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Relief work from storms in Iowa continues

Cleanup is continuing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, from storms that blew through the Midwest on Monday, Aug. 10.

The line of storms, called a derecho, had sustained winds of more than 100 miles per hour and damaged homes, downed trees, and left hundreds of thousands in Iowa without power. Good Shepherd, the WELS church in Cedar Rapids, sustained major roof damage and felled trees; most of its members also had extensive cleanup to do on their properties.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief and Good Shepherd quickly organized a work weekend and recruited volunteers to clean up the church property as well as the yards of members and their neighbors and friends. More than 50 people, including members of Good Shepherd and WELS members who traveled to the area, gathered last weekend to help.

“The devastation is immense; it’s hard to believe,” says Rev. Dan Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief, who also volunteered at the work weekend. “There are massive trees down everywhere—lying on houses, on cars, on sheds, on driveways.”

Volunteers went out in groups to clear trees and pick up debris. “I was working alongside of members of Good Shepherd who hadn’t touched their own yards yet,” says Sims. “They had trees down too, but they were out helping other people. It was heartwarming to see.”

He continues, “When you are servants of Jesus going out and helping those in need—it really makes an impression on people.”

WELS Christian Aid and Relief and Good Shepherd are organizing another work weekend Aug. 21–23 to continue cleaning up at the church and area homes. For more information or to volunteer, visit facebook.com/WELSChristianAidAndRelief/.

 

Derecho in Cedar Rapids, IA

 

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WELS Christian Aid and Relief makes humanitarian aid grants

WELS Christian Aid and Relief announced it has granted $455,919 to humanitarian aid projects in WELS mission fields around the world for fiscal year 2020-21.

Projects are developed by WELS home and world missionaries to reflect Christ’s love to the people of their community and open doors to share the gospel. Major items include support for health clinics, borehole drilling to provide clean water, home-based care for the chronically ill and dying, food assistance, adult literacy classes, food and nutrition to orphans and refugees, and medical equipment.

While many projects are ongoing and renewed annually, Rev. Robert Hein, chairman of Christian Aid and Relief, says, “This year we approved more grants from our home missions, especially as they minister to people in cross-cultural situations, such as providing backpacks to needy children for school.”

“Many of the people we serve are lacking in essentials like clean water, food, basic health care, and other supplies. God meets their physical needs through our efforts and they also have the opportunity to learn about their Savior, who met our greatest need,” Hein explains, “All humanitarian aid projects start with our missionaries in the field. They develop projects to meet community needs and build relationships to share the gospel with the people they serve. All requests are reviewed by our mission leaders and then brought to our commission for funding.”

He continues, “Meeting community needs is a great way to put Christ’s love into action. As we address physical needs, our missionaries also have opportunities to share the good news about Jesus with the people of their community. We are always looking for ways to make a positive impact on our communities.”

WELS members can support the work of WELS Christian Aid and Relief through prayers and offerings. In addition to humanitarian aid grants, the organization also provides disaster relief and medical financial emergency grants to people in need.

View a complete list of humanitarian aid projects supported by WELS Christian Aid and Relief through your offerings.

 

 

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Christian Aid and Relief assists in Midland

Holy Scripture, Midland, Mich., part of WELS’ sister synod the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, has been impacted by floodwaters three times in the last 40 years, but the recent flooding that hit Midland was by far the most catastrophic.

On May 19 and 20, floodwaters from heavy rains and two failed dams swept through the area, resulting in waist-deep water throughout the church. The parsonage, home to Rev. Paul Schneider and his wife, Barbara, was also flooded. The flood impacted a multitude of families in the area around the church, including members of Holy Scripture and nearby Good Shepherd, the area WELS church. The damage to the entire affected area is estimated to be over $175 million.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief quickly assessed the situation in Midland and deployed aid. Assisted by the leadership team of Good Shepherd and 95 volunteers, the Christian Aid and Relief team worked to clean out and sanitize the homes of 15 families.

