Tag Archive for: joint missions

“One Faith, One Family.” – Hmong National Conference 2022

What would lead people to pack into three vehicles at 11:30 p.m. and drive through the night from Kansas City to Wisconsin or catch the 2:00 a.m. red eye flight from Fresno to Milwaukee? The answer is the Hmong National Conference hosted by Trinity Hmong in Manitowoc, Wis., this past July 29-31. After canceling the last two national conferences due to COVID, about 170 Hmong brothers and sisters were finally able to gather together to celebrate with food, fellowship, and the Word of God.

The theme for the gathering was, “One Faith, One Family.” Separate breakout sessions were held in English for the teens and in Hmong for the adults.

Pastor Sam Lor of St. John’s, Minneapolis, Minn., led about 50 teens through the topic, “Cultural Identity through Baptismal Identity.” Why this subject? Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) student and cohost, Semson Lor, said, “In the world today you can identify so many different ways. We wanted teens to see who they are in Christ.”

At the same time the teens met, Pastor Pheng Moua of Immanuel Hmong in St. Paul, Minn., was leading the adults in the Bible Study, “How to Encourage One Another.” “We are living in the End Times and it is important to motivate each other and build each other up in order to let our light shine to the world.”

All the devotions, sermons, and Bible studies of the conference reinforced the theme, “One Faith, One Family.” Pastor Ger Lor of Grace Hmong in Kansas City, Kans., stated, “Unity of brothers and sisters in Christ was what the Savior prayed among his disciples: ‘that they may all be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, and they may also be one in us.’ The gospel creates a unity of faith with our Father, our Savior and our fellow believers.”

Pastor Joel Nitz was also in attendance for the first time since he took the call to serve the Hmong in Vietnam. He reflected, “I had a wonderful experience as I connected with our WELS Hmong members in the U.S., worshiped and learned with them, and practiced my Hmong language skills.”

In addition to feeding the soul, there was plenty of food for the body. The meals reflected the different places Hmong people have called home over the decades. Laotian pho was served for lunch one day and all-American hamburgers served picnic style for dinner on another. In order to work off the extra calories, a sports tournament was held on Friday that included volleyball and corn hole.

The highlight of the conference was at the Sunday morning worship service where the group expressed their spiritual and doctrinal unity at the Communion Service.

And why travel so far? Pastor Xing Yang of Faith in Clovis, Calif., shared, “Jesus. I tell the people it is about Jesus.” The next Hmong National Conference is scheduled for 2024 in Fresno, Calif.

Written by Rev. Leon Ehlert, Chairman for the North America Hmong Committee

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WELS Missions – 2022 Impact Report

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. . .

Matthew 28:19

God is blessing the efforts of WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions in amazing ways! Your prayers and gifts are making a difference in communities across the U.S. and around the world; we are grateful for your generosity.

Here are some ways your gifts are being used to share the good news of the gospel.

HOME MISSIONS

  • Five new churches were approved in Windsor, Colo.; Wichita, Kans.; Canton, Ga.; Conroe, Tex; and Lodi, Wis. Home Missions also approved enhancements or unsubsidized mission status at seven other locations. Learn more at wels.net/newstart.
  • Campus Ministry provides over 30 campus ministries with financial support and assists hundreds of other congregations in their campus ministry outreach.
  • Plans and preparations are being made to plant 100 new home mission churches and enhance 75 existing ministries from 2023-2033. Learn more at wels.net/100in10.

WORLD MISSIONS

  • Two missionaries are beginning ministry in London this year.
  • Over 500 worldwide gospel ministers are proclaiming the Good News, and more than 90 additional men have graduated from worker training programs this year alone.
  • Building of the theological education center in Vietnam has begun.
  • Plans are being made to welcome a synod in Uganda and an international synod in Latin America into WELS fellowship at the 2023 Synod Convention.
  • Nine new missionary positions have been approved.

JOINT MISSIONS

  • The Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) is working with One Teams around the world and providing theological training to immigrants in the U.S. for service to their people groups.
  • Mission Journeys provides opportunities for volunteer trips to WELS mission fields at home and abroad.

Praise God for his mercy and grace and thank YOU for your prayers and support! There is always more work to do, and we are grateful for your continued partnership. Pray for God’s blessing on his Church. Share God’s grace and forgiveness with others you meet. Ask God to give us strength to serve others with love.

Learn more at wels.net/missions and like us on Facebook at fb.com/WELSMissions

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NEW Long-Term Volunteer Opportunities

Jesus gave the Great Commission to the Church saying, “go and make disciples of all nations.” Christians throughout the millennia chose different ways and methods to carry out our Savior’s command. Starting in Acts, churches saw the need to send missionaries to reach people with the gospel. In WELS, members partnered together to start churches throughout the United States and to send missionaries to many parts of the globe. WELS Home Missions, seeing the great need for the gospel, continues to plant new churches in hopes of the Holy Spirit reaching more souls for God’s Kingdom.

WELS Mission Journeys, under the leadership of WELS Home Missions, is starting a pilot program to give more individuals the opportunity to share their faith through a long-term volunteer opportunity. Mission Journeys wants to place mission-oriented individuals in strategic locations to assist in forming and developing quality core groups, the building blocks in starting new home missions. A core group is the local group that does the work of meeting, praying, outreach, planning, and evangelism.

We’re looking for individuals that love Jesus and can communicate that love with other people. They’ll need patience, flexibility, and a spirit of adventure. This would be a tent ministry, where the individual would have a job outside of the ministry to support themselves. This could include remote work, a local job, or some combination. Mission Journeys, as a part of this pilot project, will work with the individual for possible financial assistance in moving or other expenses.

Current opportunities include:

  • Bentonville, Arkansas: Bentonville is the home of Walmart, a corporation investing heavily in the community to provide a higher quality of life. The economy is booming for jobs in all job markets. The core group consists of four families.
  • Idaho Falls, Idaho (Now filled): Idaho Falls is located on the western side of Teton National Park. Idaho Falls is a fast-growing area and a hub for the surrounding area. The core group consists of three families.

WELS Home Missions provides each location with a proven plan on starting. Each location has a home mission counselor to assist in planning and coordinating ministry ideas. The core groups also worship with a pastor twice a month. This pilot program is designed to give an individual with a heart for missions the opportunity to work on the ground floor of a mission start.

For additional information, please contact Mission Journeys Coordinator, Shannon Bohme, at shannon.bohme@wels.net or 651-324-4218.

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Faces of Faith – Contreras Family

Salvador Contreras has always been a student of God’s Word with lots of questions. In his research online, he came across the app Academia Cristo, which is an online Bible training tool used by the WELS Latin America mission team. Through personal study and the Bible classes offered via Academia Cristo, Salvador and Natividad knew they wanted to find a Lutheran church to continue growing in their faith and bring their children up in the Word. And so they walked into our building (a home mission congregation) one Sunday last summer. Their children were baptized in July 2021, and Salvador and Natividad were confirmed in March 2022. Now our discussions revolve around promoting Academia Cristo to Spanish speakers in the Denver area so Salvador can share the same peace he has found. As the seeds are planted and watered, we have a church community ready to serve them!

From Paul Biedenbender, missionary at Christ Lutheran Church in Denver, Colo.

