Taste of Missions school challenge and poster contest

The 2024 Taste of Missions School Challenge is now open! This year brings two different opportunities for students of all ages to learn about WELS mission work:

School challenge for grades K-8

All Lutheran grade schools are invited to participate in our annual Taste of Missions School Challenge! Visit tasteofmissions.com/schools to view Missions-themed activities that grade school teachers can use to help students in their classroom learn about WELS Home and World Missions and get involved with WELS Missions’ annual Taste of Missions event. Two classes (one from grades K-4 and one from grades 5-8) will be randomly selected to win a Taste of Missions party for their classroom, tickets to the event, and additional surprises. Get involved and submit the form on the Taste of Missions website by Fri., April 12, for your chance to win.

High school poster contest

Calling all WELS and ELS high school artists! Encourage high school students to participate in the first ever Taste of Missions high school poster contest. Students can express their creativity and learn about WELS mission work by crafting an 11” x 17” masterpiece capturing the heart of WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions. An overall winner will receive a $250 Amazon gift card, Taste of Missions swag bag, and their artwork will be displayed at the Taste of Missions event on June 15, 2024, at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis. All other submissions will be eligible to be voted Fan Favorite by attendees at Taste of Missions for another chance to win.

The deadline for students to submit their poster is Fri., April 26, 2024. Digital or mailed/dropped off submissions are accepted. Find official rules and specifications as well as submission information at tasteofmissions.com/postercontest.

 

 




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God allows for wonderful plans to unfold

Peace in Jesus Vietnamese Lutheran Church in Boise, Idaho, is a Vietnamese congregation in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. We are thankful that the Lord allowed myself and Trung Le to study to be pastors through the Pastoral Study Institute (PSI) program. Pastor Daniel Kramer was the active pastor of the congregation while we were in training to be the pastors. Pastor Kramer was also a Vietnamese-speaking pastor, and he led the worship services, preached and taught in Vietnamese.

The congregation was always wondering what would happen to Peace in Jesus as well as the Vietnamese outreach ministry after Trung Le and I graduated from the PSI program. Everyone was excited for the work of the Lord, but the congregation was curious, “What would happen next for Peace in Jesus?” They didn’t know the answer at that time, and they prayed to God for direction.

Finally, that day came and God allowed for a wonderful plan to unfold. In 2023 there were a lot of blessings that happened at Peace in Jesus. Two Pastoral Studies Institute students, Trung Le and I, graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in May 2023.

That same month, Pastor Trung received a divine call to serve as a Vietnamese outreach pastor at King of Kings in Garden Grove, Calif., where there are a lot of Vietnamese living in the area. Pastor Trung accepted the call and moved to Garden Grove  in early October 2023.

L to R: Pastor Tao Nguyen, Pastor Daniel Kramer, Pastor Trung Le

Shortly after Pastor Trung received the divine call, Pastor Kramer also received three different divine calls. He accepted to serve at Crown of Life in New Orleans, La. Crown of Life is about one mile away from the Vietnamese community in New Orleans. He and his wife, Karis, made their move to New Orleans in early October 2023. We pray that if it is God’s will, many more Vietnamese in New Orleans will hear the gospel.

With Pastor Trung and Pastor Kramer leaving to serve God at other locations, Peace in Jesus extended the divine call to me to serve at as their pastor, and I accepted the call in August 2023. We thank God for all these transitions and that they have gone smoothly.

During the transition, many members have stepped up, served, and become more involved in church activities. Most of the members had mixed feelings. They didn’t want to see any of the pastors leave Peace in Jesus because of the strong bond developed by being a part of Christ’s family. Nevertheless, all of us also recognized that the Kingdom of God is way larger than any of us can imagine, and no one can measure his love for humankind. Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” God not only allowed for a wonderful plan for Peace in Jesus to unfold, but God also has a plan for everyone who believes in him.

We thank God for his wonderful plan for Peace in Jesus in Boise, Idaho. We pray that his kingdom continues growing in Vietnamese communities, not only in Idaho and in the States, but also abroad.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

Written by Rev. Tao Nguyen, missionary at Peace in Jesus Lutheran Church in Boise, Idaho

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Save the date! Taste of Missions 2024

Taste of Missions is back, and we couldn’t be more excited! Last year nearly 500 WELS members gathered in Mequon, Wis., to send off nine new home and world missionaries to spread the gospel in the far corners of the world. Even more celebrated with us online. It was a remarkable day, filled with engaging conversations with home and world missionary families, insightful Q&A panels, ethnic eats, and uplifting worship alongside brothers and sisters from across the globe. See what it was all about by exploring our Flickr album.

We want YOU to come join the fun again at this year’s Taste of Missions on Sat., June 15, 2024. Bring your family to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis., to send off new missionaries in our special commissioning service, enjoy delicious offerings from food trucks, and connect with some of your synod’s current missionaries. Can’t make it in person? Virtual attendees can watch all the events via livestream, view exclusive video updates from missionaries, and even try their hand at cooking up some ethnic recipes from our website.

Mark your calendars—registration opens on March 11! While you’re waiting, visit tasteofmissions.com for some additional event details and catch up on any videos you may have missed from last year’s gathering.

We can’t wait to see you there!

P.S. The fourth annual Taste of Missions School Challenge and NEW poster contest for WELS/ELS high school students will open on February 19! View photos and activities from last year’s challenge and keep an eye out for future announcements at tasteofmissions.com/schools.

 




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Mission Journeys opportunities in London

The new world mission field in London has partnered with WELS Mission Journeys to establish a volunteer program in London. Through volunteering, you have the exciting opportunity to experience life and share the gospel in a global city rich with history and culture. London is filled with people from numerous nationalities and backgrounds, many of whom are in desperate need of hearing the gospel message. You will learn about new cultures, meet people from all over the world, and share the truth of God’s Word with those who are lost.

Short-term opportunities
We are looking for groups of eight to ten people to come volunteer for eight to ten days in London. Your time will be spent attending two Sunday church services at our WELS church, volunteering at various charities throughout the week, and exploring the city. You have the humble opportunity to serve your neighbor and let your light shine by helping others. You will also be a positive representation of what our Lutheran church teaches. When you’re not volunteering, enjoy spending time in London! Go to a pub, eat fish and chips, watch the changing of the guard, drink tea, and soak in the beauty of a city that has been around for almost two thousand years. You will leave London with a greater appreciation for the world we live in, the millions of people God has created, and a renewed fire to share the gospel with others.

Long-term opportunities
If you are interested in taking some time off of school, work, or you have time to spare, consider serving as a long-term volunteer in London. In this role, you will spend up to six months working one-on-one with the missionaries, serving at local charities, and growing in your understanding of a new place and culture. You will be able to encourage others in their faith as well as grow in your own faith. Spending extended time in a foreign country is a valuable experience that will leave a lasting impact on your heart and mind.

Interested in either opportunity? Contact WELS Mission Journeys for more information at [email protected] or call Mr. Shannon Bohme, Mission Journeys coordinator, at 651-324-4218.




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Outstanding ministry blessings in Vancouver

Sometimes God just blesses us with blessings piled up on top of each other. At Saviour of the Nations in Vancouver, BC, we were blessed to have such a weekend on Oct. 1-2. Taking advantage of a local holiday weekend we were blessed to do a discipleship training with our mission counselor, Rev. Matt Vogt. But we packed much more into this weekend.

“The Story of the Bible” initiative

Since Sept.10, we have been doing an “all ministry Bible information class,” meaning every Bible class is a Bible information class. In place of a traditional sermon, we are substituting in a modified Bible lesson connecting an Old Testament story to Jesus in John’s gospel and the relevant doctrines. On Oct. 1, we had 50 people in worship, including five people who have never heard the gospel. And it happened to be on the day we had the clearest presentation of law and gospel. Among them was a gentleman who was raised a Hindu who called the message “beautiful”, a Muslim woman who had never attended a church before, a Japanese woman who had never heard of Jesus before, and a skeptic who was attending worship with his family member. Our Sudanese members came from Surrey and sang as a choir in worship to everyone’s delight.

