God’s plan for deafness in our family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Restricted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

A resource for your ministry to seniors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Baker’s dozen at the font

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Chaplain Certification online courses – Spring 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Rallying for inclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Breaking into prison (ministry, that is)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

One tough Ranger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Three-phase approach to fighting pornography addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Recovery Retreat in October

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

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

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

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

Register online at lutheranrecoveryministries.com/projects.

 

 

Preventing child abuse in church

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

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

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

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

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

Consider how one sex offender described his mindset:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Recovery Retreat coming in October

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Lutheran “leftovers”

It was a proud tradition in our house, and Mom was good at it. She could take a little of this leftover, a bit of that one, and just a smidgen of the one near the back of the refrigerator (the one alongside the sauerkraut)…mix it all together…call it a casserole…and feed her family another nourishing meal.

Many a Lutheran has been raised on leftovers. Some Lutherans may even think of themselves as leftovers. They’re retired or soon will be. They’ve always been active at church, and their church has been richly blessed because of them. But now they count themselves among the “saintly seniors.” They move a bit more slowly, with a little less energy, and plan a lot more carefully. Some even seem to think their useful, productive years have passed them by.

Which are you—the smidgen of leftover “flour” or one of the last “drops of oil”? You know where this is going, don’t you—to that Old Testament, famine-afflicted village of Zarephath…to that widow and her son…to their last supper…to that outrageous “Feed me first!” demand by God’s prophet. And of course you also remember what our amazing God did with those leftovers. (If not, read 1 Kings 17.)
So what might our amazing God want to do with—and for—“leftovers” like us?

Before you even try to guess, know that there is a nationwide organization designed for and entirely made up of “Lutheran leftovers.” It’s called OWLS. For more than 30 years, it has been encouraging “leftover” Lutherans to share generous chunks of their less-cluttered time and their collective talent with their churches.

The goal of OWLS is “to give older WELS and ELS Lutherans a continuing sense of purpose and involvement in church-centered work during their maturing years and to provide for their growth, development, service, and happiness in a God-pleasing manner.”

For example, wouldn’t your congregation love to have your help with the children of its Sunday school, vacation Bible school, or Lutheran elementary school? Or maybe you’d prefer helping in the office, or with maintenance, or with visiting shut-ins and nursing homes. Look around your church and you’ll find satisfying service opportunities that can be matched to the preferences and abilities of anyone who may feel like a “left-out leftover.”

Do you still manage to be “up and around” but can no longer be “out and about”? Others face the same predicament. But OWLS wants you to know that you still have options—opportunities to serve—right from your kitchen table. With your prayers and offerings you can support the European Civilian Chaplaincy, which OWLS helps to underwrite, or WELS Prison Ministry, which can always use pen pals and test correctors.

Ask if your church has an OWLS chapter. They typically gather for fellowship, service projects, guest speakers, and fun. If there is no local chapter to answer your questions, you can ask for more information at:

Online: csm.welsrc.net/owls-convention-2018
E-mail: OWLS@newulmtel.net
Mail: P.O. Box 84, New Ulm, MN 56073
Phone: 507-354-4403

Finally, only the Lord knows what he’s going to make out of Lutheran “leftovers.” But knowing our Lord, it’s bound to leave a sweet and satisfying taste in the mouths of the “leftovers” who let him use them!

 

 

 

Race to our Convention for Lutheran Seniors!

Elkhart Lake, Wis., is famous as the site of Road America, a four-mile, 14-turn race track that has hosted the “fastest racers in the world” for over 60 years.

From October 10 to 12, 2018, the town’s fame will grow when the “fastest retirees in the WELS and ELS” gather at the Convention for Lutheran Seniors in the glorious Osthoff Resort, a four-star hotel overlooking Elkhart Lake. The village is west of Sheboygan, midway between Milwaukee and Green Bay.

The convention brings together “senior saints” who are one in faith and fellowship to be spiritually enriched, have fun, meet new friends, and renew old acquaintances. Offerings support the European Civilian Chaplaincy and provide scholarships for Martin Luther College students preparing for the teaching or preaching ministry.

The convention is being hosted by OWLS (Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors) but…you don’t need to be an OWLS member to attend. Come and see for yourself the blessings the group offers to any WELS or ELS member who is 55 or over, retired or not.

We have arranged for a tour of the race track (at safe senior speeds). Other possible excursions include the Kohler Design Center in Kohler and the Wade House Historic Site in Greenbush. Back at the hotel, there will be engaging speakers, worship, fellowship, and plenty of good food.

