Freedom: Purchased at a High Cost, Yet Freely Given

There is a slogan written on several billboards and clothing items and often heard in editorials or on social media that says, “Freedom Isn’t Free.”  While we can agree that it takes sacrifice to obtain and preserve freedom, we can look at freedom from a different perspective. While freedom is often purchased at a high cost, it is typically freely given.

We have used the term “front-line hero” to refer to our military men and women serving in times of war and Law Enforcement and Fire Departments responding to dangerous national, state, and local emergencies. They purchased freedom with extreme sacrifice, sometimes with their very lives, and freely gave the benefit of their sacrifice to a grateful nation.

And now, during a lengthy battle with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the heroism of our nurses and other healthcare professionals who collectively worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to fight this deadly virus. During these past 18 months this group of people also sacrificed, sometimes with their very lives, and freely gave the benefit of their sacrifice to local communities and a grateful nation. In every sense, they served our nation as front-line heroes.

We are now beginning to return to normal activities, but as Christians, our work is not done because freedom from earthly troubles is not our end goal.  While we can and should continue to comfort and care for those still afflicted and affected by this current pandemic, and we can absolutely celebrate restored freedoms with others who have been restricted for so long, our message must be that God has always been in control working for our eternal benefit. He clearly tells us in Jeremiah 29:11 “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.”

That plan has been manifested and completed singlehandedly through Jesus Christ, the very first name on our list of front-line heroes. He came down from his heavenly throne, lived a perfect life for us, and sacrificed himself by enduring death on a cross in our place; all this while we were still sinners. Christ’s precious, innocent blood was indeed a high cost, and the benefit was the most important freedom of all: freedom from sin and death. The result is eternal life, which Christ gives to us freely because of his immeasurable love for us.

We are called to be a light in a sinful world. May God bless our efforts to speak for Jesus as we proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recover sight for the blind, and set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18).

Mr. Frank Penha serves as the Chairman of the WELS Health and Wellness Special Ministries Committee which oversees the WELS Nurses Association.

 

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Member Assistance Program

Our Sunday morning Bible study was discussing how our church could use strategic planning to reach more people with God’s Word. We practiced setting far-reaching goals and putting in writing the small incremental steps we could take to obtain them. My small group chose to brainstorm ways to improve our counseling services. For our far-reaching goal, one group member said, “What we really need is a full-time counselor that can meet with members!” She had a great point. While we certainly have members who would benefit from counseling services, for our small church of less than 200 members, having a full-time counselor would be a far-reaching goal financially.

The good news is that Christian Family Solutions provides churches with the ability to provide Christian counseling services through their Member Assistance Program (MAP). Churches that participate in MAP have an agreement with Christian Family Solutions (CFS) that the church will cover the cost of counseling services provided to its members. Members can either request counseling services on the CFS website or work through their pastor. Depending on the type of counseling that is needed, CFS will set up an in-person or online session with a counselor specifically trained to give counsel on the particular topic. Their services include counseling for individuals, couples, families, and substance abuse as well as career counseling, premarital counseling, and online support groups. They have clinics in a variety of states across the country, but their ability to set up a secure video counseling session means members can still receive counseling in places where there is no clinic.

How does this apply to you? As a health care professional, members of your church may feel comfortable confiding in you that they are going through a difficult time and may ask for advice. By being knowledgeable about the services provided at your church, you can help the member receive the assistance they need. You can start by encouraging members to speak to the pastor about their concerns. For someone going through a challenging time, biblical encouragement and comfort from their pastor may be beneficial. If necessary, the pastor can refer the individual to CFS. However, there may also be times where a member does not feel comfortable speaking to their pastor about a sensitive topic. In this situation, the individual may request an appointment online or by calling CFS.

Our small group sat silent for a moment after our group member’s statement. Then I spoke up and said, “We already do! Through the Member Assistance Program, our members have access to many Christian counselors for all of their counseling needs at no cost to themselves.” As we moved on in our activity, rather than brainstorming ways to financially afford a full-time counselor, we focused on making steps to raise awareness in our church about the program. What a blessing this is to churches!

Not sure if your church is part of the Member Assistance Program? Speak to your pastor. If your church is interested and would like more information, you can reach out to the MAP Coordinator Dan Nommensen by calling 800-438-1772 or by e-mailing assistance@wlcfs.org.

Allison Spaude currently works in the Medical ICU of Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., and serves as the Communications Coordinator for the WELS Nurses Association.

 

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The Link Between an Identity in Christ and a Healthier Life

As coordinator of the Health and Wellness Support program for Kingdom Workers, I am often asked, “How does your program connect people with Jesus?” The truth is that health and gospel proclamation go hand-in-hand. As a healthcare professional, understanding the link between your own physical and spiritual health will help you better care for yourself and your patients. In this post I’ll be sharing how our program in Chile connects health and identity with sharing the gospel message, and how you can do the same in your own life.

Health

The Health and Wellness Support program was created to support Chileans in the fight against obesity and diabetes. Chile’s prevalence of diabetes is among the highest in Latin America.

In 2019 the Chilean Ministry of Social and Family Development revealed that 75% of adults and 51.58% of children in Chile are obese and that 66.2% of the population is inactive. Chileans are generally aware of the risks of obesity and diabetes. They value preventive care strategies, but do not understand how to apply them to their everyday lives.

The truth is that habit-change is not easy. If it were, Chileans leaving their doctor’s office with professional advice about necessary lifestyle adaptations would immediately begin eating nutritious, balanced meals and exercise regularly.

I personally think of the various goals that I have set and not accomplished or even truly started:

  • I desire to be a runner, but my snooze button is more appealing.
  • I want to cook yummy nutritious food for breakfast, but grabbing the cereal box is easier.

Many people only focus on the outcome that they desire. They fail to make healthy changes, not because they are uneducated, but because they don’t know how to change their habits. Or they don’t have the systems, motivation, and support needed to follow through. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, acknowledges the importance of having goals and systems to accomplish behavior changes. However, he argues that true behavior change begins with identity.

Identity

One’s beliefs shape their systems and practices. James shares that your daily habits are the equivalent to votes being cast in favor of who you are and will become. The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes a natural part of yourself. Habits become lifelong when they are a part of your identity.

“True behavior change is identity change.” – James Clear

We agree with James. We believe that preventive care begins with one’s beliefs, one’s identity. When habits are a part of one’s identity, they outlast an educational workshop or a support group.

Sadly, it is all too easy to assume identities that affect us in negative ways:

  • I am not a morning person can mean There is no room for improving my sleep habits.
  • I am a hard worker can mean I have no time for lunch.
  • I am not a math person can mean I will never attempt to keep a personal budget.

Even something as beautiful as I am a mom can mean I don’t have time to be a role model of self-care and healthy living.

For this reason, every single one of Kingdom Workers’ Wellness Circles begins with an identity check: Who are we?

Gospel message

As a Christian program, this is where it gets exciting. Without Christ, a person begins the habit-change process by deciding for themselves what person they desire to be. In itself, this can be positive: I am a mom who has energy. I am a person who enjoys moving their body every day. I am a reader. 

However, we begin our sessions by going a step further—we share the identity truths that we hold in Christ. These are not identities that we desire and then cast votes for with our everyday actions. These are identities that we hold because HE gave them to us. Because of our God, we know who we are and what our true identity through Christ is.