Sampling dishes from the International Food Festival

The gospel message was doubly reinforced by also celebrating four adult confirmations in the same service. Our other prospects who regularly attend got to hear these four confirmands—Cindy, Taehoon, Chanmuk (Danny), and his wife May—publicly confess their confidence and faith in Jesus. It was a day we all pray the Holy Spirit can use to work in the hearts of those who heard the gospel for the one-hundredth time, and especially for those hearing it the first time.

International Food Festival

To celebrate all that was going on, including Korean Thanksgiving weekend and the Chinese mid-autumn festival, we had an “International Food Festival” after the service with 60 people attending, our highest attendance ever for a meal. We counted 14 countries from four continents represented in various groups among our attendees. Everyone brought dishes from their home country. We tried all kinds of food and had fun voting for different categories like “veggie magic” and “Instagram perfect.” One of our prospects who worked very hard on her Indian dish was so happy she won—it was a big hit for everyone!

Congregation annual meeting

After the food festival wrapped up, we had our annual meeting where we elected two new council leaders: Taehoon Kang from Vancouver and Hakim Kon from our Surrey Sudanese mission. I shared an overview of the church’s past year and what we are doing to share the gospel through building relationships. Rev. Matt Vogt was conveniently present to explain what WELS is to prospects and how we are planting new missions. Our chairman, Volo, presented about the budget and shared gratitude for the financial support we receive through synod subsidy.

Discipleship training

Discipleship training with Mission Counselor Matt Vogt

Twenty-one members, Pastor Matt Vogt, and 13 kids came back on Monday to do an all day discipleship and leadership training. Pastor Vogt shared with us what Biblical leadership looks like and inspired our members to be more involved with the day-to-day operations of our ministry. At the end of the session, both our Sudanese leaders and Vancouver leaders put together respective lists of areas where laypeople can step up and help with the ministry. We hope to be implementing a few each quarter and working on the lists in the coming months.

We ended the day with fellowship over a dinner of Mexican food and celebrating one of our Sudanese kid’s seventh birthday with a cake, singing, and a Lego present to top it off.

God really piled up the blessings for us this weekend. He let us lean into our mission name, “Saviour of the Nations”, to build more meaningful relationships with people through music, food, and above all, the gospel.

Shared by Rev. Geoff Cortright, home missionary at Saviour of the Nations in Vancouver, B.C., Canada 





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The gospel in Garden Grove…in three languages!

“Pastor, has there ever been a trilingual ordination service in the history of WELS?”

It was a very good question. This past Sunday, August 6, 2023, the installation and ordination service of two pastor was held at King of Kings in three languages. The three languages were English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Songs, prayers, and Scripture readings happened in all three languages with translations printed in the bulletin. If there had been a trilingual ordination service sometime earlier in WELS history, it was probably not in those three languages.

One of the men being installed and ordained was Rev. Grant Hagen, a Spanish-speaking graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) who had been assigned to a Spanish-speaking congregation. The other man being installed and ordained was Rev. Trung Le, a Vietnamese-speaking graduate of the Pastoral Studies Institute of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, who had been assigned to lead Vietnamese outreach for an English-speaking congregation.

The English-speaking congregation, King of Kings in Garden Grove, Calif., had opened its doors to the Spanish-speaking congregation, Pan de Vida Iglesia Luterana, a couple years earlier. The chancel furniture was from Pan de Vida’s previous location. The man who preached the Spanish sermon, Rev. Luis Acosta of the WELS One Latin America Team, stood behind the pulpit and told the assembly of more than 200 people how ably Hagen had served as a senior vicar in a Spanish-speaking congregation in Milwaukee, Wis.

The man who preached the Vietnamese sermon, Rev. Daniel Kramer from Peace in Jesus in Boise, Idaho, told the assembly, including 20 pastors who had come to participate in the laying on of hands, how Trung Le had come to faith and ably served in the leadership of that congregation in Idaho.

Because the WELS Joint Mission Council is helping with part of the effort, I had the privilege of preaching the English sermon. All three of us preachers used the text Matthew 9:36-38, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Because the Lord sees how harassed and helpless we human beings are, and because he has compassion for us, he knows exactly what good gifts to give as a result of his people’s prayers. On this day, in southern California, he gave two men who are in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. They join Rev. Brian Doebler in Garden Grove, Cal., in proclaiming the everlasting gospel.

In three languages!

Written by Rev. Paul Prange, Administrator for Ministerial Education and Joint Missions Council chairman. 

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Peace like a River

“Peace like a river” was a fitting theme for the 60th Annual Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society Convention, held this past weekend in La Crosse, Wis., held just steps to the Mississippi River. This convention serves as a an annual opportunity for men and women to come together in one place and serve by increasing awareness of, interest in, and support of the mission outreach of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).

This year’s convention included speakers from Wisconsin to Ecuador to Colorado to East Asia. Each workshop leader and keynote speaker had something unique to present as a result of their unique mission fields.

Rev. Daniel Lewig, of Richland Center, Wis., spoke on “upcycling evangelism.” He shared examples from personal experience with their church, Bethlehem Lutheran. He reminded attendees that each congregation has it’s strengths and weaknesses, so why not lean into those strengths. They did just that by leaning into their Live Nativity event that had great attendance, and they never looked back. What began as a well attended event, eventually led the church to settle on Bethlehem as their name. How fitting!

Coming from the other side of the country, Rev. Paul Biedenbender and Vicar CJ Fury from Denver, Col. presented on the Vicar in a Mission setting program, which allows seminary students to serve their vicar year at a home mission, or mission minded, church. Vicar Fury was able to give a first hand account of some of the responsibilities and projects he took on during his vicar year at Christ Lutheran, as well as stories of the ministry he’s been able to do this past year.

To speak about World mission work in Latin America, LWMS had Missionary Elise Gross, the director of Women’s Ministry for the One Latin America team, as one of the keynote speakers. Elise told her story of growing up as a missionary child in Antigua and how she now has a missionary child of her own in Quito, Ecuador. She addressed how her role as director of Women’s Ministry has given her an opportunity to connect Latin American women with Academia Cristo, as they have the monumental task of sharing the gospel with their families, which takes strength and courage.

The convention had many other Home and World missionaries who were able to present and share their stories of faith, struggle, success, and unexpected situations in a mission field. Along the way, attendees were also able to receive Home and World Mission updates from Rev. Larry Schlomer and Mr. Sean Young, a 100 in 10 initiative presentation by Rev. Paul Schupmann and Steve Wolf, members of the 100 in 10 task force, and LWMS Business Meeting highlights.

After four days filled with WELS Missions, the 60th Annual LWMS Convention came to a close. The weekend was spent with over 1,200 attendees sharing their love and support for WELS Missions and all by the hand of God, who made all things possible. God willing we will meet again next year in Sioux Falls for the next Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society Convention!

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Breaking down barriers

The Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) has treated over 70,000 patients a year and has been operating in Mwembezhi, Zambia, since 1961 and in Malawi since 1970. The goal of CAMM was to work side-by-side with the missionaries. CAMM would assist in the physical needs of the people and the missionaries would preach God’s love and nurture the spiritual needs. When the clinics opened, the idea of nationalizing the clinics seemed incomprehensible, but was still part of the charter when CAMM was originally created.

The missionaries, staff ,and the CAMM stateside board made nationalization a reality in 2007, when the Lutheran Mission Rural Health Center in Zambia was transitioned to being fully run by national staff under the direction of a chief clinical officer. Since that time, the clinic has run efficiently and even dedicated an additional clinic building in 2015. Patients continue to rely on the clinic in Zambia for wellness visits, immunization, and labor and delivery.

