LWMS meets in South Dakota for annual convention

“We are here tonight, and we are here this weekend to remember and to rejoice again that God too has a long-range building plan. And that includes me and you and every single person that our ministries might touch.”

Rev. Jonathan Schroeder from Sharpsburg, Ga., set the tone for the 61st annual convention of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) in Sioux Falls, S.D., with those words from his sermon in the convention’s opening service.

More than 1,000 people gathered for the opening service. Among them was Paula Pease from Maitland, Fla. Attending her first convention, Pease noted, “The opening service was just phenomenal. Hearing a thousand people singing was just very—I’m going to say it—inspiring.”

This year’s convention theme was “Being Built into a Spiritual House.” Attendees learned about the expanding outreach by One Europe and Native Christians Network mission teams.

Conifer Berg presented information on his work as a missionary to the United Kingdom. He explained the importance of attending the convention—his first: “Our church is a group of maybe 70 people, and they feel really alone. So, I think for them to know that there are 1,000 people in this room who believe the same things they do, it’s huge! It’s like we’re not doing this ministry alone. It really is everything to have that support.”

“The convention,” Berg said, “is such a warm event. It’s like a big hug.”

In addition to world missionaries, home missionaries also shared experiences on outreach in Brandon, S.D., and West Des Moines, Iowa.

Workshops included: The Impact of Indigenous Art and Music on Missions, Trends in Engaging Your Community, Navigating Changes with an Unchanging God, The Real Missionary Wives—A Panel of Current and Former Missionary Wives, and a special Zoom presentation: The Lord Is With You, Mighty Warrior from a missionary in Boston, Mass.

Jacky Stoll from Oconto Falls, Wis., the current president of LWMS, marveled, “How amazing it is to hear from the missionaries in the field, engage with them and their families directly, and network with fellow believers from all over the United States and really the world!”

Convention highlights included the presentation of more than $100,000 to support WELS Home and World Missions projects and an opportunity to hear about the latest developments from WELS Home and World Missions administrators. In addition, the LWMS kids c.a.r.e. program received more than $43,000 in 2023-24 to support annual retreats for children of world missionaries who assimilate back to American culture.

For Mary Watson of Tucson, Ariz., the convention did more than inform her about missionaries who serve where she cannot go in person. She remarked, “What impressed me was just how many missions there are and how many of them just start with a single person connected with another single person, and—maybe that’s what I need to learn more about—making connections with other people in my everyday life. You just don’t know where that’s going to end up.”

The 62nd annual LWMS convention is scheduled to take place June 26-29, 2025, in Tulsa, Okla.

View additional photos:
LWMS 2024

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The Word of the Lord grows—from Hong Kong to New Zealand

The South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM) is a sister church body comprised of ten congregations located in Hong Kong. This week, five members of SALEM visited our synod’s headquarters in Waukesha, Wis. They had attended the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society convention and now were visiting various WELS sites in Wisconsin.

What made this visit especially interesting was the report this group shared about a new mission effort in New Zealand. Since 2020, about two dozen members of SALEM moved from Hong Kong to New Zealand. With the help of SALEM, they formed a new mission congregation called SALEM New Zealand Lutheran Church. In the three years since, their group has grown to about 40 Chinese-speaking members. They joyfully described the blessings of their fellowship in this new land, and they were very excited to be sharing the gospel with other Chinese-speaking people there. SALEM will be continuing its support of SALEM New Zealand in the coming years.

The WELS Board for World Missions has provided some modest funding to support their effort. In addition, Missionary Matt Doebler, located in Thailand, will also be providing additional guidance and encouragement to this group.

This is a beautiful reminder that our sister church bodies around the world are not content to keep the gospel for themselves but are also dedicating time and resources to take the gospel to new places and new people.

To get a small glimpse of their faith and mission zeal, you can watch a brief video introducing you to these brothers and sisters in Christ.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

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Teens gather for 2024 WELS International Youth Rally

From June 25-28, WELS teens had the opportunity to worship together, learn and study God’s Word together, grow in faith and fellowship with one another, as well as enjoy recreation and entertainment at the 2024 WELS International Youth Rally. Around 2,200 teens and 600 adults convened at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo. This was the second largest rally ever, second only to the 2005 rally in Orlando, Fla.

