Tag Archive for: Faces of Faith World Missions

Faces of Faith – Clarise

I’m from Bamenda, Cameroon. It was hard not to feel abandoned when my mother passed away when I was very young. I not only lost my mother, but soon found myself caring for my siblings as well. Not only has my family experienced tremendous loss, but now many families in Cameroon are suffering due to the unrest. Yet, I trust that God is working in the background and that I have not been abandoned. The following has kept me going and growing since I was a child: “Every disappointment is a blessing in disguise. . . it might not look like a blessing right away, until the Lord’s work is done and you realize how blessed you were to have been through all those moments you thought he had abandoned you.”

I work for Qatar Airways and on a recent flight from Chicago to Doha, I was reminded of that same truth. During that flight, I met several men who were traveling to Zambia for meetings. At 30,000 feet, I was introduced to the TELL ministry. I read my Bible but don’t always understand what it is saying. Since downloading the TELL app, it’s crazy how I have learned so much in just the first course. I have been using TELL since the day I landed back in Doha. It has really helped in my relationship with God, helped organize my Bible studies, and has changed my life a lot. I see so many things differently now. TELL is amazing. I can’t wait for the virtual classes!

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Faces of Faith – Sandra

Several years ago, Sandra Luz was searching for a way to study the Word of God. Her husband took it upon himself to help her to find a great program. He stumbled upon Academia Cristo online, dug into their resources, and said to his wife, “This one; this is it.” Sandra quickly began working her way through the self-study lessons on Academia Cristo’s mobile app. She was then welcomed into live classes via Zoom led by WELS missionaries. She completed 13 live Zoom courses and officially became a Confessional Lutheran. When asked if she desired to share the gospel message in her community, Sandra responded with, “How can I not?! People must know.”

Now Sandra informally gathers a group of five in her home every Saturday, including the children of these adult students. Guided by a WELS missionary advisor and by her continued courses in Academia Cristo, Sandra is currently leading her group through Bible information classes. Her husband has been regularly attending her gatherings and is now also showing interest in the Confessional Lutheran faith. She prays for a Lutheran church to develop in her border town of Mexico, where there currently is none. She still rejoices in the growth of the members of her group and in those who may soon join her in the Lutheran faith and be able to lead. “Luz” means light, and Sandra Luz certainly is a gospel light in her family and in her community.

From Elise Gross, Dean of Women’s Ministry in Ecuador

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Faces of Faith – Sally

“We’re sending her to a Christian school. That’s how we’re raising her, and that’s what we want for her life.” It was a big moment in life for Sally. Despite attending elementary school at Peridot-Our Savior’s Lutheran School, some family members wanted Sally to participate in a traditional Apache religious ceremony. Her father was standing firm in opposition to it. He wanted her to be about the Lord and his Word and walk a Christian path throughout life.

These words stuck with Sally, even through the spiritual detours of life. They stayed with her when she moved to the big city and away from God. They supported her when addiction took her husband out of her life. “Seek the Lord” was the constant advice given to her during tough times, and had she not been in the Word, she’s convinced she would not have made it through the especially difficult time when she lost her oldest son.

Today Sally is still on the Christian path to heaven. She walks with more experience, more scars, and more thankfulness. She’s thankful to walk with Malcolm, a Christian husband who has taken over the role of encouraging her to grow in relationship with Jesus. She’s thankful for a deeper understanding and empathy for the obstacles that people face all around her, and thankful for opportunities to serve the Lord. Her eyes are truly open to see people around her, to pray for those who have gone through what she has, and to pray for everyone to know Jesus and walk the path to heaven.

From Dan Rautenberg, Native American mission field coordinator

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Faces of Faith – Kanon

Kanon Haga is a currently a college student and the son of Pastor Haga in Mito, Japan. For the past year, Kanon has been designing and running his own children’s events and Vacation Bible School programs for Megumi (“Grace”) Lutheran Church, WELS’ sister church. While on break from school, he wondered what he could do to serve the Lord. Around that time, a childhood friend reached out to him to ask if he could come to church. Though his friend didn’t identify as a Christian, he mentioned that when he was little, church was always very welcoming and warm for him. That same feeling is what inspired Kanon to start creating children’s programs. “I wanted to recreate that same feeling for the kids, so they see church as a fun and welcoming place.” After these events, parents often tell Kanon that while they previously felt nervous or scared of church, these events led them to trust Christians and churches. And at these children’s events, they get to hear the word of God. Kanon’s work shows love to the community and gives a positive image of Christianity to the city, while also sharing the message of the Savior with young hearts.

