Tag Archive for: special ministries

Her Many Sins Have Been Forgiven; That is Why She Loved so Much

“Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that is why she loved so much. But the one who is forgiven little loves little.” (EHV Lk 7:47). Jesus said these words after a woman, who is simply described as sinful, showed Jesus love by cleaning his feet with her tears and her hair. Whereas the master of the house, a Pharisee, did not show any such love to Jesus. Truly, those who have been forgiven much do love much. That love shows itself in many different ways, but I got to see this love in action recently – in prison of all places.

It started when Wanda Markland began her new job as warden of the Women’s Prison in Pierre, S.D., about a year ago. Warden Markland has done many good things for the prison, perhaps the most impactful was bringing WELS Prison Ministry materials to the women’s prison. Besides some books being available to read at the prison’s library, many of them are available to be taken for free by the inmates. That is, if they get there fast enough. Amanda Kaur, an inmate who works at the library, said that sometimes they have to fill the free rack more than twice a day with WELS Prison books! With WELS Prison Ministry devotional books being distributed among the inmates, lives within the prison have been changed in ways only God through his Word could accomplish.

Many prisoners thirst for God’s Word. Being asked what these devotional books meant to her, Katherine Dillard simply said, “Everything.” Those devotional books were one way she was able to study the Bible. Others replied to the same question saying that because of the books they know they are loved; they know they are not alone; and they are able to grow in their spiritual life. One inmate even sought to be baptized after she read the devotional books. These books mean more than the world to those women. May the Lord have all Christians view God’s Word with the same importance!

Where there is faith there are good works. These women, having heard God’s Word, did not want to keep this good news to themselves. They too wanted to do what they could to share God’s Word with others who need to hear it. Therefore, being moved by Christian love, inmates raised funds from what little they had to give a donation to WELS Prison Ministry. These women may not be able to wash Jesus feet with their tears and their hair, but they are showing him much love by studying his Word and showing love to others by spreading his Word.

Pastor John Schwartz serves at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Pierre, S.D.

 

 

 

There, but for the grace of God, go I

At one time we all lived among [other sinners]. We tried to satisfy what our sinful nature wanted to do. We followed its longings and thoughts. God was angry with us and everyone else because of the kind of people we were. But God loves us deeply. He is full of mercy. So he gave us new life because of what Christ has done. He gave us life even when we were dead in sin. God’s grace has saved you. Ephesians 2:3-5 (NiRV 1998)

I’m surprised by how frequently I encounter the idea that there are “good” people and “bad” people in the world. To be sure, one can look around and immediately find examples of people whose outward lives conform to God-pleasing (or at least law-abiding) behavior. Other people make no effort to behave in a way that pleases God, even taking pride in their law breaking. Entertainment is full of law enforcement personnel (the good guys) trying to track down and lock up the monsters (the bad guys). We even hear some Christians voicing the question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

This kind of thinking can come too easily to anyone, even those who share Jesus with people behind bars. If we are not careful, Satan can get us to believe the lie that we are somehow inherently better or more valuable to God than the people we serve. Paul doesn’t let us go there. He reminds us clearly that every single one of us was, by nature, dead in sin and deserved God’s anger. But God’s grace and love made faith come to life within us. We trust that Christ obliterated all our sins, whether great or small in the eyes of the world. God now sees anyone who trusts in Jesus’ life and death in his or her place as perfectly fit for life with him forever. The grandma who never missed a Sunday in church for decades AND the man on death row, because of their trust in Jesus, wear the robes of Jesus’ righteousness. Both of them are not just good, but perfect people.

Tradition, though it cannot be proven, attributes our devotion’s title to an English clergyman as he watched a line of condemned men being led to the gallows. When we realize how “unfair” God is, namely punishing his Son for our sins instead of us, we are better able to be compassionate and seek the welfare of others. We had an amazing reminder of that recently. Make sure you catch the story in this issue of how God’s love to some inmates in South Dakota moved them to extend that love to others. Those who are forgiven much, love much.

Dave Hochmuth, WELS Prison Ministry Administrator

 

 

 

Welcome Home can be challenging

Welcoming a member who has been absent or scarce for a while back to church can be challenging in many circumstances, but especially if the person has spent time behind bars. The person trying to return to society in general and to one’s church family often has a barrier of shame. If addictive behaviors were a factor in the conviction, avoiding people or environments that trigger these behaviors is particularly difficult, which leads to a staggeringly high re-arrest rate.

Our efforts to welcome home members of Jesus’ flock that have wandered can demonstrate great love at a time of great need. Focusing these efforts on a specific Sunday can create needed urgency and encouragement to prompt us to act. But some wandering and lost sheep will take extra love and multiple invitations. Let us not grow weary of doing good.

WELS Prison Ministry has resources that are helpful for paving the road for released inmates to join or rejoin the family of Christ. Go to csm.welsrc.net/prison-ministry-resources to find:

  • Samples of the “Water of Life” Bible studies specifically designed for returning citizens. The entire set of Bible Studies is available free for ministry use using the linked order form.
  • Congregational Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Offenders. These guidelines are downloadable.
  • A link to a Forward in Christ article describing the mentoring program for struggling individuals initiated by congregations in the New Ulm, Minn., area.

If you have any questions regarding ways your congregation can show love to released inmates in helpful yet careful ways, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth ([email protected]).

 

 

 

More Visibility for WELS Prison Ministry

In recent months we have had opportunities to share the joy of prison ministry with fellow WELS members and will have several more in the months ahead. The recently filmed 25th anniversary video was played at the 2019 WELS Convention last August. The video is available for viewing anytime on our website’s home page, wels.net/pm. We also had display booths at the WELS EdTechLead conference and LWMS convention in June, as well as the OWLS convention in October. We continue to reach out to future called workers with our monthly WELS Prison Ministry MLC student nights.

Some upcoming activities in December will give more awareness of our efforts. Forward in Christ magazine will contain an article describing the faith journey of former inmate, Daryl Fleck. He became connected with our correspondence course program while serving time in Minnesota. Upon release he sought out a WELS congregation, completed the Bible Information Course, and became a member. Daryl appeared in our 25th anniversary video.

In addition to Daryl’s story, the WELS Connection video used by many congregations will feature how WELS Special Ministries shows love and shares Christ with people in special circumstances. Prison Ministry will appear as a specific example. Finally, our ministry will also be featured in the quarterly mailing sent to people who give special or ongoing gifts directly to synod.

Watch for these stories in video and print. Use them as opportunities to share with friends the joy Jesus gives you in your Prison Ministry role. Invite those friends to join you in supporting (with prayer, volunteer time, or financial support) this amazing outreach ministry that shares Jesus with people impacted by incarceration.

 

 

 

From a recent inmate letter

“I am currently incarcerated in the Texas Department of Corrections…and came across a brother in Christ who is currently enrolled in your mail-in Bible study course. What a great gift you offer to sinners such as ourselves! I thank you whole-heartedly for your continued devotion to reach out to people such as ourselves that society would much rather lock away and “throw away the key.”

Many brothers in here have lost everything and EVERYONE and it is nice to see their faces light up when they receive mail from ministries such as yours. For a lot of these people, it is a sense of encouragement and joy to know that they are NOT forgotten and that there is SOMEONE out there who cares for them and prays for them.

Again, “thank you” for that, on behalf of those who may not express their gratitude. I see it! And God sees your works! May God continue to bless each and every one of you so that you may continue to share those blessings.”

Your brother in Christ,
Mario

 

 

Pen Pal Pipeline

Pen pal writing is an important way for us to share the gospel with inmates. So far in 2019, we have had 494 letters from inmates to 67 different pen pals come through our New Ulm office. It is incredible that we can reach so many with the gospel one on one!