The rally started Tues., June 25, with an opening worship service in the evening. Wednesday and Thursday were packed with keynote speakers, small group workshops, and excursions. After closing worship on Friday morning, it was time for everyone to head home.

Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of discipleship, the area of ministry that holds the event, said, “Keynotes and breakouts were practical and relatable. To sum up what I heard from others regarding the two keynotes—the speakers, their stories, and the Scriptures on which their presentations were based connected with our heads and hearts. Most importantly, they pointed to and connected young hearts and heads with Christ.”

Rev. Dr. Phil Huebner, campus pastor at Wisconsin Lutheran High School, Milwaukee, Wis., along with a panel of high school students, presented the first keynote, titled You Are Not Alone! The teens who joined him shared their own journeys filled with mountains and valleys and how God, Christian friends, and family supported them.

“I was really looking forward to speaking to WELS teens because I know how much they are hurting and suffering in very challenging times, and I viewed it as an absolute privilege to be able to encourage them with the message that they are not alone,” says Huebner. “I hope that the teens clearly understood that, most importantly, they are not alone in what they are going through because Jesus is with them every step of the way. Secondly, in Christ we have a family of brothers and sisters, and there are many teens who are going through the same things they are. We can look for opportunities to encourage one another as we find strength in Christ and fellow Christians.”

Rev. Alex Groth, Beautiful Savior, Cincinnati, Ohio, presented the second keynote, titled Certainty from the Mountaintop. Groth says, “When I accepted the invitation, it struck me how important it would be to put a spotlight on God’s grace to this giant gathering of young people. Our culture is pulling them in a million directions, and most of those directions are dangerous. Having a chance to talk about Jesus and the means of grace felt like both a great privilege and a serious responsibility.”

He continues, “I pray that those who heard my presentation first understood the importance of clinging to the means of grace and, second, grasped the reality that our time on earth can be so short. We aren’t guaranteed a certain amount of time on this earth. Therefore, let’s focus on both hearing God’s Word for our own eternal benefit and sharing it with those who haven’t heard it yet.”

Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, the attendees had a variety of small group workshops to choose from, with topics ranging from tips on how to study the Bible, apologetics, outreach through creating a community and relationships, and Christian vocation.

While in Fort Collins, attendees had the opportunity to enjoy optional recreational activities, including the popular whitewater rafting option, hiking, horseback riding, or the Fort Collins museum.

Mrs. Kris Snyder, event organizer, says, “The comment I hear over and over is how incredible it is to be with so many teens who face the same struggles but have the same hope in Jesus—that WELS teens from around North America get to be with so many other teens who all believe the same thing.” She adds, “Worship in that setting with 2,800 people is incredibly powerful. When do you get the chance to do that? When I heard the musicians, assembly, and choir all join to sing ‘Praise to the Lord, the Almighty’ at closing worship, it was overwhelming!”

View more photos from the event.

 

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Obituary – Steven Lance Witte

Steven Lance Witte was born in Ann Arbor, Mich., on September 6, 1957, and officially made a child of God through baptism. He was raised in South Haven, Mich., where the Lord grew his faith at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and grade school. He graduated from L.C. Mohr High School in South Haven in 1976, then followed the Lord’s calling to study in the pastoral ministry at Northwestern College in Watertown, Wis. Part time jobs included life guarding at the Watertown community pool and summer camp manager at Camp Lor-Ray Lutheran kids camp near Muskegon, Mich. In 1985 he completed his ministerial studies at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis. Later in 2007, Steve went on to complete a doctorate in divinity at Gordon Conwell Seminary in Boston, Mass.

He married Mary Serwe in 1982. Steve served the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod for many years: as a pastor at Emanuel Lutheran Church in New London, Wis. (07/85 – 08/01), Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Green Bay, Wis. (08/01-08/09), Asia Lutheran Seminary in Kowloon, Hong Kong (08/09-10/21), and most recently on the Asia One Team (Chiang Mai, Thailand). He was faithful, tenacious, creative, and humble in carrying out God’s mission—sharing the Gospel of Christ, the WORD to many, many people in Asia and beyond!

