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Where two, three, or eleven gather

Katie Martin lives in Jefferson, Wis. She and her husband Josh are raising three daughters and one son.

We passed through an ordinary front door and a dark foyer to enter a room so beautiful it made us pause in wonder. As our hostess closed the door behind us, our eyes traveled in every direction taking in the unexpected beauty around us. The room had no windows other than the skylights which framed the domed ceiling above us. Designed as an interior music room, it was circular in shape and frescoed from floor to ceiling with doors that disappeared into the painted, curved walls.

The room was just one part of a historic home that had once belonged to the family of Marie Antoinette. A stone’s throw from the tree-lined parade route leading to the Palace of Versailles, its beauty transported me to that era of opulence. Today, centuries later, this room would again be filled with music, but not to entertain the lavish tastes of the French aristocracy. Rather, it would glorify the King of kings.

We were a group of eleven ladies from varied backgrounds and four different countries. Some of us were military wives, some married to local nationals, some visiting family members who lived overseas, and some following their husbands on a work contract. Some of us were lifelong Christians and others new to the faith. Yet we had one thing in common: a love of Jesus and his Word.

We had gathered for a women’s weekend in Paris to sightsee, have Bible study, and enjoy fellowship with sisters in Christ. Our weekend would culminate with a worship service in this beautiful room. The hostess, who had been baptized and confirmed only months before, invited us into her home for worship. This service would become one of the highlights from my eight years living in Europe as the wife of the WELS Civilian Chaplain.

Although living in Europe can be glamorous and exciting, one does not spend every day sipping coffee at a Parisian café or visiting world-renowned museums. Most days, the separation from family, language barrier, and isolation from those who share our faith can weigh heavily on the Christian living overseas.

One of the things I missed in particular was the “big church” experience. I longed to be with other Christians, surrounded by a throng of voices belting out praises to Jesus. Our worship life here was much different than it was in the States. Each week saw us traveling to different locations to worship: in a military chapel with 30 Christians, in a rented church with 10 fellow believers, in a living room with our family and only two or three others.

However, in spite of this distance and separation, God blessed his flock in Europe. It was common to meet Lutherans who would drive or take a train more than four hours one way to attend worship. Christians in London or Zurich who could only worship with a pastor once per month displayed a deep appreciation for the gospel. They reminded us that church is a “get to” instead of a “have to.” Those special times gathered around his Word with dear Christian friends at worship or a retreat became the best part of our time in Europe. Even the grandeur of the Alps or the majestic castles couldn’t compare to the blessings of being together around the Word of life.

On that Sunday morning in a music room in Versailles, France, we enjoyed a service that none of us would forget. As we sat down and the portable keyboard began to play the first hymn, we knew we were in for a treat. Thanks to the acoustics of the room, our eleven meager voices swelled, sounding like a choir of angels. God reminded us in a dramatic fashion of his promise in Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Whether around the dinner table for devotion, at the bedside of a loved one, in a living room in Switzerland, or a music room in France, God comes to us through his Word. Wherever his Word is proclaimed, God is right there strengthening faith, encouraging us, and clutching us tightly to himself for eternity.

 

 

New civilian chaplain for Europe

Pastor Don Stuppy has accepted the call to serve WELS military members, their families, and civilians who live in Europe. The chaplain lives in Spiesheim, Germany (southwest of Frankfurt), but travels the continent to minister to souls living far from home—and from their home congregations.

A commissioning service was held at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Yorktown, Va., on November 30. The Stuppys will arrive in Europe in early January 2017, succeeding Pastor Josh Martin, who served as chaplain for the previous eight years.

Donald Stuppy was born in Benton Harbor, Mich. He graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 1975 and was assigned to Our Savior, San Antonio, Tex., where his ministry included personnel at six military bases. Don and Marge, who were married in 1973 after meeting on a blind date, had four children while in Texas.

In 1985 the Stuppy’s moved to Newport News, Va., to start a new mission. After moving to Virginia, they had their fifth child. A church and parsonage were built in Yorktown, an area that hosts Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard installations. About half of the church has military ties. Pastor Stuppy served Our Redeemer for almost 32 years, long enough so that he can recall baptizing and performing the wedding of the current president of the congregation.

Marge grew up in Muskego, Wis., and attended Milwaukee County General Hospital School of Nursing.  While raising their five children, she pursued her bachelor’s degree in nursing. When the nest was empty, she returned to school and earned a degree as a nurse practitioner, focusing on cardiology.

Don and Marge are excited about this new chapter in their lives, eager to serve the Lord and his people in Europe, where the “congregation” numbers about 150 souls. They include active military, military who stayed after their tour of duty ended, civilians living there because of business, and others who simply like it and have chosen to make it their home.

Members of the flock live in England, Italy, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. That keeps the chaplain on the road a lot.  The groups may be small, but the bonds of fellowship are strong. Three times a year they gather for retreats to strengthen their ties and get to know one another.

Worship is held in various locations throughout the month:
London, England – First Sunday
Frankfurt/Mainz/Wiesbaden, Germany – Second and Fourth Sundays at 11:00 a.m.
Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany – Second and Fourth Sundays at 4:00 p.m.
Zurich, Switzerland – Third Sunday
Vilseck, Germany – Monthly on a Saturday

To learn more about the European chaplaincy, go to wels.net/military.  To refer the names of military or civilians living in Europe, go to wels.net/refer.

 

 

 

 

Retirement planning for called workers

Kurt Holzhueter is an investment advisor and chairman of the WELS Care Committee for Called Workers

Can I afford to retire?

This is a difficult question to answer for anyone, called workers included. Many factors go into such an important decision. Steps taken earlier in one’s career can have a significant impact on when the answer becomes “Yes!”

As our committee began to look into retirement planning for called workers, a couple of things became clear. First, the WELS has excellent programs and resources available for successful retirement planning. Second, there are several obstacles that make it difficult for workers to take action. Since getting an early start is one of the most important factors in successful retirement planning, we focused on that.

A typical called worker will rely on the WELS pension, social security, and personal savings/investments such as a 403(b) plan or IRA for their retirement income. The synod’s 403(b) offering, called The Shepherd Plan, is a good option.

Student debt, relatively low salary, house payments, family expenses, and lack of time are a few reasons that planning and saving for retirement are fairly low on the list of priorities for a new worker. If the calling body becomes involved in the process, there is a much greater chance that the worker will get started. This is where a local Care Committee for Called Workers (CCCW) can be invaluable. The committee can walk through the planning process with each new called worker. If there is no CCCW, a volunteer or volunteers can become familiar with the materials and assist the worker with planning.

At welsrc.net/cccw, you will find two easy-to-use tools that can simplify the planning process for both called workers and lay persons. The first is a one-page checklist that outlines the areas that should be considered and provides links to resources in each area. The second is a two-page guide that covers basic information on a wide range of retirement topics. Both tools are useful for new called workers, as well as veterans. You could plan to discuss the topics in depth with all new workers, then briefly review them on an annual basis.

As important as it may be to have the calling body take an active role in this process, another strategy may be even more beneficial. If the calling body is able to provide a financial incentive, it may be the most effective way to encourage workers to begin a retirement savings account. When a worker accepts a call, an account could be opened for them, with a small lump sum contribution made for them for the first year or two. Or an employer match could be offered to help the account grow faster.

Taking a few small steps now can make a huge difference when a called worker is ready for retirement. Find more information, including how to start a Care Committee for Called Workers, at welsrc.net/cccw.

