God’s eternal dwelling place

Originally appears on the One Africa Team Blog. To subscribe to receive future updates directly in your inbox, visit oneafricateam.com. “Like” the One Africa Team on Facebook at fb.com/OneAfricaTeamWELS


Come along with me. . .

I’m weaving through villages and fields, traipsing down narrow foot paths and trudging through muck. I’m jumping over mud puddles and broken bricks. I’m skirting around fallen walls, bent roofing sheets and twisted trusses. I’m stepping over soggy blankets and dirty clothes.

Malawi 2015 revisited. What happened? A deluge of rain: rivers overflowed, Maize fields flattened, Bridges demolished, Roads cratered.

Different year, different people, different location, same result: devastation.

Rains are a double-edged sword. Just enough and wells fill, fields drink, crops grow and the land produces.Too much and houses collapse leaving them useless; pit latrines overflow rendering them a danger. It all happened in Malawi.

Again.

People are reminiscing that this same thing happened just four years ago. The Malawi 2018/2019 wet season had a great start. A great balance of rain and sunshine. Crops were looking good.  Tobacco. Maize. Groundnuts. Farmers were ecstatic!

It’s going to be a bountiful harvest! We can sell our cash crops, our granaries will be full, we will harvest plenty to eat good, our bellies satisfied. . . no hunger this year!

Then came the March 6, 2019. Ash Wednesday arrived, and so did another rain. Well, not just another rain, but a downpour. The heavens opened. Water fell by the bucket. Cats and Dogs. Didn’t let up for 3 solid days. This time the land and the areas most affected are quite flat so the water didn’t have a natural run off. When rains fall that rapidly and that powerfully, mud houses just don’t stand a chance against such force and pressure of water. The torrent was enough to bring down the roof.

It did.

LCCA-Malawi member’s home destroyed by flooding

Many houses were destroyed. Families are displaced. Women and children are sleeping in church buildings. Husbands and fathers are staying in any manageable place that they can find in what is left of their houses. A makeshift shelter. A tiny covered corner of a room. Some are sleeping under the stars. All who are affected are trying to pick up the proverbial pieces. And lurking right around the corner? Disease. It’s what happens when outhouses collapse and the holes brim over. It’s a stream you don’t want to be near. But there is a stream you do. A river actually. A river of living water.

“Though the earth give way. . . though its waters roar and foam. . . there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” (Psalm 46:2-3)

The one who wrote those words also wrote these: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) 

To the people who are sitting in the rubble, asking themselves questions and trying to make sense of it all, the pastors in the Lutheran Church have been able to bring this kind of message: God indeed is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Though many people have many questions, there’s another question that rises above all the others. It stands tall and strong like a beacon in the storm:

“Who or what can separate us from the love of Christ?” We know what is written in Romans 8:35. A bunch more questions that answer that first one. (If you’re not sure, check it out). But what about the questions on the minds of the homeless people in Malawi who are wondering how they are going to start over and rebuild?

What can separate them from God’s love? Rains? Floods? Unusable toilets? Obliterated fields? Collapsed houses? Lost property? Can these things remove God from their world of broken walls and caved-in roofs?

NO.

Paul, what do you mean, “NO”?  Tell us more!

“NO, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. None of these things shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

Ah, yes. Good words, Paul. The people need to hear those words. So do I. . . when things in my own life collapse! You, too? For three days we surveyed the destruction and assessed the damage. So much rain, so much ruin. With such incalculable devastation I could only imagine incredible loss. What I didn’t imagine–or even think about–was the incredible gain.

Incredible gain? 

Members from the LCCA-Malawi rejoice in their Lord

As the people shared their stories, I noticed that they had gained something: a new appreciation for the goodness of the Lord. A renewed indebtedness to the grace of God. Gratitude for something bigger than earthly comfort. Heavenly blessings! When we arrived, they not only spoke of the rains that came down from heaven but of the promises of God that do, too! They shared with us how God spared them, protected them and saved them. We paused here for a prayer. Sat there for a devotion. Spent time with the families in meditation and thankfulness. We were invited to so many places we didn’t have time for everyone. We brought our phone cameras, but took more than pictures and videos.

We took heart! (The people encouraged us!)
We took assurance! (The presence of problems doesn’t mean the absence of God!)
We took with us a renewed sense of joy! (Our Lutheran members know the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus despite the trials that come)

After seeing one collapsed house after another, what falls like rain upon my heart are the words of Moses: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. . . from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:1,2)  Like Paul said, “. . . we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1) His is a house that will never fall. The roof won’t leak and the walls won’t collapse. The foundation is strong and the rooms are safe.

Meanwhile, here on earth, whether in Malawi or the USA or somewhere in-between, we groan and are burdened. All creation, too. Apparently, that includes the rains. And the mud from which many houses are built. But we look forward to a time when all those in Christ Jesus we will be safe and secure in . . .

God’s Eternal Dwelling Place.

Your Malawi Mission Partner,

Missionary John Holtz


Dear Mission Partners,

Maybe you know and maybe you don’t, but our beloved WELS is showing faith in action by getting involved with both prayer support and financial aid.

The Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Malawi Synod (LCCA), the WELS Board for World Missions, and WELS Christian Aid and Relief (CAR) have been working hard at evaluating the immediate needs of those in our Lutheran congregations who are greatly affected by the floods, especially in the southern region of Malawi. (It was the southern region that was affected in 2015, too). Through funds made available through CAR, the LCCA members affected by the floods will receive some much-needed practical items. Things like buckets for clean water, blankets for warmth, and plastic sheeting for temporary roofing can meet immediate needs. A church building that has collapsed can be rebuilt.

Your Africa Missions team would like to encourage anyone whose heart is moved to give a gift to help people in need (due to flooding or other disaster) to please donate to WELS Christian Aid & Relief. 

 

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A Devotional Thought: Freedom

By Pastor Darren Green, Prison Committee Chairman

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free.”
Luke 4:18 (NIV)

Freedom! It is a word that describes all kinds of situations, cherished liberties, and emotions. However, the freedom we find in Jesus is one of the greatest gifts our God brings to us. Jesus came “to proclaim good news.” Guilt is one of the heaviest burdens that humans carry. I think of Doug, a man oppressed by his past. He had done his time and put his life together. Yet, as we talked about standing before God, Doug was troubled. I got the impression of him dragging a ball and chain of guilt along through his life. As we looked at Jesus’ words and promises, the good news, namely that Jesus came to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners” and “set the oppressed free,” became clear to Doug. His burden was lifted. With a smile on his face and a tingle up his spine, Doug heard Jesus free him and give him the peace that he needed. It almost seemed like Doug was floating on air. It gave me a renewed appreciation of the peace that only our Lord can give.

Take note of how often God speaks of taking away our guilt. The Lord said to Isaiah, “your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for”(Isaiah 6:7). As you read Psalm 32, you can hear David’s struggle following his sin of adultery and murder. He bottled it up inside and it about destroyed him. After the Lord sought David out through Nathan, David breaths this freedom he finds from God: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

What a compassionate and loving God we have that reaches down to us to make sure we hear that not only are our sins forgiven, but the guilt taken away. What a privilege we have to lead those imprisoned by their guilt to hear the voice of Jesus our Lord. Tell them they are freed in him! It is God’s Word and so God is speaking! Our God, the one we must stand before in judgment, says, “FREE!” The same Jesus that lived among us saw the oppression that sin and guilt brings. He desires that we live free as “new creations” and “ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

 

 

Joining Jesus on His Prison Mission

News about our efforts to share Jesus going forward

A recent book about sharing Jesus is titled “Joining Jesus on His Mission.” I like the emphasis on Jesus and the joy and blessings we receive by joining him in his work. Sharing Jesus is something we get to do as opposed to some duty. The senior citizens that started our prison ministry effort 25 years ago certainly had that attitude. They wanted to send the gospel where they couldn’t go. Since then WELS Prison Ministry focused primarily on that publication ministry, distributing well over a million copies of God’s Word to inmates, either in Bibles or Bible studies. This effort has been a great blessing to both inmates and volunteers, who helped with mailing, test correcting, or being pen pals.

At a strategic planning session last November, the Prison Ministry Committee (PMC) met to plan our efforts under the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The session produced many exciting ideas that we are asking God’s people to support with their time as volunteers, their financial gifts, or both. Here are some of the plans in which we’d like you to play a part.

Rebuilding the foundation

Usage of our publication ministry, housed in New Ulm, Minn., has slowed compared to years past. The PMC identified several steps needed to revitalize this foundational element of our efforts to share Jesus. Among these steps are tasks such as:

• Release a new Bible study on dealing with depression and anxiety
• Publicize this new study with both current and former users (chaplains and facilities)
• Evaluate historic usage patterns and target key facilities for personal contact
• Pray that the Holy Spirit opens both new and formerly open doors for our material

Publication Subcommittee lead Pastor David Rosenbaum emphasized the key role of this effort: “Bible self-study courses have been the centerpiece of Prison Ministry. We are adding new titles and editing those that need to be reprinted. Inmates have lots of time available, and we can provide an excellent way to fill their time and their souls simultaneously.”