From Peter Janke, Asia One Team missionary

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Faces of Faith – New Zealand

Over three years ago, Pastor Titus Tse, then president of the South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM) in Hong Kong, began meeting online with some SALEM members who had immigrated to New Zealand. They also happened to be former students of Asia Lutheran Seminary. Over time, the original members invited their friends—some Christian, some non-Christian—to join the group. This group has now decided to start a Cantonese-speaking church in Auckland. They began monthly worship in January 2023 and continue to meet weekly online.

Another mission group started by another SALEM member has sprung up in Queenstown as well. In early 2023, the Auckland group leaders met several local pastors from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other locations to learn how to reach out and form a legal church in New Zealand. Please pray for this exciting work among our Chinese-speaking brothers and sisters who, like the scattered believers in the early church, are carrying the gospel with them wherever they go!

From Matt Doebler, Asia One Team missionary

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Faces of Faith – Perry

God has taken Perry Wong on an interesting journey to our church in London. Perry was born in Hong Kong. She was not raised Christian, but she attended Christian primary school. It wasn’t until she started lecturing at universities in Hong Kong that she realized there was something missing in her life. She insists, “It was the Holy Spirit’s work. I am a very stubborn person.” At the encouragement of her brother, Perry got involved with a Christian reformed church. She was later convinced by a friend to study at Asia Lutheran Seminary. There, Perry learned that “it is not about what we should do for God, but what he has done for us.”

In November 2021, Perry moved away from Hong Kong. She needed a break from teaching fashion at the university level. The school board had begun to discourage conversations about cultural and historical topics. She felt she could not do her position justice under the new restrictions, and she worried about how her students might be affected. Perry chose to come to London because it was a familiar place that she knew from her own college education.

Upon her arrival, one of Perry’s professors from Asia Lutheran Seminary connected her with the new Lutheran group meeting in London. The church immediately welcomed Perry in like one of the family. Perry is excited to see what work God will do through her and others in London and the U.K.!

From Conifer Berg, missionary in London & the U.K.

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Faces of Faith – Einarsson Family

Anders and Stella met in Germany at an opera production for children. Anders was from Sweden. He was studying music at the university in Stuttgart and played trumpet for the children’s performance. Stella sang in the choir.

The two shared a love for music and concern for spiritual matters. Anders grew up knowing his Savior, but Stella had many questions. They spent hours talking, and Pastor Jonas Schroeter and his fiancé also helped. Together the two couples dug deeper into God’s word.

After their wedding day, Anders began inviting others to their home for Bible studies. Naturally, Stella participated too. She said, “I always listened, and became more and more convinced. When our oldest was a very little child, it hit me: this is true! Jesus died to save me. It was like a door had opened in my heart. And then there were no doubts and no questions. That was in 2007.”

Today Anders and Stella live in Sweden. God has blessed them with four musically inclined children. Anders directs a children’s orchestra and is working through seminary training. He teaches youth Bible classes and occasionally preaches for his congregation in Ljungby, Sweden. Stella adds to worship by playing the piano and singing in the choir.

The family is thankful for the purpose and meaning that Jesus brought to all the parts of their lives. Anders and Stella also want to offer encouragement and ask you to pray for others wrestling with spiritual questions. “We need young people in church. And we need to encourage young men to think about being pastors.”

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Faces of Faith – Makisimu

Pastor Makisimu Musa (Moses) is the leader of the Obadiah Lutheran Synod (OLS) in Uganda. God has blessed him with the opportunity to bring together and grow congregations around the eastern and northern parts of the country. The church had very humble beginnings—three men meeting in one of their homes in 2008. After 15 years, they had worked with very limited resources to gather and shepherd 21 congregations with a total of more than 4,000 souls! Of course, only by God’s blessing. Some of that blessing comes in the form of Pastor Musa, a humble leader who has a strong passion for the truth of Scripture and for sharing that truth with more people. He also recognizes the importance of sharing the work with others and training new leaders within the church. With God’s continued blessing, Pastor Musa’s leadership will continue to benefit the Obadiah Lutheran Synod for years to come and will bring many more to learn the truth about their Savior.

From Benjamin Foxen, missionary in Zambia

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Faces of Faith – Wilfred

Mr. Wilfred Bendabenda isn’t a Lutheran Mobile Clinic patient or a Lutheran Church of Central Africa pastor, but he does have an important role serving the Malawian clinics. Born in Lilongwe, Malawi, his faith grew through encouragement from his Christian mother and WELS missionaries. He was confirmed as an adult at Chikhulupiriro Lutheran Church in Mwalaulomwe. Recently, his strong faith and the work of the Holy Spirit brought his father to faith as well. Wilfred’s favorite Bible passage is The Lord’s Prayer because, “I feel like it has got the whole procedure of a Christian life.”

