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, 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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

“Don’t Run Away From the Lord”

The first time I met “Darren” at the jail our conversation was brief. I introduced myself as Chaplain Brown. He gave me his name and that was about it. I had trouble understanding him because he had been shot in the neck and his voice was weak. I said, “God bless your day and see you next Wednesday.”

The next few weeks every time I went past his bed, Darren was sleeping. His blanket was pulled over his head, which was the norm for prisoners trying to sleep in the brightly lit room. A few times I caught Darren in the middle of a meal as he or a nurse were pouring liquid nutrition into his feeding tube. After his gunshot wound he could no longer swallow. Everything went through that tube.

I looked for Darren weekly and eventually our conversations got longer and centered on Jesus and all he said and did for us. Darren confessed his trust in Jesus and his interest in the Bible grew, especially Bible history. Moses, Joshua, and David intrigued him. One day I gave Darren a Bible study on the book of Jonah. He told me he would answer the questions and we would talk about it the next week.

The next week we went through the story and came to the question that read, “Have you ever run away from God the way Jonah did?” He answered “yes” and I asked him to tell about it, expecting to hear a little about what landed him jail. Instead, he told me how he used to see me coming and knew that I would talk to him about God’s Word, so he pulled his blanket over his head and pretended he was sleeping. That was his way of running away from the Lord. We both had a good laugh and then he assured me that he is not running any longer.

There are still times that I get to the jail and Darren is sleeping, but he is no longer running away. When he is awake, we talk about God’s Word. We laugh when I talk about what I am having for lunch while he gets liquids. We talk about heaven and being able to enjoy the best of meats and the finest of wines (Isaiah 25).

And now, he is quick to pull other inmates into our conversations or direct me to others who need to hear God’s Word. Like Jonah, this reluctant inmate has now become God’s missionary in the jail. He is not running away from the Lord, he is running in the paths of his commands because he knows God has set his heart free.

Pastor Matt Brown, Chaplain at the Harris County Jail, Houston, Tex.

 

 

Book Review: The Executioner’s Redemption

Author Timothy Carter, now a pastor for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, documents his fascinating journey from a confused, self-righteous, often violent correctional officer to a redeemed child of God who struggled with how to serve his Savior in a challenging environment. Along the way, Tim served on the Texas “death squad,” personally filling various roles during more than 150 executions by lethal injection.

Seeking a way to pay for his college expenses, Tim Carter began working as a correctional officer in Huntsville, Tex. He often experienced various conflicting influences in this antagonistic environment. While believing he was a part of the war against evil criminals and an agent of God’s wrath, Carter used physical force and hate to help maintain order. Then the moment arrived when he considered what he had become, and he didn’t like it. Dr. Beto, a criminology professor at Sam Houston State University, advised him to consider the words of Jesus found in Matthew 10:16: “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Over the next two decades, Carter sought ways to implement these words by dying to self and walking humbly before the Lord.

After being appointed to the death squad, he carefully considered how inmates, victims, and the families of both were affected by the suffering caused by sin and evil in the world. Moreover, Carter grappled with his own uncertainties regarding God’s will for government executions. A spiritual struggle of justice versus mercy followed. Carter realized that he couldn’t fix troubled people, but God could. He witnessed this firsthand with an inmate named Karla Faye Tucker, who spent time on death row after committing an extremely brutal double murder. When she first entered the prison, she was unrepentant, manipulative, and defiant. However, after the gospel permeated her heart, she became one of God’s sheep. The peace of God emanated from her countenance before, during, and after her execution. Her life and example left a lasting impression on Carter and many others.

During his years on the death squad, Carter witnessed many profound spiritual battles where the devil sought to destroy lives created by God. He observed death row prisoners cling to God’s promises after prison ministry volunteers visited and shared Scripture with them. The patience and love these volunteers showed for the condemned prompted Carter to reexamine his role in the lives of those with whom he came into contact. He realized not only was he an agent of protection, but he was a conduit for God’s love. By praying for the condemned, the victims, and their families during the execution proceedings, God used Carter to convey his peace. He came to understand that sin is the problem. Jesus is the answer. When particularly difficult circumstances arose, he drew the conclusion that things went awry if he focused on his own authority and on the earthly kingdom. However, when he focused on Jesus’ authority and his kingdom, circumstances fell into line as they should.

After ending his career as one who wielded the sword of the state, Timothy Carter wrestled with the idea of becoming one who wielded the sword of the spirit. After attending and completing seminary studies, he was called as the Care Ministry Pastor in his home congregation of Tomball, Tex., where he ministers to individuals in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice care. In addition, he frequently visits the incarcerated from his own congregation. It is no coincidence that he serves those who are suffering or near death in his current career just as he did while employed at the penitentiary. While conducting one-on-one counseling in prisons, speaking at high schools and church youth gatherings, he relays experiences he encountered as a correctional officer, applying Scriptural truths. Believing the only answer to man’s broken relationship with God is faith in his son’s redeeming work on the cross, Carter hopes that many will join “to honor God’s provisions for protecting his sheep while loving the wolves.”

For any reader, Pastor Carter relates a journey first to faith and then in faith that clearly shows the power of God’s Word, both law and gospel. His struggle to live his faith and his recognition of how God was using him, even in seemingly small ways, encourage us to seek and act on those opportunities in our own lives. He provides vivid insight into prison life that will help any volunteer better understand the souls we seek to reach and their environment. Ultimately, the book is a powerful testimony to Christ’s saving love regardless of which side of the bars the soul is on.

 

 

 

Corrector’s Corner – Spring 2020

Volunteer test correctors are vital to our correspondence course ministry. Inmates submit about 10,000 tests for correction each year. More than 120 currently active correctors scattered all over the United States help us respond to each submitted test. If you’re interested in exploring this role, please contact our New Ulm office (pmsec@wels.net or 507-354-3130).

Thank you faithful test correctors, whether you have been correcting for many years or are just receiving your first packet. Please remember to:

  • Correct and return tests within two weeks. Returning corrected tests quickly helps us build trust with our “students.” Inmates are eager to receive their tests and completion certificates. We assure them that we have a process:
    • The same day we receive a test, the inmate is sent a new booklet and the test is sent to a corrector.
    • The Tuesday after we receive the test from the corrector, our in-house-volunteers hand-write certificates and mail them back to the inmate with their final corrected test.
  • Many inmates are moved without notice. Quickly returning the tests reduces the expense of returned tests/certificates and the time it takes to try to find inmates once they’ve been moved.
  • Contact our New Ulm office if you are on vacation or other commitments come up so we can put your name on hold.

 

 

 

Thanks . . . And pray for more of God’s blessings

WELS Prison Ministry operates on a fiscal year that runs from July to the following June. We’ve known this fiscal year would be challenging because the foundations that have generously supported us recently ($125,000 in the previous fiscal year) may provide much less or no grant funds this year. Yet God in his wisdom has found another way to supply some of our ministry needs. The WELS Ministry for Christian Giving allowed us to be the focus of their general appeal for financial support in December. This was timely because WELS Prison Ministry was also featured in the December edition of the WELS Connection video newsletter. As of the end of February, giving in response to this appeal has provided over $45,000 in gifts from brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank the Lord for what he provides through generous people like you.

Join us in fervent prayer for God to guide us to additional sources of support for this vital, fruitful, and joyful work. We are seeking ways to reach out to both new and existing givers, including individuals and foundations, to help support our work. If you know of any foundations or organizations that may be interested in helping us share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration, please pass that information on to Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth at 414-256-3243 or dave.hochmuth@wels.net. If the Lord has blessed you recently and you would like to share a portion of those blessings with us, we would be humbly grateful for your support and trust.

  1. Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests include: help us find ways to distribute God’s word electronically, especially where our booklets are not permitted; send the Holy Spirit to bless the Word and the inmates who are reading it; bless our current efforts to train more volunteers for inmate visitation and mentoring.
  2. 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 e-mail dave.hochmuth@wels.net.
  3. Give – While the recent appeal from the WELS Ministry of Christian giving was helpful, needed ongoing support comes from people like you. To support our efforts to share Jesus:
  • Send your gift to:
    WELS Prison Ministry
    N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
    Waukesha, WI 53188-1108
    (Make checks payable to WELS Prison Ministry)
  • Donate online at wels.net/sm-donation,
    click on “Designation” and choose:
    “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 2019 designation is due by March 31, 2020.

 

 

 

Compassion ministry seeks to include everyone

God made each of us with different strengths and weaknesses. But people with disabilities often find that others decide for them how they can and cannot participate in church life, even though they have as much interest in the work of the church as those who are fully abled. If we fail to include and accommodate people, both the church and the excluded person suffer. Consider the following tips about working together in the kingdom.

Don’t assume what someone can or cannot do

On first meeting someone, you don’t know what they can understand or do. Some people may struggle to express themselves, yet can understand your communication without difficulty. People who use wheelchairs may have above-average intelligence. People who are blind are not necessarily hard of hearing. Get to know that individual rather than make assumptions.

Put the person first

Our primary identity is as redeemed children of God, not blind, deaf, crippled, etc. Person-first language makes the person, not the disability, the subject. If the disability isn’t relevant, don’t mention it. If it is relevant, put the person first (e.g. “a person who uses a wheelchair” rather than “a handicapped person”). Fear stems from ignorance, so take a few minutes to learn from the person with a disability, rather than avoid them. A simple conversation can eliminate fear and foster a relationship in love.

Build a social ramp, not just a wheelchair ramp

Making the first friend is the hardest. Train individuals in your congregation to reach out and be that first friend to someone with a disability. Have them introduce other members to the newcomer, and model how to communicate with the person who has a disability. Consider how you can be a “social ramp” for someone who longs for friendship yet has a difficult time with social interactions.

Address barriers to seeing and hearing

Large-print bulletins and hymnals work well in traditional worship settings. Some churches now use tablet computers to display worship slides in a user-friendly manner and allow those with disabilities to follow song lyrics, sermon notes, liturgy, and even announcements.

A hearing loop linked to the church audio system can dramatically improve a person’s ability to hear. Sign-language interpreters can be employed locally or through online services.

“Let the little children come to me”

Children with disabilities often leave the church, along with their families, when a frustrated Sunday school teacher says, “I’m sorry—I just can’t do this anymore!” Give your teachers and youth leaders the resources they need to keep their classrooms welcoming for all students. Adding a second teacher to a classroom can make a world of difference.

Consider the whole family

Family members of persons with a disability face many extra stressors. Offering respite care for date nights, weekend getaways, or running errands shows sensitivity and love for the whole family.

Ask and listen

The best teaching resource we have may be the person in front of us. Ask questions like “What would you like to try doing that you haven’t been able to explore yet?” Then be prepared to follow through!

Helping more people than you first thought

Consider how “universal design” concepts can help you reach people in your community. Not everyone learns best by listening to a spoken message, and the same tools that can help a person with an intellectual disability participate more fully in worship may benefit others, such as people learning English as a second language.

Everybody belongs

Some people make involuntary noises or movements that others find distracting in worship. Church leaders can model an attitude that makes everyone feel welcome and comfortable. Many people with disabilities have meaningful contact only with family and paid caregivers. Rarely do they have opportunity to form lasting friendships. Could your small group ministry include people with disabilities?

Everybody wants to serve

All people can contribute actively with their gifts. Be intentional about asking what people with disabilities would like to offer, and be careful not to decide for someone what they cannot do. The person with disabilities, like any person, will know best their own abilities.

Larry Povinelli is a disability rights attorney. He worships at Lamb of God, an inclusive congregation in Madison, Ala.

For more resources on including people with disabilities, e-mail specialministries@wels.net or call 414-256-3241.