Tag Archive for: missions

Where city and country and college meet!

As you enter town, you cannot help but notice the sign welcoming its guests, “Morgan – where city and country meet.”

It does not say anything on the sign about college. There is no university there. There is no community college there. But what is there, is a congregation that cares about college students! As some of their families were out in the harvest fields surrounding this community of under 1,000, they did not lose sight of their Lord’s harvest field. Zion Lutheran Church held a mission festival. Specifically, they were thinking of those harvest fields on college campuses. The area of focus that they wanted to both explore and support was our WELS Campus Ministry.

As they made plans for this special weekend, the Women’s Guild got together and talked about ways they could specifically support campus ministry. In those conversations they wanted to support both the work of our synod and the work right before their eyes there at Zion Lutheran Church. They included these young adults and the ministries that point them to Christ in their prayers. They supported our synod with a special gift for WELS ministry. And they decided to assemble care packages to greet their own members in college when they came home for Thanksgiving. What a welcome! What a way to encourage young adults to stay faithful to their Savior! What a way to assist our ministries to college students as they also look to point those on those mission fields to their Savior! Zion Lutheran Church, where city, country, and college meet!

Pastor Andrew Schmidt from Zion stated “The congregation has done well this year with intentionally trying to stay connected to our members off working on undergraduate degrees at different colleges. And what has been the best part of this blessing for the Zion family is that the handful of college students who are members are remaining connected! I have received calls from students asking that when they are back home, even though it may not be a communion Sunday, if they could come in and receive private communion. During the current semester, a student has sent a text stating they were worshiping with us that morning online from a dorm room. Because of this connection, two of our college students came back to read for the annual Advent by Candlelight event. How awesome is that?”

Zion Lutheran Church is not alone. We thank God for the many partnerships in the gospel that we have across our church body. These special mission festivals are opportunities to learn about, explore, and reach out to many harvest fields that the Lord puts before. College campuses are one of these fields. What they did at Zion Lutheran Church is what our WELS Campus Ministry under our WELS Board for Home Missions encourages. We ask that you keep this demographic in your prayers. If you are in a town or city with a college or university campus, include them in your outreach and evangelism plans. With your own college students, welcome them home, ask them about ways that you can stay in contact with them, and make sure that they/you have shared their names and contact information with our synod so that contact pastors and congregations can reach out to them while they are away from home.

If you’d like to learn more about what Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod does to serve college students, please reach out at [email protected] and visit our Campus Ministry page. If you’re interested in hosting mission festival, you can request a mission festival speaker.

Written by Rev. Daniel Lindner, serving as the Campus Ministry Mission Counselor. 

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CAMM December 2023 Newsletter

Originally appears on the Central Africa Medical Mission website. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

“Praise the Lord, all you nations! Worship him, all you peoples! Because God’s faithful love toward us is strong. The Lord’s faithfulness lasts forever!” – Psalm 117:1-2

This Bible verse certainly describes the work of the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) in 2023. God’s faithful love has been strong toward both of our clinics in Zambia and Malawi. God’s blessings have reached the staff and patients in countless ways; they have been abounding! And we thank and praise him for his love and faithfulness.

CARE OF PATIENTS:
In 2023, we saw over 70,000 patients. The patients came for physical healing or preventative care, and we were able to provide treatment, medications, testing, and health education. At the beginning of 2023 we were challenged with the thought that cholera would continue to spread and possibly create a pandemic. Thankfully, this was not the case and it quickly receded. HIV rates have chronically been high in the past several years. By God’s grace, while testing at our clinic sites has been increasing, the number of positive HIV tests has been decreasing. Staff continues to educate and test visitors at the clinics. At the Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Zambia, the clinic continues to be recognized by the Zambian government for exemplary care.

CLINIC LOCATIONS:
By the blessing of God, all our clinic sites were remodeled and have been in full use in 2023. The improvements in lighting, privacy, and safety not only help patient care but also give staff a safer and more enjoyable place to work. During the COVID epidemic, CAMM placed hand sanitizing stations at each of the clinics and grass fencing at the Malawi clinic sites. These remain in place for the patients and staff to use because they are good practices to promote hygiene at the clinics. In Zambia, we were blessed with generous donations this year so that we could install permanent metal fencing around our clinic. The fencing was needed to keep livestock and goats out of the clinic buildings. It has now been successfully installed, is effective in banning the livestock from the clinic buildings, and the grass around the clinic has started to grow back.

STAFF:
We are grateful for the staff that CAMM has been able to employ. From the guards and drivers to the nurses, clinicians, laboratory technicians, and midwives, everyone is critical to the work that CAMM is doing. We have 14 employees in Zambia and 17 employees in Malawi. We also have church and government volunteers who help us every day. We are thankful for the care they give to patients, and for treating patients in a Christian manner—with respect and dignity in support of the mission of CAMM to provide “Christ-Centered Healthcare Supporting Gospel Ministry.”

EXPANSION:
In 2023, we were given the green light to explore expansion opportunities for clinic care. The expansion could include new sites within the countries of Malawi and Zambia or in an entirely new country. There are many factors to consider when looking at a site for expansion. One of the most critical is to have the support of a Lutheran church body in fellowship with the WELS at the site. With the aid of WELS Board of Missions, WELS Christian Aid and Relief, and the Lutheran Church of Kenya, we are making plans to hold a five-day short-term clinic in Kenya in February of 2024. What an amazing opportunity to be able to heal the physical needs of the Kenyan people, while also filling their souls with spiritual guidance!

GRATITUDE:
It would not be possible for the Central Africa Medical Mission to carry out our work for over 60 years without our faithful and generous supporters:

• Your interest in staying informed with presentations, requests for promotional materials, and e-mails keeps the mission of CAMM present in your congregations, schools, social circles, and church groups.
• The continued monetary support all of you promote by sharing information about the needs of CAMM.
• The boxes of medical supplies and clothes you carefully gather, package, and ship to Zambia and Malawi.
• God hears your many prayers for the continued success of CAMM, the continued care of our patients and staff, the safety of the countries we are located in, and prayers for the expansion into Kenya in 2024. May God continue to bless CAMM every day!

While reflecting on the past year, we are reminded that God’s faithfulness does last forever! Let us all worship and praise him for our many blessings!

Written by Angela Sievert, Central Africa Medical Mission Chair.

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This feels like a Hallmark movie!

Do you open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Do you love the neatness of the artificial tree or would it be unthinkable to not have the sap and scent of a real tree in your house? Is the highlight of Christmas dinner Mom’s special ham or is it grilled salmon, beef brisket, or even Grandmother’s tamales? Families have different traditions when it comes to celebrating Christmas. But the best traditions are the ones you make.

If participation makes memories, then Christmas on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation this year was a success.

On Wednesdays in December, the members of Peridot and Grace Lutheran Churches gathered to prepare for Christmas. After worshiping together by spending time in the Word and singing Christmas carols, the evening transitioned to a beautiful, organized chaos. Confirmation students worked hand-in-hand with the Women in Christ and church council members to clean and make each sanctuary sparkle. Then, out came the Christmas decorations. The tree was assembled and each member of the family decorated from oldest to youngest. Adults took the tops of the trees while the littlest hands and smallest people decorated the bottoms. Teens climbed ladders to hang banners on the walls. The garland was wrapped, the nativity scenes were placed, and the lights and candles were tested and twinkling. In the background a quartet of musicians played Christmas music on piano, guitar, flute, and mellophone. (Yes, there is such an instrument and it is as delightful as the name suggests!). A steady stream of Christmas cookies and hot chocolate provided ample opportunities for rest, laughter, and fellowship.

Peridot Lutheran Church

As some church members took it all in near the end of one evening, the remark was heard, “This feels like a Hallmark movie.” Another replied, “Yes, but better because this is real.”

The true value of the Christmas traditions was revealed in subsequent weeks as more than three dozen adults and children joined together to tell full churches the magnificent true story of God coming from heaven to earth to save us. The ancient story was proudly passed on from parent to child and grandparent to grandchild.