“God is still in control,” says Schneider, after surveying the extensive damage to Holy Scripture and its furnishings, including the loss of all the hymnals and most of the Bibles. “The church is not just a building. The holy Christian church is all believers. We are going to survive. We are going to continue to serve our Lord, with his help and strength.”

Multiple WELS congregations answered the call to assist their Midland brothers and sisters by donating replacement hymnals and Bibles. One congregation offered to donate funds that had been earmarked for its summer church programming, which was canceled due to COVID-19. WELS members throughout the Michigan District also gifted items like vehicles and appliances.

In the weeks ahead, Midland families will also need financial support so they can hire professionals to provide services to make their homes livable.

Elizabeth Zambo from WELS Christian Aid and Relief talks about the eternal blessings that have come out of this devastating situation: “During times like these, people may be more receptive as we share the gospel message and the hope that we have in our Savior, Jesus.”

Christian Aid and Relief chairman, Rev. Robert Hein, says, “When natural disasters strike, such as the broken dams in Midland, WELS Christian Aid and Relief is eager to offer financial help and volunteers to assist the recovery efforts of our local congregations. It’s a great way to put Christ’s love into action.”

To support WELS Christian Aid and Relief efforts in Midland, you can donate online (select “Flood Disaster Relief” in the designation field) or send donations to WELS Christian Aid and Relief, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Dr. Waukesha, WI 53188, and designate them for “Flood Disaster Relief.”

View Rev. Schneider’s May 24 sermon, in which he reflects on the effects of the flooding and shares hope in God’s promises and the eternal victory we have in Christ.

 

View additional photos

 
WELS CAR - Midland, MI 2020
 

 

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New full-time director for Christian Aid and Relief

This month Rev. Dan Sims began his work as the new full-time director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

“As much as I will miss parish ministry, I’m really excited about this new call,” says Sims, who served the last four and a half years as pastor at Immanuel, Manitowoc, Wis. “Christian Aid and Relief is doing a lot of great work, and I’m excited to increase the opportunities and extend the reach.”

The mission of Christian Aid and Relief is to reflect Christ’s love and compassion to souls suffering from disasters and hardships. The organization works with congregations and mission fields to offer humanitarian aid as well as boots-on-the-ground service to people who need help, all the while sharing the gospel message that inspires the work.

“Our Savior tells us to show compassion to those who have need—whether that need is a humanitarian need or from some disaster,” says Sims. “One of the great impacts of carrying out our Savior’s plan is that it gains us opportunities to talk to them about their greatest need and the one who fulfills that need—their Savior.”

The past several years, a five-man commission—with a chairman who also serves as a full-time pastor—oversaw the work. The Synodical Council decided last fall to call for a full-time director who will continue to work with the commission to develop policies, establish action plans, review humanitarian aid projects, and discuss grants for people facing extreme medical and financial challenges.

“Calling a pastor to serve as director emphasizes the spiritual aspect of our relief ministry,” says Rev. Robert Hein, chairman of WELS Christian Aid and Relief. “He is well suited to preach at congregations, prepare materials, and make presentations to pastors and other leaders to promote the biblical basis for our ministry of compassion.”

Having a pastor serve full time in this position will allow more time to develop an intensive program—including a printed training manual and video materials—to prepare and train congregations and their leaders in disaster response before a disaster hits. Another goal is to establish and equip disaster relief coordinators in each district to assess and oversee local disaster response.

But Sims wants to do more than just respond to disasters; he wants to create a compassionate spirit in WELS congregations to help those who are suffering in their communities. He says that not only does that follow Christ’s command to “do good to all people” (Galatians 6:10), but also “if [the neighborhood residents] can see WELS congregations and people as caring and active in helping with physical needs, then we gain more opportunities to talk with them about their spiritual needs and their Savior.” Sims looks to partner more closely with WELS areas of ministry to provide training as well as examples of such ministry opportunities.

Sims, a 1997 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., has served as the Western Wisconsin district secretary as well as secretary for the WELS Hymnal Project.

Discover more at wels.net/relief or by watching this month’s edition of WELS Connection.

 

 

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Entertain strangers!

