Hearing loop troubleshooting

Does your church currently have a hearing loop? Have you considered installing one because of the grants that the WELS Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing(MDHH) is offering?

If your congregation is able to provide this to hard-of-hearing people who attend your services, this is a tremendous blessing. God be praised!

Even with a loop, you may still receive feedback that people are having trouble using it. This guide serves to help you troubleshoot common issues, before needing to call for maintenance. Take time with the person running into challenges and test your system with these ideas.

  1. Ensure the loop system is switched on. (Any technology how-to will start with the step of “try turning it off and on again!”)
  2. Ensure there are no errors or warnings on the loop machine.
  3. Check the AV system to make sure everything is wired up properly.
  4. Have the hearing aid wearer move around throughout the looped area and test different locations. Amplification may vary at different points in the sanctuary.
  5. Have them check with the audiologist to find out if the hearing aid is hearing loop compatible and if that feature is turned on.
  6. Check the manual for the hearing aid. Some sense the loop automatically, while others require the wearer to change the T-switch on the hearing aid. Newer ones may connect via a smartphone.
  7. If the loop is turned on, and their hearing aid is set up correctly, and the sound is still not working, then it is probably time to call in a technician for maintenance.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach as each system, space, and hearing aid is different.

As with any sound system-related issue, it is a great opportunity to wonder at our creator. God said “Let there be” and humans and animals could hear with amazing precision all the depth of sound and music he has given us.

Meanwhile, in a fallen world, while the Lord has blessed us with amazing technology, it can never compare.

So, many hours are spent fine-tuning the microphone levels to create a similar experience on a livestream as those worshiping in person are experiencing. Pastors have many stories of microphone mishaps. Similarly, hearing aids and hearing loops are prone to being finicky.

Despite that, all these tools can be used to help spread the gospel more clearly to hurting souls.

Hopefully the ideas above can help if you are experiencing issues. As with any questions you may have around the needs of deaf and hard of hearing people, please reach out to MDHH if we can assist you.

You can message us on Facebook at facebook.com/WELS.MDHH/ or email us at [email protected].




Those in prison are important to Jesus

Recently someone asked, “Why was prison such a big deal to Jesus and early Christians?” I was startled by the question, because I didn’t think that incarceration was a particularly significant issue of that time. Prisons in those days were generally a place to hold people until a case was decided and then, if punishment was imposed the person was killed, beaten, or fined. The Roman government and others at that time did not impose a prison sentence as a penalty for a crime. Life sentences were unknown.

I also didn’t think that Jesus made a “big deal” out of incarceration. When I think of the messages of the New Testament—justification by faith, salvation by grace, mercy for sinners, and condemnation of work righteousness— those could be called “big deal” messages.

But a discussion of Christ’s words in Matthew 25 about Judgment Day prompted the question about prison. If we didn’t have these words of Jesus about the Last Day, we might picture the Judge railing angrily against the murderers, robbers, rapists, and other evil people when he judges the world. Instead, Jesus tells us that the Judge will condemn those who don’t feed the hungry or the stranger, give drinks to the thirsty, clothe the naked, or visit the sick and imprisoned.

Books could be written about Matthew 25, but what struck this person was that Jesus included visiting prisoners in the list of things people will be accountable for at the Judgment. The New Testament also commanded God’s people, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison.” (Hebrews 13:3) Clearly the Lord has not forgotten the prisoner, even if the world has.

We should not be surprised, then, that Christian churches have had prison ministries down through the centuries. Like food pantries, visits to the homebound, and hospitals (a Christian invention), Christians have found ways to organize resources and people to care for others in their need. You may not be visiting an inmate – you may be supporting jail ministry with your resources. In your prayers, remember prisoners and those who bring them the good news.

Sometimes we have an opportunity to show the love of Jesus personally. If someone from your family, your church, or your community is incarcerated, send them a card or note, and say a prayer for them. These are men and women for whom Christ died. Whether they are incarcerated unfairly (as Jesus and Paul were), or whether they are getting the punishment they deserve (like the thief on the cross), the Lord has not forgotten about them.

In a world that regards money as the solution for most problems, Christians are tempted to think that sending money to the incarcerated is showing love. The love of Jesus is so much more than money, and grace is so different from the material goods that money provides. Remember Peter’s priorities with the lame man at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:6) where he didn’t give him any money but spoke to him in the name of Jesus. Isn’t the greatest gift eternal life? Isn’t the rarest blessing for an inmate to experience the love of Christ?

Prison is a big deal to Jesus. So is sickness. So is sin. As his followers, we reflect his compassionate priorities in whatever opportunities he puts before us. Thank you for your partnership in serving those who are incarcerated and remember them in your prayers.

Rev. James Behringer, Special Ministries director




Further evidence of changing times

A recent Star Tribune (Minneapolis) article underscores changes in the field of corrections regarding how mail is delivered to inmates. The article, titled “Paper and Ink Spelling Trouble,” chronicles some changes that are being pilot tested and debated in Minnesota and elsewhere. The objective of the procedural changes is to reduce the influx of liquid drug formulations dripped onto the paper of a letter, magazine, or other item mailed to an inmate. The correctional facility in Stillwater, Minn., is experimenting with photocopying all inmate mail and delivering the copies to the inmate. But there are drawbacks. The reporter states: “In Stillwater, this test is adding hours of work for [a correctional officer] while creating an extra, even if temporary, barrier for inmates relying on photos, greeting cards, and letters to stay tethered to loved ones in the outside world.”

The article continues: “’It depersonalizes,’ said Michele Livingston, whose son, Jeffrey Young, is serving a life sentence for murder in Stillwater. ‘Already there is no contact, and mail is actually one of the best ways to communicate with someone incarcerated. It tells them it took effort and time to say something to them. Now when you get photocopies, it takes it away.’”

So, in good Lutheran fashion, “What does this mean?” There are several take-aways for us. One is a reminder to “work while it is day,” that is, make the most of opportunities to spread the gospel because those opportunities can evaporate. Doing our ministry by U.S. mail has worked well for more than 30 years, but that era may be changing.

A second take-away is the continual need to innovate and develop new ways to deliver the gospel. WELS Prison Ministry has a team working on developing viable methods for delivering pen pal letters and our Bible studies as well as receiving tests and returning them to inmates using electronic delivery. Please pray for blessings on this team’s efforts.

Finally, the article renews our conviction that the spiritual and emotional encouragement we provide through pen pal letters and test comments are personally vital to the inmates despite any photocopying. The Word of God works, even if it is photocopied first.




