Tag Archive for: special ministries

“I’ve got your six.”

Dear Friend,

“I’ve got your six.” When someone says this to military personnel, they are stating a commitment. It’s an expression of loyalty and looking out for each other. The saying “got your six” originated with fighter pilots who would use “twelve o’clock” to indicate the front of their airplane and “six o’clock” to reference the rear of the aircraft. As a pilot heading into a brutal air battle, the six o’clock position is the most vulnerable to attacks from the enemy. It is your blind spot, your weak point. So, when another aviator says they’ve “got your six,” it means they have your back; they’re watching out for you.

The WELS members who protect our nation need us to make the extra effort to provide them with Word and sacraments and a supportive church family. They need us to “have their six” as they strive to stay close to their Savior. Often they are far from home, facing temptations and challenges, and spiritually vulnerable. This is why WELS has a special ministry to the military. If someone you know is in the military, you can provide WELS with contact information at wels.net/refer. We will serve them if we know how to reach them!

WELS Military Services shares the gospel of Jesus Christ with men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces and with civilians who live far away from their home congregations. These service men and women are shepherded by civilian chaplains and military contact pastors located at congregations near military installations. A national civilian chaplain communicates with those who are deployed and far from a church while military families in Europe are served by the European civilian chaplain who travels to conduct services in multiple locations.

WELS military member Michael Hefti and his family have made many moves during his years of service. They treasure the times that they have been stationed near a WELS congregation. “We have found personally that there is a big difference between livestreaming and being able to meet in-person and strengthen each other in the faith through that fellowship and through being able to take communion together in person.”

WELS Military Services also provides guidance directly to military members and their families. A weekly devotion focuses on the issues of military life. Resources on wels.net/military prepare recruits and their families for spiritual challenges. There is information for congregations seeking to encourage military members far from home. Detailed documents help military members navigate the military organization and gain permission to connect with a WELS pastor.

You can help us tell our brothers and sisters who serve this country “We’ve got your six” by supporting this ministry to military members. While we receive foundational support from the WELS budget, groups and individuals like you provide 80 percent of the financial support so that our military members, their families, and their colleagues can be served spiritually. Your gifts to the Military Services Fund can help us expand and strengthen this ministry that goes where your congregation and you cannot.

In Christ,
Jim Behringer
Director, WELS Commission on Special Ministries

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we pray for WELS military members and their families. Guide and protect them as they sacrifice the stability and comfort that most of us enjoy in order to protect our nation. Thank you for WELS Military Services, a ministry that aims to be there for these families, providing them with spiritual resources and personal connections. Guide and bless the efforts of the civilian chaplains and military contact pastors who lead this work. May these efforts ease the stresses of military life and help our WELS military service members to put their trust in you. Amen.

OWLS joyfully gather for its annual conference

The Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) met at the Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center in Onalaska, Wis., on Oct. 10-13 for its annual conference. The conference revolved around the theme “There Is a River,” based on Psalm 46:4.

Convention goers were treated to a scenic bus tour of historic La Crosse, Wis., on Tuesday morning. Beginning on Tuesday afternoon, attendees enjoyed worship, fellowship, breakout sessions, and three keynote presentations. Rev. Timothy Redfield, whose daughter, Libby, was born blind, shared his family’s personal story and the resources available through the Mission for the Visually Impaired. Rev. Curtiss Seefeldt talked about how to provide emotional and spiritual support for those affected by dementia. Rev. Jon Leach from Truth in Love Ministry spoke about reaching out in love to Mormons.

The OWLS again designated its offerings to support the WELS European Civilian chaplaincy, which serves military personnel and WELS civilians in Europe. This year, the OWLS presented Military Services with a check for $55,000. Convention offerings and proceeds from the silent auction, which raised a record $2,564, were directed for next year’s gift to the work of the chaplaincy in Europe.

Mr. John Paulsen, OWLS executive director, talks about the appeal of the convention: “We have good food, excellent fellowship, and great speakers,” he says. “Every convention has been so well received. That’s why people keep coming back.” He adds, “It’s like a mini-vacation from the world—and a chance to be with other people who are all trying to share the gospel.” Paulsen encourages any congregation with a seniors’ ministry to look into the OWLS program because it offers meaningful ways for seniors to gather and serve.

Longtime OWLS members were excited to welcome 25 first-time attendees, like Carol Kolosovsky from St. Paul’s, Muskego, Wis. “It was a great joy,” Kolosovsky says. “The conference reminded me of the wonderful opportunities, privileges, and blessings that seniors have in God’s kingdom.” Kolosovsky was also moved by the worship services and fellowship: “Whether it was reconnecting with old friends or making new friends, all of them shared their enthusiasm to share Jesus. I really look forward to meeting them all again someday.”

The 2023 OWLS convention for seniors will be held Oct. 10-13 at the Holiday Inn in Stevens Point, Wis. The convention is open to all seniors in WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, regardless of OWLS membership.

Learn more about the OWLS at wels.net/owls.

 

OWLS Convention 2022

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Resistance and strength

Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor. Then you can remain strong against the devil’s evil plans. Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world. Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIrV)

When trying to build bodily strength, resistance is needed. Whether it is a world-class athlete or a struggling patient in physical therapy, physical movement must be opposed to build strength in the targeted muscles. And that resistance can be very painful. As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.”

In a similar fashion, God sometimes uses opposition to build spiritual strength in his followers. And that opposition can be painful and look overwhelming at times. Paul reminds us that our opposers are in fact overwhelming to humans on their own. In trying to share Jesus with others, none other than Satan himself and all his allies, both spiritual and physical, line up to try and stop what we are doing.

So what are we to do? Cower in fear? Give up at the first (or second or third) sign of difficulty? Not at all. In God’s typical incomprehensible fashion, he both gives and builds strength in his followers. Paul says it clearly, “Let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power.” Yet God also wants us to exercise our faith so that we “can remain strong against the devil’s evil powers.” And what enables us to do that? God’s armor. The following verses describe the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and the sword of God’s Word, among other pieces. We cannot expect to sit around and have God fight our battles for us. God makes it clear that we are part of his spiritual army that takes on hell itself.

These verses are a great encouragement as our ministry continues to face challenges and opposition. The list of facilities that require special mail handling continues to grow. This has caused significant increases in our returned mail and delays in delivering booklets and tests to inmates. Fewer institutions accept greeting cards, which historically have provided much encouragement to inmates. Some faithful chaplains who have been longtime supporters of our ministry-by-mail efforts are retiring. Another recent challenge has been booklet printing. Printers have had difficulty finding paper and, like everything else, the price has increased significantly. In addition to ministry-by-mail challenges, many institutions have been slow in opening back up to personal visitation and Bible studies led by volunteers.

We are not surprised by these growing challenges because we know the good things God’s Word does when it is sent out. Lives are changed and souls are saved for eternity. Confident of this, we redouble our efforts to find solutions or workarounds for our difficulties. You can be part of this. Join us in praying for courage, wisdom, and strength for our ministry’s leaders and volunteers. Consider a special gift to Prison Ministry to help offset the increase in our costs. Explore involvement in a visitation or mentoring ministry to touch lives personally. Instructions for these actions are presented in “Three ways to support our ministry.” Also see the mentoring article in this issue.

