Tag Archive for: missions

Mission mysteries

The wick was missing. Five or six weeks in a row. A member would light one of two oil candles on our cafeteria table altar and then discover . . . the other had no wick. Well, it had one, but it had gotten pulled down into the oil below.

If pushing a frayed, charred, oily string back up through a pinhole in front of church two minutes before worship sounds like an easy job, several members of Citrus Grove will assure you – it is not! Our go-to fix-it guy went to his truck for a special tool, and without complaining, operated on the wick until he had it reassembled. Five or six weeks in a row. Why did this keep happening? One time a pastor who shall remain unnamed knocked it over. No mystery there! But all those other times . . .  We wondered if the candle box got bumped during the week as it sat in the school’s storage room. Finally, one Saturday while converting the cafeteria into a sanctuary, a leader of the congregation noticed another leader had set the candles on the altar and was unscrewing the tops to check the oil level. “Stop!” I heard him shout. But it was too late: The wick had pulled through again. But mystery solved! It wasn’t sabotage or carelessness. It was a Christian serving as well as he knew how. It was one of those tiny mission mix-ups best solved by a minute of training with a laugh and a smile.

Your second mission mystery for today is more serious, because it involves coffee. One weekend it was . . . gasp . . . cold. The member who serves as our barista was flustered and apologetic. She followed our regular procedure, but it never heated up. Of course the pastor had just told everyone to grab a cup of coffee and greet each other. Of course there were guests in attendance. And the coffee was cold. The brain trust of faithful coffee drinkers gathered around the machine. “It’s either the outlet, the extension cord, or the machine,” one said. Another said, “No way it’s the cord or the outlet. It’s definitely the machine.” By the next Sunday we had a shiny new machine, which worked flawlessly. Everyone was happy, because they had their coffee! But the following week, the mystery thickened. Our brand new commercial brewer got warm, but definitely not hot. A wise observer noticed a new light on the extension cord. “It looks like between the coffee maker and the hot water boiler, you’re blowing a fuse. Get a new cord. Or use two outlets.” We had already tossed the trusty old machine in the trash, but it served a final purpose: The cold coffee mystery was solved. Another one of those mission mix-ups, handled with a laugh and a smile by some very forgiving souls.

One thing is for sure: More mysteries will pop up as we pack and unpack equipment, rearrange cafeteria tables, and host outreach events in rented spaces. Mix-ups will be traced back to well-meaning Christians doing their best to serve Jesus and his people. Beyond a minute of training, the best reaction is to laugh and smile and thank Jesus for the brothers and sisters working alongside us in his harvest field.

Written by Rev. Phil Hunter, home missionary at Citrus Grove Lutheran Church in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

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Update from Ukraine: April 8, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Prayers are asked today for Hanna and Maryna who have fled from the atrocities and bombings in Mariupol and have been able to leave the country. They are ULC members of a mission church. Bishop has contacted leaders in Germany and Sweden to help find a place for them to stay until they can, Lord willing, one day return. It’s been a difficult trip for them, taking many days. We also pray for them because they take with them the baggage of memories of what they have seen done to their city, and their people.

I mentioned that Bishop was going to deliver some medical supplies today. He has done this and I also copied and included in this update a message that Bishop received from them, which he has allowed me to share.

They wrote, “Today we thank the Ukrainian Lutheran Church and its head V’yacheslav Horpynchuk for caring about our community. It is thanks to Mr. Vyacheslav, our utility company “Center of Primary Medical – Sanitary Aid” Goshanskoy Seli Council in the person of the general director Tatiana Polí щуuk received the medicine. A list of medical drugs has been formed by company doctors, so they are essential for patients today. The head of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church emphasized that the church together with American Lutherans with WELS, Pastor Roger Neumann and Bishop Mark Schroeder are still ready to help the Ukrainian people in its fight for the restoration of Ukrainian of the state. And our organization is still ready to cooperate with the Ukrainian Lutheran Church in all matters for the benefit of the community and Ukraine.”

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: April 7, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today Bishop Horpynchuk shared with me what they are doing to help hospitals get supplies that are in critically short supply. This is a brief example of what they are doing and how they are doing it. Because of the increase in the number of people, hospitals need many different basic supplies. They make available lists of those things that are needed. Things like bandages, disinfectants, iodine, medicine for fevers, sterilizers, just to name a few items. Helpers then travel to various pharmacies, sometimes traveling in a radius of up to 50 miles to collect these supplies. This is what Bishop, and some of those with him, have been doing the past couple of days. Tomorrow they will deliver what they were able to purchase. Then they will start on another project to help get food supplies to the hospitals or places that house refugees. Similar examples like this are taking place in many other places that have an overflow of refugees.

I then asked how he and the other ULC Pastors are holding up under the daily stress and anxieties that accompany this war. How best to explain his answer is to say that, having themselves heard the many reports of brutality, and down right evil behavior by the enemy in a number of cities, has stunned and saddened them by the sheer magnitude of this brutality. But their faith in the Lord compels them to carry on in their ministry to the people. Believing that, in the Lord there is hope and certainty. They continue to offer words of comfort, from the Scriptures, and take time to pray with the people.

We ask a special prayer for one of their Pastors who said that renewed bombing was under way and that bombs were now falling within a half mile of his location. We pray that God will keep him and his family safe. Another Pastor commented that much of his recent days have been spent in long lines, registering for services that are needed for one of his children.

A Ukrainian newspaper reported the Bishop’s recent visit, by invitation, to the local Administration Building on the front page. The article covered his visit, and it also mentioned that, “American Lutherans are filled with compassion to Ukrainians and are willing to help with all means possible.” I certainly concur with that.

We continue to pray for the people of Ukraine. May God, who is rich in love and mercy, protect his people there.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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If those doors could talk

“Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:7).

Psalm 24 paints an interesting picture for us. Gates and doors lifting their heads to joyfully welcome the King of Glory passing through them? Amazing! Wouldn’t it be something to hear how they would describe such a tremendous scene?

Rev. Kirk Massey, pastor at Church of the Open Bible, and his family

There’s another set of doors I’d love to hear. What stories they could tell about the people who’ve walked through them and the wonderful things that happened inside! This year marks the 100th year that the doors of the Church of the Open Bible in Whiteriver, Ariz., have swung open and welcomed people inside to hear about the King of Glory.

