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Registration open for 54th annual LWMS convention

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

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

This year, the Thursday night opening worship service and the Friday and Saturday missionary presentations will be streamed live at livestream.com/wels.

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

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

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

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

Visit lwms.org for complete convention information and registration.

 

 

 

Home mission connections lead to world mission opportunities

“The Lord is opening some pretty big doors around the world,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator of Home Missions.

Why is the home mission administrator talking about world mission opportunities? Because the two areas are coming together in an exciting way. “When leaders in the late 1980s and 1990s began working with cross-cultural ministries, little did they know that what we would do in the United States would have impact and ramifications around the world,” says Free.

When men like Rev. Peter Bur, a South Sudanese refugee who settled in Omaha, Neb.; student Matthew Cephas, a Liberian in St. Paul, Minn.; and Rev. Bounkeo Lor, a Hmong pastor in Kansas City, Kan., hear and learn confessional Lutheran teachings, they want to share it—and not just with their neighbors next door. “What drives us so much overseas are Pastoral Studies Institute graduates who want to go back home,” says Prof. E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI).

This fall, PSI team members, who work to train, mentor, and equip confessional Lutherans around the world, visited Africa and Asia to further explore new mission opportunities and how best to serve the people in these areas.

Kenya

Bur and Sorum have made multiple trips to Ethiopia and Kenya to train South Sudanese pastors and spiritual leaders who are serving South Sudanese refugees. “We are training trainers to train trainers,” says Sorum. In 2015, they distributed copies of Bur’s translation of a simplified version of the Small Catechism, complete with artwork by Rev. Terry Schultz, a member of the WELS Multi-Language Publications team.

This fall, Sorum, Bur, and Schultz spent three weeks in Nairobi, Kenya, furthering the training of men living in refugee camps in Kakuma, Kenya.

But are these men really taking what they learned to heart? As Sorum puts it, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

Or in the worn-out catechism.

On this trip, Sorum asked the group how they used the catechisms they received in 2015. James Machar, who leads a flourishing church in what Sorum calls “one of the most rugged spots to try to even survive let alone start a church,” said, “I handed out 150 certificates of completion to the people who completed every lesson in the catechism course.”

Then Sorum saw the catechism of Evangelist Michael, one of the men who had been trained by Machar. He had traveled three days to continue his training in Nairobi. His catechism was worn out.

“I asked him, ‘Do you have it memorized?’” says Sorum. “He said, ‘Almost.’”

Sorum continues, “These people are starving not only literally but also spiritually for a lack of resources. They come to us for materials and training and then they go home and do incredible things with them in the most difficult of circumstances.”

Liberia

Sorum also traveled to Liberia with Rev. Robert Wendland, a missionary in Malawi, to see what the opportunities were for ongoing training and for working with the Confessional Lutheran Church of Liberia. Connections had been made through PSI Bible Institute graduate Isaac David and Rev. Matthew Vogt of Las Vegas, Nev., and WELS pastors had already traveled to Liberia to start training congregational leaders.

“We talked to many congregations and met stunning leaders and committed men,” says Sorum. “In one village they said I was the first American to set foot in their church. It was one of the most intensely foreign feelings I ever had. But they are a warm and friendly people, who are anxious and eager to become more Lutheran.”

Vietnam

Jon Bare in Vietnam

In November, Rev. Jon Bare, international recruitment director, and Sorum traveled to Vietnam with Rev. Bounkeo Lor and Evangelist Vicar Hue Thao to meet with 60 leaders of the Hmong Christian Fellowship, a church body with 600 pastors and more than 70,000 members. These men were contacts made through Lor, who has been traveling to Vietnam for the past three years to lead similar workshops.

Besides conducting training classes in Hanoi, they traveled to several village churches in the mountains. Bare, who has visited Vietnam on vacation, says, “You look at it in a completely different way than just seeing it as a tourist. They want our training, and their lives have been changed by the gospel message of Jesus. It’s just a beautiful thing to be able to experience that.”

Sorum says the church has grown since the leaders have been teaching the law and gospel lessons they learned from Lor, adding 2,400 members and 40 churches in the last six months. “It was one of the most inspiring, uplifting trips I’ve ever made,” he says.

Says Free, “Who would have thought a step Home Missions took many years ago to reach more cultures in the U.S. would lead to the opportunities we have today? These blessings are just another encouragement that we need to remain faithful in sowing the seed and then watch in amazement as God blesses the sharing of the gospel where and when he wills.”

Learn more about these opportunities at wels.net/missions.

 

 

 

Conference highlights multi-site strategy

A recent conference highlighted a rising strategy for expanding mission work—multi-site ministry, in which a congregation carries out gospel ministry at more than one physical location.