Mr. Dave Hochmuth, Prison Ministry administrator

 

 

New teammates and opportunities

In response to the challenge of finding facilities willing to accept our self-study Bible correspondence courses, WELS Prison Ministry has teamed up with the Lutheran Institutional Ministry Association (LIMA) for an outreach effort to every correctional facility we can identify in Minnesota (LIMA’s home) and Iowa. So far we have reached out by telephone to every Minnesota facility listed in a national database. As a result, chaplains and others have ordered over 1,000 booklets from approximately 50 facilities in Minnesota, many of which we had not dealt with previously. We are deeply grateful for the efforts of Emily Bartsch, a new temporary staff member, who has dedicated many hours to calling and recalling these facilities.

Our next step is to complete a similar effort in Iowa. In addition, we want to seek more Iowa recipients for digital devotions sent by another partner, Institutional Ministries (IM). IM has developed an effective system for distributing devotions six days per week via CorrLinks.com. This system is available to inmates in both the Wisconsin and Iowa Department of Correction facilities, among other places. Please pray for success according to God’s will.

 

 

Join others to learn: Are you mentor material?

WELS Prison Ministry recently completed our first online training session for potential mentors of returning citizens, that is, formerly incarcerated individuals. We had eight students from South Dakota, Texas, Arizona, and Iowa. The initial feedback has been very positive. Everyone who responded to our post instruction survey indicated they either agreed or strongly agreed that they would recommend the course to someone who was considering mentoring. Here’s a few comments by participants:

    • I thoroughly enjoyed the time and looked forward to Zoom each week.
    • I do feel better equipped and know that I can refer to the book for guidance as well to stay on track.
    • The time flew by! Questions seemed to be answered with lots of side bits of food for thought.

While visits to correctional facilities are still hit and miss in many areas because of COVID, there is a steady stream of inmates who are being released upon fulfillment of their sentences. This is a huge opportunity to share the love of Christ where it is really needed and a potential harvest field.

Our next online offering of our training course Mentoring a Returning Citizen is planned for late January to February 2023. Prison Ministry Committee member Tom Koepsell is scheduled to facilitate. The training course will help you evaluate whether you have the gifts and abilities to serve as a mentor and, if so, equip you to begin your service. Taking the course does not mean you are committing to serve as a mentor. You’ll find, however, that you can use the skills that are taught and practiced in many areas of your life, including parenting and interacting with people. So the time you invest will be well spent regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue this ministry.

To obtain more information about the class, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth at dave.hochmuth@wels.net or Tom Koepsell at tgkoepsell45@gmail.com.

 

Decades of service . . . after reaching retirement age

This past summer, Elisabeth Newell, one of our faithful test correctors, celebrated her 100th birthday. We’re not sure exactly when Elisabeth began her service, but we believe it was at least 20 years ago. She is so thankful to have had this avenue to exercise and share her faith. She is also thankful that God has graciously preserved her mind and physical abilities so that she could continue to serve. Just recently Elisabeth was concerned that an inmate didn’t truly understand that faith is a gift and not something he does. She contacted our administrator to make sure she provided clear feedback to the inmate on a test response that was ambiguous. Elisabeth still derives joy in serving. Another recent test packet contained 23 tests, all by the same inmate. Among all the test questions there were only one or two incorrect answers, which was a great encouragement to Elisabeth.

Join us in thanking all our test correctors and pen pals for their compassionate service as they encourage troubled souls. As we mentioned in previous issues, for the time being we have enough regular test correctors. But we still have opportunities for new pen pals. If you would like to explore being a pen pal, please inquire at our office (prisonministry@wels.net or 507-354-3130).

 

 

Three ways to support our ministry

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: for blessings on our outreach efforts to new facilities; gratefulness for our first mentor training course; for blessings on the additional planned mentor training and new mentor ministries; for continued designated gifts to fund all our ministry activities.

Serve – All our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love. To volunteer as a pen pal, please contact us at prisonministry@wels.net or 507-354-3130.
To explore jail visitation or post-release mentoring opportunities, call 414-256-3243 or send an e-mail to dave.hochmuth@wels.net.

Give – We thank our Lord and you for your helpful special offerings to Prison Ministry, which support our efforts to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration!

To provide additional gifts for Christ’s work through Prison Ministry:
WELS, Attn. Gift Processing
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI, 53188
(Make checks payable to WELS and list Prison Ministry in the memo line.)

Donate online at wels.net/donate-prison-ministry.

Give through your IRA charitable distribution, appreciated assets, or your will or estate plan. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for assistance.

Direct your Thrivent Choice dollars (if you are a Thrivent member) to WELS Prison Ministry. Contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836 for assistance. Your 2022 designation is due by March 31, 2023.

 

 

 

Ideas and resources for compassion ministry

Compassion ministry has gotten a lot of attention in the past decade. It was even the topic of the 2022 Symposium at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. What is compassion ministry?

Maybe we should start by defining what it is not. Compassion ministry is not an activity that competes with proclaiming the gospel. It is not Social Gospel, which sets an agenda of achieving transformation of society— focusing church work on achieving a better world in the here and now.

In contrast, compassion ministry flows from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again. He loves us, body and soul. The gospels frequently comment on the compassion of Jesus for sinners—for the broken, and those with disabilities and struggles. The apostles followed their Lord as they organized Christ’s followers. The gospel was the priority, and yet they had compassion for the poor and people who had disabilities. After the apostles passed on, the compassion of Jesus was such a part of his followers’ lives that even people who rejected Christianity admitted that Christian compassion was genuine.

Here’s my definition of compassion ministry: serving one another in love as we share and live the gospel. “We love, because he first loved us.” Christian love shows itself in acts of caring for others as well as devotion to God. Compassion doesn’t pass by the hurting person on the road to Jericho. We see the need and recognize what Christ would do because he cares for the hurting and the lost.

In an age when “the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12), church leaders need to intentionally cultivate Christian compassion. How can churches and their leaders nurture compassion ministry? Try Special Ministries resources as a ready-made tool for compassion ministry.

Special Ministries has resources to help congregation members care for people who are:

  • Blind or visually impaired
  • Deaf or hard of hearing
  • Intellectually or developmentally disabled
  • Inmates in jails or prisons
  • Military personnel
  • Struggling with mental health needs
  • Struggling with porn
  • Struggling with addiction
  • Survivors of abuse
  • Homebound or in care facilities
  • Caregivers

Special Ministries has resources to train your members to serve as:

  • Parish Nurses
  • Chaplains
  • Mentors
  • Advocates to protect children from abuse
  • Care Committee for Called Workers

On the WELS Special Ministries web page, you will see links to information and resources for helping others. Many of these are tied directly to being able to share the gospel despite barriers. You’ll also find encouragement to respond in love and include others in fellowship and service.

Congregations can also “prime the compassion pump” by organizing help for someone experiencing a medical or financial crisis. WELS Christian Aid and Relief can guide your members as they express their love and concern and join together to help someone who is hurting. Grant funds can also help serve someone with a disability or challenge with matching funds to get the congregation serve them.