If those doors could talk . . . maybe they would talk about the first person to ever walk through them. On April 30, 1922, a crowd gathered on the front steps of a brand-new church building in the middle of Whiteriver. Several years of planning and believing and finally building had led up to this moment. The hard work of their hands was finished. A church anchored on a shelf of volcanic lava, thick timbers placed carefully, a cross on the top that had been carried up the steep roof strapped to the back of the missionary. Now, all eyes were on the two men at the doors. The “Inashood ‘Ndaezen” (Tall Missionary) Edgar Guenther, and Chief Alchesay, leader of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. As they watched, Alchesay took the key, turned the lock, and led his people into the church. He strode down the center aisle and told everyone following him that “This was the only church I put my thumbprint on.” Pointing to the Bible and looking at Rev. Guenther he said, “You listen to him when he speaks from this book.” Then he and 100 of his band were baptized.

If those doors could talk, they would talk about Alchesay passing through them one last time, six years later. As he was dying, he had one request: to be buried with the key to the church in his headband, since that key had opened God’s house for him, and opened heaven for him.

If those doors could lift up their heads and talk . . . oh the stories they could tell from the last 100 years! Seeing babies brought in by proud parents to have their names written in the Book of Life at the baptismal font, hearing the sounds of children singing songs about their Savior Jesus, rejoicing in the adults who came in burdened with sins and leaving in the peace of forgiveness. So many people have gone through those doors, some of them finding peace and being changed forever, some walking away in anger, and other leaving in a casket while their footsteps ring in heaven.

The doors of the Church of the Open Bible have been open for 100 years, because about 2,000 years ago, the doors of this world opened up to welcome the King of Glory into it to save us, the gates of Jerusalem opened up for Him to pay for the sins of all people, and the Holy Spirit has continued to open the hearts of people like Alchesay for the King of Glory to enter in.

Pray that those doors continue to open and say, “Come in! You’ll find the King of Glory here. And He’s got good news for you!”

Written by Rev. Dan Rautenberg, world missionary on the Native American mission team.

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Board for Home Missions approves five new missions

On March 31–April 1, the WELS Board for Home Missions met and approved 12 new mission requests—five new home mission starts, five enhancements at existing congregations, and two unsubsidized missions.

New home missions are being supported in:

  • Windsor, Colo., where WELS congregations in Ft. Collins, Loveland, and Greeley are supporting this mission start in a rapidly growing area in northern Colorado. Currently 20 WELS families are located in the target area, which has no Lutheran churches.
  • Wichita, Kan., where the area population is expected to grow by ten percent over the next ten years on the east side of the city. This will be a second site ministry for Messiah, Wichita.
  • Canton, Ga., a fast-growing suburb of metro Atlanta identified by members and leadership from Beautiful Savior, Marietta, Ga., as a prime location to plant a new mission church.
  • Conroe, Texas, the northernmost suburb of Houston, which is the fifth-fastest-growing city in the United States. Abiding Word, Houston, Texas, is helping this new mission get off the ground.
  • Lodi, Wis., which is a second-site ministry for Zion, Leeds, Wis. Zion has already leased a ministry center in Lodi and the 17-person ministry team hopes to launch worship services this year. This mission is financially supported by Zion, but it will receive support from Home Missions through the district mission board, mission counselors, and special grants.

The Board for Home Missions is also financially supporting ministry enhancements for St. John, St. Paul, Minn.; Cross of Glory, Baton Rouge, La.; Divine Savior, Delray Beach, Fla.; Abiding Savior, Killeen, Texas; and Our Savior, Burlington, Iowa. It is providing unsubsidized support to Mount Calvary, Redding/Anderson, Calif.; and Living Faith, Midlothian, Texas. More details about these ministries can be found at wels.net/newstarts.

Rev. Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions, commends district mission board members and mission counselors for the hard work that went into the 28 new ministry requests that the Board for Home Missions received for consideration during last week’s meetings. As Free notes, “Not all the requests could be funded, but $610,000 of new ministry was. Thank you, Lord, for those who support gospel outreach through WELS’ home mission churches.”

WELS currently has 141 home mission congregations in the United States, Canada, and the English-speaking West Indies. To learn more about WELS Home Missions, visit wels.net/homemissions.

 

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 31, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Praise God from whom all blessings flow. One of the pastors, and his family, who were in a dangerous situation have gotten out of area. It wasn’t without a great deal of tension though, as their bus was stopped and detained for an extended period of time. A one hour and 15 minute drive turned into 6-8 hours. But news came earlier this afternoon, late evening for them, that they have reached their destination safely. Wonderful news, thank you Lord.

Today I asked about the work of distribution of goods to refugees. This will give you an idea of what they are doing on a daily basis. Refugees can get food and help at certain designated locations, or things can be delivered to homes where refugees are staying. Both methods and locations of delivery are being made. Two days a week people will go to purchase supplies. This would include flour, pasta, buck wheat, preserves, fish, pork or chicken, and chocolates for the children. Treats for the children bring smiles to their faces and reminds them of happier days. Then the goods are sorted and taken to places where they are needed. Sometimes prayers are spoken in the homes; people ask for them. Medicine and food is also taken to hospitals. No one anticipated so many people, so there is a massive effort by churches and local organizations to meet all the demands. This seems to be going quite well and efficiently.

Something that they are becoming more and more aware of, is that there are refugee families who are too shy, or scared, to ask for help, thinking no one cares about them. Bishop is going to encourage pastors to actively search for these people so that goods can be taken to them.

There are many people who come with little or no possessions. They only have the clothes that they are wearing. To help them, trips are being made to used clothing stores to purchase more clothing. Something one wouldn’t think of is that some of the homes, who take in refugees, don’t have enough cooking utensils to make meals. They ask for extra pots and pans, plates, table settings, etc. It makes me realize how many things in our lives we simply take for granted.

I hope that this gives you a little better idea of how the people are managing, and how they help one another. And how there is always work to do, and opportunity to do it, to help someone in need.