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Faces of Faith – Semson Lor

I remember being in high school 10 years ago and people would ask me if I wanted to become a pastor, just like my father (Daniel Lor – Trinity Hmong, Manitowoc, Wis.). I would automatically answer “No” without giving it a second thought. This all changed when I left home and lived by myself. Suddenly everything I had learned growing up in the Lutheran church became something of the past. But as I fell into sin and personal struggles, the Holy Spirit kept tugging at my heart. I knew this wasn’t how God wanted me to live my life. As a child and a teen, I did not think much about my faith. But when struggles came, the foundations of my faith were what I could fall back on for hope and comfort. Even though I tried so hard to run away from the Lord, he was always pursuing me and being true to his promises that he had given to me in my baptism. I moved back home and became obsessed with reading scripture and studying theology and our Lutheran doctrine. I also started helping my father out at church, and I fell in love with ministry. It’s been a great blessing be able study in the PSI program. I’ve been able to learn from great teachers who are equipping me to proclaim this message of forgiveness to a world that is hurting, depressed, scared, and have no hope. They need to know that they have a Savior that lived perfectly for us so God could wash away all their guilt and sin. Though we may hurt, though we may suffer depression, though we may still be scared, we now have hope.

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Love your neighbors – of all faiths

My wife and I spent a week with a young man and his wife who have a heart for reaching out to those of Muslim faith. During the month of Ramadan they held a party at a ministry house where they like to spend time with their Muslim friends. As you may know, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during the 30 days of Ramadan. According to custom we broke the fast – at 8:20 p.m. that night – and everyone was given a fig to eat. We then enjoyed many special foods packed with flavor. Laughter and love filled the house. Our hosts and guests played the guitar and ukulele and sang songs until well past midnight. More than 35 guests joined us this night.

The day before this party the host asked me to have a devotion for his friends at the party. He said, “The most important thing is to tell them about the love of Jesus. It makes a deep impression – how Jesus loved even his enemies and asked God to forgive them when he was nailed to the cross.”

We had a devotion on Jesus being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and his crucifixion. Jesus was not weak – as some think. He was strong. He could have escaped. The mob fell backwards when Jesus said, “I am he.” Jesus then rebuked Peter who drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest saying, “Put your sword away!  Don’t you know those who live by the sword will die by the sword?” Then Jesus picked up the severed ear and reattached it. He performed a miracle of healing for the very people who came to hurt him. We also shared some of the words Jesus spoke on the cross, such as, “Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing” – and how he rose again on the third day.

Then we asked, “Why did Jesus suffer and die on the cross if he had the power to escape? We explained, “It was not the nails that held Jesus to the cross, it was his love for you and me.”

The day after the party we traveled 220 miles south to one of the fastest growing cities in America. One of our WELS churches in this large midwestern city has a  center that provides care for women. We had a Henna Party from 3:30-7:30 p.m. With great skill our friend’s wife painted beautiful henna designs on the hands and forearms of all who came – describing the love of Jesus in the designs she made. The woman who has served as the director of this center for more than 25 years and the dedicated ladies who volunteer made everything run smoothly.

I was planning to “stay out of the way” but as the first people arrived, I was stunned to find many from the countries I serve on the other side of the world. My heart swelled as I spoke with some of them in their native tongue. It was a parade of nations – 75-100 ladies from places like Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Nepal, Bhutan, Assam, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Malaysia, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. My eyes marveled as I realized – God is bringing the nations to us! You no longer have to go overseas to share the gospel with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. They are here! On our doorsteps!

My friend told me, “The most important thing is that you love Muslims. Really love them – even if they show no interest in Christianity. If they think you are a friend because you want them to become Christians, they will feel you are a hypocrite. Be kind to them. Spend time with them. Care about their families. Let them be in your heart – and in your prayers – and even in your living room! When you introduce them to the Friend of Sinners, be a friend!”

Written by WELS’ friendly counselor to South Asia

 

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Opportunities for Hispanic outreach

More than 2,000 WELS members in North America report that Spanish is their first language. They worship in well over 100 congregations, with almost 20 of those having regular services in Spanish. There are a dozen congregations that do not have Spanish services but still have Spanish Bible classes every week. Every year Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary graduates men who are fluent in both Spanish and English. Over 30 WELS pastors in North America engage their communities in Spanish every day.

There is so much activity in this area that the Board for Home Missions has called a full-time Hispanic Outreach Consultant, Pastor Timothy Flunker. He has plenty to do, including the goal of assisting at least ten new congregations each year to reach out to Hispanic people in their communities.

At the same time, our mission team in Central and South America (the One Latin America Team) has developed an outreach strategy called Christ Academy (Academia Cristo in Spanish). It begins with a mobile app that offers four self-led courses at the Bible Information Class level of study. Over 500,000 people have downloaded the mobile app. The last course in this tier focuses on training students to share what they’ve learned with others. Students must complete all four courses before they are able to sign up for live classes. Over 1,300 people have signed up for live classes.

In the first level of live classes, students work through 13 Bible Institute level classes that are taught live online by a WELS missionary or national partner. At this level, a large emphasis is placed on gathering a group of people to share the gospel message. Over 400 people have completed at least one of the live classes, and about 75 of them have indicated that they have gathered a group.

The Joint Mission Council recently wondered how the Christ Academy model would work in the United States and Canada. They asked the One Latin America (1LA) Team to devise a pilot project using the Christ Academy app in a dozen existing WELS congregations in North America. Rather than adding to Pastor Flunker’s duties, they encouraged the 1LA Team to call a pilot project director from the group of men who were already involved in the Christ Academy program in Central and South America. We are happy to announce that Pastor Carl Leyrer, a veteran in the Christ Academy work, has accepted that call and is beginning his work.

We ask God’s blessings on the work of both Pastor Flunker and Pastor Leyrer.

“A la verdad la mies es mucha, pero los obreros pocos. Rogad, pues, al Señor de la mies, que envíe obreros a su mies” (Matthew 9:37-38).

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'”

Written by Paul Prange, Joint Mission Council Chairman.

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New locations for cross-cultural outreach

One of the primary focuses of WELS Joint Missions is supporting people group ministries, where immigrants who have joined our fellowship in the United States and Canada are able to take the gospel back to friends and family in their country of origin. WELS currently supports 14 Hispanic ministries, 5 Hmong ministries, 4 African ministries, and single Korean, Chinese, Muslim, Vietnamese, and Hindu ministries throughout North America. Six additional mission churches are considered multicultural ministries, which means that more than two different cultures are being served. Many of these people group ministries have opened doors to new world mission work around the globe.

At a recent meeting, the Joint Mission Council approved financial support for two additional locations. Rev. Paul Prange, chairman of the Joint Mission Council, shares, “We are just grateful for the opportunities we have to support these fine people who are often working under difficult circumstances. Their optimism about the importance of the gospel is inspiring, and their willingness to work with us is humbling.”

New Sudanese Mission—Phoenix, Ariz.

