You Never Know What to Expect

Planting seeds, divine appointments, and caribou. A person may never know what to expect when canvassing and proclaiming God’s Word.

Evangelism is far more about God and his promises than about ourselves. One of the greatest promises Christians can trust when proclaiming the gospel is that his Word works. Due to our human nature and the sinful world around us, personal evangelism is often scary and intimidating. Praise and Proclaim Ministries, a WELS-based gospel ministry, partners with WELS Board of Home Missions and established WELS/ELS congregations throughout the U.S. to provide training for members to verbally proclaim the gospel to lost souls.

To help conquer fears and provide a meaningful opportunity to put their training into action, members participating in an outreach initiative go out door-to-door to apply a simple methodology to verbally proclaim the gospel. When believers step out in faith to share their faith with others, God provides interesting stories.

At The Vine Lutheran Church, a new mission in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a group of members from St. Matthew in Spokane, WA received training and utilized canvassing as a method to introduce their new church in the community. The Lord provided “divine appointments” at the door when people expressed a sincere desire to learn more. One man told a participant, “Just this morning, I was praying that the Lord would send a WELS church to Coeur d’Alene. You are an answer to my prayer!” He and his wife were WELS members from Arizona who recently moved into the area. Now they are active participants in reaching the lost.

Portland Praise Canvassing Group

Three WELS congregations in Portland, Oregon meet every three months to go out and verbally plant the seeds of the gospel. After training, members were so excited and privileged to be God’s messengers that they decided to come together as one to hit the streets surrounding one congregation and bring as many people as possible to heaven through the power of the gospel. The growing group calls themselves “Portland Praise” and includes two established WELS congregations (Gethsemane/Tigard, Amazing Grace/Portland) and one mission congregation (Beautiful Savior/Hillsboro).

Members at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenai, Alaska gathered to received training and immediately put it into action. While going door-to-door, a group encountered several caribou feeding on the summer grass. One caribou followed members for a few doors which made them a little nervous. Grace Lutheran regularly goes out canvassing to hand out little packets of coffee and batteries to replace smoke alarms during daylight savings time. They use these tools to engage people and provide a short gospel message.

Verbally proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ is scary; yet one of the greatest exercises of our faith is sharing our faith. When church members regularly gather together to verbally proclaim the gospel, it can have a transforming effect. God’s kingdom is advanced. Trust in God’s promises is strengthened. And there is profound joy in knowing they are being used by God in a powerful way. With training, WELS members are breaking the thin ice of fear and boldly proclaiming the gospel with their friends and neighbors, plus assisting their pastor in making follow-up visits.

To learn more about Praise & Proclaim Ministries, visit their website at

Written By: Dave Malnes, Praise & Proclaim Ministries


Building Up the Body of Christ

While it is rewarding to write about victory stories of a new member’s confirmation or a prospect’s baptism, I would like to share with you a recent little moment in our mission that gives me even greater joy seeing God’s people at work.

For the last few months, a Chinese woman named Tina has been coming to a conversational English class we have every Friday morning. And every Friday at this class we invite Tina, and all who come, to study the Bible further with us or come to Sunday worship.

Tina and her daughter Crystal

Tina finally came.

And when she walked into our church door on Sunday afternoon, something remarkable happened. Tina isn’t a Christian, and neither is her daughter, Crystal – they came mostly out of curiosity. And they were instantly welcomed by a small horde of eager Chinese members at our church. At first I thought somehow they all knew each other already, which is normally the case when we have Chinese visitors. A few ladies sat down next to Tina and her daughter. They helped explain our English worship and whispered what is going on. They invited Tina and Crystal to our Chinese language Bible class after worship.

Towards the end of our Bible class time one Sunday in January, I snuck into our Chinese language Bible class to find Qiang Wang, our Chinese evangelist, and five of our Chinese members actively witnessing to Tina and Crystal. I admit my Chinese is only good enough to follow the topic, but my heart swelled with joy listening to them sharing the good news of Jesus with Tina and Crystal in Chinese. These Christians were not long ago playing the role of the Ethiopian and asking Philip, “What does this mean?” Now they were sharing the message and explaining God’s Word in their own language to Tina. I saw in all their faces how deeply their love for Jesus was driving them to share with Tina and her daughter the news that so changed their lives also.

Tina helping out at the Chinese New Year event (Pictured holding the baby)

In Ephesians, Paul says that God gave pastors, teachers and missionaries to his church, “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:12) In other words, if our mission is training our Chinese members to be missionaries themselves, we are going to be reaching people that I myself cannot reach. It has now been a month since that brief moment in Chinese Bible study, and Tina and Crystal are still coming to church – every Sunday. In fact when we celebrated Chinese New Year two weeks ago, Tina was in the kitchen with the other ladies preparing food for the meal. She still won’t say “I am a Christian”, but she wants to know more. She wants to hear the stories of Jesus. God is working in her heart.

And thanks to our other Chinese members, Tina is experiencing the love and joy of the body of Christ that welcomes her and importantly, reinforces the truths of Scripture in her own language and culture. Perhaps most importantly, God is giving more Christians their own moment to play the role of Philip and grow his kingdom in new ways.

Written by: Rev. Geoff Cortright, Saviour of the Nations Lutheran Church – Vancouver, Canada

To learn more about this home mission, visit their Facebook page.


It Will Take 7 Years…

It will take 7 years.

These were the words of Mission Counselor Mark Birkholz when Hope Lutheran Church in Toronto, Canada, began planning its first summer Music Camp back in 2010. Why a Music Camp? Our congregation is located in an area of Toronto where we are surrounded by homes and high rises, with people from many different countries and religious backgrounds. The question was asked, “How can we get to know our neighborhood better? And more than that, how can we help our neighbors to know who Jesus is?”

Music Camp Volunteers

Because Hope is blessed with a variety of musical talent, including a full steel pan orchestra, it was decided that we would try a summer Music Camp. This one week, full-day camp would include instruction in steel pans, keyboard, guitar, djembe drum and singing. Most importantly, every day would also include Bible study.

Our first Music Camp was offered in 2010 and what a blessing it has been. For the past several years, we have reached our capacity of 140 children every summer and have had to start a waiting list because of the high interest. Over 60 volunteers from our church and other congregations give of their time to help run an exhausting and exhilarating camp.

It will take 7 years.

What was Pastor Birkholz referring to? Yes, every year we had opportunity to share the Word with the children of our neighborhood, so many of whom did not know Jesus. But Pastor Birkholz mentioned that 7 years was how long it would most likely take for children and families from Music Camp to become a part of the Hope church family.

Hope Toronto Confirmands

What began in 2010 bore fruit in a special way in 2017. Five of our seven youth confirmands first came to Hope through the Music Camp! They kept coming back, and in time found a home at Hope. Of those five youth, all three of their mothers also joined Hope and we all continue to grow in Jesus together. To God be the glory!

Hope Lutheran Church in Toronto has 151 communicant members and 202 souls from 20 different countries, and is served by Pastor Mark Henrich and Vicar Ben Berger. To learn more about Hope, visit their website at or check out their Facebook page

Written by: Pastor Mark Henrich – Hope Lutheran Church, Toronto, Canada


We thank God for you!

