Eagerly awaiting the Women’s Workshop

Early on a November morning in South Asia, four women arriving from Thailand carefully stepped along a narrow path between rice paddies to a remote church where over a hundred women had gathered for a workshop. As we neared the church, we could hear the drum beats and songs of praise to our Savior welcoming us in.

We had been preparing for this workshop for about three months. “We” are three WELS missionary wives including Christine Doebler, Linda Marquardt, Mary Witte, and one Friends Network evangelist, Lydia Schultz, all stationed in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Eager to serve our Savior and these women in South Asia, we thoughtfully planned three days of Bible study, crafts and activities centered around the story of Jesus’ birth. We all had varying degrees of experience in cultures different from our own, but none of us had been to this country. So we began the workshop a little unsure of how our plans would be received, but confident that our love for Jesus would shine through.

Having already served on mission fields, we recognized the need for flexibility and teamwork in situations like this. Our carefully planned schedule quickly became a loose guide of things we wanted to do each day. Opening devotions became late morning devotions since the pastors leading these traveled to the church by slow tuk-tuk. There were more women than materials that we had brought, but we had activities where all could participate. Teaching through a translator took some practice and patience. We identified some English speakers who could help bridge the gap of language. Some of us were struggling with sudden family distresses back home. But this only spurred us on in love for the women in front of us.

The women were entranced with the Bible teaching, crafts, and activities. They cut out hearts and hands to represent our love for Jesus and our eagerness to serve him and then strung them up on the walls. The women diligently placed all the pieces of a nativity scene with Velcro fasteners for each day in December before Christmas. After we modeled a pageant of the nativity story, the women giggled and posed as they performed the drama in the roles of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, magi, soldiers and King Herod. By the end of the workshop, the women could easily tell the story of Jesus’ birth to each other using a booklet of pictures. We shared Bible songs in English that we knew and they shared even more beautiful Bible songs in their language for us. We worshiped together, sang together, prayed together, and laughed together. And…there may have been some dancing.

As the days went by, we were amazed by the eagerness of the women to participate, their hunger to learn, and their love and compassion for each other. They spent their days and nights of the workshop in and around the church building, eating and sleeping together, spending time talking, praying together, and caring for each other, especially for the elderly and children. Some of the women had traveled more than six hours by bus from their remote villages to the workshop. This time together with other Christian women was precious to them.

Some women and local pastors shared their testimonies and struggles in coming to Christ and as Christians. We were humbled to hear of the trials they had been through just to be there and confess their Christian faith. The difficulties we faced to get to the workshop – leaving our comfortable homes in Thailand where we can easily share our faith, the long travel of three different flights, cold showers, mosquito nets over our beds, riding over bumpy roads and hiking through the rice paddies – seemed so very small compared to their daily challenges of being a Christian.

We are thankful for this opportunity to share our faith and love of Jesus with these women in South Asia. We look forward to meeting, sharing, laughing, praising God, and maybe dancing with them again someday either in their country or in our heavenly home.

Written by a WELS world missionary wife in Asia.

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“Pastor, you get seven minutes!”

It is our largest and most time intensive outreach event of the year. It involves over 60 participants and volunteers, months of preparation, with practices on Sunday afternoons often going past 5 p.m. All leading up to Hope Lutheran Church’s annual free Christmas concerts for the community.

Why Christmas concerts?

Honestly, to me, Hope seems unusually blessed with musical talent in voice and instruments. Standing out among the instruments is Hope’s steel pan orchestra, which has been a part of Hope’s worship from the start and reflects the Caribbean roots of many members.

Years back Hope was searching for a church building to call its own. A building became available in an area of the city that typifies Toronto’s population, which encompasses over 50 percent first generation immigrants from all over the world. This diversity is reflected in languages, foods, customs, and religious beliefs.

Hope was searching- searching for different ways to reach out to our new and present community. A mission counselor visited and simply said, “Make use of your strengths. Share your strengths. You love music. Share your music.” From that encouragement, Hope has used music for outreach. In the summer, Hope plans a music camp for children, and in December, Hope offers free Christmas concerts for the community. Many non-Christians see the outward signs of Christmas and are interested in learning more. And who doesn’t love free?

This is where, “Pastor, you get seven minutes” comes in. The concert is planned out in detail and to the minute. Every year I am reminded that I get seven minutes for a devotion. If this is our biggest outreach event of the year why only seven minutes?! Is it because I am the least musically gifted of all people? Perhaps.

Or as a church leader said to me when I first came and got my first seven minutes, “People are coming for a concert, but we want our community to know you, see you, hear you. Tell everyone the message of Christmas – and please do it in seven minutes.”

And so I plan and prepare a message for those seven minutes for so many who are searching but don’t really know the Christ of Christmas. Then I sit down and realize once again that it’s more than seven minutes. From the start of the concert to the finish; in words, songs, and the re-enactment of Luke 2, the message of Christmas is shared – and shared in a beautiful way. From parking lot guides and greeters welcoming, to refreshments and fellowship afterward, Christian love is shown and invitations are given, “Christmas Eve is coming, won’t you join us?”

Written by Rev. Mark Henrich, home missionary at Hope Lutheran Church in Toronto, Ont. 

To view Hope Lutheran Church’s full concert by visiting the Hope Toronto Youtube channel.

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Merry Christmas from WELS Missions

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Aren’t star-filled skies overwhelmingly beautiful? What about that incredibly special star above Bethlehem that led the Magi to Jesus? Every December, millions of people look up to the skies and recall the account of the birth of the Christ child. In Matthew 2:10 we read, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with overwhelming joy.” And just like the Magi of old, we, along with Christians around the world, rejoice to think of God’s greatest gift to mankind, Jesus Christ. What joy this gift brings to our sin-sick world!

Thank YOU for your prayers and special gifts for Home, World, and Joint Missions. WELS Missions has created a year in review video of the many blessings made possible by your generous support. God tells us to share his message of salvation with every nation, tribe, people, and language. There is always someone new who has not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ.

As we celebrate this Christmas season and share gifts, love, and joy with our family and friends, we are reminded that Jesus Christ, our perfect substitute, humbled himself, was born as a man, and lived among us. He lived a perfect life, then ultimately died on the cross for all believers. Let’s pray for God’s continued blessings as we share this joy-filled message to the lost in the U.S. and around the world.

Together with you, we rejoice with overwhelming joy. Merry Christmas to all!

WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions

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Faces of Faith – Angel and Maribel

Hispanic ministry in Deltona, Fla., seems like a natural fit. Over 40% of the population speaks Spanish at home. But, how does a WELS congregation in Deltona without any Spanish speaking leaders get started? Well, as is always the case, what human eyes couldn’t see, God had already figured out.

In 2017, Angel Otero and his wife, Maribel, moved to Deltona. Angel was born and grew up in Puerto Rico and like many U.S. citizens there he joined the U.S. military. After serving, he was able to retire at 55 and settled in near Good Shepherd , a WELS church in the Deltona area, where they became members.

That was not all that the Lord had planned for Angel and Maribel. The Good Shepherd School reflected the community. Over 40% of the children in the school came from Hispanic homes. The church leadership and Angel began to explore how they might find a way to share the good news. They were introduced to our WELS Latin American mission efforts and the use of a Spanish training program called Academia Cristo. This program has been designed to train up interested Bible students using online materials. It had been designed to train people where there were no other Lutherans around. Of course, Academia Cristo was never intended to just be an online platform. The program has a focus on training and providing materials in such a way that those who have studied can begin to share what they have learned with others near them. It did not take long for the leadership in Deltona to realize that it would also work at Good Shepherd where there were no trained Hispanics to carry out ministry. Angel enrolled in Academia Cristo. He couldn’t get enough. The more he studied the more he wanted to share with others. Now, Good Shepherd in Deltona has a Spanish speaking outreach leader. Angel and Maribel are very active in reaching out to the school families and the community. Angel leads weekly Bible studies in Spanish at the church using the Academia Cristo program.

