baptism until age 30.

More recent studies by independent research groups have shown similar trends with youth in other denominations. For example, a 2013 Barna Group survey found that nearly 60% of Millennials with a Christian background have, at some point, dropped out of going to church after having gone regularly.

“Research shows that youth are falling away from big, mega churches, just as much as our churches,” says Rev. Jon Enter, pastor at Hope, West Palm Beach, Fla., and youth coordinator for South Atlantic District. “We need to do something about this, but many congregations don’t know where to start.”

That was the impetus for creating the new School of Youth and Family called Transformed: Equipping Youth Leaders, an eight-part video series that includes presentations by youth workers from around the synod and shares ideas and resources to help congregations transform their youth ministries.

“It all boils down to the spiritual aspect of our kids,” says Enter, who is leading this effort. “If they continue to grow in their faith and they have ownership in our churches, then they stay engaged.” That’s why the videos — which include topics like Christian mentoring, games and activities, youth-driven Bible studies and faith experiences — focus on helping youth create meaningful relationships with each other, with their churches and with God’s Word.

“We have done a great job of training our kids in school and in confirmation class,” says Enter. “They have a very informed faith. But they struggle with sharing it and using it. So instead of just a cerebral thing, we want this to be heart and soul thing. We want to completely connect kids into the DNA of their local church and to get them to actively serve. We want to them to feel like this is my church.”

Along with the downloadable videos, which focus on the importance of the different aspects of youth ministry, congregations can also access a collection of Bible studies, recommended reading and “how-to” resources for their youth ministries.

“I pray congregations will be excited after watching the videos and, Lord-willing, implement a lot of these things into their ministries,” says Enter. He says that even making small changes or refocusing some time and energy can have a big impact. “We’re not trying to drastically change what we’re doing. We are just looking at things a little differently and then asking God to bless them.”

For more information about the program, watch Enter’s presentation at the 2016 Youth Rally at https://vimeo.com/174532181. To order the video series and accompanying resources, visit www.nph.net and search for “transformed equipping youth leaders.” Special pre-sale pricing ends Oct. 31.


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Author: Alicia Neumann
Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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Working together

“We were all working together—the district mission board, WELS Church Extension Fund, and us,” says Bob Giebelhaus, president of Our Shepherd, Cornville, Ariz. “We were all going for the same thing. And to me, God was leading the way.”

Our Shepherd, an unsubsidized home mission, recently bought land with an existing house and shop and is renovating the buildings to serve as its new church in the Verde Valley. The 82-member congregation which started as a satellite of Christ, Prescott Valley, Ariz., in 2014, held its charter service in October 2015.

The congregation currently worships in a local elementary school. “We need to show that we’re going to be here for the long haul,” says Giebelhaus, “so that’s the reason we started looking for property.”

Our Shepherd worked closely with its district mission board through the process, which included becoming an unsubsidized home mission. This allowed the mission to apply for a loan and grant from the WELS Church Extension Fund (WELS CEF). The congregation plans to have an open house for its renovated facility this fall.

WELS CEF and the Board for Home Missions are excited to work together in this way to help congregations build churches for future generations. Our Shepherd is just one of 19 congregations that received a loan from WELS CEF in fiscal year 2016. Each congregation has a unique story:

Redemption, Watertown, N.Y.—This relatively new mission started in 2014 to reach out to a largely unchurched city as well as serve military personnel at nearby Fort Drum. The congregation meets weekly on Sunday for worship and Bible study at the local community center but has no place to go during the week for fellowship and community outreach events. “People are really skeptical of religion here,” says Harland Goetzinger III, Redemption’s pastor. “I knew we needed a permanent place because it was too great of an obstacle for people otherwise.”

Because rental properties are expensive in this area, the congregation began looking for a building to buy. It purchased an old furniture store in December 2015 and is working on renovations. Loans and grants from WELS CEF is making that possible. “To get a loan from a normal bank would have been impossible because we have no credit history,” says Goetzinger. “To have this resource [in WELS] is just immense.”

Living Word, Montrose, Colo.—Living Word is a veteran in terms of working with WELS CEF. It received its first loan in 2011 to build its original facility and is now working with WELS CEF to finance a 1,900-square-foot addition. The congregation originally worshiped in a storefront but built a church so that it could start a preschool. That preschool has grown and serves 28 children, only one of whom is a member. “As the preschool grew bigger and our congregation grew bigger, we decided we would like to have dedicated space for the preschool as well as extra space for bigger events,” says Matt Frey, Living Word’s pastor. Builders For Christ, a division of Kingdom Workers, built the original church and is now constructing the addition.