Promoting more visits to personally share God’s Word

As a nationwide church body, many laypeople and called workers currently visit jails and prisons to share Jesus in person. In addition, there are many more who desire to take Jesus behind bars. We have helped with jail ministry training in the past, but the effort lacked long-term coordination and support. To enhance the efforts of God’s people, the PMC identified several tasks to undertake, including:

• Identify and track current jail and prison ministry efforts
• Identify and encourage Word and Sacrament ministry to all incarcerated WELS members
• Find ways to train people across the country for this ministry
• Build a support network so these efforts can benefit from each other’s experiences
• Find ways to encourage one another in our efforts.

PMC member Leon Brands, who is leading aspects of this effort, comments: “We are compiling information from congregations that have an active jail or prison ministry, so the PMC can support the volunteers with training and additional resources for ministering to inmates. We also want to identify all WELS members who are in jail or prison, so they can be served in person or given meaningful materials to remind them of their Savior’s boundless love.”

Assisting released inmates and their families

One of the greater needs that the PMC wishes to address is for assistance to inmates upon their release from jail or prison. Faith that is new or recently rekindled while serving time can be subjected to severe tests and powerful temptations not experienced behind bars. Returning citizens also have great earthly needs, such as finding housing, transportation, and employment when the deck is often stacked against them. Their families often need help adjusting to the former inmate’s return, including dealing with forgiveness and trust issues. Our efforts to meet this crying need with trained mentors include:

• Use a successful mentor program in New Ulm as a pilot program for similar efforts elsewhere
• Update mentor training material based on recent experience
• Develop reentry resources that can help mentors serve returning citizens better
• Develop resources to help congregations welcome and integrate these returning citizens.

PMC Treasurer Tom Koepsell, a current mentor, notes that “Inmates are often brought closer to their Savior behind bars and are enthusiastic to continue their journey upon release. With the spiritual guidance we can offer, and the love of Jesus we can show them, they can become valuable assets to our congregations and to their communities. Working one-on-one, my experience has been the stigma of being an ex-con goes away and a close Christian friendship takes its place. It can be a very rewarding experience.”

Finding your role

While all these plans are exciting, they only become a reality through the support and efforts of God’s people. Director of Special Ministries Jim Behringer reminds us: “Our Prison Ministry is an economical outreach ministry. We use many volunteers. Our books are inexpensive to print. Love for Jesus has moved hundreds of donors to have a huge impact! Yet our efforts to spread the gospel need generous financial support to train men and women to bring the gospel to those affected by incarceration.” About seventy percent of our budget comes from direct gifts from individual donors. Hand in hand with financial support is the ministry of hundreds of volunteers around the country. These gifts of treasure and time truly make a difference in the amount of work we can carry out. Without them, the ministry doesn’t happen. Come join Jesus on his mission to reach those impacted by incarceration.

 

 

Sixty Minutes Can Change a Life

I reached the third floor at the jail and was ushered into the room where our weekly session with the women took place. Filing into the room, two of the women asked rather disdainfully, “Are you going to talk to us about God?” Thankfully, the facilitator from the preceding week had
informed me about these women. Even though I was surprised by their tone of voice, the Holy Spirit guided my thoughts, words, and actions during the next 60 minutes. I did not enter the jail that day to feel good about myself. I came to share Jesus. So how did I respond? “Yes, we are going to talk about how much Jesus loves you.”

The two women expressed doubt that God cared about them because of the many tragedies that had occurred in their lives. So I shared how God had sustained my husband and me during the loss of our first child, a stillborn. Suddenly they began to listen, and the Holy Spirit went to work. One of the two women returned for several more sessions. During the third session she confided that she had been reading about Jesus in the booklets we distributed and that she wanted to learn more. God’s Word had opened her heart.

Jesus challenges and stretches us. He presents us with opportunities to serve him by serving others. He commands us to love, welcome, and embrace one another even when the individuals we serve may be difficult, ungrateful, or unable to Jesus challenges and stretches us. He presents us with opportunities to serve him by serving others. reciprocate. It’s true–much of even our Christian service can be self-centered and gravitate toward individuals who can assist, uplift, or give us something in return. But Jesus lovingly reminds us, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

Where do we go with this self-centered attitude? The answer is to the cross. There we discover a Savior who loved us for what he could give to us–not for what he could get from us. What we do by faith in Jesus to help others (without thoughts of looking good or gaining glory for ourselves) is a blessing. Our lives have been transformed through Jesus life, death, and resurrection. Our motivation to thank Jesus is rooted in his love for us.

I witness it week after week. These women enter the room with questioning and skeptical attitudes. Sometimes they are resolute or reticent. Yet by the end of the session, their body language, facial expressions, and comments display hope and peace. Just as the prophet Isaiah wrote, “. . . so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” The word changes hearts and lives.

Why do I look forward to facilitating sessions at the jail? Psalm 71:15 expresses it best: “My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds and your saving acts all day long–though I do not know how to relate them all” (Psalm 71:15). Doing so has challenged and stretched me. My faith has blossomed and grown through this opportunity to serve other women who are facing challenges with addictions, relationships, guilt, and forgiveness. What a blessing and a privilege it is to meet with these women and share truths from the Bible. My Savior rescued me, and now I get double the joy by sharing that unfathomable love with others.

Mary Hochmuth leads Facing Freedom at Dane County Women’s Jail, Madison, Wis., for our partner Institutional Ministries

 

 

Remember us with prayers, service, and gifts

We trust that God will move the hearts of His people to support our ministry in any way possible. Please pray that Prison Ministry would continue to share Jesus with more people impacted by incarceration. To volunteer as a pen pal or a test corrector, please contact us at pmsec@wels.net or 507-354-3130. To explore visitation or mentoring opportunities, e-mail dave.hochmuth@wels.net or call 414-256-3243.

WELS Prison Ministry now receives a small subsidy from our synod. We continue to write grant requests in hopes of receiving money for funding operational costs, printing books, and traveling to promote and train new volunteers for visitation or mentoring ministry. But most of our financial support comes from people like you. If you desire to support this work, please send your gift to:

WELS Prison Ministry
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI 53188-1088

Or donate online at wels.net/sm-donation, click on “Designation” and choose: “Prison Ministry.”

Important note for Thrivent members: Anyone who is a member of Thrivent Financial can direct personal Choice Dollars to WELS Prison Ministry. If you need assistance with this designation, contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836. The designation for 2018 must be made by March 31, 2019.

May the Lord continue to bless you as you serve Him.

In Christ,
WELS Prison Ministry Staff Prison

 

 

 

 

Parish Nurse Corner Spring 2019

“What can I do to learn more about being a parish nurse?”

If you are interested in learning more about being a Faith Community Nurse (Parish Nurse) and working with individuals in your church and community, Wisconsin Lutheran College is offering an online course to give you these skills.  Designed for both the experienced and the novice RN, this course will aid the learner in developing a Christian understanding of the tools needed to develop or work in a Faith Community Nurse (Parish Nurse) program, including how to:

  • Foster a relationship with the church’s leadership team
  • Utilize health assessment skills to evaluate and address the parish’s health care and nursing needs
  • Prepare for and understand the process of Faith Community Nursing Certification through the ANCC

The eight-week course will begin on June 3, 2019, and will run through the month of July. Due dates for the course work will be flexible, taking into consideration that many individuals have already started to make summer plans. The expected tuition of the course is $600. WELSNA is currently offering a tuition reimbursement of $200 at the competition of the course. Nurses should contact the WELSNA council at WELSnurses@wels.net for more information on the tuition reimbursement. Nurses are encouraged to speak to their pastor and church council about sharing the remaining $400 as a Faith Community Nurse (Parish Nurse) program is a partnership between the church and the nurse. A letter from the WELSNA pastoral advisor, Pastor Behringer, can be found here.

The course will be taught by Lisa LeBlanc who is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Wisconsin Lutheran College and has been on staff at WLC since 2011. She received her undergraduate nursing degree from Marquette University, her master’s degree from St. Xavier University, and is enrolled at the University of South Alabama for her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.  She is a certified Clinical Nurse Leader and a board-certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. She has completed coursework in Parish Nursing and has achieved 21 credits in WELS synod certification coursework.

Registration information will be forthcoming.  Questions regarding the course may be directed to Lisa LeBlanc at: lisa.leblanc@wlc.edu.

Do you have a question you would like addressed in the Parish Nurse Corner? Send your question to WELSnurses@wels.net!

 

 

 

 

Serving on the WELSNA Council

Individuals who attend the spring conference will have the opportunity to volunteer to be a member of the WELSNA council. The main responsibility of the WELSNA council is to plan the spring conference, so we are looking for individuals who have a heart to plan and prepare wonderful, professional conferences. We meet solely by video conferences meaning there is no travel necessary.  Meetings are scheduled based on the availability of the council members and occur about once per month.

The first position that is open is the council coordinator. This member is responsible for preparing the meeting agendas, assigning tasks to the other members as needed, and to communicate by phone or e-mail with individuals to help plan and organize the spring conference.

The second open position is the coordinator-elect. This individual will remain in close contact with the coordinator to learn the role of the coordinator and will complete any tasks assigned by the coordinator. Once the coordinator has completed his or her term, the coordinator elect will move into the role of the coordinator.

Finally, the third position available is that of the treasurer. The treasurer remains in contact with individuals at the Center for Mission and Ministry (CMM), the headquarters of the WELS, to receive monthly financial updates. The treasurer is not required to write checks or keep any checkbook as this is all managed at the CMM. He or she is responsible for reporting the current finances at each council meeting.

