Tag Archive for: Europe

Update from Ukraine: May 19, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


May 15, 2022

Pastor Yuri Tytski(Holy Trinity, Bereznehuvate) is now in Ternopil with his family and he is helping Pastor Taras Kokovski at St. John/St. James in Ternopil.  There has been some recent news about possible opportunities for mission work among Ukrainian refugees in Latvia.  That would certainly be wonderful.  God is good.  In a way this news reminded me of the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers.”  The war in Ukraine has disrupted worship services in many places, but it hasn’t stopped the Lord’s work.  The church, empowered by God, marches on.  Our greatest joy and times of peace are found during those times that we are serving our Lord.  Thank you for these opportunities dear Lord.

An update, Hanna and Maryna from Mariupol, have been picked up by our German brothers and taken back to Zwickau.  They are safe where they are now. Thanks be to God!   The German brothers brought along with them, a large amount of aid for the people which is very much appreciated.  We thank the many, many people, and countries who provide help in Ukraine’s time of need.

Thank you Lord for the blessed fellowship of believers, who give of themselves to help others in their time of need.  Lord, continue to bless and keep the people of Ukraine.

May 16, 2022

Yesterday was a day of rejoicing in Kharkiv, not because the war is over, but because for the first time since the war began, back in February, they were able to meet for worship in the place they rent for services.  Pastor Khaustov commented, “there was no electricity, and it was a cloudy day, so it was nearly impossible to read from the books.”  They did however have battery operated equipment for filming the service.

Prior to the war, we were helping All Saints Lutheran, in Kharkiv, to purchase a building that would be their own.  They would have renovated the building to be used for worship and there were additional rooms for Sunday school classes.  If that building is still standing, it’s our prayer that it can still be purchased.

Services were also held in Kiev yesterday, Bishop commented that some people came back for the first time since the beginning of the war.

May 17, 2022

I mentioned a couple days ago that people from the German Church were coming to pick up the two ladies from Mariupol, Hanna and Maryna.  Pastor Somin drove them to the meeting place and the brothers from Germany met them and brought with them many donations of food, baby supplies, and medicine.

Bishop Horpynchuk wrote this letter of thanks to Pres. Michael Herbst of the ELFK:

“Dear Brother, thank you for the help we received from the ELFK that was brought by Petro Rudzik from Zwickau and by Pastor Serhiy Somin from Volodymyr. The help from Zwickau was delivered to the hospital in the eastern Ukraine. The help delivered by Pastor Somin was divided into three parts: canned food – for the military, children items for our sisters in pro-life as they deal with many refugees with babies, and the third part with food will go to the southern Ukraine, including German congregations. Thank you very much! Special thank you for the Varta power bank!”

He also added,  “We thank the Lord for such caring brothers. We also thank the Lord for brothers from Finland and Sweden. We also thank the Lord for all our American brothers and sisters.”

It’s so encouraging to see and hear about the love and concern, by so many, for the people of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Lutheran Church.  Christian love only speaks one language, and it is shown in one’s actions.  The love of Jesus does compel us.  And other people’s lives are touched and blessed by this.

May 18, 2022

Because people fled their towns and cities when it was winter, they have no spring and summer clothing.  Clothes are purchased for people.  Clothes are purchased at thrift stores or second hand stores, because many people fled with few personal items, or nothing more than what they were wearing or could fit into a small box.   There are many who are in need of clothing and shoes, etc.

In case you are wondering, or desiring to send them care packages, it’s not easy to send packages.  The cost for postage is high, and the delivery isn’t always convenient.  Giving money to purchase things there, in Ukraine, is much more practical.


WELS World Missions provided this map to show where major Ukrainian cities are located and, more specifically, where the Ukrainian Lutheran Church has congregations.

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: May 11, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


WELS World Missions provided this map to show where major Ukrainian cities are located and, more specifically, where the Ukrainian Lutheran Church has congregations. Read below for some updates from the last week.

 

 

 

May 10, 2022

Please keep Pastor Somin, as well as Odesa in your prayers.  Recent missile strikes have increased in that area.  Pastor Somin is hoping to leave there tomorrow.

More good news from Kharkiv as the suburb that Pastor Khaustov lives in has been totally cleared of the Russians.  The bad news is that mines and explosives have been placed in the streets and even in some homes.  It’s still not safe to go back.

May 9, 2022

Though the fighting and missile strikes are still occurring each day, there is, nevertheless, a growing sense of optimism in Ukraine.  The support that they are receiving from many nations helps them to appreciate that others do care about them and their current situation.

As more people return to public worship, others rejoice that they are still alive and back again in God’s house to hear his Word and receive the sacrament.  It certainly proves how true it is that Christians are happiest when they can gather together for worship.  Cherish every opportunity that you have to do just that.

Pastors who returned briefly, to their congregations, speak of the sadness they feel driving through areas that are devastated from the bombings.

May 5, 2022

One of the ULC Pastors, Yuri Tytski, has determined it is not safe to return to Bereznehuvate and will rent an apartment for his family, in a western city.  The apartment is unfurnished so I urged Bishop to use some of the gifts that have been given by WELS’ members and friends, to buy some furnishings for the apartment.

Pastor Somin’s van needed repair so that he could continue to take supplies, as well as lead worship services, in southern Ukraine.  The repair cost was about $1,000.00, because the cost of parts have also increased in price.  Your gifts have helped get the repair work done and he is now able to be on the road again, serving.

May 4, 2022

Today we say, “Happy Birthday” to Pastor Feschenko.  Pastor Feschenko serves congregations in Tokmak and Zaporizhia.  He will not be able to celebrate his birthday in his home this year, but thankfully will be with his family.  Such is the nature of the war in eastern Ukraine and the every day disruptions and changes that it has caused in people’s lives.  We are thankful that he, and his family, are alive and we wish him many more birthday celebrations in the future.

The Pastors of the ULC, for a number of years now, meet via Zoom for a weekly Bible study that they call their Concordia Conference.  Today they shared stories of what they have heard from their members, and people they know, of the atrocities in some of the cities where their congregations are.  Some of these cities include: Kiev, Kharkiv, Izium, Tokmak, Bereznehuvate, Kherson, and Malyn.  The stories are eerily the same, of brutal assaults and violence to civilians.  It makes their hearts sad to hear these reports, and even more so when it involves people who they know.


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: April 20, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


April 17:
Bishop Horpynchuk traveled back to Kiev to lead Palm Sunday worship service today. He assured me that he was safe and where they spent the night was in a safe location. Bishop said that the congregation was very happy to see him, and to be with one another. And they were happy to see each other alive. He also told me that the congregation expressed great thanks to the WELS and many others who are supporting them with their prayers and gifts.

Pastor Serhiy Somin traveled back to Mykolayiv to lead Easter worship with the German congregation he serves. Pastor Somin led the service today in the basement. I suspect they worshiped in the basement, being cautious because of the constant threat of bombings. After their service they had a good German pot luck meal.

