Tag Archive for: His Hands

Something new and exciting is coming!

You have likely noticed that things which once were in books or in print are now moving to a digital or web-based platform.

Two weeks ago members from the Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MDHH) group were able to bring to reality a project that has been several years in the making – an online Christian Sign Language Dictionary.  The project is entitled “Gospel Hands” and can be found at gospelhands.net. The MDHH team members spent significant time over two days signing and recording to video more than 900 religious sign language signs. It was intriguing to hear the discussion about what was the best sign and possible alternatives for a certain words or concepts. While the videos are still being edited and uploaded, it is exciting to see this effort finally coming to fruition.

This initial group of videos is only the beginning. There are plans to record more signs in the future and to keep growing this online resource.

Watch for more news in the coming weeks as the videos of these hundreds of signs are uploaded and we make this resource available publicly.

Joel Gaertner, director, WELS Special Ministries




A new perspective

From time to time, it is good to have a new or different perspective on something you are familiar with or have been a part of for a long time. I’ve had the privilege of being involved in Special Ministries for over a decade from several different perspectives.

I began my affiliation with Special Ministries as the chairman of the Intellectual and Developmental Disability Ministries (IDDM) committee. I then, almost simultaneously, accepted the call to serve as the director of Jesus Cares Ministries and was elected chairman of Special Ministries.  For the last decade I’ve said that I’ve been blessed to have a foot in both camps. Being a part of Special Ministries and also having the privilege of leading a partner of Special Ministries has given me many opportunities to bridge the two and help serve many, many people in both areas.

With this issue of His Hands we express a debt of gratitude to Jim Behringer for his loving leadership of Special Ministries over the last 11 years.  Special Ministries has been simultaneously associated with Jim and vice versa. Thank you, Jim, for being the “heart” of Special Ministries and for all you’ve done to help the many people served by the different arms of Special Ministries!

I consider it an incredible privilege to be asked to serve as only the fourth director (Alfons Woldt, Carl Ziemer and Jim Behringer) in the 50-year history of WELS Special Ministries. While I’ve been involved with this area of ministry, I now have a different perspective that has me seeing what it takes to help Special Ministries on a day-to-day basis serve and assist the many people and areas of what has been described as the “heart” of WELS. I humbly ask for your prayers that I would carry on the good work of those who have led Special Ministries for the last 50 years.  I look forward to working with everyone associated with Special Ministries in any way. I welcome any thoughts, input, questions, concerns, etc. you might have as together we continue to serve as His Hands.

Joel Gaertner, director, WELS Special Ministries





Years ago a member of the Commission on Special Ministries asserted that instead of speaking of retirement, we should use the word “redirection.” From all I’ve heard about that stage of life, it’s not pulling back from life. Most retired people I know say they are busier than ever, but they are doing something different. Redirection seems more accurate.

I mention retirement and redirection because this is my last month serving the call to be WELS director of Special Ministries. This call redirected me for over a decade. I had been a parish pastor until I was called to this office. The Lord gave me new challenges and a different way to serve him as I served my fellow WELS members through this office.

I expect new challenges and different ways of serving Jesus. God’s people never come to a point in life where we stop serving him. I have some ideas of what my next stage of serving might look like while I still have health and energy. Having watched my grandparents and parents before me, I even have some idea of what serving the Lord may look like if I live to be frail or sick. Wherever Jesus directs me, I pray that I will be a blessing to others.

I recently attended the retirement of a dear sister in Christ and she was asked what advice she would give new teachers. She didn’t hesitate: “Love your students.” It took me back to the beginning of my ministry, and the advice of seasoned pastors I admired who stressed, “Love your people.” If you’ve read what I’ve written or said in Special Ministries, you already know what my parting advice will be: Love them. Love the people who struggle. Love the prodigals. Love people so much that you can’t stand the thought that they are unable to hear a sermon or read a Christian devotion. Love them so much that you ask the Lord how he wants us to overcome the obstacles that loom large. Love them so much that you see the gifts God gave them. And love those who serve with you.

