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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 wels.net/chaplains. To enroll in training, visit mlc-wels.edu/continuing-education/wels-chaplain-certificate. 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 (lutheranmilitary.org) 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 yearbook.wels.net/unitsearch. Call the pastor to request his services.
  • Contact WELS Military Services (military@wels.net) and ask what they need from you.
  • Support your local congregation and WELS Military Services with your offerings.

Pastors

  • Learn about installations near you and introduce yourself to the senior chaplain.
  • Contact WELS Military Services (military@wels.net) 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 (welschaplain@gmail.com) 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 wels.net/military. 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 WELS.net University offers an introduction to the military mindset. The courses on WELS.net University, an online learning environment designed to support the training needs of the Wisconsin Synod, are free. Visit wnu.wels.net 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 wels.net/refer. 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 wels.net/refer. (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 wels.net/refer 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 tlha.org/jesus-cares-ministries 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 (wels.net/iddm) 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: info@HopeLutheranWPB.com.

 

 

 

 

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 kingdomworkers.com/opportunities.

 

 

 

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 mlc-wels.edu/continuing-education/wels-chaplain-certificate to learn more about the Chaplain Certification Program and see the courses offered in 2018. Financial aid is available for many classes.

 

 

Assist your new called worker with the transition

Matt Kock is a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, Minocqua, Wis.

Our church and school recently welcomed three called workers and their families. We wanted to help them with the transition and on-boarding process, which would provide a good test for our new Care Committee for Called Workers (CCCW).

We streamlined communication as much as possible, with one main point of contact from our congregation and school. We also tried to consolidate information into a single message vs. sending multiple notes. We recognized how busy their lives would be and wanted to simplify things as much as possible. By starting the process well in advance of their arrival dates, they wouldn’t feel rushed.

Pastor Stephen Luchterhand notes: “This cross-country move (Arizona to Wisconsin) was a challenging one for our family, especially because our children are older (late high school to college age). The evident care and concern, attention to detail and intentional communication, and enthusiastic search for solutions by Trinity’s CCCW lessened our anxiety considerably and removed considerable barriers during the process.”

It’s important to keep the called worker’s family in mind during this process. We placed pictures of the new called workers and their families in the fellowship hall shortly after the calls had been accepted. Not only did this allow our members to put a face with the name, but it reminded the congregation to keep the families in their prayers.

We also asked about the family’s areas of interest. For those seeking employment we came up with a list of businesses and contacts for them to consider, as well as congregation members who could be used as references. Our tuition fund application was shared with students attending Luther Prep School.

Teachers Mike and MeLissa Wieting were appreciative. “It was so nice to be referred to members of the community who could help us with buying a home and moving to the area. They had names of a realtor, mortgage company, an insurance contact, and a moving company that led us through the intimidating process. We had never had to purchase our own home before so we had lots of questions. Our care committee even stepped in to preview homes on our behalf before we made a special trip to the area to see a property. Being a few hours away, an overwhelming process was made easier due to our CCCW.”

While the Call cover letter shared a summary of compensation and benefits, there were many details that needed to be addressed during the transition, such as: the timing and frequency of payroll; local banking options; tax withholding elections (yes, Social Security can be withheld on line 6 of Form W-4 for ministers of the gospel); and contributions to the Health Savings Account and 403b plan. There are nuances between the different health insurance plans offered through WELS. Understanding these differences, and/or coordinating a call with a benefit specialist to review together, would be productive.

Now that the called workers are here, we have stayed in touch. From helping to find a chiropractor and contractor, to directing them to a good beach for a family swim, there was much to share as they settled in. Most important, we “pray continually” for our called workers (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This encouragement has become a regular part of our CCCW report to the congregation.

Interested in starting a Care Committee at your congregation? Find resources and a how-to video at csm.welsrc.net/download-csm/called-worker-care.

 

 

 

Luther and sign language

Amid a host of Reformation 500 celebration ideas, from Lego Luther figures to books and movies, this one stands out. The Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MDHH) has produced an eight-minute video that uses sign language, voice, and captioning to explain Luther’s Seal. The Reformer designed the seal to symbolize the heart of his teachings about faith in Jesus. As a graphic adds each part of the seal, Matthew Buchholz explains the meaning using American Sign Language.