  • We are fearfully and wonderfully made. God knit us together in our mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13-14)
  • We are known. God calls us by name. (Isaiah 43:1)
  • We are loved. God sent His one and only son to save us. (John 3:16-17)
  • We are redeemed. We were bought at a price and therefore get to honor God with our bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:20)
  • We are saved. Not by anything we have done or accomplished, but because of what Jesus did for us. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • We are forgiven. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and will forgive us. (1 John 1:8-9)
  • We are set apart. God calls us to not conform to the patterns of this world, but rather offer our bodies as living sacrifices to Him. (Romans 12:1-2)
  • We are strong. God gives us strength. (Philippians 4:13)
  • We are confident. Grace changes everything. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Building on an identity rooted in Christ

Take a few moments to think about how God made you. Focus in on all the things your body is doing for you right now: the intricate workings that happen without you thinking about it, every second of every day that keep you alive and well. Think about how you are uniquely you, and there is no one else just like you. Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works and wonderful, I know that full well.”

– Excerpt from the book, “Do…What You Can” by Amanda Paltzer used in session 1 of a Kingdom Workers Wellness Circle.

Wellness Circles are made up of small groups of people who desire to improve their health together. Every session of a Wellness Circle begins with the spiritual foundation and motivation to care for one’s body. Caring for our bodies as loved and forgiven children of God.

After beginning with a strong identity foundation, volunteers trained by Kingdom Workers then discuss the intricacies of habit change. We daily support participants as they apply what they learn to their everyday lives by addressing barriers like social pressures, culture, and personal behaviors. Our identity in Christ is the center of all that we do, including our health journeys.

The gospel message is powerful. It is life changing. And it impacts all levels of participants—those who already know Christ and those who are hearing about His undeserved love for the first time.

How the Wellness Circles have impacted me

The experience of developing the Wellness Circles has led me to realize how quickly our identities in Christ can fade from our memories. I am quick to forget that I am strong in Christ as I anxiously fight to accomplish the next to-do, forgetting that he has already won the victory. My body frustrates me more than it wows me. I see good nutrition as an annoyance rather than a blessing.

Living as a child of God allows me to see the world and my wellness journey through a Kingdom lens.

I take joy in the process of caring for my body not only because it is an incredible gift from my creator, but because it was bought at a price on the cross. Daily habits like meal preparation and eating more fruits and vegetables become moments of wonder—when we go to the garden my son squeaks gleefully, “When it’s big we eat it!” Habit-change becomes easier because it is no longer rooted in the physical changes that I hope to accomplish.

Today I want to encourage you to not only consider making positive habit changes in your life, but also to do so with a group of people who encourage you and who open God’s Word with you. Working in healthcare is hard. You’ll face burnout, difficult patients, long hours, and more. But surrounding yourself with God’s word and people who will speak his truths to you can help.

You have joined the WELS Nursing Association because you likely wanted to be part of a Christian group. If you aren’t already meeting in small groups to talk about your own physical and spiritual health, I’d encourage you to team up. Surround yourself with people who will uplift you. The blessings will go far beyond just improving your own life. It will change the way you see yourself, your habits, and your relationship with God. Many of the people in our Wellness Circle agree. Alejandro shared, “The more I am in the Word, the more I want to live and share it.” Inés reflected on her faith growth and small, but steady, health improvements. Jessica told us how, “There is no doubt that being a part of this initiative has helped me improve my wellness both physically and spiritually. I am thankful for the motivation. I am thankful for each reflection in the word of God. I felt accompanied in the process, strengthened by God.” And we have data to back up just how powerful these changes are.

Our program in Chile desires to impact the community with lasting positive health changes. But more importantly, we desire to share the hope that we have with our Chilean brothers and sisters. And we pray that your own personal connection with your health and with God will grow and flourish.

How will seeing yourself as a redeemed child of God change your life?

Elise Gross is the Chile Program Coordinator at Kingdom Workers. She grew up on the island of Antigua with missionary parents and studied social science and culture in college. After spending four years in Milwaukee working with city ministry, an opportunity to serve in Chile opened up and she and her husband jumped at the chance to serve in another country. Elise hopes that the Kingdom Workers program in Chile will continue to impact lives and change people’s hearts as they grow closer to their Savior through conversations about healthy living.

 

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Equipped to Handle an Emergency

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States. About 655,000 die each year, which breaks down into one death every 36 seconds. Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease and results in 805,000 heart attacks. That’s one heart attack every 40 seconds. These numbers are staggering.

Heart attacks can occur at home, at the gym, in public places, and yes, even at church. In response to this, many churches and schools are being equipped with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). An AED is a device that can sense the electrical current traveling through the heart and can correct some lethal rhythms by delivering an electric shock through the skin. As all health care professionals know, AEDs can truly save lives.

Our church recently decided to purchase an AED and it took some research to determine where to purchase it and what brand would suit us. We decided to reach out to a local company that offers CPR classes for their opinion. The representative knew that we wanted an easy-to-use model since many of our members are not health care professionals. For our situation, she recommended we purchase the Philips HeartStart Onsite AED. There are many different brands of AEDs and the WELS Nurses Association does not endorse or recommend any specific brand. She also knew that we do have a handful of nurses that would start CPR if they would be present so she recommended a responder pack that includes a mask to safely give breaths. The pack is in a zippered pouch that we have clipped to the AED carrying case.

We appreciated receiving her recommendations so we decided to purchase the AED from the local company. However, if your church is interested in purchasing an AED and knows what brand and supplies they would like, everything can be purchased from online sites such as Amazon or the AED Superstore as well as many others. If possible, your church could host a CPR class where members are instructed on how to respond to an emergency as well as the location of the AED and how to use it. It should be kept in a public place with clear signage that is easily accessible.

Feel free to reach out to the WELS Nurses Association with any further questions about purchasing an AED for your church at WELSnurses@wels.net.

Allison Spaude currently works in the Medical ICU of Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. and serves as the Communications Coordinator for the WELS Nurses Association.

Website Source: Heart Disease Facts. (2020, September 8). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

 

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Milestones for home mission congregations

Over the past several months, seven different home mission congregations have had milestones in their ministry such as grand openings, facility dedications, ground breakings, land dedications, and more.

Living Word Lutheran Church – Waukesha, Wis.

Living Word’s church dedication worship service on May 9, 2021

Over the past year, Living Word has been putting the finishing touches on their new facility in Waukesha. On May 9, they were able to hold the first service in their new church building. With the assistance of WELS Church Extension Fund, Living Word was able to purchase land and build a new facility. Pastor Borgwardt explained the impact that WELS CEF has had on their ministry, “They helped us with purchasing land, something Living Word would have never been able to do, without the help of WELS CEF and their matching grants.” The members are so excited for this new facility and to continue outreach in many new ways, including utilizing a coffee shop in the new building to invite their friends to church for casual conversation about God’s Word.

Living Shepherd Lutheran Church, Laramie, Wyo.

Members setting the sanctuary up for the first service in their new church building

In March 2021, Living Shepherd was able to hold their first worship service in their new facility. The opportunity to rent this building came up at the perfect time, and the congregation is looking forward to new outreach opportunities and growth with this new ministry center. Over 80 people attended the Easter worship service in their new building, about 35 more than a regular Sunday worship. From that service, three families expressed interest in taking Bible classes to prayerfully join the congregation. Living Shepherd looks forward to potentially purchasing this new building as well as doing some remodeling to carry out God’s work even further. We thank God for the growth and outreach opportunities Living Shepherd is seeing.