Compassion ministry is Christian love and Christ-like service, flowing from Jesus who died that we might serve him now and eternally. Special Ministries is here to help you serve. Check out our resources, our training, and our programs!

 

 

 

 

 

Mentoring a Returning Citizen training

God has richly blessed ministry to the incarcerated as an outreach to the lost. Whether it is WELS Prison Ministry’s correspondence Bible studies, Institutional Ministries’ chaplain visitation and email devotions, or local efforts at jail ministry, the gospel has been changing hearts. In correctional facilities across this nation, the Spirit has opened the eyes of people who had no hope and showed them life in Christ, here and eternally.

What happens to these souls when they are no longer behind bars? Will they find the spiritual support they need to follow Christ in true freedom?

WELS Prison Ministry created an online mentoring course for returning citizens based on a successful mentoring model which Minnesota River Valley Mentoring Program (https://mrvmp.com/) that helps people who struggle with many different challenges. Our course videos and workbook are online and can be used at any time. But of course, the training experience is more enjoyable and effective when a facilitator leads a group through the training.

You can learn to provide guidance and encouragement to a man or woman returning to your community or church from incarceration. We call the people in this uniquely challenging category “returning citizens.” A Christian friend and a congregation can be extremely helpful to such people. They’re the key to spiritual support as well as assimilation back into the community and the church.

You’re invited to participate in a special group offering of online training, Mentoring a Returning Citizen, in the next few months. The training will help you evaluate whether you have the gifts and abilities to serve as a mentor and, if so, equip you to begin your service. There is no commitment to serve if you take the course. The skills that are taught and practiced have application in many areas including parenting and interacting with people at work. So the time you invest will be well spent regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue this ministry.

The facilitator for this course will be Prison Ministry Committee member Tom Koepsell. “Mentoring is a subject near to my heart,” says Tom. “Having worked with the incarcerated for well over a decade, I have come to appreciate the challenges they will face upon release. But more than that, I have experienced the role their Savior is playing in their lives and what Jesus means when he talks about seeking and saving the lost. When you bring Jesus to such people, you learn to love them as Jesus does. It’s a rewarding experience.”

The course will be a combination of online sessions with other participants, videos that can be viewed individually by the participants, and activities in a workbook with both individual and group exercises. You can view elements of the course at welscongregationalservices.net/mentoring-a-returning-citizen/  Details about the course can also be found there.

To register for the class or obtain more information, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth at dave.hochmuth@wels.net or Tom Koepsell at tgkoepsell45@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Conversations about solutions and coping

Joan, an elderly member of your church, is slowly losing her eyesight because of Macular Degeneration and now finds it difficult to read print. You may be aware that Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI) has audio, braille and large print Christian literature for Joan. Did you know that MVI volunteers understand Joan’s challenges and welcome the opportunity to talk to her?

MVI offers people with vision loss guidance and assistance in coping with the challenges they face. A new MVI ministry resource is a quarterly Zoom call to discuss how someone can overcome the challenges of blindness. The MVI Zoom session is open to anyone interested in learning about the resources available to live with physical blindness. We welcome people with vision loss and the blind to participate in these calls, but pastors, teachers, lay leaders, and family members are also invited and encouraged to join the conversation.

Few pastors or lay leaders are equipped to help a newly blind member or a potential member experiencing vision loss manage what may seem to be insurmountable challenges. MVI has several board members and leaders who are blind. As blind persons, they live with their physical blindness on a daily basis and have become experts on the challenges and resources for blind people.

Future MVI Zoom calls will discuss how a blind person can overcome the isolation and depression and managing daily tasks that comes with becoming blind. Another MVI call will showcase resources available to accomplish basic tasks, such as reading the Bible in an alternative format. Because the calls are not recorded lectures but real discussions, participants can ask specific questions. You can inquire about solutions tailored to your situation.

Our first quarterly MVI Zoom call will be Tues., Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. Central Time. For further information, please reach out to MVI Chairman, Larry Povinelli at welsvisimp@wels.net or (651) 291-1536.

MVI members are here to serve you. Their involvement in MVI demonstrates that losing physical sight does not mean the end of a productive life. By encouraging each other and helping one another through the challenges of vision loss, we can keep our focus on the cross as we follow Christ. Our ultimate goal is that the blind may see heaven. To God be the glory!

 

 

 

 

MDHH ministry in action

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice” (Psalm 105:1-3)

We hear these words of the psalmist and easily imagine their application: loud shouts of praise to God . . . singing beautiful hymns and anthems to God’s glory . . . sharing and telling the whole world the life-changing news of the gospel . . . talking with other Christians as we remember God’s goodness. . . .

But our praises to God are not acceptable because of our voices, or because of a beautiful hymn, or because of a rich blend of musical instruments. Our prayers and praises are the spiritual sacrifices we offer to God that are only “acceptable to God, through Christ Jesus.” (1 Peter 2:5).

Here at Bloomington Living Hope, we are reminded of that truth as our deaf and hard of hearing members and friends grow in God’s Word through worship and Bible study. With hearts and hands they “give praise to the Lord, and proclaim his name.” They “tell of his wonderful acts” as they encourage one another. Their shouts of praise echo loudly through the new hearts and lives that the Holy Spirit has created by faith.

Each week at our Living Hope location, our 10 a.m. weekly worship service always has an interpreter. Our deaf members and the community can always count on having a live church service in which to worship each Sunday. The same service is streamed and archived on our website with a “picture in picture” view. The interpreter is recorded with a separate camera, so there is always a clear view. It takes work, preparation, and many volunteer hours, but God has richly blessed our efforts!

Another blessing of God is our weekly deaf Bible study. On Tuesday nights our deaf members bring their friends together to study God’s Word. It’s a loose format. Pastor leads the study, with the interpreter close by. We sit close to one another. We pray together. Anyone can ask any question at any time. It’s a bit different from the typical Bible study, but some things are the same. We open the Word and God richly feeds us.

Over the past two years, we’ve held our weekly deaf Bible study over ZOOM. Sometimes the screen is so full of people it’s hard to pick out the interpreter – what a blessing! The technology allows the deaf community to join us from anywhere. Deaf members in Illinois, Washington, South Dakota, and Arizona are brought together by the Spirit’s power to grow in faith week after week.

Starting in fall of 2022, our deaf Bible study is expanding to twice a week. Tuesday at 6 p.m. in person and Thursday 1 p.m. via Zoom. If you would like further information about these Bible studies or to view Sunday services signed by our interpreter, please go to our website bllh.org.

Over the past years, it is incredible to recall how God Has grown our DHH ministry. God can do the same for your church too!

 

 

 

 

When dreams need to change

Do you remember a time that you and your spouse eagerly awaited the arrival of a new child entering your family? If not, have your shared the excitement of a close friend or family member waiting for the birth of a child?

It can be such a wonderful time, full of hopes and dreams! The expectant parents imagine what their child will look like. They picture themselves enjoying everyday events with their child, such as family meals, trips to the zoo, and school field trips. They imagine the fun of birthdays and Christmases together. And they dream about who and what their child might someday become.