The video is a special gift to deaf Lutherans who may be interested in learning about the symbolism of Luther’s seal. MDHH also hopes that it will be used with children to teach them about Luther’s seal while seeing it described in sign language.

You’ll find the video at the Special Ministries Resource Center at csm.welsrc.net/mdhh. It will be a fun way to draw people into the anniversary celebration and show them the eternal blessing of faith in Jesus. Share it on social media and with your family, too!

 

 

 

Tuition grants for American Sign Language class

Martin Luther College is offering American Sign Language and Introduction to Deaf Culture (ASL 8001), an online, three-credit course, from January 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 beginning-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)

“I didn’t really know what to expect when enrolling in this class. I would have never imagined learning all that we have learned.” (Jill)
A limited number of $450 grants toward tuition are available upon request and will be paid upon the completion of the course. Learn more at mlc-wels.edu/continuing-education/registration. A poster to promote the class can be downloaded from the Special Ministries Resource Center at csm.welsrc.net/mission-for-the-deaf-and-hard-of-hearing.

 

 

 

2018 WELS Lutheran Seniors convention

Seniors from any congregation in the WELS or ELS should set aside Oct. 10-12, 2018, for the OWLS Convention for Seniors, which will be held at the beautiful Osthoff Resort, in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The theme of the convention will be “Finish Your Race.”

Whether your congregation has a seniors group or an OWLS chapter or no senior gatherings for fun and service, you’ll find fellowship, learning, and inspiration at the OWLS Convention for Seniors. Watch the WELS website in spring of 2018 for more information.

 

 

OWLS are “filled with the gospel”

The Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) met in Pewaukee, Wis., Oct. 10-12, under the theme “Filled with the gospel.” About 175 members from around the United States attended.

The convention was hosted by the Dodge-Washington OWLS. This was the first convention directed by new convention chairman Mr. Werner Lemke.

For a decade, the OWLS have used their 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 $50,000 for work in Europe. The convention offering and proceeds from a silent auction were directed for next year’s gift to the work of the chaplain in Europe as well.

For four years, the OWLS have provided scholarships to Martin Luther College students. This year, Lailah Thabatah, Heidi Moldenhauer, Tristan Pankow, and Hannah Rundgren received scholarships.

With the convention in Pewaukee this year, attendees were given the opportunity to tour the WELS visitors’ center at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry (CMM), along with a tour of the CMM to learn more about WELS ministry. They were also treated to several presentations about Lutheran traditions and WELS ministry.

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of the WELS Commission on Special Ministries, says, “All the presenters were excellent. Rev. Aaron Christie’s presentation on Luther’s principles that led to the Lutheran fine arts tradition today was full of interesting examples. The OWLS were moved to hear a presentation by former European Civilian Chaplain Josh Martin and his wife, who received OWLS support during their nine years overseas. Seminary Professor Brad Wordell amazed the audience with the opportunities the Lord is giving us to train pastors around the world through the Pastoral Studies Institute, and Rev. Tony Schultz had the OWLS chuckling with recognition as he talked about opportunities to talk about Jesus.”

This year, the convention elected a new OWLS president, Pastor Em. Norman Schell from Omaha, Neb. Schell has been involved with the convention for years helping with the technology needs.

Next year’s convention will be at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart, Wis., under the theme “Finish Your Race.” All WELS members are invited, even those who aren’t part of an OWLS chapter.

Learn more about the OWLS and all the ministries under the WELS Commission on Special Ministries at wels.net/special-ministries.

 

 

 

Reminiscence From a Retired Nurse

For those of you too young to remember I will share a story from nursing school; when we attended class at the hospital! My story begins with my joy of being Lutheran and my love for nursing. I was able to hold onto both even as I attended classes at Milwaukee County General Hospital in their School of Nursing. My joy came from the interaction we had with Pastor Arnold Schroeder, who was the Chaplain at the hospital. He was the original model for what is now known as “Institutional Ministries” in the WELS. He was fantastic with the patients, and we were also blessed to have him as a guest lecturer each year (yes, even for a public education program). The focus of his talk with us was how we could serve God through our careers. To be a Lutheran and have one of our pastors come and give such an inspiring message made me so proud and feeling blessed. Pastor Schroeder was truly a gifted speaker.