“More and more congregations as they’re looking to find new places and reach more people with the gospel are considering a multi-site ministry as a viable option,” says Rev. Wayne Uhlhorn, chairman of the Board for Home Missions. “It allows them to establish a new spot and reach new communities that otherwise they wouldn’t think of doing.”

A growing number of WELS congregations are using this approach to expand their gospel outreach, and five of the eight new mission starts authorized by Home Missions in 2016 are multi-site ministries.

Divine Peace in Garland, Texas, was one of those congregations that received funding. Rev. John Hering, pastor at Divine Peace, says that three years ago the congregation noticed a community across the lake (about 20 minutes away) growing by 160 new families a month. Six families in the congregation already lived in that area. “We saw the opportunity,” says Hering. “We started dreaming and thinking, but we really didn’t know what it would look like.”

When the 180-member congregation applied for funding to call a second pastor, it was just learning about multi-site ministries. Gunnar Ledermann, a 2016 graduate from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., was assigned to serve as Divine Peace’s second pastor and help establish its second site.

Right away Ledermann noticed the benefits of having one congregation with multiple sites, including built-in congregational leadership, structure, volunteers, and shared resources. “It allowed me to come in and not have to worry about these things because they were already taken care of,” he says. “It has freed me up to meet people . . . and allowed both of us to do more evangelism work at both locations because we are one congregation.”

Yet Divine Peace still had questions. “We had a ministry plan in place and we have been laying groundwork, but it was the multi-site conference that helped us connect all the dots,” says Hering. Ten people from that congregation attended the WELS Multi-Site Conference, held Nov. 14–16 at Grace, a multi-site congregation with four locations in Benson, Sahuarita, Tucson, and Vail, Arizona. The conference was made possible by an Antioch II grant.

Conference workshop topics focused on key multi-site components including communication, staffing, volunteers, budget and finances, merging two or more congregations, and organizational structure. Attendees also had a chance to hear firsthand from others at all different stages in multi-site ministry. “We didn’t want information to come from a book,” says Rev. Daron Lindemann, chairman of the conference planning committee and pastor at Holy Word, a multi-site church in Austin and Pflugerville, Texas. “[Attendees] had a chance to rub elbows with about 50 churches represented by 144 people and hear the stories of multi-site churches.”

The conference also gave attendees time to process what they’ve learned and start making plans about how to incorporate it into their ministries. “We wanted to help people clarify and crystallize what [multi-site ministry] involves so that they can go into it thoughtfully,” says Lindemann.

Hering says the conference answered his congregation’s questions and offered different suggestions of ways to minister to multiple locations as one congregation. “We’re trying to remain appropriately flexible in both locations while at the same time make use of the gifts people have on both campuses,” says Hering. “It helps the congregation stay united in their vision, seeing that they are doing outreach as a whole rather than dividing up between locations.”

Though Divine Peace has been having worship services in Rockwall since March, it held its grand opening for the community Dec. 4.

According to Uhlhorn, while establishing multi-site ministries is popular right now, it is not replacing the traditional new starts authorized by Home Missions. He does, however, see advantages. “It’s a new mission, but it’s also got some real live partners that are working every day together to spread the gospel in new places.”

For more information about multi-site ministry, contact conference planning committee members, Rev. Nathan Strutz, pastorstrutz@rlcverona.com, or Rev. Peter Kruschel, peter.kruschel@wels.net. Learn more about home mission opportunities at wels.net/missions.

 

 

 

Graduation at Asia Lutheran Seminary

Six men from East Asia were among 27 students who received a degree or certificate Oct. 30 from Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS), Hong Kong, at the school’s seventh graduation since its establishment in 2005.

According to Dr. Steven Witte, ALS president, this is the first ALS graduation that includes pastors who do not live in Hong Kong. “These six students planted eight groups and five local churches during their student years,” he says. “Now they are no longer full-time workers and full-time students—just-full time workers. So things should pick up in terms of planting additional groups in East Asia.”

Ten men—including the six men from East Asia—received Master of Divinity degrees (which means that they are fully trained to serve as pastors); eight received Bachelor of Theology degrees. Others received degrees in Christian Studies as well as certificates for Greek and Hebrew.

Witte says ALS graduates serve in various ways. Some are full-time workers in the nine established congregations in South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM), our sister synod in Hong Kong; others are starting groups that will eventually turn into local congregations. Many are laypeople who are looking for a deeper understanding of confessional Lutheranism as they serve in leadership roles in their local congregations.

Special guests at the graduation included Rev. Larry Schlomer, Board for World Missions administrator, as well as the members of the East Asia Administrative Committee. Dr. John Lawrenz, who was instrumental in establishing ALS, and Rev. Karl Gurgel, who served as a long-time visiting professor, also attended.

WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder traveled to Asia Lutheran Seminary the week before graduation to visit with the students and staff and meet with SALEM leaders. “It meant a lot for the students to see President Schroeder at ALS,” says Witte. “It helped them know that WELS values ALS and the work they are doing as students—and especially the work they are doing in the kingdom. We tell the students that there are many in America who know about them, pray for them, and support them, but seeing President Schroeder really helped put weight to those words.”