And, that’s not all. Angel was still connected to his family back in Puerto Rico. He heard that WELS World Missions was working with a church that had been planted there. The next time Angel visited Puerto Rico he made contact with the local church. The church in Puerto Rico had pastors who had been trained by WELS missionaries, but there was a growing concern that new candidates for pastoral ministry on the island were not being identified. Angel knew that the Academia Cristo program could serve them well in Puerto Rico as well. This connection has also been blessed. Recently the church in Deltona hosted a Puerto Rican pig roast and invited members from the church in Puerto Rico to attend. Thirteen members bought plane tickets and joined them for a delightful weekend of food, fellowship, and planning for the future. All reported a delightful time full of hope for the future. There are now four Academia Cristo students beginning studies in Puerto Rico.

It still may not be clear to our human eyes exactly what the Lord has planned for his saints in Deltona and Puerto Rico before they get to heaven. Even so, what we can see is a reason to rejoice. Economic distress in Puerto Rico, made worse by recent hurricanes, has led many from Puerto Rico to move to Florida. This Puerto Rican diaspora is well networked and keeps the family ties strong to the island and around the US. As the gospel is proclaimed in their midst, we know God has promised to go to work. Please, join us to ask our Lord to bless the work of his gospel through Angel and Maribel. May he raise up the next generation of Puerto Rican gospel proclaimers to build his church.

If you are interested in learning more about how Academia Cristo can help you in your community share the good news in Spanish, please, contact WELS Missions at [email protected].

Written by Rev. Larry Schlomer, Hispanic diaspora ministry facilitator and WELS World Missions administrator.

Hear more from Angel and Maribel about how you could reach out to Hispanics in your community in this special Faces of Faith video.

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Isolation and gathering together

If there were 100 Thai people in a room, how many would be a Christian?

One.

Let that sink in for a minute.

How would it feel to be the only Christian in a room with 99 unbelievers?

Let’s change the question.

If there were 100 Thai Christians in the room, how many would be Lutheran?

One.

Let that sink in for a minute.

How would it feel to be the only Lutheran in a room with 99 other Christians?

If you answered “isolated,” you would be correct. Often, Lutherans end up feeling especially isolated in their communities. On one hand, they are different from the 99% of unbelievers around them. On the other hand, in the small Christian group, they are different from the 99% of other Christians. They don’t preach in a non-Lutheran worship service. They don’t commune with Christians in other churches. Due to fellowship problems, they will not participate with other Christians in evangelism or church activities. They are isolated.

Yet, they aren’t. Lutheran members gather regularly for church and fellowship. The pastors meet twice a year for conferences. During the conferences, they grow together, encourage each other, update each other, and preach the gospel to each other. They remind each other that they are not alone in their struggles.

Hebrews 10:24-25 – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds his readers to think about each other. He reminds them to stir each other up to love and do good works. Meetings face to face give Christians the time and place to spur each other on as well as encourage each other.

The leaders in Thailand take these reminders to heart. They encourage each other. They encourage each other with God’s promises: God no longer remembers their sins (Hebrews 10:17-18), God’s Word is powerful and active (4:12), and God is with them (13:5). They especially remind each other that God is with them in their lives and ministry, always (Matthew 28:20) even if they feel isolated. God is with them, even when they are the only Lutheran in a room with 100 other people.

Please keep the Lutherans in Thailand in your prayers, especially their leaders. Pray that they continue to encourage each other with God’s promises. Pray that they continue to stir each other into acts of love. Pray that they continue to gather—and all the more as they see the day of Jesus’s return approaching.

Written by WELS World Missionary to Thailand..

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Faces of Faith – Zag

“John 3:16 says that God loves me, but I did not see or understand it until I started my training. . . Now it is the most precious and special verse to me. God has revealed to me, ‘my love is here’.”

Meet Zag Yaj, a church leader in the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam who is in the second group of 60 students studying to be a pastor. Hear how this training has been “the most rewarding experience in his life” in this special Faces of Faith video.

Learn more about theological training and mission work with the Hmong in Vietnam at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.

Faces of Faith – Num

“Before, I worked hard to earn grace, but I now know grace is free. God sent his son to die for us.”

Meet Num Ntxawg Yaj, a Hmong regional church leader in Vietnam who’s benefiting from WELS’ rural training program. He also began his pastoral studies in July 2023 as a member of the third cohort of students. Hear how this training has revealed the truth that sets him free in this special Faces of Faith video.

Learn more about theological training and mission work with the Hmong in Vietnam at wels.net/vietnam.

Overflowing with opportunities

When 40,000 cars drive past your church’s campus every 24 hours, you know that there will be opportunities to meet people.

That statistic was among the first things I was told about our congregation’s location after being assigned to a mission restart on Long Island, N.Y. Our campus is located more or less dead center on the island, right at the intersection of a main north-south artery and the Long Island Expressway, or “LIE.” (The joke we tell around here is that the lie in LIE is “express.” At rush hour, it resembles the world’s largest parking lot.)

Forty thousand cars a day; close to a million people within a twenty minute driving radius; certainly there’s opportunity for us to meet people! So we put out some new roadside banners and cleaned up our roadside landscaping; we put out a big clothing donation bin; and we pop out for every flat tire that pulls into our parking lot (probably three a week) with a water, a smile, and an invitation to church.

There’s other opportunities to meet people, of course! There’s street fairs and festivals every weekend from June to September, where smiling people from a small, friendly local church can hand out some frisbees and tote bags and. . . you guessed it. . . an invitation to church.

And when you’ve taken all these opportunities to meet people that present themselves, the funny thing is, you end up meeting people!

You meet people who’ve been in church all their lives and people who’ve never darkened the door. You meet people whose home lives are very buttoned up and neat, and people whose home lives are anything but. You meet people who want to ask every question under the sun, and you meet people who fear the sound of their own voice. You meet people who are happy, who are sad, who are kind, and some who aren’t.

And with the eyes that our Savior gives you – eyes like his own eyes – you love them. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them” (Matthew 14:14).

New Yorkers are busy. Every time I leave our island, I see how much more slowly everyone else lives life. Not New Yorkers. Our lives are fast-paced, and our days are full. And being that busy, we don’t always interact well with one another. The caricature of New Yorkers (“I’m walkin’ here!”) isn’t terribly inaccurate. We’re “peopled out.” It can be hard to love at every opportunity when you can easily bump shoulders with hundreds of strangers on a normal day.

But it’s what makes Christians stand out.

New Yorkers guard their affection. It’s doled out sparingly. But the love God puts in our hearts, as his children, doesn’t need to be guarded and measured. We let it spill out, out our front doors and into our commutes and our workplaces, our schools and our supermarkets, and into every interaction we have. Why? Because while we may have new opportunities to meet people every day, we just can’t be sure how many opportunities any one of us has left.

Maybe 40,000 cars don’t drive by your church by every day. Maybe you don’t see new people on every trip to the supermarket. Maybe it doesn’t feel like the same opportunities exist for you to show love. But I promise you, and more importantly, God promises you: They do.

Written by Rev. Timothy Walsh, serving Grace of God Lutheran Church in Dix Hills, N.Y.

