Tag Archive for: home missions

Together Video Update – February 13, 2024

Rev. Joseph Lindloff and his family moved to Marquette, Mich., in September 2023 after he accepted the call to plant a new home mission in the Upper Peninsula community. He’s been working to plant the seeds of the gospel there for nearly six months. In today’s Together video, he shares an update on the blessings of the ministry—and reveals the name for the new church. This new mission is just one of the new mission starts that are part of the WELS 100 in 10 initiative, which aims to start 100 new home missions in 10 years.

 

 

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New Home Missions administrator

WELS Missions welcomes Mark Gabb as the new administrator for WELS Home Missions. Gabb began serving in this role in January following a vacancy in the position since spring 2022, when previous administrator Keith Free accepted a call to parish ministry.

Gabb was formally installed as the Home Missions administrator Wed., Jan. 31, at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry weekly chapel service.

Gabb is not new to the work of WELS Home Missions. He has served as a member of the Board for Home Missions for ten years and as chairman for three, taking on additional leadership responsibilities during the vacancy.

Gabb says Home Missions has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. His father was a pastor and planted a mission church in Texas; Gabb’s first parish assignment was to a mission congregation in Ohio; his brother—also a pastor—was assigned to plant a church in New York. When Gabb moved to Florida, he was appointed to serve on the district mission board of the South Atlantic District in 2006. “I was eager to do what I could to encourage missionaries and existing missions and help plant new churches in our district. It never occurred to me that Home Missions would become a major part of my life and ministry,” says Gabb.

Gabb is taking on this role during an important time: A new initiative, “100 Missions in 10 Years,” officially was launched at the 2023 synod convention. “Together we can do what most individual congregations can’t do alone, and that is plant new churches throughout North America,” he says. “We bring a wealth of expertise from our district mission board members and mission counselors, and we have a partnership with WELS Church Extension Fund that provides grants and loans to our new missions. All this helps us to carry out the outreach aspect of Christ’s Great Commission.”

 

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Seminary students assist home mission churches

Over the winter break, three groups of students from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary traveled to various home mission churches to learn first-hand what it’s like serving as a home missionary and assist in local outreach efforts.

Mount Calvary –  Redding/Anderson, Calif.

Mt. Calvary in Redding/Anderson, Calif., after “grocery canvasing”

Mount Calvary in Redding/Anderson, Calif., hosted 12 seminary students for 7 days. They spent this time exploring and studying the neighboring communities while helping with “grocery canvasing” to assist local nonprofits collect food. While gathering groceries, they also gathered information about the surrounding community and people.

Divine Savior – North Collin County, Tex.

Divine Savior Church in North Collin County, Tex., had the assistance of students from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary as it participated in a food drive to serve the surrounding community and learn more about the needs of their neighbors in Celina, Tex. The food drive was a success; by the end of the day they had collected and donated 1,864 pounds of food to fight hunger in the community! One student shared, “It’s been encouraging to see the community open up their doors to not only give to a good cause, but also help us reach more people with Jesus.”

Divine Savior Church Bible and Brews outreach event

The Way – Fredericksburg, Va.

The third group of 12 senior Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary students visited The Way in Fredericksburg, Va., to attend a special church planting course. This course was led by WELS mission counselor, Rev. Mark Birkholz, and a few experienced church planters—Rev. Matt Rothe, home missionary at The Way, and Rev. Lucas Bitter, home missionary at Intown in Atlanta, Ga.

Training the next generation of church planters is critical to the success of the 100 Missions in 10 Years initiative. Learn more about this ambitious goal at wels100in10.net.

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Overflowing with opportunities

When 40,000 cars drive past your church’s campus every 24 hours, you know that there will be opportunities to meet people.

That statistic was among the first things I was told about our congregation’s location after being assigned to a mission restart on Long Island, N.Y. Our campus is located more or less dead center on the island, right at the intersection of a main north-south artery and the Long Island Expressway, or “LIE.” (The joke we tell around here is that the lie in LIE is “express.” At rush hour, it resembles the world’s largest parking lot.)

Forty thousand cars a day; close to a million people within a twenty minute driving radius; certainly there’s opportunity for us to meet people! So we put out some new roadside banners and cleaned up our roadside landscaping; we put out a big clothing donation bin; and we pop out for every flat tire that pulls into our parking lot (probably three a week) with a water, a smile, and an invitation to church.

There’s other opportunities to meet people, of course! There’s street fairs and festivals every weekend from June to September, where smiling people from a small, friendly local church can hand out some frisbees and tote bags and. . . you guessed it. . . an invitation to church.

And when you’ve taken all these opportunities to meet people that present themselves, the funny thing is, you end up meeting people!

You meet people who’ve been in church all their lives and people who’ve never darkened the door. You meet people whose home lives are very buttoned up and neat, and people whose home lives are anything but. You meet people who want to ask every question under the sun, and you meet people who fear the sound of their own voice. You meet people who are happy, who are sad, who are kind, and some who aren’t.

And with the eyes that our Savior gives you – eyes like his own eyes – you love them. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them” (Matthew 14:14).

New Yorkers are busy. Every time I leave our island, I see how much more slowly everyone else lives life. Not New Yorkers. Our lives are fast-paced, and our days are full. And being that busy, we don’t always interact well with one another. The caricature of New Yorkers (“I’m walkin’ here!”) isn’t terribly inaccurate. We’re “peopled out.” It can be hard to love at every opportunity when you can easily bump shoulders with hundreds of strangers on a normal day.

But it’s what makes Christians stand out.

New Yorkers guard their affection. It’s doled out sparingly. But the love God puts in our hearts, as his children, doesn’t need to be guarded and measured. We let it spill out, out our front doors and into our commutes and our workplaces, our schools and our supermarkets, and into every interaction we have. Why? Because while we may have new opportunities to meet people every day, we just can’t be sure how many opportunities any one of us has left.

Maybe 40,000 cars don’t drive by your church by every day. Maybe you don’t see new people on every trip to the supermarket. Maybe it doesn’t feel like the same opportunities exist for you to show love. But I promise you, and more importantly, God promises you: They do.

Written by Rev. Timothy Walsh, serving Grace of God Lutheran Church in Dix Hills, N.Y.

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Home mission milestones – fall 2023

WELS Home Missions has provided an update on a number of home mission congregations that experienced major milestones in fall 2023.

Christ the Rock Lutheran Church, Canton, Ga.

Christ the Rock in Canton, Ga., held its grand opening worship service on Nov. 12, 2023. God blessed the church’s outreach efforts with 60 in attendance, including 16 brand-new guests to Christ the Rock. Home Missionary Cale Mead and the core group set up and take down for worship at a local elementary school every Sunday using a “portable church” that can be stored in a trailer from week to week. A different home mission congregation, Living Hope in Chattanooga, Tenn., donated its old trailer to Christ the Rock after purchasing its own permanent facility.

View photos of Christ the Rock’s first public worship service and other home mission activities in the South Atlantic District in the Flickr album.


Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, Dickinson, N.D.