But sometimes those dreams need to change. A child may be born with a severe disability or a serious and chronic medical condition, or the child may experience an accident that changes physical or mental abilities forever. And the parents’ dreams are no longer realistic. When that happens, parents generally go through a period of grieving. Eventually, a greater acceptance occurs, and the parents change their dreams and recognize the blessing that their child still is.

This acceptance doesn’t eliminate parental doubts, however. Raising a child with extraordinary needs tends to be very overwhelming and exhausting. Even when the parents fully accept and appreciate their child, on days when those parents are especially overwhelmed and exhausted, they may tend to have doubts such as these return:

  • Why did this happen to my child? We didn’t plan for this!
  • There’s nothing special about me as a parent. I’m not a good enough parent for this situation. I don’t think I can handle this!
  • If God cares for me and my child so much, why doesn’t he fix this?
  • Other parents just don’t get it. I feel so alone!
  • I have a “forever child” whom I will need to care for as long as I live—and what will happen to my child when I die? I can’t die!

These thoughts are all natural and nothing for which parents should feel ashamed. Our Light for Parents ministry is led by parents of children with extraordinary needs who want to make sure other parents of such children receive the Christian love and support that they need.

This fall, Light for Parents will begin leading online book discussion groups, and the first book will address the types of questions listed above from a Christian perspective. Please watch the Light for Parents website and Facebook page for an announcement and sign-up information. And pray specifically for the parents you know who may be experiencing such thoughts, even if they don’t tell you about them. Pray that they will feel God’s love and care for them—including through the work of Light for Parents.

 

 

 

The wind beneath a caregiver’s wings

I’ve known people who have 24/7 responsibilities for the care of a loved one. The obligations of being a caregiver (including those whose loved ones are in a facility) can make a person feel isolated, worn out, and stressed in ways that friends and family might not even suspect.

Our loving Father does not intend for caregivers to carry out their task by themselves. After all, God’s Word teaches, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NIV) You and I can be the wind beneath a caregiver’s wings.

I confess that I have often reflected silently and guiltily when I’ve seen an elderly wife or husband care for their disabled or ill spouse all by themselves. I felt bad and helpless when I see parents caring for a child with extraordinary needs and I didn’t know what to do.

You and I can be a big help and encouragement in small ways. I’ve learned to start with a thoughtful conversation with the caregiver. Before I start the conversation, I make a list of tasks the caregiver might need help with. I keep spiritual needs in mind.

Making a list helps me see little tasks that can take burdens off the caregiver, but conversation gives the caregiver a chance to be heard and understood. The list changes. Offering to mow their lawn is not a help when the caregiver looks forward to that activity. Sometimes the caregiver has needs they don’t want made public. The conversation also sets realistic expectations. I am not volunteering for everything on the list! I’m trying to understand ways that this family can be helped.

I look at the caregiver’s list and I pray about it. If I’m not good at recruiting, I talk to my spouse or my pastor to find help enlisting volunteers. Are there tasks which require special training or confidentiality? Special Ministries’ Light for Parents has resources to organize and train volunteers who are willing to help caregivers. Contact them at staff@lightforparents.com. I think of people who might want to get involved. I share tasks on the list with them. I consider whether the caregiver has financial burdens which might be met through a congregational grant from WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

Some items on the list may never get done, but the caregiver has felt the wind beneath his or her wings – the love of a church family that is willing to talk and help. It is really the Lord who lifts up that burden, but God does it with the encouragement and help of his people.

For the Christian family member or friend, caregiving may be a vocation to which the Lord calls us at some time in our life. I might have to care for my wife or she for me. That’s the thing about caregiving: many people become caregivers for a time. Since it happens to so many, let’s talk to each other and consider how we can help carry each other’s burdens.

Jim Behringer
Director, Commission on Special Ministries

 

 

 

 

Updates from Conquerors through Christ

Conquerors through Christ is not JUST a ministry for those addicted to pornography. For the last ten years we’ve been creating resources and recognize that the problem of porn is so much bigger than just the people who are using porn.

There are spouses, significant others, parents, siblings, teachers, and pastors who are affected. Whether it’s through broken trust and resulting pain or a desire to support and help, the problems of porn ripple into the lives of others.

That’s why CTC is continuing to add to its suite of resources to address the many other issues that attend pornography addiction.

Our “First 40 Days” devotional is an empathetic daily devotional for a person to start any time they fall into sexual temptation. It walks the reader through practical ways to build habits for 40 days that will set them up for success. This can be a great first resource to give someone you know who is struggling, but can also be a resource for you to understand their struggle.

Parents want to prepare their children to fight the sexualization of our culture. To support them, we created the “Parent Support System.” This tool guides parents, teachers, and pastors to train children from preschoolers into high school to prepare themselves to resist sexual sin.

How do you preach on pornography?!? We developed our “Training Camp” which helps pastors become better equipped to preach about pornography. Additionally, we have Bible studies to thoughtfully talk about pornography and other sexual sin.

Finally, we are excited to announce that we are in the process of developing a suite of resources to help couples (and other family members) rebuild trust after a loved one falls into pornography. This will include a triage resource for the emotions that come when a loved one feels hurt, an interactive assessment tool for identifying issues, a plan for rebuilding trust, and tools for maintaining that trust in the years to come.

Whether you’re married, single, a parent, a child, or a called worker, we want to help you pursue godly sexuality. Visit www.conquerorsthroughtchrist.net.

 

 

 

 

Finding hope when life seems hopeless

Psalm 42 is a favorite of mine. The psalmist pours his heart out to God, looking for help because he is in a seemingly helpless situation. We feel the pangs of his heart as he asks “where can I go and meet with God? …God, my Rock, why have you forgotten me? …why are you so downcast, O my soul?” (verses 2, 9, and 11)

Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time inmate. Last week you were out, free to decide how to spend your day. This week, every moment is scheduled, every movement dictated. And yet, amid all the structure, everything is uncertain. How long will I be here? What will my sentence be? What do my loved ones think of me? And most importantly, what does God think of me?

We don’t have to be an inmate to have these thoughts, either. Life is uncertain at times for all. We may feel lonely, or that God is distant from us. Thankfully, these are only our emotions, tainted by sin, not our reality. For the believer in Jesus, our God is always near. He is not ashamed to call us his friends. He has a future planned for us, one not filled with uncertainty, but with the sure hope of everlasting life.

Not all people understand this or know how loving and understanding our God truly is. An inmate may not want to think of God as his Father because of the poor example of his human father. An inmate may not be able to trust the Bible, or the visitor who brings God’s Word, because he has never known someone who is truly trustworthy. An inmate may have a hard time believing his sins have been forgiven; it just doesn’t follow the rule of “what goes around, comes around.”