Corrector’s corner – handling inmate comments

Generally, our correctors are very faithful at adding some encouraging comments to tests submitted by inmates. However, in some cases we’d like to see more direct acknowledgment, when appropriate, by the corrector of requests or other notes from the inmate. This is especially true if the inmate asks for prayer or notes some aspect of struggling to live for Jesus, but other comments can be worth responding to as well. For example, an inmate recently submitted: “Thank you for this course. It’s been helpful to me to control my depression and anxiety. I’m in a place where these feelings can control. I will look back on this book in my time of need.” While not an explicit request for prayer, this is a situation that lends itself to an encouragement along the lines of “[First name]: I’m thankful this study helped direct you to places in God’s Word that reassure you when you’re tempted to be anxious or depressed. I pray that you will continue to find comfort in those verses as you seek to trust Jesus’ promises.”

Also, we wanted to note that a significant number of our students are in county jails where their stays may be limited. Those tests are especially time-sensitive, and we’d like to get them back to the students as soon as possible before they are released or move on. Please return corrected tests as soon as you can, but no more than two weeks at the most.





New tool for congregations: Hope for the hurting

WELS Special Ministries Director Rev. Jim Behringer is pleased to announce a new Bible class, Helping the Hurting with Hope, that will assist congregations in developing a climate of compassion for sinners served by ministries such as WELS Prison Ministry. Using some of the same themes as our opening article, the study’s author seeks to help participants see the vital role of compassion in a Christian’s personal and congregational life. He also seeks to provide the gospel motivation for participants to go beyond their comfort zones and act in compassionate ways through the Spirit’s power.

We believe Helping the Hurting with Hope can motivate God’s people to be patient and wise with people behind bars and those formerly incarcerated when returning to the community. Where the Bible class succeeds in cultivating compassion, church families will also be better spiritual refuges for others with broken lives.

The study comprises an introductory lesson with a video and four additional lessons. The participant’s lessons, leader’s guide, and video can all be accessed or downloaded at welscongregationalservices.net/modules/compassion-ministry-modules.



Three ways to support WELS Prison Ministry

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: for blessings on our outreach efforts to new facilities; for the success of our electronic document team efforts; for blessings on the second and subsequent mentor training classes and new mentor ministries; for continued designated gifts to fund all our ministry activities.

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

Give – We thank our Lord and you for your helpful special offerings to Prison Ministry, which support our efforts to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration!

To provide additional gifts for Christ’s work through Prison Ministry:

WELS, Attn. Gift Processing
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI, 53188
(Make checks payable to WELS and list Prison Ministry in the memo line.)

Donate online at wels.net/donate-prison-ministry.

Give through your IRA charitable distribution, appreciated assets, or your will or estate plan. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for assistance.

Direct your Thrivent Choice dollars (if you are a Thrivent member) to WELS Prison Ministry. Contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836 for assistance. Your 2022 designation is due by March 31, 2023.




Hidden Christians

Do you know most of the members of your congregation—or, at least, do you recognize most of the people who regularly worship at the same time that you do? If you belong to a smaller-sized church and worship regularly, you may be able to answer “yes” to both questions. In a very large congregation, you might not know all of the church’s members, but you may trust that the members of your church staff do.

However, it is very possible—even likely—that your congregation has members who are unknown to most others and possibly pretty unfamiliar to the staff. No, I’m not referring to members who are considered “straying sheep”—who are choosing not to attend worship or be involved in church activities. Nor am I referring to elderly members who once attended regularly but are no longer able to do so. Instead, I’m referring to other Christians who may be hidden from the congregation: parents of children with extraordinary challenges.

Through our work in the Light for Parents ministry, we often hear from parents who very much want to join in worship regularly and feel connected to other Christians, but have found this to be nearly impossible because of their child’s disability, medical condition, or mental health or behavioral challenges. Consider these examples:

  • Jim and Kathy realize that their child with sensory processing disorder cannot be in the sanctuary for a worship service because the sounds are so loud or the lights so bright that the setting becomes overwhelming.
  • Adoptive parents Tom and Grace know that their child, who has a history of being abused, is likely to be frightened by the crowd or by certain people in the sanctuary who appear scary, resulting in “fight or flight” behaviors.
  • Matt and Laura are concerned that their child who has a disability will loudly make involuntary grunting noises or call out words at random times, disrupting the service.
  • Sarah and Kevin, parents of a child with ADHD, know from experience that their child will not be able to stay in the pew for the duration of the service, but will need to walk around or even run during that time.
  • Kelly and Jacob are worried that their child, who has frequent meltdowns due to autism spectrum disorder, may have a meltdown at church.
  • Bill and Hannah, parents of a child with a medical condition that severely weakens their child’s immune system, are concerned about exposing their child to so many people in a relatively small space.
  • Greta and Phil, whose child is difficult to move from one place to another due to a physical disability, are exhausted from caring for their child’s needs each day and unable to imagine adding another difficult trip: the journey from home to church and back.

*All names have been changed.

These are just a few examples of parents who struggle to find opportunities to worship in church or get to know other congregation members. They stay in the background, often becoming very isolated from their fellow Christians. They are hidden within congregations.

These parents would love to be present at worship services. They would love to have the friendship and support of other Christians. They would love to serve others outside their homes. And they would love to have their children participate in the various children’s ministries that their church homes offer. Yet they remain hidden.

God tells us “Carry each other’s’ burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NIV). Now that you now about these “hidden Christians,” would you like to know how you can help carry their burdens and make it possible for them to play a greater role within the congregation? The first step is awareness—learning which parents in your congregation are isolated because of their children’s challenges and asking them their needs. Try saying, “I would truly appreciate the opportunity to be a blessing to you. How can I be helpful?”

The next step is making your worship services and children’s ministries accessible to all. This involves more than just having special parking spaces and ramps available. It involves letting isolated families in the congregation know that you truly want to make it possible for them to worship, and then building a circle of support around them and meeting their family’s worship and children’s ministry needs. As you do so, you may find that your congregation will begin to get a reputation as one that is very welcoming to all, and your ministry may grow as a result!

How to carry this out is a big topic, but Light for Parents is here to help. We have speakers available who would be happy to come share with your pastors, staff ministers, teachers, children’s ministry staff, and all members ways that your congregation can better open its arms to families of children with extraordinary challenges. A partial list of available topics can be found at www.lightforparents.com/speaking. Let us help you learn how you can be a blessing to your “hidden Christians”—and how they can be a blessing to you as well!