Dear Friend,

Is it proper to thank Christians for their acts of service and gifts of love? The apostle Paul did, but notice where he puts the emphasis: “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3).

Paul thanked God for the good accomplished through God’s people. Today we give thanks to God for the acts of service you offer for the benefit of those in need through your support of WELS Christian Aid and Relief and other WELS ministries.

Working together through WELS Christian Aid and Relief, we provide financial assistance, food, medicine, and supplies to people suffering from natural disasters and extreme medical and financial difficulties. We thank God for moving his people to generously support our recent relief efforts in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean. Because of these gifts to our hurricane fund, we are amply supplied with the funds needed to complete this recovery effort.

In addition to disaster relief, we also support humanitarian aid projects in our WELS home and world mission fields. These projects help our missionaries reach out to the people of their communities with love and concern to build bridges to proclaim the gospel. This past year your gifts enabled us to fund $327,000 in humanitarian aid projects to meet community needs like:

  • Medical equipment and supplies for health clinics in Thailand, Pakistan, India, and Nepal
  • Fresh water wells for people in India and Malawi
  • Food and medicine for people in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Albania, Mexico, and Indonesia
  • Financial assistance for WELS Central Africa Medical Mission
  • Sewing classes and textbooks in Nepal
  • Welcome packets and assistance to new legal immigrants through several home mission congregations serving cross-cultural neighborhoods

(For a complete list of projects and updates on how offerings are being used, go to Also, “like” us on Facebook at

One example of how humanitarian aid is opening doors to share the gospel: In a country where Muslims are 97 percent of the population, an elderly man approached our doctor at a free medical clinic in a small community. He said to the doctor, “I know your God is the true God because I see his love in you.”

Dear Christian friend, our WELS missionaries are continually exploring new ways to use humanitarian aid as a bridge to share the gospel. Please consider a gift to support our humanitarian aid projects in the 2018-2019 fiscal year to enable pastors and missionaries to use every possible means to reach people for Christ. We thank God for your prayers and ongoing support!

In Christ,
Pastor Robert Hein
Chairman, WELS Christian Aid and Relief
Phone: 262-334-7881

Celebrating WELS Missions

On Sunday, Jan. 28, St. John, Jefferson, Wis., celebrated WELS World Missions by hosting a church mission festival and corresponding school cultural fair.

Rev. Tim Dolan, chairman of the Native American Administrative Committee for WELS World Missions, preached two mission festival services and gave a presentation about Apache mission work during Bible class. Activities moved across the street to St. John’s elementary school after the second service, where a cultural fair then took place.

Principal Peter Lemke, who organized the fair, has a personal connection to WELS Missions: “When I was a young child my father accepted a call to teach at East Fork Lutheran High School, located on the Apache Indian Reservation, where we lived for seven years. I was also blessed to visit our missions in Malawi and Zambia when my parents served as missionaries there. Once you personally experience this work, you can’t help but come away with a better understanding of the need to continue mission work. It is truly a life changing experience.”

In an effort to include parents in the learning experience, each family worked together to create a display from one of the countries where WELS is currently conducting mission work or is in fellowship with a sister church body. “Passports” were handed out at the door to encourage everyone to visit other displays to receive a sticker for their books. The children sang songs in different languages, and each family brought a potluck dish specific to their country.

Kinsley, a first-grader at St. John’s, was excited to share about her world mission field. She noted, “I learned that missionaries in Mexico sometimes have to communicate through the Internet to share Jesus with other people. It was super fun to work on my project with my mom and dad!”

Megan, mom to a second-grader, was also impressed with the event. “This project was a great way to not only learn with my kids but open my eyes to all of the mission work our church body is actually doing.”

For an event guide to host a cultural fair along with your next mission festival, visit the WELS Missions Resource Center. To request a mission speaker for your event, visit In addition to mission festivals and cultural fairs, mission speakers are also available for school assemblies, women’s and men’s conferences, and Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society rallies.

View photos from the event:


New counselor will help support mission outreach

In January, Rev. Matthew Vogt accepted the call to serve as a mission counselor. He is replacing Rev. Peter Kruschel, who is retiring after serving in that position for almost 10 years.

Vogt previously served as pastor at Water of Life, Las Vegas, Nev. He also was chairman of the Arizona-California Mission District.

“He’s going to bring a fresh perspective to the mission counselor role since he’s been serving as a mission pastor and dealing with cross-cultural ministries right in his own backyard,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions. “He will have that practical understanding as he works with others in the mission fields.”

Kruschel has been a fixture in Home Missions, not only serving as a mission counselor but also as a mission pastor in Florida and as the associate administrator of Home Missions from 1988–2000. A special service of thanksgiving for his years of ministry will be held at Beautiful Savior, Las Vegas, on Feb. 19.

“We in Home Missions appreciate the dedicated approach Peter displayed as a mission counselor,” says Free. “His gifts, organizational skills, ministry experience, and passion for the lost will be missed.”

Four mission counselors—one of whom consults with churches on Hispanic outreach opportunities—work with the Board for Home Missions and district mission boards to develop “big picture” strategies to reach more people in the U.S. and Canada. “They’re the voice of the lost—the people who are unchurched or who don’t have faith in Jesus Christ—in that they keep the focus on reaching more people with the saving gospel message,” says Free.

The mission counselors also stay on top of current cultural trends, help district mission boards explore new opportunities, provide training and counsel for new missionaries, and work with mission congregations.

Rev. John Dorn says the counselors have been “indispensable” in his work as chairman of the Northern Wisconsin District Mission Board. “Not only working with the counselors on the board level but also having the privilege of working with them in establishing a congregation, I would have been lost without them,” says Dorn, who serves as pastor at Living Water, Oshkosh, Wis. “The counselors share ideas that have worked and not worked in other churches. The mission counselors bring experience in working with the Board for Home Missions and a special expertise in church planting. No price tag can be given to the time the counselors save our boards and the congregations.”

Learn more about WELS Missions at

What It’s All About

What exactly do you do as a mission pastor?

You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been asked that question. My answers have varied greatly over the past six months. Sometimes I’ll talk about the detailed planning that has been completed in preparation for our September launch. At other times, I’ll talk about exploring Huntersville, the new community my wife and I call home. And sometimes, I’ll talk about our launch team meetings or the newest church planting book I’m reading. Depends on the day, I guess.

But there are days as a church planter when I wonder: “What am I doing here?” It can’t just be for long hours of planning and meetings, or finding a rental space for worship and studying books on church planting, can it? Is this really what it’s all about?

It’s easy to get caught up in the details and lose sight of the big picture. But a week ago, I was reminded that being a mission pastor is about more than planning and community exploration. On Saturday afternoon, I received a phone call from a member of my launch team, “Pastor, I wanted to let you know my step-daughter passed away in her sleep last night” (We’ll call the step-daughter, “Jo.”).

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believe in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” – John 11:25-26

Even though Jo was my member’s step-daughter, she wasn’t a member herself. In fact, I met Jo for the first time three months after moving to Huntersville. At the beginning of November 2017, she started to come to our launch team meetings with her mom and step-dad. During the next two months, I had the privilege of sharing the message of God’s “arrow-pointing-down” love for her. As a mission pastor, I had the blessing of conveying the message of the Gospel that says, “No matter your past, no matter your sins, Jesus died on the cross for you. Because of his sacrifice for you, your sins all forgiven and God remembers them no more.”