Steve and Mary had five children and 11 grandchildren. Steve, two daughters (Charis Kuehl and Lydia Witte) and three granddaughters (Stella Kuehl, Lena and Merci Henselin) all perished in a house fire on a family vacation. He is survived by wife Mary, sons Seth (Katelyn) in Egan, Minn., and Micah in Columbus, Ohio, daughter Hannah (Karl) and seven grandchildren: Isaiah and Zachary Henselin, Norah and Vera Kuehl, Josiah, Micah and Anna Witte.

Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” pretty much sums up this faithful servant’s life.

A joint memorial service for Steve and his daughter Lydia will be held on Tuesday, July 9, 2024, at St. Mark Lutheran Church in De Pere, Wis. (2066 Lawrence Dr, De Pere, WI 54115). Visitation will be from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. with the service to follow at 3:00 p.m. A livestream will also be available at this link: https://www.youtube.com/live/gZpwPbeOpEE

In lieu of flowers, the family asks you to consider a donation to the Steve Witte Memorial Scholarship that will help continue Rev. Dr. Steve Witte’s legacy of helping more people share the gospel with those who have not yet heard of Jesus’ love. It will assist Asia Lutheran Seminary students with tuition (or other costs associated with attending classes) who otherwise would be unable to take classes, receive training, and become leaders throughout Asia.

 

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Support for Missionary Steve Witte’s family

Dear friends in Christ,

By now, most of you are aware of the terrible tragedy that has befallen the Witte, Kuehl, and Henselin families. We join you in fervent prayer to our heavenly Father for our dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief has been working with synodical leadership to determine the best ways for us to assist the families. We are partnering with Christian Family Solutions to provide counseling to family members and others impacted by this tragedy. In addition, we are exploring other ways that we can help in the coming days and weeks.

Some of you have reached out and asked about donations for the families. The best way to do that is to give directly to the families or to make use of the support pages that have been set up to assist them. Here are the links that we have at this time:

We will share more information about how to support the families as it becomes available.

Thank you all for your care, concern, and compassion. Please continue to remember the families in your prayers.

Jesus lives!

In Jesus, our compassionate Savior,
Pastor Dan Sims
Director, WELS Christian Aid and Relief
wels.net/relief

A special statement from WELS President Mark Schroeder

WELS Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Yesterday, we received the news of a terrible tragedy. Six members of an extended family lost their lives in a house fire at a vacation rental near Wisconsin Dells, Wis. Those now in heaven are:

Pastor Steve Witte, missionary in Thailand

Lydia Witte, daughter of Steve and Mary Witte

Charis Kuehl, wife of Pastor Steve Kuehl, also the daughter of Steve and Mary Witte

Stella Kuehl, daughter of Pastor Steve Kuehl and Charis

Lena Henselin, Karl and Hannah’s daughter (Hannah is the daughter of Pastor Witte)

Merci Henselin, Karl and Hannah’s youngest daughter

By God’s grace, a number of other family members survived. As of now, there are many unanswered questions; authorities continue to investigate.

The pain of losing six members of one family cannot be described with words. The only thing that can begin to bring comfort in such a time of grievous loss are the words that God himself speaks to us. Those words remind us that these members of our extended WELS family are now resting in perfect joy and peace at the side of their Savior. Because he lives, they also live. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11: 25-26).  “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

God graciously reminds us what he has done for these faithful servants. His words and promises bring sure hope when hope seems absent. They bring confidence when confidence has been shaken. They bring assurance and comfort when nothing else can do that.

We mourn with these families. We grieve at their terrible loss. But we also know that God will bring healing. As he promised, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). “I will be with you always!” (Matthew 28:20).

On behalf of our entire synod, I want to assure these families that they are in our prayers. We pray that God will remind them of his grace and promises and bring healing to them. We pray that he will continue to help them to hold on to his assurance that he will never leave them or forsake them.