Dear Friend,

Hebrews 13:2 is a mysterious Bible verse. “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” This verse may refer to the accounts in Genesis where the Lord visited Abraham with two angels or where Lot welcomed angels into his home. It’s not likely that we will ever entertain an angel under cover, but the point remains: don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers.

In gratitude for the love and compassion Jesus has shown to us, we are eager to show love and compassion to others, even total strangers. In fact, Jesus said that whatever kindness we show to others we are also showing to him.

One way you can show hospitality to strangers is by supporting WELS Christian Aid and Relief’s humanitarian aid projects. These projects help our home and world missionaries meet community needs and open doors to sharing the good news about Jesus. Here is an example from a missionary in South Asia:

Being an orphan or a widow is a curse in Hindu society; people blame them for the deaths of their loved ones. They look down on them and don’t treat them fairly. Orphans and widows struggle to survive. They can’t get enough food or clothes to wear. Some freeze to death in the cold winter. It’s hard for them to find work. Our mission workers invite these precious souls to our household prayer groups and share Jesus with them by telling them how much God loves all people. The gifts from Christian Aid and Relief allow us to also care for their physical needs. It’s a great way to put Christ’s love into action. Thank you!

This past year your gifts totaling $466,212 enabled humanitarian aid projects such as these:

  • Medical equipment and supplies for health clinics in Africa and South Asia
  • Fresh water wells for people in Malawi and Ethiopia
  • Food and medicine for people in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Albania, Mexico, and Indonesia
    Financial assistance to WELS Central Africa Medical Mission
  • Mosquito nets, sewing classes, and textbooks for higher education students in Nepal
  • Welcome gifts and assistance to legal immigrants through several home mission congregations in the U.S. and Canada

In addition to coordinating humanitarian aid, WELS Christian Aid and Relief helps victims of natural disasters and those facing extreme medical or financial difficulties. Thanks to your special gifts, we have been well-positioned to assist people in a variety of situations including hurricane relief efforts in Florida and the coronavirus pandemic.

Would you make a special offering today to fund humanitarian aid projects for the 2020-2021 fiscal year? In this way you will show hospitality to the strangers Jesus calls us to love—and to Jesus himself.

In Christ,
Pastor Robert Hein
Chairman, WELS Christian Aid and Relief
wels.net/relief | facebook.com/WELSChristianAidandRelief | 262-334-7881

Full-time director for WELS Christian Aid and Relief

Last fall, the Synodical Council made the decision to call a full-time director for WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief has been the vehicle by which WELS members have generously supported relief efforts in times of natural disaster and in other situations where our Christian love moves us to provide some type of financial assistance. Until now, the work of WELS Christian Aid and Relief has been faithfully overseen by a commission with a chairman who also serves as a full-time pastor. But experience has shown that the scope of the work requires more than what part-time commission members and their chairman can provide. That led to the establishment of a full-time position.

One of the benefits of a full-time director will be the development of a program to prepare and train congregations and their leaders in disaster response before a disaster hits. The new director will spend much of his time developing resources for congregations and providing the training needed to prepare for relief efforts. One part of the plan is to position lay coordinators in all 12 districts who can provide local expertise and advice to congregations when disasters occur.

Why call a pastor for this work? The primary reason is that disaster relief efforts often provide opportunities for gospel outreach efforts in the communities affected by disasters. The Synodical Council recognized that in addition to providing aid as an expression of our Christian love, this work is also a ministry in which the sharing of the gospel can and should play a vital role. As a pastor, the new director will also have many opportunities to preach in congregations throughout the synod as he represents the mission of WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

Learn more about WELS Christian Aid and Relief at wels.net/relief.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Church in Panama City rededicated after hurricane

