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WELS Church Extension Fund update

· $32.8 million in new loans approved for 43 congregations in fiscal year ending June 30, 2016.

· $4.0 million in matching and special grants approved for 15 congregations and the Board for Home Missions.

· Five new land purchases, 25 new facility projects, and 18 other projects including renovations, increases, and refinances.

· Six mission congregations purchased existing facilities with additional loans for renovations, two missions completed a parsonage purchase, and 16 congregations were approved for new construction loans totaling $28.2 million.

 

Thank you Lutheran Women’s Mission Society

WELS Missions is blessed with many active partners who help to support the proclamation of the gospel. The Lutheran Women’s Mission Society (LWMS) is one of those important contributors. The women of LWMS support WELS mission pastors and families, as well as help provide the means to continue gospel outreach worldwide.

At the 2016 annual convention, WELS Missions received generous gifts:

Home Missions: $41,529.28 – Summer Student Assistants
World Missions: $41,529.29 – Television Broadcast for Muslim World and Theological Seminars
kids c.a.r.e. mission project: $60,816.17 – Central Africa Medical Mission Orphan/Infant Program
Worship Service Offerings: $51,620.29 – divided between home mission project Outreach to Asians and world mission project Apache Leadership and Maintenance

Since August of 2015, Home Missions has authorized close to $150,000.00 to special projects to assist and enhance mission efforts. The majority of those funds have come from LWMS gifts This year marks the 54th annual convention to be held in Orlando, Fl., June 22-25, 2017. For more, click the video link.

Missions says “thanks ever so much” to LWMS for the generous and continued support of WELS Missions.

 

 

Campus Ministry Committee initiates pilot program

How do we keep our members connected to God’s Word while they are away at college? This question has been asked by parents and congregations alike. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to connect them to a local WELS congregation or campus ministry near the school where they are attending. The WELS Campus Ministry Committee (CMC) exists to help parents and congregations in this task. Every year, the CMC sends letters to every WELS congregation asking for contact information for their high school seniors. Once this information is gathered and entered into our database it is used in two ways. First, the CMC sends out letters to every student. This letter encourages students to be involved in campus ministry and gives them the contact information for the local congregation or campus ministry where they are attending school. The CMC then sends the students’ contact information to the local contact or campus pastors so they can make contact with these students while at school. This has been an effective way over the years to connect students to local ministries.

But we can’t connect students to these local ministries if we don’t know who they are! One of the challenges the CMC has faced is the low participation of congregations in this contact information gathering effort. Historically, only about 400 of our 1300 WELS congregations have participated. This year, the CMC has initiated a pilot program to connect more students to local ministries. The CMC has engaged the help of Senior Vicar Phil Janisch from the Point of Grace Campus Ministry in Milwaukee to call congregations and ask for contact information for all their high school seniors. Vicar Janisch spends his time calling every WELS congregation who hasn’t responded to our mailing to encourage them to provide this information. Sometimes it is secretaries who gather this information. Sometimes it is the pastor. Sometimes it is an interested parent or member who does the work. To date, we have been able to gather information from an additional 400 congregations. We are grateful to see that our efforts have doubled the number of congregations participating. We are hopeful to see 100 percent participation of our congregations in this effort in the future. The more students we know of, the more we can connect to local ministries and through this keep more students connected to God’s Word. Your help is appreciated as we partner together to keep our young people connected to God’s Word.

By Rev. Charles Vannieuwenhoven

 

 

Multi-Site Conference 2016 recap

The National Multi-Site Conference for WELS Churches met November 14-16, 2016, at Grace Lutheran Church of Southern Arizona, a WELS multi-site church in Benson, Sahuarita, Tucson, and Vail. One hundred forty-four pastors, teachers, staff ministers, laypersons, and other ministry leaders attended.

What is multi-site? Multi-site is a strategy for gospel ministry and mission work: one church carrying out gospel ministry at more than one physical location, created for the primary purpose of expanding gospel outreach. In addition to simply positioning churches to share Jesus with more people, there can be other benefits such as shared resources, efficient organization, cost effective programs, reaching a new community or target audience, expanded volunteer and leadership opportunities, and more.

