The Charitable Gift Annuity: A Gift That Pays Income for Life

After 35 years of teaching, Arnie Nommensen began serving in a different way: as a WELS Christian giving counselor. In his role, Arnie met a WELS member who made quite an impression on him. This member had seen firsthand the blessings of charitable gift annuities (CGAs), so Arnie helped him set up multiple CGAs to leave a legacy of faith.

Motivated by this example and out of thankfulness for God’s blessings, Arnie knew that setting up CGAs to support the Lord’s work was also right for him and his wife, Carol. They knew that even after God calls them home, their CGAs will continue to support the ministries they love, like providing physical and spiritual support in Africa through WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

“You hear about things that WELS Christian Aid and Relief is doing in Africa for communities that really have a need, and that community then is also hearing the gospel from the people who are there to help them,” says Arnie. “The support that we can give through a charitable gift annuity will help provide that, and that’s something that can be carried on after we’re in heaven.”

CGAs are very popular since they provide quarterly income payments to the donor for life, in addition to significant tax benefits. When the Lord calls the donor home, the remainder will be distributed to the ministry or ministries of the donor’s choosing.

Carol appreciates how CGAs allow them to share their blessings with others: “They’ve given us the ability to use our financial gifts from the Lord to help or give back to him in a small way, because he gives us so much,” she says. “And it really gives us joy to do that.”

Run a personalized gift annuity illustration based on your age

Learn more about charitable gift annuities by contacting your local WELS Christian giving counselor at 800-827-5482 or mcg@wels.net.

Watch Arnie and Carol’s full charitable gift annuity story 

A Smart Option for Giving

If you are age 70.5 or older, you can support WELS ministries and churches through a gift directly from an individual retirement account (IRA) called a qualified charitable distribution (QCD).

Why is a QCD such a good giving option?

  • Giving directly from your IRA—rather than withdrawing these funds—won’t increase your adjusted gross income or subject your Social Security income to more taxes.
  • Such gifts can count toward all or part of your annual required minimum distribution (RMD). While IRA owners age 70.5 or older can make gifts directly to charities from their IRAs, the minimum age for taking RMDs has increased to 72.
  • QCD gifts can be especially advantageous for those who do not expect to itemize their deductions and for those whose deductions are limited.
  • You may make QCD gifts in any amount up to $100,000 per person per year or $200,000 for a couple with separate IRAs. Because of recent tax law changes, you may be able to continue to add to an IRA after age 70.5. If this is your situation, the amount of QCD gifts you can make will be reduced.*

Learn more about making QCDs from your IRA at wels.net/helpful-giving-tools or by contacting your local WELS Christian giving counselor at 800-827-5482 or mcg@wels.net.

*As a result of the SECURE Act, if an individual with earned income continues to make deductible contributions to an IRA beyond age 70.5, the individual’s maximum QCD amount will be reduced by the amount of deduction claimed for an IRA contribution.

Helpful Giving Tools

WELS Foundation provides resources to support you in your giving, such as:

Consider Being “Flexible” in Retirement

For those looking for new ways to support WELS’ mission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ while still providing for their retirement needs, they may be surprised to learn about a way they can do both: the flexible deferred charitable gift annuity.

  1. With this creative plan (which is a variation of the simple charitable gift annuity), you can meet current and future income needs. While IRS regulations limit contributions to IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and other retirement plans, there are no such limitations with this plan.
  2. You can create a plan that maximizes your current income tax deduction while retaining the flexibility of receiving payments at the time you choose.
  3. Lastly, a flexible deferred annuity provides protection should an income need arise due to an uncertain future event (such as placing a relative in an assisted living facility or helping someone with in-home care). Payments can begin if or when the need arises.

A good example

As Bill and Jane prepared for retirement, they wanted to set aside resources to supplement their retirement income, while eventually benefiting a number of WELS ministries, including their home church. With the flexible deferred charitable gift annuity, they fulfilled these objectives.

Over a period of years, Bill and Jane created several flexible deferred charitable gift annuities and can begin receiving the payments in the future.

  • They met part of their Christian giving goals, named their favorite ministries to receive the remainder of the annuities, and had large deductions to use against their current income.
  • Annually they have the choice to begin receiving the payments.
  • When the payments begin, they may decide to use their payments to support the Lord’s work and would receive additional income tax deductions for those gifts.

Charitable gift annuity illustration

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information about this creative plan or charitable gift annuities, contact a WELS Christian giving counselor at 800-827-5482 or mcg@wels.net.

Called worker mental health

Nearly 20% of adults in the U.S. were diagnosed with a mental illness in 2019, according to a recent study by Mental Health America. More than half of Americans reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health. Of these nearly 50 million people, over half went untreated. The study shows that many are uninsured and for those who have coverage, a large percentage are forced out of network for mental health care. This makes treatment harder to find and less affordable.

Depression and anxiety are often wrongly viewed as character flaws that can be cured through stronger faith. Many Christians consider the called workers to be on a higher level spiritually than themselves and not susceptible to these problems. We observe our spiritual leaders spreading God’s Word and caring for the spiritual needs of the adults and children in our churches and schools. As well intentioned, but uninformed Christians, we assume that people who exhibit this type of faith would be immune to mental illness. Numerous studies and real-life experiences have shown us that God’s dedicated servants are not exempt.

In order to better support our called workers, we need to change our own perception of mental illness and become educated on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of them. The Rev. Dr. Todd Peperkorn is an Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor who wrote a book called “I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression” in which he shares his deep struggles with anxiety and depression. His struggle began when he was a talented, energetic young pastor, devoted to his family and flock. It is shocking to hear him describe the stages of his depression that eventually caused him to completely withdraw from his ministry, family, and friends. He describes his struggles with the shame of others finding out about his diagnosis and finally the decision to take a leave from his ministry. It is heartening to hear of his treatment and ongoing recovery.

For a called worker struggling with depression, it is crucial to have the support of family, friends, another pastor, and the congregation. If your church already has a Care Committee for Called Workers, consider discussing mental health issues as a part of the annual meeting. If your congregation does not have a CCCW, concern with mental health during these stressful times provides a strong argument to form one.

Once the decision has been made to support a called worker in need, the members of the CCCW may wonder where to start. Christian Family Solutions provides confidential Lutheran counseling care and services – at no cost to the called worker.* Their mission is “Healing and helping people in need through the ministry of Jesus Christ.” Since they can only help those who seek treatment, we should make it a priority that every called worker needing such help receives it.