In 2020, Rev. Simon Duoth graduated from the Pastoral Studies Institute and was assigned to conduct Sudanese outreach full time in the Pacific Northwest District. When unforeseen family circumstances forced the Duoth family to move to Phoenix, Ariz., conversations began between the Pacific Northwest and the Arizona-California district mission boards about the opportunity to plant a new Sudanese ministry in the area. Research shows that 4,000 Sudanese people live in the city. It was then discovered that a WELS church, Emmaus, was only four blocks away from a Sudanese cultural center. Emmaus’ church leadership is willing and excited to offer its church as a worship center as Duoth begins outreach.

God is also continuing to provide for Sudanese outreach in the Pacific Northwest. A member and longtime evangelist in the current Sudanese congregation located at Divine Peace in Renton, Wash., is stepping up to serve as leader of the church. He will begin training in the Pastoral Studies Institute as he leads Sudanese ministry in the area.

Mission Enhancement—Las Vegas, Nev.

The Korean Fellowship Lutheran Church, served by Korean Pastor Rev. Taesang Kim, is self-supporting and shares a campus with Water of Life, Las Vegas, Nev. Recently, Rev. Youngha Kim and his wife, Margaret, retired to the Las Vegas area. Youngha Kim was trained at Bethany Lutheran Seminary (Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s seminary) and has previously served in Korean ministry in the U.S. and in South Korea. Funding will allow the Korean Fellowship Lutheran Church to call Youngha Kim to reconnect with the elderly and retirees after the pandemic, freeing up Taesang Kim’s time to engage with Korean teenagers and young professionals.

Learn more about WELS Joint Missions at wels.net/jointmissions.

 

 

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Registration now open! Taste of Missions 2022

Registration is now open for Taste of Missions, a hybrid event that will be held on Saturday, June 11, 2022. Join us in person at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis., OR online to get a “taste of missions” no matter where you might be around the world.

The event kicks off with a special worship service where we plan to commission new home and world missionaries. Sample ethnic cuisine from some of our mission fields while enjoying fellowship and presentations from home and world missionaries alike. View displays, participate in outdoor family-friendly activities, and ask questions about the ups and downs of mission work during panel discussions.

Virtual attendees will be able to watch all events via livestream, view additional video updates from missionaries, and try their hand at making one of the many ethnic recipes shared on the website. View the full itinerary at tasteofmissions.com.

Registration is $15 per person, with children 13 and under attending for free. Those attending in person will receive food tickets to sample ethnic food and will have the ability to purchase additional food from the food trucks. Or attend virtually for free! Sign up today at tasteofmissions.com/register.

See you there!

WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions

 

 

 

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Reflection in the water

It was a long year of online learning for Brenda. The plans to attend a university in San Diego in person were altered by the pandemic. Brenda chose to return home to East Asia and attend classes online. This meant that she was often awake in the middle of the night for live classes that were taking place in California. Even with the scheduling challenges, Brenda found blessings in her situation. She was granted extra time at home with family that she would have otherwise missed. She also found time to reflect on the “family” she had grown to appreciate during her high school years at St. Croix Lutheran High School. Many of the teachers, staff, and fellow students at St. Croix had shown Christian love that left a meaningful impact on her. She recognized what a blessing it was to regularly study God’s Word at St. Croix. Brenda’s plan had been to ask to be baptized around graduation time of her senior year. But during that year the pandemic shifted her interactions with her St. Croix family to be online and she never inquired about baptism. The long, first year of university study online made Brenda eager to connect with Christians when she was finally able to travel to California.

Brenda reached out to Pastor Dave Huebner from St. Croix and asked if he knew of any WELS churches in the San Diego area. Pastor Huebner was able to connect Brenda with Reformation Lutheran Church in San Diego, where it just so happens that a number of the members are originally from East Asia. One of those members is Mark, who is currently enrolled in the WELS Pastoral Studies Institute in hopes of one day serving as a pastor. Mark and Brenda discussed the teachings of our church and eventually Brenda asked if she could be baptized. As I listened to their conversation and later walked Brenda through the process of baptism in our church’s sanctuary, it was clear that the Holy Spirit was at work. From the early years of her high school career to that moment, God had been working through his messengers and message to plant faith in Brenda’s heart. As we looked at the water in the baptismal font, Brenda and I reflected on her story and the way God had worked in her life to make His love known to her.

As the Apostle Paul gave thanks for his gospel partnership with the Philippians (Phil. 1:5) so we also give thanks for the partnership we have in our synod, specifically the partnership between our schools, WELS Campus Ministry, and our congregations.

Rejoice with us that Brenda has found a church family in San Diego where she can continue to grow in the Word. Pray for the partnership between Brenda, Reformation, and WELS Campus Ministry to bring the gospel to more students at Brenda’s university. Finally, take time to reflect in the waters of your own baptism and be reminded once again of the forgiveness and love your God has for you.

Written by Rev. Neil Birkholz, North American Asian ministry consultant.

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Save the date for Taste of Missions 2022!

Join your brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world for Taste of Missions, a hybrid event that will be held on Saturday, June 11, 2022.

What is a hybrid event? We will be back in person conducting a one-day event at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wisconsin. However, if you are not able to be there in person, you can also join us virtually.

This family-friendly event will give all WELS members a “taste of missions”, no matter where you might be around the world. The event kicks off with a special worship service where we will, prayerfully, commission new home and world missionaries. Sample ethnic cuisine from some of our mission fields while enjoying fellowship and presentations from home and world missionaries alike. View displays, participate in outdoor family-friendly activities, and ask questions about the ups and downs of mission work during panel discussions. Virtual attendees will be able to watch all events via livestream, view additional video updates from missionaries, and try their hand at making one of the many ethnic recipes shared on the website.

Registration will open on February 21. In the meantime, visit tasteofmissions.com to view the event schedule and catch up on videos and activities you might have missed from last year’s online event.

We hope you can join us!

 

P.S. – The second annual Taste of Missions School Challenge will also open on February 21! View photos and activities from last year’s challenge and keep an eye out for future announcements at tasteofmissions.com/schools.

 

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Planting seeds of the gospel through Joint Missions

Tom Metzger is a member at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Livonia, Mich., and serves on the Michigan District Mission Board and the WELS Joint Mission Council. In this week’s Missions Blog, he discusses his experience with the Joint Mission Council, how it has improved his understanding of mission work, and how he is encouraged through it. 

When I began my service on the Joint Mission Council, I noticed some similarities to my work in Livonia and in the Michigan District. For example, the message of the law and gospel is the same. By God’s grace, this is at the front of every meeting, program, decision, and direction of everything that we do as a synod. Because we have that special blessing, we can jump at opportunities at the Joint Mission Council level.

We are especially interested in opportunities that present themselves when immigrants become WELS members and want to take that clear message of law and gospel back to their countries of origin. There is a willingness to look at every outreach opportunity as a chance to further the message of the gospel. Every request or inquiry is treated with exhaustive study. There is always more than one way to approach an opportunity. We use the term one-off many times, signaling that there are fresh approaches and open minds. Every mission opportunity comes with unique circumstances that might not be the same with a different people groups or country.

At the Joint Mission Council we have noticed that a new mission opportunity might come from a single person or family. The seeds of the gospel being planted through this is God’s work. Sometimes, an inquiry could be a blessing to both Home and World Missions. We are eager to see what God can do. It is his church, and we are allowed to be a small part of it by his grace.

