God so loved the world, that …

The little words tell a big story. We often use John 3:16 to prove that God loves all people and to testify of salvation through faith in God’s Son our Savior. Tucked inside is a message in a single word: “that.” God’s love does not stand by, passively watching. Love is not just an ideal, nor does it remain a mere feeling. Love motivated God to action; he had compassion on lost sinners and sent his Son to rescue us.

Because God rescued us in his compassion, we are also people who put love into action. 1 John 3:17 asks, “If anyone . . . sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” In the next verse John makes it clear that “pity” means “help.” He writes, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Imagine what it would be like if our church family always showed God’s love in action. A member would offer to help a National Guard spouse with the extra chores while her loved one is deployed. An older couple might adopt a “grandchild” to sit with them during the service to help a single mom who brings four children to learn about Jesus. A teen might advocate for new technology to help a blind or deaf member participate in worship.

In his compassion our Lord always knows what to do, but Christians may not be sure about the best approach in every situation. Some problems are bigger than we can understand. Still, we know what it is to be human, and we understand the emotions of struggling with problems. “Love in action” might be as simple as saying, “I don’t know how I can help, but I want you to know I’m glad you’re here. I’ll pray for a solution. Is there anything else I can do?”

Jesus died for the person in the pew next to us, for our next-door neighbor, and for those who face barriers to regular worship. When they struggle, Jesus says, “Go serve them as I served you. Go love them as I loved you.” God rescued us and now sends us to be a blessing to others. Is there a better definition of special ministry?

Learn more about WELS Special Ministries at or call 414-256-3241. Find resources, including the His Hands newsletter, at




Who is helping whom?

Technology is helping us to break down many Special Ministries barriers. The Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI) is a great example. For years, MVI had a printed catalog of resources. Of course, blind people could not read it! We assumed that a family member or friend would help our patrons choose materials.

Christian literature in Braille has always been available through this catalog. MVI also offers large print materials and audio cassette recordings of Christian literature and music.

Today, the MVI committee includes blind members. They use the computer with the assistance of technology called JAWS, which tells them what is on the screen. These leaders are guiding us to make quality spiritual resources available online. Within the next year, we hope to offer an online library of audio books. The resources are also available to anyone who has any disability that prevents them from reading a book. The MVI catalog will soon be revised so that the blind can search for themselves.

Learn more at Find resources at




One size does not fit all

The Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MDHH) helps churches and other ministries serve two very different populations. Even among the deaf and the hard of hearing, a diversity of experience, challenges, and solutions exist. One size does not fit all!

Yet all people with hearing loss need Jesus. That reality unites the MDHH in striving to educate and provide resources for church leaders and members. People with hearing loss can worship and be active in their church.

MDHH can help you solve the “sign language challenge.” A deaf visitor to a WELS church said that he learned to love Lutheran worship when he was in college, but he needed an interpreter. The church contacted MDHH. The next Sunday the church had an interpreter and even several MDHH members to meet the man and assess his situation! Answering questions about interpreting and helping to locate interpreters are two MDHH services. An online course on American Sign Language and deaf culture is offered annually through Martin Luther College to broaden knowledge and skills among WELS members.

People with mild hearing loss shouldn’t miss parts of the sermon. An Assistive Listening Device, such as the Williams Sound System and a headset, can help. For those who wear hearing aids equipped with a T-switch, a hearing loop can greatly improve understanding and participation in worship.

Both the deaf and hard of hearing were created to be part of the Body of Christ. MDHH helps churches understand the importance of including deaf and hard-of-hearing members in worship and other activities, which brings wonderful blessings. Far from needing pity, these brothers and sisters in Christ can bring spiritual perspectives, talents, and experience to the life of the church, usually with just a bit of help from technology. We serve each other with our gifts. That’s how Jesus created his church!

Learn more at Find resources at




New abuse prevention training resources

How do we protect children from abuse? How can we prevent it entirely, or help a child when abuse is discovered? The mission of Freedom for the Captives (FFTC) is “Equipping the Body of Christ to protect children and empower abuse survivors.” FFTC is developing resources to train WELS leaders at our churches, schools, and other organizations. The course is called “Standing Up for Children: A Christian Response to Child Abuse and Neglect.” It is scheduled for completion in early 2018. Training sessions can be scheduled by contacting Special Ministries ( or 414-256-3241).

Visit the website at




Getting it right about moral issues

Have you ever expressed disapproval of pornography and been met with a blank look? After a generation of industry marketing, many accept porn as a healthy part of sexuality.

So Christians may be relieved that the dangers of pornography are receiving greater scrutiny and awareness. Recent criticism has focused on its connection with the devastation of sex trafficking, or the impact of sexual addiction.

The topic absent from the public forum is sin. Using porn has a corrosive effect. It not only harms a marriage, but our relationship with God. Even if no sex trafficking is involved and no addiction occurs, something is dying in the human heart. The prayer, “Create in me a pure heart, O God,” can become empty words. Guilt and shame take over.