Kurt Holzhueter, chairman of WELS Care Committee for Called Workers


Christian Family Solutions provides mental health outpatient counseling, school-based counseling, day treatment, and intensive outpatient programs for individuals and families through its clinics in seven states, at partner schools, and through telehealth. Through its Member Assistance Program, Christian Family Solutions offers confidential counseling services for called workers in all 12 districts, WELS World Missions, and other WELS/ELS organizations, at no cost to the called worker. Visit the Christian Family Solutions website to find helpful resources or to request an appointment online: ChristianFamilySolutions.org. Or call 800-438-1772 to speak with the Christian Family Solutions intake staff about your care options

 

 

 

 

What that family wishes you knew

It’s impossible to miss us as we come into your church for the first time – three of us are walking upright while the fourth member of our family is being pushed in a wheelchair (or walking with a cane, or needing his/her hand held). And as you see us, you smile politely as you would to any other family visiting your church. But we can sense that you’re a little uncomfortable about approaching us. It’s something that we’ve sensed from other people over the years as well. You’re curious, and, as a Christian, you’re a caring person, but you don’t know what to say and you don’t want to offend.

Here are seven things we wish you knew about us.

  1. We’re just like you. You can’t imagine dealing with our situation. But neither could we, not at first. We aren’t superhuman or specially gifted or anything like that. If you wonder how you would feel if you had to deal with a family member with exceptional needs day-after-day, know that we wonder the same thing about ourselves.
  2. We aren’t going to ask for your help, even if we need it. We don’t know the level of assistance you would be willing to give us, and we don’t want to impose on you. But we very well may need some help this morning, and for us to get it you’re going to have the make the first move.
  3. We aren’t going to be offended by any questions you have. We know you’re curious. We would be very happy to tell you about ourselves, our family member’s diagnosis, and the challenges we face. In fact, we would be very appreciative if you asked.
  4. Each of us is an individual. It may be very hard for our exceptional family member to communicate with you. But they will perceive your concern about them in their own way. Please treat them the same way that you treat the rest of us, even if you don’t seem to get any response. They are God’s child just as much as the rest of us are God’s children.
  5. You don’t have to feel sorry for us. We experience many challenges, but God always keeps his promises – including his promise to bring good out of every situation for his people. As much as we appreciate being able to share information about our challenges, we also want to tell you about the special blessings God has given us.
  6. Each of us is a sinner forgiven by Jesus – just like you are. That forgiving love of Jesus has forged a bond in our family that is stronger than any disability, and it just might be that the Lord means for that bond to extend between us and you as well. That’s why we’re visiting your church this morning – we’re looking for a stronger connection with God and with his people.
  7. While sympathy and simple assistance is always appreciated, what we really long for is understanding and acceptance, rooted in the knowledge that each follower of Jesus carries unique burdens, just as he said we would.

We know that it might take effort on your part to welcome us into your midst than it would take to welcome a typical family. May the love of Christ move you to make that effort!

By Rev. Stephen Schmidt, chairmain of WELS Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry

 

 

 

Focus on the church family

Instead of saying “congregation,” I prefer the expression “church family.” When we think of a congregation, we picture from an organization with a constitution and prescribed activities. When we think of a family, we see loving relationships that can vary, like parents, siblings, and spouses. Within the church family, you’ll find relationships like shepherd/sheep, church council/member in the pew, fellow members, choir members, altar guild members, and youth group members. The expression “church family” suggests a mutual love and commitment to each other with differing relationships.

Special Ministries equips church families. Our mission is to provide resources and guidance for churches to care for their own.

Special Ministries sometimes serves an individual directly. We provide Christian audiobooks for the blind. We send seasonal Christian cards and letters to people with developmental disabilities. But the true goal of Special Ministries’ work is to foster church members’ love and compassion and a commitment to meeting the spiritual needs of every member of the church family. Pastors may use the resources we develop and guidance we provide, but our hope is that other members of the church family will be able to serve, using Special Ministries’ training and materials.

Another parallel between family and church: family members often bring home friends. People Mom works with become aunts and uncles. Classmates from school join the family on trips. These “outsiders” are drawn because the family has blessings to share. In a similar way, the church family grows to include people in the community. Just as the love between family members morphs naturally into compassion for others, so the church family grows. Special Ministries cultivates compassion ministry – why serve only one little girl with a developmental disability when the neighborhood has other children who need the same accommodation for Sunday School and worship?

Family takes care of each other. It’s a family responsibility, and when it doesn’t happen, we call it “neglect.” Can we neglect our frail senior members who need help hearing the service or accessing the building? Can we ignore the spiritual needs of the young adult with autism, or our daughter who struggles with recovery from addiction? Of course not – these are children of our Heavenly Father, brothers and sisters of Christ our Savior. We have a commitment to bring the gospel and to love each other as the Lord Himself instructed us. If you need help for a member of your church family to worship and participate in the family, contact Special Ministries!

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of the Commission on Special Ministries

 

 

 

Resistance and strength

Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor. Then you can remain strong against the devil’s evil plans. Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world. Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIrV)

When trying to build bodily strength, resistance is needed. Whether it is a world-class athlete or a struggling patient in physical therapy, physical movement must be opposed to build strength in the targeted muscles. And that resistance can be very painful. As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.”

In a similar fashion, God sometimes uses opposition to build spiritual strength in his followers. And that opposition can be painful and look overwhelming at times. Paul reminds us that our opposers are in fact overwhelming to humans on their own. In trying to share Jesus with others, none other than Satan himself and all his allies, both spiritual and physical, line up to try and stop what we are doing.

So what are we to do? Cower in fear? Give up at the first (or second or third) sign of difficulty? Not at all. In God’s typical incomprehensible fashion, he both gives and builds strength in his followers. Paul says it clearly, “Let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power.” Yet God also wants us to exercise our faith so that we “can remain strong against the devil’s evil powers.” And what enables us to do that? God’s armor. The following verses describe the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and the sword of God’s Word, among other pieces. We cannot expect to sit around and have God fight our battles for us. God makes it clear that we are part of his spiritual army that takes on hell itself.

These verses are a great encouragement as our ministry continues to face challenges and opposition. The list of facilities that require special mail handling continues to grow. This has caused significant increases in our returned mail and delays in delivering booklets and tests to inmates. Fewer institutions accept greeting cards, which historically have provided much encouragement to inmates. Some faithful chaplains who have been longtime supporters of our ministry-by-mail efforts are retiring. Another recent challenge has been booklet printing. Printers have had difficulty finding paper and, like everything else, the price has increased significantly. In addition to ministry-by-mail challenges, many institutions have been slow in opening back up to personal visitation and Bible studies led by volunteers.