Redeemer Lutheran Church – Victoria, Tex.

New building dedication

Redeemer Lutheran Church has two locations, one in Edna, Tex., and their newest site in Victoria, Tex. On October 18, 2020, Redeemer Lutheran, worshiped for the first time at their newly rented facility.  Many members pitched in to help prepare their new site for worship, helping with building renovations and cosmetic updates. They pray that this new stand-alone building on a major road in town will provide additional visibility to help their outreach into the community.

Amazing Grace Lutheran Church – Beloit, Ill.

Construction progress on the church building

Amazing Grace broke ground on their new church home in April of this year. They have been making quick progress on their new building and look to start worshipping in it late this summer. Since COVID-19 hit, the 81 baptized members at Amazing Grace have been worshipping at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Beloit. Amazing Grace is looking forward to focusing on community outreach in different ways than before. Pastor Burow, in a local newspaper article, stated, “We pray and we hope our permanent location will help us not just grow in terms of membership numbers, but grow in what we are able to offer. We are looking forward to doing much more. We are able to do it thanks to the ‘long haulers’ who didn’t lose faith.” We praise God that even through these difficult times, ministries such as Amazing Grace are still being blessed in countless ways.


Good News Lutheran Church – Mt. Horeb, Wis.

The land dedication for the future church building of Good News

Good News is a growing home mission congregation that was looking for more space and flexibility. God blessed them with the opportunity to purchase 8 acres of land in Mt. Horeb with plenty of room to grow. Good News members gathered in April this year to dedicate their new land and pray for a new, permanent church facility for their ministry. This home mission is making plans to build a 9,000 square foot facility and praying that it provides an opportunity to make an even bigger impact with the gospel.


Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Richland Center, Wis.

Around Christmas in 2020, Bethlehem purchased a new full-time ministry center, an old school building. Their first service was a Christmas Eve candlelight service held in the old gymnasium. One of Bethlehem’s primary outreach events is an annual “Journey to Bethlehem” Live Nativity event, which is how they ended up with the name of their church. It was very fitting and special that Bethlehem was able to celebrate both a new church home and our Savior’s birth.


Peace Lutheran Church – Trinity, Fla.

The groundbreaking ceremony held on June 27

On June 27, 2021, members at Peace Lutheran, gathered for worship and a  groundbreaking celebration for their future church building. Peace Lutheran is currently worshipping at a banquet hall but are patiently anticipating the completion of the new building. Please keep Peace in your prayers as the building kicks off and ministry continues.

 


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 133 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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Seven new missionaries assigned

Seven pastoral graduates from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary were assigned on May 20, 2021, to serve WELS home and world mission fields:

  • Callies, Lucas – Good Shepherd, North Liberty, Iowa (Multi-site)
  • Hayes, Isaac – St. John on the Hillside, Milwaukee, Wis. (Unsubsidized)
  • Schaewe, Caleb – Shepherd of the Lakes, Linden, Mich.
  • Thomford, Hans – New Mission, Amarillo, Tex.
  • Walsh, Timothy – Grace of God, Dix Hills, N.Y. (Restart)
  • Westra, Andrew – New Mission, Waco, Tex.
  • Zondag, Mark – Asia One Team, Chiang Mai, Thailand

May God bless these men and their families as they transition to their new roles and reach out with the saving gospel message in their communities and the world! For the full assignment list, visit wisluthsem.org/about-wls/assignment-list/.


 

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Breathless

“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

Those words summarize John’s eyewitness testimony about the Messiah. He wanted every reader of his gospel to know and believe what he knew and believed about Jesus.

The apostle had just related the events of that most remarkable Sunday:

  • Hearing Mary’s breathless report that Jesus’ tomb was empty.
  • Arriving breathless at Joseph’s garden, panting beside Peter, after sprinting there to verify Mary’s account.
  • Feeling the breath of their alive-again Master as he appeared to his stunned students behind locked doors.
  • Becoming annoyed at Thomas’ breathtaking refusal to accept their ten-fold testimony that “Jesus was just here, alive and breathing!”
  • Breathing a sigh of relief one week later as Thomas touched the wounded Warrior and confessed, “My Lord and my God!

Has John’s intention–“that you may believe”—been realized in your heart? Did you enter church on Resurrection Day breathlessly eager to shout, “Christ is risen! Alleluia!” Did you breathe in the scent of lilies and thank God for the Death Destroyer? Did you feel the breath of Jesus calming your guilt-gorged heart with four glorious words: “Peace be with you”?

The apostles declared and defended the truth to their last breath. As long as you have breath, you can tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love, of his resurrection and your restoration.

Now slip in behind some other locked doors, like the Breath of Life did as the sun set on the day the Son rose. These steel doors isolate law breakers from law keepers. Yet law breakers (that’s all of us!) are not meant to be isolated from the one perfect Law Keeper.

Sit beside an incarcerated man or woman who has never known the true God, or his love for the fallen, or the true meaning of Easter. Listen to his breath pause as he reads, “Peace be with you.” Feel her breath exhale in a rush of relief, then inhale the fresh air of forgiveness. “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

WELS Prison Ministry exists to breathe new life into dead souls, so that others may know and believe what you know and believe. Will you help us?

By Pastor David Rosenbaum, Prison Ministry Committee member

 

 

Inmates’ kids need Christ’s love too

WELS Prison Ministry’s mission statement is “sharing Jesus with people impacted by incarceration.” The impact of incarceration goes well beyond the inmates. The most direct secondary impact is on their families, including their kids. Just as Christ heals our relationship with his Heavenly Father, he also heals the earthly parent-child relationships damaged by sin and bad decisions that result in incarceration.

To help inmates seek healing for themselves and their children, WELS Prison Ministry is publishing “Parenting from Prison,” our 24th Level 1 self-study Bible correspondence course for inmates. In this new study, the author encourages and equips the inmates in four areas: Separation, Decisions, Connection, and Reunion. Our first parents caused our separation from our Heavenly Father, and this sin is the root cause of all subsequent gaps in parent-child relationships. Our own bad decisions have contributed to the problem, but God decided to send his Son in grace to solve our biggest problem without our help. Since the problem of our sin and separation from God is gone, we use our connection to God’s promises to enable us to live a new life, including our connection with our kids, even when that connection is made more difficult by incarceration. Finally, while the reunion with kids and others may be looked forward to with joy, there will be challenges, too. Jesus gives us hope and strength to meet those challenges. That hope and strength comes through his Word, which reminds us that God has guaranteed a reunion of all his followers that will never end, thanks to Jesus’ sacrificial love for us. That love moves inmates to do the actions of love needed to help their kids before and after release.

At press time, this new booklet is headed to the printer for the initial run of 10,000 copies. Your generous support provides the resources to develop and publish these new booklets. Thank you for helping us expand our library of resources to help God’s lost, straying, and returning sheep.

 

 

 

 

 

Bloom where you’re planted

Roger is an inmate who has something to share with the rest of us. He grew up in a Christian home and attended a WELS school as a child. But along the way he made some horrible choices and was convicted of a violent crime. Even though this man abandoned his Lord for a while, God never abandoned his baptized child. Roger’s friends and family have reflected God’s love to Roger, along with pastors and one of his former teachers. These brothers and sisters in Christ have continued to remind him of God’s full and free forgiveness no matter what the offense.

