God’s eternal dwelling place

Originally appears on the One Africa Team Blog. To subscribe to receive future updates directly in your inbox, visit oneafricateam.com. “Like” the One Africa Team on Facebook at fb.com/OneAfricaTeamWELS


Come along with me. . .

I’m weaving through villages and fields, traipsing down narrow foot paths and trudging through muck. I’m jumping over mud puddles and broken bricks. I’m skirting around fallen walls, bent roofing sheets and twisted trusses. I’m stepping over soggy blankets and dirty clothes.

Malawi 2015 revisited. What happened? A deluge of rain: rivers overflowed, Maize fields flattened, Bridges demolished, Roads cratered.

Different year, different people, different location, same result: devastation.

Rains are a double-edged sword. Just enough and wells fill, fields drink, crops grow and the land produces.Too much and houses collapse leaving them useless; pit latrines overflow rendering them a danger. It all happened in Malawi.

Again.

People are reminiscing that this same thing happened just four years ago. The Malawi 2018/2019 wet season had a great start. A great balance of rain and sunshine. Crops were looking good.  Tobacco. Maize. Groundnuts. Farmers were ecstatic!

It’s going to be a bountiful harvest! We can sell our cash crops, our granaries will be full, we will harvest plenty to eat good, our bellies satisfied. . . no hunger this year!

Then came the March 6, 2019. Ash Wednesday arrived, and so did another rain. Well, not just another rain, but a downpour. The heavens opened. Water fell by the bucket. Cats and Dogs. Didn’t let up for 3 solid days. This time the land and the areas most affected are quite flat so the water didn’t have a natural run off. When rains fall that rapidly and that powerfully, mud houses just don’t stand a chance against such force and pressure of water. The torrent was enough to bring down the roof.

It did.

LCCA-Malawi member’s home destroyed by flooding

Many houses were destroyed. Families are displaced. Women and children are sleeping in church buildings. Husbands and fathers are staying in any manageable place that they can find in what is left of their houses. A makeshift shelter. A tiny covered corner of a room. Some are sleeping under the stars. All who are affected are trying to pick up the proverbial pieces. And lurking right around the corner? Disease. It’s what happens when outhouses collapse and the holes brim over. It’s a stream you don’t want to be near. But there is a stream you do. A river actually. A river of living water.

“Though the earth give way. . . though its waters roar and foam. . . there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” (Psalm 46:2-3)

The one who wrote those words also wrote these: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) 

To the people who are sitting in the rubble, asking themselves questions and trying to make sense of it all, the pastors in the Lutheran Church have been able to bring this kind of message: God indeed is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Though many people have many questions, there’s another question that rises above all the others. It stands tall and strong like a beacon in the storm:

“Who or what can separate us from the love of Christ?” We know what is written in Romans 8:35. A bunch more questions that answer that first one. (If you’re not sure, check it out). But what about the questions on the minds of the homeless people in Malawi who are wondering how they are going to start over and rebuild?

What can separate them from God’s love? Rains? Floods? Unusable toilets? Obliterated fields? Collapsed houses? Lost property? Can these things remove God from their world of broken walls and caved-in roofs?

NO.

Paul, what do you mean, “NO”?  Tell us more!

“NO, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. None of these things shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

Ah, yes. Good words, Paul. The people need to hear those words. So do I. . . when things in my own life collapse! You, too? For three days we surveyed the destruction and assessed the damage. So much rain, so much ruin. With such incalculable devastation I could only imagine incredible loss. What I didn’t imagine–or even think about–was the incredible gain.

Incredible gain? 

Members from the LCCA-Malawi rejoice in their Lord

As the people shared their stories, I noticed that they had gained something: a new appreciation for the goodness of the Lord. A renewed indebtedness to the grace of God. Gratitude for something bigger than earthly comfort. Heavenly blessings! When we arrived, they not only spoke of the rains that came down from heaven but of the promises of God that do, too! They shared with us how God spared them, protected them and saved them. We paused here for a prayer. Sat there for a devotion. Spent time with the families in meditation and thankfulness. We were invited to so many places we didn’t have time for everyone. We brought our phone cameras, but took more than pictures and videos.

We took heart! (The people encouraged us!)
We took assurance! (The presence of problems doesn’t mean the absence of God!)
We took with us a renewed sense of joy! (Our Lutheran members know the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus despite the trials that come)

After seeing one collapsed house after another, what falls like rain upon my heart are the words of Moses: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. . . from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:1,2)  Like Paul said, “. . . we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1) His is a house that will never fall. The roof won’t leak and the walls won’t collapse. The foundation is strong and the rooms are safe.

Meanwhile, here on earth, whether in Malawi or the USA or somewhere in-between, we groan and are burdened. All creation, too. Apparently, that includes the rains. And the mud from which many houses are built. But we look forward to a time when all those in Christ Jesus we will be safe and secure in . . .

God’s Eternal Dwelling Place.

Your Malawi Mission Partner,

Missionary John Holtz


Dear Mission Partners,

Maybe you know and maybe you don’t, but our beloved WELS is showing faith in action by getting involved with both prayer support and financial aid.

The Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Malawi Synod (LCCA), the WELS Board for World Missions, and WELS Christian Aid and Relief (CAR) have been working hard at evaluating the immediate needs of those in our Lutheran congregations who are greatly affected by the floods, especially in the southern region of Malawi. (It was the southern region that was affected in 2015, too). Through funds made available through CAR, the LCCA members affected by the floods will receive some much-needed practical items. Things like buckets for clean water, blankets for warmth, and plastic sheeting for temporary roofing can meet immediate needs. A church building that has collapsed can be rebuilt.

Your Africa Missions team would like to encourage anyone whose heart is moved to give a gift to help people in need (due to flooding or other disaster) to please donate to WELS Christian Aid & Relief. 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

WELS India Children’s Homes – Fall 2018 Update

This young man, Teja, is part of a new group of former students who did not complete the seminary training at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Ministries (CELM), our worker training school. Now, like the others, Teja has been given a second chance. It is exciting to have him return. You see, Teja is the first “graduate” from one of our children’s homes to attend the CELM program. He began the required pre-seminary program in 2013 and graduated in April 2016. He greatly desired to continue his education the following year at seminary, but his mother and uncles were pressuring him, “Why do you want to study for this job? You will be a poor man.” He was encouraged to fulfill any family obligations before attending classes. Teja reluctantly agreed. He acquired a job at a dental clinic, yet frequently asked, “When can I return to school?” The reply was always, “Wait and trust.”

Teja

During that time, Teja financially helped his widowed mother to “marry off” his younger sister and then assisted in costs for his sister’s first two babies. This is all part of the bride’s family responsibilities in India. As the only son with no father, much of this responsibility fell on his shoulders. Teja is 22 years old.

Now, family obligations have been fulfilled and Teja was excited to be back at CELM Seminary for the refresher course this past spring. He said last April, “I’m not concerned about money. I just want to share the joy.”

But the roadblocks continue. Just before the school year began in July, Teja emailed, “I don’t know if I should come to classes. My uncles say I have no life experiences. Many will not respect me.  I am young.” The story of Paul encouraging Timothy also encouraged Teja. Once again, he was encouraged to trust in the Lord.

Thanks to many prayers and the Lord’s guiding hand, Teja has returned for this school year AND has been blessed to keep his job at the dental clinic when not at classes. Our classes run two weeks of each month. A small subsidy is given students to assist while they study at the school. But now, with this chance to continue working during the two weeks off, it is a great blessing for him. The caregiver that brought him to the children’s home is also giving him experiences at the local place of worship. What a privilege to watch this young man mature physically and spiritually. Please continue to remember him in your prayers. We pray that he will be a blessing for many.