We are not surprised by these growing challenges because we know the good things God’s Word does when it is sent out. Lives are changed and souls are saved for eternity. Confident of this, we redouble our efforts to find solutions or workarounds for our difficulties. You can be part of this. Join us in praying for courage, wisdom, and strength for our ministry’s leaders and volunteers. Consider a special gift to Prison Ministry to help offset the increase in our costs. Explore involvement in a visitation or mentoring ministry to touch lives personally. Instructions for these actions are presented in “Three ways to support our ministry.” Also see the mentoring article in this issue.

Mr. Dave Hochmuth, Prison Ministry administrator

 

 

New teammates and opportunities

In response to the challenge of finding facilities willing to accept our self-study Bible correspondence courses, WELS Prison Ministry has teamed up with the Lutheran Institutional Ministry Association (LIMA) for an outreach effort to every correctional facility we can identify in Minnesota (LIMA’s home) and Iowa. So far we have reached out by telephone to every Minnesota facility listed in a national database. As a result, chaplains and others have ordered over 1,000 booklets from approximately 50 facilities in Minnesota, many of which we had not dealt with previously. We are deeply grateful for the efforts of Emily Bartsch, a new temporary staff member, who has dedicated many hours to calling and recalling these facilities.

Our next step is to complete a similar effort in Iowa. In addition, we want to seek more Iowa recipients for digital devotions sent by another partner, Institutional Ministries (IM). IM has developed an effective system for distributing devotions six days per week via CorrLinks.com. This system is available to inmates in both the Wisconsin and Iowa Department of Correction facilities, among other places. Please pray for success according to God’s will.

 

 

Join others to learn: Are you mentor material?

WELS Prison Ministry recently completed our first online training session for potential mentors of returning citizens, that is, formerly incarcerated individuals. We had eight students from South Dakota, Texas, Arizona, and Iowa. The initial feedback has been very positive. Everyone who responded to our post instruction survey indicated they either agreed or strongly agreed that they would recommend the course to someone who was considering mentoring. Here’s a few comments by participants:

    • I thoroughly enjoyed the time and looked forward to Zoom each week.
    • I do feel better equipped and know that I can refer to the book for guidance as well to stay on track.
    • The time flew by! Questions seemed to be answered with lots of side bits of food for thought.

While visits to correctional facilities are still hit and miss in many areas because of COVID, there is a steady stream of inmates who are being released upon fulfillment of their sentences. This is a huge opportunity to share the love of Christ where it is really needed and a potential harvest field.

Our next online offering of our training course Mentoring a Returning Citizen is planned for late January to February 2023. Prison Ministry Committee member Tom Koepsell is scheduled to facilitate. The training course will help you evaluate whether you have the gifts and abilities to serve as a mentor and, if so, equip you to begin your service. Taking the course does not mean you are committing to serve as a mentor. You’ll find, however, that you can use the skills that are taught and practiced in many areas of your life, including parenting and interacting with people. So the time you invest will be well spent regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue this ministry.

To obtain more information about the class, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth at dave.hochmuth@wels.net or Tom Koepsell at tgkoepsell45@gmail.com.

 

Decades of service . . . after reaching retirement age

This past summer, Elisabeth Newell, one of our faithful test correctors, celebrated her 100th birthday. We’re not sure exactly when Elisabeth began her service, but we believe it was at least 20 years ago. She is so thankful to have had this avenue to exercise and share her faith. She is also thankful that God has graciously preserved her mind and physical abilities so that she could continue to serve. Just recently Elisabeth was concerned that an inmate didn’t truly understand that faith is a gift and not something he does. She contacted our administrator to make sure she provided clear feedback to the inmate on a test response that was ambiguous. Elisabeth still derives joy in serving. Another recent test packet contained 23 tests, all by the same inmate. Among all the test questions there were only one or two incorrect answers, which was a great encouragement to Elisabeth.

Join us in thanking all our test correctors and pen pals for their compassionate service as they encourage troubled souls. As we mentioned in previous issues, for the time being we have enough regular test correctors. But we still have opportunities for new pen pals. If you would like to explore being a pen pal, please inquire at our office (prisonministry@wels.net or 507-354-3130).

 

 

Three ways to support our ministry

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: for blessings on our outreach efforts to new facilities; gratefulness for our first mentor training course; for blessings on the additional planned mentor training and new mentor ministries; for continued designated gifts to fund all our ministry activities.

Serve – All our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love. To volunteer as a pen pal, please contact us at prisonministry@wels.net or 507-354-3130.
To explore jail visitation or post-release mentoring opportunities, call 414-256-3243 or send an e-mail to dave.hochmuth@wels.net.

Give – We thank our Lord and you for your helpful special offerings to Prison Ministry, which support our efforts to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration!

To provide additional gifts for Christ’s work through Prison Ministry:
WELS, Attn. Gift Processing
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI, 53188
(Make checks payable to WELS and list Prison Ministry in the memo line.)

Donate online at wels.net/donate-prison-ministry.

Give through your IRA charitable distribution, appreciated assets, or your will or estate plan. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for assistance.

Direct your Thrivent Choice dollars (if you are a Thrivent member) to WELS Prison Ministry. Contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836 for assistance. Your 2022 designation is due by March 31, 2023.

 

 

 

Ideas and resources for compassion ministry

Compassion ministry has gotten a lot of attention in the past decade. It was even the topic of the 2022 Symposium at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. What is compassion ministry?

Maybe we should start by defining what it is not. Compassion ministry is not an activity that competes with proclaiming the gospel. It is not Social Gospel, which sets an agenda of achieving transformation of society— focusing church work on achieving a better world in the here and now.

In contrast, compassion ministry flows from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again. He loves us, body and soul. The gospels frequently comment on the compassion of Jesus for sinners—for the broken, and those with disabilities and struggles. The apostles followed their Lord as they organized Christ’s followers. The gospel was the priority, and yet they had compassion for the poor and people who had disabilities. After the apostles passed on, the compassion of Jesus was such a part of his followers’ lives that even people who rejected Christianity admitted that Christian compassion was genuine.

Here’s my definition of compassion ministry: serving one another in love as we share and live the gospel. “We love, because he first loved us.” Christian love shows itself in acts of caring for others as well as devotion to God. Compassion doesn’t pass by the hurting person on the road to Jericho. We see the need and recognize what Christ would do because he cares for the hurting and the lost.

In an age when “the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12), church leaders need to intentionally cultivate Christian compassion. How can churches and their leaders nurture compassion ministry? Try Special Ministries resources as a ready-made tool for compassion ministry.