Roger has been deeply touched by the support he has received over the years and has been moved to try and find a way to thank Jesus by serving others. He has worked to fulfill Paul’s words: [God] comforts us in all our troubles. Now we can comfort others when they are in trouble. (2 Cor. 1:4; NIrV1998) Roger’s idea was to create word puzzles from Bible verses. He began this project several years ago with the assistance of former WELS PM administrator Dave Nack. Roger’s effort over the years have generated well over 100 puzzles that WELS PM is seeking to make available to other inmates.

Please pray that this effort will successfully result in making the puzzles available to inmates, perhaps in booklet form, so they are encouraged by God’s Word in a fun way, even in difficult circumstances. We have included a sample for your encouragement and to show one of the many ways we share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration through your prayers, volunteer efforts, and financial support.

(scroll down for answers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pen pal pipeline – Spring 2021

Thanks to our pen pals who do so much to lift inmates up spiritually. To ensure their continued ability to do so, our volunteer guidelines state: “DO NOT send money, stamps, personal items, or other items of earthly value to inmates.” Because of their low-paying jobs and the cost of these items, inmates can make a convincing case that sending such items would be a big help. This may be true, but we advise our pen pals to resist the urge to help in this way. There are several reasons for this:

  • Sending such items may be against facility regulations. Doing so could jeopardize your ability to continue encouraging your inmate, not to mention WELS Prison Ministry’s ability to continue serving inmates in that facility with the gospel.
  • Some inmates will ask for items even if they don’t need them to use for trading with other inmates on the “black market” to get drugs or other contraband.
  • We want inmates to look to their pen pals for spiritual and emotional support. Getting distracted by earthly wants can dilute this support.

If your inmate requests that you send items of value, tell him or her that you can only offer prayer, spiritual support, and friendship. You may also mention that doing so would violate your agreement with WELS Prison Ministry.
In rare instances there may be situations that warrant an exception. Please seek advice from our office before sending money or other items to your pen pal.

 

 

 

 

Three ways you can support prison ministry

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: Thanksgiving for the publication of our 24th Level 1 booklet; for continued improvement in the pandemic situation so that personal visits to correctional facilities become commonplace; for blessings on the soon-to-be-released mentor training; 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 or a test corrector, 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 2021 designation is due by March 31, 2022.

 

 

 

Can you imagine?

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21, NIV)

Imagine the range of emotions and thoughts that went through Joseph’s mind. As you think about Christmas this year, put yourself in the shoes of those who were there. Consider Joseph as he saw Mary after she returned from visiting Elizabeth. She had been gone for a few months and when she came back, she was visibly pregnant. Joseph knew it was not his child! This was not right, but being an honorable man who cared for Mary, he was going to quietly divorce her. BUT then, the angel came to him in a dream explaining that this was from God.

Picture Joseph going to Mary and telling her about having an angel come to him. “Me, too!” Mary may have responded. “I was so scared, but the angel told me, ‘Do not be afraid!’” Think of her telling about Elizabeth, silent Zechariah, and John the Baptist leaping in Elizabeth’s womb! I would encourage you to read through Luke chapter 1 and 2. As you read the accounts that Luke records, consider the words of Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah. Put yourself in their shoes, visualize what the shepherds saw, heard, and witnessed. Think about the words Zechariah and Mary use in their songs. These words give such comfort: forgiveness, peace, and mercy. Zechariah sang: “to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” (Luke 1:77).

Jesus did come, as the angel told Joseph, “to save his people from their sins.” You are part of the world that Jesus came to save! You are part of the “generation to generation” (Luke 1:50) that know sin and darkness. Jesus came to give you light, forgiveness, and peace! In Jesus, the words of the angel mean just as much to us, “Do not be afraid!”

Mary and Joseph were human beings just like you and me. They witnessed God fulfilling his promises, all the miracles and amazing wonders. Jesus was true God, coming down to save his people to give them the knowledge of salvation! This HIS-story is your story of salvation so that one day you too will witness with your eyes Jesus in heaven with all the angels. He gives us his Word! The angel even told Mary, “For nothing will be impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37 EHV). The Lord goes with you, just as he did with Mary and Joseph! Do not be afraid, rather rejoice – your Savior has come, my friend!

This salvation story fills us with peace and gives us a voice to share. God used the angels to proclaim this message of peace then but has called us to proclaim his message now. God help us share this message with all that are imprisoned by their sins and guilt. Jesus has come to save people from their sins. We have this message that truly does the impossible and opens hearts and eyes to know and see Jesus. What a gift! A gift that keeps on giving!

Have a blessed Christmas, and know your new year is in Jesus’ hands.

Pastor Darren Green, chairman, WELS Prison Ministry Committee

 

 

 

Rejoice with those who rejoice

Since we last checked in with you, God continues to bless our COVID-19 outreach. In the four months since we invited 2000 facilities to join our ministry-by-mail Bible studies, we have received orders for over 50,000 Bible study booklets. To give you some perspective, in recent years we have distributed about 40,000 booklets per year. Our total for 2020 is estimated to be twice that.

Both chaplains and inmates alike have expressed great thanks for these self-studies that have helped take the place of visitation and in-person Bible studies that are currently on hold because of the pandemic. Here are some sample comments they have shared.

I’ve struggled with forgiving myself of my sins and this really helped me realize that God has forgiven me and has separated my sins from me “as far as the East is from the West.” That’s so awesome!! Also, thank you so much for the cards signed by the kids. They really touch my heart and make me very happy! God bless you all!. – Charles

Like all of your previous courses, I enjoyed this one as well. I’ve learned a lot about who I really am now. I am an adopted child of God. That makes me special and makes me relevant. I never thought I mattered before, but now I know that I am one of his dear children and he loves me. Thank you for your course. – Antonio

I just wanted to send you a note of thanks regarding the receipt of the Bible studies for prisoners. I reviewed them and found them to be something we definitely will be using and distributing to the inmates. I did a “test run” today when I visited the dorms and in just one dorm, half of the stock was given out! So, WELS should be anticipating some completed studies soon. I am sending in another order as we have 13 dorms. Our institution has been on lockdown since April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The men can’t leave the dorm, no programs are taking place, etc. They are in need of new material and your material has been an answer to prayer. Thanks again and continued blessings on your ministry! – Chaplain

Thank you for your generous offer to help the prisoners here at WCC. We are grateful for your material that gives the word of God to men who suffer from not having it available to recall from their heart. You help put it into effect! – Chaplain

What an opportunity we have been given. Our materials are now available to thousands of inmates who did not have access previously. Not only that, but we have God’s promise that “The words I speak are like that. They will not return to me without producing results. They will accomplish what I want them to. They will do exactly what I sent them to do.” (Isaiah 55:11 NIrV) God’s Word is going into places we can’t go and is accomplishing the results he wants. What joy we have by being part of this effort.

 

 

 

 

A closer look at mentoring

Editor’s note: Jesse Zart, a member of the Minnesota River Valley Mentoring Program, gives us an update on their activities. He gives us a great look at ways Jesus is working despite COVID-19. WELS Prison Ministry teams with this mentoring program and desires to foster similar programs in other communities. Jesse makes clear that mentoring has a wider application than just released inmates.

Although the current pandemic has limited the ability of WELS Prison Ministries and others to have in-person inmate visits, God’s work is still very much in action through the efforts of the Minnesota River Valley Mentoring Program (MRVMP), New Ulm, Minn.