The safety of the pen pal writer is always of vital concern for the Prison Ministry staff. Our Volunteer Guidelines state: “The only address you should use in your correspondence with your pen pal is: WELS Prison Ministry, PO Box 452, New Ulm, MN 56073. Send your pen pal letter to the above address. Use only Prison Ministry stationery and envelopes. This will ensure that the inmate does not know where you live….”

We urge you to abide by these instructions. Even if you feel your inmate is trustworthy, this prevents any chance that your name and address could fall into the hands of someone else in the facility that could do you harm.

Thanks for your faithful service to our ministry. You are reaching souls with God’s Word every time you write a letter, and God blesses those words even if you don’t see it. If you are not a pen pal and are interested in learning more, please contact the New Ulm office at [email protected] or at 507-354-3130.

(Spanish – translated to English) I write to you to thank you for the tests because they have helped me a lot and I have learned about the life of Jesus, of how much he loves us as it says in John 3:16. Thank you for praying for me…you have helped me so much to learn beautiful things from the word of God. May his peace be with you. – Leo

 

 

 

OWLS mining for Jesus at annual convention

The Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) was “mining for Jesus” this year at its annual convention for seniors in Galena, Ill., Oct. 7-9. The region around Galena was known for mining of lead when the first settlers came to the area, but the OWLS came in search of spiritual treasure found only in the Savior and the life he gives.

The four main speakers presented ways to be “miners for Jesus.” Missionary Dan Sargent presented on how God helps us to accomplish his plans bit by bit, Christian Life Resources Director Rev. Bob Fleischmann shared how a lifetime of experience prepares us, Special Ministries Director Rev. Jim Behringer’s presentation was titled “Christian caring matters,” and Chaplain Ken Wenzel spoke about lessons on Christian hope connected with medical objects.

Galena is known for its historic downtown and the beautiful countryside around it. Attendees had the opportunity to visit the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in nearby Dubuque, Iowa­, before the opening of the convention. An unexpected highlight of the convention happened as a result of a last-minute necessity. The cancellation of the musical entertainment led the organizers to ask OWLS President Norman Schell to do a presentation on the American effort to put a man on the moon. Schell worked on the Apollo project and showed some never-before-seen pictures of the project.

The OWLS rejoiced at the creation of a new OWLS branch in Downers Grove, Ill. Members of the new branch were present to receive their charter and a warm welcome into the organization.

For more than a decade, the OWLS has used its offerings to support the WELS European Civilian chaplaincy, which serves military personnel and WELS civilians in Europe. This year, the OWLS presented Military Services with a check for $50,000 for work in Europe. Two convention offerings and record proceeds from a silent auction were directed for next year’s gift to the work of the chaplain in Europe as well.

The OWLS also provides $350 scholarships to six Martin Luther College students. This year’s recipients are Claudia Meyer, Morgan Gosch, Daniel Bilitz, Dayne Kopfer, Clara Kammueller, and Derek Gulrud.

Professor Em. John Paulsen, OWLS executive director, says, “This convention provided a chance for everyone to grow in historical knowledge and about researching and preserving your own history. Everyone I talked with said that they had learned so much and enjoyed the convention at the Eagle Ridge Resort, all the while able to see eagles soar in the distance over the lake below.”

The 2020 OWLS convention for seniors will be held in New Ulm, Minn. With the theme “Tell the Next Generation,” the convention will have a special focus on Martin Luther College. The convention is open to all seniors in WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, regardless of OWLS membership.

 

 

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Lutheran Leadership Conference to kick off 2020

WELS Congregational Services will host the first WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership at the Sheraton Grand in Chicago, Ill., Jan. 21-23. WELS Congregational Services works under the Conference of Presidents to help congregations assess, plan, and carry out gospel ministry.

The conference will have five keynote presentations that deal with major cultural challenges before every WELS congregation. Twenty-five breakout sessions will deal with issues specific to certain congregations, including overcoming a consumer mentality in church, Christian apologetics, increasing volunteerism, retaining and gaining young members, fully utilizing the gifts of women in ministry, equipping members for personal evangelism, having a “high-expectations” church, strategic planning, using social media for outreach, operating a financially sustainable elementary school, and more.

“I hope individuals walk away from this conference with three things,” says Rev. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of Congregational Services. “First, I hope they are motivated to throw themselves into gospel ministry in every way: feeding the faithful, reaching the lost, and pursuing the straying. Second, I hope attendees better understand the massive challenges before our congregations but also realize that God will help us meet those challenges. Finally, I hope that they can take home some practical resources from the breakout sessions that they can immediately implement in their mission efforts.”

The National Conference on Lutheran Leadership is open to all: called workers and lay volunteers, men and women, lifelong Lutherans and new congregants. Congregations are encouraged to send multiple participants to the conference.

“A church gets the most out of a conference like this when there is a critical mass of members attending,” Hein says. “They can divide up and hit every relevant breakout. They can present a united, excited voice when they go back to their congregation.”

Travel rebates are available for congregations that send three or more individuals to the event.

Registration is now open, with an early registration discount through Oct. 31. Register online at lutheranleadership.com. There you can also find free promotional materials—including a video, posters, social media graphics, and other digital images.

 

 

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Learning to be a church that welcomes members home

As part of its “Welcome Home” initiative resources, WELS Congregational Services released a series of four videos with accompanying Bible studies to address some of the most common reasons Christians stop attending church and how to show love and minister to these members. The videos are meant to be used by congregational leaders and members to guide congregations as they strive to bring straying sheep back to the Good Shepherd. Rev. Nate Bourman, Mt. Lebanon, Milwaukee, Wis., was featured in the videos discussing how to be a welcoming congregation.

Bourman explains that a welcoming church is “a church where no one stands or sits alone; everyone feels comfortable and safe. A place where everyone knows what is going on and feels that they can navigate the facilities or get information about our congregation. A place where parents, adults, and children feel safe to hear God’s Word and can easily participate and are welcomed to participate.”

He says the most common reasons he’s heard that members haven’t felt welcome is because they weren’t greeted, no one talks to them, and they felt like an outsider. “It’s possible to be a stranger in your own house,” says Bourman.

It’s important that all members participate in being a welcoming church. “Care and concern for the members of the church is not just the pastor’s job. It is not just the elders’ job. It is the job of each and every member. Love calls us to participate in their care. None of us sits on the sidelines when it comes to welcoming God’s people home,” says Bourman. “All are coming to church with sin and weakness and brokenness and frustration. Be part of the throng rejoicing to gather for worship with each other.”

All congregations are encouraged to participate in the Welcome Home Sunday, either Oct. 20 or 27, 2019. The mission is to “pack the church” with every member. The four videos and accompanying Bible studies in the Welcoming Returning Members series—“Members drawn away because of sin,” “Members who left after being sinned against,” “Members whose needs were ignored,” and “Members who left for another church”—are available at welscongregationalservices.net/welcome-home.

 

 

 

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Ask and you will receive…

Give thanks and glory to God for his ability to bless us far beyond our ability to ask or imagine. Earlier this year we asked God and his people to provide the means necessary to continue this ministry at current levels because support had fallen to concerning levels. We are overjoyed to share that response to our request has been amazingly encouraging. For the month of April our gifts from individuals increased significantly in both the number of gifts and the total amount given compared to recent months. WELS Prison Ministry was also given a special invitation to request additional grant funding from the Marvin M. Schwan Charitable Foundation. Because of these additional funds, we anticipate ending our fiscal year on June 30 with a similar amount in our operating fund as when we began the fiscal year. In other words, our total funding for the fiscal year will be approximately equal to our expenses, despite having some significantly higher printing costs than normal this year. We now are focusing on how to sustain our funding at these higher levels so that our work can continue unhindered by financial constraints in the years to come.