Schroeder says he was greatly encouraged by the graduation of fully-trained pastors from East Asia and by the work ALS is doing to train future workers. “It is especially encouraging for me to see the work that is being done through the faithful and generous support of WELS members, who through their gifts are taking the gospel to places they will never visit and to people they will never meet until they gather with them around the throne of the Lamb.”

Currently 53 students are attending Asia Lutheran Seminary, most part time or for single subjects. Another 11 full-time and 24 part-time students are taking courses through a satellite seminary in East Asia. ALS also works closely with Multi-Language Publications to provide theological courses to equip current and future translators of Christian literature. It has also developed an online course in Chinese called “Bible Background” that has reached more than 20,000 people in East Asia. Plans are in place for future online courses.

Learn more about WELS mission work at wels.net/missions.

 

 

 

 

Redefining home

“How can I help you?”

“Thanks for visiting; feel free to show yourself out.”

To Americans, the above phrases are part of polite, everyday dialogue. To WELS missionaries, who have spent years, sometimes decades, in their mission field, these phrases can be not only foreign, but rude.

Rude? In Zambia, according to retired missionary Rev. Stephen Lawrenz and his wife, Lori, who spent nearly 30 years in Africa, “How can I help you?” implies you’re being inconvenienced and is a major insult.

“You can show yourself out.” For former missionary Rev. Brad Wordell and his wife, Andrea, who spent 17 years in Japan with five children, this social practice is much too casual. After a year back in the U.S., they still prefer to bow to their guests when they leave, per Japanese customs.

WELS missionaries are sent around the world and asked to acclimate and integrate themselves into a foreign culture. They learn the language, customs, culture, social practices—they truly become part of the country as they work to share the gospel.

In August, a group of former WELS missionaries, some retired and some returning to the U.S. for new calls, met at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry, Waukesha, Wis., for a two-day “repatriation retreat.”

Administrator for World Missions Rev. Larry Schlomer, who has been through this process more than once in different phases of his life, says, “The retreat is a recognition that people, once they live overseas for an extended period of time, really change in their worldview. When they come back to the United States, they’re actually not coming back to their home country, because they know their home country from 7, 10, 20 years ago. Things will have changed drastically in that time. What they expect is what they left however long ago.”

Seemingly routine things like going to a grocery store and trying to decipher what products are a good value, ordering at a fast food restaurant, and navigating retirement benefits can be frustrating for returning missionary families. On top of day-to-day tasks that are now foreign, they have left people, friends, a home, and a ministry that they loved.

“You get to where you don’t know how to do things in the States anymore, and you feel like an outsider. Nobody is really like you, and people don’t understand you,” says Andrea Wordell.

For Rev. Adam Gawel and his wife, Sherri, the roles are reversing. Adam met Sherri while serving in East Asia, and after more than seven years of living and starting a family in East Asia, the Gawels and their three children moved to Chicago after Adam accepted a new call. This time, it is Sherri moving to a foreign country.

Adam has noticed how the ministry work is different. “Being a foreigner in East Asia, it was very easy to talk to people. They’re very willing to engage with you in conversation, even religious conversation. But here in the U.S., people are a little more hesitant to talk about religion and maybe more suspicious if you approach them.”

The Wordells have also noticed there is fervor in non-Christian countries to spread the gospel that isn’t as strong in the U.S. where Christianity is still the dominant religion.

When the Lawrenzes left for Africa 30 years ago with two small children and one on the way, they treated the experience like an adventure. Stephen says, “Now I look at America like a foreign country, and I have to figure it out too.” They say they know to put their trust in God as they face each new chapter.

Stephen returns with a worldview only someone who has shared his family’s experiences can have. He says, “People throughout the world do not all think the same way. They do not always have the same way of looking at things. And I’m not talking about the differences between sin and righteousness. I’m talking just different ways that they handle life and how they observe things.” He says that while it’s only natural for people, from any country, to view the world through their own cultural experiences, there isn’t always a right or wrong way to view or handle daily life.

Schlomer says, “The retreat is to get several people who have gone through this experience together so they learn from each other and realize there are some common themes they will be facing.”

Two speakers—one a former child of a missionary (also known as a “third culture kid”) who has training in counseling and the other a counselor from Christian Family Solutions—came to offer counseling, insight, and expertise to the former missionaries and their wives.

Brad Wordell says, “We’re very thankful for what happened here over the last couple of days. They did a nice job of setting up the retreat.”

 

 

 

Forward in Christ produces bonus mission issue

Forward in Christ, the synod’s official publication, has created a special bonus issue highlighting WELS Missions under the theme “Every neighbor, every nation—WELS Missions and you.”