The MRVMP and WELS Prison Ministries collaborate frequently because we have similar missions—we both share Jesus with those in need. For instance, WELS Prison Ministry is about to release an online video training course called, “Mentoring Returning Citizens.” The MRVMP provided insight, experience, and consultation for the materials and subject matter for this project. The result will provide churches and individuals basic training that prepares them to effectively mentor those in need. Although this training is titled “Mentoring Returning Citizens” (that is, inmates released from prison or jail), it is also valuable for mentoring anyone in need.

We have shown that one doesn’t need to be an expert to be an effective mentor who shares Jesus’ love. Whether former inmates or not, many mentees (the persons we serve) struggle with basic life skills like budgeting, meal planning, and searching for jobs. Others suffer from addictions like alcohol, drugs, pornography[a], and more. Others still have anger management or anxiety issues that create relationship and employment difficulties. We are not trained psychologists, therapists, or counselors. We are self-professed learners who admit we don’t have all the answers. Yet as average, caring Christian human beings we see God blessing our efforts.

We partner with a few groups to best help those in need and refer to professional resources when necessary. One partner is a local Survivor’s Group that has volunteers trained to be a primary safe point of contact for survivors of domestic abuse. They also lead group sessions that create mutual support opportunities. We have found this partnership to be mutually beneficial as some volunteers are suitably trained to assist in either of our respective programs. Our programs also act as feeders for each other.

Another partner is Resilient Recovery, a Christ-based version of Alcoholics Anonymous that specializes in group sessions for many addictions, not just alcohol. Their program enables individuals to meet in group sessions that have their own unique benefits. This allows MRVMP to focus on the individual mentoring. Once again, our respective programs can also act as feeders for each other.

There are many opportunities to serve, and God’s work is still very active. The “cloud” of not getting to have in-person meetings has the “silver lining” of time to build out and develop other programs that will help even more people going forward. God bless your efforts to share Jesus with others, whether it’s being a mentor, communicating with inmates as a pen pal or test corrector, or supporting the work these volunteers do.

[a] Ref. Conquerors through Christ serves those who are suffering from the affects of pornography.

 

Corrector’s corner

Our test correctors have a very important role in our ministry. Their encouragement is a key factor in motivating inmates to continue in the program and thereby be blessed by God’s Word. We ask that our correctors “include lots of gospel, encouraging words, and positive comments on each test (at least 2-3 sentences).” Many inmates have not spent time in an environment where God’s Word was considered valuable or useful. Their biblical knowledge may be limited or clouded by mistaken ideas from previous religious experiences. As a result, some test questions are answered incorrectly. While we do want inmates to know the truth by indicating the correct answer, we understand that growth in faith is a time-consuming process. The gospel-affirming, encouraging comments let the inmates know that we care about their growth in knowledge and trust in Jesus, even when that knowledge is incomplete or not yet in keeping with Scripture. For some inmates, the care and concern our volunteers express is the only positive feedback or expressions of worth they receive. They learn that Jesus loves them not only in God’s Word, but through the actions of their brothers and sisters in Christ. We pray that the gospel encouragement motivates them to want to grow more.

 

 

 

 

Three ways to support prison ministry

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: Thanksgiving for the significant response to our COVID-19 outreach and a petition that more facilities respond; ask that God send many generous donors of small and large gifts to allow us to print many books to keep up with the demand; ask, according to God’s will, that the pandemic may ease and that inmates might again receive in-person visits.

Serve – All our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love. To volunteer as a pen pal or a test corrector, 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/prison-ministry-donation.

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 2020 designation is due by March 31, 2021.

 

 

 

Guaranteed to Decrease Stress and Anxiety

According to an article by Psychology Today, nearly 70 million Americans are dealing with stress and anxiety. Are you one of them? Do you feel uneasy going to public places like the grocery store, Target, even church? Are you worried about your job performance, the behavior of your children, or problems in your relationships? You are not alone.

The article continues with these five tips to “squash the uncomfortable consequences of stress and anxiety.” First, acknowledge that you are feeling stressed, identify the anxiety you feel, and remember that whatever is causing you to feel this way will eventually end. Second, learn self-soothing techniques such as deep breathing and positive self-talk. Third, eat healthy foods and limit or avoid stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol. Fourth, exercise. And last but not least, get plenty of sleep.

These tips are great advice and will no doubt help to decrease anxiety and stress in your life. But as Christians, we know that the main source of comfort in our lives does not come from the actions we take ourselves. Rather, our main hope of everlasting confidence is given to us from God. Jesus has already lived the perfect life and died the perfect death for all of us, giving us proof that he truly cares about our every need. Yes, Jesus even cares about the crushing anxiety you are feeling and he invites you to turn to the only source of true comfort, the Word of God.

With this in mind, let’s look again at those five tips for decreasing anxiety in our lives.

Remember that our struggles are only temporary. In John 14, Jesus tells us “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am… Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” We can live each day looking forward to everlasting peace in heaven.

Practice positive self-talk with this theme: though Jesus, God sees me as perfect and worthy. In catechism class you memorized this about Jesus: “He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death , and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death. All this he did that I should be his own.” Your worth and value is not found in your behavior or appearance, your work ethic, or how organized your closets are. Your worth and value comes from the fact that you are a redeemed child of God.

Feed on the blessings that surround you and avoid worldly stimulants that turn your focus away from God. Turn off your news channel of choice, mute your social media accounts, and promise yourself you will not look at your work e-mails tonight. Heat up a warm soothing beverage of your choice, and open your Bible to the Psalms where we read over and over that though we have troubles in our lives, God is our light and our salvation (Psalm 27), our sins have been forgiven (Psalm 32), we have nothing to fear (Psalm 46), neither a plague that destroys (Psalm 91), nor walking in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23), for God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46).

Use difficult exercises to grow closer to God. God uses challenges in our lives to bring us closer to him. Remember when Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus? The Bible tells us in Matthew 14 that “when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” If you are surrounded by wind and waves in your life, call out to God. Trust that as he did with Peter, Jesus will immediately reach out his hand to you and pull you closer to himself.

Finally, climb into bed early and quiet your mind with this prayer from page 139 in the Christian Worship hymnal: O God our Father, by your mercy and might, the world turns safely into darkness and returns again to light. We place into your hands our unfinished tasks, our unsolved problems, and our unfulfilled hopes, knowing that only what you bless will prosper. To your great love and protection, we commit each other and all those we love, knowing that you alone are our sure defender. Amen.

As the pandemic surges, as hospitals fill up, as political divisiveness and social unrest continues, as relationships are strained, as depression sits on your shoulders, turn your heart to God. God loves you. God cares about you. You have been redeemed. Your struggles will end. You will spend eternity in heaven. This is all most certainly true.

Allison Spaude currently works in the Medical ICU of Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. and serves as the communications coordinator for the WELS Nurses Association.

Website Source: Long, J. (2013, August 25). 5 Quick Tips to Reduce Anxiety and Stop Stress. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/finding-cloud9/201308/5-quick-tips-reduce-stress-and-stop-anxiety

 

 

 

The Gift of Blood

We are well aware of the importance of blood in regard to our salvation. Were it not for Jesus shedding his, we would all be lost. But he did give his blood, and by doing so, he gave us spiritual and eternal life. We can never repay him for this gift, and we certainly can’t duplicate it. At least, not fully. But we can give the gift of our own blood. And while our blood won’t provide eternal life for anyone, it can give a new lease on physical life for some who need it.