So why should you join the WELSNA council? It is a wonderful opportunity to meet other WELS and ELS nurses around the country. It enables you to become more familiar with Lutheran resources such as counseling services, mission opportunities, and conferences. It also ensures that the WELSNA spring conferences can continue for years to come. If you are interested in filling any of the above positions or becoming more involved with the council, please e-mail us at WELSnurses@wels.net. We look forward to serving with you!

 

 

 

WELSNA Spring 2019 conference

Registration is now open for the WELS Nurses Association’s annual spring conference! This year, the conference will be held on Sat., April 27 at Eastside Lutheran Church in Madison, Wis. The theme is “Remaining Steadfast in Unsteady Times” and is based off of the Bible passage 1 Corinthians 15:58. “Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

The keynote presentation, delivered by Pat Freer, will discuss dealing with the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease and the difference between what we hope for in this life and the “Living Hope” in our Savior Jesus Christ. Individuals will have the choice to attend one of the two morning breakout sessions. The first is entitled “What does a Parish Nurse Do?” and is presented by Sue Bolha, a parish nurse from Jackson, Wis. The second, entitled “You Want Me to do What?” is presented by Sheryl Krause and will discuss questions such as “with so many career options available to nurses, how do you know which career path is God’s will for you?”

After a catered sandwich lunch, the afternoon will begin with a meeting to inform conference attendees on WELSNA council updates and to elect three new members to the council. Anne Mackey’s term as secretary officially ended in 2018, but she agreed to faithfully serve the association by filling in as the coordinator position for one year. The current treasurer, Kathy Lee, is completing her term, and the interim coordinator-elect, Yvette Burk, will be unable to continue in the role. The council is responsible for organizing the annual spring conference, and we encourage those of you who enjoy participating in the conference to prayerfully consider joining our council.

Individuals will then have the choice to attend one of the two afternoon breakout sessions. The first, presented by two individuals from Christian Family Solutions, will be on the topic of sexual assault and the important truth that there is hope and healing for all of those struggling with the trauma of sexual violence. The second is presented by Laura Harstad from the organization, Kingdom Workers. She will share inspiring stories of people around the world who are receiving physical and spiritual care through the efforts of bold Lutherans just like you.

In addition to the conference on Saturday, individuals are also invited to join in an evening of socializing and fun at Revel Craft Bar on Fri., April 26. Each individual will have the opportunity to create a craft project that will reflect the theme of the conference. No additional fee will be charged on the registration form as each individual will pay for the craft project of their choice at the location. The cost of the craft projects range from $25-$35. To sign up, we ask that individuals indicate their interest in the event on their registration form. Individuals will be sent more specific information about the craft projects closer to the event.

The WELSNA council has been hard at work planning a full day of speakers and are looking forward to spending time with you growing both professionally and spiritually. Registration ends Mon., April 22. For a full description of the presentations, speaker biographies, schedule of events, and to register, please visit our website www.welsnurses.net.

 

 

 

The Christian Vocation of Nursing

Catharine Soule BSN, RN, WELSNA secretary

Think back to when you first thought about being a nurse. What drew you to the profession? Was it the idea of helping others? Maybe you loved working with kids or the elderly, or maybe you were fascinated with biology and medicine. Maybe you or someone in your family was blessed through the work of a nurse and you just knew it was something you wanted to pursue. But even with the fun and inviting aspects of our career, we have all encountered the not-so-glamorous side of nursing – the mess of cleaning up a trauma bay, performing personal cares on a patient for the fifth time in one hour, the violence and disrespect by a patient under the influence, a hyper-critical family member, the endless prescription refills to file, the “code blue” that failed again. Discouraged, many of us have probably questioned ourselves, “Why did we bother becoming a nurse? Why didn’t I see this side of the profession? Was all the studying worth it?”

At all times, and maybe especially during the discouraging times, we can remember that nursing is a wonderful vocation for a Christian. A Christian vocation is a way for God to use us to bless others in this world. Christian Author Harold Seinkbell describes the idea of a vocation as us being “God’s secret agents” in this world, God using us as a “mask,” as a way and through whom he operates in this world. God uses us, ordinary people, to provide for the needs and desires of his whole creation.

God makes it clear to us in scripture that he cares for the health and well-being of his children. We see miracles in both the Old and New Testament proving this. Jesus himself healed many during his ministry, including those who were sick, blind, injured, paralyzed, and even dead.

Now, God works directly through us to care for the sick and to comfort the lonely. If you think about it, he is our ultimate boss. When we are tempted to think we are just working for the paycheck or just getting by to please our manager, we can remember that our work is all to his glory. We read in Matthew 25: “‘For I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was lacking clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or lacking clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ The King will answer them, ‘Amen I tell you: Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40 EHV)

Just think of this portion, “I was sick, and you took care of me.” How powerful! When we care for the sick, our Lord sees it as us caring for him! Our work, even our most unglamorous work, is done for our God! What an amazing privilege! Our amazing God, who was born as a human, lived a perfect life, suffered, died, and rose again for us and our salvation, views our work as a nurse, as caring for him. In thanksgiving for our salvation already won by his blood, we are compelled to love and care for our brothers and sisters.

When you are tired and feel that you have just “had enough” as a nurse, remember to look to your “ultimate boss,” our loving Father who will give you the strength to do his work. Our work is pleasing to him because he is using us to care for and show his love and compassion to his children.

 

 

 

 

Remaining Steadfast in Unsteady Times

Have you ever taken a stress Q&A?

I remember taking one in nursing school. If you checked “yes” to three or more questions it indicated that you had stress. If you think about it, there is not a day that goes by without some stress. There are good stressors, such as a wedding, a trip, a new baby, and a new job just to name a few. Some bad stressors are not being prepared for a test, the death of a loved one, loss of a job, and divorce.

So what does stress have to do with remaining steadfast in unsteady times? During unsteady times it is especially stressful. We may lose our job because we witnessed to a patient, our marriage may end in divorce because our spouse got caught up in the evil of mainly “worship yourself,” or we may lose our business because we will not compromise our faith values.

Are you getting stressed out just reading this? Then read on: God reassures us in his Word.

In 1 Corinthians 15: 57-58, Paul reminds us “Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 5:7-11 “Cast all your cares upon him, for he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen”

Resting in God’s eternal promises we can remain steadfast in unsteady times.

By Anne Mackey RN, PN

 

 

 

Caring for Yourself as a Caregiver

By Alexis Adams MS, Professional Counselor

From finishing school, to becoming a mom, to working full time, I have found that I often spread myself too thin, taking on the role of helper but ultimately neglecting to help myself. I am sure many of you can relate. Particularly, in my field of work as a professional counselor, I am surrounded by struggling individuals and families, and I have the honor and challenge of being present with them and their emotionally heavy struggles. Do not get me wrong—I love what I do and I would not change it for the world. However, in doing what I do, I am required to be a little more proactive in preventing myself from burning out. The goals and principles outlined below have helped me as a professional counselor to manage self-care effectively and will also benefit those in a nursing profession.

It is a bit ironic that one of my greatest struggles is also one of the things I advocate most for my clients to use in their own lives. I remind them of how absolutely essential taking time for themselves is. I preach to them that they cannot pour from an empty cup, yet I have difficulty heeding my own words. I make excuses such as I am too busy or I will do it later when things settle, which they never will, so that futuristic date is ever elusive. I feel that the real message I am sending is that I am somehow above taking time for self-care, that informing others of its many benefits is somehow sufficient. This is like telling the pastor that because he preaches God’s Word to his congregation, he does not have to be in Scripture to feed his own soul.

I understand the importance of self-care, especially given the nature of my work. I truly do not believe it is beneath me—far from it. I, like other health professionals, carry a lot on my plate. Bogged down by heavy caseloads, troubled people, administration, and life stress…the list never seems to end. Self-care is even more pertinent to my life and well-being because others are counting on me, and I cannot give to them if I have nothing left to give.

Based on the research and my own life experience, most of self-care begins with being mindfully aware of ourselves. That involves being conscious of our limits, needs, triggers, and warning signs, as well as knowing what our norm is and when we have exceeded that point. For example, I know that I need to take a step back and give myself some attention when I lack the desire and energy to involve myself with others or do the things I most enjoy. However, by that point it is too late for me—I am emotionally exhausted and ineffective in serving others. So instead, I have compiled a preventative list: things that you can do or keep in mind in order to prevent burnout as well as ways to incorporate more self-care into your everyday life in order to avoid reaching that point.

First, as difficult as it may be, leave work at work. In my own life, this is often a cop-out for why I do not have time to take care of myself. I come home and take care of the needs of my family and then continue to occupy my time with e-mails and paperwork, leaving no room for the things I enjoy for myself. I have to remind myself that the e-mail I want to reply to will still be waiting for me when I return in the morning. I do understand that things pile up and that there never seems to be enough hours in the day to do all that we need to do. However, consider the supply and demand principle. The more time we allow ourselves to supply, the more our work will demand.

Next, be familiar with common warning signs of impending burnout. They are different for every person, but some examples include loss of hope, feeling numb or distant, lack of pleasure in things that were once pleasurable, thinking of work outside of work, etc. Once you are aware of your signs, be sure to listen to them. They are your mind’s way of telling you to take a break.