During the pandemic, our American clinic staff, living in Malawi, were sent home for their safety. It was during that time that the CAMM stateside board realized how reliable our Malawian staff were and that American staff were no longer needed in Malawi on a full-time basis. Careful planning and proper trainings were completed in the months that followed. In 2022, God blessed CAMM with a successful Malawian nationalization! The Malawian clinics are now fully run by national staff under the direction of a stateside field director. What an amazing blessing!

According to Violet Chikwatu, Lutheran Mobile nurse-in-charge, there have been many positives seen in the clinic since nationalization. First, communication is no longer a barrier between the people in the village and the nurse-in-charge. The patients are able to fully express their feelings and symptoms about their conditions since the language is the same between patient and provider. No longer does the patient have to explain the condition multiple times to different people. Another positive impact that continues to grow is the community is looking after and maintaining the clinic property. Through this, the community feels they have a sense of ownership to protect the clinic property and ensure the day-to-day clinic operations run smoothly.

Since the clinics operate fully on donations and grants, CAMM wants to ensure the nationalization of Malawi and Zambia clinics continues to maintain Christian values and operate at its fullest potential with good efficiency. To aid in operation, our stateside based field director, Gary Evans, provides ongoing leadership and financial management. He also travels to Malawi and Zambia regularly to meet with the staff and medical councils, address issues and confirm all medical and clinic equipment, and ensure that the overall properties are being taken care of and maintained.

It has been almost a year since the clinics have been run fully by Malawian staff and over 16 years since Zambia was nationalized. We continue to see God’s blessings through the clinic, staff, and the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) pastors at work. Many bodies and souls are being nourished through the work of CAMM. May God continue to bless CAMM and the possibility of future clinic sites in different areas of Africa.

Written by Angela Sievert, Public Relations for Central Africa Medical Mission.

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Faces of Faith – Harry

HoonSik, Harry Jo, graduated from Martin Luther College a few weeks ago with a degree in elementary education. He was fully qualified to serve anywhere, and he made himself available to serve anywhere.

His connection to WELS began in 2008 when Mr. Jay Wendland, the principal of Immanuel Lutheran School in Salem, Ore., came to Seoul, Korea, to tell people about the Christian education that his school offered. HoonSik’s mom decided her son should attend. He was in fifth grade at the time.

Harry at Martin Luther College graduation in May 2023.

At Immanuel Lutheran School, HoonSik, better known as Harry, learned about Jesus, was baptized, and eventually confirmed. His faith continued to grow at his time at Evergreen Lutheran High School in Tacoma, Wash. Then, in his senior year, Harry decided to pursue public ministry at Martin Luther College, a decision supported by his parents and his Oregon host family, the Wassers.

While in the United States, Harry embraced some of the American lifestyle and interests. He loves American sports and culture. He played on the MLC football team. He took a cross-country trek to further explore this place he calls home. “Montana took forever,” he always says.

But Harry still stayed in touch with his Korean roots. He cheered for the Korean soccer team in the World Cup. He remains fluent in both Korean and English. And his fiancé, who he is marrying this month, is also Korean.

With all of those interests and abilities, what would be the best place for Harry Jo to serve? His assignment, his very first call, is to serve as the 5th-6th grade teacher at Jerusalem Lutheran School in Morton Grove, Ill., where there are many Korean immigrant parents who have enrolled their children.

Jerusalem’s principal is Chiseon Kim, who came from Korea himself to train for service in WELS. “Our dream is to have a vibrant Korean ministry here at Jerusalem,” says Chiseon. And with the blessing of the Lord, Jerusalem is well on their way to seeing the fulfillment of that dream.

Written by Rev. Paul Prange, Administrator for Ministerial Education and Chairman of the Joint Mission Council. 

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Right place, right time

“Missional Living” is a lifestyle in our mission church. It’s a constant reminder for the members of our congregation to live every day of their life as if it’s a mission trip and recognize where Jesus is already at work in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. Our goal is to just wake up each morning and say, “Lord, what kind of mission trip are you going to take me on today to reach one more person for Jesus?”

One example of missional living happened recently in my dentist’s chair. I know, that’s not the place where you would normally think of “missional living,” but it was on this day.

I went in for a regular teeth cleaning and check-up. While I was getting settled into the chair, I asked the dental hygienist how things had been going in her life lately. She told me that although she had just got engaged, she was struggling with some incompatibility issues with her fiancé. I listened attentively to her while she worked on my teeth.

When there was a “break in the action” (in between rinses), I asked her how compatible she and her fiancé were spiritually. That question opened the floodgates, and she began telling me all about her past religious experiences and struggles with God and the Bible. I listened to talk about her struggles while she continued to work on my teeth and tried my best to answer her questions (again, in between rinses). I didn’t want to say anything that might upset her, since she was holding a sharp object in her hand. So, I did much more listening than talking.

After she was finished cleaning my teeth, I said, “You know, I’m a pastor, and I would be happy to meet with you sometime for coffee and help you with some of these problems that you and your fiancé are struggling with.” She replied, “I would like that. In fact, I’ve got a lot of other questions about God and religion that I’d like to ask you too.” I smiled and agreed.

As I was leaving, she said, “Thank you for listening to me and answering my questions. I’d like to come and visit your church sometime. Would that be ok?” I joyfully replied, “Absolutely! I think you will be blessed by it.”

God was certainly up to something in this young woman’s life that day, and I was exactly where he wanted me to be to join him on his mission. What a privilege it is to be used by God to accomplish his purpose in the lives of others. On that day, at that time, his purpose for me was to be in that dentist chair and make a connection with that young woman at a time when she needed it most. Let us continue to make those connections and remain in a mindset of “missional living.”

Written by Pastor Kevin Schultz, Home Missionary at The Vine Lutheran Church in Hayden, Idaho

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True love, God’s love

As couples prepared to buy chocolate, candies, teddy bears, cards, and roses for each other on Valentine’s Day to express their love for each other, Faith Hmong in Alaska uses this time of the year to gather couples for an evening of food, relaxation, photos, and God’s Word on the message of true LOVE.

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” – 1 John 4:10a

The message that evening focused on Genesis 2:17, “They become one flesh.” This reminded couples that marriage doesn’t stop after the wedding ceremony, having their first child, or being able to accomplish some of their goals. Couples must be intentional with their marriage. They can’t just show love or affection towards each other once a year on Valentine’s Day; they must show love for each other and serve each other every day to continue to strengthen a marriage, which is built on the foundation of Christ. It was great opportunity for couples to gather together and experience an evening filled with God’s Word, great conversations, and time to reflect on each other.

Faith Hmong in Alaska uses this kind of event as an outreach opportunity to invite friends, family, and neighbors to the Faith Hmong community. We also have events for kids and parents to spend time together, such as a family paint night, which is planned for next month. Coming to worship services can be a little intimidating for some, but with events like these, believers and friends can come and relax and hear about their Lord. It’s a fun way for the church members to do outreach in the community.

We have been serving the Hmong community of Anchorage since 2009 and have established a beautiful relationship with our Anglo brothers and sisters at Faith Lutheran Church. Every Sunday, our doors are open early in the morning for an English service, followed by a Hispanic service preached by Pastor Chris Ewings and Pastor Nathan Wagenknecht. Then, we end our Sunday with a Hmong service starting at 3:00 p.m., followed by Hmong Sunday School. We designate the first Sunday of each month as a fellowship Sunday for the opportunity to invite friends, families, and neighbors to attend and enjoy some snacks and conversations.

Faith Hmong continues to focus its ministry on the Hmong community in Anchorage, and God continues to bless us. We look for opportunities to share what so many people in the world are still seeking – LOVE. A love the world cannot give, but rather true love that comes only from our Savior, Jesus.

Learn more about our ministry at faithhmongalaska.org.

Written by Pastor Pao Moua, Home Missionary at at Faith Hmong Lutheran Church in Anchorage, Alaska

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Chinese worship launches in Coquitlam

November was full of blessings for Abiding Love Lutheran Church, a Chinese ministry based in Coquitlam, BC, Canada. Since being assigned to serve this new mission full-time after graduating from the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) program in 2020, Pastor Qiang Wang and his wife Susan have been faithfully witnessing to the Chinese community in and around Coquitlam.