Tomorrow, the mayor of a nearby city has invited Bishop Horpynchuk to come and give a devotion and pray with the people. More and more, people are asking for spiritual support. Once again, what a wonderful opportunity to speak of the gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ. May God bless Bishop’s devotion and prayers, and that by hearing the Word, people’s hearts can be filled with peace and hope.

We continue to pray for the people of Ukraine and ask God to guard and protect them.

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Prayers for a church

In 2010, Caroline McCatty prayed that God would help her and her husband Lawrence to find a really good church. At the time, the couple was in the process of moving from England to the United States. Caroline knew the transition would take them to a new place, and she didn’t have any connections in the area to which she could reach out and ask for a church recommendation. As they settled in the East Coast of the United States, God led the McCattys to a small WELS church. The pastor there taught from the Bible, and focused on Jesus as the Savior of the world. Previously, the McCattys had attended a church in England, but not one that clearly preached the truths of Scripture. At the WELS church in the United States, they learned messages from the Bible that they had never heard before–and quickly grew to love.

Five years later, the McCattys returned to their home country as WELS members. Upon their return, they lifted up a different prayer – one that requested Scripture-based worship and instruction. The couple observed a different scene in England than what they had witnessed at the WELS church in the United States. They asked for that same Christ-centered gospel message to come to England: they wanted the solid meat that WELS offers, rather than a watered-down version of Scripture they saw throughout England. They prayed for six years; then God led WELS to start up mission work in England. Missionary Michael Hartman is leading the effort and is working with the McCattys and others in England to coordinate services and ministry.

The McCattys serve as an example to us of an existing core group of WELS and CELC members living in England. Thus far, members of the CELC church bodies on four continents are known to live in England. The goal is that this core group serve as a starting place for gospel outreach to the country. If you know a member or contact currently living in England, please contact Missionary Hartman. (Email: Michael.Hartman@wels.net / WhatsApp: +13058900560 or +447360712166.)

Read the rest of the McCatty’s story in their Forward in Christ article.

Written by Rev. Michael Hartman, world missionary in London, England.

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Update from Ukraine: March 27, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


I had mentioned that Bishop Horpynchuk was asked to have a brief devotion, to be taped and aired on National Radio. This recording will be heard throughout the country and replayed multiple times over the next few days and weeks.

These are some of the thoughts that he shared with the nation. Beginning with Psalm 45, he said that God is our refuge and strength. God is on our side. During these difficult times of need God is sending them help thru their Western friends, and many are praying for them. He read John 3:16, and spoke of the forgiveness of sins that is freely given thru Jesus Christ our Lord. He emphasized that Jesus Christ is the most precious gift that we possess. He prayed that God would provide victory so that there could once again be peace in the land. Finally he encouraged the listener to put their trust in God, because he will not forsake us.

“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Ps 95:1,2 Today was another day of worship for the Lutheran Churches in Ukraine. I will keep the names of the pastors, and their locations, hidden for the present time.

Bishop Horpynchuk wanted to make a few calls on people today so we will wait until tomorrow to talk again. He did comment that people are starting to come out again for worship in bigger numbers. Understanding that many have left these areas, who may not be back for some time.

He did want me to express to all of you his profound thanks for all of your support and prayers. This thanks is extended to you from their pastors and congregations as well. They appreciate your prayers and support.

I, too, thank you for reminding me, by your expressions of support and prayer, of David’s words in his Psalm; “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Ps 133:1. The Christian family is strong because of our love for one another, in Christ. May God be with you, may he bless and keep you today and always. And may God bless the people of Ukraine and grant them peace.

 

 

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 25, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today Bishop Horpynchuk was able to give a devotion that was recorded on their National Radio. What a blessing to be able to reach out with the gospel message of Jesus Christ crucified, for the forgiveness of sins, to what should have been a very large audience in Ukraine. The gospel message will not be silenced, nor will God have his witnesses be silenced. If one takes the time to look, we can see clearly how God’s hand is at work, especially in times of deep and dark distress. What immediately came to mind, when I heard of this opportunity, were the words of Isaiah, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Is 55:11

Bishop was able to contact the Pastors in areas of danger, pray with them, and encourage them. We still wait for their evacuation and pray that God keeps them safe. But for now they are alive and we thank the Lord for this.

Many prayers are needed and many prayers are being heard. Thank you for taking time to read these updates. It means a great deal to the people in Ukraine that you are thinking of them and keeping them in your prayers.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Ps 90:1,2 AMEN

 

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Opportunities for Hispanic outreach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Paul Prange, Joint Mission Council Chairman.

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Update from Ukraine: March 23, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Just a short while ago, one of the pastors and his family, who I asked you to pray for yesterday, has reached their destination safely. Their journey was a long one. The first day they traveled approximately 200 miles which took them 12 hours. Checkpoints congest traffic. At each checkpoint they need to show identification and have their vehicle searched. Saboteurs sometimes steal vehicles and infiltrate cities. Today their trip was equally as long, but they are safe. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

The other pastor, I asked you to pray for yesterday, is still in a dangerous area as plans to leave yesterday did not happen. They will try again, and Lord willing get to safety.

Right now there are three Pastors in areas of great danger. I’ve been asked to be vague about who and where these are. Prayers are asked for them, our Lord knows for whom you are praying.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 22, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today I ask for special prayers, for two of the Pastors in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. These pastors, along with their families, are now no longer safe where they are at. In one situation bombing has come very close to their home and the family is very fearful. They have chosen, for their safety, to leave. They are driving and have found, what for now, seems to be a safe route out of the area. I pray that continues to be the case. They will encounter a number of checkpoints on their journey. It may take days to get where they are going. They are keeping in contact with Bishop. When they reach their destination, there are people who will take them in.

The other situation is one in which FSB operatives are now arresting political leaders and deputies in that city. As they are in other cities too. There is grave concern that religious leaders would be the next to be arrested. In this situation the family is leaving by bus. Driving a private vehicle may be too dangerous. Those on the bus are allowed to bring only two packages with them. All the rest of their possessions will remain at their home.

I know that you will be praying for these families; thank you very much! Pray that God will keep them safe and that he will bring them to their destinations without incident. As Bishop keeps me informed of their welfare, I will relay that on to you was well. On a personal note, these pastors are friends I’ve worked with over the past few years. They, and their families are faithful leaders in their communities. I, as I know you do too, entrust them into God’s care and keeping.