Amazing Grace, a home mission congregation in Dickinson, N.D., launched public worship on Oct. 15, 2023. It was blessed with 29 in attendance, 10 of whom were visitors invited by a family member or friend from Amazing Grace. Home Missionary Joel Prange serves this new mission church that was approved in 2021.

The following weekend, Oct. 22, Amazing Grace dedicated its new building space with members and pastors from area WELS congregations. Church members are currently worshiping in a rented ministry center in a new local market that they were able to customize to meet their ministry needs.

View photos of Amazing Grace’s new church and other home mission activities in the Dakota-Montana District in the Flickr album.

 


New Start, Marquette, Mich.

Rev. Joseph Lindloff was installed as the pastor for the new mission start in Marquette, Mich., on Oct. 8, 2023. This mission is one of the first new missions approved as part of the effort to start 100 missions in 10 years from 2023-2033. It had its first core group meeting on Nov. 5 with 24 individuals in attendance, including 5 prospects. The church prays to start a Bible information class in the new year.

View photos of the installation service and other home mission activities in the Northern Wisconsin District in the Flickr album.

 


TheMission – a Lutheran Church, Conroe, Tex.

TheMission, Conroe, Tex., launched its worship services on Aug. 6, 2023. Rev. Jeremy Mattek serves those at TheMission. They are currently worshiping in a rented funeral home on Sundays while working with a local architect to develop plans for a new sanctuary and site plan on land that they purchased.

View photos of TheMission’s launch service and other home mission activities in the South Central District in the Flickr album.

 

 


Please keep these home missions in your prayers as they continue to share the pure message of the gospel with more people in their communities. To stay connected with these and the other 145 home mission congregations scattered throughout the United States, Canada, and English-speaking West Indies, follow WELS Missions on Facebook at fb.com/WELSMissions.

 

 

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Athens of America

My wife and I were walking in the Boston Logan Airport after returning from a trip and on the wall there was a timeline of many Boston and greater-Boston area inventions. There was a picture of the first disposable blade razor put out by Gillette, a picture of the first microwave oven, a picture of Mark Zuckerberg in his Harvard dorm room inventing Facebook, and those are just a few of many others. Why do you think the city of Boston chose that exhibit to go on the wall of their airport? I wasn’t sitting in on the meetings that decided it, but I would guess it is because Boston is proud of their many inventions. They want you to know, before you have even stepped out of the airport, that Boston is a city of great minds, inventions, and innovation.

What does this have to do with starting a church in Boston? That’s a good question. I think there are several facts about our mission that do make it innovative or different than other settings. For one, WELS has never had a church in Boston. Secondly, seventy-five percent of the people who gathered in our house for Bible study last week don’t own a car. Finally, my wife and I live in the most densely populated city in all New England. Maybe that makes this mission start “innovative.” But the more I thought about it, and the more time you’d spend here, you’d realize that we really aren’t that innovative.

What does your normal day look like? This question is asked all the time, and for good reason; people want to know what it is like starting a mission church in a big city. Again, in so many ways, it isn’t all that inventive. My wife and I find different ways to get involved in the community and meet people, we spend time with people over food, and we grow with them in our love for our community and Savior. We study the Word, we pray for each other, and the Holy Spirit continually uses that Word to work faith in people’s hearts one by one. Do we have to be innovative with how we meet people? Sure. Will we have to be innovative with finding space to have worship when we are ready for that? Probably! But our tools for doing church planting are the same tools that have always been used for church planting – the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’m not sure the first word you would use to describe our small mission church at this time is innovative or inventive. Yes, we have creative people and come up with new ways to reach the community, but our foundation is rooted in the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17). Thanks be to God for this opportunity to share the gospel to the many people of Boston! All involved on starting the church in Boston ask for your continued prayers as we continue to love God and love our neighbor in this great city.

Written by Rev. Joshua Koelpin, home missionary at the new start mission in Boston, Mass.

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Outstanding ministry blessings in Vancouver

Sometimes God just blesses us with blessings piled up on top of each other. At Saviour of the Nations in Vancouver, BC, we were blessed to have such a weekend on Oct. 1-2. Taking advantage of a local holiday weekend we were blessed to do a discipleship training with our mission counselor, Rev. Matt Vogt. But we packed much more into this weekend.

“The Story of the Bible” initiative

Since Sept.10, we have been doing an “all ministry Bible information class,” meaning every Bible class is a Bible information class. In place of a traditional sermon, we are substituting in a modified Bible lesson connecting an Old Testament story to Jesus in John’s gospel and the relevant doctrines. On Oct. 1, we had 50 people in worship, including five people who have never heard the gospel. And it happened to be on the day we had the clearest presentation of law and gospel. Among them was a gentleman who was raised a Hindu who called the message “beautiful”, a Muslim woman who had never attended a church before, a Japanese woman who had never heard of Jesus before, and a skeptic who was attending worship with his family member. Our Sudanese members came from Surrey and sang as a choir in worship to everyone’s delight.

Sampling dishes from the International Food Festival

The gospel message was doubly reinforced by also celebrating four adult confirmations in the same service. Our other prospects who regularly attend got to hear these four confirmands—Cindy, Taehoon, Chanmuk (Danny), and his wife May—publicly confess their confidence and faith in Jesus. It was a day we all pray the Holy Spirit can use to work in the hearts of those who heard the gospel for the one-hundredth time, and especially for those hearing it the first time.

International Food Festival

To celebrate all that was going on, including Korean Thanksgiving weekend and the Chinese mid-autumn festival, we had an “International Food Festival” after the service with 60 people attending, our highest attendance ever for a meal. We counted 14 countries from four continents represented in various groups among our attendees. Everyone brought dishes from their home country. We tried all kinds of food and had fun voting for different categories like “veggie magic” and “Instagram perfect.” One of our prospects who worked very hard on her Indian dish was so happy she won—it was a big hit for everyone!

Congregation annual meeting

After the food festival wrapped up, we had our annual meeting where we elected two new council leaders: Taehoon Kang from Vancouver and Hakim Kon from our Surrey Sudanese mission. I shared an overview of the church’s past year and what we are doing to share the gospel through building relationships. Rev. Matt Vogt was conveniently present to explain what WELS is to prospects and how we are planting new missions. Our chairman, Volo, presented about the budget and shared gratitude for the financial support we receive through synod subsidy.

Discipleship training

Discipleship training with Mission Counselor Matt Vogt

Twenty-one members, Pastor Matt Vogt, and 13 kids came back on Monday to do an all day discipleship and leadership training. Pastor Vogt shared with us what Biblical leadership looks like and inspired our members to be more involved with the day-to-day operations of our ministry. At the end of the session, both our Sudanese leaders and Vancouver leaders put together respective lists of areas where laypeople can step up and help with the ministry. We hope to be implementing a few each quarter and working on the lists in the coming months.

We ended the day with fellowship over a dinner of Mexican food and celebrating one of our Sudanese kid’s seventh birthday with a cake, singing, and a Lego present to top it off.

God really piled up the blessings for us this weekend. He let us lean into our mission name, “Saviour of the Nations”, to build more meaningful relationships with people through music, food, and above all, the gospel.

