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Hold up the prophet’s hands!

Dear Friend,

Do you remember the hymn verse, “If you cannot be a watchman, standing high on Zion’s wall, pointing out the path to heaven, offering life and peace to all . . . You can be like faithful Aaron, holding up the prophet’s hands” (Christian Worship, 573)?

The reference is from a famous battle recorded in Exodus 17. As long as Moses held his hands up, the Israelites were winning their battle against the Amalekites. When Moses grew tired and lowered them, the Israelites started to lose. The solution: Aaron and Hur held Moses’ hands up, and the victory was won.

Isn’t it interesting how God brought about that victory? He gave Aaron and Hur the opportunity to participate, to play an active role in accomplishing his mission. God still works that way today. WELS sends missionaries to spread the gospel in this country and all around the world, and each of us plays a supportive role. With our prayers and with our offerings, we get to hold up the prophet’s hands.

One way we can assist our home and world missionaries is by supporting the humanitarian aid projects that they use to meet community needs, build relationships, and open doors to sharing the good news about Jesus.

Here is an example: In Toronto, where 50 percent of the population is first-generation immigrants, Hope Lutheran, a home mission congregation, is using a humanitarian aid grant from WELS Christian Aid and Relief to welcome newcomers with love and compassion. In November, a young family showed up at church because they couldn’t find the address they had been given for another building. They had fled from a Muslim country after converting to Christianity. They had no food, clothing, or medical insurance, and were emotionally alone.

The members of Hope were able to assist them and welcome them to worship. The family cried tears of joy as they attended their first Christian worship service. Over time they were all baptized and now attend worship regularly. The mother shared, “We came here with no family and now we have Christian family with you!”

This past year special humanitarian aid gifts enabled us to hold up the prophet’s hands with $357,403 to support additional projects such as:

  • Medical equipment and supplies for health clinics in Thailand, Pakistan, India, and Nepal
  • Fresh water wells for people in India and Zambia
  • Food and medicine for people in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Albania, Mexico, and Indonesia
  • Financial aid for WELS Central Africa Medical Mission
  • Mosquito nets, sewing classes, and textbooks for higher education level students in Nepal

Dear friend, please consider a special offering to fund new humanitarian aid projects for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Thank you for your prayers and ongoing support that hold up the prophet’s hands!

In Christ,
Pastor Robert Hein
Chairman, WELS Christian Aid and Relief
wels.net/relief | facebook.com/WELSChristianAidandRelief

Sharing the Precious Message in Albania

I have a feeling we’re not in Novosibirsk anymore . . .

“You have palm trees!”

It’s such a touristy thing to say, but I can’t help it. We don’t have palm trees in Novosibirsk, Russia. I’ve just landed at the airport in Tirana, Albania. (Albania lies on the Mediterranean Sea, directly east of Italy’s heel.) Seminarian Nikolla Bishka is picking me up in his Ford Focus for the thirty minute drive to his hometown of Durres.

Albanian Pastors (L to R) – Niko, Agron, and Mikel

For the next two weeks “Niko” and I will study Paul’s letter to the Galatians and talk about what it means to serve as a pastor. I’m excited for the new challenge. For the past twenty-one years I have served as a missionary in Siberia. Now I have been asked to do some traveling in order to mentor pastors and seminary students in Russia, Bulgaria, and Albania.

Niko is twenty-six years old, quiet, but friendly. He lives with his parents, Pastor Mikel and Pavlena, and his younger brother Viktor. As we drive along the country’s main highway, Niko tells me how things have changed. The old dictator is gone. Life is better . . . but wages are low and prices are high. Gasoline costs $6.25 a gallon! Students are protesting peacefully in the streets of Tirana demanding improved living conditions. Many people are leaving the country to search for work in Italy or Germany. Religion is allowed. There was a time when all religion was banned. In the 1960s, Christians were imprisoned and even executed for their faith. Now about seventy percent of the population claim to be Muslim, and the rest are nominally Christian. Most of Albanian’s three million souls live in spiritual darkness.

Downtown Durres

Niko drops me off at my hotel which he carefully chose for its low price and beautiful view overlooking the ruins of an ancient Roman theater. We agree to start our studies the next day at the congregation’s rented facilities. I’m grateful for the chance to rest! The trip from Novosibirsk to Tirana takes a full day – three flights, six time zones, and nine hours in the air.

The Durres church is a storefront located right on the city’s main road. Immediately upon entrance, neatly labeled photographs of church members greet me. Niko points out his picture. Then he points out a picture of the congregation’s first pastor, Missionary Richard Russow, with the church’s founding members (2006). The church is decorated for Advent and Christmas.

Mikel (left) and Niko (right) leading worship

With a prayer for God’s blessing, Niko and I dive into our study of Galatians. What a joy! No wonder Martin Luther called this little book his “Katherine von Bora.” Luther loved this letter for its clear comfort: God has saved us by His mercy. There is nothing, NOTHING, we need to add to Christ’s perfect work of rescuing us for life. This freedom lets us love God and people with all our hearts. The people of Albania need to hear this precious message! Something else strikes us as we read Paul’s letter: the apostle dearly loved the people he served. He writes with such emotion as he urges his people to believe God’s truth and to reject Satan’s lies.

May God give Niko and all of us that same love for God’s word and God’s people! Please pray that God would give Niko many years of gospel service. Pray that God will lead many Albanian people to freedom in Christ!

Written by: Rev. Luke Wolfgramm, Missionary in Russia

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