“This special issue shares the stories of how the Holy Spirit is still adding to the church, just as he did at the beginning,” says Rev. John Braun, executive editor of Forward in Christ. “I hope these pages will bring you joy and encouragement.”

The issue focuses entirely on new mission opportunities at home and abroad. “More than 200,000 people are growing in their faith and understanding through the efforts of WELS World Missions. No human plan could have foreseen the incredible ways God has used us in his kingdom,” says Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator for WELS World Missions. “And I know we are not done. Opportunities that were hard to imagine a decade ago are a growing cry for help before us.”

Articles feature topics like worker training, cross-cultural outreach, online resources, publications, and campus ministry, besides introducing you to some of the people WELS Missions are reaching with the message of salvation. The issue also includes a pullout map showing Home and World Mission locations.

“Through your gifts, WELS is undergirding almost 80 home missions with financial support,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator for WELS Home Missions. “So many active ministry partners are aiding mission congregations to share the one thing needful—the precious Word of Truth. Thank you, Lord, for these blessings.”

Most articles from the issue can be found at wels.net/missions along with blogs, videos, and downloadable maps. You can also request a poster-size version of the map insert.

Regular subscribers to Forward in Christ will receive the bonus issue automatically. If you are not a subscriber but would like to receive a free copy/copies of the issue for yourself or your congregation, contact Northwestern Publishing House at 1-800-662-6093, ext. 5613; nphperiodicals@nph.wels.net. Or order online at nph.net/fic.

 

 

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 © 2017
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

Expanded Efforts to Produce Christ-Centered Materials: The crown jewel of World Missions

THE CROWN JEWEL OF WORLD MISSIONS

Adam M. Goede

“I like to call Multi-Language Publications the crown jewel of World Missions and also one of the best kept secrets,” says Phil Koelpin, former chairman of the Board for World Missions.

Multi-Language Publications (MLP) produces confessional Christian literature and other mass media in different languages for the purpose of mission work. Its history goes back to 1975 when the synod began producing Spanish materials for work in Latin America. MLP was started in 1996 with the vision of working in many languages worldwide.

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In years past, MLP reached out to Spanish-speaking people through the Spanish Correspondence Program, in which Spanish self-study books were distributed in places like Colombia, South America.

God’s hand has been evident in the expansion of MLP’s efforts. In 2002, two countries hostile to Christianity, reached out to WELS for help within months of each other. Working with these contacts, MLP distributed biblical literature that has reached thousands of people. “We virtually established fields without ever having personnel there,” says Koelpin. “That was pretty significant, especially at a time with declining resources.”

Other steps forward have included utilizing the popularity of the Internet in Latin America to offer resources, training, and worship through a website called Academia Cristo and calling regional coordinators for Spanish and Asian publications, which provides the benefit of working more closely with target audiences.

Currently MLP has 700 publications in 47 different languages. It has printed more than 2.9 million items. Its goal is to reach 100 million people with the gospel in the next ten years.

Future efforts will expand on what has worked well, like providing more digital materials through the successful Academia Cristo model. Nathan Seiltz, MLP director, says, “It is great to see how much success it has had. We want to duplicate the idea in other cultures.”

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Now MLP has moved from sending physical books to developing online video courses on the Academia Cristo website.

“Overall, this is an economical way to do missions because there is no missionary on the ground there,” he says. “It also encourages the nationals to take ownership in the mission and figure out how to spread the gospel where they are.” He hopes that online connections lead to relationships with potential workers.

National workers are also helping MLP develop a new frontier in their publications—worship materials. “Church planting is what triggered the idea,” says Seiltz. “Worship resources are part of the gathering of the group around the Word and sacraments.” MLP’s focus is developing music and hymns for different people groups. “It’s going to match their culture a lot better,” says Seiltz. “They can have something that appeals to them, applies to them.”

Koelpin summarizes how God has richly blessed MLP: “The Lord has just kept opening doors and blessed everything we have done, so the work keeps multiplying.” He just hopes that WELS can keep up with God’s pace. “My biggest concern is that we need more resources if we’re going to get done all the challenges that God has put before us. We’re only limited by our resources.”


Adam Goede, supervisor for the Ministry of Christian Giving, is a member at St. John, Wauwatosa, 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.

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Author: Adam M. Goede
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

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.

 

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

Connecting college students to Christ: Keeping Christian students steadfast

KEEPING CHRISTIAN STUDENTS STEADFAST

Amanda M. Klemp

Adele Kapellusch learned about the campus ministry program at the University of Arizona in Tucson her senior year of high school. An Arizona Lutheran Academy choir stop at Grace, Tucson, cemented her decision to attend that college. She graduated from the university in December 2015 with degrees in neuroscience and physiology and credits the campus ministry program with helping her stay connected to Christ.