Sensitive Lutheran readers are thinking to themselves, “That paragraph is loaded with Law!” My response is that Christian lives are loaded with love. In grace, God has made us his beloved children, redeemed us, and made us alive with Christ. In grace, God also loves the people we serve. They may not make sense to us. They wander and are unfaithful. They get angry and impatient. But our God’s love fills us with the urgent longing that none of them be lost. No matter what the barrier, no matter what the unfortunate circumstance, may they learn the life-giving gospel and know the love of Jesus.

Rev. Jim Behringer, director, WELS Commission on Special Ministries



European retreats restored . . . and restoring

Retreats for WELS service men and women (and civilians) are a big deal for our brothers and sisters scattered across Europe. In the early 1970s the European chaplains wanted to find a way to get their people all together in the same place—people living in many different locations across Germany and Europe. They started with an annual retreat at Easter. This was so popular that Fall retreats were added and even Spring retreats in the U.K. The retreats had a 50-year history when they were interrupted by the COVID pandemic. Because of government restrictions on travel and large group meetings, no retreats were held in the years 2020 and 2021. Then in 2022 when we scheduled our first retreat for Easter, the chaplain and his wife both came down with COVID, and the retreat had to be cancelled. But, we thank God, the retreats have been restored!

WELS has a civilian chaplain living in Germany to provide spiritual support to members of the military and their families while they’re away from home as well as civilian WELS members who moved to Europe.

This past Easter service men and women who are WELS and living in Europe met in Würzburg where, once again, all areas of our current ministry were well represented—servicemen and women from Ramstein Air Base—part of the Kaiserslautern Military Community (the largest American community outside of the United States), from the U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria in Grafenwöhr, from the U.S. Army Garrison Italy in Vicenza, a Navy family from the joint service military community in Stuttgart, as well as civilians from various places in Switzerland and Germany, including German friends from the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (our sister synod in Germany), and even a couple visiting from the States.

Everyone enjoyed themselves, from the oldest to the youngest. Our oldest participant, Marilyn Galow, has been attending retreats since they began. She is the widow of a serviceman who stayed on in Germany after retiring from the military. She still works at the U.S. Army Garrison in Wiesbaden. And our youngest, one-year-old Otto Waldschmidt, especially liked the Easter egg hunt. His family is finishing up their tour at Ramstein and will be heading to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii in June. The three Waldschmidt children were baptized during their stay at Ramstein and mom Tana was also baptized and confirmed.

Do you, or does someone you know, serve in the Military? Whether stateside or oversees, you can sign up to receive spiritual support and be put in contact with a WELS pastors near where you’re stationed.

The retreats are restored, but more importantly they are restoring. In Würzburg we enjoyed special worship on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, made even more special by being together with fellow believers from all over Europe. We grew together studying the Word, and the kids had the chance to grow in their faith and friendship as they learned and played together.  It is a treat and a privilege to share our faith and our lives in this way. We want to thank our WELS brothers and sisters for supporting this ministry, which is so important for all of us.

Learn more about WELS Military Services.

Chaplain John Hartwig, pastor, civilian chaplaincy in Germany



Equip them!

“Now what am I supposed to do?” There’s more work than any called worker can ever do. There has to be! God’s Word says that our Lord prepared good works for each of his people to do (Ephesians 2:10). Called workers were never intended to be Jesus’ only servants. Those who try to take too much responsibility eventually hit a wall. They can’t do more, yet more needs to be done. A child with Down’s needs Sunday school. Grandpa loves to come to church but his hearing is so bad he gets nothing out of the sermon. Two members have been deployed and their families are struggling. “What am I supposed to do?”

The apostles set the example in Acts 6 (recruiting deacons) and gave us this advice: “Equip them!” The New Testament tells us that God calls workers to equip Christians for works of service (Ephesians 4:12). The pastor doesn’t have to install a better sound system for those with hearing loss, but he may have to coach some members on the issues and needs and motivate them to do something about the sound system. The WELS teacher may observe the special needs of a small child; she may not become the child’s teacher but may offer to coordinate the Sunday school teachers and parents until a plan is formed.

The Bible teaches that God has given different gifts to the various members of your church. How will those members use those gifts, if they are not equipped and given the opportunity to serve?

If equipping sounds like an added task on top of the already too-long list, consider this: Special Ministries can help ministry leaders equip Christians. Do you have a blind member? Several people with hearing loss? We can provide training for visitors to jails or help to mentor a member after release. We have resources for all kinds of challenging situations. Special Ministries can help equip God’s people to serve in extraordinary ways.

