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All nations-right in the backyard

All nations—right in the backyard

Sharing the gospel with all nations takes on a new meaning at Holy Trinity, Des Moines, Wash. Located within a melting pot of cultures—one of Holy Trinity’s pastors has Somalian Muslims, Filipinos, and Hispanic immigrants living within a block of his home—Holy Trinity has opportunities to reach the world right in its own neighborhood.

“So often in the Wisconsin Synod [the Great Commission] means sending in our mission dollars so that people can go to Malawi,” says Tom Voss, pastor at Holy Trinity. “But it’s been so awesome to see that it doesn’t always mean we have to go across oceans.” Instead God has been bringing opportunities right through the congregation’s front door.

In January 2013, three Sudanese men attended worship at Holy Trinity to find out more about what WELS teaches. They were told to “go find Wisconsin” from fellow Sudanese Peter Bur, who is a member at Good Shepherd, Omaha, Neb.

Voss soon began Bible information classes with a group of 11 Sudanese adults. According to Voss, the Sudanese hesitated about attending classes since they were already Christian. But that quickly changed. Says Voss, “After three to four weeks one of them said, ‘This is really good. I’m glad we’re doing this. In all the churches we visited this is the first time anyone ever sat down and taught us about what the Bible says.’ ”

In July 2013, the congregation welcomed 45 Sudanese into their congregation, including confirming those 11 adults. The group now attends regular Sunday worship at Holy Trinity. It also holds worship in the Nuer language twice a month.

Voss says now he is concentrating on building a solid foundation for their faith. “The plan is to train leaders,” he says, “to have them continue to grow in the grace and knowledge or our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We’re equipping them to feed their own flock and to take the Word of God into their community.”

Since the Sudanese are a tight-knit group, that community could include Des Moines, Washington, or another city across the country where other immigrants have settled. The group is also passionate about returning to South Sudan to spread the gospel. Sudanese ministries in WELS congregations around the country are working to coordinate outreach and training.

Another opportunity God brought to Holy Trinity came in the form of Youn Soo Park, a Korean pastor looking for a place to hold worship for his small congregation. He became a WELS member in 2001. “I started out as a Korean minister of another Christian religion and was able to go to school through the WELS’ educational programs while working to support my family and my congregation to become an ordained WELS pastor,” says Park. Park graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 2010.

Funding from the Board for Home Missions as well as other individual grants allowed Park to sell his laundry business and serve full time at Holy Trinity Korean Lutheran Church. “It is welcomed to know that we are accepted as part of the Holy Trinity campus and that both churches will work to together to make this a long lasting relationship,” says Park.

Holy Trinity Korean currently has 57 members. Besides weekly worship in Korean, Park and the congregation are reaching out to the Korean community in Des Moines, offering English as a Second Language classes (using Holy Trinity volunteers to teach), Saturday classes for the family, and Bible study on the campus of the University of Washington. Park also teaches catechism and serves as a mentor to the Korean children attending Holy Trinity’s school, many of whom come as international students. The congregation wants to start an after-school program, and Park also would like to conduct an evangelism seminar to train his members to share the gospel. “It is truly a blessing to me to be able to share the law and gospel with people of my own background yet grow with them as I too continue to learn,” he says.

Koreans who want to worship in English also can attend English services at Holy Trinity. Mark Schewe, pastor at Holy Trinity, appreciates seeing Sudanese, Korean, Hispanic, and Anglo members all worshiping together. He also notes that families from other cultures—including Samoan, Sikhs from India, Ukrainians, and Russians—are learning about the Savior through attending the school. “You can look around and see how the gospel is for all—and all are coming to hear it.”

 

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Author:
Volume 101, Number 8
Issue: August 2014

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

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Vacation with Jesus : Plocher

With Jesus, family vacations are full of blessings and memories.

Matthew J. Plocher

The summer of 1984 was an epic vacation year for my family. We drove with two other families from Saginaw, Michigan, to California—5 adults and 18 children in two suburbans and a van, towing a camper. We stayed in campgrounds and cabins along the way, ending our vacation by overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

For my family, it was an escape. My father had been sick for years, finally dying that February. We were getting away from doctor’s visits, ambulances, medications, hospitalizations, nursing homes, and finally a funeral home and cemetery. While it was a difficult journey, Jesus, our Savior and our Lord, walked every step with us.

We had the time of our lives on that vacation. But the trip presented some difficulties as well. While the sights were fantastic—from Mt. Rushmore to Wall Drug, from the Great Salt Lake to sunsets over a Pacific beach—there were trials too. We experienced vehicle breakdowns, mosquito swarms, snowstorms, and flooding rainstorms. In addition a newly single mom with her six boys struggled with the thought of moving ahead in life without a husband and without a father. Thank the Lord we took Jesus with us on that trip.

Even though we were on vacation, the route was planned around Sunday services. The first Sunday we pulled into the parking lot of a hotel in Cheyenne, Wyoming, at 2 a.m., in a torrential rainstorm. Our original campground was flooded out, so we packed up and drove the few hours to Cheyenne. All the hotels in town were full with construction crews, so we slept in a hotel parking lot in our vehicles. At church, the pastor and congregation members arrived to find a caravan in their parking lot, with sleeping bags, clothes, and tents hung on fences and side mirrors to dry. We changed clothes in the church, then went in to worship our Lord.