Through prayer and a WELS missionary’s encouragement, he started his own construction business. He trusted God who rewarded him with a successful business. Now he lets his faith shine through construction work. Having built the new CAMM Msambo clinic and renovated the clinic buildings at Suzi, Thunga, and Mwalaulomwe, he has become the go-to guy for repairs or construction work at the nurse’s house. Wilfred was amazed by the work of the Lutheran Mobile Clinic, which is “just simply out there to help people, not to make money or treat only those that can afford clinical care.” He also valued the cooperation and relationship between the church and the clinic.

We rejoice for his spiritual faith and his construction talents, which helped renovate multiple clinic buildings. We look forward to seeing his faith and business grow in the years ahead!

From Angela Sievert, Chairman of the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM).

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Faces of Faith – Crispin

Crispin Chikonka has been working as the Psychosocial Counselor at the Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Mwembezhi, Zambia. As a Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) member, he leads clinic devotions and can see Jesus working through the clinic visitors every day. Through those devotions or when counseling patients, Crispin can feel God’s presence in the clinic. He states, “His Word pull us together when working as a team and respecting one another, and there is good communication among us at work.”

While the clinic is at times full of many sick people, he finds joy in his work. Not only do these devotions boost the morale of the visiting patients, but Crispin is also fed with God’s Word. He feels blessed when he observes his working environment and clinic building along with knowing that patient’s concerns and ailments have been addressed. The parable of the ten lepers resonates with Crispin, “Then He said to them, rise and go; your faith has made you well.” – Luke 17:19

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Faces of Faith – Anya and Sonya

“I always knew there was a God, but I didn’t know Him.” Anya is typical of many who grew up in the Soviet Union. Her parents were “believers” who didn’t know Christ. But Jesus knew her.

Many years ago, a friend invited Anya to our church in Russia. Sermon by sermon, class by class, the Holy Spirit changed Anya’s heart. Anya’s daughter, Sonya, was baptized as an infant. “I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know Jesus. God is always with us and will be with us even if something bad happens.”

After the Russian people’s worlds changed in February 2022, Seminarian Andre Gydkov continues to spiritually care for Anya and Sonya and all our brothers and sisters in Christ in Iskitim. He says, “I’m preaching the same things I always did, but now it means more. People are coming to listen. We’re citizens of heaven who own eternal treasures no one can take!”

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Faces of Faith – Dylan

My name is Dylan Munro. I am from East London, South Africa. I had followed many religions, but at one point I had taken an interest in a Buddhist sect. After being initiated and following a guru (master), I became a Buddhist monk for 18 years. However, I could not reach a deep peace or calm my heart. I had a fear of dying, so I practiced 18 hours of meditation a day at times. But when God has a calling in your life, he always wins. The Holy Spirit worked in my heart, and there was a soft voice saying “Try me. Follow me.” It took a while to break away from Buddhism, but God set me free. I have been a Christian for seven years now.

I have been learning the Word of God using the TELL method. It has encouraged me to continue to discover something new in the Bible every day. The TELL Method helps me build up confidence to teach others about the Word of God, and teaching using the TELL method has brought me closer to God’s throne.

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Faces of Faith – Lolly

Ermon “Lolly” Stover was in a dark place. Battling addictions and alcoholism, he felt spiritually dead. The day came when he couldn’t handle it anymore. Remembering the encouragement to “take it to the cross” from his catechism days at the Lutheran Church of the Open Bible on the Ft. Apache Indian Reservation, he cried out to Jesus. He wanted Jesus to take charge of his life and knew that Jesus alone could help him. He started attending Bible studies at the Apache Christian Training School (ACTS) and at Open Bible. His life is a living testimony to God’s power to change lives in every way. “I just want to be different,” he tells people, “I can do that through my Savior Jesus Christ.”

He is now a suicide prevention program director on the reservation, and he recognizes that it’s the front line of a spiritual battle between God and Satan. He continues to try to help people, always being ready to give an answer for the hope that he has. When he’s not at work you’ll find him posting Bible meditations on Facebook, teaching Bible studies at church, and continuing to attend ACTS classes to sharpen his Bible skills.