Years later as I was working as a nurse on a psychiatric unit, the words of Pastor Schroeder became very useful. The patients were challenging, the staff very supportive and yet we all struggled to keep going some days. I was known to many as the “WELS lady,” as I shared the joy of my faith, my church family in Muskego, and the happiness I felt by singing in the choir. There were other Lutherans on staff from St. Philip’s in Milwaukee and we must have made an impression on people as there was a real effort made by them to act in both word and deed in a Christian manner. I know that approaching our work from this viewpoint helped us find ways to bring peace to the unit and could feel more confident in our own safety. At the time, while still in school, I didn’t understand how writing a spiritual assessment for my patients would be a vital skill in my career. I approached this part of the care plan from my Lutheran faith and am so grateful to have had this foundation, and I am sure is why I received A’s.

By Gail Maxwell, RN
(edited by Wendy Crary-with permission)

 

 

A Resourceful RN

I am one of several nurses in our small, rural church in Fairfax, Minn. Over the years, I have found that when a member of our congregation needs medical assistance during a service or event, the only tools I had at my disposal in church were my hands and my watch. As an ICU nurse in a local hospital, I am used to having all the necessary nursing tools for any situation that arises. We do not have a formal parish nurse program in our church, so this is when Thrivent Choice Dollars came to the rescue! I applied for a Thrivent grant in the amount of $250 to help with some basic parish nursing supplies for our church. With this money, I purchased a manual blood pressure cuff (with two sizes of cuffs) and a battery operated, automatic blood pressure cuff for the congregation to use if one of our nurses are not present. I bought a stethoscope, CPR masks, large first aid kit, gloves, ice packs, hand gel and cleaning wipes (for use on the equipment in between patients). All of these items were placed in a clear bin for all to see and use and is located in the narthex of the church for easy access. I would encourage everyone to use their Thrivent Choice Dollars to jump start their parish nursing program!
By Amy Buboltz, BSN, RN

 

 

News and notes: Fall 2017

Welcome new Council Members: Mary Bruskewitz and Kristi Opper have kindly offered to join our small team and add their God given talent to our efforts! We welcome you with open arms, and pray you find the work fulfilling.

Spring Conference—Mid April 2018, at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.: With an excursion planned to Bethany Lutheran College’s new Nursing Program for a tour of the facility and fellowship. Stay tuned for more specifics as the Council and Conference Planning team finalize arrangements.

Parish Nurse Course: Online Summer 2017 had students from California, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Keep these nurses in your prayers as they apply that knowledge and they establish a parish nurse ministry in their congregation and a big thank you to Christian Aid & Relief for the matching funds grant to help with tuition costs!

Stateside Opportunity—Nurse Coordinator: Have a love for missions? The Central Africa Medical Mission is looking for a Registered Nurse to serve on our stateside committee. While the nurse coordinator must be an RN, extensive knowledge of CAMM is not necessary. Those interested must be WELS or ELS and have a willingness to learn about the influence CAMM has on those we serve in Zambia and Malawi. Please contact Linda Liesener at cammcontact@charter.net or Shelly Sievert at sievertsr@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

Caring for called workers

The Care Committee for Called Workers (CCCW), part of the Commission on WELS Special Ministries, exists to assist WELS calling bodies in supporting called workers and their families, encouraging them in their ministries, and enhancing their quality of life. There are many ways to support called workers, whether it’s in retirement planning, making sure their spiritual and physical needs are met, or helping in a transition to a new church or school. A new Care Committee for Called Workers at Trinity, Minoqua, Wis., did just that, finding ways to make the move of three new called workers as seamless as possible.

The following is an excerpt of an article written by a Trinity member that will appear in an upcoming edition of His Hands, the Special Ministries newsletter.

We streamlined communication as much as possible, with one main point of contact from our congregation and school. We also tried to consolidate information into a single message vs. sending multiple notes. We recognized how busy their lives would be and wanted to simplify things as much as possible. By starting the process well in advance of their arrival dates, they wouldn’t feel rushed.