Written by Jane Mose

Light for Parents Program Coordinator





Register for Taste of Missions 2023!

Registration for Taste of Missions 2023 is now open! We invite you to join us in person or online for a day of fellowship with our WELS home and world missionaries and volunteers from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 10, 2023, at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis.

There will be multiple opportunities for fellowship, a worship service to commission new home and world missionaries, displays from our various mission fields, and activities for the whole family! In-person attendees can sample ethnic dishes from various countries where WELS conducts mission work as missionaries present on their experience and answer questions about life in a mission field.

For those attending the event virtually, everything will be livestreamed for your participation. You can witness the commissioning worship service, hear our speakers from home and world mission fields, and try the ethnic recipes that will be shared online.

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

We hope you will join us!

WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions



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Save the date! Taste of Missions 2023

Taste of Missions is back! Almost 500 people attended last year’s event at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, and another 200 individuals participated online. It was a wonderful day of experiencing WELS mission work through fellowship with home and world missionaries, various Q&A panels and presentations, delicious ethnic cuisine, and inspirational worship with brothers and sisters from around the world. Check out photos from the event in our Flickr album.

We want to invite YOU to join us again to learn about WELS mission work at this year’s Taste of Missions event that will be held on Sat., June 10, 2023. Bring the family to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis., to enjoy some ethnic food trucks and get to know some of your synod’s home and world missionaries. Can’t attend in person? Virtual attendees can watch all the events via livestream, view additional video updates from missionaries, and try their hand at making one of the many ethnic recipes shared on the website.

Registration will open on February 20. In the meantime, visit tasteofmissions.com to view more event details and catch up on videos you might have missed from last year’s event. We hope to see you there!


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One way to support those in recovery

Often when we think about supporting a group of people, we think about what WE can do for THEM.

It is counterintuitive to think, “What can they do for us?”

But people from an addiction rehab near one WELS congregation have made it clear. They want opportunities to volunteer and serve.

In fact, one person said this: “I’ve let a lot a people down. You don’t know what it means to me that you are giving me the opportunity to be responsible and give back.”

Based on the comments of those in recovery, CrossWalk Lutheran Church has begun to offer opportunities to serve including:

  • Monitoring the parking lot to prevent catalytic converter theft. (The congregation lost four over the last several months)
  • Helping to take down signs, canopies, tables, and chairs after church services
  • Delivering Thanksgiving meals to needy families through the church’s Feed-a-Family program.

Providing opportunities to serve can be uncomfortable. Initially, congregations may find themselves feeling a bit like Peter before Jesus washed his feet. They may protest that it is improper or selfish to accept service rather than provide it.

But the risk of not providing opportunities to serve is great. The church could inadvertently reinforce what sociologists call “learned helplessness.” And congregations might be preventing the needy from worshiping God with their gifts of service.

What can this mean for your church?

Your church may not have collaborations with local rehabs. But it is likely that you bless your community through a number of charitable acts of giving and service.

If you want to bless your community in this novel way, the first step is to make a mental shift. Instead of thinking about what your church can do for your community, think about what your community can do for your church.

By providing opportunities to serve, you are reversing learned helplessness and fulfilling the words, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” You are denying yourself in order to provide someone else with the opportunity to learn that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

If you’re interested in learning about being spiritually supportive of people in recovery, see the Special Ministries video and study guide at welscongregationalservices.net/recovery.

Jason Jonker
CSM Mental Health Needs Chair




Home mission milestones – Winter 2022/2023

Join with us in celebrating and praising God for the major church milestones that these home mission congregations experienced in Winter 2022/2023:

Grace Lutheran Church, Minot, N.D.

Grace Lutheran Church in Minot, N.D., dedicated their newly remodeled worship facility in a special Reformation service on October 30, 2022. Thanks be to God! They purchased an old Baptist church and remodeled it to fit their ministry needs with support from WELS Church Extension Fund (CEF).


View photos of their new church and other home mission activities in the Dakota-Montana district in the Flickr album.

Peace Lutheran Church, Trinity, Fla.

Home mission congregation Peace Lutheran Church in Trinity, Fla., dedicated their new church on November 20, 2022 (pictured above). Board for Home Missions chairman Rev. Mark Gabb preached for the service. They also hosted a Fall Festival and Open House for the community on November 12, 2022 (pictured), complete with free food and fun for the entire family. We thank God for this wonderful blessing as Peace looks forward to the next phase of their ministry in their new building!

View photos of their new church, their Fall Festival and Open House, and other home mission activities in the South Atlantic district in the Flickr album.

Please keep these home missions in your prayers as they continue to share the pure message of the gospel with more people in their communities. To stay connected with these and the other 134 home mission congregations scattered throughout the United States, Canada, and English-speaking West Indies, follow WELS Missions on Facebook at fb.com/WELSMissions.


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Stumped and full of hope

A massive stroke. A profound birth defect. A house fire.

We don’t expect such things to happen to us. They sound to us like the end of hope, a devastating derailment of our dreams.

Isaiah’s picture of the “stump of Jesse” captures the end-of-hope feeling. The glorious kingdom of David and Solomon was smashed into rubble and the people driven out with just a stump to mark the spot. Israel’s conquest and captivity appeared to be the unthinkable finale to happiness.

The imagery of the stump of Jesse could also symbolize earthly life when a person experiences something so terrible that every expectation of joy is erased. A productive career is cut short. The joy of childhood energy is stilled. Resources for old age are gone in an instant. We stare at the stump of what once was our lives, and we are stunned.

Special Ministries exists because the stump is not the end of the story for Christians. Isaiah prophesied, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” The stump is not where life ends; it is the beginning of his rescue. From that wrecked kingdom Christ came to seek and to save the lost.

In our darkest hour, our hope remains in God. Jesus told his disciples a man’s blindness would be an occasion to display what the Lord can do (John 9:3). Hope in the Lord drives Special Ministries’ work. Whether you have a disability or a struggle, whether your life has hit a wall or seems to have lost its purpose, we know the God who rescues. The Lord who caused a shoot to grow out of the stump of Jesse has a glorious eternal plan for you.

The Savior healed the deaf and blind as well as restoring hope to sinners shattered by shame. That’s not a coincidence. His mission ultimately delivers not only from damnation but also from the effects of this fallen world. Those who cannot physically hear the gospel now, already hear his voice. The blind see their Savior already in his Word. Neither trauma nor abuse can stop his healing love. The Branch is already bearing fruit and we see it in Special Ministries. The stump is not the end of the story, it’s the place where hope springs up. See Special Ministries’ information online for resources and guidance when you or someone you know is stumped!