In Christ,

WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

WELS Christian Aid and Relief, in partnership with Christian Family Solutions, will provide counseling to any family member, church coworker, or any members from impacted congregations where the family worshiped or served. If you, or someone you know, would like to speak with a counselor, you are invited to complete the online request form: https://mapintake.christianfamilysolutions.org.


Rev. Glenn Obenberger, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, offered word of condolences to the Witte, Kuehl, and Henselin families, as well as all WELS members who knew the families:

My heart truly aches for you and all our WELS brothers and sisters in Christ who are so grieved by the tragedy that befell the Witte, Kuehl, and Henselin families. May God grant you the grace of knowing that nothing is able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Be assured as your brothers and sisters in the ELS learn of this painful news, we are all offering up prayers on your behalf and will for a long time to follow.

The words of Paul Gerhardt’s hymn come to mind at a time like this:

Why should cross and trial grieve me?
Christ is near With His cheer;
Never will He leave me.
Who can rob me of the heaven
That God’s Son For my own
To my faith hath given?

God oft gives me days of gladness;
Shall I grieve If He give
Seasons, too, of sadness?
God is good and tempers ever
All my ill, And He will
Wholly leave me never.
ELH #377, vv. 1 & 3

May our God and Father comfort and console you with His Word of Resurrection and Life and grant you His merciful help to have courage to face the days ahead trusting in His never-ending love for you all in Christ, our Savior.

In Jesus’ name,
Glenn R. Obenberger

 

 

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2023 WELS statistical summary

Rev. Jonathan Hein, WELS Congregational Services coordinator, serves as the guest writer for President Schroeder’s Together column this week.

Each year, WELS collects data from all congregations and schools. WELS Congregational Services compiles this data into a comprehensive statistical report and publishes a statistical summary and analysis.

The 2023 statistical summary shares some good news for which we give thanks to God. Last year, even though WELS total membership declined by about 5,300 (-1.6 percent), the number of WELS members participating in in-person weekly worship increased by almost 8,000 (+6.7 percent). Adult Bible study and Sunday school also saw large increases in participation. 2023 also saw WELS congregations blessed with almost 5,800 adult spiritual gains, the highest total in over a decade.

The statistical analysis for 2023 also digs into the shortage of called workers. In 2023, WELS congregations reported having 264,500 communicant members, a decline of almost 17 percent from the statistical high year of 1990. Yet, WELS has 46 percent more teachers today than in 1990 (about 970 total) and almost the exact same number of active pastors today as in 1990. So, the reality is WELS has more called workers active today than at any point in WELS history. So how can there be a high vacancy rate? The Lord has simply increased the gospel opportunities before us: to grow our local ministries (particularly school expansion), to start new congregations around the country, and to plant new outreach locations around the world.

The statistical analysis discusses the importance of strengthening our efforts to recruit people for gospel ministry as well as creating new pipelines by which one can enter ministry. It also reviews the growing challenge of those efforts in light of the fact that the need for called workers is growing at approximately 2 percent annually at the same time WELS membership is declining at approximately 1.3 percent annually.

You can find the WELS 2023 Statistical Summary and Analysis at welscongregationalservices.net/stats.

Your input is requested! The Together newsletter is produced four times per month and features news articles and videos about mission and ministry news at WELS. Your input has been requested because you have viewed Together content. Thank you for helping WELS Communication Services serve WELS members with news from their synod.

 

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Two district presidents elected at district conventions

During this summer’s district conventions, two districts elected new presidents. The Pacific Northwest District elected Rev. Daniel Lange, and the Arizona-California District elected Rev. Joel Heckendorf. They will replace the outgoing presidents: Rev. John Steinbrenner from the Pacific Northwest District, who accepted a call to serve as pastor at Martin Luther, Oshkosh, Wis., and Rev. Jon Buchholz, who chose not to stand for reelection in the Arizona-California District.

Rev. Daniel Lange, Pacific Northwest District president

Rev. Daniel Lange currently serves as pastor at Light of Life, Covington, Wash. Lange was born in Arkansas where his father, Rev. Douglas Lange, was assigned to plant a mission church.