Germany is now welcoming more refugees and our sister synod there is offering to house more families. Bishop Horpynchuk wished for me to once again extend his thanks for their care. Other church bodies in the CELC are offering the same; thank you as well!

May God continue to look with mercy and love upon his precious souls who are enduring this dreadful ordeal.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 18, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


It was good to have a conversation again today with Bishop Horpynchuk. Thanks be to God!

News today comes from Malyn that the Russians are attempting to seize the city. Why Malyn? What threat is there in this city? Pastor Didkivski has been actively helping with refugees. When life returns to some sort of normal, I truly believe these pastors and their congregations will be remembered by the people, in their towns and cities, as people who lived their faith, who truly cared for and helped others in their times of need. May God continue to bless their faithful labors of love and compassion.

Perhaps I need to write a few words about what it means to be helping with the refugees. Most of these refugees have left behind practically everything they own in their homes and have fled with little more than the clothes they are wearing and some meager possessions. Also, they left in haste with little time to separate needed things from desired things. I can’t imagine leaving everything in my home and fleeing with the real possibility that nothing will be left if, or when, I ever return. So when they come after days of traveling on the crowded roads they have run out of food, are in need of clothing, shoes, jackets, soap, medicine, and money to purchase fuel. Our pastors and churches try to help these people. I’m told that each day the churches deal with, on average, 15-30 families. Some are just stopping to sleep, get some food, clean up, and then go on. Others wish to stay longer and shelters or homes are found. But some places are already overflowing, still they try to find some room.

I hope these few sentences give you a glimpse of what our brothers and sisters in Christ are doing to help people in Ukraine.

The atrocities continue each day as more and more reports of evil and senseless acts of violence are perpetrated upon innocent people. It will be difficult to erase from people’s memories what they see, and what they have lost. It will take generations to heal, but we trust that our Lord not only can but will heal the brokenhearted.

Through this all, God has been with them and he continues to sustain them. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Cor 4:16

May God bless and keep them in his loving care.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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One day makes an eternal difference

Although our first encounter took place over six months ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. Last year was The Vine’s first time hosting a booth at Joplin, Mo.’s, downtown block party called Third Thursday. This once-a-month event gets crowds in the thousands, but God’s watchful eye coordinated the events of that day so that two of his children in particular would come in contact with us. Throughout the event we greeted attendees and offered Vine-branded gear along with plants, snacks, and water bottles to anyone that would take them. The entire day was constant communication from one person to the next.

I had just got done speaking with a younger couple when I turned around and saw them. Coming towards me was an elderly couple riding their scooters, slowly making their way down the road observing vendors as they went. They were accompanied by their rescued yellow lab showing them around with a slobbery smile at their side. As they approached our booth I asked them, “May I interest either of you in a free plant, coffee mug, or cupcake?” Their shock made me realize they probably thought I was trying to convince them to buy something. I believe after some convincing they took a free plant and a mug. Before they left, they asked who we were and where we were located. I let them know that we were a new Lutheran mission church in town that had been worshiping for about six months right on Main Street.

Two of my favorite things in life are evangelism and dogs, so it was easy for me to talk about our beliefs with them all while petting their pup. As I was listening to their story, they let me know that they were Christians that had been trying to find a church home for quite some time. After some wonderful discussion, they let me know that they would check us out on Sunday. If I’m being honest, I didn’t think much of it. Over the course of a Third Thursday, you might converse with a couple hundred people and dozens of them say, “See you Sunday” with a smile. But then I would show up for worship and see that was not the case. That Sunday came, and as I was talking to a visitor before worship started one of our members tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Pastor, someone is here to see you.” I looked to the door and saw them. Harry was in his wheel chair and Mary was standing right next to him with a big smile on her face. I quickly greeted them and let them know how happy I was to have them join us for worship. After the service they said that they very much enjoyed it and would see us again.

Fast forward about a month later and they had not missed a service. At the end of every service, I offer an open invite to anyone interested in going through a Bible Basics course with me. These classes teach the fundamental teachings of the Scriptures and upon completion allow one to become a member of our church if they desire. As I was greeting people after the service that day, Harry let me know that the two of them were interested in membership. The very next day we started class at their house. Although their homemade fajitas, apple cobbler, and chocolate chip cookies were incredibly delicious, the greatest joy for all of us was diving into the Word and hearing about our wonderful Savior. The two enjoyed asking questions they had held in before and finding many answers in the Word. After completing the course, the two gladly joined our membership right before Christmas. Their company is truly a blessing to everyone around them.

We might ask ourselves, “What can be accomplished in one day?” Well, we as blood-bought souls and former wretches that are now redeemed know firsthand that the Lord can do a great deal in 24 hours. On a cross at Calvary, the Lamb of God died to pay for the sins of the world. God reconciled the entire world to himself, not counting our sins against us but against his Son. On that one day we were saved. On that day, heaven was won for all of the Lord’s people. The Lord blesses our days in light of that one great day. In one day, life for Harry and Mary completely changed. In one day at a booth in Joplin they met brothers and sisters in Christ that wanted to welcome them in as family; that wanted to rejoice with them, mourn with them, and worship the one true God with them.

As Harry put it when he commented on our Facebook page: “It is so good to find a church home after so many years. I no longer feel as if I’m skating on thin ice . . . thank you so much!” The Lord has and will continue to do so much each day. Every one of us is proof of that.

Written by Pastor Jordan Bence, home missionary at The Vine Lutheran Church in Joplin, Missouri.

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Update from Ukraine: March 16, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


All the Ukranian Lutheran Church (ULC) pastors are alive and as far as can be told all the members of the ULC are alive. But more and more stories are coming out of friends and neighbors of our fellow Christians who have been killed and homes that are damaged or totally destroyed. There is active shooting near Tokmak and Bereznehuvate, and daily bombing and shooting in Kharkiv. Food and water in these areas, which are located in eastern Ukraine, are still available but prices are rising rapidly. Please keep Pastors Khaustov, Feschenko, and Tytski, along with their families and their members in your prayers. Along with all of Ukraine.