 

 

 

 

Abuse affects everyone, but you can help

Ben Sadler shepherds the flock at Goodview Trinity Lutheran Church, Winona, Minn.

Some statistics are so staggering you just can’t un-see them. That’s how I felt at a conference two years ago on child protection. After hearing two astounding facts, I knew I would never be the same.

1)  One of every four women and one of every six men have been or will be abused. At first, I couldn’t wrap my head around those numbers. That meant that about a quarter of my congregation were probably survivors, as well a quarter of my friends and neighbors, and a quarter of my community. And probably a quarter of you reading this.

If those numbers are accurate (and they are probably low), then why is nobody talking about this? Because almost 100 percent of survivors are suffering in silence.

2)  Survivors of abuse are much more likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol, live sexually promiscuous lives, and suffer with a myriad of other mental, emotional, and physical problems. (See cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy to learn more about the Adverse Childhood Experiences study). When a child is abused, they are told the most sinister lie: “You are nothing but a tool for my pleasure.” That lie implants a feeling of unquenchable shame. Shame is different from guilt. One psychologist explains it this way: “Guilt is feeling bad because I made a mistake. Shame is feeling bad because I believe I am a mistake.”

Shame is such a debilitating feeling that we will do almost anything to silence it.

After hearing these statistics, I was convinced I had been doing much of my ministry all wrong. Some of the people whom I was serving were running to drugs, sex, and alcohol, not to escape God, but to escape and cope with shame. In most cases, they needed to hear about the love of God, not the law of God.

The world is a dark place, but with the help of God you can be a light.

How to protect children and help survivors?

Establish and enforce a child protection policy at your church.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). He also said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

Jesus is serious about caring for and protecting children; we should be too. One way your church can do that is through a child protection policy, making sure everyone who has significant contact with children has had a background check, and ensuring that no child is ever left with just one adult.

Support survivors in your circle of influence

In John 4, Jesus speaks to a Samaritan woman at the well. Her checkered past seems to resemble someone who had been abused or harmed. See how Jesus treats her? He patiently, gently points her to the living waters of God’s love. Then he spends time addressing her besetting sins.

Most survivors are suffering in silence. What if you followed Jesus’ example by being open to the hurting around you, then listening with patience and care? There is probably more to the story of your friends and relatives that you don’t know about. If you are looking for tools to help survivors, check out freedomforcaptives.com, a website created by the WELS Committee on Mental Health Needs.

Support and volunteer with organizations who protect children and help survivors

There are many worthy organizations that protect children and help survivors. Working with Care in Action (careinactionmn.org), our congregation has adopted a social worker from our community, who filters needs to our church.  We then help support families with children.

Sexual abuse is more common than most people think, and its consequences can be emotionally and spiritually damaging. We can no longer just be bystanders. God calls us to protect children and help survivors.

For more resources, go to freedomforcaptives.com.

 

 

 

Understanding domestic abuse

Nathan Ericson serves as pastor of Martin Luther Lutheran Church, Oshkosh, Wis.

Although public awareness about domestic abuse has increased in recent decades, on a case-by-case basis it often remains unspoken, unseen, and misunderstood. This hidden nature of abuse presents a problem: well-meaning friends may unwittingly support the abuser and further injure the victim by what they say and do. How can we show true Christian love in ways that will help victims of abuse rather than hurt them? How can we direct abusers toward true repentance? It begins with understanding the nature of domestic abuse.

An abuser will try to deny or minimize his abuse, and sometimes our cultural misconceptions only help him do this. Perhaps we have heard that abuse is a psychological problem or an anger problem or an alcohol problem. Each of those ideas is generally not true. (For example, while the use of alcohol will make abuse worse, there are plenty of alcoholics who are not abusers, and plenty of abusers who are not alcoholics.) Instead, each of those ideas serves to minimize the problem of abuse by shifting blame from the abuser himself to something else.

One of the biggest misconceptions affecting the church’s response to abuse is the idea that abuse is a marriage problem, a Sixth Commandment problem. If I mention in conversation that an acquaintance of mine is a victim of abuse and has divorced her husband, will the response be a question about his years of physical, verbal, and emotional abuse and whether he in apparent unbelief has abandoned his commitment to the love of marriage? Or will the response be a question about whether it was right for her to leave? If we think about abuse as a marriage problem, then the abuser’s goal of minimizing our perception of his abuse is often successful.

It’s helpful instead to realize that abuse is a Fifth Commandment problem. Abuse is violence. It’s an attitude of contempt toward the victim and entitlement for the abuser. Abuse isn’t about marriage; it’s about murder. Just as much as God wants us to uphold his holy will for marriage, he wants us to protect his gifts of health and life.

This distinction will affect the way we interact with both abuser and victim. A counselor will want to counsel abuser and victim separately, both for the safety of the victim and in order to not give the impression that victim and abuser are equally to blame. (Local women’s shelters can provide referrals to counseling specialists for each.) A Christian friend will want to help protect the victim not only with physical safety but also by not betraying her confidence, by not offering pressure-inducing comments like “Why don’t you just leave,” and by not passing along messages from her abuser or only listening to his side of the story.

Finally, pastors and Christian friends will want to direct abusers to true repentance and abuse victims to full hope in Christ. Recognize that the abuser is well-practiced at denying his own guilt. Denial is not only how he gets away with abuse, but also how he has been justifying his own actions. We offer Christ’s forgiveness only when the abuser confesses his guilt before God by acknowledging the reality of his abuse and accepting its consequences—which may take months or years of professional counseling rather than minutes in the pastor’s office.

Recognize also that the victim of abuse is suffering greatly and needs to know Christ’s love for her. She hurts not only from the abuse itself but also from feelings of guilt and worthlessness. She needs to hear again and again how Jesus paid for her guilt, real or perceived, and how he makes her whole with righteousness that she cannot find in herself but only in him.

Christ’s love alone can stop the violence of abuse and heal its wounds. As part of Christ’s body, you can speak and show his love to abusers and victims of abuse in ways that will help rather than hurt.

FOR FURTHER READING
Bancroft, Lundy. “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.” New York: Berkley, 2002.
Brewster, Susan. “Helping Her Get Free: A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women.” Emeryville, CA: Seal, 2006. Originally published under the title “To Be an Anchor in the Storm.” New York: Ballantine, 1997.

 

 

 

Ministry to the aging: It’s not for pastors only

Robert Hochmuth is retired from full-time ministry, but is still ministering to the retired. He lives in San Jose, Calif.

With the number of aging and infirm increasing, several of our members realized it was an opportunity to enlist and prepare more volunteers to: a) minister to other members, supplementing what one called worker can accomplish, and b) reach out to the unchurched residing side-by-side with our people.

Some may voice a troubled prayer request. Some may be receptive to a folder presenting God’s basic message of sin and grace in plain language and in a format friendly to fading vision. Appreciative administrators may provide names of “no preference” residents not being visited by any church.

Another scenario: meeting for Bible study with a member or two—and perhaps with invited friend(s)—can develop into a scheduled and publicized small group. This creates opportunities for members of all ages to serve as accompanists, song leaders, or wheelchair assistants. Getting acquainted with residents can lead to being more comfortable in conversations regarding sin and grace. Then too, precious hymns draw minds and hearts together at the cross.