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CAMM November 2023 Newsletter

Originally appears on the Central Africa Medical Mission website. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

The Zambian government through the Ministry of Health and its partners is working hard to provide the necessary commodities to end HIV/AIDS by 2030. In Zambia, there are more than 1,190,000 people living with HIV who are on antiretroviral therapy (ART). As of October 2023, the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre services about 892 clients currently on ART, making it the second highest in Shibuyunji Health District.

The facility also offers other services to help eradicate HIV by intensifying identification of new positives, prevention of mother to child transmission, provision of pre-exposure/post-exposure prophylaxis, cervical cancer screening, voluntary male circumcision, viral load monitoring, condom distribution, adult/pediatric nutritional assessment for people living with HIV, and tracking of late clients.

Even though the facility receives support from the Ministry of Health and other implementing partners in the eradication of HIV and AIDS, adult nutrition programs is one area that has not received much funding or support. As the Mwembezhi area is rural and has a high poverty/illiteracy rate, it has been bit of a challenge to implement adult nutrition programs for people living with HIV.

Currently the facility has over 100 clients on HIV treatment with body mass index less than 18, which is below normal rate for an adult. This is mainly related to the non-availability of a nutritious balanced diet in their homes because of they do have the money to purchase adequate food. There is also a lack of understanding regarding the importance of having a balanced diet. Weight, height, and age play a very big role in certain ARV prescriptions and recording such high malnutrition cases hinders and slows boosting of immunity.

After the facility recorded such high numbers of adult malnutrition in many people living with HIV, a staff meeting was held to discuss on how best we can help our clients and some of the interventions than can be put in place before end of December 2023. These measures include:

  1. Continuously give informed information education and communication to not only people living with HIV, but also to the community at large.
  2. Lobby for more height boards and scales to be used during outreach programs so that all client’s height and weight will be assessed regularly to enable early detection of new cases.
  3. To order high energy proteins, an instant porridge fortified with vitamins and minerals for healthy growth
  4. Enforce responsibility in keeping appointments so that monitoring of our clients will be easy and all needs are met on time.
  5. Revamping of the support group for people living with HIV at the facility

As the Zambian government continues adopting tolerated regimens and other models of care with established benefits, our clinic in Zambia,as a health facility and as community health care workers, will continue to put in the effort to meet our patients’ expectations by providing cost effective solutions to help maintain our client’s good health and nutritional status.

Written by Mr. Jackson Kalekwa, Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) clinic officer in charge at the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Mwembezhi, Zambia

 




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Latin America Mission – Fall 2023 Update

As of October 2023, Academia Cristo has two million followers on social media. The social media platforms used by Academia Cristo include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Through these platforms, Academia Cristo manages over 30 million engagements every month. Over a million people have downloaded the Academia Cristo mobile app that launched in February 2020. 2,400 people have completed the self-led courses offered in the mobile app or through WhatsApp since March 2020 and are signed up for live courses. 696 people have completed one live course since March 2020 with a WELS missionary or national partner. 85 students in the Academia Cristo program have gone through a doctrinal agreement process designed for leaders and church planters. There are 29 groups that Academia Cristo leaders have taken through at least seven lessons of a two-year program of worship and study. One congregation formed through the program has joined Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional and several others will soon be reaching the criteria required to apply for membership.

A snapshot of blessings from August through October 2023:

  1. An alternative to the mobile app was identified and tested.
    • Through a platform called respond.io, those interested in studying with Academia Cristo are guided in WhatsApp through the same four self-study courses that have been offered in the app.
    • This alternative, self-study through WhatsApp, produced more students with less spending on advertising. It also offered several other positive features, such as the opportunity to engage with students while they are in the self-study process and collect their contact information.
    • Because of the success of the app alternative, it was decided at the 2023 annual meeting to use this alternative instead of the app.
    • Going forward, the “Self-Study Level” through WhatsApp will be the way for students to move from social media to participating in live courses.
  2. A music summit was held in Quito, Ecuador, with representatives from the Latin America mission team and Multi-Language Productions (MLP). Plans were adopted to produce more hymns and liturgical music for use by church planting groups.
  3. The instruction function of the Latin America team focused on incorporating course and lesson objectives into the Academia Cristo curriculum.
  4. An admissions coordinator was hired to help enhance the student onboarding experience.
  5. A program was started to identify and recruit volunteers and match them with needs within Academia Cristo and church planting groups.
  6. Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional held their first convention in Moca, Dominican Republic.
  7. The Latin America seminary program (Seminario Cristo) is wrapping up year two of test courses and has plans in place for 2024. Artemio Garcia from Mexico is currently teaching Old Testament Isagogics.
  8. Plans are set for Rev. Larry Schlomer to lead the Diaspora Ministry Program, continuing the foundation that was laid by Rev. Carl Leyrer through Hispanic Outreach Project in the United States.

 

 




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Port of calling

“Port is where the heart is.” If you’re stitching a saying onto a pillow or a quilt for a sailor, maybe you can use that one. Port is important: It’s where a sailor reconnects with land and with all the comforts to be found there—if only for a short time, until the ship is ready to sail again.

L to R: Stefan Felgenhauer, Dan Witte, Joel Hoff, Dan Kroll, Keegan Dowling

I was once a sailor on the M/V James R. Barker, a thousand-foot-long freighter ship hauling coal and taconite pellets back and forth across the Great Lakes of North America. Did you know that we have a system of Great Lakes here in Africa, too? My favorite port-of-call was Duluth, Minn. I enjoyed the beautiful book and music shops, as well as Erbert & Gerbert sub sandwiches. However, I had been hoping for more. I had hoped to find a WELS pastor who could visit me and give me communion. But there was a vacancy, a situation far too familiar to many of us in today’s WELS, some 20 years later.

The Port of Douala is one of the greatest port cities on the continent of Africa. In fact, it is the largest city in the country of Cameroon. When it comes to WELS mission work in West Africa, the Port of Douala actually functions like a spiritual port. When several of us missionaries met with pastors in September, only one of them was from Douala. All the rest of us were “ships,” so to speak, coming to Douala simply for the purpose of meeting around the gospel of Jesus Christ! Douala—for WELS mission work—is nothing more and nothing less than a “port of calling.”

Missionaries Dan Witte and Dan Kroll were studying and meeting with pastors from three West African synods: Christ the King and All Saints of Nigeria and the Lutheran Church of Cameroon (LCC). Because of the multi-dimensional security threats present in the region, for the moment WELS missionaries are not able to travel to Nigeria or to Cameroon, apart from just one city in Cameroon: Douala. Because we couldn’t meet them where they were, our brothers came to meet us in port. Missionary Joel Hoff flew in from Zambia, to give a presentation about the very successful TELL online outreach program, which pastors can use both to teach their congregations and to discover new prospects in their own country. Director of Missions Operations Stefan Felgenhauer also flew in from Wisconsin.

Missionary Keegan with Pastor Israel, professor at the seminary of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon

I, Missionary Keegan Dowling, also ended up in Douala, our port of gospel calling. I met with yet a different church body: Holy Trinity Lutheran Synod. They hail from a distant part of Cameroon, where there is a violent and dangerous conflict. Yet, a group of leaders trekked down to Douala, so that we could study the Bible together and talk about Holy Trinity’s mission plans. Holy Trinity is not yet in fellowship with WELS, but this is their desire. So, my job is to work with Holy Trinity along a pathway of studies and discussions that the One Africa Team uses to bring church bodies into fellowship.

