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.

 

 

 

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!

 

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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

 

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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.

 

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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/.

 

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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… 

 

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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. 

 

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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

 

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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 has developed 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.” More information about the course and a registration form can be found at welscongregationalservices.net/download/c003/.

Visit the FFTC 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.

 

 

Guarding the faith of the faithful guardians

Military men and women defend us. They willingly serve our country. Their training prepares them to be leaders, achievers, warriors. We might think that these people don’t need a thing, except maybe a call from home or a package of items that are hard to get when you’re far away.

Few people consider the spiritual needs of our military men and women. Yet during those years in service, they may face life-or-death situations. They encounter pressures that civilians would never guess come with military life. They may feel they are sinning when they use violence against the enemy, not understanding the role that God has for them.

This is why we need you to provide WELS Military Services with contact information for members in the military. Our 125 Military Contact Pastors, our National Civilian Chaplain Paul Ziemer, and European Civilian Chaplain Don Stuppy understand the issues. If our service members connect with God’s Word, then instead of drifting away from their faith, they often gain a new appreciation for the Lord and his Word. Please go to wels.net/refer for the sake of the spiritual needs of those who serve us!

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

To add a service member to the mailing list, go to wels.net/refer.

 

 

 

Inclusion can be the key

C.S. Lewis once pointed out that “membership” came into common language through Paul’s writing about the “Body of Christ.” He said that the world wants to define a “member” in terms of how all members are alike.

In the Body of Christ, the members are not the same, but they belong to each other. Family members (mother, father, child, grandparent) are also very different. They use their position to love and help each other. Members are not alike and don’t have to be the same in order to serve God’s purpose.

How many members of your church can you identify as intellectually or developmentally disabled? Statistically, one in six children have one or more developmental disabilities! Many of these do not remain members of the church when they grow up. Yet God created them to be members of his body.

WELS Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry (IDDM) seeks to help congregations share the gospel with those who have special education needs. We are also passionate about helping churches to be a Christian network for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families. Our partner, Jesus Cares Ministry, is a prime supplier of Christian education materials to conquer this barrier. IDDM’s resources help churches to include special needs families in worship, fellowship, and serving.

Inclusion of adults and children with these challenges will flow from our faith that Christ died for all, and all people need to hear that. Jesus calls us to love and serve one another. We want each person, regardless of ability, to see their place as a member of the Body of Christ. When we strive to be inclusive, challenges will lead to joys. Let IDDM help your church, or connect your family to others who can help. We belong to each other!

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

To add a special needs individual to the mailing list, go to wels.net/refer.

 

 

 

Going outside the walls

In case it escaped your notice, people are not generally breaking down the doors of our churches, asking us to serve their spiritual needs. There is usually plenty of room in our pews.

But outside the walls, an enormous mission field awaits. Some of those souls are unable to attend regular worship, while others are simply ignorant of their greatest need. Even if they have questions about God, they may not know whom to trust for reliable answers.

So we need to go outside the walls, and chaplaincy is an excellent way to do that. Chaplains seek to bring the comfort of a compassionate, listening heart to hurting souls. So they go to meet people where they are, sometimes in a time of tragedy or great loss, and bring with them a human, caring presence. In some cases, that compassion will open a door to direct—or redirect—a lost sheep to the Good Shepherd.

There are opportunities for chaplaincy in many areas: in hospitals and care facilities, in jails and prisons, in police and fire agencies, on campuses and in locker rooms, at everyday workplaces and at once-in-a-lifetime disasters. And if someone is going to be there, don’t we want it be someone who can properly apply law and gospel?

Chaplain Certification classes, offered online through Martin Luther College, demonstrate to public institutions that a chaplain has completed a certain level of spiritual guidance training appropriate to serve those within that institution. Required courses include Communicating Forgiveness, A Spiritual Approach to Addiction Counseling, and Chaplaincy Issues and Fieldwork. Earning a Chaplain Certificate does not, by itself, qualify one for a call into the public ministry, but it surely makes the student more qualified to minister to souls.

Learn more at mlc-wels.edu/continuing-education/wels-chaplain-certificate, or contact Rev. Robert Dick, chairman of the Chaplain Certification Committee, at chaplaincert@wels.net.

 

 

 

Keep your staff happy

The Care Committee for Called Workers (CCCW) exists to provide assistance to WELS calling bodies, their called workers, and other staff. Every calling body can benefit from having a committee focused on supporting and encouraging its workers. The CCCW has resources that can help you establish a new care committee or improve one that is already in place.

