A Time for Thanks
Normally, when we do something to help or benefit someone else, our motivation is not to receive thanks. Our motivation is to show Christian love and to do something for someone with no hope of receiving anything in return.
But no one would deny that we do welcome it when people thank us for our kindness and acts of love. It assures us that what we did really means something and is appreciated.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit several of our sister churches in Africa. While I was there, I was able to attend the very first meeting of representatives from our five sister church bodies in Africa. All five African synods were either begun as a result of WELS mission efforts or have been supported by WELS World Missions. For three days, pastors and several lay representatives from Zambia, Malawi, Nigeria, and Cameroon met together to share ministry challenges, to discuss biblical doctrine, and to encourage one another in their mission of proclaiming the saving gospel.
Near the end of the conference, one of the lay members in attendance asked the chairman if he could address the group—especially his American brothers. He was an older man, and he made his way slowly to the center aisle of the chapel. When he got to the aisle, he knelt down on both knees. I will never forget what he said.
He began to speak in a firm voice. “I know that when you see me kneeling, you are probably assuming that I am going to ask you for something. You are probably assuming that I will be asking for more help for your African brothers and sisters. But that is not why I am kneeling. I am kneeling first of all to thank God for his grace. But I am also kneeling to express our thanks to our brothers and sisters in the Wisconsin Synod. It is because of your love and generosity that today, here in Zambia, we have the pure Word of God. It is because of your work and your gifts that today we know the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. So, on behalf of all of us here, I want to thank you for all you have done. And I ask that you convey those thanks to all of the members of the Wisconsin Synod.”
We do not work to carry out the mission God has given us to receive thanks. The very fact that God has given us the privilege of doing this work is something for which we can and should be thankful. But even though we do not do this work to be thanked, it is a special blessing to hear words of appreciation from people who recognize the special treasure that God has given to them, a treasure that we have been privileged to share.
As we work together on the mission God has given us, we know that the gospel is being shared with people whom we may never meet this side of heaven—both here at home in the United States and also around the world. We should never forget the impact that this work has on people—an eternal impact—for which they are truly grateful to God and to us.
I join our African brother in thanking you for your support of our mission efforts through your prayers and through your offerings. I know that you don’t do it for the thanks, but you should know that your work in the Lord is not in vain and that it is truly much appreciated.
Let us continue to work so that every neighbor and every nation hears the gospel message about the One who saves.
Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.
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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016
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