“U of A has a great science program, but it was really important to me that I had a church. Grace was across the street from the university, so I had a church that was really close to my dorm, and I knew I would have the opportunity to go to Bible studies and church,” Kapellusch says.

While it was a great way to hang out with like-minded friends, she says that being connected to a Christian community also kept her strong as she faced nonbiblical ideas in her science classes. “Being in science and going to a public university, I was surrounded by people always telling me that because I was a Christian I was ignorant or I would eventually find out that I was wrong and God doesn’t exist,” she says. “But being able to talk with everyone at campus ministry, they all had those experiences, the same persecutions and struggles. It was good to be able to talk to them about it.”

Nathan Kassulke, pastor at Grace and leader of the campus ministry in Tucson for the past 11 years, says, “There are so many temptations, opportunities, and options competing for students’ time and attention. And statistically speaking, that’s an opportunity for students to drift away and not stay connected to God’s Word.”

He says that what they hear about evolution, morality, and even religion itself can be a danger to their faith. “To have somebody to talk to and to ask questions, to be built up in faith and maintain that connection to God’s Word and sacraments will help students grow in faith as they face those things.”


Amanda Klemp, WELS editorial projects manager, is a member at Living Word, Waukesha, 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.

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Author: Amanda M. Klemp
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

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.

 

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

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.

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

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.

 

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

Connecting college students to Christ: Bringing light to the gospel

BRINGING LIGHT TO THE GOSPEL

Amanda M. Klemp

The campus ministry in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, calls itself “Illumine.” The name, which has served them to “bring light from the Scriptures,” reflects how the group studies the Bible.

“When I met with a few university students after I first got here and asked them what they wanted out of campus ministry, they said, ‘If you’re going to do a fluffy Bible study, we’re not particularly interested,’ ” says Luke Thompson, campus pastor. That ambitious attitude from the students set the tone for the growing, three-year-old campus ministry.

Thompson focuses on two aspects to the ministry. The first is weekly socials, where the students get “the best meal they’ve had that week” followed by an in-depth Bible study.

“We go all out on the dinners and have things like ribs, Mexican, or Indian food,” says Thompson.

St. Paul congregation sets aside part of its budget for the meals, which are held in Thompson’s home. Thompson says a key component to building a relationship with the students is letting them know they have a “home,” a go-to where they can be comfortable.

The socials usually draw about 20 people. About one-third to one-half of the participants come from a Lutheran background. The others either have no background with Christianity or come from nominally Catholic homes. They are hungry to dive into Scripture.

“We basically have two types of students who show up. One is your WELS member looking for a community to find like-minded people and other conservative Christians. But the other half, the friends they invite, have no Christian background or very little Christian background, and they’ve never been exposed to apologetics, deep doctrine, or treating the Bible historically,” explains Thompson.

He continues, “Our Bible studies are very rigorous. We spend a lot of time on the historicity of the New Testament—looking at things like the transmission of the New Testament documents and texts, the reliability of them, the formation of the canon, the historical backgrounds of the gospels, and the historicity of the resurrection. This is the first time many of the students are exposed to this, and they get kind of addicted to it.” Several of the Bible study participants continue studying at the church’s Bible information class not necessarily to become a member but to get a strong, formal introduction to Christianity.

Many of the weekly Bible study attendees started by attending an Illumine Talk, the second main aspect of the campus ministry. These presentations look at elements of pop culture with a view toward literary criticism and Christian apologetics. Once each semester, Thompson will take a topic—ranging from zombies and contemporary fantasy to the modern anti-hero—and use it to examine human nature and how it reflects truths from Scripture. Then he shares the gospel. About 50 students attend, most of whom are not involved in campus ministry or a church at all. Thompson’s goal is to offer the most non-confrontational way possible for students to invite friends to an event that shares God’s Word.

In a multicultural college community that is overwhelmingly non-Christian, one of Thompson’s big goals is to equip the students to talk about the Bible like a New Testament apostle. He wants to remove the commonly defensive statement, “I believe,” from their faith vocabulary, particularly relative to opposing beliefs. He explains, “When you read the New Testament, they talk in a very different way. It’s not about ‘what I believe’ or something abstract, but they’re talking about real, historical, concrete events that took place.” He wants his students to share the gospel in the same way—sharing that it’s real and why it’s real.

Learn more about WELS Campus Ministry


Amanda Klemp, WELS editorial projects manager, is a member at Living Word, Waukesha, 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.

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Author: Amanda M. Klemp
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

New Partnership To Broaden Outreach Efforts: Asia

MINISTRY TRAINING IN ASIA

Linda R. Buxa

Each year, pastors originally from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Korea meet at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to discuss their plans for reaching out and expanding their ministry. These men are the spiritual leaders and drivers of outreach to Asian peoples in North America and overseas.

