Tag Archive for: special ministries

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

 

 

 

 

 

Peer Pressure

WELS Prison Ministry has just released our newest Bible study booklet entitled “Peer Pressure.” The booklet helps inmates see that the people we spend time with can have either a positive or negative influence on us. The author uses the experience of the disciple Peter in the courtroom of the High Priest to show how followers of Jesus can feel pressure from others to deny Jesus. In times like this, fitting in is wrong. But gathering with brothers and sisters in Christ can help us follow Jesus more closely.

“Peer Pressure” is the 25th Level 1 Bible study. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be exploring other topics for future booklets. In addition, WELS Prison Ministry will seek to have more of the studies translated into Spanish. Currently we have 17 of the 25 of our Level 1 booklets available to inmates in Spanish. Like everything else, the cost of printing has risen substantially. Please consider a donation to help us continue to print our booklets and make them available to inmates without charge.

 

 

 

 

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?

While visits to correctional facilities are still hit and miss in many areas because of COVID, there is a steady stream of inmates that 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. A group in Phoenix, Ariz., is forming for this purpose. WELS Prison Ministry encourages individuals and congregations to explore this form of ministry and has prepared training for this purpose.

Join us either in August or October for an online offering of our training course Mentoring Returning Citizens. 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. There is no commitment to serve by taking the course, and 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.

Our 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. The exact number and dates for the online session are still to be determined, but the classes are scheduled to begin the weeks of August 1 and October 3 and meet weekly for approximately 4 weeks.

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.

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 around 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.”

 

 

 

 

Correctors Corner and Pen Pal Pipeline

Thanks to all our current test correctors and pen pals for your patience and dedication as we seek to support your ministry efforts. We apologize for any difficulties in your ministry that are caused by the disruption in mail procedures that we are experiencing. Some of you may have pen pal letters delayed; others may have fewer tests to correct because of the difficulties in delivering booklets to inmates; others may not not be affected by the changes, depending on where the inmates you serve reside.

As WELS Prison Ministry seeks to adapt to the changing landscape, it will be helpful to know which of our volunteers may be willing to explore using digital communication methods, like e-mail, to carry out ministry tasks. We are working toward establishing clear and safe procedures and will at some point need test correcting and pen pal volunteers to do some or all their ministry correspondence digitally. If you would be willing to explore becoming involved in this aspect of Prison Ministry, please notify us (prisonministry@wels.net).

 

 

 

 

Prison Ministry meets the 21st Century

At one time nearly every inmate in the country could receive mail, cards, books, and other encouraging material sent by our ministry via U.S. Mail. Unfortunately, this is changing. More and more facilities are changing the way they serve inmates and the requirements for messages and material sent to them. To continue to serve inmates with the life-saving and life-changing gospel, our ministry is adapting to the new situation.

What’s driving the changes?
There are many factors, but two are prominent. One is the influx of contraband into jails and prison via mail. Drugs and other items are sent in very sophisticated ways, including as liquid drops applied to letters, which the inmate can consume to get high. Departments of Correction, along with prison and jail staff, are seeking to interrupt this process by entering into contracts with companies that photocopy each piece of mail and deliver the copy to the inmate. Alternatively, some inmates have access to either a tablet or a kiosk in the facility where they can receive, display, and read a file with the scanned letter.

A second factor is facility staffing. Hiring correctional officers and staff to work in correctional facilities has been difficult, especially during the pandemic. Sorting, inspecting, and delivering the mail for inmates is time consuming and labor intensive. The companies that scan the mail also sort it and organize it for inmate delivery, which greatly reduces the workload. The third party mail service allows facility staff to focus on other tasks and hire fewer people.

What are the impacts of the changes?
The impacts affect various aspects of our ministry:

    • Delivery of Bibles and Bible studies. Many locations now require physical books to be sent directly from the publisher or online retailer. Bibles and Bible study booklets we send are rejected by some facilities. Others that still accept them indicate their acceptance may be temporary. Others indicate that original material, like our Bible studies, will have to be reformatted in electronic format to be sent to inmates chapter by chapter.
    • Delivery of pen pal letters, corrected tests, and other items. Some pen pal letters have been returned because they come from an organization (WELS Special Ministry) rather than a friend or family member. We are finding corrected tests don’t fit the third-party mail vendor requirements for a maximum size of 8.5×11 inches. Page limits reduce the number of encouragement items (cards or bookmarks) we can send with corrected tests.