Living Promise, Morristown, Tenn.—Matt Westra, Living Promise’s pastor, arrived in 2011 to start this home mission with nine core members. Now the almost 80-member congregation has outgrown its second rental facility. When members began looking for a new space, they discovered that it wasn’t that much more expensive to build their own facility, especially after receiving a special grant from WELS CEF to purchase land. In October 2015, Living Promise broke ground on its new building, which includes space for a future early childhood ministry. It plans to hold a grand opening this August.

Westra says that since construction started, the congregation’s website traffic has tripled and a dozen people have visited for the first time. “There are three dozen storefront churches in our town of 30,000, most of which don’t last more than a few years,” says Westra. “Having our own facility just gives us a bunch of legitimacy. Morristown is Living Promise’s home, and we pray we’re going to be here for generations to come.”

He also is thankful for partnerships. “Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School students came down to hand out fliers that a Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society group helped pay for that promote a project that would not be possible without WELS CEF. Thank God that we can walk together as a synod!”

Learn more about WELS CEF at wels.net/cef and in this month’s edition of WELS Connection.

 

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Author:
Volume 103, Number 8
Issue: August 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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Picture this

From her first camera that she received at her confirmation (one that used 110 film) to her latest cell phone (which she says she picked out based on the camera), Naomi Green has been hooked on photography. “For as long as I can remember, it has been a passion for me,” she says. “Wherever I go, it is just something my mind does. I always think, How would I frame that? What would be the best lighting for that? It’s just part of who I am.”

So when a friend on Facebook shared with her a photo challenge sponsored by WELSTech, a weekly podcast that explore the use of technology to further the spread of the gospel, there wasn’t a question in her mind about whether or not she should participate. “I had to take part in it,” she says.

The contest, which started in August 2015, asks photographers to take photos based on a monthly theme. All photos submitted are then included in an online public domain album for use by our churches and schools.

Sallie Draper, co-host of WELSTech, says the idea came about after a summer series on the WELSTech podcast about the importance of images in communication. “It was really well received, and that was the genesis of the photo challenge—let’s build up an image library for churches and schools to use,” she says. Many of the themes are built around the church year, providing images for congregations to use throughout the year in their visual communications.

Green has participated almost every month, sometimes submitting slice-of-life snapshots and sometimes setting up specific still-life images. “It is fun as a photographer to have something to motivate you,” says Green, a member at St. Peter, Monticello, Minn. “And what a cool thing for me to be able to take something I love to do and have it help other people.”

While photography is just a hobby for her, Green also volunteers her time and talents to her local church and WELS high school, taking photos for their websites and promotional pieces.

The photo challenge is now giving her—and other photographers—an opportunity to further hone their skills and share their talents with a broader audience.

“When I think about this photography challenge, it’s a practical applications of 1 Corinthians 10:31, ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ I see this as a way of giving glory to God and helping him with whatever I do,” says Green. “It’s something that I love to do, and it can be used for God’s kingdom—and it’s fun!”

The WELSTech photo challenge runs through August 2016. The challenge theme for the month of July is summer and church. Find out more at welstech.wels.net/photochallenge. To view—or use—the more than 650 photos taken by over 30 photographers, go to bit.ly/wtchallengealbum.

 

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Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016

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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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From Liberia to Las Vegas and back again

Isaac David has not had an easy life. In fact, at one point, he was so disappointed in God, he stopped going to church. Now, however, he is looking for every opportunity he can to share the message of salvation—whether to legal immigrants in his home city of Las Vegas or to the people of his homeland in Liberia. “I know God has been faithful and he has been carrying me through,” he says. “What I am today is not by my strength but because God has a plan for my life.

David was born and raised as a Christian in Liberia. But with the eruption of a civil war in 1989, his life changed dramatically. In 1990, at the age of 10, he witnessed his parents being murdered. He escaped and traveled to Nigeria by boat—along with 30,000 other refugees. There he grew up as an orphan in a refugee camp, often with little food or medication. “I slept on the ground for eight years,” he says.

He was mad at God. “Church was not my priority because I was going to church in Liberia and now I lost my parents—both of them in the war,” he says. “So I felt that God had let me down.”

In time he returned to church and even agreed to study to be a church leader. He went to high school and college to study to be a teacher. In 2003, he immigrated to America and was among the first Liberian refugees to settle in Las Vegas, Nev.