One of these pastors (name withheld for safety reasons) is from a country that is in the top 30 countries that persecute Christians. Those who reject ancestor worship, animism, or Buddhism are either removed from their villages or beaten.

This graduate of the Pastoral Studies Institute could safely stay in the United States and pastor the people he serves. Instead, he and his wife choose to spend their own money to travel back to their country of origin. There they risk their lives to tell people about the one true God.

“As I go into the country, they ask if I am going to talk about God,” he says. (They hold his passport and threaten not to give it back if he does.) “I said, ‘No,’ but in my head I said ‘Yes.’ ”

On his first trip, he spoke to a group about marriage. “The women were crying. I was teaching the husbands that God says to love their wives,” he says. They had never heard that before, and it brought them to tears. They begged him to bring Bibles the next time he came.

So he did, even though it could put him in grave danger.

As he walked through security, he had Bibles in his backpack. “At the gate they searched all my luggage. Except my backpack. I went through and gave away all the Bibles,” he says.


OFFERING PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL HELP

Meet a medical assistant in Southeast Asia who travels from village to village on his motorbike to share his medical skills with his patients. He also shares the gospel.

This man, who became a Christian when he was a child, wants to learn more about his faith so he can share more with others. To do that, he takes classes through the seminary’s Pastoral Studies Institute via Skype. Twice a year, he travels to the United States to take classes.

He isn’t quite sure where his studies might lead. “For now, his focus is on studying and reaching others,” his translator shares. The people he reaches are hungry for the gospel and are looking to WELS for even more support. “They are excited to hear from the national church body.”


Linda Buxa is the communications coordinator at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, 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.

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Author: Linda R. Buxa
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

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.

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

New Partnership To Broaden Outreach Efforts: Ethiopia

MINISTRY TRAINING IN ETHIOPIA

Linda R. Buxa

The Rev. Dr. Kebede Yigezu is the founder and president of the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (LCE). With more than three hundred members, the LCE proclaims a solidly Lutheran confession to the people of Ethiopia. The LCE’s Maor Theological College serves as a strong anchor for this heritage.

Three years ago, Kebede contacted WELS to discuss fellowship possibilities. In 2014, Peter Bur and Prof. E. Allen Sorum met with this group of believers. In September 2015, Kenneth Cherney, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and a member of the WELS Commission on Inter-Church Relations, visited Ethiopia and participated in Maor Theological College’s first graduation ceremony.

“A huge amount of amazing things are already done. The LCE is on the way to being in fellowship with the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference. Through gifts of WELS people for Maor college and seminary program, the group is stabilizing its presence by purchasing land and building the first floor of a multi-floor facility,” says Sorum.

That building will provide more ways to support this growing church body. In addition, through the world mission seminary program, a professor will visit the church in 2016 to teach a course.

“Rev. Dr. Kebede continues to meet other people in WELS, and every time he meets someone, it’s another person who is appreciative of his unconditional, confessional heart,” says Sorum.


Linda Buxa is the communications coordinator at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, 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.

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Author: Linda R. Buxa
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

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.

 

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

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.

 

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

A New Way to Reach Spanish Speakers: From home, reaching thousands

FROM HOME, REACHING THOUSANDS

Rachel Hartman

After serving as a Lutheran pastor in Mexico for 10 years—a role he treasured—Carlos Cajas retired.

Before stepping away from the ministry, Cajas’ health wavered and then faltered. He was diagnosed with heart troubles and diabetes. “Sometimes I had to sit down while preaching a sermon,” he recalls.

The future for Cajas in his retirement looked as bleak as his health conditions. Over time, however, he saw God still had a plan for his life and, better yet, he saw an opportunity to reach thousands with the gospel message from his own home.

Cajas had always had a strong desire to share God’s Word with others. After working in a factory in Mexico for 15 years, he decided to leave his position as supervisor behind to be a pastor.

He completed his seminary training and went on to serve in various places in Mexico City and Puebla, about 60 miles southeast of Mexico City.

As his years of service drew to a close, Cajas faced a debilitating heart condition and also open heart surgery. Then diabetes struck his eyesight, leaving him legally blind.

Today, he can see a little on some days; other days, nothing at all. “When my sight darkens—these are the worst days for me,” he explains. “I am, as they say in Mexico, ‘on the knife’s edge.’ At any time, I could have a heart attack due to my artery problems.”

Cajas lives with his family in Puebla, where his wife, two grown children, and other relatives help oversee his medications, doctor visits, and daily activities.

Not long ago, his son gave him a tablet. Cajas found that by holding the tablet inches from his face and using a magnifying glass, he could read the words on the screen.

Cajas saw this gift as a tool to share God’s Word. He started posting Bible verses and images on his own Facebook page. “Today there are lots of Facebook addicts,” he explains. “Everybody has a smartphone.”