I firmly believe that over the past few months, God planted faith in Jo’s heart – a faith that clung to Jesus as her Savior. And this past Saturday, Jo experienced her own Easter and is now at her Savior’s side in heaven. This is the comfort I had the opportunity to share with my members on Saturday afternoon.

On my drive home from their house, as I reflected on the events that transpired, it suddenly dawned on me. Being a mission pastor is about far more than detailed planning, community exploration, and website design. It’s about personally connecting to people and connecting these people to Jesus. It’s about sharing with them who Jesus is and the love he has for them. It’s about planting the seeds of certain hope in a heart assailed by doubt. It’s about offering people true peace amid the storms of life. It’s about pointing people, like Jo, to the promise of the empty tomb and explaining,

This means that on the last day, you, too, will rise.

It’s astounding that God gives cracked clay jars – mission pastors, like me – the privilege of sharing with people the changeless message that will change their eternity. What a blessing to share Jesus’ love with people like Jo, and point them to their heavenly home. At the end of the day, that’s what being a mission pastor is all about.

Written by: Pastor Doug Van Sice – Huntersville Lutheran Church

P.S. – Want to learn more about this new mission start in Huntersville, NC? Visit their website at


Immediate Blessings in Atlanta, GA

On August 29th, my family and I moved to a neighborhood near the center of Atlanta. We were excited to reach out to this diverse mission field, and we couldn’t wait to see what the Holy Spirit might accomplish here through the power of the gospel.

As it turned out, we didn’t have long to wait! On the weekend of my installation, our core group of lay members set up a booth at a local festival, where they gathered information from nearly 700 people via a short survey. Over 100 people asked to be included on our email list, and several dozen indicated interest in a Bible Basics class. One of them was a woman we’ll call “Rachel.”
What made Rachel particularly intriguing was that in the “church background” box on her survey, she had written atheist. Why would an atheist be interested in a Bible class? I was about to find out…

I soon met Rachel in a local coffee shop for our first Bible Basics lesson. As we discussed the topic of sin, Rachel expressed a great deal of anger. Anger at God for setting an unreachable standard of perfection. Anger at Christians for insisting that their way to heaven was the only way. Anger at her childhood church, which had bombarded her with rules and crushed her with guilt. However, as we moved on to the topic of God’s unconditional love for sinners, Rachel’s anger began to soften. She confessed, “I’ve never heard God described that way before. I understand what you’re saying… but I don’t know that I can believe it.”

The next few lessons took over a month, as Rachel bombarded me with one tough question after another: evolution, the origin of evil, non-Christian religions, the canonicity of Scripture, the end of the world, etc. I didn’t have the answers to all her questions, but I did have the gospel. I explained, “Many Bible teachings are tough to understand, but we have to take this whole book seriously because it’s the only place in the world where we get the gospel.” This made sense to Rachel. She was beginning to see that Christians were not the narrow-minded, arrogant zealots she had once thought them to be – they were simply people who had found the gospel and wanted more of it.

We’ve now made it through Lesson 4 (“The Old Testament”) and Lesson 5 (“The Life of Christ,”), and this walk through Scripture has radically changed Rachel’s view of God. She no longer thinks of God as a cruel dictator, but rather as a patient, loving father. She no longer bombards me with skeptical questions, but rather expresses the gospel in her own words, and talks of sharing it with friends and family. She looks forward to upcoming Bible Study lessons, to our worship launch next summer, and to attending church for the first time in years.

I don’t know what Rachel’s future holds, or if she will end up joining our congregation. But I do know this: after only a few short weeks in the city, God has already used our ministry to add a new member to his invisible Church. He has called a self-professed atheist out of the darkness and into his wonderful light.

Praise God for his powerful Word, and pray that he sends many more “Rachels” our way!

Written by: Pastor Lucas Bitter – Intown Lutheran Church

P.S. – Want to learn more about this new mission start in Atlanta? Visit their website at


Christmas Expo and a Logo

Getting your church’s name out into the community can be a challenge. It can be especially challenging if you don’t actually have a name for your church yet!

Our new mission in Chattanooga, Tennessee just recently picked our name: Living Hope Lutheran Church. Before choosing this name, we polled people in our community through social media and some good old-fashioned door-to-door canvassing. Out of our list of 5 favorite names, Living Hope was picked more than half the time! Not only did we end up with a great name, but we also had people we are trying to reach help us pick it out! We were able to get our name out in the community before even having an official name.

Asking the community to help us pick a name was fun and successful, so we decided to carry on the idea as we picked a logo for our church. A door for us to do this appeared in the form of a Christmas expo at the Chattanooga Convention Center. This event called “HoHo Expo” allowed us to set up a booth alongside 150 other vendors to sell our product. Instead of selling something, we allowed shoppers to stop by and vote on which of our 6 Living Hope logo options they liked best. As a thanks for voting they received a goodie bag with some info on Living Hope attached.

Over the course of 2 days, we gathered 363 votes from Expo attendees and had some great conversations with people interested in Living Hope. Over 260 of those voting wrote down an email address or phone number so we could contact them afterward and let them know the results of the voting. A good number of people we talked with at the Expo were genuinely interested in our church and wanted to learn more. We’ve already added a handful of those we met at the Expo to our email update list. We even met a WELS woman from Phoenix, Arizona who wants to join our launch team. She’s living in Ringgold, GA and wasn’t aware WELS had a new church here. God continues to bring people to us and blesses us with more opportunities to share the gospel.

HoHo Expo was a great way to get out in the community and create awareness for Living Hope Lutheran Church. The community really seemed to enjoy that we were asking their opinion on our logo. We plan to continue finding ways of showing we are a church that wants to be involved in the community. We will keep our eyes focused outward instead of inward so we can find people around us who are in need of some Living Hope – the kind of hope Jesus freely gives.

We are giving thanks to the Lord for the doors he’s opening for us here in Chattanooga! Please pray for our mission in this growing city. Pray that we are able to connect with many more people and, most importantly, that we get to connect them with God’s Word.

By: Pastor Eric Melso, Living Hope Lutheran Church – Chattanooga, TN


Celebrating 20 years of Hispanic outreach in Phoenix

On Nov. 25, Santo Tomas, Phoenix, Ariz., celebrated its 20th anniversary. This Spanish-speaking mission congregation averages four baptisms per month and has confirmed more than 18 adults and 13 youth this year. Each month, the congregation welcomes an average of 23 first-time visitors.

“Friendship evangelism is a key part of our growth as family ties and trust form an important bond,” says Rev. Tom Zimdars, one of Santo Tomas’s two pastors. “Most of our members enter the congregation via special celebrations like baptisms, weddings, and quinceañeras.”

Zimdars notes that as visitors encounter the gospel, “they receive the joy and peace of knowing that their sins are forgiven through faith in Christ, and this message continues to work in their lives as they grow in their faith and share their faith with their family and friends.”