We love making connections

It is always exciting to connect with groups of people or individuals when back in the United States. We love sharing our experiences and stories. Just as exciting is making an exchange of greetings and sometimes small gifts with the children in the States and the children here in India.

Two groups did just that from Wisconsin. A VBS from Waukesha, Wis., and a Sunday School from Montello, Wis., sent very special greetings. The cultural exchange is fun and the connection is very appreciated. It’s special for the children to know that kids in India and kids in the States both like eating apples! The tangible greetings are also warmly welcomed with “oohs and aahs” and are very encouraging to the children and especially the caregivers.  They now can feel part of a bigger family from around the world.

View the video of Mt. Calvary’s VBS in Waukesha, WI singing Jesus Loves Me with the Indian Children’s Home.


Independence Day

August 15 is India’s Independence Day. This year the day was quite rainy, but that did not stop the celebrations. The Indian flag was raised, the Indian national anthem was sung, and the pledge was said. As CELM seminary classes were in session and nearby, those students also joined in this special celebration. We all crowded into the larger classroom and enjoyed various national songs sung by the children and heard many speeches, “I am proud to be an Indian!” Afterward, the CELM students enjoyed interacting with the children and expressed how this reminded them of their elementary school days. We pray that India is blessed with leaders who will guide this large democracy well.


Heavy Monsoons

The monsoons were heavier than usual this year. One of our children’s homes was affected. They live near canals which help provide a couple seasons of crops. Due to a poorly managed water dam and heavier rain fall, some canals overflowed, destroying rice paddies, and caused damage to the house. Fortunately, our two homes in the area were not as seriously affected but the children from one home did have to evacuate to higher ground for a few days. Cleanup has started, and WELS has provided assistance to cover these costs. We are thankful the government has also assisted in flood relief. We hope the upcoming cyclone season brings only the needed rain.


To learn more about WELS work in India and the India Children’s Homes, visit wels.net/India.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Great news for Home Missions

The WELS Board for Home Missions is celebrating a number of milestones this September. During its fall meeting, the board approved funding for three new missions starts.

“The significance of Home Missions authorizing three new missions is that we now have three more dedicated locations where first and foremost the gospel of Jesus Christ will be proclaimed,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator of the Board for Home Missions. “The mission pastor and mission members will have as their first objective to reach more people with the message that makes all the difference now and in eternity—Christ crucified for the sins of all.”

New congregations are being supported in:

  • Bluffton, S.C., which has developed through the efforts of Risen Savior, Pooler, Ga. The new mission in Bluffton is likely to be part of a multi-site ministry effort with Risen Savior. This effort is spearheaded by Eric Janke, a 2018 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., who deferred an assignment due to his wife’s three-year residency to become a doctor. Janke has worked with Risen Savior’s pastor and members to develop a strong ministry plan for this new mission site.
  • Mansfield, Ohio, where a Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregation is closing and contacted WELS to see if our synod might be interested in opening a mission in this area. The new mission will be buying the land and building of the former LCMS church. Some of the church’s members are planning to join the new WELS mission and are working with WELS members in the area to launch this new WELS congregation.
  • Richland Center, Wis., which is part of a multi-site effort being supported by St. John, Hillpoint, and Trinity, Lime Ridge, both in Wisconsin. St. John and Trinity currently share one pastor, who has been exploring the viability of a mission in Richland Center. The area seems well suited for a WELS mission start, and members of St. John and Trinity are excited to support this effort.

These new starts are being supported by a $1 million special grant from the WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc. (CEF). CEF helps provide financing so mission congregations and established congregations with mission-focused initiatives can purchase land and either build or renovate a worship facility. CEF funds its loan program through individual WELS members’ and congregations’ investments in CEF financial products. CEF’s grant program is funded primarily through operating earnings of the CEF portfolio of loans and investments.

“CEF’s financials are strong,” says Mr. Scott Page, executive director of CEF, “allowing the board to approve this special grant while continuing to provide a sound investment vehicle for WELS members and congregations.”

As Free notes, “Over and above its loan and grant program, since August 2015 CEF has given more than $4.3 million to Home Missions’ operations budget. This has helped fund many of our new mission congregations and helped enhance outreach throughout the United States, Canada, and the English-speaking Caribbean.”

Free is also excited to announce that many mission congregations launched their first public worship services in September, a milestone for these young churches. Launch services were held by Living Hope, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Intown Lutheran, Atlanta, Ga.; Good News, Lehi, Utah; Huntersville Lutheran, Huntersville, N.C.; and Grace in the Ward, Milwaukee, Wis.

Rev. Doug Van Sice, pastor at Huntersville, says, “As I sat in my office the day before the launch, I prayed that God would bless our launch regardless of who or how many showed up. At the end of the day, numbers are not what is most important. What is most important is that the changeless message of the gospel is preached in its truth and purity and that God’s people are edified by that very truth. Not only did God bless our worship with his Word, but he blessed it with people. He brought 62 people through Huntersville Lutheran’s doors. It was incredible! More than I could have asked for or imagined.”

For more information on WELS Home or World Missions, visit wels.net/missions. For more information on WELS Church Extension Fund, visit wels.net/cef.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Home Mission congregations hold grand opening worship services

On Sunday, September 9, 2018, four different home mission congregations held grand opening worship services.

Huntersville Lutheran Church – Huntersville, NC

Huntersville was approved as a new mission start by the Board for Home Missions in April 2017. In May 2017, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary graduate Rev. Doug Van Sice was assigned to serve this new congregation. This entire summer Huntersville focused on outreach – hanging 10,000 door hanger bags and sending out another 5,500 mailers on top of their other evangelism efforts. God brought 62 people through their church doors at their grand opening worship service. Pastor Van Sice commented, “I think the most memorable thing for me was standing before the altar and confessing my sins with 62 other people. And, in turn, facing those same 62 people (some of whom have never heard the gospel) and announcing with gospel-certainty that their sins are forgiven. It’s truly amazing that God gives sinful men, men like me and all the other missionaries, the privilege to proclaim his “arrow-pointing-down love” to people in our community.

Living Hope Lutheran Church – Chattanooga, TN

Living Hope currently worships in a movie theater

Similar to Huntersville, Chattanooga was also approved to be the site of a new mission start in April 2017. Before Rev. Eric Melso was assigned to serve the area in May 2017, there wasn’t a WELS presence within 100 miles of the city. Pastor Melso followed the “3 P’s of Church Planting”: preparing, planning, and previewing. Living Hope held their first public service with 68 people in attendance, of which 20 were new faces from the community and 18 were returning prospects. Pastor Melso shared: “One of the best moments for me personally was seeing a family from our street walk through the doors. We’d been inviting Cody, Brooke, and their children since we started preview services at Easter. Brooke kept telling us Cody had no interest in attending church. But they showed up. After worship, Cody came up to me and said, ‘We’re in. We’ll be back next week.’ Wow. God’s Word and Spirit work.”


Good News Lutheran Church – Lehi, UT

Grand opening fellowship

Prince of Peace in Salt Lake City, UT, daughtered this mission south of the city, receiving funding from the Board for Home Missions in Spring of 2016. Mission pastor Daniel Heiderich accepted the call and arrived at Good News in early 2017. After taking a year to acclimate to the community, Pastor Heiderich and his core group began their outreach and previewed their new church with three services over the summer. At their grand opening, Good News was blessed with 64 people in worship. Many of their new visitors also stayed for fellowship and a cookout meal.