Conquerors through Christ continues to prepare resources to help Christians reject, resist, and recover from porn. An excellent Bible study, “Bought at a Price,” and e-books for parenting are available on their website. New materials for high school students are in production.

It’s not enough to say that porn is wrong. God has provided a path to return to him through forgiveness in Christ and the power of his Spirit. Let’s get the message out!

Visit the website at




Remembering those behind bars

Many would be surprised to learn that the early Christian church needed to do prison ministry. Yes, needed. John the Baptizer and Jesus were incarcerated, of course. The Book of Acts relates several instances of the apostles being jailed. Many followers of Jesus were locked up for the “crime” of being a Christian.

That’s why the New Testament instructs: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3)

Prison Ministry was organized to provide WELS seniors a way to “remember those in prison” in a distinctly gospel-based structure for volunteering. From the start, pen pal opportunities and Bible study correspondence focused on sharing the gospel. The original structure was well thought out, and today is no longer limited to senior involvement.

Our ministry to men and women behind bars has grown and been refined as we understand more about the experience of incarceration and how much impact Bible study can have. The central office and our volunteers respond quickly to letters and correspondence course tests, recognizing the isolation of those who are doing time. We continually bring Christ and His salvation into our communication, understanding that everyone needs to know about their Savior, including those who struggle with their guilt alone in a prison cell.

Prison Ministry also trains WELS and ELS laypeople to serve inmates in local jails through Jail Ministry Team Training (JMTT), in keeping with our emphasis on empowering face-to-face ministry.

For more information on volunteering or receiving training, call 507-354-3130 or e-mail

Learn more at Find resources at online.

To add an inmate to the mailing list, go to




Help for the hurting

Mutual support and Christian encouragement can turn a crisis or a burden into spiritual growth and a deeper relationship with Christ. That’s why churches are turning to support groups to serve their members and the community.

Addiction support groups are not new. WELS Special Ministries, along with WLCFS—Christian Family Solutions, promote Christian spiritual components missing from the standard twelve-step program.

Believers faced with a variety of challenges can benefit from support groups. For example, Samaritan Partners is a Special Ministries program to help caregivers. A Christian who provides care for a parent, spouse, or child shoulders heavy responsibilities and can easily feel isolated. A regular gathering of caregivers can bless church members with fellowship and encouragement. As a bonus, it can serve as an outreach to the community.

We want to develop resources for grief support groups. If you have skills or interest in this area, please contact Special Ministries ( or 414-256-3241).

Do you know hurting people in your congregation or community that could benefit from a support group? Our resources and experts can help you avoid common pitfalls in getting a gathering going.

Contact Special Ministries at 414-256-3241 or




Personalizing our church family’s love

What congregation doesn’t need people with gifts of teaching and administration? Many tasks require someone who is good at interacting with people, quick with Christian insight and encouragement, and being generally helpful.

Did you think “parish nurse” when you read the description above? Maybe you’ve never had such a position and think it an unnecessary addition to the church worker list. But WELS churches with an active parish nurse program will strongly recommend it. “Church family” evokes an image of caring for each other, and parish nursing personalizes that love.

A WELS parish nurse is a currently licensed Registered Nurse (RN) who promotes both physical and spiritual wellness in the congregation. The parish nurse conducts a wellness-based and non-invasive practice, and the ministry is performed according to the congregation’s mission statement and under the direction of the pastor.

Christ Lutheran Church, Eden Prairie, Minn., summarizes the work this way: “The primary purpose of the congregation is to spread the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Christ. In addition, a congregation serves as a ‘home’ and a ‘family’ to its members who have not only spiritual needs but also physical, emotional, and psychological needs . . . The Ministry. . . is one way to encourage this sharing of God’s love and the growth of faith among those with special needs related to health.”

Well-trained parish nurses can be a great blessing to your family of faith. Pastor Mike Woldt of David’s Star Lutheran Church, Jackson, Wis., lists these advantages:

    • Good training will help parish nurses share the law and gospel message of Scripture with the people they serve.
    • Good training will help parish nurses function within the framework of the congregation and in partnership with the called leaders of the church.
    • Good training will help parish nurses recognize opportunities for serving God’s people with the abilities they possess and the skills they have cultivated as practicing nurses.

Learn more at the Parish Nursing area of, the website of WELS Nurses Association.



Guarding the faith of the faithful guardians

Military men and women defend us. They willingly serve our country. Their training prepares them to be leaders, achievers, warriors. We might think that these people don’t need a thing, except maybe a call from home or a package of items that are hard to get when you’re far away.

Few people consider the spiritual needs of our military men and women. Yet during those years in service, they may face life-or-death situations. They encounter pressures that civilians would never guess come with military life. They may feel they are sinning when they use violence against the enemy, not understanding the role that God has for them.

