Tag Archive for: missions

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

COMBINING HOME AND WORLD MISSION OUTREACH EFFORTS

Julie K. Wietzke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Julie Wietzke is managing editor of Forward in Christ magazine.

MISSION STORIES

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

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nicole R. Balza


ARIZONABRINGING HOME THE GOSPEL

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Santo Tomas, Phoenix, Ariz.

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

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


IDAHO

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


NEBRASKAFOSTERING PERSONAL EVANGELISM EXCITEMENT

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Blair, Neb.

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


NEW YORK

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Redemption, Watertown, N.Y.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

MISSION STORIES

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

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

 

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

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

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

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

Nicole R. Balza


URBAN OUTREACH SERVES PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL NEEDS

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

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


 

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Matt Frey and family

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


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

MISSION STORIES

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

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

 

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

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

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

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Connecting college students to Christ: Finding a new church home

FINDING A NEW CHURCH HOME

Amanda M. Klemp

“Legitimately, I stumbled in, and they were really warm and welcoming.”

It was Alexis M.’s second day in Ottawa as she began school at Carleton University, and she wanted to worship that Sunday morning. This biomedical and electrical engineering student saw St. Paul was open and holding services, so she went in and sat down. That is how she came to learn about Lutheran doctrine and to start the next chapter in her faith life.

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Luke Thompson holds weekly dinners and Bible studies in his home for the campus ministry in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

After her first chance visit there, Alexis continued to attend every Sunday and joined Illumine, the church’s campus ministry group.

“One thing I really like is, when talk-ing to Pastor Thompson, everything is referenced to the Bible,” she says.

Alexis grew up in a Catholic home and attended Catholic schools. Getting into the Bible has opened her eyes to the message of salvation through Christ alone. “For me, someone who is trying to grow in their faith and spend more time with God and spend time trying to understand the Bible, being able to see where the verses correlate with each other, where things come into place in the Bible, is so very important,” she says.

Her parents, active Catholics, are supportive of her scriptural and faith pursuits through Illumine. While she hasn’t been confirmed yet, she has taken classes and considers St. Paul her church home.

The Illumine group, she explains, is supportive and encouraging. “I highly recommend that any Lutheran church that can have this program should have it, because it gives students a place to go and feel welcome and know that just because they’re Christian does not mean they can’t have fun or can’t interact with others. They can spend time learning about the Word of God,” says Alexis.

She continues, “It gave me a break from school. It gave me time in my week, no matter what, to go and get to spend time with God.”


STUDENT EXPERIENCE: UW-MADISON

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Eric Liu, 2012 and 2014 University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate

Meet Eric Liu, a 2012 and 2014 University of Wisconsin–Madison graduate currently pursuing his PhD in Southeast Asia. “My journey to Jesus started by reading on the Internet Bible verses in my language. I kept thinking about these verses. One night, there was a voice saying, ‘You should take a look at Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel where you had Triple Dollar Dinner three years ago.’ The next day, I went to Chapel and nervously asked the girl at the front desk how I could know more about Jesus and Christianity. I was introduced to Pastor Bill and began studying the Bible with him. I was so blessed to be baptized at Chapel in August of 2014. Without my Savior, I would still be in darkness.”


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

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A New Way to Reach Spanish Speakers: Online resources present new opportunities

ONLINE RESOURCES PRESENT NEW OPPORTUNITIES

Rachel Hartman

Latin America is expected to have approximately 246 million smartphone users by 2019, compared to 182 million in 2016.*

This growth has led to new opportunities for outreach and training in Latin America. “We are using online means of communication God has given us to empower more people to do on-the-ground ministry,” notes Mike Hartman, field coordinator for Latin America.

Three main online resources reach out to Spanish speakers:

Academiacristo.com (Christ Academy) offers free Spanish video and audio resources. The WELS movies Come Follow Me and My Son, My Savior are the most popular downloads.

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Christ-centered resources from Academia Cristo are reaching Spanish speakers around the world. In 2016, an average of 480 videos a day are being downloaded, with a total of more than 320,000 views.

Visitors can ask questions and chat online with national pastors and missionaries. Local lay leaders can access guides for Bible studies and materials to use in their own communities.

“We want to help people start churches that faithfully teach Christ,” explains Hartman. “Our main focus is working with contacts who reach out to us.”