Pastor Stephen Luchterhand notes: “This cross-country move (Arizona to Wisconsin) was a challenging one for our family, especially because our children are older (late high school to college age). The evident care and concern, attention to detail, intentional communication, and enthusiastic search for solutions by Trinity’s CCCW lessened our anxiety considerably and removed considerable barriers during the process.”

It’s important to keep the called worker’s family in mind during this process. We placed pictures of the new called workers and their families in the fellowship hall shortly after the calls had been accepted. Not only did this allow our members to put a face with the name, but it reminded the congregation to keep the families in their prayers.

We also asked about the family’s areas of interest. For those seeking employment we came up with a list of businesses and contacts for them to consider, as well as congregation members who could be used as references. Our tuition fund application was shared with students attending Luther Preparatory School.

Teachers Mike and MeLissa Wieting were appreciative. “It was so nice to be referred to members of the community who could help us with buying a home and moving to the area. They had names of a realtor, mortgage company, an insurance contact, and a moving company that led us through the intimidating process. We had never had to purchase our own home before so we had lots of questions. Our care committee even stepped in to preview homes on our behalf before we made a special trip to the area to see a property. Being a few hours away, an overwhelming process was made easier due to our CCCW.”

Now that the called workers are here, we have stayed in touch. From helping to find a chiropractor and contractor, to directing them to a good beach for a family swim, there was much to share as they settled in. Most important, we “pray continually” for our called workers (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

To view the whole story and newsletter, you can subscribe at wels.net/subscribe. To learn more about the CCCW, visit wels.net/cccw.

 

 

 

The blind can participate in worship and Bible study

Susan Povinelli and her husband Larry are members at Lamb of God, Madison, Ala.

As a sighted child I can remember flipping through The Lutheran Hymnal during church. As my eyesight began to deteriorate during my college years, I had to find other ways to read the hymnal and devotional materials. For many years I received Meditations and sermons on cassettes produced by the volunteers of our WELS Ministry to the Visually Impaired (MVI).

But studying the Bible using a cassette tape was extremely difficult, because you could not easily jump between books, chapters, and verses. Then I began using a device called the Victor Reader Stream. This device allows me to quickly and efficiently move between Bible books, chapters, and verses. For details on the Victor Reader Stream, please visit humanware.com.

Today I am able to download countless Bible applications to my iPhone. The iPhone is completely accessible to a blind person because of its VoiceOver feature, which allows a blind person to translate printed words into speech. Our own Northwestern Publishing House is e-publishing most of its books, such as the People’s Bible series, and they can be bought at the Kindle store. In addition, I am able to read Forward in Christ and other periodicals through the wels.net website or using the WELS app. For the price of a subscription, I am able to enjoy daily devotions through the Meditations app. A free option is to sign up for daily e-mail devotions at wels.net/subscribe.

Most worship materials are also accessible using my iPhone. Since our worship folders and the majority of our pastor’s Bible studies are available electronically, he sends me these materials via e-mail. I can access them through my iPhone by connecting a Braille display or listen audibly through a headphone. This enables me to fully participate in worship and Bible study.

Finally, there are many scanning applications that can take a picture of a printed page and convert it into different formats, such as PDF, Word, Text, etc. This software will read the converted page on your smart phone. The number one application, which was developed by the blind, for the blind, is the KNFB Reader Application.  Go to knfbreader.com for more information.

As the population ages and their vision decreases, congregations should accommodate all visually impaired people so that they can fully participate in worship and Bible study. For those who have some vision and don’t read Braille, Northwestern Publishing House has Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal available in large print. In addition, your church secretary can print out a few worship folders in a large font (14 points or greater).

With modern technology, which is not difficult to learn, and pastors willing to work with visually impaired congregants, there is no reason why a blind person cannot participate fully in worship or Bible study. As technology improves, blind people will have more and more information readily available to them.

To God be the glory for such advancements!

 

 

Interpreting at the WELS International Youth Rally

Katherine Fager interprets for the deaf in the local schools, and occasionally in the community. She lives with her husband in Whitefish, Mont.