Intown Lutheran Church – Atlanta, GA

While this new mission start in the heart of the city was approved for funding in Spring of 2016, the call for a new pastor was not accepted until the middle of 2017. Pastor Lucas Bitter arrived in August 2017 and began working with this core group – preparing, planning, and previewing for their grand opening worship. 60 people attended the service, which included 18 new visitors. Pastor Bitter also reported that after church, four of their first-time visitors signed up for an upcoming Bible Basics class. Praise God for continuing to give Intown Lutheran opportunities to share Jesus with the people of Atlanta! Click here to view a video from their grand opening worship service.


Besides these four home mission congregations, Grace in the Ward, Milwaukee, Wis. and Living Savior, Hendersonville, N.C. also celebrated milestones on September 16, 2018. Grace in the Ward had over 90 souls gather together for their Grand Opening worship service, and Living Savior made the switch from Saturday evening to Sunday morning services.

Please keep these Home Missions in your prayers as they continue to share the pure message of the gospel with more people in their communities. To stay connected with these and the other 128 home mission congregations scattered throughout the United States, Canada, and English-speaking West Indies, follow WELS Missions on Facebook at fb.com/WELSMissions.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

New Home Mission Projects Approved

On April 13, the Board for Home Missions approved support for seven new mission congregations as well as support to enhance mission-minded ministry at seven other congregations.

The ministries receiving financial support for a new mission include:

  • Reno, Nev. – Two area congregations are partnering to start this congregation in the Northern Valleys area of greater Reno. On March 25, the first worship service was held; 63 people attended
  • Phoenix, Ariz. – Crosswalk, Phoenix, is opening a second site to reach out into downtown Phoenix.
  • Joplin, Mo. – A strong core of WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod members from the two nearest churches are helping support this mission.

    Core Group from Joplin, MO

  • Brandon, S.D. – Near Sioux Falls, this new congregation includes core members from two WELS churches and an Evangelical Lutheran Synod congregation.
  • Milwaukee, Wis. – Grace in downtown Milwaukee, one of WELS’ original congregations, is establishing a new location in the area known as the Third Ward.

Two new multi-site starts were approved to receive unsubsidized mission status. Home Missions will provide assistance through its district mission boards, mission counselors, and synodical support staff, but the original congregations will provide 100 percent of the funding needed. These include:

  • Hobart, Wis. – Mount Olive, Suamico, Wis., is starting a second site in Hobart. The congregation is calling a second pastor to begin this new ministry.
  • Horicon, Wis. – Members of St. John’s, Juneau, Wis., see an opportunity to reach out in nearby Horicon, where 90 members of St. John’s live. Saturday worship services are scheduled to begin in Horicon in June.

Wisconsin Lutheran School – operated by First Lutheran and Epiphany in Racine – prepares for worship services.

Home Missions is also financially supporting mission-minded enhancements to these existing congregations:

  • Crown of Life, Corona, Calif. – This multi-site mission currently has four different locations for worship. Home Mission funding will support a third pastor.
  • Faith, Anchorage, Alaska – A second bilingual pastor will allow Faith to enhance their Hispanic ministry.
  • Grace, Seattle, Wash. – Two congregations will be combining to restart their ministry in the heart of Seattle. Funding will allow a full-time pastor to again serve at Grace.
  • Ascension, Harrisburg, Penn. – Remaining members of Ascension are ready to restart their congregation. They have demonstrated they are willing to take on ministry responsibilities and support outreach efforts that will be guided by their next pastor.
  • Shepherd of the Hills, Knoxville, Tenn. – A group of members are ready to restart their congregation after a longer-term pastoral vacancy. With the congregation back on its feet, they hope to begin a preschool ministry in order to jump start their outreach efforts.

    Trinity in Waukesha, WI holds Bible Information Class with Hispanic community members

  • Trinity, Waukesha, Wis. – Trinity hopes to reach out to a large population of Hispanics in their community by bringing in a bilingual pastor to lead the ministry.
  • Epiphany and First, Racine, Wis. – These two Racine congregations currently operate a joint Lutheran Elementary school. Home Mission funding will allow the school to call a staff minister or teacher to coordinate outreach efforts to prospective church families.

Please pray for these new mission starts and enhancements as they reach out to their communities with the live-saving message of the Gospel!

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Church Extension Fund – A Tremendous Blessing to Home Missions

“I don’t think we realize what a tremendous blessing WELS has in the Church Extension Fund (CEF). In talking with a church planting pastor from another denomination about how CEF would help us financially get on our feet, he looked at me for a bit and said, ‘I don’t believe you. I’ve never heard of something that good.’ That told me all I needed to know about what a blessing CEF has been for our mission churches.”

Rev. John Borgwardt, pastor at Living Word Lutheran Church in Waukesha, Wis.

CEF is a valuable partner of Home Missions. CEF provides loans to home mission congregations who are looking to purchase land, build worship facilities, or remodel their current locations. Besides offering loans at affordable rates, they also have a matching grant program that provides additional financial assistance to home mission starts. Since 1993, CEF has provided over $35.3 million in matching dollars to help offset initial costs of home mission mortgages.

On top of the matching grant program, CEF also provides special grants to Home Missions to support additional ministry. This past fiscal year, CEF approved $837,000 in special grants to home missions. Here are a few examples of congregations who are partnering/have partnered with CEF to expand their ministry:

Future site of Living Word Lutheran Church in Waukesha, Wis.

Living Word Lutheran Church – Waukesha, Wis.

Living Word was recently approved for a facility loan and grant from CEF. Church members had also utilized CEF to purchase land across from Waukesha West High School. Through a building loan from CEF, Living Word hopes to create an environment for teenagers and people of all ages to connect with their Savior. Borgwardt says, “CEF has proven a vital partner in our efforts to build our ministry center. Without them we could not be formalizing our work with high school students, Christian Family Solutions, and the greater Waukesha community.” Learn more about this unique ministry by watching this video.

Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church – Las Vegas, Nev.

Shepherd of the Hills broke ground on their new worship facility and ministry center in August 2017 after receiving a loan and grant from CEF. A building dedication service has been scheduled for August 19, 2018. To see building progress on their worship facility, check out this aerial video footage of the construction site.

Redemption Lutheran Church – Watertown, N.Y.

Construction on the exterior of Redemption’s new worship facility

Redemption went from worshiping in a Ramada Inn conference room to a completely remodeled ministry center thanks to a loan and matching land and facility grants from CEF. With the Lord’s blessing, Redemption held their Grand Opening Worship Service on September 15, 2017, after construction was complete.

Rev. Keith Free, Home Missions administrator, says, “CEF is a critical partner in our efforts to share the gospel with those who do not know Jesus as their Savior. Their financial backing and expertise allows our home mission congregations to focus on the one thing needful – sharing the message of God’s grace.”

Your investment with WELS Church Extension Fund helps provide financing so home missions and other mission-minded, self-supporting congregations can purchase land and either build or renovate a worship facility. To learn more about investment opportunities, visit wels.net/cef.

CEF Statistics:
  • $25 million in new loans approved and $1.95 million in matching grants provided to home missions in 2017-2018
  • Three land site purchases, one existing facility purchase, and four construction loans were approved by CEF for home mission congregations in 2017-2018
  • Eight home mission congregations dedicated worship facilities in 2017; four home missions have already planned worship facility dedications for 2018
  • 73 percent (152 loans) of CEF’s loan portfolio is for current or previous home mission congregations

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Lord Blesses Hmong Outreach in Vietnam

It all started when a leader within the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC) in Vietnam viewed an online sermon by Rev. Bounkeo Lor. The message of pure grace through Jesus Christ was something he had never heard before – and he wanted to learn more. He invited Rev. Lor to come to Vietnam to train himself and others in the truth of the gospel, and the Lord has allowed this opportunity to blossom since.