The writer of Psalm 42 invites us all, whether inside a cellblock or not, to where he found answers to his questions and the hope that truly filled the hole in his broken heart. He went to God. And our God is as near to us as our Bible. There we find, “The Lord is close to those whose hearts have been broken. He saves those whose spirits have been crushed.” (Ps 34:18) “He lifts up all those who feel helpless.” (Ps 145:14) “The Lord will watch over your life no matter where you go, both now and forever.” (Ps 121:8)

Our God is more than simply near; he is someone who acts on our behalf. “All of us are like sheep. We have wandered away from God. All of us have turned to our own way. And the Lord has placed on his servant the sins of all of us.” (Is 53:6) “Christ didn’t have any sin. But God made him become sin for us. So we can be made right with God because of what Christ has done for us.” (2 Cor 5:21)

When the psalmist writes “Put your hope in God” (verses 5 & 11), he means trust what God has done on your behalf. Reflect for a moment on all that God has done for you: God has come to a rebellious planet, has lived the perfect life we cannot live, has taken the punishment of hell that we deserved, has gone to a grave that should have been ours, and has risen to demonstrate his power over death. As we hope in this kind of God, we praise him for saving us by living for him, and no longer living for ourselves.

Often inmates do not know this kind of God. Many believe God is seeking only justice. That’s where we come in. “We are Christ’s official messengers. It is as if God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor 5:20) Our task is to show Christ to others. As God gives us opportunities to witness to others the deeds he has done for all, they learn of Christ’s love for them. As God gives us opportunities to help them with deeds of kindness and love, they see Christ’s love in action. In so doing, we bring hope to the hopeless. It is our high privilege to show Christ to others as we show them Christ working in us.

By Bob Fink, Prison Ministry Committee member

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome Bob Fink

The Prison Ministry Committee welcomes Bob Fink of Manitowoc, Wis. Joining us at the start of 2022, Bob has been involved as a volunteer in jail ministry at the Manitowoc County Jail since 2014. Bob brings the experience of both called ministry and business to the committee. He served WELS high schools in Westland, Mich., and Manitowoc from 1978 to 2008, teaching mainly chemistry, physics, math and German. In 2008 he took a position as a software engineer and Technology Specialist at Emerging Technologies of Two Rivers, Wis., retiring from there in 2019. He currently serves Grace Lutheran Church of Manitowoc as a part time retired staff minister, visiting shut-ins and teaching the adult Bible classes there.

Bob’s main responsibility will be the oversight of the production and printing of our inmate-focused Bible studies. He is also currently tasked with following up on the many chaplains who ordered our prison ministry study booklets in the past.

 

 

 

 

Are you mentor material?

Have you ever wished for the opportunity to make a meaningful difference, maybe even eternal difference, in someone’s life? Or maybe you wished you had the training to know how to truly help someone with great needs?

This August or October, you can learn about mentoring a returning citizen, providing guidance and encouragement to a man or woman returning to your community or your church from incarceration. You’re invited to participate in online training, Mentoring a Returning Citizen. The training will help you evaluate whether you have the gifts and abilities to serve as a mentor and, if so, equip you to begin your service. There is no commitment to serve if you take the course. The skills that are taught and practiced have application in many areas including parenting and interacting with people at work. So the time you invest will be well spent regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue this ministry.

The facilitator for this course will be Prison Ministry Committee member Tom Koepsell. “Mentoring is a subject near to my heart,” says Tom. “Having worked with the incarcerated for well over a decade, I have come to appreciate the challenges they will face upon release. But more than that, I have experienced the role their Savior is playing in their lives and what Jesus means when he talks about seeking and saving the lost. When you bring Jesus to such people, you learn to love them as Jesus does. It’s a rewarding experience.”

The course will be a combination of online sessions with other participants, videos that can be viewed individually by the participants, and activities in a workbook that will be a combination of individual and group exercises. You can view elements of the course at welscongregationalservices.net/mentoring-a-returning-citizen/  Details about the course can also be found there.

To register for the class or obtain more information, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth at dave.hochmuth@wels.net or Tom Koepsell at tgkoepsell45@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

Ways to support our ministry – Summer 2022

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: guidance for moving into electronic communication with inmates; for continued improvement in the pandemic situation so that personal visits to correctional facilities become commonplace; for blessings on the planned mentor training and new mentor ministries; for continued designated gifts to fund all our ministry activities.

Serve – All our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love. To volunteer as a pen pal, please contact us at prisonministry@wels.net or 507-354-3130.

To explore jail visitation or post-release mentoring opportunities, call 414-256-3243 or send an e-mail to dave.hochmuth@wels.net.

Give – We thank our Lord and you for your helpful special offerings to Prison Ministry, which support our efforts to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration!

To provide additional gifts for Christ’s work through Prison Ministry:

WELS, Attn. Gift Processing
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI, 53188
(Make checks payable to WELS and list Prison Ministry in the memo line.)

Donate online at wels.net/donate-prison-ministry.

Give through your IRA charitable distribution, appreciated assets, or your will or estate plan. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for assistance.

Direct your Thrivent Choice dollars (if you are a Thrivent member) to WELS Prison Ministry. Contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836 for assistance. Your 2022 designation is due by March 31, 2023.

 

 

 

“Heart to Heart” from Parish Nurse Ministry

Would you like your blood pressure checked? Do you need wellness assistance in the community? Have you ever needed an encouraging word or someone to pray with you? This is the ministry offered by parish nurses. Parish Nurses has a unique volunteer role serving the members from the heart. Parish nurses want to be present for you and for your family. They cannot provide medications or shots, start IVs, or perform anything invasive. However, parish nurses can provide education, resources, and tools to the congregation in order to support your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. A parish nurse’s goal might include providing:

  • Monthly blood pressure checks
  • “Welcome home” calls when a member is discharged from hospital
  • Wellness articles with a Biblical perspective in the church newsletter
  • Resource assistance in the community
  • Offer a CPR certification program
  • Encouragement, support, and prayer

Parish Nursing dates back to the New Testament as Phoebe opened her home to help the sick and needy. Then many years later, in 1881, Lutheran General Hospital, in Chicago, staffed deaconess nurses. It would be a century before Parish Nurses were given a name. Presently, hundreds of parish nurses serve in churches throughout the States (and internationally) where the programs are energetic and effective.

As a parish nurse, we have a variety of opportunities to make a positive impact on our congregation. We could all benefit from Christian women and men showing love through a warm smile, blood pressure checks, and reassurance the Lord understands their struggles and pain. Check out Anna in Luke 2:37. Anna was “a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”  We also can share in the joy of serving with our nursing skills and knowledge. We pray the Lord will reveal wonderful ways to use our nursing gifts as we joyfully surrender to the Lord’s plan and will. If you are a nurse, take time to invest in a parish nurse program for further education, networking, and support. Look up to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. Trust him to direct our path! Connect with your pastor if interested.

Heidi Gilbert-Then is a Wisconsin native, wife and mother of four, animal lover, and Bible study leader with a nursing degree from CUW. And water-skiing enthusiast.

Learn more about Parish Nursing.

 

 

 

 

The ministry of presence

The concrete chasm still outlined Champlain Towers’ footprint, but the 12 stories that had once climbed out of its basement had, a fortnight prior, crumpled into it. The acre-size void offered a metaphor for the emptiness that now filled multitudes of mourners.

In the early hours of June 24, 2021, the Surfside, Fla., condominium catastrophically collapsed, killing 98 inhabitants. The dead were far outnumbered by the living whose hearts were ground into grief. They included residents who had escaped, survivors whose loved ones had not, and neighbors who feared that their high-rise might be the next in the news. Add hundreds of adrenaline-amped first responders, who were less sapped by the summer sun than sobered by the sadness that recovery, not rescue, would constitute the majority of their mission.