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Faces of Faith – Abdullah

Abdullah and his mother were kicked out of their home and village when they converted from Islam to Christianity. And yet every day they set aside a handful of rice so that they have something to share with the poor. Abdullah rides a bicycle to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in one of the most dangerous areas of this Muslim nation. He befriends the people, prays for them, and tells them of the love of Jesus. An imam (a Muslim cleric) who is a fish farmer became friends with Abdullah. As they sat in front of his home, he told Abdullah how his fishponds were not producing fish. Abdullah said a simple prayer asking that, if it is God’s will, the imam’s ponds would produce fish. And they did! In great numbers.

Later this imam became a believer in Christ. At his baptism, a mob of over 500 people came to kill him and those involved. The imam spoke with the people, and by the grace of God his life and the lives of those with him were spared. Abdullah continues to share the gospel of Jesus – even though his life is in danger. And God is giving him an abundant harvest of fish and souls.

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Faces of Faith – Timothy

Calling fishers of men . . . to work in the harvest field.

We usually do not speak of fish and fields in the same sentence, but here is a story where both come together.

Timothy Mulando was content with his life in Choonga Village in Africa. Farming during the rainy season, fishing during the dry season. Born and raised a Methodist, he knew Christ. Body fed, soul fed. But life would change.

The Methodists moved out, and in 1953 the Lutherans moved in. Timothy joined the new Lutheran church in Shabasonje Village. Over the years, he served as a lay preacher under Missionaries Habben, Kretzmann, and Sauer.

Then in 1968, Missionary Kirby Spevachek recommended him to train as an evangelist. Timothy began his studies in Lusaka, Zambia, leaving his family behind until accommodations for married men were completed. In 1972, he graduated as an evangelist, serving congregations in Joni Mumba and Mukobela, west of Lusaka. After two years, he was recommended to join the Seminary.

In 1977, he was assigned to Lwimbo, north of Lusaka, to serve as a vicar. At the time he was sent, he was given a small hut that was so small his feet protruded from the doorway. Thankfully there were no dangerous animals among the other wild animals prevalent in the area. And there was no congregation. No converts. But he went to work, and a church grew. As for the house, he and his wife spent time making mud bricks and built a two-room house for the growing family.

In 1979, Vicar Mulando was ordained by Missionaries Cox and Hartzell. Now as Pastor Mulando, he continued to serve Lwimbo until 1985, at which time he returned to serve Joni Mumba and Mokobela.

In 1993, he accepted the call away from village life to serve St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in West Chelston, Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia.

Eight years later, at the age of 71, he retired and returned to the family farm in Shabasonje Village, returning to the maize fields he had left behind so many years before.

But other fields were still calling for workers! From 2002-2005, Pastor Mulando served a vacancy in a nearby village to help prepare them to call a full-time pastor. And in 2006, he began serving the vacancy at his own parish after the pastor accepted a call away. His faithful bicycle carried him between the three churches of the parish, until he retired again in 2014 at age 84.

Today, at age 92, we can understand why Pastor Mulando doesn’t fish anymore in the streams and rivers. Family members do most of the work in the maize fields these days. He has put in his time, fishing for souls in the ripening harvest fields.

From John Hartmann, missionary in Zambia.

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Faces of Faith – Huajvam

He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (Acts 9:4)

My name is Huajvam. I’m a Hmong Christian living in Vietnam. I personally witnessed the persecution of believers in my country. I really hated to see the way that they were treated. Then I came to realize that I, myself, also persecuted the members of my congregation through man-made rules and traditions. I punished those who didn’t follow them.

When the Lord struck the Apostle Paul from his horse, I am sure he felt ashamed to find out that the one whom he was persecuting was the Lord Jesus himself. I too, felt ashamed before my Lord Jesus. I claimed to be a believer of Christ, but I really trusted in my rules and traditions for my salvation, not Christ. I am the worst sinner! Only in Christ are my sins forgiven.

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceThen an unexpected change came into my life: the teaching from WELS. The biblical teaching that sinners are saved by God’s grace alone. WELS shared the teaching of Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fides. This pure teaching has changed me from head to toe. It gave me a new perspective about myself and my faith in Jesus. Now I am pressing on in the name of the Lord to challenge man-made rules and traditions in my community. Nowadays I only know one thing in my life, as the Apostle Paul said, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Since this unexpected change has come, the Lord has tremendously blessed my ministry. People are coming to Christ daily through that message, a Christ-centered message. My district has gained more than 20,000 members in the last few years.

Praise the Lord for his love toward a sinner like me. Please continue to pray for the brothers and sisters in Vietnam.