Special Ministries has resources to help congregation members care for people who are:

  • Blind or visually impaired
  • Deaf or hard of hearing
  • Intellectually or developmentally disabled
  • Inmates in jails or prisons
  • Military personnel
  • Struggling with mental health needs
  • Struggling with porn
  • Struggling with addiction
  • Survivors of abuse
  • Homebound or in care facilities
  • Caregivers

Special Ministries has resources to train your members to serve as:

  • Parish Nurses
  • Chaplains
  • Mentors
  • Advocates to protect children from abuse
  • Care Committee for Called Workers

On the WELS Special Ministries web page, you will see links to information and resources for helping others. Many of these are tied directly to being able to share the gospel despite barriers. You’ll also find encouragement to respond in love and include others in fellowship and service.

Congregations can also “prime the compassion pump” by organizing help for someone experiencing a medical or financial crisis. WELS Christian Aid and Relief can guide your members as they express their love and concern and join together to help someone who is hurting. Grant funds can also help serve someone with a disability or challenge with matching funds to get the congregation serve them.

Compassion ministry is Christian love and Christ-like service, flowing from Jesus who died that we might serve him now and eternally. Special Ministries is here to help you serve. Check out our resources, our training, and our programs!

 

 

 

 

 

Mentoring a Returning Citizen training

God has richly blessed ministry to the incarcerated as an outreach to the lost. Whether it is WELS Prison Ministry’s correspondence Bible studies, Institutional Ministries’ chaplain visitation and email devotions, or local efforts at jail ministry, the gospel has been changing hearts. In correctional facilities across this nation, the Spirit has opened the eyes of people who had no hope and showed them life in Christ, here and eternally.

What happens to these souls when they are no longer behind bars? Will they find the spiritual support they need to follow Christ in true freedom?

WELS Prison Ministry created an online mentoring course for returning citizens based on a successful mentoring model which Minnesota River Valley Mentoring Program (https://mrvmp.com/) that helps people who struggle with many different challenges. Our course videos and workbook are online and can be used at any time. But of course, the training experience is more enjoyable and effective when a facilitator leads a group through the training.

You can learn to provide guidance and encouragement to a man or woman returning to your community or church from incarceration. We call the people in this uniquely challenging category “returning citizens.” A Christian friend and a congregation can be extremely helpful to such people. They’re the key to spiritual support as well as assimilation back into the community and the church.

You’re invited to participate in a special group offering of online training, Mentoring a Returning Citizen, in the next few months. The training will help you evaluate whether you have the gifts and abilities to serve as a mentor and, if so, equip you to begin your service. There is no commitment to serve if you take the course. The skills that are taught and practiced have application in many areas including parenting and interacting with people at work. So the time you invest will be well spent regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue this ministry.

The facilitator for this course will be Prison Ministry Committee member Tom Koepsell. “Mentoring is a subject near to my heart,” says Tom. “Having worked with the incarcerated for well over a decade, I have come to appreciate the challenges they will face upon release. But more than that, I have experienced the role their Savior is playing in their lives and what Jesus means when he talks about seeking and saving the lost. When you bring Jesus to such people, you learn to love them as Jesus does. It’s a rewarding experience.”

The course will be a combination of online sessions with other participants, videos that can be viewed individually by the participants, and activities in a workbook with both individual and group exercises. You can view elements of the course at welscongregationalservices.net/mentoring-a-returning-citizen/  Details about the course can also be found there.

To register for the class or obtain more information, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth at dave.hochmuth@wels.net or Tom Koepsell at tgkoepsell45@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Conversations about solutions and coping

Joan, an elderly member of your church, is slowly losing her eyesight because of Macular Degeneration and now finds it difficult to read print. You may be aware that Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI) has audio, braille and large print Christian literature for Joan. Did you know that MVI volunteers understand Joan’s challenges and welcome the opportunity to talk to her?

MVI offers people with vision loss guidance and assistance in coping with the challenges they face. A new MVI ministry resource is a quarterly Zoom call to discuss how someone can overcome the challenges of blindness. The MVI Zoom session is open to anyone interested in learning about the resources available to live with physical blindness. We welcome people with vision loss and the blind to participate in these calls, but pastors, teachers, lay leaders, and family members are also invited and encouraged to join the conversation.

Few pastors or lay leaders are equipped to help a newly blind member or a potential member experiencing vision loss manage what may seem to be insurmountable challenges. MVI has several board members and leaders who are blind. As blind persons, they live with their physical blindness on a daily basis and have become experts on the challenges and resources for blind people.

Future MVI Zoom calls will discuss how a blind person can overcome the isolation and depression and managing daily tasks that comes with becoming blind. Another MVI call will showcase resources available to accomplish basic tasks, such as reading the Bible in an alternative format. Because the calls are not recorded lectures but real discussions, participants can ask specific questions. You can inquire about solutions tailored to your situation.

Our first quarterly MVI Zoom call will be Tues., Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. Central Time. For further information, please reach out to MVI Chairman, Larry Povinelli at welsvisimp@wels.net or (651) 291-1536.

MVI members are here to serve you. Their involvement in MVI demonstrates that losing physical sight does not mean the end of a productive life. By encouraging each other and helping one another through the challenges of vision loss, we can keep our focus on the cross as we follow Christ. Our ultimate goal is that the blind may see heaven. To God be the glory!

 

 

 

 

MDHH ministry in action

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice” (Psalm 105:1-3)

We hear these words of the psalmist and easily imagine their application: loud shouts of praise to God . . . singing beautiful hymns and anthems to God’s glory . . . sharing and telling the whole world the life-changing news of the gospel . . . talking with other Christians as we remember God’s goodness. . . .

But our praises to God are not acceptable because of our voices, or because of a beautiful hymn, or because of a rich blend of musical instruments. Our prayers and praises are the spiritual sacrifices we offer to God that are only “acceptable to God, through Christ Jesus.” (1 Peter 2:5).

Here at Bloomington Living Hope, we are reminded of that truth as our deaf and hard of hearing members and friends grow in God’s Word through worship and Bible study. With hearts and hands they “give praise to the Lord, and proclaim his name.” They “tell of his wonderful acts” as they encourage one another. Their shouts of praise echo loudly through the new hearts and lives that the Holy Spirit has created by faith.

Each week at our Living Hope location, our 10 a.m. weekly worship service always has an interpreter. Our deaf members and the community can always count on having a live church service in which to worship each Sunday. The same service is streamed and archived on our website with a “picture in picture” view. The interpreter is recorded with a separate camera, so there is always a clear view. It takes work, preparation, and many volunteer hours, but God has richly blessed our efforts!

Another blessing of God is our weekly deaf Bible study. On Tuesday nights our deaf members bring their friends together to study God’s Word. It’s a loose format. Pastor leads the study, with the interpreter close by. We sit close to one another. We pray together. Anyone can ask any question at any time. It’s a bit different from the typical Bible study, but some things are the same. We open the Word and God richly feeds us.