Three ways to support our ministries

Pray – As God’s redeemed children, our prayers are powerful and effective. Current prayer requests include: help us find ways to distribute God’s word electronically, especially where our booklets are not permitted; help us develop effective jail ministry and mentoring training; help us find a sustainable long-term funding plan.

Serve – All our ministry efforts are driven by volunteers motivated by Christ’s love. To volunteer as a pen pal or a test corrector, please contact us at [email protected] or 507-354-3130. To explore jail visitation or post-release mentoring opportunities, e-mail
[email protected] or call 414-256-3243.

Give – Much of WELS Prison Ministry financial support comes from people like you. We need it to continue to share Jesus. To support this work:

Send your gift to:
WELS Prison Ministry
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI 53188-1108
(Make checks payable to WELS Prison Ministry)

Donate online at wels.net/sm-donation, click on “Designation” and choose: “Prison Ministry.”

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

In Christ,
WELS Prison Ministry Staff

 

 

Unexpected blessings

Matt Brown, a WELS pastor in Houston, Texas, shares how God used a recent visit with an inmate to bring about unexpected blessings.

Yesterday I almost did not go to the jail at my regularly scheduled time to visit inmates. I was with a family that was taking a loved one off of life support and felt it necessary to be with them during these hours. I spent time with the family in God’s Word until the doctors informed us their loved one would more than likely hang on a few more days.

After some hesitation, I headed to the jail in what became a driving rain storm, yet another seemingly credible reason to skip my visit. However, the Lord got me safely to my destination. Upon my arrival, the secretary handed me an inmate request. I immediately recognized the name. When I entered his cell in the infirmary, sure enough, it was he–the individual with whom I had started this jail ministry some 18 months prior. He had been arrested in the summer of 2017 and asked that I bail him out. I did not bail him out, but I did meet with him twice. Now here I was, visiting with him again. I shared a devotion with him about the day of Pentecost. I expressed to him that he was responsible, in a way, for the gospel coming to hundreds of souls in that jail. More specifically, my first visit with him opened the door that has since led to 300-400 personal law and gospel presentations as well as distribution of 300 devotion books from WELS Prison Ministry, 300 New Testaments, and thousands of WELS Spanish Bible studies. These resources are being used by all the chaplains in the jail.

I often forget how the Lord uses the little things we do in some big ways. Yesterday made me realize again that the Pentecost power of the gospel is working even when we don’t see it.

Thanks Matt! What a great reminder of the joyful blessings that come unexpectedly to us, to inmates, and to the whole body of Christ as we carry out his mission.

 

 

 

New Prison Ministry video and new Bible study booklet

New WELS Prison Ministry video to premier

There won’t exactly be a red carpet, but we are celebrating 25 years of God’s blessings to WELS Prison Ministry with a short video. Produced by Boettcher+Trinklein Television Inc., the video introduces a new generation to WELS Prison Ministry and the amazing opportunities we have to share Jesus with people impacted by incarceration. Filmed in April, the video shows the blessings Jesus gives to both those who serve in the ministry and those who are being served.

At press time we anticipate that the new video will be available for some of the summer conferences and conventions in our synod. The video will also introduce people who visit our website at wels.net/pm to Prison Ministry. Check our website periodically over the next few weeks. After the video appears, invite friends to learn more about this amazing ministry and explore ways in which they might become involved.

New Bible study booklet introduced

This spring WELS Prison Ministry announced an addition to our list of self-study courses: “Dealing with Depression and Anxiety.” The stress, loneliness, and discouragement of incarceration make depression a serious problem in jails and prisons. The six chapters in this book relate the real-life stories of men and women who have dealt with depression or anxiety, including an inmate and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. These stories testify to the power of Jesus Christ as a key to gaining the victory.

This is the 23rd “Level 1” booklet we have produced and make available free of charge to any inmate who requests it from an institution that will allow us to mail it to him or her. Thank you for your support, which enables our efforts to share Jesus in very practical ways with people impacted by incarceration.

 

 

A thanks to MLC students

Since its inception, Prison Ministries has relied on the gracious efforts of volunteers to help carry out the great commission. Part of this volunteer base is located at Martin Luther College where students gather to participate in the worthwhile spiritual care of those who find themselves in jail or prison. A major part of this ministry involves test correcting and encouraging. Inmates who request the Bible study booklets can complete the test included at the end of each booklet before advancing to the next one. While correcting these tests, the inclusion of positive remarks can uplift and strengthen the faith of the inmate. These MLC students graduate and can pass their enthusiasm and love for hurting souls on to members of their congregations, whether as called workers or laypersons. Thank you to those students who have given freely of their time to support this important outreach for the growth of God’s kingdom. May he bless these endeavors for the generations to come.

 

 

 

Love as I Have Loved You

Adapted from a devotion by WELS Congregational Services Director Jon Hein

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35 (NIV)

I sort of wish Jesus hadn’t said that. I would have preferred him to say, “If you are wearing a cross or if you go to church, everyone will know you are my disciple.” Though I know people who wear a cross or go to church and don’t follow Christ. Others think wearing a cross or attending church somehow makes them better than others. Instead, as a mark of discipleship, Jesus picked a task that is, in a sense, so easy even a three-year-old can do it. So easy. And yet…showing Christian love…also so, so, so hard.

What makes it so hard when Jesus asks us to love? A couple things. First, we know that in God’s eyes, love is more than an emotion—it is an action. Say I see a homeless man and, because I’m kindhearted, I feel bad for him. That kindly feeling does nothing to fill his belly.

That leads to a second reason why showing Christian love is so hard. We know the length to which God would have those actions go. The standard for love is Christ himself. And he is awfully loving. John chapter 13 begins with Jesus taking off all his outer clothing, wrapping a towel around his waist, pouring water into a large bowl, and—one-by-one—washing the disciples’ dirty feet. Man! You need help moving furniture in your office. I’m there. Your car needs a jump. I got the cables and am happy to help. Your feet stink. . . brothers and sisters, if I’m being honest, I might draw the line there. Not Jesus. Jesus’ love never draws lines. On the evening of that same Maundy Thursday, Jesus predicted Peter’s denial. He excused Judas to go and betray him. Jesus didn’t have any expectations that people would ever be as loving to him as he was to them. He just showed love, without expecting any payback.

In 1 Corinthians 13 Jesus says things like, “Love is patient; love is kind; love never fails; love keeps no record of wrongs.” To show the type of selfless, sacrificial love that Jesus showed . . . to demonstrate love that draws no lines, that knows no limits. . . that’s too much. When we think like that, we need to remember that Jesus does not say, “a new suggestion I give you.” He also does not say, “a new helpful tip I leave for you.” He says this is the will of the Lord and King that you love one another as I have loved you.

But here’s the thing with Jesus. . . every single time he asks us to do something, he also gives us the ability. Flawed and foolish humans sometimes ask the impossible. Your boss might demand that a task be completed by a certain day and time. And you may want to say, “Dude, unless you have the ability to magically make days have 30 hours instead of 24, there is no way that gets done on time.” Jesus is not flawed. He’s not foolish. When he asks us to do something, he gives us the power to do it.

Christian love gains an audience for the gospel. When unbelievers look at believers, they see a radical love within them. They experience it. They want to know more. It is going to take more than wearing a cross or going to church for others to see you are a disciple of Jesus. Think of the inmate who is convinced everyone has given up on them, or one who has recently been released and is struggling mightily to adapt. Has Christ empowered you to give a love that draws no lines and knows no limits to this person? God grant it among us all. Amen.