What a difference a year makes. On Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael blew through Panama City, Fla., as a category five hurricane, severely damaging the church and parsonage of Amazing Grace as well as the homes of many of its members. On Oct. 20, 2019, Amazing Grace moved back into its rebuilt worship facility. During that year, more than 200 WELS volunteers poured into Panama City to help Amazing Grace with the necessary cleanup and rebuilding. In addition, people from around the world joined together in praying for their Christian brothers and sisters and donating funds and materials to help.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Amazing Grace’s members banded together to check on one another and to help each other. As soon as the roads were cleared, members from neighboring congregations also pitched in. Then, volunteers from WELS Christian Aid and Relief and Kingdom Workers’ Builders For Christ began arriving, including more than 40 Martin Luther College students who volunteered at various times.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” says Hailey Stade, one of the Martin Luther College students who helped with cleanup soon after the hurricane. “I had no idea what to expect until we crossed the bridge to Panama City. Buildings were flattened. Every tree you saw was on the ground or bent in half. Power lines lay all over the sides of streets and sidewalks. A building was considered lucky if it even had some of its roof intact.”

The roof of Amazing Grace’s church was ripped open during the storm and the parsonage’s roof was peeled up, causing flooding throughout the home. With such extensive water damage, most items needed to be replaced and much needed to be rebuilt. Yet Amazing Grace was blessed with donations and volunteers every step along the way to lighten the load.

On Jan. 12, 2020, members of Amazing Grace rededicated their worship space and invited volunteers back to celebrate with them. About 25 volunteers who helped with the rebuilding process attended this grand reopening celebration.

“The grand reopening was more like a grand reunion,” says Rev. David Kehl, current pastor at Amazing Grace.

Although the past year posed many challenges for them, members agree that this experience brought them closer together—with each other, with their fellow WELS members, and with their community. As they move forward, they’re excited to take the next step with their ministry plans.

As Mr. Torger Reppen, president of Amazing Grace, notes, “It’s so nice to be back in our own building, our own home. Now we can focus on outreach. We’ve been focusing on rebuilding, and now we can focus on daily church stuff.”

View a WELS Connection about Amazing Grace.

To see photos of Amazing Grace during its rebuilding process, view the slideshow below.

 
CAR in Panama City - 2019
 

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WELS Christian Aid and Relief approves humanitarian aid grants

The administrative committee for WELS Christian Aid and Relief approved $466,212 for humanitarian aid work in fiscal year 2019-20. These are projects developed by WELS home and world missionaries to reflect Christ’s love to the people of their community and open doors to share the gospel.

Christian Aid and Relief Chairman Rev. Robert Hein, says, “Humanitarian aid projects help our missions put Christ’s love into action by meeting community needs. As missionaries develop relationships with the people they serve, they also find opportunities to tell people about Jesus. In some world mission fields, hostile to Christianity, humanitarian aid is essential to keep the doors open to share the gospel.”

All projects originate in the mission fields as the missionaries discover opportunities to help. Then the projects are brought to the Christian Aid and Relief administrative committee as well as to the WELS Missions administrators for approval.

Some of the approved projects are:

  • New or repaired water wells in Zambia and Malawi.
  • Medical clinic renovation in Zambia.
  • Rural medical clinic and medical care in Nigeria.
  • Food assistance for the poor in Indonesia.
  • Medical, vacation Bible school, and English training in Thailand.
  • Outreach programs in Bulgaria and Russia.
  • Assistance for war refugees, orphans, and the poor in Ukraine.
  • Food and transportation programs in Mexico.
  • Water projects and medical equipment in India.
  • Medical clinics, sewing classes, clothing for poor, and flood assistance in Nepal.
  • Medical assistance and skill training program in Pakistan.
  • African immigrant assistance in Las Vegas.
  • Welcome programs for immigrants in Toronto.
  • Various outreach and assistance programs in Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, College Station in Texas and Denver, Colo.

To view a complete list of humanitarian aid projects, visit wels.net/relief.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Hope after the storm in Puerto Rico

Three visitors! No big deal on some Sundays . . . lost in the crowd at some churches . . . a below-average turnout on many occasions.
Certainly nothing to write home about (or for Forward in Christ).  

But this is different. There hadn’t been one single visitor at Cordero de Dios (Lamb of God) Lutheran Church in Puerto Rico for months. In fact, there hadn’t even been a worship service there for almost year and a half! 

When Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico in September 2018, it devastated much of the Island of Enchantment, as it is known. Buildings were destroyed, power grids were damaged, and cell phone towers were knocked down. Tragically, lives were lost. Morale deflated quickly. As the days and weeks and months passed with no electricity, water, Internet, or cell phone service, tensions started to rise, hope began to depart, and a feeling of helplessness set in. 

Our brothers and sisters who are members of the three congregations of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church in Puerto Rico were also affected. While one church building was damaged, another wooden chapel was completely destroyed. Worship services at Cordero de Dios in Humacao stopped. There was no place to gather! 

As news of the devastation brought by Maria spread, WELS members responded quickly in love. Generous donations were received for hurricane relief. WELS leaders visited Puerto Rico and assured our fellow believers that we would walk through this together. WELS Christian Aid and Relief provided shortterm help and a longer term plan of assistance. Retired Pastor Larry Schlomer and his wife Marlene spenseveral months in Puerto Rico coordinating relief and reconstruction efforts. Volunteers from the States came to lend a hand. Pastors and leaders and church members worked together to rebuild homes and churchesand hope. 

On Feb. 10, the newly rebuilt (in concrete) chapel in Humacao was dedicated to God’s glory. Members from the three island congregations gathered together to thank God and celebrate his goodness. During the service, long-time member and seminary student Kelly Alvarez was ordained and installed as pastor of Mi Dios Verdadero (My True God) Lutheran Church in San Juan. The message from God’s Word that day included the reminder that we are a holy temple in the Lord, being built up together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:21,22). 

What will happen next in Puerto Rico? Two pastors currently serve in the town of Guayama. One pastor and one student pastor serve in San Juan. A rotation of pastors leads worship in Humacao. There are still jobs to finish, but now plans for gospel ministry can be worked out in order to share the good news with those visitors as well as to reach out to those who likely won’t come on their own. 

What can we learn from all this? God in his wisdom allowed Hurricane Maria to pass through Puerto Rico, but the Lord will not abandon his people or his church. In fact, he often creates opportunities out of challenges. Think of those visitors from the neighborhood who saw the work on the church progressing, shared the excitement, and wanted to be part of that special day. People do notice the fruit of our labor, but they need encouragement. Let’s keep on encouraging, inviting, witnessing and pointing other to Jesus.  

What can we do now for Puerto Rico? Please pray for those three visitors in Humacao. Pray for our three congregations in Puerto Rico, which still face challenges. Pray that the gospel might be preached and believed in Puerto Rico, to God’s glory.  

Because as we look forward to the Last Day, this is our attitude as we live and work for God’s glory and the spread of his kingdom today and tomorrow: The best is yet to come!


Timothy Satorius, WELS liaison to the Puerto Rican church 


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Author: Timothy Satorius
Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

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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God’s eternal dwelling place

Originally appears on the One Africa Team Blog. To subscribe to receive future updates directly in your inbox, visit oneafricateam.com. “Like” the One Africa Team on Facebook at fb.com/OneAfricaTeamWELS


Come along with me. . .

I’m weaving through villages and fields, traipsing down narrow foot paths and trudging through muck. I’m jumping over mud puddles and broken bricks. I’m skirting around fallen walls, bent roofing sheets and twisted trusses. I’m stepping over soggy blankets and dirty clothes.

Malawi 2015 revisited. What happened? A deluge of rain: rivers overflowed, Maize fields flattened, Bridges demolished, Roads cratered.

Different year, different people, different location, same result: devastation.

Rains are a double-edged sword. Just enough and wells fill, fields drink, crops grow and the land produces.Too much and houses collapse leaving them useless; pit latrines overflow rendering them a danger. It all happened in Malawi.

Again.

People are reminiscing that this same thing happened just four years ago. The Malawi 2018/2019 wet season had a great start. A great balance of rain and sunshine. Crops were looking good.  Tobacco. Maize. Groundnuts. Farmers were ecstatic!

It’s going to be a bountiful harvest! We can sell our cash crops, our granaries will be full, we will harvest plenty to eat good, our bellies satisfied. . . no hunger this year!