Why a conference? This conference provided a venue for networking and building relationships with the growing number of WELS churches investing in this work. It was designed for churches already doing multi-site ministry, as well as churches just getting started or merely considering it. The conference workshops covered a wide selection of presentations to meet the needs of everyone regardless of their level of experience. Some workshop topics, for example, focused on key multi-site components such as communication, staffing, volunteers, budget and finances, merging two or more churches, organizational structure, and more.

Who is doing multi-site? The multi-site strategy is a good fit with our Lutheran beliefs and values that have stood the test of time. While the multi-site strategy is just one of many ways to expand mission work, it is significant to note that five of the eight new mission starts authorized by WELS Home Missions in April 2016 have a multi-site component.

Conference highlights:

The keynote address set the tone for the conference. Pastor Rick Johnson shared the multi-site story of Crown of Life Lutheran Church in Corona, Beaumont, and Riverside, Calif., “bringing the gospel to more people, and more people to the gospel.” The multi-site strategy at Crown of Life has developed over the last eight years, and the church plans to add more campuses.

Pastor Ron Koehler, representing our host church, Grace Lutheran in Tucson, presented an overview of their four locations. A video demonstrated the different look and layout of each location’s facility. Pictures also helped tell the story of Grace’s multi-site ministry, which includes “saving sacred spaces.” Grace has responded to requests of neighboring churches, declining in numbers, desiring Grace’s leadership and ministry to assimilate their church into Grace’s multi-site strategy.

Pastor Daron Lindemann, chairman of the conference planning committee, and pastor of Holy Word, a multi-site church in Austin and Pflugerville, Tex., says, “The level of interest in multi-site amazed our planning committee. We had hoped for 80 people to attend, set up plans for possibly 100, and needed to make some exciting adjustments to accommodate over 140 who registered.”

“I believe that the multi-site strategy, and its variations such as mergers, offer both an answer to some challenges, and a plan for expanded gospel outreach in the WELS.”

By Rev. Nathan Strutz

 

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Looking for a double-duty missionary

It’s not often that WELS asks an overseas missionary to serve two different fields; however, the Administrative Committee for Africa is addressing unique needs in Cameroon and Nigeria with one full-time missionary that will split his time between the two countries– half for Nigeria and half for Cameroon.

In Nigeria, the double-duty missionary will coordinate all the mission work WELS is doing there including administration of board responsibilities, pastor meetings, and worker training. It will be necessary for him to be away from home fairly regularly and for some weeks at a time. We expect that he will visit Nigeria about four times per year as needed for direction and encouragement. As the coordinator of the Nigerian mission, he will take responsibility for organizing the program and communicating between the national church and WELS.

There are valid reasons not to live in Nigeria. A physical presence by a WELS missionary can, at times, result in dependency by the national leadership. Christ the King and All Saints Lutheran synods could take a step backward if there was a WELS resident missionary. There are also more security issues in Nigeria as opposed to Cameroon.

There are valid reasons to have the double-duty missionary live in Cameroon, primarily, networking opportunities. As WELS builds a foundation in Bamenda, Cameroon, the missionary will meet with leadership in the northwestern district on a monthly basis, assisting our fellow Christians to understand their opportunities and take the reins of their ministry. Our current missionary in Kumba, Cameroon, will work similarly in the southern districts as well as continue coordination of the new worker-training program there.

Some have identified this particular call as a “tough one,” or “at the outer edge of feasible.” The double-duty missionary will be a unique man with unique strengths, “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” Please keep our double-duty missionary in your prayers for the challenge before him and his family as WELS’ Nigeria-Cameroon Missionary.

By Missionary Daniel Kroll

 

 

A Paul-like experience

The newest WELS-sponsored project in Europe, Outreach to Roma (OTR) [a.k.a. gypsies), has proven to be a truly Paul-like experience. The reports from Pastor/Missionary Iliyan Itsov read like a modern-day Book of Acts. Moreover, OTR’s method of gospel outreach closely resembles the method the Apostle used – a travelling missionary gathers groups and then leaves them to be served by local leaders.

There have been places like Lystra where the Apostle encountered violence. Missionary Itsov was invited by our sister church, the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Germany, to try to gather some groups in Germany, which the ELFK pastors would then serve. Itsov met with threats of physical violence and had the tires on the OTR van slashed. After about two months of outreach, a couple interested families were found.