“Are you available to interpret for deaf teens at the WELS International Youth Rally?” That request came from the WELS Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The rally, under the theme “Our God Reigns,” was held at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, June 28 – July 1, 2016. Since I was going to be in the Denver area for an interpreters’ conference the week before, I agreed to the request, along with Justine Landrith from Colorado Springs. We both had experience working as educational interpreters, and I had interpreted in WELS churches for several years in the past.

This was the biggest venue we had interpreted in. It was a little overwhelming at first. However, the organizers of the Youth Rally and the tech people were very helpful finding a good place for us to stand during the whole-group devotions and entertainment.  They arranged for a spotlight on us so we could see our notes, and so we could be seen when the lights went down.

Several weeks before the rally, we had received copies of the worship services, including song lyrics, from the band Koine, and devotions from all the devotion leaders. When Justine and I arrived, we decided which parts each of us would interpret, then worked together to finalize the translation of Scripture lessons and hymns for the whole event. Much of our translation/interpretation is done as we hear it spoken, but “frozen” text like Scripture readings and hymns is often prepared in advance to be sure the proper meaning is conveyed.

One of many positive memories that I have from the rally was the night the pop-alternative band, Modern Suspects, provided the entertainment. After the first song, the band invited the teens to come closer to the stage. Since we were interpreting at the corner below the stage, I wondered how we were going to continue with the kids getting closer to the stage…and to us. Instead, an amazing thing happened. As soon as the kids approached and saw me standing there, they moved out of the way and created a clear path so they wouldn’t block the deaf attendee’s view of the interpreter. It was still a bit crowded, but the kids recognized why we were there and the space that we needed. It was good to see that attitude and understanding in today’s WELS youths.

This was a wonderful team interpreting experience, as well as an amazing spiritual experience. Being able to worship with 2500 youths was something that will stay with me for a long time. God gave us an opportunity to share that experience with a deaf individual who attended the rally. Both Justine and I agreed that it was something we would do again, and it renewed in us a passion for church interpreting. We were blessed with a wonderful venue, great organizers, and collaboration that benefited both of us. We each had different strengths and weaknesses in translation and vocabulary that complemented each other. It was definitely proof that “Our God Reigns.”

 

 

By all possible means (including technology)

Gregory Boggs is part of the Technology Group at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Lincoln, Neb., and chairs the Nebraska District Technology Committee

“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23).

Livestreaming to care facilities
“Is there any way that Grandma, who is in the nursing home, can watch her granddaughter’s wedding, or her great-grandson’s confirmation, since she can no longer get to church?” That was how our congregation began livestreaming to care facilities via the Internet. Family members provided their relative with a computer on which to watch services.

Then we started working with the facility management to allow us to stream weekly services on a television in one of the recreation or dining rooms. We provided the facility with a small computer device called a “raspberry pie.” This device was programmed to automatically turn the TV on to the correct channel at the designated time.

The raspberry pie has been replaced with Roku, which is very easy to set up and can be used on almost any TV, since it is operated with a remote control and does not require a computer. It only requires a wired or wireless connection available at the TV used for viewing. Roku devices can be found at many national chain stores, e.g. Wal-Mart, Target, or Best Buy, at a very affordable cost (usually $39 to $49).

Mt. Olive provides the Roku to several care facilities in the area so that they can watch worship in real time, as well as archived services. While the Roku device has over 1500 religious channels, finding our channel is very easy. Simply search for “Lutheran” or “Mt. Olive.”

We find that residents prefer worshiping at the traditional time—Sunday morning. Not only has streaming allowed our members to stay in touch with the church, but it also serves as a passive evangelism tool as other residents join them for worship. As the printing press spread the gospel in Luther’s time, God’s Word is now being spread through technology beyond the walls of our church to viewing sites around the world.

Hearing loops help hearing-impaired
“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17). While our broadcasts provide clear audio of our pastor’s teaching and preaching, it can sometimes be a challenge for those listening in the church sanctuary. Many people today are using digital hearing aids. That is why Mt. Olive installed a hearing loop under the carpet in our sanctuary.

In the past, churches have used FM wireless hearing systems with body packs for those needing to hear an amplified signal from the pastor’s microphone. These devices helped, but users had to seek them out and churches had a limited supply. Also, the FM system amplified every sound equally, sometimes worsening the audio quality.