In Western Ukraine our churches continue to help the increasing numbers of refugees who are coming there. More sets of blankets, pillows and primitive mattresses are being purchased so that children and families can have something soft to sleep on.

There are many stories of personal suffering, and situations that people are forced to deal with. Medicines, doctors, and nurses are needed, it seems, almost everywhere. These stories are repeated over and over again, by many different people.

But there are also heart warming stories as well. Bishop’s music director and organist has arrived in Germany. She has been taken in by a family from the German Lutheran Church(ELFK). I’m told they have a piano and some of the family play violins. What wonderful music must now adorn that home. I know this because I’ve heard her play a number of times for services. Thank you to Pres. Michael Herbst and people in the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Germany for your help with people fleeing to your country.

With so many refugees in western Ukraine, our churches there are beginning to hold classes for the children. Most schools are closed right now due to the sirens going off numerous times each day. Efforts, such as this, are an attempt to re-establish a sense of normal for the children in such frightening times. Thank you to Pastors Serhiy Somin, Roman Anduntsiv, Taras Kokovsky, also to Nina and Vasul Andreychuk, and to the workers involved with The Gift of Life. Your efforts are being noticed and are appreciated. May God continue to bless your labors.

Thank you again for reading this and thank you for keeping Ukraine in your prayers.

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Pray for Ukraine

Lord God, in this world of darkness and evil, the light of your saving gospel continues to shine. Through that good news you have brought people around the world from the darkness of sin and death into your marvelous light. But evil exists and Satan’s work in this fallen world continues. As many in Ukraine are experiencing unimaginable hardships and suffering, we ask that you would be with them. Protect them; provide for them; and, above all, strengthen their faith and trust in you and your promises. We commend them to your gracious care, knowing that you have promised to be with them always. Even though they are now walking through the shadow of death, enable them to fear no evil. We ask you, in your love and wisdom, to restore peace and safety to those now enduring the horrors of war and bloodshed and to continue to let your gospel message be the comfort and hope that so many desperately need. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

The situation for our brothers and sisters in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) remains dire. We thank God that none of the pastors or members have lost their lives, but at least some members report that their homes have been destroyed. Some of the pastors and members have relocated to places that are relatively safe and removed from the heavy fighting, but others remain in areas where military activity is taking place every day. We continue to pray for their safety.

Last weekend, several ULC congregations—even some in areas controlled by foreign forces—were able to hold worship services either in person or virtually. God’s Word continues to be proclaimed even in the middle of a terrible war.

Rev. V’yacheslav Horpynchuk, the bishop of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, has been in regular contact via Zoom with Rev. Roger Neumann, the WELS liaison to the ULC. I am also able to communicate with the bishop. Pastor Neumann has been providing daily updates on the situation as reported by Bishop Horpynchuk.

WELS members have already been very generous with gifts intended to support relief and humanitarian efforts both for members of the ULC and for the refugees and local citizens in need of help. We thank all those who have given gifts for Ukraine relief. Those gifts are being channeled through WELS World Missions, which remains in contact with the ULC and is still able to transfer funds. To date, $125,000 has been sent by World Missions. You can give a gift by going to wels.net/give-ukraine.

Currently, collecting physical relief items (blankets, water, canned goods, diapers, etc.) to send to Ukraine is not the best option for assisting those impacted by this war. The expense and logistical complexity of getting such items to those who need them make such an effort impractical. WELS is assisting with humanitarian aid for refugees in Poland through an agency called Direct Relief. To date, WELS Christian Aid and Relief has sent $50,000 to Direct Relief. This highly rated disaster relief organization specializes in providing medical assistance and supplies where they are needed most. It has both the inventory and infrastructure to bring medical aid to an area quickly. We have worked with this organization for many years and trust its work. Other sister churches in Europe are also looking for ways to provide assistance.

Missionary Luke Wolfgramm and his wife, Jennifer, who were living in Novosibirsk, Russia, have safely exited the country. They are currently staying in Durres, Albania, where Luke is providing continuing education to leaders of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church of Albania, WELS’ sister church. From there they maintain regular contact with the three national pastors in Russia, encourage the Russian Lutheran Church’s leadership and 270 members, and continue online seminary training. The Wolfgramms will be returning to the United States this summer for regularly scheduled meetings and family time. Depending on how events unfold, they will most likely relocate to another location in Europe to partner with sister church bodies in their theological education and outreach efforts.

This entire tragic drama is another stark reminder of the wickedness and depravity that infects the human soul. And yet, even in these darkest of days, we remain confident that the Lord of lords is still ruling with his grace and power. We pray for an end to the war. We pray that God would preserve the lives of his believers in Ukraine, as well as the lives of all the citizens of Ukraine. With confidence in his promises, we commend them all to his gracious care and protection.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

 

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New locations for cross-cultural outreach

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

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

New Sudanese Mission—Phoenix, Ariz.

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

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

Mission Enhancement—Las Vegas, Nev.

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

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

 

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 13, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Bishop and I were not able to talk today. There is a lot of activity, near and in the city of Kiev. The fighting is intensifying. I know he’s very concerned about many of his members who haven’t yet been able to leave the city. He tries to work with them, in making arrangements for them to find ways to get out of the city. Bishop told me that one train with refugees, coming out of Kiev, was bombed today by Russians. It has to be emotionally draining, and time consuming for him. We pray for their safety. We pray for this to stop.

I was happy to hear that there was a public worship service in Tokmak today and that the service went very well. This despite the fact that Russia now occupies Tokmak. It’s so encouraging to hear that Word and sacrament are still being administered. Especially in such conditions and times.

I also saw that Rev. Taras Kokovsky posted, that toward the end of their service at St. John/St. James in Ternopil the siren went off causing people to leave and seek shelter. May God guard and keep them in his care.

I know that today, in many of our churches here in America, prayers were raised to God for the people of Ukraine. I know this because you have told me this through the many people who have communicated with me. Thank you and please continue to pray for the people of Ukraine.

I hope and pray that the Lord blessed your worship today. May God be with you all. The Lord strengthens us through each other’s prayers and support.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 11, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today’s conversation was earlier than most days. A number of western cities have been bombed today. Where there was no fighting yesterday changed dramatically today. There is a growing sense of desperation among the people in Ukraine that other countries aren’t doing enough to help. They plead, help is needed now.