Over the past two years, we’ve held our weekly deaf Bible study over ZOOM. Sometimes the screen is so full of people it’s hard to pick out the interpreter – what a blessing! The technology allows the deaf community to join us from anywhere. Deaf members in Illinois, Washington, South Dakota, and Arizona are brought together by the Spirit’s power to grow in faith week after week.

Starting in fall of 2022, our deaf Bible study is expanding to twice a week. Tuesday at 6 p.m. in person and Thursday 1 p.m. via Zoom. If you would like further information about these Bible studies or to view Sunday services signed by our interpreter, please go to our website bllh.org.

Over the past years, it is incredible to recall how God Has grown our DHH ministry. God can do the same for your church too!

 

 

 

 

Images of Grace – Partnership between MLP and Bethany Lutheran College

WELS Multi-Language Productions (MLP) is partnering with the Bethany Lutheran College Fine Arts department to produce illustrations of Bible stories and Catechism lessons for use in world mission fields. Fourteen ELS/WELS artists came together alongside Rev. Dr. Terry Schultz, Artistic Development Missionary for MLP, to illustrate 54 Biblical accounts for use in Zambian Sunday Schools. Church leaders in Zambia plan to distribute these illustrations for use as inexpensive, impactful visual aids in Sunday School classes.

The “Images of Grace,” exhibition will be available from August 31-September 27 in the Ylvisaker Fine Arts Center Gallery. A special gallery reception is being held on September 1 at 7 p.m. and will include a panel discussion with Rev. Dr. Terry Schultz; Rev. Larry Schlomer, WELS World Missions Administrator; Professor Andrew Overn, Art Director; and various contributing artists. All are invited to attend.

This exhibit represents the beginning of an ongoing project and partnership between Bethany’s Art Department and Multi-Language Productions. Learn more about MLP and the resources they provide to WELS world mission fields at wels.net/mlp.

Learn more about the exhibit and gallery reception on the Bethany Lutheran College event page.

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When dreams need to change

Do you remember a time that you and your spouse eagerly awaited the arrival of a new child entering your family? If not, have your shared the excitement of a close friend or family member waiting for the birth of a child?

It can be such a wonderful time, full of hopes and dreams! The expectant parents imagine what their child will look like. They picture themselves enjoying everyday events with their child, such as family meals, trips to the zoo, and school field trips. They imagine the fun of birthdays and Christmases together. And they dream about who and what their child might someday become.

But sometimes those dreams need to change. A child may be born with a severe disability or a serious and chronic medical condition, or the child may experience an accident that changes physical or mental abilities forever. And the parents’ dreams are no longer realistic. When that happens, parents generally go through a period of grieving. Eventually, a greater acceptance occurs, and the parents change their dreams and recognize the blessing that their child still is.

This acceptance doesn’t eliminate parental doubts, however. Raising a child with extraordinary needs tends to be very overwhelming and exhausting. Even when the parents fully accept and appreciate their child, on days when those parents are especially overwhelmed and exhausted, they may tend to have doubts such as these return:

  • Why did this happen to my child? We didn’t plan for this!
  • There’s nothing special about me as a parent. I’m not a good enough parent for this situation. I don’t think I can handle this!
  • If God cares for me and my child so much, why doesn’t he fix this?
  • Other parents just don’t get it. I feel so alone!
  • I have a “forever child” whom I will need to care for as long as I live—and what will happen to my child when I die? I can’t die!

These thoughts are all natural and nothing for which parents should feel ashamed. Our Light for Parents ministry is led by parents of children with extraordinary needs who want to make sure other parents of such children receive the Christian love and support that they need.

This fall, Light for Parents will begin leading online book discussion groups, and the first book will address the types of questions listed above from a Christian perspective. Please watch the Light for Parents website and Facebook page for an announcement and sign-up information. And pray specifically for the parents you know who may be experiencing such thoughts, even if they don’t tell you about them. Pray that they will feel God’s love and care for them—including through the work of Light for Parents.

 

 

 

Finding good peer pressure

“If you have to be a follower, why don’t you follow someone good?” The mother who asked this question was frustrated because her son was always getting into trouble. He never seemed to be the instigator. His true problem was not, she realized, that her son was a follower. There are always leaders and followers. Not all followers are influenced by the troublemakers.

She had discovered an important perspective. Peer pressure can be good or bad.

What if we analyzed who should influence us? Gang recruits and people who are incarcerated may think that they only have one option: to give in to the pressure of their peers to do bad things. What if they saw another way? What if they came to see the hope that Jesus gives and followed him?

Peer Pressure is the topic of the newest Bible study in the WELS Prison Ministry self-study Bible correspondence course series. Thoroughly Biblical (over a dozen Scriptures are studied) and Christ-centered, the new course, Peer Pressure, navigates the question of who to follow. Students follow the experiences of “Pete” who is new to prison and pressured by a gang leader, along with the spiritual guidance of his Christian cellmate “John.” Pete learns the joy and peace of following Jesus, although not without suffering at the hands of those who expected him to join their sinful activities. Having suffered, Pete discovers that when he follows Christ, the Lord gives him freedom he didn’t have when he felt trapped by going along with the crowd.

Because God wants to keep us from being led astray by Satan and this world, he gives us the church, his believers who provide the best kind of peer pressure. As this new Bible study lays the foundation for resisting the pressure to sin, it quotes Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIRV), “Let us consider how we can stir up one another to love. Let us help one another to do good works. Let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us cheer each other up with words of hope. Let us do it all the more as you see the day coming when Christ will return.”

We don’t gather with other believers only to help ourselves, but to encourage others with words of hope. It’s more important than we might think. Others are looking for acceptance, hope, love, and a sense of direction. Often citizens returning to society from incarceration feel judged all over again by God’s people. Our Lord planned for the family of believers to encourage each other, not resurrect the guilt Jesus already paid for. The world is eager to pressure them to go in the wrong direction, back to old friends and habits. Our Savior put us here to provide encouragement and hope through the eternal gospel. Watch for opportunities to provide the best kind of peer pressure! Pray that this newest Prison Ministry Bible study will be a great blessing to many who are incarcerated.

Rev. Jim Behringer
Director, Commission on Special Ministries

 

 

 

WELS Missions – 2022 Impact Report

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. . .

Matthew 28:19

God is blessing the efforts of WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions in amazing ways! Your prayers and gifts are making a difference in communities across the U.S. and around the world; we are grateful for your generosity.

Here are some ways your gifts are being used to share the good news of the gospel.