During his childhood summers, Lange, with his family, had the opportunity to stay at a family property near Eagle River, Wis. “This place holds a special place in my heart,” says Lange. “It was here that I received most of my ministry encouragement from my grandfather, Robert Otterstatter. It was at his side, fixing a broken pipe or shingling a cabin roof, where he spent hours talking to me about ‘the good Lord.’”

Lange met his wife, Sara, at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. “I didn’t know at the time how tremendously the Lord would bless me through Sara,” remarks Lange. “For all the sermons I’ve given, my wife has given more. Her text is ‘Love your husband!’ and her sermons are preached through her daily actions in our house, at our church, and everywhere in our life together.” The Langes have been blessed with three children—Madelyn (14), Olivia (12), and Zachary (9).

As he begins his new role, Lange is grateful for the support and advice he has received from the outgoing district president. “John Steinbrenner continues to teach me many lessons,” says Lange. “In all things, he has placed the kingdom first.”

He continues, “I look forward to visiting our churches and schools. I’m eager to witness how Jesus is blessing them, to pray with them, and to serve them in any manner possible.”

Rev. Joel Heckendorf, Arizona-California District president

Rev. Joel Heckendorf currently serves as pastor at Light of the Valleys, Reno, Nev. As a Wisconsin native who grew up on a dairy farm in Jackson, Heckendorf remarks, “When I took the call to start a mission in Reno, it was the first time I lived outside of Wisconsin and it was the first time I was part of a congregation with less than one thousand members. Being in a mission has helped me gain a whole new perspective on ministry.”

Heckendorf has gathered insights from various people and congregations throughout his life. First, he learned from his parents, who were both involved in their home congregation. But it wasn’t until his senior year in high school that he considered becoming a pastor. “The summer before my senior year, I’d spend a few mornings a week lifting weights and playing basketball with a seminarian from my congregation,” explains Heckendorf. “As he let 17-year-old me hang around his seminary buddies, I started to consider pastoral ministry because of their peer influence.”

Now as he considers his new role as district president, Heckendorf can see how the Lord has prepared him for this path. For example, while serving as pastor at Immanuel, Greenville, Wis., Heckendorf served on the praesidium of the Northern Wisconsin District and learned a great deal from its president, Rev. Joel Zank. Additionally, Heckendorf explains, “Being on Synodical Council the past few years, I admired the laymen and administrators of our synod. Also, serving as Multi-Language Productions’ administrative chairman has broadened my experience to consider many cultures and to work alongside many gifted people.” He also notes how God prepared him through his wife, Mary. “Whether it’s watching her use her gifts or receiving her support, I thank God for providing the perfect complement.”

Heckendorf says he is grateful for all the prayers and words of encouragement through the years. “The number of people who have said they’d love to be my ‘Aaron’— to help hold me up—is amazing,” he says. “No matter what challenges we experience in our personal or professional lives, we can rejoice in the Lord, knowing that he is our Savior.”

Learn more about the role of district presidents in WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder’s column in this month’s Forward in Christ.

Your input is requested! The Together newsletter is produced four times per month and features news articles and videos about mission and ministry news at WELS. Your input has been requested because you have viewed Together content. Thank you for helping WELS Communication Services serve WELS members with news from their synod.

 

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Home mission milestones – fall 2023

WELS Home Missions has provided an update on a number of home mission congregations that experienced major milestones in fall 2023.

Christ the Rock Lutheran Church, Canton, Ga.

Christ the Rock in Canton, Ga., held its grand opening worship service on Nov. 12, 2023. God blessed the church’s outreach efforts with 60 in attendance, including 16 brand-new guests to Christ the Rock. Home Missionary Cale Mead and the core group set up and take down for worship at a local elementary school every Sunday using a “portable church” that can be stored in a trailer from week to week. A different home mission congregation, Living Hope in Chattanooga, Tenn., donated its old trailer to Christ the Rock after purchasing its own permanent facility.

View photos of Christ the Rock’s first public worship service and other home mission activities in the South Atlantic District in the Flickr album.


Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, Dickinson, N.D.