So many distraught, despairing hearts. So many troubled, traumatized souls. Physical resources poured in, but pouring out their pallet of indescribable woes to a pallet of inert goods offered hollow hope. Hurting humans hunger for the emollient of empathy.

Chaplaincy is aptly described as a “ministry of presence.” We chaplains could not solve the survivors’ suffering nor repeal the responders’ revulsion. We could listen to their anguished accounts. We could validate their emotions. We could offer our prayers and our presence. We could focus intently and thereby convey that no one meant more to us than they.

Parish ministry is more about talking and leading; chaplaincy is more about listening and learning. Pastors have a duty to unhesitatingly proclaim divine truth to an audience that demands it. Chaplains have a duty to attend patiently until—if—the sufferer grants leave for the solace-giver to deliver the message of incomparable comfort.

Serving as a chaplain for our county’s jail, and later its fire department, has afforded me the privilege to practice “presence.” This ministry reaches people who have known dark days yet may never darken the doors of a church.

Does working “outside the walls “of your church intrigue you? Perhaps God is calling you to chaplaincy. Learn more at mlc-wels.edu/continuing-education/wels-chaplain-certificate.

 

By Rev. David Rosenbaum, pastor at Redeemer, Merritt Island, Fla.

 

 

 

All because of one referral

To steal a quote from Colonel Smith of The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

WELS Military Services Committee has a plan to help military members receive religious services on base. Marine Corps Recruit, David, followed the plan.

It started with a simple text. “Hey Pastor Schulz, this is David. I’ll be in San Diego for Bootcamp starting August 26. I’m under the impression that you are my contact pastor that can visit me during basic?” He was correct. I was the Military Contact Pastor. But to visit him on base was going to be up to him.

Fortunately, there is a specific document at welscongregationalservices.net/military-contact-pastor. It is titled: How to have religious services on base. Recruit David followed all the steps.

A few weeks later a Religious Program Specialist (RP) from Marine Corps Recruit Depot – San Diego called me and told me there was a recruit who requested Holy Communion. I was able to get on base and have a devotion and Holy Communion with Recruit David! I love it when a plan comes together!

But there was much more to the plan than I could have ever dreamed. As I was leaving that day, one of the RP’s pulled me to the side. “You are a Lutheran pastor. We don’t currently offer a Lutheran service on base. Would you want to start one?”

Since then, I have been leading a worship service on base every Sunday morning. An average of 30 Recruits and Marines attend every week. Because it is a training depot, there is constant turnover. The thirty in attendance are different Recruits and Marines every six weeks! Only a handful have been WELS. Many of the others haven’t been to church in a long time, and some never have. But all in attendance hear the gospel of Jesus Christ!

And this amazing blessing all started because of one referral. I love it when a plan comes together! And I love it even more when God grants his blessings upon that plan! To God be the glory!

By Rev. Paul Schulz, pastor at Risen Savior, Chula Vista, Calif.

 

 

 

Military contact pastors meet for conference

WELS Military Services assists WELS congregations serving military members when they are stationed nearby. Civilian ministry to the military is a cornerstone of WELS Military Services’ work by equipping churches for local gospel and fellowship ministry to military personnel and their families.

Across the nation, 125 WELS churches near military installations and their pastors (called military contact pastors) are appointed to reach out to the men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces.

April 26-28, 2022, the WELS Military Services Committee held its annual Military Contact Pastors Workshop at Risen Savior, Pooler, Ga., near Army Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. Members of the Military Services Committee and a group of WELS military contact pastors met to discuss ministry to the military with Fort Stewart chaplains and military personnel. WELS members Lt. Col. Michael Hefti and his wife, Katie, shared the stresses of military life and the importance of their WELS pastors and church family in supporting them spiritually.

Fort Stewart held a meeting attended by more than a dozen of the post’s military chaplains. The chaplains explained their work and the retreat attendees spoke to them about the unique needs of WELS military personnel for religious accommodation. Fort Stewart representatives explained family resources available to military members. The official program ended with a demonstration of how a worship service in the field would be set up and a visit to a museum on the post.

The annual workshop is sponsored through a grant from the Lutheran Military Support Group, a national organization of WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) veterans. The Lutheran Military Support Group also sponsors free professional Christian counseling for military members served by WELS Military Services and WELS and ELS veterans.

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of WELS Special Ministries, said, “Of all the military contact pastors workshops, this year’s meeting was superior. Fort Stewart’s chaplains went the extra mile to create mutual understanding. They were impressed by WELS’ desire to serve military personnel, and they made every effort to help us in that regard. Our attendees are always highly motivated by the speakers, but we had some outstanding presentations that I hope will improve our ability to serve military members with the gospel while helping them carry their burdens.”

Rev. Paul Horn, chairman of the WELS Military Services Committee, notes that the key to serving more WELS members in the military is through referrals from their loved ones made at wels.net/refer. “When we know who our WELS military members are and where they are stationed, we can better serve them with Word and sacraments,” says Horn. “When our congregations are aware that military families are in their church, the best thing they can do is to assimilate them into the mission and ministry of the congregation as quickly as possible. Military families move often. Making your church their church home will provide much needed encouragement and support.”

To learn more about WELS Military Services, visit wels.net/military.

For more information about the Lutheran Military Support Group, visit lutheranmilitary.org.

 

 

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Why a CCCW?

To encourage, support, and enhance the physical and spiritual lives of members sounds like part of the job description of WELS called workers. Most members of a calling body take for granted that called workers will encourage and support them. However, many overlook the fact that these workers are also members and need the same support as everyone else. Who will be there to make sure that the physical and spiritual needs of these dedicated workers are met?

A Care Committee for Called Workers (CCCW) can address these needs. The main areas that a local CCCW would support include spiritual needs, continuing education, compensation and benefits, providing encouragement and showing appreciation, addressing practical matters (especially for new workers and those nearing retirement), and fellowship activities. The committee serves as an advocate for the called workers and can bring the workers’ needs to the appropriate group, such as a committee, board, council, or voters. The CCCW is not designed to be a problem-solving group. It exists to facilitate communication and called worker encouragement.

While many calling bodies informally provide support to their workers, having an intentional, structured plan and organization makes sure workers are heard and encouraged. The national CCCW focus is to help calling bodies establish or maintain a local committee. This is done by providing support and materials for congregational called worker care committees. Resources for this ministry are easily accessible on the CCCW webpage.

Once a calling body has a care committee in place, several activities can help them offer appropriate support to the called workers. The primary work is done through three types of visits – entrance, annual, and transition visits. The entrance visit is a time to get acquainted and aid in the transition to a new call. The annual visits provide a regular opportunity for the committee to offer encouragement and identify any areas where support is needed. The transition visit is used to express appreciation and assist with adjusting to a new situation.

Called workers are not likely to request the support that a CCCW can provide. Therefore, it is important that interested members take the lead in providing care for those servants that God has provided. Why not a CCCW?