HFC leaders gather for training in January 2018

With every visit Rev. Lor has made to conduct training in Hanoi, approximately 60 church leaders have attended to learn more about the truths of the Bible. These same 60 leaders have been taking the message back to their congregations, and the gospel message is accomplishing its purpose. The HFC was a church body of 65,000 members when their leader first reached out to WELS. In the years WELS has provided training, the HFC has grown from 65,000 to 100,000 members and formed 53 new churches. Rev. Lor has been called to serve as Hmong Asia Ministry Coordinator, and the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) and Multi-Language Publications teams have been brought in to offer support and additional resources for this expanding ministry.

Not only is this church body is growing, but the communist Vietnamese government has also noticed a positive change. The HFC has a strong history of legalism, which had caused conflict as to which rules are God-pleasing and which are not. The message of free grace received from Jesus Christ has replaced their old law-based preaching and leadership styles, and church leadership has stabilized as a result.

HFC leaders take photos of illustrated Bible stories to take back to their congregations

The gospel can work even in the most difficult of circumstances, and sometimes in ways we cannot expect. The Lord has blessed this outreach, and the Vietnamese government has invited WELS to build a theological training facility in the capital city of Hanoi. WELS is currently the only protestant church with official governmental permission to work with the Hmong in Vietnam. WELS Missions representatives will be visiting Hanoi, Vietnam in June to evaluate and explore this opportunity further, and efforts to secure funding for land acquisition, construction costs, and initial operation costs have begun.

In a letter from the HFC to WELS, church leaders wrote:

“We thank you for the WELS training for the past three years. Now, we believe that we have salvation. Without that, today we would still be living in the darkness of Satan. We believe that God already answered our prayers through the WELS.”

As the HFC and WELS work together to establish a theological training facility, the focus remains on the future – the future of their church body, the future pastors and lay leaders that will be trained in confessional Lutheran doctrine, and ultimately the future that awaits them in heaven.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Africa Updates – Mission Work in Liberia, Unrest in Cameroon

Mission Work in Liberia

Do you call it reaching out? Or reaching back? WELS One Africa Team, made up of WELS missionaries serving in Africa, will soon become involved in the mission trips taking place to Liberia.

These trips had a special start. Over the years, people from Liberia have fled civil wars in their country and found peace and life in the United States. Some have joined our WELS churches where they settled.

Matthew Cephus trains church leaders in Liberia

Starting in 2016, Isaac David – a Liberian immigrant living in Las Vegas, Nev. – began making trips back to Liberia to share the message of God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. More recently, Matthew Cephus, a Liberian immigrant living in New Hope, Minn., has done the same.

What’s next? In September and November 2018, a couple members from the One Africa Team will join these men and their teams from the United States in training more pastors and leaders on Liberian soil. The plans are made: training will take place for 125 pastors and leaders in September. An additional 40 pastors and leaders will continue their training in November. The numbers of people reached grow from there as these church leaders take God’s precious word back to their churches and communities and share with others.

So whether you call it reaching out to Liberia or reaching back, there is only one place to find lasting peace and security. That is in the hands of God who reached down from heaven with his love and forgiveness found in Jesus Christ.

From Missionary John Hartmann, Outreach Coordinator – One Africa Team


Unrest in Cameroon

Please keep our brothers and sisters in Christ in Cameroon in your prayers.

The English-speaking areas of Cameroon are in conflict with the dominant French-speaking regions, including the government. Some of the national pastors of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon (LCC) and their members are finding themselves running into the bush (country) at night because of fear. There is no denying it – as selfish interests and tempers flare, guns go off and people are losing their lives. The times are troublesome as the devil tries to deter Christians with fear. We remember well how many times our Lord reminded his followers “Do not be afraid” in both Old Testament (2 Kings 6:16, Nehemiah 4:14) and New Testament (Matthew 6:31, 17:7; Mark 6:50; Luke 8:50). We especially pray that God continue to strengthen our brothers and sisters in the LCC.

Missionary Jeff Heitsch preaches at a congregation of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon

Cameroon Missionary Jeff Heitsch and his wife Stephanie, will be leaving Cameroon and be temporarily relocated to the United States due to the internal political unrest in the country. They arrived in Cameroon in October 2017.

Conflict between the English-speaking and French-speaking parts of Cameroon began to intensify about the time of the Heitschs’ arrival, and the security situation has deteriorated significantly since then. By mutual decision of the Heitsches and the WELS World Mission Board, the Heitsches will remain in the United States for the time being. Missionary Dan and Karen Kroll, who also serve on Cameroon, were already planning being back in the United States on furlough until mid-July.

“It’s always a difficult decision to remove a missionary from their field, but it is also important that we keep them safe as well as pray for our brothers and sisters in Cameroon who live in the midst of the strife. We have faith that the Holy Spirit will continue to bless the gospel-sharing work of the national church body, and if it is his will, that one day we will, once again, be able to serve this mission field in person,” says Mr. Sean Young, director of Missions operations.

WELS Missions and the members of the LCC continue on in the assurance that our living and victorious Savior is in control and knows all things. Nothing will happen without his knowledge and approval, and we join with David to say “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15). May we all continue to walk in the confidence and peace of our Risen Lord, no matter where in the world we might be.


Want to stay up-to-date on what is happening with Africa mission work? Subscribe to One Africa Team blogs or follow them on Facebook at fb.com/OneAfricaTeamWELS/.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Celebrating 125 Years of WELS World Mission Work

“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”

2 Corinthians 6:2

“This is the worst time to begin an Indian Mission,” said a veteran missionary to WELS in synod convention as they contemplated their first world mission effort. Seven days later, Native Americans defeated U.S. forces at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Undeterred, the people of our synod decided that it was the best time to share Jesus with people who did not yet know him. By October 1893, two missionaries boldly went to share the gospel on the Apache reservations of the Arizona Territory.

125 years later, the same fire to reach the lost is now burning in the hearts of our Apache brothers and sisters. It is still the worst time for many Native Americans. On the more than 500 reservations scattered across North America, unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, and violence are a part of too many homes. 95 percent of Native Americans are not Christians and do not have the hope of our Savior.

Apache Christians feel there has never been a better time to share Jesus. Our focus is on equipping Apache Christians for service in God’s kingdom: on the Apache reservations, with other tribes, and through the Internet. As long as the devil is active, there will never be an ideal time to share Jesus. Like our WELS ancestors 125 years ago, we move forward in faith and trust.


Apache Ministry Today

As we look to the next 125 years of ministry, the opportunity is great.

What can you do? You can PRAY! Pray that Native Americans everywhere come to know the hope of salvation that is found in the Holy Scriptures, and not in the words or religious ceremonies of the medicine man. You can TELL your friends and family about the Apache people that are studying to be spiritual church leaders through this mission work. You can GIVE a gift to help support ministries like the three below:

Apache Christian Training School (ACTS)

Apache Christian Training School (ACTS): Apache Christians are asking to be equipped to share Christ’s love. ACTS provides them with training and resources that prepares leaders for all levels of ministries on the reservations. With a solid program already in place, ACTS exists to provide trained workers for the ever-expanding ministries of current congregations. ACTS will also play a key role in the training of workers to share the gospel with other Native American communities.

Lutheran Church of the Open Bible

 

 

Lutheran Church of the Open Bible—Whiteriver, Ariz: With approximately 1,000 members, Open Bible is looking to expand its ministry through increased use of trained volunteers and called workers. They will use these trained and equipped Apache Christians to serve as evangelists, deacons, and deaconesses. These trained workers will play a vital role in expanding outreach opportunities, small group study and support groups, addiction recovery ministry, grief counseling, youth ministry, and worship opportunities.

