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Moments with Missionaries: Tomsk, Russia

Tabitha and Karl Mueller-St. Cyr

Hello! We are Tabitha and Karl Mueller-St. Cyr, and we volunteer in the Daylight Mission in Russia. Coming from Miami, Florida, our warm home didn’t deter us from volunteering to serve as English teachers in the frigid city of Tomsk in central Siberia! As a couple we desired to volunteer in a foreign mission field, but we were uncertain if there was a place right for us. Naturally in Florida we didn’t know much about Russia, yet after talking to the Russian missionaries we found ourselves eager to learn more about this unique culture and people God was reaching. After much thoughtful prayer, and perhaps some family hesitations, we finally agreed to the experience of a lifetime in Tomsk!

Our position in Tomsk is mostly conducting English Clubs, a twofold purpose of teaching English while studying the Bible. Through this unique outreach, we can provide Russian learners exposure to the Lutheran church and the truths of the Bible. Culturally Russians can be leery of foreigners, so our outreach is primarily focused on connecting to people through different activities in the community. This is essential to advertise and promote the presence of the Lutheran church, and we have been blessed to see our attendance almost triple in our time here.

Volunteering has been a blessing to us because there is no greater joy than to share Christ with people. We see that God is intricately working when his Holy Spirit is able to reach places we cannot, such as when students ask to take catechisms or Bibles home or inquire about our church. One woman named Marina, who grew up atheist, has consistently attended our Bible lessons and even visited the church a couple times. Although she has not yet fully committed to joining the church, her understanding of the Bible and who Jesus is has grown tremendously. The life application of Jesus’ words always profoundly challenges her spiritual preconceived notions. Like Marina reading the Bible for the very first time, Russians are struck by the impactful truth of God’s Word in their often difficult lives. We hope and pray through our efforts to continue to be a witness to Marina for the gospel. Nothing has deepened our faith like seeing God work in these amazing ways!

Of course, we are also blessed to have fellowship with Russian believers in the Tomsk church. It is uplifting for our faithful Russian brothers and sisters to welcome volunteers from America willing to serve in their congregation and provide like-minded fellowship. In addition, we feel our presence is a blessing to the Tomsk believers because it publicizes the Lutheran church in a place where there are few Lutherans. We hope and pray they are encouraged by us as we are mutually encouraged by them and their faith!

Whether engaged in fellowship or outreach, we are so thankful we chose to volunteer in Tomsk. Though a climate far from Florida, the generous hospitality and enduring kindness of Russians continually warms our hearts, and we consider ourselves privileged to serve people here as we point the way to Jesus. Please continue to keep this vital mission in your prayers as we seek to be Christ’s ambassadors to the expanding kingdom of God in Russia!


Tabitha and Karl Mueller-St. Cyr arrived in Russia in March of 2015 and will continue serving there until the fall of 2017.


One missionary, four national pastors, three deaconesses, and five Daylight teachers serve five congregations and one preaching station in Russia. Learn more about the Russia mission and other WELS mission opportunities at wels.net/missions.


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Author: Tabitha and Karl Mueller-St. Cyr
Volume 104, Number 3
Issue: March 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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Moments with Missionaries: Castries, St. Lucia

CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA

Thomas C. Spiegelberg II

As pastors, we feel confident that we have the one thing needful at our disposal—the Word of God. It will not return to the Lord empty but will carry out the purpose for which he has sent it.

Maybe what we are most ill-prepared for is the particular context to which God has called us—a new culture. Most home missionaries don’t have to learn a new language, but we sometimes need to empty ourselves of what we know and enjoy so we can share Jesus with a different culture. Sometimes we push back like Jonah. More often we swim in a mixture of the unknown, the intimidating, and the exciting world that we call home missions.

My calling is to an island that in and of itself is a unique place. The Denver Broncos is a household name in only one household—mine. Beef is a luxury. People here dance—and it is not the chicken dance. I have as much rhythm as a jellyfish. Every day I wake up and convince myself that I know nothing but Christ crucified and this is my calling to share.