Jim Behringer, director, WELS Special Ministries




The Charitable Gift Annuity: A Gift That Pays Income for Life

After 35 years of teaching, Arnie Nommensen began serving in a different way: as a WELS Christian giving counselor. In his role, Arnie met a WELS member who made quite an impression on him. This member had seen firsthand the blessings of charitable gift annuities (CGAs), so Arnie helped him set up multiple CGAs to leave a legacy of faith.

Motivated by this example and out of thankfulness for God’s blessings, Arnie knew that setting up CGAs to support the Lord’s work was also right for him and his wife, Carol. They knew that even after God calls them home, their CGAs will continue to support the ministries they love, like providing physical and spiritual support in Africa through WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

“You hear about things that WELS Christian Aid and Relief is doing in Africa for communities that really have a need, and that community then is also hearing the gospel from the people who are there to help them,” says Arnie. “The support that we can give through a charitable gift annuity will help provide that, and that’s something that can be carried on after we’re in heaven.”

CGAs are very popular since they provide quarterly income payments to the donor for life, in addition to significant tax benefits. When the Lord calls the donor home, the remainder will be distributed to the ministry or ministries of the donor’s choosing.

Carol appreciates how CGAs allow them to share their blessings with others: “They’ve given us the ability to use our financial gifts from the Lord to help or give back to him in a small way, because he gives us so much,” she says. “And it really gives us joy to do that.”

Run a personalized gift annuity illustration based on your age

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

Watch Arnie and Carol’s full charitable gift annuity story 

A Smart Option for Giving

If you are age 70.5 or older, you can support WELS ministries and churches through a gift directly from an individual retirement account (IRA) called a qualified charitable distribution (QCD).

Why is a QCD such a good giving option?

  • Giving directly from your IRA—rather than withdrawing these funds—won’t increase your adjusted gross income or subject your Social Security income to more taxes.
  • Such gifts can count toward all or part of your annual required minimum distribution (RMD). While IRA owners age 70.5 or older can make gifts directly to charities from their IRAs, the minimum age for taking RMDs has increased to 72.
  • QCD gifts can be especially advantageous for those who do not expect to itemize their deductions and for those whose deductions are limited.
  • You may make QCD gifts in any amount up to $100,000 per person per year or $200,000 for a couple with separate IRAs. Because of recent tax law changes, you may be able to continue to add to an IRA after age 70.5. If this is your situation, the amount of QCD gifts you can make will be reduced.*

Learn more about making QCDs from your IRA at wels.net/helpful-giving-tools or by contacting your local WELS Christian giving counselor at 800-827-5482 or [email protected].

*As a result of the SECURE Act, if an individual with earned income continues to make deductible contributions to an IRA beyond age 70.5, the individual’s maximum QCD amount will be reduced by the amount of deduction claimed for an IRA contribution.

Helpful Giving Tools

WELS Foundation provides resources to support you in your giving, such as:

Consider Being “Flexible” in Retirement

For those looking for new ways to support WELS’ mission to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ while still providing for their retirement needs, they may be surprised to learn about a way they can do both: the flexible deferred charitable gift annuity.

  1. With this creative plan (which is a variation of the simple charitable gift annuity), you can meet current and future income needs. While IRS regulations limit contributions to IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and other retirement plans, there are no such limitations with this plan.
  2. You can create a plan that maximizes your current income tax deduction while retaining the flexibility of receiving payments at the time you choose.
  3. Lastly, a flexible deferred annuity provides protection should an income need arise due to an uncertain future event (such as placing a relative in an assisted living facility or helping someone with in-home care). Payments can begin if or when the need arises.

A good example

As Bill and Jane prepared for retirement, they wanted to set aside resources to supplement their retirement income, while eventually benefiting a number of WELS ministries, including their home church. With the flexible deferred charitable gift annuity, they fulfilled these objectives.

Over a period of years, Bill and Jane created several flexible deferred charitable gift annuities and can begin receiving the payments in the future.

  • They met part of their Christian giving goals, named their favorite ministries to receive the remainder of the annuities, and had large deductions to use against their current income.
  • Annually they have the choice to begin receiving the payments.
  • When the payments begin, they may decide to use their payments to support the Lord’s work and would receive additional income tax deductions for those gifts.

Charitable gift annuity illustration







For more information about this creative plan or charitable gift annuities, contact a WELS Christian giving counselor at 800-827-5482 or [email protected].

Called worker mental health

Nearly 20% of adults in the U.S. were diagnosed with a mental illness in 2019, according to a recent study by Mental Health America. More than half of Americans reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health. Of these nearly 50 million people, over half went untreated. The study shows that many are uninsured and for those who have coverage, a large percentage are forced out of network for mental health care. This makes treatment harder to find and less affordable.

Depression and anxiety are often wrongly viewed as character flaws that can be cured through stronger faith. Many Christians consider the called workers to be on a higher level spiritually than themselves and not susceptible to these problems. We observe our spiritual leaders spreading God’s Word and caring for the spiritual needs of the adults and children in our churches and schools. As well intentioned, but uninformed Christians, we assume that people who exhibit this type of faith would be immune to mental illness. Numerous studies and real-life experiences have shown us that God’s dedicated servants are not exempt.

In order to better support our called workers, we need to change our own perception of mental illness and become educated on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of them. The Rev. Dr. Todd Peperkorn is an Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor who wrote a book called “I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression” in which he shares his deep struggles with anxiety and depression. His struggle began when he was a talented, energetic young pastor, devoted to his family and flock. It is shocking to hear him describe the stages of his depression that eventually caused him to completely withdraw from his ministry, family, and friends. He describes his struggles with the shame of others finding out about his diagnosis and finally the decision to take a leave from his ministry. It is heartening to hear of his treatment and ongoing recovery.

For a called worker struggling with depression, it is crucial to have the support of family, friends, another pastor, and the congregation. If your church already has a Care Committee for Called Workers, consider discussing mental health issues as a part of the annual meeting. If your congregation does not have a CCCW, concern with mental health during these stressful times provides a strong argument to form one.

Once the decision has been made to support a called worker in need, the members of the CCCW may wonder where to start. Christian Family Solutions provides confidential Lutheran counseling care and services – at no cost to the called worker. Their mission is “Healing and helping people in need through the ministry of Jesus Christ.” Since they can only help those who seek treatment, we should make it a priority that every called worker needing such help receives it.