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Faces of Faith – Alejandro

Rolling through the highway in Villa Maria, Argentina, one sees Nebraska-like cornfields. My fellow missionary said the view was bucolic. (Yeah, I had to look the word up too.) Grandpas and grandmas proudly tell what part of Italy they or their parents came from. Most are barely practicing Catholics.

Just like Alejandro the Butcher. I know, it sounds scary. But you’d like him. Alejandro’s only church experience was a Catholic confirmation class as a teen. The death of their firstborn son as a toddler left Alejandro and his wife, Viviana, devastated. Alejandro’s drug use left his family with financial problems.

He started searching for help just as the pandemic sent families into lockdown with lots of time on their hands. First, he saw an Academia Cristo announcement on his Facebook feed (thanks Multi-Language Productions!) After 38 self-study lessons on Academia Cristo’s mobile app, he joined the Lutheran faith while taking 15 short training courses via Zoom.

I asked, “Would you like to start a Bible-study group to disciple others? We’ll show you how.” He responded, “Well, yeah but I’m a new Christian and don’t really know how to teach.” He invited them to study the Bible for a few weeks and then stopped. He got discouraged. I encouraged him to with one disciple: his 11-year-old son, Eliel. They have started reading through the Bible together in one year.

Men on motorcycles shout Alejandro’s name and wave as they zoom by. Will they be his next disciples? Someone at the butcher shop where he’s the manager?

He laughs when he’s told he’d make a good Old Testament priest, reading about all the bloody animal sacrifices. How he knows it’s all about the blood of Christ which cleans our conscience from sin. Now Alejandro the Butcher serves the living God!

From Rev. Joel Sutton, missionary in Paraguay

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Faces of Faith – Saul

I was a Buddhist follower before. I know there are many divisions in Buddhism, so I did research and studied each denomination. When I became a Christian, I also studied to figure out which church I wanted to join. Then I realized that there are even more denominations in the Christian church than in Buddhism. It took me a year and a half before I got to know the Lutheran Church.

When I started to dig, one of the first things I found was a YouTube series on the small catechism by an American pastor located in East Asia. He mentioned Law and Gospel, and I wanted to know more. As I was searching, I found another YouTube video from an East Asian pastor. The gospel touched my heart, and I contacted the East Asia Lutheran Church and joined their Life of Christ class. After all these years, I found the truth. I am sure now. I got baptized and joined the Christian Studies Certificate Program offered at Asia Lutheran Seminary to learn even more.

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Faces of Faith – The Mwale Family

Anderson Mwale began working with the Lutheran Mobile Clinic as a maintenance worker for the Msambo village clinic in January of 2020. He was married to Annah, and had a one-year old girl named Harriet who was active and playful. They were members at one of our Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) church in Msambo, outside of Lilongwe, Malawi. Anderson had once considered becoming a pastor and was an elder at Mtima Woyera Lutheran Church where they were members. As part of his duties with the clinic, Mr. Mwale would give a devotion for the people who had come to clinic in the morning each week. He would weigh children, direct patients where to go, and be responsible for cleaning the clinic building and getting it ready for clinic. He helped oversee the completion of a new clinic building and kept the site secure during construction. When COVID-19 came to Malawi and the clinic had to temporarily shut down, he would supervise the use of the building, keep the grounds clean and safe, and gave sermons on Sundays. When clinic resumed in October, he helped supervise new volunteers who maintained COVID precautions at clinic with our patients.

He remembers the date – February 28, 2021, when Harriet became very sick with malaria. It was not a clinic day so he and his wife brought her to Kamuzu Central Hospital where she was treated for nearly a week. Afterwards, she had weakness in her right side, and could no longer run and play. They prayed for her to recover, but cerebral malaria had caused permanent neurological damage. The Mwale’s brought her to our clinic for follow-up where one of the clinicians realized that she would need ongoing therapy and seizure medication. Harriet was the first child who was referred to Children of Blessings, a private clinic giving free therapy to children with physical needs. The cost of transportation to the clinic three times a week, however, was not affordable for the Mwale’s, so the Central Africa Medical Mission, with the help of special donors, began providing the funds for this in March of 2021. Within a few months, Harriet could hold her head straight, stand with support, and was no longer crying in pain. Her seizures were under control. Her mother learned the exercises to do at home. The Mwale’s were thankful that there was hope for their daughter.

Within a few months there were four more mothers who came weekly to the Lutheran Mobile Clinic for help with their children’s disabilities, as well as their illnesses and malnutrition. Mrs. Mwale befriended these moms and often traveled with them and their children to therapy. Meanwhile, a new vicar at Msambo had weekly Bible studies with the women. One mom became a member of the church and her daughter was baptized. Since the start of 2022, two more children were baptized by Pastor Msiska, who became the vacancy pastor at Mtima Woyera, and continues to share God’s Word with these mothers.