Unfortunately, there is little consistency on guidelines and requirements from one vendor to the next and even from one DOC or facility to the next using the same vendor. This creates a great deal of confusion and extra work for both staff and volunteers in our mailing center.

Hope for the future
The WELS Prison Ministry staff and Prison Ministry Committee members are working hard to find both short- and long-term solutions to these challenges. Several approaches appear worth pursuing. It is obvious that eventually a significant portion of the correctional facilities in the U.S. will have some form of electronic service for their inmates to deliver messages and material. A portion, especially county jails and other smaller facilities, will also likely retain the direct use of U.S. Mail for their inmates. As a result, in the relatively near future we may need both volunteers who support our historic ministry-by-mail approach as well as volunteers that enable us to supply our Bible studies and pen pal letters to inmates electronically. Our ultimate hope is that the electronic delivery options provide the opportunity to reach many more inmates, especially if the electronic delivery costs are lower than the costs for printing, envelopes, postage, and the other ministry-by-mail costs. We will keep everyone posted on our progress both in this newsletter and on our website—wels.net/pm.

 

 

Ways to support our ministry – Winter 2022

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: guidance for efforts to communicate with inmates digitally; for continued improvement in the pandemic situation so that personal visits to correctional facilities become commonplace; for blessings on the mentor training; 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 2021 designation is due by March 31, 2022.

 

 

 

A Radical Change for the Better

Can 40 days change your life or the life of someone you care about? Absolutely! If God is there.

The First 40 Days is a new devotion book from Conquerors through Christ, the WELS Special Ministry dedicated to helping Christians fight against porn and for godly sex. This book invites you on a 40-day journey that can bring you to a whole new place where the good news of God’s saving grace generates potent motivation for change, a place where Satan’s lies lose their power and God’s law becomes a trustworthy guide.

Will this trip be easy and enjoyable? Not likely. Make no mistake, it ends in joy, but fighting sin and Satan is never easy or fun. Porn use is addictive and undoing the damage often takes time, effort, and counseling. And remember, this is an invitation to the first 40 days. Defending God’s design for sex is a lifelong battle, but many who have traveled this road have found that in God’s time, they arrive at a place where they genuinely enjoy God’s breathtaking gift of sex.

The First 40 Days devotional is also helpful for people who don’t use porn. The devotions encourage those who have been hurt by the actions of someone using porn. Those who seek to help someone they know will gain insight and understanding into the struggle. We are all seeking a life that trusts God’s promises and rejoices in his ways regardless of all the false messages sent by the world. The path to rejoicing includes rejecting Satan’s lies about the short-term pleasure, learning to resist temptation, and finding ways to recover from the wounds inflicted by oneself or another. Your path just might start with The First 40 Days.

More than anything, The First 40 Days brings God’s precious Word into everyday life, where the day-to-day struggle can be overwhelming. On every page, you’ll meet Jesus, our 24/7/365 Savior. His promises apply to every detail in our lives, and they never fail. So whether your struggle is with porn itself or forgiving the person whose porn use has hurt you, on every step of your journey, Jesus is there to forgive us, pick us up, dust us off, and give us his own heart to love those around us. Every. Single. Day.

Download a copy of The First 40 Days.

 

 

 

 

Parents 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.

By Pastor David Rosenbaum, Prison Ministry publications editor

 

 

 

Just Ask!

Cynthia had no car. The elders did not want that to be a barrier to attending church, so they recruited members to bring her on Sundays. Imagine their surprise when the recruits discovered that Cynthia was not available on Sundays. She was willing and interested in attending the Monday evening service! No one had asked her about the plan to provide her with a ride to Sunday morning worship.

WELS Special Ministries offers many solutions to help congregations serve people who have obstacles to gospel ministry. For the right solution, you start with this: just ask what a person needs. Finding solutions doesn’t start with Special Ministries. It starts by asking the person.

