Planned giving program bears fruit

Pictured above: Members of St. Peter participate in an Everyone Outreach evangelism workshop

More than 20 years ago, the members of St. Peter, Schofield, Wis., realized their congrega­tion would benefit from forming a planned giving committee. One of the goals of the com­mittee was to actively promote to members what a blessing planned giving could be in supporting the gospel work of the congregation.

Member Bob Stasney has been part of the con­gregation’s planned giving committee since its inception. He recalls that the new committee ben­efited from the support of a WELS Christian giving counselor, who supplied startup resources and advice. “[The resources] were key in guiding us to establish policies that are very important to refer to over the years,” remembers Stasney.

Since that time, St. Peter’s planned giving commit­tee has been encouraging members in their giving by providing regular communication in the bulletin or newsletter about gifting tools. The committee also assists members who have questions about making planned gifts, directing them to their local WELS Christian giving counselor as needed.

Through God’s blessing, this targeted, support­ive approach has resulted in members setting up gifts to benefit the church through a variety of methods, like gifts of appreciated stock or gifts through a will or estate plan. Last year the con­gregation received several large gifts, including $220,000 to create an endowment and another $400,000 to further God’s ministry in multiple areas. Another $20,000 gift went to tuition assistance (the church’s scholarship program has distributed over $130,000 to families since its inception). St. Peter’s planned giving committee also oversees the congregation’s endowment funds and invests with WELS Investment Funds.

Stasney encourages other congregations to consider setting up a planned giving commit­tee, utilizing the resources and planned giving program manual available through WELS: “The current manual seems quite comprehensive and is a must-go-to for anyone starting from scratch.”

Stasney gives all credit to God for his blessings on St. Peter. “The Holy Spirit has worked miracles at St. Peter over and over again, and our members have historically been cheerful givers,” he says. “To God be all the glory.”

Learn more about starting a congregational planned giving program at or contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor at 800-827-5482 or [email protected] for assistance.

Starting a congregational planned giving program

Christians seeking to honor the Lord with their offerings will want to know about the tax-wise opportunities available when plan­ning for the transition of accumu­lated wealth (their “estate”) to loved ones and the Lord’s work at life’s end. There are also ways to support the Lord’s work now while at the same time receiving tax benefits. WELS has produced a manual to help church leaders start a planned giving program to share these opportunities with fellow members.

If your congregation is inter­ested in starting a planned giv­ing program, visit to order free manuals. The manual starts with the basics of how to communicate planned giving oppor­tunities to members and then provides options for building on that foundation. For example, a con­gregation can also organize a planned giving committee and start an endowment fund. Your local WELS Christian giving coun­selor can walk your congregation through the manual and answer any questions.

Investment options for congregations

Congregations receiving larger gifts from members have long-term and short-term investment options through WELS. For long-term investing, WELS Investment Funds provides cost-effective, professionally managed investment portfolios exclusively for WELS and affiliated organizations. These funds are designed especially for endowment and scholarship funds.

Currently 255 WELS organizations have entrusted more than $300 million to WELS Investment Funds. Investors benefit from lower investment costs, oversight by a national board of directors made up of WELS members with relevant experience, the expertise of professional institutional investment consultants, and ease of use as investors work directly with professional WELS staff to set up and manage accounts. Explore your options at or by contacting [email protected] or 877-888-8953.

WELS Church Extension Fund (WELS CEF) provides short-term investing to congregations through one-year savings certificates and 6- to 60-month investment certificates. In addition to receiving competitive investment rates, congregations can appreciate that WELS CEF uses the investments to provide financing to mission congregations and mission-minded self-supporting WELS congregations and schools for land and facility projects. For more information visit or contact [email protected] or 866-511-7793.

Rate increase good news for donors

The charitable gift annuity is a favorite planned giving tool for donors who are 60 or older. Not only can you support a WELS ministry after you go to heaven, but meanwhile you can receive regular, guaranteed payments for life. To top things off, the rates on those payments increased in 2024 by an average of 0.4 percent (depending on your age)!

In brief, you can set up a charitable gift annuity (CGA) with WELS Foundation for a minimum of $10,000 in cash or securities or through a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from your IRA. You will receive a charitable gift deduction (not applicable to a CGA funded by a QCD) and then quarterly payments based on a rate according to your age. These pay­ments continue until you are taken to heaven, at which point the remainder goes to your designated ministry (or ministries). If you are interested in setting up a CGA, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor.

Learn more about charitable gift annuities and view the latest rates table

Watch WELS Foundation Executive Director Jim Holm interview WELS Christian Giving Counselor Jon Kehren about the advantages of CGAs.


Increased maximums for qualified charitable distributions

The maximum amount of qualified charitable distribu­tions (QCDs) you can direct to ministry from your IRA has increased in 2024 to $105,000 (previously $100,000), and the maximum you can distribute to WELS Foundation to set up a charitable gift annuity is now $53,000 (previously $50,000). This is because under SECURE Act 2.0 there is a yearly increase, indexed for inflation, in the annual limit of QCDs starting in 2024.