Amazing Grace, a home mission congregation in Dickinson, N.D., launched public worship on Oct. 15, 2023. It was blessed with 29 in attendance, 10 of whom were visitors invited by a family member or friend from Amazing Grace. Home Missionary Joel Prange serves this new mission church that was approved in 2021.

The following weekend, Oct. 22, Amazing Grace dedicated its new building space with members and pastors from area WELS congregations. Church members are currently worshiping in a rented ministry center in a new local market that they were able to customize to meet their ministry needs.

View photos of Amazing Grace’s new church and other home mission activities in the Dakota-Montana District in the Flickr album.

 


New Start, Marquette, Mich.

Rev. Joseph Lindloff was installed as the pastor for the new mission start in Marquette, Mich., on Oct. 8, 2023. This mission is one of the first new missions approved as part of the effort to start 100 missions in 10 years from 2023-2033. It had its first core group meeting on Nov. 5 with 24 individuals in attendance, including 5 prospects. The church prays to start a Bible information class in the new year.

View photos of the installation service and other home mission activities in the Northern Wisconsin District in the Flickr album.

 


TheMission – a Lutheran Church, Conroe, Tex.

TheMission, Conroe, Tex., launched its worship services on Aug. 6, 2023. Rev. Jeremy Mattek serves those at TheMission. They are currently worshiping in a rented funeral home on Sundays while working with a local architect to develop plans for a new sanctuary and site plan on land that they purchased.

View photos of TheMission’s launch service and other home mission activities in the South Central District in the Flickr album.

 

 


Please keep these home missions in your prayers as they continue to share the pure message of the gospel with more people in their communities. To stay connected with these and the other 145 home mission congregations scattered throughout the United States, Canada, and English-speaking West Indies, follow WELS Missions on Facebook at fb.com/WELSMissions.

 

 

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A special gift

Pictured above: Pam with her great-nephew, Shaun, who attends St. Croix Lutheran High School.

Pam with her mother, Esther.

Pam Peterson says her parents, Will and Esther Bauer, were strong Christians who taught her the joy of worship, participating in the congregation, and giving to the Lord. This continued as she grew up, married, and remained active at church. She and her husband were not able to have children, but they were blessed with good jobs, so they supported the Lord’s work at their congregation and through other WELS ministries. They especially enjoyed giving to Christian education, thinking of how their nieces and nephews were blessed through their Lutheran schools.

A couple of years ago God called Pam’s 101-year-old mother to heaven. Pam decided to offer a special gift to honor her parents. She set up a charitable gift annuity with WELS Foundation. Pam shares, “It was one of the things my mom and dad had; they thought it was important enough to do. When my mom passed away in 2021, I took some of the funds that she gave me, and I started that for them in their memory.”

A charitable gift annuity has several benefits. It provides a tax deduction. The quarterly annuity payments that Pam receives are a reminder of her parents’ impact on her life. And Pam appreciates knowing that when she goes to heaven, the remainder of the gift will go to her church and school.

Pam thanks our Savior for the privilege of supporting his kingdom: “I do it because of all the grace the Lord has shown me throughout my life.”

Perhaps a charitable gift annuity is an opportunity for you to support Christ’s work. You can fund a gift annuity for yourself, a loved one, or a friend. And you can direct the remainder of the gift to be used by your congregation, school, synod, area Lutheran high school, or other WELS-affiliated ministry.

Here’s how a charitable gift annuity would work for someone 72 years of age:

Note that this illustration has payments beginning immediately. Payments can also be deferred to a future date. In addition, couples may arrange a gift annuity for both of their lives. You can do a personalized illustration based on your age. Another option is the deferred gift annuity, which provides a tax deduction now while payments start in the future.

If you’re ready to move ahead—or would just like to learn more at this point—your local WELS Christian giving counselor can help. There is no cost or obligation when working with a WELS Christian giving counselor. To get started, call us at 800-827-5482 or e-mail [email protected].

