Six men from East Asia were among 27 students who received a degree or certificate in October from Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS), Hong Kong, at the school’s seventh graduation since it was established in 2005.
According to Dr. Steven Witte, ALS president, this is the first ALS graduation that includes pastors who do not live in Hong Kong. “These six students planted eight groups and five local churches during their student years,” he says. “Now they are no longer full-time workers and full-time students—just-full time workers. So things should pick up in terms of planting additional groups in East Asia.”
Ten men—including the six men from East Asia—received Master of Divinity degrees (which means that they are fully trained to serve as pastors); eight received Bachelor of Theology degrees. Others received degrees in Christian Studies as well as certificates for Greek and Hebrew.
Special guests at the graduation included Larry Schlomer, Board for World Missions administrator, as well as members of the East Asia Administrative Committee. “Being a part of the gathering of former mission leaders, national church members, our current mission team, and the friends and families of the students was unforgettable,” says Schlomer. “The prayers and efforts of so many people were blessed in a truly remarkable way. These young graduates will be carrying on the gospel ministry in so many places we cannot go for decades.”
According to Witte, ALS graduates serve in various ways. Some are full-time workers in the nine established congregations in South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM), WELS’ sister synod in Hong Kong; others are starting groups that will eventually turn into local congregations. Many are laypeople who are looking for a deeper understanding of confessional Lutheranism as they serve in leadership roles in their local congregations.
Schlomer says training national workers is a top priority in WELS mission work. “We don’t know how long governments, finances, or persecution will let our missionaries be present. Entrusting this work to reliable men fits the instructions our Lord has given to his church on earth and allows the gospel to be carried on in languages and cultures beyond our own.”
Currently, 53 students are attending Asia Lutheran Seminary, most part time or for single subjects. Another 11 full-time and 24 part-time students are taking courses through a satellite seminary in East Asia. ALS also works closely with Multi-Language Publications to provide theological courses to equip current and future translators of Christian literature. It has also developed an online course in Chinese called “Bible background” that has reached more than 20,000 people in East Asia.
WELS president visits ALS
WELS President Mark Schroeder traveled to Asia Lutheran Seminary the week before graduation to visit with the students and staff and meet with SALEM leaders. “It meant a lot for the students to see Pres. Schroeder at ALS,” says Witte. “It helped them know that WELS values ALS and the work they are doing as students—and especially the work they are doing in the kingdom. We tell the students that there are many in America who know about them, pray for them, and support them, but seeing Pres. Schroeder really helped put weight to those words.”
Schroeder says he was greatly encouraged by the graduation of fully-trained pastors from
East Asia and by the work ALS is doing to train future workers. “It is especially encouraging for me to see the work that is being done through the faithful and generous support of WELS members, who through their gifts are taking the gospel to places they will never visit and to people they will never meet until they gather with them around the throne of the Lamb.”
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Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017
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