With a hearing loop, those in need of amplified audio already have the listening device built into their hearing aids. The loop simply delivers a usable signal to the T-coil in the listener’s device. Hearing aids made in the last few years have required this feature. Because the hearing aid has been set up by the user’s audiologist for their specific needs, it results in the best possible sound from the pastor’s microphone without background noise.

For more information, contact gboggs@mtolivebroadcast.org.

 

 

God’s plan gives me peace

Lori Guse and her husband Randy are raising two high schoolers.  They attend Morning Star Lutheran Church in Jackson, Wis.

My grocery list. My calendar app. My weekly menu board. My strategic plan for work. My various to-do lists. I use these planning tools to help my home and work run smoothly and effectively.

Sometimes, though, you can’t plan for everything.

Two years ago, my son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 15. It has been a whirlwind of trying to get answers and figuring this whole thing out. My calendar filled up with various appointments: teachers, doctors, other parents with autistic children, specialists. I spent endless hours learning how to be a better mother for my son and how to get him on the path to becoming the best person he can be. Our lives were turned upside down. Each day is a struggle, but little victories are celebrated because we know that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Sometimes I’m tempted to ask, Why now? Or I look back and wonder how his autism was missed. Instead, I choose to look back and see how God has provided and how his perfect plan has unfolded.

    • I planned to remain in my previous job. It was fulfilling and provided great opportunities for a successful career. God planned for me to take a newly created position at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary which has become a haven for my family. It provides daily spiritual blessings to me and has supported my family with our struggles by offering time needed for various appointments, phone calls, or meetings. Through volunteer time on campus, the seminary has also helped give my son a vision for his future.
    • I planned to remain in our congregation where our two children attended grade school and were confirmed. God planned to lead my family to a new church home where we have had immeasurable support from active and retired pastors, teachers, wonderful members, and others in the ministry. Opportunities to form a parent mentoring group and offer personalized spiritual guidance for my son are being explored.
    • I planned to have my children complete their education at a WELS school. God planned many events that led us to transfer our son to the local public high school. The amount of specialized services and level of support has been overwhelming—in a good way. The transition coordinator at the high school is now working with my son to plan for the next step in his life.

I didn’t plan to experience the darkest hours of my life. But in those hours God gave me a complete peace and comfort. Those hard times led to my getting a new set of eyes and ears, leading me in the right direction and giving us a bright hope for the future.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have clung to Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” This helps me remember that my plans are not perfect. An action item is forgotten. Another trip to the grocery store is made for that missed item. But God’s plan is the perfect plan. His plan gives me peace.

 

 

 

Parents vs. porn

Paul Krueger shepherds the flock as pastor at Shepherd of the Hills, Winchester, Va.

You know it as one of the greatest battles in the history of warfare. The setting was a strip of land that had come to be known as “The Boundary of Blood,” along the border between Philistia and Canaan. The Philistines had sent forth a champion to fight for them, a man whose name is now synonymous with giant: Goliath. The giant was too fearsome for any one man to take on, and the Israelites were cowering at the thought of meeting him in battle. Yet one young boy was not afraid. He knew that with God at his side he could be victorious even against such daunting odds. So David went to battle against the giant Goliath—and God gave him the victory.

Today, parents are finding out that it is their turn to take up the sling and stones against another fearsome giant that is calling out a challenge to families. The enemy’s new champion is an even greater threat to 21st century kids than Goliath was to the children of Israel. This giant—this new champion of Satan—is pornography.

Porn has become one of the devil’s most powerful weapons in his battle against humanity. Porn is everywhere we turn. With advances in technology, tens of millions of pornographic websites are available at the tap of a screen on devices that we carry with us constantly. Porn’s greatest danger is that it undoes everything that Christ has accomplished for us through the gospel.

So, how can moms and dads protect their kids against the dangers pornography presents? It probably seems like too big a giant for any one parent or team of parents to take on. It isn’t. With God at their side, parents can conquer and be victorious in the battle against porn and even against Satan himself.