Academia Cristo also has a Facebook page, which is used to help spread awareness about Lutherans in Latin America. It reaches an average of 400,000 people a day with Christ-centered messages and links to the Academia Cristo website.

Iglesialuteranacristo.com (Christ Lutheran Church) hosts weekly livestreamed Christ-centered worship. Based out of the Lutheran church Most Holy Trinity in Medellín, Colombia, services are broadcast each Sunday by pastors and leaders in Latin America.

In addition to viewing the services, visitors can download the liturgy and hymns for their own use. The service also includes a live chat window so online viewers can interact.

Cristopalabradevida.com (Christ Word of Life) serves as a digital newsletter for Spanish speakers. The site, which is geared toward Lutherans in our fellowship, contains daily audio devotions, Christian resources in Spanish, and news about confessional Lutheranism.


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

MISSION STORIES

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

HELP WELS REACH THE WORLD

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

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

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

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A New Way to Reach Spanish Speakers: Online resources lead to on-the-ground mission work

ONLINE RESOURCES LEAD TO ON-THE-GROUND-MISSION WORK

Rachel Hartman

Once a week, nine individuals gather in Ferney Santofimio’s apartment. They come to study God’s Word and learn more about the Bible, and they are thankful for the opportunity: there is no Lutheran church in their city of Ibagué, Colombia.

For the study, Santofimio uses resources he has gathered through his time studying through academiacristo.com, which offers free Christian materials for Spanish speakers everywhere.

Academia Cristo is great for both new and experienced Christians that don’t have a nearby church,” explains Santofimio.

In addition to opening his home once a week, Santofimio attends weekly online worship through the website iglesialuteranacristo.com.

Santofimio first learned of these resources when he was going through a difficult time in his life and was searching for a source of truth. In 2014, Santofimio, who has a wife and three children, left his government job after a number of disagreements. “At first, this brought on an economic crisis in my life, as well as family and emotional issues,” he recalls. “Due to this, I decided to look for a place or website that taught the Word of God.”

He diligently searched online and also visited different churches in Ibagué, a city of about 500,000. “Many of these preached God’s grace and salvation by faith, but they also emphasized things we had to do, such as fast and tithe,” he says. “They said in order to have God listen to us and offer his help, we had to obey certain things. I didn’t understand this.”

Then he saw a Facebook message that had just two words: “Academia Cristo.” It caught his attention, and after looking at the site, Santofimio signed up to learn more. About a week later, Henry Herrera, a Lutheran pastor serving eight hours away in Medellín, Colombia, called Santofimio to talk more. Then Herrera visited Santofimio to give him some materials to study.

After the visit, Santofimio started studying once a week with Herrera and became a member of the church. “I am so blessed to have found people who encourage me to read and study the Bible in its truth,” says Santofimio. “This was one of my goals, and in the past, it was frustrating for me to not find a place that taught the Bible as it is.”

Today, Santofimio, who has a degree in education, teaches at a number of schools in his area. He also looks for ways to share the message of salvation with others. “I have been able to recognize God’s immense mercy in my life,” he notes. “And I have the chance to share God’s love and mercy as well.”


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

MISSION STORIES

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

HELP WELS REACH THE WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

Nicole R. Balza


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

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

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

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

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


ABIDING SAVIOR’S GOAL: MEET MORE PEOPLE

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Abiding Savior, Killeen, Texas

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


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

MISSION STORIES

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

HELP WELS REACH THE WORLD

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

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

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

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Moments with Missionaries: Queens, New York

QUEENS, NEW YORK

Timothy C. Bourman

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

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

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

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Rev. Tim Bourman and Michael O’Leary

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

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

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

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Sure Foundation, Queens, N.Y.

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

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


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

 

MISSION STORIES

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

HELP WELS REACH THE WORLD

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

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

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

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Connecting college students to Christ: Budding outreach efforts

BUDDING OUTREACH EFFORTS

Amanda M. Klemp

Brian Wrobel started a campus ministry at Zion, Gainesville, Fla., during the 2014–15 school year after being assigned as Zion’s pastor in summer 2014. Between the University of Florida and Santa Fe College, there are enough students to populate a small city. The outreach opportunities are huge, and the church is located between the two campuses.