April 18:
Today I asked Bishop to tell me about his trip back to Kiev to lead the Palm Sunday worship at his congregation, this past weekend. He said that the trip took twice as long to drive due to the many checkpoints, and detours that were necessary because of road and bridge damage. One bridge he had to use was damaged, but usable, though it was at a fairly steep angle. He made the comment, “I almost slipped into the river.” Most of the major bridges in Kiev are damaged or completely destroyed. He did arrive safely in Kiev and has returned safely. God be praised. Depending upon the intensity of the bombing, he will determine later this week whether or not he will return for Easter worship next Sunday.

April 19:
From Bishop Horpynchuk this morning: “Today I participated in the Ukrainian Church Council with the UN General Secretary Deputy, Mr. Martin Griffith and UN representative in Ukraine, Mr. Esteban Sacco on the request of the UN General Secretary. They asked to support an idea about Easter truce in Ukraine. We certainly supported the idea. Whether Russians agree is a question.”

April 20:
Please keep Pastor Serhiy Somin in your prayers. He went back to have Easter service with his congregation in Mykolayiv. Bombing has intensified there in the days since and some of his people have asked if he would drive them to a safer location in the west. He will be going back into a dangerous area, picking them up and driving them out, We pray that all goes well and that the Lord keeps them safe.

 

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: April 8, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Prayers are asked today for Hanna and Maryna who have fled from the atrocities and bombings in Mariupol and have been able to leave the country. They are ULC members of a mission church. Bishop has contacted leaders in Germany and Sweden to help find a place for them to stay until they can, Lord willing, one day return. It’s been a difficult trip for them, taking many days. We also pray for them because they take with them the baggage of memories of what they have seen done to their city, and their people.

I mentioned that Bishop was going to deliver some medical supplies today. He has done this and I also copied and included in this update a message that Bishop received from them, which he has allowed me to share.

They wrote, “Today we thank the Ukrainian Lutheran Church and its head V’yacheslav Horpynchuk for caring about our community. It is thanks to Mr. Vyacheslav, our utility company “Center of Primary Medical – Sanitary Aid” Goshanskoy Seli Council in the person of the general director Tatiana Polí щуuk received the medicine. A list of medical drugs has been formed by company doctors, so they are essential for patients today. The head of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church emphasized that the church together with American Lutherans with WELS, Pastor Roger Neumann and Bishop Mark Schroeder are still ready to help the Ukrainian people in its fight for the restoration of Ukrainian of the state. And our organization is still ready to cooperate with the Ukrainian Lutheran Church in all matters for the benefit of the community and Ukraine.”

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: April 7, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today Bishop Horpynchuk shared with me what they are doing to help hospitals get supplies that are in critically short supply. This is a brief example of what they are doing and how they are doing it. Because of the increase in the number of people, hospitals need many different basic supplies. They make available lists of those things that are needed. Things like bandages, disinfectants, iodine, medicine for fevers, sterilizers, just to name a few items. Helpers then travel to various pharmacies, sometimes traveling in a radius of up to 50 miles to collect these supplies. This is what Bishop, and some of those with him, have been doing the past couple of days. Tomorrow they will deliver what they were able to purchase. Then they will start on another project to help get food supplies to the hospitals or places that house refugees. Similar examples like this are taking place in many other places that have an overflow of refugees.

I then asked how he and the other ULC Pastors are holding up under the daily stress and anxieties that accompany this war. How best to explain his answer is to say that, having themselves heard the many reports of brutality, and down right evil behavior by the enemy in a number of cities, has stunned and saddened them by the sheer magnitude of this brutality. But their faith in the Lord compels them to carry on in their ministry to the people. Believing that, in the Lord there is hope and certainty. They continue to offer words of comfort, from the Scriptures, and take time to pray with the people.

We ask a special prayer for one of their Pastors who said that renewed bombing was under way and that bombs were now falling within a half mile of his location. We pray that God will keep him and his family safe. Another Pastor commented that much of his recent days have been spent in long lines, registering for services that are needed for one of his children.

A Ukrainian newspaper reported the Bishop’s recent visit, by invitation, to the local Administration Building on the front page. The article covered his visit, and it also mentioned that, “American Lutherans are filled with compassion to Ukrainians and are willing to help with all means possible.” I certainly concur with that.

We continue to pray for the people of Ukraine. May God, who is rich in love and mercy, protect his people there.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 31, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Praise God from whom all blessings flow. One of the pastors, and his family, who were in a dangerous situation have gotten out of area. It wasn’t without a great deal of tension though, as their bus was stopped and detained for an extended period of time. A one hour and 15 minute drive turned into 6-8 hours. But news came earlier this afternoon, late evening for them, that they have reached their destination safely. Wonderful news, thank you Lord.

Today I asked about the work of distribution of goods to refugees. This will give you an idea of what they are doing on a daily basis. Refugees can get food and help at certain designated locations, or things can be delivered to homes where refugees are staying. Both methods and locations of delivery are being made. Two days a week people will go to purchase supplies. This would include flour, pasta, buck wheat, preserves, fish, pork or chicken, and chocolates for the children. Treats for the children bring smiles to their faces and reminds them of happier days. Then the goods are sorted and taken to places where they are needed. Sometimes prayers are spoken in the homes; people ask for them. Medicine and food is also taken to hospitals. No one anticipated so many people, so there is a massive effort by churches and local organizations to meet all the demands. This seems to be going quite well and efficiently.

Something that they are becoming more and more aware of, is that there are refugee families who are too shy, or scared, to ask for help, thinking no one cares about them. Bishop is going to encourage pastors to actively search for these people so that goods can be taken to them.

There are many people who come with little or no possessions. They only have the clothes that they are wearing. To help them, trips are being made to used clothing stores to purchase more clothing. Something one wouldn’t think of is that some of the homes, who take in refugees, don’t have enough cooking utensils to make meals. They ask for extra pots and pans, plates, table settings, etc. It makes me realize how many things in our lives we simply take for granted.

I hope that this gives you a little better idea of how the people are managing, and how they help one another. And how there is always work to do, and opportunity to do it, to help someone in need.

Tomorrow, the mayor of a nearby city has invited Bishop Horpynchuk to come and give a devotion and pray with the people. More and more, people are asking for spiritual support. Once again, what a wonderful opportunity to speak of the gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ. May God bless Bishop’s devotion and prayers, and that by hearing the Word, people’s hearts can be filled with peace and hope.

We continue to pray for the people of Ukraine and ask God to guard and protect them.

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Prayers for a church

In 2010, Caroline McCatty prayed that God would help her and her husband Lawrence to find a really good church. At the time, the couple was in the process of moving from England to the United States. Caroline knew the transition would take them to a new place, and she didn’t have any connections in the area to which she could reach out and ask for a church recommendation. As they settled in the East Coast of the United States, God led the McCattys to a small WELS church. The pastor there taught from the Bible, and focused on Jesus as the Savior of the world. Previously, the McCattys had attended a church in England, but not one that clearly preached the truths of Scripture. At the WELS church in the United States, they learned messages from the Bible that they had never heard before–and quickly grew to love.