Whether the approach will be going to bedsides and leaving literature where welcome, or arranging for group meetings, volunteers will desire some orientation and preparation. They can gain confidence from the Word and direction from the experience of the pastor and others. Potential recruits need to know they can get in at an entry level working with mentors or partners.

We will want to recognize that not all residents are troubled believers; some are troubled doubters, and others still need to recognize the consequences of sin and their inability to rescue themselves.

In any case, preparing visitors will definitely call for reviewing the basics of law and gospel, as in Romans 1–8, and for consideration of frequently asked questions. A variety of helps and study guides is available from Northwestern Publishing House (nph.net) and other sources.

In today’s world we do well to alert our people to prevalent humanistic ideas about end-of-life issues.

Our scriptural message dare not change, but when it comes to method there are some suggestions we may want to consider. Foremost is being sure we use language that will communicate with people who have minimal familiarity with the Bible.

Experienced visitors suggest that bedside ministry not be limited to just “reading at” an aged person, but leaving a handout of the Scripture for the devotion in large print to read and retain (or pass along).

In addition to getting God’s message across, another significant role of member visitors is taking time to listen to the aging for whom the days go slow, but the years are going fast. Lord, employ us to serve with our ears as well as our voices.

The senior outreach ministry at Apostles, San Jose, Calif., has developed resources, including letters to administrators and to families of new residents, describing their ministry. They also have many large print devotional folders. For samples, e-mail rhochmuth@apostlessj.org.

 

 

Financial assistance for Chaplain Certification classes

The Chaplain Certification Program Committee is accepting applications for financial aid of up to $400 upon the successful completion of an online course in the program.

Applicants must be a member of the WELS, enrolled in the Chaplain Certification Program, and have already taken one required class. To obtain a form, e-mail specialministries@wels.net.

The following three-credit courses are offered during the Spring 2017 semester (January 4 to May 5):

Communicating Forgiveness (THE9520)
A study of the Scriptural teaching of forgiveness and the many ways this truth can be communicated vividly and meaningfully by God’s messengers. (Howard Lyon, instructor)

Chaplaincy Issues and Fieldwork (THE9522)
An overview of chaplaincy, related issues, and fieldwork experience in a specific area of chaplain ministry. (Daniel Krause, instructor)

The Spiritual Side of PTSD (THE9601)
Helps spiritual advisors recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and provide appropriate spiritual care. (Paul Ziemer, instructor)
Learn more at mlc-wels.edu/continuing-education.

 

 

 

Resilient Ministry: a gospel approach to recovery

Jason Jonker is a participant and volunteer with Resilient Ministry at CrossWalk, Laveen, Ariz.

The numbers are sobering, even if the behavior is not.

In 2015, over 27 million people in the U.S. were using illegal drugs or misusing prescription drugs. (Retrieved December 2016 from addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/executive-summary.)

Among Christians, 64% of men and 15% of women admit to watching pornography at least once a month, while 50% of pastors struggle with the temptation of Internet pornography.

How can the church impact a culture struggling with addictions and life-consuming sins?

Many addictions groups focus on steps or principles to follow. The emphasis is on “doing.”  That’s not all bad—some guidelines and suggestions can be helpful when individuals are making changes. But “working harder” to achieve recovery can be overwhelming, or may lead to pride in one’s own efforts.

Resilient Ministry brings the gospel into recovery. “Work harder” is replaced with “rest in Jesus.” In some support groups the “higher power” must remain anonymous. Resilient groups are Scripture-saturated and Christ-exalting.

CrossWalk, a WELS congregation in Laveen, Ariz., offers Resilient meetings weekly. Sessions begin with the whole group gathering for prayer and review of key Bible passages. Then the attendees divide into men’s and women’s small groups to share their stories and study God’s Word.

No matter what type of struggle one is having, they are accepted at Resilient. Each person openly confesses sin and shares brokenness in a small group setting. Following a period of confession and self-disclosure, the good news of the gospel is pronounced. This pattern of confession and forgiveness helps each person put to death their old sinful self with its desires. People who once felt alone in their battle find a community where sin cannot hide and the gospel shows its power.

Like most recovery groups, attendance fluctuates. Community awareness is a key to finding new participants outside the congregation. Resilient meets at the same high school where CrossWalk gathers for worship.

A partnership with the Apache Celebrate Recovery group at Whiteriver, Ariz., recently led to joint fellowship at a public park, followed by recovery meetings right in the park, with first-time visitors welcome.  A Facebook page (facebook.com/LutheranRecoveryMinistries) also provides a window into our group. Regular e-mail devotions share the conviction and comfort of Scripture and maintain the connection with those who struggle.

At the heart of Resilient is the focus on the Word and meditation on its law/gospel message for renewal. To learn more, contact resilient@crosswalkphoenix.com.

 

 

 

Show Me Your Mighty Hand: Peace from God’s Word for special needs moms

Jim Behringer is director of the Commission on Special Ministries

Rarely do we find devotional literature written by Christians whose burdens are heavy and will not go away. The chapters of Show Me Your Mighty Hand (Wendy Heyn, Northwestern Publishing House, 2016) were written by nine mothers of children who are developmentally or intellectually disabled, some severely. They have written their personal stories as meditations on Mary, the mother of Jesus. There are no easy answers in this book, no facile pretense that all is well, to cover up sorrow and pain. The authors are women who love their children and find joy and beauty in them, but they are also women who endure anxiety, rejection, and judgment, not to mention the physical burden of care.

I recommend this book for parents with the same struggle, but even more so for people who bear other burdens. You will find kindred hearts in the writers of these meditations, and perhaps a perspective on your own problems. And if you are one of those people who have seen a child melt down in public and cast a critical eye on the parent, I think this book will break your heart with sorrow and compassion. It points all readers to the promises of our heavenly Father and his abiding love.

 

 

Visiting a person with short-term memory loss

Curt Seefeldt is director of church relations for The Lutheran Home Association, Belle Plaine, Minn.

Sadly, people with dementia often suffer alone. Even though we want to stay connected—having the conversations we used to have—it’s hard.
Frequently, the reason is short-term memory loss. Of those with Alzheimer’s disease, 90 percent experience short-term memory loss. Many who have other forms of dementia experience it too. It means a person can’t remember the recent past, even words spoken just minutes earlier. So how can you still have a meaningful visit?

Give the gift of presence
In many cases, just being there is a gift. Even if you don’t have a conversation, your half-hour presence is enough. Enter the room, identify yourself, and explain that you stopped because you wanted her to know you were thinking about her. Bring a card to leave as a reminder of your visit.

Come with a plan
Simply coming to listen to the story your friend or family member tells over and over again is a plan. She repeats the story because her short-term memory loss blocks her ability to know she’s doing it. Telling her she just told you that story might lead to a confrontation. She might think you are making fun of her. However, when you give her your undivided attention, without trying to correct her, it will likely mean a lot to her. You are listening to her! Many of her friends aren’t giving her that kind of attention.
Bring something familiar such as a scrapbook with family pictures. Talk about the events and share your memories. Bags of corn or soybeans might bring back recollections for a farmer; garden seeds can trigger recall for a gardener. Bring an object and talk about your common experiences. Tell your aunt how you so enjoyed her mashed potatoes as you place her old masher into her hands.
Plan to talk about shared experiences—the trip you took together or the time you both laughed so hard you couldn’t stop. If she suddenly finishes the story for you, let her do it and enjoy the moment.
Sing and pray. For our Christian friends, singing the verses of Jesus Loves Me, This I Know might lead them to join you in singing, “Yes, Jesus loves me” as the chorus repeats. Many with advanced memory loss will join in the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Try it, speaking slowly and gently.