 

 

 

A Devotional Thought: Freedom

By Pastor Darren Green, Prison Committee Chairman

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free.”
Luke 4:18 (NIV)

Freedom! It is a word that describes all kinds of situations, cherished liberties, and emotions. However, the freedom we find in Jesus is one of the greatest gifts our God brings to us. Jesus came “to proclaim good news.” Guilt is one of the heaviest burdens that humans carry. I think of Doug, a man oppressed by his past. He had done his time and put his life together. Yet, as we talked about standing before God, Doug was troubled. I got the impression of him dragging a ball and chain of guilt along through his life. As we looked at Jesus’ words and promises, the good news, namely that Jesus came to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners” and “set the oppressed free,” became clear to Doug. His burden was lifted. With a smile on his face and a tingle up his spine, Doug heard Jesus free him and give him the peace that he needed. It almost seemed like Doug was floating on air. It gave me a renewed appreciation of the peace that only our Lord can give.

Take note of how often God speaks of taking away our guilt. The Lord said to Isaiah, “your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for”(Isaiah 6:7). As you read Psalm 32, you can hear David’s struggle following his sin of adultery and murder. He bottled it up inside and it about destroyed him. After the Lord sought David out through Nathan, David breaths this freedom he finds from God: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

What a compassionate and loving God we have that reaches down to us to make sure we hear that not only are our sins forgiven, but the guilt taken away. What a privilege we have to lead those imprisoned by their guilt to hear the voice of Jesus our Lord. Tell them they are freed in him! It is God’s Word and so God is speaking! Our God, the one we must stand before in judgment, says, “FREE!” The same Jesus that lived among us saw the oppression that sin and guilt brings. He desires that we live free as “new creations” and “ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

 

 

Joining Jesus on His Prison Mission

News about our efforts to share Jesus going forward

A recent book about sharing Jesus is titled “Joining Jesus on His Mission.” I like the emphasis on Jesus and the joy and blessings we receive by joining him in his work. Sharing Jesus is something we get to do as opposed to some duty. The senior citizens that started our prison ministry effort 25 years ago certainly had that attitude. They wanted to send the gospel where they couldn’t go. Since then WELS Prison Ministry focused primarily on that publication ministry, distributing well over a million copies of God’s Word to inmates, either in Bibles or Bible studies. This effort has been a great blessing to both inmates and volunteers, who helped with mailing, test correcting, or being pen pals.

At a strategic planning session last November, the Prison Ministry Committee (PMC) met to plan our efforts under the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The session produced many exciting ideas that we are asking God’s people to support with their time as volunteers, their financial gifts, or both. Here are some of the plans in which we’d like you to play a part.

Rebuilding the foundation

Usage of our publication ministry, housed in New Ulm, Minn., has slowed compared to years past. The PMC identified several steps needed to revitalize this foundational element of our efforts to share Jesus. Among these steps are tasks such as:

• Release a new Bible study on dealing with depression and anxiety
• Publicize this new study with both current and former users (chaplains and facilities)
• Evaluate historic usage patterns and target key facilities for personal contact
• Pray that the Holy Spirit opens both new and formerly open doors for our material

Publication Subcommittee lead Pastor David Rosenbaum emphasized the key role of this effort: “Bible self-study courses have been the centerpiece of Prison Ministry. We are adding new titles and editing those that need to be reprinted. Inmates have lots of time available, and we can provide an excellent way to fill their time and their souls simultaneously.”

Promoting more visits to personally share God’s Word

As a nationwide church body, many laypeople and called workers currently visit jails and prisons to share Jesus in person. In addition, there are many more who desire to take Jesus behind bars. We have helped with jail ministry training in the past, but the effort lacked long-term coordination and support. To enhance the efforts of God’s people, the PMC identified several tasks to undertake, including:

• Identify and track current jail and prison ministry efforts
• Identify and encourage Word and Sacrament ministry to all incarcerated WELS members
• Find ways to train people across the country for this ministry
• Build a support network so these efforts can benefit from each other’s experiences
• Find ways to encourage one another in our efforts.

PMC member Leon Brands, who is leading aspects of this effort, comments: “We are compiling information from congregations that have an active jail or prison ministry, so the PMC can support the volunteers with training and additional resources for ministering to inmates. We also want to identify all WELS members who are in jail or prison, so they can be served in person or given meaningful materials to remind them of their Savior’s boundless love.”

Assisting released inmates and their families

One of the greater needs that the PMC wishes to address is for assistance to inmates upon their release from jail or prison. Faith that is new or recently rekindled while serving time can be subjected to severe tests and powerful temptations not experienced behind bars. Returning citizens also have great earthly needs, such as finding housing, transportation, and employment when the deck is often stacked against them. Their families often need help adjusting to the former inmate’s return, including dealing with forgiveness and trust issues. Our efforts to meet this crying need with trained mentors include:

• Use a successful mentor program in New Ulm as a pilot program for similar efforts elsewhere
• Update mentor training material based on recent experience
• Develop reentry resources that can help mentors serve returning citizens better
• Develop resources to help congregations welcome and integrate these returning citizens.

PMC Treasurer Tom Koepsell, a current mentor, notes that “Inmates are often brought closer to their Savior behind bars and are enthusiastic to continue their journey upon release. With the spiritual guidance we can offer, and the love of Jesus we can show them, they can become valuable assets to our congregations and to their communities. Working one-on-one, my experience has been the stigma of being an ex-con goes away and a close Christian friendship takes its place. It can be a very rewarding experience.”

Finding your role

While all these plans are exciting, they only become a reality through the support and efforts of God’s people. Director of Special Ministries Jim Behringer reminds us: “Our Prison Ministry is an economical outreach ministry. We use many volunteers. Our books are inexpensive to print. Love for Jesus has moved hundreds of donors to have a huge impact! Yet our efforts to spread the gospel need generous financial support to train men and women to bring the gospel to those affected by incarceration.” About seventy percent of our budget comes from direct gifts from individual donors. Hand in hand with financial support is the ministry of hundreds of volunteers around the country. These gifts of treasure and time truly make a difference in the amount of work we can carry out. Without them, the ministry doesn’t happen. Come join Jesus on his mission to reach those impacted by incarceration.

 

 

Sixty Minutes Can Change a Life

I reached the third floor at the jail and was ushered into the room where our weekly session with the women took place. Filing into the room, two of the women asked rather disdainfully, “Are you going to talk to us about God?” Thankfully, the facilitator from the preceding week had
informed me about these women. Even though I was surprised by their tone of voice, the Holy Spirit guided my thoughts, words, and actions during the next 60 minutes. I did not enter the jail that day to feel good about myself. I came to share Jesus. So how did I respond? “Yes, we are going to talk about how much Jesus loves you.”

The two women expressed doubt that God cared about them because of the many tragedies that had occurred in their lives. So I shared how God had sustained my husband and me during the loss of our first child, a stillborn. Suddenly they began to listen, and the Holy Spirit went to work. One of the two women returned for several more sessions. During the third session she confided that she had been reading about Jesus in the booklets we distributed and that she wanted to learn more. God’s Word had opened her heart.

Jesus challenges and stretches us. He presents us with opportunities to serve him by serving others. He commands us to love, welcome, and embrace one another even when the individuals we serve may be difficult, ungrateful, or unable to Jesus challenges and stretches us. He presents us with opportunities to serve him by serving others. reciprocate. It’s true–much of even our Christian service can be self-centered and gravitate toward individuals who can assist, uplift, or give us something in return. But Jesus lovingly reminds us, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

Where do we go with this self-centered attitude? The answer is to the cross. There we discover a Savior who loved us for what he could give to us–not for what he could get from us. What we do by faith in Jesus to help others (without thoughts of looking good or gaining glory for ourselves) is a blessing. Our lives have been transformed through Jesus life, death, and resurrection. Our motivation to thank Jesus is rooted in his love for us.