These are the traditions that matter because this is the story that matters. These are the memories that we want to imprint on the minds and hearts of each new generation because we want them to last into eternity. An event so momentous and beautiful deserves that.

Written by Rev. Daniel Rautenberg, field coordinator for the Native American Mission. 

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Eagerly awaiting the Women’s Workshop

Early on a November morning in South Asia, four women arriving from Thailand carefully stepped along a narrow path between rice paddies to a remote church where over a hundred women had gathered for a workshop. As we neared the church, we could hear the drum beats and songs of praise to our Savior welcoming us in.

We had been preparing for this workshop for about three months. “We” are three WELS missionary wives including Christine Doebler, Linda Marquardt, Mary Witte, and one Friends Network evangelist, Lydia Schultz, all stationed in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Eager to serve our Savior and these women in South Asia, we thoughtfully planned three days of Bible study, crafts and activities centered around the story of Jesus’ birth. We all had varying degrees of experience in cultures different from our own, but none of us had been to this country. So we began the workshop a little unsure of how our plans would be received, but confident that our love for Jesus would shine through.

Having already served on mission fields, we recognized the need for flexibility and teamwork in situations like this. Our carefully planned schedule quickly became a loose guide of things we wanted to do each day. Opening devotions became late morning devotions since the pastors leading these traveled to the church by slow tuk-tuk. There were more women than materials that we had brought, but we had activities where all could participate. Teaching through a translator took some practice and patience. We identified some English speakers who could help bridge the gap of language. Some of us were struggling with sudden family distresses back home. But this only spurred us on in love for the women in front of us.

The women were entranced with the Bible teaching, crafts, and activities. They cut out hearts and hands to represent our love for Jesus and our eagerness to serve him and then strung them up on the walls. The women diligently placed all the pieces of a nativity scene with Velcro fasteners for each day in December before Christmas. After we modeled a pageant of the nativity story, the women giggled and posed as they performed the drama in the roles of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, magi, soldiers and King Herod. By the end of the workshop, the women could easily tell the story of Jesus’ birth to each other using a booklet of pictures. We shared Bible songs in English that we knew and they shared even more beautiful Bible songs in their language for us. We worshiped together, sang together, prayed together, and laughed together. And…there may have been some dancing.

As the days went by, we were amazed by the eagerness of the women to participate, their hunger to learn, and their love and compassion for each other. They spent their days and nights of the workshop in and around the church building, eating and sleeping together, spending time talking, praying together, and caring for each other, especially for the elderly and children. Some of the women had traveled more than six hours by bus from their remote villages to the workshop. This time together with other Christian women was precious to them.

Some women and local pastors shared their testimonies and struggles in coming to Christ and as Christians. We were humbled to hear of the trials they had been through just to be there and confess their Christian faith. The difficulties we faced to get to the workshop – leaving our comfortable homes in Thailand where we can easily share our faith, the long travel of three different flights, cold showers, mosquito nets over our beds, riding over bumpy roads and hiking through the rice paddies – seemed so very small compared to their daily challenges of being a Christian.

We are thankful for this opportunity to share our faith and love of Jesus with these women in South Asia. We look forward to meeting, sharing, laughing, praising God, and maybe dancing with them again someday either in their country or in our heavenly home.

Written by a WELS world missionary wife in Asia.

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“Pastor, you get seven minutes!”

It is our largest and most time intensive outreach event of the year. It involves over 60 participants and volunteers, months of preparation, with practices on Sunday afternoons often going past 5 p.m. All leading up to Hope Lutheran Church’s annual free Christmas concerts for the community.

Why Christmas concerts?

Honestly, to me, Hope seems unusually blessed with musical talent in voice and instruments. Standing out among the instruments is Hope’s steel pan orchestra, which has been a part of Hope’s worship from the start and reflects the Caribbean roots of many members.

Years back Hope was searching for a church building to call its own. A building became available in an area of the city that typifies Toronto’s population, which encompasses over 50 percent first generation immigrants from all over the world. This diversity is reflected in languages, foods, customs, and religious beliefs.

Hope was searching- searching for different ways to reach out to our new and present community. A mission counselor visited and simply said, “Make use of your strengths. Share your strengths. You love music. Share your music.” From that encouragement, Hope has used music for outreach. In the summer, Hope plans a music camp for children, and in December, Hope offers free Christmas concerts for the community. Many non-Christians see the outward signs of Christmas and are interested in learning more. And who doesn’t love free?

This is where, “Pastor, you get seven minutes” comes in. The concert is planned out in detail and to the minute. Every year I am reminded that I get seven minutes for a devotion. If this is our biggest outreach event of the year why only seven minutes?! Is it because I am the least musically gifted of all people? Perhaps.

Or as a church leader said to me when I first came and got my first seven minutes, “People are coming for a concert, but we want our community to know you, see you, hear you. Tell everyone the message of Christmas – and please do it in seven minutes.”

And so I plan and prepare a message for those seven minutes for so many who are searching but don’t really know the Christ of Christmas. Then I sit down and realize once again that it’s more than seven minutes. From the start of the concert to the finish; in words, songs, and the re-enactment of Luke 2, the message of Christmas is shared – and shared in a beautiful way. From parking lot guides and greeters welcoming, to refreshments and fellowship afterward, Christian love is shown and invitations are given, “Christmas Eve is coming, won’t you join us?”

Written by Rev. Mark Henrich, home missionary at Hope Lutheran Church in Toronto, Ont. 

To view Hope Lutheran Church’s full concert by visiting the Hope Toronto Youtube channel.

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Merry Christmas from WELS Missions

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Aren’t star-filled skies overwhelmingly beautiful? What about that incredibly special star above Bethlehem that led the Magi to Jesus? Every December, millions of people look up to the skies and recall the account of the birth of the Christ child. In Matthew 2:10 we read, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with overwhelming joy.” And just like the Magi of old, we, along with Christians around the world, rejoice to think of God’s greatest gift to mankind, Jesus Christ. What joy this gift brings to our sin-sick world!

Thank YOU for your prayers and special gifts for Home, World, and Joint Missions. WELS Missions has created a year in review video of the many blessings made possible by your generous support. God tells us to share his message of salvation with every nation, tribe, people, and language. There is always someone new who has not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ.

As we celebrate this Christmas season and share gifts, love, and joy with our family and friends, we are reminded that Jesus Christ, our perfect substitute, humbled himself, was born as a man, and lived among us. He lived a perfect life, then ultimately died on the cross for all believers. Let’s pray for God’s continued blessings as we share this joy-filled message to the lost in the U.S. and around the world.

Together with you, we rejoice with overwhelming joy. Merry Christmas to all!

WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions

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Faces of Faith – Angel and Maribel

Hispanic ministry in Deltona, Fla., seems like a natural fit. Over 40% of the population speaks Spanish at home. But, how does a WELS congregation in Deltona without any Spanish speaking leaders get started? Well, as is always the case, what human eyes couldn’t see, God had already figured out.

In 2017, Angel Otero and his wife, Maribel, moved to Deltona. Angel was born and grew up in Puerto Rico and like many U.S. citizens there he joined the U.S. military. After serving, he was able to retire at 55 and settled in near Good Shepherd , a WELS church in the Deltona area, where they became members.

That was not all that the Lord had planned for Angel and Maribel. The Good Shepherd School reflected the community. Over 40% of the children in the school came from Hispanic homes. The church leadership and Angel began to explore how they might find a way to share the good news. They were introduced to our WELS Latin American mission efforts and the use of a Spanish training program called Academia Cristo. This program has been designed to train up interested Bible students using online materials. It had been designed to train people where there were no other Lutherans around. Of course, Academia Cristo was never intended to just be an online platform. The program has a focus on training and providing materials in such a way that those who have studied can begin to share what they have learned with others near them. It did not take long for the leadership in Deltona to realize that it would also work at Good Shepherd where there were no trained Hispanics to carry out ministry. Angel enrolled in Academia Cristo. He couldn’t get enough. The more he studied the more he wanted to share with others. Now, Good Shepherd in Deltona has a Spanish speaking outreach leader. Angel and Maribel are very active in reaching out to the school families and the community. Angel leads weekly Bible studies in Spanish at the church using the Academia Cristo program.