Learn more about qualified charitable distributions at


Donate appreciated assets instead of cash

When donating we typically first think of giving cash (online or through a check). A cash dona­tion provides us with a chari­table deduction. But consider donating an appreciated asset instead, such as a stock, bond, mutual fund, or real estate. You will still get the charitable deduction and avoid the capital gains tax you would typically pay when selling the asset.

Find procedures for giving securi­ties at under “Helpful Giving Tools.”

Registration now open – Taste of Missions 2024

We are thrilled to announce that registration for Taste of Missions 2024 is now open! Whether you join us in person or virtually, we invite you to be part of this special day as we celebrate the spread of the gospel of Christ throughout the world.

Date: Saturday, June 15, 2024
Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. OR online!

The day kicks off with a worship service, as we commission new home and world missionaries to their important work. It’s an inspiring occasion that sets the tone for the day ahead. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, you’ll have the opportunity to explore displays, hear missionaries share their stories and answer your questions, and sample ethnic dishes. Bring the entire family to learn about the diverse mission fields where WELS is making a difference and get a glimpse into the lives touched by Jesus.

For those joining us virtually, you can still be part of the experience! Tune in to our livestreamed sessions, including the commissioning worship service and insightful talks from speakers across our home and world mission fields. Plus, we’ll be sharing mouthwatering recipes for you to try at home.

View the full list of activities for the day and register at Registration is $15 per person, with children 13 and under attending for free. Those attending in person will receive food tickets to sample ethnic cuisine and can purchase additional food from the food trucks. Or attend virtually for free! Sign up today at

We can’t wait to welcome you to Taste of Missions, where together, we’ll celebrate our Savior’s mission and the incredible work being done around the world.


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Be joyful and glad

The stone the builders didn’t accept has become the most important stone of all. The Lord has done it. It is wonderful in our eyes. The Lord has done it on this day. Let us be joyful today and be glad. Lord, save us. Lord, give us success. (Psalm 118:22-25, NIrV)

The Bible is full of encouragements to be joyful, rejoice, be glad, and the like, including here in Psalm 118. The Lord put these encouragements all over his word because he knew we would need them. Living for God in 2024 just seems so challenging, and the devil would be delighted for us to throw up our hands in surrender, curl up into a ball, and just give up. But let’s not forget what Paul said to his young colleague Timothy: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Yet Psalm 118 reminds us that Jesus faced opposition in doing the work he was sent to do. He was rejected but refused to back down. He went to the cross not as a victim, but as the unlikely path to victory. With that victory God raised him up and gave us reason to celebrate.

Yes, each passing day seems to bring new challenges to our life of faith. But God promises that he will send us whatever we need to follow Jesus. That might be the right words at the right moment (Matthew 10:18-20), joy despite suffering (Acts 5:40,41), contentment no matter the circumstances (Philippians 4:12,13); or the confident expectation of ultimate deliverance (Romans 8). With God’s power and love behind us, we cannot give up. We strive to continue to show love to those around us, including, and maybe especially, to those who are considered unlovable by the world.

For our ministry, that means continuing to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration in whatever ways God provides. Correcting tests, writing pen pal letters, visiting inmates in jail or prison, or mentoring them after release are all ways we can do this. We equip followers of Jesus to seek these opportunities, especially in the correctional facilities in communities near their congregation. Our faithful supporters provide the means necessary to reflect Jesus’ love for us to others.

One of the greatest joy-stealers is worry. But focusing on the needs of others instead of our fears reduces our worry. Serving Jesus by serving others restores “the joy of my salvation” to us. If you are already serving, thank you. I’m confident you have felt the joy of this work. If you would like to explore options for serving, contact me at [email protected]. If you’d like to support what we do, see page 4 for ways to do that. Come join us in this joyful effort.

By Dave Hochmuth, WELS Prison Ministry administrator



Blessings on a jail visitor’s creativity

As times change, so do some of the methods we use to share the unchanging gospel. Prison Ministry Committee member Bob Fink has used lots of creativity in trying to serve inmates in the Manitowoc County Jail. Through his innovation, Bob and his fellow volunteers have seen a noticeable increase in the number of souls they serve.

The ministry Bob serves was started in 2015 by Pastor Greg Pope. Bob received training from Chaplain Phil Merten from our partner Institutional Ministries. Initially the ministry followed the traditional format of biweekly studies attended by five or so inmates. As Bob got to know some of the inmates better, he would schedule one-on-one visits to give them more opportunities to learn and grow. But all that stopped when the pandemic hit. No in-person visits were allowed for over a year, and when they were allowed again, it was only via phones on either side of a glass barrier. So, Bob got creative.