Another fear, that people have had, is that Russians will capture and arrest political leaders. This has become a reality in certain cities. Bishop [Horpynchuk, head of the ULC) fears that after the political leaders they will then come for the religious leaders. Bishop is particularly concerned for Oleksandr Feschenko in Tokmak. He asks our prayers for him and his family.

A comment that sticks with me is when Bishop said that it’s as though he is living in the times of Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet. Lamenting over what is happening to his people and his country. Which presented a good opportunity for both of us to be reminded that God is still in control. That in this world there will be suffering, but we have a greater hope, made certain for us by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Man can disappoint us, hurt us, and even kill us, but man cannot take our Savior from us, nor remove the hope that we have in Christ.

Our conversation today was a mixture of sadness, disappointment, frustration, and even anger. But when our discussion turned to Christ, it was as though there was a sense of peace and calm, and even a joy that interrupted and took over our conversation. The good news of salvation in Jesus Christ our Savior can and does calm troubled hearts and does give to us a peace that goes beyond all understanding. In the midst of everything that is wrong in this world, Jesus is the One that is always right. His words can do what armies and powers can’t, they bring comfort to hurting hearts.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update on WELS relief efforts for Ukraine

Please feel free to share this latest update with you congregation.

  • The situation for our brothers and sisters in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) remains very dire. Thankfully, we have learned that none of the pastors or members have lost their lives, but at least some members report that their homes have been destroyed. Some of the pastors and members have relocated to places that are relatively safe and removed from the heavy fighting, but others remain in areas where military activity is taking place every day. We continue to pray for their safety.
  • WELS members have already been very generous with gifts intended to support relief and humanitarian efforts both for members of the ULC and for the refugees and local citizens in need of help. We thank you to all those who have given gifts for Ukraine relief. Those gifts are being channeled through WELS World Missions, which remains in contact with the ULC and is still able to transfer funds to where they are most needed. To date, $25,000 has been sent, with additional funds to be sent in the coming days and weeks as long as the banking system remains intact. Individuals can give a gift by going to wels.net/give-ukraine or by sending a check payable to WELS and designating “Ukraine” in the memo line to WELS Attn: Gift Processing, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive, Waukesha, WI 53188. (Organizations may donate via check but not online.)
  • Currently, collecting physical relief items (blankets, water, canned goods, diapers, etc.) to send to Ukraine is not the best option for assisting those impacted by this war. The expense and logistical complexity of getting such items to those who need it make such an effort impractical. We will let you know when and if such efforts become possible.
  • In addition to gifts through the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, some have made gifts to WELS Christian Aid and Relief (CAR). With those funds, CAR has made grants to Direct Relief (directrelief.org) to get aid to those who need assistance, especially for Ukrainian refugees in Poland. To date, WELS Christian Aid and Relief has sent $50,000 to Direct Relief. This highly rated disaster relief organization specializes in providing medical assistance and supplies where they are needed most. They have both the inventory and infrastructure to bring medical aid to an area quickly. We have worked with this organization for many years and trust their work.
  • Pastor Roger Neumann is the WELS liaison to the ULC; he is in almost daily contact with Bishop Horpynchuk, head of the ULC, and keeps us informed of the latest news and challenges. There are periodic Ukraine updates on the WELS website at wels.net.

Lord God, in this world of darkness and evil, the light of your saving gospel continues to shine. Through that good news you have brought people around the world from the darkness of sin and death into your marvelous light. But evil exists, and Satan’s work in this fallen world continues. As many in Ukraine are experiencing unimaginable hardships and suffering, we ask that you would be with them. Protect them, provide for them, and, above all, strengthen their faith and trust in you and your promises. We commend them to your gracious care, knowing that you have promised to be with them always. Even though they are now walking through the shadow of death, enable them to fear no evil. We ask you, in your love and wisdom, to restore peace and safety to those now enduring the horrors of war and bloodshed and to continue to let your gospel message be the comfort and hope that so many desperately need. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Serving you in Christ,
Rev. Mark Schroeder
WELS President

 

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 10, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today I’ll begin with some quick updates on pastors and congregations in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), our sister synod. All are alive and well at this time. Thanks be to God.

Bishop talked with Pastor Victor Khaustov who moved with his family to a safer location in Kharkiv. Moving about in that city is dangerous now because one could easily find themselves in a crossfire situation between Russian and Ukrainian troops. So they make very limited trips out of their homes, only to get needed food or medical supplies.

Pastor Oleksandr Feschenko reports that the internet has been cut off in Tokmak. Each day, people bravely protest in the city, the occupation by the Russians. These actions let the Russians know they are not welcome there.

Pastor Dmytro Didkivski says that the city of Malyn continues to be bombed. The areas where this is taking place are mostly residential areas. The Russian actions show an undisciplined, almost degenerate mindset, harming and killing innocent, defenseless people, and needlessly destroying homes and buildings.

In Kyiv, it’s reported that their church building is unharmed from bombings. Praise be to God. Plans are being made to use the church to store some food in the event the city comes under siege. Members of the church are helping an elderly member who needs assistance getting food and water. Just one example of so many that happen every day.

Other pastors who aren’t in the immediate conflict areas continue to help with refugees. They assist people, who left everything behind to flee, to purchase shoes and clothing if needed, in addition to food and water. In Riven, sets made up of a primitive mattress, pillow, and blanket sell for about $40.00. These are being purchased so people have something more comfortable to sleep on as they stop for rest on their long, slow journey to the border.

The efforts of the pastors, and leaders in the church, are wonderful to hear about. People are naturally most interested, each day, in how go things on the battlefield. Yet when one starts a prayer, or begins reading some Bible passages, people pause to listen and are comforted and encouraged. It reminds them that in the midst of death, there is life in Christ. Sometimes pastors are torn by the desire to be helping in the conflict but they also know how important it is for people to hear the word. They preach, have short Bible studies, pray, and encourage daily readings. For a few brief moments, it takes people’s minds off what is going on around them and they find peace in Christ. This teaches us both the value and the need for those who preach and teach God’s Word. We thank them for their efforts, and want them to know that their efforts are not in vain.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Strawberry fields forever in Vietnam

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey (strawberries?) to my mouth!