“What am I supposed to do?” Contact Special Ministries to get help equipping others to serve those with unique needs!




Support WELS Intellectual and Development Disabilities ministries.


Summer camps for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities

One of the joys of warmer weather is camping, and for many years congregations and organizations throughout our synod have rented or maintained campgrounds for WELS members to use and to provide camping retreats. Some of these camps offer multi-day or even week-long programs geared toward different groups of people. Many WELS members have fond memories of attending camp when they were young, making new friends, and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.

Camping can be a challenge for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, so Jesus Cares Ministries has partnered with several WELS camping organizations to provide fellowship, outdoor activities, crafts, and most importantly, God’s Word to campers with special needs. These camps have been very popular throughout the years, so it’s important to make plans soon!

These camps are staffed by dedicated volunteers who return year after year because of their love for Christ and the differently-abled. There are some caveats: participants must be ambulatory and must be able to take care of their bathroom needs on their own. You can see what exactly is offered and what the attendee requirements are for each camp at their respective websites:

Camp Phillip in Wautoma, Wis.

Camp Basic, June 10-15, 2024 and June 16-21, 2024 in Bagley, Wis.

Camp Omega, Sept. 15-16, 2023, in Waterville, Minn., and Camp Green Lake, Oct. 9-10, 2023, in Spicer, Minn.

In addition to these camps, the South Central District Special Ministries team just held their first Special Needs Family Camp at Camp Shiloh in Pittsburg, Texas. This inclusive camp opportunity welcomed families with a child(ren) with special needs such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and other conditions. The work that the South Central team did can serve as a pattern for others to offer inclusive camps geared toward families and not just individuals.

The community of Christ is made up of people of different ages, races, abilities, and conditions. We rejoice in opportunities to bring God’s people together to serve, be served, and give glory to our Creator and Savior!

WELS Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry



Support WELS Intellectual and Development Disabilities ministries.


Child safety: Why talk to kids about abuse?

An average five-year-old knows that putting a hand in the fire is painful. The child understands it is dangerous even if they have never experienced a burn. Why? Multiple adults and older children have warned them about the dangers of fire, which keeps them safer. The same holds for child abuse. Children are less likely to be victimized when caring adults teach them about abuse (Findelhor, D. & Dziuba-Leatherman, J., 1995).

If education is a critical component of abuse prevention, why is it missing in many churches and schools? The topic is difficult to broach with children, and it can lead to hearing discomforting stories from students.

Some people believe that Christians are immune to this sin. The Bible shows us this is a false view of the impact of sinful human nature in our struggle against sin. For example, although the Bible calls Lot a man of faith, it also records that he offered his daughters to the mob men in Sodom. Can you imagine his daughters’ fear when they heard their father invited those men to do with them as they pleased? Emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse.

Even the possibility that child abuse and neglect could happen in our schools and churches or among our families should compel us to teach our children about abuse. The loving way to help children is to provide education about it. This gives them the tools to understand what is and is not okay, no matter what an adult tells them.

Abuse education signals to children that they have an adult who will listen and believe their story and don’t need to “keep a secret.” Those stories are the only way for children to get help and stop the abuse. They need powerful allies who will speak and advocate for them.

Many good educational programs are available to give children age-appropriate skills and keep them safer. They incorporate training for parents so that parents practice with their children. These programs teach children in a non-threatening way, opening the door for continued discussions.

Abuse prevention starts with teaching children to protect boundaries for body safety, recognize trouble and move away from it, and get help from adults in power. It allows you to change a child’s life.

Finkelhor, D., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1995). Victimization prevention programs: A national survey of children’s exposure and reactions. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19(2), 129–139.

We recommend these programs for teachers and parents:

Freedom for the Captives, part of WELS Special Minisitries, seeks to empower the Christian community to respond with excellence to the sin of child abuse. To this end, we provide resources to pastors, teachers, and lay Christians that will deepen their understanding of child abuse and improve the Christian response to the physical, emotional and spiritual impact of maltreatment. We also have resources for survivors including recommended readings and guidance in selecting counseling or other services. In addition to the resources on our website, we also offer direct assistance to individual survivors who may have a spiritual question not addressed on our website or who need assistance in finding a counselor.

