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 one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
Long distance relationships are difficult. It’s hard when two people attend college three states away from each other. It’s a challenge when grandparents live on the opposite side of the country from their grandkids. Video calls help, but there’s simply no substitute for being there in person to give or receive a hug or to get down on the floor and build a fort with your grandkids.
In my early years of ministry, I was surrounded by fellow WELS pastors and congregations who could provide advice, encouragement, and a listening ear. We often gathered around God’s Word to share our struggles and be refreshed through God’s promises fulfilled in Christ Jesus. It was important to be there in person. Separation is difficult when you’re part of a family.
This is a real problem that many of the pastors and congregations of our worldwide fellowship, the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC), often face. They are far from their brothers and sisters in Christ—isolated, alone. For the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church of Albania, their closest CELC neighbors are at least three countries away! For the CELC pastors in Australia, getting together requires a 15-20-hour flight.
Our CELC brothers and sisters aim to meet together by region (Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America) every other year. Every third year there is a worldwide convention. Just like us, they want to see each other, study Scripture together, hug each other, bear each other’s burdens, celebrate each other’s successes, and give thanks to God together that they are not alone in this world. It means so much to see face to face that others share your faith.
As Pastor Holger Weiß, chairman of the CELC Europe Region said, we are “small in numbers. In our countries, we feel rather isolated. Gathering brings us great blessings. We are comforted that there are more of us. We can study God’s Word together, pray together, and encourage each other to continue in the faith and to spread the gospel.”
High travel costs are an obstacle for many of these smaller church bodies—an obstacle that we in WELS can help them overcome! Please consider making a gift today to support these gatherings. In the words of Pastor Davison Mutentami of CELC Africa, your donation makes it possible to “build a strong fellowship among member churches and encourage them to uphold the Lutheran heritage. They create a unity of purpose. They help us to discuss reaching out.”
As COVID-19 restrictions fade, families enjoy being together again. Our brothers and sisters of the CELC look forward to that too! Please pray for these fellow believers in Jesus and consider a contribution that will allow them to take their brother or sister in Christ by the hand and say, “It’s so good to see you.”
Rev. James Danell
Chairman, Commission on Inter-Church Relations