At first Bob used mail to stay in touch and spiritually encourage inmates. He explored using video calls, but the expense was too high. But God was providing. Bob was asked to speak at the funeral of one of his former inmates. The funeral director was moved by Bob’s efforts and helped him with a donation of 100 Bibles for him to distribute. The real breakthrough came when Bob discovered a new “e-mail” style service offered by Cidnet that the jail was using to help inmates communicate. Messages cost 10 cents each, so he could interact with multiple inmates at a reasonable cost. Bob now sends devotions and receives messages from 28 inmates. He makes them aware that we offer a Bible correspondence course, specifically geared for inmates. Nearly all the inmates would appreciate personal visits as well. Inmates inform Bob of additional inmates who want to be contacted. The six volunteers who work with Bob make as many visits as they can, but Bob is still looking for additional volunteers to accommodate all the ministry opportunities.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the messages (typos and all) Bob has received through Cidnet:

Thank you so very much bob. my name is robert. im 47 years young. a christian whose fallen out of the life long practice. yes id be interested in the bible study your church offers if you would like to add me to the mailing list. i am facing time in prison and im sure i will go. i accepted my future fate already and ive only been in jail for 16 days. i know i have the lord on my side, its hard but i know i can make it.

One area of the ministry that Bob would like to improve is support of former inmates after release. These returning citizens often carry lots of shame and feel very uncomfortable attending a worship service. Bob has had a little more success with inviting released inmates to a smaller, less formal gathering, such as a men’s Bible study. But our congregations need to find other ways to connect these new or returning believers to the body of Christ in a supportive way. To help equip congregation members for this task, WELS Prison Ministry offers two resources. One is a Bible study, “Helping the Hurting with Hope,” found here: The second is a training course with online discussion offered twice a year. Alternatively, the training can be offered locally. Visit for more information.




More changes for Prison Ministry

WELS Prison Ministry has been facing all sorts of changes, one of which is consolidating our booklet storage and shipping in New Ulm, Minn. On January 23, a crew of eight movers and three trucks converged on our former warehouse in South St. Paul. Loading the books onto the trucks was not too difficult because the boxes were stored on pallets and could be moved onto the trucks with pallet jacks. On arrival in New Ulm, however, the thousands of boxes of books had to be hand carried into our mailing facility with the majority being placed in the basement. Thanks to the crew from Bester Brothers Transfer & Storage Company that did the literal heavy lifting for this effort.

We also want to thank a crew of five Martin Luther College students who helped a few days later take delivery of a reprint of “Believe and Live”, one of our studies, and rearrange some of the delivered boxes so that they were in order.

Having all our inventory in or near the New Ulm mailing center will streamline our efforts and allow us to be more timely in our response to some bulk orders. We want to thank our faithful volunteer Elmer Stolle who manned the South St. Paul warehouse for decades, assembling and sending bulk orders of many of our Bibles, Bible studies, and other resources.




Pen pal pipeline – Winter 2024

Currently the balance between our volunteer pen pals and the inmates seeking someone to write to is close to even, but we always need more to replace pen pals who can’t continue. We’re also praying that as we get further into digital delivery of our Bible study courses, we will experience an increase in demand for pen pals. If you have been an active pen pal in the past but currently are not writing often or at all, contact our office and let us know about your willingness to get more involved again. We also may need a larger stable of pen pals willing to try e-mail as a mode of communication, with our office still providing the second leg of communication to the inmate to protect your personal information. Let us know if that is something you are willing to consider (no final decision needed at this time).




Three ways to support WELS Prison Ministry – Winter 2024

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: for the success of our electronic document team efforts; for blessings on (and funds to support) supplying postage paid envelopes to inmates; for success as we seek to equip more congregations and members to get involved personally in this ministry.

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

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

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 2023 designation is due by March 31, 2024.





Taste of Missions school challenge and poster contest

The 2024 Taste of Missions School Challenge is now open! This year brings two different opportunities for students of all ages to learn about WELS mission work:

School challenge for grades K-8

All Lutheran grade schools are invited to participate in our annual Taste of Missions School Challenge! Visit to view Missions-themed activities that grade school teachers can use to help students in their classroom learn about WELS Home and World Missions and get involved with WELS Missions’ annual Taste of Missions event. Two classes (one from grades K-4 and one from grades 5-8) will be randomly selected to win a Taste of Missions party for their classroom, tickets to the event, and additional surprises. Get involved and submit the form on the Taste of Missions website by Fri., April 12, for your chance to win.

High school poster contest

Calling all WELS and ELS high school artists! Encourage high school students to participate in the first ever Taste of Missions high school poster contest. Students can express their creativity and learn about WELS mission work by crafting an 11” x 17” masterpiece capturing the heart of WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions. An overall winner will receive a $250 Amazon gift card, Taste of Missions swag bag, and their artwork will be displayed at the Taste of Missions event on June 15, 2024, at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis. All other submissions will be eligible to be voted Fan Favorite by attendees at Taste of Missions for another chance to win.

The deadline for students to submit their poster is Fri., April 26, 2024. Digital or mailed/dropped off submissions are accepted. Find official rules and specifications as well as submission information at



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Save the date! Taste of Missions 2024

Taste of Missions is back, and we couldn’t be more excited! Last year nearly 500 WELS members gathered in Mequon, Wis., to send off nine new home and world missionaries to spread the gospel in the far corners of the world. Even more celebrated with us online. It was a remarkable day, filled with engaging conversations with home and world missionary families, insightful Q&A panels, ethnic eats, and uplifting worship alongside brothers and sisters from across the globe. See what it was all about by exploring our Flickr album.