HOME MISSIONS

  • Five new churches were approved in Windsor, Colo.; Wichita, Kans.; Canton, Ga.; Conroe, Tex; and Lodi, Wis. Home Missions also approved enhancements or unsubsidized mission status at seven other locations. Learn more at wels.net/newstart.
  • Campus Ministry provides over 30 campus ministries with financial support and assists hundreds of other congregations in their campus ministry outreach.
  • Plans and preparations are being made to plant 100 new home mission churches and enhance 75 existing ministries from 2023-2033. Learn more at wels.net/100in10.

WORLD MISSIONS

  • Two missionaries are beginning ministry in London this year.
  • Over 500 worldwide gospel ministers are proclaiming the Good News, and more than 90 additional men have graduated from worker training programs this year alone.
  • Building of the theological education center in Vietnam has begun.
  • Plans are being made to welcome a synod in Uganda and an international synod in Latin America into WELS fellowship at the 2023 Synod Convention.
  • Nine new missionary positions have been approved.

JOINT MISSIONS

  • The Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) is working with One Teams around the world and providing theological training to immigrants in the U.S. for service to their people groups.
  • Mission Journeys provides opportunities for volunteer trips to WELS mission fields at home and abroad.

Praise God for his mercy and grace and thank YOU for your prayers and support! There is always more work to do, and we are grateful for your continued partnership. Pray for God’s blessing on his Church. Share God’s grace and forgiveness with others you meet. Ask God to give us strength to serve others with love.

Learn more at wels.net/missions and like us on Facebook at fb.com/WELSMissions

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New seminary class begins studies in India

54 new students just began their studies in the pre-seminary program in India in July 2022. Another seven students returned to start their third year of studies in the seminary. A few additional students were unable to join or were late in arriving because of severe rains and flooding taking place in the region.

Since there is only room for about 40 students in the seminary dormitory space, the incoming students were broken into two groups. Each group will come for one week of classes each month, rather than the two weeks at a time that was scheduled previously. The students all speak Telugu and are from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Most of them are already serving independent congregations, but few have much in the way of formal theological education. They are all quite eager to learn more about Christ in the Scriptures at the seminary! In their first week, the new pre-seminary students attended classes on the life of Christ, teaching the Small Catechism, and Lutheran worship. The returning seminary students attended classes in pastoral theology, advanced law and gospel, and Christian doctrine.

Please keep these new and returning seminary students in your prayers as they grow in grace and truth found in God’s Word!

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The wind beneath a caregiver’s wings

I’ve known people who have 24/7 responsibilities for the care of a loved one. The obligations of being a caregiver (including those whose loved ones are in a facility) can make a person feel isolated, worn out, and stressed in ways that friends and family might not even suspect.

Our loving Father does not intend for caregivers to carry out their task by themselves. After all, God’s Word teaches, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NIV) You and I can be the wind beneath a caregiver’s wings.

I confess that I have often reflected silently and guiltily when I’ve seen an elderly wife or husband care for their disabled or ill spouse all by themselves. I felt bad and helpless when I see parents caring for a child with extraordinary needs and I didn’t know what to do.

You and I can be a big help and encouragement in small ways. I’ve learned to start with a thoughtful conversation with the caregiver. Before I start the conversation, I make a list of tasks the caregiver might need help with. I keep spiritual needs in mind.

Making a list helps me see little tasks that can take burdens off the caregiver, but conversation gives the caregiver a chance to be heard and understood. The list changes. Offering to mow their lawn is not a help when the caregiver looks forward to that activity. Sometimes the caregiver has needs they don’t want made public. The conversation also sets realistic expectations. I am not volunteering for everything on the list! I’m trying to understand ways that this family can be helped.

I look at the caregiver’s list and I pray about it. If I’m not good at recruiting, I talk to my spouse or my pastor to find help enlisting volunteers. Are there tasks which require special training or confidentiality? Special Ministries’ Light for Parents has resources to organize and train volunteers who are willing to help caregivers. Contact them at staff@lightforparents.com. I think of people who might want to get involved. I share tasks on the list with them. I consider whether the caregiver has financial burdens which might be met through a congregational grant from WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

Some items on the list may never get done, but the caregiver has felt the wind beneath his or her wings – the love of a church family that is willing to talk and help. It is really the Lord who lifts up that burden, but God does it with the encouragement and help of his people.

For the Christian family member or friend, caregiving may be a vocation to which the Lord calls us at some time in our life. I might have to care for my wife or she for me. That’s the thing about caregiving: many people become caregivers for a time. Since it happens to so many, let’s talk to each other and consider how we can help carry each other’s burdens.

Jim Behringer
Director, Commission on Special Ministries

 

 

 

 

Home mission milestones – Summer 2022

Home mission congregations celebrate a variety of milestones as they grow and develop into self-supporting congregations. We celebrate with them and praise God for growing his church!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Philippians 4:4


Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, Fayetteville, N.C.

On June 4, home mission congregation Beautiful Savior in Fayetteville, N.C., was finally able to hold an open house for their community after dedicating their new worship facility in August 2021. The weekend was filled with food, games, a bounce house, and worship on Sunday.

We thank God for the 80-plus individuals who attended and the opportunities for many more to be reached with the gospel through the mission work being done at Beautiful Savior.

 


The Shore Lutheran Church, Parrish, Fla.

Another home mission congregation has officially opened its doors to the community for public worship! The Shore in Parrish, Fla., held their first public worship service on June 5 at a rented golf clubhouse.

We thank the Lord for this new gospel outpost, and we pray that the Holy Spirit continues to touch hearts through the Word that they proclaim into their community!

 


Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Candelas, Colo.

On June 27, Shepherd of the Valley closed on a five acre piece of land where they will build their church building. WELS Church Extention fund provided the loan and a matching land grant totaling $610,000. We thank God for this exciting next step as Shepherd of the Valley continues to reach out into their community with the gospel.

 

 

 


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 141 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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Updates from Conquerors through Christ

Conquerors through Christ is not JUST a ministry for those addicted to pornography. For the last ten years we’ve been creating resources and recognize that the problem of porn is so much bigger than just the people who are using porn.

There are spouses, significant others, parents, siblings, teachers, and pastors who are affected. Whether it’s through broken trust and resulting pain or a desire to support and help, the problems of porn ripple into the lives of others.

That’s why CTC is continuing to add to its suite of resources to address the many other issues that attend pornography addiction.

Our “First 40 Days” devotional is an empathetic daily devotional for a person to start any time they fall into sexual temptation. It walks the reader through practical ways to build habits for 40 days that will set them up for success. This can be a great first resource to give someone you know who is struggling, but can also be a resource for you to understand their struggle.

Parents want to prepare their children to fight the sexualization of our culture. To support them, we created the “Parent Support System.” This tool guides parents, teachers, and pastors to train children from preschoolers into high school to prepare themselves to resist sexual sin.