Mr. Mwale said that many prayers have been answered concerning Harriet, and he is thankful she is getting the help she needs. He expressed his gratitude to the donors who support the Lutheran Mobile Clinic and provide the transportation needed for Harriet’s therapy. He trusts the Lord for her future, and knows she is loved and saved by Jesus.

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From Theirs to Mine: A Friend’s Journey to Baptism

As a lay evangelist in East Asia, new believers often introduced us to their friends. That was how we met Tom. To get to know Tom, we invited him to basketball and afterwards our Tuesday night Bible study. He gladly joined both. Soon he regularly attended studies, even if there was no basketball. It wasn’t long before he became a good friend.

Tom was smart. When we met, he was getting his PhD in geophysics at a top university in the East Asia. During his doctrinal studies, he published papers in top geophysics journals, in English, his second language.

That said, Tom’s relationship to Christianity always seemed cerebral. As a trained scientist and raised in an atheist culture, Tom merely expressed interest in Christianity, especially in the meaning it gave to people’s lives. But it never seemed to be personal. For Tom, it wasn’t “we believe” but “they believe.” Jesus wasn’t his but theirs.

Fast forward three years. Tom got his PhD and landed a post-doc position in Europe with one of the top researchers in his field. It was time for us to part. I still remember the conversation after our last Bible study. I said something like, “Tom, you’ve come to church and Bible studies for years now. You know who Jesus is and what he’s done. Do you believe it? Do you want to get baptized?” To this, he replied, and I’ll never forget it, “I’m just not ready.” So, sadly, that’s how we parted.

With the distance and life changes, Tom and I drifted apart. Occasionally we’d send a message back and forth, but no real relationship building happened. I heard he’d came back to East Asia and landed a nice job in a big city. Life seemed to be well with him.

Then one day, out of the blue he asked me if I knew any churches in a certain, small coastal city. I asked him if he was visiting that city. He told me he was moving there to teach at a local university. What? It was as if a PhD from Yale, who went to Oxford for a post-doc, worked in Chicago for a time, suddenly decided to teach in rural Montana. I was a little shocked. But I was also profoundly in awe. We did have a local church in that small coastal city (in a country of hundreds of huge cities). Not only that, but it was just blocks from where Tom was going to live. Coincidence?

A few months later, after connecting Tom to the local church, Tom kept coming up in my prayers. Then my wife mentioned him. Then another friend mentioned him. And so, I reasoned, “I’ve got to get in touch with Tom.”

I called him. I called him with the intent of asking him about his baptism, was he any closer to getting baptized? Was he ready? He picked up the phone, we exchanged pleasantries. Then, without prompting, he shot to the point and asked, “Will you come down and baptize me?” Tom went on to tell me that earlier that year his young son nearly died due to a maldeveloped heart valve. Since COVID had just hit the country, Tom and his wife were not even allowed in the hospital during their son’s surgery. Tom told me that the only thing he could hold onto was the hope that Jesus was with him, that God cared for him. So, he said, he remembered the many Bible studies and prayed to God. Some local church members also came to pray with him. Through the experience, Jesus went from being theirs to his.

After talking on the phone, I contacted the local leader who apparently knew Tom wanted me to be there at his baptism. So, just few months ago I got to perform Tom’s baptism. As I look back on this, I can’t help but recall Jesus words, Mark 4:26-27 – He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”

When we scatter the seed, we don’t know how or when it will grow. But we trust the promise and pray to see the fruits of eternal life. Praise be to the God of the Harvest!

Written by a lay evangelist in East Asia.

 

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Faces of Faith – Diosnel

Diosnel Castro Perez is from Curuguaty, a small town in rural Paraguay. He works as a security guard in a ceramic factory just outside of the capital, Asunción. Like many Paraguayans, he can speak Spanish, but his first language is Guaraní. In 2019, Diosnel was searching online to learn more about God. He tried four different Bible training programs, but he didn’t like that their teaching wasn’t based on the Bible. Then he found an Academia Cristo video on YouTube. He signed up for live classes in October 2019. Over the next year, Diosnel finished all 13 courses of the first level of the training program. At times, he was enrolled in three courses at once, “They taught in a way I could understand. It was like a light went on”.

Diosnel was also sharing what he was learning with others: family, friends, coworkers. It even got him in trouble: “My boss told me not to talk religion at work,” he said, “but that didn’t stop me.”