Learn more at freedomforcaptives.com.



Christian Worship available in braille

Lutherans have a great history of incorporating biblical hymns into our worship. Martin Luther was an enthusiast for music, and this is why music and singing forms a large part of Lutheran services.  He translated sacred Latin songs into German so the whole congregation could sing.  The first of many Lutheran hymnals was published in 1524. For the first 20 years of our existence, churches of our synod  did not have a standard hymnal. Congregations used their own hymnals brought from Germany. In the 1870’s our synod began producing hymnals. They were in German and contained lyrics of hymns, a short liturgy, and a few prayers.

Christians who lose their eyesight still want to sing God’s praises with their fellow believers. We at WELS Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI) continue Luther’s tradition of translating hymns so the blind can actively participate in the worship service.  This is why we are brailling the 2021 edition of Christian Worship.

The braille hymnal will contain lyrics of more than 650 hymns along with the standard liturgy. We have contracted with the American Printing House for the Blind to translate and emboss 10 hymnals. We are anticipating their arrival in April 2023.

Books in braille are still a necessity and MVI will provide the new braille hymnal free to WELS/ELS churches and visually impaired members who need them. MVI is also working to supply the hymnal electronically in braille for those who use handheld devices to read braille on the internet. MVI is currently uploading the lyrics of all Christian Worship hymns to our Listen Library for braille access by the blind. Our patrons can already search for hymn lyrics at Listen.WELS.net under the “Worship” tab. Any person who is visually impaired can become a patron with free access to all our Christian resources by completing the MVI Service Application on the Listen Library website.


WELS Mission for the Visually Impaired is able to make resources available through the generous gifts of supporters. Your support helps WELS MVI serve more people with audio, braille and large print Christian literature.



Support the ministry work of WELS Mission for the Visually Impaired.


Hearing loop troubleshooting

Does your church currently have a hearing loop? Have you considered installing one because of the grants that the WELS Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing(MDHH) is offering?

If your congregation is able to provide this to hard-of-hearing people who attend your services, this is a tremendous blessing. God be praised!

Even with a loop, you may still receive feedback that people are having trouble using it. This guide serves to help you troubleshoot common issues, before needing to call for maintenance. Take time with the person running into challenges and test your system with these ideas.

  1. Ensure the loop system is switched on. (Any technology how-to will start with the step of “try turning it off and on again!”)
  2. Ensure there are no errors or warnings on the loop machine.
  3. Check the AV system to make sure everything is wired up properly.
  4. Have the hearing aid wearer move around throughout the looped area and test different locations. Amplification may vary at different points in the sanctuary.
  5. Have them check with the audiologist to find out if the hearing aid is hearing loop compatible and if that feature is turned on.
  6. Check the manual for the hearing aid. Some sense the loop automatically, while others require the wearer to change the T-switch on the hearing aid. Newer ones may connect via a smartphone.
  7. If the loop is turned on, and their hearing aid is set up correctly, and the sound is still not working, then it is probably time to call in a technician for maintenance.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach as each system, space, and hearing aid is different.

As with any sound system-related issue, it is a great opportunity to wonder at our creator. God said “Let there be” and humans and animals could hear with amazing precision all the depth of sound and music he has given us.

Meanwhile, in a fallen world, while the Lord has blessed us with amazing technology, it can never compare.

So, many hours are spent fine-tuning the microphone levels to create a similar experience on a livestream as those worshiping in person are experiencing. Pastors have many stories of microphone mishaps. Similarly, hearing aids and hearing loops are prone to being finicky.

Despite that, all these tools can be used to help spread the gospel more clearly to hurting souls.

Hopefully the ideas above can help if you are experiencing issues. As with any questions you may have around the needs of deaf and hard of hearing people, please reach out to MDHH if we can assist you.

You can message us on Facebook at facebook.com/WELS.MDHH/ or email us at [email protected].




Those in prison are important to Jesus

Recently someone asked, “Why was prison such a big deal to Jesus and early Christians?” I was startled by the question, because I didn’t think that incarceration was a particularly significant issue of that time. Prisons in those days were generally a place to hold people until a case was decided and then, if punishment was imposed the person was killed, beaten, or fined. The Roman government and others at that time did not impose a prison sentence as a penalty for a crime. Life sentences were unknown.