In the last two years, Wrobel has assembled a small, ded-icated core group of campus ministry members who are working to grow the program and extend outreach efforts on campus. Wrobel says, “The last few meetings this year have been to intentionalize and plan ahead for outreach and sustainability moving forward.”

The first step will be to become a recognized student organization, enabling the group to get in front of students easier. After that, the group is planning activities like a cookout and ultimate Frisbee to garner interest and participation.

“We are a young, cultural, progressive city,” says Wrobel, and the group seeks to reach out to this large multicultural population as well as to the unchurched on the campuses and in the community.

“These are such formative years for these students, where there’s so much getting thrown at them and challenges to their faith that they maybe have never heard or seen before,” says Wrobel. He prays his students will “never stop growing in the knowledge of Jesus.”


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.

HELP WELS REACH THE WORLD

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

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

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

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Watching a mission church mature

Sharon Hartmann

There’s no doubt about it. Raw mission work—sharing the gospel message with people in a foreign country for the very first time—is exciting. Seeing the dramatic change in peoples’ lives after they hear and believe the gospel message for the first time is amazing and visible to all.

A maturing church body

Seeing the growth and maturing of a relatively young church may not be quite so obvious, but it is just as amazing. The maturing of a church takes a long time, a strong commitment, and experience. The WELS mission in Zambia, through the Holy Spirit, has been working for more than 60 years to establish, build, and assist the Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Zambia (LCCA–Z) in growing and maturing a strong evangelical Lutheran church that can withstand the tests of an everchanging, sinful world. It is a mission field with four WELS missionaries who have well over one hundred years of combined African experience (and another hundred if you include the wives!).

View and download a PowerPoint slideshow about WELS mission work in Zambia.

The LCCA–Z has been blessed with a membership of more than 12,000 souls and continues to grow and mature in the service of its Savior. It is exciting to see the following blessings:

A 40-year-old established congregation calling and supporting its own national pastor for the very first time.

A congregation—without any help from the outside—adding on to its worship building because it needs the room.

Relatively poor, rural congregations giving heartfelt offerings to help support their synod.

Second- and third-generation church members being active in their home congregations and on synod-level boards and committees.

National pastors participating in the translation and review of vernacular Bibles and study Bibles.

A national pastor and his wife comforting a grieving family.

Sons and grandsons of national pastors studying to be pastors themselves.

Members standing firm in their faith and belief in the Bible against deep-seated traditional beliefs and cultural pressures.

Congregations standing firm on their foundation of Christ alone when the pressures of a materialistic world are trying to tear them down at every turn.

God’s Word continuing to work through enthusiastic participation in worship, Bible studies, Sunday school, lay-leadership training workshops, camp meetings, choir gatherings, youth gatherings, ladies’ group conventions, and regular pastors’ meetings.

These things could sound like everyday life in congregations in the United States, but all this is taking place thousands of miles away in a place much different from our own world. It takes place where most people do not have access to a car or public transportation, a place that probably does not have electricity or running water, a place where most people live on $1 a day. God has done amazing things!

A thriving worker training program

God also has moved the hearts of WELS members to support a strong combined worker training program in Zambia and Malawi. The program starts at the congregation level by identifying candidates for pastoral training through a pre-Lutheran Bible Institute program consisting of several weeks of training over two years’ time. These candidates then study for three years at the Lutheran Bible Institute in Malawi and then another three years at the Lutheran Seminary in Zambia. They spend a final year of supervised vicar training back at the congregational level.

This is just the basic training. Each year a week of pastoral continuing education is offered, taught by visiting professors from Martin Luther College or Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. A high percentage of pastors in both Zambia and Malawi participate in this program. An advanced, four-year theological training program called GRATSI (Greater Africa Theological Studies Institute) offers pastors further training. Professors from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary together with resident seminary professors teach these courses. All these programs, along with ongoing mentoring and support by missionaries, provide the national church with well-trained men to shepherd the souls of their congregations and teach the truths of the Bible.

A unique partnership

In our fast-paced world of instant gratification, we might be tempted to give up on an old mission field or think there is nothing more to do because we’ve been there for so long. But a maturing mission field is still fragile, and it takes time, energy, and resources for work that is not always immediately obvious.

