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God’s blessings in East Asia in 2020

Dear Family of Believers,

In Chinese culture, there’s a common response to compliments and thank yous. You say, “Where? Where?” to deflect the praise. It is as if you don’t understand where this praise is coming from or to whom is it being directed. “It can’t be me; I didn’t do anything.”

When I think of the amazing ways our Lord Jesus has blessed our field this year, I have to say thank you to you. And as I do I can’t help but think of the phrase, “Where? Where?” This instant deflection of praise is also part of Christian culture. I truly am grateful for your support and your prayers and yet Christians say, “Where? Where? Who really did that?”

How have we been able to relocate the team and refocus our work as the East Asia One Team?

How have we been able to increase the number of teachers and therefore double the number of students we can reach?

How have we been able to, through a new media specialist, reach and enroll 200 new students for online courses?

How was Asia Lutheran Seminary able to confer 21 Biblical Language Certificates, 6 Biblical Theology Degrees, and 9 Masters of Divinity degrees on November 8 to Christians serving the church?

How has our social media reached nearly half a million people through devotions, prayers, and Bible study materials?

How have we been able to rewrite our courses to reach more students online with an emphasis on immediately using what they learn in the groups they serve?

How? Where is the help coming from? From you. Through your prayers and support. And you say, “Where? Where? Not me—from our loving God.” In all these big things God is blessing the work in East Asia so that East Asian Christians can share Jesus’ love and salvation, one to another.

Brothers and sisters, as you sit down and give thanks for all of God’s blessings this Thanksgiving, we ask you to continue to pray to God on our behalf and thank him for all the prayers he has already answered for East Asia. If you haven’t had the opportunity yet, please consider making a gift today as we watch God’s plan unfold. Where does my help come from? “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

Serving Jesus,
Peter
East Asia Missionary

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What in the world is God up to now?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The East Asia missions team continues to teach, train, and share God’s Word, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. I teach East Asian Christians how to lead a Bible study. When I’ve asked them to share their reason for attending the class, here is what they’ve said:

“My wife brought to me to faith by bringing me to the church. I knew God, but I had a lot of confusion. So, when our group found Asia Lutheran Seminary, we found clarity in the teaching. I could see it was from God’s Word. I didn’t only want to know it for myself. I wanted to help start a new group. Asia Lutheran Seminary teaches me what I need to know so that I can start a new group of Christians and lead them.”

“I have this fear that I’ll teach the wrong thing about God’s Word and that I won’t know the answer to a question a student will ask. This class can show me what to do so that I can lead Bible studies with confidence.”

“I want to give our leader a break. He does all the preaching and teaching. If I can learn from Asia Lutheran Seminary, I can let him rest and can help lead.”

It’s amazing how I always learn from my students. Their hearts are on fire for the gospel, but they face fears that many of us have: “I want to help, but I don’t know how.” After they’ve been taught God’s truths locally, they learn how to serve.

It is through efforts like these that the East Asia team continues to build up and encourage more individuals with solid, scriptural training. Some of those equipped to serve their church will go on for further training to become pastors, but—like in the United States—we also need strong and eager lay leaders. It’s a part of the bigger plan. It wouldn’t work if everyone became a pastor. We are confident these members will continue to share the good news of Jesus with hearts on fire.

As we carry out this ministry, we are so grateful for the prayers and offerings of WELS members like YOU. Please help us continue this important work with a special gift supporting Christ’s work in East Asia and beyond. Please also watch for a mailing in coming weeks that shares the details of our WELS mission work in East Asia!

Serving Jesus together,
Peter
East Asia Missionary

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I’ll miss the mission, but will she miss me?

I’ll miss the mission. . . but I am so thankful to God that I didn’t miss the mission. Almost 37 years ago, I was given a chance to do something that most Christians can only dream of doing. God called me to leave my fork and spoon behind so I could learn to use chopsticks. God asked me to lay aside English to learn one of the most complicated languages Babel ever produced.

I’ll miss the mission. When my wife and I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, we were met by a family with whom I have now served 36 years. No one could have prepared me for the exhilaration of being able to sing “Jesus loves me” in another tongue. No one could have gotten me ready for the deep thankfulness to God I would feel over the first convert in my work that he allowed me to see. God used me to help nurture a national church that is now a sister church with WELS.

Seventeen years ago God called us to Hong Kong. I have had the chance to live in a Chinese culture which was stir fried with British colonialism. I followed up on work done by great men who had gone before. The part of the city where we live and work is called Kowloon—literally “nine dragons”. These dragons may be a symbol of power, but one Lord is greater in power than them all—and filled with a grace found only in him. South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM), your sister church in Hong Kong, stands with us in proclaiming this truth.

I’ll miss the mission. I’ve had the chance to help nurture church leaders in East Asia. They’ve endured much pressure from the outside, and challenges from within. Like most of the world these past few months, they have had to temporarily suspend their face-to-face gatherings. Yet online worship and classes continue. While Christianity is gradually on the wane in much of the world, seeds planted by many faithful workers continue to expand.