Shared by Rev. Geoff Cortright, home missionary at Saviour of the Nations in Vancouver, B.C., Canada 





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Being part of the event

“What are some outreach strategies that you use?” “How do you meet new people?”

These are examples of the kind of questions that people ask me when they find out that I’m a pastor at a new church. My answers to these types of questions are usually pretty basic; make friends, work networks, get involved in the community, etc. When people ask those types of questions they are sometimes looking for specifics and ideas. With one year under my belt, I haven’t been at this long enough to know what is effective or not in the long run. However, one of the best outreach strategies that we employ at Amazing Grace started years before I even got here.

The active city of Dickinson has many vendor events throughout the year. Each one is sponsored by a large entity in the city. The Dickinson Press puts on an event called “The Women’s Expo.” The name makes it clear that the event is tailored to appeal to the women of the community. A member of Amazing Grace knows the person who runs the event and made a deal with her five years ago. Amazing Grace will provide entertainment for the children that come to the event in return we get a free booth space. It’s simple, a win for everyone; the mothers can shop or take a break while they or dad brings their children to play, The Dickinson Press has another thing to attract people to the event, and Amazing Grace has a booth presence as thousands of people walk by and are seen as a sponsor of the event.

Some years Amazing Grace sets up arts and crafts tables, other years we bring in a bouncy house. This year we had a bouncy house and six volunteers from the congregation to help manage all of the children. From 9 a.m. through 4 p.m., the bouncy house was full of kids.

So, why is this an effective outreach strategy for us? Maybe you can see it already. The dad or mom stays by the bouncy house to watch their child. This leads to a natural, unintrusive conversation environment. I and the members of Amazing Grace meet so many wonderful people and couples, some of whom are interested in checking out our new church. We had invitations to our launch service on October 15th out on the table if anyone was interested and had exposure to thousands of people in the community. Plus, over the years we’ve built a reputation with a major entity in Dickinson, the Dickinson Press. Five new prospects have connected with us from the most recent Women’s Expo.

Each situation is unique. We can’t run a whole vendor event on our own, but we can provide a valuable service for the event and the community through the Women’s Expo. If you are asking yourself the question, “How can my church meet new people?,” think about providing a service to a big event that’s already happening. Setting up a booth at an event is great, and the way I see it, being a part of the event in any way you can is even better. All of this is to open up more doors into people’s lives so we can share the saving gospel message with them.

Written by Rev. Joel Prange, home missionary at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Dickinson, N.D.

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Giving God the glory. . . on and off the field

Jack Strand is a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bloomer, Wis. Jack played quarterback for Bloomer High School and was recruited to play in college. During the recruiting process, he and his parents, Jim and Veronica, made sure that the colleges that were recruiting him had WELS churches with campus ministries in their areas. It was important to Jack to keep God’s Word, what Jesus called the one thing we need most, at the center of his life.

Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) offered Jack a scholarship to play football. Ascension Lutheran Church was five minutes from the college campus. Rev. Jordan Uhlhorn from Ascension and Rev. Daniel Sprain from Shepherd of the Valley in West Fargo, N.D., lead the campus ministry each Thursday night for college students in the area. He committed to playing football for them in 2022. Jack is now a sophomore at MSUM where he plays football, studies engineering physics, and goes to church and campus ministry.

Another WELS member, Josiah Behm from Appleton, Wis,, is a junior who plays linebacker for the MSUM Dragons football team. Jack and Josiah go to church together on Sundays, the campus ministry studies on Thursdays, and to the various campus ministry events. About ten students attend the campus ministry studies and events. Jack and Josiah’s teammates see that their faith is important to them as they let their lights shine on and off the field.

Here’s what Jack has to say about being a student athlete:

“It gives you a different perspective than a non-Christian student athlete might have, because you are doing everything for a different reason. God says to do all things for his glory, so not only are you playing for other people and earthly reasons, but most importantly to give God glory. Being a student athlete is stressful and takes up a ton of time, so finding time to be in the Word and talk to God can be difficult, but absolutely necessary. It’s a blessing to be able to go to God in prayer in good times and bad. When things aren’t going well, you ask for his guidance and help, and when things are going well, you give him thanks and praise. Being a student athlete is also a great opportunity to let your light shine and show by example how a Christian lives their life.”

Here’s what Jack has to say about what campus ministry means:

“It’s a great opportunity to meet and connect with people your age who have the same faith, beliefs, and values in life as you do. Too often, people get sucked into college life and what they might see and do on campus, and so having a group of students who share the same faith is very valuable while continuing the walk of faith during the college years. Having gone to a public high school, I didn’t know a lot of WELS people my age. Now with campus ministry, I have the opportunity to meet WELS people my age and make friends with them, and continue to strengthen my faith while I’m in college. During our Bible studies we learn, talk to one another, and ‘encourage one another and build one another up’ as Paul said, and it is a blessing from God to be able to do so.”

Written by Rev. James Strand, serving at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Bloomer, Wis., and father to Jack.

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A long-awaited dream fulfilled!

Dear Friend,

In the early 1990s, the members of the Western Wisconsin District Mission Board (DMB) envisioned a new mission church to serve one of the growing communities around Wausau, Wis. Rib Mountain and Kronenwetter were both excellent candidates. The DMB went with Rib Mountain, and it was a decision the Lord of the Church richly blessed. Today, Mountain of the Lord Lutheran Church is a healthy congregation faithfully proclaiming God’s love for sinners through Christ.

But who would have known that all along God, “who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), also had plans for a mission church in Kronenwetter?

Fast forward to the summer of 2018. At the Western Wisconsin District Convention, the DMB challenged all the circuits in the district to offer the names of cities, towns, and villages for outreach and mission work. Many were submitted. Do you want to guess one of the places suggested? Yep, it was Kronenwetter. God had a plan for this community and its people to hear the gospel’s sweet message.

About 18 months later, a member of the DMB met with a few godly, mission-minded men from the area and a multi-congregation task force was formed. Using resources from WELS Home Missions, it began to explore the feasibility of starting a new mission in Kronenwetter. Five WELS churches in the Wausau area committed themselves to actively supporting this effort with prayers, offerings, and manpower. From those congregations, a committed core group was assembled that would use the campus of Northland Lutheran High School. Not only was Northland in the center of the target area, but doing so would save the fledgling mission thousands of dollars. Was this dream about to become a reality?

In the spring of 2022, the Western Wisconsin DMB brought a formal request to the Board for Home Missions for subsidized mission status for Kronenwetter, but it was deferred. The core group was resilient and continued to meet for Bible study, fellowship, and finding ways to serve the community. A live nativity was held at Northland’s campus in December. Hundreds came and heard the good news of the Word becoming flesh to secure for all people the forgiveness from sin and the gift of eternal salvation.

In March 2023, another request was brought to the Board for Home Missions. This time it was approved! By God’s grace, Kronenwetter is one of the newest missions in our synodwide effort to start 100 new missions in the next 10 years. We’re grateful for God’s blessing and the offerings of his people that have allowed this mission to become a reality.