 

 

 

 

Prepared to serve the military neighbor

Most Americans assume that spiritual ministry to military members and their families is carried out by a U.S. military chaplain. In contrast, WELS Military Services strives to equip WELS congregations to serve military members when they are stationed nearby. It is rare to find a church body focused on equipping churches for local gospel and fellowship ministry to military personnel and their families, but civilian ministry to the military is a cornerstone of WELS Military Services’ work.

Across the nation, 125 WELS churches near military installations and their pastors (called Military Contact Pastors) are appointed to reach out to serve the men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces.

April 26-28, the WELS Military Services Committee held its annual Military Contact Pastors Workshop at Risen Savior, Pooler, Ga., near Army Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. Members of the Military Services Committee met with a group of WELS Military Contact Pastors to discuss ministry to the military with Fort Stewart chaplains and military personnel, including WELS members Lt. Col. Michael Hefti and his wife Katie, who described the stresses of military life and the importance of their WELS pastors and church family in supporting them spiritually.

Every year, attendees look forward to the opportunity to visit a military installation. Fort Stewart extended extraordinary hospitality to the group by holding a meeting attended by more than a dozen of the post’s military chaplains. The chaplains explained their work and the retreat attendees spoke to them about the unique needs of WELS military personnel for religious accommodation. Fort Stewart representatives explained family resources available to military members. The official program ended with a demonstration of how a worship service in the field would be set up, and a visit to 3rd Infantry Division Museum on the post.

The annual workshop is sponsored through a generous grant from the Lutheran Military Support Group, a national organization of WELS and ELS veterans. The Lutheran Military Support Group also sponsors free professional Christian counseling for military members served by WELS Military Services and WELS and ELS veterans.

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of WELS Special Ministries, said, “Of all the Military Contact Pastors workshops, this year’s meeting was superior. Fort Stewart’s chaplains went the extra mile to create mutual understanding. They were impressed by the WELS desire to serve military personnel and they made every effort to help us in that regard. Our attendees are always highly motivated by the speakers, but we had some outstanding presentations that I hope will improve our ability to serve military members with the gospel while helping them carry their burdens.”

Rev. Paul Horn, chairman of the WELS Military Services Committee, notes that the key to serving more WELS members in the military is through referrals from their loved ones, which they can do by going to wels.net/refer. “When we know who our WELS military members are and where they are stationed, we can better serve them with Word and Sacraments.” Horn adds, “When our congregations are aware that military families are in their church, the best thing they can do is to assimilate them into the mission and ministry of the congregation as quickly as possible. Military families move often. Making your church their church home will provide much needed encouragement and support.”

To learn more about WELS Military Services, visit wels.net/military.

For more information about the Lutheran Military Support Group, visit lutheranmilitary.org.

 

A man bows his head over a smart phone in his hands apparently listening to the Listen Library. An image of the library webpage is inserted in the picture.

Listen Library shares God’s Word

As a young, sighted child, I remembered the excitement of getting a new book. As I grew older and lost my eyesight, I mourned the loss of access to printed materials. I read using cassette tapes, live readers, or by learning braille. In the 80’s I began receiving Meditations on cassette tapes from the Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI), part of the WELS Commission on Special Ministries.

Over the last 40 years technology improved and rapidly grew in ways never imagined. Blind people have benefited exponentially. The first braille display was invented in 1982. The accessibility features in the iPhone in 2009, cheaper braille displays, and the ability to easily convert digital information into an accessible format, made access to the printed word easier. The stage was set for online access to many of our WELS theological books, the People’s Bible Commentaries, Meditations, and Forward in Christ.

I had a vision to create an online library containing many of our WELS resources. This library would benefit both the visually and print impaired by providing a vehicle to learn about God’s amazing love and be able to worship the Lord alongside our sighted congregants.

My venture began with a meeting with the director of Special Ministries, WELS technology folks, and the MVI board. This meeting led to the best methods to convert the cassette books already at MVI into an online resource. With software such as Amazon Polly, we were able to convert text files into a text-to-speech file with minimal reformatting. MVI has recruited volunteers working from their homes to bring this dream into reality. In 2019, the Listen Library (listen.wels.net) commenced with a few People’s Bible Commentaries and a novel from our tape collection. We now have 18 volumes of the People’s Bible Commentaries, about a dozen Christian audiobooks for all ages, and the current issues of Meditations and Forward in Christ available in the Listen Library. Our online catalog offers hundreds of titles available on thumb drive or cassette.

With the release of Christian Worship 2021, we’re working on providing access to all the hymns and liturgies on the Listen library. No longer will a visually impaired member be denied full access and participation in a service. This will allow the blind or print impaired member immediate access so they can participate fully in worship. This would have been impossible in the past. Technology has changed the playing field. For this, we give GOD the glory!

The Listen Library is small, but it will continue to grow. We especially need volunteers to edit the sound for our recorded audio books (nearly 200 books await sound editing!) and to work with Amazon Polly. If you know friends or family who can help in the production or program management of our service, please contact MVI at welsvisimp@wels.net or by phone at (651) 291-1536.

By Susan K. Povinelli

 

 

 

MDHH to offer grants for hearing loops

As congregations implemented livestreaming for the first time, many people experience instances of being unable to hear everything in the service. Perhaps your church had issues with the audio for the livestream, and the sound cut out for a portion of the sermon. Maybe the microphones weren’t set up to hear people singing.

These isolated problems serve as a good reminder not to take the ability to hear for granted. And while volunteers have likely worked tirelessly to enhance the audio for online services, the struggle to hear continues to be a common occurrence for hard of hearing people.

This, unfortunately, can put up barriers between sinners and the gospel. People with hearing loss may miss a phrase that would have been the exact thing their heart needed that day. Or worse, they may choose to stop coming to church because they are frustrated or discouraged by the amount of effort required to catch the full message.

Thankfully, modern technology has solutions to alleviate this problem. One of these is to install a hearing loop in your church. A hearing loop works with people’s hearing aids to provide a clearer sound directly into their ears. Watch this brief captioned video where church members describe the difference a hearing loop made for them.

WELS Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MDHH) is encouraging looping projects by offering a grant for such projects. If your congregation is planning or has already begun any kind of building or renovation project, this is an especially great time to consider installing a loop. Or if you are looking for an excuse to suggest replacing the dated flooring in your sanctuary, the opportunity for a grant might be the reason you need.

As part of their mission to provide all people easier access to the gospel, MDHH is offering $500 grants towards the installation of a hearing loop to WELS/ELS congregations that apply for it. MDHH is also able to point congregations towards additional research, contacts, and other resources about hearing loops.

If your congregation might be interested in installing a loop in your sanctuary, please reach out at mdhh@wels.net for more information.

Learn more about the Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

 

 

 

The Beatles Were Wrong!

Jack and Cathy* brought two children into their family through international adoption. The couple was assured by their adoption worker that the children, who had challenges from years of orphanage life, just needed to be loved.

Pete and Stephanie* did foster care for two children. The foster care went fairly smooth, and they were experienced parents of three older children. So when the foster children became eligible for adoption, the couple gladly made them permanent members of their family. They were confident that with their parenting experience, plus love and stability, the children would thrive.