We want YOU to come join the fun again at this year’s Taste of Missions on Sat., June 15, 2024. Bring your family to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis., to send off new missionaries in our special commissioning service, enjoy delicious offerings from food trucks, and connect with some of your synod’s current missionaries. Can’t make it in person? Virtual attendees can watch all the events via livestream, view exclusive video updates from missionaries, and even try their hand at cooking up some ethnic recipes from our website.

Mark your calendars—registration opens on March 11! While you’re waiting, visit for some additional event details and catch up on any videos you may have missed from last year’s gathering.

We can’t wait to see you there!

P.S. The fourth annual Taste of Missions School Challenge and NEW poster contest for WELS/ELS high school students will open on February 19! View photos and activities from last year’s challenge and keep an eye out for future announcements at


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Mission Journeys opportunities in London

The new world mission field in London has partnered with WELS Mission Journeys to establish a volunteer program in London. Through volunteering, you have the exciting opportunity to experience life and share the gospel in a global city rich with history and culture. London is filled with people from numerous nationalities and backgrounds, many of whom are in desperate need of hearing the gospel message. You will learn about new cultures, meet people from all over the world, and share the truth of God’s Word with those who are lost.

Short-term opportunities
We are looking for groups of eight to ten people to come volunteer for eight to ten days in London. Your time will be spent attending two Sunday church services at our WELS church, volunteering at various charities throughout the week, and exploring the city. You have the humble opportunity to serve your neighbor and let your light shine by helping others. You will also be a positive representation of what our Lutheran church teaches. When you’re not volunteering, enjoy spending time in London! Go to a pub, eat fish and chips, watch the changing of the guard, drink tea, and soak in the beauty of a city that has been around for almost two thousand years. You will leave London with a greater appreciation for the world we live in, the millions of people God has created, and a renewed fire to share the gospel with others.

Long-term opportunities
If you are interested in taking some time off of school, work, or you have time to spare, consider serving as a long-term volunteer in London. In this role, you will spend up to six months working one-on-one with the missionaries, serving at local charities, and growing in your understanding of a new place and culture. You will be able to encourage others in their faith as well as grow in your own faith. Spending extended time in a foreign country is a valuable experience that will leave a lasting impact on your heart and mind.

Interested in either opportunity? Contact WELS Mission Journeys for more information at [email protected] or call Mr. Shannon Bohme, Mission Journeys coordinator, at 651-324-4218.

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Teach with TELL

TELL Network’s exponential growth has resulted in an immediate need for male instructors to teach TELL classes in English. What is TELL Network? TELL Network is an online leader training program of Multi-Language Productions, providing an in-depth Bible study curriculum in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Tagalog to students in places where WELS does not have a presence. Learn more about the program at

TELL offers a unique chance to connect with believers around the world and support them as they begin sharing the gospel with their community.

What to Expect

  1. TWO 1-hour Zoom classes per week for 4 weeks.
  2. 2 weeks to review Final Projects.
  3. WhatsApp communication with students (sending class materials, sharing Zoom recordings, answering questions).
  4. An honorarium of $300 per course taught.

Course materials, including slides and teacher guides, are already made for you!


  1. A male called worker in fellowship with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod OR a current Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Student in their Middler or Senior year.
  2. Strong organizational and administrative skills.
  3. Above-average digital literacy (or a willingness to learn).
  4. A WhatsApp account (free and easy to set up).
  5. A passion and excitement for training future church leaders around the globe!

If you or someone you know might be interested in this opportunity, learn more and apply at

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Home mission milestones – fall 2023

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

Christ the Rock Lutheran Church, Canton, Ga.

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

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

Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, Dickinson, N.D.

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

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

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


New Start, Marquette, Mich.

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

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


TheMission – a Lutheran Church, Conroe, Tex.

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

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



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



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A gift for family and ministry

Joyce and Don Frisque

For Don and Joyce Frisque, supporting Christ’s gospel ministry is close to their hearts. Joyce served as a WELS teacher for over 35 years, and Don served as a WELS teacher for 6 years and as a school social worker for 31 years. Their two children, Deb and Paul, have also devoted their lives to ministry.

When the Frisques retired, they planned to thank the Lord for his goodness to them. “God has blessed us, and we want to pass those bless­ings on,” Joyce says. “We don’t need anything more for ourselves, so we are going to give it back where we can to the church.” They also wanted to share their blessings with their children and grandchildren.

The Frisques knew that funding a legacy gift from their individual retirement accounts (IRAs) could help them fulfill their giving goals, but they were searching for the right type of planned gift. When they met with WELS Christian Giving Counselor Rev. Tom Mielke, he explained the benefits of a legacy charitable remainder trust.

Don and Joyce were intrigued. A legacy charitable remainder trust (often called a “give it twice” trust) would allow them to support both the people and the ministries they love, in addi­tion to providing tax benefits.

