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Faces of Faith – Lizbeth

“We want to learn more,” said Lizbeth Guaman, as she and her mother began classes with the Academia Cristo teachers in Quito, Ecuador. Lizbeth and several family members were disappointed with the Bible instruction they had received in other places. One day they saw an advertisement on Facebook for a Bible workshop and their interest was piqued. Lizbeth attended to see what it was all about. She liked it!

By God’s grace, they began taking classes and even invited Academia Cristo teachers to their home to teach weekly. Using Multi-Language Publications (MLP) materials and videos, this family has been advancing in Bible truth one lesson at a time. God has even planted the desire to share this news and invite others to the classes. May the Lord continue to water the seeds spread by the swirling winds of the internet!

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Online outreach in a restricted-access country

Imagine a country where it is illegal for churches to gather without special permission, to proclaim any gospel other than what the unbelieving government approves. A country where churches, obviously, cannot do any promotion, canvassing, or big outreach events, where all social media is controlled by the powers that be, and where most everything that is perceived as coming from the West is considered suspect by the authorities. How would you do large-scale outreach and evangelism in a setting like that, especially when you know that there are millions of people in that country who are looking for meaning and are open to spiritual direction?

Believe or not, one group has still launched an outreach website on the approved social media platform through the help of Multi-Language Publications (MLP). It is not overtly Christian, at least not at first glance. It talks about sports, common marriage problems, and movies that are popular. Each blog post offers simple life advice and insights on these topics to get people’s attention and then quotes a relevant Bible passage. Finally, at the bottom of the article there is a link to more information. From there, readers can access a page that tells them more about the Christian message through articles such as “Who is Jesus?” and “What is the Bible?”

Now, keep in mind that there is no way to promote this web page. There is no Facebook targeted advertising campaign; there are no flyers; there is no canvassing. There is only word of mouth. Praise God that several “Promoters” (outreach-minded brothers and sisters) have agreed to post the weekly articles on their local version of a “Facebook Wall.” Praise God that, in the first 12 hours of the first article being released, there were already 753 views! Within a few days, there were over 1,200 views! But, more importantly, 120 people (10%) had gone on to view the article “Who is Jesus?”

By Facebook, Twitter, and Google standards, these numbers are insignificant. But the impact in a restricted-access country filled with spiritually curious people is powerful, and it is growing. In fact, this site is the sister of two other sites launched earlier, also with the help of MLP. The one launched in March, a simple discipleship website, had 7,300 visits last month. The second, a leadership training site, had 15,600 visits last month. Remember, there is no promotion; just one person telling another, “Hey, check this out!”

Please pray that these sites continue to grow and reach tens of thousands of people every month. Our goal for the first year is 150,000 visitors, and our 3-year goal is 1,000,000. Please pray that these sites are not shut down by the government. Pray that the authors, website manager, and “Promoters” have the courage to continue boldly and clearly proclaiming the gospel. But most of all, pray that the Holy Spirit works through the gospel on these sites to create and strengthen the faith of many people.

Written by a missionary in East Asia

To learn more about WELS Multi-Language Publications, visit wels.net/mlp.

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Faces of Faith – Simon the Translator

An exciting ray of hope continues to shine among the growing number of Lutheran congregations of South Sudanese refugees in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. As the camp has extremely limited internet access, Multi-Language Publications (MLP) has provided hundreds of pounds of printed materials, from catechisms to seminary resources, to serve these vibrant congregations.

PSI training in Kakuma Refugee Camp (Simon pictured in green)

Very few of our Nuer brothers and sisters speak English. Enter student pastor Simon, early 30s in age, who speaks fluent English and was my translator for a week of Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) sponsored classes for 17 men at Kakuma last October.

