Apache Mission

The Apache Mission celebrated 125 years of God’s blessings in 2018 as the first world mission of WELS. The Apache Mission is located in eastern Arizona on the Fort Apache Reservation and the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Between the two reservations there are eight churches, one preaching station, and two Lutheran elementary schools. The Apache Lutheran churches are currently training future leaders for work as evangelists, teachers, and pastors through the Apache Christian Training School (ACTS) located at the East Fork Mission. Learn more about WELS mission history on the Apache reservations.

Apache congregations: Congregations at East Fork, Canyon Day, Cibecue, McNary, and Whiteriver on the Fort Apache Reservation to the North continue to be served by one WELS missionary, two native pastors, and one native evangelist. The ACTS Director also resides in East Fork. San Carlos, Peridot, and Bylas congregations on the San Carlos Reservation to the South continue to be served by two WELS missionaries. The Native American Mission field coordinator also resides in Peridot. Each location continues to focus on building Christian leaders for the future long-term stability of the church.

Apache schools: East Fork Lutheran and Peridot-Our Savior’s Lutheran schools both have dedicated staffs of teachers who are sharing God’s Word. There are approximately 145 students on the Fort Apache reservation attending East Fork Lutheran School (K-8) and approximately 130 students living on the San Carlos Apache Reservation attending Peridot-Our Savior’s Lutheran School (K-8). The number of children our schools are serving continues to rise due to the higher academic,well-rounded curriculum, and the Christian education we offer. Our WELS schools are now affordable to more families due to the State of Arizona instituting a voucher system allowing children to attend private schools.

Apache Christian Training School (ACTS): The school currently has about 60 students enrolled.

Fast Facts

  • Baptized members: 3,600
  • Organized congregations: 8
  • Preaching stations: 1
  • Missionaries: 5
  • Teachers: 17 (4 Apache)
  • National pastors: 2
  • Evangelists: 1
  • Apache Christian Training School students: 60

Support Native American missions. Your gift will support theological education through the Apache Christian Training School, outreach to new Native American tribes, property repairs and renovations, and general school and ministry expenses. Select “Native American Missions Special Projects” (for a more general gift) or a specific ministry you’d like to support from the drop-down menu.

Meet the Missionaries

Missionary Dan Rautenberg and his wife Katie both serve on WELS’ first world mission field on the Apache reservations in Arizona. Katie teaches 3rd grade at Peridot-Our Savior’s Lutheran School, and Missionary Rautenberg serves as the Field Coordinator for WELS Native American missions. They are excited to see the progress God has given to the mission field, which has been reorganized and reinvigorated under the banner of Native Christians and is eager to reach out to other Native American Tribes. Missionary Rautenberg coordinates ministries and mentors the staff on the existing Apache mission field and oversees evangelism efforts with our Native missionaries in training.

Missionary Rautenberg previously served as a mission pastor at the Whiteriver Lutheran Church of the Open Bible on the Fort Apache Reservation for nine years, and then served as the Director of the Apache Christian Training School (ACTS) for five years, training Apache leaders for ministry. The entire family moved to the Caribbean Island of Grenada when Missionary Rautenberg accepted a call to serve Grace Lutheran Ministry, an independent congregation and school. They enjoyed serving there until Missionary Rautenberg was called back to the Native American mission field to serve as Field Coordinator.

Missionary Rautenberg and Katie currently live in Peridot, Ariz., on the San Carlos Apache Indian reservation. They have been blessed with four children. Emma is studying medicine at the University of Arizona, Allyana is studying elementary education at Martin Luther College, and Josiah and Samuel are students at Arizona Lutheran Academy.

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missionarybios.

Missionary Dave Bostedt currently serves as pastor at Canyon Day and East Fork Lutheran Churches on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. There are about 600 souls in these churches. He, along with his wife Jo, live on the historic East Fork mission campus. Along with his pastoral duties at congregations, he teaches catechism to the seventh and eighth graders who attend East Fork Lutheran School. He also assists with the teaching of ACTS (Apache Christian Training School) classes, which prepare Apache students for future service as pastors, teachers, evangelists, deaconesses, etc.

During his 35 years of ministry, Missionary Bostedt has served varied and diverse congregations including a mission start in Colorado, tent ministry in Nebraska, a rural congregation in Wisconsin, a retirement-centric church in Florida, and a multi-cultural ministry in Los Angeles.

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missionarybios.

Missionary Gary Lupe is an Apache native, and currently serves as a pastor for two churches on the Fort Apache Indian reservation in Arizona: Shepherd of the Mountain in Cedar Creek and Gethsemane in Cibecue. Missionary Lupe has also been working with the Native America mission team to get more Apache lay people involved in mission work. Missionary Lupe graduated from the Apache Christian Training School (ACTS) in 2011 and became the first Apache pastor to be fully trained at ACTS in conjunction with the Pastoral Studies Institute.

Gary is married to Berlita Mae, who is also Apache. She is a homemaker, but she does work part-time for different departments on the reservation. God has blessed Missionary Lupe and Berlita with 6 children, two of whom were adopted.

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missionarybios.

Missionary Tim Leistekow is a 2018 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Since then, he has served as a missionary to the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona at Peridot Lutheran Church and Grace Lutheran Church in San Carlos. He also supports the ministry of a growing elementary school—Peridot-Our Savior’s—which shares a campus with the Peridot congregation (Peridot is the original WELS world mission field, begun in 1893).

The congregations are trying to encourage and support local ownership of ministry after nearly 130 years of mission work. About 18 months have been spent engaging in a process of church revitalization to help identify ways the members can be involved in congregational ministry. Efforts are also being made to use the school of nearly 150 students as an outreach opportunity: connecting school families to the congregations.

Tim and his wife, Calista, have been married since 2013. They welcomed their first daughter, Rosaleen, in June 2018. Mariah was born in August 2020, and their third child is due in March 2022.

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missionarybios.

Missionary Joseph Dietrich graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 1985 and has served at several locations during his time of ministry. He began at Ascension in Plymouth, Minn., from 1985-1990; Ndola and Lusaka, Zambia from 1991-1997; Michigan State Campus Ministry in Lansing, Mich., from 1997-2004; Trinity in Abita Springs, La., from 2004-2008; and St. Andrew and St. Peter near Medford, Wis., from 2010-2016. Since 2017 Missionary Dietrich has served Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Bylas, Ariz.

Our Savior’s is located on the San Carlos Apache Reservation and has been a congregation since 1920. For many years it had a school of its own, but they now partner with Peridot-Our Savior Lutheran School in Peridot, 25 miles to the west. Missionary Dietrich’s goal as a pastor is to strengthen the congregation in faith and in works of service to be a self-supporting, vibrant congregation proclaiming the Word of Christ to the world.

Missionary Dietrich is married to Debbie, who teaches first grade at Peridot-Our Savior Lutheran School. She also helps in many ways at the congregation: playing music for worship, meeting with the ladies, taking attendance (checking people in to worship) and being an encourager to all she can.

Missionary Dietrich and Debbie have been married for eight years and both have four children. They also have eight grandchildren. Debbie’s children all serve in the ministry in Virginia, California, South Dakota, and Milwaukee. Missionary Dietrich’s children live and work in Wisconsin, Utah, and Taiwan (soon to be Phoenix). Their families are spread out, but they are thankful that they are healthy and blessed in their different careers. Most of all, they are thankful that they all live the Christian faith.

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Praying for Apache Ministry

Please pray for the students of the Apache Christian Training School; for the new youth ministry; and for Apache Christian families, that they stand firm in the face of increasing attacks from those mired in the darkness of traditional religion.