There is such a need for well-trained gospel voices in all areas of ministry. The extraordinary Pastoral Studies Institute program of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, in partnership with WELS Joint Missions, realizes this and has developed a system of educating these leaders through non-traditional means. Recruiting and training our future pastors and evangelists is important for the health of gospel outreach.

Seeing that the Joint Mission Council is in harmony with the Board for Home Missions and St. Paul’s is a great blessing and comfort for me. I can have confidence that all the ministry I’m a part of at the synod level and my local congregation are all working in the same direction.

God is at work in all the world, preparing us for that day when we will all see Jesus face to face. We give thanks that God is using us to bring more people into his Kingdom.

 

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Merry Christmas from WELS Missions!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 ).

Can you hear the excited children’s voices? Can you see the expectation and joy-filled faces of God’s littlest believers as they recite these familiar words? We learn in Isaiah about God’s priceless treasure given in perfect love to his children. In a world that is often filled with pain, confusion, anger, and sadness we, as believers, can hold strong to the promises of God. He sent his Son to be perfection for us and to suffer for our sins, and we thank him for this priceless gift.

Our WELS home and world missionaries and those in their mission fields wanted to share a message of thanks for your prayers, encouragement, and financial support in this special video. It is because of God working through people like YOU that we are able to share this priceless gift in 64 different countries and 132 home mission congregations across North America. We are so grateful.

Let’s raise our voices together in song as we worship the Christ child this Christmas season and thank our Heavenly Father for fulfilling the promises of old.

Together with you, we sing with joy and gratitude celebrating our Prince of Peace!

WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions


 

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Bridging the gap to the Philippines

Maricel considers herself blessed that God has given her three children. Maricel considers herself blessed that God arranged it so that she met and married Robb after the death of her first husband. She also considers herself blessed to be living in the U.S., though she was born in the Philippines. But, her three children Drewayne, David, and Samantha are not currently living in the U.S; they are still living back in the Philippines.  Not only was she concerned about working out the details for Visas for Drewayne, David, and Samantha to join her in her new home in Green Bay, Wis., she was even more concerned that none of them had been baptized.

But it wasn’t as easy as simply bringing them to church for instruction and then setting a date for the baptism since they live in a different country. What do you do when an entire ocean is in between yourself, your kids and your spiritual responsibility? Maricel reached out to the pastor at the church she attends with her concerns. God quickly turned what seemed to be a big problem into a big opportunity once the Diaspora Ministry Facilitator was contacted. The Diaspora Ministry Facilitator is a new position entrusted with coordinating gospel opportunities by bridging the gap between prospects in the U.S. who have a connection to someone overseas with our WELS world mission teams, as well as helping Christians who have immigrated to the U.S. I, as the Diaspora Ministry Facilitator for Asia, contacted Pastor Alvien de Guzman in the Philippines to make him aware of the situation. After a few initial e-mails, contact was established between Maricel, Pastor de Guzman, and her family in the Philippines.

The date and time for the baptism were picked. Pastor de Guzman drove the three and a half hours to home of Drewayne, David, and Samantha and spoke the words “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit” while sprinkling water on the three children. Although Maricel was halfway around the world she had the comfort of knowing that her children were receiving all the blessings that come from baptism. Pastor de Guzman was able to make contact with those living in an area he had not been able to do ministry in before.

The following Sunday Maricel and the congregation were able to rejoice together as they watched the video of the baptism during the Sunday morning church service, once again giving evidence of the truth of that God truly does love people “from every nation, tribe, people and language.”

Written by Leon Ehlert, Diaspora Ministry Facilitator for Asia

 

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Faces of Faith – Luke

By God’s grace, Luke was born into a Christian family in East Asia. His grandparents were Christian missionaries, and both his parents were involved in gospel ministry. Luke looks back at the church of his youth and says, “God blessed me so richly there!”

After college and four years of work, Luke came to the United States in 2009 and entered a seminary training program on the east coast. In 2011 he married Wenjing, a WELS Lutheran from Minnesota. They moved to North Carolina where Luke learned two things: the importance of sound doctrine and the need for faithful pastors for Chinese churches. Luke and Wenjing and their two children moved to the Des Moines, Iowa, area in 2016 and joined Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church. A year later Luke began studying with the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI). Throughout his studies, Luke has continued to grow in his love of sound doctrine and gospel-centered ministry. And the family has grown to five.

At the beginning of 2021, Luke accepted a part-time call to serve in a WELS-affiliated organization that is equipping ministry leaders in East Asia. Luke is scheduled to graduate from the PSI program in May of 2022. Anticipating full-time ministry, Luke says, “I feel compelled to preach the gospel. God has prepared me for serving in his glorious church.”

From Bradley Wordell, Pastoral Studies Institute professor

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What to do when they’re knocking at your door

Nearly every day, somewhere in the world, a pastor from another denomination contacts a WELS pastor. Usually the pastors from other denominations are looking for some kind of collaboration. You might think that WELS pastors patiently explain to them what the Scriptures say about unity in doctrine before collaboration in fellowship—and they do! But some WELS pastors have added an invitation to their explanation. They have asked, “Would you like more instruction?” When the pastors of other denominations have answered, “yes,” great blessings have resulted.

The WELS Joint Mission Council (JMC) has examined the cases where the Lord has blessed contacts like this and have noticed a pattern. In the most successful cases, the WELS pastor enrolls the other pastor in his WELS Bible Information Class. That way the man finds out how everything we teach comes from the Bible. He is often exposed to clear law and gospel for the first time, with Jesus at the center of everything we teach in the power of the Word and sacraments. The Holy Spirit does his work, and the pastor from the other denomination begins to teach the truths of Scripture to his own flock. At a certain point, that pastor usually becomes a member of a WELS congregation.

A PSI training visit

At that point, the Joint Mission Council recommends that the WELS pastor enlist the aid of the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. A member of the PSI Team interviews the pastor who was formerly a member of another denomination and determines the best course of studies so that the man can become a fully trained WELS pastor. The PSI team member also arranges appropriate contact with local district officials, Home Mission counselors, or members of World Mission Teams, depending on the background of the new man and his flock. Sometimes the PSI team member helps the WELS pastor see that the relationship should develop in a different way than planned. With their many experiences and contacts, the PSI Team members can be very helpful in planning the best use of our resources.

Because many of the pastors who contact us have networks inside and outside of the United States, the Joint Mission Council takes great interest in new opportunities for outreach that they provide. Because the world is a complicated place, the patterns often diverge here, but one similarity remains: love for the truths of Scripture, as taught by Lutherans, leads men from many diverse places to bring people to Jesus.

Written by Rev. Paul Prange, Joint Mission Council chairman

 

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Taste of Missions starts July 11

Taste of Missions starts this Sunday, July 11, and runs through July 17! Get to know our synod’s home and world missionaries and get a closer look at their mission work through short video updates, activities and recipes for the entire family, daily devotions, and multiple live events during which WELS members can come together online and interact with missionaries. Make sure to register for this free event at tasteofmissions.com!

Here’s everything you need to know about Taste of Missions:

Join us for these live events

  • Sunday, July 11, 1 p.m. CT: Event kick-off and introduction from WELS Home and World Missions administrators
  • Tuesday, July 13, 7 p.m. CT: World Missions Q&A webinar (registration required)
  • Thursday, July 15, 7 p.m. CT: Home Missions Q&A webinar (registration required)
  • Saturday, July 17, 6 p.m. CT: Closing worship service, featuring the commissioning of five new missionaries immediately followed by a Q&A with new missionaries

Access the live events.