This is why we need you to provide WELS Military Services with contact information for members in the military. Our 125 Military Contact Pastors, our National Civilian Chaplain Paul Ziemer, and European Civilian Chaplain Don Stuppy understand the issues. If our service members connect with God’s Word, then instead of drifting away from their faith, they often gain a new appreciation for the Lord and his Word. Please go to for the sake of the spiritual needs of those who serve us!

Learn more at Find resources at

To add a service member to the mailing list, go to




Inclusion can be the key

C.S. Lewis once pointed out that “membership” came into common language through Paul’s writing about the “Body of Christ.” He said that the world wants to define a “member” in terms of how all members are alike.

In the Body of Christ, the members are not the same, but they belong to each other. Family members (mother, father, child, grandparent) are also very different. They use their position to love and help each other. Members are not alike and don’t have to be the same in order to serve God’s purpose.

How many members of your church can you identify as intellectually or developmentally disabled? Statistically, one in six children have one or more developmental disabilities! Many of these do not remain members of the church when they grow up. Yet God created them to be members of his body.

WELS Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry (IDDM) seeks to help congregations share the gospel with those who have special education needs. We are also passionate about helping churches to be a Christian network for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families. Our partner, Jesus Cares Ministry, is a prime supplier of Christian education materials to conquer this barrier. IDDM’s resources help churches to include special needs families in worship, fellowship, and serving.

Inclusion of adults and children with these challenges will flow from our faith that Christ died for all, and all people need to hear that. Jesus calls us to love and serve one another. We want each person, regardless of ability, to see their place as a member of the Body of Christ. When we strive to be inclusive, challenges will lead to joys. Let IDDM help your church, or connect your family to others who can help. We belong to each other!

Learn more at Find resources at

To add a special needs individual to the mailing list, go to




Going outside the walls

In case it escaped your notice, people are not generally breaking down the doors of our churches, asking us to serve their spiritual needs. There is usually plenty of room in our pews.

But outside the walls, an enormous mission field awaits. Some of those souls are unable to attend regular worship, while others are simply ignorant of their greatest need. Even if they have questions about God, they may not know whom to trust for reliable answers.

So we need to go outside the walls, and chaplaincy is an excellent way to do that. Chaplains seek to bring the comfort of a compassionate, listening heart to hurting souls. So they go to meet people where they are, sometimes in a time of tragedy or great loss, and bring with them a human, caring presence. In some cases, that compassion will open a door to direct—or redirect—a lost sheep to the Good Shepherd.

There are opportunities for chaplaincy in many areas: in hospitals and care facilities, in jails and prisons, in police and fire agencies, on campuses and in locker rooms, at everyday workplaces and at once-in-a-lifetime disasters. And if someone is going to be there, don’t we want it be someone who can properly apply law and gospel?

Chaplain Certification classes, offered online through Martin Luther College, demonstrate to public institutions that a chaplain has completed a certain level of spiritual guidance training appropriate to serve those within that institution. Required courses include Communicating Forgiveness, A Spiritual Approach to Addiction Counseling, and Chaplaincy Issues and Fieldwork. Earning a Chaplain Certificate does not, by itself, qualify one for a call into the public ministry, but it surely makes the student more qualified to minister to souls.

Learn more at, or contact Rev. Robert Dick, chairman of the Chaplain Certification Committee, at




Keep your staff happy

The Care Committee for Called Workers (CCCW) exists to provide assistance to WELS calling bodies, their called workers, and other staff. Every calling body can benefit from having a committee focused on supporting and encouraging its workers. The CCCW has resources that can help you establish a new care committee or improve one that is already in place.

Calling bodies can support their called workers in several areas:

  • Spiritual support can involve encouraging personal prayer and Bible study, staff Bible study, and other opportunities for the strengthening and expression of faith.
  • Physical needs begin when a called worker accepts a call. The new worker may need assistance securing housing, locating doctors, dentists, banks, auto repair shops, etc. Ongoing discussions may involve salary and benefits, vacation policy, home repair and improvement, tax preparation, and providing support in emergency situations.
  • Support for intellectual needs means encouraging called workers to continue their education. The calling body is encouraged to subsidize the cost of continuing education, including travel and child care expenses.
  • Emotional support includes offering assistance to alleviate stress or deal with workplace conflicts. This is especially important when personal or family counseling may be needed. You can show appreciation by recognizing personal and professional anniversaries with gifts, providing a meal during busy times, arranging child care for an evening out, or inviting the called worker over for dinner.
  • Retirement planning and investing should be addressed as early as possible in a worker’s career. It is important to understand the WELS pension plan, Social Security, and personal investing such as the WELS Shepherd Plan. By using the available tools and resources, each worker can become financially literate and develop a long-term plan for a comfortable retirement. Calling bodies are encouraged to help build their workers’ retirement accounts either through matching contributions or a lump sum contribution.