I witness it week after week. These women enter the room with questioning and skeptical attitudes. Sometimes they are resolute or reticent. Yet by the end of the session, their body language, facial expressions, and comments display hope and peace. Just as the prophet Isaiah wrote, “. . . so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” The word changes hearts and lives.

Why do I look forward to facilitating sessions at the jail? Psalm 71:15 expresses it best: “My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds and your saving acts all day long–though I do not know how to relate them all” (Psalm 71:15). Doing so has challenged and stretched me. My faith has blossomed and grown through this opportunity to serve other women who are facing challenges with addictions, relationships, guilt, and forgiveness. What a blessing and a privilege it is to meet with these women and share truths from the Bible. My Savior rescued me, and now I get double the joy by sharing that unfathomable love with others.

Mary Hochmuth leads Facing Freedom at Dane County Women’s Jail, Madison, Wis., for our partner Institutional Ministries

 

 

Remember us with prayers, service, and gifts

We trust that God will move the hearts of His people to support our ministry in any way possible. Please pray that Prison Ministry would continue to share Jesus with more people impacted by incarceration. To volunteer as a pen pal or a test corrector, please contact us at [email protected] or 507-354-3130. To explore visitation or mentoring opportunities, e-mail [email protected] or call 414-256-3243.

WELS Prison Ministry now receives a small subsidy from our synod. We continue to write grant requests in hopes of receiving money for funding operational costs, printing books, and traveling to promote and train new volunteers for visitation or mentoring ministry. But most of our financial support comes from people like you. If you desire to support this work, please send your gift to:

WELS Prison Ministry
N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive
Waukesha, WI 53188-1088

Or donate online at wels.net/sm-donation, click on “Designation” and choose: “Prison Ministry.”

Important note for Thrivent members: Anyone who is a member of Thrivent Financial can direct personal Choice Dollars to WELS Prison Ministry. If you need assistance with this designation, contact Thrivent Member Care Services at 800-847-4836. The designation for 2018 must be made by March 31, 2019.

May the Lord continue to bless you as you serve Him.

In Christ,
WELS Prison Ministry Staff Prison

 

 

 

 

Parish Nurse Corner Spring 2019

“What can I do to learn more about being a parish nurse?”

If you are interested in learning more about being a Faith Community Nurse (Parish Nurse) and working with individuals in your church and community, Wisconsin Lutheran College is offering an online course to give you these skills.  Designed for both the experienced and the novice RN, this course will aid the learner in developing a Christian understanding of the tools needed to develop or work in a Faith Community Nurse (Parish Nurse) program, including how to:

  • Foster a relationship with the church’s leadership team
  • Utilize health assessment skills to evaluate and address the parish’s health care and nursing needs
  • Prepare for and understand the process of Faith Community Nursing Certification through the ANCC

The eight-week course will begin on June 3, 2019, and will run through the month of July. Due dates for the course work will be flexible, taking into consideration that many individuals have already started to make summer plans. The expected tuition of the course is $600. WELSNA is currently offering a tuition reimbursement of $200 at the competition of the course. Nurses should contact the WELSNA council at [email protected] for more information on the tuition reimbursement. Nurses are encouraged to speak to their pastor and church council about sharing the remaining $400 as a Faith Community Nurse (Parish Nurse) program is a partnership between the church and the nurse. A letter from the WELSNA pastoral advisor, Pastor Behringer, can be found here.

The course will be taught by Lisa LeBlanc who is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Wisconsin Lutheran College and has been on staff at WLC since 2011. She received her undergraduate nursing degree from Marquette University, her master’s degree from St. Xavier University, and is enrolled at the University of South Alabama for her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.  She is a certified Clinical Nurse Leader and a board-certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. She has completed coursework in Parish Nursing and has achieved 21 credits in WELS synod certification coursework.

Registration information will be forthcoming.  Questions regarding the course may be directed to Lisa LeBlanc at: [email protected].

Do you have a question you would like addressed in the Parish Nurse Corner? Send your question to [email protected]!

 

 

 

 

Serving on the WELSNA Council

Individuals who attend the spring conference will have the opportunity to volunteer to be a member of the WELSNA council. The main responsibility of the WELSNA council is to plan the spring conference, so we are looking for individuals who have a heart to plan and prepare wonderful, professional conferences. We meet solely by video conferences meaning there is no travel necessary.  Meetings are scheduled based on the availability of the council members and occur about once per month.

The first position that is open is the council coordinator. This member is responsible for preparing the meeting agendas, assigning tasks to the other members as needed, and to communicate by phone or e-mail with individuals to help plan and organize the spring conference.

The second open position is the coordinator-elect. This individual will remain in close contact with the coordinator to learn the role of the coordinator and will complete any tasks assigned by the coordinator. Once the coordinator has completed his or her term, the coordinator elect will move into the role of the coordinator.

Finally, the third position available is that of the treasurer. The treasurer remains in contact with individuals at the Center for Mission and Ministry (CMM), the headquarters of the WELS, to receive monthly financial updates. The treasurer is not required to write checks or keep any checkbook as this is all managed at the CMM. He or she is responsible for reporting the current finances at each council meeting.

So why should you join the WELSNA council? It is a wonderful opportunity to meet other WELS and ELS nurses around the country. It enables you to become more familiar with Lutheran resources such as counseling services, mission opportunities, and conferences. It also ensures that the WELSNA spring conferences can continue for years to come. If you are interested in filling any of the above positions or becoming more involved with the council, please e-mail us at [email protected]. We look forward to serving with you!

 

 

 

WELSNA Spring 2019 conference

Registration is now open for the WELS Nurses Association’s annual spring conference! This year, the conference will be held on Sat., April 27 at Eastside Lutheran Church in Madison, Wis. The theme is “Remaining Steadfast in Unsteady Times” and is based off of the Bible passage 1 Corinthians 15:58. “Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

The keynote presentation, delivered by Pat Freer, will discuss dealing with the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease and the difference between what we hope for in this life and the “Living Hope” in our Savior Jesus Christ. Individuals will have the choice to attend one of the two morning breakout sessions. The first is entitled “What does a Parish Nurse Do?” and is presented by Sue Bolha, a parish nurse from Jackson, Wis. The second, entitled “You Want Me to do What?” is presented by Sheryl Krause and will discuss questions such as “with so many career options available to nurses, how do you know which career path is God’s will for you?”

After a catered sandwich lunch, the afternoon will begin with a meeting to inform conference attendees on WELSNA council updates and to elect three new members to the council. Anne Mackey’s term as secretary officially ended in 2018, but she agreed to faithfully serve the association by filling in as the coordinator position for one year. The current treasurer, Kathy Lee, is completing her term, and the interim coordinator-elect, Yvette Burk, will be unable to continue in the role. The council is responsible for organizing the annual spring conference, and we encourage those of you who enjoy participating in the conference to prayerfully consider joining our council.

Individuals will then have the choice to attend one of the two afternoon breakout sessions. The first, presented by two individuals from Christian Family Solutions, will be on the topic of sexual assault and the important truth that there is hope and healing for all of those struggling with the trauma of sexual violence. The second is presented by Laura Harstad from the organization, Kingdom Workers. She will share inspiring stories of people around the world who are receiving physical and spiritual care through the efforts of bold Lutherans just like you.