Now, Diosnel is receiving training to plant a church. “What I like about Academia Cristo is they don’t just teach you the Word. They teach you how to teach others.” He already has a group of about ten people that regularly study with him, but he wants it to grow. And he has more plans: “I want to be a missionary one day, to teach God’s Word in other countries.”

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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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Faces of Faith – Ali

Ali was the imam at a mosque for a village in a Muslim nation. He chanted the Koran (the Muslim holy book) for the five daily calls to prayer over the mosque’s loudspeakers and conducted worship services. Two Muslim-background Christians came to him and shared the first verse of John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Later they shared Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Ali said, “When I listened, I became excited. There is a person who forgives sins? Who is this? In the Koran I do not see a Savior.” In Jesus, Ali found rest for his soul.

Soon the people learned their imam had converted to Christianity. People became angry, and a mob of 300 came to the mosque to burn him alive. Before they arrived, he went behind the mosque and prayed with his face to the ground, “Jesus, if it is your will, save me. If it is not, I know you will take me to heaven.” Inexplicably, the mob changed their mind and allowed him to live. However, they cast him out of the village and took his property. Today Ali is a pastor studying with us in our Bible Institute. He loves the clear Biblical teaching WELS provides.

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Faces of Faith – Belachew

I am Belachew Ensermu from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I believed in our Lord, Jesus Christ, as my Savior when I was in high school. After I graduated from the university with a degree in educational psychology, I joined the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekan Yesus (EECMY) to work in child and youth care ministry. I have worked in various levels in the church’s youth ministry for more than 20 years. Beside my work, I am serving my Lord in my congregation as an elder and preaching the gospel. I am married and have four children.

These days many go against the Holy Scripture, and that is why I was searching for confessional Biblical teaching. I found that the TELL method is the best way to understand the learn the work of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I was first introduced to TELL through Missionary John Hartmann on the One Africa Team, and I then participated with TELL live courses, which were taught by TELL Missionary Dan Laitinen and Pastor Nate Seiltz. The TELL courses are very helpful for Christian maturity and mission, and I highly recommend them to all Christians.

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Faces of Faith – Brother Liu

Jonathan Liu was once a blackbelt in Taekwondo and a master with the num-chuks. He was so good at it that he ran his own dojang (Taekwondo school) and taught nun chuck lessons to other dojang owners. Now his num-chuks collect dust in a corner, and he sold his dojang. Why? He has found a new passion (or rather it found him): the gospel. Just as Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (Matthew 6:21) so young Jonathan left behind his future in Taekwondo to share with others the treasure he has in Christ. He is now a leader in a growing church and a full-time Asia Lutheran Seminary student. The East Asia Missions team has the privilege of serving over a dozen men like Jonathan. We praise our Lord for such an honor!

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Faces of Faith – Kue

In 2002, Kue heard from a villager that there was a God who was more powerful than the shaman and any other gods. She had so many questions and wanted to know more, but no one could really explain this God to her. She knew nothing about being saved by grace through faith in Jesus. A few years later, she married the son of a church leader in a village nearby. She was able to read the Bible in her own language for the first time, as owning a Bible was illegal in her village. She began to understand more, but she still had many questions about her faith and eternal salvation in Christ. All she understood was that doing good would please God. She knew she wasn’t perfect. She was frustrated, but she never gave up. She kept reading her Bible and praying to God daily.

In 2013, church leaders selected her to attend WELS training in Hanoi, Vietnam. They wanted her to bring back the message they had heard from other students: sinners are saved by grace through faith in Christ, not through good deeds. This was very strange compared to what other pastors had said.

Today Kue is very strong in her faith and knows she is saved by God’s grace alone. The women from nearby villages seek her guidance in the Scriptures. Because of this she has been appointed to be a leader of the motherhood in her district. She and her husband have traveled to many villages to conduct training for the Hmong ladies in Northern Vietnam. Through her dedication, many people have been moved by the Holy Spirit to believe that Christ is their Lord and Savior. Kue said, “I thought I chose God, but instead he chose me. I am happier now that I know that. I ask God to give me the strength to serve him, my family, and my congregation faithfully.” She also asks the brothers and sisters in the WELS to keep her family in their prayers. “Thank you for bringing the true Christ to the people in Vietnam,” she added.