An interesting thing about Holy Trinity Lutheran Synod is that many of the leaders and members speak French! In fact, they are our first French-speaking partner church body (although God is blessing our efforts in other parts of francophone Africa, too—stay tuned for future blog posts!) When we “drop anchor” in our “port of calling” we read the Bible together in French. We discuss the issues in French. And outside of class, walking around the Port of Douala, guess what? Missionaries like Pastor Kroll and I get to practice a lot of real-life French! Each trip adds to our capabilities. It further increases our ability to call: to call our fellow sinners to our common Savior throughout French-speaking Africa. This is why the Port of Douala is our “port of calling.” And, God willing, it will be joined by more ports of calling, too.

Written by Rev. Keegan Dowling, world missionary on the One Africa Team, based in Lusaka, Zambia. 

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Medical camp in Kenya planned for February 2024

Originally appears in the Central Africa Medical Mission October 2023 Newsletter. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

The work of the One Africa Team has been blessed as they continue to build relationships with various Lutheran synods throughout Africa. One of those is the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) in Kenya. The synod is led by Pastor Mark Onunda. Pastor Onunda and several other pastors left the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and began the task of building the LCMC from scratch. LCMC is now in fellowship with WELS and has congregations scattered throughout the country. Pastor Onunda spends much of his time on the road, (Kenya is about the size of Texas) encouraging and training leaders and bringing God’s Word to the congregations. We pray God gives him the strength to keep up this monumental effort.

In Zambia and Malawi, our clinics have demonstrated God’s love for all people by looking after their physical and spiritual needs. In fact, part of WELS’ early success in Zambia in the 1960s was due to the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) clinic in Mwembezhi. To help grow the church in Kenya, Pastor Onunda has proposed something similar: a medical camp. The members of thee CAMM stateside committee have prayerfully considered expanding their work to help in Kenya based on several investigative visits by Gary Evans and One Africa Team Missionary John Roebke.

Short term medical camps, which last about a week, are common in Kenya and are used by church organizations to bring people to church properties where they are given physical and spiritual care. A camp might expect to see 3,000 to 4,000 patients over a four- or five-day period. The local government health care agencies support these camps as they are a means of health screening to populations who might otherwise have no access to health care.

CAMM is partnering with the One Africa Team, Christian Aid and Relief, and the LCMC-Kenya to conduct a medical camp in late February 2024. The camp will be held on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church, Kwiangachi, Kirinyaga County, which is located about a 3-hour drive northeast of Nairobi. The church has land, but no buildings, making the camp quite a logistical exercise. Two large 100-seat tents will be provided for shelter and privacy; one will be used as a reception/triage/devotion area and one as a pharmacy. Smaller tents will be used as individual consulting rooms on nutrition, cancer screenings, outpatient services, dental work, eye treatments, and mental health. We will provide the medications and medical supplies. We will also rent port-a-potties and provide a tank for drinking water. Medical staff and some medical equipment will be provided by the government. Transport and accommodation will be provided for staff and volunteers.

The LCMC-Kenya is engaged in much of the ongoing planning and coordination. They will also provide volunteers for security, administration, and making lunch time meals. Pastors from the LCMC-Kenya will hold ongoing devotions and provide pastoral services during each day of the camp. Patients who need follow-up and referral will be directed to go to local health agencies. We have met with Kirinyago County Health Officials who have approved the camp and will provide 25 medical staff, medical equipment, and an ambulance in case of emergencies.

CAMM has agreed to manage the clinic on behalf of the One Africa Team. The camp provides an opportunity for U.S.-based medical and non-medical volunteers to provide assistance. As this is the first of what could be many medical camps, CAMM stateside committee members will be the first set of volunteers to attend the camp. If this camp is successful, we hope to offer similar camps in the future, which will open volunteer opportunities to more WELS members.

Please pray for the success of this camp as it provides an opportunity for healing; and, most importantly, sharing God’s Word with so many people.

Written by Mr. Gary Evans, Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) field director.

 




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What’s the deal with the name?

On Aug. 2 of this year, following a rousing address to convention delegates by Rev. Tonny Quintero of Medellin, Colombia, the hundreds of delegates assembled in the Michigan Lutheran Seminary gymnasium to officially recognize fellowship between WELS and Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional.

I had the privilege of attending the convention with Rev. Quintero (being by his side for what some have called the most energetic 20 minutes in synod convention memory) and was able to hear the warm response both from the convention as a whole and from countless individuals who approached the Colombian visitor with a warmth that transcended the language barrier. One question, though, that did come up multiple times was something to the effect of, “So what’s the deal with the name?” And, “Why wouldn’t the word “Lutheran” appear in the name of a Lutheran church body?”

It’s a fair question. First of all, it is not because the church body is ashamed of its “Lutheran-ness.” Quite the contrary. When I meet with the founders of this synod, the words “luterano confesional” constantly find their way into conversation and the first article of the synod’s constitution proudly proclaims, “El nombre de este Sínodo Luterano Confesional es: Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional.” – The name of this confessional Lutheran Synod is . . .

The founders of this synod chose the name it did not because they have a low regard for being Lutheran, but rather because they have such a high regard for the Lutheran-ness they have received. They love that WELS had such a love for the truth that they brought them a Lutheran-ness that was not degraded by compromising what the Bible says, but that stands on scripture alone. They love that WELS had such a love for the lost that they offered their treasures and talents to send missionaries south to share the precious truths of grace alone and faith alone with them. So, these church leaders brought to faith and to Lutheranism by “us” adopted the name “WELS” in a hope to also emulate the confessional stance and mission zeal of their sister synod to the north.

Additionally, there is one other parallel worth mentioning. The WELS was founded by a tiny group of church leaders who met in equally tiny Granville, Wis., many years ago. When the synod met at convention this past August, there were hundreds of delegates present who represented hundreds of thousands of WELS members from across the country.

The month after I was with Rev. Tonny Quintero in that packed gym in Saginaw, Mich., the two of us traveled to the first annual convention of the Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional in the rural outskirts of Moca, Dominican Republic. The convention there had just 12 attendees. Although the gathering was small, they look forward to the possibility of welcoming many more into their fellowship. As they made their plans Isaiah 55:10-11 came up many times. That group, now so small, made bold plans built on the confidence that the Word will not return empty; plans made with the prayer that their small synod will soon swell with churches formed through the training provided by Academia Cristo.

Written by Rev. Andrew Johnston, world missionary on the Latin America mission team, in Doral, Fla.

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Athens of America

My wife and I were walking in the Boston Logan Airport after returning from a trip and on the wall there was a timeline of many Boston and greater-Boston area inventions. There was a picture of the first disposable blade razor put out by Gillette, a picture of the first microwave oven, a picture of Mark Zuckerberg in his Harvard dorm room inventing Facebook, and those are just a few of many others. Why do you think the city of Boston chose that exhibit to go on the wall of their airport? I wasn’t sitting in on the meetings that decided it, but I would guess it is because Boston is proud of their many inventions. They want you to know, before you have even stepped out of the airport, that Boston is a city of great minds, inventions, and innovation.

What does this have to do with starting a church in Boston? That’s a good question. I think there are several facts about our mission that do make it innovative or different than other settings. For one, WELS has never had a church in Boston. Secondly, seventy-five percent of the people who gathered in our house for Bible study last week don’t own a car. Finally, my wife and I live in the most densely populated city in all New England. Maybe that makes this mission start “innovative.” But the more I thought about it, and the more time you’d spend here, you’d realize that we really aren’t that innovative.