Relationships are everything in Zambia, and good relationships take a long time to build. Because of the long-term commitment, the presence of resident missionaries, and the support given by WELS, good relationships have been built, maintained, and are flourishing. These relationships have allowed for a unique partnership arrangement with the Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Zambia. The WELS mission in Zambia works with the national church to tackle the challenges that come with being a maturing church. Each missionary serves on LCCA–Z synod boards and committees to help with the transparent and orderly administration of the synod. On behalf of WELS, they offer experience and resources for complicated issues involving land titles and deeds so that congregations do not lose their land and buildings to illegal squatters. They also work alongside national pastors to tackle unique tribal or traditional challenges in the light of the gospel. They give ministerial and logistical support for regional outreach, campus ministry, and prison ministry. The work of the church is tackled within the partnership framework of mutual love, honesty, and trust created throughout the past 60 years of mission work in Zambia.

As the writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity” (6:1). Zambia is moving on to maturity. At first glance, it may not seem too exciting, but it is extremely important and long lasting. As God wills and with the prayers and support of WELS members, this exciting work in Zambia will carry on for many years to come.

Sharon Hartmann, wife of Missionary John Hartmann, lives in Lusaka, Zambia.

 


THE LUTHERAN CHURCH OF CENTRAL AFRICA-ZAMBIA

Baptized national members: 12,473
Organized congregations: 121
Preaching stations: 14
Missionaries: 4
National pastors: 35
Unique fact: God continues to prepare his people for doing works of service in Zambia as well as for reaching out to the nearby countries of Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


 

 

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Author: Sharon Hartmann
Volume 103, Number 8
Issue: August 2016

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

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Preaching saving grace in Latin America

Rachel Hartman

If you’re looking for Pastor Henry Herrera, you might find him in the city where he spends most of his time: Medellín, Colombia. On Sundays, you could spot him online, delivering a sermon over the Internet. And some days, you’ll see him winding through Colombian highways on his motorcycle, occasionally traveling up to 10 hours to reach congregations throughout the country.

His widespread presence is motivated by a specific reason, and it begins on a personal note. “I am saved by the grace of God,” says Herrera, who first heard the saving message of Jesus’ redemption as an adult. It is this mindset that compels him to strive, every day, toward his goals: to bring the gospel message to every city in Colombia and to continue improving online worship to reach the global Spanish-speaking audience.

View and download a PowerPoint featuring the mission work in Colombia.

LEARNING ABOUT MARY

“Every city in Colombia has a specific virgin Mary,” explains Herrera, who, like the majority of Colombians, was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. He attended worship regularly and even grew to hold leadership positions. “I was a catechism teacher,” he recalls. He faithfully revered the Mary figure in Medellín, where he was born. He even spent time at a Roman Catholic seminary, studying to be a priest. After two years of learning Catholic theology, however, he left the seminary.

At that time, Herrera got married and took a job working at a textile factory in the city, which has a population of more than 3 million people. At the company, Herrera learned the details of the trade and eventually became a mechanic for machinery. He also took on a leadership role, becoming a plant supervisor.

Then in 1999, Herrera took classes at the SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje), a government organization that offers training programs for Colombian workers. While there, he met a Lutheran pastor named Tony Quintero. The two were in the same group at the SENA.

“He began to talk to me and talk about church,” recalls Herrera. Quintero invited Herrera to the Lutheran church, and Herrera decided to give it a try. “Holy Week of 1999 was the first time I went to church.”

Soon Herrera and his wife, Eliana, began attending regularly. They brought along their new son, Sebastian, to church.

Herrera became a member of the Lutheran church and, as he dug deeper into the Scriptures, recognized a growing list of blessings in his life. In addition to learning of God’s salvation through Jesus, he gained a further understanding of Mary and her role in Jesus’ life. “Mary is my sister in the faith, and I will see her in heaven,” notes Herrera.

BECOMING A PASTOR

In 2004, a need arose for a pastor to serve a group of Lutherans in Medellín. The group called Herrera to serve in that position. That same year, while continuing to work at his factory job and help the congregation, he began to study with WELS missionaries who formed part of the Latin American Traveling Theological Team. The missionaries visited Colombia periodically and studied with Herrera. This continued until 2012, when Herrera completed his studies.