The next Sunday we attended a mission congregation in California. We were late getting to the storefront location and came in during the Scripture readings, right before the sermon. The 18 or so in attendance set up 23 chairs for the late-arriving guests, and then they restarted their service from the beginning. They were so grateful to worship their Lord in a full church with cramped, shoulder-to-shoulder seating. The music swelled as additional voices boomed out hymns of praise and adoration to God in gratitude for his saving grace.

Even though we were on vacation, we weren’t on vacation from God. After all, we had watched Jesus our Savior fulfill his promise of salvation and take my father to be with him in heaven. We had also watched Jesus our Lord fulfill his promise of always being with us as he took care of a new widow and her six boys.

How could we skip church? After all, we served a God who “made [mankind] a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5), then watched that jewel of his creation turn his back on God and fall into sin. This same loving God knew that all people were utterly and completely lost. But this great God that we serve, out of his great love, became a man like us in order to pay a terrible price for our salvation. He turned death from a punishment into a gateway, a gateway through which we can enter to live as his children in full joy and perfect peace. Forever.

Vacation from God? Never.

Matthew Plocher is a member at Grace, St. Joseph, Michigan.

 

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Author: Matthew J. Plocher
Volume 101, Number 8
Issue: August 2014

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

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Philippians 4:13: Part: 10

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Joel S. Heckendorf

“I think I can . . . I think I can . . . I think I can.” Author Watty Piper geared the book The Little Engine That Could for children. First released for publication in the United States in 1930, the classic’s optimistic message has climbed its way into a mountain of self-help books, motivational speeches, and personal mission statements.

Similarly, so has the Philippians passage. PHIL 4:13 appears on the eye-strips of athletes, and it’s inked on arms, engraved in rings, and printed on posters to motivate people. The reference is a visible reminder to never give up and to aim for success. To many, Piper and the apostle Paul were working with the same concept: “I think I can” = “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

But what happens when cancer isn’t beaten, even though Philippians 4:13 was the patient’s mantra? What happens when the PHIL 4:13 quarterback throws a game-ending interception instead of the game-winning touchdown? What happens when “I think I can” is traded for “I see I can’t”? It’s then, when the mountainous challenges in front of us seem impassable, that we need the intended comfort of Philippians 4:13.

Context is crucial when it comes to understanding this popular passage. Paul was in prison when he penned these words. With chains around his wrists, the likelihood of throwing any missionary touchdowns was slim. Yet he could confidently write, “I can do everything.” What did he mean? Back up a few verses, and we see that Paul is not screaming out a vein-bulging, locker-room pep talk in this verse. Rather, he is whispering the secret of contentment. “No matter the situation, whether it’s bleak or bright, you can face it. You can endure it because you are living in Christ. He will provide the strength. Even if you’re running on empty, the Holy Spirit has poured Christ into your tank. You’ll have all the fuel you will need for the journey ahead—the journey to our destination with the Lord.”

Paul’s final words (2 Timothy chapter 4) assure us that he applied Philippians 4:13 to his life. Facing his death, he looked back and was thankful that the Lord stood by his side as he fought his fight and ran his race. He knew that the goal of life was not about climbing the mountain of earthly success. It was to ascend the throne of the Lord. And he knew the strength to make that climb didn’t rest in himself. If it did, he’d only be able to chant, “I think I can.” Rather, Paul knew his climb to heaven’s mountain depended on Jesus. Because of Jesus, Paul lived with an I know I can confidence. So can you, because of Jesus.


QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

1. Context. Context. Context. List ways you have seen or heard this passage applied. How does the context of the original passage compare to the way it is often applied?

Example of Philippians 4:13 is often used by athletes, politicians or in the medical field. Philippians 4:10-12 shows that this is more about contentment and strength to endure all situations and not the ability to do all things.

2. What do you consider to be the top three things that rob us of the secret of being content?

Answers may vary. Examples include commercials, instant gratification/information, lottery/gambling, the de-Christianization of the world which places self at the center.

3. Instead of thinking of negative situations, why is it important to remember that even positive situations are possible through the strength that God gives?

It helps us to be humble and not rely on ourselves.

4. “Who gives me strength.” While not always translated as such, this concept appears seven times in the New Testament. After comparing Philippians 4:13 with the following passages, explain what it means to have strength from God: Acts 9:22; Romans 4:20; Ephesians 6:10; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 2:1; 2 Timothy 4:17.

To be strong in the Lord emphasizes a reliance on him and a zeal to do his will no matter the cost.

Contributing editor Joel Heckendorf is pastor at Immanuel, Greenville, Wisconsin.

This is the tenth article in a series on the 12 most popular Bible passages accessed in 2012 through Bible Gateway, an online Bible resource.

Scripture references in this study are taken from the New International Version 1984.

 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

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

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

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

 

Author: Joel S. Heckendorf
Volume 101, Number 8
Issue: August 2014

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

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