Good news! They will now have even more resources to take with them into that battle. Conquerors Through Christ, a WELS ministry focused on serving those caught in porn addiction as well as those affected by someone else’s addiction, is now expanding its mission to include supporting parents as they prepare their kids to face the threat and dangers of pornography.

The Parent Support System will help moms and dads in the gradual process of nurturing their children’s sexual character. This support, targeted by age groups, will come in the form of videos, printable instruction tools, online forums to ask questions and get ideas, and more!
To be notified when these resources are released, sign up for our newsletter at ConquerorsThroughChrist.net. At the same site, you will find a series of ebooks (under the Resources tab). Current titles include The Dangers of Pornography, Warning Kids About Pornography, and Correcting Kids Who Use Pornography.

Remember, no matter how big the giant, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us!

 

 

Mental health brochures revised

Alan Siggelkow, a retired seminary professor, serves on the Committee on Mental Health Needs

One of the most difficult health decisions that people can face is choosing a mental health provider for self or a loved one. The person with mental health needs is often very vulnerable—emotionally, physically, and spiritually—and so great care should be taken in choosing a mental health provider. This is especially true for Christians who want to have their faith and beliefs respected.

Most WELS members will go to their pastor first as a source of spiritual counseling. The pastor will often see the need to refer, or may be asked to refer his member to a therapist. The pastor will need to know the mental health providers in his area or have confidence in a therapist who does distance counseling.

The WELS/ELS Christian Therapist Network has published several helpful brochures to aid the parishioner and the pastor in making these difficult choices.

1. “When to Refer” is a brochure designed to help WELS pastors, boards of elders, and teachers as they decide whether to refer their members or students to mental health professionals.

2. “Ask A Therapist” is a tool for use by people facing a mental health issue (or their caregivers) to interview a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

  • Is this mental health professional qualified and competent to help me in my need?
  • Is he or she someone who will respect my faith and be able to work with my pastor?
  • Will I feel comfortable with this person guiding my life in the future by providing mental health help to me?

WELS called workers may want to use this interview tool as they search for mental health professionals in their community to whom they may refer members with confidence.

3. “Christian or Non-Christian Counselor?” This brochure addresses the issue of choosing a Christian or a non-Christian counselor. The objective is always: who will be able to help the person in need most effectively, and who will be able to work best with my pastor as he seeks to provide spiritual counseling.

4. “Therapy Models” is a longer brochure that briefly explains the various models or theories of therapy that are most commonly used. It contains a glossary of terms that are used by mental health professionals.

You can find these brochures at csm.welsrc.net/mental-health. You may also contact WELS Special Ministries at 414-256-3241 or specialministries@wels.net.

 

 

Meeting Samaritans at the well

That is how lay leader Fred Ciaramitaro viewed his ministry to the Samaritans of our day as he shared the gospel at homeless shelters and halfway houses for 20 years. He volunteered with Project Share, a former WELS ministry in Bay City, Mich.
In his many years of ministry to many downtrodden people, one story stands out to Fred as he recalls the ministry he retired from two years ago.

“Much of my ministry was at a halfway house in Bay City. I would go every Wednesday to share the gospel with residents, both men and women. One evening, a Hispanic woman brought a Caucasian woman with her to class. The Hispanic woman asked questions, while the other woman was mostly silent. After a few classes, the Hispanic woman stopped coming because she disagreed with the roles of men and women, but the quiet woman continued to attend. It was apparent to me that Judy was not at all familiar with the Bible. This was the best case scenario, I thought, as she did not have any preconceived ideas about the Bible, as many of the people I ministered to did.

“Judy came back each week carrying a notepad. She took notes during class, and often asked questions after class when everyone had left. After three months, Judy came to class and told me that she would not see me after that night, as she would be released soon. I said, ‘Good! Here is my number. Call if you need anything.’ Now, I went to Jail Ministry Training and knew that giving out my information was not safe. It was probably the only time I did it in twenty years.

“I didn’t hear from Judy for several months after that class. One day my phone rang. Judy called to say that she had reconciled with her husband and was taking confirmation instruction at a local WELS church. ‘I’m over halfway through. Would you like to come to my confirmation?’ Judy asked. I agreed to go, if she sent an invitation.