There have been disappointments like Paul experienced when men turned away. Pastor Itsov spent several weeks in Romania to help form and legally register a Confessional Lutheran Church. The theologically trained man who had invited WELS to help later decided to associate with a different Lutheran body.

The Apostle Paul did not give up and found cities that welcomed the gospel. In Bulgaria, OTR has met with success. Itsov travels to Roma villages and shares the gospel. He gathers interested people and gives them initial instruction in the Word. With their help, he seeks to find a suitable place for worship and holds the initial services. After a few visits for worship and Bible study, he asks the group to select a leader who is willing to study the Bible in greater depth and conduct weekly services reading sermons Itsov provides. Then through periodic visits and via Internet Itsov teaches the leader.

Three such groups are now gathered in Bulgaria, each with its own leader and each with regular worship. The first group is in the village of Zlataritsa. Atanas has led the group for nearly a year now. It has an average of 18 in services. Two more groups were started in November. Bogdan is leader in Kotel, and Boyko in Stara Zagora. In all three cases the leader and members of the group have taken on the responsibility of inviting others and seeking to build a congregation. Frequently, through the many family and friendship ties among the Roma people, members are directing Itsov to other individuals and villages.

In addition, the OTR van goes out each week to three neighboring Roma villages and brings 20 people to the service at the Bulgarian Lutheran Church’s congregation in Dunavtsi.

When he is home in Dunavtsi, Itsov also helps his congregation’s pastor. Right now the congregation stuffs as many as 25 people into a rented room the size of an American living room. But, God willing, help is on the way! Itsov has received a loan from a WELS member to enable the congregation to purchase land and construct a small chapel. The cost will be kept low because volunteers will supply nearly all the labor. The present rent money and special gifts will be used to pay off the loan.

By Rev. John Vogt

 

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PSI partners with World Missions

Simon Duoth, a Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) student in Renton, Wash., is a man who understands a blessing when he sees it. As a refugee from South Sudan, a people group on the run from Muslims, from extremist government, and from neighboring tribes, he knows all too well that peace seldom lasts long. He understands that situations can change in an instant. And so, when Simon Duoth sees a blessing, he holds onto it.

Because of men like Simon, the PSI team sees a blessing: strong connections forming as stateside churches, missionaries, and churches around the world partner to respond to the growing number of people looking to WELS for training. Here are some examples of what this partnership looks like for PSI.

The PSI team is…

* partnering with the One Africa Team to meet the growing needs for training in Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, and Guinee Bissau (in addition to the ongoing and new opportunities in Malawi, Zambia, Cameroon, and Nigeria).

* assisting East Asia with visiting professors to help ALS train men to be pastors, group leaders, and evangelists. We are coordinating efforts so that an East Asian PSI student in North America might also take classes with the students in East Asia.

* walking with WELS Hmong pastors to villages in Northern Vietnam where more than 70,000 Hmong Christians are longing for leaders trained with the truth that we have. It means working with them to determine what sort of training to offer and what it will take for them to walk together with us to reach even more.

* teaching Greek and Hebrew to a young man from Ukraine so that he is prepared to begin his seminary training as a future leader of the church. At the same time, we are working to connect that man with a group of 50 Ukrainians living in the small city of Wasilla, Alaska – a group that has no leader but gathers together on a weekly basis to read God’s word.

God’s people are walking together to meet the growing needs of training around the world. That’s the blessing we see right now. And it is our prayer that these partnerships continue to grow and thrive. That’s the same blessing that Simon Duoth sees and is firmly holding onto. These partnerships can exist because our foundation is the truth of God’s Word. For Simon, this means knowing that whatever church he goes to and whatever pastor, professor, or missionary he learns from he will hear the same true message. He wants nothing more than for the Sudanese refugees scattered throughout the world to be able to hear and know that same beautiful message.

By God’s grace, as we partner around the world to train up the next generation of leaders, the worldwide network of churches holding on to that same message will continue to grow and spread. For us – the PSI team – this partnership with each of you means a great blessing we are eager to hold onto.

By Rev. Jon Bare

View Moments with Missionaries video featuring PSI student, Qiang Wang, and the Saviour of the Nations mission congregation in Vancouver, Canada.

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