Yet his ministry was just beginning. Today Herrera serves as a full-time pastor and no longer works at the factory. In addition to serving in Medellín, he travels to the city of Manizales to help serve a congregation there.

His current role also involves building up and training leaders and pastors in Colombia and beyond. “I help brothers in the faith in other countries, such as Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Chile,” explains Herrera.

Herrera has met many of these leaders through AcademiaCristo.com, an online outreach and training tool for Latin America. He also uses Skype to stay in touch with them and to teach a law and gospel course, a class on the book of Exodus to 30 students, a Luther’s Catechism class, and a dogmatics class.

TO THE CORNERS OF THE WORLD

In 2006, Herrera heard from Pastor Gonzalo Delgadillo, who was working at Multi-Language Publications at the time. Delgadillo was in the process of starting a virtual church, which would operate through Skype. He asked Herrera to help with it, and thus weekly services began. In 2008, it was decided that the Skype church should be tied with a local congregation, and the church in Medellín was chosen as the base.

Over the years, this setup has developed into what is known as Iglesia Luterana Cristo, and a live video service appears online each week. The service is taped in Medellín, and eight of the young people in the church Herrera serves help with the production. “Two volunteer each week,” notes Herrera. “One handles the camera, and the other oversees the music.”

Herrera is also involved with WhatsApp groups, a form of texting that is widely popular in Latin America. He helps oversee the sharing of devotions and Bible studies using the People’s Bible. Students from Martin Luther College help as well, overseeing different groups and working with Herrera and other pastors to offer more information.

As he works with a wide range of people in many locations, Herrera finds one of the greatest blessings to be the chance to watch individuals grow spiritually. When first encountering others with different religious backgrounds, he notes, there is often a good deal of discussion. “Sometimes I just spend two or three sessions listening to them,” he explains. Then, using God’s Word as a guide, he goes through their questions to see what the Bible says to each of them.

In addition to serving souls throughout Latin America, Herrera relishes the chance to share God’s Word with his family. He enjoys watching his son Sebastian, now 17, as well as his 11-year-old son Julian, grow in their faith. “We are going to see a new generation in Colombia with young people like my sons,” he says. “This will be different from our group because these individuals have been raised their whole lives knowing the gospel.”

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


 

Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church (Colombia)

Members: 320
Congregations: 5
Preaching stations: 6
National pastors: 6
National student pastors: 1
Seminary students: 1
National evangelists: 6
Visiting instructors: 2
Total enrolled in Bible information classes: 310

Unique fact: Most Holy Trinity in Medellín has members in ten countries around the world through its online ministry. Those countries include England, Spain, France, China, USA, Chile, Perú, Argentina, Colombia, and Venezuela.


 

 

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Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 103, Number 5
Issue: May 2016

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

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Mission Stories: Japan

Blessed!

Bradley D. Wordell

I have enjoyed studying the Bible and worshiping with Reika for almost ten years. But when she started coming to our congregation in Tokyo, my “American thinking” almost caused big trouble.

At that point she had been worshiping with us for weeks, but this was her first potluck meal in our church basement. Reika was born and raised in Taiwan but had moved to Japan as a young adult. That day she had brought some Chinese food to share with everyone. While I was waiting in line, she loaded a plate with various foods from the table and brought it to me. “Pastor, this is for you.” Noticing that my choices would have been a little different, I responded, “Thank you, Reika-san, but please eat what you have chosen. I will go through the line myself.” She offered it to me one more time, but my mind was set.

 

Download a PowerPoint slideshow showing the WELS mission work in Japan.

I had sent the signal to Reika that I did not appreciate her kind gesture. When I realized my blunder later that week, we talked about it. We both came to understand better what the other was thinking during that incident. I apologized. She forgave me. The problem was resolved.

This story is a good illustration of Reika’s life: Reika is a foreigner in Japan, holding out a plate to others. That plate is heaping with the Bread of Life. At first people are not interested. But through her witnessing, many people have come to know, as she does, how blessed the Lord’s people are.

Verses from Psalm 1 help share more of Reika’s story.

NOT IN THE SEAT OF MOCKERS

In this world, we encounter sin every day. Sadly, we sometimes “walk in step with the wicked.” Our sinful flesh wants us to keep company with certain sins; we “stand in the way that sinners take.” How horrible it is when the hardened hearts of people have them living in the camp that is opposed to the Lord. All people are born into that camp, “[sitting] in the company of mockers.” Some people remain there all their lives.