Five years later, the McCattys returned to their home country as WELS members. Upon their return, they lifted up a different prayer – one that requested Scripture-based worship and instruction. The couple observed a different scene in England than what they had witnessed at the WELS church in the United States. They asked for that same Christ-centered gospel message to come to England: they wanted the solid meat that WELS offers, rather than a watered-down version of Scripture they saw throughout England. They prayed for six years; then God led WELS to start up mission work in England. Missionary Michael Hartman is leading the effort and is working with the McCattys and others in England to coordinate services and ministry.

The McCattys serve as an example to us of an existing core group of WELS and CELC members living in England. Thus far, members of the CELC church bodies on four continents are known to live in England. The goal is that this core group serve as a starting place for gospel outreach to the country. If you know a member or contact currently living in England, please contact Missionary Hartman. (Email: Michael.Hartman@wels.net / WhatsApp: +13058900560 or +447360712166.)

Read the rest of the McCatty’s story in their Forward in Christ article.

Written by Rev. Michael Hartman, world missionary in London, England.

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Update from Ukraine: March 27, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


I had mentioned that Bishop Horpynchuk was asked to have a brief devotion, to be taped and aired on National Radio. This recording will be heard throughout the country and replayed multiple times over the next few days and weeks.

These are some of the thoughts that he shared with the nation. Beginning with Psalm 45, he said that God is our refuge and strength. God is on our side. During these difficult times of need God is sending them help thru their Western friends, and many are praying for them. He read John 3:16, and spoke of the forgiveness of sins that is freely given thru Jesus Christ our Lord. He emphasized that Jesus Christ is the most precious gift that we possess. He prayed that God would provide victory so that there could once again be peace in the land. Finally he encouraged the listener to put their trust in God, because he will not forsake us.

“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Ps 95:1,2 Today was another day of worship for the Lutheran Churches in Ukraine. I will keep the names of the pastors, and their locations, hidden for the present time.

Bishop Horpynchuk wanted to make a few calls on people today so we will wait until tomorrow to talk again. He did comment that people are starting to come out again for worship in bigger numbers. Understanding that many have left these areas, who may not be back for some time.

He did want me to express to all of you his profound thanks for all of your support and prayers. This thanks is extended to you from their pastors and congregations as well. They appreciate your prayers and support.

I, too, thank you for reminding me, by your expressions of support and prayer, of David’s words in his Psalm; “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Ps 133:1. The Christian family is strong because of our love for one another, in Christ. May God be with you, may he bless and keep you today and always. And may God bless the people of Ukraine and grant them peace.

 

 

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 25, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today Bishop Horpynchuk was able to give a devotion that was recorded on their National Radio. What a blessing to be able to reach out with the gospel message of Jesus Christ crucified, for the forgiveness of sins, to what should have been a very large audience in Ukraine. The gospel message will not be silenced, nor will God have his witnesses be silenced. If one takes the time to look, we can see clearly how God’s hand is at work, especially in times of deep and dark distress. What immediately came to mind, when I heard of this opportunity, were the words of Isaiah, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Is 55:11

Bishop was able to contact the Pastors in areas of danger, pray with them, and encourage them. We still wait for their evacuation and pray that God keeps them safe. But for now they are alive and we thank the Lord for this.

Many prayers are needed and many prayers are being heard. Thank you for taking time to read these updates. It means a great deal to the people in Ukraine that you are thinking of them and keeping them in your prayers.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Ps 90:1,2 AMEN

 

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 23, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Just a short while ago, one of the pastors and his family, who I asked you to pray for yesterday, has reached their destination safely. Their journey was a long one. The first day they traveled approximately 200 miles which took them 12 hours. Checkpoints congest traffic. At each checkpoint they need to show identification and have their vehicle searched. Saboteurs sometimes steal vehicles and infiltrate cities. Today their trip was equally as long, but they are safe. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

The other pastor, I asked you to pray for yesterday, is still in a dangerous area as plans to leave yesterday did not happen. They will try again, and Lord willing get to safety.

Right now there are three Pastors in areas of great danger. I’ve been asked to be vague about who and where these are. Prayers are asked for them, our Lord knows for whom you are praying.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 22, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today I ask for special prayers, for two of the Pastors in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. These pastors, along with their families, are now no longer safe where they are at. In one situation bombing has come very close to their home and the family is very fearful. They have chosen, for their safety, to leave. They are driving and have found, what for now, seems to be a safe route out of the area. I pray that continues to be the case. They will encounter a number of checkpoints on their journey. It may take days to get where they are going. They are keeping in contact with Bishop. When they reach their destination, there are people who will take them in.

The other situation is one in which FSB operatives are now arresting political leaders and deputies in that city. As they are in other cities too. There is grave concern that religious leaders would be the next to be arrested. In this situation the family is leaving by bus. Driving a private vehicle may be too dangerous. Those on the bus are allowed to bring only two packages with them. All the rest of their possessions will remain at their home.

I know that you will be praying for these families; thank you very much! Pray that God will keep them safe and that he will bring them to their destinations without incident. As Bishop keeps me informed of their welfare, I will relay that on to you was well. On a personal note, these pastors are friends I’ve worked with over the past few years. They, and their families are faithful leaders in their communities. I, as I know you do too, entrust them into God’s care and keeping.

Germany is now welcoming more refugees and our sister synod there is offering to house more families. Bishop Horpynchuk wished for me to once again extend his thanks for their care. Other church bodies in the CELC are offering the same; thank you as well!

May God continue to look with mercy and love upon his precious souls who are enduring this dreadful ordeal.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 18, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


It was good to have a conversation again today with Bishop Horpynchuk. Thanks be to God!

News today comes from Malyn that the Russians are attempting to seize the city. Why Malyn? What threat is there in this city? Pastor Didkivski has been actively helping with refugees. When life returns to some sort of normal, I truly believe these pastors and their congregations will be remembered by the people, in their towns and cities, as people who lived their faith, who truly cared for and helped others in their times of need. May God continue to bless their faithful labors of love and compassion.

Perhaps I need to write a few words about what it means to be helping with the refugees. Most of these refugees have left behind practically everything they own in their homes and have fled with little more than the clothes they are wearing and some meager possessions. Also, they left in haste with little time to separate needed things from desired things. I can’t imagine leaving everything in my home and fleeing with the real possibility that nothing will be left if, or when, I ever return. So when they come after days of traveling on the crowded roads they have run out of food, are in need of clothing, shoes, jackets, soap, medicine, and money to purchase fuel. Our pastors and churches try to help these people. I’m told that each day the churches deal with, on average, 15-30 families. Some are just stopping to sleep, get some food, clean up, and then go on. Others wish to stay longer and shelters or homes are found. But some places are already overflowing, still they try to find some room.

I hope these few sentences give you a glimpse of what our brothers and sisters in Christ are doing to help people in Ukraine.

The atrocities continue each day as more and more reports of evil and senseless acts of violence are perpetrated upon innocent people. It will be difficult to erase from people’s memories what they see, and what they have lost. It will take generations to heal, but we trust that our Lord not only can but will heal the brokenhearted.