Then came the March 6, 2019. Ash Wednesday arrived, and so did another rain. Well, not just another rain, but a downpour. The heavens opened. Water fell by the bucket. Cats and Dogs. Didn’t let up for 3 solid days. This time the land and the areas most affected are quite flat so the water didn’t have a natural run off. When rains fall that rapidly and that powerfully, mud houses just don’t stand a chance against such force and pressure of water. The torrent was enough to bring down the roof.

It did.

LCCA-Malawi member’s home destroyed by flooding

Many houses were destroyed. Families are displaced. Women and children are sleeping in church buildings. Husbands and fathers are staying in any manageable place that they can find in what is left of their houses. A makeshift shelter. A tiny covered corner of a room. Some are sleeping under the stars. All who are affected are trying to pick up the proverbial pieces. And lurking right around the corner? Disease. It’s what happens when outhouses collapse and the holes brim over. It’s a stream you don’t want to be near. But there is a stream you do. A river actually. A river of living water.

“Though the earth give way. . . though its waters roar and foam. . . there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” (Psalm 46:2-3)

The one who wrote those words also wrote these: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) 

To the people who are sitting in the rubble, asking themselves questions and trying to make sense of it all, the pastors in the Lutheran Church have been able to bring this kind of message: God indeed is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Though many people have many questions, there’s another question that rises above all the others. It stands tall and strong like a beacon in the storm:

“Who or what can separate us from the love of Christ?” We know what is written in Romans 8:35. A bunch more questions that answer that first one. (If you’re not sure, check it out). But what about the questions on the minds of the homeless people in Malawi who are wondering how they are going to start over and rebuild?

What can separate them from God’s love? Rains? Floods? Unusable toilets? Obliterated fields? Collapsed houses? Lost property? Can these things remove God from their world of broken walls and caved-in roofs?

NO.

Paul, what do you mean, “NO”?  Tell us more!

“NO, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. None of these things shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

Ah, yes. Good words, Paul. The people need to hear those words. So do I. . . when things in my own life collapse! You, too? For three days we surveyed the destruction and assessed the damage. So much rain, so much ruin. With such incalculable devastation I could only imagine incredible loss. What I didn’t imagine–or even think about–was the incredible gain.

Incredible gain? 

Members from the LCCA-Malawi rejoice in their Lord

As the people shared their stories, I noticed that they had gained something: a new appreciation for the goodness of the Lord. A renewed indebtedness to the grace of God. Gratitude for something bigger than earthly comfort. Heavenly blessings! When we arrived, they not only spoke of the rains that came down from heaven but of the promises of God that do, too! They shared with us how God spared them, protected them and saved them. We paused here for a prayer. Sat there for a devotion. Spent time with the families in meditation and thankfulness. We were invited to so many places we didn’t have time for everyone. We brought our phone cameras, but took more than pictures and videos.

We took heart! (The people encouraged us!)
We took assurance! (The presence of problems doesn’t mean the absence of God!)
We took with us a renewed sense of joy! (Our Lutheran members know the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus despite the trials that come)

After seeing one collapsed house after another, what falls like rain upon my heart are the words of Moses: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. . . from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:1,2)  Like Paul said, “. . . we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1) His is a house that will never fall. The roof won’t leak and the walls won’t collapse. The foundation is strong and the rooms are safe.

Meanwhile, here on earth, whether in Malawi or the USA or somewhere in-between, we groan and are burdened. All creation, too. Apparently, that includes the rains. And the mud from which many houses are built. But we look forward to a time when all those in Christ Jesus we will be safe and secure in . . .

God’s Eternal Dwelling Place.

Your Malawi Mission Partner,

Missionary John Holtz


Dear Mission Partners,

Maybe you know and maybe you don’t, but our beloved WELS is showing faith in action by getting involved with both prayer support and financial aid.

The Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Malawi Synod (LCCA), the WELS Board for World Missions, and WELS Christian Aid and Relief (CAR) have been working hard at evaluating the immediate needs of those in our Lutheran congregations who are greatly affected by the floods, especially in the southern region of Malawi. (It was the southern region that was affected in 2015, too). Through funds made available through CAR, the LCCA members affected by the floods will receive some much-needed practical items. Things like buckets for clean water, blankets for warmth, and plastic sheeting for temporary roofing can meet immediate needs. A church building that has collapsed can be rebuilt.

Your Africa Missions team would like to encourage anyone whose heart is moved to give a gift to help people in need (due to flooding or other disaster) to please donate to WELS Christian Aid & Relief. 

 

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A joyful event in Puerto Rico

In the fall of 2017, Hurricane Maria struck the Caribbean islands of Dominica and Puerto Rico with a vengeance. It is regarded as the worst natural disaster to affect the two islands. At its peak with maximum sustained winds at 175 mph, the hurricane caused catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities across the northeastern Caribbean. In Puerto Rico, the population suffered from flooding, the worst electrical blackout in U.S. history, and extreme damage and destruction to property.

Our sister synod, the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church of Puerto Rico, was severely impacted. The church building in Guayama suffered extensive damage; the church in Humacao was completely destroyed. Homes of pastors and many members also were damaged.

WELS members responded generously with gifts to WELS Christian Aid and Relief. But the devastation caused by the storm made communication with our fellow Christians in Puerto Rico difficult. Damaged infrastructure made quick efforts to provide relief impossible. It was difficult to know what needed to be done to help and how that help could be delivered.

Early last summer WELS Christian Aid and Relief sent retired missionary Rev. Larry Schlomer to the island. He was asked to stay for up to a year to help the church leaders determine what needed to be done and then to help organize relief and rebuilding efforts.

In the months after Pastor Schlomer’s arrival, he worked, along with WELS volunteer Jerry Zimpelmann, to coordinate repairs to the church at Guayama and to the homes of pastors and members. They also coordinated the work of WELS volunteers who came to Puerto Rico to assist. Most of that work is completed. Significantly, this weekend marks a milestone in WELS efforts to help our sister church body. The church at Humacao has been completely rebuilt and will be rededicated in a worship service on Feb. 10.

Our fellow Christians in Puerto Rico have expressed their deep gratitude to God and to WELS members for this assistance. We thank God for our partnership in the gospel with our fellow believers in Puerto Rico, and we thank God for moving the people of WELS to make these relief and rebuilding efforts possible.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

Learn more about WELS Christian Aid and Relief at wels.net/relief.

Volunteers begin cleanup after Hurricane Michael

WELS Christian Aid and Relief is now coordinating volunteers to help with cleanup and rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Michael. Efforts are primarily focused on Amazing Grace, Panama City, Fla., which was hit directly by the storm. Amazing Grace’s church and parsonage experienced extensive damage, as did homes of several members and many in the community.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief quickly mobilized two of its relief trailers after Hurricane Michael struck the Panama City area and began coordinating volunteers to help with the cleanup project, including a group of 10 students from Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn.

“These students had so much energy and enthusiasm,” says Elizabeth Zambo of Christian Aid and Relief. “They gutted the church and parsonage that had been flooded, ripping out drywall and insulation. It was messy work, but they never complained.”

“It was an eye-opening experience,” says Hailey Stade, a sophomore at MLC and a member of Immanuel, Farmington, Wis. “I had no idea what to expect until we crossed the bridge to Panama City. Buildings were flattened. Every tree you saw was on the ground or bent in half. Power lines were all over the sides of streets and sidewalks. Large boats were tipped to their side in the water, and a building was considered lucky if it even had some of its roof intact.”

“This experience was definitely life changing,” notes Becky Pruss, a junior at MLC and a member at Redeemer, Fond du Lac, Wis. “When people who have lost so much still greet you with a smile and genuine conversation, it puts everything in perspective. Our God is definitely greater than the storms that may come our way in life. It really showed me that every day is an opportunity to live your faith.”

Zambo notes that volunteers will continue to be needed for months as work progresses on the church, parsonage, six to eight members’ homes, and homes of those in the community. Amazing Grace is currently worshiping at a nearby Christian camp facility, and its vacancy pastor, Rev. Jerome Enderle, and his wife are living in rented housing provided by Christian Aid and Relief.