Savor the moments
There will be times you know you connected. Maybe it was words. Maybe it was only a look of peace that wasn’t there when you arrived. When it happens, remember what worked. What connected today will likely connect the next time you visit.
Savor the gift you are giving. You are showing Jesus’ love by showing that you care. You are remembering “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). It’s what Jesus asks us to do to show our thanks to him for his love for us.

Curt Seefeldt has authored the booklet, “It’s Alzheimer’s – It’s Time for Extraordinary Love.” To order a free copy, visit The Lutheran Home Association’s website:  tlha.org/services/resources/alzheimers-resources. Pastor Seefeldt also offers workshops providing emotional and spiritual care for people affected by dementia. Contact him at cseefeldt@tlha.org.

 

 

 

Meeting the spiritual needs of members in the military

WELS Military Services Committee, part of the WELS Commission on Special Ministries, held its annual conference in San Antonio, Tex., earlier this month. Each year the committee and military contact pastors from around the synod convene to discuss and learn how to better meet the spiritual needs of members in the military and their families.

The attendees visited the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio to see how wounded servicemen and women are being rehabilitated to live as normal of a life as possible after serious injuries. The visit gave the military contact pastors and committee a small glimpse into some of the obstacles veterans face when they return from duty.

Another emphasis of the conference was encouraging WELS military contact pastors to get in touch with the military chaplains on the bases to get involved in ministry. While WELS does not have chaplains officially in the military, the pastors near the bases serve Christians who are serving their country.

Mike and Diane Tracy know the importance of military contact pastors firsthand. Mike served in the military for 24 years, moving the family around regularly. Retired from active service since 2009, Mike is on the Military Services Committee, and he and his wife organized the San Antonio event.

“Military families have unique situations that other families don’t have,” says Diane. “Our [spouses] are deployed. We aren’t near our families. It’s a different type of stress added to your relationship. For the pastors to be able to understand how they can better fulfill those needs and have the congregation help fulfill those needs, it’s important.”

She says having a chaplain in Europe was especially meaningful to her family. “We were stationed in Europe. The European Chaplaincy being over there, it gave us a place for our children to be confirmed, it gave us the chance to be able to worship with other WELS Lutherans on a regular basis. That’s the most important thing a military family can have is spiritual support.”

This was the first military contact pastors’ conference Rev. David Parsons, pastor at Holy Cross, Tucson, Ariz., has attended since he took the call earlier this year to Holy Cross, which is near a military base. He says since the conference, he is approaching his military ministry with a new energy and has been speaking with his congregation about ways they could better serve the military families in the Tucson area.

Parsons says, “I really enjoyed the conference. It was eye-opening. They had a good mix of presenters. Hearing stories from the active military guys or stories from the guys who have been out for a while or the military chaplain pastors, just being able to talk to those contact pastors and hear their experiences about what worked and didn’t work—that was beneficial. I’m really excited about the concept of this ministry.”

Diane stresses that military families need solid spiritual support as they face their unique challenges. She says, “The biggest thing that WELS members need to know is if they know someone in the military, they need to make sure the pastor who lives closest to them and serves their base knows who they are and how to contact them. Because if the chaplains don’t know they’re out there, they can’t help them.”

If you or someone you know is in the military, you can sign up for spiritual support at wels.net/refer. Learn more about WELS Military Services at wels.net/military.

 

 

 

Godliness with Contentment is Great Gain

Contentment is defined as being pleased and satisfied; as not needing more. When looking back on September, contentment has been a theme at the Central Africa Medical Mission—feeling content and the lack thereof.

At clinic this month, we changed our transport system. Our staff were paying their own bus fare to a central drop off point and our ambulance was picking them up. We were reimbursing them as a perk of working for us; it is common for facilities do that for their staff here in Malawi. Now we have a privately hired bus to collect and drop them closer to their homes. It provides many benefits to clinic. It saves wear and tear on the ambulance; it saves on the cost of diesel; and it saves money in the reimbursement of the staff. While Alison and I are satisfied with the new program, the staff is less than pleased.

Since I’ve been here, we have instituted some changes.  All of them have been met with resistance. It seems Malawians dislike change as much as the rest of us. After time, they generally come around or, even better, they think the new program is great and are pleased we have instituted it. One of the best examples is the savings program we encourage our employees to participate in. Thanks to Alison’s great initiative, our staff members have savings goals and are more financially responsible. We hope that soon the staff will also see the wonderful benefits of our new transport program and be content.

I’ve been reading and meditating on St. Paul’s letters to Timothy lately. “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
In Malawi, it’s funny the things that make me content—things I took for granted in the U.S. A regular and uninterrupted water and power supply tops my list.  It is a good day when I come home after being at clinic and have electricity to make lunch. It’s an even better day when I can come home and rinse away the dust and sweat I accumulated while at clinic! As Paul writes, I have food and clothing, I need to be content with that—all the rest is just a bonus! St. Paul also reminds us to “put our hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment…to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” (1 Timothy 6: 17-18) God has certainly richly blessed me with much for my enjoyment, especially while I have been here in Malawi—good friends and Malawian “family,” great adventures and travel, a job I love, and the opportunity to serve him.

At Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM), specifically the Lutheran Mobile Clinic (LMC) here in Malawi, we have much to be grateful for. We have generous supporters who are willing to share with us, to help us to do good, to be rich in good deeds. We have great employees who are able to share the gospel with the people we are serving in Chichewa. And we have the abilities to care for them physically—to cure their malaria, to help them manage their pain, to provide them extra portions of food. I pray the Lord continues to richly bless you and that we remain content with the earthly gifts bestowed upon us. I pray that we use those earthly gifts to serve him to the best of our abilities and that through us he is glorified.

Written by Amanda Oswalt, Nurse in Charge, CAMM

 

 

 

Why Does He Do That?

I recently attended a presentation titled “Understanding Domestic Abuse,” by Pastor Nathan Ericson of Martin Luther of Oshkosh, also the Special Ministries coordinator of the WELS Northern Wisconsin District. I attended because a member of my extended family is abusive, and while I personally am largely removed from the situation due to distance, I am still concerned for that family’s wellbeing and safety. I keep them in prayer. Perhaps you know someone too?

Lundy Bancroft, a leading expert in dealing with abusive men, wrote in “Why Does He Do That?” that two to four million women are assaulted by their partners per year in the United States. The U.S. Surgeon General has declared that attacks by male partners are the number one cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44. The American Medical Association reports that one woman out of three will be a victim of violence by a husband or boyfriend at some point in her life. I would imagine that my family is not the only one within WELS impacted by domestic violence.

Pastor Ericson shared that abuse is not . . . a psychological problem or an alcohol problem or an anger control problem, although they all can make abuse worse. All these characterizations are ways we minimize the reality of abuse. Abuse is not a sixth commandment “marriage problem.” Abuse is a violence problem that involves attitudes of contempt and entitlement, a fifth commandment lack of respect for health and life.