Through this all, God has been with them and he continues to sustain them. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Cor 4:16

May God bless and keep them in his loving care.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 16, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


All the Ukranian Lutheran Church (ULC) pastors are alive and as far as can be told all the members of the ULC are alive. But more and more stories are coming out of friends and neighbors of our fellow Christians who have been killed and homes that are damaged or totally destroyed. There is active shooting near Tokmak and Bereznehuvate, and daily bombing and shooting in Kharkiv. Food and water in these areas, which are located in eastern Ukraine, are still available but prices are rising rapidly. Please keep Pastors Khaustov, Feschenko, and Tytski, along with their families and their members in your prayers. Along with all of Ukraine.

In Western Ukraine our churches continue to help the increasing numbers of refugees who are coming there. More sets of blankets, pillows and primitive mattresses are being purchased so that children and families can have something soft to sleep on.

There are many stories of personal suffering, and situations that people are forced to deal with. Medicines, doctors, and nurses are needed, it seems, almost everywhere. These stories are repeated over and over again, by many different people.

But there are also heart warming stories as well. Bishop’s music director and organist has arrived in Germany. She has been taken in by a family from the German Lutheran Church(ELFK). I’m told they have a piano and some of the family play violins. What wonderful music must now adorn that home. I know this because I’ve heard her play a number of times for services. Thank you to Pres. Michael Herbst and people in the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Germany for your help with people fleeing to your country.

With so many refugees in western Ukraine, our churches there are beginning to hold classes for the children. Most schools are closed right now due to the sirens going off numerous times each day. Efforts, such as this, are an attempt to re-establish a sense of normal for the children in such frightening times. Thank you to Pastors Serhiy Somin, Roman Anduntsiv, Taras Kokovsky, also to Nina and Vasul Andreychuk, and to the workers involved with The Gift of Life. Your efforts are being noticed and are appreciated. May God continue to bless your labors.

Thank you again for reading this and thank you for keeping Ukraine in your prayers.

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 13, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Bishop and I were not able to talk today. There is a lot of activity, near and in the city of Kiev. The fighting is intensifying. I know he’s very concerned about many of his members who haven’t yet been able to leave the city. He tries to work with them, in making arrangements for them to find ways to get out of the city. Bishop told me that one train with refugees, coming out of Kiev, was bombed today by Russians. It has to be emotionally draining, and time consuming for him. We pray for their safety. We pray for this to stop.

I was happy to hear that there was a public worship service in Tokmak today and that the service went very well. This despite the fact that Russia now occupies Tokmak. It’s so encouraging to hear that Word and sacrament are still being administered. Especially in such conditions and times.

I also saw that Rev. Taras Kokovsky posted, that toward the end of their service at St. John/St. James in Ternopil the siren went off causing people to leave and seek shelter. May God guard and keep them in his care.

I know that today, in many of our churches here in America, prayers were raised to God for the people of Ukraine. I know this because you have told me this through the many people who have communicated with me. Thank you and please continue to pray for the people of Ukraine.

I hope and pray that the Lord blessed your worship today. May God be with you all. The Lord strengthens us through each other’s prayers and support.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 11, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today’s conversation was earlier than most days. A number of western cities have been bombed today. Where there was no fighting yesterday changed dramatically today. There is a growing sense of desperation among the people in Ukraine that other countries aren’t doing enough to help. They plead, help is needed now.

Another fear, that people have had, is that Russians will capture and arrest political leaders. This has become a reality in certain cities. Bishop [Horpynchuk, head of the ULC) fears that after the political leaders they will then come for the religious leaders. Bishop is particularly concerned for Oleksandr Feschenko in Tokmak. He asks our prayers for him and his family.

A comment that sticks with me is when Bishop said that it’s as though he is living in the times of Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet. Lamenting over what is happening to his people and his country. Which presented a good opportunity for both of us to be reminded that God is still in control. That in this world there will be suffering, but we have a greater hope, made certain for us by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Man can disappoint us, hurt us, and even kill us, but man cannot take our Savior from us, nor remove the hope that we have in Christ.

Our conversation today was a mixture of sadness, disappointment, frustration, and even anger. But when our discussion turned to Christ, it was as though there was a sense of peace and calm, and even a joy that interrupted and took over our conversation. The good news of salvation in Jesus Christ our Savior can and does calm troubled hearts and does give to us a peace that goes beyond all understanding. In the midst of everything that is wrong in this world, Jesus is the One that is always right. His words can do what armies and powers can’t, they bring comfort to hurting hearts.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update on WELS relief efforts for Ukraine

Please feel free to share this latest update with you congregation.

  • The situation for our brothers and sisters in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) remains very dire. Thankfully, we have learned that none of the pastors or members have lost their lives, but at least some members report that their homes have been destroyed. Some of the pastors and members have relocated to places that are relatively safe and removed from the heavy fighting, but others remain in areas where military activity is taking place every day. We continue to pray for their safety.
  • WELS members have already been very generous with gifts intended to support relief and humanitarian efforts both for members of the ULC and for the refugees and local citizens in need of help. We thank you to all those who have given gifts for Ukraine relief. Those gifts are being channeled through WELS World Missions, which remains in contact with the ULC and is still able to transfer funds to where they are most needed. To date, $25,000 has been sent, with additional funds to be sent in the coming days and weeks as long as the banking system remains intact. Individuals can give a gift by going to wels.net/give-ukraine or by sending a check payable to WELS and designating “Ukraine” in the memo line to WELS Attn: Gift Processing, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive, Waukesha, WI 53188. (Organizations may donate via check but not online.)
  • Currently, collecting physical relief items (blankets, water, canned goods, diapers, etc.) to send to Ukraine is not the best option for assisting those impacted by this war. The expense and logistical complexity of getting such items to those who need it make such an effort impractical. We will let you know when and if such efforts become possible.
  • In addition to gifts through the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, some have made gifts to WELS Christian Aid and Relief (CAR). With those funds, CAR has made grants to Direct Relief (directrelief.org) to get aid to those who need assistance, especially for Ukrainian refugees in Poland. To date, WELS Christian Aid and Relief has sent $50,000 to Direct Relief. This highly rated disaster relief organization specializes in providing medical assistance and supplies where they are needed most. They have both the inventory and infrastructure to bring medical aid to an area quickly. We have worked with this organization for many years and trust their work.
  • Pastor Roger Neumann is the WELS liaison to the ULC; he is in almost daily contact with Bishop Horpynchuk, head of the ULC, and keeps us informed of the latest news and challenges. There are periodic Ukraine updates on the WELS website at wels.net.

Lord God, in this world of darkness and evil, the light of your saving gospel continues to shine. Through that good news you have brought people around the world from the darkness of sin and death into your marvelous light. But evil exists, and Satan’s work in this fallen world continues. As many in Ukraine are experiencing unimaginable hardships and suffering, we ask that you would be with them. Protect them, provide for them, and, above all, strengthen their faith and trust in you and your promises. We commend them to your gracious care, knowing that you have promised to be with them always. Even though they are now walking through the shadow of death, enable them to fear no evil. We ask you, in your love and wisdom, to restore peace and safety to those now enduring the horrors of war and bloodshed and to continue to let your gospel message be the comfort and hope that so many desperately need. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Serving you in Christ,
Rev. Mark Schroeder
WELS President

 

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 10, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today I’ll begin with some quick updates on pastors and congregations in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), our sister synod. All are alive and well at this time. Thanks be to God.