Peridot-Our Savior’s Lutheran School

 

Peridot-Our Savior’s Lutheran School: With enrollment rising from 75 to 130 in four years and requests for solid, Christian education continuing to roll in, there is a great opportunity for expansion! Additional classrooms, building repairs, faculty, and resources are desperately needed to catch up with enrollment growth. Your gifts will help present-day ministry at the school and support the various projects that will allow Peridot-Our Savior’s to reach more children and their families with the gospel.


Join the Apache Anniversary Celebration!

June 22 in Wisconsin
KI Convention Center, Green Bay, Wis. (Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society convention hotel) – All are invited!
6 to 9 p.m. – Meet Apache brothers and sisters, experience their music, and learn about their history.
RSVP Today! 

October 26–28 in Arizona

Oct. 26 – Reservation tours
Oct. 27 – Anniversary celebration in Peridot, Ariz.
11 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Music, crafts, history, food; 4 p.m. – Worship; 5 p.m. – Dinner
Oct. 28 – Celebration worship at all reservation WELS churches

For More Information… 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latin America Mission Updates

When you think of Academia Cristo, think of Luther’s Catechism. Martin Luther developed his catechism after coming to recognize the extreme lack of basic biblical understanding among church leaders and heads of families. He describes visiting churches in Saxony that didn’t have the Bible or whose leaders had not memorized the 10 commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. A similar lack of basic Christian knowledge is what led to and guides Academia Cristo’s ministry efforts to help more people plant and lead churches that faithfully proclaim God’s Word. WELS Latin America Missions has been busy sharing the good news of Jesus – here are some updates:

New WELS Presence in Puerto Rico

Rev. Larry W. Schlomer has accepted the call to serve for one year as a disaster response coordinator for Puerto Rico. In this role he will work with the national pastors of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church of Puerto Rico to identify and prioritize specific needs, plan construction and repair projects, and coordinate volunteer efforts. He will also help to coordinate continuing theological training for two men whose training was interrupted by Hurricane Maria last fall. Schlomer has already begun efforts to connect interested Latino members of stateside WELS congregations with the outreach and hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

Rev. Larry W. Schlomer with his wife Marlene

Besides assisting in disaster response, Schlomer hopes to establish an enduring and close connection between the Puerto Rican church and our Latin America Missions team. These connections will help strengthen fellowship ties and allow for the continued sharing of ministry ideas and encouragement.


Academia Cristo – Training course interest remains high

Latin American woman shares Academia Cristo with her family

There are currently 150 people studying online in the Academia Cristo Catechism level training program. Here are examples of three courses:

  1. The Bible: In The Beginning – In this course, students learn the first Genesis Bible history courses and how to teach them to others using a teaching methodology based on Luther’s simple way to pray.
  2. The Word Grows: Multiplying Disciples – In this evangelism course, students study the lives of Paul and Barnabas, Mark the Evangelist, and early church leaders such as Priscila, Aquila, and Apollos. Those who successfully complete the course are invited to personally connect with a mature Lutheran leader who will be responsible for guiding and mentoring them as they learn to faithfully proclaim God’s Word to others.
  3. Spiritual Identity – In this course, students learn why there are so many different church bodies, the importance of making a clear confession, and connecting with those who make a clear confession while avoiding those who do not.

In addition to online courses, live Academia Cristo face-to-face workshops have been taught in Colorado, Florida, Mexico, Colombia, Paraguay, and Venezuela so far this year.


WELS Missionaries relocating to Ecuador

This summer two missionaries from the One Latin America (1LA) mission team will be moving to Ecuador. This will be the first time WELS will have an active mission presence in the South American country. Rev. Nathan Schulte and Rev. Phil Strackbein have begun making arrangements to make the move. Schulte currently serves in Mexico, and Strackbein serves in Bolivia. Read more wels.net/new-world-mission-start-south-america.


Making Disciples in New Locations

The Apostle Paul was Timothy’s teacher and mentor. He instructed Timothy that he should take “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2) Note the four generations of disciples mentioned here: Paul, Timothy, reliable, qualified people, and others. Academia Cristo seeks to emulate this model – chains of disciples, training others with the goal of planting new churches, and reaching new areas. It maximizes everyday means of communication to make initial connections.

The strongest of these online connections lead to face-to-face visits. So far this year, missionaries have visited Academia Cristo contacts in central and Eastern Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Argentina. Many are studying to become members in our fellowship. There are now 21 men who are being mentored by WELS missionaries and national church leaders. These men are in turn sharing what they’re learning with those they know as they begin gather groups around the Word of God.


Blessings in Colombia

The Lord continues to bless mission efforts of our brothers and sister in the Colombian Lutheran Church. Two of the first churches planted by men who came into contact with the Colombian Church via Academia Cristo are working to move out of homes and into larger facilities. Please pray God continue to bless these new Lutheran churches in Ibagué, Colombia and Isla Margarita, Venezuela.


To learn more about other outreach opportunities the Lord has provided in Latin America, watch the Academia Cristo Spring 2018 Update Video. 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Is Now the Right Time?

“Is now the right time? Should we wait? Should we move forward?”

Those were questions circling the minds of God’s people at Risen Savior Lutheran Church in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. – a small mission congregation an hour south of Tampa. In the fall of 2016, as we talked about our building project, we wrestled with the question, “Is now the right time to finish building God’s house?”

For God’s people in the book of Haggai, they said, “The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built” (Haggai 1:2). But God rebuked them for their backwards priorities, and eventually he gave his people the promise, “I am with you, declares the LORD” (Haggai 1:13). For God’s people in Haggai, now was the time to build God’s house. The LORD was with them!

For God’s people at Risen Savior – as we listened to God’s Word, as we prayerfully contemplated our options, as we discussed it with our District Mission Board – we came to the same conclusion that now is the time! The Lord is with us! We didn’t know exactly what the future would hold, but we knew whatever would come, God would be right there with us.

Grand Opening Festival at Risen Savior

And he certainly was. A Building Committee was formed. An architect, contractor, and engineer were hired. Plans were put into motion, and we could see that the LORD was with us. With the project progressing, the members at Risen Savior next talked about how we could best use this project to God’s glory and to serve our community. It was decided that since we were so excited for the completion of our building, we’d throw a Grand Opening Party for our community.

The Grand Opening weekend was set for March 24-25, 2018. There was a write up in the local paper. 10,000 direct mail invites were sent to our community. Another 5,000 were put in children’s backpacks at local schools. Members and friends of Risen Savior helped pass out thousands more. Social media advertising, local mom’s groups advertisements, online calendar additions… Christians at Risen Savior were working hard to spread the good news of the grand opening of our sanctuary!

But we knew this weekend was about so much more than just the grand opening of a sanctuary at Risen Savior. This weekend was about THE Risen Savior. This weekend was about sharing the gospel of Jesus with as many people as God brought to us – and God certainly gave us ample opportunities. At our Grand Opening Festival on March 24, there were over 300 people who attended. From that 300, we were able to identify 30 families who had no church home, but who were open to receiving more information about Risen Savior. Then, at our Grand Opening Worship Service, God blessed us with a record attendance of 125, including many first time guests and repeat prospects. We are now working together to follow up with these families so that we can continue to share the joy of Jesus with them.

As we look back at these past 18 months, there were some bumps in the road and there were some mistakes that we made. But one thing is certain: the Lord was with us, and we are confident that he will continue to be with us as we work faithfully to share Jesus with the Lakewood Ranch community.