This leads to my next point: be sure to do something that you enjoy at least once a week, if not once a day. Anything will do, but be sure that no matter what you do, you do it for you. For some, that might mean going on a run or listening to their favorite type of music. Others may garden or build something. It is much less about what you do and more about making the time to do it. Whatever you do does not have to be time consuming; you may only have a few short minutes most days, but once a week you should block off a few hours. Again, the goal is to find something that you can reasonably do that helps you to find peace.

Ask for help if you need it. Often I feel that we as helpers believe we must be superhuman—that we cannot have needs or problems, which ultimately sets us up for failure when we are confronted with reality. Realize that it is not weakness to seek out support. It does not make you any less effective as a helper, but rather makes you stronger because you are not left to shoulder the burden alone. We all have problems that we carry on our hearts, and I encourage you to share them. Our shared experience can be empowering. It reminds us that we are not alone and gives us new insight into how to address our problem from a different angle. Please seek out the support of someone you trust—someone who is familiar with you who can check in with you on a regular basis. Perhaps that person is a friend, colleague, supervisor, or trained counselor—someone you feel that you can go to.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, be sure to actually ask for help. We cannot expect for people to be able to read our minds. They may have no idea you are struggling until you reach out, and not for lack of caring. Sometimes it can be difficult to bridge that gap, to check in with someone for fear that we may embarrass them or be off-base.

As simple as it may seem, part of self-care is taking care of the basic necessities. Make sure that you are getting decent sleep on a regular basis, eating balanced meals, getting regular physical activity, and keeping up with personal hygiene. To that degree, be sure that you are taking time for self-care in all facets of your well-being, not just the physical. Take care of your emotional, spiritual, mental, and social self as well. I like to view the whole person and all their parts as a wheel, with each of the facets of the whole person being represented by a spoke. If any one spoke were to become too long (that is, you are devoting too much time to it) or too short (that is, you’re not spending enough time attending to it), then the wheel will not roll. We must balance to maintain all areas of life equally.

Trying to keep up with everything in life can be exhausting. Give yourself permission to take a break. Take time to take time off. Go on a vacation. Step away in order to refresh. You are not doing yourself or anyone else any favors by being the workaholic martyr. In fact, research has found that people who use their vacation time or take a break from work are more productive in the long run.

Another thing to take into consideration is your perspective. Be realistic about how much you can control and do. It will help alleviate some of the unnecessary stress that you put on yourself. While we have the best intentions and truly desire to help others as caregivers, there is only so much we are able to do. The rest is out of our control. Make peace with the fact that you tried and did your best, and allow for God’s will to be done. Remind yourself that God says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), with the realization that he is present in your many vocations and duties.

Finally, be your own cheerleader. Give yourself positive affirmations. The work we do is draining. There is minimal appreciation, yet we pour our hearts and souls into it. It is OK to pat yourself on the back for a job well done. I find it helpful to keep notes from previous clients, students, or peers tacked to my walls or inside my cabinets to serve as reminders that I have made a difference in someone’s life. It helps me to get through the days that are especially tough, when I doubt why I do what I do, and when it is difficult to feel like I am enough.

Making time for self-care is not an easy feat. There will always be excuses or other things to be done, but it is important to keep in mind that you are a priority. You have to be—not only for your own benefit, but also for those you serve.

Alexis Adams, MS, is a professional counselor at the Christian Family Solutions counseling clinic in Mankato, Minn. She specializes in working with individuals who have experienced trauma, are dealing with attachment-related concerns, and who struggle with addiction. She also works with combat veterans. For more information about counseling services through Christian Family Solutions at their multiple clinic locations or via secure video, please visit ChristianFamilySolutions.org.

 

 

 

 

Serving on a Short-term Medical Mission Trip

By Kathleen Lee MS, RN, WELSNA Treasurer

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). This is a verse from a daily devotion I read as I prepared for a medical mission trip with Christians Forward – Southeast Asia (CFSA) (christiansforward.org). I thought the verse fit the situation well. The trip was not to Thailand as many of the CFSA trips are, but to Mahahual, Mexico, a first for the organization. Mahahual is the site of the Costa Maya Ministries (costamayaministries.org) and the Cruz de Cristo Lutheran Church. The church is served by Martin Valleskey, a WELS pastor. A group of three RNs, one LPN, and two non-medical individuals were part of the mission team.

According to Anne Press, executive director of CFSA, the organization provides opportunities for nurses to serve in a short-term mission and to witness and demonstrate Christian love to others during the mission trip. CFSA also has roles for non-medical individuals in both manual labor and medical trips.

On our team, Jill Holter, a Christian day school teacher from Tacoma, Wash., served as an assistant.

The team offered nurse-run clinics on five days. Two were in the “middle class” section of Mahahual (that is middle class by Mahahual standards), two were in the poorer section of Mahahual, known as Kilometer 55, and one took place about an hour away in the poor village of Xcalak. At each clinic site, there were three “nurse tables.” The table was manned by an RN, an assistant (either the LPN or a non-medical person), and an interpreter for the non-Spanish speaking nurses. Patients would approach the table and share their medical complaint or make a medical request. The RN would assess the patient and then offer education and/or over-the-counter medications. We treated complaints including headaches, GI distress, skin conditions, pain, and parasites. When a patient could not be treated with the over the counter medications, they were encouraged to see a doctor. We were able to check blood sugars, total cholesterol, HDL, and triglycerides with equipment lent to us from a local clinic. Each patient was given information about Costa Maya Ministries Bible studies and the Sunday church service.

My nursing teammates commented on serving in Mahahual. Marilyn Schwartzbauer, a critical care nurse from Bismarck, N.D., stated the team was able to provide basic health care in a moment’s time. We did not have an opportunity to follow up. As nurses, we were limited to treating minor problems and providing education. Education included teaching non-pharmacologic methods to manage the problems including stress management. Carol Laumer, an LPN from Willmer, Minn., is motivated by the thought of helping others. She wished the team could do even more for those we served. She believes that as a servant we need to avoid acting superior and must be willing to do all of the necessary tasks. Meghan Mortenson, a bilingual clinic and home health nurse from Green Bay, Wis., stated when serving others it is important to understand the patient’s perspective and then meet their individual needs. I am a retired RN from Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and the WELSNA treasurer. I view serving as doing for others the things they cannot do for themselves. It is important to keep the focus on the people and their needs.

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of Mahahual and Xcalak and to work with a wonderful team of Christian women.

 

 

 

 

Parish Nurse Corner

By Allison Nass BSN, RN, WELSNA communications coordinator

Q: Is it necessary for parish nurses to have liability insurance?

Lisa LeBlanc MSN, RN, CNL, the instructor for the Faith Community Nursing course offered by Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wis., stated, “The best resource for all parish nurses (or Faith Community Nurses) is the American Nurses Association’s Faith Community Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice book. I have the third edition of the book and having read the previous editions and this one, there is no specific information regarding liability insurance for parish nurses.” She goes on to say, to her knowledge, there is no formal recommendation by a governing body on the topic of liability insurance for the parish nurse.

We also posed this question to the insurance group who provides insurance to Lord of Love Lutheran Church in DeForest, Wis. They replied that their insurance policy covers “pastoral counseling” but does not include any medical advice given to an individual or group outside of the scope of psychological or spiritual counseling. This means that any type of medical education, counseling, or encouragement is not covered in their insurance policy. The representative recommended that the parish nurse seek to hold his or her own insurance policy.

Sue Bolha RN, the parish nurse coordinator at David’s Star, Jackson, Wis., told us that although she carries liability insurance, she does not require the nurses who help out with their program to do so. She has discussed this issue with the parish’s insurance provider and was told that it is not mandatory for each nurse to hold liability insurance as long as the nurses abide by the four general roles of parish nursing, which are health education, health counseling, volunteer coordination, and community liaison, and if the nurses provide proper documentation when needed.

So what is the answer to our question? No, it is not mandatory for a parish nurse to carry his or her own liability insurance. However, it is a topic that each parish nurse should discuss with his or her parish so that jointly, they can come to an agreement on the topic. The insurance provider for the parish should be contacted to assess if the service of the parish nurse is covered under the current parish’s insurance plan or if the provider encourages the nurse to seek his or her own liability insurance as policies can vary from one insurance provider to another. Once the parish and the nurse come to an agreement on whether liability insurance should be carried by the nurse, they can also discuss if the nurse will provide his or her own insurance policy or if the parish will cover the cost of the insurance. Once these decisions have been settled, the parish nurse can continue his or her important work with peace of mind and a clear conscious. God’s blessings on your work!

Do you have a question you would like addressed in the Parish Nurse Corner? Send your question to WELSnurses@wels.net!

 

 

 

God’s plan for deafness in our family

About six years ago, my husband and I embarked on an unforeseen journey. After having three wonderful boys, we were blessed with the most beautiful baby girl we had ever seen. But more than becoming parents with pink in our lives, we quickly learned that our daughter was born with hearing loss. She had failed her newborn hearing test and the subsequent tests at the audiologist. We were now beginning our journey into the unfamiliar land of hearing loss.