Idalia update from WELS Christian Aid and Relief

WELS Christian Aid and Relief (CAR) has provided a brief update on Hurricane Idalia, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm. Rev. Dan Sims, director of CAR, says, “This was a powerful storm that had the potential to wreak havoc to all in its path, but our merciful God saw fit to minimize damage and loss. Based on communication with our pastors and other leaders, we are pleased to announce that, at this time, our churches and members are all okay.”

As CAR is a church-based disaster relief organization, it deploys volunteers and assistance to areas that have a WELS church, since the congregation serves as base for CAR to support and supply its volunteers. Thankfully, none of the communities where WELS has churches are in need at this time, and CAR will not be deploying volunteers to help with clean-up work.

Sims says, “If you are in need, or have a neighbor in need, please reach out to your pastor and make him aware of the situation. Your pastor will then get in touch with us. Please continue to remember in your prayers all those impacted by this storm as well as all those working hard to help people in need.”

 

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“Thank you” from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church

The Ukrainian Lutheran Church Synodical Council wished to make a statement of thanks to you, and to the many people who have prayed for them and given gifts. This is what was expressed at their meeting:

We wish to thank the many people who have helped us since the time this war began. In many congregations your help has enabled us to survive. Without your help much of our ministry would not have been possible.

Your aid has helped members and their families, pastors and their families, villagers, volunteer workers, etc. With your help nearly, if not all, requests for aid have been met. Money for vehicle repairs and fuel have enabled pastors to travel and reach out to many people. The ability to get medicines have in fact saved lives. Food assistance has kept some of the elderly from starvation. For all of this we are so very thankful to you. But most of all, we thank our Lord for you.

Thank you for your love and concern for us during this difficult time.

 

Submitted by Rev. Roger Neumann, WELS liaison to the ULC

 

Pictured: Members of the Ukrainian Lutheran church with cards from WELS Sunday school students.


WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update on the Ukrainian Lutheran Church – Dec. 13, 2022

As I write this update about the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), it is day 288 since the war began on February 24. Throughout Ukraine there has been much damage to property—vital infrastructure, hospitals, schools, train stations, to mention just a few. While there are no official figures, there have been many casualties, both soldiers and civilians. But as of today, no ULC members or pastors have lost their lives. Praise be to God!

In the face of war, the ministry continues, relatively uninterrupted. The ministry has actually expanded as pastors and congregations are now helping refugees and members in need, along with their friends and neighbors. Christians are not only speaking of their faith in Jesus, but putting their faith into action. People and communities are witnessing the love and concern Christians have for others in their time of need.

Much of Ukraine now is without electricity or is experiencing periods of blackouts lasting for hours. Some of the effects of this are the loss of heating, charging phones and computers, running refrigerators and freezers, and lights at night. Winter always has a shortened period of daylight time, but without lights it makes the days longer and depression settles in quite easily. Many people buy candles, but now candles are hard to find and the cost of a candle which used to be ten cents is as high as two dollars and 50 cents (American currency). There are very many cases of stress related illnesses among the people. Bishop Horpynchuk says that at present their greatest concerns are heat and food.

Many people have been praying for Ukraine and the ULC since the outbreak of this war. Gifts from CELC churches have enabled pastors and congregations to buy generators, which have been a big help for them. Now there can be at least some heat in the buildings for their worship services. They also are able to buy food, medicines, fuel, warm clothing, blankets, shoes, and hygiene products. They thank you for your gifts that enable to make these purchases.

I’m often asked to pass along, from the members and pastors, thanks for all that people have done for them with their prayers and gifts. They appreciate these very, very much. In times of need, and at all times, Christians work together, laugh together, cry together, but we cherish the truth that we are all one in Christ. Our times are in his hands, and what better place can there be. The ULC extends wishes for God’s blessings for all of you, our fellow believers. Thank you for your prayers.

Submitted by Rev. Roger Neumann, WELS liaison to the ULC

This update was shared from the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference website.

 


WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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WELS statement on Roe v. Wade ruling

On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling that overturned the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that assured a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion throughout the United States. This ruling struck down many state laws that had prohibited or limited abortions. Tragically, as a result of the 1973 decision, millions of unborn children have been robbed of the opportunity for life.