In addition to the conference on Saturday, individuals are also invited to join in an evening of socializing and fun at Revel Craft Bar on Fri., April 26. Each individual will have the opportunity to create a craft project that will reflect the theme of the conference. No additional fee will be charged on the registration form as each individual will pay for the craft project of their choice at the location. The cost of the craft projects range from $25-$35. To sign up, we ask that individuals indicate their interest in the event on their registration form. Individuals will be sent more specific information about the craft projects closer to the event.

The WELSNA council has been hard at work planning a full day of speakers and are looking forward to spending time with you growing both professionally and spiritually. Registration ends Mon., April 22. For a full description of the presentations, speaker biographies, schedule of events, and to register, please visit our website www.welsnurses.net.

 

 

 

The Christian Vocation of Nursing

Catharine Soule BSN, RN, WELSNA secretary

Think back to when you first thought about being a nurse. What drew you to the profession? Was it the idea of helping others? Maybe you loved working with kids or the elderly, or maybe you were fascinated with biology and medicine. Maybe you or someone in your family was blessed through the work of a nurse and you just knew it was something you wanted to pursue. But even with the fun and inviting aspects of our career, we have all encountered the not-so-glamorous side of nursing – the mess of cleaning up a trauma bay, performing personal cares on a patient for the fifth time in one hour, the violence and disrespect by a patient under the influence, a hyper-critical family member, the endless prescription refills to file, the “code blue” that failed again. Discouraged, many of us have probably questioned ourselves, “Why did we bother becoming a nurse? Why didn’t I see this side of the profession? Was all the studying worth it?”

At all times, and maybe especially during the discouraging times, we can remember that nursing is a wonderful vocation for a Christian. A Christian vocation is a way for God to use us to bless others in this world. Christian Author Harold Seinkbell describes the idea of a vocation as us being “God’s secret agents” in this world, God using us as a “mask,” as a way and through whom he operates in this world. God uses us, ordinary people, to provide for the needs and desires of his whole creation.

God makes it clear to us in scripture that he cares for the health and well-being of his children. We see miracles in both the Old and New Testament proving this. Jesus himself healed many during his ministry, including those who were sick, blind, injured, paralyzed, and even dead.

Now, God works directly through us to care for the sick and to comfort the lonely. If you think about it, he is our ultimate boss. When we are tempted to think we are just working for the paycheck or just getting by to please our manager, we can remember that our work is all to his glory. We read in Matthew 25: “‘For I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was lacking clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or lacking clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ The King will answer them, ‘Amen I tell you: Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40 EHV)

Just think of this portion, “I was sick, and you took care of me.” How powerful! When we care for the sick, our Lord sees it as us caring for him! Our work, even our most unglamorous work, is done for our God! What an amazing privilege! Our amazing God, who was born as a human, lived a perfect life, suffered, died, and rose again for us and our salvation, views our work as a nurse, as caring for him. In thanksgiving for our salvation already won by his blood, we are compelled to love and care for our brothers and sisters.

When you are tired and feel that you have just “had enough” as a nurse, remember to look to your “ultimate boss,” our loving Father who will give you the strength to do his work. Our work is pleasing to him because he is using us to care for and show his love and compassion to his children.

 

 

 

 

Record attendance at annual OWLS convention

The Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) challenged seniors to “Finish the Race” well when it held its annual convention for seniors in Elkhart Lake, Wis., Oct. 9-12.  The convention had 207 attendees from around the United States, which exceeded attendance for many recent years.

Elkhart Lake, the home of Road America, is known for its ties to auto racing, relaxation, and history. Attendees were treated to a rare opportunity to ride on the race track or visit the horse-powered world of the Wade House, a historic stage coach inn.

Discussion of finishing the Christian race was focused through presentations of keynote speakers. Former missionary wife Rebecca Wendland shared the challenges of life in Africa but also spoke of the grace and strength of God to protect and guide his people. Martin Luther College President Rev. Mark Zarling and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary President Rev. Paul Wendland gave a glimpse into the preparation of the next generation of church workers, but also answered audience questions about heaven, eternal life, and other topics. Former U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot Steve Schroeder and his wife, Sarah, shared the challenges they’ve experienced running their race during Steve’s military career, both before and after a crash changed their lives. Home Missions Administrator Rev. Keith Free provided insight into the opportunities worldwide to share the gospel.

For over 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 $52,000 for work in Europe. Two convention offerings and record proceeds from a silent auction were directed for next year’s gift to the work of the chaplain in Europe as well.

The OWLS also provide scholarships to Martin Luther College students. This year, Jason Petoskey, Winter Fredrick, Buchanan Potthast, and Max Kerr received scholarships. Max Kerr responded, “I can’t tell you my surprise at receiving the scholarship. It feels good to be recognized for what I always strive to do: share the gospel and serve others. Thank you very much for the scholarship. It helps me very much, as I’ve had to take out many loans in my journey to become a pastor.”

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of WELS Special Ministries, says, “This was a convention to remember! The workshops offered something for the artistic, the health conscious, tips for Internet users, and those interested in government or international students at Martin Luther College. It was a treat to renew friendships at the Osthoff Resort on Elkhart Lake when the trees were in color.”

The October 2019 OWLS convention for seniors will be held in Galena, Ill. The convention is open to all seniors in WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, regardless of OWLS membership.

 

 

CURRENT TOGETHER ISSUE

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God’s plan for deafness in our family

About six years ago, my husband and I embarked on an unforeseen journey. After having three wonderful boys, we were blessed with the most beautiful baby girl we had ever seen. But more than becoming parents with pink in our lives, we quickly learned that our daughter was born with hearing loss. She had failed her newborn hearing test and the subsequent tests at the audiologist. We were now beginning our journey into the unfamiliar land of hearing loss.

Our daughter’s first three years of life were full of appointments and therapy sessions. Between ages two and three, we learned that she was losing more of her hearing. During this time, our family was blessed with another son. He, too, failed his newborn hearing screen.

Through genetic testing we discovered that my husband and I both carry a rare recessive gene that causes progressive hearing loss. Thankfully there are no other known consequences.

By age three-and-a-half, our daughter had received cochlear implants. About six months after the surgery, we learned that her five-year-old brother also had hearing loss. Due to his late diagnosis and the lack of information about this rare gene, our oldest two hearing sons will undergo annual testing. Our two hard-of-hearing sons are being monitored closely until they qualify for cochlear implants as well.

This journey has been challenging and emotional for our family, yet educational and rewarding. At the beginning, as devastating as it was to learn that our daughter would never hear the way we do, we had a calming peace, knowing that God has a plan for her and for our family. He was in control and would be with us each step of the way.

God has worked the hearing loss for our good. He has blessed us with loving specialists who are willing to go above and beyond for our family’s success. One of these wonderful people is a sign language interpreter. She has taken on our family for the past two years and has instructed us in the language and Deaf culture. We have come to understand the importance of both in our children’s lives. We now embrace our children’s hearing loss as something that makes them special and unique.

Over this past year, I was able to connect with some Deaf education experts in our state. After numerous meetings, our daughter has been approved for an interpreter in her classroom. She is growing in both spoken English and American Sign Language. We are thrilled with the access to sound she has received, as well as the interpreter to grant her even more access to language. In the end, we want our children to be bilingual, with access to both the hearing and Deaf worlds.

Recently, we have met other Deaf families in our community. They have been eager to support us in learning the language, and are interested in attending our church. It is an exciting ministry opportunity for our family and church!

Our congregation has been supportive throughout our journey. We have received loving Christian encouragement as well as babysitting help for our frequent doctor appointments. And now our church is making steps toward having an interpreter during worship!