And, that’s not all. Angel was still connected to his family back in Puerto Rico. He heard that WELS World Missions was working with a church that had been planted there. The next time Angel visited Puerto Rico he made contact with the local church. The church in Puerto Rico had pastors who had been trained by WELS missionaries, but there was a growing concern that new candidates for pastoral ministry on the island were not being identified. Angel knew that the Academia Cristo program could serve them well in Puerto Rico as well. This connection has also been blessed. Recently the church in Deltona hosted a Puerto Rican pig roast and invited members from the church in Puerto Rico to attend. Thirteen members bought plane tickets and joined them for a delightful weekend of food, fellowship, and planning for the future. All reported a delightful time full of hope for the future. There are now four Academia Cristo students beginning studies in Puerto Rico.

It still may not be clear to our human eyes exactly what the Lord has planned for his saints in Deltona and Puerto Rico before they get to heaven. Even so, what we can see is a reason to rejoice. Economic distress in Puerto Rico, made worse by recent hurricanes, has led many from Puerto Rico to move to Florida. This Puerto Rican diaspora is well networked and keeps the family ties strong to the island and around the US. As the gospel is proclaimed in their midst, we know God has promised to go to work. Please, join us to ask our Lord to bless the work of his gospel through Angel and Maribel. May he raise up the next generation of Puerto Rican gospel proclaimers to build his church.

If you are interested in learning more about how Academia Cristo can help you in your community share the good news in Spanish, please, contact WELS Missions at [email protected].

Written by Rev. Larry Schlomer, Hispanic diaspora ministry facilitator and WELS World Missions administrator.

Hear more from Angel and Maribel about how you could reach out to Hispanics in your community in this special Faces of Faith video.

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Isolation and gathering together

If there were 100 Thai people in a room, how many would be a Christian?

One.

Let that sink in for a minute.

How would it feel to be the only Christian in a room with 99 unbelievers?

Let’s change the question.

If there were 100 Thai Christians in the room, how many would be Lutheran?

One.

Let that sink in for a minute.

How would it feel to be the only Lutheran in a room with 99 other Christians?

If you answered “isolated,” you would be correct. Often, Lutherans end up feeling especially isolated in their communities. On one hand, they are different from the 99% of unbelievers around them. On the other hand, in the small Christian group, they are different from the 99% of other Christians. They don’t preach in a non-Lutheran worship service. They don’t commune with Christians in other churches. Due to fellowship problems, they will not participate with other Christians in evangelism or church activities. They are isolated.

Yet, they aren’t. Lutheran members gather regularly for church and fellowship. The pastors meet twice a year for conferences. During the conferences, they grow together, encourage each other, update each other, and preach the gospel to each other. They remind each other that they are not alone in their struggles.

Hebrews 10:24-25 – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds his readers to think about each other. He reminds them to stir each other up to love and do good works. Meetings face to face give Christians the time and place to spur each other on as well as encourage each other.

The leaders in Thailand take these reminders to heart. They encourage each other. They encourage each other with God’s promises: God no longer remembers their sins (Hebrews 10:17-18), God’s Word is powerful and active (4:12), and God is with them (13:5). They especially remind each other that God is with them in their lives and ministry, always (Matthew 28:20) even if they feel isolated. God is with them, even when they are the only Lutheran in a room with 100 other people.

Please keep the Lutherans in Thailand in your prayers, especially their leaders. Pray that they continue to encourage each other with God’s promises. Pray that they continue to stir each other into acts of love. Pray that they continue to gather—and all the more as they see the day of Jesus’s return approaching.

Written by WELS World Missionary to Thailand..

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Small beginnings lead to great endings in Vietnam

“In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace” (Colossians 1:6).

Colossians 1:6 served as the theme of our synod’s Grace-Hmong Outreach in Vietnam initiative that began December 2018. God’s grace and the gospel message has continued to work in the hearts of the Hmong people in Vietnam, and we are witnessing firsthand how the “gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world.” We celebrated with the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC) in July 2023 as a group of 55 students graduated and became the first fully trained pastors in their church. We also praised God for the dedication of the new theological education center in Hanoi. God’s blessings on this effort are clearly evident.

And those blessings have not stopped. The small mustard seeds of the gospel continue to grow in ways we never could have imagined. Since 2018, the HFC has grown from 55,000 to more than 145,000 members. The second group of 60 students began their pastoral studies in 2022, and the third group of 60 pastoral students started in July of this year. Men like Num and Zag are learning how to differentiate between law and gospel and are sharing that freedom that comes from the gospel with those in their communities. It is the prayer that the Hmong Fellowship Church will enter into full fellowship with WELS in the relatively near future.

In addition to the seminary training being provided, a new rural training program developed by WELS missionaries Bounkeo Lor and Joel Nitz is training 700 rural church leaders in the basic truths of the Bible, with 700 more church leaders targeted for future training. Twelve of the new HFC graduates were commissioned to serve as instructors in the program, including Rev. Chong Chee Yang, who shared his experience in the December edition of Forward in Christ magazine.

God has opened an opportunity for WELS to support gospel outreach to more than two million Hmong who reside throughout Southeast Asia. We thank God for giving the members of the Hmong Fellowship Church a love for his Word and an eagerness to spread the gospel. We pray that a similar spirit spread across the world so that the Lord’s kingdom continues to grow according to his will!

Learn more at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

 

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Faces of Faith – Zag

“John 3:16 says that God loves me, but I did not see or understand it until I started my training. . . Now it is the most precious and special verse to me. God has revealed to me, ‘my love is here’.”

Meet Zag Yaj, a church leader in the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam who is in the second group of 60 students studying to be a pastor. Hear how this training has been “the most rewarding experience in his life” in this special Faces of Faith video.

Learn more about theological training and mission work with the Hmong in Vietnam at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.

Faces of Faith – Num

“Before, I worked hard to earn grace, but I now know grace is free. God sent his son to die for us.”

Meet Num Ntxawg Yaj, a Hmong regional church leader in Vietnam who’s benefiting from WELS’ rural training program. He also began his pastoral studies in July 2023 as a member of the third cohort of students. Hear how this training has revealed the truth that sets him free in this special Faces of Faith video.

Learn more about theological training and mission work with the Hmong in Vietnam at wels.net/vietnam.

Overflowing with opportunities

When 40,000 cars drive past your church’s campus every 24 hours, you know that there will be opportunities to meet people.

That statistic was among the first things I was told about our congregation’s location after being assigned to a mission restart on Long Island, N.Y. Our campus is located more or less dead center on the island, right at the intersection of a main north-south artery and the Long Island Expressway, or “LIE.” (The joke we tell around here is that the lie in LIE is “express.” At rush hour, it resembles the world’s largest parking lot.)

Forty thousand cars a day; close to a million people within a twenty minute driving radius; certainly there’s opportunity for us to meet people! So we put out some new roadside banners and cleaned up our roadside landscaping; we put out a big clothing donation bin; and we pop out for every flat tire that pulls into our parking lot (probably three a week) with a water, a smile, and an invitation to church.

There’s other opportunities to meet people, of course! There’s street fairs and festivals every weekend from June to September, where smiling people from a small, friendly local church can hand out some frisbees and tote bags and. . . you guessed it. . . an invitation to church.

And when you’ve taken all these opportunities to meet people that present themselves, the funny thing is, you end up meeting people!

You meet people who’ve been in church all their lives and people who’ve never darkened the door. You meet people whose home lives are very buttoned up and neat, and people whose home lives are anything but. You meet people who want to ask every question under the sun, and you meet people who fear the sound of their own voice. You meet people who are happy, who are sad, who are kind, and some who aren’t.

And with the eyes that our Savior gives you – eyes like his own eyes – you love them. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them” (Matthew 14:14).