Our daughter’s first three years of life were full of appointments and therapy sessions. Between ages two and three, we learned that she was losing more of her hearing. During this time, our family was blessed with another son. He, too, failed his newborn hearing screen.

Through genetic testing we discovered that my husband and I both carry a rare recessive gene that causes progressive hearing loss. Thankfully there are no other known consequences.

By age three-and-a-half, our daughter had received cochlear implants. About six months after the surgery, we learned that her five-year-old brother also had hearing loss. Due to his late diagnosis and the lack of information about this rare gene, our oldest two hearing sons will undergo annual testing. Our two hard-of-hearing sons are being monitored closely until they qualify for cochlear implants as well.

This journey has been challenging and emotional for our family, yet educational and rewarding. At the beginning, as devastating as it was to learn that our daughter would never hear the way we do, we had a calming peace, knowing that God has a plan for her and for our family. He was in control and would be with us each step of the way.

God has worked the hearing loss for our good. He has blessed us with loving specialists who are willing to go above and beyond for our family’s success. One of these wonderful people is a sign language interpreter. She has taken on our family for the past two years and has instructed us in the language and Deaf culture. We have come to understand the importance of both in our children’s lives. We now embrace our children’s hearing loss as something that makes them special and unique.

Over this past year, I was able to connect with some Deaf education experts in our state. After numerous meetings, our daughter has been approved for an interpreter in her classroom. She is growing in both spoken English and American Sign Language. We are thrilled with the access to sound she has received, as well as the interpreter to grant her even more access to language. In the end, we want our children to be bilingual, with access to both the hearing and Deaf worlds.

Recently, we have met other Deaf families in our community. They have been eager to support us in learning the language, and are interested in attending our church. It is an exciting ministry opportunity for our family and church!

Our congregation has been supportive throughout our journey. We have received loving Christian encouragement as well as babysitting help for our frequent doctor appointments. And now our church is making steps toward having an interpreter during worship!

WELS Ministry for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has been extremely helpful. As soon as they learned of our family, they provided materials for our congregation, including brochures, books, DVDs, posters, Sunday school curriculum, etc. They are also assisting our plans to provide interpreted worship.

We have learned there are many different journeys and viewpoints in the Deaf/Hard of Hearing world. As we are creating our own journey, we have relied on the loving support of our family, friends, and church, but most important, the confidence that God is by our side. We have peace knowing that he has a special plan for each of our five children. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

To learn how the Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing can help you, go to wels.net/mdhh and csm.welsrc.net/mdhh.
Rachel Holper is raising her children in Kenai, Alaska, where her husband Ryan serves as principal of Grace Lutheran School.

 

 

 

Restricted

The light-pulsing, vibrating device on the nightstand could only mean one thing—a call for help. I was in the waning hours of a 24-hour on-call shift. “Restricted” read the caller ID, confirming my hunch. “Chaplain, we need you.”

There is nothing routine about these calls, other than talking to God on the 20-minute drive to an address now etched into my mind. Police cars are in the street. Family members are in a cramped apartment as friends and neighbors cycle in and out. Officers stand by—waiting, watching, wondering.

The Medical Examiner is at least an hour away in a neighboring community, performing the task that the ME does best. As I walk through the door, I’m already doing a chaplain’s triage. Who called for me? How can I help? What questions can I ask. . .and answer? How do I gently guide them along the pathway of decisions that they need to make in a short period of time? Do they have a faith community, and can I connect them with it? These questions and more will shape the next few hours of my interaction with these people that God has prepared for me to meet.

Few people wake up in the morning imagining that today will be the day a loved one or a friend will be called from this life. God’s jets to eternity do not run on our schedule and normally arrive without warning. So many wish for more time. One more cup of coffee and conversation before we are called home. Too often, though, that never happens.

This case is no different. There are regrets, conversations of forgiveness stuck in hearts and throats—unspoken, because a person thought there would always be more time. “Chaplain, can I talk to you privately about this?” God sometimes opens doors for us to share our comfort in Jesus. In fact, he always opens doors for us to show the love of Jesus on what may be the worst day of someone’s life up to that point. But we never know just how long or how short our time here will be. “Speak now or forever hold your peace” is a lesson repeated many times a week.

Before I know it, the Medical Examiner has come. She has finished her work. The funeral home is called and we assist when they arrive. Both the ME and those from the funeral home know that we will meet again, perhaps in only a few hours! All the more reason for us to take time to debrief and to care for our own emotional and psychological health, since one cannot serve the grieving without absorbing some of the hurt.

The streets are almost empty when I make my way back home. I thank God for helping me to serve our first responders and those who are hurting with the love of the Savior Jesus.

Little did I realize that the start of my week would lead to so much heartache: an officer down, ambushed by a gunman; anxious moments, but God’s holy angels were guarding and protecting; his backup there at just the right time, protecting and saving a life. God blessed the hands of the surgeons, doctors, nurses, and all others assisting. He answered a resounding “YES” to the many prayers. There was an outpouring of love, care, and concern for the officer and his family from relatives and friends. The community has shown an amazing amount of love also. Lives were changed in that instant. There was a defusing with the officers and a Critical Incident Debrief planned and carried out. A chaplain needs to be available to talk, to listen, to be there for support.

Fred Voss serves the saints at Shepherd of the Hills, Anchorage, Alaska, and also serves the city’s citizens and first responders as a chaplain for the fire and police departments. He covets your prayers for the first responders there and where you live.

 

 

 

A resource for your ministry to seniors

It may begin with Mom, or sometimes with Dad. “It” is the realization that more needs to be done for the seniors in our life, due to stroke, dementia, or another age-related trial.

Growing numbers of families are facing such decisions. What is to be the response of Christians individually, and the church as a whole? The physical needs of our aged members may be covered well, but what about their easy-to-overlook spiritual needs?

Family members will come to visit. The pastor or a trained layman may appear once or twice a month with Word, sacrament, and a few minutes of friendly conversation. But all those hours between can seem endless, and depression over loss of normality is common. WELS members are not immune.

Are there some spiritual options for Christian individuals, families, and the church? What about utilizing a great gospel resource that technology puts at our fingertips now? Time of Grace programming is widely available on TV, online, and in other ways. These messages are adaptable for gospel ministry to our own folks, as well as for outreach to other residents of senior care facilities.

When making personal visits to family members, why not share a familiar section of the Good News along with the usual family news? Or read a devotion. For the more technically inclined, a laptop can provide shorter “Your Time of Grace” messages, either recorded or online. Family members could do much more of this spiritual nurture, which would be more welcome than one might know.

What about the church’s responsibility for its senior members? Family members can get worn down seeking to meet a loved one’s needs, while active seniors often look to offer their time and talents in service to others.

Consider approaching the activities coordinator at your nearby care facility. They may be open to including free, non-proselytizing Christian video programs with their other weekly activities. On Sundays, or any day, a TV monitor could play Time of Grace messages for all interested residents. This usually works better where a trusting relationship has been established with the staff. But what an outreach opportunity, and what a blessing to many elderly, lonely residents. Staff members benefit too! This is currently being done at four facilities in the southwest Twin Cities area.

The ministry website is timeofgrace.org. For instructions on how to access, download, and play resources, see the brochures at tog.mywels.com.

We owe it to our seniors to serve them spiritually. Time of Grace can help our lay members play a crucial role in filling that need. Try it!

Arnold Lemke is a retired pastor in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area who stays active in both senior ministry and youth ministry.

 

 

 

Baker’s dozen at the font

Abiding Word Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas, has had a Jesus Cares program for over ten years. This ministry has been a blessing in so many ways.

Each week our Jesus Cares Sunday school gathers around God’s Word. A number of the participants have been confirmed after being instructed by members. On the first Saturday of each month, we meet for a craft and a snack, then head to the sanctuary for our Jesus Cares service. In March 2018, our regular Sunday service used parts of the Jesus Cares service to show our congregation what the ministry is like. The teachers, students, and congregation members are all encouraged as God’s Word is taught and God’s people worship together.

We have also used the program to reach out to our community. Right around the corner from our church lives a woman who has adopted eleven special needs children. As we have gotten to know our neighborhood, we met this family and invited them to attend Jesus Cares. They have come regularly for a few years. One member of that family is enrolled in our school and another in our preschool. We stayed in touch with this family and, in Spring 2018, brought up the subject of baptism. After meeting with the mother, she asked for all her children to be baptized…plus one grandchild!

That would have been twelve baptisms, but God had one more planned. We visited with some of the children beforehand, preparing them with a Bible lesson on the sacrament. The Lord blessed that time by leading one of the workers in the home to learn about baptism and she asked to be included. The number rose to thirteen!

The date was set, and on May 5 there were eight baptisms during our Saturday Jesus Cares service. After worship, a group of our members went to the house to witness five more souls being washed with water and the Word. An additional blessing was that many of our members were able to participate.

Jesus Cares has taught us to recognize the opportunities that God places before us. It has reminded us that ministry blessings are not necessarily financial or church membership numbers but souls for whom Jesus died, souls to whom we get to tell that good news. As we kept our eyes open, we saw open doors for an ESL (English as a Second Language) program and a ministry to inmates at the third-largest county jail in the United States.

All this we call “special ministry,” but it’s really just plain ministry. It is God’s people using God’s Word to carry out the mission Jesus has given us. Because Jesus cares for us, we care for others by proclaiming Jesus our Savior.