Despite COVID-19 restrictions and obstacles, our mission to the Hmong people in Vietnam moves forward. We continued in our second year of online instruction for our Hmong students.

Recently I taught a course on the book of Psalms to our 57 students. My partner Bounkeo Lor taught a class on Christian Stewardship. His brother Ger Lor taught the Augsburg Confession.

About half an hour before each class began, I opened the Zoom classroom. Students like to check in early, talk to each other, catch up on news, and say prayers. I get to practice my limited Hmong vocabulary by greeting the students and asking them questions.

On the day of the final session of our Psalms class, one student showed us a blessing from her garden. Ntshuab showed us a basket of strawberries. I quickly consulted my Hmong-English dictionary to find the Hmong word for strawberry. “Kuv nyiam txiv pos nphuab,” (I like the strawberry) I said to Ntshuab.

Then I decided to change my Zoom background to show a basket of strawberries. The students smiled and chatted about strawberries. More students entered the classroom and probably wondered why I featured a picture of strawberries.

The class continued for two hours. We reviewed and celebrated the message of the Psalms. One student remarked, “I never realized before how much the Psalms talk about Jesus.” He had learned the chief message of Scripture and the Psalms.

When we concluded, the students regretted that we couldn’t study more of the Psalms. We focused our ten sessions on just 12 of the 150 Psalms. I also regretted that we could not study more of the Psalms but promised we would do so in the future.

I said, “Each Psalm we studied is like a sweet strawberry. They are delicious and we want to eat more of them.” “Yes,” said one student, “I wish we could have eaten more strawberries in this class.”

Our Hmong students remain eager to learn God’s Word. We finish one class. They want another class. We study one book of the Bible. They want to study the next book. We cover one topic. They want to hear all the topics.

Our brothers and sisters in the Hmong Fellowship have the desire of the psalmist who wrote, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey (strawberries?) to my mouth!”

Written by Joel Nitz, world missionary in Vietnam.

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WELS President’s Comments on the situation in Ukraine

The world has watched in horror as the country of Ukraine has been invaded by neighboring Russia. Entire cities have been decimated. Civilians have become the target of relentless strikes by bombs and missiles. Over a million Ukrainians have been forced to flee to neighboring countries, leaving behind loved ones, homes, and all they possess.

While our attention has been on the conditions throughout Ukraine and the human suffering the war has caused, we also have special concern for the members of our sister church body, the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC). Congregations of the ULC are located in many of the places that you have heard about in the news. Many of their members have been forced to take shelter from shelling or to flee from their homes; some have had their homes destroyed.

The head of the ULC, Bishop Vyacheslav Horpynchuk, has been in regular contact with WELS liaison to the ULC Pastor Roger Neuman. Pastor Neumann has been providing daily updates on the situation in Ukraine, especially relating to how our fellow believers are being affected. I’ve also been in contact with the bishop to hear first-hand about the challenges he and his congregations are facing and to assure him of our synod’s continuing support through prayers and offerings.

WELS members have generously sent gifts to WELS World Missions in support of relief efforts. Last week, WELS sent $25,000 to the ULC, with the assumption that this is only the first installment of assistance that WELS members will provide. The funds are intended to provide needed help to refugees and others affected by the war. WELS Christian Aid and Relief also authorized a $25,000 grant to Direct Relief, an organization that is providing medical supplies and support necessary during a time of war. We realize that the ability to send funds to Ukraine may be lost at any time.

Some of the ULC congregations were able to hold worship services last week (most of them virtually). We praise God that his Word continues to provide them with comfort, strength, and renewed faith in God’s gracious promises.

We will continue to look for ways to provide assistance to the ULC and, if possible, to ULC families who have made their way to other countries and need assistance. Our sister church in Germany is also looking for ways to help.

This entire tragic drama is another stark reminder of the wickedness and depravity that infects the human soul. And yet, even in these darkest of days, we remain confident that the Lord of lords is still ruling with his grace and power. We trust that the gates of hell itself cannot withstand the power of the gospel. We pray for a quick end to the war. We ask God for his forgiveness for taking his blessings for granted. And we commit our ULC brothers and sisters—and all Ukrainians—to God’s care and protection.

In Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

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Ukrainian bishop with sons on front lines shares realities of war

On March 2, FOX19 Now from Cincinnati, Ohio, featured a story on Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) Bishop V’yacheslav Horpynchuk and his two sons who are defending their home country. His one son, Vlad, previously served as a vicar at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Cincinnati. The ULC is WELS’ sister church in Ukraine.

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Mission exploration in an unlikely place

When you think of places that are ripe for the harvest and logical locations to begin mission exploration, you probably start thinking big cities and highly populated suburban areas, right? It seems like a natural place to start. I mean, there are lots of people in those areas to connect to God’s Word and a seemingly endless potential of opportunities to do so . . .

But what about a place like the U.P. (the Upper Peninsula of Michigan)? It’s a huge area of land—larger than a lot of states, in fact. But yet the total population is less than 300,000. And even the largest city—Marquette—is only a little over 20,000.

It might seem illogical to do mission exploration in such a sparsely populated part of the country—a land where wild animals and trees far outnumber people! But yet the people who do live here are equally loved by God and just as desperately in need of salvation as people in the big cities. And in many ways, it’s actually easier to establish yourself and connect with people in towns of 3,000-5,000, as opposed even to suburbs of, say, 30,000-50,000.

This past October, I had the privilege of leading Pastors Ben Enstad and Wayne Uhlhorn on a little tour of several of the “larger” towns in the U.P. (and I use that word “larger” very loosely)—and in doing so, they, too, agreed that the U.P. certainly is a mission field worth exploring. We already have small congregations in a number of the larger towns—so in those places, we already have the benefit of some established connections. But the problem is that it’s also been hard to gain any sort of traction in those communities—because, due to financial limitations, the majority of those established congregations have to share one pastor between two or even three parishes.