All along, our Savior envisioned this mission church in Kronenwetter, Wis. Please pray for his blessings for this new mission and the students of Northland who will play a key role in the congregation’s outreach. Please also consider a gift to the Home Mission Fund to support this and other home missions as well as those the Lord has planned for the future. How exciting to watch as his plans unfold!

In Christ,
Pastor Jeffrey P. Mahnke
Chairman, Western Wisconsin District Mission Board

Prayer: Lord God, we pray for our new home mission in Kronenwetter, Wis., near Northland Lutheran High School. Continue to energize the core group of members from area churches including some Northland students. Thank you for the opportunity for these younger members to help take the lead in this mission work. Enable everyone to grow in their Christian faith and their witness through this experience. We pray that you would guide this new church as they seek to call a pastor and start public worship at the high school. Amen.

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How’s it going?

“How’s it going?” Many have asked me that question lately. That likely doesn’t surprise you, because it is such a common, generic greeting employed by many of us. Often, we don’t even expect a real answer. The people who have asked me do want a real answer. They ask for a specific purpose. They know I have experienced a big change – the ministry I serve has experienced a big change. They finish the question like this, “How’s it going working with another pastor?”

In March of 2023, Divine Savior Church – Sienna submitted a request through our district mission board to the Board for Home Missions for an enhancement grant – financial support to allow our church to call for a second pastor. Under God’s careful watch and blessing, the Board for Home Missions granted that request. Our leadership crafted a clear job description for a Pastor of Discipleship, then moved quickly to extend call number one. We knew it was a strong possibility we would need to extend call number two, and three, four, five, maybe more, but God had other plans. Our faithful God worked through that process, Rev. Dan Laitinen was the first pastor we called and he accepted the call. He moved with his family to Sienna in July 2023, and we celebrated his installation on July 30 with worship and a massive serving of Texas-smoked pulled pork.

That celebration kicked off a massive change, both for me and for our ministry. Honestly, I was nervous. How well would we get along? Would I be a good teammate? What information is the most important to share immediately?

So. . . how’s it going? I’m learning how to better communicate, and let go, and many other ways in which I can grow as a pastor. I struggled at first to remember to say, “I’m one of the pastors here.” Yet, all of that puts too much emphasis on myself and Pastor Dan, we are under shepherds. I want to put the emphasis on Jesus, the great Shepherd, and his mission to reach more for his flock.

How’s that going? Incredibly!

As we partner with Divine Savior Academy on our campus, there are so many opportunities for ministry. This year, the school has grown to 350 students in PreK – 11th grade. We anticipate more students next year with the completion of a building project. So much ministry can happen! While I serve 10th graders and teach the Old Testament, Pastor Dan can study the Bible with Kenneth, our security officer, and Keith, our technology specialist, progressing towards membership at Divine Savior Church. While Pastor Dan invites them to his home to encourage and equip Connect Group leaders for our small group ministry, I am the invited guest at the homes of academy parents like Jake and Amanda or Will and Jordan, who take our START class to becomes members. While I take time to engage and interact specifically with worship visitors and guests, Pastor Dan leads a Sunday morning small group study. While Pastor Dan works with our youth group leaders to plan consistent events to connect teens to Christ, I work with the Outreach team to plan our Soccer Camp and Easter Egg Hunt.

How’s it going? Thanks for asking! I have a real answer to give: More kingdom work is happening. More people are equipped to serve in our mission. More souls are connected to Christ!

Written by Rev. Kevin Boushek, home missionary at Divine Savior Church in Sienna, Texas.

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Board for Home Missions approves tenth new mission start for 2023

Last week the Board for Home Missions met for its fall meetings and approved one new start and four enhancement requests. This brings the total new mission starts this year to 10 (not to mention the approved enhancements), which is on pace with our synod’s goal of starting 100 new mission churches and enhancing 75 existing ministries from 2023-2033.

  • Buffalo, Wyo. (new start): A group of 27 WELS members living in the Buffalo area have been worshiping weekly in the local civic center since March 2020, led by the pastor from Lord of Lords in Casper, Wyo.
  • Mount Calvary, Redding/Anderson, Calif. (enhancement): Home Missions is providing financial support for Mount Calvary, a multi-site ministry, to call a staff minister to assist with evangelism and youth/family ministry at the Anderson site.
  • Christ the King, Palm Coast, Fla. (enhancement): Christ the King will receive short-term Home Missions support to call a campus pastor to reach out to the 125 students with no church home at their growing Christ the King Academy.
  • Hope, Deerfield, Wis. (unsubsidized): Hope in Deerfield began outreach and worship in fall 2021. Unsubsidized mission status gives them access to grants from Home Missions and WELS Church Extension Fund (WELS CEF) as well as support from their district mission board and mission counselor.
  • Cross of Christ, Las Cruces, N.M. (unsubsidized): Cross of Christ started in a member’s home 11 years ago. The congregation has 73 members and owns land along a major access road where most of the city’s new development is taking place and where hundreds of young families are moving.

As district mission boards and mission counselors are looking for new places to start churches and enhance ministries, WELS members have responded to help support this gospel outreach goal with their offerings. Since starting this initiative, more than 1,500 members have contributed more than $1.7 million to help launch new home missions. Thanks be to God! Thank you to all those who have contributed toward this effort of boldly taking the gospel to people in new locations throughout the country.

Learn more about these new starts and enhancements and read updates from home missions that were approved in spring at wels100in10.net.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Hope in Houston

“Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20, CEB)

Hope Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas, started a capital campaign earlier this year with the theme “Beyond” based on that verse from Ephesians. We were in a bit of a tough spot at the time. A few months earlier we had a meeting with the owner of the dance studio we currently rent, and she let us know that unless something changed, she would have to close down by the end of the year. Without many other options, we decided to take on a substantial portion of her lease payment in exchange for more access to the space. But this was hardly a long-term solution. We knew we needed to act quickly to get into a permanent space. We started looking around, but in the middle of a big city like Houston, real estate is hard to come by. We searched for several months and toured several properties without finding any good options.

Current worship space for Hope Lutheran Church

Meanwhile, our members were busy showing just how true it is that God can do “far beyond all that we could ask or imagine.” Our leadership team had conducted an informal poll months earlier to assess how much we could expect our members to contribute when it came time to purchase a building. The total came in around $400,000. So, trusting that God would provide, our leadership team set our fundraising goal at $500,000. After only two months of fundraising, we held our Celebration Sunday, where we revealed how much our congregation had raised. The total came to $607,153 with an additional $120,000 pledged over the next two years! Sure enough, God provided far beyond what we asked or imagined.

Around the same time we were celebrating the results of our capital campaign, we found a church for sale in our target area. It was a Church of Christ that was built in 1927 and remodeled in the late 1950s. It is situated on its own block within a neighborhood in our target area. There is a large parking lot, ample street parking, and plenty of green space for kids to run around. We quickly put in an offer, and it was accepted. We are currently under contract, and if all goes well, we will close in the next few days.

It’s an incredibly exciting time in the life of our church. Thanks to the Church Extension Fund’s grant program for new missions, we get a 4:1 match on the land value and a 2:1 match for every dollar we spend on the remodel. Because of this, we can afford the necessary renovations to make the almost 100 year old building our home for the future. And because Church Extension Funds grants keep the cost down for us, we will be able to taper off of synod subsidy faster, which enables WELS to start more missions in the future. We are extremely grateful to Church Extension Fund for partnering with us on this project!