New Yorkers are busy. Every time I leave our island, I see how much more slowly everyone else lives life. Not New Yorkers. Our lives are fast-paced, and our days are full. And being that busy, we don’t always interact well with one another. The caricature of New Yorkers (“I’m walkin’ here!”) isn’t terribly inaccurate. We’re “peopled out.” It can be hard to love at every opportunity when you can easily bump shoulders with hundreds of strangers on a normal day.

But it’s what makes Christians stand out.

New Yorkers guard their affection. It’s doled out sparingly. But the love God puts in our hearts, as his children, doesn’t need to be guarded and measured. We let it spill out, out our front doors and into our commutes and our workplaces, our schools and our supermarkets, and into every interaction we have. Why? Because while we may have new opportunities to meet people every day, we just can’t be sure how many opportunities any one of us has left.

Maybe 40,000 cars don’t drive by your church by every day. Maybe you don’t see new people on every trip to the supermarket. Maybe it doesn’t feel like the same opportunities exist for you to show love. But I promise you, and more importantly, God promises you: They do.

Written by Rev. Timothy Walsh, serving Grace of God Lutheran Church in Dix Hills, N.Y.

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CAMM November 2023 Newsletter

Originally appears on the Central Africa Medical Mission website. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

The Zambian government through the Ministry of Health and its partners is working hard to provide the necessary commodities to end HIV/AIDS by 2030. In Zambia, there are more than 1,190,000 people living with HIV who are on antiretroviral therapy (ART). As of October 2023, the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre services about 892 clients currently on ART, making it the second highest in Shibuyunji Health District.

The facility also offers other services to help eradicate HIV by intensifying identification of new positives, prevention of mother to child transmission, provision of pre-exposure/post-exposure prophylaxis, cervical cancer screening, voluntary male circumcision, viral load monitoring, condom distribution, adult/pediatric nutritional assessment for people living with HIV, and tracking of late clients.

Even though the facility receives support from the Ministry of Health and other implementing partners in the eradication of HIV and AIDS, adult nutrition programs is one area that has not received much funding or support. As the Mwembezhi area is rural and has a high poverty/illiteracy rate, it has been bit of a challenge to implement adult nutrition programs for people living with HIV.

Currently the facility has over 100 clients on HIV treatment with body mass index less than 18, which is below normal rate for an adult. This is mainly related to the non-availability of a nutritious balanced diet in their homes because of they do have the money to purchase adequate food. There is also a lack of understanding regarding the importance of having a balanced diet. Weight, height, and age play a very big role in certain ARV prescriptions and recording such high malnutrition cases hinders and slows boosting of immunity.

After the facility recorded such high numbers of adult malnutrition in many people living with HIV, a staff meeting was held to discuss on how best we can help our clients and some of the interventions than can be put in place before end of December 2023. These measures include:

  1. Continuously give informed information education and communication to not only people living with HIV, but also to the community at large.
  2. Lobby for more height boards and scales to be used during outreach programs so that all client’s height and weight will be assessed regularly to enable early detection of new cases.
  3. To order high energy proteins, an instant porridge fortified with vitamins and minerals for healthy growth
  4. Enforce responsibility in keeping appointments so that monitoring of our clients will be easy and all needs are met on time.
  5. Revamping of the support group for people living with HIV at the facility

As the Zambian government continues adopting tolerated regimens and other models of care with established benefits, our clinic in Zambia,as a health facility and as community health care workers, will continue to put in the effort to meet our patients’ expectations by providing cost effective solutions to help maintain our client’s good health and nutritional status.

Written by Mr. Jackson Kalekwa, Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) clinic officer in charge at the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Mwembezhi, Zambia

 




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Home mission milestones – fall 2023

WELS Home Missions has provided an update on a number of home mission congregations that experienced major milestones in fall 2023.

Christ the Rock Lutheran Church, Canton, Ga.

Christ the Rock in Canton, Ga., held its grand opening worship service on Nov. 12, 2023. God blessed the church’s outreach efforts with 60 in attendance, including 16 brand-new guests to Christ the Rock. Home Missionary Cale Mead and the core group set up and take down for worship at a local elementary school every Sunday using a “portable church” that can be stored in a trailer from week to week. A different home mission congregation, Living Hope in Chattanooga, Tenn., donated its old trailer to Christ the Rock after purchasing its own permanent facility.

View photos of Christ the Rock’s first public worship service and other home mission activities in the South Atlantic District in the Flickr album.


Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, Dickinson, N.D.

Amazing Grace, a home mission congregation in Dickinson, N.D., launched public worship on Oct. 15, 2023. It was blessed with 29 in attendance, 10 of whom were visitors invited by a family member or friend from Amazing Grace. Home Missionary Joel Prange serves this new mission church that was approved in 2021.

The following weekend, Oct. 22, Amazing Grace dedicated its new building space with members and pastors from area WELS congregations. Church members are currently worshiping in a rented ministry center in a new local market that they were able to customize to meet their ministry needs.

View photos of Amazing Grace’s new church and other home mission activities in the Dakota-Montana District in the Flickr album.

 


New Start, Marquette, Mich.

Rev. Joseph Lindloff was installed as the pastor for the new mission start in Marquette, Mich., on Oct. 8, 2023. This mission is one of the first new missions approved as part of the effort to start 100 missions in 10 years from 2023-2033. It had its first core group meeting on Nov. 5 with 24 individuals in attendance, including 5 prospects. The church prays to start a Bible information class in the new year.

View photos of the installation service and other home mission activities in the Northern Wisconsin District in the Flickr album.

 


TheMission – a Lutheran Church, Conroe, Tex.

TheMission, Conroe, Tex., launched its worship services on Aug. 6, 2023. Rev. Jeremy Mattek serves those at TheMission. They are currently worshiping in a rented funeral home on Sundays while working with a local architect to develop plans for a new sanctuary and site plan on land that they purchased.

View photos of TheMission’s launch service and other home mission activities in the South Central District in the Flickr album.

 

 


Please keep these home missions in your prayers as they continue to share the pure message of the gospel with more people in their communities. To stay connected with these and the other 145 home mission congregations scattered throughout the United States, Canada, and English-speaking West Indies, follow WELS Missions on Facebook at fb.com/WELSMissions.

 

 

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Latin America Mission – Fall 2023 Update

As of October 2023, Academia Cristo has two million followers on social media. The social media platforms used by Academia Cristo include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Through these platforms, Academia Cristo manages over 30 million engagements every month. Over a million people have downloaded the Academia Cristo mobile app that launched in February 2020. 2,400 people have completed the self-led courses offered in the mobile app or through WhatsApp since March 2020 and are signed up for live courses. 696 people have completed one live course since March 2020 with a WELS missionary or national partner. 85 students in the Academia Cristo program have gone through a doctrinal agreement process designed for leaders and church planters. There are 29 groups that Academia Cristo leaders have taken through at least seven lessons of a two-year program of worship and study. One congregation formed through the program has joined Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional and several others will soon be reaching the criteria required to apply for membership.

A snapshot of blessings from August through October 2023:

  1. An alternative to the mobile app was identified and tested.
    • Through a platform called respond.io, those interested in studying with Academia Cristo are guided in WhatsApp through the same four self-study courses that have been offered in the app.
    • This alternative, self-study through WhatsApp, produced more students with less spending on advertising. It also offered several other positive features, such as the opportunity to engage with students while they are in the self-study process and collect their contact information.
    • Because of the success of the app alternative, it was decided at the 2023 annual meeting to use this alternative instead of the app.
    • Going forward, the “Self-Study Level” through WhatsApp will be the way for students to move from social media to participating in live courses.
  2. A music summit was held in Quito, Ecuador, with representatives from the Latin America mission team and Multi-Language Productions (MLP). Plans were adopted to produce more hymns and liturgical music for use by church planting groups.
  3. The instruction function of the Latin America team focused on incorporating course and lesson objectives into the Academia Cristo curriculum.
  4. An admissions coordinator was hired to help enhance the student onboarding experience.
  5. A program was started to identify and recruit volunteers and match them with needs within Academia Cristo and church planting groups.
  6. Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional held their first convention in Moca, Dominican Republic.
  7. The Latin America seminary program (Seminario Cristo) is wrapping up year two of test courses and has plans in place for 2024. Artemio Garcia from Mexico is currently teaching Old Testament Isagogics.
  8. Plans are set for Rev. Larry Schlomer to lead the Diaspora Ministry Program, continuing the foundation that was laid by Rev. Carl Leyrer through Hispanic Outreach Project in the United States.