I also didn’t think that Jesus made a “big deal” out of incarceration. When I think of the messages of the New Testament—justification by faith, salvation by grace, mercy for sinners, and condemnation of work righteousness— those could be called “big deal” messages.

But a discussion of Christ’s words in Matthew 25 about Judgment Day prompted the question about prison. If we didn’t have these words of Jesus about the Last Day, we might picture the Judge railing angrily against the murderers, robbers, rapists, and other evil people when he judges the world. Instead, Jesus tells us that the Judge will condemn those who don’t feed the hungry or the stranger, give drinks to the thirsty, clothe the naked, or visit the sick and imprisoned.

Books could be written about Matthew 25, but what struck this person was that Jesus included visiting prisoners in the list of things people will be accountable for at the Judgment. The New Testament also commanded God’s people, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison.” (Hebrews 13:3) Clearly the Lord has not forgotten the prisoner, even if the world has.

We should not be surprised, then, that Christian churches have had prison ministries down through the centuries. Like food pantries, visits to the homebound, and hospitals (a Christian invention), Christians have found ways to organize resources and people to care for others in their need. You may not be visiting an inmate – you may be supporting jail ministry with your resources. In your prayers, remember prisoners and those who bring them the good news.

Sometimes we have an opportunity to show the love of Jesus personally. If someone from your family, your church, or your community is incarcerated, send them a card or note, and say a prayer for them. These are men and women for whom Christ died. Whether they are incarcerated unfairly (as Jesus and Paul were), or whether they are getting the punishment they deserve (like the thief on the cross), the Lord has not forgotten about them.

In a world that regards money as the solution for most problems, Christians are tempted to think that sending money to the incarcerated is showing love. The love of Jesus is so much more than money, and grace is so different from the material goods that money provides. Remember Peter’s priorities with the lame man at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:6) where he didn’t give him any money but spoke to him in the name of Jesus. Isn’t the greatest gift eternal life? Isn’t the rarest blessing for an inmate to experience the love of Christ?

Prison is a big deal to Jesus. So is sickness. So is sin. As his followers, we reflect his compassionate priorities in whatever opportunities he puts before us. Thank you for your partnership in serving those who are incarcerated and remember them in your prayers.

Rev. James Behringer, Special Ministries director




Hidden Christians

Do you know most of the members of your congregation—or, at least, do you recognize most of the people who regularly worship at the same time that you do? If you belong to a smaller-sized church and worship regularly, you may be able to answer “yes” to both questions. In a very large congregation, you might not know all of the church’s members, but you may trust that the members of your church staff do.

However, it is very possible—even likely—that your congregation has members who are unknown to most others and possibly pretty unfamiliar to the staff. No, I’m not referring to members who are considered “straying sheep”—who are choosing not to attend worship or be involved in church activities. Nor am I referring to elderly members who once attended regularly but are no longer able to do so. Instead, I’m referring to other Christians who may be hidden from the congregation: parents of children with extraordinary challenges.

Through our work in the Light for Parents ministry, we often hear from parents who very much want to join in worship regularly and feel connected to other Christians, but have found this to be nearly impossible because of their child’s disability, medical condition, or mental health or behavioral challenges. Consider these examples:

  • Jim and Kathy realize that their child with sensory processing disorder cannot be in the sanctuary for a worship service because the sounds are so loud or the lights so bright that the setting becomes overwhelming.
  • Adoptive parents Tom and Grace know that their child, who has a history of being abused, is likely to be frightened by the crowd or by certain people in the sanctuary who appear scary, resulting in “fight or flight” behaviors.
  • Matt and Laura are concerned that their child who has a disability will loudly make involuntary grunting noises or call out words at random times, disrupting the service.
  • Sarah and Kevin, parents of a child with ADHD, know from experience that their child will not be able to stay in the pew for the duration of the service, but will need to walk around or even run during that time.
  • Kelly and Jacob are worried that their child, who has frequent meltdowns due to autism spectrum disorder, may have a meltdown at church.
  • Bill and Hannah, parents of a child with a medical condition that severely weakens their child’s immune system, are concerned about exposing their child to so many people in a relatively small space.
  • Greta and Phil, whose child is difficult to move from one place to another due to a physical disability, are exhausted from caring for their child’s needs each day and unable to imagine adding another difficult trip: the journey from home to church and back.