After consideration, Don and Joyce set up a legacy charitable remainder trust, with WELS Foundation serving as trustee. When they are in heaven, their children will receive quarterly income payments from the trust for 15 years. After that, the remain­der will support the multiple WELS ministries that the Frisques have chosen.

Don and Joyce appreciated Rev. Mielke’s assis­tance and the ease of filling out a single form, the Letter of Instruction, to select the ministries that will benefit from their trust. Joyce also loves the fact that after Jesus calls them home the trust will support their family members and the Lord’s work.

“Everything we have been given has been entrusted to us, and we are responsible for managing it in a God-pleas­ing way,” says Don. “In this way we believe we are doing that.”

Learn more about legacy charitable remainder trusts by contacting your local WELS Christian giving counselor at 800-827-5482 or [email protected].

“Give it twice” through a legacy charitable remainder trust

A legacy charitable remainder or “give it twice” trust is funded after both parents (or a single parent) go to be with the Lord. In addition to any immediate gifts to children or other heirs, a portion of the estate is placed into a trust that pays five percent each year to children for a term of up to 20 years. When the trust ends, the remaining assets are distributed to designated charitable beneficiaries, such as your church and/or synod.


  • Provides for your heirs: Instead of leaving a one-time lump sum inheritance, you can provide an ongoing source of income for your heirs for up to 20 years.
  • Tax savings: Funding the legacy trust from a tax-deferred retirement account may provide additional tax benefits. Rather than having to distribute an inherited IRA within 10 years, the IRA can be used via beneficiary designation to fund a legacy charitable remainder trust with a 20-year payout period.
  • A gift to ministry: At the end of the payout period, the trust remainder is distributed to the ministry (or ministries) of your choosing. This charitable distribution can be made as a lump sum or used to fund an endowment—providing an ongoing source of support for your favorite WELS ministry.

The minimum gift amount for a legacy charitable remainder trust is $200,000 funded through your estate planning documents such as your will and beneficiary designations (for example, your IRA).

Legacy charitable remainder trust illustration

Learn more about legacy charitable remainder trusts by contacting your local WELS Christian giving counselor at 800-827-5482 or [email protected].

In this video, WELS Christian Giving Counselor Rev. Tom Mielke and WELS Foundation Executive Director Jim Holm talk about the basics and blessings of legacy charitable remainder trusts.

Did you know you can donate . . .

. . . appreciated assets (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate)?

Receive a double tax benefit when you give appreciated assets held longer than one year. First, you can deduct the full fair market value of the investment. Second, save by avoiding all tax on the capital gain.

. . . from your IRA?

Direct transfers from an IRA to charity (up to $105,000 per year) are free from federal and potentially state income tax for anyone 70.5 or older.

Want to learn more? A WELS Christian giving counselor can help you get started. If you are interested, call 800-827-5482 or e-mail [email protected].

Looking for God’s direction

[Paul and his companions] came to the border of Mysia. From there they tried to enter Bithynia. But the Spirit of Jesus would not let them. So they passed by Mysia. Then they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision. He saw a man from Macedonia standing and begging him. “Come over to Macedonia!” the man said. “Help us!” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia. We decided that God had called us to preach the good news there. (Acts 16:7-10 NIrV)

Don’t you wish sometimes that God would make his will known to you as clearly as he does to Paul. Somehow God clearly communicated to Paul; that he was NOT to go into Bithynia (modern day northern Turkey), but to go into Macedonia (present day Greece) instead. Apparently, that moment was the time to start mission work in Europe, so that’s what Paul and his friends did.

Those of us working with you or on your behalf in prison ministry are facing a similar crossroads. For 30 years we have dependably relied on the United States Postal Service to help us deliver the gospel and encouragement to eager eyes and hearts in correctional facilities. But mounting restrictions are making sending and receiving studies, tests, and letters more difficult and expensive (for us and for inmates). Thanks to our bulk mailing to chaplains, we still distribute a good number of studies per year. But sending tests to specific inmates as well as receiving completed tests back from inmates using regular U.S. Mail has seen a significant decline. God seems to be saying that this pathway may not be the way to go now.

In response, we are exploring some new (to us) pathways. First, we are trying the use of Business Reply Mail for inmates or their onsite chaplains to submit their tests. While this will significantly increase our costs, especially if God blesses the idea, we believe this added cost is a small price to pay to be able to serve as many students as possible.

Our second new pathway is electronic delivery of our studies to the tablets many inmates now have access to in facilities. WELS Prison Ministry recently signed a three-year contract with Edovo, which provides a learning management system that ministries and educational entities can use to distribute educational material to inmates. Edovo currently has agreements in place at over 300 facilities to provide content to the inmates. We are also seeking agreements with other similar providers.

Please pray for these efforts. We are asking the Lord to bless them according to his will. We desperately want to continue to serve thousands of inmates nationwide and believe these may be the pathways God wants us to use. Also pray that if there are other ways that he desires us to share the gospel, he would give us the ability and wisdom to see these other pathways and use them.