When COVID-19 was starting to ravage the U.S., these churches got together and sent thousands of face masks to their brothers and sisters in the states. I won’t miss SARS or COVID-19, but I will miss seeing up close the worldwide body of Christ at work.

But will the mission miss me? We’re getting ready to retire soon. Retiring makes me wonder, will they miss me? Will the work go on without a hitch? Deep down my  human nature wants to believe things will slow down without me. I want to believe in my importance. But God doesn’t see things that way. And thankfully he doesn’t see me that way.

It has been so humbling to realize how little you can actually accomplish in several decades. It’s also awe-inspiring how much God can do through the people he has chosen to use. To whichever continent God leads them, your missionaries share in this kind of experience. This is the shared experience of all who follow God wherever he leads them.

God makes sure that the mission won’t be lacking when one man retires. When God raises up a leader, he already has in mind the servant who will follow. We sow the seed. We water the new life that sprouts. We harvest as God pleases. And then another follows. Moses and Joshua. Paul and Timothy. Your retired missionaries are followed by new men with new gifts for a new age. And we all serve one Lord.

I’ll miss the mission, but she will go with me wherever I go. And God’s Kingdom will come.

Written by Rob Siirila, missionary in Hong Kong

 

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Bad things with good purposes

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

In January 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak in China was terrible news for Hong Kong citizens. When we read the news of a new, deadly virus, we all recalled the memories of SARs in 2003.

The Spring Festival in China has been called the largest annual human migration in the world. People travel back to their hometown to celebrate the Spring Festival. In early 2020, it was expected that three billion Chinese citizens would take trips home during the Spring Festival. We were afraid that the Spring Festival traveling would make the COVID-19 pandemic worse. Hong Kong citizens have almost daily interactions with China. Students and the working class travel across borders every day. We all remembered that the SARs virus in 2003 was brought across the border, and the outbreak in Hong Kong caused huge loss of life. But due to that experience, we took immediate action and started wearing face masks in public areas. God uses our painful experience to prepare us for today.

Learning Greek online!

When we read the headlines, the number of cases increased every day. People ran to supermarket bought toilet papers, rice, canned food, etc. Schools, libraries, parks, and government offices were closed. Our city became so quiet! The busy downtown area had very few pedestrians, restaurants had a lot of empty tables, and you could even get a seat in buses and trains. That is very abnormal in Hong Kong! No classes, no social gatherings! We were encouraged to stay home to save lives. Our busy life was slowed down. Was it bad?

God turns bad things to good! We had plenty of time at home with quality time to read books and devotions. Parents had time to talk to their children. We had time to think about our friends, relatives, and neighbors. I wrote emails and messages to friends in Hong Kong and overseas. We live far away, but God connects us together with His good news.

The COVID-19 virus is teaching us to be humble! The headlines reported even celebrities tested positive. Despite their wealth and fame, no one was safe from this virus. People are busy running businesses, earning money, hoping to buy a big house, and find different ways to climb up the social hierarchy. All those things can’t help us: only God helps! Only God is more powerful than the COVID-19! Seek God’s mercy!

Bible classes and worships are stopped physically, but we put classes and worship online. We realize that people need to keep the physical distance, but God gives technology to draw us close to him. We need to be thankful to have social media and technology to broadcast God’s messages. Can you imagine if we didn’t have Facebook, Zoom, Instagram, and WeChat in our daily life? God teaches us gratitude.

We can’t stop the pandemic, but God controls it! No matter how fast the high-speed trains and air jets are, we are all stuck at home and can’t travel. We’re thankful to medical professionals that save many lives through their innovations, but we don’t have a method to cure COVID-19.

We are mortal, but God gives us eternal life. God uses the bad things for good purposes! Even in your worst-case scenario, God is still with you. We have time to have come close to God and to have quality spiritual life with family and friends. Don’t wait! Tell your friends about God’s good news: God is greater than COVID-19!

Written by Yvonne Yeung, senior editor for Multi-Language Productions in Hong Kong

 

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WELS World Missions updates – October 2018

WELS World Missions updates 

East Asia 

As the Lord blesses the outreach efforts in East Asia and Hong Kong, two new missionaries have been called to serve. Michael Smith (pictured) was commissioned to serve at Asia Lutheran Seminary in Hong Kong in May. Smith previously served as dean of students and New Testament professor at Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary, Mankato, Minn., the Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s seminary. Joining four WELS professors and one national instructor, Smith will teach New Testament courses at Asia Lutheran Seminary.  

In July, Stephen Wiesenauer was commissioned to serve as missionary to East Asia. Earlier this year Wiesenauer completed the colloquy process to become a WELS pastor, after having previously served as a mission developer in East Asia. Wiesenauer will be assisting with the church planting and multiplication effort occurring throughout East Asia.  