Bishop talked with Pastor Victor Khaustov who moved with his family to a safer location in Kharkiv. Moving about in that city is dangerous now because one could easily find themselves in a crossfire situation between Russian and Ukrainian troops. So they make very limited trips out of their homes, only to get needed food or medical supplies.

Pastor Oleksandr Feschenko reports that the internet has been cut off in Tokmak. Each day, people bravely protest in the city, the occupation by the Russians. These actions let the Russians know they are not welcome there.

Pastor Dmytro Didkivski says that the city of Malyn continues to be bombed. The areas where this is taking place are mostly residential areas. The Russian actions show an undisciplined, almost degenerate mindset, harming and killing innocent, defenseless people, and needlessly destroying homes and buildings.

In Kyiv, it’s reported that their church building is unharmed from bombings. Praise be to God. Plans are being made to use the church to store some food in the event the city comes under siege. Members of the church are helping an elderly member who needs assistance getting food and water. Just one example of so many that happen every day.

Other pastors who aren’t in the immediate conflict areas continue to help with refugees. They assist people, who left everything behind to flee, to purchase shoes and clothing if needed, in addition to food and water. In Riven, sets made up of a primitive mattress, pillow, and blanket sell for about $40.00. These are being purchased so people have something more comfortable to sleep on as they stop for rest on their long, slow journey to the border.

The efforts of the pastors, and leaders in the church, are wonderful to hear about. People are naturally most interested, each day, in how go things on the battlefield. Yet when one starts a prayer, or begins reading some Bible passages, people pause to listen and are comforted and encouraged. It reminds them that in the midst of death, there is life in Christ. Sometimes pastors are torn by the desire to be helping in the conflict but they also know how important it is for people to hear the word. They preach, have short Bible studies, pray, and encourage daily readings. For a few brief moments, it takes people’s minds off what is going on around them and they find peace in Christ. This teaches us both the value and the need for those who preach and teach God’s Word. We thank them for their efforts, and want them to know that their efforts are not in vain.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Together Video Update – March 8, 2022

Rev. Mike Hartman recently began serving as a missionary in London. Learn more about his ministry there and all the opportunities that are available for sharing the gospel in this multi-cultural area.


Want to learn more about Missionary Mike Hartman and his family’s experiences in the mission field? Watch this “Together” extra featuring Hartman’s wife, Rachel.

 

 

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WELS President’s Comments on the situation in Ukraine

The world has watched in horror as the country of Ukraine has been invaded by neighboring Russia. Entire cities have been decimated. Civilians have become the target of relentless strikes by bombs and missiles. Over a million Ukrainians have been forced to flee to neighboring countries, leaving behind loved ones, homes, and all they possess.

While our attention has been on the conditions throughout Ukraine and the human suffering the war has caused, we also have special concern for the members of our sister church body, the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC). Congregations of the ULC are located in many of the places that you have heard about in the news. Many of their members have been forced to take shelter from shelling or to flee from their homes; some have had their homes destroyed.

The head of the ULC, Bishop Vyacheslav Horpynchuk, has been in regular contact with WELS liaison to the ULC Pastor Roger Neuman. Pastor Neumann has been providing daily updates on the situation in Ukraine, especially relating to how our fellow believers are being affected. I’ve also been in contact with the bishop to hear first-hand about the challenges he and his congregations are facing and to assure him of our synod’s continuing support through prayers and offerings.

WELS members have generously sent gifts to WELS World Missions in support of relief efforts. Last week, WELS sent $25,000 to the ULC, with the assumption that this is only the first installment of assistance that WELS members will provide. The funds are intended to provide needed help to refugees and others affected by the war. WELS Christian Aid and Relief also authorized a $25,000 grant to Direct Relief, an organization that is providing medical supplies and support necessary during a time of war. We realize that the ability to send funds to Ukraine may be lost at any time.

Some of the ULC congregations were able to hold worship services last week (most of them virtually). We praise God that his Word continues to provide them with comfort, strength, and renewed faith in God’s gracious promises.

We will continue to look for ways to provide assistance to the ULC and, if possible, to ULC families who have made their way to other countries and need assistance. Our sister church in Germany is also looking for ways to help.

This entire tragic drama is another stark reminder of the wickedness and depravity that infects the human soul. And yet, even in these darkest of days, we remain confident that the Lord of lords is still ruling with his grace and power. We trust that the gates of hell itself cannot withstand the power of the gospel. We pray for a quick end to the war. We ask God for his forgiveness for taking his blessings for granted. And we commit our ULC brothers and sisters—and all Ukrainians—to God’s care and protection.

In Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

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Ukrainian bishop with sons on front lines shares realities of war

On March 2, FOX19 Now from Cincinnati, Ohio, featured a story on Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) Bishop V’yacheslav Horpynchuk and his two sons who are defending their home country. His one son, Vlad, previously served as a vicar at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Cincinnati. The ULC is WELS’ sister church in Ukraine.

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An update from Ukraine

WELS Ukraine liaison Rev. Roger Neumann has been able to maintain regular contact with leaders from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), WELS’ sister church body. As of Tuesday morning, Neumann is reporting that so far the members there remain physically unharmed. However, all but 2 of the 17 congregations, comprising approximately 600 members, are in the direct line of the Russian advance. Two of the pastors have been cut off from communication. Many were able to hold online or in-person worship during the invasion on Sunday morning.

Neumann reports, “There’s a lot of fear, mixed with anger and bewilderment, as to why this is happening. They are very encouraged by the international support; very encouraged by the prayers of WELS people that are going out.”

According to Neumann, some members have been able to flee the country. However, at this time, all Ukrainian men between ages 18 and 60 are required to remain to defend their country as needed. The people who have stayed are taking shelter at night in the underground subway stations and come out during the day to find food and supplies. So far, limited supplies are still available, but the shelves are getting emptier.

WELS is financially assisting two ULC churches in western Ukraine that are setting up refugee centers to welcome Ukrainians who are fleeing from war-torn areas in the east, but space and resources are limited. Hundreds of thousands of people are currently on the move. Money is also being sent to help buy supplies for these refugees. At the time of this writing, banks and supermarkets are still open. The situation is being closely monitored regarding how funds can be safely and effectively sent and used.

“When this is all said and done—and Lord willing, it’s going to be soon and Lord willing, it’s going to be where they will keep their sovereignty—there is going to be a tremendous need for humanitarian aid,” Neumann predicts. “Pray for Ukraine; pray for the people. That’s the number one thing, and the rest God will take care of in his way.”

If you’d like to give a gift to support these relief efforts, visit wels.net/wmgift and select “Ukraine” from the dropdown menu.