Calling bodies can support their called workers in several areas:

  • Spiritual support can involve encouraging personal prayer and Bible study, staff Bible study, and other opportunities for the strengthening and expression of faith.
  • Physical needs begin when a called worker accepts a call. The new worker may need assistance securing housing, locating doctors, dentists, banks, auto repair shops, etc. Ongoing discussions may involve salary and benefits, vacation policy, home repair and improvement, tax preparation, and providing support in emergency situations.
  • Support for intellectual needs means encouraging called workers to continue their education. The calling body is encouraged to subsidize the cost of continuing education, including travel and child care expenses.
  • Emotional support includes offering assistance to alleviate stress or deal with workplace conflicts. This is especially important when personal or family counseling may be needed. You can show appreciation by recognizing personal and professional anniversaries with gifts, providing a meal during busy times, arranging child care for an evening out, or inviting the called worker over for dinner.
  • Retirement planning and investing should be addressed as early as possible in a worker’s career. It is important to understand the WELS pension plan, Social Security, and personal investing such as the WELS Shepherd Plan. By using the available tools and resources, each worker can become financially literate and develop a long-term plan for a comfortable retirement. Calling bodies are encouraged to help build their workers’ retirement accounts either through matching contributions or a lump sum contribution.

The synodical CCCW serves local committees and workers by producing user-friendly resources, such as a how-to video for starting a local care committee and retirement planning tools.

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

 

 

 

Online course on Scriptural counseling

The WELS/ELS Christian Therapists Network initially focused on finding counselors who are members of our churches. Now the Network is launching an online class for masters-level therapists. “Acting on Hope I: Peace, Comfort, and Hope in Christ Crucified and Arisen” (PSY9501) will be offered through Martin Luther College.

“Acting on Hope I” is the basic course in the Acting on Hope/Bible-Based Counseling Curriculum. As students learn from each other, the teacher, and the textbook, they will develop their own way of using Scripture in counseling sessions that will best honor the Word of God, best help their clients, and that will respect and use evidence-based counseling best practices and methods.

The one-credit course is worth 25 clock hours and lasts for ten weeks. Tuition is $310. The instructor is Rev. Alan Siggelkow, LCSW, a former parish pastor who taught pastoral counseling at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary for 20 years.

Learn more at mlc-wels.edu/continuing-education/registration/new-student-registration or contact Alan Siggelkow at ahsiggelkow@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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).

 

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Guarding the faith of our faithful guardians

Lucas Hendricks serves on the Lutheran Military Support Group (lutheranmilitary.org) and is a member of Trinity, Woodbridge, Va.

Death. For the Christian, that word has lost the terror of a permanent event. We know that death is the beginning of life eternal in paradise. But what if your vocation regularly brings you face to face with mortality? You crave the reminder that death is temporary, because it looks, smells, and feels so permanent.

Our military men and women are either in combat, recovering from combat, or preparing to go into combat. They need soul care, but church involvement with the state is problematic. Attending a local congregation is an option—when they are stationed near one and have time to attend. But when deployed, or stationed far from a confessional church, they lose access to the sacrament and mutual encouragement. Yes, technology—when available—can connect them to biblically-sound resources. Yes, they can always read God’s Word. But what hungry souls they become after many months away from their Christian brothers and sisters!

Meanwhile, the military chaplaincy travels with them. They may hear familiar prayers and hymns, receive words of comfort and encouragement. But they also hear unfamiliar doctrine and subtle error that may scratch “itching ears.” All views are considered equal. If you think their Christian faith will be attacked in college, picture the same trials in the pressure of combat! The church has an obligation to their sheep that volunteer to be sheepdogs* for a season. So what can we do?

Service members

  • Know the regulations governing religious accommodation (such as for practices like our view of fellowship and close communion).
  • Take an active role in your own soul care—what the military calls spiritual fitness. This is about your readiness for combat and your resilience when faced with the horror of war.
  • Find out if there is a WELS/ELS church near you by going to yearbook.wels.net/unitsearch. Call the pastor to request his services.
  • Contact WELS Military Services (military@wels.net) and ask what they need from you.
  • Support your local congregation and WELS Military Services with your offerings.

Pastors

  • Learn about installations near you and introduce yourself to the senior chaplain.
  • Contact WELS Military Services (military@wels.net) to learn what sheep may be in your pasture. They can also offer suggestions for effective ministry.
  • Call on troops and their families at home. Become familiar with their circumstances.
  • Visit them at work. Meet their chaplain and their commander.
  • Invite them to take on tasks in your congregation that fit their schedule and abilities.

Synod leaders

  • The Armed Forces Chaplaincy Board needs to hear from you, not for their benefit, but for the benefit of our members in service.
  • Can we get WELS/ELS recognized as an option for religious preference? This would offer another statistical reporting avenue; more important, it would alert leadership and the unit chaplain to the unique religious needs under their command.
  • Sixteen years of conflict have taken their toll and WELS/ELS service members are not immune. Because of the military’s organization, they can be isolated from the greatest source of resiliency, the means of grace. Suicide and divorce, risky and illegal behaviors are symptoms of the stress. What a huge opportunity for our God! He offers the cure for sin, fear, hurt, hatred, war, death. What a huge opportunity for his church! We have the medicine of the gospel.

* The analogy refers to citizens (sheep), attackers (wolves), and protectors (sheepdogs).