After two years of waiting, God blessed their efforts and Abiding Love launched public worship on November 27, 2022 (pictured above). They will continue to offer Chinese worship twice a month in Vancouver, which is central to many members of Abiding Love.

In addition, Susan’s Chinese dance group hosted a dance show at a local community center on November 26. It was the first public event held by the Chinese group since the pandemic. Members and prospects volunteered at the event (pictured right) and had a chance to get know to many other people and tell them about the ministry.

The Wangs continue church potlucks, hosting prospects in their home, offering three online Bible studies per week, and facilitating online Sunday school. You can read more about the Wangs and how Chinese ministry in Coquitlam got started in this Forward in Christ article from May 2020.

View photos from their launch, the November dance show, and other ministry activities on Flickr.

 




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Lighting the way through holidays

Jesus boldly stated that “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Only through Jesus can we reach heaven and spend eternity with God. As Christians, we have God’s calling to walk together and invite others to join us on the way to paradise. The challenge, at times, is gathering a crowd to hear the Good News we have in Jesus. For Reformation Lutheran Church and School in San Diego, Calif., the hosting of traditional American holiday get-togethers has helped gather a crowd. The target audience for some of these gatherings has been Reformation’s neighbors who have come to the U.S. from other countries. The church and school have discovered that there is a strong interest in the local immigrant community to participate in American customs and holidays. Some of the Asian families living near Reformation saw the stores advertising for the Thanksgiving holiday and wondered what it would be like to participate in such a festival. When these families received Reformation’s invitation to a Thanksgiving meal, many were eager to join the gathering.

Mark Jiang leading the opening prayer

Mark Jiang is a Chinese man who connected with Reformation at a Thanksgiving celebration several years ago and reflected on the significance of such gatherings: “It’s so important for our church to host a Thanksgiving dinner. We have many Asian family in San Diego: some of these families have their children in our school, some families are new comers to the U.S. It is our duty to welcome and give God’s love to these families, not only for their daily life, but also help them to know God. God’s Word is the lamp to our path (Psalm 119:105), so we use this opportunity to connect with families around us, to help them, especially in this thanksgiving season to help our families to think of all the thanks we can give to God.”

Mark Jiang is now enrolled in the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) studying to be a WELS pastor. Mark counts his blessings as he remembers receiving an invitation to gather with American Christian friends for the holidays. Let us all consider how we can use opportunities like holidays to share with someone that our Savior is truly the way to their eternal life. May the Word of our God continue to be a lamp for your feet and a light for your path as you follow the Way to heaven.

Written by Rev. Neil Birkholz, North American Asian Ministry Consultant 

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“One Faith, One Family.” – Hmong National Conference 2022

What would lead people to pack into three vehicles at 11:30 p.m. and drive through the night from Kansas City to Wisconsin or catch the 2:00 a.m. red eye flight from Fresno to Milwaukee? The answer is the Hmong National Conference hosted by Trinity Hmong in Manitowoc, Wis., this past July 29-31. After canceling the last two national conferences due to COVID, about 170 Hmong brothers and sisters were finally able to gather together to celebrate with food, fellowship, and the Word of God.

The theme for the gathering was, “One Faith, One Family.” Separate breakout sessions were held in English for the teens and in Hmong for the adults.

Pastor Sam Lor of St. John’s, Minneapolis, Minn., led about 50 teens through the topic, “Cultural Identity through Baptismal Identity.” Why this subject? Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) student and cohost, Semson Lor, said, “In the world today you can identify so many different ways. We wanted teens to see who they are in Christ.”

At the same time the teens met, Pastor Pheng Moua of Immanuel Hmong in St. Paul, Minn., was leading the adults in the Bible Study, “How to Encourage One Another.” “We are living in the End Times and it is important to motivate each other and build each other up in order to let our light shine to the world.”

All the devotions, sermons, and Bible studies of the conference reinforced the theme, “One Faith, One Family.” Pastor Ger Lor of Grace Hmong in Kansas City, Kans., stated, “Unity of brothers and sisters in Christ was what the Savior prayed among his disciples: ‘that they may all be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, and they may also be one in us.’ The gospel creates a unity of faith with our Father, our Savior and our fellow believers.”

Pastor Joel Nitz was also in attendance for the first time since he took the call to serve the Hmong in Vietnam. He reflected, “I had a wonderful experience as I connected with our WELS Hmong members in the U.S., worshiped and learned with them, and practiced my Hmong language skills.”

In addition to feeding the soul, there was plenty of food for the body. The meals reflected the different places Hmong people have called home over the decades. Laotian pho was served for lunch one day and all-American hamburgers served picnic style for dinner on another. In order to work off the extra calories, a sports tournament was held on Friday that included volleyball and corn hole.

The highlight of the conference was at the Sunday morning worship service where the group expressed their spiritual and doctrinal unity at the Communion Service.

And why travel so far? Pastor Xing Yang of Faith in Clovis, Calif., shared, “Jesus. I tell the people it is about Jesus.” The next Hmong National Conference is scheduled for 2024 in Fresno, Calif.

Written by Rev. Leon Ehlert, Chairman for the North America Hmong Committee

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WELS Missions – 2022 Impact Report

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. . .

Matthew 28:19

God is blessing the efforts of WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions in amazing ways! Your prayers and gifts are making a difference in communities across the U.S. and around the world; we are grateful for your generosity.

Here are some ways your gifts are being used to share the good news of the gospel.

HOME MISSIONS

  • Five new churches were approved in Windsor, Colo.; Wichita, Kans.; Canton, Ga.; Conroe, Tex; and Lodi, Wis. Home Missions also approved enhancements or unsubsidized mission status at seven other locations. Learn more at wels.net/newstart.
  • Campus Ministry provides over 30 campus ministries with financial support and assists hundreds of other congregations in their campus ministry outreach.
  • Plans and preparations are being made to plant 100 new home mission churches and enhance 75 existing ministries from 2023-2033. Learn more at wels.net/100in10.

WORLD MISSIONS

  • Two missionaries are beginning ministry in London this year.
  • Over 500 worldwide gospel ministers are proclaiming the Good News, and more than 90 additional men have graduated from worker training programs this year alone.
  • Building of the theological education center in Vietnam has begun.
  • Plans are being made to welcome a synod in Uganda and an international synod in Latin America into WELS fellowship at the 2023 Synod Convention.
  • Nine new missionary positions have been approved.

JOINT MISSIONS

  • The Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) is working with One Teams around the world and providing theological training to immigrants in the U.S. for service to their people groups.
  • Mission Journeys provides opportunities for volunteer trips to WELS mission fields at home and abroad.

Praise God for his mercy and grace and thank YOU for your prayers and support! There is always more work to do, and we are grateful for your continued partnership. Pray for God’s blessing on his Church. Share God’s grace and forgiveness with others you meet. Ask God to give us strength to serve others with love.

Learn more at wels.net/missions and like us on Facebook at fb.com/WELSMissions

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NEW Long-Term Volunteer Opportunities

Jesus gave the Great Commission to the Church saying, “go and make disciples of all nations.” Christians throughout the millennia chose different ways and methods to carry out our Savior’s command. Starting in Acts, churches saw the need to send missionaries to reach people with the gospel. In WELS, members partnered together to start churches throughout the United States and to send missionaries to many parts of the globe. WELS Home Missions, seeing the great need for the gospel, continues to plant new churches in hopes of the Holy Spirit reaching more souls for God’s Kingdom.

WELS Mission Journeys, under the leadership of WELS Home Missions, is starting a pilot program to give more individuals the opportunity to share their faith through a long-term volunteer opportunity. Mission Journeys wants to place mission-oriented individuals in strategic locations to assist in forming and developing quality core groups, the building blocks in starting new home missions. A core group is the local group that does the work of meeting, praying, outreach, planning, and evangelism.