Kurt Holzhueter, chairman of WELS Care Committee for Called Workers

Christian Family Solutions provides mental health outpatient counseling, school-based counseling, day treatment, and intensive outpatient programs for individuals and families through its clinics in seven states, at partner schools, and through telehealth. Through its Member Assistance Program, Christian Family Solutions offers confidential counseling services for called workers in all 12 districts, WELS World Missions, and other WELS/ELS organizations, at no cost to the called worker. There is a limit to the number of sessions available and may require a referral from your organizational leader or district president.  Please contact your organization for more information on how to participate in the Member Assistance Program.  You can also visit the Christian Family Solutions website to find more helpful resources or to request an appointment online: ChristianFamilySolutions.org. Or call 800-438-1772 to speak with the Christian Family Solutions intake staff about your care options.





What that family wishes you knew

It’s impossible to miss us as we come into your church for the first time – three of us are walking upright while the fourth member of our family is being pushed in a wheelchair (or walking with a cane, or needing his/her hand held). And as you see us, you smile politely as you would to any other family visiting your church. But we can sense that you’re a little uncomfortable about approaching us. It’s something that we’ve sensed from other people over the years as well. You’re curious, and, as a Christian, you’re a caring person, but you don’t know what to say and you don’t want to offend.

Here are seven things we wish you knew about us.

  1. We’re just like you. You can’t imagine dealing with our situation. But neither could we, not at first. We aren’t superhuman or specially gifted or anything like that. If you wonder how you would feel if you had to deal with a family member with exceptional needs day-after-day, know that we wonder the same thing about ourselves.
  2. We aren’t going to ask for your help, even if we need it. We don’t know the level of assistance you would be willing to give us, and we don’t want to impose on you. But we very well may need some help this morning, and for us to get it you’re going to have the make the first move.
  3. We aren’t going to be offended by any questions you have. We know you’re curious. We would be very happy to tell you about ourselves, our family member’s diagnosis, and the challenges we face. In fact, we would be very appreciative if you asked.
  4. Each of us is an individual. It may be very hard for our exceptional family member to communicate with you. But they will perceive your concern about them in their own way. Please treat them the same way that you treat the rest of us, even if you don’t seem to get any response. They are God’s child just as much as the rest of us are God’s children.
  5. You don’t have to feel sorry for us. We experience many challenges, but God always keeps his promises – including his promise to bring good out of every situation for his people. As much as we appreciate being able to share information about our challenges, we also want to tell you about the special blessings God has given us.
  6. Each of us is a sinner forgiven by Jesus – just like you are. That forgiving love of Jesus has forged a bond in our family that is stronger than any disability, and it just might be that the Lord means for that bond to extend between us and you as well. That’s why we’re visiting your church this morning – we’re looking for a stronger connection with God and with his people.
  7. While sympathy and simple assistance is always appreciated, what we really long for is understanding and acceptance, rooted in the knowledge that each follower of Jesus carries unique burdens, just as he said we would.

We know that it might take effort on your part to welcome us into your midst than it would take to welcome a typical family. May the love of Christ move you to make that effort!

By Rev. Stephen Schmidt, chairmain of WELS Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry




Focus on the church family

Instead of saying “congregation,” I prefer the expression “church family.” When we think of a congregation, we picture from an organization with a constitution and prescribed activities. When we think of a family, we see loving relationships that can vary, like parents, siblings, and spouses. Within the church family, you’ll find relationships like shepherd/sheep, church council/member in the pew, fellow members, choir members, altar guild members, and youth group members. The expression “church family” suggests a mutual love and commitment to each other with differing relationships.

Special Ministries equips church families. Our mission is to provide resources and guidance for churches to care for their own.

Special Ministries sometimes serves an individual directly. We provide Christian audiobooks for the blind. We send seasonal Christian cards and letters to people with developmental disabilities. But the true goal of Special Ministries’ work is to foster church members’ love and compassion and a commitment to meeting the spiritual needs of every member of the church family. Pastors may use the resources we develop and guidance we provide, but our hope is that other members of the church family will be able to serve, using Special Ministries’ training and materials.

Another parallel between family and church: family members often bring home friends. People Mom works with become aunts and uncles. Classmates from school join the family on trips. These “outsiders” are drawn because the family has blessings to share. In a similar way, the church family grows to include people in the community. Just as the love between family members morphs naturally into compassion for others, so the church family grows. Special Ministries cultivates compassion ministry – why serve only one little girl with a developmental disability when the neighborhood has other children who need the same accommodation for Sunday School and worship?

Family takes care of each other. It’s a family responsibility, and when it doesn’t happen, we call it “neglect.” Can we neglect our frail senior members who need help hearing the service or accessing the building? Can we ignore the spiritual needs of the young adult with autism, or our daughter who struggles with recovery from addiction? Of course not – these are children of our Heavenly Father, brothers and sisters of Christ our Savior. We have a commitment to bring the gospel and to love each other as the Lord Himself instructed us. If you need help for a member of your church family to worship and participate in the family, contact Special Ministries!

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of the Commission on Special Ministries




Resistance and strength

Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor. Then you can remain strong against the devil’s evil plans. Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world. Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIrV)

When trying to build bodily strength, resistance is needed. Whether it is a world-class athlete or a struggling patient in physical therapy, physical movement must be opposed to build strength in the targeted muscles. And that resistance can be very painful. As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.”

In a similar fashion, God sometimes uses opposition to build spiritual strength in his followers. And that opposition can be painful and look overwhelming at times. Paul reminds us that our opposers are in fact overwhelming to humans on their own. In trying to share Jesus with others, none other than Satan himself and all his allies, both spiritual and physical, line up to try and stop what we are doing.

So what are we to do? Cower in fear? Give up at the first (or second or third) sign of difficulty? Not at all. In God’s typical incomprehensible fashion, he both gives and builds strength in his followers. Paul says it clearly, “Let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power.” Yet God also wants us to exercise our faith so that we “can remain strong against the devil’s evil powers.” And what enables us to do that? God’s armor. The following verses describe the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and the sword of God’s Word, among other pieces. We cannot expect to sit around and have God fight our battles for us. God makes it clear that we are part of his spiritual army that takes on hell itself.

These verses are a great encouragement as our ministry continues to face challenges and opposition. The list of facilities that require special mail handling continues to grow. This has caused significant increases in our returned mail and delays in delivering booklets and tests to inmates. Fewer institutions accept greeting cards, which historically have provided much encouragement to inmates. Some faithful chaplains who have been longtime supporters of our ministry-by-mail efforts are retiring. Another recent challenge has been booklet printing. Printers have had difficulty finding paper and, like everything else, the price has increased significantly. In addition to ministry-by-mail challenges, many institutions have been slow in opening back up to personal visitation and Bible studies led by volunteers.