Santo Tomas was formed in 1997 by St. Thomas, an English-speaking congregation that saw the growing Latino community and need for a Spanish-speaking ministry. Santo Tomas now has 169 communicants and 360 baptized members. In addition to Zimdars, the congregation has a second pastor, Rev. Frank Cossio, who was born in Cuba. WELS Home Missions and WELS Church Extension Fund help support this cross-cultural mission.

“We want to thank the Lord as he has richly blessed Santo Tomas during the past 20 years to reach countless souls with the precious gospel message of free and full salvation through faith in Jesus Christ,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions.

More than 220 people attended Santo Tomas’s anniversary celebration, which included a special bilingual worship service, a fellowship meal, and traditional Mexican music sung and performed by the congregation’s members.

Read more about WELS Missions at

What Do You Really Need?

What do you need to hold public worship services? I mean, what do you really need? What are the things you can’t do without if you are going to worship our Savior? At the end of the day, a public worship service is really simple, isn’t it? God’s Word, people, bread, wine and water – that’s it.

Four walls – optional.
A roof – optional.
Musicians – optional.
Pastor – optional.
Everything else – optional.

These things are beautiful additions to a public worship service, but finally, they are optional.

When Cross of Christ decided to begin worshiping at a second location, we fully trusted God’s promises to be with us always. But, we had to ask, “Where do we start?” We had to decide what was essential to establishing an outpost of the gospel in neighborhoods heavily steeped in both the teachings of Joseph Smith (Mormonism) and in the secular ways of much of the West Coast. What would we absolutely need?

With that question in mind, we began our public worship services. The Word was there. People were there. We included water when necessary and bread and wine as often as we thought was right.

But, while we knew we had everything necessary for public worship that would hold a resurrected Christ before the eyes and hearts of people, we also knew we could do more. We could do better. Enter our Church – to go!

Church – to go! equips churches with all the things that aren’t essential for public worship. They further help congregations that are on the move: congregations that set up and take down week after week because they are in a shared and rented spaces. Since we are only starting out and worship in a local elementary school, Church – to go! matched up very well with our situation.

And so we began a process of using Church – to go! to make our worship if not better, then more comfortable – more welcoming to visitors, and more efficient in setup and take down. If you’ve ever built a new house, you know how many decisions there are to make… the same thing happens when you’re putting together your Church – to go!. There are items for churches of all styles and flavors.

Would we want LED lighting?
A stage?
A piano?
What kind of computer would we need?
What about a kids’ areas?
Would we have kids church?
What kind of signs would we set up and take down Sunday after Sunday?
What kind of trailer would it all go in?
Could we store any of it at the school?

Those are just a few of the questions we faced.

But in the midst of those decisions and all the possibilities, Cross of Christ kept its focus on what was necessary for public worship. We could decide for or against LED lights. We couldn’t and wouldn’t budge on whether God’s Word would be proclaimed as clearly as possible. Did we want pipe and drape? We could go either way, but did we want communion regularly offered for the communing fellowship of believers? Absolutely!

In the end, we are excited and grateful for our Church – to go! and for our WELS fellowship that made sure we had what we needed, and wanted, for worship. Our Church – to go! made our Sunday morning experience more comfortable, more streamlined, and more inviting. Their work has been a blessing surpassed only by our gracious God who has already supplied everything we absolutely need for public worship: his Gospel and people to share it with.

Written by: Pastor Ben Workentine, Cross of Christ Lutheran Church – Boise, Idaho

P.S. – Want to learn more about how this flexible solution is helping home missions reach out with the good news? Be on the lookout for the December WELS Connection showing at your congregation!


It’s All About Building Relationships

When I accepted the call to be a church planter in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, I learned that the Coeur d’Alene area is one of the fastest growing areas in the Pacific Northwest. That’s what prompted St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Spokane, WA to want to plant a second site there.

Only problem?

There was no core group of WELS members that lived there.

That’s when I realized that if we were ever going to get this new church plant started, we would have to spend a lot of time building relationships with the unchurched people in our community. But where would I start?

Do a major door-to-door canvass?

Offer a big outreach event?

Send out direct mail postcards to thousands of homes?

God had something else in mind – something unexpected – and it was all a result of building relationships.

Shortly after moving to Coeur d’Alene, I met a lady at a local hotel who was making the arrangements for our church to have a meeting there. During our conversation, she mentioned to me that her dad died a few days prior and she was feeling kind of down and depressed as a result. I listened to her talk about her dad for a little while and how she was hurting inside, and then I shared with her some words of comfort from God’s Word. A few days later, I followed up by sending her a sympathy card in the mail just to show her that I cared. She called me to say thank you for thinking of her and for sharing words of comfort and encouragement with her.

About a week after that, she called me again and started asking me questions about our new mission church and what “kind” of church is it going to be. I shared with her information about The Vine and asked if I could stay in contact, so that she would know what we’re doing at The Vine and I could invite her to be a part of it. She said,

“I would love that. Thank you for caring.”

That’s just a sample of what we’re trying to do at The Vine in Coeur d’Alene: building relationships with unchurched people and sharing the gospel with them. And God is using our efforts to build His church here – one relationship at a time.

There are so many people in Coeur d’Alene who need Jesus. This lady from the hotel is one of them. Please pray for our home mission congregation, that the Lord will continue to bless our outreach efforts!

Written by: Pastor Kevin Schultz, The Vine Lutheran Church – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho


Home Missions update

The WELS Board for Home Missions met for its fall meeting in September. Board members received updates from many of our home missions. Here are a few highlights.

  • The three new home missions that the board allocated funding for at its March meeting are now staffed by full-time home missionaries. Rev. Doug Van Sice and Rev. Eric Melso were assigned to serve Huntersville, S.C., and Chattanooga, Tenn., respectively, as they graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in May. Rev. Paul Zell, a current professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, recently accepted the call to serve the mission at Hendersonville, N.C.
  • Two home missions celebrated their opening worship services in September. The Way, Fredericksburg, Va., held its first official service on Sept. 10 at the local cinema, where the congregation is currently worshiping. Redemption, Watertown, N.Y., held its launch service on Sept. 17, in the new worship facility that the congregation purchased and renovated thanks to a loan and grant from WELS Church Extension Fund.
  • Grace Hmong Lutheran Church, Kansas City, Kan., dedicated its new church building on Aug. 27. Rev. Ger Lor, pastor at Grace, says, “This was a big opportunity to share the gospel to the Hmong community in the area through this event. Grace believes that if the gospel is preached to them, the Holy Spirit will work through the Word to change their hearts.”
  • Rev. Lucas Bitter was installed on Aug. 27 to serve WELS’ new mission in Atlanta, Ga. Seven WELS congregations are established in the suburbs of Atlanta. This new mission will serve those in the city. In August, core members of this mission staffed a booth at a summer festival and hosted college students from a variety of schools in the city for a back-to-school get-together. These outreach events resulted in approximately 100 people signing up to receive more information about the church and 40 people indicating an interest in Bible information class.

“Home Missions is grateful for the Congregation Mission Offerings that support all this gospel outreach as well as the support that our missions receive from other WELS ministries that partner with us,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions. “In addition, the 115 home missions that WELS supports receive guidance and encouragement from district mission boards and mission counselors.”