*All names have been changed.

These are just a few examples of parents who struggle to find opportunities to worship in church or get to know other congregation members. They stay in the background, often becoming very isolated from their fellow Christians. They are hidden within congregations.

These parents would love to be present at worship services. They would love to have the friendship and support of other Christians. They would love to serve others outside their homes. And they would love to have their children participate in the various children’s ministries that their church homes offer. Yet they remain hidden.

God tells us “Carry each other’s’ burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NIV). Now that you now about these “hidden Christians,” would you like to know how you can help carry their burdens and make it possible for them to play a greater role within the congregation? The first step is awareness—learning which parents in your congregation are isolated because of their children’s challenges and asking them their needs. Try saying, “I would truly appreciate the opportunity to be a blessing to you. How can I be helpful?”

The next step is making your worship services and children’s ministries accessible to all. This involves more than just having special parking spaces and ramps available. It involves letting isolated families in the congregation know that you truly want to make it possible for them to worship, and then building a circle of support around them and meeting their family’s worship and children’s ministry needs. As you do so, you may find that your congregation will begin to get a reputation as one that is very welcoming to all, and your ministry may grow as a result!

How to carry this out is a big topic, but Light for Parents is here to help. We have speakers available who would be happy to come share with your pastors, staff ministers, teachers, children’s ministry staff, and all members ways that your congregation can better open its arms to families of children with extraordinary challenges. A partial list of available topics can be found at www.lightforparents.com/speaking. Let us help you learn how you can be a blessing to your “hidden Christians”—and how they can be a blessing to you as well!

Written by Jane Mose

Light for Parents Program Coordinator





One way to support those in recovery

Often when we think about supporting a group of people, we think about what WE can do for THEM.

It is counterintuitive to think, “What can they do for us?”

But people from an addiction rehab near one WELS congregation have made it clear. They want opportunities to volunteer and serve.

In fact, one person said this: “I’ve let a lot a people down. You don’t know what it means to me that you are giving me the opportunity to be responsible and give back.”

Based on the comments of those in recovery, CrossWalk Lutheran Church has begun to offer opportunities to serve including:

  • Monitoring the parking lot to prevent catalytic converter theft. (The congregation lost four over the last several months)
  • Helping to take down signs, canopies, tables, and chairs after church services
  • Delivering Thanksgiving meals to needy families through the church’s Feed-a-Family program.

Providing opportunities to serve can be uncomfortable. Initially, congregations may find themselves feeling a bit like Peter before Jesus washed his feet. They may protest that it is improper or selfish to accept service rather than provide it.

But the risk of not providing opportunities to serve is great. The church could inadvertently reinforce what sociologists call “learned helplessness.” And congregations might be preventing the needy from worshiping God with their gifts of service.

What can this mean for your church?

Your church may not have collaborations with local rehabs. But it is likely that you bless your community through a number of charitable acts of giving and service.

If you want to bless your community in this novel way, the first step is to make a mental shift. Instead of thinking about what your church can do for your community, think about what your community can do for your church.

By providing opportunities to serve, you are reversing learned helplessness and fulfilling the words, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” You are denying yourself in order to provide someone else with the opportunity to learn that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

If you’re interested in learning about being spiritually supportive of people in recovery, see the Special Ministries video and study guide at welscongregationalservices.net/recovery.

Jason Jonker
CSM Mental Health Needs Chair




Stumped and full of hope

A massive stroke. A profound birth defect. A house fire.

We don’t expect such things to happen to us. They sound to us like the end of hope, a devastating derailment of our dreams.

Isaiah’s picture of the “stump of Jesse” captures the end-of-hope feeling. The glorious kingdom of David and Solomon was smashed into rubble and the people driven out with just a stump to mark the spot. Israel’s conquest and captivity appeared to be the unthinkable finale to happiness.