Watch on-demand video updates from missionaries

Enjoy daily video devotions from WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions representatives, and use the personal reflection questions provided as you consider how to be a missionary in your own backyard.

Get to know some of your synod’s 123 home missionaries and 44 world missionaries that are dedicated to sharing the gospel message around the globe in short Moments with Missionaries video updates.

Check out the on-demand videos.

Have fun with the entire family

Have you ever made Dal Bhat from Nepal? Tasted Pen Patat from Haiti? Savored Doro Wot from Ethiopia? Try your hand at making one or more of the ethnic recipes shared by missionary families and national church partners.

You can also get the entire family involved in learning about mission work through coloring pages, word searches, and more. By completing a Taste of Missions scavenger hunt (coming soon!), kids can be entered to win a Taste of Missions t-shirt, and we’ll mail all who participate a Taste of Missions sticker.

Join the activities.

Help us reach our offering goal

WELS mission work is happening in new communities in the United States and around the world every day. WELS Missions appreciates your prayers, special gifts, and congregational offerings. There is always a need to help the hurting, and together with God’s blessing, we can do more.

As part of this year’s Taste of Missions event, it is our goal to collect $25,000 in offerings to support future mission work. A generous group of sponsors has pledged to match every dollar up to $10,000! A gift of $100 will translate to $200 for ministry tomorrow, doubling your impact. This Taste of Missions offering will be divided evenly between Home and World Missions on July 31. Learn more about this special offering and how you can support it at tasteofmissions.com/give.

We are excited to join you as we connect with brothers and sisters in Christ from around the globe and learn how we can all play an important part in the gospel outreach occurring through our synod!

 

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Communicating the power of the gospel cross-culturally

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

Romans 10:14

When Jesus came to earth, he preached the good news. According to the four gospels, the amazing thing Jesus did during his three years of ministry were not the miracles, but the communicating and ministering done with the power of the gospel. Clear communication of the gospel is a necessity for a minister or an evangelist. When Jesus preaches the good news, he uses a simple and easy to understand way to communicate the gospel to the people to whom he is speaking.

One question we ask ourselves at Grace Hmong Lutheran Church is, “How do we communicate the gospel to the unbelieving Hmong people? Especially people who believe that inanimate objects have souls?” When Paul and Barnabas communicated the gospel in Lystra (Acts 14:8–23), they spoke to people with these beliefs in a clear and understandable way.

It is the power of the gospel that brings wonderful news to the whole world, including the Hmong community! God sent his Son into the world to die for sinners. Our sins are forgiven. That is awesome! That is the good news! That is the powerful message of the gospel God has given us, and we pray that the power of the Holy Spirt will guide us to communicate this message to others clearly and understandably. This is SO important, especially in cross-cultural ministry.

New members at Grace Hmong

This past January, 11 prospects of Grace Hmong completed the membership course and were confirmed into the Christian faith. The members of Grace Hmong or I had no power in converting these people into faith. It only happened by the working of the Spirt through the Word.

But how did we meet them so that we could share the gospel with them? It was a short conversation between one of our members and the head of their family. Then they came to our 2019 Thanksgiving Service. After the service they were invited to join the meal. At mealtime, Grace members and I had the opportunity to talk with these families about their faith and presented the pure gospel to them. They were interested! They told me that they never heard that sinners are saved through faith in Christ – they had been taught that sinners are saved only through good works. A couple weeks later, they came to our Sunday morning service and continued after that. Three months later, they decided to take the membership course.

During the membership course, they learned the theology of the cross. Every time we met, I tried to communicate the gospel in a clear and simple way for them to understand. The power of the gospel slowly penetrated and created faith in their hearts. We cleared up misunderstandings they had from the past. Now they are baptized and confirmed into the faith and are members of WELS!

What changed their hearts and turned them to the saving power of Christ? It was not the wonderful meal Grace prepared for them. It was not the money Grace spent on that day. It was not the power of the members or Pastor Lor that penetrated their hearts. It was the Holy Spirit working through the gospel.

That is why it is important for the church, the members, and the pastor to communicate clearly the simple message of the gospel. In the Great Commission, Jesus declares his authority over all things, and then he commands us to go and communicate the good news to others. Jesus wants us to share the power of the saving gospel with other people the way he taught. To God alone be the glory!

Written by Pastor Ger Lor, home missionary at Grace Hmong Lutheran Church in Kansas City, Kans.

Learn more about Hmong ministry at wels.net/hmong.

 

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And he brought him to Jesus

What Andrew had found made everything else on the to-do list fade away. This discovery was of such importance that Andrew went right away to find his brother Peter. The discovery wasn’t a what, but a who. Andrew told Peter that they had found the Messiah (John 1:41-42). What greater thing can a person do for a sibling than to bring them to Jesus?

Bible information class in Mandarin at Reformation in San Diego

Many Chinese Christians freely use the term “brother” when they talk about a friend in the faith. When John, a Chinese member of Reformation Lutheran Church in San Diego, brought his Chinese friend Mark to a Thanksgiving church event, Mark was introduced as a brother in the faith. During the Thanksgiving event, Mark and his family enjoyed playing games with other brothers and sisters. The event was a reminder for everyone in attendance that we are always able to give thanks when Jesus is our focus. Mark’s family also heard a clear law and gospel message in Mandarin from Vicar David Choi (from our sister synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod).

Mark was eager to talk with the pastors and vicar afterward to learn more about the life of a pastor. The desire has been in Mark’s heart to find a path to study for full-time ministry. The pastors and vicar at Reformation have been able to share more information with Mark about our synod’s Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) – a possible path for Mark to study for the pastoral ministry.

The first step is for Mark to study Reformation’s Bible information class and become a member. Thanks to translation efforts in the past, Reformation’s membership courses are available in Mandarin. Mark’s studies are well under way, and he is cherishing the time to be brought closer to Jesus.

Andrew and Peter would go on to share the truths they had learned from Jesus. They brought others to Jesus by sharing what Jesus had taught them. These brothers knew the best they could offer anyone would be to welcome them into the family of believers with the Good News of Jesus.

All of us have friends we can invite to join the family in spending time with Jesus. How might that person we invite respond when Jesus speaks to them? How might God use that person in the future to reach out to others? God continues to amaze us in the ways his gospel changes hearts and lives. May we all continue to follow Andrew’s example of prioritizing an invitation to those around us to join us as we spend time with Jesus.

Please keep Mark, John, Vicar Choi, and the growing outreach ministry to our Chinese neighbors in San Diego in your prayers.

Written by Rev. Neil Birkholz, WELS Asian ministry consultant and Associate Pastor at Reformation Lutheran Church in San Diego, CA

Learn more about Asian outreach occurring throughout North America at wels.net/asianministry.