On Sept. 15, the WELS Board for Home Missions held a service of thanksgiving for its four mission counselors for their service in the pastoral ministry. Rev. Peter Kruschel, Rev. Edward Schuppe, Rev. Mark Birkholz, and Rev. Timothy Flunker offer support and missions expertise to congregations as they reach out in their communities.

Free notes, “Our mission counselors keep abreast of trends in North America and help keep Home Missions informed as to what might serve our church body. We’re thankful for their service.”

To learn more about WELS Home Missions, visit While there, you can also subscribe to receive weekly Missions blogs in your e-mail inbox.




A Five Letter Word for Reaching Families?

B-17, I-50, M-7.

No, these are not kinds of airplanes.

Looking across rows and down columns for these letter and number combinations are all part of a game. But, this game does more than connect a line for a win, it leads to connections with families in the community.

The game?

Bingo. Spelled B–I–N–G–O.

Another combination is called.

And, an even a more important call to share the saving gospel message is being heard by volunteers and members who help organize and coordinate Living Savior’s Bingo night.

“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” Mark 16:15.

Living Savior – like many other congregations – has spent time and effort on many outreach events. Some geared toward children, such as Christmas 4 Kids and Vacation Bible School, others aimed at adults, like Bible studies. Our congregation chose to also offer a new kind of event, an event for the entire family and for families from our community. Anyone, everyone is welcome!

Parents and children together? Entire families together outside of Sunday worship service?

Before the first Bingo event, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We had handed out hundreds of flyers two weeks prior during Blair’s Gateway to the West parade, but would we have any takers? I knew some of our member families would attend, but would anyone else?

From behind the scenes, an event like Bingo night might be considered pre-evangelism leading to evangelism. Pre-evangelism is simply meeting people, learning about them, and leveling obstacles that potentially stand in between good communication. The goal of pre-evangelism is to establish some sort of connection with another person, so that evangelism can happen. Evangelism, then, is the proclamation of the good news of Jesus as our Savior from sin. Evangelism happens when you show the real Jesus to an unbelieving person. Whether at your office, or with a neighbor at your annual block party, or with a new friend during Bingo night, Evangelism is sharing the good news of Christ!

The fact is that not all of our pre-evangelism attempts at Living Savior have been successful. Our Easter 4 Kids advertisements were something of a bust. Our city-wide Easter service postcard mailings had yielded no apparent outward fruits.

But, what’s better than a family playing Bingo?

This time the Lord blessed our efforts with visible, tangible opportunities to introduce ourselves to new people living in Blair! Within ten minutes of opening our doors we had to set up more tables to accommodate. We kicked off the evening with the first letter-number call.

No devotion
No presentation about our church.
Simply Bingo.

By nights end, we had set up all of our available tables. It was a full house with half the room filled by new visitors! Folks had fun. Members greeted new faces and enjoyed each other’s company. Near the end of the evening, I invited everyone to come again on Sunday for something even better.

Sunday worship.

We didn’t see any of these folks at worship – our timing is not always God’s timing – but, the warmth of Christ was shared on that special family Bingo night. Credibility and trust took root between member and stranger. The warmth of Christ was shared by the men, women and children of Living Savior as their lights shined brightly in love and joy. God-willing, as we continue to let our lights shine, those that visit may see our good deeds and glorify the Father in heaven together with us someday.

By: Rev. Daniel Johnston
Living Savior, Blair, Nebraska


Hope in North Dakota

I’ll never forget the day I met Dan.  It would have been hard to forget since it was Easter Sunday in 2015.  But it was even more memorable for a different reason.  After an inexplicable struggle with my text, I delivered what I genuinely felt was an excellent sermon.  The law was striking, the illustrations were spot-on, and the gospel hit home with the incomparable message of hope in Christ’s resurrection.  Of course, it helped to have the Holy Spirit’s flawless work through my preaching that Sunday.  It would have been a total dud otherwise.

Yet, when I had a chance to talk to Dan after the service, it felt like a total dud.  On a day where everybody else reflected that Easter joy, you could almost see a storm cloud following Dan.  Can you imagine?  Even after a morning focused on Christ and on the resurrection, Dan felt empty.  Easter’s certain hope was lacking for him.

Dan wasn’t the kind of person in whom you’d have expected to find this.  He grew up in a very church-going, Pentecostal family.   The air force had brought him to Minot, but had avoided ensnarement in the temptations that some young airmen face.  All in all, he was a good kid with a good head on his shoulders.  But somewhere along the way he lost his spiritual moorings.  He completely doubted his faith. It produced an opportunity: one of our members invited him to Easter Service.  While he continued to struggle that morning, I extended a feeble invitation to take Bible information class with him and try to answer some of his questions. Dan was looking for hope, so he came.

It’s one of my favorite classes I have ever taught. Dan started the class unable to answer the question, “How can I get to heaven?”  But every week as we dug into God’s Word, I could see the Holy Spirit working on him.  I remember discussing infant baptism with Dan, assuming this would be a sticking point given his background.  We went through Scripture’s evidence for it.  My jaw dropped when he simply said, “It’s hard to understand because I’ve never heard this before, but it’s pretty clear… this is what the Bible says.”  With this simple approach, Dan found hope in a purer way than he had ever heard before: in Jesus, his full and free Savior from sin.

Hope’s rays finally broke through his dark storm clouds.

At the end of that summer, Dan was baptized.  Then, just as quickly as I came to know him, the air force took him elsewhere.  I’ve stayed in touch with Dan over the last two years.  He’s doing great.  Recently, he met a wonderful Christian woman and is getting married.  Someday, he wants to make it back up here so he can take her to church here.

And I just marvel.  I marvel at how the simple message of God’s grace in Christ dispels life’s darkest storm clouds, even if it does take some time.  I marvel at how hope is still needed even in places like Minot where there are almost 20 Lutheran churches and 80 churches total.  I marvel at how God put Dan in the right place at the right time to find the right hope.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 3:3)

What other hope would have helped Dan?  None, but this!

By: Rev. Nathan Walther, Grace Lutheran Church, Minot, ND


Starting something new in Williston, ND

The City of Williston–the Western Star of North Dakota–is located near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers near the site where Lewis and Clark reunited on their way back to St. Louis. Williston is the hub of a trade area which extends west 18 miles into Montana and north 60 miles into Canada.

Williston most recently has been known as being the center of a major oil boom going on in North Dakota. It was this “boom” that brought many people here looking for jobs. As workers and their families started coming in so did members of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The members who have come are energetic and love their Lord. In an attempt to find a church home many of them traveled 93 miles to the west to join the members of Good Shepherd Ev. Lutheran Church in Wolf Point, MT.

As more and more members moved into Williston permanently the need for a church in Williston became more apparent. The Pastor in Terry, MT, being the closest WELS’ pastor (150 miles), was asked to come and serve the members in Williston two times per month. Since the minister in Terry serves three congregations in Montana, the group has been worshiping and meeting for Bible Class on Mondays in the evening.

Not to let those visits be the only contact with God’s Word these members also meet for Sunday worship in a conference room at the Microtel Hotel. Services are streamed online from Redeemer Lutheran in Mandan, ND. Right now, there are about 21 WELS’ members (8 family groups) being served by Pastor Hanneman in Williston.