The imagery of the stump of Jesse could also symbolize earthly life when a person experiences something so terrible that every expectation of joy is erased. A productive career is cut short. The joy of childhood energy is stilled. Resources for old age are gone in an instant. We stare at the stump of what once was our lives, and we are stunned.

Special Ministries exists because the stump is not the end of the story for Christians. Isaiah prophesied, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” The stump is not where life ends; it is the beginning of his rescue. From that wrecked kingdom Christ came to seek and to save the lost.

In our darkest hour, our hope remains in God. Jesus told his disciples a man’s blindness would be an occasion to display what the Lord can do (John 9:3). Hope in the Lord drives Special Ministries’ work. Whether you have a disability or a struggle, whether your life has hit a wall or seems to have lost its purpose, we know the God who rescues. The Lord who caused a shoot to grow out of the stump of Jesse has a glorious eternal plan for you.

The Savior healed the deaf and blind as well as restoring hope to sinners shattered by shame. That’s not a coincidence. His mission ultimately delivers not only from damnation but also from the effects of this fallen world. Those who cannot physically hear the gospel now, already hear his voice. The blind see their Savior already in his Word. Neither trauma nor abuse can stop his healing love. The Branch is already bearing fruit and we see it in Special Ministries. The stump is not the end of the story, it’s the place where hope springs up. See Special Ministries’ information online for resources and guidance when you or someone you know is stumped!

Jim Behringer, director, WELS Special Ministries




Called worker mental health

Nearly 20% of adults in the U.S. were diagnosed with a mental illness in 2019, according to a recent study by Mental Health America. More than half of Americans reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health. Of these nearly 50 million people, over half went untreated. The study shows that many are uninsured and for those who have coverage, a large percentage are forced out of network for mental health care. This makes treatment harder to find and less affordable.

Depression and anxiety are often wrongly viewed as character flaws that can be cured through stronger faith. Many Christians consider the called workers to be on a higher level spiritually than themselves and not susceptible to these problems. We observe our spiritual leaders spreading God’s Word and caring for the spiritual needs of the adults and children in our churches and schools. As well intentioned, but uninformed Christians, we assume that people who exhibit this type of faith would be immune to mental illness. Numerous studies and real-life experiences have shown us that God’s dedicated servants are not exempt.

In order to better support our called workers, we need to change our own perception of mental illness and become educated on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of them. The Rev. Dr. Todd Peperkorn is an Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor who wrote a book called “I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression” in which he shares his deep struggles with anxiety and depression. His struggle began when he was a talented, energetic young pastor, devoted to his family and flock. It is shocking to hear him describe the stages of his depression that eventually caused him to completely withdraw from his ministry, family, and friends. He describes his struggles with the shame of others finding out about his diagnosis and finally the decision to take a leave from his ministry. It is heartening to hear of his treatment and ongoing recovery.

For a called worker struggling with depression, it is crucial to have the support of family, friends, another pastor, and the congregation. If your church already has a Care Committee for Called Workers, consider discussing mental health issues as a part of the annual meeting. If your congregation does not have a CCCW, concern with mental health during these stressful times provides a strong argument to form one.

Once the decision has been made to support a called worker in need, the members of the CCCW may wonder where to start. Christian Family Solutions provides confidential Lutheran counseling care and services – at no cost to the called worker. Their mission is “Healing and helping people in need through the ministry of Jesus Christ.” Since they can only help those who seek treatment, we should make it a priority that every called worker needing such help receives it.

Kurt Holzhueter, chairman of WELS Care Committee for Called Workers

Christian Family Solutions provides mental health outpatient counseling, school-based counseling, day treatment, and intensive outpatient programs for individuals and families through its clinics in seven states, at partner schools, and through telehealth. Through its Member Assistance Program, Christian Family Solutions offers confidential counseling services for called workers in all 12 districts, WELS World Missions, and other WELS/ELS organizations, at no cost to the called worker. There is a limit to the number of sessions available and may require a referral from your organizational leader or district president.  Please contact your organization for more information on how to participate in the Member Assistance Program.  You can also visit the Christian Family Solutions website to find more helpful resources or to request an appointment online: ChristianFamilySolutions.org. Or call 800-438-1772 to speak with the Christian Family Solutions intake staff about your care options.