 

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Faces of Faith – Dia

On February 14, 2020, we hosted a Lego Night event at Christ Lutheran Church in Pewaukee, Wis. My wife Aneela and I were there to welcome any South Asian souls who might be in attendance. I didn’t see any South Asians when we got there. I was feeling a little disappointed, since no South Asians came to the last Lego Night. Suddenly I saw one South Asian father and his daughter enter. We greeted them and invited them to sit with us. Pastor Warnecke came by with a basket of small toys, and she chose a dinosaur. Soon after, we saw another Hindu family walk in. We knew this family well because we invited them to our home for dinner. I began playing with the Legos with their daughter Dia, and a few minutes later Pastor Warnecke stopped by again with the basket of toys. He offered his suggestion, but she still wasn’t sure what to choose. Finally, she picked up something which shook me from top to bottom: a small green cross. I was stunned for few seconds. When I asked her mother about it, she told me that she prays every day, calling Jesus “Jai Jai”. I also asked how she came to learn about Jesus, which I discovered was through our Lambs of Christ preschool.

Many in Pakistan began believing in Christ through school ministries such as these, and some have been killed for their faith. Please pray for the persecuted Christians all over in the world and thank God that Dia lives in a country where there seed of the gospel that has been sown in her heart can continue to grow!

From Pastor Paul, South Asia ministry coordinator for WELS Joint Missions

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Faces of Faith – Rachel

The first time I met Rachel, it was because she wanted to know who Jesus was. She had never heard of Jesus before. Her son was in our preschool and was bringing home Bible stories. Rachel was curious, so she and I met for more than ten months to go through a Bible Basics course.

Rachel is Chinese and her entire family is Buddhist. When we met to study on the Chinese New Year, I asked her if she was going to the Buddhist temple with her family for a meal and traditional Chinese family events. She responded: “Why would I do that, pastor? I’m a Christian. I don’t have anything to do with the temple any longer.”

Currently, we are eagerly waiting to baptize Rachel and her two children. They are excited to receive the blessings of baptism, but I am confident that the Holy Spirit has worked a firm faith in Rachel’s heart! From nothing to everything—how our God works his wonders!

From Dan Burgess, missionary at Water of Life Lutheran Church in Las Vegas, Nev.

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Faces of Faith – Andre

Our world missionaries work hard for a day when they can pass the pastoral baton to a national leader. This ultimate dream and daily prayer will soon be accomplished in Iskitim, Russia. Missionary Luke Wolfgramm has served this congregation for ten years and is now working with Andre Gydkov in the seminary training program. Andre is not just taking classes to learn how to be a pastor. He is already serving the congregation in Iskitim in many ways that are giving him experience in the tasks and functions of a pastor. The PSI is working closely with the Russian Lutheran synod to provide curriculum, consultation, and instructors to assist them in Andre’s training. The relationship between Andre and Luke goes beyond that of student and teacher or even co-workers in a congregation. They are close friends. Andre was introduced to his Savior through the WELS mission in Russia, where Luke has been his pastor and counselor for three years. Since Andre has committed to preparing for the pastoral ministry, his relationship with Luke has grown even stronger. Andre’s life before he became a Christian was difficult in many respects. Through daily support and encouragement from Luke and the other Russian pastors (Pastor Alexei and Pastor Arkady), the congregation in Iskitim will soon receive a strong Lutheran shepherd who is eager to proclaim Christ to his community.

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Love is the answer

Haris (named changed due to the sensitive nature of his work) spearheaded an effort in a large Midwest city to distribute food and face masks in the midst of COVID-19. Haris is originally from a Muslim nation in South Asia and now lives in America. He is enrolled in our WELS Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI). Haris shares:

When the coronavirus started, I was thinking. . . how can we reach out to the large Muslim population in our community to show the love of Christ? I was talking to my friend, and he said, “I know of WELS churches that are making face masks! They will make masks for you to share with the Muslims.” So we started distributing food to our Muslim neighborhood along with the face masks. People in the community donated groceries and money to buy food. We delivered food and masks on more than 20 different occasions. People drove up in their cars, and we put the groceries in their vehicles. We also dropped off food on people’s porches. Counting only the early drive-thrus, we helped 504 families and assisted 64 families who had a family member with coronavirus.

We made so many friends, and received a lot of feedback from the community. They said, “You risked your life and distributed food and masks even in the rain and snow.” Everyone knows I am a Christian, and they know this help comes because of the love of Jesus for all people. I told the mayor of this community, “These Christians made these masks. They did this because they care for these people. The people who live hundreds of miles away don’t know who will be getting it. It is impossible. Only the love of Christ causes them to do this.”

One WELS District President wrote to the churches in his district about this opportunity. Several churches and many individuals responded. One family made 2,000+ masks for relatives, neighbors, and for Muslims in this large city. Some of the face masks had Bible verses inside the plastic bags. A pastor at one of our rural WELS churches said, “Our people understood that this was an opportunity to reach out to others in a time of crisis. They wanted to serve their fellow man and to serve Christ as he served them.”

During the pandemic, four close friends of mine (not involved in the distribution effort) died from the coronavirus. All four had converted from Islam to Christianity in the last few years and were assisting me in ministry to the Muslim community. One was a former economics professor from Asia, another was a young father with a wife and two children, another was a young man at a nearby university who assisted with apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith), and the last was a very close friend who had lost everything when she converted to Christianity. Her new family was my family. My wife and this woman were as close as sisters. While sorrow grips our hearts, we have the assurance that our friends are now with Jesus.

Love was the answer for reaching out to our community–and love was the answer for conquering death and hatred. “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35).

 

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Faces of Faith – Hany Guzmán

As the morning mist mixed with the bright beams of the sun’s first rays over Baja Verapaz, Guatemala, ten-year-old Hany Guzmán would stand out on her earthen porch to greet the day. With a mug of atol de elote in her hand, she watched the cool fog slowly dissipate and the shadows silently disperse as they gave way to the scorching heat and piercing light of a Sunday morning. The sweet, corn beverage brought warmth to her body and strength for the day as she helped get her family ready for church. Slipping through the front door, she would wake her three younger siblings with whom she shared a single bed. They would march off together to attend their local congregation’s misa. Sometimes her parents would accompany them and other times they went alone, but Hany wouldn’t miss a mass for the world.

Hany and her siblings in Guatemala

Once they found their customary spot in the back of church, although the sun still shone brightly through the stained-glass windows of the cathedral, it seemed as though an even denser fog settled in. Hany and her siblings heard the priest read the Bible and give short talks about how they were to pray to the right saints to find fame and fortune, but it just didn’t seem to make sense. There was a spiritual haze that never seemed to lift, a darkness that just wouldn’t disappear. Hany wondered to herself, “Is there any way I can go to heaven?”

Five years later, darkness defined the day as Hany woke up on a frigid December morning in Anchorage, Alaska. A glance outside at the thermometer showed twenty-five degrees below zero as the first hints of daylight slowly revealed the silhouette of the mountains beneath a cloudless sky. It was Sunday morning and it was still her job to wake her younger siblings for church, but they could wait a while to brave the cold. The short trip to church was less than a block. She started to make some hot chocolate as she waited for the sun to creep over the Chugach Mountains. In a few short hours, she and her siblings would be on their way to Iglesia Luterana de Fe en Cristo. She still wouldn’t miss a service for the world.