His efforts coincided with those of Academia Cristo, a site that offers free Christ-centered resources to Spanish speakers around the world. Those involved with Academia Cristo’s Facebook page spotted Cajas’ efforts and asked him to participate.

Today, Cajas volunteers as an administrator of this page, which shares God’s Word every day and has more than 285,000 followers. “The little that I can see is enough to create posts with texts and images about appropriate topics,” says Cajas. “It is a wonderful opportunity to share the message of salvation with thousands of people.”

Cajas’ messages uplift and inspire those who follow Academia Cristo’s page. At the same time, the chance to serve encourages Cajas and reminds him of his purpose. “I am a disciple of Christ,” he says. “And God has given me certain abilities—he hasn’t taken them all away.”

Instead of feeling anxious about the coming days and health issues he may face, Cajas finds confidence in his new role. “God hasn’t retired us,” he says. “God wants us to serve him until the end of our days, and to serve him with joy. We already have this wonderful gift—eternal life in paradise—waiting for us after our time here.”


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.

 

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

New Partnership To Broaden Outreach Efforts

MEETING EMERGING NEEDS FOR TRAINING GOD’S PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD

Linda R. Buxa

“We live in a world of rapid change, and this is true also in the area of theological education as the line between home and world missions disappears,” says Bradley Wordell, world mission seminary professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis.

One of the changes in education comes because of circular immigration. As God brings refugees and immigrants to the United States, congregations reach out to them with support and the gospel. “Then they have the desire to learn more, to share the gospel with other immigrants, and to bring the gospel back to their home countries. They introduce to us candidates for gospel ministry,” says Wordell. This circular immigration gives us a complete partnership in the gospel.

The second group of people who are changing the education landscape are Christians throughout the world who have already gathered together in groups, churches, and communities. They want support, training, and connection to a church body that shares the good news that Jesus has done it all and that the Bible is true.

Until now, the seminary has handled these requests through two programs, the Pastoral Studies Institute of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (PSI) and the world mission seminary program. The PSI helps non-traditional students through its preseminary and seminary training. PSI director E. Allen Sorum works with local pastors to help provide training for North American-based students. For the world mission seminary program, WLS professors travel throughout the world teaching courses in seminaries that are part of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference. In 2015–16, 7 members of the seminary faculty administered 10 different courses in 9 countries to more than 100 students as well as 100 pastors and a few members.

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PSI director E. Allen Sorum (far left) traveled with Peter Bur, a South Sudanese pastor, to Kenya in 2015 to meet with and train spiritual leaders for South Sudanese refugees as well as pastors in a Kenyan church body looking to establish fellowship.

Today, more than 300 potential students are contacting our church body looking for support and training in their journey toward becoming confessional Lutherans. With the abundance of people reaching out, the scope of requests is beyond that of missionaries to handle while serving their people and is more than the seminary faculty can undertake while maintaining a high level of education on the Mequon campus. To address this God-given opportunity, the Synodical Council approved a position of international recruitment director. Jon Bare, a 2008 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, began serving in this position in summer 2016.

“The creation of this team connects World Missions, Home Missions, and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in a new and exciting way,” says Bare. His task is to coordinate with the world mission seminary professor and the PSI director to implement a culturally informed vetting process for individuals as well as church bodies who wish to become part of our church body’s worldwide outreach. This team will administer a curriculum for men in America and abroad who want to serve as pastors in these church bodies. Bare will work closely with Sorum and Wordell to also develop an appropriate assessment of skills and abilities in ministry and negotiate the appropriate degree or certificate that the student would receive upon the completion of his given level of training.

“The three of us each bring our unique gifts, strengths, and experiences to this new team. This partnership will serve to meet the emerging needs for training God’s people at home and around the world,” says Bare. “I am excited to see how God will continue to grow his kingdom and equip new workers.”

Through all these changes, one thing that doesn’t change is the seminary’s mission. “We prepare pastors and we provide continuing education for pastors,” says Paul O. Wendland, seminary president. “At the same time, the ministry is adapting. The Mequon campus is more a base of operations than a single venue for theological and pastoral training. With more than 300 potential students from around the world asking for help, we have an incredible opportunity.”

Opportunities to reach every neighbor and every nation. The time is now.


Linda Buxa is the communications coordinator at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, 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.

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Author: Linda R. Buxa
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

From the President: A Time for Thanks

 A Time for Thanks

Normally, when we do something to help or benefit someone else, our motivation is not to receive thanks. Our motivation is to show Christian love and to do something for someone with no hope of receiving anything in return.

But no one would deny that we do welcome it when people thank us for our kindness and acts of love. It assures us that what we did really means something and is appreciated.