St. Paul Lutheran Church in Tacoma, Wash., decided it wanted to make a positive difference for some of the people in our community. The challenge was to find some niche that would truly make a difference, that could be carried out with limited resources (financial and otherwise), and that might bring some of our neighbors onto our campus. The solution? A Red Cross blood drive in the fellowship area of our church!

What did it take to make it happen? One dedicated coordinator to communicate with the Red Cross on the date and details, a small committee of two others (one of whom happened to be a nurse) to handle incidental details (like recruiting cookies, making signs and etc.), a few key people in our congregation to promote it (e.g. church website, Facebook page, congregational e-mails, and church sign), and a few volunteers to remove tables and chairs in advance of the drive. And, of course, your congregation needs sufficient space for the Red Cross to set up their gear. (A Red Cross rep will visit your facility in advance to confirm that it will work.)

Other than that, the Red Cross does the heavy lifting. But it’s what they do, so they have the process well refined. Upon approval of the facility, your site, date and time will be posted on the Red Cross website where anyone can sign up to donate. People can look for the drives nearest them by entering their zip code. Whenever anyone enters a zip code close to your church or school, your drive will be listed as a nearby option! Then on the day of the drive, Red Cross will set up their equipment, handle the donor registrations and blood donations, monitor the donors, and after it’s over, remove their equipment and leave.

The goal of the Red Cross is to get 25-35 donors, with a cap at 40. The first time St. Paul’s hosted a blood drive, we had 40 registered donors, with about 30 of them from outside our congregation! There are always some “no shows,” but we had members on standby to fill those gaps. We ended up with 38 donations. Red Cross was thrilled, and so were we. We had just done something significant for our community, and it was so easy to do! And we had heightened the community awareness of our congregation, brought 30 neighbors into our church, and given St. Paul gifts and social media resource information to all of them.

We have our next drive scheduled already and expect this will be a regular activity for our congregation going forward. Perhaps it might be an activity that works well for your church too?

Pastor David Birsching currently serves the members of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Tacoma, Washington.

 

 

 

Standing Up for Children

As Christians, we place our faith and trust in God. And as the Church we feel connected to fellow Christians because of our shared faith. We naturally want to extend that faith and trust those around us, especially if they are fellow Christians.

However, sin is a very real and present danger. Although we warn children about stranger danger, strangers are rarely the molesters of children. In fact, studies indicate that a child knows his/her offender in 90 percent of abuse cases. Many times, the offender is someone who was trusted, someone others thought would be “good with kids.”

What does this have to do with nursing? Here are some words I found from a top 10 list of necessary qualities for a nurse: caring, empathetic, organized, emotionally stable, adaptable, and having endurance. These traits, in conjunction with your training, prepare you to help your church become and stay a safe place for children.

As a nurse you’ve likely received training about child abuse throughout your career. You’ve learned the physical and emotional signs that may indicate abuse. You’ve perhaps seen how abuse affects your patients, whether as a child or as an adult who must deal with difficult childhood experiences. You know how to respond to child abuse. As a mandated reporter, you’ve most likely had to report it.

Our Lutheran churches and schools do not always have the same amount of education you have. In fact, if a pastor or teacher graduated 15 or more years ago, they most likely did not even discuss child abuse in college, much less talk about the need to report it.

You are in a unique position to advocate for more education for those who interact with children! This does not mean you would have to provide the training yourself. You can offer resources to the church to do the training. WELS has an excellent free online training program for people who interact with children.

Your knowledge can also be helpful to your church as it creates and reviews policies surrounding the care of children. Policies need to include the process a volunteer must follow in order to work with children, safe environmental standards, how to respond to allegations of abuse, and training requirements. Ask your church if it has a childcare policy you can review.

If it does not have a policy, ask if you can be on a committee to explore this. You do not have to be an expert to help form policy; many examples and information about best practices are available on the internet. For example, the Centers for Disease Control has an online manual to assist with creating policies and procedures.

As a nurse you bring a unique skill set and knowledge base to your church. By simply sharing what you know with family and friends you can engage their help in fighting child abuse. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful steward of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10.

Michelle Markgraf is the Director of Family Support Services at Kingdom Workers and an advisory board member to Freedom for the Captives.

 

 

 

 

“Direct my footsteps according to your Word” Psalm 119:133

Parish nurses can serve their congregations in a variety of ways. Each congregation is different, and each nurse brings different skills with him or her. My area of practice was in a hospice unit and so bereavement follow-up seemed a good place to start. I keep in regular contact with those who experience a loss.

Tragically, one of our families lost a cherished son to a motorcycle accident. Both Pastor and I kept in touch with the family with comfort from God’s Word. As time went on, Mom felt she needed more help and asked about a support group. So Pastor Loescher contacted John D. Schuetze, LPC, DMI, BC-TMH with Christian Family Solutions and it was decided that he would facilitate our first group. Both Pastor and I attended the eight weekly hour-long sessions, with the thought that I would facilitate in the future.

Professor Schuetze opened with a prayer and Scripture reading relating to God’s love and care for us. He established guidelines for the group: we are there to listen, care and support, we will listen to those who are speaking and not dominate the discussion, no one is compelled to speak, tears are a normal expression of grief, we may also enjoy times of joy and laughter, each individual may be in a different place in their grief journey, what is shared in the group will stay in the group, and we will begin and end on time.

Each session allowed time for learning about a different aspect of grief in general and also time for each to share something about their own journey. In our second session we bring a picture of our loved one for “show and tell.”

We have offered the grief support group a total of four times now with me facilitating the last three. Pastor and I keep in touch and I know I can go to him with any concerns. I have used two different resources for my opening devotion and/or closing prayer. Both are excellent!

  • “Grief Doesn’t Have the Last Word – The promise of blessing in seasons of sorrow.” by Pastor Kurt Ebert. I assign reading and we discuss. Available through Time of Grace.
  • “Purposeful Grieving – Embracing God’s Plan in the Midst of Loss” by Stacy E. Hoehl, Ph.D. An eight-week daily devotional that the group uses at home. Available through NPH.

We send information to nearby WELS congregations when promoting another group and some have joined us. Participants express appreciation for the opportunity with 6 – 10 in each group. I have noticed that members continue to care for each other as time goes on. We offer the group about once a year, depending on the need.

For more information about how to start a grief support group at your church, you can contact me at parishnurse@davidsstar.org

Sue Bolha is a parish nurse at David’s Star Lutheran Church in Jackson, Wisconsin.

 

 

 

 

Update – Hmong outreach in Vietnam

But God’s word is not chained.

2 Timothy 2:9b

Since 2014, WELS Pastor Bounkeo Lor has made regular trips to Vietnam to train the leaders of the Hmong Fellowship Church. God blessed that work, and WELS adopted the ministry in 2015.  The true grace and peace of Jesus proclaimed to the Hmong leaders had a profound positive effect. They wanted more of our training. The government of Vietnam recognized the value of our training and gave us permission to build a training center in Hanoi. Learn more at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.

The gospel training would have continued and the building construction would have progressed in 2020, but COVID-19 ground everything to a halt. Since early 2020, we have not made a single training visit to Vietnam and the building project could not move forward.

Because of these obstacles, the WELS Vietnam planning group explored the possibility of using online training for the Hmong Fellowship Church leaders. If we could not visit Vietnam in person, we could visit Vietnam on Zoom. The Vietnam planning group has decided to provide the technology and access to make this happen for the 60 leaders who are eager to continue their studies.