We are not surprised by these growing challenges because we know the good things God’s Word does when it is sent out. Lives are changed and souls are saved for eternity. Confident of this, we redouble our efforts to find solutions or workarounds for our difficulties. You can be part of this. Join us in praying for courage, wisdom, and strength for our ministry’s leaders and volunteers. Consider a special gift to Prison Ministry to help offset the increase in our costs. Explore involvement in a visitation or mentoring ministry to touch lives personally. Instructions for these actions are presented in “Three ways to support our ministry.” Also see the mentoring article in this issue.

Mr. Dave Hochmuth, Prison Ministry administrator



New teammates and opportunities

In response to the challenge of finding facilities willing to accept our self-study Bible correspondence courses, WELS Prison Ministry has teamed up with the Lutheran Institutional Ministry Association (LIMA) for an outreach effort to every correctional facility we can identify in Minnesota (LIMA’s home) and Iowa. So far we have reached out by telephone to every Minnesota facility listed in a national database. As a result, chaplains and others have ordered over 1,000 booklets from approximately 50 facilities in Minnesota, many of which we had not dealt with previously. We are deeply grateful for the efforts of Emily Bartsch, a new temporary staff member, who has dedicated many hours to calling and recalling these facilities.

Our next step is to complete a similar effort in Iowa. In addition, we want to seek more Iowa recipients for digital devotions sent by another partner, Institutional Ministries (IM). IM has developed an effective system for distributing devotions six days per week via CorrLinks.com. This system is available to inmates in both the Wisconsin and Iowa Department of Correction facilities, among other places. Please pray for success according to God’s will.



Join others to learn: Are you mentor material?

WELS Prison Ministry recently completed our first online training session for potential mentors of returning citizens, that is, formerly incarcerated individuals. We had eight students from South Dakota, Texas, Arizona, and Iowa. The initial feedback has been very positive. Everyone who responded to our post instruction survey indicated they either agreed or strongly agreed that they would recommend the course to someone who was considering mentoring. Here’s a few comments by participants:

    • I thoroughly enjoyed the time and looked forward to Zoom each week.
    • I do feel better equipped and know that I can refer to the book for guidance as well to stay on track.
    • The time flew by! Questions seemed to be answered with lots of side bits of food for thought.

While visits to correctional facilities are still hit and miss in many areas because of COVID, there is a steady stream of inmates who are being released upon fulfillment of their sentences. This is a huge opportunity to share the love of Christ where it is really needed and a potential harvest field.

Our next online offering of our training course Mentoring a Returning Citizen is planned for late January to February 2023. Prison Ministry Committee member Tom Koepsell is scheduled to facilitate. The training course will help you evaluate whether you have the gifts and abilities to serve as a mentor and, if so, equip you to begin your service. Taking the course does not mean you are committing to serve as a mentor. You’ll find, however, that you can use the skills that are taught and practiced in many areas of your life, including parenting and interacting with people. So the time you invest will be well spent regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue this ministry.

To obtain more information about the class, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth at [email protected] or Tom Koepsell at [email protected].


Decades of service . . . after reaching retirement age

This past summer, Elisabeth Newell, one of our faithful test correctors, celebrated her 100th birthday. We’re not sure exactly when Elisabeth began her service, but we believe it was at least 20 years ago. She is so thankful to have had this avenue to exercise and share her faith. She is also thankful that God has graciously preserved her mind and physical abilities so that she could continue to serve. Just recently Elisabeth was concerned that an inmate didn’t truly understand that faith is a gift and not something he does. She contacted our administrator to make sure she provided clear feedback to the inmate on a test response that was ambiguous. Elisabeth still derives joy in serving. Another recent test packet contained 23 tests, all by the same inmate. Among all the test questions there were only one or two incorrect answers, which was a great encouragement to Elisabeth.

Join us in thanking all our test correctors and pen pals for their compassionate service as they encourage troubled souls. As we mentioned in previous issues, for the time being we have enough regular test correctors. But we still have opportunities for new pen pals. If you would like to explore being a pen pal, please inquire at our office ([email protected] or 507-354-3130).



Three ways to support our ministry

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: for blessings on our outreach efforts to new facilities; gratefulness for our first mentor training course; for blessings on the additional planned mentor training and new mentor ministries; for continued designated gifts to fund all our ministry activities.

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

Give – We thank our Lord and you for your helpful special offerings to Prison Ministry, which support our efforts to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration!

To provide additional gifts for Christ’s work through Prison Ministry:
WELS, Attn. Gift Processing
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI, 53188
(Make checks payable to WELS and list Prison Ministry in the memo line.)

Donate online at wels.net/donate-prison-ministry.

Give through your IRA charitable distribution, appreciated assets, or your will or estate plan. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for assistance.

Direct your Thrivent Choice dollars (if you are a Thrivent member) to WELS Prison Ministry. Contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836 for assistance. Your 2022 designation is due by March 31, 2023.




Ideas and resources for compassion ministry

Compassion ministry has gotten a lot of attention in the past decade. It was even the topic of the 2022 Symposium at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. What is compassion ministry?

Maybe we should start by defining what it is not. Compassion ministry is not an activity that competes with proclaiming the gospel. It is not Social Gospel, which sets an agenda of achieving transformation of society— focusing church work on achieving a better world in the here and now.

In contrast, compassion ministry flows from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again. He loves us, body and soul. The gospels frequently comment on the compassion of Jesus for sinners—for the broken, and those with disabilities and struggles. The apostles followed their Lord as they organized Christ’s followers. The gospel was the priority, and yet they had compassion for the poor and people who had disabilities. After the apostles passed on, the compassion of Jesus was such a part of his followers’ lives that even people who rejected Christianity admitted that Christian compassion was genuine.

Here’s my definition of compassion ministry: serving one another in love as we share and live the gospel. “We love, because he first loved us.” Christian love shows itself in acts of caring for others as well as devotion to God. Compassion doesn’t pass by the hurting person on the road to Jericho. We see the need and recognize what Christ would do because he cares for the hurting and the lost.

In an age when “the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12), church leaders need to intentionally cultivate Christian compassion. How can churches and their leaders nurture compassion ministry? Try Special Ministries resources as a ready-made tool for compassion ministry.