Therefore, it is the need of a more regular pastoral presence: to care for our members, to offer a more regular worship schedule, and more consistent opportunities for outreach, this group sees the great need for calling a pastor and building a church in Williston by God’s grace.

Our group in Williston, Lamb of God Lutheran Church, has been trying to get help in calling a full-time pastor to serve and lead them in their mission to spread God’s Word. First, the mission board wants to develop the field by calling a semi-retired pastor to serve the area for six months, equipping the members, and collecting contacts.

As with all mission work, the work never goes as fast as one would like. We all would love another “Pentecost” experience where 3,000 members are added after one sermon. Instead, mission work is one soul at a time and often times progress is made after many failed attempts.

But, what a joy it is to be serving the Lord in this great work by making disciples of all nations. We have the great pleasure in being Christ’s ambassadors in everything we do in life for we are in a constant state of worship as everything we do, we do for the glory of God.

The Lord will bless this work for he is the one working through the word and sacraments to change hearts from hearts of stone to believing hearts of flesh. May it always be our joy to share God’s word in our individual mission fields. Thank you for your prayers and continued support.

By: Rev. Jacob Hanneman
Lamb of God, Williston, ND
Trinity, Salem and Good Shepherd, Wolf Point, MT 


The Voice of a Grandmother – Denver, CO

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (1 Timothy 1:5)

The voice of a grandmother is unique. It tends to contain the proper measure of wisdom gained through experience, unconditional love, and uninhibited truth (whether we like it or not). In our diverse community, the voice of the grandmother is also very influential. When grandma/abuela speaks, you do well to pay attention. Our congregation is blessed with several grandmothers grounded in God’s grace and using their voices to point the next generations to their Savior.

Last week we laid to rest one of those unique voices among us. After blessing Lorene Dickey with 84 years of life, the Lord fulfilled his promise to her in Jesus, crowning her with the glory of heaven. She will be greatly missed not only as one of the founding members of our mission, but also as one of the most encouraging and endearing personalities. Better known as “Grandma,” “Great Grandma-ma,” “Granny,” and “La Grandma,” she always had a warm hug for everyone, from the person attending church for the first time to each of her fellow CLC “vets” who have been on the receiving end for years. Her speech was filled with words of praise to God, confidence in His plans, and reassurance of His promises that God used to touch the lives of alcoholics, new Christians, young mothers, and a rookie pastor among so many others.

Three days after the funeral, we celebrated God pouring out his grace in Christ through the baptisms of Davashunique, Ke’arre, Za’Marii, and Ry’Lynn. They are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of our member, Brenda Mosley. Two months earlier, Brenda handed me a slip of paper with her daughter’s name and number with the instructions, “Give her a call and set up a time to meet with her.” I found out later that she had given a similar mandate to her daughter, “Pastor Paul is going to call you.  Answer the phone and let him come over.” If you go back to the first line of this paragraph, you see how the Lord blessed those encounters. Brenda was beaming with joy that Sunday morning of the baptisms, praising God for his grace on her family. I’m sure Brenda is going to keep in their ears about Sunday School and Bible Information Class.

And then it happened again. The phone rang and I didn’t recognize the number or the voice on the other end.  “Hi Pastor. This is Alexandra Navarro. My abuela, Aurelia Chavez, gave me your number. I’d like to talk to you about church and baptism.” We met a few days later at Aurelia’s house and I was able to share the message of sin and grace. By the time you read this, it’s very likely that Xzadian and Yasmine will be covered in God’s baptismal grace.

May the Lord continue to bless the voices of faithful, Christian grandmothers!

By: Missionary Paul Biedenbender
Christ Lutheran Church
Denver, CO.


Earning the Right to be Heard – Myrtle Beach, SC

Seven months into the preschool year and patience pays off. You might be wondering where this is going? Part of the Harvest Strategy for our Preschool Program has these two key principles…

  • We are counting on a long term commitment. Parents enrolling in our preschool are committed to seeing us multiple times per week for 9-18 months. Our outreach work need not be hurried. We have time to build relationships with the families.
  • We build relationships. Through personal contacts, programs and procedures we will seek to build a personal relationship with every parent. After earning the right to be heard, we will clearly speak.

This morning on the way out of preschool a mother said to me, “Pastor, I’d like to take Starting Point Class.” I smiled and told her, “Awesome! There’s one starting up after Easter that you’re invited to attend. When the date is set, I’ll let you know.” How did that happen, I thought? I was simply walking out of my office to use the restroom and she stopped me.

Relationship building takes time and commitment. It involves names and faces, child and parent. It takes work that can be mentally exhausting or emotionally fatiguing. Just ask the Preschool staff after 3 hours of classroom instruction, learning, and play. But then there comes that moment at the end of the day. Children are eager to greet their parents and share what they learned, the craft they made, or the theme for the week. Parents greet their little treasures with smiles and excitement. But there is also the interaction with the staff, specifically the teacher and aide. The classroom work is done. The educating for the day has finished. The classroom needs to be cleaned up and readied for the next day’s session. But  now, at dismissal, it’s that time for relationship building and conversation.

Naturally some preschool parents are in and out. But others like to talk and carry on a conversation. It can be about St. Patrick’s Day and whether or not the leprechaun visited the teacher’s house on March 17th. It can be the innocent question asked by a parent to the teacher about, How are you handling the movie: Beauty and the Beast? The conversation can revolve around health issues that grandpa has faced that suddenly turn spiritual. Suddenly, the right to be heard is revealed. Suddenly all that patience of the past 7 months has opened a door. All the questions of are we ever going to get any possible prospects from preschool disappears. Suddenly, the Lord gives the words to speaks so confidently, lovingly, kindly, and compassionately to a mother who has had some rough weeks about God’s love and kindness, grace and compassion, even in the midst of health issues. Suddenly the invitation, with ease flows out, from the teacher’s mouth, Pastor Zahn has a class called Starting Point that he’d love to have you attend. You can ask questions and you’ll study the Bible together.Long term commitment to build relationships can exhaust patience and cause emotional fatigue. However, a smile soon appears as a preschool staff shares with the pastor the neat conversation that took place prior to this mom’s comment to me, Pastor, I’d like to take Starting Point Class.  Where God will take this opportunity, I don’t know. I’ll let God handle that as we gather around his Word in our next Starting Point Class. But join me, please, in thanking God for…

  • the Gospel we’re privileged to know, believe, and share.
  • the persistence of the preschool staff to a long term commitment to build relationships with the preschool children and their parents.
  • the opportunity God is giving us with this specific mother to take her deeper into God’s Word that she might know more clearly and deeply the breadth, depth, height, and width of the Savior’s love.
  • the promise kept by our gracious God to accomplish the purpose for sending his Word out.