Christian Aid and Relief has provided $108,000 toward this relief effort to this point, and more grant requests are expected. Monies distributed have been allocated for items such as supplies, building materials, gift cards, and volunteer expenses.

“The members of Amazing Grace have been overwhelmed by the love and support of their Christian brothers and sisters around WELS,” says Enderle. “This has served as an encouraging reminder that our small flock of believers is a part of a much larger family. The support and assistance of Christian Aid and Relief and the outpouring of gifts from people too numerous to begin to name cause us to thank and praise our Savior God. Truly he is the God of Amazing Grace.”

Christian Aid and Relief is partnering with Kingdom Workers’ Builders for Christ as the rebuilding process begins. Builders for Christ provides volunteers with building skills to serve alongside Christian Aid and Relief volunteers. To apply to serve as a volunteer to help with cleanup and relief work through WELS Christian Aid and Relief, visit wels.net/relief and fill out the volunteer form.

 

 

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Malawi flood relief update

Relief efforts have been ongoing in the flood-damaged areas of Malawi. WELS missionaries in Malawi, leaders from the Lutheran Church of Central Africa – Malawi (LCCA), WELS Christian Aid and Relief, and WELS Kingdom Workers have been collaborating to meet the needs of affected LCCA members. So far, Christian Aid and Relief has designated $50,000 to relief efforts, but initial assessments indicate that needs are extensive and ongoing.

In January, Malawi experienced damaging floods that destroyed or damaged the homes of an estimated 3,200 LCCA families and nearly 20 LCCA church buildings. The floods also washed away crops, depleting the local food supplies, and increased the threat of diseases such as malaria and cholera.

So far, WELS Kingdom Workers volunteers and LCCA leaders, working with Christian Aid and Relief, have been distributing supply buckets with sheet plastic, nails, and blankets to provide temporary housing to affected families, but traveling the flood-damaged roads can be difficult. To help expedite the travel and delivery process, Christian Aid and Relief is funding two more Kingdom Workers volunteers to rent additional trucks in Malawi and get supplies to members more quickly.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief Director of Operations Mr. Mark Vance is planning a trip to Malawi in March to assess the damage and determine ongoing relief needs, particularly food and medical needs in addition to the structural damage to homes and churches.

The LCCA is WELS’ sister synod in Malawi. To help support relief efforts, you can donate online or send checks to WELS, Re: Christian Aid and Relief, flood disaster relief fund, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive, Waukesha, WI 53188-1108

First steps taken for Malawi relief

The first steps have been taken on the long road to recovery in flood-ravaged Malawi. In January, flash floods damaged or destroyed countless homes, fields, and communities. An estimated 3,200 member families of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa – Malawi (LCCA) alone have lost their homes. And, the rainy season will continue for months.

LCCA leaders have received many calls from local congregational leaders who are seeking assistance for members. To begin, LCCA members and Kingdom Worker volunteers have been helping to distribute supply buckets with sheet plastic, nails, and blankets that can provide temporary housing. New permanent housing is still months away. In addition, nearly 20 LCCA church buildings have been completely washed away or damaged.

Malawi missionary Rev. Mark Panning and Christian Aid and Relief anticipate a three-step approach to aid. First is to meet the immediate need for temporary housing through the supply buckets. Distribution takes time, but is ongoing. Second is to repair or rebuild the damaged and destroyed LCCA churches. Malawian builders and contractors are in high demand; it could take quite a while to get on a builder’s schedule. The third step looks ahead to predicted food and water shortages. Many crops and fields were destroyed and water supplies tainted—ongoing food and water needs will have to be met.

So far, your generous gifts have provided about 500 of our brothers and sisters in Malawi with temporary assistance. WELS Christian Aid and Relief is accepting donations to its “Flood Disaster Relief” fund and will continue to send aid to Malawi as needs are determined. Please continue to keep our LCCA family, and all affected Malawians, in your prayers.

Read more from our WELS Missions blogs.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder