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Needing to Share Jesus

When it became about sharing Jesus with another broken heart, God’s Word worked.

Canvassing Team ready to share Jesus with the Rockwall community

We met at a church carnival and got to talking in the line to get a gyro. He hadn’t been with a group of people who loved Jesus and were kind to him like us in his life, so he was willing to have me come over to his house and visit. Before long, we were going through a Bible Study about who Jesus is, who we really are in God’s eyes, and what God has done for us through Jesus. Each time we met, there were more questions and old stories about things he’d seen or done that he didn’t understand. As we talked about God’s Word, the Spirit answered his questions and healed his heart. Before long, he was gathering with us to worship and taking every devotional book or magazine he could get as his desire to remain connected to Jesus grew.

We pray together that our eyes stay open to see the opportunities all around us – like meeting someone in line at a church carnival waiting to get a gyro. When we realize our calling is to tell someone else about something that changed our own lives, the conversations turns from wanting to share Jesus, to needing to share Jesus.

When we want to share Jesus, it seems that the conversations take place too soon or are disconnected from the situation. When we realize what God has done to repair our own broken hearts, it becomes easier to recognize what the brokenness looks like in others. And when we see the needs of others, we are able to help because our shared need is only met with the Word of God.

Sharing Jesus became real when I had a real conversation with someone. I pray God continues to keep my eyes open to see broken hearts and to share Jesus with them. I also pray that God reminds you of your broken heart and his power alone to heal you – and I pray you see the brokenness in others to share with them the only Words that work:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

Isaiah 61:1

Written By: Pastor Gunnar Ledermann, Divine Peace Lutheran Church – Rockwall, Tex. Campus

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“I Knew I Needed Peace”

Redeemer Lutheran Church in Edna, Texas began worshiping at its second site in Victoria on December 3, 2017. As is typical with a new mission start, we flooded our area with fliers, billboards, and door-hanger invitations. We had a few new people respond, but by Christmas, most had decided that Redeemer was not for them. We followed the grand opening invitation with a Christmas invitation just a few weeks later with nearly the same results…

Easter Sunday at Redeemer

Or so we thought.

About 2 weeks after Christmas, Magdalena and her high school aged granddaughter, Nikandra, attended worship with us. As part of our guest follow-up, I took a welcome gift to their house. Although we don’t usually like to enter the house for a visit on this first contact, Magdalena insisted. It was the first time a pastor had sat at her table to visit with her and to address her spiritual concerns and questions.

I asked how she had found out about Redeemer, and she pulled out the Christmas invitation that offered “Peace for the Broken” (the Christmas 2017 invite cards prepared by Pastor Jonathan Schroeder and ECHT Printing) from her Bible and said, “I saw this and knew I needed peace. So I came.”

Redeemer’s Easter Celebration

Over the next several weeks, Magdalena and Nikandra studied with me nearly every week in their home and seldom missed worship or Sunday Bible study. As they neared the completion of the Bible 101 course, I invited them to consider baptism, confirmation, and church membership. They enthusiastically accepted and, for many reasons, chose Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018, as the date for Nikandra’s baptism and for their confirmations as well. It was a wonderful celebration of the power of Jesus’ resurrection. On a day our nation celebrates pranks and fools, these two became confirmed “fools” for Christ, who are wise unto salvation through faith in him.

Nikandra used the opportunity of her baptism and confirmation to invite a friend and her mother to worship. These ladies have also started attending worship, and we have invited them to consider the Bible 101 course as well. We pray that in this way our congregation and the Savior’s church will continue to grow.

Written By: Pastor Aaron Glaeske, Redeemer Lutheran Church – Victoria, TX

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God Doesn’t Call the Prepared

Wendy Wright is a member of the Core Group that is starting a home mission congregation in Joplin, Mo. Below is the speech she gave at the 55th annual LWMS Convention in Green Bay, Wis., as part of Rev. Keith Free’s Home Missions Update presentation. 

My name is Wendy Wright, and I’m from Joplin, Mo.

To be honest, I’m a little nervous… As a past member of the LWMS Communication Committee, I am usually the one sitting out there… taking notes on the people speaking up here!

But, it’s interesting how sometimes God has other plans for us. My husband picked up a saying somewhere that states,

God doesn’t call the prepared; but He prepares the called.

So, let me share with you the preparation he did for home mission work in Joplin.

We’ll start back in 2011. I had just been selected as a member of the LWMS Communications Committee as a writer and editor. For those who remember, the 2011 LWMS Convention was held in Milwaukee, Wis. I was excited about my first convention to officially “work”… Unfortunately, that was not God’s plan.

The JoMo Core Group (Wendy is pictured center left in the blue)

On May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado ripped through the middle of Joplin, Mo. Not only did it destroy numerous homes, businesses, schools, and a hospital, it also claimed the lives of 161 people. Needless to say, I skipped the convention to help in my community.

Let me give you a little idea about Joplin, Mo. – or as we call it, JoMo

Not only is it located in tornado alley, it is geographically in the crossroads of America – about in the center, north and south, east and west. The people of Southwest Missouri are a hardy, “boot-strappin” kind. We don’t wait for someone to come in and tell us what to do, or how to do it. We put on our boots… and hats, and gloves, and we get to work. We dig in. We help our neighbors. We help strangers. We even had the privilege of hosting a group of volunteers from WELS Christian Aid and Relief who stayed for a week to help with tornado clean-up efforts. And I had the privilege of helping to organize their efforts.

God was preparing…

The next year (2012) and each year through 2017, I had the opportunity to attend the LWMS Conventions as a part of the Communications Committee. We wrote up summaries on the workshops and speakers for the website. Basically, it was a way to share home and world mission work with those who could not attend.

At last year’s convention in Orlando, Pastor Jonathan Bourman from Aiken, S.C., presented a workshop on “Gospel Planting in South Carolina.” His focus was on how WELS starts home missions, saying, “We go to where the people are at.” I was dutifully taking notes on his workshop, when he charged those in attendance to “Look within your OWN community to see if there is an opportunity to plant a church within a church with a new outreach or ministry focus, OR look into your own backyard to see if there is a growing community that needs the true gospel message. If so, contact your district mission board.”

I paused… MY own backyard… hmmm…

I scribbled it down in my notebook, “Contact DMB [District Mission Board] about growing community, Joplin: Pastor Shane Krause.”

God prepares.

As many of you know, you leave the LWMS Convention with tons of excitement and mission zeal – ready to save the world by Tuesday. And then you go home and promptly fall back into your regular routine. Well, I was no different. Except about a month later, God had other plans.

I happened to run into Pastor Krause at our LWMS Circuit Board meeting that just happened to be held at his church in Overland Park, Kan. He was our Circuit Pastoral Advisor for several years until he was named Chairman of the Nebraska District Mission Board. Frankly, he was the only one I knew on a mission board.

I did end up e-mailing him about how Joplin just MAY be a good place to look into for mission work… listing features and opportunities of this growing community.

Then, I promptly didn’t hear from him. For 3 weeks! I was just about to dismiss the whole thing, when Pastor Krause e-mailed. He apologized – something about being on vacation, and he needed to check on some information and community statistics, etc. And then he said the most remarkable thing:

“Wendy, I think there’s real potential in Joplin… Let’s do this!”

God was preparing.

It was a whirlwind after that point. Several local group meetings, and then in October, Mission Counselor Rev. Mark Birkholz came down to do some exploratory research into the community and to share his findings with the local interest group.

An interesting (or should I say startling) statistic he found – even though Joplin is located in the “buckle” of the Bible Belt, more than 40 percent of our population profess to have NO church affiliation. And there are many more who SAY they go to church, but really, there is no regular church attendance.

Additionally, even though there is a WELS church within 30 miles of Joplin, it is west over the border in Pittsburg, Kan. There is also an ELS church about 25 miles east, located in a small town called Carthage. But neither of these congregation were actively doing outreach in the larger Joplin metro area.

Armed with all of this information and the positive support of Pastor Birkholz, the Nebraska District Mission Board, local WELS Pastor Aaron Schumann, and a group of 11 laypeople (plus 8 children) agreed to be the Core Group.

At this point, I want to take a moment to point out two members of our core group who are here at the convention… One is my mother, Emilie Keeton, and the other is Janet Scheer.

We. Were. Called.

So, then what? We write a proposal… How? I’d been doing grant writing for local nonprofits for the last seven years, and I knew a proposal was similar to writing grants. You simply break it down and answer the questions. With the mission proposal due in March of 2018, that left us six months to put it together. Our core group met six times from October 2017 through March 2018 to discuss, deliberate, and answer the eight questions that the mission proposal requires. Everyone pitched in and everyone shared ideas. In March of this year we held our last working session, took our photo for the proposal, and sent it to Pastor Krause to submit on our behalf.

On April 12, we heard that we were selected as a new WELS home mission start!

Only 10 months after God provided the seed at the last Convention, he prepared the soil and watered it… and we are now rejoicing in seeing a home mission sprout up in Joplin, Mo.!

Where do we go from here?

We trust that God has a plan for us. We were unable to call a seminary graduate as we had hoped (the workers are just too few), so the Nebraska District Mission Board assisted us in calling a pastor earlier this month. And we are patiently awaiting word on whether he will accept it.

Please pray for us – and ALL home missions and missionaries – that God will bless our outreach and our ministry efforts.

Pray also that the Lord may speak to YOU. May you have ears to hear His call.. because He may be preparing you for home mission work in your own backyard.

By: Wendy Wright, member of the core group from the new mission in Joplin, Mo. 

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The one thing we can’t do is nothing

What do you get when you combine a spread-out church membership, multiple communities, mission zeal, and the eternal gospel?

Answer: mission opportunity.

That’s what the members of Living Savior kept at the forefront of our minds before there was a storefront in a mission field.

A brief history – Living Savior started in Hendersonville, long before “Living Savior” was its name. From a few in a living room to a few more in the local YMCA, to a small church building, to a mission restart and relocation south of Asheville, to a healthy membership of hundreds of souls gathered by God… Living Savior was primed to reach more. In fact, over 40 members still live in and around Hendersonville. Seeing opportunity leads to seizing opportunity.

In February of 2017, Living Savior started a second site in Hendersonville. We are one church with two locations in Asheville and Hendersonville, 25 minutes apart. Since the start, God has blessed us with reaching people we otherwise couldn’t – like Lois, “I was searching and searching. And here I found what I was looking for – grace.” Over 80 people were in attendance for our first Christmas Eve service in Hendersonville. We’ve been blessed to serve homeless people, some neighboring schools, and to get to know the surrounding community through events and canvassing. And as is often the case, small opportunities lead to more opportunities.

Pastor Paul Zell

With the support of WELS Board for Home Missions, Pastor Paul Zell – who previously served as a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary for the past 15 years – accepted the call to serve as pastor and missionary in Hendersonville. He was installed on January 21st, and he and his wife Cathy have hit the ground running. (Not without their contagious smiles and encouraging spirit, of course)

With just a “little teaching experience” (sarcasm intended), he has started classes which are drawing several new faces and equipping others to invite more people. He has hit the fast-forward button in getting to know the community, which will serve him and our overall ministry well. Going from former student to teammate in parish ministry and mission work is a blessing to say the least.

It boils down to three simple things: believers, multiple communities, and the eternal gospel. Those three things highlight what Scripture says the eternal gospel is for, “to proclaim to those who live on the earth – to every nation, tribe, language and people” (Revelation 14:6). That presents a great opportunity here and everywhere. Furthermore, since those three things (believers, communities, the gospel) exist wherever you are reading this, isn’t it safe to say that you have such opportunities too?

And when we see opportunities, God give us the zeal to seize them. After all, one thing we can’t do is nothing.

Written By: Pastor Caleb Kurbis, Living Savior Lutheran Church – Asheville & Hendersonville, N.C.

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How to Reach Out… When You Can’t Get In

The mission was clear. We want to be a church that reaches OUT to our community. We want to be a church that is OUTward focused. However, there was a problem. We couldn’t get IN. The community of Lakewood Ranch, FL, is a heavily gated-community. That means that some of our more traditional styles of outreach – i.e. canvassing, door-hanging, etc. – won’t work here because we can’t get IN. We can’t get past the gates. But through prayer and Scriptural encouragement, the members of Risen Savior were not going to allow gates to stop them from reaching out. We brainstormed how we might reach out to our community with the good news of Jesus, and came up with different outreach strategies.

Grand Opening Festival

One strategy we use is our New Mover Outreach Team. Each month, we have approximately 100-150 new families who move into Lakewood Ranch within a 3 mile radius of Risen Savior. As a way to welcome in these new families, we send them 2 different postcards. The first postcard is a professionally developed postcard, welcoming them into the community, and giving them some helpful information about Lakewood Ranch. A couple of weeks later, the ten ladies of our New Mover Outreach Team will send a handwritten note to these families, with a church brochure and a personal invite to join us on a Sunday morning for worship.

After about 6 months and no visible results, I began to wonder if this outreach strategy was the best use of our resources. But receiving encouragement from members at Risen Savior to remain faithful, we decided to continue reaching out to these new movers…and I thank God we did! For the past 4-5 months, God has richly blessed us. I’ve received phone calls from new movers thanking us for being so welcoming. I’ve been asked out to lunch by a new mover wanting to show his appreciation for our kindness. We’ve been blessed with worship guests who have come as a direct result of this reaching out.

Grand Opening Weekend at Risen Savior

And if those blessings weren’t enough, one Sunday morning, in walked an unchurched Grandpa and Grandma with their 7 year old grand-daughter. They stayed for worship and Sunday School, and as they were about to leave, I was able to schedule a follow up visit with them later that week. I didn’t know it at the time, but they found our church through our New Mover outreach. Yet, they weren’t the ones who recently had moved – their son and his family had. Long story short, after being told about the postcards that their son’s family received from Risen Savior, Grandpa and Grandma and their grand-daughter decided to give Risen Savior a shot. In the past 4 months since they’ve been attending, they’ve gone through our Bible Information Class, have become members, and are about to have their grand-daughter baptized. On top of all that, they’ve also brought two of their sons and family to Risen Savior, who have recently joined the church as well. Praise God!

We aren’t sure how God will bless our New Mover Outreach Team in the future, but we are certainly thankful for the blessings he’s given us in the past. And no matter what, one thing we’ve learned is that we can continue to reach out, even if we can’t always get in.

Written By: Pastor Caleb Free, Risen Savior Lutheran Church – Lakewood Ranch, FL

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The Lord knows there will be days like this

For many, the end of August is an enchanting time. Like a fireworks grand finale, summer often saves the best for last. Parents and children prize these last summer days – the campfires, the fireflies, and long weekends at the lake – because they know the end is coming. Summer is a season to be savored.

Summer in the desert

But not here. In the Sonoran Desert, summer is a season to survive.

People from Phoenix know the drill. Keep in the shade. Stay where it’s cool. Find places with free air-conditioning.

All that can drive a mission-planter stir crazy. At least, that’s how I was feeling late last August. So I packed up a backpack full of flyers and hit the streets shortly after sun-up. I wanted to get a couple hundred flyers hung before the temperature reached 100 degrees.

Near the end of my route, a man stormed up to me with a scowl on his face. He had a handful of my flyers and a mouthful of unkind words for me. He shoved the flyers into my chest. I tried to muster up a smile, but I’m sure it didn’t fool him.

The Lord knows there will be days like this.

Later that afternoon, a message popped up on our church’s Facebook. I was excited. Until I read it. Someone had taken great offense to our flyer: Rude!!! Even though my family is looking for a church, this will ensure that I won’t be coming. Clearly there is no respect.” In my haste to hang as many flyers as possible, I had missed her sign about not wanting religious pamphlets. I sent her an apology message.

The Lord knows there will be days like this.

The next day, there was another Facebook message. Part of me didn’t want to click it at all. Ignorance can be a kind of temporary bliss… But I did anyway.

This time, it was someone new. Something entirely different: “I found one of your flyers on my front step… I looked up your website and started listening to your podcast this morning. I feel like it’s water to my thirsty, parched soul.”

The Lord knew there would be a day like this.

He prepared this moment. For her. For me. For the advancement of his kingdom. The Lord watches over you. The Lord is your shade. (Psalm 121:5)

So many people living in the growing outskirts of Phoenix are just trying to survive. They hope and dream of better days. They’re looking for relief, but they don’t know where to find it. They have no idea. No idea what they’re looking for. No idea how lost they really are.

But the Lord knows there are people like this.

His Word proclaims what no human mind could conceive. He loves the lost, the weary, and the thirsty. God loves survival-mode people so much that he sent his Son to save them. God offers the relief we all crave in Christ crucified.

That’s why River of Life is nestled here in the Sonoran Desert on the west side of Phoenix. This past year or so, the Lord has watched over us. We moved into an expanded worship facility, but he has been our shade. He blessed us with more than 100 first time worship visitors. Membership has grown. On Easter Sunday, we had 94 thirsty souls hear about the hope they have in the Risen Lord. The following Friday, we began a new program for young, stay-at-home parents and their kids.

The Lord knew there would be days like these. He watches over our coming and going. He is our shade. That’s something special. That’s something to savor. Especially during summertime in the Sonoran Desert.

Written By: Pastor Lincoln Albrecht, River of Life Lutheran Church – Goodyear, Ariz.

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It’s About Saving Souls

Terri lives right across the street from our church… Literally. She can look out her front door and see our towering steeples. God knew what he was doing when he put Terri right next to our church.

Terri works with one of our members at the hospital in town, and her ex-husband worked for many years with another one of our members. God purposely brought our church members into Terri’s life. For a couple of years, Terri was thinking, “I should check out that church sometime.” One Sunday, invited by her co-worker from the hospital, Terri came to worship. She heard God’s word and was welcomed by our members. Terri started Bible 101 and came to see, “I can be sure I’m going to heaven because Jesus lived. Jesus died. Jesus rose.” Terri confessed, “I didn’t have peace before. Now I have peace because of Jesus.” She has new purpose in life. “I have a renewed joy in my work as a nurse. I know I’m working for God.”

How cool is that!

This is why we have a church. It’s about saving souls.

Terri’s House – Right across the street from church

There is even more backstory to what God has been doing in Monroe, working to save Terri’s soul. The church across the street from Terri’s house almost closed. It was for sale for over a year, membership was dwindling, and the pastor was set to retire. It didn’t look like the church would remain open, but another congregation was aware of the situation. There were discussions about working together. The two churches decided to go all in on working together and become one congregation, with one name and one pastor. Not only did the church across the street from Terri’s house stay open, the church across the street is growing. Members are inviting family and friends. Former members of the church have returned. Best of all, souls like Terri are hearing God’s Word, finding peace for eternal life and purpose in life right now.

This concept of being one church in multiple locations is relatively new in our church body. There are many advantages to multi-site congregations. Multi-site ministry can save money as one church can often times operate more efficiently than two. Multi-site ministry can save sacred spaces, like the beautiful, ornate church across the street from Terri. Multi-site ministry can save people time going to a church in their community, rather than driving to a church farther away. But most of all, and greatest of all, multi-site ministry is about saving souls. It’s about saving souls like Terri’s.

Pastor Nathan Strutz serves a multi-site congregation, Resurrection in Verona and Monroe, WI. This multi-site church was formed by a merger of Resurrection, Verona and Mt. Olive, Monroe.

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Midwest Island Missions

My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.

Isaiah 51:5

In 2010, a Bible class in the Adams-Friendship area, offered by pastors from St. Paul’s in Mauston, led to worship services with a core group of about twenty members or so. Today this second site of St. Paul’s has grown, by God’s grace, into a thriving mission of about 130 souls. We lease an old day care building that is too small to meet all our needs, and yet people keep coming back, and the Word continues to be proclaimed. St. Paul’s in Mauston, which pioneered this mission and still partners with it as one congregation in two locations, has been working hard with the members in Adams-Friendship to fund ministry, a full time mission pastor, and even a new church building. Many congregations throughout the state have also contributed to a building fund so that work can continue to move forward, and God-willing expand as we move into a larger and more versatile facility in the near future.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church – Mauston, WI

When I received the call to serve as mission pastor to St. Paul’s in Adams-Friendship, I was curious to know what a relatively new mission startup was doing smack dab in the middle of what I had always assumed was a very churched (and very WELSy) part of our country. I was surprised to learn that in Adams County, in the heart of Wisconsin, only about 15-20 percent of the population claimed any connection to a church. On top of this, St. Paul’s was the only WELS congregation located in Adams County. St. Paul’s in Mauston saw the chance to share Jesus with this “island” of unchurched people in the heart of the Midwest, and as I considered the call I began to see what a wonderful opportunity this was to reach the lost.

Two months have passed since I arrived, and the opportunities I was told about were not exaggerations. I’ve shared the freedom of the gospel with people battling drug and alcohol dependency. I’ve spoken with jail inmates and former inmates about the cycle of sin and God’s solution in Christ. I’ve witnessed baptisms in a garage, heard testimony from men and women recovering from abuse and broken families, and I’ve seen kids discover a very different message than what they hear all around them. There are people in Adams County struggling with broken families, addiction, financial hardship, depression, anger, and loss. And amidst this sea of grief and pain, St. Paul’s stands ready to share eternal hope and a temporal change in perspective through the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Jasper Sellnow and his family

This rural mission is a reminder that God’s Word still has much work to do in the heartland, even in places we might normally overlook. Congregations can identify the needs of the communities around them and perhaps discover untapped mission fields right in their backyard (or neighboring county). And as St. Paul’s in Mauston discovered, you can sacrifice a little so that even without full Synod mission funding, new churches can be planted and God’s Word can be shared. The lost and hurting are all around us, even on the “islands” in the Midwest. God grant us wisdom and love as we share the hope we have in Jesus.

Rev. Jasper Sellnow lives in Friendship, WI with his wife, Sarah, and their five children. He serves St. Paul’s Mauston & Adams-Friendship, working primarily as the mission pastor in Adams County.

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Small Town, Big Outreach

Being Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, it’s obvious that the state of the Wisconsin has many WELS churches… 433 to be exact. With such a large number of congregations, we assume that every county would be served with the gospel in its truth and purity. Currently there isn’t a single WELS church in all of Richland County, a rural area in the Southwest corner of the state. Dual parish members at nearby St. John’s Lutheran Church in Hillpoint, Wis., and Trinity Lutheran Church in Lime Ridge, Wis., saw there was a need to reach out to their neighbors with the life-saving message of the gospel. They decided to act.

Local Newspaper Highlighted the Event

Over the past 18 months, the two churches have paired up to conduct exploratory mission work in the nearby city of Richland Center. Since starting, two Easter for Kids events have been held at the local community center. Twenty-five people attended in year one, and they were blessed with 40 children in attendance this past spring. Pastor Dan Lewig, who serves both congregations, now holds a monthly, Saturday Bible Class at a local restaurant called “Bible Breakfast Hour.” The local District Mission Board (DMB) and the Board for Home Missions (BHM) have been working alongside them since the beginning. In September of this year, the dual parish requested and was approved by the BHM to receive unsubsidized mission status1.

On Sat., Dec. 16 at the Richland Center Community Center, the churches hosted their largest outreach event to date: A Journey to Bethlehem Live Nativity Event. Pastor Lewig notes, “This event has been a wonderful example of our synod working together. My two congregations have over 25 volunteers helping; to put it in perspective, we average 75 people in church on Sunday mornings between our two congregations. One of my members has built all the wooden structures we will be using for the event. In addition, we have partnered with the Ladies Aid from St. John’s in Juneau, Wis., who is making the costumes for the event. Members of Lakeside Lutheran High School’s Junior Choir will be there singing Christmas carols, and we also have a Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary student helping us out.”

6,500 postcards ready to be mailed

The Board for Home Missions provided a special grant, which was used to create a direct mailing that was sent to the mailbox of everyone in Richland County – over 6,500 mailings total. The local newspaper picked up on the event and did a wonderful front-page story that reached many in the community. Pastor Lewig is also being interviewed by a local radio station for continued promotion. With the Lord’s blessing, the group hopes to draw over 200 people from the community to this event.

Pastor Lewig commented on the large volunteer initiative backing the event, “It has been amazing watching this all come together, seeing so many different sources partnering on this project – all sharing the same desire to reach out with the gospel. We are excited for this opportunity to share the true joy and peace that is found in the manger in Bethlehem!”

Post-Script: Pastor Lewig reports, “What an amazing day! Preparing for our first year of hosting this we didn’t know what to expect. We were hoping to have maybe 100-200 people attend our first year… and over 400 came to our Live Nativity this year!”

1An unsubsidized mission is a mission church that does not receive budgetary financial support (subsidy) from Home Missions. Unsubsidized missions have access to a Mission Counselor and can make requests for special project funds through its District Mission Board (DMB).

 

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Introducing Ourselves – One Taco at a Time

“What restaurant are you from?” a man asked me.

I said, “We’re not a restaurant. We’re a church!”

For three years running, Bethel Lutheran Church in Menasha, WI has set up a small taco kiosk during community festivals. This year’s Latinofest turned a beautiful Fall weekend into a mission opportunity.

Both Anglo and Latino members make plans months in advance. Still, the week before the event always sees a flurry of activity – marinating the pork in a bright-red blend of chilies and spices, buying and chopping bulk onions, cilantro, and limes, reigniting the friendly debate over the best size and brand of corn tortillas to get from the Mexican grocery store.

Everything must be fresh and authentic!

The night before the event, a salsa-making party fills the church kitchen with the smells of a creamy salsa verde (green) and an eye-watering salsa roja (red). Finally, it’s show-time: The meat is stacked with great care on a vertical spit called a trompo and then fire-roasted until crispy. No one can resist watching the taco meat go ‘round and ‘round as it cooks on our two machines – or the delicious smell that floats through the festival and brings in a long line of curious gringos and Latino families.

The food is simple, and the price is kept low – just enough to cover our costs. (Any additional proceeds are reinvested into supplies for future Hispanic outreach events.) The reason we’re there is not to make money. We’re there to tell our Latino neighbors that Iglesia Betel (Bethel Church) is a church that loves them, offers many free services to them, wants them to hear God’s Word in their native language, and proclaims salvation through Jesus alone.

That’s why every plate of tacos is served up with a small invitation to join other Spanish-speakers for worship every Sunday at noon or for bi-weekly English classes, which wrap up with a prayer or Spanish Bible Study.

Each year so far, our kiosk has been staffed by an even blend of Anglos and Latinos, and the group always works together like a well-oiled machine. Those volunteers gave up a beautiful Fall afternoon to serve tacos, all because they wanted to introduce their neighbors to our bilingual church. Their work made it possible for me to spend the day talking with the folks who passed by, answering their questions, and inviting them to worship – whether in English or in Spanish.

Written by: Pastor Phil Hunter, Bethel Lutheran Church in Menasha, WI

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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

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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.

 

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Moments with Missionaries: Castries, St. Lucia

CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA

Thomas C. Spiegelberg II

As pastors, we feel confident that we have the one thing needful at our disposal—the Word of God. It will not return to the Lord empty but will carry out the purpose for which he has sent it.

Maybe what we are most ill-prepared for is the particular context to which God has called us—a new culture. Most home missionaries don’t have to learn a new language, but we sometimes need to empty ourselves of what we know and enjoy so we can share Jesus with a different culture. Sometimes we push back like Jonah. More often we swim in a mixture of the unknown, the intimidating, and the exciting world that we call home missions.

My calling is to an island that in and of itself is a unique place. The Denver Broncos is a household name in only one household—mine. Beef is a luxury. People here dance—and it is not the chicken dance. I have as much rhythm as a jellyfish. Every day I wake up and convince myself that I know nothing but Christ crucified and this is my calling to share.

Bringing the gospel to others comes at a personal cost—giving up your own familiar culture to understand and bridge the gap to what is unfamiliar. My challenge is the families whose circumstances and lives are different. Eighty-three percent of St. Lucian children born in 2010 were born into a single-family home. This speaks volumes on the family dynamic.

Ricky lives up the street from Trinity Lutheran Church. He lives in a small house made of two-by-fours and plywood. His family makes less than $5,000 a year.

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Ricky (pictured in the green hat), Castries, St. Lucia

Ricky is like most 12-year-old boys. He loves sports, especially soccer. He hates school and has fallen behind. The after-school programs at Trinity provide the educational help his family can’t afford elsewhere. He has few male role models, except for one of Trinity’s pastors, Bramdeo Ramgolam, who has a way of connecting with kids like Ricky. Ricky is nominally Catholic, which means he was baptized and goes to Christmas Eve Mass.

Typical to St. Lucia, he has a one-in-five chance of graduating high school with passing marks. He is back and forth between his mother’s house and his father’s house. His mother’s current boyfriend has been accused of molesting Ricky’s older sister. One afternoon, Ricky hid in church to avoid the domestic violence in his house. Such conflict is the rule rather than the exception.

Statistically speaking, Ricky will be unemployed until at least 24. He will not have enough academic background to hold a middle-class job. He will be related to someone who is murdered. He will know what a church is but not who Jesus is. He will father children but struggle at being a father.

That’s according to statistics.

We have a greater power than culture or statistics: Christ crucified and him alone.

What does a day in the life of a home missionary look like? Simply put, it means emptying yourself of everything you know except Christ crucified. It means figuring out how to bring the gospel to a kid like Ricky.

My job is personally challenging. I feel equipped with the Word but grossly inadequate in personal traits. My job is exciting, exotic, frustrating, challenging, and sad on any given day.

But my calling is filled with joy: “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation” (Psalm 95:1).

My calling in Christ is confident: “The righteous are as bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).

I love being a home missionary.


Tom Spiegelberg serves as a home missionary at Trinity, Castries, St. Lucia.

 

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

ST. LUCIA

Learn more about WELS mission work in St. Lucia.

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Author: Thomas C. Spiegelberg II
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Sharing The Good News With Every Neighbor: Home Missions: Indiana

God is richly blessing the work of WELS Home Missions. Missionaries and their members are finding ways to share God’s good news with friends, relatives, neighbors—and sometimes even strangers at local fast food restaurants. Here are some of their stories.

Nicole R. Balza


Michele is a member of Beautiful Savior. She stopped at McDonald’s one night and happened to have on her T-shirt from our soccer camp the year before. As she was eating, she heard some children debating whether the imprint on the shirt was, in fact, a soccer ball. Michele seized the opportunity to tell them that it was a soccer ball. She then told them about Beautiful Savior’s soccer camp and gave them our website so that they could register and participate. And they did. They attended and proudly wore their own shirts imprinted with a soccer ball logo on the front and the 2016 theme on the back: “I press on toward the goal in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 3:14.

Kevin Boushek, home missionary at Beautiful Savior, La Porte, Ind.


Nicole Balza, a staff writer for Forward in Christ magazine, is a member at Bethlehem, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. 

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

 

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Author: Nicole R. Balza and various writers
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Sharing The Good News With Every Neighbor: Home Missions: South Carolina

God is richly blessing the work of WELS Home Missions. Missionaries and their members are finding ways to share God’s good news with friends, relatives, neighbors—and sometimes even strangers at local fast food restaurants. Here are some of their stories.

Nicole R. Balza


Beautiful Savior, Moncks Corner, S.C., dedicated its first church in May. “Our partnership with the WELS Board for Home Missions and WELS Church Extension Fund has provided us with a wonderful facility, built to God’s glory,” says Jonathan Quinn, home missionary at Beautiful Savior. “We are already starting to see the fruit of the gospel proclamation we have been able to do in our church building. We held vacation Bible school here this summer, and registrations are coming in for preschool in falljust two more opportunities to connect with the community and connect those souls to Jesus through the gospel!”


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Illumine, Rock Hill, S.C.

Twice a year, Illumine holds a free yard sale. We prepare food and coffee for all who visit. Hundreds of people stop by, some in great need, all encouraged by the thought that churches can still be generous.

During our first sale, a young family who had worshiped with us a couple of times came to peruse the goods. They had a one-year-old boy and another child on the way. During the sale, the mother asked me what she needed to do to get her little baby boy baptized.

My answer was simple, “You just need to ask! When should we do it?”

The family was eagerthey wanted to have the baptism right then and there, We gathered up everyone who was shopping and volunteering, brought them all into the sanctuary, and laughed and applauded as this little boy was washed clean of his sins through the precious gift of baptismal grace. It was a great day to be a mission church!

Kent Reeder, home missionary at Illumine, Rock Hill, S.C.


COMMUNITY OUTREACH THROUGH MORNINGS WITH MOMMY

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Mornings with Mommy, Amazing Grace, Myrtle Beach

The Mornings with Mommy program, developed by WELS member Jessica Panitzke, is used in many home mission congregations. The community program offers classes with age-appropriate activities for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. As Panitzke notes, “Each class is a little different because each one has its own theme, but the basic structure is consistent. We begin with language and literacy activities. Then the instructor explains the different stations set up in the room, which the children can explore at their own pace. At the end of the hour, a snack is served.”

Congregations like Amazing Grace, Myrtle Beach, S.C., appreciate the well-organized curriculum that Panitzke has developed because it opens the door to a pre-evangelism
opportunity to their neighbors. As Ben Zahn, pastor at Amazing Grace, explains, “Mornings with Mommy (pictured) exists to welcome the members of our community into our building, to build relationships with members of our church family, and to build a bridge with those who may be looking for a church home. Anywhere from 7 to 16 moms (as many as 23 kids) attend our twice-a-month sessions. We’ve been blessed to have five families join the congregation since we began offering this program six years ago.”


David and Kris Hart and their kids became members at Amazing Grace, Myrtle Beach, S.C., in January 2015. Across the cul-de-sac from their home, Nick and Angel Santangelo lived with their son, Gavin. David and Kris’ son, Ryan, played frequently with Gavin and invited Gavin to come to church with him.

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David and Kris Hart and family. Ryan Hart pictured in front left.

As Angel Santangelo explains, she and her husband felt it was important to raise their son in the Christian faith but wanted to look beyond the Catholic and Baptist churches in which they’d been raised. Ryan helped them take the next step with his invitation to visit Amazing Grace.

“Gavin wanted to attend on Easter 2015,” says Angel. “However, we had family in town and ended up going to the Catholic Church. Gavin took it upon himself to tell the Harts that he would go with them the following Sunday. Since we had been looking for a church, Nick and I decided that we needed to go as a family. We immediately felt welcome and knew that Sunday that we had finally found our church.”

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Rev. Ben Zahn baptizes Gavin

Ben Zahn, home missionary at Amazing Grace, followed up with the Santangelos the next week. They asked about Baptism since Gavin had never been baptized. After digging into the Scriptures and talking about Baptism, the Santangelos asked Zahn to baptize Gavin the next Sunday. Soon Nick and Angel attended Amazing Grace’s Starting Point class, where they learned more about God’s Word and how to apply it to their lives.

Angel notes, “Once we started attending [Amazing Grace], Jesus became the center of a lot of our daily conversations. We began to see our family grow in Christ’s love, and we have become stronger as Christians and as a family.”

Zahn says, “Nick and Angel have been active participants in the ministry at Amazing Grace. Their story is a testament that children are sometimes the best evangelists.”


Nicole Balza, a staff writer for Forward in Christ magazine, is a member at Bethlehem, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. 

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

 

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Author: Nicole R. Balza and various writers
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Mission Updates

MISSION UPDATES


Philippines

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Phillipines

Pastor Alvien De Guzman, a native Philippine missionary, serves a small flock of faithful believers in a suburb of Manila. They are using videos and printed materials from Multi-Language Publications to reach out to the unchurched in their community and are looking to begin ministering to prospects in outlying areas. WELS supports De Guzman and Law and Gospel Evangelical Lutheran Church with monthly contact and additional resources.


Romani

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Romania

Iliyan Itsov, a pastor in the Bulgarian Lutheran Church, has a new mission project in Europe: outreach to Roma (gypsies). A Roma himself, Itsov has a unique understanding about how to share the gospel with the western world’s most mistreated ethnic group, a group numbering about 10 million people. He ministers to the Romani in five villages in Bulgaria, including training leaders in each village to conduct worship. Pictured is a new group in Zlataritsa, Bulgaria, where a core group of 17 Roma worships weekly using sermons Itsov provides. Itsov is also working with WELS sister churches in Europe to gather groups of Roma workers and immigrants whom these sister churches will then serve.


Liberia

Liberian spiritual leader Isaac David is reaching out to legal immigrants in Las Vegas, Nev., as well as working to establish the Confessional Lutheran Church in Liberia. He opened a church in Las Vegas—the Chapel of Improvement Christian Fellowship—and is working closely with Water of Life in Las Vegas. He also is studying with local WELS pastors. David and several WELS pastors traveled to Liberia in April 2016 to train leaders and members (pictured in top photo) and to attend the church body’s first convention.


United States

The Board for Home Missions authorized eight new mission starts in 2016, five of which are second sites for established congregations. The new ministries include:

Rockwall, Texas: Connected with Divine Peace in Garland, Texas, this multi-site mission will have two locations for worship, but one leadership team and budget. More than 20 members from Divine Peace are living in the target area.

Victoria, Texas: A second pastor will be needed to serve this new multi-site mission outreach by Redeemer, Edna, Texas, as the pastor at Redeemer offers both English and Spanish worship each Sunday.

Stevens Point, Wis.: In 2015, Divine Word, Plover, Wis., called a second pastor to focus on campus ministry at UW–Stevens Point as well as reach out in the community. Recently, Divine Word purchased a building for a campus center and second worship site.

Meridian, Idaho: Cross of Christ, Boise, Idaho, is starting this multi-site mission to serve families living in the neighboring city of Meridian.

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: Members of St. Matthew, Spokane, Wash., will support this new mission, located about 35 miles away. More than 25 adult members will make up the launch team that will work with the mission pastor.

Lehi, Utah: Prince of Peace, Salt Lake City, is starting this mission south of Salt Lake City in an area that has a strong Mormon presence.

Fredericksburg, Va.: Members from Trinity, Woodbridge, Va., are eager to start a mission in this growing community about 40 miles away.

Atlanta, Ga.: The city of Atlanta is ringed by seven WELS churches. Over the past two years, WELS members have been holding Bible studies in the city, and a core group has been established.


THANKS, LWMS!

For 53 years, the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) has been increasing awareness of, interest in, and support of WELS mission outreach. More than 1,100 women met at the recent 2016 national convention in St. Charles, Ill., to learn more about missions and to show their support. About $53,000 was gathered during the convention for mission projects, and more than $143,000 was received throughout the year.


MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

FOLLOW THE LATEST WELS NEWS

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Author: Various Authors
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Moments with Missionaries: Sparks, Nevada

SPARKS, NEVADA

Steven M. Hillmer

Growing up in the mid-1960s, Greg said his mom would drop him off at church on Sunday, but she did not attend. Greg learned about Jesus in a general way, but inconsistencies made it difficult for him to connect with Jesus in a personal way.

Things changed when he was 14. The offering was taken, and the plates were brought forward. The pastor received them and announced, “You can do better,” so he passed them back to the ushers for a second round. That was the last time Greg attended church.

Fast-forward 42 years. Greg’s wife, Joloyce, began attending The Springs, a WELS home mission in Sparks, Nevada. At first Greg did not attend. He drove her to church but stayed in the car to read. Eventually Greg joined her for worship and attended congregational meals.

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Joloyce and Greg, The Springs, Sparks, Nevada

About six months passed. It was time to invite Greg to join the new Bible information class, but Greg wasn’t feeling well. He was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer.

But while cancer was doing its thing, the Holy Spirit was at work doing what he does. At the services Greg attended, he heard the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit created faith in his heart. Greg now warmly welcomed visits and devotions. He discovered the love of other believers, expressed through their phone calls, cards, and compassion.

On Pentecost Sunday, Greg was too weak to come to worship, so an afternoon visit was in order. I began by reading the Pentecost account. We talked about how Peter didn’t sugarcoat his message. When I asked Greg if he knew how many people were baptized that day, he instantly replied, “Three thousand! We just read this in our morning devotion.”

Then Greg said, “I want to get my house in order. I want to be baptized.”

We filled a bowl with water and rejoiced. With God’s Word, the water became a wonderful water of life. The Holy Spirit bestowed upon Greg the blessings of Baptism—forgiveness of sins, salvation, and the assurance of eternal life. It was an incredible moment.

Greg’s health declined rapidly. One morning, we stood by Greg’s bed reading Scriptures, praying, and singing hymns. Then we sat around the kitchen table. A few minutes later, Joloyce walked back to Greg, and his labored breathing had ended. His eyes were closed. Greg was home with Jesus.

I stayed with Joloyce into the afternoon. We closed with a devotion on Psalm 130, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope” (v. 5). Greg’s waiting was over. Now Greg’s new day had dawned. No more cancer. No more pain. Just Jesus and the joy he promises.

I left with several bags of pennies. A few weeks earlier, Greg had mentioned that he wanted his coins to be put in our congregation’s building fund. My sons counted the rolls—9,650 pennies, or $96.50. The next day, Joloyce said that they found the rest of Greg’s coins. This time it wasn’t just pennies, but nickels, dimes, and quarters too. The total rose to $516!

The following Sunday’s Gospel lesson was the story of the sinful woman who poured oil on Jesus’ feet. She knew she had been forgiven much, and she wanted to express her love. Near the end of the sermon, I shared Greg’s story and placed his envelope in the offering plate. Greg had been forgiven much. Greg loved much, and he wanted to share what he had to help others know of Jesus’ love.

This is why we plant missions and share the gospel. Some might say this happened just in the nick of time for Greg, but it was all in God’s timetable. We at The Springs were privileged to be God’s instruments, sharing his love and grace.


Steven Hillmer serves as a home missionary at The Springs, Sparks, Nevada.

 

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

 

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Author: Steven M. Hillmer
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Sharing The Good News With Every Neighbor: Home Missions: Michigan

God is richly blessing the work of WELS Home Missions. Missionaries and their members are finding ways to share God’s good news with friends, relatives, neighbors—and sometimes even strangers at local fast food restaurants. Here are some of their stories.

Nicole R. Balza


 

Residents and caretakers of a local adult care home join members at Spirit of Life, Caledonia, Mich., for worship every Sunday. As Allen Kirschbaum, home missionary at Spirit of Life, reports, “Our members love to walk out to the cars and guide the residents into our sanctuary. Each month we have activities for those residents, such as making decorations for our Christmas trees and a Christmas play. Their faith is a massive encouragement to a young mission congregation.


A HOME MISSIONARY REMEMBERS: GOD HAS A PLAN

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Crown of Life, Cadillac, Mich.

When I was assigned to Crown of Life as a home missionary, I knew that a major part of my job would entail sharing the gospel with the unchurched. But after my first nine months and no one interested in Bible information class, I was pretty down on myself and on the work.

But the Lord had a plan.

On the day my daughter was baptized, a young couple visited our church. They were expecting twins and looking for a church home. After the service, I talked to the couple and invited them to our potluck. They talked to more people and decided to enroll in Bible information class.

Four months later, I confirmed the parents (my first confirmands) and baptized the twins in the same service. Three years later, they are faithful in worship and Bible class. This fall, they will be part of our inaugural preschool-aged weekly Bible camp.

Jeff Sonntag, home missionary at Crown of Life, Cadillac, Mich.


Nicole Balza, a staff writer for Forward in Christ magazine, is a member at Bethlehem, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. 

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

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Author: Nicole R. Balza and various writers
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Using Cultural Connections to further Outreach: St. Paul, Minnesota

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA

Julie K. Wietzke

With 230 members, Immanuel Hmong, St. Paul, Minn., is the largest US WELS Hmong congregation. But it’s not only concentrating on spreading the gospel message in Minnesota. Since fall 2015, Immanuel Hmong has been livestreaming its worship services to broaden the spread of the gospel to Hmong people around the world. “This will help us to share the gospel to places where we are not able to go or where our people do not have a church,” says Pheng Moua, pastor at Immanuel Hmong. WELS Hmong members also can tell their loved ones around the world about this opportunity for weekly worship. About 50 people watch every week from places such as Thailand, Vietnam, France, Australia, East Asia, Laos, and the United States.

Immanuel Hmong also was the site of the recent WELS Hmong National Conference (pictured), in which Hmong pastors and laymembers from around the world strengthened their faith through worship and Bible study and learned more about each other’s ministries.

More than 165 people came from Hmong congregations such as

• Grace Hmong, a home mission in Kansas City, Kan., that recently obtained its own worship facility through a special grant and loan from WELS Church Extension Fund.

• Faith Hmong, Anchorage, Alaska, which shares a building with Faith Anglo, a congregation reaching out to Spanish-speakers.

• Mount Calvary Hmong, a congregation supported by La Crosse, Wis., area WELS churches.

• Trinity Hmong, Manitowoc, Wis., a congregation that grew out of a 30-year mission of First German to reach an immigrant community in Manitowoc.

• Christ’s Gospel Hmong, Clovis, and Faith Hmong, Fresno, two newer California congregations reaching out to family and clan members in the area.

One pastor and his wife from Thailand also attended.

“The encouraging moment is when I see members who live in places where we do not have a church or the church is very small come and see that we have many people worshiping and praising the Lord,” says Moua, who helped plan the conference. “The gathering is uplifting to the members and will encourage their walk with Jesus Christ.”


Julie Wietzke is managing editor of Forward in Christ magazine.

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HOME MISSIONS

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Author: Julie K. Wietzke
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Using Cultural Connections to further Outreach: Combining Home and World Mission outreach efforts

COMBINING HOME AND WORLD MISSION OUTREACH EFFORTS

Julie K. Wietzke

“Around 15 million Hmong are living in darkness. They are oppressed, not only by the power of the devil but also by the power of men,” says Bounkeo Lor, a native Hmong man trained as a pastor through the Pastoral Studies Institute of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.

Lor has a passion for reaching out to his Hmong brothers and sisters. With a foot in outreach in both the United States (pastor at Grace Hmong, Kansas City, Kan.) and abroad (teaching leadership workshops in Vietnam), he is a natural pick as one of two Hmong pastors serving on the WELS Global Hmong Committee, a group that oversees Hmong ministry around the world.

Started as a pilot project in 2015 by the Joint Mission Council, this four-person committee allows the Hmong to have a greater input and responsibility for outreach to their people group. This includes weighing outreach opportunities—both domestic and international—and determining where funds should be spent. “It’s not a bunch of white guys making a decision of what’s best for Hmong ministry, but it’s guys on the front lines who know the culture,” says Robert Raasch, World Missions representative on the Global Hmong Committee. “You get the best of both worlds: men with a strong theological foundation and a passion for outreach—and it’s their culture.”

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In January, the Global Hmong Committee met with Hmong national pastors and lay leaders in Thailand to share ministry developments and to discuss further opportunities for working together.

Worldwide in WELS, 25 Hmong pastors serve 8 ministries in the United States and 15 congregations and preaching stations in Thailand and the surrounding area. In addition, there are new opportunities for further Hmong outreach in Vietnam and East Asia and potential for new ministries in the United States.

Lor shares that family, or clan, connections are strong in the Hmong culture, tying these world and home mission fields together. This, he says, makes a joint committee all that more important. “We need each other for the growth of the Hmong ministry,” he says.

He continues, “Sometimes the gap of doing ministry across cultures is so wide that without Hmong representatives, we may lack insight into the best way to do Hmong ministry.”

Both he and Pheng Moua, the other Hmong pastor on the committee, are thankful to be part of a group that is working to further Hmong outreach around the world.

“It is an honor to serve the Lord in this capacity and to touch the lives of the Hmong in different locations and walks of life spiritually,” says Moua. “I serve them to the best of my ability as a bridge builder, to connect and to share their concerns and to walk alongside them. It is not my intention to enforce programs and plans for the mission field; it is my intention to let them grow and take ownership of the mission and ministry.”

He continues, “Hmong outreach is a part of the Great Commission inside the Lord’s church. We will do as much as we can to reach out to them so that their souls will be saved.”


Julie Wietzke is managing editor of Forward in Christ magazine.

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HOME MISSIONS

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Author: Julie K. Wietzke
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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A New Way to Reach Spanish Speakers: Serving both sides of the border

SERVING BOTH SIDES OF THE BORDER

Rachel Hartman

Many Hispanics in the United States have close ties to other areas in Latin America. For Hispanic Lutherans, the desire to share Christian resources with relatives and friends in other areas is often strong. Occasionally, Hispanic members are even looking for a new church home as they head back to Central or South America.

In the past, sharing gospel resources with those south of the border was frequently a challenge. Congregations are spread out, and travel distances between them are often great, making it difficult for those interested in attending worship.

Today, through online resources such as academiacristo.com, which offers free Christian materials to Spanish speakers everywhere, that is changing.

“We have such a diverse congregation,” notes Abe Degner, pastor at Christ the Lord, Houston, Texas, which serves a Spanish-speaking population in the area.

With members from more than ten different Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, when it comes to the opportunity to use sites like Academia Cristo, “there’s a lot of potential,” he explains.

Twice when members moved back to areas south of the border where there were no nearby Lutheran churches, Degner directed them to these online resources.

Two women involved at Christ the Lord lived in El Salvador during their early years. Now in Houston, they have used Academia Cristo as a way to share the gospel with family members back home.

Not long ago, one of the ladies pulled Degner aside and asked how to do a baptism if there wasn’t a Lutheran church. “I talked her through it,” notes Degner. “That’s an example of where those resources can be so useful.”


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Dalila Campos

Meet Dalila Campos, originally from El Salvador, now living in Houston. She attends Christ the Lord in Houston and appreciates the resources from Academia Cristo, as seen in her Facebook post: “Thank you, Academia Cristo, for your faithful work in preaching the gospel to all people. Having you has been a big blessing for me. As I meditate on your publications, I renew my faith in Christ my Savior, but I also review things I learned as a girl and thought I knew but am now remembering. In this way I am ready, every day, for the work of spreading the gospel to others through this fresh and simple method, which is easy to understand. May God continue blessing you. I truly love you in the love of Christ our Lord.”


Rachel Hartman and her husband, Missionary Michael Hartman, serve in León, Mexico.

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HELP WELS REACH THE WORLD

Your offering to WELS Missions will help more missionaries go to more places and share the gospel with more people.

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Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Sharing The Good News With Every Neighbor: Home Missions: More Home Missions

God is richly blessing the work of WELS Home Missions. Missionaries and their members are finding ways to share God’s good news with friends, relatives, neighbors—and sometimes even strangers at local fast food restaurants. Here are some of their stories.

Nicole R. Balza


ARIZONABRINGING HOME THE GOSPEL

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Santo Tomas, Phoenix, Ariz.

Santo Tomas, Phoenix, Ariz., has been reaching out with the gospel since 1997. Every week Jorge and his wife, Gaby, along with their daughter visit homes throughout the west valley of Phoenix. They lead adult and children’s Bible classes and activities, all with the goal of bringing Jesus and his love into their lives. Jorge is a volunteer evangelist for Santo Tomas and serves on its church council.

As Tom Zimdars, home missionary to Santo Tomas, explains, “These home group classes break down the barriers and fears that some may have about attending a church at first. It is an informal setting as they gather in living rooms and at kitchen tables growing and learning about their Savior.”


IDAHO

Dan Kramer, home missionary at Peace, Boise, Idaho, in Jesus, says, “As the ministry and opportunities our congregation is given to continue to become broader and more global, we keep clear and primary our call to reach out to the Vietnamese souls in the greater Treasure Valley (Boise, Idaho, area)with the true treasure, which is Christ and his gospel.”


NEBRASKAFOSTERING PERSONAL EVANGELISM EXCITEMENT

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Blair, Neb.

Dan Johnston arrived in Blair, Neb., in July 2015 to open a new WELS home mission congregation, Living Savior. The congregation’s first services began taking place this summer. Johnston says, “Living Savior is trying to create an environment—both individually and corporately—that fosters personal evangelism excitement. There is a coffee bar in our leased space that is open to the public during office hours. The members are also being instructed in reaching out to people in their personal lives. Friendship evangelism and forming real connections are where the rubber hits the road for us.”


NEW YORK

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Redemption, Watertown, N.Y.

Gunnar, the son of a member family, goes to a university about an hour-and-a-half away. While away, Gunnar began dating Holly. When Gunnar would come home, he came to church. Holly came too. After the first couple of visits, I noticed that Holly was really attentive during the sermons. Since Gunnar would usually stay for Bible class, she would too.

After a while, she approached me and asked what it would take to get baptized. So I told her, “Let’s begin a Bible basics class. We’ll go through a few lessons and see if you still want to be baptized and then finish it and you can take communion.”

She would come with Gunnar almost twice a week to study Bible basics. She would ask insightful questions like, “Why do some teach this when Scripture obviously says this?”

So we got to celebrate an adult baptism—one more 20-something the Lord added to our small group. As a congregation, we were ecstatic.

I know that the “nones” (those who say their religion affiliation is “none”) are on a rise, but I have evidence in our small congregation that the Word of God is still powerful enough to change people. We are a congregation meeting in a conference center with digital music and with a small group of people, Who would want to come? On paper, it doesn’t make sense. But it doesn’t have to, because our message is the power of God for salvation.

Aaron Goetzinger, home missionary at Redemption, Watertown, N.Y.


Nicole Balza, a staff writer for Forward in Christ magazine, is a member at Bethlehem, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. 

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

 

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Author: Nicole R. Balza and various writers
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Sharing The Good News With Every Neighbor: Home Missions: Colorado

God is richly blessing the work of WELS Home Missions. Missionaries and their members are finding ways to share God’s good news with friends, relatives, neighbors—and sometimes even strangers at local fast food restaurants. Here are some of their stories.

Nicole R. Balza


URBAN OUTREACH SERVES PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL NEEDS

“As I teach adults English as a Second Language (ESL), my favorite class is the one where we use simple sentences about Jesus as our Savior,” says Eileen Zanto, a home missions staff minister at Christ, Denver, Colo. Zanto is pictured here with graduates of one of her ESL classes.

Zanto continues, “Because our mission has been located on a corner in a residential area for more than 15 years, people easily stop in at any time, some just wanting to say hi. Others come in with both their physical and spiritual needs. The neighborhood is changing, but the need for a Savior for each and every person will never change.”


 

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Matt Frey and family

Matt Frey, home missionary at Living Word, Montrose, Colo., says, “We started a preschool four years ago for the purpose of outreach and do whatever we can to mine the prospects that come through our doors. In fact, I am taking a family through Bible information class right now and just baptized all five of them in a private baptism. It was a great day for both the family and for me!”


Nicole Balza, a staff writer for Forward in Christ magazine, is a member at Bethlehem, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. 

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

 

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Author: Nicole R. Balza
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Sharing The Good News With Every Neighbor: Home Missions: Texas

God is richly blessing the work of WELS Home Missions. Missionaries and their members are finding ways to share God’s good news with friends, relatives, neighbors—and sometimes even strangers at local fast food restaurants. Here are some of their stories.

Nicole R. Balza


I arrived as Peace’s first home missionary in July 2015. Around September, I came to church and found Louis standing outside our ministry center. Louis is 74 years old. I introduced myself and began talking with him. I told him that I was the pastor of the church right here, and he said to me, “Oh, you’re the pastor? Wow! Do you think you could buy me a beer?” I told him that I wouldn’t, but if he’d like to come in, I’d be happy to talk with him.

The Sunday after that conversation, Louis showed up at church. He can’t drive, so he walked two miles to church. Ever since that day, I’ve been picking him up for church.

Louis’ eyesight is so bad that he can’t even read the large-print Bible. I finally tracked down a giant-print Bible and dropped it off at his house. When I gave it to him, he wrapped me in the biggest bear hug that I’ve ever received.

Louis has since stopped drinking, and he now knows and believes that Jesus loves him and has forgiven his sins.

Steven Apt, home missionary at Peace, Liberty Hill, Texas


ABIDING SAVIOR’S GOAL: MEET MORE PEOPLE

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Abiding Savior, Killeen, Texas

Abiding Savior, Killeen, Texas, sets up an outreach booth once each month at an area farmers’ market. Steve Dorn, home missionary at Abiding Savior, says, “Our number-one goal is simply to meet more people. The second step is to make sure that the people we meet know what the Bible says about how to get to heaven. The third step is to invite people to come worship Christ with us.” In addition to talking with community members, Abiding Savior’s volunteers come prepared with a variety of literature to hand out, including summaries of Bible basics, biblical answers to commonly asked questions, and invitations to worship.


Nicole Balza, a staff writer for Forward in Christ magazine, is a member at Bethlehem, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. 

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HELP WELS REACH THE WORLD

Your offering to WELS Missions will help more missionaries go to more places and share the gospel with more people.

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Author: Nicole R. Balza and various writers
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Moments with Missionaries: Queens, New York

QUEENS, NEW YORK

Timothy C. Bourman

“Never forget.” That is the slogan that you can find scrawled all over our city. Usually the names of those lost in the 9/11 attacks are written right next to the call to remember.

Earlier this year it dawned on me for the first time that young people don’t know much about Sept. 11, 2001. They never experienced it. We are already almost 15 years removed from the event itself. In other words, most teenagers will know about 9/11, but they know about 9/11 sort of like I know that JFK was assassinated. There is knowledge of the event itself but none of the emotion.

Michael O’Leary, a tough Irishman who spent most of his life working for the Daily News, can remember that day like it was yesterday. He can remember watching the towers fall. He can remember returning to the site as a volunteer day after day after day after day to “clean up” the area, which entailed some very graphic scenes. He didn’t know—in fact, nobody knew—how toxic the fumes were. He didn’t know that every day, every hour spent at the site was wrecking his lungs and that the sights and sounds would leave him suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. You can probably already guess it: 9/11 for him isn’t over—not by a long shot. Every few months he is forced to remember 9/11 because he ends up in the emergency room short of breath. They tell him that his lungs are destroyed.

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Rev. Tim Bourman and Michael O’Leary

I met Mike for the first time years ago on the street in front of our church. He was living in a total dump of a house in a tiny little room. It took my breath away when I saw where he was living. He was trying to hold it all together, but—he would openly admit—he wasn’t. He was drinking too much and struggling to pull his life together. I tried working with him to bring him the gospel, but it wasn’t God’s time.

Three years passed, and I saw him on the street again with the No. 7 train pounding over our heads. He was doing everything he could to get sober, and Alcoholics Anonymous was there for him, but he still needed to know about this “higher power” that they always talked about.

I told him that I would tell him all about Jesus. That day on the street I invited him to church. The gospel won his heart. Now he only misses church when he can’t breathe.

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Sure Foundation, Queens, N.Y.

Mike understands that there was a bigger event in history that means more to him than 9/11. He knows that on Good Friday Jesus died to pay for all sin. He knows that Easter Sunday promises brand-new lungs. Mike has found a growing body of believers at Sure Foundation that will support him through it all. In his words, “I’ve got good people all around me.”

This is why we are here in New York City. We’re here so that our city will “never forget” all that Jesus has won.


Tim Bourman serves as a home missionary at Sure Foundation, Queens, New York.

 

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HELP WELS REACH THE WORLD

Your offering to WELS Missions will help more missionaries go to more places and share the gospel with more people.

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Author: Timothy C. Bourman
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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