 

 




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Port of calling

“Port is where the heart is.” If you’re stitching a saying onto a pillow or a quilt for a sailor, maybe you can use that one. Port is important: It’s where a sailor reconnects with land and with all the comforts to be found there—if only for a short time, until the ship is ready to sail again.

L to R: Stefan Felgenhauer, Dan Witte, Joel Hoff, Dan Kroll, Keegan Dowling

I was once a sailor on the M/V James R. Barker, a thousand-foot-long freighter ship hauling coal and taconite pellets back and forth across the Great Lakes of North America. Did you know that we have a system of Great Lakes here in Africa, too? My favorite port-of-call was Duluth, Minn. I enjoyed the beautiful book and music shops, as well as Erbert & Gerbert sub sandwiches. However, I had been hoping for more. I had hoped to find a WELS pastor who could visit me and give me communion. But there was a vacancy, a situation far too familiar to many of us in today’s WELS, some 20 years later.

The Port of Douala is one of the greatest port cities on the continent of Africa. In fact, it is the largest city in the country of Cameroon. When it comes to WELS mission work in West Africa, the Port of Douala actually functions like a spiritual port. When several of us missionaries met with pastors in September, only one of them was from Douala. All the rest of us were “ships,” so to speak, coming to Douala simply for the purpose of meeting around the gospel of Jesus Christ! Douala—for WELS mission work—is nothing more and nothing less than a “port of calling.”

Missionaries Dan Witte and Dan Kroll were studying and meeting with pastors from three West African synods: Christ the King and All Saints of Nigeria and the Lutheran Church of Cameroon (LCC). Because of the multi-dimensional security threats present in the region, for the moment WELS missionaries are not able to travel to Nigeria or to Cameroon, apart from just one city in Cameroon: Douala. Because we couldn’t meet them where they were, our brothers came to meet us in port. Missionary Joel Hoff flew in from Zambia, to give a presentation about the very successful TELL online outreach program, which pastors can use both to teach their congregations and to discover new prospects in their own country. Director of Missions Operations Stefan Felgenhauer also flew in from Wisconsin.

Missionary Keegan with Pastor Israel, professor at the seminary of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon

I, Missionary Keegan Dowling, also ended up in Douala, our port of gospel calling. I met with yet a different church body: Holy Trinity Lutheran Synod. They hail from a distant part of Cameroon, where there is a violent and dangerous conflict. Yet, a group of leaders trekked down to Douala, so that we could study the Bible together and talk about Holy Trinity’s mission plans. Holy Trinity is not yet in fellowship with WELS, but this is their desire. So, my job is to work with Holy Trinity along a pathway of studies and discussions that the One Africa Team uses to bring church bodies into fellowship.

An interesting thing about Holy Trinity Lutheran Synod is that many of the leaders and members speak French! In fact, they are our first French-speaking partner church body (although God is blessing our efforts in other parts of francophone Africa, too—stay tuned for future blog posts!) When we “drop anchor” in our “port of calling” we read the Bible together in French. We discuss the issues in French. And outside of class, walking around the Port of Douala, guess what? Missionaries like Pastor Kroll and I get to practice a lot of real-life French! Each trip adds to our capabilities. It further increases our ability to call: to call our fellow sinners to our common Savior throughout French-speaking Africa. This is why the Port of Douala is our “port of calling.” And, God willing, it will be joined by more ports of calling, too.

Written by Rev. Keegan Dowling, world missionary on the One Africa Team, based in Lusaka, Zambia. 

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Medical camp in Kenya planned for February 2024

Originally appears in the Central Africa Medical Mission October 2023 Newsletter. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

The work of the One Africa Team has been blessed as they continue to build relationships with various Lutheran synods throughout Africa. One of those is the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) in Kenya. The synod is led by Pastor Mark Onunda. Pastor Onunda and several other pastors left the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and began the task of building the LCMC from scratch. LCMC is now in fellowship with WELS and has congregations scattered throughout the country. Pastor Onunda spends much of his time on the road, (Kenya is about the size of Texas) encouraging and training leaders and bringing God’s Word to the congregations. We pray God gives him the strength to keep up this monumental effort.

In Zambia and Malawi, our clinics have demonstrated God’s love for all people by looking after their physical and spiritual needs. In fact, part of WELS’ early success in Zambia in the 1960s was due to the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) clinic in Mwembezhi. To help grow the church in Kenya, Pastor Onunda has proposed something similar: a medical camp. The members of thee CAMM stateside committee have prayerfully considered expanding their work to help in Kenya based on several investigative visits by Gary Evans and One Africa Team Missionary John Roebke.

Short term medical camps, which last about a week, are common in Kenya and are used by church organizations to bring people to church properties where they are given physical and spiritual care. A camp might expect to see 3,000 to 4,000 patients over a four- or five-day period. The local government health care agencies support these camps as they are a means of health screening to populations who might otherwise have no access to health care.

CAMM is partnering with the One Africa Team, Christian Aid and Relief, and the LCMC-Kenya to conduct a medical camp in late February 2024. The camp will be held on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church, Kwiangachi, Kirinyaga County, which is located about a 3-hour drive northeast of Nairobi. The church has land, but no buildings, making the camp quite a logistical exercise. Two large 100-seat tents will be provided for shelter and privacy; one will be used as a reception/triage/devotion area and one as a pharmacy. Smaller tents will be used as individual consulting rooms on nutrition, cancer screenings, outpatient services, dental work, eye treatments, and mental health. We will provide the medications and medical supplies. We will also rent port-a-potties and provide a tank for drinking water. Medical staff and some medical equipment will be provided by the government. Transport and accommodation will be provided for staff and volunteers.

The LCMC-Kenya is engaged in much of the ongoing planning and coordination. They will also provide volunteers for security, administration, and making lunch time meals. Pastors from the LCMC-Kenya will hold ongoing devotions and provide pastoral services during each day of the camp. Patients who need follow-up and referral will be directed to go to local health agencies. We have met with Kirinyago County Health Officials who have approved the camp and will provide 25 medical staff, medical equipment, and an ambulance in case of emergencies.

CAMM has agreed to manage the clinic on behalf of the One Africa Team. The camp provides an opportunity for U.S.-based medical and non-medical volunteers to provide assistance. As this is the first of what could be many medical camps, CAMM stateside committee members will be the first set of volunteers to attend the camp. If this camp is successful, we hope to offer similar camps in the future, which will open volunteer opportunities to more WELS members.

Please pray for the success of this camp as it provides an opportunity for healing; and, most importantly, sharing God’s Word with so many people.

Written by Mr. Gary Evans, Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) field director.

 




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What’s the deal with the name?

On Aug. 2 of this year, following a rousing address to convention delegates by Rev. Tonny Quintero of Medellin, Colombia, the hundreds of delegates assembled in the Michigan Lutheran Seminary gymnasium to officially recognize fellowship between WELS and Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional.

I had the privilege of attending the convention with Rev. Quintero (being by his side for what some have called the most energetic 20 minutes in synod convention memory) and was able to hear the warm response both from the convention as a whole and from countless individuals who approached the Colombian visitor with a warmth that transcended the language barrier. One question, though, that did come up multiple times was something to the effect of, “So what’s the deal with the name?” And, “Why wouldn’t the word “Lutheran” appear in the name of a Lutheran church body?”