We’re looking for individuals that love Jesus and can communicate that love with other people. They’ll need patience, flexibility, and a spirit of adventure. This would be a tent ministry, where the individual would have a job outside of the ministry to support themselves. This could include remote work, a local job, or some combination. Mission Journeys, as a part of this pilot project, will work with the individual for possible financial assistance in moving or other expenses.

Current opportunities include:

  • Bentonville, Arkansas: Bentonville is the home of Walmart, a corporation investing heavily in the community to provide a higher quality of life. The economy is booming for jobs in all job markets. The core group consists of four families.
  • Idaho Falls, Idaho: Idaho Falls is located on the western side of Teton National Park. Idaho Falls is a fast-growing area and a hub for the surrounding area. The core group consists of three families.

WELS Home Missions provides each location with a proven plan on starting. Each location has a home mission counselor to assist in planning and coordinating ministry ideas. The core groups also worship with a pastor twice a month. This pilot program is designed to give an individual with a heart for missions the opportunity to work on the ground floor of a mission start.

For additional information, please contact Mission Journeys Coordinator, Shannon Bohme, at [email protected] or 651-324-4218.

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Love your neighbors – of all faiths

My wife and I spent a week with a young man and his wife who have a heart for reaching out to those of Muslim faith. During the month of Ramadan they held a party at a ministry house where they like to spend time with their Muslim friends. As you may know, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during the 30 days of Ramadan. According to custom we broke the fast – at 8:20 p.m. that night – and everyone was given a fig to eat. We then enjoyed many special foods packed with flavor. Laughter and love filled the house. Our hosts and guests played the guitar and ukulele and sang songs until well past midnight. More than 35 guests joined us this night.

The day before this party the host asked me to have a devotion for his friends at the party. He said, “The most important thing is to tell them about the love of Jesus. It makes a deep impression – how Jesus loved even his enemies and asked God to forgive them when he was nailed to the cross.”

We had a devotion on Jesus being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and his crucifixion. Jesus was not weak – as some think. He was strong. He could have escaped. The mob fell backwards when Jesus said, “I am he.” Jesus then rebuked Peter who drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest saying, “Put your sword away!  Don’t you know those who live by the sword will die by the sword?” Then Jesus picked up the severed ear and reattached it. He performed a miracle of healing for the very people who came to hurt him. We also shared some of the words Jesus spoke on the cross, such as, “Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing” – and how he rose again on the third day.

Then we asked, “Why did Jesus suffer and die on the cross if he had the power to escape? We explained, “It was not the nails that held Jesus to the cross, it was his love for you and me.”

The day after the party we traveled 220 miles south to one of the fastest growing cities in America. One of our WELS churches in this large midwestern city has a  center that provides care for women. We had a Henna Party from 3:30-7:30 p.m. With great skill our friend’s wife painted beautiful henna designs on the hands and forearms of all who came – describing the love of Jesus in the designs she made. The woman who has served as the director of this center for more than 25 years and the dedicated ladies who volunteer made everything run smoothly.

I was planning to “stay out of the way” but as the first people arrived, I was stunned to find many from the countries I serve on the other side of the world. My heart swelled as I spoke with some of them in their native tongue. It was a parade of nations – 75-100 ladies from places like Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Nepal, Bhutan, Assam, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Malaysia, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. My eyes marveled as I realized – God is bringing the nations to us! You no longer have to go overseas to share the gospel with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. They are here! On our doorsteps!

My friend told me, “The most important thing is that you love Muslims. Really love them – even if they show no interest in Christianity. If they think you are a friend because you want them to become Christians, they will feel you are a hypocrite. Be kind to them. Spend time with them. Care about their families. Let them be in your heart – and in your prayers – and even in your living room! When you introduce them to the Friend of Sinners, be a friend!”

Written by WELS’ friendly counselor to South Asia

 

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Opportunities for Hispanic outreach

More than 2,000 WELS members in North America report that Spanish is their first language. They worship in well over 100 congregations, with almost 20 of those having regular services in Spanish. There are a dozen congregations that do not have Spanish services but still have Spanish Bible classes every week. Every year Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary graduates men who are fluent in both Spanish and English. Over 30 WELS pastors in North America engage their communities in Spanish every day.

There is so much activity in this area that the Board for Home Missions has called a full-time Hispanic Outreach Consultant, Pastor Timothy Flunker. He has plenty to do, including the goal of assisting at least ten new congregations each year to reach out to Hispanic people in their communities.

At the same time, our mission team in Central and South America (the One Latin America Team) has developed an outreach strategy called Christ Academy (Academia Cristo in Spanish). It begins with a mobile app that offers four self-led courses at the Bible Information Class level of study. Over 500,000 people have downloaded the mobile app. The last course in this tier focuses on training students to share what they’ve learned with others. Students must complete all four courses before they are able to sign up for live classes. Over 1,300 people have signed up for live classes.

In the first level of live classes, students work through 13 Bible Institute level classes that are taught live online by a WELS missionary or national partner. At this level, a large emphasis is placed on gathering a group of people to share the gospel message. Over 400 people have completed at least one of the live classes, and about 75 of them have indicated that they have gathered a group.

The Joint Mission Council recently wondered how the Christ Academy model would work in the United States and Canada. They asked the One Latin America (1LA) Team to devise a pilot project using the Christ Academy app in a dozen existing WELS congregations in North America. Rather than adding to Pastor Flunker’s duties, they encouraged the 1LA Team to call a pilot project director from the group of men who were already involved in the Christ Academy program in Central and South America. We are happy to announce that Pastor Carl Leyrer, a veteran in the Christ Academy work, has accepted that call and is beginning his work.

We ask God’s blessings on the work of both Pastor Flunker and Pastor Leyrer.

“A la verdad la mies es mucha, pero los obreros pocos. Rogad, pues, al Señor de la mies, que envíe obreros a su mies” (Matthew 9:37-38).

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'”

Written by Paul Prange, Joint Mission Council Chairman.

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Reflection in the water

It was a long year of online learning for Brenda. The plans to attend a university in San Diego in person were altered by the pandemic. Brenda chose to return home to East Asia and attend classes online. This meant that she was often awake in the middle of the night for live classes that were taking place in California. Even with the scheduling challenges, Brenda found blessings in her situation. She was granted extra time at home with family that she would have otherwise missed. She also found time to reflect on the “family” she had grown to appreciate during her high school years at St. Croix Lutheran High School. Many of the teachers, staff, and fellow students at St. Croix had shown Christian love that left a meaningful impact on her. She recognized what a blessing it was to regularly study God’s Word at St. Croix. Brenda’s plan had been to ask to be baptized around graduation time of her senior year. But during that year the pandemic shifted her interactions with her St. Croix family to be online and she never inquired about baptism. The long, first year of university study online made Brenda eager to connect with Christians when she was finally able to travel to California.

Brenda reached out to Pastor Dave Huebner from St. Croix and asked if he knew of any WELS churches in the San Diego area. Pastor Huebner was able to connect Brenda with Reformation Lutheran Church in San Diego, where it just so happens that a number of the members are originally from East Asia. One of those members is Mark, who is currently enrolled in the WELS Pastoral Studies Institute in hopes of one day serving as a pastor. Mark and Brenda discussed the teachings of our church and eventually Brenda asked if she could be baptized. As I listened to their conversation and later walked Brenda through the process of baptism in our church’s sanctuary, it was clear that the Holy Spirit was at work. From the early years of her high school career to that moment, God had been working through his messengers and message to plant faith in Brenda’s heart. As we looked at the water in the baptismal font, Brenda and I reflected on her story and the way God had worked in her life to make His love known to her.

As the Apostle Paul gave thanks for his gospel partnership with the Philippians (Phil. 1:5) so we also give thanks for the partnership we have in our synod, specifically the partnership between our schools, WELS Campus Ministry, and our congregations.