“Finish Your Race” is the theme of this year’s convention, but “Start Your Race” at these websites:

Registration form: csm.welsrc.net/owls-convention-2018
Osthoff Resort: osthoff.com (to see the hotel but not to register for a room)
Elkhart Lake: elkhartlake.com (plenty to do in a town of 967)
Road America: roadamerica.com (learn why it’s a legend)

So “start your engines,” do your planning, and talk to others about coming along for the ride. See you in Elkhart Lake. It’ll be a hoot!

 

 

 

Doesn’t God want what’s best for me?

About a year ago my strength left me. I could no longer exercise. At times I could barely walk. I thought I was dying. There were days when the best I could do was lie in bed. I couldn’t concentrate well enough to do my college classes. I couldn’t even read fiction. Once a student who could take four classes and be on the dean’s list, I had to drop the one class I was taking. Recently, because of extreme fatigue and compromised memory, I had to quit a job I really enjoyed as a bank teller. My brain fog was too much and no one could figure out how to control it.

Living with a chronic, invisible illness is very difficult. People can’t see how you are feeling. Some say, “It’s all in your head.” Others say, “You look fine.” They don’t understand. How could they, when they have never endured something like this?

Struggling with even the smallest tasks of life has left me very discouraged. Some days it feels as though my body is giving up on me. Leaving my job left me feeling like a failure. I am not strong or successful, and fear I never will be where I want to be in life.

But I have to remember: God knows what is best and has promised to work everything out for my good (Romans 8:28). It is not easy to see what could be good about being so sick I can’t work a regular job. Even doing laundry or walking up stairs involves pain. Wouldn’t God, if he wants what is best for me, make me well so I can be successful and make a lot of money?

That’s how it seems to me, but God knows better, and my eternal welfare is his top priority. If struggling with my health is what keeps me close to him, then I can view that as a blessing.

God allowed St. Paul to suffer with a “thorn in the flesh.” He asked God three times to take it away, yet God answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). It may not feel that way, but I am strong through Christ who lived, died, and rose again so I can spend eternity in heaven.

My worth doesn’t come from being successful in the world’s eyes. My worth is not in what I do, but in what God did for me. Jesus considered me worth dying for, and that makes me valuable to God as his precious, forgiven child for eternity.

No matter what happens to my health in this life, I still have Jesus and an eternity of perfect health ahead. Even if I never make a lot of money because of my struggles, I am rich through faith in Christ. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Sarah Allerding is a WELS certified chaplain. She is one of Jesus’ jewels at Crown of Life, Warren, Mich.

Support groups can be a wonderful blessing for people who feel they are alone in their struggle. Contact Special Ministries at specialministries@wels.net or 414-256-3241 for guidelines on beginning a support group at your church.

 

 

 

Chaplain Certification online courses – Fall 2018

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

A Scriptural Approach to Addiction Counseling (THE9521) – This core course offers a study of addictions, especially substance abuse and pornography, and the ways Christians try to help through Law/Gospel counseling and referral. (3 credits)

Frontline Chaplaincy (THE9524) – This elective is specially designed for those who would serve as chaplains to people on the frontline of the defense of our society, namely the military, police, firefighters, and their families. (3 credits)

Geriatric and Care Facility Ministry (THE9525) –
A team-oriented approach to ministry for people who are aging or residents in care facilities. This elective provides both knowledge and skills for congregation members to provide spiritual care for the homebound and the institutionalized. (3 credits)

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

For information on the certification program or any of these online courses, go to mlc-wels.edu and search for “Chaplain Certification.” Fall classes begin August 20.

 

 

 

Worshiping in a secular military

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).

My understanding of Psalm 20:7 has changed since Missionary Howard Mohlke chose it to be my confirmation passage. I see that passage differently after six years of active duty as a United States Marine. King David was talking about two of the most effective and powerful weapons of his time. Today’s “chariots and horses” take the form of advanced jets and accurate weapons, but the temptation that Psalm 20 alludes to has not diminished.

The armies of Old Testament Israel had the advantage of having God as the head of their military organization. Our service members don’t have that advantage in a nation which separates church and state. Our nation values the qualities that our Christian men and women bring to the Armed Forces, but it will remain a secular organization.

The military provides for the religious needs of its service members through military chaplains from major religious denominations. This does not meet the needs of WELS service members who can only practice their faith fully through clergy of their own fellowship, particularly the reception of Holy Communion. The Department of Defense accounts for this situation through the regulation DoDI 1300.17: Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services. This regulation directs the services to approve requests for religious accommodation “when accommodation would not adversely affect mission accomplishment, including military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health, and safety, or any other military requirement.” In most circumstances WELS members can request religious services and the military will have to approve the request or be in violation of the law.

A request for religious services during basic training is an example of a good situation to use this right. The WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the military can help to prepare the religious accommodation request in advance and will connect the service member with a WELS pastor in the area who can serve them. In basic training this request will go to the drill sergeant/drill instructor. If the military member is already at their permanent duty station the request will go to their unit chaplain. In both cases, a military chaplain will be responsible for helping enable the request because, in addition to their religious duties, chaplains are responsible for ensuring that military members can worship according to their religion. When making the request, the military member will have to explain that the WELS is an Armed Forces-recognized “distinctive religious group” and it is not appropriate for them to receive services from Lutheran ministers who are not WELS.

The military can deny a request due to military necessity, such as the impracticality of bringing a WELS pastor onto an active battlefield or to a secret base. They will, however, work through the unit chaplain to provide access to appropriate religious materials or an opportunity to call or Skype a WELS minister.

Today’s “chariots and horses” are powerful, and our military is perhaps the strongest earthly army ever to exist, but I rejoice daily that our nation protects my right to take King David’s advice and trust in the name of the Lord my God instead.

For more information on how to request religious services while in uniform, contact Pastor Paul Ziemer, the WELS National Civilian Chaplain, at military@wels.net.

Adam Lawrenz is a member of the Military Services Committee and serves in uniform in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

 

 

 

Military Contact Pastors meet in Tampa

Want to get Military Contact Pastors (MCP’s) to attend a conference on ministering to our members in the Armed Forces? Schedule it in Florida in January!

The Military Services Committee held the annual conference for some 30 MCP’s at Northdale Lutheran Church in Tampa from January 30 to February 1, 2018.

The pastors, who all serve near military bases, heard presentations by an exercise instructor who works with wounded veterans, a former Navy SEAL who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a Marine veteran explaining the military mindset and procedures, another former Marine who uses jiu-jitsu as therapy with PTSD victims, and an active duty Army sergeant assigned to the National Guard chaplains’ office.

The conference was highlighted by a trip to MacDill Air Force Base, home of the military’s Central Command and Special Operations Command, where the base chaplain fielded questions about religious accommodation for distinctive religious groups (like WELS) and how pastors can gain access to service members who request WELS or ELS pastoral care.

The next MCP Conference is planned for early 2019 in the western United States. For more information, contact Pastor Paul Horn, chairman of the Military Services Committee, at revhorn2004@gmail.com or 770-943-0330.

 

 

 

Can you hear us? We’re part of the body too!

Imagine walking into church and not wanting to talk to anyone. No, you’re not mad at another member or the pastor. You’re embarrassed. It has become increasingly difficult to hold a conversation. You try to smile and nod, but it’s at the inappropriate time. Frustrated, you wonder: “Why do I keep coming? I can’t even hear the Word!” Unfortunately, there are people who walk into our churches and feel just that way.

Whether it is the construction worker who has lost his hearing over years of running heavy equipment, or the young girl who had spinal meningitis when she was one year old and lost 90% of her hearing, hearing loss affects people of all ages. Hearing loss does not discriminate, and it often carries a stigma.

People often link hearing aids and hearing loss with “old people.” My father had this problem. He lost 70% of his hearing in one ear due to a childhood illness. As an adult he finally sought help. After he was fitted with his new hearing aid the audiologist told him, “This is the same model President Reagan wears.” To a man in his twenties this was not a compliment! It wasn’t until his late fifties that he finally wore one.

Whether it is because of embarrassment like my father, or the severity of the hearing loss, many of our members are not able to hear the Word on Sunday morning. They avoid Bible study because they can’t hear what everyone says. They duck out on fellowship because there isn’t much point when you can’t communicate. Yet the Word is of chief importance. The apostle Paul wrote, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).

Every member—whether deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or those with special needs—is a part of the body. “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many… But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:14a, 26, 27)

As members of the body of Christ, we should not be satisfied with sitting in a room with each other for one hour a week, then going our separate ways. As the body, we build each other up with the Word of God, share in each other’s struggles, and rejoice in each other’s successes. The body is not satisfied that those with hearing loss can merely read a printed sermon and the hymns, but strives to aid those members of the body by utilizing interpreters, assisted listening devices, looping, and proper lighting and visibility for lip reading.