When a WELS church wanted to reach out to the Hmong community, their pastor contacted a few reputed cross-cultural ministry experts about the best way to connect. The experts responded, “Just ask them!” It sounds obvious, “Just ask!” We complicate the process when we don’t start by asking.

When you encounter someone with a disability, struggle, or other barrier to worship, just ask them, “What can your church do to help you spiritually?” At first you might not get an answer, because so few people ask. When you earnestly pursue an answer, however, you’ll learn the difference between helping someone who was born deaf and someone who lost their hearing in old age. You’ll discover that one young person with autism loves to participate by lighting the candles in worship and another needs a seat at church shielded from loud music.

When it comes to volunteers, just ask. Provide clear expectations and look for someone qualified to help, but no one volunteers without being asked. Often helping a member at church is a task that suits people who don’t get asked to be a church leader, choir member, or Sunday School teacher. You don’t know until you ask!

Sometimes the congregation needs to provide a solution and the cost is not in the budget. Just ask the members about the solution. You may find that an anonymous donor or a memorial will provide funds for an electronic solution, a ramp, or other accommodation.

Some solutions are complicated. You don’t know where to start. Just ask Special Ministries. We have teams of experienced and knowledgeable volunteers and resources that you may not realize exists. We are committed to helping churches serve everyone. Just ask!

Some challenges seem to have no solution. Sometimes we know what the solution should be, but it seems impossible. Jesus invites us to just ask him! Pray for volunteers. Ask the Lord for help. Pray with the person you want to serve. Be persistent in asking. You know that the Lord of the church will not allow a barrier to gospel ministry to stand.

While you are trying to find help for someone, you may not realize you have an opportunity for asking that person to help, too. Special Ministries has found that some of the most active volunteers are people with special needs and challenges. The passion of a senior who is a recovered alcoholic, the talent of a woman who is blind, the mission zeal of a young adult with autism – you never know where the Lord might provide the gifts your church needs – so just ask them, “How would you like to serve?”

I once asked a man, “How can I help you?” He responded, “Don’t ask if you don’t mean it.” If you want to help someone hear the gospel and be part of your church family despite the obstacles, just ask!

By Rev. Jim Behringer, director, WELS Commission on Special Ministries

 

 

 

OWLS convention focuses on telling the next generation

After not being able to meet in person last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) was thrilled to gather at Martin Luther College (MLC) and the Best Western Hotel and Conference Center in New Ulm, Minn., on Oct. 19–22 for its annual convention.

The convention revolved around the theme “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,” with particular emphasis on the 25th anniversary of the formation of Martin Luther College (1995-2020).

Early arrivals to the convention could choose between two informative tours. The first tour featured highlights of the MLC campus, including the Early Childhood Learning Center and the Chapel of the Christ. Participants could also view the construction progress of MLC’s new athletic facility, the Betty Kohn Fieldhouse. The second tour option highlighted historic places in New Ulm.

Daily worship, workshops, and the three keynote presentations at the convention focused on the convention theme of telling the next generation. Prof. Paul Koelpin presented lessons from the German Lutheran immigrant generation; Dr. Keith Wessel spoke about treasures old and new, featuring the new Christian Worship hymnal and accompanying resources; and Professor Em. James Pope led an informative session on how to utilize the Q&A section of wels.net.

The OWLS again used 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 $53,300 for work in Europe. Convention offerings and proceeds from the silent auction were directed for next year’s gift to the work of the chaplain in Europe as well.

One of the goals of the OWLS is to increase awareness of its ministry within local congregations and throughout WELS. Special Ministries Director Rev. Jim Behringer commented, “It was such a joy to be together with OWLS members in person again! The convention had a feeling of contentment and friendliness that probably was increased by having to postpone last year’s gathering. I encourage any congregation with a seniors group to investigate the OWLS program of senior ministry because it offers meaningful ways for seniors to serve and to gather.”