How do you preach on pornography?!? We developed our “Training Camp” which helps pastors become better equipped to preach about pornography. Additionally, we have Bible studies to thoughtfully talk about pornography and other sexual sin.

Finally, we are excited to announce that we are in the process of developing a suite of resources to help couples (and other family members) rebuild trust after a loved one falls into pornography. This will include a triage resource for the emotions that come when a loved one feels hurt, an interactive assessment tool for identifying issues, a plan for rebuilding trust, and tools for maintaining that trust in the years to come.

Whether you’re married, single, a parent, a child, or a called worker, we want to help you pursue godly sexuality. Visit www.conquerorsthroughtchrist.net.

 

 

 

 

Blessings of Academia Cristo in Colombia

Latin America Missionary Matt Behmer made a trip to Colombia in early July 2022 to connect with Academia Cristo students in the country. Here are a few updates:

 

1) On Wednesday, July 6, Academia Cristo student Álvaro Moreno (pictured far left) and Missionary Behmer (far right) shared a law and gospel message with approximately 15 workers from the estate where Álvaro lives in Armenia, Colombia. That night, one of the workers died in his sleep. We praise God he got to hear the gospel in his final hours. On Thursday, July 7, Missionary Behmer and Álvaro made five in-person visits to potential members of Álvaro’s soon-to-be-formed Grupo Sembrador (A group that gathers regularly around God’s Word using a two-year packet of worship and Bible study materials provided by Academia Cristo).

 


2) On Saturday, July 9, Academia Cristo student Yeison Lozano from Bogotá, Colombia, conducted a two hour interview with Missionary Behmer about our ministry on his radio program. He made several pleas to his listeners to download our app and enroll in live classes. Yeison gathers an independent group in a rented space in Bogotá and shows serious potential to become a church planter.

 


3) On Sunday, July 10, they held an in-person workshop in Bogotá. There were 27 in attendance. Among the participants were Academia Cristo student Verny (pediatric physician) and his family from Costa Rica. They were in Bogotá on vacation. Lucho Herrera from Doral, Fla., was in Bogotá and served as the keynote speaker. Academia Cristo student Camilo Herrera hosted at his restaurant and led the final worship service. Missionary Behmer had the privilege of baptizing the son of an Academia Cristo student! (Pictured)

 

 

Please join us in giving thanks to God for the work of the Holy Spirit in Colombia! View more photos from Missionary Behmer’s trip in our Flickr album.

 

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Double the Pastors in Nigeria

Two of our sister synods in Nigeria doubled the number of pastors serving in their church body in one day!

Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria is based in the town of Uruk Uso, and All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria is headquartered in Ogoja. Until now, each of those synods had nine men serving in the public ministry. After five years of study during some unique circumstances, our mission partners each received nine new pastors on June 11, 2022. We praise the Lord for doubling the number of pastors who will shepherd God’s people with the truth of his Word!

For many years, WELS has sent missionaries to Nigeria four or five times per year. Those missionaries reviewed what the students had learned with their previous teachers. They also taught new material at the seminary in Uruk Uso. In addition, they provided direction and study materials for the coming months until the next teacher came. In the meantime, Nigerian Pastor Aniedi Paul Udo directed their studies.

Joyfully celebrating God’s gift of kingdom workers

Things were different with this current class of graduates. WELS provided the students with food and study materials, but we were unable to send visiting missionaries due to safety concerns. Director Udo and Missionary Dan Kroll made the best of the situation, attempting communications via the internet when it was working. Our missionaries and brothers in Nigeria learned a lot of valuable lessons after five years of training like this. Students learned about the need to be flexible and open to change during the time of transition. . . invaluable qualities for gospel ministers.

At the end of the day, we are trusting the Holy Spirit to transform these Nigerian students into faithful servants of God. And that isn’t unique. In all of our ministry partners’ worker training programs around the world, the success of building God’s kingdom depends on the Holy Spirit. We plant the seeds and wait for the crop – a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown (Matthew 13:8).

Or even double the pastors.

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NEW Long-Term Volunteer Opportunities

Jesus gave the Great Commission to the Church saying, “go and make disciples of all nations.” Christians throughout the millennia chose different ways and methods to carry out our Savior’s command. Starting in Acts, churches saw the need to send missionaries to reach people with the gospel. In WELS, members partnered together to start churches throughout the United States and to send missionaries to many parts of the globe. WELS Home Missions, seeing the great need for the gospel, continues to plant new churches in hopes of the Holy Spirit reaching more souls for God’s Kingdom.

WELS Mission Journeys, under the leadership of WELS Home Missions, is starting a pilot program to give more individuals the opportunity to share their faith through a long-term volunteer opportunity. Mission Journeys wants to place mission-oriented individuals in strategic locations to assist in forming and developing quality core groups, the building blocks in starting new home missions. A core group is the local group that does the work of meeting, praying, outreach, planning, and evangelism.

We’re looking for individuals that love Jesus and can communicate that love with other people. They’ll need patience, flexibility, and a spirit of adventure. This would be a tent ministry, where the individual would have a job outside of the ministry to support themselves. This could include remote work, a local job, or some combination. Mission Journeys, as a part of this pilot project, will work with the individual for possible financial assistance in moving or other expenses.

Current opportunities include:

  • Bentonville, Arkansas: Bentonville is the home of Walmart, a corporation investing heavily in the community to provide a higher quality of life. The economy is booming for jobs in all job markets. The core group consists of four families.
  • Idaho Falls, Idaho: Idaho Falls is located on the western side of Teton National Park. Idaho Falls is a fast-growing area and a hub for the surrounding area. The core group consists of three families.

WELS Home Missions provides each location with a proven plan on starting. Each location has a home mission counselor to assist in planning and coordinating ministry ideas. The core groups also worship with a pastor twice a month. This pilot program is designed to give an individual with a heart for missions the opportunity to work on the ground floor of a mission start.

For additional information, please contact Mission Journeys Coordinator, Shannon Bohme, at shannon.bohme@wels.net or 651-324-4218.

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Cameroon Seminary Graduates Seven

May 27, 2022, was an amazing day for our brothers and sisters in Cameroon. Amidst celebrations that reached across Africa, the Lutheran Church of Cameroon graduated seven men into the full-time work of the holy ministry.

In 2016 the LCC identified 14 men to begin ministerial training. They were men with a reasonable level of education, a Spirit-led love for the Lord, and some years of service as laymen in their congregations.