The synodical CCCW serves local committees and workers by producing user-friendly resources, such as a how-to video for starting a local care committee and retirement planning tools.

Learn more at Find resources at




Online course on Scriptural counseling

The WELS/ELS Christian Therapists Network initially focused on finding counselors who are members of our churches. Now the Network is launching an online class for masters-level therapists. “Acting on Hope I: Peace, Comfort, and Hope in Christ Crucified and Arisen” (PSY9501) will be offered through Martin Luther College.

“Acting on Hope I” is the basic course in the Acting on Hope/Bible-Based Counseling Curriculum. As students learn from each other, the teacher, and the textbook, they will develop their own way of using Scripture in counseling sessions that will best honor the Word of God, best help their clients, and that will respect and use evidence-based counseling best practices and methods.

The one-credit course is worth 25 clock hours and lasts for ten weeks. Tuition is $310. The instructor is Rev. Alan Siggelkow, LCSW, a former parish pastor who taught pastoral counseling at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary for 20 years.

Learn more at or contact Alan Siggelkow at




Thank you, Gen! Friends, we can use you

“We are all one in mission; We all are one in call, our varied gifts united by Christ, the Lord of all.” (CW 566) It is hard to calculate how many souls Gen Baumeister’s efforts have reached in the almost 50 years that she has sent out materials for Mission for the Visually Impaired. She has been a constant every Tuesday at the “workshop” since its inception in 1968. She assisted in the many physical moves from several locations in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area, and kept the cassette department running smoothly and efficiently. Her memories are full of fun facts of the early days for MVI – like falling ceilings and mice in unusual places. We are going to miss Gen! Our Lord has blessed MVI through her solid commitment.

Like Gen, many MVI volunteers are in their late 70s or into their 80s. We are fortunate to be able to still utilize their talents at MVI; we like to think we are keeping them young. But the needs at MVI are changing and we need new volunteers to tackle these changes.

MVI’s braille department uses just two volunteers who can read the braille and can use the Duxbury Braille Translator (DBT) to produce Meditations, Luther’s Small Catechism, and Sunday School lessons. This computer program can translate WORD files to braille electronically. But DBT is not perfect, as the need for proofing the braille and format are still done by reading the screen. We desperately need braille transcribers who are able to use these types of computer programs to complete the transcribing.

You do not need to know Braille to volunteer for MVI, of course. We need Christian workers filled with the desire for people who are visually impaired to enjoy Christian resources. We can find a place for your talents! If you live in the Twin Cities area, consider joining our team on Tuesday mornings. If you live too far away to work at MVI, but want to serve, get in touch with us, and we will find ways to use your “varied gifts.”




MVI puts Braille in Christian children’s books

MVI sometimes get the opportunity to help with a specific need. Pastor Tim and Megan Redfield wanted to share Christian children’s books with their daughter who is learning to read in Braille. Our staff inserted clear Braille labels over the words in three of the family’s books for their daughter (Jesus Hears Me and Jesus Is with Me by Joni Walker; God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It by Erdmann Neumeister). Our staff was happy to think of this family enjoying these Christian books together because of the Braille.

Over the years we have often had opportunity to supply resources that are adapted to someone’s situation. If you know someone our Braille or other resources can help, please contact WELS Mission for the Visually Impaired (you’ll find our contact information in this newsletter). A catalog of our Braille, cassette and large print resources is on the WELS website at



MVI future plans

We are excited to report that MVI is working to provide access to Christian audio books on the Internet for people who are blind or otherwise visually or reading impaired. Our goal is to have downloadable Christian audio resources online by next summer. The law allows us to provide this service at no charge to people who need these resources but cannot access them because of vision loss or reading disability. The only requirement is that the materials will be password protected, which we will provide free of charge to those who qualify. This will be a great blessing for the people we want to serve! Watch for more news as God blesses our efforts.




Tuition grants for American Sign Language class

Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., is offering “American Sign Language and Introduction to Deaf Culture” (ASL 8001), an online, three-credit course, from Jan. 3 to May 4, 2018. The course provides the basic foundation of American Sign Language through an overview of deaf culture and an introduction to the signing of finger spelling and basic vocabulary with beginner-level conversations. The instructor is Matthew Buchholz, a member of the WELS Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Here is what previous students have said:

“I never expected to receive so much from this experience. . . . I have a deeper understanding of the culture, needs, and resources available to the deaf and hard of hearing community and a whole bunch of signs in my arsenal.” – Trisha

“I already have oodles and oodles of ideas on how I can revamp some of my lesson plans for next year to include sign language.”  – Sandy

“Thank you also for making this course available and affordable. Beginning to learn ASL has been a wonderful challenge, but for me, learning about deaf culture in this course has been invaluable. I hope that this course is made available in the future so that more people can have a greater understanding of the deaf and hard of hearing.” – Cori

A limited number of $450 grants toward tuition are available upon request and will be paid upon the completion of the course. The deadline to register is Dec. 13. Learn more at A poster to promote the class can be downloaded from the Special Ministries Resource Center at


Chaplain Certification Program courses offered

From police officers to those who are incarcerated, the Chaplain Certification Program is about helping people in special circumstances with special ministry needs. Training is open to all WELS members, both lay members and called workers, with a heart for meeting the spiritual needs of people in circumstances that require particular spiritual care. Specific areas of ministry include those in prison, hospitals, nursing homes, the military and their families, and public servants such as police officers and firemen and women.