Special Ministries has resources to help congregation members care for people who are:

  • Blind or visually impaired
  • Deaf or hard of hearing
  • Intellectually or developmentally disabled
  • Inmates in jails or prisons
  • Military personnel
  • Struggling with mental health needs
  • Struggling with porn
  • Struggling with addiction
  • Survivors of abuse
  • Homebound or in care facilities
  • Caregivers

Special Ministries has resources to train your members to serve as:

  • Parish Nurses
  • Chaplains
  • Mentors
  • Advocates to protect children from abuse
  • Care Committee for Called Workers

On the WELS Special Ministries web page, you will see links to information and resources for helping others. Many of these are tied directly to being able to share the gospel despite barriers. You’ll also find encouragement to respond in love and include others in fellowship and service.

Congregations can also “prime the compassion pump” by organizing help for someone experiencing a medical or financial crisis. WELS Christian Aid and Relief can guide your members as they express their love and concern and join together to help someone who is hurting. Grant funds can also help serve someone with a disability or challenge with matching funds to get the congregation serve them.

Compassion ministry is Christian love and Christ-like service, flowing from Jesus who died that we might serve him now and eternally. Special Ministries is here to help you serve. Check out our resources, our training, and our programs!






Mentoring a Returning Citizen training

God has richly blessed ministry to the incarcerated as an outreach to the lost. Whether it is WELS Prison Ministry’s correspondence Bible studies, Institutional Ministries’ chaplain visitation and email devotions, or local efforts at jail ministry, the gospel has been changing hearts. In correctional facilities across this nation, the Spirit has opened the eyes of people who had no hope and showed them life in Christ, here and eternally.

What happens to these souls when they are no longer behind bars? Will they find the spiritual support they need to follow Christ in true freedom?

WELS Prison Ministry created an online mentoring course for returning citizens based on a successful mentoring model which Minnesota River Valley Mentoring Program (https://mrvmp.com/) that helps people who struggle with many different challenges. Our course videos and workbook are online and can be used at any time. But of course, the training experience is more enjoyable and effective when a facilitator leads a group through the training.

You can learn to provide guidance and encouragement to a man or woman returning to your community or church from incarceration. We call the people in this uniquely challenging category “returning citizens.” A Christian friend and a congregation can be extremely helpful to such people. They’re the key to spiritual support as well as assimilation back into the community and the church.

You’re invited to participate in a special group offering of online training, Mentoring a Returning Citizen, in the next few months. The training will help you evaluate whether you have the gifts and abilities to serve as a mentor and, if so, equip you to begin your service. There is no commitment to serve if you take the course. The skills that are taught and practiced have application in many areas including parenting and interacting with people at work. So the time you invest will be well spent regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue this ministry.

The facilitator for this course will be Prison Ministry Committee member Tom Koepsell. “Mentoring is a subject near to my heart,” says Tom. “Having worked with the incarcerated for well over a decade, I have come to appreciate the challenges they will face upon release. But more than that, I have experienced the role their Savior is playing in their lives and what Jesus means when he talks about seeking and saving the lost. When you bring Jesus to such people, you learn to love them as Jesus does. It’s a rewarding experience.”

The course will be a combination of online sessions with other participants, videos that can be viewed individually by the participants, and activities in a workbook with both individual and group exercises. You can view elements of the course at welscongregationalservices.net/mentoring-a-returning-citizen/  Details about the course can also be found there.

To register for the class or obtain more information, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth at [email protected] or Tom Koepsell at [email protected].




Conversations about solutions and coping

Joan, an elderly member of your church, is slowly losing her eyesight because of Macular Degeneration and now finds it difficult to read print. You may be aware that Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI) has audio, braille and large print Christian literature for Joan. Did you know that MVI volunteers understand Joan’s challenges and welcome the opportunity to talk to her?

MVI offers people with vision loss guidance and assistance in coping with the challenges they face. A new MVI ministry resource is a quarterly Zoom call to discuss how someone can overcome the challenges of blindness. The MVI Zoom session is open to anyone interested in learning about the resources available to live with physical blindness. We welcome people with vision loss and the blind to participate in these calls, but pastors, teachers, lay leaders, and family members are also invited and encouraged to join the conversation.

Few pastors or lay leaders are equipped to help a newly blind member or a potential member experiencing vision loss manage what may seem to be insurmountable challenges. MVI has several board members and leaders who are blind. As blind persons, they live with their physical blindness on a daily basis and have become experts on the challenges and resources for blind people.

Future MVI Zoom calls will discuss how a blind person can overcome the isolation and depression and managing daily tasks that comes with becoming blind. Another MVI call will showcase resources available to accomplish basic tasks, such as reading the Bible in an alternative format. Because the calls are not recorded lectures but real discussions, participants can ask specific questions. You can inquire about solutions tailored to your situation.

Our first quarterly MVI Zoom call will be Tues., Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. Central Time. For further information, please reach out to MVI Chairman, Larry Povinelli at [email protected] or (651) 291-1536.

MVI members are here to serve you. Their involvement in MVI demonstrates that losing physical sight does not mean the end of a productive life. By encouraging each other and helping one another through the challenges of vision loss, we can keep our focus on the cross as we follow Christ. Our ultimate goal is that the blind may see heaven. To God be the glory!





MDHH ministry in action

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice” (Psalm 105:1-3)

We hear these words of the psalmist and easily imagine their application: loud shouts of praise to God . . . singing beautiful hymns and anthems to God’s glory . . . sharing and telling the whole world the life-changing news of the gospel . . . talking with other Christians as we remember God’s goodness. . . .

But our praises to God are not acceptable because of our voices, or because of a beautiful hymn, or because of a rich blend of musical instruments. Our prayers and praises are the spiritual sacrifices we offer to God that are only “acceptable to God, through Christ Jesus.” (1 Peter 2:5).

Here at Bloomington Living Hope, we are reminded of that truth as our deaf and hard of hearing members and friends grow in God’s Word through worship and Bible study. With hearts and hands they “give praise to the Lord, and proclaim his name.” They “tell of his wonderful acts” as they encourage one another. Their shouts of praise echo loudly through the new hearts and lives that the Holy Spirit has created by faith.

Each week at our Living Hope location, our 10 a.m. weekly worship service always has an interpreter. Our deaf members and the community can always count on having a live church service in which to worship each Sunday. The same service is streamed and archived on our website with a “picture in picture” view. The interpreter is recorded with a separate camera, so there is always a clear view. It takes work, preparation, and many volunteer hours, but God has richly blessed our efforts!