Dave Hochmuth, WELS Prison Ministry administrator



An inmate’s personal evangelism

Because of societal trends and other factors, traditional mass outreach programs struggle. But personal evangelism, that is building a relationship with another person and, at an appropriate time, sharing Jesus with that person, appears to have a better chance at gaining an audience for the gospel. Our synod is spending a great amount of effort equipping us to do just that. Perhaps we should take a cue from Kyle (not his real name), an inmate in the Midwest. Though his own struggles have been and continue to be mighty, he made the effort to share his comfort with another inmate.

Kyle’s walk with Jesus has had significant ups and downs. He had more than a decade of problems with drugs and alcohol. He had fallen away from worship with fellow Christians. He spent more than a year in county jail awaiting sentencing for methamphetamine charges. Through some extended family members, God in his grace made a WELS pastor in the area aware of Kyle. The pastor began to serve him with both printed sermons and personal visits. A year after starting this effort, the pastor received a lengthy, unprompted letter from another inmate in Kyle’s unit. The inmate, John (again, not his real name), poured out his gratefulness for Kyle’s willingness to share the Word of God with him.

The friendship started with Kyle allowing John to call his dad using Kyle’s funds when John had none. John had been very anxious because his dad was having health problems. Kyle’s generosity made a big impression on John.

Then John noticed Kyle reading some of the sermons his pastor brought for Kyle. John asked if Kyle could share them, which he was eager to do. Here’s John’s comment: “My absolute favorite was . . .’Lord, It Is Good for Us to Be Here, the Transfiguration.’ I loved it and it spoke to me. God spoke to me through your sermon. Not audibly like he spoke when he said, ‘This is my son whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.’ But he spoke to me none the less. Letting me know this is right where he wants me. Yes in jail . . .

“When I came to jail I didn’t even think for one second God was orchestrating another chance for me. I thought it was the end and they were going to throw me away and throw away the key as well. My way got me here. Now I know God’s way is going to get me out of here. My prayer has been, Father & Jesus, teach me how to surrender, truly surrender.”

So, we don’t have to wait until we’re fully trained and blameless. Wherever we are at and whomever we meet, we can be a friend, and then pray for an opportunity to give the reason for the hope we have, as Kyle did.




Volunteering through the storms of change

The phone rings in Sylvia Barnes’s apartment one morning, and she recognizes the number. It’s the WELS Prison Ministry Mailing Center in New Ulm, Minn., where she has volunteered for nearly 20 years. “Hello, dear,” she answers. “Are you calling with bad news?”

This has happened on snowy days multiple times the last 20 years. Sylvia’s volunteer time on Tuesday morning was in jeopardy because of blizzards and large amounts of snow. She has always dreaded that phone call when the forecast was bad because she loves volunteering at the Prison Ministry office and loves the people with whom she works. Now at 96 ½ years old, she says, “If everyone wasn’t so nice here, I probably wouldn’t still be coming.” A family of Christian volunteers has been created on those Tuesday mornings, even though so much has changed over the years. Sylvia remembers that Tuesday morning volunteer family being so much larger 20, even 10 years ago. Most of the volunteers she worked with all those years ago have now gone to heaven, and she even surprises herself – and many of her friends – that she continues to go. “It’s interesting…when I tell them I’m still volunteering, they don’t believe me,” she says with a smile.

Sylvia has volunteered at Prison Ministry through much change. She was part of the volunteer family when the first WELS Prison Ministry administer, Mr. Dave Nack, suddenly passed away. She stuck around through the years of change that followed. She made it through the shutdown during COVID, and as more change has happened with the ministry, she has adjusted her schedule to fit the ministry’s needs. Even though Sylvia is no longer driving, she arrives to the Prison Ministry office with other volunteer friends willing to pick her up.

Sylvia and our other volunteers continue to serve our brothers and sisters in prison through all the changes because of one thing that does not change. The never-changing Word of God and the promises of God to forgive all sin – even the sins of those in prison – is what drives us to continue the work he commanded: Go and make disciples of all nations. Sylvia shares that one of her favorite things, and what drives her to continue to work through the changes, are the comments from the inmates on their tests.

Professions of faith from those in prison help her see the difference she is making as part of the Prison Ministry family. God is reaching souls through the work we are doing, and that’s what makes the snow-stormy days when we can’t do our work frustrating. We continue to pray for good weather days, days when Sylvia and others can share the good news of Jesus with the incarcerated.





Three ways to support WELS Prison Ministry – Fall 2023

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: for the success of our electronic document team efforts; for blessings on (and funds to support) supplying postage paid envelopes to inmates; for continued designated gifts to fund all our ministry activities.

Serve – ll our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love. To volunteer as a pen pal, please contact us at [email protected] or 507-354-3130. To explore jail visitation or post-release mentoring opportunities, call 414-256-3243 or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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

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 2023 designation is due by March 31, 2024.