WELS Ministry for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has been extremely helpful. As soon as they learned of our family, they provided materials for our congregation, including brochures, books, DVDs, posters, Sunday school curriculum, etc. They are also assisting our plans to provide interpreted worship.

We have learned there are many different journeys and viewpoints in the Deaf/Hard of Hearing world. As we are creating our own journey, we have relied on the loving support of our family, friends, and church, but most important, the confidence that God is by our side. We have peace knowing that he has a special plan for each of our five children. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

To learn how the Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing can help you, go to wels.net/mdhh and csm.welsrc.net/mdhh.
Rachel Holper is raising her children in Kenai, Alaska, where her husband Ryan serves as principal of Grace Lutheran School.

 

 

 

Restricted

The light-pulsing, vibrating device on the nightstand could only mean one thing—a call for help. I was in the waning hours of a 24-hour on-call shift. “Restricted” read the caller ID, confirming my hunch. “Chaplain, we need you.”

There is nothing routine about these calls, other than talking to God on the 20-minute drive to an address now etched into my mind. Police cars are in the street. Family members are in a cramped apartment as friends and neighbors cycle in and out. Officers stand by—waiting, watching, wondering.

The Medical Examiner is at least an hour away in a neighboring community, performing the task that the ME does best. As I walk through the door, I’m already doing a chaplain’s triage. Who called for me? How can I help? What questions can I ask. . .and answer? How do I gently guide them along the pathway of decisions that they need to make in a short period of time? Do they have a faith community, and can I connect them with it? These questions and more will shape the next few hours of my interaction with these people that God has prepared for me to meet.

Few people wake up in the morning imagining that today will be the day a loved one or a friend will be called from this life. God’s jets to eternity do not run on our schedule and normally arrive without warning. So many wish for more time. One more cup of coffee and conversation before we are called home. Too often, though, that never happens.

This case is no different. There are regrets, conversations of forgiveness stuck in hearts and throats—unspoken, because a person thought there would always be more time. “Chaplain, can I talk to you privately about this?” God sometimes opens doors for us to share our comfort in Jesus. In fact, he always opens doors for us to show the love of Jesus on what may be the worst day of someone’s life up to that point. But we never know just how long or how short our time here will be. “Speak now or forever hold your peace” is a lesson repeated many times a week.

Before I know it, the Medical Examiner has come. She has finished her work. The funeral home is called and we assist when they arrive. Both the ME and those from the funeral home know that we will meet again, perhaps in only a few hours! All the more reason for us to take time to debrief and to care for our own emotional and psychological health, since one cannot serve the grieving without absorbing some of the hurt.

The streets are almost empty when I make my way back home. I thank God for helping me to serve our first responders and those who are hurting with the love of the Savior Jesus.

Little did I realize that the start of my week would lead to so much heartache: an officer down, ambushed by a gunman; anxious moments, but God’s holy angels were guarding and protecting; his backup there at just the right time, protecting and saving a life. God blessed the hands of the surgeons, doctors, nurses, and all others assisting. He answered a resounding “YES” to the many prayers. There was an outpouring of love, care, and concern for the officer and his family from relatives and friends. The community has shown an amazing amount of love also. Lives were changed in that instant. There was a defusing with the officers and a Critical Incident Debrief planned and carried out. A chaplain needs to be available to talk, to listen, to be there for support.

Fred Voss serves the saints at Shepherd of the Hills, Anchorage, Alaska, and also serves the city’s citizens and first responders as a chaplain for the fire and police departments. He covets your prayers for the first responders there and where you live.

 

 

 

A resource for your ministry to seniors

It may begin with Mom, or sometimes with Dad. “It” is the realization that more needs to be done for the seniors in our life, due to stroke, dementia, or another age-related trial.

Growing numbers of families are facing such decisions. What is to be the response of Christians individually, and the church as a whole? The physical needs of our aged members may be covered well, but what about their easy-to-overlook spiritual needs?

Family members will come to visit. The pastor or a trained layman may appear once or twice a month with Word, sacrament, and a few minutes of friendly conversation. But all those hours between can seem endless, and depression over loss of normality is common. WELS members are not immune.

Are there some spiritual options for Christian individuals, families, and the church? What about utilizing a great gospel resource that technology puts at our fingertips now? Time of Grace programming is widely available on TV, online, and in other ways. These messages are adaptable for gospel ministry to our own folks, as well as for outreach to other residents of senior care facilities.

When making personal visits to family members, why not share a familiar section of the Good News along with the usual family news? Or read a devotion. For the more technically inclined, a laptop can provide shorter “Your Time of Grace” messages, either recorded or online. Family members could do much more of this spiritual nurture, which would be more welcome than one might know.

What about the church’s responsibility for its senior members? Family members can get worn down seeking to meet a loved one’s needs, while active seniors often look to offer their time and talents in service to others.

Consider approaching the activities coordinator at your nearby care facility. They may be open to including free, non-proselytizing Christian video programs with their other weekly activities. On Sundays, or any day, a TV monitor could play Time of Grace messages for all interested residents. This usually works better where a trusting relationship has been established with the staff. But what an outreach opportunity, and what a blessing to many elderly, lonely residents. Staff members benefit too! This is currently being done at four facilities in the southwest Twin Cities area.

The ministry website is timeofgrace.org. For instructions on how to access, download, and play resources, see the brochures at tog.mywels.com.

We owe it to our seniors to serve them spiritually. Time of Grace can help our lay members play a crucial role in filling that need. Try it!

Arnold Lemke is a retired pastor in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area who stays active in both senior ministry and youth ministry.

 

 

 

Baker’s dozen at the font

Abiding Word Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas, has had a Jesus Cares program for over ten years. This ministry has been a blessing in so many ways.

Each week our Jesus Cares Sunday school gathers around God’s Word. A number of the participants have been confirmed after being instructed by members. On the first Saturday of each month, we meet for a craft and a snack, then head to the sanctuary for our Jesus Cares service. In March 2018, our regular Sunday service used parts of the Jesus Cares service to show our congregation what the ministry is like. The teachers, students, and congregation members are all encouraged as God’s Word is taught and God’s people worship together.

We have also used the program to reach out to our community. Right around the corner from our church lives a woman who has adopted eleven special needs children. As we have gotten to know our neighborhood, we met this family and invited them to attend Jesus Cares. They have come regularly for a few years. One member of that family is enrolled in our school and another in our preschool. We stayed in touch with this family and, in Spring 2018, brought up the subject of baptism. After meeting with the mother, she asked for all her children to be baptized…plus one grandchild!

That would have been twelve baptisms, but God had one more planned. We visited with some of the children beforehand, preparing them with a Bible lesson on the sacrament. The Lord blessed that time by leading one of the workers in the home to learn about baptism and she asked to be included. The number rose to thirteen!

The date was set, and on May 5 there were eight baptisms during our Saturday Jesus Cares service. After worship, a group of our members went to the house to witness five more souls being washed with water and the Word. An additional blessing was that many of our members were able to participate.

Jesus Cares has taught us to recognize the opportunities that God places before us. It has reminded us that ministry blessings are not necessarily financial or church membership numbers but souls for whom Jesus died, souls to whom we get to tell that good news. As we kept our eyes open, we saw open doors for an ESL (English as a Second Language) program and a ministry to inmates at the third-largest county jail in the United States.

All this we call “special ministry,” but it’s really just plain ministry. It is God’s people using God’s Word to carry out the mission Jesus has given us. Because Jesus cares for us, we care for others by proclaiming Jesus our Savior.