Rejoice with us that Brenda has found a church family in San Diego where she can continue to grow in the Word. Pray for the partnership between Brenda, Reformation, and WELS Campus Ministry to bring the gospel to more students at Brenda’s university. Finally, take time to reflect in the waters of your own baptism and be reminded once again of the forgiveness and love your God has for you.

Written by Rev. Neil Birkholz, North American Asian ministry consultant.

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Planting seeds of the gospel through Joint Missions

Tom Metzger is a member at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Livonia, Mich., and serves on the Michigan District Mission Board and the WELS Joint Mission Council. In this week’s Missions Blog, he discusses his experience with the Joint Mission Council, how it has improved his understanding of mission work, and how he is encouraged through it. 

When I began my service on the Joint Mission Council, I noticed some similarities to my work in Livonia and in the Michigan District. For example, the message of the law and gospel is the same. By God’s grace, this is at the front of every meeting, program, decision, and direction of everything that we do as a synod. Because we have that special blessing, we can jump at opportunities at the Joint Mission Council level.

We are especially interested in opportunities that present themselves when immigrants become WELS members and want to take that clear message of law and gospel back to their countries of origin. There is a willingness to look at every outreach opportunity as a chance to further the message of the gospel. Every request or inquiry is treated with exhaustive study. There is always more than one way to approach an opportunity. We use the term one-off many times, signaling that there are fresh approaches and open minds. Every mission opportunity comes with unique circumstances that might not be the same with a different people groups or country.

At the Joint Mission Council we have noticed that a new mission opportunity might come from a single person or family. The seeds of the gospel being planted through this is God’s work. Sometimes, an inquiry could be a blessing to both Home and World Missions. We are eager to see what God can do. It is his church, and we are allowed to be a small part of it by his grace.

There is such a need for well-trained gospel voices in all areas of ministry. The extraordinary Pastoral Studies Institute program of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, in partnership with WELS Joint Missions, realizes this and has developed a system of educating these leaders through non-traditional means. Recruiting and training our future pastors and evangelists is important for the health of gospel outreach.

Seeing that the Joint Mission Council is in harmony with the Board for Home Missions and St. Paul’s is a great blessing and comfort for me. I can have confidence that all the ministry I’m a part of at the synod level and my local congregation are all working in the same direction.

God is at work in all the world, preparing us for that day when we will all see Jesus face to face. We give thanks that God is using us to bring more people into his Kingdom.

 

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Merry Christmas from WELS Missions!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 ).

Can you hear the excited children’s voices? Can you see the expectation and joy-filled faces of God’s littlest believers as they recite these familiar words? We learn in Isaiah about God’s priceless treasure given in perfect love to his children. In a world that is often filled with pain, confusion, anger, and sadness we, as believers, can hold strong to the promises of God. He sent his Son to be perfection for us and to suffer for our sins, and we thank him for this priceless gift.

Our WELS home and world missionaries and those in their mission fields wanted to share a message of thanks for your prayers, encouragement, and financial support in this special video. It is because of God working through people like YOU that we are able to share this priceless gift in 64 different countries and 132 home mission congregations across North America. We are so grateful.

Let’s raise our voices together in song as we worship the Christ child this Christmas season and thank our Heavenly Father for fulfilling the promises of old.

Together with you, we sing with joy and gratitude celebrating our Prince of Peace!

WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions


 

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Bridging the gap to the Philippines

Maricel considers herself blessed that God has given her three children. Maricel considers herself blessed that God arranged it so that she met and married Robb after the death of her first husband. She also considers herself blessed to be living in the U.S., though she was born in the Philippines. But, her three children Drewayne, David, and Samantha are not currently living in the U.S; they are still living back in the Philippines.  Not only was she concerned about working out the details for Visas for Drewayne, David, and Samantha to join her in her new home in Green Bay, Wis., she was even more concerned that none of them had been baptized.

But it wasn’t as easy as simply bringing them to church for instruction and then setting a date for the baptism since they live in a different country. What do you do when an entire ocean is in between yourself, your kids and your spiritual responsibility? Maricel reached out to the pastor at the church she attends with her concerns. God quickly turned what seemed to be a big problem into a big opportunity once the Diaspora Ministry Facilitator was contacted. The Diaspora Ministry Facilitator is a new position entrusted with coordinating gospel opportunities by bridging the gap between prospects in the U.S. who have a connection to someone overseas with our WELS world mission teams, as well as helping Christians who have immigrated to the U.S. I, as the Diaspora Ministry Facilitator for Asia, contacted Pastor Alvien de Guzman in the Philippines to make him aware of the situation. After a few initial e-mails, contact was established between Maricel, Pastor de Guzman, and her family in the Philippines.

The date and time for the baptism were picked. Pastor de Guzman drove the three and a half hours to home of Drewayne, David, and Samantha and spoke the words “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit” while sprinkling water on the three children. Although Maricel was halfway around the world she had the comfort of knowing that her children were receiving all the blessings that come from baptism. Pastor de Guzman was able to make contact with those living in an area he had not been able to do ministry in before.

The following Sunday Maricel and the congregation were able to rejoice together as they watched the video of the baptism during the Sunday morning church service, once again giving evidence of the truth of that God truly does love people “from every nation, tribe, people and language.”

Written by Leon Ehlert, Diaspora Ministry Facilitator for Asia

 

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What to do when they’re knocking at your door

Nearly every day, somewhere in the world, a pastor from another denomination contacts a WELS pastor. Usually the pastors from other denominations are looking for some kind of collaboration. You might think that WELS pastors patiently explain to them what the Scriptures say about unity in doctrine before collaboration in fellowship—and they do! But some WELS pastors have added an invitation to their explanation. They have asked, “Would you like more instruction?” When the pastors of other denominations have answered, “yes,” great blessings have resulted.

The WELS Joint Mission Council (JMC) has examined the cases where the Lord has blessed contacts like this and have noticed a pattern. In the most successful cases, the WELS pastor enrolls the other pastor in his WELS Bible Information Class. That way the man finds out how everything we teach comes from the Bible. He is often exposed to clear law and gospel for the first time, with Jesus at the center of everything we teach in the power of the Word and sacraments. The Holy Spirit does his work, and the pastor from the other denomination begins to teach the truths of Scripture to his own flock. At a certain point, that pastor usually becomes a member of a WELS congregation.

A PSI training visit

At that point, the Joint Mission Council recommends that the WELS pastor enlist the aid of the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. A member of the PSI Team interviews the pastor who was formerly a member of another denomination and determines the best course of studies so that the man can become a fully trained WELS pastor. The PSI team member also arranges appropriate contact with local district officials, Home Mission counselors, or members of World Mission Teams, depending on the background of the new man and his flock. Sometimes the PSI team member helps the WELS pastor see that the relationship should develop in a different way than planned. With their many experiences and contacts, the PSI Team members can be very helpful in planning the best use of our resources.

Because many of the pastors who contact us have networks inside and outside of the United States, the Joint Mission Council takes great interest in new opportunities for outreach that they provide. Because the world is a complicated place, the patterns often diverge here, but one similarity remains: love for the truths of Scripture, as taught by Lutherans, leads men from many diverse places to bring people to Jesus.

Written by Rev. Paul Prange, Joint Mission Council chairman

 

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Mission Journeys: Back up and running!

“Go and make disciples…”

That phrase has taken on new meaning this past year as individuals and churches adjusted to life during a pandemic. Many of our members will never take worshiping in their church for granted again. We pray that Easter services around our synod were filled with people singing praises to Jesus for his victory over sin, the devil, and death!

Members from Divine Savior Lutheran Church in Doral, Fla., recently visited the church in Guayama, Puerto Rico.