After settling in, he became concerned about the faith of his people—and that of other immigrants flooding into the area. He says that the immigrants were not going to church, probably due to cultural and language differences. He decided to open a church—the Chapel of Improvement Christian Fellowship—to reach these immigrants. “My goal was to reach African refugees that come to Las Vegas with the gospel of Christ and to remind them of the promises that were made before coming to America,” he says.

He began studying at a Lutheran seminary but found it was too liberal for him. After an Internet search for conservative Christian church bodies, he discovered WELS. Now David is studying to be a pastor through the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, with plans to graduate in May 2017.

Part of David’s ministry is providing material items to new refugees to help them get started in America. Along with the pots and pans, the soap and detergent, is information about the church and an invitation to worship. He is also working with Water of Life, Las Vegas, to set up a first friends program, in which volunteers establish relationships with the refugees. “They minister the Word of God to them but also help them out in American society,” says David.

The congregation recently has started a second site that is closer to where the refugees are settling down. More than 100 people from 13 different nationalities are being served.

David, however, doesn’t just want to help refugees to America. He also wants to share the gospel in Liberia. When he traveled there in 2014 to see family members, he started five churches and began training more than 30 leaders.

In March 2016, David returned to register these congregations with the government as the Confessional Lutheran Church of Liberia. John Vogt, one of David’s PSI professors, and Matt Vogt, pastor at Water of Life, met him there in April to attend the first convention of the new church as well as to teach courses to the leaders. John Vogt writes, “The convention’s worship services—unlike anything we experience in the U.S.—were filled with a joy, enthusiasm and volume. The reports indicated that worship attendance and congregational membership are about 900, and 18 men are serving as pastors. On Saturday we taught a day-long course on law and gospel—57 people attended the full course and received a certificate of attendance.” He reports that 62 students—pastors plus other leaders and teachers—then attended two weeks more of full-day classes for ministerial training.

“The Lord is providing WELS with a world mission field right at our door,” says Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions. “New immigrants arrive in our cities and towns looking for a place to belong. When the love of our members reaches out with the gospel, the Holy Spirit goes to work. These new, God-planned connections are helping our synod reach with the message of Jesus’ love far beyond what where we could ever go on our own.”

Both the WELS Joint Mission Council and WELS Christian Aid and Relief are providing funding for David’s work in Las Vegas. Learn more about Christian Aid and Relief’s work in Las Vegas in the July WELS Connection.

 

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Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Where are they now? – Crown of Life, Corona, Calif.

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

In January 2013, we gave you a glimpse into the ministry of Crown of Life, a congregation in southern California whose goal was to be one church with multiple services in multiple locations so that it could have the intimacy of a small church with the impact of a large church.

Here’s a recap:

Crown of Life was established in Corona, Calif., as a home mission in 1998. By November 2012 the 396-member congregation was holding four weekly services in three different locations and was served by two pastors. It saw potential for outreach in several other locations.

So where are they now?

Michael Johnson, pastor at Crown of Life, explains that in 2014 a sister congregation in Yucaipa, Calif., about 10 miles from Crown of Life’s Beaumont location, decided to close its doors and dissolve as a church because its numbers had dropped and the congregation was aging.

“When they closed,” says Johnson, “they offered us their building and property, and we began what we now call ‘saving sacred spaces.’ We gratefully accepted their generous offer, renovated and updated the building, and moved our Beaumont group to Yucaipa. We currently average 70s in Yucaipa with lots of young families and children attending.”

The Board for Home Missions believes that the practice of “saving sacred spaces” can be a valuable tool for outreach.

As Johnson explains, “In southern California and probably in many other places, WELS has struggling small congregations with land and buildings that are in danger of closing and the property being sold. In some areas, such as southern California, if we lose these sacred spaces, we may never be here again or it may cost us dearly to re-establish ourselves. For the sake of the souls around these sacred spaces, Crown of Life has included ‘saving sacred spaces’ as part of our multi-site mission.”

In May 2015, Crown of Life began working with St. Paul, Riverside, on a second “saving sacred spaces” project. The plan is for St. Paul’s, a small 45-year- old congregation with a church, to join with Crown of Life to better reach out with the gospel to those in the Riverside area. The group from Crown of Life that has been worshiping at a rented Riverside storefront plans to move to St. Paul’s church in the fall, and two services are planned to be held there each Sunday.

Mike Johnson, a member at Crown of Life, says, “I think what makes Crown of Life special is the vision and mission set by the pastors. I have been here from the beginning and have seen Crown of Life grow from one service to the five we currently have. They could have been satisfied with one campus but have been seekers of the lost and continue to move forward in the great commission.”