The Commission on Special Ministries  has established a program for chaplain certification because many healthcare facilities, jails, prisons, and military bases are tightening their requirements for ministry in their facilities, especially if the pastor or layperson wants to reach out to non-members.

Chaplain Certification Program courses can be taken online through Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. There are four required courses – Communicating Forgiveness, A Scriptural Approach to Addiction Counseling, Your Chaplaincy and Ethical Issues, and Chaplaincy Seminary—and four electives with emphases on prison ministry, ministry to the military, and ministry to the aging.

If you’re interested in becoming a chaplain, go to To enroll in training, visit The next online class, “The Spiritual Side of PTSD,” taught by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS national civilian chaplain to the military, will begin in January 2018; registration for the class is open until Dec. 22. A limited amount of financial aid is available from the Lutheran Military Support Group for WELS military contact pastors to take chaplain certification courses.




Guarding the faith of our faithful guardians

Lucas Hendricks serves on the Lutheran Military Support Group ( and is a member of Trinity, Woodbridge, Va.

Death. For the Christian, that word has lost the terror of a permanent event. We know that death is the beginning of life eternal in paradise. But what if your vocation regularly brings you face to face with mortality? You crave the reminder that death is temporary, because it looks, smells, and feels so permanent.

Our military men and women are either in combat, recovering from combat, or preparing to go into combat. They need soul care, but church involvement with the state is problematic. Attending a local congregation is an option—when they are stationed near one and have time to attend. But when deployed, or stationed far from a confessional church, they lose access to the sacrament and mutual encouragement. Yes, technology—when available—can connect them to biblically-sound resources. Yes, they can always read God’s Word. But what hungry souls they become after many months away from their Christian brothers and sisters!

Meanwhile, the military chaplaincy travels with them. They may hear familiar prayers and hymns, receive words of comfort and encouragement. But they also hear unfamiliar doctrine and subtle error that may scratch “itching ears.” All views are considered equal. If you think their Christian faith will be attacked in college, picture the same trials in the pressure of combat! The church has an obligation to their sheep that volunteer to be sheepdogs* for a season. So what can we do?

Service members

  • Know the regulations governing religious accommodation (such as for practices like our view of fellowship and close communion).
  • Take an active role in your own soul care—what the military calls spiritual fitness. This is about your readiness for combat and your resilience when faced with the horror of war.
  • Find out if there is a WELS/ELS church near you by going to Call the pastor to request his services.
  • Contact WELS Military Services ( and ask what they need from you.
  • Support your local congregation and WELS Military Services with your offerings.


  • Learn about installations near you and introduce yourself to the senior chaplain.
  • Contact WELS Military Services ( to learn what sheep may be in your pasture. They can also offer suggestions for effective ministry.
  • Call on troops and their families at home. Become familiar with their circumstances.
  • Visit them at work. Meet their chaplain and their commander.
  • Invite them to take on tasks in your congregation that fit their schedule and abilities.

Synod leaders

  • The Armed Forces Chaplaincy Board needs to hear from you, not for their benefit, but for the benefit of our members in service.
  • Can we get WELS/ELS recognized as an option for religious preference? This would offer another statistical reporting avenue; more important, it would alert leadership and the unit chaplain to the unique religious needs under their command.
  • Sixteen years of conflict have taken their toll and WELS/ELS service members are not immune. Because of the military’s organization, they can be isolated from the greatest source of resiliency, the means of grace. Suicide and divorce, risky and illegal behaviors are symptoms of the stress. What a huge opportunity for our God! He offers the cure for sin, fear, hurt, hatred, war, death. What a huge opportunity for his church! We have the medicine of the gospel.

* The analogy refers to citizens (sheep), attackers (wolves), and protectors (sheepdogs).




It’s different in Deutschland

Paul Horn is chairman of the Military Services Committee and pastor of Mighty Fortress Lutheran Church, Hiram, Ga.

I have to pay to use the restroom at the gas station? I don’t get free refills on my coffee? I have to pay for water at the restaurant, and tell the waiter if I want my water “still” or with bubbles? What do you mean I can’t call an Uber? Isn’t that a German company? They don’t speak English in this village? Doesn’t everybody speak English? No stores are open on Sunday? But I don’t have everything I need to make dinner tonight!