The Lord rescued Reika out of the idolatry of two Asian nations. She remembers as a child the burning of “ghost money” and pretend items, with the purpose of sending help to dead ancestors. Her family also offered real food and drinks to keep those ancestors happy. Angry ancestors might cause problems for their descendants living on earth. Religion in Taiwan taught Reika about good works, religious ceremonies, respect for elders and ancestors, good and bad spirits, the enlightenment of Buddha, and detachment from the world.

As a young adult, Reika moved to Japan and later married a Japanese man. They were blessed with one daughter, Commy, who is now a college student. The religions of Japan, with their millions of gods and countless festivals, did not offer Reika any more hope. In Japan “one-god-religions” are considered narrow-minded and dangerous—the main reason for hatred and war in the world.

In the seat of mockers, some people are defiant against the Lord; others just don’t know what they are doing. Reika is blessed not to be in that seat any longer.

WHOSE DELIGHT IS IN THE LAW OF THE LORD

The Lord led Reika to a Christian church in Japan. As she heard the good news about Jesus, the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of her heart to see the glory of the Savior. She and her daughter were baptized. Later they moved to our neighborhood and visited our church. Through English worship on Saturday nights, Japanese worship on Sunday mornings, and a weekday study of Luther’s Small Catechism in her home, Reika grew in the grace and knowledge of her Savior. She became a member through adult confirmation.

The family decided that Commy would benefit from Christian education in the States. She attended St. Croix Lutheran High School in Minnesota and was supported by her host family, her local congregation, and the faculty and students. With the use of modern technology Reika and Commy were able to read and discuss the weekly sermons—mostly in English and Japanese, but sometimes in Chinese. Commy was confirmed in the States.

Reika’s Bible, catechism, and sermon copies are full of handwritten notes—a testimony to her love of God’s Word. She is like a tree planted by a stream, drinking in the water of God’s Word. She is blessed!

WHATEVER THEY DO PROSPERS

Reika has her own business; she runs an aesthetic salon. Reika’s clients are women who come to her salon for beauty treatments. Through her study of God’s Word, Reika has come to appreciate that everything she has is a gift from her Father in heaven. She wants her business to give glory to God. Every week she gives a portion of her income to support her congregation. In her contact with clients, she is always looking for opportunities to share the hope that she has. Clients can see Bible pamphlets in her salon. When people tell her their problems, she is quick to talk about the solution to all life’s problems. She will ask, “May I say a prayer for you?”

The weekday Bible study in her home (one floor above her salon) is often attended by clients she has invited. She invites and brings them to weekend worship too. She speaks the Word of God to them, telling them what she knows. Of the people baptized at Aganai Lutheran Church in Tokyo in the last ten years, Reika can say, “Eleven of them, though they were served in many other ways as well, attended Bible classes with the pastors in my home.” Reika considers it a privilege to be one of God’s instruments, working with the other members of her church family to reach the lost.

Included in the people she has reached are her sister-in-law, her sister-in-law’s daughters, and her own father, who came from Taiwan to visit her. He was made a child of God through baptism in April of 2015 at the age of 81.

The Lord has blessed Reika and prospered her work in his kingdom.

THE LORD WATCHES OVER THE WAY OF THE RIGHTEOUS

Reika has many favorite Bible passages, but she would put Psalm 1 at the top of her list. She knows that she is one of the “righteous” because she has a Savior—a redeemer who has paid for her sins. She says, “I have learned that God loves me even though I am not perfect. I know my sins and how important it is to repent and believe the good news. The most important thing in my life now is my Savior, Jesus. I want to proclaim God’s Word all my life.”

Brad Wordell is the world mission professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin. He served as pastor/missionary at Aganai Lutheran Church in Tokyo from 1999 until 2015


 

LUTHERAN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH IN JAPAN
Year mission work began:
1957
Baptized members: 378
Congregations: 6
Preaching stations: 2
National pastors: 4

Unique fact: The LECC is a founding member church of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, a group of 29 member churches worldwide that provides a forum for confessional Lutherans who are in fellowship.

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Author: Bradley D. Wordell
Volume 102, Number 11
Issue: November 2015

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