It’s a fair question. First of all, it is not because the church body is ashamed of its “Lutheran-ness.” Quite the contrary. When I meet with the founders of this synod, the words “luterano confesional” constantly find their way into conversation and the first article of the synod’s constitution proudly proclaims, “El nombre de este Sínodo Luterano Confesional es: Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional.” – The name of this confessional Lutheran Synod is . . .

The founders of this synod chose the name it did not because they have a low regard for being Lutheran, but rather because they have such a high regard for the Lutheran-ness they have received. They love that WELS had such a love for the truth that they brought them a Lutheran-ness that was not degraded by compromising what the Bible says, but that stands on scripture alone. They love that WELS had such a love for the lost that they offered their treasures and talents to send missionaries south to share the precious truths of grace alone and faith alone with them. So, these church leaders brought to faith and to Lutheranism by “us” adopted the name “WELS” in a hope to also emulate the confessional stance and mission zeal of their sister synod to the north.

Additionally, there is one other parallel worth mentioning. The WELS was founded by a tiny group of church leaders who met in equally tiny Granville, Wis., many years ago. When the synod met at convention this past August, there were hundreds of delegates present who represented hundreds of thousands of WELS members from across the country.

The month after I was with Rev. Tonny Quintero in that packed gym in Saginaw, Mich., the two of us traveled to the first annual convention of the Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional in the rural outskirts of Moca, Dominican Republic. The convention there had just 12 attendees. Although the gathering was small, they look forward to the possibility of welcoming many more into their fellowship. As they made their plans Isaiah 55:10-11 came up many times. That group, now so small, made bold plans built on the confidence that the Word will not return empty; plans made with the prayer that their small synod will soon swell with churches formed through the training provided by Academia Cristo.

Written by Rev. Andrew Johnston, world missionary on the Latin America mission team, in Doral, Fla.

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Athens of America

My wife and I were walking in the Boston Logan Airport after returning from a trip and on the wall there was a timeline of many Boston and greater-Boston area inventions. There was a picture of the first disposable blade razor put out by Gillette, a picture of the first microwave oven, a picture of Mark Zuckerberg in his Harvard dorm room inventing Facebook, and those are just a few of many others. Why do you think the city of Boston chose that exhibit to go on the wall of their airport? I wasn’t sitting in on the meetings that decided it, but I would guess it is because Boston is proud of their many inventions. They want you to know, before you have even stepped out of the airport, that Boston is a city of great minds, inventions, and innovation.

What does this have to do with starting a church in Boston? That’s a good question. I think there are several facts about our mission that do make it innovative or different than other settings. For one, WELS has never had a church in Boston. Secondly, seventy-five percent of the people who gathered in our house for Bible study last week don’t own a car. Finally, my wife and I live in the most densely populated city in all New England. Maybe that makes this mission start “innovative.” But the more I thought about it, and the more time you’d spend here, you’d realize that we really aren’t that innovative.

What does your normal day look like? This question is asked all the time, and for good reason; people want to know what it is like starting a mission church in a big city. Again, in so many ways, it isn’t all that inventive. My wife and I find different ways to get involved in the community and meet people, we spend time with people over food, and we grow with them in our love for our community and Savior. We study the Word, we pray for each other, and the Holy Spirit continually uses that Word to work faith in people’s hearts one by one. Do we have to be innovative with how we meet people? Sure. Will we have to be innovative with finding space to have worship when we are ready for that? Probably! But our tools for doing church planting are the same tools that have always been used for church planting – the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’m not sure the first word you would use to describe our small mission church at this time is innovative or inventive. Yes, we have creative people and come up with new ways to reach the community, but our foundation is rooted in the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17). Thanks be to God for this opportunity to share the gospel to the many people of Boston! All involved on starting the church in Boston ask for your continued prayers as we continue to love God and love our neighbor in this great city.

Written by Rev. Joshua Koelpin, home missionary at the new start mission in Boston, Mass.

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Outstanding ministry blessings in Vancouver

Sometimes God just blesses us with blessings piled up on top of each other. At Saviour of the Nations in Vancouver, BC, we were blessed to have such a weekend on Oct. 1-2. Taking advantage of a local holiday weekend we were blessed to do a discipleship training with our mission counselor, Rev. Matt Vogt. But we packed much more into this weekend.

“The Story of the Bible” initiative

Since Sept.10, we have been doing an “all ministry Bible information class,” meaning every Bible class is a Bible information class. In place of a traditional sermon, we are substituting in a modified Bible lesson connecting an Old Testament story to Jesus in John’s gospel and the relevant doctrines. On Oct. 1, we had 50 people in worship, including five people who have never heard the gospel. And it happened to be on the day we had the clearest presentation of law and gospel. Among them was a gentleman who was raised a Hindu who called the message “beautiful”, a Muslim woman who had never attended a church before, a Japanese woman who had never heard of Jesus before, and a skeptic who was attending worship with his family member. Our Sudanese members came from Surrey and sang as a choir in worship to everyone’s delight.

Sampling dishes from the International Food Festival

The gospel message was doubly reinforced by also celebrating four adult confirmations in the same service. Our other prospects who regularly attend got to hear these four confirmands—Cindy, Taehoon, Chanmuk (Danny), and his wife May—publicly confess their confidence and faith in Jesus. It was a day we all pray the Holy Spirit can use to work in the hearts of those who heard the gospel for the one-hundredth time, and especially for those hearing it the first time.

International Food Festival

To celebrate all that was going on, including Korean Thanksgiving weekend and the Chinese mid-autumn festival, we had an “International Food Festival” after the service with 60 people attending, our highest attendance ever for a meal. We counted 14 countries from four continents represented in various groups among our attendees. Everyone brought dishes from their home country. We tried all kinds of food and had fun voting for different categories like “veggie magic” and “Instagram perfect.” One of our prospects who worked very hard on her Indian dish was so happy she won—it was a big hit for everyone!

Congregation annual meeting

After the food festival wrapped up, we had our annual meeting where we elected two new council leaders: Taehoon Kang from Vancouver and Hakim Kon from our Surrey Sudanese mission. I shared an overview of the church’s past year and what we are doing to share the gospel through building relationships. Rev. Matt Vogt was conveniently present to explain what WELS is to prospects and how we are planting new missions. Our chairman, Volo, presented about the budget and shared gratitude for the financial support we receive through synod subsidy.

Discipleship training

Discipleship training with Mission Counselor Matt Vogt

Twenty-one members, Pastor Matt Vogt, and 13 kids came back on Monday to do an all day discipleship and leadership training. Pastor Vogt shared with us what Biblical leadership looks like and inspired our members to be more involved with the day-to-day operations of our ministry. At the end of the session, both our Sudanese leaders and Vancouver leaders put together respective lists of areas where laypeople can step up and help with the ministry. We hope to be implementing a few each quarter and working on the lists in the coming months.

We ended the day with fellowship over a dinner of Mexican food and celebrating one of our Sudanese kid’s seventh birthday with a cake, singing, and a Lego present to top it off.

God really piled up the blessings for us this weekend. He let us lean into our mission name, “Saviour of the Nations”, to build more meaningful relationships with people through music, food, and above all, the gospel.

Shared by Rev. Geoff Cortright, home missionary at Saviour of the Nations in Vancouver, B.C., Canada 





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Your gifts are making a difference in Africa

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

Philippians 1:3-6

The WELS One Africa Team currently works with established church bodies in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zambia. Your gifts are making a difference for these sister churches as we partner with them in outreach and assist in their theological education programs. Below are just a few specific ways that God is using your support to bring his gospel message to more people throughout Africa:

Constuction on the new school in Ethiopia

  • WELS is supporting the building of an additional elementary school campus that the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia will operate in Gambella, Ethiopia. The current campuses in Dukem serve over 750 students.
  • Missionary John Roebke and his wife, Nancy, assisted with a marriage workshop for pastors and their wives from the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ – Kenya (LCMC–Kenya) alongside LCMC-Kenya President Mark Anariko Onunda. One attendee shared, “It has refreshed our family and taught us new things that will strengthen our staying together and our work in the Lord’s vineyard too. It was a good encouragement.”
  • Missionary Daniel Witte continues to visit various sister churches throughout Africa to provide theological education for pastors, and partner with the LCMC-Kenya to lead workshops for Kenyan lay and called church leaders.
  • Pastors from Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia come together in various locations throughout Africa to study different courses as they work towards a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. A course on marriage was taught in Zambia in June, and another course on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was held recently in Malawi.