The original Church of Christ building in 1927

We hope to have the remodel completed by late 2024, when we will be able to move in and open our doors to the community. We cannot wait to see what kind of impact we’ll be able to have in our community once we have a permanent space. Our people have been very involved throughout the process and have all kinds of great ideas for how to use our new space. We’re very optimistic about the next stage of our congregation’s life, knowing that God will do “far beyond all that we ask or imagine.”

Written by Rev. Andrew Nemmers, home missionary at Hope Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas. 

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Keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus

Jill walked up to our front door, and I could tell she was nervous. With a smile and hopefully a friendly greeting, I gave her a bulletin and welcomed her to church. That Sunday she heard about Jesus’ love for her.

Jill sat in her living room, and I could tell she was distraught. Her husband had passed away a few months ago, so she moved closer to family. That past Sunday was the first time she had been to church in a while. But it wasn’t just her husband. Her story was all too common: shame, regrets, broken relationships. These weighed on her conscience. That afternoon, she heard about Jesus’ love for her.

Jill began to attend Sunday worship, and I could tell she loved it. She talked to the other members of Our Savior. She participated in Bible Class. She told me how she was working to invite her family to come and visit her new church, a place that told her about Jesus’ love. Jill studied God’s Word in our new member class, and I could see evidence of the Spirit’s work. She learned the depth and the glory of God’s love for her in Jesus. She surprised me with how well she applied what we learned to her life and her religious background.

The worship facility at Our Savior Lutheran Church.

Not long after Jill suffered from a fall. Jill lay in the nursing home after her fall and I could tell she was confused. She couldn’t talk very well and the pain was bad. She questioned why God would allow this to happen.  I told her about the forgiveness we have in Jesus and the hope of eternal life we both shared. We prayed that God would grant her healing and recovery.

As God saw fit, he did not grant her that full recovery. Over the next few weeks, her condition worsened. Jill was moved to a hospital, so I visited her frequently. I continued to tell her about Jesus’ love for her. Sometimes she was “there.” Other times, the medicine made it hard to remain engaged.

Her eyes are what I noticed. The medicine wasn’t as strong now because she was in hospice. Every time I walked in, her eyes lit up. She knew I was there. I held her hand; she squeezed back. I told her about Jesus’ love for her. Her eyes followed along as I read from the Psalms, from the Gospels, and from Paul’ epistles. Her family was there sometimes. They heard too. I had opportunities to share Jesus’ love with them directly. She and I prayed that God would keep her eyes firmly fixed on her Savior, Jesus, and that Jesus would bring her home to heaven.

God answered. Within a span of about 3 months, Jill visited our church, worshiped with us, grew in Bible class, fell sick, and entered into glory. God granted me in those last months the wonderful opportunity to tell her about Jesus’ love for her. God granted me in those last months the wonderful opportunity to witness to her family about Jesus’ love.

Jill lives now in heaven, rejoicing in paradise. I know she couldn’t be happier.

Written by Rev. Orie Thomford, home missionary at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Burlington, Iowa. 

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The gospel in Garden Grove…in three languages!

“Pastor, has there ever been a trilingual ordination service in the history of WELS?”

It was a very good question. This past Sunday, August 6, 2023, the installation and ordination service of two pastor was held at King of Kings in three languages. The three languages were English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Songs, prayers, and Scripture readings happened in all three languages with translations printed in the bulletin. If there had been a trilingual ordination service sometime earlier in WELS history, it was probably not in those three languages.

One of the men being installed and ordained was Rev. Grant Hagen, a Spanish-speaking graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) who had been assigned to a Spanish-speaking congregation. The other man being installed and ordained was Rev. Trung Le, a Vietnamese-speaking graduate of the Pastoral Studies Institute of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, who had been assigned to lead Vietnamese outreach for an English-speaking congregation.

The English-speaking congregation, King of Kings in Garden Grove, Calif., had opened its doors to the Spanish-speaking congregation, Pan de Vida Iglesia Luterana, a couple years earlier. The chancel furniture was from Pan de Vida’s previous location. The man who preached the Spanish sermon, Rev. Luis Acosta of the WELS One Latin America Team, stood behind the pulpit and told the assembly of more than 200 people how ably Hagen had served as a senior vicar in a Spanish-speaking congregation in Milwaukee, Wis.

The man who preached the Vietnamese sermon, Rev. Daniel Kramer from Peace in Jesus in Boise, Idaho, told the assembly, including 20 pastors who had come to participate in the laying on of hands, how Trung Le had come to faith and ably served in the leadership of that congregation in Idaho.

Because the WELS Joint Mission Council is helping with part of the effort, I had the privilege of preaching the English sermon. All three of us preachers used the text Matthew 9:36-38, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Because the Lord sees how harassed and helpless we human beings are, and because he has compassion for us, he knows exactly what good gifts to give as a result of his people’s prayers. On this day, in southern California, he gave two men who are in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. They join Rev. Brian Doebler in Garden Grove, Cal., in proclaiming the everlasting gospel.

In three languages!

Written by Rev. Paul Prange, Administrator for Ministerial Education and Joint Missions Council chairman. 

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Brats and building bridges for Jesus!

Sometimes you just need to be creative.

The core group for a new mission start in Kronenwetter, Wis., was looking for a way to both get the word out that a new church was coming to this growing community, and to begin building a prospect list for sharing the gospel. We knew that there was going to be a community garage sale weekend in mid-summer. This meant there would be a lot of residents moving around the village eager to find bargains and hidden treasures at the nearly 100 garage sales that would be taking place in our target area. They were going to get hungry during the day, and of course some of them would need to go to the bathroom.

The core group got creative and saw a golden opportunity! In this part of our country, folks love their bratwurst as much, if not more, than they do their Green Bay Packers. So, it was decided to hold a free brat fry. We would also use this opportunity to open the doors of Northland Lutheran High School, where the  mission will eventually begin, to allow garage sale shoppers to use the facilities and become familiar with the building and the ministry it does.

On the day of the brat fry, the Lord blessed us with perfect weather. A good number of residents stopped by to take us up on the offer of free brats and hot dogs and to use the Northland High School’s bathrooms. That got them in the door. The banner by the food table proclaimed that a new mission church was coming. This accomplished our exact goal, as questions were asked and comments were made, resulting in natural and easy conversations about our intentions. Most of the people who came wanted to give us free will donations.

While we thanked them for their thoughtfulness and politely refused their money, we asked them instead to fill out a 60-Second Survey. We told them that their opinions were valuable because we wanted our mission church to meet the needs of people living in Kronenwetter. If they wanted to be put on our mailing list for regular updates on how the mission was progressing, they could give us their name and address. Twenty-eight surveys were completed, and nine families are now on the prospect list. It’s a start!