The relationship one builds with a translator over a short period of time is often amazing, but none have ever compared to working beside Simon, with his passion and exuberance for the message of Christ. Simon’s method of translating included walking closely beside me and mimicking my every hand gesture. It often felt like we were in some kind of choreographed dance together. I found myself motivated to be more demonstrative in my movements, with Simon immediately responding. At the same time, Simon began punctuating the points I made in class with an exuberant “Alleluia,” which was echoed back by the students. Seeing Simon get more excited got me more excited! It was an exhilarating experience as we fed off each other in a class on the life of Christ.

Simon preaching

On the last day of classes, Simon was asked to preach at our camp-wide, combined church service. Simon however, did not restrict himself to simply preaching. Grabbing a large, goat-skin covered drum in one hand and wielding a strip of rubber truck tire tread for a drumstick in the other, Simon just wailed on that drum from the opening song. Stalking the congregation to root out the timid, Simon urged the assembly on to greater and greater heights of joyous praise. The room became an ocean of music, rhythm, drums, and movement.

Needless to say, Simon preached with the exuberance he displayed in his music and his translating. I videotaped over an hour of Simon preaching. Rarely have I seen a man preach with such intensity and passion.

Two days later our visit to Kakuma was over, and we needed to say goodbye until next year. I couldn’t wait to work again with this amazingly gifted brother.

Simon (on the right) plays his drum for worship

Less than two weeks after we left Kakuma Refugee Camp, I got the news from Pastor Peter Bur, our U.S.-based South Sudanese pastor who serves as South Sudanese ministry coordinator. Peter told me that Simon and a few others were walking home late at night after an evening church gathering and decided to take a shortcut outside of the parameters of the camp. As they walked through a deep, unlit valley, they were attacked by robbers (not of the Nuer tribe) looking for a little cash or a cell phone. Simon was shot in the chest and died a short while later.

I miss Simon more than I can put into words. Although the only word I ever understood him say when he preached was “Alleluia,” that one word said it all. We both believed in the same Savior Jesus. We both knew we were on the road to Paradise. And during those classes, we both knew there was nothing more important and exciting we could be doing than preparing men to take the message of Jesus to the ends of that camp.

Simon got to Paradise way before anyone expected. Kakuma will never be quite the same. Neither I suspect will the heavenly choir, with Simon no doubt shouting his “Alleluias” the moment he arrived. I will see you again, Simon, when we will sing and play drums together to our Savior King forever!

Written by: Rev. Terry Schultz, Consultant for Multi-Language Publications 

To learn more about WELS Joint Missions outreach to the South Sudanese, visit wels.net/sudanese.

 

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WELS Multi-Language Publications offers free product giveaway

WELS Multi-Language Publications (MLP) and Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) are offering a one-day free inventory giveaway of MLP products in July.

The giveaway will take place at Northwestern Publishing House, 1250 N 113 St., Milwaukee, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 14. Congregations or individuals who want materials but can’t be there in person can order them between July 9–13 by calling Northwestern Publishing House at 1-800-662-6022. Cost for shipping will apply.

Included in the giveaway, according to Rev. Nathan Seiltz, MLP director, are Bible studies, evangelism booklets, and doctrinal materials in more than 52 languages, along with select English versions. More than 800 titles are available.

“Perhaps you have hesitated to reach out to those who speak other languages because of a lack of materials. Or maybe you have members who can share resources with their families in their native countries. We want to help you reach culturally diverse groups in your community and around the world,” says Seiltz.

Seiltz says MLP is working to digitize all these materials and make them available for download through NPH’s website. Only about 85 titles still will be available as printed materials.

“Offering these resources digitally will not only allow people from around the world to access our materials quickly and easily but also will allow individuals and congregations in the U.S. a free, easy way to get materials that will help them share the gospel with people in their neighborhood, no matter what culture or language,” says Seiltz

See what materials are available at nph.net/mlp.

 

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

THE CROWN JEWEL OF WORLD MISSIONS

Adam M. Goede

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

MISSION STORIES

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

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Tract for outreach

Check out this unique downloadable tract for use in outreach, developed to help people in different cultures understand God’s love and protection.