Bringing the gospel to others comes at a personal cost—giving up your own familiar culture to understand and bridge the gap to what is unfamiliar. My challenge is the families whose circumstances and lives are different. Eighty-three percent of St. Lucian children born in 2010 were born into a single-family home. This speaks volumes on the family dynamic.

Ricky lives up the street from Trinity Lutheran Church. He lives in a small house made of two-by-fours and plywood. His family makes less than $5,000 a year.

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Ricky (pictured in the green hat), Castries, St. Lucia

Ricky is like most 12-year-old boys. He loves sports, especially soccer. He hates school and has fallen behind. The after-school programs at Trinity provide the educational help his family can’t afford elsewhere. He has few male role models, except for one of Trinity’s pastors, Bramdeo Ramgolam, who has a way of connecting with kids like Ricky. Ricky is nominally Catholic, which means he was baptized and goes to Christmas Eve Mass.

Typical to St. Lucia, he has a one-in-five chance of graduating high school with passing marks. He is back and forth between his mother’s house and his father’s house. His mother’s current boyfriend has been accused of molesting Ricky’s older sister. One afternoon, Ricky hid in church to avoid the domestic violence in his house. Such conflict is the rule rather than the exception.

Statistically speaking, Ricky will be unemployed until at least 24. He will not have enough academic background to hold a middle-class job. He will be related to someone who is murdered. He will know what a church is but not who Jesus is. He will father children but struggle at being a father.

That’s according to statistics.

We have a greater power than culture or statistics: Christ crucified and him alone.

What does a day in the life of a home missionary look like? Simply put, it means emptying yourself of everything you know except Christ crucified. It means figuring out how to bring the gospel to a kid like Ricky.

My job is personally challenging. I feel equipped with the Word but grossly inadequate in personal traits. My job is exciting, exotic, frustrating, challenging, and sad on any given day.

But my calling is filled with joy: “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation” (Psalm 95:1).

My calling in Christ is confident: “The righteous are as bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).

I love being a home missionary.


Tom Spiegelberg serves as a home missionary at Trinity, Castries, St. Lucia.

 

MISSION STORIES

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Author: Thomas C. Spiegelberg II
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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Moments with Missionaries: Sparks, Nevada

SPARKS, NEVADA

Steven M. Hillmer

Growing up in the mid-1960s, Greg said his mom would drop him off at church on Sunday, but she did not attend. Greg learned about Jesus in a general way, but inconsistencies made it difficult for him to connect with Jesus in a personal way.

Things changed when he was 14. The offering was taken, and the plates were brought forward. The pastor received them and announced, “You can do better,” so he passed them back to the ushers for a second round. That was the last time Greg attended church.

Fast-forward 42 years. Greg’s wife, Joloyce, began attending The Springs, a WELS home mission in Sparks, Nevada. At first Greg did not attend. He drove her to church but stayed in the car to read. Eventually Greg joined her for worship and attended congregational meals.

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Joloyce and Greg, The Springs, Sparks, Nevada

About six months passed. It was time to invite Greg to join the new Bible information class, but Greg wasn’t feeling well. He was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer.

But while cancer was doing its thing, the Holy Spirit was at work doing what he does. At the services Greg attended, he heard the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit created faith in his heart. Greg now warmly welcomed visits and devotions. He discovered the love of other believers, expressed through their phone calls, cards, and compassion.

On Pentecost Sunday, Greg was too weak to come to worship, so an afternoon visit was in order. I began by reading the Pentecost account. We talked about how Peter didn’t sugarcoat his message. When I asked Greg if he knew how many people were baptized that day, he instantly replied, “Three thousand! We just read this in our morning devotion.”

Then Greg said, “I want to get my house in order. I want to be baptized.”

We filled a bowl with water and rejoiced. With God’s Word, the water became a wonderful water of life. The Holy Spirit bestowed upon Greg the blessings of Baptism—forgiveness of sins, salvation, and the assurance of eternal life. It was an incredible moment.