I had the opportunity to meet (and eat with!) a young couple blessed with a four year old daughter. Not long ago they moved to Kronenwetter, they told me that they had Lutheran backgrounds from where they used to live but had not found a new church home. They were concerned because their daughter had not been baptized yet, and now she was starting to ask questions about God. It was obvious to me that they were feeling guilt for not doing a better job of Christian parenting. It was a joy to share with them the good news about forgiveness in Jesus, and to let them know I would gladly work with them to have their daughter baptized and that it wouldn’t cost them anything. I also told them they could bring their daughter to my church’s Sunday School starting this fall. They were thrilled to know that a church was coming soon to help them all grow in God’s Word and love on their journey to eternal life in heaven.

As the core group was cleaning up at the end of the day, the consensus was clear. Even if the only result of the brat fry was this little girl’s baptism, our efforts were more than worth it. But we are confident of God’s blessings and we praise and thank him for letting us use brats and bathrooms to build bridges for sharing Jesus!

Written by Rev. Jeff Mahnke, pastor at St. Peter Lutheran in Schofield, Wis., and chairman of the Western Wisconsin District Mission Board. 

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Sometimes, It’s just clear

If you live in the north central and north east states of our country, you’ve lived with a smoky haze for weeks. Even with wildfires thousands of miles away, the smell of burning forests can sting the nose, limit vision, and threaten fragile lungs. We long for clear skies and fresh air.

Sometimes God lets us struggle through what we think is a smoky haze when the answer doesn’t seem to be clear, or even in sight. He does this to drive us to his Word, drive us to our knees in prayer, drive us to seek counsel and collaborate with fellow saints. This is always for our good, even if we cannot see the good in the moment or a while after we emerge from the haze. And then, sometimes, it’s just clear.

Mission Counselor Wayne Uhlhorn and I left Green Bay Tuesday morning with a heavy haze of smoke filling the air and our lungs as we set off for Marquette, Mich., to hold our next core group meeting. By the time we reached Marquette, the haze was completely gone. The sun was shining brightly and the fresh air filled our lungs. It was just…clear.

I share this not only to relate the wondrous natural beauty God created in the Marquette area, but also because our journey to Michigan works as a great metaphor for the new start in Marquette. Sometimes it’s just clear.

From our first visit two years ago with Pastor Stephen Lehmann until now, and every trip in between, it’s just clear—we need to start a new church in Marquette! This isn’t just the opinion of a mission minded pastor an hour away in Iron Mountain (Lehmann), nor that of a Midwest mission board. From visits we made with movers and shakers in the community to other WELS people we keep finding in the Marquette community, everything and everyone has kept saying…it’s just clear.

Rev. Lindloff, his wife, and their three children.

Rev. Joseph Lindloff, his wife, Julie, and their three children

That’s not to say there hasn’t been haze, trepidation, or uncertainty.

The fall of 2022, our board wasn’t sure we were ready to submit a request for the spring Board for Home Missions meetings. Why? We didn’t have an established and active core group. If you know anything about church planting these days, that’s kind of a big deal! But we knew Marquette was an excellent example where we still need to do some exploratory missions. Obviously, it was just as clear to the Board for Home Missions as it was to us.

Along the way, there has been other haze to contend with. There are naysayers regarding the 100 missions in 10 years initiative (though most who give me the chance to explain will at least understand, if not come to support it). We also had to answer the question, “Why would you start a church in Marquette? We already have one there!” In Marquette County? Yes. In the city? Nope. That said, our goal isn’t that one church close so that another would thrive, but that we would have two thriving congregations in Marquette County. St. Paul’s would focus on the rural community south of Marquette, near Harvey and K.I. Sawyer. The New Start location would focus on the area west of Marquette proper, near Northern Michigan University and the communities of Negaunee and Ishpeming. It’s just clear.

Six months after deciding to move forward with submitting the request for a New Start in Marquette…three months after BHM approval, here Wayne and I were sitting in the beautiful backyard of our gracious hosts, Ashley & Eric Nicholas (the core of the core group), talking about starting a new mission in their community. And just three days prior, Rev. Joe Lindloff had accepted the call to be the missionary of our new start! It’s just clear when you see things come together like this and knowing it’s all part of God’s gracious plan.

And still, there’s more! At this meeting we got to meet two new members of the core group. Evan, a traveling nurse, is looking for a new position closer to home not only so he can be home every night with his wife and child (and #2 on the way), but also so he can help establish a new mission with a man who years ago was a senior he looked up to at Michigan Lutheran Seminary. Next, we met Sydney, who went to NMU to get her graduate degree in counseling. She works at Christian Family Solutions(CFS) and decided to stay in Marquette after completing her degree. Early on in our research for the new start, we saw a huge opportunity if we could get a CFS counselor in an office and on site at the new start. And now, three months after approval, God introduced us to Sydney who is excited by the prospect of setting up shop together with our new mission!

I think by now you’re seeing it too. It’s just clear. God is working in wondrous ways to gather more sheep in the Marquette community. I can’t wait to see what else God has planned for his church in Marquette!

Written by Rev. Ben Enstad, pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Green Bay, Wis. and DMB Chairman for Northern Wisconsin District. 

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Rivers of living water will flow

Like the loops and curls of the mighty Mississippi River that form the western border of the state of Mississippi, so also are the twists and turns of life that lead unwitting travelers toward Christ’s astonishing grace. Near the river in rural western Mississippi, Pat recalls her childhood days of picking cotton in the fields. Pat and her thirteen siblings attended a Baptist church in Lyon, Miss., where she also participated in summer Bible school and other youth events.

Although Pat quit school in the ninth grade, she kept busy working long hours with her mom in a local department store. When she was 16 her parents separated, leaving her mom to raise the children alone, including one with down syndrome. Looking for a new start, Pat made the life-changing decision to leave her Mississippi home and live with her sister in Indiana at age eighteen. Upon her move to Indiana, her relationship with Jesus stagnated.

Pat settled in Greenwood, Ind., a southern suburb of Indianapolis. In 2007, she and her husband purchased a home in a new subdivision on the southside of Greenwood surrounded by open fields. In one of those open fields, just two-tenths of a mile from Pat’s home, WELS purchased land. In 2014, Builders for Christ volunteers gathered at that open field to construct a new church, Light of Life Lutheran. For years, Pat would drive out of her subdivision and pass by the church.

In the spring of 2023, Pat decided to turn into the church parking lot. She had spotted vehicles unloading food that would be served that evening for the Lenten meal. Pat pulled up to speak with the pastor and asked about the church. One issue that really concerned her was the dress code. As a young girl she often felt judged because of her hand-me-down attire. She wondered if she would need to wear a dress to church, since that was what she was used to when she went to church as a teenager in Mississippi. She was assured that she could come as she was.

Pat attended the midweek Lenten service that evening. Although she admits the service was different from what she was used to, members of Light of Life visited with her after worship. Wading in the gentle current of the river of life, flowing freely from God’s Word, she began attending weekly Bible information class on Monday afternoons. To encourage her, members from the church also attended the class.

The church Pat had routinely passed by had become a place she attended several times a week for worship and Bible studies. Pat said, “It makes me wonder why – it’s like this church has been in my face all these years. And now I finally decided, ‘I am going to stop at this church.’ I know I believed in God, but since I’m an adult, it makes things so much better because I can understand. As an adult it is so different. I feel I need to be here. Now I make a point to be here. It’s a plan. ‘Pat is going to church on Sunday.’”