Americans living on the German economy soon discover that some cultural norms in the United States are not normal in Europe. Even with global trade and Amazon there are some things you just can’t get in Germany. My wife and I experienced some of this “culture shock” this summer when we visited our civilian chaplain, Pastor Don Stuppy and his wife Marge, who serve the spiritual needs of our WELS members scattered throughout Europe.

Don and Marge were just six months into their new ministry when we arrived. We spent the next two weeks traveling over 1800km (1180 miles) with them to Munich, Vilseck, Zurich, Ramstein Air Base, and Wicker. This is a typical two weeks for the Stuppy’s. Once a month they also squeeze in the Netherlands and England!

One thing Americans cannot get in Germany every Sunday, especially Christians who belong to a confessional Lutheran church body, is the divine service with Holy Communion in English. Over two weekends the four of us met with WELS members in their homes or apartments, a military base chapel or a community center. The gatherings ranged from eight to twenty souls. Some locations had a piano, other places we used music from a laptop. But every place had what these American Lutherans needed: a familiar liturgy, God’s Word proclaimed, Christ crucified preached, his body and blood distributed, hymns sung in praise and thanks, their Savior’s blessing received with grateful hearts.

WELS members in Europe expressed their deep appreciation. Even though our chaplain is only able to visit them once or twice a month, they crave that time to be fed and nourished and encouraged, to hear the promises of their Savior, and to build up their brothers and sisters.
Here in the United States we can fill our coffee cup as many times as we want without paying extra. We can order a glass of water at a restaurant and not see it on the bill. We can shop on Sunday. We can go to church every week. Some of our brothers and sisters cannot. We thank God for providing this ministry in Europe so that we are able to faithfully bring God’s Word and sacrament to his people.

What can you do to support your brothers and sisters? Pray for our civilian chaplain, his wife, and the people they serve. Email our chaplain ( and let him know you’re praying for our ministry in Europe. Consider adopting the European Civilian Chaplaincy as your next mission project in your school or church. Learn more about our services to the armed forces at Then, instead of talking about all the things we can’t do, you’ll be saying, “Look what our God has enabled us to do!”




New online training for military contact pastors

Paul Wolfgramm, a member of the Military Services Committee, served with the U.S. Marines in Iraq.

A new narrated power point available at University offers an introduction to the military mindset. The courses on University, an online learning environment designed to support the training needs of the Wisconsin Synod, are free. Visit to create an account, explore the course categories, and enroll. “Training for Military Contact Pastors” is available under the Special Ministries heading.

The course addresses the need for making God’s Word available to our members on active duty, and offers tips and suggestions for our pastors to reach them. WELS Military Services can bring the Word to those who cannot regularly attend a Sunday morning church service. In addition, military members face potent and regular temptations such as alcohol abuse and pornography, and face unique challenges associated with marriage and post traumatic stress disorder. The second part of the presentation discusses the importance of a solid Christian education before entering the military; Distinctive Religious Group Leaders; ways to address the transient and remote nature of the military; worship locations; and ways to involve military veterans from the congregation.

The course is available to anyone, but is especially tailored to military contact pastors (MCP’s) without military experience. WELS has over 100 MCP’s throughout the continental United States, serving congregations close to military installations. Although these men are called primarily to serve their local congregation, they also perform vital work in reaching out to the military. Active duty members rely on MCP’s to be familiar with military protocol, to serve them with God’s Word and sacraments, and to provide Christian counseling. The training course ensures that MCP’s have a basic understanding of the military and the synod resources available for their work.

Finally, all members should be aware of If you or someone you love is on active duty, in the Guard or Reserves, please register at this easy-to-use website. Without this information, WELS Military Services cannot provide spiritual support to those who are in our armed forces. Registered personnel receive a welcome package and regular devotions, plus ways to connect with our national civilian chaplain, our European civilian chaplain, our military contact pastors, and fellow WELS members on base.

When service members deploy, move overseas, permanently change station, or leave the military, PLEASE UPDATE (Don’t forget to notify your pastor as well.) Military service removes our members from their former and familiar spiritual support group. Please go right now to and help connect yourself or a loved one with God’s Word.




“I think you could be good at it”

Bill Truebenbach is a staff minister and program consultant for Jesus Cares Ministries, a ministry of The Lutheran Home Association. His home church is Morning Star, Jackson, Wis.

Twenty-nine years of public sector work had done me in. I resigned my full-time job for a no-time job. God has always supplied, so I walked my streets praying for work in his field. A guest pastor had given me the itch by talking about volunteer ministry, and visits to a prison with my brother had given me a taste. There had to be more I could do.

One day my pastor dropped by with some news. “They’re looking for someone for Jesus Cares Ministries, and I think you could be good at it,” he suggested. “Great!” I replied, before going to look up what Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM) was. That was sixteen years ago.