Pastor Ericson talked of the reasons that women don’t easily leave an abusive relationship and the complexity, and even the potential danger, of that decision. He shared some thoughts on divorce and talked of proper counseling. Typical couples counseling can send the wrong message and even put the woman at risk. As a parish nurse my role would be to refer abuse victims to the pastor and trained specialists. Christian Family Solutions or a local women’s shelter will be able to help. Pastor Ericson and Lundy Bancroft both emphasize that the abuser, himself, requires a specific abuser program or counseling specialist.

How can we as God’s people best help the abuse victim? There are three roles that family and friends typically take. The Distancer tends to withdraw and remove themselves emotionally from their abused loved ones. The Rescuer tends to become too involved in relationships. A healthy relationship requires mutual trust and respect. The role of Anchor requires listening and seeking to understand, accepting her as she is. Avoid putting pressure on the victim to take action, but support her in the actions she chooses to take. Good listening skills are critical!

We can encourage the victim with appropriate use of Scripture. Not as a bandage (“You shouldn’t be afraid, because Jesus is with you!” but as an encouragement (“Jesus sees what you are going through. He will help you”). Pray for the victim.

Another good resource, recommended by Pastor Ericson, for your library? “Helping Her get free—A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women” by Susan Brewster, M.S.S.W.

A helpful website, freedomforcaptives.com, provides spiritual resources for those who have survived abuse and those helping them.

I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about this issue. I pray that I am able to respond to those affected by domestic violence . . . as an anchor, offering a healthy, trusting relationship.

Written by Sue Bolha, PN at David’s Star Lutheran

 

 

A Window into the Womb

“Before I formed you in the womb,
I knew you.
Before you were born,
I set you apart”
(Jeremiah 1:5).

Silence? Darkness? What is it like in the womb?  Pressing gently to my abdomen, I can’t feel anything. It must just be a blob of tissue. Yes, I’m sure that’s all it is.  And now the counselor asks if I would like to have an ultrasound.  At least then I would know that the pregnancy is real . . . real what?

These questions swirl through the minds of Associated Pregnancy Services (APS) clients as they face a positive pregnancy test. Even before they come to us, they may have determined that an abortion is their only option and the sooner the better. Our mission is to point them to other options. But first the groundwork must be laid. We must help them see LIFE!

Enter the ultrasound suite. As the transducer passes over my client’s abdomen, the silence is broken. “Whoosh – the sea of amniotic fluid flows gently around the “little one.” A soft, rhythmic “lub” joins the sounds this mother hears. She suddenly realizes this is real. This is LIFE!

Statistical research tells us that 80 percent of abortion-minded pregnant women who view an ultrasound make the decision to carry the baby to term. It is for this reason that being able to provide “a window to the womb” during a woman’s vulnerable decision-making process is such a vital part of helping her to see the child for what it is – a life!

A grant from Focus on the Family in conjunction with a program called The Life Choice Project from The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates has allowed the staff at APS to undertake the task of converting their services to a medical clinic. Such a conversion will allow them to perform limited obstetrical ultrasounds as a part of their work. In the future, the clinic would also like to offer free testing for STI/STD. Many regulations, policies, and procedures must be planned for and followed to make all of this happen. The goal is to have this conversion to a medical clinic completed by May of 2017.

Please watch for further updates on the project. Pro-life work goes on every day by the staff of the APS, located at 8501 W. Lincoln Avenue in West Allis, Wis. “Saving the life of a child, transforming the family from at risk to thriving, and doing it all again tomorrow” has been our mission for many years.

Written by Nurse Manager Pam Manske RN BSN

 

 

 

News and notes: Fall 2016

October 22, “Nurses in WELS: a gathering of professionals” is meeting at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Fond du Lac, Wis. for a day of spiritual encouragement, education, networking and fellowshi. Haven’t registered but wonder if you might join us at the last minute? Call Sue Bolha at 262-677-3485 to let us know that you’re coming. We’ll make sure there is a folder and a spot at the table set just for you. Go to welsnurses.net/conference for more information. Not able to join us? We plan to video tape our speakers and post it online for you to watch at your own convenience. We’ll let you know when that is posted.

The Bethany Lutheran College nursing program was approved by the MN Board of Nursing on Aug. 4, 2016. Congratulations and our continued prayers! They are currently posting for a full-time, nine-month faculty position in the proposed Bachelor of Science in nursing. Bethany is a Christian liberal arts college owned and operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. For more information, contact Dr. Sara Traylor, PhD, RN, CNE, and Director of Nursing at sara.traylor@blc.edu  or 507-344-7754. For a full job description, qualifications and application process, visit: http://www.blc.edu/jobs/faculty-bachelor-science-nursing.

Considering the possibility of serving in your congregation as a faith community nurse? Wisconsin Lutheran College is putting the final touches on another online Faith Community Nursing Course, designed for both the experienced RN and the novice to be offered during the summer of 2017. The coursework will develop a Christian understanding and the tools needed to develop and volunteer as a faith community nurse. A matching funds grant has been awarded to WELSNA to help the RN and the congregation with the course fee by Christian Aid & Relief. Let us know of your interest. More information is coming soon.

Have you been asked to research health-related or medication administration forms for your church school? As more and more of our schools are going through the accreditation process, our nurses or school secretaries have been asked to look into this, leading them to contact WELSNA. Keeping in mind that not all of our schools will have the same needs with regard to these types of forms and each state may have different regulations for the parochial schools in that state, WELSNA would suggest an internet search of the regulations in your state. Try Googling your state’s parochial school medication administration forms. That being said, we have included several examples of forms used in one of our schools for you to see. They are not an official WELS form to be used by all of our schools. Just something for you to check out and perhaps adapt to meet your needs. Go to www.welsnurses.net under “Parish Nurse Resource Library” to view a medication policy and administration form, a food allergy care plan, and an asthma inhaler administration authorization form. Feel free to edit them to suit your needs.

 

 

 

 

 

OWLS meet in Omaha

For the first time, the Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) had an annual convention in a state outside of Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Illinois. The group met in Omaha, Neb., Oct. 11–13, under the theme “Enlarging the harvest.” About 160 members from around the United States attended.

WELS Administrator for Home Missions Rev. Keith Free served as keynote speaker, reminding attendees that the Lord is enlarging the harvest in North America. Rev. Michael Ewart spoke of his experiences in enlarging the harvest in Russia and Eastern Europe as well as through a cross-cultural ministry to the Sudanese Christians living in Omaha. WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military Rev. Paul Ziemer, spoke about enlarging the harvest through military services.

The convention was hosted by the River City OWLS. This was the final convention directed by convention chairman Mr. Dale Markgraf. Next year’s convention will be at the Country Springs in Waukesha, Wis., and directed by the new convention chairman Mr. Werner Lemke.

For three years now, the OWLS have provided scholarships to Martin Luther College students. This year, Cassie Doering, Dan Spaude, Charlotte Huebner, Colin Bahmer, and Gina Radue received scholarships.

For several years, the OWLS has supported the WELS European Civilian chaplaincy program, which serves military personnel and WELS civilians in Europe. This year, the OWLS raised $53,372, exceeding the initial goal of $50,000. The convention offering and the silent auction proceeds, together totaling $5,857, provide an encouraging first step toward the goal for next year.

Mr. John Paulsen, executive director of the OWLS, says, “I was heartened to see the enthusiasm of these many OWLS members who take the mission of the OWLS to serve the Lord seriously. They were very interested in what they could do in reaching the lost.”

 

 

 

Go directly to jail

Sarah Owens has been a Deaconess with Institutional Ministries since 1993, ministering to hurting and struggling youth, adults, and elderly.  Her current ministry takes her to four county jails in Wisconsin.

“Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.” For Monopoly players, that means a temporary setback in a board game. For two other groups of people, those words have signaled the start of either a nightmare or an incredible journey.

For the first group, those words may have followed a domestic dispute with their boyfriend or a traffic stop for drinking and driving. They may have been spoken by a probation officer after an angry friend made an accusation, landing the woman back in custody.

Sometimes it happens quite mysteriously. One pregnant woman knew those words were an answer to her prayer. She had told God that she would not have the courage to continue her pregnancy unless something like this happened. After being released on bail just before her healthy baby boy was born, she thanked God for the order: “Go directly to jail.” Another knew that, had she not heard those words, something much worse was likely to happen, as she had spent the last month killing herself with drugs and seeing friends die of overdoses.

To such women, “Go directly to jail” means that their freedom is suddenly taken away, their choices are very limited, and they are abruptly torn from their family, friends, and life as they knew it. This separation will extend for an unknown period of time. For some, visits and phone calls will be possible and money will be put “on the books.” Others will be left all alone. Either way, going directly to jail may mean missing holiday celebrations and children’s birthdays. It may mean missing funerals and grieving without family support. It may mean very painful withdrawal in uncomfortable, bleak surroundings.

And going directly to jail means the “not knowing” begins: Not knowing what charges may be pressed and which may be dropped; when court may be scheduled; when the process will be completed; what the final sentence will be. Not knowing if the visit will actually happen; whether any mail will come; whether the destination will be state prison, county jail, or if God wills, back home.

The need for patience, hope, and prayer becomes evident to many. Having a good and gracious God as a Rock in a place of sinking sand brings hope and peace. It may be all one has to keep going —knowing that there is a purpose and that Someone sees, knows, cares, forgives, saves.

But there is another audience who may hear, “Go directly to jail.” It is those who are called to take the hope and peace of Jesus into such an institution. Upon hearing the call, they may ask, “Why me? Do I know God’s Word well enough? Will I be received despite not having the same experiences as the women?”

Still, the directive echoes: “Go directly to jail.” One woman had done other volunteer work, but the thought of studying God’s Word and praying with and for hurting women was so intriguing. She has now been going to jail weekly for nearly ten years! For another woman, visits didn’t fit her schedule, or perhaps the doors in her county were not yet open. Instead, she became a pen pal, regularly sending words of encouragement to incarcerated women.

Some women find that praying for female inmates is their gift. Some have the resources and heart to financially support the ministry. This allows chaplains and volunteers in the three Wisconsin districts of WELS to minister in various prisons, jails, hospitals, nursing homes, and treatment centers. Institutional Ministries relies on gifts from individuals, congregations, and grants to continue reaching out to those in institutions with the saving love of Jesus.

The call is heard in Jesus’ beautiful words about the Good Shepherd who will “go after the lost sheep until he finds it.” It is heard in his passion as the Servant of sinners and as the Doctor for the spiritually sick. Jesus’ beautiful heart for the sick and hurting transforms our hearts as well.

May God give us compassion for those who hear “Go directly to jail” and are locked up. And may God give us wisdom to know how to respond when he tells us “Go directly to jail” with the keys that unlock the prison bars of sin.

For more information about Institutional Ministries, the Wisconsin partner of WELS Prison Ministry, visit their website at http://im.life

 

 

 

Reaching the mission field for 47¢

Kim does mission work from her home in Milwaukee, Wis.

Becoming a Prison Ministry pen pal started as a very timid attempt to fulfill the commitment I wanted to make to do what Christ asked: go into the mission field and share the Good News.

At first, I had no idea what I was getting into or what to expect, but nearly a decade later, I am still part of this incredible ministry and am more committed to it than ever. It is not always easy to correspond with complete strangers, and I have had my share of stumbles along the way, but what a privilege and a blessing to share God’s Word and friendship with those who need someone to hear them!

Most of my pen pals have families who have deserted them and friends who have abandoned them. They are alone in a dark and hostile environment where anger and resentment abound, and hope is all but gone. A letter is a ray of hope, a yearned-for and badly needed connection to someone—anyone—who cares about them. Tears have often filled my eyes at the humble thanks and heartfelt joy sent back to me by someone who is excited because they actually heard their name at mail call. And I now appreciate how much sending a birthday card can mean to someone.

I have been blessed to have pen pals who, for the most part, already have faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. A few can quote the Bible with an elegance that I can only hope to achieve one day. Others have many questions about their faith. One pen pal sent a list of questions with each letter. He studied the Bible with a thirst that was amazing to witness, and as I helped him learn, I learned too, and my own faith deepened.

But my letters are not always received with thanks. Sometimes it’s a wall of pessimism, and I’ve been accused of living with an unrealistic view of life. Some don’t want to hear God’s Word so much as they want to share a friendship. Yet because my faith is important to me and I become important to them… it is an awesome thing to watch God work! He truly does change hearts.

These pen pals are lonely and lost and want some sense of normalcy in their lives, but it’s not a one-way street. My letters are written to help and encourage and share God’s love, but I have found I get the same back tenfold. Sometimes I wonder: Who is helping whom?

To God be the glory!

You, too, can encourage inmates through correspondence. Contact WELS Prison Ministry for details, including a list of guidelines and precautions. Call 507-354-3130 or e-mail prisonministry@wels.net.

 

 

Reject, Resist, Recover

Mike Novotny serves as chairman of Conquerors through Christ.

I got an e-mail the other day from a Christian who feels so weak with a smart phone in his hand. Decades of Christian education. Read the Bible cover to cover. Yet he ends up in website places he shouldn’t be.

He’s not the only one. The Barna group recently published The Porn Phenomenon. It’s the largest study ever done of porn use in America. And it will keep you up at night. 14% of senior pastors studied confessed that using porn is a current struggle. If those numbers were true in the WELS, 195 active pastors would be currently struggling. If Barna’s numbers hold true for our synod, 20,726 confirmed WELS members would admit to viewing porn every week!

You get the point. People are losing the battle to porn. God’s people. Our people. And I’d bet my favorite Bible that some of you can relate. You know all about the shame, all about the secret, all about the habit.

But there is hope. If King David’s psalms and the woman-at-the-well’s joy and the stones that didn’t stone the adulteress are any proof, God loves sexual sinners. If Isaiah meant it when he said “our iniquities” and porn is an iniquity, then the Savior was pierced for porn users too. And if Paul knew what he was talking about, then grace can teach us to say no to worldly passions and live self-controlled lives.

That’s where Conquerors through Christ comes in. CtC is the WELS gospel-driven purity ministry that helps God’s people reject, resist, and recover from porn. Whether you want to reject your next click, teach your kids to resist their first click, or help a broken marriage recover from the last click, CtC is here to help. If you haven’t been to conquerorsthroughchrist.net, we just revamped the website with more resources to help you and those you love.

May I ask you today to do one of three things?

If you’re on Facebook, would you like CtC today? Liking CtC will make sure that we have the chance to encourage you and keep purity on the front burner of your thinking.

Would you support CtC financially? The requests for materials, presentations, and help are skyrocketing and we don’t want funding to stop us from helping. You can donate at wels.net/special-ministries/donate.

Would you bring up CtC at the next Bible study/council meeting/faculty gathering you attend? Show others the CtC website and brainstorm ways you can help protect God’s people from the wreckage of porn.