From Rev. Caleb Free, Risen Savior Lutheran Church – Lakewood Ranch, FL

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Small Town, Big Outreach

Being Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, it’s obvious that the state of the Wisconsin has many WELS churches… 433 to be exact. With such a large number of congregations, we assume that every county would be served with the gospel in its truth and purity. Currently there isn’t a single WELS church in all of Richland County, a rural area in the Southwest corner of the state. Dual parish members at nearby St. John’s Lutheran Church in Hillpoint, Wis., and Trinity Lutheran Church in Lime Ridge, Wis., saw there was a need to reach out to their neighbors with the life-saving message of the gospel. They decided to act.

Local Newspaper Highlighted the Event

Over the past 18 months, the two churches have paired up to conduct exploratory mission work in the nearby city of Richland Center. Since starting, two Easter for Kids events have been held at the local community center. Twenty-five people attended in year one, and they were blessed with 40 children in attendance this past spring. Pastor Dan Lewig, who serves both congregations, now holds a monthly, Saturday Bible Class at a local restaurant called “Bible Breakfast Hour.” The local District Mission Board (DMB) and the Board for Home Missions (BHM) have been working alongside them since the beginning. In September of this year, the dual parish requested and was approved by the BHM to receive unsubsidized mission status1.

On Sat., Dec. 16 at the Richland Center Community Center, the churches hosted their largest outreach event to date: A Journey to Bethlehem Live Nativity Event. Pastor Lewig notes, “This event has been a wonderful example of our synod working together. My two congregations have over 25 volunteers helping; to put it in perspective, we average 75 people in church on Sunday mornings between our two congregations. One of my members has built all the wooden structures we will be using for the event. In addition, we have partnered with the Ladies Aid from St. John’s in Juneau, Wis., who is making the costumes for the event. Members of Lakeside Lutheran High School’s Junior Choir will be there singing Christmas carols, and we also have a Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary student helping us out.”

6,500 postcards ready to be mailed

The Board for Home Missions provided a special grant, which was used to create a direct mailing that was sent to the mailbox of everyone in Richland County – over 6,500 mailings total. The local newspaper picked up on the event and did a wonderful front-page story that reached many in the community. Pastor Lewig is also being interviewed by a local radio station for continued promotion. With the Lord’s blessing, the group hopes to draw over 200 people from the community to this event.

Pastor Lewig commented on the large volunteer initiative backing the event, “It has been amazing watching this all come together, seeing so many different sources partnering on this project – all sharing the same desire to reach out with the gospel. We are excited for this opportunity to share the true joy and peace that is found in the manger in Bethlehem!”

Post-Script: Pastor Lewig reports, “What an amazing day! Preparing for our first year of hosting this we didn’t know what to expect. We were hoping to have maybe 100-200 people attend our first year… and over 400 came to our Live Nativity this year!”

1An unsubsidized mission is a mission church that does not receive budgetary financial support (subsidy) from Home Missions. Unsubsidized missions have access to a Mission Counselor and can make requests for special project funds through its District Mission Board (DMB).

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

New graduates to new missionaries

Meet Missionary William Dunn
It has now been just over six months since receiving my assignment to the bilingual Spanish mission congregation, La Iglesia Luterana San Pedro in Milwaukee, and yet it feels like yesterday. I remember hearing the assignment “San Pedro Lutheran Church,” and thinking “Spanish ministry, oh boy, in the past four years I’ve only had one semester of Spanish at the seminary and two weeks of work in Mexico…how is this going to work out?” But as it turned out, the mission at San Pedro was a bilingual Spanish mission with a bilingual worship service. Then I learned that St. Peter was not only bilingual, but actually trilingual, with services in Spanish, English, and Karen. Several times a year we even have a service that incorporates all three, such as our Trilingual Thanksgiving service! The longer I have been at St. Peter getting to know the congregation, the more I am excited to be here and to serve here. Learning about all of the different cultures and backgrounds has been both humbling and energizing. We are multicultural and intercultural. We have so many outreach opportunities in our immediate community as well as through our elementary school, Christ-St. Peter. And as it turns out, all the Spanish classes at MLC come back quickly (though there is still work to be done).

It has now been just over six months since graduation and assignment day and yet it also feels like the distant past. There have been so many changes. We moved from Grafton to Milwaukee. Baby number three was added in October. The ministry at San Pedro is continually growing and full of potential. I have been overwhelmed by the loving reception I have received as I continue to visit our families in order to get to know them better and begin developing a vision for the future. God has truly blessed this church and we are blessed to be a part of it!

Meet Missionary Matthew Rothe
Upon arriving in Fredericksburg, Va., to start a new mission I was quickly astonished by two glaring facts. First, there are many existing churches here. Second, there are tons of people who live here. After meeting many people from the community, I discovered another saddening piece of data. The math doesn’t add up. Despite the great number of churches, many people don’t go to church. Solution: Fredericksburg indeed needs a new church devoted to making new disciples by sharing the old, old story of Jesus and His love!

In this ripe harvest field I am blessed to serve alongside a core group of 14 families who comprise The Way Church’s launch team. Together we meet bi-monthly to study God’s Word, develop the culture of The Way Church, and share the vision and values that will lead us forward. Our launch team also “breaks the huddle” going out into the community to canvass and serve.

The Way Church is launching September 10, 2017. We are in the pre-launch phase, which means we are not holding weekly worship services… yet. During this phase I am able to focus on exploring our community and doing outreach in it. This has not come without challenges.

Pastorally, I have been stretched by going outside my comfort zone to witness to people not like me, finding myself in leadership settings where I’ve previously had little experience, and simply learning how to start a church. Personally, however, I have been humbled by seeing Our Helper give me His Words to speak and giving me understanding to act according to His Will.

I praise God who, throughout this experience, has strengthened my faith in Him and love for Him. I am also thankful for my training at WLS, MLC, and LPS that taught me the necessary skills for being a missionary and, additionally, nurtured in me a mission mindset eager to share the gospel.

Meet Missionary GunnaLedermann 
When did you first hear the words, “Jesus loves you?” Maybe it was your mom or dad who passed on their faith by sharing the Word of God with you and having you baptized as a baby. Maybe you were a little older and a teacher shared the message of Jesus, while teaching the wonders of creation. Or maybe a pastor came to your door, met you at a festival or at the gym and told you about Jesus’ love. This is our mission in Rockwall, Tex., and your message in your neighborhood. In March of 2016, a group from Divine Peace Lutheran Church in Garland, Tex., began mission work in Rockwall. On December 4, we had a grand opening inviting the community to come and hear the message of Jesus. We thank God for your prayers and gracious gifts in support of our mission. God richly bless you with joy as you share Jesus’ love and with peace as you trust in Jesus’ promise of forgiveness and eternal life in heaven.

“We are working with Dave Malnes of Praise and Proclaim on an outreach campaign to canvass some of the newer neighborhoods of Rockwall. We had pairs who will go door to door in December to invite the community to a BBQ dinner,, followed by worship. My wife, Marinda, has been working as the project manager organizing the volunteers for dinners, canvassing, t-shirt designs, etc. As a new graduate, working with Praise and Proclaim has been a great benefit. We are the 11th project Dave has worked on and his approach gives everyone a sense of calm during the whole process. Our project has also been blessed by the efforts of Alli Pappathopoulos from TwelveTwoCreative. Her company has been working with WELS churches on their outreach strategies, canvassing materials and communication with the local community. Alli worked with us to create a new website, logo, all the mailers for the Praise and Proclaim campaign and so much more. God has richly blessed this campaign with so many willing and skilled workers, we look forward to going out into the harvest fields.”

Meet Missionary Ryan Kolander
On July 31, I was ordained and installed as the second pastor at Palabra de Vida in Detroit, Mich. My dad preached, and nineteen brothers in ministry laid their hands on my head as they gave me words of strength and encouragement from the Word. Some even recited their verse in Spanish (with a little rehearsing, of course). It was a day I will remember for a long time.