Long-time OWLS members welcomed a number of first-time attendees to the convention this year, people like Linda Klein from David’s Star, Jackson, Wis. She reflects: “My first convention was a wonderful experience—seeing old friends and making new ones, attending interesting workshops, and visiting MLC. I especially appreciated learning more about OWLS and its ministry. I’m really looking forward to next year’s convention.”

The 2022 OWLS convention for seniors will be held Oct. 11–13 at the Stoney Creek Hotel and Convention Center in Onalaska, 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.

View more photos from the event.

 

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Finding Peace

How do you define the word “peace?” There are many ways, including “the absence of conflict,” or “a feeling of serenity,” or “quietness.” So what does Jesus mean when he says: “I leave my peace with you. I give my peace to you. I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be troubled. And do not be afraid. (John 14:27 NIrV).

The second half of the verse gives us Jesus’ meaning. He doesn’t want us to be troubled or afraid. So why does it seem I’m almost always anxious or fearful about something? That’s because I still carry around my original sinful nature that hates following Jesus. Apostle Paul talked about this in Romans 7:19, “I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do.” I don’t want to be anxious or afraid, but part of me can’t help it. It’s always going to believe the devil’s lies that God does not love me, isn’t strong enough to help me, or just doesn’t care.

But Jesus shows us his way out. Let’s turn to Roman’s 7:24-25: “What a terrible failure I am! Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body? I give thanks to God who saves me. He saves me through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jesus doesn’t just give us peace; he IS our peace. When fearful thoughts attack you, and they will, remember two things. First, remember how much Jesus loves you. My favorite verse for this is Romans 5:8: “But here is how God has shown his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Second, remember the trouble is temporary. I have two favorites for this. John 16:33b “In this world you will have trouble. But be encouraged! I have won the battle over the world” and 2 Corinthians 4:17 “Our troubles are small. They last only for a short time. But they are earning for us a glory that will last forever. It is greater than all our troubles.”

God says “Don’t be afraid” over 300 times in the Bible. He knows we need to hear it constantly. It has been said: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to act despite the fear.” Let’s live our lives for and with Jesus despite any fear in our hearts. What are some actions that can help focus on Jesus instead of fear? Here’s a few:

  • Live one day at a time (Matthew 7:34). Plan, but don’t dwell on worst case “what ifs.” Focus on serving Jesus today and cross tomorrow’s bridge when you get there.
  • Trust Jesus to provide the grace needed to endure any temptation to fear, but not until you need it (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • Memorize scripture to recall when you need to replace fearful thoughts with Jesus’ promises. Some candidates include the verses above, Psalm 23, Romans 5:3-5, 8:18, and 8:37-39, Hebrews 13:5-6 or use your own personal favorites.

He will give us true peace as we need it now, and perfectly in eternity.

 

 

 

Check out new resources for volunteers and congregations

The Prison Ministry Committee has made several resources available recently to people who desire to get involved with or make others aware of our ministry. Here’s a quick summary.

NEW TRAINING MODULE:
MENTORING A RETURNING CITIZEN
This video-based training resource helps church leaders prepare their members to mentor people returning to the community from incarceration. Mentoring returning citizens can be an effective way for a Christian to put faith into words and actions. It can be found at welscongregationalservices.net/mentoring-a-returning-citizen.

PRISON MINISTRY AWARENESS & COMMUNICATE TO THE NEXT GENERATION
We completed two resources recently that are available at: welscongregationalservices.net/prisonministryawareness.

  • Worship planning resources for a Prison Ministry Sunday emphasis: A planning sheet is available for a service focused on Prison Ministry with suggested hymns, psalm, and prayers, together with a sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:16,17.  A few stories and comments from inmates that have benefited from our Bible studies are included at the end of the sermon sheet.
  • Sunday School/Lutheran Elementary School lesson based on Onesimus and Philemon to emphasize welcoming into God’s family those with troubled backgrounds. The lesson contains student and leader sheets for four grade levels (PreK- Grade 6).

These new materials work well for a Prison Ministry Awareness Sunday or event at your congregation or school. The promotional resources make both adults and children aware of the mission potential of WELS Prison Ministry and to cultivate concern for the lost. Church or school leaders may use them as part of a mission project where offerings will be designated for this work.