What does your normal day look like? This question is asked all the time, and for good reason; people want to know what it is like starting a mission church in a big city. Again, in so many ways, it isn’t all that inventive. My wife and I find different ways to get involved in the community and meet people, we spend time with people over food, and we grow with them in our love for our community and Savior. We study the Word, we pray for each other, and the Holy Spirit continually uses that Word to work faith in people’s hearts one by one. Do we have to be innovative with how we meet people? Sure. Will we have to be innovative with finding space to have worship when we are ready for that? Probably! But our tools for doing church planting are the same tools that have always been used for church planting – the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’m not sure the first word you would use to describe our small mission church at this time is innovative or inventive. Yes, we have creative people and come up with new ways to reach the community, but our foundation is rooted in the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17). Thanks be to God for this opportunity to share the gospel to the many people of Boston! All involved on starting the church in Boston ask for your continued prayers as we continue to love God and love our neighbor in this great city.

Written by Rev. Joshua Koelpin, home missionary at the new start mission in Boston, Mass.

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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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Your gifts are making a difference in Africa

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

The WELS One Africa Team currently works with established church bodies in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zambia. Your gifts are making a difference for these sister churches as we partner with them in outreach and assist in their theological education programs. Below are just a few specific ways that God is using your support to bring his gospel message to more people throughout Africa:

Constuction on the new school in Ethiopia

  • WELS is supporting the building of an additional elementary school campus that the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia will operate in Gambella, Ethiopia. The current campuses in Dukem serve over 750 students.
  • Missionary John Roebke and his wife, Nancy, assisted with a marriage workshop for pastors and their wives from the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ – Kenya (LCMC–Kenya) alongside LCMC-Kenya President Mark Anariko Onunda. One attendee shared, “It has refreshed our family and taught us new things that will strengthen our staying together and our work in the Lord’s vineyard too. It was a good encouragement.”
  • Missionary Daniel Witte continues to visit various sister churches throughout Africa to provide theological education for pastors, and partner with the LCMC-Kenya to lead workshops for Kenyan lay and called church leaders.
  • Pastors from Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia come together in various locations throughout Africa to study different courses as they work towards a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. A course on marriage was taught in Zambia in June, and another course on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was held recently in Malawi.

Thank you for your support! We pray that God continues to work through WELS’ sister churches and the One Africa Team to change lives in Africa—like those of Eric Kebeno from Soweto, Kenya, and Eunita Odongo, a deaconess in the LCMC-Kenya.

Pray for our African brothers and sisters in the faith as they continue to spread the message of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and love for sinners like you and me. Follow the One Africa Team on Facebook and subscribe to their blogs at oneafricateam.com for updates and stories of the Holy Spirit at work. Ask God to bless the work of the One Africa Team as they help spread the gospel throughout Africa.

Learn more about mission work in Africa at wels.net/africa.

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Taking the gospel to the people

How much time do you spend on the internet every day? Do you know? Is it more than you read your Bible? More than you pray? More than you exercise?

If you’re like me, then the answer to all of these questions is yes. This isn’t meant to be a guilt trip though, but rather to draw our eyes to an opportunity! Yes. God has given us an opportunity in the internet. We could become discouraged by the fact (as I do sometimes) that the internet is stealing our attention from the most important things in life and we should all just set down our phones and computers and enjoy each other’s company. But. . . that’s not the world we live in. We live in a modern age in which technology has improved our lives immensely. And now, as always, we will go to where the people are whether that’s by a river, in a village, on the “other side of town,” or on the internet.

In some parts of the world, like North America, COVID hasn’t been a big deal for a while, but in other parts of the world, mask mandates and PCR tests hung on for a long time. We in Asia felt the full brunt of that. COVID is basically over here now too, but it’s just been in the last six months or so that all restrictions have been lifted. That means that for the past three-plus years pretty much everyone has been doing almost everything on the internet: buying clothes, groceries, watching movies, finding partners, etc.

What does this have to do with the gospel?! Well, #theinternet. That’s how people do everything so that’s where the gospel must go as well. And we must go there and be present there with all our might, in the best way we possibly can.

And so, that’s what we’re doing. Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS) and Multi-Language Productions (MLP) have partnered up to reach all in Asia with God’s grace.

MLP has produced an online training platform called TELL Network. TELL Mandarin is a translated version of the TELL Network high-quality self-study courses called TELL which includes videos and quizzes. TELL Mandarin helps people read and understand God’s Word on their own and then teaches them how to lead others to do the same. MLP has translated and contextualized TELL for a Mandarin speaking audience, so that Mandarin speakers in East Asia and all over the world can learn of God’s love for me. After completing TELL Mandarin, ALS guides these students through its degree programs so that, in the end, they can become church leaders and shepherds for God’s people.

TELL Mandarin has enrolled thousands of students in Asia and the number of those who enroll is growing every day. We thank God for all those precious souls he brings to us through these digital means. We are blessed to be able to have such a far reach with such an incredible tool as TELL Mandarin to educate and bless people all throughout Asia!

Written by Tony Barthels, world missionary for the Asia One Team and recruiter for Asia Lutheran Seminary.

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Being part of the event

“What are some outreach strategies that you use?” “How do you meet new people?”

These are examples of the kind of questions that people ask me when they find out that I’m a pastor at a new church. My answers to these types of questions are usually pretty basic; make friends, work networks, get involved in the community, etc. When people ask those types of questions they are sometimes looking for specifics and ideas. With one year under my belt, I haven’t been at this long enough to know what is effective or not in the long run. However, one of the best outreach strategies that we employ at Amazing Grace started years before I even got here.

The active city of Dickinson has many vendor events throughout the year. Each one is sponsored by a large entity in the city. The Dickinson Press puts on an event called “The Women’s Expo.” The name makes it clear that the event is tailored to appeal to the women of the community. A member of Amazing Grace knows the person who runs the event and made a deal with her five years ago. Amazing Grace will provide entertainment for the children that come to the event in return we get a free booth space. It’s simple, a win for everyone; the mothers can shop or take a break while they or dad brings their children to play, The Dickinson Press has another thing to attract people to the event, and Amazing Grace has a booth presence as thousands of people walk by and are seen as a sponsor of the event.

Some years Amazing Grace sets up arts and crafts tables, other years we bring in a bouncy house. This year we had a bouncy house and six volunteers from the congregation to help manage all of the children. From 9 a.m. through 4 p.m., the bouncy house was full of kids.

So, why is this an effective outreach strategy for us? Maybe you can see it already. The dad or mom stays by the bouncy house to watch their child. This leads to a natural, unintrusive conversation environment. I and the members of Amazing Grace meet so many wonderful people and couples, some of whom are interested in checking out our new church. We had invitations to our launch service on October 15th out on the table if anyone was interested and had exposure to thousands of people in the community. Plus, over the years we’ve built a reputation with a major entity in Dickinson, the Dickinson Press. Five new prospects have connected with us from the most recent Women’s Expo.

Each situation is unique. We can’t run a whole vendor event on our own, but we can provide a valuable service for the event and the community through the Women’s Expo. If you are asking yourself the question, “How can my church meet new people?,” think about providing a service to a big event that’s already happening. Setting up a booth at an event is great, and the way I see it, being a part of the event in any way you can is even better. All of this is to open up more doors into people’s lives so we can share the saving gospel message with them.

Written by Rev. Joel Prange, home missionary at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Dickinson, N.D.

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Giving God the glory. . . on and off the field

Jack Strand is a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bloomer, Wis. Jack played quarterback for Bloomer High School and was recruited to play in college. During the recruiting process, he and his parents, Jim and Veronica, made sure that the colleges that were recruiting him had WELS churches with campus ministries in their areas. It was important to Jack to keep God’s Word, what Jesus called the one thing we need most, at the center of his life.

Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) offered Jack a scholarship to play football. Ascension Lutheran Church was five minutes from the college campus. Rev. Jordan Uhlhorn from Ascension and Rev. Daniel Sprain from Shepherd of the Valley in West Fargo, N.D., lead the campus ministry each Thursday night for college students in the area. He committed to playing football for them in 2022. Jack is now a sophomore at MSUM where he plays football, studies engineering physics, and goes to church and campus ministry.

Another WELS member, Josiah Behm from Appleton, Wis,, is a junior who plays linebacker for the MSUM Dragons football team. Jack and Josiah go to church together on Sundays, the campus ministry studies on Thursdays, and to the various campus ministry events. About ten students attend the campus ministry studies and events. Jack and Josiah’s teammates see that their faith is important to them as they let their lights shine on and off the field.

Here’s what Jack has to say about being a student athlete:

“It gives you a different perspective than a non-Christian student athlete might have, because you are doing everything for a different reason. God says to do all things for his glory, so not only are you playing for other people and earthly reasons, but most importantly to give God glory. Being a student athlete is stressful and takes up a ton of time, so finding time to be in the Word and talk to God can be difficult, but absolutely necessary. It’s a blessing to be able to go to God in prayer in good times and bad. When things aren’t going well, you ask for his guidance and help, and when things are going well, you give him thanks and praise. Being a student athlete is also a great opportunity to let your light shine and show by example how a Christian lives their life.”

Here’s what Jack has to say about what campus ministry means:

“It’s a great opportunity to meet and connect with people your age who have the same faith, beliefs, and values in life as you do. Too often, people get sucked into college life and what they might see and do on campus, and so having a group of students who share the same faith is very valuable while continuing the walk of faith during the college years. Having gone to a public high school, I didn’t know a lot of WELS people my age. Now with campus ministry, I have the opportunity to meet WELS people my age and make friends with them, and continue to strengthen my faith while I’m in college. During our Bible studies we learn, talk to one another, and ‘encourage one another and build one another up’ as Paul said, and it is a blessing from God to be able to do so.”

Written by Rev. James Strand, serving at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Bloomer, Wis., and father to Jack.

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Lutheran Seminary installs principal in Zambia

Originally appears in the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) newsletter. Subscribe to future updates from the CELC at celc.info/signup.

Pastor Davison Mutentami, LCCA-Z Chairman

The Lutheran Church of Central Africa – Zambia (LCCA-Z) joyfully gathered for the installation of Pastor Chibikubantu Simweeleba (pictured center above) as the new principal of the Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia, on Saturday, September 16, 2023. Pastor Simweeleba is the seminary’s fifth principal in its nearly 60-year history. He is the second Zambian national pastor to fill this call.

Seminary Board of Control Chairman Pastor Edward Bangwe officiated at the morning service. Pastor David Baloyi based his sermon on the theme “Be Strong and Courageous!” from Joshua 1:1-9. Following the sermon, several area pastors shared their blessings and encouragement for Principal Simweeleba during a laying-on-of-hands ceremony.

A short program followed the service. LCCA-Z chairman Pastor Davison Mutentami brought the new principal greetings from the synod, encouraging Pastor Simweeleba to be among the synod’s pastors and members as an ambassador for the Seminary. The Simweelebas received well wishes and gifts from the attendees. The festivities concluded with a fellowship luncheon.

Pastor Simweeleba has been a pastor since 2009 and has served on the faculty of the Lutheran Seminary beginning in 2018. His responsibilities as principal will now take him beyond the seminary campus. He will use his experience in ministry to reach the synod’s membership as the face of the Seminary to recruit new students, nurture collaboration with the synod’s pastors and lay leadership, and along with the seminary faculty and the Board of Control, tailor the Seminary’s instructional program to meet the future ministerial needs of the LCCA-Z.

Written by Pastor Anthony Phiri, Dean of the Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia

 




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The brotherhood in Nepal

The gospel creates a brotherhood. Jesus taught the gospel to his twelve disciples. They became his brothers. Yes, Judas betrayed him, forsaking the brotherhood. But when Jesus called Judas, he called him as a brother. Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:34,35).

WELS missionaries enjoy a brotherhood in their mission fields. The Holy Spirit calls them to teach the gospel to church leaders in other nations. As they grow together in the gospel, they become friends and brothers. Yes, some, like Judas, will betray the cause of the gospel. But many will remain loyal. The brotherhood continues.

We enjoy a brotherhood with the church leaders of the CELC of Nepal. Our brotherhood grows when we study God’s Word together. Recently I traveled to Nepal to teach the book of Isaiah to ten church leaders.

We learned the gospel from Isaiah. We learned gospel encouragement from Isaiah. As we studied the call of Isaiah, we thought of ways to encourage others who have a ministry like Isaiah. God called Isaiah to “Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes” (Isaiah 6:10). Isaiah had a difficult ministry, announcing God’s judgment on his unbelieving people.

The students composed messages of encouragement to share with WELS missionaries and national church leaders in difficult situations. The Nepal leaders have also suffered persecution for their Christian faith. Their own experience helped them express their encouragement.

One leader wrote, “I heard you are having trouble in your ministry, sometimes people come to beat you and hinder your work. I’m very sad to hear about that. Sometimes they will blame you with false things. But don’t worry. God is with you. God will help you in your ministry and work there. Don’t be discouraged. God will give you strength. Wherever there is persecution the believers remain. I’m praying for you and your ministry.”

We sent the messages through WhatsApp to our WELS missionaries. They rejoiced to receive such messages. They asked to share the messages with others. The brotherhood grows.

Praise God.

Written by WELS Asia One Team missionary.

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West African kickoff

Originally appears in the One Africa Team blog. Subscribe to future updates from Africa at oneafricateam.com.

A kickoff always signals the start of a football game. From September 2-9, 2023, we kicked off a new organization in Africa. The One Africa Team brought together two leaders from each of WELS’ three partner church bodies in West Africa: Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria, All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria, and the Lutheran Church of Cameroon. These six men sat together to solve some very sticky issues involving budgets, curricula, and staffing of their seminary programs.

We set up a WhatsApp chat group to communicate throughout the week. It was useful for communication about what we had done in the conference room, details about meals, etc. We also came to understand that we could also use this forum for a monthly meeting. Regular communication will greatly assist us in making plans and holding one another accountable so that things get done.

Our biggest topic of conversation was to gain an understanding of the One Africa Team’s vision for quarterly ministry plans. Much has changed since the days when missionaries resided in Nigeria and Cameroon. Due to security, WELS missionaries do not live in West Africa. In those days our partners were quite free to come and tell us, “We need ____ to carry out our ministry.” Then the local missionary would see what he could do to provide it for them.

Now, our West African brothers are writing their own plans. They are very clear about the programs that they are planning to implement. These plans include the purpose of the proposed program and who will be the participants and the teachers. Plans also include where the proposed program will take place and benchmarks to gauge the program’s effectiveness. The focus of ministry planning must remain on reaching people with the gospel. However, detailed estimates of expenses and funding sources are important for successful planning. We now have a good understanding of what our partners need for the upcoming quarter. With some minor adjustments, our partners will be ready to move forward with assistance from the One Africa Team.

We have opened a line of communication between the One Africa Team and the West African leadership group. After the initial kickoff, the ball is now rolling.

Written by Rev. Dan Kroll, world missionary on the One Africa Team and liaison to West Africa

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Faces of Faith – Eunita

“I want to emulate Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ service to his people.”

Meet Eunita Odongo, a deaconess in WELS’ sister church, the Lutheran Congregation in Mission for Christ – Kenya. Hear how she’s giving back to her community and spreading the gospel message in this special Faces of Faith video.