Hany at Camp Luther in Anchorage, Alaska

Although the sun barely skimmed the tops of the peaks outside, inside her church one thing was clear—the light of the gospel had changed her life. The same sun that warmed her face in Guatemala now shone through the stained-glass windows of her new church, but here the mystery of salvation had been revealed. Here she heard the unobscured gospel that brought clarity to her mind and comfort to her soul. Hany and her sisters and brother—Brianna, Alegría, and David—found their spots in the back pew. From her vantage point, Hany could see many people she had invited to church herself. In fact, she was personally responsible for seeing her church’s catechism class grow from a dozen kids to over thirty. Later in the service, the congregation would confess its faith together using the familiar words of the explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed. “All this he did that I should be his own, and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just has he has risen from death and lives and rules eternally.” There was no longer any doubt; the darkness had dissipated and the fog had lifted. Wiping away a tear, Hany chimed in with confidence and conviction: ¡Esto es ciertamente la verdad! This is most certainly true!

Written by Rev. Christopher Ewings, home missionary at Iglesia Luterana de Fe en Cristo (Faith Lutheran Church) in Anchorage, Alaska

 

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Faces of Faith – Richard

On Christmas, Richard, his wife, Sabrina, and daughter, Martina, were baptized by our vicar Qiang Wang. As the first family of the new Chinese mission in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada, to be baptized, their baptisms are special enough. But how God brought this to happen is even more remarkable. Richard and Qiang were school classmates in the early 1980s in communist China. At the time, neither one of them knew or believed in God. Years later after losing touch, they both immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, and by chance reconnected in 2014. God worked faith in Qiang’s heart, and he began training to be a pastor. In 2018, Qiang and Richard reconnected again. “I could not believe what a huge change I saw in Qiang,” Richard commented. Qiang shared the good news with Richard and even asked for his help to start a new Chinese mission where Richard lived.

After Qiang and his wife moved to Coquitlam in July 2019, they started studying the Bible with Richard and his family. The Spirit worked. God brought that unlikely scene to pass—one classmate baptizing another. Richard now sees God’s hand in all of this, “I believe God sent Qiang to give us the gospel. It’s an amazing story. God used my classmate to cross oceans and continents just to share the good news with me. We met again in Canada and became Christians. Now it feels like we are family.”

From Geoff Cortright, missionary at Saviour of the Nations in Vancouver, B.C.

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Partnership in a new reality

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1: 3-6

How do we bring the gospel message to a billion people living in East Asia? This a question on the hearts of many in our synod as we look beyond our American borders.

God heard our prayers and for over a decade allowed WELS pastors and their families to live and serve in East Asia. This approach, however, has been adjusted as our WELS missionaries and families have been relocated out of East Asia for security reasons. But a change in a home address does not mean we change our mission.

Christian churches around the world are developing and enhancing their online approach to sharing Jesus. Our East Asia team is no different. We are revamping how we train, disciple, and mentor the national leaders who can take the gospel to places where we cannot go. By God’s grace our WELS seminary in Hong Kong has adapted to adversity and continues to serve their students and support national congregations.

The security risks that WELS missionaries faced also caused local East Asian leadership to reevaluate their approach for worship and Bible study. God has not been surprised by any of the issues facing our mission field and is blessing these new and innovative efforts. Each week our brothers and sisters in the faith are meeting in small groups or joining together online to hear the same message of God’s truth and God’s love for his beloved creation.

Baptism at Reformation in San Diego, Calif.

Our East Asia team is making every effort to build up the church leadership in East Asia. But with certain doors closed, we are exploring how God might use us to build up the church in East Asia from within our American borders. Every year a large number of students from East Asia attend our WELS high schools or are involved in our campus ministries. As God blesses their hearing and study of the Word, how might we equip them for sharing the gospel when they return to their home country?

As our WELS congregations continue being God’s salt and light in their local neighborhoods, visitors from East Asia come into our churches, admire the quality of our schools, and are looking for community and relationships. The WELS Joint Missions is very eager to offer support to any school or congregation that have these opportunities. How can we meet the spiritual needs of these visitors where they are at right now in their walk with God? And if they do call on Jesus as Lord, how can we support and equip them to reach others in East Asia?

These are not just theories and hopeful planning. God is blessing our WELS churches right now in these areas. WELS members are making contact with people from East Asia and inviting them to study God’s Word in our homes and churches. God is revealing new partnerships for us, both locally and worldwide, to carry out our gospel mission to East Asia.

Written by a missionary from East Asia

 

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When are you going to visit us?

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. – Romans 1: 8-10

How many people do you know have been born in their native country, but war forced them to escape their homeland? More than a decade ago, a member of Immanuel Hmong Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minn., reached out to a congregation in the far east of Thailand. The leader of this Hmong congregation contacted me, and we became friends. Soon after that, a couple of young men came to study at our training center in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Once I met them, a question was often raised, “When are you going to visit us?” I reassured them that when the right time comes, the Lord will lead me to visit. However, that vivid picture was long gone and a decade passed. Almost two years ago, this congregation approached us for financial support. We didn’t know what to expect because none of our Christian brothers in Thailand, whom we have fellowship with, have been into this new country. We also understood that there were security reasons and restrictions that prohibited us from visiting.

For us to have a better handle on this situation, we knew we needed to make a visit. In reality, you shouldn’t listen to stories or words without boots on the ground. Ears are for hearing, and eyes are for seeing towards better evaluations. And so we went.

My heart was always yearning to see and walk the dusty roads my parents once lived. I wondered how the fresh air of the village smelled, what the green mountains looked like, and what an organic banana tasted like. I questioned how lifestyles and living standards had changed since I left more than four decades ago.

I heard all the good and horrible stories as I grew up. I vividly remember when my family ran from jungle to jungle for survival during the Vietnam War. It grieves me to think of all the defenseless people when I think of this war-torn country. Deep inside of me, no words can describe the pain many of my people once faced. I’m disappointed that I was born during the war; this country robbed me of my childhood and education. Toys and school never once crossed my mind as a child. Only fear, hunger, and endurance provided me with experiences and stories to tell my children.

I was sitting in a plane flying from Bangkok, Thailand, crossing into my destination country, when the flight attendant announced that we would be landing soon. The plane started descending lower and lower to the ground I longed to see. I felt a chill down my spine amidst my mixed emotions. How was I going to get through this trip?

When I arrived, the congregation I was visiting still required a whole day’s journey by land. In this country, freedom of speech and the use of the Bible, or as some people called it “The New Way,” is not allowed in public. I realized how much we must treasure the gospel. When a group of people does not have the privilege to speak or share what they firmly believe, it is like having eyes but no vision. As a visiting missionary, I observed everything from start to finish without saying anything. It created a different yet pleasant experience. When I speak, I only return what I already know. When I listened, I discovered something new. I will never take the gospel for granted and the liberty of the United States, which I live.

Although the country I visited restricts Christianity, there is always hope. Some people have the opportunity to worship and conduct Bible study privately. We pray that as the country is beginning to develop along with chasing after economic prosperity, that the Lord opens doors for the gospel. One thing we can be sure this country needs most is the promise of the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

As Isaiah said, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40: 31

Written by a visiting missionary from St. Paul, Minn. 