“The day of Judy’s confirmation, my wife and I arrived just before the service started and sat in the last row. During the service, Judy carried her three-year-old daughter to the front of the church with her husband. That day, Judy and her daughter were baptized, and Judy and her husband were confirmed.

“My wife and I were last in line to welcome the new confirmands. As soon as Judy saw me, her eyes widened. She ran around my wife and embraced me. Judy turned to my wife and said, ‘I never would have made it without Fred!’ I said, ‘Oh no, Judy. It was the Holy Spirit.’ Judy replied to me, ‘I know, but the Holy Spirit sent you.’”

What a privilege it is to share the sweet message of the gospel with those in halfway houses, jails, and prisons! For more information on WELS Prison Ministry, e-mail prisonministry@wels.net or call 507-354-3130.

 

 

 

“Your brother was arrested!”

Darren Green is pastor at St. Peter, Monticello, Minn., and District Special Ministries Coordinator

“Your brother was arrested!” Those words hit me like a brick through the phone as my parents conveyed the news. The memory of those words and the event have started to diminish, but the emotions that were stirred in me, and especially in my parents, are still there.
I remember the sleepless nights, wondering and worrying about my brother, worrying and wondering about my parents. I remember listening to their struggles and inner turmoil. It took a huge toll on them as they tried to help my brother in whatever way they could, even looking at mortgaging the farm to pay the legal bills.

There were the questions: Why? How? What will people say? What do we say? Was there something we did wrong? Living in a small community means everyone would find out, and that would bring shame. I saw my father shed more tears than I had ever seen in my childhood. However, when we felt as if we had gone through the wringer, when we felt “harassed and helpless,” our Savior was there with his compassion.

It was during this dark time that our family was drawn closer to our Savior and his Word. We found ourselves reminding each other of Bible passages, such as Jesus’ invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). During the struggles, Paul’s words in Romans 8 directed our eyes and hearts to our caring God. “Our present suffering is nothing compared to the glory that lies ahead.” At times when you just don’t know what to pray, “the Spirit himself intercedes for us.”

In hindsight, it was clear that the Lord was purifying and growing our faith. Through these personal struggles, the Lord led us to see his Word in a new light. Peter assures us that our faith is purified and strengthened as we endure our difficult days: “These (trials) have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold . . . may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

My sister recalls: “What I think I will remember the most is Dad encouraging prayer, and saying that this life and all the trouble in it is just a breath compared to eternity. I had never actually heard Dad confess his faith like that, and I will carry the comfort from those words my whole life. His words sound similar to 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.”

As my brother went from jail to trial to prison, it opened my eyes, as a pastor and as a fellow Christian, to the pain that a family endures when a loved one is arrested. Because of my experience, I am better equipped to relate to and comfort others who have similar life events. How precious to know that our compassionate Lord cares for troubled and hurting souls, for those who are arrested and for the families that surround them. The forgiveness of our Savior Jesus truly brings peace and lifts our eyes to know that we have a future, even when today appears bleak. We have the powerful, unbreakable words and promise of our Lord!

My eyes have been opened to the gift the Lord provides in and through the family of God. It is hard to express what the support and encouragement of fellow Christians meant to my family and to my brother. Caring letters and visits to my brother…a listening ear and a kind word for my parents and family…it was actions like these that helped us walk through this dark time. WELS Prison Ministry was especially helpful and supportive with their letters and loving words.

My sister reminded me of something we both notice now: when we hear of a crime and an arrest, we see people quick to condemn, especially on social media. This is to be expected, but it evokes a hurt within me each time. Yes, crime is a serious matter, and yes, justice needs to be carried out. But there are also family members on all sides who are hurting, so I say a prayer for all involved. I also remember that the soul that has sinned is a sinner that Jesus died for. I have a different level of compassion now for the internal battles that lawbreakers face.

Having worked as a volunteer in prison, I have come to realize what a beautiful privilege Christ has given his followers. To think that we can speak for Jesus and assure troubled souls that Jesus died for them, forgives them, and calls them “from darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9-10). Our Creator made us emotional beings who long to hear his love and forgiveness, who need to know that Jesus has opened heaven. What a privilege to be a part of the family of God, to serve our Lord by serving one another!