Greg’s health declined rapidly. One morning, we stood by Greg’s bed reading Scriptures, praying, and singing hymns. Then we sat around the kitchen table. A few minutes later, Joloyce walked back to Greg, and his labored breathing had ended. His eyes were closed. Greg was home with Jesus.

I stayed with Joloyce into the afternoon. We closed with a devotion on Psalm 130, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope” (v. 5). Greg’s waiting was over. Now Greg’s new day had dawned. No more cancer. No more pain. Just Jesus and the joy he promises.

I left with several bags of pennies. A few weeks earlier, Greg had mentioned that he wanted his coins to be put in our congregation’s building fund. My sons counted the rolls—9,650 pennies, or $96.50. The next day, Joloyce said that they found the rest of Greg’s coins. This time it wasn’t just pennies, but nickels, dimes, and quarters too. The total rose to $516!

The following Sunday’s Gospel lesson was the story of the sinful woman who poured oil on Jesus’ feet. She knew she had been forgiven much, and she wanted to express her love. Near the end of the sermon, I shared Greg’s story and placed his envelope in the offering plate. Greg had been forgiven much. Greg loved much, and he wanted to share what he had to help others know of Jesus’ love.

This is why we plant missions and share the gospel. Some might say this happened just in the nick of time for Greg, but it was all in God’s timetable. We at The Springs were privileged to be God’s instruments, sharing his love and grace.


Steven Hillmer serves as a home missionary at The Springs, Sparks, Nevada.

 

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

 

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Author: Steven M. Hillmer
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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Moments with Missionaries: Queens, New York

QUEENS, NEW YORK

Timothy C. Bourman

“Never forget.” That is the slogan that you can find scrawled all over our city. Usually the names of those lost in the 9/11 attacks are written right next to the call to remember.

Earlier this year it dawned on me for the first time that young people don’t know much about Sept. 11, 2001. They never experienced it. We are already almost 15 years removed from the event itself. In other words, most teenagers will know about 9/11, but they know about 9/11 sort of like I know that JFK was assassinated. There is knowledge of the event itself but none of the emotion.

Michael O’Leary, a tough Irishman who spent most of his life working for the Daily News, can remember that day like it was yesterday. He can remember watching the towers fall. He can remember returning to the site as a volunteer day after day after day after day to “clean up” the area, which entailed some very graphic scenes. He didn’t know—in fact, nobody knew—how toxic the fumes were. He didn’t know that every day, every hour spent at the site was wrecking his lungs and that the sights and sounds would leave him suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. You can probably already guess it: 9/11 for him isn’t over—not by a long shot. Every few months he is forced to remember 9/11 because he ends up in the emergency room short of breath. They tell him that his lungs are destroyed.

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Rev. Tim Bourman and Michael O’Leary

I met Mike for the first time years ago on the street in front of our church. He was living in a total dump of a house in a tiny little room. It took my breath away when I saw where he was living. He was trying to hold it all together, but—he would openly admit—he wasn’t. He was drinking too much and struggling to pull his life together. I tried working with him to bring him the gospel, but it wasn’t God’s time.

Three years passed, and I saw him on the street again with the No. 7 train pounding over our heads. He was doing everything he could to get sober, and Alcoholics Anonymous was there for him, but he still needed to know about this “higher power” that they always talked about.

I told him that I would tell him all about Jesus. That day on the street I invited him to church. The gospel won his heart. Now he only misses church when he can’t breathe.

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Sure Foundation, Queens, N.Y.

Mike understands that there was a bigger event in history that means more to him than 9/11. He knows that on Good Friday Jesus died to pay for all sin. He knows that Easter Sunday promises brand-new lungs. Mike has found a growing body of believers at Sure Foundation that will support him through it all. In his words, “I’ve got good people all around me.”

This is why we are here in New York City. We’re here so that our city will “never forget” all that Jesus has won.


Tim Bourman serves as a home missionary at Sure Foundation, Queens, New York.

 

MISSION STORIES

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Author: Timothy C. Bourman
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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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