Your congregation is not alone in these efforts. The Ministry for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MDHH) is here to help. MDHH offers a wealth of information to help break down barriers and stigmas regarding hearing loss, to clearly proclaim the Word of God, and to bring the body of Christ closer together.

Aaron Duve is a member of the MDHH Committee and serves the body of Christ as pastor at Holy Redeemer, Port Huron, Mich.

Learn more about how MDHH can help you or your congregation at wels.net/mdhh and at csm.welsrc.net/mdhh.

 

 

 

Seeing life through the eyes of the blind

My name is Rebecca, but many people call me Bekki. I am an extremely happy, outgoing 44-year-old who just happens to have vision loss.
I am new to your congregation and excited to get to know you. However, before we get too deep into conversation, I need to share some important things with you.

I am visually impaired, or as some prefer to say, legally blind. I have many friends who have “low vision.” That is also a form of blindness, but low vision includes some usable vision.

I walk with a white cane. Many of my friends prefer to use a guide dog. Both serve the same purposes: to help us scan ahead for obstacles, assist us in navigating, and identify ourselves as someone with a visual impairment.

What kind of obstacles, you ask? Holes in the sidewalk, chairs that are not pushed in, bags and purses lying on the floor, etc. As someone who has walked into many a half-closed door, I can tell you that these and many other things are a huge deal for my friends and me.

Here are some “do’s and don’ts” when approaching someone with a guide dog. These rules are for the safety of the owners and their beautiful animals.

If you see a dog in harness, please DO NOT attempt to pet, touch, feed, or do anything else that may distract the dog while it is “working.”

Talk to the owner, not the dog. This will distract the dog. Many owners want you to meet their furry friend and even pet them, but let the owner introduce you, then follow their instructions.

The guide dog is that person’s eyes and their guide. Do not try to take over for the dog. Never take the owner’s arm to guide them, and never grab the dog’s harness.

Always walk on the person’s right side. The dog is trained to be at their owner’s left. You could distract the dog and get them off course.

In time, I will come to know your voice, but I cannot always recognize a voice if there is a lot of noise around us. So please say your name each time you approach me. This saves the embarrassment of hearing me ask you every time, “I’m sorry, what is your name?”

Everyone likes to be heard in a group conversation, and it is no different for someone with vision loss. You will find that I am a very interesting woman. Even though I am not able to read non-verbal signs between people, I still have something to share. So please include me in your conversations. Do not talk over me as if I do not exist. I am an independent adult woman who has a voice of her own. I will give you respect; I only ask for that same respect in return.

If you find me sitting by myself in a pew or at a table after the service, do not assume that I am choosing to be alone. Come up to me, introduce yourself, and let me tell you if I would like some company or not. Nine times out of ten, I would love some!

If you need to leave, please announce that you are doing so. This way I am aware that you are no longer there. It will save me the embarrassment of having another conversation with only myself.

One final thing that I really want you to remember: Please do not avoid me as if I have a disease that you can catch. Blindness, as scary as it can seem, is not something that I can give you. Many of my friends have lost their vision because of inherited diseases, complications from medicines, or were born without sight. I lost my vision after two strokes and massive brain swelling from the removal of a brain tumor.

None of us asked for this, nor is it easy. But at the end of the day, we are just like everyone else in this congregation. We are all God’s children who read the Bible and quote Scripture. The only difference between you and me is that we see the world through a different pair of eyes.

It was really nice to meet you! When I see you next, remember to introduce yourself, as I would really like to talk with you again.

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).

Rebecca Glassing lives in the Twin Cities and volunteers with the Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI) in St. Paul, Minn.

Learn more about MVI’s work and resources at wels.net/mvi and at csm.welsrc.net/mvi.

 

 

 

God so loved the world, that …

The little words tell a big story. We often use John 3:16 to prove that God loves all people and to testify of salvation through faith in God’s Son our Savior. Tucked inside is a message in a single word: “that.” God’s love does not stand by, passively watching. Love is not just an ideal, nor does it remain a mere feeling. Love motivated God to action; he had compassion on lost sinners and sent his Son to rescue us.

Because God rescued us in his compassion, we are also people who put love into action. 1 John 3:17 asks, “If anyone . . . sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” In the next verse John makes it clear that “pity” means “help.” He writes, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Imagine what it would be like if our church family always showed God’s love in action. A member would offer to help a National Guard spouse with the extra chores while her loved one is deployed. An older couple might adopt a “grandchild” to sit with them during the service to help a single mom who brings four children to learn about Jesus. A teen might advocate for new technology to help a blind or deaf member participate in worship.