Soon all Hmong Fellowship Church leaders will be provided phones and internet connection to allow them to participate in online training classes. The men will remain at home or travel to nearby places with adequate internet. They will continue a planned course on law and gospel, and they will also participate in a study of the gospel of Mark to share with rural congregations. The free course of the gospel continues because God’s Word is not chained.

Written by Rev. Joel Nitz, Hmong Asia missionary


 

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2020 is a great year

What? How can you say that? Virus fears. Civil unrest. Violence. Economic uncertainty. Lost celebrations. And the list goes on. But what if we view this year through the eyes of faith? Consider Old Testament Joseph. After being sold into slavery by his older brothers and later spending years in prison on a false charge, he could still forgive his brothers because he saw that “You [his brothers] intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20, NIV84. Note how Joseph praises God not for the good that came to him personally, though surely Joseph was thankful for that, but for the good that came to others through his suffering.

Can we adopt that same attitude? With the Spirit’s help, absolutely. In Philippians 2, the apostle Paul encourages us to have the same attitude as Jesus, whose suffering accomplished the greatest good of all, the rescue of the world from guilt for an eternity of untainted joy. And as Paul encouraged the Roman Christians, so he encourages us: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28, NIV84 Note that the good God is working for in “all things,” even bad things, may be someone else’s good, not ours. Our patient, even cheerful endurance of painful trials may give us an opportunity to give a reason for the hope that we have. God can use that testimony to lead others to place their trust in Jesus.

So, what does all this mean for prison ministry in 2020? Let’s see it as an opportunity rather than a disaster. God is already in every one of our tomorrows and knows exactly what good he is doing through all of this. Let’s redouble our efforts to reach God’s lost sheep with our prayers, our volunteer time, and our financial gifts. Here are three encouragements to do so.

First, thanks to the extra efforts of our New Ulm Mailing Center staff and volunteers, we’ve been able to maintain our ministry-by-mail efforts safely (Bible study booklets and pen pal letters) with little adverse impact from the measures implemented to combat the pandemic. God’s Word continues to go where he sends it and is not returning empty.

Second, the Prison Ministry Committee authorized an outreach effort to reconnect with thousands of facilities that have not recently submitted book orders or tests. In this time of limited personal visits to inmates, we wanted to offer our ministry-by-mail as an alternate way to encourage and support inmates. We pray God richly blesses this effort, which would generate a much greater need for test corrector and pen pal volunteers, as well as booklet inventory replacement.

Finally, amid the anxiety around us, let us celebrate the joy that both giver and receiver of our ministry efforts experience. That joy is clearly captured in an inmate’s poem based on the widow’s gift at the temple (Luke 21:1-4):

With Willing Heart
As poor widow of long ago
Gave all to do your work;
So too open my heart dear Lord,
Willing to give and to serve.
Make my heart always generous,
Noble as hers that day;
Trusting fully in your promise,
Every need taken care.
As I receive your blessings,
Let first be given to you;
Not with grudging heart,
But with joy unmeasured.
(Inmate Lawrence Palubecki)

 

 

 

 

Reaching out instead of pulling back

Paul reminds Timothy (and us): “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” We really need that encouragement these days, as do those we serve. It is in this spirit that the Prison Ministry Committee authorized a significant outreach effort to offer our Bible correspondence self-study booklets to over 2,000 correctional facilities because of the interruption in personal visits. Here are some quick facts about the effort and steps you can take to further the effort.

  • We mailed a sample booklet and a brochure to the chaplain, activity director, or program coordinator describing our booklets and inviting them to order free copies for the inmates at their institution. We chose the booklet “A Broken-hearted Father” based on Jesus’ story of the prodigal son as a great example of God’s overwhelming love for his lost children.
  • Our mailing list consisted of facilities with which we have had interaction in the past. Over 75 percent of the facilities we sent a mailing to have not received booklets in over two years. The breakdown is as follows:
    • County Jail/Detention Center – 955
    • State Correctional Facility – 1044
    • Federal Correctional Facility – 111
    • Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    • Facility – 22
    • Youth/Juvenile Offender Facility – 46
  • Please pray that the mailing will find receptive staff members at the facilities, that many books will be ordered, that many tests will be returned, but most importantly, that many souls will be touched by the gospel and faith created or strengthened.
  • Consider giving a gift that will help us print many more booklets so we can fill the orders with which God blesses us.

 

 

 

Finding alternatives for jail or prison visitors

During the current pandemic, personal visits to share the gospel with inmates are severely restricted or prohibited altogether. Individuals and groups that previously visited these lost sheep in person may seek alternatives, such as:

  • Supply Bible self-study books – Consider contacting the chaplain, activity director, or program coordinator for the facilities you normally visit and encouraging the use of WELS Prison Ministry booklets. Download an order form and send it to the corrections official.
  • Replace in-person visits with video visits – Trained jail visitors may explore whether the facility you serve has either onsite or remote video visits for individual inmates.
  • Replace in-person visits with other communication – Electronically delivered devotions from WELS Prison Ministry or our partner Institutional Ministries are available to some inmates.

If you wish to explore these alternatives further or share other ideas, contact Administrator Dave Hochmuth at dave.hochmuth@wels.net or 414-256-3243.

 

 

 

Quotes from inmates – Summer 2020

When I came to jail 18 months ago I was lost. While I still find myself struggling with my faith, believing in Jesus…has really done something. I’ve seen my prayers get answered. It’s been life changing. – LeeAnna

That [study] hit home for me! For 30 years I have been trying to know if I could be forgiven and WOW here it is! Thank you! I needed this study most. God Bless you all!! I will be keeping this study to take home. Love your studies. Keep them going. – Earl

I enjoyed the reading from start to finish. My first one. I am hungry for more of these lessons. Very easy to understand and even though the lessons were short and quick, it was big on knowledge about God. I want more! Thank you so much for this lesson! 🙂 – Cynthia

…the mentors/graders have been a huge blessing of positive encouragement and I truly am thankful for every one that continues to be that kind of positive example of how a Christian should be. – Martin

 

 

Pen Pal Pipeline – Summer 2020

We love to hear that upon release, there are inmates who would like to attend a WELS church, if possible. Occasionally they will be located too far away to attend a WELS or ELS church in person, but other times, there is one close by they can attend. It’s great that these inmates have connected with our church body and the message we bring—that they are forgiven through the blood of Jesus!

When pen pals have connected with inmates through letters, it’s not uncommon that an inmate will share in a letter that they would like to attend a WELS church upon their release. We ask that if your inmate pen pal shares this with you, please send that information to us so we can make a connection between the inmate and the pastor of the church. Our Reaching Behind the Bars Volunteer Guidelines state: “When you hear that your inmate will be released, contact the WELS Prison Ministry office. We will refer him or her to the closest WELS or ELS congregation. Please do not make referrals yourself.” We make this request so that we can better follow up with the inmate and congregation and ensure that the inmate gets both spiritual and practical support while reentering society.

 

 

 

Three ways to support our ministry

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: bless our outreach mailing and allow us to touch many more souls; move God’s people to support this ministry in this difficult time, especially when God’s blessing leads to a greater demand for booklets.

Serve – All our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love. To volunteer as a pen pal or a test corrector, 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 2020 designation is due by March 31, 2021.

 

 

 

What Does A Parish Nurse Do?