What that family wishes you knew

It’s impossible to miss us as we come into your church for the first time – three of us are walking upright while the fourth member of our family is being pushed in a wheelchair (or walking with a cane, or needing his/her hand held). And as you see us, you smile politely as you would to any other family visiting your church. But we can sense that you’re a little uncomfortable about approaching us. It’s something that we’ve sensed from other people over the years as well. You’re curious, and, as a Christian, you’re a caring person, but you don’t know what to say and you don’t want to offend.

Here are seven things we wish you knew about us.

  1. We’re just like you. You can’t imagine dealing with our situation. But neither could we, not at first. We aren’t superhuman or specially gifted or anything like that. If you wonder how you would feel if you had to deal with a family member with exceptional needs day-after-day, know that we wonder the same thing about ourselves.
  2. We aren’t going to ask for your help, even if we need it. We don’t know the level of assistance you would be willing to give us, and we don’t want to impose on you. But we very well may need some help this morning, and for us to get it you’re going to have the make the first move.
  3. We aren’t going to be offended by any questions you have. We know you’re curious. We would be very happy to tell you about ourselves, our family member’s diagnosis, and the challenges we face. In fact, we would be very appreciative if you asked.
  4. Each of us is an individual. It may be very hard for our exceptional family member to communicate with you. But they will perceive your concern about them in their own way. Please treat them the same way that you treat the rest of us, even if you don’t seem to get any response. They are God’s child just as much as the rest of us are God’s children.
  5. You don’t have to feel sorry for us. We experience many challenges, but God always keeps his promises – including his promise to bring good out of every situation for his people. As much as we appreciate being able to share information about our challenges, we also want to tell you about the special blessings God has given us.
  6. Each of us is a sinner forgiven by Jesus – just like you are. That forgiving love of Jesus has forged a bond in our family that is stronger than any disability, and it just might be that the Lord means for that bond to extend between us and you as well. That’s why we’re visiting your church this morning – we’re looking for a stronger connection with God and with his people.
  7. While sympathy and simple assistance is always appreciated, what we really long for is understanding and acceptance, rooted in the knowledge that each follower of Jesus carries unique burdens, just as he said we would.

We know that it might take effort on your part to welcome us into your midst than it would take to welcome a typical family. May the love of Christ move you to make that effort!

By Rev. Stephen Schmidt, chairmain of WELS Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry




Focus on the church family

Instead of saying “congregation,” I prefer the expression “church family.” When we think of a congregation, we picture from an organization with a constitution and prescribed activities. When we think of a family, we see loving relationships that can vary, like parents, siblings, and spouses. Within the church family, you’ll find relationships like shepherd/sheep, church council/member in the pew, fellow members, choir members, altar guild members, and youth group members. The expression “church family” suggests a mutual love and commitment to each other with differing relationships.

Special Ministries equips church families. Our mission is to provide resources and guidance for churches to care for their own.

Special Ministries sometimes serves an individual directly. We provide Christian audiobooks for the blind. We send seasonal Christian cards and letters to people with developmental disabilities. But the true goal of Special Ministries’ work is to foster church members’ love and compassion and a commitment to meeting the spiritual needs of every member of the church family. Pastors may use the resources we develop and guidance we provide, but our hope is that other members of the church family will be able to serve, using Special Ministries’ training and materials.

Another parallel between family and church: family members often bring home friends. People Mom works with become aunts and uncles. Classmates from school join the family on trips. These “outsiders” are drawn because the family has blessings to share. In a similar way, the church family grows to include people in the community. Just as the love between family members morphs naturally into compassion for others, so the church family grows. Special Ministries cultivates compassion ministry – why serve only one little girl with a developmental disability when the neighborhood has other children who need the same accommodation for Sunday School and worship?

Family takes care of each other. It’s a family responsibility, and when it doesn’t happen, we call it “neglect.” Can we neglect our frail senior members who need help hearing the service or accessing the building? Can we ignore the spiritual needs of the young adult with autism, or our daughter who struggles with recovery from addiction? Of course not – these are children of our Heavenly Father, brothers and sisters of Christ our Savior. We have a commitment to bring the gospel and to love each other as the Lord Himself instructed us. If you need help for a member of your church family to worship and participate in the family, contact Special Ministries!

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of the Commission on Special Ministries