She appreciates the streams of support in newfound friendships among the members of Light of Life. “I feel like I belong here. And everybody is so helpful.” Pat now seeks to channel her renewed faith in Christ as she finds new ways to be active in the life of the church. May the current of God’s grace continue to overflow in Pat’s life until it leads to the river of eternal life in heaven.

Written by Rev. Scott Miller from Light of Life Lutheran Church in Greenwood, Ind.

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Peace like a River

“Peace like a river” was a fitting theme for the 60th Annual Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society Convention, held this past weekend in La Crosse, Wis., held just steps to the Mississippi River. This convention serves as a an annual opportunity for men and women to come together in one place and serve by increasing awareness of, interest in, and support of the mission outreach of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).

This year’s convention included speakers from Wisconsin to Ecuador to Colorado to East Asia. Each workshop leader and keynote speaker had something unique to present as a result of their unique mission fields.

Rev. Daniel Lewig, of Richland Center, Wis., spoke on “upcycling evangelism.” He shared examples from personal experience with their church, Bethlehem Lutheran. He reminded attendees that each congregation has it’s strengths and weaknesses, so why not lean into those strengths. They did just that by leaning into their Live Nativity event that had great attendance, and they never looked back. What began as a well attended event, eventually led the church to settle on Bethlehem as their name. How fitting!

Coming from the other side of the country, Rev. Paul Biedenbender and Vicar CJ Fury from Denver, Col. presented on the Vicar in a Mission setting program, which allows seminary students to serve their vicar year at a home mission, or mission minded, church. Vicar Fury was able to give a first hand account of some of the responsibilities and projects he took on during his vicar year at Christ Lutheran, as well as stories of the ministry he’s been able to do this past year.

To speak about World mission work in Latin America, LWMS had Missionary Elise Gross, the director of Women’s Ministry for the One Latin America team, as one of the keynote speakers. Elise told her story of growing up as a missionary child in Antigua and how she now has a missionary child of her own in Quito, Ecuador. She addressed how her role as director of Women’s Ministry has given her an opportunity to connect Latin American women with Academia Cristo, as they have the monumental task of sharing the gospel with their families, which takes strength and courage.

The convention had many other Home and World missionaries who were able to present and share their stories of faith, struggle, success, and unexpected situations in a mission field. Along the way, attendees were also able to receive Home and World Mission updates from Rev. Larry Schlomer and Mr. Sean Young, a 100 in 10 initiative presentation by Rev. Paul Schupmann and Steve Wolf, members of the 100 in 10 task force, and LWMS Business Meeting highlights.

After four days filled with WELS Missions, the 60th Annual LWMS Convention came to a close. The weekend was spent with over 1,200 attendees sharing their love and support for WELS Missions and all by the hand of God, who made all things possible. God willing we will meet again next year in Sioux Falls for the next Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society Convention!

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Faces of Faith – Veronica

I was driving one Sunday morning, and I needed to stop to use my phone. As I was looking for a safe place to pull over, I saw someone holding a sign that read “The Vine Church – Worship Service Today.” I pulled in and parked as far away from the church building as possible, because I had no plans to go in. I just wanted to use my phone.

A woman approached my car with a big, welcoming smile and said, “Come on in for the service; we’d love to have you.” She was super friendly, so I thought to myself, “Why not?”

I had no idea what kind of church it was, but the people inside were friendly too. After I found a place to sit, a young lady came and sat next to me. She made me feel comfortable and not so alone. Pastor Kevin Schultz was awesome. His message really touched my heart as he told us about the undeserved love of Jesus. I knew I was at the right place.

I came back the following Sunday, and I kept coming back every week after that. I became a member of The Vine in Hayden, Idaho, and I never looked back. It’s been wonderful being part of this amazing congregation. I finally found my church home. . . all because the Lord led me to a church’s parking lot to use my phone. He had so much more in mind for me on that day!

Written by Veronica, a member at The Vine in Hayden, Ida. served by Rev. Kevin Schultz. 

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Faces of Faith – Angie

Many may think Christianity can no longer impact the highest levels of academia or the arts. I’m convinced the opposite is true.

Welcome Weekend at Redeemer in Ann Arbor, Mich., is our annual September outreach event for our Campus Ministry program. That weekend in 2021, I met someone new. Angie was born in China, but her family moved to America when she was young. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s in piano performance at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City. Now she’s earning a doctorate at the University of Michigan. One of her classmates, Allison, who was in the same program had already been attending Redeemer. After church, Angie decided to stay for lunch and then came to Starbucks to help us plan our Campus Ministry activities for the semester. She then started attending our Campus Ministry Bible studies. When she asked about being baptized, we found a spot in central campus, and I listened to Angie share more of her story. That conversation led to starting Bible 101 classes—often meeting on Zoom until 10 p.m.—after she finished classes and I put my kids to bed. In April 2022, Angie was baptized and confirmed, and many other campus ministry students shared that special day with us. Now as a member of Redeemer, Angie shares her talent by playing for church. We’re so thankful to hear her beautiful music in worship, but we’re even more thankful for what God has done in her life.

From Jacob Haag, campus pastor at the University of Michigan

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Faces of Faith – Shawn

Shawn grew up in South Florida and attended a Baptist church for part of his early life, but never felt like he was good enough to be baptized and be a “real” Christian. As he grew, his life took some twists and turns into darker things. While he would say he never really rejected God, he felt far from him. He eventually moved to Michigan and fell in love with a girl from Ontario. When they got married, he moved to Ontario and they built a family together, but something was still missing.

At the suggestion of a WELS family member from the U.S., Shawn came to visit Cross of Life one Sunday. He appreciated the straightforward preaching right from the text of God’s Word. When I found out he wasn’t baptized, we scheduled to have him baptized at the next Sunday service in February 2023. He is currently taking Bible Information Classes to join our church family in Communion!

From Caleb Schultz, home missionary at Cross of Life in Mississauga, Ont.

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Faces of Faith – Dillon

It was one of my first Sundays as a pastor when Dillon walked into the Community Center. He had a Mariah Carey cap and necklace on, dried mustard in his beard, and fell asleep during the sermon. Members were a little tentative at first. He said he was surprised that he found a church meeting in the Community Center. It was his third service of the day and was excited to worship with us.

I found out from Dillon’s mom that he suffered from schizophrenia and hadn’t found a place where he had been welcomed in the community. He told me no one had taken the time to teach him the Bible. So, over the next year we walked through our Bible Information Class together, and Dillon came to every worship service. Members also came to love Dillon. Every time he walked into service, you would hear everyone chime in “Good Morning, Dillon!” Eventually we got through class, and I asked him if he would like to join our Good Shepherd family. He answered, “I thought I already was?”

Dillon was baptized and became a member in May 2022. He faithfully attends worship and has invited his mother, stepfather, and grandparents to join. You can find Dillon on Sunday morning helping set up church, enjoying the coffee, or talking with other members.