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Mark Schroeder installs Jonathan Bauer as the pastor at a mission congregation in Mount Horeb, Wis.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit several of our sister churches in Africa. While I was there, I was able to attend the very first meeting of representatives from our five sister church bodies in Africa. All five African synods were either begun as a result of WELS mission efforts or have been supported by WELS World Missions. For three days, pastors and several lay representatives from Zambia, Malawi, Nigeria, and Cameroon met together to share ministry challenges, to discuss biblical doctrine, and to encourage one another in their mission of proclaiming the saving gospel.

Near the end of the conference, one of the lay members in attendance asked the chairman if he could address the group—especially his American brothers. He was an older man, and he made his way slowly to the center aisle of the chapel. When he got to the aisle, he knelt down on both knees. I will never forget what he said.

He began to speak in a firm voice. “I know that when you see me kneeling, you are probably assuming that I am going to ask you for something. You are probably assuming that I will be asking for more help for your African brothers and sisters. But that is not why I am kneeling. I am kneeling first of all to thank God for his grace. But I am also kneeling to express our thanks to our brothers and sisters in the Wisconsin Synod. It is because of your love and generosity that today, here in Zambia, we have the pure Word of God. It is because of your work and your gifts that today we know the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. So, on behalf of all of us here, I want to thank you for all you have done. And I ask that you convey those thanks to all of the members of the Wisconsin Synod.”

We do not work to carry out the mission God has given us to receive thanks. The very fact that God has given us the privilege of doing this work is something for which we can and should be thankful. But even though we do not do this work to be thanked, it is a special blessing to hear words of appreciation from people who recognize the special treasure that God has given to them, a treasure that we have been privileged to share.

As we work together on the mission God has given us, we know that the gospel is being shared with people whom we may never meet this side of heaven—both here at home in the United States and also around the world. We should never forget the impact that this work has on people—an eternal impact—for which they are truly grateful to God and to us.

I join our African brother in thanking you for your support of our mission efforts through your prayers and through your offerings. I know that you don’t do it for the thanks, but you should know that your work in the Lord is not in vain and that it is truly much appreciated.

Let us continue to work so that every neighbor and every nation hears the gospel message about the One who saves.

Mark Schroeder
WELS president


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.

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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

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.

 

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

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.

 

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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

New Partnership To Broaden Outreach Efforts: South Sudan

MINISTRY TRAINING IN SOUTH SUDAN

Linda R. Buxa

When Peter Bur emigrated to the United States, no one could have anticipated how God’s plan would unfold—and how a ministry would explode.

Peter Bur, originally from South Sudan, began worshiping at Good Shepherd, Omaha, Neb., in 2010. Already serving as a spiritual leader for Sudanese immigrants, he started taking classes with Michael Ewart, pastor at Good Shepherd, to deepen his training. Ewart then assisted Bur to become a student in Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI). The more Bur learned, the more he connected other South Sudanese people to WELS congregations all throughout North America.

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Peter Bur training South Sudanese spiritual leaders serving refugee camps in Ethiopia. These leaders are studying a simplified version of Luther’s Small Catechism translated into Nuer, which Multi-Language Publications helped develop.

In 2015, Bur graduated from the PSI and was called by the WELS Joint Mission Council to serve as the coordinator of South Sudanese ministry for WELS, overseeing the pastoral training of South Sudanese leaders in North America who are studying with their local pastor. Bur is also reaching out to pastors and spiritual leaders in Africa who are serving South Sudanese refugees.

In 2016, for the third year in a row, Bur and Sorum encouraged the men who are serving the ever-growing groups in refugee camps in neighboring countries of South Sudan. Bur taught a simplified version of the catechism, which he translated into Nuer, and also spoke on protection from demons.

They were accompanied by Terry Schultz, a member of the Multi-Language Publications team, who created the artwork for the catechism. “These are high quality materials in terms of both content and production,” says Sorum. “After Peter Bur taught courses based on these materials, we left the materials with the spiritual leaders to teach others.”

From the South Sudanese work, connections have been made in Kenya and Ethiopia, all because one Sudanese man sought out one American pastor and they worked together. From one neighbor to many nations.


FINDING FELLOWSHIP IN KENYA

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Pastor Mark Anariko Onunda in front of the piece of land where his congregation worships. He hopes to build a church here. Onunda is the chairman of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, which seeks fellowship with WELS and ultimately the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.

After doctrinal issues caused many Kenyan Lutheran congregations to leave their previous church body, the churches were looking for support. One of the pastors, Mark Anariko Onunda, has spent the past year visiting all the pastors who left, encouraging them to galvanize and join in fellowship with the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference. More than 20 pastors and 50 congregations are looking forward to meetings with representatives of the PSI international team and with WELS Missions administrators in Africa to review the Augsburg Confession with them and encourage them in their journey. “These brothers and sisters are very eager to become part of our fellowship and will be good partners,” says Sorum. “We are doing everything we possibly can to encourage them in their path toward joining the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.”


Linda Buxa is the communications coordinator at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, 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.

 

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Author: Linda R. Buxa
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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