 

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Spanish Pastors Conference meets in Puerto Rico

The 8th gathering of the Spanish Pastors Conference met in Guayama, Puerto Rico, for four days in January. Fifteen men (plus two wives) gathered for study, worship and fellowship. We tackled Christian Stewardship, focusing on the Biblical truths and the cultural realities that exist. Discussion was lively–and everyone commented that is was a good study. Beside the study, we heard a report of the work of the Latin America missions team and Academia Cristo along with a report from the Board for Home Mission’s Hispanic Outreach Consultant.

God’s power was displayed by the many earthquakes that occurred while we were on the island – several were 5.7 and higher! God’s grace was equally displayed as no damage occurred where we were staying. All the members of the local congregation reported nothing more than frayed nerves. Many of us awoke on Tuesday morning to the second of four large tremors. All of us experienced the last large quake on Wednesday as we traveled to the second largest city on the island, Ponce, to view local culture and take in local cuisine.

Even though the power was out for almost 24 hours (all of Tuesday), we still enjoyed the opening worship, singing everything loudly in A Capella fashion. Cell phones batteries were drained to the last remaining bar of power as news was relayed to family members that everyone was not only okay but also enjoying the quiet night, staring at the stars near the equator with no light pollution!

As the conference drew to a close, someone asked how many of the attendees had worked in Puerto Rico. Five of the 15 men raised their hands! We give thanks to God that this mission has been a vital part not only of sharing God’s Word on the island, but also of preparing men who are sharing the same message in the United States. A big thanks to the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church of Puerto Rico who hosted the conference!

The conference meets every other year (on the even years), and it has been determined that our 2022 conference will be held in Tucson, Ariz. We ask our gracious God to continue to bless the efforts of these men and the many others who are sharing the gospel with the lost in Spanish and English.

Written by Rev. Tim Flunker, Hispanic Outreach Consultant for the WELS Board for Home Missions

 

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Spiritual unity in South Asia

The Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, in partnership with WELS Joint Missions, guides and assists spiritual leaders around the globe through their pre-seminary and seminary training. The PSI connects with these spiritual leaders through WELS world mission work and through outreach to immigrants and refugees in the United States and Canada. They are able to evaluate and serve these international groups and synods that want support, training, and a connection to a church body that shares the gospel message in its truth and purity.

E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute, traveled to a country in South Asia in December to teach Ephesians and 1 Peter. Read more about his experience: 


For two and a half weeks, I had skated over icy sidewalks in Novosibirsk, Russia. I was looking forward to my next teaching assignment in a country in South Asia. Average temperature? 85 degrees! As we drove from the airport to the seminary facilities, I was second-guessing my choice of wool socks for this day of travel between Siberia and South Asia.

Seminary in South Asia

Later that first day, I got to sit in on a staff meeting with the WELS friendly counselor and the three spiritual leaders that serve with our friendly counselor to administer the seminary training program. The meeting began with a wonderful reflection on a passage from Scripture that featured deep insights and highlights from the Greek text. This was not a hasty “let’s-open-with-a-religious-thought” devotion! Everyone sitting around that table was clearly enjoying time in God’s Word, mutual encouragement, and a partnership in the gospel. The meeting that followed displayed an excellent partnership between local leaders and our friendly counselor. These men impressed me!

It will be challenging to describe the South Asian leaders who work with our friendly counselor in this place; security realities won’t allow familiarity. But here are three men who obviously hail from the same continent. After that, commonalities are more difficult to see. These guys have strong and independent personalities. Their differences were clearly evident to me when they took their turn translating my lessons for the 25 students before us.

One of these guys didn’t just translate. He ran the class. I mean he allowed only one speaker at a time. Side conversations was strictly forbidden. And the amount of time he took to convey my sentences in his language was about the same length of time it took me to say my sentences in English.

WELS Friendly Counselor (left) with the three South Asian leaders and E. Allen Sorum (right)

The second chap relished in the kind of class mayhem that I rather prefer myself. When I placed a question before the men, it seemed their natural style was to all answer at exactly the same time at an above average volume. Somehow, this translator was able to synthesize a group answer and share it with me in a way that was both entertaining and helpful. This leader/translator used my English sentence as a launching point for additional points that he wanted to add to my original point. At least that’s what I think was going on when my one sentence in English became his one paragraph in Telegu. He was greatly enhancing the learning that was going on in that room, I am sure.

The third man took my wimpy, timid English sentences and turned them into powerful oratory. He wasn’t content to merely instruct. He wanted to encourage, rally, and motivate his co-workers. All of my translators were themselves pastors. They know the challenges these men face back home in their young congregations. Most of the students were already pastors. They were, in general, just getting started at ministry, trying to establish a Christian movement in a hostile environment.

These three spiritual leaders who were also pastors, partners with our friendly counselor, seminary administrators, and translators share another attribute: they care deeply for their students. Spiritual unity is a hard thing to establish and maintain in any place. But when there is a bond of peace and love in Christ, and a good dose of humility, unity has a chance. We talked a lot about this unity: unity of faith, unity of love, and unity of purpose.

The friendly counselor who is blessed with the task of overseeing this ministry asked me to teach Ephesians and 1 Peter; fitting texts for these men and their ministry settings. When we got to the spiritual warfare portion of Ephesians 6, I asked the men to raise their hand if they dealt with demon possession. Almost every man raised their hand. We enjoyed, therefore, a spirited discussion on a Lutheran approach to exorcisms; Lutheran as opposed to Pentecostal. The students agreed that the Pentecostal approach common among them seemed more interested in ascribing glory to the exorcist than to serving the (possibly) possessed individual.

The Lutheran approach acknowledges the obvious. It is Jesus who has power and authority over the universe including the spirit world. So we ask Jesus to remove demons, we see ourselves as his agent carrying out his mission to rescue people, and we give him all the glory.

I was impressed by these men who must carry out their mission in these circumstances. I was impressed by their thirst for truth and their gratitude for partnership with their fellow Christians of WELS. They articulated their appreciation for WELS Christians many times. I assured them that their WELS brothers and sisters appreciated our partnership with them. I articulated that many times. May God strengthen our unity through the bond of peace and love in Christ. May we be a blessing to each other.

Written by Rev. E. Allen Sorum, Director of the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI)

To learn more about the Pastoral Studies Institute, visit wels.net/psi.

 

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Faces of Faith – Mrs. Tri

We take prayer requests verbally from our congregation and then pray about those very things in the moment. About four months ago, Mrs. Tri (pictured above 4th from right), raised her hand and went off on how her whole family is in chaos and disharmony, and how there is lack of respect and discord throughout the family. Her adult children’s families are all members of our congregation. Following that, our congregational president, Mr. Hưu-Trung Lê, and I visited members of the family, and Mrs. Tri, and prayed with them, shared key passages with specific members of the family over the following days and weeks. Later on a different Sunday, the same Sunday at Mrs. Phước’s baptism, Mrs. Tri raised her hand once again at the time of prayer requests. Internally I’m thinking, “Oh boy, here we go again…” Mrs. Tri then went on to say how thankful she was to God for bringing restored peace and harmony to her family. She is happy deep in her heart for what God has done to bring all the family members together again in harmony. Trung said Mrs. Tri came up to him after the service during fellowship time and said, “God has real power. To do what he did in my family—God’s power is real.”

From Dan Kramer, missionary at Peace in Jesus Vietnamese Lutheran Church in Boise, Ida.

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