Interested in starting a Jesus Cares class in your community? Visit tlha.org/jesus-cares-ministries or call Rev. Joel Gaertner at 888-600-8542.

Matt Brown is pastor at Abiding Word, Houston, where every ministry is special, and special ministry is just plain ministry.

 

 

Chaplain Certification online courses – Spring 2019

Martin Luther College will offer three courses in Spring 2019 as part of the WELS Chaplain Certification program. These courses are not just for those who seek to be certified, but also offer useful skills and knowledge for called workers and church members to serve in specialized opportunities for ministry.

Communicating Forgiveness (THE9520) – Study what Scripture says about forgiveness and the many ways this truth can be communicated vividly and meaningfully. Core course. (3 credits)

Grief, Loss, and Trauma – Help for the Hurting (THE9533) – Understand the impact of trauma and how to bring God’s comfort to those in the grieving process. Elective. (3 credits)

The Spiritual Side of PTSD (THE9601) – Helps spiritual advisors recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and provide appropriate spiritual care. Elective. (3 credits)

The Chaplain Certification Committee offers scholarships for those who are accepted into the program and successfully complete courses. Contact Chairman Robert Dick at chaplaincert@wels.net.

For information on the certification program or any of these online courses, go to mlc-wels.edu and search for “Chaplain Certification.” Spring classes begin January 9.

 

 

 

Rallying for inclusion

Every two years thousands of teens gather for fun, fellowship, worship, and mutual encouragement at the WELS International Youth Rally. But can a teen with special needs attend and participate in this event?

Our daughter Sonja was born with cerebral palsy and has profound challenges with mobility and communication. Her younger sister Christina had attended the 2016 Youth Rally in Fort Collins, Colo., and it was a given that Christina, along with the rest of the teen group from our church in Oak Creek, Wis., would attend the 2018 event in Bowling Green, Ohio. But what about Sonja?

Having turned 18 in March, this would be Sonja’s last opportunity to attend a rally. But special accommodations would be required: she would have to be accompanied by one of her parents at all times to serve as caregiver; she would need more privacy and space than the dorm accommodations would allow; and her dietary and mobility needs would have to be addressed.

Thanks to Kris Snyder and her team that organized the 2018 event, all these issues were solved. While Christina bunked in the dorms with the rest of the group, Sonja stayed with us in a hotel directly across the street from the campus. The arena which served as the primary venue for the rally was wheelchair accessible, so Sonja could participate in every worship service and see all the keynote speakers. The Bowling Green State University cafeteria had gluten-free options which served Sonja well. When asked about favorite parts of the rally, gluten-free pizza was one of them.

Sonja particularly enjoyed the songs by the band Koiné and the address by Steve and Sarah Schroeder. Steve was a US Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot injured in a January 2017 crash. Our daughter could relate to the intense therapy regimen that Steve has undergone since his accident.

The theme of the rally was “Never Alone,” which seemed particularly fitting for Sonja. A person who deals with a disability can often feel left out and alone. Teenagers, too, are vulnerable to feelings of unimportance and worthlessness. The gospel love of our Savior was spelled out so beautifully in the lyrics of the rally song, written and performed by Koiné:

Sitting all by myself in the darkness
All I see are the dark clouds rising
Seems there’s no one around who hears me
Who understands, understands
But then I hear you say,
My name is Jesus,
I’ll help to see you through.
My name is Jesus,
And I have promised you
You will never, no never be alone,
I’ll be with you ‘til I carry you home
In the darkness, in the sunlight,
No matter where you go.

The entire rally was a wonderful reminder that we share a universal need for God’s love, and God has filled that need by sending Jesus to be our Savior.

So can a teen with special needs attend and participate in a WELS International Youth Rally? Because of Sonja’s experience we are so happy to answer that question with a resounding, “Yes!”

Margo Schmidt is a member at St. John’s, Oak Creek, Wis., where her husband Steve is also the pastor.

 

 

 

Breaking into prison (ministry, that is)

Know anybody who is eager to get into jail or prison? Meet two men who are: David Hochmuth and Darren Green. They are WELS Prison Ministry’s new administrator and chairman, respectively.

New administrator
For Dave Hochmuth (pictured: center on p. 6), life in prison ministry begins at age 60. Raised in a WELS parsonage in California, he realized that he possessed neither the gifts nor the desire to follow his father into pastoral ministry. So he studied engineering and spent 23 years in that field. Meanwhile, he served in a variety of church offices and as a Bible study leader.

Preparing to teach was God’s way of teaching the teacher, and Dave found his passion. He enrolled in the staff ministry program at Martin Luther College and was assigned in 2007 to St. Andrew, Middleton, Wis., as Minister of Spiritual Growth.

In 2011, a bombshell dropped: his brother was arrested. Over the next few years, Dave visited several prisons to encourage his sibling. As his fear of the unknown eased, he learned the ropes of the prison system, the need of inmates for consistent spiritual nurture, and the impact of incarceration on families. He volunteered with Conquerors through Christ, a WELS ministry to those addicted to pornography, and others took note of his gifts.

But he never expected the divine call to enter prison ministry full time. “If you had told me 20 years ago that I would someday be in this position,” he admitted, “I would have laughed at you.” Now he sees how God has been preparing him.

Hochmuth acknowledges the challenges ahead. “The size of the opportunities compared to the size of our human resources is sobering. But if Jesus could work with five loaves of bread and two small fish…”

His priorities include reinvigorating the publications program, recruiting more volunteers for face-to-face ministry, serving inmates after their release, and getting ex-offenders involved in kingdom work. “We need to set a clear direction, establish priorities, and then get at it,” he says.

Dave and his wife Mary have been a team since 1989, raising three children. Now they are partners in another field, since Mary has become involved in ministry at the Dane County Jail. They share a heart for those who are locked up. “We’re all sinners. Some of our sins may be more socially acceptable, but we’re all the same before God,” Hochmuth observes. “People in prison are blood-bought souls, too, and Jesus told us to reach them.”

Hochmuth will visit the WELS Prison Ministry facility in New Ulm, Minn. frequently, but unlike previous administrators, his office will be at the Center for Mission and Ministry in Waukesha, Wis. Contact him at 414-256-3243 or email prisonministry@wels.net.

New chairman
Darren Green (pictured: right), 50, has assumed duties as chairman of the Prison Ministry Committee, succeeding Leon Brands, who served faithfully for the past twelve years.

A 1994 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Green was assigned to the mission field in Russia. He has also served parishes in Nebraska, Colorado and, since 2006, St. Peter in Monticello, Minn. He married Naomi in 1992, and their marriage has been enriched by two children.

Beyond the congregation, Darren was elected as Special Ministries Coordinator, first for the Nebraska District and later for the Minnesota District. But his involvement with the incarcerated became personal when his brother was sentenced to prison. Spurred by this family crisis, and encouraged by WELS Prison Ministry, he has taught a weekly class at the St. Cloud State Prison for the past ten years.

As Green’s passion for souls behind bars has grown, he has identified other opportunities for ministry: helping families deal with the stresses of having a loved one incarcerated; ministering to ex-offenders when they are released; addressing the spiritual needs of prison staff and their families, who face their own stress.

“Jesus died for all of them,” says the veteran of soul care. “He ate with sinners and offered water to the woman at the well, who had her own ‘issues’.”

He may now be “Chairman Green,” but his heart remains in serving the lost. “I love the verse in Hebrews: ‘By only one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being sanctified’ (10:14 EHV). Then it quotes Jeremiah 31: ‘And I will not remember their sins and their lawlessness any longer.’ That beautiful gospel is the message that inmates need to hear, and our mission is to bring it to them.”

To share your thoughts with Pastor Green, call 763-295-5315 or e-mail welsne@gmail.com.

 

 

 

“Ripley’s believe it or not!” and WELS European Chaplaincy

“Believe it or not!” is a phrase that Jerry Galow utters frequently. At our last Easter retreat in Magdeburg, I asked Jerry whether he had ever attended the famous Oberammergau Passion Play. With a smile on his lips, he quickly replied, “Pastor, believe it or not, we did. While we did not get tickets ahead of time, we got them there for only fifteen marks, or about ten dollars!” In the eighteen months I have known Jerry and Marilyn, I have heard more than one of his fantastic stories. Since he always starts with “Believe it or not…”, I have given him the nickname “Ripley.”

Jerry and Marilyn first came to Germany in the late 1960’s when Jerry served a short military tour here. They returned in the early 70’s and welcomed the first WELS European chaplain, Pastor Ed Renz. Believe it or not, they have been here to welcome almost every chaplain since. Believe it or not, they remember every one. They can tell you stories about each one’s family and ministry.

Like the other WELS members living in Europe, they have their membership in the States. Almost every year, they return to visit their home church and family and friends.

Even though Jerry has lost most of his vision and is very frail, he and Marilyn faithfully worship and commune twice a month. They travel by train to Flörsheim, where we pick them up for worship at Wicker. They also attend almost every other special activity we offer in Germany. We have had 43 annual Easter retreats since the Gallows came to Europe. Believe it or not, they have attended every single one! The bottom line is that every aspect of their lives testifies to their love for the Lord, his Word, and the Wisconsin Synod.