 

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World missionary commissioned to London

Missionary Michael Hartman was commissioned as a new missionary to London, and Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bare and Rev. David Bivens were installed as part of the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) team at the opening worship service of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Mission & Ministry event on February 8. Missionary Hartman and two other World Missions representatives left for his second exploratory trip to London the day after the service.

Plans are being made for ministry, and details such as visa applications, school details, etc. are being sorted out for the family’s eventual move to the country. You can view photos from the service on the Flickr album.

Please keep these missionaries in your prayers as they continue to serve God’s people in their new positions.

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Different mission field, same mission

Joey’s last day in the office

Last year, my husband and I decided to emigrate from Hong Kong to England after much discussion and prayers. One of my struggles is that I must leave the Hong Kong office of Multi-Language Productions (MLP) and my lovely colleagues. I had been working for Multi-Language Productions (MLP) as a full-time staff in Hong Kong for around 10 years, mainly translating, editing, and proofreading the layout of various books and Bible resources in the Chinese language. I enjoy the work very much and I would like to continue to serve God in this way. After discussing with Yvonne, my supervisor, and Nate Seiltz, director of MLP, and getting MLP’s approval, I continue working for MLP in the form of Contract Service.

Joey and her husband in the countryside of England after quarantine

My husband and I finally boarded the plane at the end of June this year. Due to COVID-19, we had to spend 10 days in a home quarantine after arriving in the United Kingdom. This was my first time in a quarantine. Thank God, a local friend gave us great help and made it easy for us to get through the 10 days.

Although the Hong Kong people used to receive British education and are familiar with the British culture, there are big differences between the East and West. I have also experienced various cultural differences. The most significant is the language. Not only are Chinese and English different, but British English and American English are also different, including pronunciation, spelling and the meaning of certain words etc. Besides, some people here speak in strong accents and even the local people can hardly understand.

In terms of food and drink, the choice of food, cooking methods, and serving ways are different. Bread is the staple food of Westerners while rice is our staple food. The food we often eat in Hong Kong may not be found in the United Kingdom.

In terms of housing, residential houses in the United Kingdom are generally larger than those in Hong Kong. When the United Kingdom people want to rent or buy a house, they will check how many rooms in the house, whereas Hong Kong people will check the saleable size of the house.

In the United Kingdom, pedestrians can cross the road first (in the circumstance without a traffic light), but it is the opposite in Hong Kong. In the early days after we arrived at the United Kingdom, we would stay on the pavement waiting for the car to pass. We were surprised that the car stopped, and the driver would give us a signal to ask us to go first.

After a month for settling down in the United Kingdom, I started to work in August. My job duties are translation and editing, and since we experienced work from home last year, I was able to perform my work as long as I have a computer and internet access. I thank God, who lets me continue to serve Him.

I’m now working on updating the Chinese Catalog and editing the People’s Bible – John. One of our goals is to produce good materials for the Christians in East Asia to help them understand the Bible better. To produce the Chinese version of the People’s Bible Series is one of the projects we want to achieve. May God give me strength to continue contribute on this big project.

Written by Joey Chow, translator and editor for Multi-Language Productions (MLP)


More than 20% of members (including Joey Chow and her husband) and two pastors from WELS’ sister church in Hong Kong, South Asia Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM), have moved to the United Kingdom. Read more about the plans WELS World Missions is pursuing to place a missionary in London in this article from the Together e-newsletter.

 

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New mission opportunities in Europe

A new mission in London is one step closer to reality. After a trip to England earlier this month, Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of the Board for World Missions, is recommending that the board call a full-time missionary to London.

During his trip, Schlomer met with a group of WELS families in London to talk about the possibilities. These members will serve as the “core group” for this mission and its work. “They are more than excited,” says Schlomer. “A couple of the members even shared with me that they have been praying for a pastor.”

In the past, this group in London—about 30 people—has been served with the Word and sacraments by the WELS European chaplain, who travels monthly from Germany where he is based. The chaplain, part of WELS Military Services, ministers to WELS military personnel on large bases in Germany as well as serves civilians and troops in Germany, England, Switzerland, and scattered throughout Europe. Currently Rev. John Hartwig fills that role.

According to Schlomer, besides serving current members weekly with the Word, a new missionary will be able to explore opportunities for reaching out to the many immigrant populations that settle in London. WELS already has connections with several groups, including members and pastors from WELS’ sister synod in Hong Kong who have recently relocated to London. Once initial exploration has been completed, a second missionary may be called to work specifically with these immigrant groups. Funding has already been approved for both positions. “Right now our priority is to get someone there with this group of believers, and we’ll let the Spirit guide it as the Spirit will,” says Schlomer.

Phil and Sandy Parker, who have been members of this group in London since 2000, are excited about the possibilities. “London is such a multicultural area, and we think that the field amongst these immigrant populations will be particularly ripe because we can offer useful services, such as English as a foreign language classes, that can benefit them as they try to integrate into their communities,” says Sandy.

They also recognize the need for their English friends and family to hear the pure gospel message, something that is in short supply in London. “We know that the Holy Spirit is stronger than even the most stoic Englishman, and so, with a missionary here to help us with these conversations, we might be able to rest assured that our loved ones know God’s salvation too,” says Sandy.

During Schlomer’s visit, Hartwig led worship in person for the group for the first time since he arrived in Germany in June 2020. COVID-19 had made it impossible for him to travel to England, so the group had been worshiping through Zoom video meetings.

“It was such a happy experience,” says Hartwig about the service, which included communion and a baptism affirmation. “And on top of that, seeing that we may have an opportunity to have a permanent pastor—we’re definitely excited about that.”

He continues, “The European Chaplaincy has been thankful to have the opportunity to work with the military and the civilians in the U.K. for many years. We’re excited about the new turn this is taking and want to do everything possible to help that to happen.”

London is one of five new world mission opportunities being explored by WELS Missions. Learn more.

 

 

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Finding a way to gather

David works in a sausage factory in Finland. Ingvar delivers the mail in Sweden. Artur teaches history in the local university in Portugal. Not only are the European CELC (Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Synod) pastors scattered across a dozen countries, many serve as “tent ministers.” They preach and teach on weekends and support themselves with secular work during the week. (St. Paul was the original “tent minister.” See Acts 18:3.)

Tent ministry saps time and energy for serving souls. It also limits face-to-face meetings for professional growth and encouragement.

Early this past spring, Pastor Holger Weiss (Germany) and Pastor Ingvar Adriansson (Sweden) were struggling to organize logistics for study and fellowship. By tradition European pastors gather for a regional conference and/or Summer Quarter study. But this year borders were closed. Travel was nearly impossible. So, Holger and Ingvar proposed a workaround: “Let’s organize an online study with time to share news and pray for each other!”

Using the theme: “Worldwide Judgment and Deliverance: Then and Now,” local pastors supplied four Bible studies on the early chapters of Genesis. About twenty different participants prepared for online meetings by viewing videos ahead of time. Then we gathered to share observations and discuss practical application for life and ministry. The format was so interesting that small-group discussion time came to be known as “The Fastest Fifteen Minutes of the Week.”