Mission Journeys, the WELS short-term mission trip program, is back up and running again. The first two congregations going out are Zion in Columbus, Wis., (pictured above) and St. Paul’s in Clintonville, Wis. These congregations are heading to a location south of Seattle, Wash., to assist in canvassing an area where a new home mission might be planted. All the precautions are in place, including the wearing of masks, as the teams go door-to-door. Additional teams will be heading to Idaho and Oregon this summer. If you and your congregation are unsure of traveling a long distance, Mission Journeys has domestic mission trip opportunities in the Midwest and beyond as well.

The park in Puerto Rico that Mission Journeys teams would be renovating and conducting outreach events.

International mission trips are still a year away as many countries around the world have strict restrictions upon entering. Fortunately, Puerto Rico is a part of the United States. This makes travel a possibility. Missionary Mike Hartman, team leader of the WELS Latin America missions team, has identified an opportunity to send mission teams to Puerto Rico. The initial plan is to renovate a park near the local church in Guayama and assist them in holding outreach events. Mission Journeys is looking for 12 congregations to commit to sending one mission team a year for three years. The teams will need at least half the members to have Spanish-speaking ability. We want over half of the 12 congregations to have Hispanic members and a Hispanic ministry. This would allow our Hispanic brothers and sisters the opportunity to serve on a mission trip in Latin America. God willing, these trips will begin in November 2021 and be spread out throughout the following months and years. Please add Puerto Rico and the national churches there to your prayer lists as WELS sends mission teams to partner in sharing the message of Jesus, our Savior, in a fertile field, where the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.

Written by Mr. Shannon Bohme, Mission Journeys coordinator

For more information or questions, visit wels.net/missionjourneys or send an e-mail to [email protected].

 

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Communicating the power of the gospel cross-culturally

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

Romans 10:14

When Jesus came to earth, he preached the good news. According to the four gospels, the amazing thing Jesus did during his three years of ministry were not the miracles, but the communicating and ministering done with the power of the gospel. Clear communication of the gospel is a necessity for a minister or an evangelist. When Jesus preaches the good news, he uses a simple and easy to understand way to communicate the gospel to the people to whom he is speaking.

One question we ask ourselves at Grace Hmong Lutheran Church is, “How do we communicate the gospel to the unbelieving Hmong people? Especially people who believe that inanimate objects have souls?” When Paul and Barnabas communicated the gospel in Lystra (Acts 14:8–23), they spoke to people with these beliefs in a clear and understandable way.

It is the power of the gospel that brings wonderful news to the whole world, including the Hmong community! God sent his Son into the world to die for sinners. Our sins are forgiven. That is awesome! That is the good news! That is the powerful message of the gospel God has given us, and we pray that the power of the Holy Spirt will guide us to communicate this message to others clearly and understandably. This is SO important, especially in cross-cultural ministry.

New members at Grace Hmong

This past January, 11 prospects of Grace Hmong completed the membership course and were confirmed into the Christian faith. The members of Grace Hmong or I had no power in converting these people into faith. It only happened by the working of the Spirt through the Word.

But how did we meet them so that we could share the gospel with them? It was a short conversation between one of our members and the head of their family. Then they came to our 2019 Thanksgiving Service. After the service they were invited to join the meal. At mealtime, Grace members and I had the opportunity to talk with these families about their faith and presented the pure gospel to them. They were interested! They told me that they never heard that sinners are saved through faith in Christ – they had been taught that sinners are saved only through good works. A couple weeks later, they came to our Sunday morning service and continued after that. Three months later, they decided to take the membership course.

During the membership course, they learned the theology of the cross. Every time we met, I tried to communicate the gospel in a clear and simple way for them to understand. The power of the gospel slowly penetrated and created faith in their hearts. We cleared up misunderstandings they had from the past. Now they are baptized and confirmed into the faith and are members of WELS!

What changed their hearts and turned them to the saving power of Christ? It was not the wonderful meal Grace prepared for them. It was not the money Grace spent on that day. It was not the power of the members or Pastor Lor that penetrated their hearts. It was the Holy Spirit working through the gospel.

That is why it is important for the church, the members, and the pastor to communicate clearly the simple message of the gospel. In the Great Commission, Jesus declares his authority over all things, and then he commands us to go and communicate the good news to others. Jesus wants us to share the power of the saving gospel with other people the way he taught. To God alone be the glory!

Written by Pastor Ger Lor, home missionary at Grace Hmong Lutheran Church in Kansas City, Kans.

Learn more about Hmong ministry at wels.net/hmong.

 

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And he brought him to Jesus

What Andrew had found made everything else on the to-do list fade away. This discovery was of such importance that Andrew went right away to find his brother Peter. The discovery wasn’t a what, but a who. Andrew told Peter that they had found the Messiah (John 1:41-42). What greater thing can a person do for a sibling than to bring them to Jesus?

Bible information class in Mandarin at Reformation in San Diego

Many Chinese Christians freely use the term “brother” when they talk about a friend in the faith. When John, a Chinese member of Reformation Lutheran Church in San Diego, brought his Chinese friend Mark to a Thanksgiving church event, Mark was introduced as a brother in the faith. During the Thanksgiving event, Mark and his family enjoyed playing games with other brothers and sisters. The event was a reminder for everyone in attendance that we are always able to give thanks when Jesus is our focus. Mark’s family also heard a clear law and gospel message in Mandarin from Vicar David Choi (from our sister synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod).

Mark was eager to talk with the pastors and vicar afterward to learn more about the life of a pastor. The desire has been in Mark’s heart to find a path to study for full-time ministry. The pastors and vicar at Reformation have been able to share more information with Mark about our synod’s Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) – a possible path for Mark to study for the pastoral ministry.

The first step is for Mark to study Reformation’s Bible information class and become a member. Thanks to translation efforts in the past, Reformation’s membership courses are available in Mandarin. Mark’s studies are well under way, and he is cherishing the time to be brought closer to Jesus.

Andrew and Peter would go on to share the truths they had learned from Jesus. They brought others to Jesus by sharing what Jesus had taught them. These brothers knew the best they could offer anyone would be to welcome them into the family of believers with the Good News of Jesus.

All of us have friends we can invite to join the family in spending time with Jesus. How might that person we invite respond when Jesus speaks to them? How might God use that person in the future to reach out to others? God continues to amaze us in the ways his gospel changes hearts and lives. May we all continue to follow Andrew’s example of prioritizing an invitation to those around us to join us as we spend time with Jesus.

Please keep Mark, John, Vicar Choi, and the growing outreach ministry to our Chinese neighbors in San Diego in your prayers.

Written by Rev. Neil Birkholz, WELS Asian ministry consultant and Associate Pastor at Reformation Lutheran Church in San Diego, CA

Learn more about Asian outreach occurring throughout North America at wels.net/asianministry.


 

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Faces of Faith – Katherine

Sometimes mission connections happen in very interesting ways. Every year, Spirit of Life in Caledonia, Mich., hosts a booth at the local Davenport College Panther Palooza event. It’s an event where freshmen go to learn about opportunities to serve, learn, and work in the community. During that event we were publicizing a women’s self-defense class being held at Spirit of Life. Little did we know, God would bless us with a new member and a really great friend.

Katherine Campoverde was studying to be a recreational therapist at Davenport. She was Catholic growing up in Ecuador, and she had family in New York City as well. She spoke to us and visited the church that next Sunday. After some weeks, Katherine went through class to join our Lutheran church. For a few years we enjoyed having her as part of our church—but upon graduation, Katherine moved back to NYC for work. It was bittersweet for us because we wished her the best, but we were also concerned about Katherine’s connection with the church. We don’t have all that many congregations in NYC.

When Katherine arrived in NYC, we stayed in touch. I looked up her address in the WELS church locator and discovered a great blessing: Katherine was living less than 2 miles from Sure Foundation Lutheran Church, our WELS home mission congregation in Woodside. I immediately grabbed the phone and called the pastor there. And after a few short weeks, Katherine was connected. An even greater blessing was that Sure Foundation has Spanish services every week. Now Katherine could not only worship, but she also brought her father to worship for him to hear God’s Word in their first language.