I had no background in what The Lutheran Home Association (TLHA) and JCM were looking for, but that did not stop me from applying. They hired me! Really? I now reflect on how God has always been in control, and the many blessings he has provided to this sinner. He has allowed me to be part of a ministry that serves people with a developmental disability. He allowed me to become a second career staff minister. And now, as I approach retirement at the end of this year, he will allow me to continue advocating for families who have a loved one with special needs.

How did I learn to work with people who have a developmental disability? I read, I studied, I attended seminars and webinars. They help. Yet the best way is to just work with someone with special needs. Many who do this work have said, “We do not teach them; they teach us.”

One who became a close friend was David Koss. Although he wore hearing aids in both ears and had some cognitive challenges, he was able to live independently. We did so many things together: basketball games, football games, movies, concerts, restaurants, fishing. David faithfully called me almost every day to see how my day was going, what I was doing, and if any new JCM programs were starting. He went with me to an annual meeting in Belle Plaine, Minn., so he could see the TLHA campus and I interviewed him in front of the attendees. When I asked David what he wanted to see in the future he said, “That there is a JCM program in every church in our synod.”

David’s passion for the ministry fueled my passion, and reminded me of the importance of serving all people. In his last years he moved to a facility where he could be cared for. It was a joy for me to speak at his memorial service and share his faith one more time. David loved the Lord, and I know many more like him in the ministry.

There are so many memories, joys, victories, and satisfactions I could share: being at the baptism of an adult with special needs; the confirmation of someone with special needs; hearing their professions of faith; seeing their smiles; going to the Lord’s Supper with them on their first time; a journey to Malawi, Africa for Jesus Cares. What more could one ask for?

I have been blessed to help churches and pastors with their disability ministry needs. JCM has grown, yet many are still not being served. There is a great need for our churches to consider a disability ministry such as JCM Bible class or simplified “Worship at the Cross” service. Learn more at or call Rev. Joel Gaertner at 888-600-TLHA (8542).

There is also an urgent need for parents of special needs children to be connected with other Christian parents who are starting or have been on that journey. My hope and prayer is that through the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry branch of Special Ministries ( I can connect those parents online, with small parent-mentoring groups. Get them connected. Get them talking.

Why? They’re looking for someone. Want to join me? I think you could be good at it.




Wheeling around Camp SOUTH

My name is Alex Timothy Heldman. I am 12 years old and going into 7th grade. I live in Wisconsin but heard of Camp SOUTH through my Uncle Duane Vance. Camp SOUTH, which stands for Sharing Our Unity Through Him, is held in Covington, Ga. for kids entering 4th through 8th grade.

I was born with a condition called spina bifida so I have difficulty walking without braces for my legs. My parents decided to let me try out the camp and it was lots of fun! The food was good, the kids were nice, and there was a lot to do. This was my first time at camp and I had to do things a little differently, since I have used a wheelchair since I was three years old. In order to get around the campground I rode in my van with my dad since the camp is very hilly.

I was thankful that the camp allowed me to skip the water, mud, and running events and go bowling instead. I didn’t bowl my all-time best but still had a lot of fun. I was surprised that we were able to have drinks and snacks as we bowled. Tuesday night’s “Survivor Challenge: You Can’t Win Trivia” was great since we could party to the music while we answered Bible trivia questions. After the evening activities, during free time I played golf-cornhole and pingpong until it was snack time. I also enjoyed watching the other kids play ship-shore down by the lake and making s’mores on Thursday night.

I was on the black team and we didn’t win the victory medals on Tuesday or Wednesday. Finally on Thursday the black team won the victory medals after the “Recruiter vs. Recruiter: Battle of Honor” and in bowling, which meant I got to go to the front of the line for lunch and dinner on Thursday.

There was so much to do that each day just flew by. We were encouraged to arrive at the activity center early before devotions so everyone was on time and we could watch fun videos until devotion started. There were even board games that we could check out and play if we had extra energy. I would say that my favorite things about camp were playing games in the evening and the music that was part of each morning and evening devotion. It was great to have a live band to lead all the praise songs. As we were getting in the van to leave on Friday morning I told my dad: “Camp was so fun! Can we come back next year?”

My mom and dad were kind of nervous to allow me to attend the camp because it was not specific to special needs, but Pastor Jon Enter did a good job familiarizing them with the layout of the camp facilities so they were well prepared in what to bring for me for the week. I would encourage other children with special needs or different needs to not be afraid to try Camp SOUTH. It was an amazing time and I am glad God gave me this opportunity to hear his Word and make new friends.

For more information about Camp SOUTH, send an e-mail to:





A purpose in disability

Elise Rosenbaum is a senior at Martin Luther College. She grew up at Grace, St. Joseph, Mich.