After small group and plenary discussion, we shared news and prayed for each other. It seems Pastor Artur Villares from Portugal is dealing with the greatest blessings and challenges.

First the good news. After years of dialogue with an LC-MS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) trained pastor from Brazil, the Portuguese church finally colloquized Rev. Denício Márcio Godoy and received him into fellowship. Denício (pictured in photo above) lives in Belo Horizonte, population 6 million, the 18th largest city in the Americas. What an outreach center! The pastors in our Zoom meeting welcomed Denício and wished him well before our connection was cut. Please pray that God will soon reopen travel to Brazil!

Please keep Pastor Canoa in your prayers as he recovers from the stroke and God-willing continues to serve the flock in Lisbon

We have another reason to pray for our brothers and sisters in Portugal. Antonio Canoa, the only other pastor in the Portuguese church, recently suffered a crippling stroke. At this point Antonio is unable to serve his congregation in Lisbon. Artur, who lives four hours north in Porto, is doing his best to keep in touch with church members online. Please pray that God would care for Antonio and his people in Lisbon. Please pray also for the Portuguese speakers Antonio was befriending in Europe, Africa, and South America.

Travel restrictions might prevent us from seeing each other, but nothing can limit our Savior’s mighty gospel call! Help us, Lord! We trust in You.

Written by Rev. Luke Wolfgramm, world missionary in Europe

 

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Faces of Faith – Irina, Olga, and Alisa

Irina Yevpak was shocked. She was a young girl growing up in the Soviet Union when she first learned that people die. “Why? Surely science can cure old age and death!” Deep philosophical questions drove Irina through her high school and university years. She studied chemistry and even visited a local church. But she never found peace.

Irina married and had a daughter, Olga. Later, Irina got sick with cancer. The enemy she so dreaded stared her in the face. While standing in line at the clinic, Irina noticed our church’s invitation: “Come study the Bible!” She brought her questions, and God told her everything she wanted to know, and more! Meanwhile, Olga was getting ready for college. She remembers hearing, “You might have three university degrees, but if you’ve never studied the Bible, you’re not educated!” She boldly opened a Bible and began reading, but nothing made sense. Irina noticed Olga’s frustration. “Why not come with me? We can study together.” In December 2002, mother and daughter were both confirmed. Years passed. Olga married and had a daughter, Alisa. Today twelve-year-old Alisa declares, “I don’t even remember becoming a believer!” She has known Jesus her entire life.

The Yevpaks are the first three-generation family in our Russian Lutheran Church. What a blessing when young and old worship together! Irina no longer fears death. Olga treasures God’s mercy. Alisa loves her Savior. The Yevpaks have good news to share with others – including the next generation!

Learn more about WELS mission work in Russia at wels.net/russia.

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A time to celebrate and a time to pray

Luke Wolfgramm, our WELS pastor in Russia, had a chance to talk with Holger Weiss, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) in Germany. The ELFK is WELS’ sister church and mission partner.

Let’s celebrate and give thanks with our brothers and sisters in Germany!

This is quite a year for the 1,300 members and 17 congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK).

  • Steeden, the oldest congregation in the ELFK, is celebrating its 175th anniversary – that’s four years older than WELS.
  • Four other congregations (in Dresden, Zwickau-Planitz, Altengesees, and Saalfeld) are celebrating 150 or 100 years of God’s grace.
  • The ELFK seminary was founded in 1921, exactly 100 years ago.
  • And this year the Dr. Martin Luther School for elementary children is celebrating its 20th

When interviewed, Holger Weiss, said:

“God has performed miracles for our church. He preserved His truth among us despite two devastating world wars and decades of communist persecution. [Most ELFK congregations are located in former East Germany.]

Student at the ELFK seminary in Leipzig.

At first ELFK pastors were trained in the Missouri Synod seminary in St. Louis. [At that time both WELS and the ELFK enjoyed fellowship with the LC-MS.] But when WWI prevented men from traveling to the United States, the ELFK had to find a way to train their own pastors. The church decided to send men to the state seminary in Leipzig. But they also established their own auxiliary institute to battle false teaching presented in that liberal seminary. This was the beginning of the ELFK seminary.

We are so thankful for Dr. Martin Luther School in Zwickau. Every day 120 students attend grades 1-4 and hear about the Savior. Most of these students come from unchurched families. This has been an excellent way to reach out to our community with God’s word.

But I feel sad. I live in the land of Luther and the Reformation. But so many people here have no idea of what Christ did for them. Today we are still suffering from the pandemic. People have gotten sick and died. Businesses have been closed. Many are living in fear. They sought hope from medicine, science and politicians – only to be disappointed. People need to know that our real troubles are spiritual! We need a new awakening!

Please pray that God would move young men to study for ministry in Germany. Pray that we can open new congregations and preaching stations. Pray that we can send out missionaries. Pray that all of us can be lights welcoming souls into God’s happy family. And pray for our seminary. Right now, we are exploring ways that we can serve not only German students, but men from our sister churches. We want people all over Europe to hear about the Savior!

What a special year! We thank God for past blessings. Now it’s time to get busy praying and working to share the Savior – no matter where you live!”

 

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Mission partners in Finland

Did you know that WELS shares fellowship with a Swedish-speaking church in Finland? Get acquainted with Pastor David Akerlund, his wife, Marika, and their congregation.

The following is taken from a recent interview with Pastor David Akerlund:

I serve as one of three part-time pastors in St. Johannes Evangelical Lutheran Church. Our church began in 2008 with six members. Since then, God has blessed us. We have grown to 28 members who meet at two different sites, in Jakobstad and Vaasa on the west coast of Finland. I serve together with two other pastors, Pastor Ola Osterbacka and Pastor Oyvind Edvardsen, and one Bible teacher/organist, Hans Ahlskog.

I usually preach two Sundays a month. I visit the sick and share the gospel with people in my neighborhood. God gives me many opportunities to talk about the Savior with my extended family and workers at the meat-packing plant where I work. Sharing the gospel takes time. I’m thinking about one of our recent confirmands. . . I first shared the gospel with him (Rasmus) in 2008. He’s a cousin on my wife’s side of the family. At family gatherings, I would talk with him and my other relatives about our eternal needs. Our conversations continued over the course of nearly a decade before Rasmus was finally ready to take adult instruction classes and join our church.

Pastor David and Marika in the home they are building

I love sharing the Good News of Jesus. There are so many people in our neighborhood who are searching for answers to the most serious questions in life. Who is God? Why am I here? Where am I going? I want to share God’s truth with people who are hurting and looking for comfort.

I’m married to a wonderful woman named Marika. Together we are a support family for a little girl named Lena who is nearly three years old. We are building a house. [David and Marika are actually building their house with their own hands, brick by brick and board by board.] My dream is that God would allow us to adopt children so that our house will be full!

