Native American Missions

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). Learn more about WELS mission history on Native American reservations.

Native Christians:  In thanksgiving to God for 125 years, Native Christians was formed to reach out to other Native American Tribes. Apache Christians are ready to serve as missionaries to the 572 tribes in the U.S. and more in Canada. The first outreach effort will be to the four corners area where there are four tribes and four colleges. Visit for more information.

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 discipleship and worker training coordinator also resides at 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. The focus of the mission field continues to be training and equipping Native American Christians for leadership and service in God’s Kingdom.

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 100 students on the Fort Apache reservation attending East Fork Lutheran School (K-8) and approximately 155 students living on the San Carlos Apache Reservation attending Peridot-Our Savior’s Lutheran School (K-8). 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 adults enrolled.

Fast Facts

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

Download the latest world mission field overviews.

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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.

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Missionary John Holtz currently serves as a Native Christians Counselor on the Native American Mission. He and his wife Mindy live in East Fork on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona.

Missionary Holtz graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 1989. His first call was to serve Mt. Olive in Iron Mountain, Mich. Then in 1997, the Lord called Missionary Holtz to the mission field in Zambia, Africa. He served there from 1997-2008, serving as a supervising pastor to congregations in the rural areas of the Eastern Province. In 2008 the Holtz’s moved to Malawi, Africa, where Missionary Holtz served on the One Africa Team until 2022 when he joined the Native American Mission team.

John and Mindy have two adult daughters: Rachel and Heather. The girls spent their childhood in Africa but now reside in the U.S. Rachel and husband Christopher live in Hendersonville, N.C., and Heather lives in Durham, N.C.

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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.

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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.

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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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Missionary Kirk Massey, Jr. serves at The Lutheran Church of the Open Bible in Whiteriver, Ariz., and Shepherd in the Pines in McNary, Ariz. He has been serving there since 2015. He graduated from the Native Christian’s Apache Christian Training School in 2014 and the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) in 2015.

Missionary Massey and his wife, Sheree, previously served as staff ministers at East Fork Lutheran High School, and he previously served as the Native American Field Coordinator. Prior to serving, Missionary Massey worked on a couple of research projects with the Centers for American Indian Health, a satellite project under John Hopkins University.

They have five children. Michael (25) is in the tribal workforce. Marcus (19) is in his second year at Northern Arizona University studying finance. Leah (14) is a freshman at Arizona Lutheran Academy. Lindsey (12) is in 7th grade and Meghan (7) is in 2nd grade at East Fork Lutheran School. Sheree is working as Project Coordinator for the Apache Kingdom Workers.

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Praying for Native American Missions

Dear Heavenly Father, please raise up strong Christian leaders among the Native American people for the advancement of your kingdom. Give wisdom to the missionaries as they make plans for outreach efforts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.