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Faces of Faith – Marietta

Marietta Chapman is the lead Kindergarten teacher at Peridot-Our Savior’s Lutheran School located on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. She grew up in Bylas, Ariz., and attended the East Fork Lutheran School her freshman and sophomore years of high school. She was planning to pursue a business degree in college, but God led her in a different direction. Throughout college she remembers returning home to help with her local Sunday school classes and vacation Bible school. At that time, although she didn’t know it, God had put a spark of joy in her heart to work with children. This led her to change her major to education and she was able to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Out of love for her community, she decided to move home and put her degree to use. After working 10 years in a public-school system, God opened a door for her to teach at Peridot-Our Savior’s. She says that she loves teaching children about God’s Word and is happy to be a part of making a positive impact in a place she’ll always consider home. Marietta considers herself blessed to be able to pursue her passion in her everyday life. Sometimes we don’t know what our passion is in life; but if we put it in God’s hands, he will guide us on the right path. Her story is a clear example of how being faithful to the Lord will give you a prosperous life.

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Faces of Faith – Julius

Civil unrest between the English-speaking regions and the French-speaking government in Cameroon has caused chaos the past four years. Many churches have closed as members have run from their homes and begun life in the forests, and COVID has added to the difficulties.

But opportunities always exist. A little over a year ago, Dr. Julius Nkwetta reached out to the WELS One Africa Team for training and mentoring. He has been studying Catechism lessons online with Missionary Dan Kroll. Dr. Nkwetta lives and works inside the French-speaking region to where many English speakers have fled. He has started an English-speaking congregation, but he has also opened a French-speaking church where he is helped by a dictionary and translators to share the gospel. In addition to starting small groups in nearby villages, he is also working on plans to teach students from the local high school and university on the topic of morality, with the aim of sharing Christ as the Savior from sin.

Other local churches are surprised with his success. They hand out rice and soap to bring people into their churches. They asked Dr. Nkwetta what he is using to convince the people. He tells them, “The answer is simply that the people are converted by the true Word of God.”

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Faces of Faith – Tsamzo

Tsamzo Lubwe has served as a maintenance worker at Mwalaulomwe clinic in Malawi since 2011. He was born into a Christian family in 1980 in a village near Lilongwe, Malawi. He attended an African church until 1994 when he started attending the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) when it opened a church in Mwalaulomwe.

As an elder of his church, he often provides a Bible lesson, prayer, and blessing before clinic opens. What a joy it is to hear God’s praises before the clinic opens each day! His daily duties include organizing patients into clinic space and weighing patients. He ensures visitors are socially distanced and wearing masks, and he cleans our clinic building and church areas used for malaria testing each clinic day to ensure these spaces are organized, clean, and ready for next week’s clinic. He is the adventurous one who climbs on and off the ambulance to load and unload all the supplies each clinic day. When asked what gives him joy in his work, he stated that people can come for medical services at a low cost compared to other private clinics. He enjoys that he can let his Christian faith to show in his work, and that people see Christ’s love in action through the care received at clinic. His favorite Bible passage is Hebrews 13:6, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

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Faces of Faith – Brother Peter

Before our church found Lutheranism, there were constant religious disputes within the church. The truth was unclear, and it brought great losses to believers and their lives. We were learning to pray to God, and we asked him to enable us to understand his truth and provide a place to learn. God provided a Lutheran brother from a different area to teach us English. One of the members of our church met him by chance, and he came to our church to help us. At the same time, I met Dave, another Lutheran who came here to preach for more than a year at our church. He lived in a different region and served as an English teacher. He saw the problems at our church and was willing to help us. He taught us Law and Gospel and helped us understand why our church was so confused. Many church members felt guilty and dared not speak out, but Dave made us more aware of the preciousness of God’s salvation. He continued to preach the gospel and brought many believers to the church. Because of him, a lot of people believe Jesus. Dave also introduced Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS) to us, and he recommended that I study at ALS. Dave helped us for seven years before going back to the United States. However, I know that he is not resting. He is still preaching the gospel, leading groups, and bringing more souls to know our God.

I learned a lot of truth from Bible and knowledge that I didn’t know before when I enrolled in the Diploma of Christian Studies program through ALS. I got to know the ALS faculty and the dedication and love of the teachers. I truly felt a spirit of humility and dedication in them. In order not to delay our study, ALS also asked other bilingual ALS students to teach us. I am very grateful!

Although COVID affected our learning process, we are seeing that Asia Lutheran Seminary is also working hard to help us in various ways. They provided a Chinese-speaking teacher (an East Asia missionary) who is helping and encouraging me to continue preaching the gospel. May God bless the missionaries, teachers, and my classmates at ALS so that they can be filled with God’s love and increase their ability to serve!

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