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New Spanish-language website

In an effort to get the gospel into the homes of more families in Latin America, a new Spanish-language website, Academia Cristo (Christ Academy), has been developed to provide further outreach and training opportunities.

“We have an opportunity to communicate the gospel in Latin America like we’ve never had before,” says Missionary Michael Hartman, field coordinator for Latin America, referring to the statistic that there will be 70 million smartphone users in Mexico by the end of 2015. “People are getting on the Internet, and they’re getting on with their mobile phones.”

Whereas Spanish-language printed materials developed by Multi-Language Publications (MLP) had been used in the past, the goal is to replace this written material with videos and audio Bible studies that can be distributed more widely through the Internet. Hartman says this will be appealing to Latinos, who don’t have a reading culture but are regularly on their smartphones.

While there will be simple courses available for non-Christians, the point of the site isn’t strictly outreach. “Gospel outreach happens when you sit down and you talk with your friends or family about Jesus,” says Hartman. “What we really want to do is enable Christians to be able to do just that.”

For that purpose, Academia Cristo will also include a level of courses for local leaders that will show them how to share their faith. A future goal is to add seminary courses for those training for the ministry.

Hartman, the Latin American national churches, and other members of the mission team are working closely with MLP to create the courses. Currently six courses are completed, including two five-lesson Bible studies based on the Come Follow Me movie as well as other courses on what Christians believe and who Jesus is.

World Missions sees this site as a way to help serve scattered members throughout Latin America, providing ways for them to grow in the faith as well as share their faith with others.

With more and more Hispanics moving into the United States and connecting with WELS churches there, the site also offers a way for those far away from their homeland to share the gospel message they discovered.

This is not to take away the human element. A missionary or a national pastor is connected to each course, available to answer questions and concerns. Two members of the Latin American mission team also work directly with national church bodies and their members to explore new opportunities for outreach and training. One lives in Mexico; the other works with Hispanic members throughout the United States.

Check out the new site at www.academiacristo.com.

New Multi-Language Publications coordinator

Rev. Nathan Seiltz has accepted the call to serve as coordinator of WELS Multi-Language Publications. Seiltz will replace Rev. Paul Hartman, who is retiring after serving in this position for 14 years as well as 10 years as director of publications for Latin America missions before that.

Multi-Language Publications (MLP) assists in the production of confessional Christian literature and other mass media in more than 45 different languages. Increasingly, MLP produces digital publications in addition to print publications.

Mr. Sean Young, director of Missions Operations, says, “Paul Hartman’s dedication and perseverance have helped MLP grow into what it is today. From the very beginning, Paul has nurtured and grown the portfolio of offerings within MLP and has worked tirelessly to ensure that the synod’s ‘hidden jewel’ gets uncovered and shared with everyone looking for solid material sharing the saving message.”

Seiltz will be charged with continuing Hartman’s work. A 1994 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., Seiltz is currently serving as principal at Evergreen Lutheran High School in Tacoma, Wash. His past service includes time as a world missionary in the Dominican Republic. In July 2014, he became chairman of the Europe Administrative Committee of the Board for World Missions.

As Seiltz transitions to his new role, the office of the MLP coordinator will move from El Paso, Tex., where much of MLP’s work is currently performed, to the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry in Waukesha, Wis.

Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of the WELS Board for World Missions, explains that having the MLP coordinator near other WELS resources that can support and strengthen the reach of its materials will be “a welcome connection.” Connecting with the missionaries and national workers who travel to the Center for Mission and Ministry will also now be easier.

As Schlomer notes, “It is time to make sure WELS sees and uses this gem. The treasure of materials, the experience of production, and the help of many brothers and sisters in many cultures is the strength MLP brings to WELS efforts to reach the lost in the world.”

Learn more about Multi-Language Publications at www.wels.net/mlp.