A couple of prayer requests:

  • Please pray that God would give our congregation many open doors for sharing His comfort with the people in our community.
  • Please pray that God would help us through the long, difficult process of adopting children.
  • Please pray for me and my service. I think it would be great if I could become a full-time pastor for the workers at our meat-packing plant! Many of them are interested to hear about the Savior. I would love to spend all my time preaching, teaching, meeting prospects and encouraging people with God’s Word.

Interview conducted by Pastor Luke Wolfgramm, Russia

St. Johannes is an Associate Member of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC), a group of 32 confessional Lutheran churches and synods from around the world. The CELC gathers at triennial meetings for encouragement, fellowship, study, cooperation in projects, and an internationally united voice. Learn more at celc.info.

 

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Pandemic blessings and challenges in Russia

So, how are you handling the pandemic? Let me share just a little bit about how God led us through the past six months in Russia.

Challenges

Stress and loneliness

My wife Jennifer had barely completed her 14-day quarantine after the World Missionary Wives Conference in Spain when the Novosibirsk governor declared strict self-isolation requirements for our region. People were allowed to leave their apartments only to go to the nearest grocery store or pharmacy, walk their dogs, and carry out trash. For six weeks people adopted stray dogs and fought for the privilege of taking out garbage!

On a more serious note, many worried about their health and the well-being of their extended families. People lost their jobs as normal routines ground to a halt. Worst of all, after March 29, we could not gather with our brothers and sisters at church. I’m guessing that many of our struggles in Russia were similar to challenges you faced in the United States.

8th grade distance learning

At first the quarantine seemed like good news for our youngest son, Peter. The governor’s declaration called for an extra week of spring vacation. So of course, Peter put off doing his homework. But then we got word that the order had changed and that distance learning would begin the next day! Peter had to scramble to get his homework done. Meanwhile, teachers and schools scrambled to teach online classes – a completely new experience for everyone. The next three weeks were chaotic because each teacher chose a different platform for teaching and collecting homework. Jennifer and Peter spent many hours figuring out computer logistics so they could get lectures, readings, and homework assignments. Our whole family celebrated May 27th when the school year finally came to an end.

Travel restrictions

Our Russian pastors wanted to comfort their people, especially older members. But the fear of spreading a dangerous disease prevented us from travelling. Instead they led devotions and prayers by telephone. Special legal documents allowed us to travel for work, but even these papers only permitted us to travel within city limits. Police cars sat at the edge of the city to enforce travel restrictions. I could not visit Iskitim or Tomsk. National borders were closed, so trips to Albania and Bulgaria to visit our sister churches were cancelled.

Tamara appreciates online worship services and devotions

Personal issues

Because of closed borders, we decided at first to postpone our furlough until next year. There was just one problem: Peter was planning to start high school in Wisconsin. We started searching for ways to send Peter to the U.S. as an unaccompanied minor. We are grateful that WELS World Missions convinced us to find a way to travel back to the U.S. as a family. Jennifer and I spent many hours in June and July searching for a way to travel to the U.S. Most years planning the trip is half the fun, but this year all routes were closed.

I confess that our family struggled with stress and worry, fears and feelings of helplessness. But God was near! “Do you really trust me? Do you really believe I’m almighty and loving – that I haven’t forgotten you? You know who I am. Take another look at my Son’s cross. I am with you, even when you can’t feel my warm smile!” It’s true! Even now. Especially now. God is pouring out blessings.

Blessings

Sharing Jesus online

The Russian church had a website before COVID-19, but the quarantine pushed us to enhance the way we share the gospel online. We began streaming Sunday morning worship services with better audio/video. We posted mid-week devotions on Christ’s resurrection, David the Man of God, and Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Our members started sharing digital comfort with their isolated friends and relatives. WELS Christian Aid and Relief provided funding so we could purchase modest cell phones for shut-in members. Our Iskitim grandmas were delighted with the opportunity to see worship services and devotions from their own homes. Our most technologically savvy granny made sure that our members in Iskitim were able to connect online to each other and to the gospel.

Luke and Andre

Local seminary

Travel restrictions allowed me more time to work with our seminary student, Andre Gydkov. The two of us spent many hours studying Biblical doctrine. . . everything from the Trinity to the person of Christ, from God’s creation and the fall into sin to the High Priest who reconciled us with God. We also discussed a wide range of topics that fall outside of formal seminary curriculum, but which are vital for soul-ministry.

Peter’s Confirmation

My son Peter and I had ample opportunity to work our way through catechism classes. We discussed the chief parts of our faith and explored practical ways for Peter to dive into his adult life of faith. At the very end of July, we organized an at-home confirmation. We invited Andre and his daughter and set up a video call so that our stateside family could witness Peter’s vows and encourage him on his special day.

God provides an open door

Peter’s Confirmation

After weeks of struggle and prayer, we saw God’s answer. At just the right time, Russia opened her borders to Great Britain so that we could travel to the U.S. through London. We spent two weeks self-isolating near Jennifer’s side of the family in Nebraska. And now just this week we traveled to Appleton, Wisconsin, and met with Peter’s faculty advisor at Fox Valley Lutheran High School. We’re grateful that God allowed us to travel together so that we can help Peter get ready for a completely new and exciting chapter in his life. We’re also looking forward to spending time with our older daughters and offering them our love and encouragement.

God is in control

Without a doubt, the past six months have been a time of testing. God is asking, “What is most important to you? Do you really believe in my power, in my love? Will you trust me?” This season is providing us with special opportunity to remember God’s great promises and share his rock-solid comfort with others. We know Jesus is with us. We know he will give us joy and strength so that we can be his lights in a dark world longing for hope.

Please keep us in your prayers. Please pray that God would bless our time here in the States. We have much that needs to be done! Please pray that God finds a way for us to return to our mission field in his good time.

Written by Pastor Luke Wolfgramm, Russia


 

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Faces of Faith – Alexei

You met Russian seminary student, Andre Gydkov, in a different Faces of Faith story (wels.net/faces-of-faith-andre). That story continues. . .

In the late 1990s, 18-year-old Andre moved from Kazakhstan to a farming village in southwest Siberia. Here he met Alexei Yryanski. Together they participated in the only pastimes available to young men: sports and troublemaking. After escaping his schoolbooks, Alexei took a job as a blacksmith and discovered a passion for forging metal. With enormous effort, Alexei managed to open his own shop where he still crafts custom furniture, railings, and weathervanes for wealthy clients. In spite of his talent, Alexei lived in darkness. His marriage failed. Dishonest people stole from him. Andre had moved away to Novosibirsk. Life was dark and joyless. Then in December 2012, Andre returned home, and the two friends talked. Alexei shared his troubles while Andre listened sympathetically. Then Andre said, “You’ll never guess what’s happened to me.” That evening Andre shared the Savior with his friend. “Go home and read, yes, READ the gospel of Mark.” Alexei’s story is a miracle. He did read Mark—and was overwhelmed by Jesus’ love! But this story is not a perfect fairy tale. Since becoming a Christian, Alexei has struggled with many ups and downs. But the faithful Lord Jesus holds Andre and Alexei in his mighty arms. And lately Alexei has noticed his mother’s reading glasses lying next to the family Bible. . . and the story continues!

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