Two examples: Iron River and Marquette. Iron River—the hometown of recent Olympic gold-medalist snowboarder, Nick Baumgartner—is a town of about 3,000 people, with a good percentage of those being unchurched. But yet the congregation that we currently have there barely has a presence, because the pastor lives 45 minutes away and is asked to spend his time also tending to two other parishes. Likewise, Marquette—which again is by far the largest “metropolitan” area in the U.P.—has a small, but long-established WELS congregation in the area, dating back to the mid 1800s. But yet the existing congregation is 10 miles east of town where hardly anyone lives; and furthermore, the pastor is pulled further in the opposite direction by the fact that he also serves another congregation 45 minutes southeast of his rural Marquette congregation.

So like I say, there’s certainly potential to be tapped. But a lack of financial resources, and therefore a lack of sufficient pastoral presence, has really been a hindrance to doing any sort of major outreach in recent years.

And this is where WELS Home Missions can come in and offer a much needed hand. Working together in collaboration with our already established congregations in Iron River and/or Marquette, Home Missions has the ability to provide financial resources that currently aren’t available to those congregations; and those extra financial resources could enable them to call an additional pastor. Such a pastor could focus his attention where that attention is needed, directing his efforts primarily toward outreach and really getting into the community. And with the blessing of our gracious Lord, I believe such work would bear much fruit—even in a place that otherwise seems rather unlikely.

I’m very thankful for the opportunity I had to show Ben and Wayne the U.P., and I’m happy that they, too, saw the potential. It’s not where your mind might immediately jump to when you think about our Synod’s goal of 100 new missions and mission enhancements in the next 10 years. But God’s not limited to only being successful in big cities! And neither are those who live in small towns and remote areas any less worthy of hearing the precious, saving truth of the gospel!

Written by Stephen Lehmann, pastor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Iron Mountain, Mich.

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An update from Ukraine

WELS Ukraine liaison Rev. Roger Neumann has been able to maintain regular contact with leaders from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), WELS’ sister church body. As of Tuesday morning, Neumann is reporting that so far the members there remain physically unharmed. However, all but 2 of the 17 congregations, comprising approximately 600 members, are in the direct line of the Russian advance. Two of the pastors have been cut off from communication. Many were able to hold online or in-person worship during the invasion on Sunday morning.

Neumann reports, “There’s a lot of fear, mixed with anger and bewilderment, as to why this is happening. They are very encouraged by the international support; very encouraged by the prayers of WELS people that are going out.”

According to Neumann, some members have been able to flee the country. However, at this time, all Ukrainian men between ages 18 and 60 are required to remain to defend their country as needed. The people who have stayed are taking shelter at night in the underground subway stations and come out during the day to find food and supplies. So far, limited supplies are still available, but the shelves are getting emptier.

WELS is financially assisting two ULC churches in western Ukraine that are setting up refugee centers to welcome Ukrainians who are fleeing from war-torn areas in the east, but space and resources are limited. Hundreds of thousands of people are currently on the move. Money is also being sent to help buy supplies for these refugees. At the time of this writing, banks and supermarkets are still open. The situation is being closely monitored regarding how funds can be safely and effectively sent and used.

“When this is all said and done—and Lord willing, it’s going to be soon and Lord willing, it’s going to be where they will keep their sovereignty—there is going to be a tremendous need for humanitarian aid,” Neumann predicts. “Pray for Ukraine; pray for the people. That’s the number one thing, and the rest God will take care of in his way.”

If you’d like to give a gift to support these relief efforts, visit wels.net/wmgift and select “Ukraine” from the dropdown menu.

 

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Our first church

Often mission churches start out by meeting in their pastor’s living room. That’s how The Vine, in Coeur d’Alene got started. A small number of us met for Bible study and then worship in my living room for over a year. It was cozy. It was comfortable. It was relaxing. It was our “church.”

But, after a year, our “church” was too small. The Lord had blessed us with enough people that we needed to find a new location.

Our next “church” was in a conference room at a local hotel. Again, it was a small room with a low ceiling. It required us to unload our equipment, set it all up, take it all down, and load it back into the trailer every Sunday (i.e. “church in a box”), but it served our needs well for two more years.

Then we found a store front rental unit that became our “church.” This made it possible for us keep our equipment set up from week to week. But it was still tight at times and had limited space for classrooms and extra outreach events and activities.

Certainly, we were grateful to the Lord for always giving us a place to call “church,” but we knew that we needed to look for something more permanent if we were going to grow and reach more of our community for Jesus.

So, one of our original members, Don, drove around the city on almost a daily basis looking for buildings or property that could potentially become our first “church,” but most of them were either out of our price range or out of our target area.

But Don was relentless. He never gave up. He said to me one time, “Pastor, we will find our church someday. The Lord already knows which one it is. We just need to trust him, and he will make it clear to us which one will be ours.”

A few months ago, the Lord did just that. He made it possible for us to find a church building that was owned by another church which was also looking for a new church building. Through a series of miraculous circumstances and events that only the Lord could have been behind, this church building recently became ours. We now have our first “church.” Thank you, Lord.

Even though we have our first church building which we can call “home,” we’ve always known that our identity as a “church” was not in a building; our identity was in Christ. That is the Church. A group of believers in Christ who gather together around God’s Word and Sacraments, regardless of whether they meet in a pastor’s living room, in a hotel conference room, in a store front, or in a church building.

Don never got to see our new church. He passed away just a few months beforehand. But Don got to see the “Church” triumphant in heaven with his Savior Jesus. That’s the Church that we all look forward to worshiping in someday.

Written by Pastor Kevin Schultz, home missionary at The Vine in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

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Registration now open! Taste of Missions 2022

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

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

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

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

See you there!

WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions

 

 

 

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Reflection in the water

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

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

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

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

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

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World missionary commissioned to London

Missionary Michael Hartman was commissioned as a new missionary to London, and Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bare and Rev. David Bivens were installed as part of the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) team at the opening worship service of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Mission & Ministry event on February 8. Missionary Hartman and two other World Missions representatives left for his second exploratory trip to London the day after the service.

Plans are being made for ministry, and details such as visa applications, school details, etc. are being sorted out for the family’s eventual move to the country. You can view photos from the service on the Flickr album.

Please keep these missionaries in your prayers as they continue to serve God’s people in their new positions.

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