Learn more about mission work in Kenya and throughout the continent of Africa at wels.net/africa.

Faces of Faith – Eric

“Surely, when you find the Lord, life changes.”

Meet Eric Kebeno, baptized member at the Lutheran Congregation in Mission for Christ – Kenya congregation in Soweto. Hear how the gospel has changed his life in this special Faces of Faith video.

Learn more about mission work in Kenya and throughout the continent of Africa at wels.net/africa.

One in Christ

They are home now.

Tired, but home.

Pastor Musa, his wife Mary, and son Nathanael are now back home in Buwembula Village in Eastern Uganda. Back to their family and everything familiar.

For the month of August, they were far from anything familiar. Why? They came to the United States. And what an eye-opening – and taste bud – experience it was! Waffles? What are those? 4-D movie – a what? Cactus? What’s that? Where are all the pedestrians and motorcycle taxis and potholes?

Not only was it their first time in the USA but it was their first trip overseas. If you felt a breeze in the month of August, it may have been from the whirlwind tour that Pastor Musa and his family were on. In addition to the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, they visited seven congregations, eight schools, and the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry in Waukesha, Wis.

The Musa family at the Ark Encounter

A special thank you to the Musa family for also taking the time to visit Peridot-Our Savior’s and East Fork Lutheran schools on the reservations, as well as Open Bible in White River, Ariz., and Immanuel Lutheran Church in Lakeside, Ariz. The kids enjoyed seeing some animals and fish of Uganda, but even more importantly they got to see Ugandan children learning God’s Word, singing God’s praises and dancing for the Lord. Our Apache children had lots to think about after seeing and hearing about the plentiful harvest in Uganda.

God’s Word gave us all something deep to ponder as Pastor Musa based his sermon on Jesus’ prayer found in John 17. One in Christ.

And we think the ark is impressive!? Indeed, it is, but nothing compared to the immensity of God’s grace in Jesus Christ!

One faith. One baptism. One Lord and God. No matter where in the world we are living, as fellow believers we have a tie that binds us: Jesus.

Same Father.

Same Brother.

And that puts us in the same family – God’s family.

After Pastor Musa’s presentation at Open Bible, Rev. Kirk Massey shared his thoughts:

“Over the years I have often been asked to speak about our world mission field here on the Fort Apache and San Carlos reservations, but this is the first time we have had the honor and privilege to have a representative of our WELS world mission fields come to share with us. What a blessing this has been, Pastor and Mrs. Musa! Thank you!”

President Mark Schroeder, Pastor Musa, Nathanael, and Mary

Indeed, a blessing. Thank you, Pastor Musa, Mary, and Nathanael, for making the trip, sparing your time, sharing the Word, and giving us insights into God’s kingdom work in Uganda.

We thank God that you arrived home.

Rest well, my brother and sister. (and our little brother, too!)

Written by Rev. John Holtz, Native Christians counselor for the Native American mission field and former One Africa Team contact to Uganda. 

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Latin America Mission – Quarterly Update

As of July, 2023, Academia Cristo has 1.9 million followers on Facebook, 138,000 followers on Instagram, 18,400 followers on YouTube, and 2,121 followers on TikTok. Academia Cristo manages over 30 million engagements every month through their various communication platforms. Over a million people have downloaded the Academia Cristo mobile app that launched in February 2020. 2,090 people have completed the self-led courses on the mobile app since March 2020 and are signed up for live courses. 667 people have completed one live course since March 2020 with a WELS missionary or national partner. 79 students in the Academia Cristo program have gone through a doctrinal agreement process designed for leaders and church planters. There are 25 groups that Academia Cristo leaders have taken through at least seven lessons of a two-year program of worship and study. There is one official congregation from the program.

A snapshot of blessings from May through July 2023:

  1. Academia Cristo follows an hourglass church multiplication strategy. They try to meet as many people as possible on social media, guide them through an intentional training program, and equip them to plant groups to reach more people. Implementation has begun on changes to the bottom part of our hourglass strategy. These changes focus on revisions to their church planter (Grupo Sembrador) program, where groups gather regularly around God’s Word using a two-year packet of worship and Bible study materials provided by Academia Cristo.
  2. Missionaries guided 39 church planters (sembradores) and four adjunct professors through the divine call process. This was done one-on-one. It included a review of the doctrine of the call, best practices for considering a call, and how to accept or decline a call.
    • All four of those called to serve as adjunct professors accepted their calls (three from Mexico and one from Ecuador).
    • 33 of the 39 who were called to be church planters have accepted (two declined, four are still deliberating). The 33 church planters who accepted are in 11 different Latin American countries.
  3. A plan is in place to start a student services team. It will focus on welcoming students into the Academia Cristo program, setting up live courses, and maintaining student records.
  4. On June 18, 2023, eight students graduated from the Discipleship Two portion of the program. These graduates successfully completed 21 live courses, each with a final project. Several of these graduates will be invited to study in Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional seminary test courses.
  5. The new version of Aprendan de mí, our Bible information course, is almost ready to be sent to Multi-Language Productions (MLP) for production. A specific plan is in place to have the course (videos, teacher’s guides, and student handouts) published by October 2023.




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Faces of Faith – Argentina

Come along with Latin America Missionary Joel Sutton to meet two Academia Cristo students from Argentina: Fabian Gabriel Mandracchia from Rosario, and Luis Bello from Baradero. Hear how the gospel message is changing their lives, and how they’re working with the Latin America mission team to share what they’re learning with those around them.

Learn more about how the Latin America mission team is using Academia Cristo to share the gospel message and make disciples in Latin America at wels.net/latinamerica.

Reflections on Zambia

I had the incredible privilege to travel to Malawi and Zambia in July with three other members of the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) Stateside Committee, Gary and Beth Evans and Stacy Stolzman, to see the clinics operated by CAMM, meet the staff, and observe clinic operations. Gary is currently the CAMM Field Director and oversees the clinics in Malawi and Zambia. This blog shares some of my reflections on our visit to Lusaka, Zambia and the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre.

Beth Evans and Stacy Stolzman packing up boxes from CAMM supporters

Our visit to Zambia began with meeting Alisad Banda, the clinic administrator, whose office is in Lusaka on the same property where the seminary which trains pastors for the Lutheran Church of Central Africa is located. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Public Health Administration and is truly a blessing to the clinic operations in Zambia. Alisad has a gentle and faithful spirit that is on fire for Christ and he is dedicated to serving the people that come to Mwembezhi with Christ-centered health care.

Alisad drove our group out to Mwembezhi, which is in a rural area about a two-hour drive from Lusaka, part of it on dirt roads. Before we departed, we loaded up several boxes which were recently received from CAMM supporters across the country. These boxes contained pill bottles, baby blankets, and baby hats, and we were excited to personally help bring those boxes to the clinic staff. About 160 babies are delivered per year at Mwembezhi, and the new mothers really appreciate receiving the baby blankets and hats that have been donated.

We were met at the clinic by Jackson Kalekwa, the Clinical Officer in Charge, who introduced us to many of the staff and gave us a tour of the clinic buildings, including the pharmacy, lab, examination rooms, and the labor, delivery, and recovery rooms. The onsite staff, which is made up of all Zambian nationals, is led by Jackson, who is very knowledgeable and diligent in ensuring the clinic is run smoothly and that things are in good order. The clinic is part of the Zambian government health system, so the government provides many medications and test equipment to keep the pharmacy and lab well stocked. Mwembezhi has a very good reputation to provide their patients with the medications and health care they need.

Mothers and babies at Mwenbezhi receiving gifts of hats and blankets from staff

It was amazing to walk around the property at Mwembezhi and to learn that it is in the same location where the missionaries to Zambia established a church, Martin Luther Church, and began their outreach in the late 1950s, nearly 70 years ago.

The original church is still in use, but the original clinic building has been renovated and new buildings have been added, some very recently. The new mother’s shelter is bright and clean and is a much improved, comfortable setting for expectant mothers to come for a stay shortly before they are due to give birth. The new staff house, which is modern and well-equipped, looks like it could be a home here in the States. It is waiting for power to be connected before it will be occupied by Mrs. Banda, the midwife.

All of these enhancements to Mwembezhi were only possible due to many donations from churches, schools, and individual supporters, and are critical to continue providing a high standard of quality care at the clinic, which serves around 25,000 patients annually.

As we were leaving the Mwembezhi clinic, a local woman and member of Martin Luther Church named Gertrude stopped by our vehicle to introduce herself and to say “Thank you, thank you so much for all you are doing for us.” Her exuberance, joy in Christ, and her humble thankfulness stands out in my memory. I would like to pass on her words to those of you who have remembered CAMM with your donations and your prayers: Thank you, thank you so much for your support of the Central Africa Medical Mission and the work to address the physical and spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters in Zambia and Malawi!

Written by Vickie Walther, CAMM Development Committee Member. 

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Reflections on Malawi

“You need to be patient!” This is a common phrase used by parents or teachers but what is true patience? During my July visit to Malawi and Zambia with Vickie Walther and Gary and Beth Evans, I was blessed to observe the amazing patience of Central Africa Medical Missions’s (CAMM) clinic patients. Our trips focus was to learn about the Lutheran Mobile Clinic (LMC) in Malawi and Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Zambia to better serve our supporters. I am excited to share a few of our amazing experiences with you.

Clinic each day truly started the night prior when Violet Chikwatu, the nurse in charge, and Lusungu Mwambeye, Clinic Administrator, prepared bins of necessary medical supplies and medications. Each morning, the Lutheran Mobile Clinic staff in Lilongwe loaded the ambulance. On the way to the village of Suzi, we picked up additional staff and completed the 1.25-hour drive to clinic. The dirt roads were an adventure in the ambulance. I celebrated the wonderful driving skills of Vincent who navigated traffic in Lilongwe and the bumps and turns of the roads to the villages.

Upon arrival at Suzi, our staff efficiently set-up the clinic in the church buildings and courtyard while patients were listening to a devotion under the trees from a church elder. The mothers waited in line patiently to have their little ones weighed via a scale hanging from a tree outside of the clinic. Beth Evans and I wandered in the crowd to identify any patients who needed to be moved to the front of the line due to severe illness. The Clinic started and ran smoothly and efficiently. I kept thinking about myself headed to a doctor’s appointment in the US and how I would have been frustrated if taken a few minutes late from my scheduled appointment. These patients had traveled many hours by foot to get to our clinic, waited patiently for clinic to open and then proceeded calmly through each step of clinic (triage, immunizations, doctor visits, pharmacy, etc.). I witnessed a man with severe asthma being assessed and treated by our staff. He was able to leave clinic with the necessary asthma medications for the days ahead. Another former patient with a leg wound came to share with Beth his gratitude for her medical care as his wound was now fully healed. A baby with febrile seizures was seen by Violet and Beth who determined the baby required a transport to a local hospital for additional interventions. Our back-up ambulance transported her there while the other staff cleaned up clinic and took the main ambulance back to Lilongwe. What a blessing to have our two ambulances so this could all happen! the Lutheran Mobile Clinic served 250 patients in five hours at Suzi that day.

Patients waiting in line to be helped

There was no chaos and the staff and patients were calm throughout the whole day. It was a true blessing to observe!

The next day started in the same way at Lilongwe with loading of the ambulance and picking up staff on the 45-minute drive to the village of Mwalaulomwe. So many mothers and babies were waiting and listening to the devotion when we arrived. After devotion, clinic was again up and ready to see patients with ease. Within an hour of opening, three babies were identified as potentially having pneumonia. The ambulance was able to transport them safely to the local hospital. We rejoiced that the mothers were able to connect with our staff and receive the necessary triage at our clinic along with transport to the hospital. I again thought about patience. How long had these babies been ill?

What if clinic was not open that day in Mwalaulomwe. As a mother, I am grateful for urgent cares and medical clinics open 24/7 near my home for my daughters. I am thankful God supported these mothers during their infants’ illnesses and connected them to our medical staff for appropriate medical care and transport.

Words cannot express how thankful I am for the opportunity to travel to Malawi and Zambia to see our clinic staff in action and the patients served. I rejoice in their patience as they waited for care to nourish their body and soul. Please reflect with me this month the words of Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” The Central Africa Medical Mission’s focus of Christ-centered healthcare supporting gospel ministry occurs every day through the support you provide with prayer and donations. Thank you for your support!

Written by Stacy Stolzman, development director for the Central Africa Medical Mission

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How’s it going?

“How’s it going?” Many have asked me that question lately. That likely doesn’t surprise you, because it is such a common, generic greeting employed by many of us. Often, we don’t even expect a real answer. The people who have asked me do want a real answer. They ask for a specific purpose. They know I have experienced a big change – the ministry I serve has experienced a big change. They finish the question like this, “How’s it going working with another pastor?”

In March of 2023, Divine Savior Church – Sienna submitted a request through our district mission board to the Board for Home Missions for an enhancement grant – financial support to allow our church to call for a second pastor. Under God’s careful watch and blessing, the Board for Home Missions granted that request. Our leadership crafted a clear job description for a Pastor of Discipleship, then moved quickly to extend call number one. We knew it was a strong possibility we would need to extend call number two, and three, four, five, maybe more, but God had other plans. Our faithful God worked through that process, Rev. Dan Laitinen was the first pastor we called and he accepted the call. He moved with his family to Sienna in July 2023, and we celebrated his installation on July 30 with worship and a massive serving of Texas-smoked pulled pork.

That celebration kicked off a massive change, both for me and for our ministry. Honestly, I was nervous. How well would we get along? Would I be a good teammate? What information is the most important to share immediately?

So. . . how’s it going? I’m learning how to better communicate, and let go, and many other ways in which I can grow as a pastor. I struggled at first to remember to say, “I’m one of the pastors here.” Yet, all of that puts too much emphasis on myself and Pastor Dan, we are under shepherds. I want to put the emphasis on Jesus, the great Shepherd, and his mission to reach more for his flock.

How’s that going? Incredibly!

As we partner with Divine Savior Academy on our campus, there are so many opportunities for ministry. This year, the school has grown to 350 students in PreK – 11th grade. We anticipate more students next year with the completion of a building project. So much ministry can happen! While I serve 10th graders and teach the Old Testament, Pastor Dan can study the Bible with Kenneth, our security officer, and Keith, our technology specialist, progressing towards membership at Divine Savior Church. While Pastor Dan invites them to his home to encourage and equip Connect Group leaders for our small group ministry, I am the invited guest at the homes of academy parents like Jake and Amanda or Will and Jordan, who take our START class to becomes members. While I take time to engage and interact specifically with worship visitors and guests, Pastor Dan leads a Sunday morning small group study. While Pastor Dan works with our youth group leaders to plan consistent events to connect teens to Christ, I work with the Outreach team to plan our Soccer Camp and Easter Egg Hunt.

How’s it going? Thanks for asking! I have a real answer to give: More kingdom work is happening. More people are equipped to serve in our mission. More souls are connected to Christ!

Written by Rev. Kevin Boushek, home missionary at Divine Savior Church in Sienna, Texas.

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