Growing up with a brother who has Down syndrome had more impact on me than I initially realized. I never saw Matt as being that much different from my other siblings—in fact, some people would ask if Matt and my youngest brother Adam were twins. I cannot imagine life without Matt and I know that God had a purpose in placing him in my family.

Last December, Matt put on his wish list: “Elise home for Christmas.” But I would not be there because I was going on a Kingdom Workers service immersion trip to Malawi. I was thrilled to be going to Africa after desiring it for so long.

My interest in Africa began when a new girl joined my class in sixth grade. Her family had just moved back to the United States after her dad had served for several years as a missionary in Malawi. I loved hearing her stories and dreamed of going there myself someday. Just nine years later, my dream became a reality. I asked four girls to join me: Bekah Bartz (the missionary’s daughter), Elizabeth Bergemann, Brittany Krause, and Emily Unke. We applied, were interviewed, and were eager to learn and grow from the experiences ahead.

Two short weeks in Africa taught me a great deal. One week was spent helping with Vacation Bible School; the other was observing the disability ministry. I loved getting to see the work that they were doing. There is no fancy medical equipment and the volunteers do not have much specific training, but it was incredible to see what they are able to accomplish with what they do have.

Chikondi, a young boy who has cerebral palsy, was a great example of this. The volunteers set up sticks and Chikondi had to practice walking over them. Once he made it through all of them, we cheered. He had the BIGGEST smile ever. It was so rewarding to see Chikondi’s and the volunteers’ faces light up with pride at his accomplishment.

The simplified “Worship at the Cross” services they put on are very similar to those put on by Jesus Cares Ministries in the United States. The volunteers go to the people since traveling to the church is hard, if not impossible, for them.

Their greatest challenge, however, is changing the mindset toward disability in their culture. The president of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa explained that many people in Africa see a disability as a curse. They hide their loved ones away in their homes and don’t give them the proper care. Families don’t bring their loved ones to the church for help. It is by word of mouth that the church finds out about those in their villages who need their help. The ministry’s vital task is to share the news that God has rescued all people from sin and he has a purpose for all people.

The disability ministry in Malawi is serving God by providing assistance and support, as well as sharing Jesus’ love for those who have a disability. Rather than being a punishment for sin, God has a purpose in disability.

Interested in this service immersion trip? Learn more at




Who will serve those who serve?

DiAnn Krigbaum is a member of New Life Lutheran Church, Rockford, Ill.

What happens when a police officer’s family is in crisis and needs to call 911? Easy answer, right? When I’m finished sharing my experience you might have a different perspective.

I had more than twenty years on the job as a Rockford, Ill. police officer. For over half of my career I served as a detective, investigating and fighting for justice for victims of violence. Too often those victims were women, children, and families.

In 2008 my family became the victim when we were traumatized by divorce. My twin sons had just begun college; my 12-year-old daughter was in sixth grade. When Satan attacks us emotionally it affects us physically and spiritually as well. I was a severely depressed mother who had become the primary caregiver. I was on overload—physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually.

My daughter was profoundly affected. Ashlee has an intellectual disability and had no words to express her pain. We adopted her at age five, when she had already endured more rejection, shame, and loss than someone her age should. A crisis social worker came to my home to help with the anger and fallout.

As the situation escalated the social worker told me to call 911. I couldn’t. I froze. I was the police! I was supposed to help solve and fix problems. My mind was racing. What would my co-workers and supervisors think of me? The enormous shame and pain from loss and failure left me unable to move.

The collateral damage severely wounded every member of my family. I nearly lost my job. Had God abandoned us?

But God did not forget about me and my family. He appeared “undercover” in the form of a chaplain. My pastor at the time was also a volunteer police chaplain. He came to my rescue by repeatedly reminding me that God was not trying to harm me but to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11-13). As my companion at difficult court appearances, doctor visits, and therapy appointments, he showed me what it means to be a faithful, merciful friend and advocate. He became my spiritual advisor and listened to more tearful conversations than I can count.

By God’s grace, I survived in my career until age 50, when I retired with a police pension and sufficient means to take care of my family as a single mother.

That’s when Pastor Phil asked me to take chaplain courses with him through Martin Luther College. He suggested it would help my faith grow and allow others to learn from my experiences.

In an online forum with other pastors and lay students, I was able to share my experiences as a police officer and spiritually wounded WELS member. This provided healing, learning, spiritual growth, and friendships with many Christian friends and called workers. In 2014 I received my Chaplain Certificate from Martin Luther College.

Since then I have been serving as a volunteer police chaplain in my community. God has provided several opportunities to serve families and women in crisis. I’ve been able to witness and minister to them, telling them about my God and Savior. He is a just and merciful Father who fights for the fatherless, the widows, and the orphans.

We all have a story. God does not define us by our failures. Rather he calls us back to him to remind us who we are—children of God.

Visit to learn more about the Chaplain Certification Program and see the courses offered in 2018. Financial aid is available for many classes.