With its stated mission to “get the gospel to as many people as possible,” members of Crown of Life are thankful for how God has blessed their congregation but are not ready to slow down their aggressive outreach plan. In 2015, the congregation supported a vision of “6 by 20,” indicating its goal of establishing three more worship and outreach locations during the next five years.

 

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Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016

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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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Preserving WELS history- Archives

Plans are underway to begin construction for a new WELS archives and visitor center in the lower level of the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry (CMM), Waukesha, Wis. For the first time, historical WELS documents, books, and artifacts will be stored in purpose-built space, designed to preserve and organize the synod’s history. The visitor center will feature artifacts and information about WELS history. The projected completion date is this fall.

To set up, organize, and manage the archives in its new home, WELS has hired a full-time archivist, Susan Willems, who currently manages archives processing at the University of Denver. A 2006 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis., Willems received her Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Denver in 2013.

“To be the first [full-time] archivist for the synod is a huge honor,” she says. “It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be a lot of fun to learn about our synod’s history.”

The archives currently reside at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis., but the collection has outgrown the space and the facility does not have the proper climate controls for preservation. Willems’ first job will be to sort and move archive materials from WLS. Then she will organize and maintain the archives at the CMM. She says that one of her initial goals is “raising awareness about the archives in the synod and reaching out to the different districts and individual churches to make sure that they know that the archives exist and what type of material we would like them to save that we would be collecting.”

John Hartwig, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary who currently works with the archives, says, “We thank God for this long-awaited progress in providing a suitable space and staffing for our archives, and we ask for his blessings as we move forward.”

 

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Author:
Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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You’ll never be the same

When Rachel (Kionka) Schroeder arrived in Malawi after her graduation from Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., in 2007, she knew she’d crossed a threshold, not only into a new country, but into a new way of seeing the world.

A year later, she wrote: “The joy hits before you even get out of the truck. The choir sways out of the small brick church, clapping and dancing. Then they begin to sing. It is a sound you’ve never heard before; the harmonies are more brilliant, more penetrating. Stepping down onto the dirt, you realize you will never be the same again.”

Schroeder’s written reflection and accompanying photo earned her MLC’s Thalassa Prize in 2008.

Thalassa is a Greek word meaning “the sea.” The Thalassa contest gives MLC students and graduates who’ve served overseas an opportunity to share their experiences through a photo and 300-word reflection.

Thalassa Prize winners are awarded $1,000, half of which they designate to a mission of their choice. The prize was funded by a founding donor the first seven years, then by another donor for one year, and now by the MLC International Services Office.

The year 2016 marks ten years of Thalassa. Johannah Crass won the 2016 prize with her entry from Antigua, “White Robes.” Her submission joined more than one hundred over the years—from Peruvian villages and teeming cities in Asia, from a snowy Siberian college town and the sun-soaked Caribbean, from a Brazilian fazenda and the Zambian bush. Each photo and reflection is rich in particulars but tells the same story—of human needs and the Savior who meets them.

In honor of this anniversary year, the ten Thalassa winners reflected again on their ministries overseas, noting what they did afterward, what they learned, how they were changed.

Rachel Schroeder taught at two Lutheran high schools; chaperoned a mission trip to Ukraine; and spent another year overseas, this time in Mexico with her husband, Howard. She recalls that the Malawians taught her more than she ever taught them: to be happy even in the toughest of circumstances, to focus on Christ, and to consider service to the Lord a great privilege.

The 2007 winner, Kristina (Wessel) Troge, notes that she still uses the Spanish skills she honed in the Dominican Republic at Divine Savior Lutheran Academy in Miami, Fla. Similarly, the 2011 winner, Amber (Schlomer) Poth, lives in St. Louis, where she uses her Mandarin skills with the large Chinese population.

The 2012 winner, Paul Kelm, served in Japan from 1987 to 1989 and the Czech Republic from 1994 to 2006. Now teaching at Risen Savior, Milwaukee, Wis., he says: “Sharing

God’s Word in Milwaukee, though a world apart from the work we did in the Czech Republic, is still exciting and humbling. I am thrilled that the Lord continues to use me and my family to do his work of sharing his love and forgiveness with the world around us.”

See all the winning entries plus additional photos in the ten-year anniversary booklet, Martin Luther College Thalassa Prize 2007-2016, at mlc-wels.edu/go/thalassa_anniversary

 

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Author:
Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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