One Africa Team  

Stefan Felgenhauer was recently hired to serve as the new director of Africa missions operations. This new layman’s role will take over business operations for the One Africa Team to allow the missionaries to focus more on gospel outreach. Felgenhauer previously lived and served in Malawi as business manager for the Malawi mission field and as field manager for Kingdom Workers. Stefan, his wife, Kathy, and their three children have moved back to Africa, with Lusaka, Zambia, serving as the base of operations. The Felgenhauers are pictured with Kathy’s brother, Wayne Uhlhorn, at Stefan’s commissioning. 

The current political situation in Cameroon, Africa, has created great difficulties for WELS’ Christian brothers and sisters of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon (LCC). The conflict and violence between the English-speaking and French-speaking regions of the country has not ceased, and for that reason WELS missionary to Cameroon, Dan Kroll and his wife, Karen, have been temporarily relocated to Lilongwe, Malawi, while the situation on the ground is being assessed. “We pray that God continue to strengthen members of the LCC and for resolution to the conflict, so our world missionary can return to serve alongside our brothers and sisters in the faith,” says Larry Schlomer, administrator for WELS World Missions. 


Apache 

The Apache mission is celebrating 125 years of God’s blessings in 2018 as the first world mission of WELS. Anniversary celebrations on the reservations are planned for Oct. 26–28. Visit nativechristians.org to find out all the details. 

In May, Timothy Leistekow (pictured at his commissioning in July) was assigned out of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to serve Grace, San Carlos, Ariz., and Peridot, Peridot, Ariz. He joins four other world missionaries and two national pastors serving the White Mountain Apache Reservation and the San Carlos Apache Reservation through eight churches, one preaching station, and two Lutheran elementary schools.  


Pakistan 

This past August, a ten-day Bible institute/seminary class was held for 11 men and some of their wives in Pakistan via the Internet. WELS’ friendly counselor to Pakistan and his contact, both based in the U.S., taught the class from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day so it could be held during the daytime hours in Pakistan. The goal is for the men to visit four to five different house churches every week and teach what they learned. There are 56 house churches total. The women will teach the children in Sunday school. The next class is planned for January 2019. Read more about this experience in a Missions blog, wels.net/sun-at-midnight 


Learn more about WELS Missions at wels.net/missions. 


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Author:
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Graduation at Asia Lutheran Seminary

Six men from East Asia were among 27 students who received a degree or certificate in October from Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS), Hong Kong, at the school’s seventh graduation since it was established in 2005.

According to Dr. Steven Witte, ALS president, this is the first ALS graduation that includes pastors who do not live in Hong Kong. “These six students planted eight groups and five local churches during their student years,” he says. “Now they are no longer full-time workers and full-time students—just-full time workers. So things should pick up in terms of planting additional groups in East Asia.”

Ten men—including the six men from East Asia—received Master of Divinity degrees (which means that they are fully trained to serve as pastors); eight received Bachelor of Theology degrees. Others received degrees in Christian Studies as well as certificates for Greek and Hebrew.

Special guests at the graduation included Larry Schlomer, Board for World Missions administrator, as well as members of the East Asia Administrative Committee. “Being a part of the gathering of former mission leaders, national church members, our current mission team, and the friends and families of the students was unforgettable,” says Schlomer. “The prayers and efforts of so many people were blessed in a truly remarkable way. These young graduates will be carrying on the gospel ministry in so many places we cannot go for decades.”

According to Witte, ALS graduates serve in various ways. Some are full-time workers in the nine established congregations in South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM), WELS’ sister synod in Hong Kong; others are starting groups that will eventually turn into local congregations. Many are laypeople who are looking for a deeper understanding of confessional Lutheranism as they serve in leadership roles in their local congregations.

Schlomer says training national workers is a top priority in WELS mission work. “We don’t know how long governments, finances, or persecution will let our missionaries be present. Entrusting this work to reliable men fits the instructions our Lord has given to his church on earth and allows the gospel to be carried on in languages and cultures beyond our own.”

Currently, 53 students are attending Asia Lutheran Seminary, most part time or for single subjects. Another 11 full-time and 24 part-time students are taking courses through a satellite seminary in East Asia. ALS also works closely with Multi-Language Publications to provide theological courses to equip current and future translators of Christian literature. It has also developed an online course in Chinese called “Bible background” that has reached more than 20,000 people in East Asia.

 


WELS president visits ALS

WELS President Mark Schroeder traveled to Asia Lutheran Seminary the week before graduation to visit with the students and staff and meet with SALEM leaders. “It meant a lot for the students to see Pres. Schroeder at ALS,” says Witte. “It helped them know that WELS values ALS and the work they are doing as students—and especially the work they are doing in the kingdom. We tell the students that there are many in America who know about them, pray for them, and support them, but seeing Pres. Schroeder really helped put weight to those words.”

Schroeder says he was greatly encouraged by the graduation of fully-trained pastors from

East Asia and by the work ALS is doing to train future workers. “It is especially encouraging for me to see the work that is being done through the faithful and generous support of WELS members, who through their gifts are taking the gospel to places they will never visit and to people they will never meet until they gather with them around the throne of the Lamb.”

 


SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author:
Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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