These promotional resources can also lay the foundation for preparing congregation members to serve the people in a local correctional facility with the Word, or to mentor people returning to the community from incarceration. More resources to assist congregations with awareness and acceptance are under development and will be added to the WELS Congregational Services website soon.

 

 

 

 

Golden Opportunities

The Prison Ministry Committee (PMC) understands that our ministry is at a crossroads. Methods used to deliver the gospel to inmates are changing. Inmates are communicating less frequently via US Mail. More inmates are being given access to electronic communication (similar to e-mail) as well as other services such as book or music downloads to tablets that the inmates own. Our ministry needs to adapt to this new environment. Frequent opportunities to share Law and Gospel with many more inmates nationwide are available if we can adapt our efforts to this new reality.

Produce devotions that support outreach to people with little if any biblical knowledge.

  • Implement a system for distributing the devotions using electronic messaging services to inmates, such as JPay.com, GTL.net or CorrLinks.com (annual cost/inmate is $30-$120)
  • Test and implement a system using electronic messaging services to collect Bible study tests, return corrected tests, and exchange pen pal letters with inmates.
  • These opportunities will take an investment of both time and financial resources to develop. While we are seeking grant money from foundations to help, in the long term, individual designated gifts still form the backbone of our support. Your gifts are greatly encouraged and appreciated.

Finally, the WELS convention in July passed a resolution directing WELS to seek to fund a larger portion of WELS Prison Ministry from regular operating funds (Congregation Mission Offerings). This resolution does not guarantee more synodical funding for our work. It starts a process of discussion with the Synodical Council (SC), which oversees all synod spending and must approve any increase in support. The SC will give us an opportunity, probably in November, to make the case for increased support from the synodical budget or other sources. The SC could reduce support of some other ministry to fund prison ministry, find some other way to help, or decline to increase our support.

With changes in the environment of our ministry, we are grateful that the Lord continues to provide generous gifts from donors and organizations to meet the new opportunities for outreach right now. Only Jesus knows whether we will receive a future increase in budgetary funding, but it’s his ministry. We are excited and press on with the work!

 

 

 

Notes from New Ulm

Test Correctors: Several of our booklets have been updated and reprinted with new final tests. Amy and Beth in the ministry mailing center are making sure everyone has all the necessary answer sheets. Because many booklets are mailed in bulk, it can take a long time for all of them to be given to inmates. The answer sheet packets being sent contain each version of the test answers. Thanks for taking care to ensure that the inmates get the best possible experience when they submit a test. Using the correct answer sheet is vital so you can comment positively when you need to kindly redirect them to correct answers that they miss.

Pen Pals: Some newer volunteers may not be aware that we urge them to resist the desire to send stamps or other items of value with your pen pal letters. Although this may seem like a simple kindness, some facilities consider these items contraband. Because the letters come through WELS Prison Ministry to safeguard your personal information, our whole ministry of sharing God’s Word with inmates at those facilities could be jeopardized. Your discipline helps us continue to share “the one thing needful.”

Local donations: Some donation drop-offs still occur at the Washington Street location that may soon be removed. Please drop off any donations in the bench outside our current office. Call 507-354-3130 between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. on weekdays for our office address.

 

 

 

Introducing Mark Salzwedel

Meet Mark Salzwedel, the newest member of the Prison Ministry Committee. Mark replaces Leon Brands who served on the committee for several years (Thanks, Leon!). Mark is a graduate of the WELS Congregational Assistant Program and has served a number of leadership positions at his home congregation in Eden Prairie, Minn. He has been involved in coordinating and teaching incarcerated individuals for over ten years at a nearby prison in Shakopee, Minn. Mark’s professional background in software development brings key insight to the Prison Ministry Committee as we seek to enhance our ministry to inmates using digital delivery systems, such as messaging and video, while keeping our ministry-by-mail strong.

 

 

 

Three ways to support our ministry – Fall 2021

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests: guidance for efforts to communicate with inmates digitally; for continued improvement in the pandemic situation so that personal visits to correctional facilities become commonplace; for blessings on the newly released mentor training; 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 2021 designation is due by March 31, 2022.