Your gifts are making a difference in Africa

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:3-6

The WELS One Africa Team currently works with established church bodies in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zambia. Your gifts are making a difference for these sister churches as we partner with them in outreach and assist in their theological education programs. Below are just a few specific ways that God is using your support to bring his gospel message to more people throughout Africa:

Constuction on the new school in Ethiopia

  • WELS is supporting the building of an additional elementary school campus that the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia will operate in Gambella, Ethiopia. The current campuses in Dukem serve over 750 students.
  • Missionary John Roebke and his wife, Nancy, assisted with a marriage workshop for pastors and their wives from the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ – Kenya (LCMC–Kenya) alongside LCMC-Kenya President Mark Anariko Onunda. One attendee shared, “It has refreshed our family and taught us new things that will strengthen our staying together and our work in the Lord’s vineyard too. It was a good encouragement.”
  • Missionary Daniel Witte continues to visit various sister churches throughout Africa to provide theological education for pastors, and partner with the LCMC-Kenya to lead workshops for Kenyan lay and called church leaders.
  • Pastors from Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia come together in various locations throughout Africa to study different courses as they work towards a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. A course on marriage was taught in Zambia in June, and another course on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was held recently in Malawi.

Thank you for your support! We pray that God continues to work through WELS’ sister churches and the One Africa Team to change lives in Africa—like those of Eric Kebeno from Soweto, Kenya, and Eunita Odongo, a deaconess in the LCMC-Kenya.

Pray for our African brothers and sisters in the faith as they continue to spread the message of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and love for sinners like you and me. Follow the One Africa Team on Facebook and subscribe to their blogs at for updates and stories of the Holy Spirit at work. Ask God to bless the work of the One Africa Team as they help spread the gospel throughout Africa.

Learn more about mission work in Africa at

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Your gifts are making a difference in London & the U.K.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thessalonians 5:18

The church has been part of the fabric of British culture since before anyone can remember, yet only 46 percent of the British population today call Christ their own. There is a great deal more gospel work to be done in the United Kingdom! Countless people do not know the story of a loving God who sent his Son to seek and save lost sinners. By God’s grace we do, and our group of more than fifty Christians and two missionaries are following Jesus’ call to tell that story.

Your prayers and gifts are already supporting the ministry in London and the U.K.—thank you! Here are some specific ways we have been carrying out our mission:

  • Organizing regular worship and Bible study among the scattered people we serve
  • Developing a website and program for Bible education
  • Visiting church members to support them as they seek to reach out to their friends and families
  • Researching other churches and charities to find avenues to get involved in our communities

We know that you share in this mission with us. Your offerings provide regular opportunities for our WELS mission in the U.K. to share the gospel. We continually thank God for you!

Please share these updates with family and friends. Pray for us as we evaluate all the possible ways we can go about telling the wonderful story of Jesus and his love. Ask the Lord of the church to open hearts and doors as we reach out to the lost in London and the U.K.

Thank you!

Rev. Conifer Berg
Missionary to London & the U.K.

Learn more about mission work in London & the U.K. at

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Something new and exciting is coming!

You have likely noticed that things which once were in books or in print are now moving to a digital or web-based platform.

Two weeks ago members from the Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MDHH) group were able to bring to reality a project that has been several years in the making – an online Christian Sign Language Dictionary.  The project is entitled “Gospel Hands” and can be found at The MDHH team members spent significant time over two days signing and recording to video more than 900 religious sign language signs. It was intriguing to hear the discussion about what was the best sign and possible alternatives for a certain words or concepts. While the videos are still being edited and uploaded, it is exciting to see this effort finally coming to fruition.

This initial group of videos is only the beginning. There are plans to record more signs in the future and to keep growing this online resource.

Watch for more news in the coming weeks as the videos of these hundreds of signs are uploaded and we make this resource available publicly.

Joel Gaertner, director, WELS Special Ministries




A new perspective

From time to time, it is good to have a new or different perspective on something you are familiar with or have been a part of for a long time. I’ve had the privilege of being involved in Special Ministries for over a decade from several different perspectives.

I began my affiliation with Special Ministries as the chairman of the Intellectual and Developmental Disability Ministries (IDDM) committee. I then, almost simultaneously, accepted the call to serve as the director of Jesus Cares Ministries and was elected chairman of Special Ministries.  For the last decade I’ve said that I’ve been blessed to have a foot in both camps. Being a part of Special Ministries and also having the privilege of leading a partner of Special Ministries has given me many opportunities to bridge the two and help serve many, many people in both areas.

With this issue of His Hands we express a debt of gratitude to Jim Behringer for his loving leadership of Special Ministries over the last 11 years.  Special Ministries has been simultaneously associated with Jim and vice versa. Thank you, Jim, for being the “heart” of Special Ministries and for all you’ve done to help the many people served by the different arms of Special Ministries!

I consider it an incredible privilege to be asked to serve as only the fourth director (Alfons Woldt, Carl Ziemer and Jim Behringer) in the 50-year history of WELS Special Ministries. While I’ve been involved with this area of ministry, I now have a different perspective that has me seeing what it takes to help Special Ministries on a day-to-day basis serve and assist the many people and areas of what has been described as the “heart” of WELS. I humbly ask for your prayers that I would carry on the good work of those who have led Special Ministries for the last 50 years.  I look forward to working with everyone associated with Special Ministries in any way. I welcome any thoughts, input, questions, concerns, etc. you might have as together we continue to serve as His Hands.