In his compassion our Lord always knows what to do, but Christians may not be sure about the best approach in every situation. Some problems are bigger than we can understand. Still, we know what it is to be human, and we understand the emotions of struggling with problems. “Love in action” might be as simple as saying, “I don’t know how I can help, but I want you to know I’m glad you’re here. I’ll pray for a solution. Is there anything else I can do?”

Jesus died for the person in the pew next to us, for our next-door neighbor, and for those who face barriers to regular worship. When they struggle, Jesus says, “Go serve them as I served you. Go love them as I loved you.” God rescued us and now sends us to be a blessing to others. Is there a better definition of special ministry?

Learn more about WELS Special Ministries at wels.net/special-ministries or call 414-256-3241. Find resources, including the His Hands newsletter, at csm.welsrc.net.

 

 

 

Who is helping whom?

Technology is helping us to break down many Special Ministries barriers. The Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI) is a great example. For years, MVI had a printed catalog of resources. Of course, blind people could not read it! We assumed that a family member or friend would help our patrons choose materials.

Christian literature in Braille has always been available through this catalog. MVI also offers large print materials and audio cassette recordings of Christian literature and music.

Today, the MVI committee includes blind members. They use the computer with the assistance of technology called JAWS, which tells them what is on the screen. These leaders are guiding us to make quality spiritual resources available online. Within the next year, we hope to offer an online library of audio books. The resources are also available to anyone who has any disability that prevents them from reading a book. The MVI catalog will soon be revised so that the blind can search for themselves.

Learn more at wels.net/mvi. Find resources at csm.welsrc.net/mvi.

 

 

 

One size does not fit all

The Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MDHH) helps churches and other ministries serve two very different populations. Even among the deaf and the hard of hearing, a diversity of experience, challenges, and solutions exist. One size does not fit all!

Yet all people with hearing loss need Jesus. That reality unites the MDHH in striving to educate and provide resources for church leaders and members. People with hearing loss can worship and be active in their church.

MDHH can help you solve the “sign language challenge.” A deaf visitor to a WELS church said that he learned to love Lutheran worship when he was in college, but he needed an interpreter. The church contacted MDHH. The next Sunday the church had an interpreter and even several MDHH members to meet the man and assess his situation! Answering questions about interpreting and helping to locate interpreters are two MDHH services. An online course on American Sign Language and deaf culture is offered annually through Martin Luther College to broaden knowledge and skills among WELS members.

People with mild hearing loss shouldn’t miss parts of the sermon. An Assistive Listening Device, such as the Williams Sound System and a headset, can help. For those who wear hearing aids equipped with a T-switch, a hearing loop can greatly improve understanding and participation in worship.

Both the deaf and hard of hearing were created to be part of the Body of Christ. MDHH helps churches understand the importance of including deaf and hard-of-hearing members in worship and other activities, which brings wonderful blessings. Far from needing pity, these brothers and sisters in Christ can bring spiritual perspectives, talents, and experience to the life of the church, usually with just a bit of help from technology. We serve each other with our gifts. That’s how Jesus created his church!

Learn more at wels.net/mdhh. Find resources at csm.welsrc.net/mdhh.

 

 

 

New abuse prevention training resources

How do we protect children from abuse? How can we prevent it entirely, or help a child when abuse is discovered? The mission of Freedom for the Captives (FFTC) is “Equipping the Body of Christ to protect children and empower abuse survivors.” FFTC is developing resources to train WELS leaders at our churches, schools, and other organizations. The course is called “Standing Up for Children: A Christian Response to Child Abuse and Neglect.” It is scheduled for completion in early 2018. Training sessions can be scheduled by contacting Special Ministries (specialministries@wels.net or 414-256-3241).

Visit the website at freedomforcaptives.com.

 

 

 

Getting it right about moral issues

Have you ever expressed disapproval of pornography and been met with a blank look? After a generation of industry marketing, many accept porn as a healthy part of sexuality.

So Christians may be relieved that the dangers of pornography are receiving greater scrutiny and awareness. Recent criticism has focused on its connection with the devastation of sex trafficking, or the impact of sexual addiction.

The topic absent from the public forum is sin. Using porn has a corrosive effect. It not only harms a marriage, but our relationship with God. Even if no sex trafficking is involved and no addiction occurs, something is dying in the human heart. The prayer, “Create in me a pure heart, O God,” can become empty words. Guilt and shame take over.