Neither of these couples’ dreams turned out as they expected. They showered their children with love and used traditional parenting methods, having clear, consistent expectations, disciplining children for breaking rules, and rewarding them for obeying rules. Yet their days became filled with challenges: almost nonstop lying; stealing; outbursts that included kicking, hitting, and breaking objects; angry screams of “I hate you,” hiding food in bedrooms; disrespect; bullying of siblings; and more. When Jack and Cathy’s children reached their teen years, the family was dealing with substance use, addictions, running away, visits from police officers, and self-harm.

How could things go so wrong for such loving parents? The truth is that the Beatles were wrong when they sang, “All you need is love”—at least when it comes to adopting children. Children who have been adopted have experienced trauma by losing their original family, and many have experienced other traumatic events as well. They do need love…plus co-regulation, self-calming skills, understanding of sensory needs, to experience safety, connection before correction, healthy attachment, trauma-sensitive homes, and much more.

Should this scare Christian parents away from adoption? Absolutely not! God commands us to care for orphans (James 1:27), and he promises to give us strength to carry out his will (Philippians 4:13). Adoptive Christian parents may, however, need extra training and support. Providing this is one of the goals of Light for Parents, a ministry of support for parents of children with extraordinary needs.

Recent research has shown the effect of trauma on children’s brains and the best parenting methods to promote healing. Light for Parents will soon be making available a training course in those methods as well as a Bible study to accompany that course. It is our prayer that this will enable families that include children from hard places to find the peace, connection, and joy that God wants for all of his children. See the website lightforparents.com for more information or e-mail staff@lightforparents.com.

With understanding and support, adoption can be a beautiful blessing for children from hard places and their new families. The Beatles may have been wrong, but caring for all of God’s people is right.

*not their real names

 

 

 

 

Current Ministry Needs

Because of the stricter policies for what can be sent to an inmate, we are unable to use the normal quantity of “extras” that we often send to inmates, including greeting cards. For the time being we have an abundance in stock and do not need new donations of cards. We still welcome donations of Meditations that are less than a year old, in good shape (not curled up), and no stickers or writing on or in them. Call the New Ulm office for further details at 507-354-3130.

At this time we can accommodate a few more pen pals, but we currently have enough test correctors. In the future as our digital outreach effort matures, our need for test correctors and pen pal volunteers may increase, especially those willing to communicate digitally. If you would like to be put on a waiting list for future digital volunteers, send us an e-mail with your contact information (prisonministry@wels.net).

 

 

 

“When they’re down in the gutter, stomp on ‘em!”

I loved my football coach. At first I feared his tough exterior, but it didn’t take this young high school kid long to discover the warm caring heart underneath. On the grid iron, that expression (We knew it was tongue-in-cheek.) promoted the toughness it takes to play the game. In this sinful world, things go wrong. So a certain toughness can be a real virtue. (I think the biblical term is “endurance.”)

“Indeed, whatever was written in the
past was written for our instruction, so that, through patient endurance and
the encouragement of the Scriptures,
we would have hope.” [Romans 15:4]

Let’s consider how we, the body of Christ, can potentially foster or discourage such endurance. It was the last incarceration for her. She had learned her lesson. She was in jail; her baby girl was with foster parents. She cried. I shed tears with her. “I want my baby.”

Incarceration separates parents from their families. It’s not pretty. Shall we say they should have thought of that before the got themselves into this fix? Shall we say they made their bed so now they can sleep in it? When they’re “down in the gutter” shall we “stomp on ‘em?”
Sin corrupts; sin produces dysfunction. You and I are dysfunctional because of sin. Enter: the one who associates with “tax collectors and sinners.” Enter: Jesus.

When Jesus said the fields are ripe, he didn’t say we should let it rot in the field. There is a ripe field behind bars. The consequences of sin and the accompanying guilt produce a crop ready for harvest.

Getting out and getting back together will not solve the problem. The parent needs Jesus to deal with the sin and guilt; they need Godly wisdom and guidance to learn parenting skills they never had. The whole family needs healing that only the Great Physician can bring.

Penal systems have realized that any rehabilitation they can provide falls short. Many have seen “faith-based” organizations as more capable of providing what is needed. To know the love of Jesus and the unconditional love and forgiveness provides the healing families need. Learning the patience, kindness, selflessness, and humility it takes comes from knowing Jesus. That is a major goal of your WELS Prison Ministry Committee. We want to provide God’s people with the training to carry out this mission of love.

What was written in the past can help all of us develop the patient endurance required to cope in this dysfunctional world.

Tom Koepsell, Prison Ministry Committee member

 

 

 

Parenting Behind Bars

Parenting is a tough job! It looks easy from afar, but not so much when you have to make the decisions and solve the problems in real life.
Imagine being a parent long distance. You have very limited and irregular contact with your children, who are being raised by someone else. Because of your separation, your kids view you with suspicion or anger, or doubt your love for them. You live with regrets and guilt and bouts of depression, all complicated by legal difficulties.

Very excellent book . . . You covered all the bases and in the gray areas you gave it to God. This study brought tears to my eyes.

Thomas, inmate

This could, in part, describe a military family with a parent on deployment, or a family broken by divorce. But only a parent who is incarcerated faces all the above challenges.

WELS Prison Ministry has added a new booklet, Parenting from Prison, to the 23 other titles in its Level 1 Self-Study series. Inmates can request a Bible study, complete a final test, return it for correction, and then request another topic.

Parenting from Prison revisits the root of the problem: the first sin by our first parents. That transgression separated them from their Heavenly Father, leaving them in a prison of pain and regret for having ruined the relationship. But God was determined to restore the father-child trust, which he achieved by sending his only Son.

Incarcerated parents are directed throughout the volume to focus on Jesus and his grace. They are also advised to be honest about their feelings; to be realistic about the challenges; to address their stress by talking with others; and to be patient, trusting God to accomplish what they cannot.

Practical, common-sense, straight forward approach. Teaches how to overcome obstacles of separation, and build a solid plan for the future. Doesn’t belittle or talk down to prisoners, but helps recognize past mistakes, discourage self-doubt, and foster relationships of growth in faith, love, understanding and forgiveness. Thank you for loving me with the truth!

Kelly, inmate

Simple suggestions are offered for communicating with children, such as weaving God’s Word into letters and phone calls; being truthful about mistakes that were made; consistently expressing their love for their sons and daughters; inquiring about events in their lives; and using positive words in all their interactions.

A chapter is devoted to what happens upon release and reunion. The parent in custody will have to readjust to freedom and responsibility, but the entire family will need to readjust their thinking, their behavior, and their priorities when mom or dad returns home. That calls for patience, love, wisdom, and forgiveness by everyone involved.

The study closes with a look at what the Bible says about parenting, including a study of Moses’s mother, Jochebed, and what we can learn from her.

Do you know any parents who are incarcerated? You can submit their contact information to WELS Prison Ministry at wels.net/refer. Please ask the Lord to bless this new resource, helping mothers and fathers to do what is possible in a task that seems impossible: parenting from prison.

Editor’s Note: By Pastor David Rosenbaum, Prison Ministry publications editor. Originally published in the His Hands blog from WELS Special Ministries, January 26,2022. If you would like to receive His Hands in your e-mail every two weeks, go to the form at wels.net/subscribe and subscribe to “His Hands.”