Parish nursing is the opportunity for nurses to use their skills to promote both physical and spiritual wellness in their congregation. Parish nurses can help their church share God’s love among those with special needs related to health.

What would parish nursing look like at your church? It depends! Each parish nurse program is unique.

Do you have a lot of young people with families? Maybe your program would include visiting new moms at home, asking questions about how they are handling the emotions and responsibility involved with a new child, and lending a listening ear and advice for the trials of fatigue, worries, and stress of parenthood.

Is there a preschool or grade school? You could give presentations on health for each of the classrooms and conduct height, weight, and vision screenings. You could volunteer your time to be at the school to assist with children feeling ill, nose bleeds, and other bumps and bruises from the playground.

Do you have someone who was just diagnosed with breast cancer? Maybe your program would involve lining up volunteers to drive the individual to her chemo or radiation appointments, bring her meals, and send her words of encouragement in cards and letters.

Maybe your church has multiple veterans who are struggling to fit back into normal society and are dealing with guilt over surviving a deployment that took the life of their friends. Perhaps your program could become familiar with a Lutheran resource that you can point these young men and women to that can help them with counseling, support, and purpose found only in the Bible.

Perhaps you have many elderly members who are no longer able to come to worship on Sunday morning, which leaves them feeling distant from the church, questioning their faith, and depressed with their condition. Your program could include visiting these members weekly, discussing their health, sharing God’s Word, and keeping them informed on what is happening at church.

For some churches, this list will make a parish nurse ask “How will I fit it all in?” I recommend that you start small. With the help of your pastor and elders, identify one individual or group to start with and slowly grow your program as you are able. On the other hand, I have had pastors and nurses tell me they used to have a parish nurse program, but there was not enough interest or need to keep it going. The amount of time a parish nurse program will require will vary from church to church. If you are feeling unsure on how to proceed with a program, I offer the same advice: take a step back and look at your congregation with your pastor and elders. Identify a single person or group of people and focus on them. Maybe your program will only require a few hours a month, but that is ok! For most nurses, parish nursing is a volunteer program rather than a full-time commitment.

If you are interested in learning more about parish nursing, please visit our website: www.welsnurses.net. There you will find step-by-step instructions on how to start a parish nurse program as well as many resources for you to use and ideas to keep you going. We also encourage you to complete an online parish nurse course offered by Wisconsin Lutheran College. If you would like any more information about parish nursing or the online course, please e-mail us at welsnurses@wels.net.  We are here to support and encourage you as you serve the body of Christ.

Allison Spaude currently serves as the Communications Coordinator for the WELS Nurses Association. She works in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois.

 

 

 

What Do I Say When… My Patient Tells Me They’re Afraid to Die?

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say. You feel that way as a nurse. I feel that way as a pastor. God puts us in situations in which we can see the opportunity to point someone to Jesus, but it’s hard to know what to say. I’d like to share some thoughts with you on “What do I say when…”

Let’s start with this: “What do I say when my patient tells me they’re afraid to die.” You as a nurse, unlike most of us, have the unique opportunity to serve people facing death. As Christians, this is what life is really all about. Life is about getting ready to die with faith in Jesus so that we can live with Jesus in heaven. I hope you see how special your profession is. We need Christians serving people facing death!

But that doesn’t make it easy to know what to say. Maybe think of this three-step pattern: Listen – Validate – Share. First, listen. If a patient opens up to you and shares that they’re afraid to die, take a moment to listen to them. Ask, “What about death makes you most afraid?” or “Tell me a little more about how you’re feeling.” You nurses are used to asking patients lots of questions. Let your patient describe their feelings more. Are they afraid of suffering before they die? Are they afraid of where they’ll go after they die? Listening to them will make you more prepared to answer their fears.

Once you’ve showed your compassion by listening, validate their fears. It’s very natural for people to be afraid of death. We weren’t supposed to die. Death—no matter how it happens—is the unnatural ripping apart of souls from bodies. It often includes a lot of pain and suffering. It’s okay to validate your patient’s concerns about death. “I know it’s really hard to think about death. It seems so scary and unnatural to everyone. You’re not the only one who’s shared these fears with me.”

Then, share the hope that Jesus gives you. Memorize a couple Bible passages to share at a moment’s notice. It might sound something like this, “I’ve always liked how the Bible says, ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me’ (Psalm 23:4). I believe in God, and it gives me a lot of comfort to know that God is always with me. He’s with you too! Can I tell you what gives me hope as a Christian? Jesus once said, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). Doesn’t that sound great? God loves every person in the world—including you and me—and he sent Jesus to save us and give us eternal life. In fact, Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies’ (John 11:25). Even though death is hard and scary, whoever believes in Jesus gets to live in heaven with Jesus. How does that sound? Would you like me to have a chaplain come and talk with you more?” Listen, validate, and then share your hope in Jesus!

You might be surprised at how much comfort a couple short Bible passages can bring to a dying person. God’s Word works! May God bless you as you serve those who walk through the shadow of death.

Rev. Nathan Nass currently serves at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Green Bay, WI.

 

 

 

Kingdom Workers: Slowing the Spread of the Virus, Not the Gospel

As a nurse, you’re used to washing your hands many times a day, perhaps several times an hour. The combination of soap, scrubbing, and water produces a preventative measure against the spread of diseases, like the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

Yet, for millions of people living in rural Malawi, Indonesia, South Sudanese refugee camps, and beyond, handwashing takes much longer than 20 seconds.

Water doesn’t just flow from the tap in the bathroom, it must be collected. Soap can’t be bought at a local Target. And even where clean water and soap are available, knowledge of hygiene and sanitation best practices is limited.

When COVID-19 began to stretch its fingers across the world, Kingdom Workers recognized that God had uniquely prepared us to provide communities around the world with WASH training (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene). We quickly pivoted several existing programs to focus on WASH with the goal of supplying communities with materials, education, and Christian counsel before borders closed, stay-at-home orders were enacted, and travel became restricted.

Kingdom Workers was prepared to pivot thanks to our previously established clean water initiatives, and our experience with WASH training in the South Sudanese refugee camps. Using this knowledge, we developed a customized plan according to the challenges of each region.

In the refugee camps, health and safety restrictions made a journey into town for supplies more difficult. Our local lead team determined how and where to distribute aid across multiple camps and settlements. Together with local area pastors they distributed 4,840 units of soap, 16 handwashing stations, and have served nearly 3,000 people.

Pastors in Malawi mobilized to set up handwashing stations at busy bus stops and outside of churches. We also worked with Tiyamike Sewing Malawi, a local non-profit organization which provides skills training to women, to develop educational diagrams about safely collecting water from boreholes. Boreholes are traditionally a place of social gathering where many people touch the same pump and individuals can stand in line for up to three hours waiting to gather water. To date, over 17,000 people have received COVID-19 prevention education.

In Indonesia, 580 face masks and 274 bars of soap were provided to community members in remote villages where health clinics are miles away and reputable health knowledge is scarce. Picture-based handwashing diagrams were also distributed to churches so that those not able to read can understand how to wash their hands effectively.

God has worked through the efforts of our local volunteers, donors, and staff to slow the spread of the virus, but not the gospel. Donors Steve and Paula share why this work is so important, “God has placed other souls, just as dear to him, all around the world and we are compelled to love and assist them however we can.” While we do whatever it takes to connect communities to Christ, we find strength in knowing that God is stronger than any pandemic, and that he is working through all of us for his glory.

You can learn more about our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 here.