By: Missionary Ben Zahn
Amazing Grace Lutheran Church & Preschool
Myrtle Beach, SC  


Renewal in Castle Rock, CO

In Castle Rock, Colo., getting under contract is super-exciting and super-scary at the same time. On the one hand, after 5+ years of searching (and setting up for worship more than 300x), is awesome to find a location that we love. And there is good reason to love it. Here are a couple of highlights:
  • The location is great. It is right off of one of the main streets in our historic downtown.
    • One block north is Festival Park (undergoing a $6,900,000 renovation as you read this!
    • It is next to the public library!
    • It is only 2 blocks from the new $40,000,000 River Walk project.
  • It is where people like to go.
  • There are over 200 public parking places right around it (public lot to the north, library and street parking). This means we don’t have to maintain a full-sized parking lot (that saves us roughly $200,000 over the next 20 years!)
  • We can “build to the edges” of the lot. The lot is less than one acre, however, we could (in the future) more than double the size of the existing facility (current building is 8500 sq/ft.
  • It has existing infrastructure we can work with.  The lot has a totally open 8500 sq/ft building.  It is pretty basic, but the taller end has over 20 ft ceilings.  This can possibly save us hundreds of thousands of dollars on the final project.
  • We can move forward quickly-there are a lot of moving parts to make this happen, but it is very conceivable that we could be worshipping in our new location in less than a year

That all said, the former auto repair garage is, well, ugly.  To say that it will need some work is an understatement. You are going to have to use your imagination (like imagine that it is not mustard yellow).  We know we have to change the outside and the inside to make things work for worship, classrooms and a gathering space.  Is it worth the trouble and expense?

To be honest, I kind of like the idea of renewing a tired, old building.  As a believer, I can’t think of a better metaphor for the work that will be happening inside. Not the building of walls, but the building of souls.  We come to God’s house spiritually tired, and spiritually ugly. Yet, the Holy Spirit renews us through the simple message of the Gospel.  God thought you were worth fixing, worth forgiving.  God thought you were worth the expense. How beautiful that the Bible calls the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit renewal, new life and rebirth because that is just what we needed.

By: Rev. Jared Oldenburg, Castle Rock, CO 



Encouragement in Watertown, New York

On-going ministry in Watertown, New York.

Not too long ago Redemption would sometimes worship with only 7 people. This past Christmas, Redemption moved into a new ministry center and had about 60 people in worship! For us 60 people is amazing. Talking growth trajectory, worship attendance, and other metrics might give the impression, however, that growing a church is easy work. As if by following a pattern or focusing on the right things a church will grow.

But no matter where you live, I have to tell you something: I know it’s not always easy telling people about Jesus. We always have to fight against our sinful nature to tell a friend or co-worker about Jesus. Then when we do and don’t see a result we have to fight our sinful doubts about the power of the Word. Evangelism is a fruit of faith and requires patience, perseverance, and trust that God will provide.

Waiting and trusting that the Lord will bless your work is difficult. At a meeting of New York WELS pastors we share some of the blessings and challenges each of our congregations face. I shared that we had an all time worship attendance high of 52 people and then I lamented that I wasn’t sure how we got to 52 in worship since none of my personal evangelism efforts had come to fruition. One of my fellow pastor friends said jokingly, “I guess MLC won’t be calling you up to speak at Evangelism Day any time soon.” We all laughed.

But in all seriousness I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “Yeah, I think we’ll see you on Sunday” only to notice some missing faces in the congregation. I can’t tell you how many conversations have ended seemingly unproductively in the moment. Each year I have been here we have had to nearly rebuild our prospect list from the ground up. Through those failures the Lord teaches us to value each individual who walks through our church doors and to see them as a blessing from him.

Gospel work certainly requires patience, perseverance, and trust, but along the way God will provide a catch which will give you the encouragement to keep doing work. In July 2016 Josh and Stephanie Bone and their five children dropped in for Sunday worship. The family had been thinking about going back to church, did a google search, found us, and decided to check us out. I invited them back. “Yeah, I think we’ll see you on Sunday,” they said. I didn’t hold my breath. Sunday came and their faces weren’t missing in the crowd. Amazing. I invited them to our annual Art Camp which was coming up. They not only came, but donated food for snacks!

I made several visits to their home and soon we were talking membership. But first they asked me to baptize four of their children on one Sunday. Shortly after that we started a membership course together. The week before Christmas we celebrated our first two adult confirmations in our new ministry center.

A few weeks ago Josh and I met for lunch at a local sandwich shop and he began talking to the cashier about our church. A few hours later he called me up, “Pastor, I think we missed an opportunity. I think we should go back to that shop for lunch so we can invite him to church.” I agreed. That’s the way it is with gospel ministry. You sow, sow, sow, and sow. And every once and a while the Lord will bring you a harvest like the Bone family.

By: Rev. Aaron Goetzinger
Redemption Lutheran Church
Watertown, New York



Ground breaking in Las Vegas

​After nearly eight years meeting in a strip mall worship facility, Shepherd of the Hills is reaching milestones on its path to building its first ministry center for worship and education.

Rev. Tom Unke accepted the call to serve the mission and arrived in June of 2016. The congregation had already purchased land and were well into the planning of the new facility. The Lord has clearly blessed the congregation, even in the midst of the disappointment of the first property purchase falling through. The land that Shepherd of the Hills will build on this winter is located along a freeway and will be seen by thousands of commuters every day.

Rev. Unke says, “Many businesses pay lots of money to be seen by that many people every day. We pray that the high visibility of our new property will translate into lots of visitors and countless opportunities to share the treasure of the Gospel of Jesus.”

On January 29, Shepherd of the Hills broke ground for their construction project which, Lord willing, will be completed by October, 2017. In the mean time, the members and pastor will continue to reach out to all the people who are moving in to northwest Las Vegas each month.  The harvest is truly plentiful!
By: Rev. Thomas Unke
Shepherd of the Hills, Las Vegas, Nev.


Funding approved for new and enhanced ministries

In late March 2017, the Board for Home Missions approved funding for four new Home Mission starts and three ministry enhancements for existing congregations.

Every winter, the board reviews proposals for funding and, based on how much money is available, determines where these gifts to ministry can best serve the Lord’s church. The $554,000 of new project funding for fiscal year 2017–18 is possible through a portion of Congregation Mission Offerings, an endowment payout from the WELS Church Extension Fund, and gifts to the “Every Neighbor, Every Nation” mission campaign.

Shepherd of the Valley, Westminster, Colo., received funding to call a second pastor to start a second campus in the new growing community of Candelas. The multi-site concept, a growing model for congregations around the synod, allows a church to expand its ministry footprint but keep both sites under one financial budget and one leadership team.

Rev. Phil Kieselhorst, pastor at Shepherd of the Valley, says, “The second site campus pastor will focus on organizing and leading consistent outreach efforts, training and coordinating the core group, following up on prospects, teaching and preaching, and providing pastoral assistance to new members.” Current Shepherd of the Valley members already have been canvassing and reaching out to new residents for two years. The congregation is positioned to be one of the first neighborhood churches in this growing area.

At Mt. Lebanon, Milwaukee, Wis., new funding will help with calling a second pastor, allowing Rev. Aaron Bublitz, the congregation’s current pastor, to focus on the pastoral needs of Mt. Lebanon’s elementary school students and their families. The school is part of Milwaukee’s School Choice program, and many of the students come from unchurched families in the neighborhood. Since 2011, 128 people have been baptized through the school, including students and their family members.