After a three-day orientation with Mission Counselor Tim Flunker, I spread my young ministry wings and fluttered out of the nest! My associate, Pastor Ismael Sialer, has been very helpful in introducing me to people in the community and congregation alike. We even performed a quinceañera celebration, in which we read and preached God’s Word to around 100 guests who had never been in our church before! In these first few months of ministry, I’ve been able to drive and walk around our diverse neighborhood, begin to instruct a few people who are new to the faith, start and lead a children’s “Growing with Jesus” class, preach a number of sermons in both Spanish and English, run a clothing drive, assist with our food drives, meet with several church families, prospects, and community leaders alike, and even dabble in building a website. Please pray for our congregation, that the Holy Spirit continue to strengthen our faith through the Word so that we can share it with others who need it desperately in our community.

Meet Missionary Peter Janke
I’ve been in East Asia for around seven months now, and it’s hard to count how many ways God has blessed me in this time. Maybe I’ll tally them up for my own benefit now and so that you too can give thanks to God and pray that they may continue.

First off, the team that I work with in the field is outstanding. I am blessed to work with a team of other missionaries that are full of advice and encouragement. Their lives show how close their relationship is to Christ.

I also work in my city with a team of evangelists. Their willingness to invest their time into the lives of others is a real mark of their Christian love. They are always eager to introduce their friends to Jesus as well.

I also feel blessed to get to spend extra time studying the local language. I’m talking with friends, with taxi drivers and street cleaners, with little kids in elevators, and striking up conversations with people I’d never imagined I’d have the chance to talk to. All of this is preparing me for future work in the language.

I also consider the food to be a blessing. Maybe it’s because I love to eat food and especially spicy food, but I have come to long for Asian food more than the mashed potatoes and turkey I grew up with. My favorite kind of food is hot pot. It involves letting raw foods cook in a spicy soup in the middle of the table. I’ve spent many hours with friends eating good food and having great conversations.

The friendships I’ve made with East Asian people have been a blessing as well. A friend named Jason had started learning about Jesus through us from scratch–no knowledge of Jesus at all. Through our studies and one-on-one encouragement we witnessed the Holy Spirit working in his heart. Jason asked if I could teach him how to pray, he wanted his first prayer to God to be of thanks to Him, not asking for anything, or questioning God’s will. Every day I try to be a friend to others and I continue to pray that people around me see Jesus in me.

My relationship with God is my biggest blessing. Through personal devotion time with Him, God has equipped me to speak, has assured me of his forgiveness, and again and again has told me that I am his child. When I think about the things that I’ve given up to serve in East Asia–family, friends, comfort foods and ease of communication–God has made up for all of them and more.

Psalm 144:15: Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

 

WELS Church Extension Fund update

· $32.8 million in new loans approved for 43 congregations in fiscal year ending June 30, 2016.

· $4.0 million in matching and special grants approved for 15 congregations and the Board for Home Missions.

· Five new land purchases, 25 new facility projects, and 18 other projects including renovations, increases, and refinances.

· Six mission congregations purchased existing facilities with additional loans for renovations, two missions completed a parsonage purchase, and 16 congregations were approved for new construction loans totaling $28.2 million.

 

Thank you Lutheran Women’s Mission Society

WELS Missions is blessed with many active partners who help to support the proclamation of the gospel. The Lutheran Women’s Mission Society (LWMS) is one of those important contributors. The women of LWMS support WELS mission pastors and families, as well as help provide the means to continue gospel outreach worldwide.

At the 2016 annual convention, WELS Missions received generous gifts:

Home Missions: $41,529.28 – Summer Student Assistants
World Missions: $41,529.29 – Television Broadcast for Muslim World and Theological Seminars
kids c.a.r.e. mission project: $60,816.17 – Central Africa Medical Mission Orphan/Infant Program
Worship Service Offerings: $51,620.29 – divided between home mission project Outreach to Asians and world mission project Apache Leadership and Maintenance

Since August of 2015, Home Missions has authorized close to $150,000.00 to special projects to assist and enhance mission efforts. The majority of those funds have come from LWMS gifts This year marks the 54th annual convention to be held in Orlando, Fl., June 22-25, 2017. For more, click the video link.

Missions says “thanks ever so much” to LWMS for the generous and continued support of WELS Missions.

 

 

Campus Ministry Committee initiates pilot program

How do we keep our members connected to God’s Word while they are away at college? This question has been asked by parents and congregations alike. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to connect them to a local WELS congregation or campus ministry near the school where they are attending. The WELS Campus Ministry Committee (CMC) exists to help parents and congregations in this task. Every year, the CMC sends letters to every WELS congregation asking for contact information for their high school seniors. Once this information is gathered and entered into our database it is used in two ways. First, the CMC sends out letters to every student. This letter encourages students to be involved in campus ministry and gives them the contact information for the local congregation or campus ministry where they are attending school. The CMC then sends the students’ contact information to the local contact or campus pastors so they can make contact with these students while at school. This has been an effective way over the years to connect students to local ministries.

But we can’t connect students to these local ministries if we don’t know who they are! One of the challenges the CMC has faced is the low participation of congregations in this contact information gathering effort. Historically, only about 400 of our 1300 WELS congregations have participated. This year, the CMC has initiated a pilot program to connect more students to local ministries. The CMC has engaged the help of Senior Vicar Phil Janisch from the Point of Grace Campus Ministry in Milwaukee to call congregations and ask for contact information for all their high school seniors. Vicar Janisch spends his time calling every WELS congregation who hasn’t responded to our mailing to encourage them to provide this information. Sometimes it is secretaries who gather this information. Sometimes it is the pastor. Sometimes it is an interested parent or member who does the work. To date, we have been able to gather information from an additional 400 congregations. We are grateful to see that our efforts have doubled the number of congregations participating. We are hopeful to see 100 percent participation of our congregations in this effort in the future. The more students we know of, the more we can connect to local ministries and through this keep more students connected to God’s Word. Your help is appreciated as we partner together to keep our young people connected to God’s Word.

By Rev. Charles Vannieuwenhoven

 

 

Multi-Site Conference 2016 recap

The National Multi-Site Conference for WELS Churches met November 14-16, 2016, at Grace Lutheran Church of Southern Arizona, a WELS multi-site church in Benson, Sahuarita, Tucson, and Vail. One hundred forty-four pastors, teachers, staff ministers, laypersons, and other ministry leaders attended.

What is multi-site? Multi-site is a strategy for gospel ministry and mission work: one church carrying out gospel ministry at more than one physical location, created for the primary purpose of expanding gospel outreach. In addition to simply positioning churches to share Jesus with more people, there can be other benefits such as shared resources, efficient organization, cost effective programs, reaching a new community or target audience, expanded volunteer and leadership opportunities, and more.

Why a conference? This conference provided a venue for networking and building relationships with the growing number of WELS churches investing in this work. It was designed for churches already doing multi-site ministry, as well as churches just getting started or merely considering it. The conference workshops covered a wide selection of presentations to meet the needs of everyone regardless of their level of experience. Some workshop topics, for example, focused on key multi-site components such as communication, staffing, volunteers, budget and finances, merging two or more churches, organizational structure, and more.

Who is doing multi-site? The multi-site strategy is a good fit with our Lutheran beliefs and values that have stood the test of time. While the multi-site strategy is just one of many ways to expand mission work, it is significant to note that five of the eight new mission starts authorized by WELS Home Missions in April 2016 have a multi-site component.