From Lucas Callies, home missionary at Good Shepherd in North Liberty, Iowa

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Faces of Faith – Allison

After a painful life event, Allison moved to Houston looking to start over. Throughout the years she tried different churches, but nothing ever really felt right. When discussing church options with her neighbor, she agreed to try out a church called Hope in the Heights. Her first service was July 4, 2021, and she has come ever since. There are many things Allison has come to love about her church, including the music selections, the sermons, and the friendly people. However, the gospel and power of Jesus’ grace is superior to all of that. When asked about her faith, Allison shared, “I used to feel that I wasn’t worth anything, but now I know that Jesus wants to remind me of his love daily. Something I used to not feel was possible or even true! My faith is developing each day.”

From Emilee Nemmers, member at Hope in the Heights in Houston, Tex.

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Faces of Faith – Jarrod and Jessica

Sometimes God plays the “long game.” I met Jarrod and Jessica Bakker when I was first canvassing in Brandon, S.D. They had recently visited our sister church, Good Shepherd. They were interested in our church plant, but we weren’t worshiping yet (we didn’t even have a name yet). We lost touch after a few months, but that wasn’t the end of the story. Two years later, we had an Amazon package delivered to the wrong house two doors down. They came over to drop it off, and sure enough, it was the Bakkers. They began coming to worship and have since taken classes and become members. God certainly played the long game here, and what a cool thing it was to witness!

From Craig Wilke, home missionary at Sure Foundation in Brandon, S.D.

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Faces of Faith – Reno, Nevada

“Vicar, we’ve been delivering new mover bags for almost three years and never had any response. I want you to come up with another way to get information to people moving into our community.”

That was the assignment in week two for our Vicar Nathan Holz (pictured second from left). He did his homework and came up with a recommendation. But before we pulled the trigger, Vicar delivered new mover bags for what we thought was the last time, one of which landed on Claudia’s doorstep.

Claudia (pictured left) had just moved to Reno from a small town in Nevada. But three years prior, she moved to the U.S. with her family from Chile. Claudia was looking for a community, so she decided to check out the church that dropped off a bag of popcorn that said, “Just poppin’ in to welcome you.”

She wasn’t the only one. Keith and Wendy (pictured right) were looking for the same thing. And just like Claudia, they had a new mover bag dropped on their doorstep. Within two consecutive weeks, we had three first-time guests “pop” into worship.

Fast forward six months. Having completed our Bible information class, Claudia, Keith, and Wendy were all confirmed and communed together. Now Keith has even delivered new mover bags himself (We decided not to scrap the idea).

From Joel Heckendorf, home missionary at Light of the Valleys in Reno, Nev.

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Faces of Faith – Chanti

Our path to understanding the immeasurable love of God and the absolute forgiveness through our Savior began shortly after our first son Colton was born. My husband Zach and I had recently moved to the area when I heard about the Mornings with Mommy program at Christ Alone in Keller, Tex. We felt so loved and cared for, we continued signing up along with Power Hour.

The interactions and relationships with the people from Christ Alone made us want to learn more. I was invited for a cup of coffee with a member, who is now a dear friend, and she shared with me about her faith in Jesus as our Savior. After Zach and I attended worship with our boys, another member delivered a care package to our door just to thank us for attending. Shortly thereafter Pastor Seeger came to visit us at our home. Each of our interactions personified the selfless love of Jesus. There were no expectations, no strings attached; just genuine love offered from people who kept pointing us to the cross.

When Pastor Seager taught us about God’s Word in Faith Builders classes, Zach and I felt like we were finally beginning to understand the Bible and what it means to receive the gift of salvation through Jesus. We had no idea the wonderful plan God had for us, but I clearly see his hand in all of it when looking back.

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Faces of Faith – Fredericksburg, Va.

“Let’s not go back!” That’s what Will (pictured left) and Sydney decided after their first visit. But the gospel seed was planted, and they did come back. Someone studied God’s Word with them, including what the Bible says about close communion. Will and Sydney not only came back, but they took our Foundations class and joined as members.

Then Will brought his friend, Chris (pictured right). Chris had questions about the Bible and church. Again, someone studied God’s Word with him, including what the Bible says about baptism. And so, months after Will decided “Let’s not go back!,” Will was a witness as Chris was baptized.

“I’m not going on a second date!” That’s what Chris decided after his first date with Mischa. But they did go on a second date. There were even dates to Foundations class. Now they’ll be married in their church in fall.

“I’d like to come back and learn more.” That’s what Chris’ roommate Matt said after his first visit. Matt grew up unchurched and had many questions (even more than Chris). And now Will and Sydney, Chris and Mischa, and an entire group are studying God’s Word with Matt.

How did this all happen? The gospel seed is planted and someone “hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:23).

From Matt Rothe (pictured center), home missionary at The Way in Fredericksburg, Va.

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Faces of Faith – Sonny and Lucy

I met Sonny and Lucy at the funeral of their daughter. They were obviously devastated. I asked them if I could come for a visit, and we started on a year’s long study of the Bible while they tried to teach me Mandarin. Lucy grew up in the Christian church in Indonesia, but at age 12 she moved back to China and never went back to church. Her husband Sonny was a stubborn atheist, a professor of philosophy, and member of the communist party in China. But the death of their daughter had shaken them. After eight months of study, Sonny said to me one day with tears in his eyes, “Pastor, before I met you I never thought about God. Now all I do is think about God.” I baptized Sonny not long after that in his home, and two months later the Lord took Sonny home to heaven. Lucy joined Living Hope, but later moved to New Jersey to live with her son. Before she left, Lucy convinced her friend Shu Ling, who had recently gone through a terrible divorce and was a Buddhist, to meet with me. Now Shu Ling and I meet once a week to study the Bible. She hasn’t been to church yet, but I can see the Spirit at work in her life and her thinking.

From Joshua Sternhagen, home missionary at Living Hope in Commerce City, Colo.

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Faces of Faith – Michaela

As most college students headed out to their spring break trips, 12 students from UW-Madison and UW-Stout campus ministries used this time to come together. We traveled down to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Deltona, Fla., to serve the Lord and his people through a Mission Journey.

On our Mission Journey trip, we cleaned up an area of land outside the school, washed tables and walls, and hung 500 door-hangers in the surrounding neighborhoods for the upcoming Easter events at the church in hopes of bringing in more members of the community. We were also able to attend the Lenten service where the congregation was having a Puerto Rican themed dinner and presentation to update the congregation on future evangelism goals.

In our down time, we were able to enjoy time by the pool, go to the beach, see the manatees at Blue Springs, go on an airboat ride, and have a game night. All the while, we were able to form and build connections between the two campus ministries, the congregation, the pastors who guided us, our host families, and those we met in the community along the way. The Christian fellowship we experienced was invaluable.

Good Shepherd showed us the perfect definition of Christian love and hospitality. This Mission Journey fanned the flame for all of us on the trip as well as those surrounding us. As we returned to Wisconsin, we were all invigorated to do more in our own congregations and continue to serve the Lord in our everyday lives.

Written by Michaela Hansen, a member of the University of Wisconsin – Stout campus ministry.

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