Before I came to Germany, the previous chaplain, Joshua Martin, told me that the members here make this ministry special. There is no doubt about it. The Gallows are just one example of this. While my call is to serve as a civilian chaplain to WELS military in Europe, our fellowship includes military contractors, civilians, students, and others who are also living here. Although our ministry is centered in Germany, it stretches from London to Sicily, from France to Poland. The long distances, however, do not keep us from rejoicing in the close bond of fellowship we share in Jesus Christ with all members of the WELS.

The European Chaplaincy is supported by the prayers and gifts of WELS members here and in the States. The Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors has also been a longtime supporter of this ministry. Please remember us in your prayers and with your gifts.

Visit our website for our worship and retreat schedule at welseurope.net. If you or someone you know is headed to Europe as a student, a member of the military, etc., please fill out the Special Ministries referral form at wels.net/refer. Or send an e-mail to welschaplain@gmail.com.

Donald Stuppy and his wife Marge have served our WELS members in Europe since January 2017. They reside in Spiesheim, southwest of Frankfurt.

 

 

 

One tough Ranger

Army Rangers are tough. Physically tough. Mentally tough. Anything less, and they would not be among that elite band of brothers. But PTSD is tough, too. This is a story told by a Ranger who attended a PTSD retreat sponsored by the Lutheran Military Support Group, held May 4-6, 2018 at Camp Phillip, Wautoma, Wis.

It begins with some disclosure: I recognized that I volunteered as a Ranger, but my wife Sarah did not. And I realized that I am a chameleon that has learned to reflect my environment and adapt to what others want. I prayed that God would open my eyes more to my weaknesses and help me to focus on the one person that I can change in this world. Me.

But this weekend, for the first time in my life, it wasn’t weird for me.

He names off a horrid list of symptoms confronting him: At this retreat, I learned about the symptoms of PTS, such as: relationship problems, anxiety, fear, paranoia, withdrawing, putting up walls, hyper-vigilance, sudden bursts of anger and emotion, being easily startled, memory blocks, irritability, depression, and losing those we love because of who we project ourselves as, and the demands placed upon us in the defense of freedom.

He calls them some pretty big issues, then goes on to comment that at the retreat he had a pretty good crowd to share it with.

That was important. Sharing is not something victims of PTSD or PTS are inclined to do. But this Ranger reports: Golly, I met some pretty solid guys this weekend, and am thankful to have gone. My mom gave me great advice while I was on my way to the retreat, and that was to stay as long as possible, and get every drop of benefit from the time away that I could. She was right on and I’m glad that she encouraged me not to leave early.

He learned that he was not alone with marriage problems: Almost all of the men at the retreat had a similar path as me in regard to marriage, and struggle with it.

He came to an important realization: I have trained to protect and defend against enemies, but not loved ones from my own pride and anger.

He is thankful for those loved ones—and Martin Luther: You will never know the specialness of the memory of the package that I got to open on Christmas morning while I was deployed. What a blessing the efforts and influences of my in-laws have been to me. I truly didn’t think that Luther’s teaching would have anything to offer me, and I am glad that I was mistaken… God got my attention through Sarah.

He is also thankful for a special pastor: What you may not know is that, when I left home last year on my deployment, after being served divorce papers, I sought out what would not leave me. I sought help from four different chaplains and did not find what I needed. I went to the closest available church (WELS), and it was the beginning of a new journey that I am daily thankful to be on. Thank you, Pastor Dane from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

And finally, he shares this insight from the retreat: Fear is a liar to us all whenever it is outside of that which pushes us to keep God’s commandments.

These are the words of a tough Ranger—now fighting PTSD with tough love and tough faith. We pray for him and the many others who fight this battle.

 

 

 

Three-phase approach to fighting pornography addiction

Conquerors through Christ (CtC) is thinking about the future.

You may already know that at conquerorsthroughchrist.net you can find a video-based, five-step plan to help anyone hooked on pornography to confront this soul-corroding addiction. We call it the REJECT portion of the battle of godly sexuality against selfish sex and pornography.

But did you know that’s only one aspect of the ministry? The other two parts are RESIST and RECOVER.

RESIST means to continue to stay away from pornography. This happens in the life of the recovering addict, but it is just as important in the life of a child. To help parents lead their children toward God’s version of sex, we are developing a full “Parent Support System” for those with children ages two through twelve. Beyond that, we’re working on a Sixth Commandment Curriculum, a High School Curriculum (almost finished!), and materials to help college and seminary students become compassionate leaders in their communities.

We’ve adopted an aggressive publishing schedule for these materials. Get updates by signing up for our eNewsletter at the CtC website.
Our RECOVER ministry is in its infant stages. We’ve just started conversations about how to help whole families whose lives are torn apart by porn addiction. We’ve begun to delve into best practices for helping wives whose security has been shattered, husbands who are blindsided, and children whose futures are adversely affected by the wreckage of porn.

We’re thinking about the future, and we’d like you to join us. Head to conquerorsthroughchrist.net today to discover how you can learn from, support, and pray for this ministry.

 

 

 

Recovery Retreat in October

As substance abuse, pornography addiction, and mental health issues rise, Lutheran Recovery Ministries (facebook.com/LutheranRecoveryMinistries) has responded with Resilient Recovery groups and now a weekend retreat.

The Recovery Retreat will be held October 26-28, 2018 in Phoenix, Ariz. The theme is Finding Hope Amidst Pain and Suffering. There will be sharing meetings (both mixed and according to need), breakout groups, Law and Gospel presentation, guided prayers, songs, Sunday service, socializing, and lots to eat!

Attendance is limited to 60. The cost of $142 includes four meals and accommodations, or $72 for meals only. After July 15 costs rise by $20. E-mail resilient@crosswalkphoenix.com for a registration form.

The retreat is designed for WELS members who are: (a) in recovery from a substance abuse disorder, pornography addiction, or a mental health disorder; (b) have a loved one in recovery; or (c) struggle with any habitual sin. Attendees will also be equipped to develop and improve recovery ministries in their home churches.

Register online at lutheranrecoveryministries.com/projects.

 

 

WELS India Children’s Homes – Fall 2018 Update

This young man, Teja, is part of a new group of former students who did not complete the seminary training at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Ministries (CELM), our worker training school. Now, like the others, Teja has been given a second chance. It is exciting to have him return. You see, Teja is the first “graduate” from one of our children’s homes to attend the CELM program. He began the required pre-seminary program in 2013 and graduated in April 2016. He greatly desired to continue his education the following year at seminary, but his mother and uncles were pressuring him, “Why do you want to study for this job? You will be a poor man.” He was encouraged to fulfill any family obligations before attending classes. Teja reluctantly agreed. He acquired a job at a dental clinic, yet frequently asked, “When can I return to school?” The reply was always, “Wait and trust.”

Teja

During that time, Teja financially helped his widowed mother to “marry off” his younger sister and then assisted in costs for his sister’s first two babies. This is all part of the bride’s family responsibilities in India. As the only son with no father, much of this responsibility fell on his shoulders. Teja is 22 years old.

Now, family obligations have been fulfilled and Teja was excited to be back at CELM Seminary for the refresher course this past spring. He said last April, “I’m not concerned about money. I just want to share the joy.”

But the roadblocks continue. Just before the school year began in July, Teja emailed, “I don’t know if I should come to classes. My uncles say I have no life experiences. Many will not respect me.  I am young.” The story of Paul encouraging Timothy also encouraged Teja. Once again, he was encouraged to trust in the Lord.

Thanks to many prayers and the Lord’s guiding hand, Teja has returned for this school year AND has been blessed to keep his job at the dental clinic when not at classes. Our classes run two weeks of each month. A small subsidy is given students to assist while they study at the school. But now, with this chance to continue working during the two weeks off, it is a great blessing for him. The caregiver that brought him to the children’s home is also giving him experiences at the local place of worship. What a privilege to watch this young man mature physically and spiritually. Please continue to remember him in your prayers. We pray that he will be a blessing for many.


We love making connections

It is always exciting to connect with groups of people or individuals when back in the United States. We love sharing our experiences and stories. Just as exciting is making an exchange of greetings and sometimes small gifts with the children in the States and the children here in India.

Two groups did just that from Wisconsin. A VBS from Waukesha, Wis., and a Sunday School from Montello, Wis., sent very special greetings. The cultural exchange is fun and the connection is very appreciated. It’s special for the children to know that kids in India and kids in the States both like eating apples! The tangible greetings are also warmly welcomed with “oohs and aahs” and are very encouraging to the children and especially the caregivers.  They now can feel part of a bigger family from around the world.

View the video of Mt. Calvary’s VBS in Waukesha, WI singing Jesus Loves Me with the Indian Children’s Home.


Independence Day

August 15 is India’s Independence Day. This year the day was quite rainy, but that did not stop the celebrations. The Indian flag was raised, the Indian national anthem was sung, and the pledge was said. As CELM seminary classes were in session and nearby, those students also joined in this special celebration. We all crowded into the larger classroom and enjoyed various national songs sung by the children and heard many speeches, “I am proud to be an Indian!” Afterward, the CELM students enjoyed interacting with the children and expressed how this reminded them of their elementary school days. We pray that India is blessed with leaders who will guide this large democracy well.