Conference highlights:

The keynote address set the tone for the conference. Pastor Rick Johnson shared the multi-site story of Crown of Life Lutheran Church in Corona, Beaumont, and Riverside, Calif., “bringing the gospel to more people, and more people to the gospel.” The multi-site strategy at Crown of Life has developed over the last eight years, and the church plans to add more campuses.

Pastor Ron Koehler, representing our host church, Grace Lutheran in Tucson, presented an overview of their four locations. A video demonstrated the different look and layout of each location’s facility. Pictures also helped tell the story of Grace’s multi-site ministry, which includes “saving sacred spaces.” Grace has responded to requests of neighboring churches, declining in numbers, desiring Grace’s leadership and ministry to assimilate their church into Grace’s multi-site strategy.

Pastor Daron Lindemann, chairman of the conference planning committee, and pastor of Holy Word, a multi-site church in Austin and Pflugerville, Tex., says, “The level of interest in multi-site amazed our planning committee. We had hoped for 80 people to attend, set up plans for possibly 100, and needed to make some exciting adjustments to accommodate over 140 who registered.”

“I believe that the multi-site strategy, and its variations such as mergers, offer both an answer to some challenges, and a plan for expanded gospel outreach in the WELS.”

By Rev. Nathan Strutz

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

 

Looking for a double-duty missionary

It’s not often that WELS asks an overseas missionary to serve two different fields; however, the Administrative Committee for Africa is addressing unique needs in Cameroon and Nigeria with one full-time missionary that will split his time between the two countries– half for Nigeria and half for Cameroon.

In Nigeria, the double-duty missionary will coordinate all the mission work WELS is doing there including administration of board responsibilities, pastor meetings, and worker training. It will be necessary for him to be away from home fairly regularly and for some weeks at a time. We expect that he will visit Nigeria about four times per year as needed for direction and encouragement. As the coordinator of the Nigerian mission, he will take responsibility for organizing the program and communicating between the national church and WELS.

There are valid reasons not to live in Nigeria. A physical presence by a WELS missionary can, at times, result in dependency by the national leadership. Christ the King and All Saints Lutheran synods could take a step backward if there was a WELS resident missionary. There are also more security issues in Nigeria as opposed to Cameroon.

There are valid reasons to have the double-duty missionary live in Cameroon, primarily, networking opportunities. As WELS builds a foundation in Bamenda, Cameroon, the missionary will meet with leadership in the northwestern district on a monthly basis, assisting our fellow Christians to understand their opportunities and take the reins of their ministry. Our current missionary in Kumba, Cameroon, will work similarly in the southern districts as well as continue coordination of the new worker-training program there.

Some have identified this particular call as a “tough one,” or “at the outer edge of feasible.” The double-duty missionary will be a unique man with unique strengths, “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” Please keep our double-duty missionary in your prayers for the challenge before him and his family as WELS’ Nigeria-Cameroon Missionary.

By Missionary Daniel Kroll

 

 

A Paul-like experience

The newest WELS-sponsored project in Europe, Outreach to Roma (OTR) [a.k.a. gypsies), has proven to be a truly Paul-like experience. The reports from Pastor/Missionary Iliyan Itsov read like a modern-day Book of Acts. Moreover, OTR’s method of gospel outreach closely resembles the method the Apostle used – a travelling missionary gathers groups and then leaves them to be served by local leaders.

There have been places like Lystra where the Apostle encountered violence. Missionary Itsov was invited by our sister church, the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Germany, to try to gather some groups in Germany, which the ELFK pastors would then serve. Itsov met with threats of physical violence and had the tires on the OTR van slashed. After about two months of outreach, a couple interested families were found.

There have been disappointments like Paul experienced when men turned away. Pastor Itsov spent several weeks in Romania to help form and legally register a Confessional Lutheran Church. The theologically trained man who had invited WELS to help later decided to associate with a different Lutheran body.

The Apostle Paul did not give up and found cities that welcomed the gospel. In Bulgaria, OTR has met with success. Itsov travels to Roma villages and shares the gospel. He gathers interested people and gives them initial instruction in the Word. With their help, he seeks to find a suitable place for worship and holds the initial services. After a few visits for worship and Bible study, he asks the group to select a leader who is willing to study the Bible in greater depth and conduct weekly services reading sermons Itsov provides. Then through periodic visits and via Internet Itsov teaches the leader.

Three such groups are now gathered in Bulgaria, each with its own leader and each with regular worship. The first group is in the village of Zlataritsa. Atanas has led the group for nearly a year now. It has an average of 18 in services. Two more groups were started in November. Bogdan is leader in Kotel, and Boyko in Stara Zagora. In all three cases the leader and members of the group have taken on the responsibility of inviting others and seeking to build a congregation. Frequently, through the many family and friendship ties among the Roma people, members are directing Itsov to other individuals and villages.

In addition, the OTR van goes out each week to three neighboring Roma villages and brings 20 people to the service at the Bulgarian Lutheran Church’s congregation in Dunavtsi.

When he is home in Dunavtsi, Itsov also helps his congregation’s pastor. Right now the congregation stuffs as many as 25 people into a rented room the size of an American living room. But, God willing, help is on the way! Itsov has received a loan from a WELS member to enable the congregation to purchase land and construct a small chapel. The cost will be kept low because volunteers will supply nearly all the labor. The present rent money and special gifts will be used to pay off the loan.

By Rev. John Vogt

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

 

PSI partners with World Missions

Simon Duoth, a Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) student in Renton, Wash., is a man who understands a blessing when he sees it. As a refugee from South Sudan, a people group on the run from Muslims, from extremist government, and from neighboring tribes, he knows all too well that peace seldom lasts long. He understands that situations can change in an instant. And so, when Simon Duoth sees a blessing, he holds onto it.

Because of men like Simon, the PSI team sees a blessing: strong connections forming as stateside churches, missionaries, and churches around the world partner to respond to the growing number of people looking to WELS for training. Here are some examples of what this partnership looks like for PSI.

The PSI team is…

* partnering with the One Africa Team to meet the growing needs for training in Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, and Guinee Bissau (in addition to the ongoing and new opportunities in Malawi, Zambia, Cameroon, and Nigeria).

* assisting East Asia with visiting professors to help ALS train men to be pastors, group leaders, and evangelists. We are coordinating efforts so that an East Asian PSI student in North America might also take classes with the students in East Asia.

* walking with WELS Hmong pastors to villages in Northern Vietnam where more than 70,000 Hmong Christians are longing for leaders trained with the truth that we have. It means working with them to determine what sort of training to offer and what it will take for them to walk together with us to reach even more.

* teaching Greek and Hebrew to a young man from Ukraine so that he is prepared to begin his seminary training as a future leader of the church. At the same time, we are working to connect that man with a group of 50 Ukrainians living in the small city of Wasilla, Alaska – a group that has no leader but gathers together on a weekly basis to read God’s word.

God’s people are walking together to meet the growing needs of training around the world. That’s the blessing we see right now. And it is our prayer that these partnerships continue to grow and thrive. That’s the same blessing that Simon Duoth sees and is firmly holding onto. These partnerships can exist because our foundation is the truth of God’s Word. For Simon, this means knowing that whatever church he goes to and whatever pastor, professor, or missionary he learns from he will hear the same true message. He wants nothing more than for the Sudanese refugees scattered throughout the world to be able to hear and know that same beautiful message.

By God’s grace, as we partner around the world to train up the next generation of leaders, the worldwide network of churches holding on to that same message will continue to grow and spread. For us – the PSI team – this partnership with each of you means a great blessing we are eager to hold onto.

By Rev. Jon Bare

View Moments with Missionaries video featuring PSI student, Qiang Wang, and the Saviour of the Nations mission congregation in Vancouver, Canada.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email