Contrary to how some have portrayed it, this recent action by the Supreme Court does not make abortion illegal in the United States. Rather, the ruling enables states to enact their own laws on abortion—either banning or limiting the practice or making the practice legal.

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has always been clear in its opposition to abortion and in its pro-life position. While this ruling does not eliminate the tragedy of abortions in our country, it is certainly a long-desired step in the right direction in the effort to protect human life in the womb. We pray that states will now take the opportunity to prohibit the taking of human life when it most needs protection.

The Psalm writer declares in Psalm 139, “For you (God) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” God creates life, and it is only God who has the right to end the life he has created. As long as there are still places where abortion is legal and available, it’s important that our synod continues to make its clear confession that it is God who creates life, beginning at conception. We believe that the government has the God-given responsibility to protect life. As important as this issue is, our synod remains committed to its most important mission:  sharing the good news of a Savior who has brought forgiveness and healing for all.

Rev. Mark Schroeder, President
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

 

Synod presidents from WELS, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri synod signed a letter to the U.S. Attorney General regarding the violence against pro-life organizations.

Read the letter

 

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Pray for Uvalde, Texas

Lord Jesus, there is so much evil in this world. Once again, senseless violence has taken multiple lives – both children and adults. With heavy hearts, we your children come to you asking for your tender care to attend to the needs of so many. Comfort those families whose lives have been devastated and disrupted by death. Bring healing to the injured. Help those who are dealing with images they can never unsee. We thank you, Lord, for the brave public servants who rushed toward the danger, brought the carnage to an end, and cared for the injured. Above all, as we struggle with our questions and confusion, use this, dear Father, to draw us, your children, ever closer to you. We commit all who are suffering to your care, confident of your promises, assured of your presence, and surrounded by your love. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, in your power, in your grace, and in your mercy. Amen.

WELS Foundation: Here to help

On Nov. 7, 2021, Divine Peace, Milwaukee, Wis., held its final worship service after sharing the gospel with its neighborhood for almost 65 years. It was an emotional day filled with memories of weddings and baptisms, confirmations and Christian funerals. Yet there was joy beneath the sadness—joy that only peace in Christ can bring. The members of Divine Peace knew that they are a part of God’s bigger plan for the kingdom.

When Divine Peace was established in 1957, it was built on the outskirts of a growing city, surrounded by farmland. Over the years, farmland gave way to starter homes and apartment buildings. As homeowners began to move to the suburbs and those in the apartments constantly came and went, it became difficult for Divine Peace to build lasting relationships with its transient neighbors and sustain its membership.

As the congregation began to run out of resources, and its pastor took a call to another congregation in June 2021, Divine Peace’s leadership knew it was time to prayerfully evaluate its future. Members also looked at the density of WELS congregations that are now in the area—four churches within a 1.5-mile radius.

After extensive Scripture study and prayer, open forums, and a special sermon series, the congregation determined it no longer could carry out a sustainable ministry. “We believed it was a better use of our time, talents, and treasures to close Divine Peace and redeploy these gifts to other areas of ministry. This redeployment would involve sending our membership to other WELS congregations in our community to support and strengthen those churches,” says Divine Peace church president Brian Gottschalk.

Instead of selling the church and property themselves, congregation leadership turned to WELS Foundation for assistance. After the final service, Divine Peace donated the property to WELS Foundation, who in turn sold the property and distributed the net proceeds to the ministries designated by the voters of Divine Peace. They split the assets of the sale to continue supporting gospel work for years to come: 80 percent to support WELS Missions and Congregational Services and 20 percent to support Christian education at nearby Wisconsin Lutheran High School through its foundation’s endowment.

Jim Holm, Executive Director of WELS Foundation, says, “It was a privilege to work closely with Mr. Gottschalk, church secretary Shelly Fink, and leadership at Divine Peace throughout this process. Even though Divine Peace closed its doors, its legacy of faith will continue.”

Holm continues, “WELS Foundation was blessed to assist Divine Peace as part of our mission of facilitating gifts to benefit WELS ministries, for the spreading of the gospel.”

To contact WELS Foundation, please call 800-752-8940 or e-mail [email protected].