Would you pick one of those three? Because she needs you. I got an e-mail at 3:17 a.m. from a woman who couldn’t sleep (yes, women struggle too). The guilt. The shame. Could God love someone who struggles so much? she wondered. I told her yes. I typed and typed the gospel at her. It helped. But she’ll need more help than that. She’ll need to find a church family that talks about porn, opens its arms to porn users, makes it okay to confess the stuff that’s not okay. She’ll need you.

I know porn can be awkward to talk about, but let’s bring it into the light so that grace can have the last word.

 

 

His Hospice Hands

Dan Krause, LPC, MDiv, is a grief counselor with Heartland Hospice in Fond du Lac, Wis.

Meet Bill. At 48, he has lived an active life of sports and outdoor activities. He has a black lab, numerous friends from his community and his alma mater. He is also diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Since there is no treatment for his disease, he has chosen to receive hospice care. This care includes pain control and preparation for death. Under the direction of a physician, his hospice care team includes a nurse, a nursing assistant, a medical social worker, a volunteer, and a counselor (me). Bill has declined a spiritual care coordinator, a/k/a a chaplain. Bill explains he is done with church after years of Sunday school and confirmation as a youth.

As a hospice counselor, my role is to identify the patient’s resources or strengths to help him deal with the inevitable decline. In addition to social, emotional, and physical resources, I also ask about spiritual assistance. Bill was initially resistant to this inquiry, and it is unethical within the profession to pressure him into any such discussion.

However, as the weeks and visits passed, his physical condition worsened. I suggested to him that many people in his condition find strength in a relationship with God. He didn’t disagree, so I offered to read him some Scripture. He agreed! I shared the basic message of Christ’s love, forgiveness, and invitation to eternal life. He listened, accepted my offer to pray for him, then joined me in the Lord’s Prayer.
Only a couple more visits took place before his death. Bill lost his ability to speak, but on the last visit his lips mouthed an “Amen” in response to the devotion.

While hospice is typically funded by our government as a Medicare or Medicaid benefit, it includes spiritual care as an option and recognizes this discipline as therapeutically beneficial. There are many Christians in the vocation of hospice caregivers because they find it an expression of their faith: “I was sick, and you looked after me” (Matthew 25:36).

My then 20-year-old daughter volunteered with hospice. At the bedside, this college student encouraged the dying with her presence, conversation, Bible reading, and hymn singing. She brought joy and a Christian witness to the dying and their families. It was through her role as a volunteer that I was introduced to Juan, who then specifically asked for Christian care. He too had fallen away from his relationship with Jesus, and the Holy Spirit provided the opportunity to serve him with the Word in his final days on earth.

There are Christian hospice organizations, but like most of our medical agencies, hospices tend to be secular organizations. In each program, nonetheless, there is an option for spiritual care and a venue for Christians to provide a message of hope and eternal healing.

Hospice volunteers typically bring to the patient’s room a deck of cards, an approved pet, a book, or other activities, but the Christian visitor also blesses the room with their presence, prayer (at least silently), and a potential witness of life that never ends.

Hospice organizations recruit volunteers and are required by government standards to include them in their programs. Hospice is another avenue for God’s people to be “His Hands,” touching the dying in the closing days of their time of grace.

 

 

 

Rockin’ Camp Phillip with songs of joy

Lindsey Bowden lets her light shine as an ICU nurse at St. Clare’s Hospital, Weston, Wis.

“Sing a song of joy with me. Come on and shout it out loud!”

Sing, shout, and praise we did for five amazing days in the middle of God’s creation at Camp Phillip, near Wautoma, Wis. Staff, counselors, and junior staff joined several adult volunteers to put on a special week of programming (Theme: ROCK ON!) for participants of Jesus Cares Ministries programs. With just over 50 special needs campers, the week required all hands on deck to make the week ROCK!

As one of two nurses at camp, my days started early and ended late, but the stuff in the middle made it all worth it. Where else can a nurse pass morning medications while warbling “I Am a Crocodile”? Or sing “Siyahamba” on the way to the waterfront with that one camper who agreed to go only if the nurse went too?

While those memories will last a lifetime, the genuine faith of these special campers is what brings me back each year. Watching them proclaim their faith in words, songs, and actions is truly amazing. The Holy Spirit is present, active, alive.

Each year there are a few “new” campers that come with friends, and some have never heard the Good News. The counselors quickly go from nervous about caring for someone with special needs to sharing stories of Jesus and showing the love our Savior brings. Mimi Richmond, an adult volunteer, agrees: “It’s what keeps bringing me back. Everyone is so excited to praise the Lord and hear about their Savior. The love shared between the young counselors and the campers is nothing short of amazing!”

“What do you do at camp?” This question comes up a lot. I was responsible for the 28 female campers and their medications, which takes up most of my time. I support the counselors, most of whom have very little background in special needs. The rest of the time is spent having fun and interacting with the campers. They have many activities throughout the day where an extra set of hands is always welcome. Morning praise, Bible time, crafts, campfire…the list goes on! This is where the other adult volunteers focus their time. Some lead the classes and activities; others lend a helping hand where needed.

One of the favorite activities is always waterfront. Camp Phillip has a beautiful area where campers can be found swimming, splashing, and having fun. The shouts of glee are contagious, like the cheers for “BELLY FLOP!” as campers call out each counselor to perform their best dive. The rowboats and paddleboats also get put to good use. Several campers opt to just sit on the shore and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

With a theme like “ROCK ON!” one can expect a lot of singing. The days began and ended with the campers belting out songs of joy, quickly learning the actions to go with them. The Spirit was present, the love of the Savior contagious. “He’s the ROCK of all Salvation, LORD of all creation. Alleluia, ROCK ON!”

 

 

Shoulder to shoulder

Paul Ziemer is WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military.

“I left Vietnam. But Vietnam never left me.” This veteran’s lament is not uncommon from those who have spent part of their life defending our nation.

He might have also said, “I left the military, but the military never left me.” Whether in times of peace or war, military service leaves an imprint upon a person’s life. The young submariner, who had the assignment of pushing the button to release a nuclear weapon, came away a different person – even if he never did push that button.

America tends to view itself as a civilian nation with a small percentage of its citizens in the armed forces. WELS congregations tend to view themselves in the same way. Many congregations would say they have no military members. That would be wrong. They forget the great number of WELS members who have the uniform packed away in an attic and memories stored in their minds.

Once a person has taken off the uniform, we classify him as a civilian, just like the rest of us. But he isn’t. Neither is she. Just ask anyone who lives with a veteran Marine.

Starting with basic training, a bond has been forged with others who have risked their lives, and some who have lost their lives, to protect the civilians who don’t understand what this means. The line between active duty and veteran is very narrow. The bond is very tight.

As a synod, it is difficult to find evidence that we have recognized this fact or have responded to the needs and opportunities this brings.
There are WELS members who return to war every night in their dreams. Some return with every loud noise. Other WELS members daily launch from flight decks to drop weapons on faraway places. Some work in the silence of ocean depths. Some watch over valleys and deserts. Some plan and prepare and strenuously train, just to be ready. All are tied to one another.

Those who served years ago now march in their minds with those who wear the combat boots today. A veteran Marine once said: “Only those who have served know the needs of those who still serve, and they are best equipped to meet those needs.”