Joel Gaertner, director, WELS Special Ministries




Comforting others with the comfort we have received

Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who gives tender love. All comfort comes from him. He comforts us in all our troubles. Now we can comfort others when they are in trouble. We ourselves receive comfort from God. We share very much in the sufferings of Christ. So we also share very much in his comfort. If we are having trouble, it is so that you will be comforted and renewed. If we are comforted, it is so that you will be comforted. Then you will be able to put up with the same suffering we have gone through. Our hope for you remains firm. We know that you suffer just as we do. In the same way, God comforts you just as he comforts us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NIrV)

Often the earthly shame of a situation can be a barrier to comfort, and this is especially true when dealing with incarceration. Lisa (not her real name) was a very concerned mother. Her son had been using drugs since high school and was just convicted for the second time. While she appreciated her pastors and the biblical guidance they offered, she desired more encouragement in her situation, but didn’t know where to find it. She also was fearful of raising the topic with any of her church friends for fear of how it might be perceived. Would people see her as a failure as a mother? She already had plenty of pain from the events themselves. She didn’t need a dose of shame on top of that.

Then in Lisa’s women’s Bible study group, one of the women spoke of her nephew’s struggle with substance abuse and repeated incarcerations, asking for prayers for the young man. Her Bible study friend also spoke of visiting another family member in prison and how that changed her heart. So much so that this friend was now actively involved in visiting female inmates in the county jail. Now Lisa knew of someone who could truly relate to her situation and her fear of reaching out for support evaporated. She now benefitted from the comfort her friend had received previously.

Those of us who have experienced the pain of incarceration of a loved one can be an invaluable resource to others—if they know where to turn. Because of the sensitivity of the topic, this needs to be done judiciously. Here are some ideas.

  • As in the case above, a healthy small group Bible study can make a good environment for sharing difficult situations, especially if the group has established a level of trust and members do not gossip. Praying with and for each other provides some natural openings for seeking God’s help and the assistance of his people for difficult situations.
  • If you’ve been through the incarceration of a friend or loved one, share that experience with your pastor, elders, or other spiritually mature fellow members. They will then be able to refer someone to you when the need arises.
  • Volunteering for jail or prison visitation ministry or mentoring a former inmate can provide you with insight into the challenges current and former inmates face. It will also establish your reputation as someone who has a heart for lost souls. With the right training, this can be done by anyone regardless of any previous experience with incarcerated people.

The temptation is there to bury painful parts of our lives and avoid talking about them. Don’t let Satan deceive you. Carefully sharing the painful parts of our past can reap a rich harvest of present and future blessings. Pray for guidance and courage to share the comfort God gave us with others.

By Dave Hochmuth, Prison Ministry administrator



The patient mentor

As we have reported previously, COVID and contraband have made ministry to current inmates more challenging, whether in person or by mail. But mentoring a released inmate does not require permission by a correctional facility. You can explore this opportunity and receive initial training for this type of ministry in the next online offering of Mentoring a Returning Citizen. One of our existing mentors shares some of the blessings both he and his mentee have received while participating in this ministry:

I have known my mentee for a few years now – as I think back over that time, I marvel at what the Lord has done and is doing in this relationship. Initially he had no Christian background and little previous Christian example to benchmark. While I desired faster progress in a variety of important issues, my confidence remained in the Lord’s timing and process.

The first blessing that’s been reinforced in my heart is: Trust in the Lord – in ALL things. We need to leave control and understanding to God. Scripture tells us this, but when events dictate “letting go,” we grasp with our hearts a great truth that we then demonstrate and pass on to our mentee.

A second blessing is comprehending/experiencing unconditional love. Jesus tells his disciples, “If you love those who love you, so what! – even the worst of sinners do that.” When I first met my mentee, “please and thank you” were not part of his vocabulary. Now he uses them, but even more – he considers my needs and is genuinely concerned about creating inconveniences in my life. This is an amazing change for one so self-focused and utterly worldly when we met. Yet, the Lord has shared with me his love for my mentee, and I’m experiencing it along with my mentee. It’s amazing – beyond words!

The Lord sometimes must “prepare the soil for planting” and this may require great patience, but we keep our eyes fixed on him and seek not to miss the opportunities to show the mentee an example of the Spirit of Christ by how we live and interact with them and others. Recently, my mentee asked, “I want to know how to include God in my life daily.” Such interest and determination were an answer to my frequent prayers! So we identified resources that could foster daily growth.

Over time the Spirit has made the mentee ready and eager to learn, change, and grow. Being part of this process is breathtaking. Being a mentor is an awesome privilege!


Mentoring a returning citizen

Explore a unique way to serve with no obligation.

  • Assess your gifts and receive initial training
  • Five Saturdays, Sept. 9-Oct. 7, 2023
  • 90-minute Zoom sessions starting at 11 a.m. (Central Time)

For more information contact [email protected] or 414-256-3243.