There were, of course, losses along the way. A few students left the program for valid reasons. A political crisis made it unsafe for the men to be together and caused the loss of an entire year of classroom studies. The same crisis made it impossible for WELS missionary Dan Kroll to do any face-to-face teaching in the final three years of the five-year program.

Although the devil uses such things to try to discourage us, we endure with the knowledge that the Lord is refining us as he promised through Jeremiah (9:7): “I will refine and test them.” The Holy Spirit was refining well for the gain of the Lord’s church, so that seven men were able to complete the course to prepare them for full-time ministry. The LCC’s teachers have grounded these men in God’s Word and prepared them to shepherd the Lord’s flocks in Cameroon. The Lord has strengthened each of them to face the challenges of his unique ministry.

The names of the graduates are Solomon Anim, Jean-Jacques Dooh, Nicole Epie, Ferdinand Fomenyam, Thomas Ngalame, Vincent Ngalame, and David Tembuc, They essentially double the LCC’s ministerium.

One of the LCC’s other pastors, Gervase Ngalame, is moving to the seminary campus to assist in training the next group of men for the ministry. Currently, Pastors Mathias Abumbi, Joseph Njume, Daniel Muankume, Julius Njume, Barnabbas Ngalame, and Fon George are serving as full-time congregational shepherds.

We give thanks to God for the addition of these seven men. The Lord has reminded us that he is watching over his church in Cameroon!

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Finding hope when life seems hopeless

Psalm 42 is a favorite of mine. The psalmist pours his heart out to God, looking for help because he is in a seemingly helpless situation. We feel the pangs of his heart as he asks “where can I go and meet with God? …God, my Rock, why have you forgotten me? …why are you so downcast, O my soul?” (verses 2, 9, and 11)

Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time inmate. Last week you were out, free to decide how to spend your day. This week, every moment is scheduled, every movement dictated. And yet, amid all the structure, everything is uncertain. How long will I be here? What will my sentence be? What do my loved ones think of me? And most importantly, what does God think of me?

We don’t have to be an inmate to have these thoughts, either. Life is uncertain at times for all. We may feel lonely, or that God is distant from us. Thankfully, these are only our emotions, tainted by sin, not our reality. For the believer in Jesus, our God is always near. He is not ashamed to call us his friends. He has a future planned for us, one not filled with uncertainty, but with the sure hope of everlasting life.

Not all people understand this or know how loving and understanding our God truly is. An inmate may not want to think of God as his Father because of the poor example of his human father. An inmate may not be able to trust the Bible, or the visitor who brings God’s Word, because he has never known someone who is truly trustworthy. An inmate may have a hard time believing his sins have been forgiven; it just doesn’t follow the rule of “what goes around, comes around.”

The writer of Psalm 42 invites us all, whether inside a cellblock or not, to where he found answers to his questions and the hope that truly filled the hole in his broken heart. He went to God. And our God is as near to us as our Bible. There we find, “The Lord is close to those whose hearts have been broken. He saves those whose spirits have been crushed.” (Ps 34:18) “He lifts up all those who feel helpless.” (Ps 145:14) “The Lord will watch over your life no matter where you go, both now and forever.” (Ps 121:8)

Our God is more than simply near; he is someone who acts on our behalf. “All of us are like sheep. We have wandered away from God. All of us have turned to our own way. And the Lord has placed on his servant the sins of all of us.” (Is 53:6) “Christ didn’t have any sin. But God made him become sin for us. So we can be made right with God because of what Christ has done for us.” (2 Cor 5:21)

When the psalmist writes “Put your hope in God” (verses 5 & 11), he means trust what God has done on your behalf. Reflect for a moment on all that God has done for you: God has come to a rebellious planet, has lived the perfect life we cannot live, has taken the punishment of hell that we deserved, has gone to a grave that should have been ours, and has risen to demonstrate his power over death. As we hope in this kind of God, we praise him for saving us by living for him, and no longer living for ourselves.

Often inmates do not know this kind of God. Many believe God is seeking only justice. That’s where we come in. “We are Christ’s official messengers. It is as if God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor 5:20) Our task is to show Christ to others. As God gives us opportunities to witness to others the deeds he has done for all, they learn of Christ’s love for them. As God gives us opportunities to help them with deeds of kindness and love, they see Christ’s love in action. In so doing, we bring hope to the hopeless. It is our high privilege to show Christ to others as we show them Christ working in us.

By Bob Fink, Prison Ministry Committee member

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome Bob Fink

The Prison Ministry Committee welcomes Bob Fink of Manitowoc, Wis. Joining us at the start of 2022, Bob has been involved as a volunteer in jail ministry at the Manitowoc County Jail since 2014. Bob brings the experience of both called ministry and business to the committee. He served WELS high schools in Westland, Mich., and Manitowoc from 1978 to 2008, teaching mainly chemistry, physics, math and German. In 2008 he took a position as a software engineer and Technology Specialist at Emerging Technologies of Two Rivers, Wis., retiring from there in 2019. He currently serves Grace Lutheran Church of Manitowoc as a part time retired staff minister, visiting shut-ins and teaching the adult Bible classes there.

Bob’s main responsibility will be the oversight of the production and printing of our inmate-focused Bible studies. He is also currently tasked with following up on the many chaplains who ordered our prison ministry study booklets in the past.

 

 

 

 

Are you mentor material?

Have you ever wished for the opportunity to make a meaningful difference, maybe even eternal difference, in someone’s life? Or maybe you wished you had the training to know how to truly help someone with great needs?

This August or October, you can learn about mentoring a returning citizen, providing guidance and encouragement to a man or woman returning to your community or your church from incarceration. You’re invited to participate in online training, Mentoring a Returning Citizen. The training will help you evaluate whether you have the gifts and abilities to serve as a mentor and, if so, equip you to begin your service. There is no commitment to serve if you take the course. The skills that are taught and practiced have application in many areas including parenting and interacting with people at work. So the time you invest will be well spent regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue this ministry.

The facilitator for this course will be Prison Ministry Committee member Tom Koepsell. “Mentoring is a subject near to my heart,” says Tom. “Having worked with the incarcerated for well over a decade, I have come to appreciate the challenges they will face upon release. But more than that, I have experienced the role their Savior is playing in their lives and what Jesus means when he talks about seeking and saving the lost. When you bring Jesus to such people, you learn to love them as Jesus does. It’s a rewarding experience.”

The course will be a combination of online sessions with other participants, videos that can be viewed individually by the participants, and activities in a workbook that will be a combination of individual and group exercises. You can view elements of the course at welscongregationalservices.net/mentoring-a-returning-citizen/  Details about the course can also be found there.

To register for the class or obtain more information, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth at dave.hochmuth@wels.net or Tom Koepsell at tgkoepsell45@gmail.com.