Thank you for your support! We pray that God continues to work through WELS’ sister churches and the One Africa Team to change lives in Africa—like those of Eric Kebeno from Soweto, Kenya, and Eunita Odongo, a deaconess in the LCMC-Kenya.

Pray for our African brothers and sisters in the faith as they continue to spread the message of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and love for sinners like you and me. Follow the One Africa Team on Facebook and subscribe to their blogs at oneafricateam.com for updates and stories of the Holy Spirit at work. Ask God to bless the work of the One Africa Team as they help spread the gospel throughout Africa.

Learn more about mission work in Africa at wels.net/africa.

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Taking the gospel to the people

How much time do you spend on the internet every day? Do you know? Is it more than you read your Bible? More than you pray? More than you exercise?

If you’re like me, then the answer to all of these questions is yes. This isn’t meant to be a guilt trip though, but rather to draw our eyes to an opportunity! Yes. God has given us an opportunity in the internet. We could become discouraged by the fact (as I do sometimes) that the internet is stealing our attention from the most important things in life and we should all just set down our phones and computers and enjoy each other’s company. But. . . that’s not the world we live in. We live in a modern age in which technology has improved our lives immensely. And now, as always, we will go to where the people are whether that’s by a river, in a village, on the “other side of town,” or on the internet.

In some parts of the world, like North America, COVID hasn’t been a big deal for a while, but in other parts of the world, mask mandates and PCR tests hung on for a long time. We in Asia felt the full brunt of that. COVID is basically over here now too, but it’s just been in the last six months or so that all restrictions have been lifted. That means that for the past three-plus years pretty much everyone has been doing almost everything on the internet: buying clothes, groceries, watching movies, finding partners, etc.

What does this have to do with the gospel?! Well, #theinternet. That’s how people do everything so that’s where the gospel must go as well. And we must go there and be present there with all our might, in the best way we possibly can.

And so, that’s what we’re doing. Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS) and Multi-Language Productions (MLP) have partnered up to reach all in Asia with God’s grace.

MLP has produced an online training platform called TELL Network. TELL Mandarin is a translated version of the TELL Network high-quality self-study courses called TELL which includes videos and quizzes. TELL Mandarin helps people read and understand God’s Word on their own and then teaches them how to lead others to do the same. MLP has translated and contextualized TELL for a Mandarin speaking audience, so that Mandarin speakers in East Asia and all over the world can learn of God’s love for me. After completing TELL Mandarin, ALS guides these students through its degree programs so that, in the end, they can become church leaders and shepherds for God’s people.

TELL Mandarin has enrolled thousands of students in Asia and the number of those who enroll is growing every day. We thank God for all those precious souls he brings to us through these digital means. We are blessed to be able to have such a far reach with such an incredible tool as TELL Mandarin to educate and bless people all throughout Asia!

Written by Tony Barthels, world missionary for the Asia One Team and recruiter for Asia Lutheran Seminary.

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Being part of the event

“What are some outreach strategies that you use?” “How do you meet new people?”

These are examples of the kind of questions that people ask me when they find out that I’m a pastor at a new church. My answers to these types of questions are usually pretty basic; make friends, work networks, get involved in the community, etc. When people ask those types of questions they are sometimes looking for specifics and ideas. With one year under my belt, I haven’t been at this long enough to know what is effective or not in the long run. However, one of the best outreach strategies that we employ at Amazing Grace started years before I even got here.

The active city of Dickinson has many vendor events throughout the year. Each one is sponsored by a large entity in the city. The Dickinson Press puts on an event called “The Women’s Expo.” The name makes it clear that the event is tailored to appeal to the women of the community. A member of Amazing Grace knows the person who runs the event and made a deal with her five years ago. Amazing Grace will provide entertainment for the children that come to the event in return we get a free booth space. It’s simple, a win for everyone; the mothers can shop or take a break while they or dad brings their children to play, The Dickinson Press has another thing to attract people to the event, and Amazing Grace has a booth presence as thousands of people walk by and are seen as a sponsor of the event.

Some years Amazing Grace sets up arts and crafts tables, other years we bring in a bouncy house. This year we had a bouncy house and six volunteers from the congregation to help manage all of the children. From 9 a.m. through 4 p.m., the bouncy house was full of kids.

So, why is this an effective outreach strategy for us? Maybe you can see it already. The dad or mom stays by the bouncy house to watch their child. This leads to a natural, unintrusive conversation environment. I and the members of Amazing Grace meet so many wonderful people and couples, some of whom are interested in checking out our new church. We had invitations to our launch service on October 15th out on the table if anyone was interested and had exposure to thousands of people in the community. Plus, over the years we’ve built a reputation with a major entity in Dickinson, the Dickinson Press. Five new prospects have connected with us from the most recent Women’s Expo.

Each situation is unique. We can’t run a whole vendor event on our own, but we can provide a valuable service for the event and the community through the Women’s Expo. If you are asking yourself the question, “How can my church meet new people?,” think about providing a service to a big event that’s already happening. Setting up a booth at an event is great, and the way I see it, being a part of the event in any way you can is even better. All of this is to open up more doors into people’s lives so we can share the saving gospel message with them.

Written by Rev. Joel Prange, home missionary at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Dickinson, N.D.

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Mission work approved in Senegal

The Board for World Missions has approved a plan to send two missionaries to Senegal to learn the culture and language in preparation for sharing the gospel and gathering a congregation.

The country of Senegal has a population of almost 17 million people. The Wolof tribe makes up about 40 to 45 percent of the total population and is less than 0.01 percent Christian. Even though Senegal is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, the constitution staunchly defends freedom of religion and is a relatively peaceful and stable place. “This would be extremely ‘raw’ mission work, where we’ll be starting gospel outreach from scratch,” says Rev. Larry Schlomer, World Missions administrator. “While we do not have an invitation to be in Senegal, we are going because we know these people do not have the gospel.”

Schlomer and Mr. Stefan Felgenhauer, director of World Missions Operations, made an exploratory trip to Dakar in September. They met people from the business community, local charitable organizations, and an international school to determine how easy it is for Americans to live and work in the country. They also connected with a well-respected, cross-cultural learning consultant agency. This agency will serve as a valuable resource moving forward as it’ll be able to connect future WELS missionaries with an immersion opportunity to live with a Muslim Wolof family. This opportunity will allow the missionaries to settle into the culture and community, learn the language, meet the people, and seek opportunities to share the gospel.

“This will be a new attempt by WELS to reach into the Muslim world,” says Schlomer. “The opportunity for learning, outreach, and immersion in this culture will help us grow in our understanding of Muslim influence. We pray this becomes not only a blessing to the Wolof people but also a resource for future Muslim outreach around the world.”

In 2021, world missionaries were tasked with researching where WELS might have the opportunity to plant new world mission fields, with the goal of bringing the gospel to some of the 7,000+ unreached people groups around the world. The Wolof tribe in Senegal was identified as a potential mission field opportunity. Other areas identified include Bangladesh, Dubai, New Zealand, and other U.S. Native American tribes.

Learn more about these locations for future mission work at wels.net/newworldmissionfields.

 

Senegal

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Giving God the glory. . . on and off the field

Jack Strand is a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bloomer, Wis. Jack played quarterback for Bloomer High School and was recruited to play in college. During the recruiting process, he and his parents, Jim and Veronica, made sure that the colleges that were recruiting him had WELS churches with campus ministries in their areas. It was important to Jack to keep God’s Word, what Jesus called the one thing we need most, at the center of his life.

Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) offered Jack a scholarship to play football. Ascension Lutheran Church was five minutes from the college campus. Rev. Jordan Uhlhorn from Ascension and Rev. Daniel Sprain from Shepherd of the Valley in West Fargo, N.D., lead the campus ministry each Thursday night for college students in the area. He committed to playing football for them in 2022. Jack is now a sophomore at MSUM where he plays football, studies engineering physics, and goes to church and campus ministry.

Another WELS member, Josiah Behm from Appleton, Wis,, is a junior who plays linebacker for the MSUM Dragons football team. Jack and Josiah go to church together on Sundays, the campus ministry studies on Thursdays, and to the various campus ministry events. About ten students attend the campus ministry studies and events. Jack and Josiah’s teammates see that their faith is important to them as they let their lights shine on and off the field.

Here’s what Jack has to say about being a student athlete:

“It gives you a different perspective than a non-Christian student athlete might have, because you are doing everything for a different reason. God says to do all things for his glory, so not only are you playing for other people and earthly reasons, but most importantly to give God glory. Being a student athlete is stressful and takes up a ton of time, so finding time to be in the Word and talk to God can be difficult, but absolutely necessary. It’s a blessing to be able to go to God in prayer in good times and bad. When things aren’t going well, you ask for his guidance and help, and when things are going well, you give him thanks and praise. Being a student athlete is also a great opportunity to let your light shine and show by example how a Christian lives their life.”

Here’s what Jack has to say about what campus ministry means:

“It’s a great opportunity to meet and connect with people your age who have the same faith, beliefs, and values in life as you do. Too often, people get sucked into college life and what they might see and do on campus, and so having a group of students who share the same faith is very valuable while continuing the walk of faith during the college years. Having gone to a public high school, I didn’t know a lot of WELS people my age. Now with campus ministry, I have the opportunity to meet WELS people my age and make friends with them, and continue to strengthen my faith while I’m in college. During our Bible studies we learn, talk to one another, and ‘encourage one another and build one another up’ as Paul said, and it is a blessing from God to be able to do so.”

Written by Rev. James Strand, serving at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Bloomer, Wis., and father to Jack.

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Lutheran Seminary installs principal in Zambia

Originally appears in the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) newsletter. Subscribe to future updates from the CELC at celc.info/signup.

Pastor Davison Mutentami, LCCA-Z Chairman

The Lutheran Church of Central Africa – Zambia (LCCA-Z) joyfully gathered for the installation of Pastor Chibikubantu Simweeleba (pictured center above) as the new principal of the Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia, on Saturday, September 16, 2023. Pastor Simweeleba is the seminary’s fifth principal in its nearly 60-year history. He is the second Zambian national pastor to fill this call.

Seminary Board of Control Chairman Pastor Edward Bangwe officiated at the morning service. Pastor David Baloyi based his sermon on the theme “Be Strong and Courageous!” from Joshua 1:1-9. Following the sermon, several area pastors shared their blessings and encouragement for Principal Simweeleba during a laying-on-of-hands ceremony.

A short program followed the service. LCCA-Z chairman Pastor Davison Mutentami brought the new principal greetings from the synod, encouraging Pastor Simweeleba to be among the synod’s pastors and members as an ambassador for the Seminary. The Simweelebas received well wishes and gifts from the attendees. The festivities concluded with a fellowship luncheon.

Pastor Simweeleba has been a pastor since 2009 and has served on the faculty of the Lutheran Seminary beginning in 2018. His responsibilities as principal will now take him beyond the seminary campus. He will use his experience in ministry to reach the synod’s membership as the face of the Seminary to recruit new students, nurture collaboration with the synod’s pastors and lay leadership, and along with the seminary faculty and the Board of Control, tailor the Seminary’s instructional program to meet the future ministerial needs of the LCCA-Z.

Written by Pastor Anthony Phiri, Dean of the Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia

 




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The brotherhood in Nepal

The gospel creates a brotherhood. Jesus taught the gospel to his twelve disciples. They became his brothers. Yes, Judas betrayed him, forsaking the brotherhood. But when Jesus called Judas, he called him as a brother. Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:34,35).

WELS missionaries enjoy a brotherhood in their mission fields. The Holy Spirit calls them to teach the gospel to church leaders in other nations. As they grow together in the gospel, they become friends and brothers. Yes, some, like Judas, will betray the cause of the gospel. But many will remain loyal. The brotherhood continues.

We enjoy a brotherhood with the church leaders of the CELC of Nepal. Our brotherhood grows when we study God’s Word together. Recently I traveled to Nepal to teach the book of Isaiah to ten church leaders.

We learned the gospel from Isaiah. We learned gospel encouragement from Isaiah. As we studied the call of Isaiah, we thought of ways to encourage others who have a ministry like Isaiah. God called Isaiah to “Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes” (Isaiah 6:10). Isaiah had a difficult ministry, announcing God’s judgment on his unbelieving people.

The students composed messages of encouragement to share with WELS missionaries and national church leaders in difficult situations. The Nepal leaders have also suffered persecution for their Christian faith. Their own experience helped them express their encouragement.

One leader wrote, “I heard you are having trouble in your ministry, sometimes people come to beat you and hinder your work. I’m very sad to hear about that. Sometimes they will blame you with false things. But don’t worry. God is with you. God will help you in your ministry and work there. Don’t be discouraged. God will give you strength. Wherever there is persecution the believers remain. I’m praying for you and your ministry.”

We sent the messages through WhatsApp to our WELS missionaries. They rejoiced to receive such messages. They asked to share the messages with others. The brotherhood grows.

Praise God.

Written by WELS Asia One Team missionary.

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West African kickoff

Originally appears in the One Africa Team blog. Subscribe to future updates from Africa at oneafricateam.com.

A kickoff always signals the start of a football game. From September 2-9, 2023, we kicked off a new organization in Africa. The One Africa Team brought together two leaders from each of WELS’ three partner church bodies in West Africa: Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria, All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria, and the Lutheran Church of Cameroon. These six men sat together to solve some very sticky issues involving budgets, curricula, and staffing of their seminary programs.

We set up a WhatsApp chat group to communicate throughout the week. It was useful for communication about what we had done in the conference room, details about meals, etc. We also came to understand that we could also use this forum for a monthly meeting. Regular communication will greatly assist us in making plans and holding one another accountable so that things get done.

Our biggest topic of conversation was to gain an understanding of the One Africa Team’s vision for quarterly ministry plans. Much has changed since the days when missionaries resided in Nigeria and Cameroon. Due to security, WELS missionaries do not live in West Africa. In those days our partners were quite free to come and tell us, “We need ____ to carry out our ministry.” Then the local missionary would see what he could do to provide it for them.

Now, our West African brothers are writing their own plans. They are very clear about the programs that they are planning to implement. These plans include the purpose of the proposed program and who will be the participants and the teachers. Plans also include where the proposed program will take place and benchmarks to gauge the program’s effectiveness. The focus of ministry planning must remain on reaching people with the gospel. However, detailed estimates of expenses and funding sources are important for successful planning. We now have a good understanding of what our partners need for the upcoming quarter. With some minor adjustments, our partners will be ready to move forward with assistance from the One Africa Team.

We have opened a line of communication between the One Africa Team and the West African leadership group. After the initial kickoff, the ball is now rolling.

Written by Rev. Dan Kroll, world missionary on the One Africa Team and liaison to West Africa

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Faces of Faith – Eunita

“I want to emulate Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ service to his people.”

Meet Eunita Odongo, a deaconess in WELS’ sister church, the Lutheran Congregation in Mission for Christ – Kenya. Hear how she’s giving back to her community and spreading the gospel message in this special Faces of Faith video.

Learn more about mission work in Kenya and throughout the continent of Africa at wels.net/africa.

Faces of Faith – Eric

“Surely, when you find the Lord, life changes.”

Meet Eric Kebeno, baptized member at the Lutheran Congregation in Mission for Christ – Kenya congregation in Soweto. Hear how the gospel has changed his life in this special Faces of Faith video.

Learn more about mission work in Kenya and throughout the continent of Africa at wels.net/africa.