Heavy Monsoons

The monsoons were heavier than usual this year. One of our children’s homes was affected. They live near canals which help provide a couple seasons of crops. Due to a poorly managed water dam and heavier rain fall, some canals overflowed, destroying rice paddies, and caused damage to the house. Fortunately, our two homes in the area were not as seriously affected but the children from one home did have to evacuate to higher ground for a few days. Cleanup has started, and WELS has provided assistance to cover these costs. We are thankful the government has also assisted in flood relief. We hope the upcoming cyclone season brings only the needed rain.


To learn more about WELS work in India and the India Children’s Homes, visit wels.net/India.

 

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Great news for Home Missions

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

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

New congregations are being supported in:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Home Mission congregations hold grand opening worship services

On Sunday, September 9, 2018, four different home mission congregations held grand opening worship services.

Huntersville Lutheran Church – Huntersville, NC

Huntersville was approved as a new mission start by the Board for Home Missions in April 2017. In May 2017, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary graduate Rev. Doug Van Sice was assigned to serve this new congregation. This entire summer Huntersville focused on outreach – hanging 10,000 door hanger bags and sending out another 5,500 mailers on top of their other evangelism efforts. God brought 62 people through their church doors at their grand opening worship service. Pastor Van Sice commented, “I think the most memorable thing for me was standing before the altar and confessing my sins with 62 other people. And, in turn, facing those same 62 people (some of whom have never heard the gospel) and announcing with gospel-certainty that their sins are forgiven. It’s truly amazing that God gives sinful men, men like me and all the other missionaries, the privilege to proclaim his “arrow-pointing-down love” to people in our community.

Living Hope Lutheran Church – Chattanooga, TN

Living Hope currently worships in a movie theater

Similar to Huntersville, Chattanooga was also approved to be the site of a new mission start in April 2017. Before Rev. Eric Melso was assigned to serve the area in May 2017, there wasn’t a WELS presence within 100 miles of the city. Pastor Melso followed the “3 P’s of Church Planting”: preparing, planning, and previewing. Living Hope held their first public service with 68 people in attendance, of which 20 were new faces from the community and 18 were returning prospects. Pastor Melso shared: “One of the best moments for me personally was seeing a family from our street walk through the doors. We’d been inviting Cody, Brooke, and their children since we started preview services at Easter. Brooke kept telling us Cody had no interest in attending church. But they showed up. After worship, Cody came up to me and said, ‘We’re in. We’ll be back next week.’ Wow. God’s Word and Spirit work.”


Good News Lutheran Church – Lehi, UT

Grand opening fellowship

Prince of Peace in Salt Lake City, UT, daughtered this mission south of the city, receiving funding from the Board for Home Missions in Spring of 2016. Mission pastor Daniel Heiderich accepted the call and arrived at Good News in early 2017. After taking a year to acclimate to the community, Pastor Heiderich and his core group began their outreach and previewed their new church with three services over the summer. At their grand opening, Good News was blessed with 64 people in worship. Many of their new visitors also stayed for fellowship and a cookout meal.

Intown Lutheran Church – Atlanta, GA

While this new mission start in the heart of the city was approved for funding in Spring of 2016, the call for a new pastor was not accepted until the middle of 2017. Pastor Lucas Bitter arrived in August 2017 and began working with this core group – preparing, planning, and previewing for their grand opening worship. 60 people attended the service, which included 18 new visitors. Pastor Bitter also reported that after church, four of their first-time visitors signed up for an upcoming Bible Basics class. Praise God for continuing to give Intown Lutheran opportunities to share Jesus with the people of Atlanta! Click here to view a video from their grand opening worship service.


Besides these four home mission congregations, Grace in the Ward, Milwaukee, Wis. and Living Savior, Hendersonville, N.C. also celebrated milestones on September 16, 2018. Grace in the Ward had over 90 souls gather together for their Grand Opening worship service, and Living Savior made the switch from Saturday evening to Sunday morning services.

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 128 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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Preventing child abuse in church

Churches should be the safest, most loving places on earth. Church leaders should be on the frontlines of protecting children. So why is child abuse so prevalent in churches? I believe there are two reasons:

Satan targets churches. The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study found that 21 percent of the population are victims of childhood sexual abuse. That’s one out of five people in your pews! The study also found that victims are much more likely to participate in behaviors like sexual promiscuity or drug or alcohol abuse. (Learn more at cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy.)

The shame and sadness lead victims to look for ways to cope. They are plagued with spiritual questions: “Was the abuse my fault? Why didn’t God come to my aid? What do I do with all my shame and anger?”

Satan knows if he can hurt a child, he might just have them for life.

Perpetrators target churches. Where would perpetrators find easy access to lots of children? In church, where there are often fewer policies and restrictions than other places. Churches are also happy to see volunteers, accepting almost anyone eager to participate in ministry.

Consider how one sex offender described his mindset:

I consider church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians…They tend to be better folks all around. And they seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people…I think they want to believe in people. And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words. (Quoted in “Ministering to Adult Sex Offenders” by Victor I. Vieth, Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Vol. 112, No. 3, p. 214)

Four steps to prevent child abuse in your church
Jesus has called us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We don’t need to be paranoid about everyone who works with children. But we will be wise, always keeping in mind the health and safety of children. So how do we prevent child abuse in our churches?

Enforce an up-to-date child protection policy. When I arrived at my church, we didn’t have such a policy. And I didn’t know where to start. So I borrowed one from another WELS church. Then our Children and Youth Committee adapted it to fit our church and ministry. Having a professional social worker on that committee added great insight.

If possible, every church should have a committee to update and enforce its child protection policy. Make use of social services professionals. Make sure your leadership, e.g. church council and elders, are familiar with the policy so that they know how to respond to a child abuse claim.

Require volunteers to read and sign the child protection policy. Having everyone aware and on-board will create a unified culture that desires to protect children and serves as a deterrent for perpetrators.

Require background checks of volunteers. There are different ways to do this. Check with your church insurance provider for options. Background checks will flag prior offenders and deter future offenders, letting them know that you take this seriously.

Require child abuse prevention training. Freedom for the Captives (freedomforcaptives.com), a WELS ministry for survivors of abuse, has released “Standing Up for Children,” a free online video training course for churches and schools. (See the following article for details.) This training, or something similar, should be required of every volunteer who works with children.

Child abuse is a difficult topic to acknowledge, especially in church. But Satan is using this sin to harm the people whom Jesus loves. We must be wise in how we minister to children. We must find ways to encourage the many survivors who are suffering in silence in our pews. We must follow the example of the Good Shepherd in protecting his sheep. His precious lambs are worth the effort.

Ben Sadler is passionate about protecting all of Jesus’ sheep. He shepherds the flock at Goodview Trinity Lutheran Church, Goodview, Minn.

 

 

“Standing Up for Children” – Online child abuse prevention training

Freedom for the Captives, a WELS ministry, announces the release of “Standing Up for Children: A Christian Response to Child Abuse and Neglect.”

The online video course is taught by Mr. Victor Vieth, national director emeritus of the National Child Protection Training Center (gundersenhealth.org/ncptc), and Dr. John Schuetze, professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and counselor with Christian Family Solutions (christianfamilysolutions.org).

Participants who watch all four videos and pass quizzes on the content will receive a certificate of completion. Veterans of similar training have called this course “excellent.”

For a conference, faculty in-service, or other group, the videos can be shown to everyone at once, then each attendee would receive the “key” to take the online quizzes.

The training is available at WELS.net University (wnu.wels.net) but must be accessed with an enrollment key. To request the enrollment key and instructions to take the course, e-mail freedom@wels.net. You must include the following information:

  • Your name and phone number
  • Name of church where you are a member
  • Whether you are a pastor, teacher, staff minister, or church member
  • Whether the training is for personal or group use (indicate which group)

Thanks to a grant from the Antioch Foundation, Mr. Vieth is available to appear in person to conduct training at select larger conferences. To request him, e-mail freedom@wels.net.

When churches and schools start conversations about abuse, it is not uncommon for Christians who have suffered abuse to seek help. Our website, freedomforcaptives.com, offers survivors a rich supply of spiritual resources and other useful information. Congregations and schools will find guidance on abuse prevention policies and other important topics.

The mission of Freedom for the Captives is “Equipping the Body of Christ to protect children and empower abuse survivors.” We hope you’ll find our resources helpful and healing.

 

 

 

Recovery Retreat coming in October

As substance abuse, pornography addiction, and mental health issues rise, Lutheran Recovery Ministries (facebook.com/LutheranRecoveryMinistries) has responded with Resilient Recovery groups and now a weekend retreat.

The Recovery Retreat will be held October 26-28, 2018 in Phoenix, Ariz. The theme is Finding Hope Amidst Pain and Suffering. There will be sharing meetings (both mixed and according to need), breakout groups, Law and Gospel presentation, guided prayers, songs, Sunday service, socializing, and lots to eat!

Attendance is limited to 60. The cost of $142 includes four meals and accommodations, or $72 for meals only. After July 15 costs rise by $20. E-mail resilient@crosswalkphoenix.com for a registration form.

The retreat is designed for WELS members who are: (a) in recovery from a substance abuse disorder, pornography addiction, or a mental health disorder; (b) have a loved one in recovery; or (c) struggle with any habitual sin. Attendees will also be equipped to develop and improve recovery ministries in their home churches.