Conquerors through Christ continues to prepare resources to help Christians reject, resist, and recover from porn. An excellent Bible study, “Bought at a Price,” and e-books for parenting are available on their website. New materials for high school students are in production.

It’s not enough to say that porn is wrong. God has provided a path to return to him through forgiveness in Christ and the power of his Spirit. Let’s get the message out!

Visit the website at conquerorsthroughchrist.net.

 

 

 

Remembering those behind bars

Many would be surprised to learn that the early Christian church needed to do prison ministry. Yes, needed. John the Baptizer and Jesus were incarcerated, of course. The Book of Acts relates several instances of the apostles being jailed. Many followers of Jesus were locked up for the “crime” of being a Christian.

That’s why the New Testament instructs: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3)

Prison Ministry was organized to provide WELS seniors a way to “remember those in prison” in a distinctly gospel-based structure for volunteering. From the start, pen pal opportunities and Bible study correspondence focused on sharing the gospel. The original structure was well thought out, and today is no longer limited to senior involvement.

Our ministry to men and women behind bars has grown and been refined as we understand more about the experience of incarceration and how much impact Bible study can have. The central office and our volunteers respond quickly to letters and correspondence course tests, recognizing the isolation of those who are doing time. We continually bring Christ and His salvation into our communication, understanding that everyone needs to know about their Savior, including those who struggle with their guilt alone in a prison cell.

Prison Ministry also trains WELS and ELS laypeople to serve inmates in local jails through Jail Ministry Team Training (JMTT), in keeping with our emphasis on empowering face-to-face ministry.

For more information on volunteering or receiving training, call 507-354-3130 or e-mail prisonministry@wels.net.

Learn more at wels.net/prison-ministry. Find resources at online.

To add an inmate to the mailing list, go to wels.net/refer.

 

 

 

Help for the hurting

Mutual support and Christian encouragement can turn a crisis or a burden into spiritual growth and a deeper relationship with Christ. That’s why churches are turning to support groups to serve their members and the community.

Addiction support groups are not new. WELS Special Ministries, along with WLCFS—Christian Family Solutions, promote Christian spiritual components missing from the standard twelve-step program.

Believers faced with a variety of challenges can benefit from support groups. For example, Samaritan Partners is a Special Ministries program to help caregivers. A Christian who provides care for a parent, spouse, or child shoulders heavy responsibilities and can easily feel isolated. A regular gathering of caregivers can bless church members with fellowship and encouragement. As a bonus, it can serve as an outreach to the community.

We want to develop resources for grief support groups. If you have skills or interest in this area, please contact Special Ministries (specialministries@wels.net or 414-256-3241).

Do you know hurting people in your congregation or community that could benefit from a support group? Our resources and experts can help you avoid common pitfalls in getting a gathering going.

Contact Special Ministries at 414-256-3241 or specialministries@wels.net.

 

 

 

Personalizing our church family’s love

What congregation doesn’t need people with gifts of teaching and administration? Many tasks require someone who is good at interacting with people, quick with Christian insight and encouragement, and being generally helpful.

Did you think “parish nurse” when you read the description above? Maybe you’ve never had such a position and think it an unnecessary addition to the church worker list. But WELS churches with an active parish nurse program will strongly recommend it. “Church family” evokes an image of caring for each other, and parish nursing personalizes that love.

A WELS parish nurse is a currently licensed Registered Nurse (RN) who promotes both physical and spiritual wellness in the congregation. The parish nurse conducts a wellness-based and non-invasive practice, and the ministry is performed according to the congregation’s mission statement and under the direction of the pastor.

Christ Lutheran Church, Eden Prairie, Minn., summarizes the work this way: “The primary purpose of the congregation is to spread the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Christ. In addition, a congregation serves as a ‘home’ and a ‘family’ to its members who have not only spiritual needs but also physical, emotional, and psychological needs . . . The Ministry. . . is one way to encourage this sharing of God’s love and the growth of faith among those with special needs related to health.”

Well-trained parish nurses can be a great blessing to your family of faith. Pastor Mike Woldt of David’s Star Lutheran Church, Jackson, Wis., lists these advantages:

    • Good training will help parish nurses share the law and gospel message of Scripture with the people they serve.
    • Good training will help parish nurses function within the framework of the congregation and in partnership with the called leaders of the church.
    • Good training will help parish nurses recognize opportunities for serving God’s people with the abilities they possess and the skills they have cultivated as practicing nurses.

Learn more at the Parish Nursing area of welsnurses.net, the website of WELS Nurses Association.