The Lutheran Military Support Group (LMSG) has arisen to meet that challenge. Organized by veterans, made up of veterans, they have stepped forward with a “Can do!” attitude to support the ministry to all who wore, or still wear, the uniform.

The Lord has blessed their efforts in amazing ways. Close to 250 congregations in both the ELS and WELS have joined their ranks. Within each congregation is a squad volunteering to serve their Lord by serving their military brothers and sisters.

The list of financial grants for ministry to the military is a long one. But more important is their emotional and spiritual support. They understand. They care. They pray.
In support of those who know what it means to defend a nation, they stand shoulder to shoulder.

Check out their website at lutheranmilitary.org. To learn more about WELS military ministry or to refer military personnel, visit wels.net/military.

 

 

 

Special Needs Network: Christian fellowship with other parents “in the trenches”

Wendy Heyn and her husband Juerg have three young children.

When my son was born and later diagnosed with profound disabilities, our life changed drastically.

A life dealing with play dates, housework, temper tantrums, car seats – all the usual things that young families deal with – now involved therapies, supplemental oxygen, deep suctioning, swallow studies, feeding teams, and adjusted expectations. Our friends and family love us and made valiant efforts to support our family, yet I yearned to connect with others who truly understood some of what we were dealing with.

I had made friends at therapies and in the hospital who could advise me about doctors, therapies, and life with special needs. Some of those friendships have been incredibly valuable over the years, but I longed for friends who understood the difficulties of mothering a child with special needs and could also encourage me with eternal hope and a mutual focus on Christ.

My first instinct was to search for those connections within my new church home, St. John, Wauwatosa, Wis. As we met new families, I noticed that several had a child with special needs and I found myself wishing to connect with them more. I knew that our pastor and his wife, Lorna Leyrer, have an adult son with Down syndrome, so I spoke to her and we came up with a plan for a fellowship group.

For the first couple of years our group met in a room at church. We recently began meeting at a nearby coffee shop. Both the church and coffee shop are centrally located for Milwaukee residents and very near Children’s Hospital (a familiar area for many of the parents). We welcome parents with children or adult children who have any sort of special needs – physical, cognitive, medical, emotional, or social.

The focus has shifted over the years. In the early years we invited presenters: disability advocates, therapy dog agencies, etc. We realized, though, that parents were getting those types of things from the community.

What we were really seeking was spiritual encouragement from Scripture and from our Christian family. So these days we focus on spiritual encouragement and connections with other believers. “Praise be to…the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

We meet at City Market café at 9:30 on one Saturday morning each month. One of us arrives early to get a table; as the rest arrive, we can each purchase a coffee and snack. We visit and share some hugs, then a devotion or devotional activity and prayer. After that we take time to talk. These mornings have become a cherished time of fellowship, truly being “in the trenches” with other parents who face similar challenges and celebrate similar joys. We always welcome new faces!

For more information, call St. John’s church office at 414-258-7831.Parents can find more resources at wels.net/specialneeds.

 

 

 

Grace abounds in a women’s prison

Vi Schrupp is a retired WELS teacher and a member at Faith, Excelsior, Minn.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”  (2 Corinthians 12:9).

March 7, 2010, was an important day to four (soon to be six) volunteers who would lead their first Saturday morning Bible class at the Women’s Correctional Facility in Shakopee, Minn. Over 650 female inmates have access to many educational and job-training opportunities, but may also join various religious groups such as Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Native American, even Wiccan.

I needed to push aside the early “what if” concerns and focus instead on the “new door” of opportunity the Lord had opened to share the gospel. It’s a privilege that we get to do it! We can trust the Lord is walking through that new door with each of us volunteers.

God’s grace was seen very quickly. First, when the Lord provided a fine Christian friend and co-teacher who fills in the gaps where I am weak. We encourage one another and share the joy. More grace appeared in the trust and support we receive from the facility staff and chaplain.

Grace again and again: when women request more Bible study materials; when they invite roommates and friends to class; when they share what the Holy Spirit has taught them through their personal study of God’s Word. There is even an occasional request for baptism from someone who now understands the blessings God gives in the sacrament.

As questions arise, we search Scripture together for God’s answers. When God is very clear and human reason doubts, we point to Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” When curiosity prompts questions without Biblical answers, we know God will share what is needed when we reach heaven, or we may find those questions won’t matter to us any longer. Meanwhile, we focus on Jesus and the cross as revealed in Scripture for our salvation.

Six leaders with different personalities, gifts, and approaches to Bible study. Dozens of inmates with different personalities, gifts, knowledge of Scripture, and burdens to carry. Yet all are God’s children, under God’s grace, and being led by the Holy Spirit to trust in Jesus as their Savior. Even to women in prison, Jesus brings his forgiveness and eternal life, as he promises: “My word…will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

It doesn’t get any better than being messengers of God’s grace. All praise to him who reigns forever!

Curious about bringing the freedom of Christ to the incarcerated? The Jail Ministry Training Team equips volunteers for ministry in correctional facilities. Call Pastor Rick Tuttle at 320-420-1414 or e-mail rick.tuttle@wels.net.

 

 

Are you ready to welcome an ex-offender?

Brad Price is Administrator of WELS Prison Ministry.

Recently, President Obama commuted sentences for a record-breaking 214 inmates in one day. To date, he has granted clemency for nearly 600 prisoners across the United States since he took office. While this number may sound large, it pales in comparison to the large number of those released from prison each day. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 650,000 inmates are released each year. That is an average of nearly 2,000 every day!

As citizens, we might be intimidated meeting one of these 2,000 individuals. But as Christians, we are called to welcome them. Is your congregation ready for this opportunity? Are you personally ready? Knowing about the challenges and resources available can help you and your congregation be prepared.

There is great joy in helping those who have been impacted by incarceration. At WELS Prison Ministry, each week we receive letters from inmates who share their personal stories of how Jesus has freed them from their guilt of sin.

With this joy there is also a great challenge to help these returning citizens. As crazy as it may sound, for those incarcerated for more than just a few years, prison can be more welcoming than being “free.” While released inmates are happy to see family and friends again, there remain challenges, such as finding employment and housing, or dealing with advances in technology that make it difficult to acclimate successfully. Understanding these personal challenges is a big step in being mentally prepared to serve this special group.

Having adequate resources and training for both released inmates and members is also important. WELS Prison Ministry has several resources specifically written to help returning citizens. Facing Freedom is a booklet that addresses the issues of change, stress and worry, starting over, and becoming self-sufficient, with motivation from God’s Word. Another resource is Water of Life, a collection of Bible studies that a mentor can use in conjunction with Facing Freedom. Friends in Christ is a training program for mentoring men and women who are re-entering society.

Beyond WELS Prison Ministry, Conquerors through Christ (conquerorsthroughchrist.net) offers help for those struggling with pornography, and Freedom for the Captives (freedomforcaptives.com) addresses issues that afflict victims of childhood abuse.

A valid concern for congregations is how to handle sexual offenders who desire to attend services or join the congregation. The Congregational Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Offenders handbook, available online at the WELS Resource Center (csm.welsrc.net), addresses many of these concerns. This valuable booklet also outlines procedures congregations can implement to keep members of all ages safe from sexual predators while on church property.

The challenges involved with ministering to returning citizens are certainly worth the effort. We were all lost sheep at one point, until Jesus came looking for us. Jesus died and rose for these sheep as well.

For more information on this topic, please contact Brad Price at prisonministry@wels.net.