Interested in starting a Jesus Cares class in your community? Visit tlha.org/jesus-cares-ministries or call Rev. Joel Gaertner at 888-600-8542.

Matt Brown is pastor at Abiding Word, Houston, where every ministry is special, and special ministry is just plain ministry.

 

 

Chaplain Certification online courses – Spring 2019

Martin Luther College will offer three courses in Spring 2019 as part of the WELS Chaplain Certification program. These courses are not just for those who seek to be certified, but also offer useful skills and knowledge for called workers and church members to serve in specialized opportunities for ministry.

Communicating Forgiveness (THE9520) – Study what Scripture says about forgiveness and the many ways this truth can be communicated vividly and meaningfully. Core course. (3 credits)

Grief, Loss, and Trauma – Help for the Hurting (THE9533) – Understand the impact of trauma and how to bring God’s comfort to those in the grieving process. Elective. (3 credits)

The Spiritual Side of PTSD (THE9601) – Helps spiritual advisors recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and provide appropriate spiritual care. Elective. (3 credits)

The Chaplain Certification Committee offers scholarships for those who are accepted into the program and successfully complete courses. Contact Chairman Robert Dick at [email protected].

For information on the certification program or any of these online courses, go to mlc-wels.edu and search for “Chaplain Certification.” Spring classes begin January 9.

 

 

 

Rallying for inclusion

Every two years thousands of teens gather for fun, fellowship, worship, and mutual encouragement at the WELS International Youth Rally. But can a teen with special needs attend and participate in this event?

Our daughter Sonja was born with cerebral palsy and has profound challenges with mobility and communication. Her younger sister Christina had attended the 2016 Youth Rally in Fort Collins, Colo., and it was a given that Christina, along with the rest of the teen group from our church in Oak Creek, Wis., would attend the 2018 event in Bowling Green, Ohio. But what about Sonja?

Having turned 18 in March, this would be Sonja’s last opportunity to attend a rally. But special accommodations would be required: she would have to be accompanied by one of her parents at all times to serve as caregiver; she would need more privacy and space than the dorm accommodations would allow; and her dietary and mobility needs would have to be addressed.

Thanks to Kris Snyder and her team that organized the 2018 event, all these issues were solved. While Christina bunked in the dorms with the rest of the group, Sonja stayed with us in a hotel directly across the street from the campus. The arena which served as the primary venue for the rally was wheelchair accessible, so Sonja could participate in every worship service and see all the keynote speakers. The Bowling Green State University cafeteria had gluten-free options which served Sonja well. When asked about favorite parts of the rally, gluten-free pizza was one of them.

Sonja particularly enjoyed the songs by the band Koiné and the address by Steve and Sarah Schroeder. Steve was a US Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot injured in a January 2017 crash. Our daughter could relate to the intense therapy regimen that Steve has undergone since his accident.

The theme of the rally was “Never Alone,” which seemed particularly fitting for Sonja. A person who deals with a disability can often feel left out and alone. Teenagers, too, are vulnerable to feelings of unimportance and worthlessness. The gospel love of our Savior was spelled out so beautifully in the lyrics of the rally song, written and performed by Koiné:

Sitting all by myself in the darkness
All I see are the dark clouds rising
Seems there’s no one around who hears me
Who understands, understands
But then I hear you say,
My name is Jesus,
I’ll help to see you through.
My name is Jesus,
And I have promised you
You will never, no never be alone,
I’ll be with you ‘til I carry you home
In the darkness, in the sunlight,
No matter where you go.

The entire rally was a wonderful reminder that we share a universal need for God’s love, and God has filled that need by sending Jesus to be our Savior.

So can a teen with special needs attend and participate in a WELS International Youth Rally? Because of Sonja’s experience we are so happy to answer that question with a resounding, “Yes!”

Margo Schmidt is a member at St. John’s, Oak Creek, Wis., where her husband Steve is also the pastor.

 

 

 

Breaking into prison (ministry, that is)

Know anybody who is eager to get into jail or prison? Meet two men who are: David Hochmuth and Darren Green. They are WELS Prison Ministry’s new administrator and chairman, respectively.

New administrator
For Dave Hochmuth (pictured: center on p. 6), life in prison ministry begins at age 60. Raised in a WELS parsonage in California, he realized that he possessed neither the gifts nor the desire to follow his father into pastoral ministry. So he studied engineering and spent 23 years in that field. Meanwhile, he served in a variety of church offices and as a Bible study leader.

Preparing to teach was God’s way of teaching the teacher, and Dave found his passion. He enrolled in the staff ministry program at Martin Luther College and was assigned in 2007 to St. Andrew, Middleton, Wis., as Minister of Spiritual Growth.

In 2011, a bombshell dropped: his brother was arrested. Over the next few years, Dave visited several prisons to encourage his sibling. As his fear of the unknown eased, he learned the ropes of the prison system, the need of inmates for consistent spiritual nurture, and the impact of incarceration on families. He volunteered with Conquerors through Christ, a WELS ministry to those addicted to pornography, and others took note of his gifts.

But he never expected the divine call to enter prison ministry full time. “If you had told me 20 years ago that I would someday be in this position,” he admitted, “I would have laughed at you.” Now he sees how God has been preparing him.

Hochmuth acknowledges the challenges ahead. “The size of the opportunities compared to the size of our human resources is sobering. But if Jesus could work with five loaves of bread and two small fish…”

His priorities include reinvigorating the publications program, recruiting more volunteers for face-to-face ministry, serving inmates after their release, and getting ex-offenders involved in kingdom work. “We need to set a clear direction, establish priorities, and then get at it,” he says.

Dave and his wife Mary have been a team since 1989, raising three children. Now they are partners in another field, since Mary has become involved in ministry at the Dane County Jail. They share a heart for those who are locked up. “We’re all sinners. Some of our sins may be more socially acceptable, but we’re all the same before God,” Hochmuth observes. “People in prison are blood-bought souls, too, and Jesus told us to reach them.”

Hochmuth will visit the WELS Prison Ministry facility in New Ulm, Minn. frequently, but unlike previous administrators, his office will be at the Center for Mission and Ministry in Waukesha, Wis. Contact him at 414-256-3243 or email [email protected].

New chairman
Darren Green (pictured: right), 50, has assumed duties as chairman of the Prison Ministry Committee, succeeding Leon Brands, who served faithfully for the past twelve years.

A 1994 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Green was assigned to the mission field in Russia. He has also served parishes in Nebraska, Colorado and, since 2006, St. Peter in Monticello, Minn. He married Naomi in 1992, and their marriage has been enriched by two children.

Beyond the congregation, Darren was elected as Special Ministries Coordinator, first for the Nebraska District and later for the Minnesota District. But his involvement with the incarcerated became personal when his brother was sentenced to prison. Spurred by this family crisis, and encouraged by WELS Prison Ministry, he has taught a weekly class at the St. Cloud State Prison for the past ten years.

As Green’s passion for souls behind bars has grown, he has identified other opportunities for ministry: helping families deal with the stresses of having a loved one incarcerated; ministering to ex-offenders when they are released; addressing the spiritual needs of prison staff and their families, who face their own stress.

“Jesus died for all of them,” says the veteran of soul care. “He ate with sinners and offered water to the woman at the well, who had her own ‘issues’.”

He may now be “Chairman Green,” but his heart remains in serving the lost. “I love the verse in Hebrews: ‘By only one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being sanctified’ (10:14 EHV). Then it quotes Jeremiah 31: ‘And I will not remember their sins and their lawlessness any longer.’ That beautiful gospel is the message that inmates need to hear, and our mission is to bring it to them.”

To share your thoughts with Pastor Green, call 763-295-5315 or e-mail [email protected].