Another blessing of God is our weekly deaf Bible study. On Tuesday nights our deaf members bring their friends together to study God’s Word. It’s a loose format. Pastor leads the study, with the interpreter close by. We sit close to one another. We pray together. Anyone can ask any question at any time. It’s a bit different from the typical Bible study, but some things are the same. We open the Word and God richly feeds us.

Over the past two years, we’ve held our weekly deaf Bible study over ZOOM. Sometimes the screen is so full of people it’s hard to pick out the interpreter – what a blessing! The technology allows the deaf community to join us from anywhere. Deaf members in Illinois, Washington, South Dakota, and Arizona are brought together by the Spirit’s power to grow in faith week after week.

Starting in fall of 2022, our deaf Bible study is expanding to twice a week. Tuesday at 6 p.m. in person and Thursday 1 p.m. via Zoom. If you would like further information about these Bible studies or to view Sunday services signed by our interpreter, please go to our website bllh.org.

Over the past years, it is incredible to recall how God Has grown our DHH ministry. God can do the same for your church too!





Images of Grace – Partnership between MLP and Bethany Lutheran College

WELS Multi-Language Productions (MLP) is partnering with the Bethany Lutheran College Fine Arts department to produce illustrations of Bible stories and Catechism lessons for use in world mission fields. Fourteen ELS/WELS artists came together alongside Rev. Dr. Terry Schultz, Artistic Development Missionary for MLP, to illustrate 54 Biblical accounts for use in Zambian Sunday Schools. Church leaders in Zambia plan to distribute these illustrations for use as inexpensive, impactful visual aids in Sunday School classes.

The “Images of Grace,” exhibition will be available from August 31-September 27 in the Ylvisaker Fine Arts Center Gallery. A special gallery reception is being held on September 1 at 7 p.m. and will include a panel discussion with Rev. Dr. Terry Schultz; Rev. Larry Schlomer, WELS World Missions Administrator; Professor Andrew Overn, Art Director; and various contributing artists. All are invited to attend.

This exhibit represents the beginning of an ongoing project and partnership between Bethany’s Art Department and Multi-Language Productions. Learn more about MLP and the resources they provide to WELS world mission fields at wels.net/mlp.

Learn more about the exhibit and gallery reception on the Bethany Lutheran College event page.

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When dreams need to change

Do you remember a time that you and your spouse eagerly awaited the arrival of a new child entering your family? If not, have your shared the excitement of a close friend or family member waiting for the birth of a child?

It can be such a wonderful time, full of hopes and dreams! The expectant parents imagine what their child will look like. They picture themselves enjoying everyday events with their child, such as family meals, trips to the zoo, and school field trips. They imagine the fun of birthdays and Christmases together. And they dream about who and what their child might someday become.

But sometimes those dreams need to change. A child may be born with a severe disability or a serious and chronic medical condition, or the child may experience an accident that changes physical or mental abilities forever. And the parents’ dreams are no longer realistic. When that happens, parents generally go through a period of grieving. Eventually, a greater acceptance occurs, and the parents change their dreams and recognize the blessing that their child still is.

This acceptance doesn’t eliminate parental doubts, however. Raising a child with extraordinary needs tends to be very overwhelming and exhausting. Even when the parents fully accept and appreciate their child, on days when those parents are especially overwhelmed and exhausted, they may tend to have doubts such as these return:

  • Why did this happen to my child? We didn’t plan for this!
  • There’s nothing special about me as a parent. I’m not a good enough parent for this situation. I don’t think I can handle this!
  • If God cares for me and my child so much, why doesn’t he fix this?
  • Other parents just don’t get it. I feel so alone!
  • I have a “forever child” whom I will need to care for as long as I live—and what will happen to my child when I die? I can’t die!

These thoughts are all natural and nothing for which parents should feel ashamed. Our Light for Parents ministry is led by parents of children with extraordinary needs who want to make sure other parents of such children receive the Christian love and support that they need.

This fall, Light for Parents will begin leading online book discussion groups, and the first book will address the types of questions listed above from a Christian perspective. Please watch the Light for Parents website and Facebook page for an announcement and sign-up information. And pray specifically for the parents you know who may be experiencing such thoughts, even if they don’t tell you about them. Pray that they will feel God’s love and care for them—including through the work of Light for Parents.




Finding good peer pressure

“If you have to be a follower, why don’t you follow someone good?” The mother who asked this question was frustrated because her son was always getting into trouble. He never seemed to be the instigator. His true problem was not, she realized, that her son was a follower. There are always leaders and followers. Not all followers are influenced by the troublemakers.

She had discovered an important perspective. Peer pressure can be good or bad.

What if we analyzed who should influence us? Gang recruits and people who are incarcerated may think that they only have one option: to give in to the pressure of their peers to do bad things. What if they saw another way? What if they came to see the hope that Jesus gives and followed him?

Peer Pressure is the topic of the newest Bible study in the WELS Prison Ministry self-study Bible correspondence course series. Thoroughly Biblical (over a dozen Scriptures are studied) and Christ-centered, the new course, Peer Pressure, navigates the question of who to follow. Students follow the experiences of “Pete” who is new to prison and pressured by a gang leader, along with the spiritual guidance of his Christian cellmate “John.” Pete learns the joy and peace of following Jesus, although not without suffering at the hands of those who expected him to join their sinful activities. Having suffered, Pete discovers that when he follows Christ, the Lord gives him freedom he didn’t have when he felt trapped by going along with the crowd.

Because God wants to keep us from being led astray by Satan and this world, he gives us the church, his believers who provide the best kind of peer pressure. As this new Bible study lays the foundation for resisting the pressure to sin, it quotes Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIRV), “Let us consider how we can stir up one another to love. Let us help one another to do good works. Let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us cheer each other up with words of hope. Let us do it all the more as you see the day coming when Christ will return.”

We don’t gather with other believers only to help ourselves, but to encourage others with words of hope. It’s more important than we might think. Others are looking for acceptance, hope, love, and a sense of direction. Often citizens returning to society from incarceration feel judged all over again by God’s people. Our Lord planned for the family of believers to encourage each other, not resurrect the guilt Jesus already paid for. The world is eager to pressure them to go in the wrong direction, back to old friends and habits. Our Savior put us here to provide encouragement and hope through the eternal gospel. Watch for opportunities to provide the best kind of peer pressure! Pray that this newest Prison Ministry Bible study will be a great blessing to many who are incarcerated.

Rev. Jim Behringer
Director, Commission on Special Ministries