“Up until now we have been trying to serve a congregation of 400 souls and a school of 220 (many of whom are unchurched) and, at the same time, aggressively reaching out to our neighborhood with one pastor and one part-time staff minister. The Lord has blessed us with a vibrant ministry and a ripe mission field, but it has been difficult to take advantage of all the opportunities God has placed before us because of resources,” says Bublitz. “This support from the Board for Home Missions will allow us to double our pastoral staff to share the means of grace and equip our congregation to serve, allowing us to reach more people with the life-saving and changing gospel.”

Three additional new mission starts will be funded in Hendersonville, N.C.; Huntersville, N.C.; and Chattanooga, Tenn. In multicultural ministry, Immanuel, Waukegan, Ill., will receive funds to assist with a growing Hispanic ministry. King of Kings, Little Rock, Ark., also received funding to call a full-time pastor.

“Home Missions is about reaching as many of our neighbors as possible with the gospel,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator for Home Missions. “This can be through starting new churches, expanding multicultural outreach, or reaching more families through enhancing existing ministries. This year, Home Missions has been blessed to be able to support different types of ministry work that all have the same goal—sharing God’s Word with our neighbors.”

To learn more about WELS mission work, visit

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder




New Campus Center and Church, Stevens Point, WI

On January 29, 2017, approximately 175 people gathered in a morning grand opening service and 200 people gathered in the afternoon at The Word in Stevens Point to give glory to God on the day of its dedication. “The Word” is a new multi-site location which sprung from Divine Word in Plover, Wis. The University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (which ranks near the top of WELS student attendance at a public university) is less than a mile away from this former American Legion Hall, turned bar, turned night club turned into a place where Christ crucified and risen will be proclaimed to young and old alike!

The idea was born back in 2011 at the School of Outreach in Little Chute, Wis. As our congregation pondered its next steps moving forward in reaching the lost and nurturing the found, the reality became clear that Stevens Point was the largest city in Wisconsin without a WELS church and the University could be a congregation all to itself with the amount of WELS students who attend.  This led to many surveys and meetings and committees which culminated in the calling of a second pastor to focus on campus ministry and outreach (which God answered in May of 2015 through the assignment committee at the Seminary with Pastor Jim Roecker) as well as the start of a search for property in Stevens Point near campus.

In fall of 2015 we were presented with the opportunity to purchase the current property in downtown Stevens Point, which had been abandoned for nearly five years. While certainly much work was needed, the potential was definitely there to turn a 10,000 square foot night club into a worship area and campus center. Partly through a gracious grant from the WELS Campus Ministry Committee, the building was purchased and renovation began in July 2016.

Many thanks need to also go to our partners at WELS Church Extension Fund and the Board for Home Missions. The one time and ongoing grants and subsidy we have received have helped immensely to make this vision a reality. Our collegians now have a beautiful new space to call their own. They are taking on roles in Sunday morning worship and are enjoying their campus center where they come to study, do laundry, make some pizzas, have a cup of coffee, relax and watch a movie or the big game.

Finally, we thank God for YOU, the members of the WELS, for your well wishes, prayers, and congregational mission offerings. Here in Stevens Point is a small glimpse of how and where those dollars are put to work for the present and future of our Synod. If you’re ever in the area, feel free to stop in and look around! Join me in praising God from whom all blessings flow!

By: Rev. Scott Wolfram
Divine Word, Plover, Wis. and The Word, Stevens Point, Wis.



Renovation Complete, New Goals in Stevens Point, WI

January 29, 2017, was the date chosen for our new mission church and student center’s Grand Opening and Dedication. The Word in Stevens Point, Wis., needed to be ready for that special day. To me, the amount of work ahead of God’s people at Divine Word in Plover seemed insurmountable. I can only assume others had similar feelings. Would we be ready to welcome guests and visitors into a completed worship facility? Only time would tell.

On New Year’s Day, our core group started attending The Word for a set of four preview services. The community was welcome to join us as well. After each of those four services we set aside time to evaluate what had just happened in worship. Evaluation forms helped guide our discussion each week under the following categories: Worship, Sermon, Interior Feel, and Exterior Feel. The goal was improvement from week to week as we geared up for our Grand Opening and Dedication services.

Slowly, new interior items began to be delivered. Basic metal folding chairs were replaced with new, padded chairs. Lighting fixtures were installed, an improvement over bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Steady progress was being made toward January 29.

Getting the word out about The Word was also important to the core group. Radio ads about our upcoming opening aired on local Portage County stations. Facebook events were created and shared again and again. A local reporter from the Stevens Point Journal was contacted to run an article about the exciting launch of a new church and student center in downtown Stevens Point. Fifteen different individuals helped to distribute about 4,000 postcards to the communities around The Word, which invited them to join us for our Grand Opening and Dedication.

One week before the big day we recognized the amount of work that needed to be put in to make The Word presentable for visitors. Our core group, other Divine Word members, and UW-SP collegians set aside time every evening to sweep and mop floors, paint doors, clean bathrooms, set up the worship space, and prepare thank-you-for-coming gift bags for all first-time visitors at our January 29 celebration of God’s blessing on our efforts to reach our community with the good news of Christ our Savior.

What seemed like a workload too overwhelming at the beginning – was accomplished by so many individuals that volunteered their time and ability to make sure everyone’s first impression of The Word was a positive one. All that was left to do was to wait for January 29 to come.

No one had a crystal ball to tell us how many people God would lead through our doors that Sunday morning and evening. 161 people came to The Word’s Grand Opening at our 10:00 a.m. service. At least three family units worshiped with us for the very first time. 198 people came together for our dedication service at 4:00 pm in the afternoon. Numerous families from area WELS congregations were in attendance, as well as a handful of first-time and second-time visitors. UWSP collegians and their families attended our services on that Sunday as well.

Recognizing a completed project such as this one in Stevens Point is a great blessing God has granted to Divine Word, The Word, and our Wisconsin synod. Stevens Point is no longer the largest Wisconsin city without a WELS presence. But, we also recognize this renovation project is not the end goal. With God’s blessing, we will strive to proclaim the Word, the good news of Jesus as Savior, to the people of Portage County until Jesus comes again. We implore our Heavenly Father to keep us focused on the only two numbers that matter: the total number of people who are in God’s family versus the total number of people who aren’t.

By: Rev. James Roecker
The Word, Stevens Point, Wis.



Registration open for 54th annual LWMS convention

The 54th annual convention of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) will be held June 22-25, 2017, in Orlando, Fla.

The convention kicks off Thursday evening with an opening worship service led by WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder. Friday and Saturday feature speakers from various WELS mission fields, including Rev. Daniel Sargent, who serves in Africa; Home Missions missionaries; WELS Home Missions Administrator Rev. Keith Free; and WELS World Missions Administrator Rev. Larry Schlomer.

This year, the Thursday night opening worship service and the Friday and Saturday missionary presentations will be streamed live at

In addition, attendees can choose to attend workshops about the LWMS kids c.a.r.e program, evangelism, and the multi-site congregation model.

For recreation, attendees can opt to visit the Holy Land Experience, a biblical-themed museum, or an airboat ride for Florida wildlife viewing.

The conference will conclude on Sunday with a closing worship service led by South Atlantic District President Rev. Charles Westra.

Registration information can be found at This year, mail-in and online registration is available. Early bird registration ends April 1 and is $190. After April 1, the convention fee is $210. There are special rates for students and children.

Visit for complete convention information and registration.