But the interesting connections continued. Katherine’s mother still lives in Ecuador. So while she was on a trip to visit her mother, she introduced her to our world missionary living in Ecuador as well.

Recently Katherine had the opportunity to come back to visit us here at Spirit of Life, and she was welcomed with open arms. It’s really interesting to see how God works. He blessed our congregation to do some outreach at a local college. We shared the Word and Sacrament together with a new member. Little did we know the impact that would have in another congregation in NYC and possibly all the way down in Ecuador. God’s Word is so amazing, and his plans for our life are too.

What a blessing it is to have mission congregations around our synod who can connect and serve believers even when school and work causes them to move!

Written by Allen Kirschbaum, home missionary at Spirit of Life Lutheran Church in Caledonia, Mich. 


 

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Love is the answer

Haris (named changed due to the sensitive nature of his work) spearheaded an effort in a large Midwest city to distribute food and face masks in the midst of COVID-19. Haris is originally from a Muslim nation in South Asia and now lives in America. He is enrolled in our WELS Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI). Haris shares:

When the coronavirus started, I was thinking. . . how can we reach out to the large Muslim population in our community to show the love of Christ? I was talking to my friend, and he said, “I know of WELS churches that are making face masks! They will make masks for you to share with the Muslims.” So we started distributing food to our Muslim neighborhood along with the face masks. People in the community donated groceries and money to buy food. We delivered food and masks on more than 20 different occasions. People drove up in their cars, and we put the groceries in their vehicles. We also dropped off food on people’s porches. Counting only the early drive-thrus, we helped 504 families and assisted 64 families who had a family member with coronavirus.

We made so many friends, and received a lot of feedback from the community. They said, “You risked your life and distributed food and masks even in the rain and snow.” Everyone knows I am a Christian, and they know this help comes because of the love of Jesus for all people. I told the mayor of this community, “These Christians made these masks. They did this because they care for these people. The people who live hundreds of miles away don’t know who will be getting it. It is impossible. Only the love of Christ causes them to do this.”

One WELS District President wrote to the churches in his district about this opportunity. Several churches and many individuals responded. One family made 2,000+ masks for relatives, neighbors, and for Muslims in this large city. Some of the face masks had Bible verses inside the plastic bags. A pastor at one of our rural WELS churches said, “Our people understood that this was an opportunity to reach out to others in a time of crisis. They wanted to serve their fellow man and to serve Christ as he served them.”

During the pandemic, four close friends of mine (not involved in the distribution effort) died from the coronavirus. All four had converted from Islam to Christianity in the last few years and were assisting me in ministry to the Muslim community. One was a former economics professor from Asia, another was a young father with a wife and two children, another was a young man at a nearby university who assisted with apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith), and the last was a very close friend who had lost everything when she converted to Christianity. Her new family was my family. My wife and this woman were as close as sisters. While sorrow grips our hearts, we have the assurance that our friends are now with Jesus.

Love was the answer for reaching out to our community–and love was the answer for conquering death and hatred. “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35).

 

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Faces of Faith – Hany Guzmán

As the morning mist mixed with the bright beams of the sun’s first rays over Baja Verapaz, Guatemala, ten-year-old Hany Guzmán would stand out on her earthen porch to greet the day. With a mug of atol de elote in her hand, she watched the cool fog slowly dissipate and the shadows silently disperse as they gave way to the scorching heat and piercing light of a Sunday morning. The sweet, corn beverage brought warmth to her body and strength for the day as she helped get her family ready for church. Slipping through the front door, she would wake her three younger siblings with whom she shared a single bed. They would march off together to attend their local congregation’s misa. Sometimes her parents would accompany them and other times they went alone, but Hany wouldn’t miss a mass for the world.

Hany and her siblings in Guatemala

Once they found their customary spot in the back of church, although the sun still shone brightly through the stained-glass windows of the cathedral, it seemed as though an even denser fog settled in. Hany and her siblings heard the priest read the Bible and give short talks about how they were to pray to the right saints to find fame and fortune, but it just didn’t seem to make sense. There was a spiritual haze that never seemed to lift, a darkness that just wouldn’t disappear. Hany wondered to herself, “Is there any way I can go to heaven?”

Five years later, darkness defined the day as Hany woke up on a frigid December morning in Anchorage, Alaska. A glance outside at the thermometer showed twenty-five degrees below zero as the first hints of daylight slowly revealed the silhouette of the mountains beneath a cloudless sky. It was Sunday morning and it was still her job to wake her younger siblings for church, but they could wait a while to brave the cold. The short trip to church was less than a block. She started to make some hot chocolate as she waited for the sun to creep over the Chugach Mountains. In a few short hours, she and her siblings would be on their way to Iglesia Luterana de Fe en Cristo. She still wouldn’t miss a service for the world.

Hany at Camp Luther in Anchorage, Alaska

Although the sun barely skimmed the tops of the peaks outside, inside her church one thing was clear—the light of the gospel had changed her life. The same sun that warmed her face in Guatemala now shone through the stained-glass windows of her new church, but here the mystery of salvation had been revealed. Here she heard the unobscured gospel that brought clarity to her mind and comfort to her soul. Hany and her sisters and brother—Brianna, Alegría, and David—found their spots in the back pew. From her vantage point, Hany could see many people she had invited to church herself. In fact, she was personally responsible for seeing her church’s catechism class grow from a dozen kids to over thirty. Later in the service, the congregation would confess its faith together using the familiar words of the explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed. “All this he did that I should be his own, and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just has he has risen from death and lives and rules eternally.” There was no longer any doubt; the darkness had dissipated and the fog had lifted. Wiping away a tear, Hany chimed in with confidence and conviction: ¡Esto es ciertamente la verdad! This is most certainly true!

Written by Rev. Christopher Ewings, home missionary at Iglesia Luterana de Fe en Cristo (Faith Lutheran Church) in Anchorage, Alaska

 

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Partnership in a new reality

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1: 3-6

How do we bring the gospel message to a billion people living in East Asia? This a question on the hearts of many in our synod as we look beyond our American borders.

God heard our prayers and for over a decade allowed WELS pastors and their families to live and serve in East Asia. This approach, however, has been adjusted as our WELS missionaries and families have been relocated out of East Asia for security reasons. But a change in a home address does not mean we change our mission.

Christian churches around the world are developing and enhancing their online approach to sharing Jesus. Our East Asia team is no different. We are revamping how we train, disciple, and mentor the national leaders who can take the gospel to places where we cannot go. By God’s grace our WELS seminary in Hong Kong has adapted to adversity and continues to serve their students and support national congregations.

The security risks that WELS missionaries faced also caused local East Asian leadership to reevaluate their approach for worship and Bible study. God has not been surprised by any of the issues facing our mission field and is blessing these new and innovative efforts. Each week our brothers and sisters in the faith are meeting in small groups or joining together online to hear the same message of God’s truth and God’s love for his beloved creation.

Baptism at Reformation in San Diego, Calif.

Our East Asia team is making every effort to build up the church leadership in East Asia. But with certain doors closed, we are exploring how God might use us to build up the church in East Asia from within our American borders. Every year a large number of students from East Asia attend our WELS high schools or are involved in our campus ministries. As God blesses their hearing and study of the Word, how might we equip them for sharing the gospel when they return to their home country?

As our WELS congregations continue being God’s salt and light in their local neighborhoods, visitors from East Asia come into our churches, admire the quality of our schools, and are looking for community and relationships. The WELS Joint Missions is very eager to offer support to any school or congregation that have these opportunities. How can we meet the spiritual needs of these visitors where they are at right now in their walk with God? And if they do call on Jesus as Lord, how can we support and equip them to reach others in East Asia?

These are not just theories and hopeful planning. God is blessing our WELS churches right now in these areas. WELS members are making contact with people from East Asia and inviting them to study God’s Word in our homes and churches. God is revealing new partnerships for us, both locally and worldwide, to carry out our gospel mission to East Asia.

Written by a missionary from East Asia

 

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