Tag Archive for: WELS Christian Aid and Relief

Reaching communities with compassion

Through its new Community Care & Compassion Matching Grants Program, WELS Christian Aid and Relief is offering matching grants to congregations that want to reach out in their community through a compassion ministry. Grants are available up to $2,500.

Grants can support any compassion ministry in a community, such as a Christmas toy drive or a Thanksgiving meal at your church. It can also support those who need encouragement, like seniors, veterans, or victims of domestic violence. WELS Christian Aid and Relief Director Rev. Daniel Sims recommends that a good place to start is to determine the particular needs in your community. If there is a local charity working to serve those needs, find ways to assist them.

“When we act with compassion and love, it gains us opportunities to talk about our Savior,” says Sims. “I encourage congregations to find the people who are hurting in your community, formulate a plan to help them, and get in touch with us. Let us help you reach out to them in love.” To learn more and apply for a grant, visit wels.net/relief.

One example of a congregation taking advantage of this new grant program is Bethlehem, Richland Center, Wis. In 2020, this exploratory mission was looking for a ministry space to call home. God provided a perfect fit: a former elementary school that had just come on the market.

The building was more than just a former school. It was also home to a county-run program that provides hot meals each week to senior adults. “We didn’t just purchase a facility,” says Rev. Daniel Lewig, pastor at Bethlehem. “We got a ministry right along with it—and an open door to see where God leads.”

Supported by offerings and a pandemic relief grant from WELS Christian Aid and Relief, Bethlehem members upgraded the former classroom in which the meals are served to make it more welcoming and encourage conversation and connections.

The revitalized dining area also serves as Bethlehem’s fellowship hall, and seniors from the community are invited to all church activities. In addition, Lewig visits with guests each week and leads them in prayer. Bethlehem members help serve the meals or simply spend time getting to know their neighbors.

Once the seniors are in the building, it’s a natural progression to introduce them to the worship space in the gym. Through God’s blessing, several of the seniors have attended worship, and some have taken Bible information classes and become members.

Bethlehem plans to apply for a new Community Care & Compassion Matching Grant through WELS Christian Aid and Relief to offer even more fellowship opportunities for local seniors, like dinners and movie nights.

“It’s not the food that brings them together,” Lewig says. “It’s the connection. Our members help with that connection and connect it to a higher purpose. We created an environment where you’re not just eating a meal for a day but a meal for eternity.”

Sims discussed the Community Care & Compassion Matching Grants Program in last week’s Together video update.

 

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Aid continues to Ukraine

We are in constant contact with the bishop (president) of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC). He reports that thus far no members of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church have lost their lives or been injured. Some of their homes have been damaged or destroyed. None of the ULC churches have been destroyed in the conflict, although three parsonages have been damaged.

The bishop (whose congregation is in the capital city of Kyiv) has been staying outside of Kyiv for safety reasons. Last Sunday he was able to return to Kyiv temporarily to lead worship and to deliver much needed supplies of food and medicine. Yesterday he provided this report: “People were very happy to see each other again especially after recent missile attacks, although we did not have as many people at the worship service as on Easter. Shut-ins also rejoiced to be visited and communed and are grateful for the food aid received. Thank you very much! Many thanks to all brothers and sisters in WELS, to the U.S., and praise to the Lord!”

Generous WELS donors have provided significant funds to enable the ULC to purchase supplies of clothing, food, and medicine. Those supplies are provided to refugees from different places around the country and for the people of the communities in which ULC congregations are located. Our synod has forwarded funds to the ULC upon its request. It’s important to note that these requests are coming to us in amounts that enable the ULC to purchase what is needed and what it can distribute. To date, $66,000 has been requested and sent directly to the ULC. We are ready to send more as soon as the ULC requests it. Another $100,000 has been sent to a reputable agency (Direct Relief) that is assisting Ukrainian refugees in Poland and other countries. We are also making plans to provide funds to our sister church in Bulgaria, which is caring for Ukrainian refugees arriving there.

The synod is also ready to provide help to Ukrainian refugees who are able to come to the United States. Ukrainians who come to the U.S. as refugees need to work with the U.S. State Department, and we are looking for ways to assist in that process.

We are also looking forward to the day when the war is over and resettlement and rebuilding can begin. Because of the generosity of WELS members, we believe that some of the funds already given will be able to be used for those efforts.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

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Encouraging compassion ministry

Dear Friend,

Scripture teaches Christians to live such good lives that others are attracted to the Christian faith and eventually join us in praising God for his grace. “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5).

Recently WELS Christian Aid and Relief launched the Community Care and Compassion Matching Grants Program. It offers annual matching grants of up to $2,500 to self-supporting WELS congregations to assist them in letting their light shine by carrying out compassion ministry in their communities. Compassion ministry means finding people in your community who are hurting or in need and then helping them. The opportunities to shine the light of Christ into a sin-darkened world by showing love to our neighbors are endless! Here are some examples:

  • Hosting a community dinner at Thanksgiving or a toy drive at Christmas.
  • Supporting and encouraging seniors, veterans, health care workers, police officers, firefighters, and other first responders with prayers, handwritten cards, and small gifts of appreciation.
  • Working with a local charity to help teens in crisis, victims of domestic violence, and those facing food insecurity.
  • Partnering with Christian Family Solutions to provide online counseling sessions to those who are struggling with mental health.
  • Providing backpacks and other school supplies to underprivileged students.
  • Establishing and operating a community food bank.

There’s an old saying: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Just think of all the opportunities God is setting before us in this broken world to show hurting people how much we care and, more importantly, how much God cares for them in Christ.

An example of this kind of compassion ministry is the senior outreach being done by Bethlehem, Richland Center, Wis. They have taken over a program that serves meals to seniors. Pastor Dan Lewig says, “This ministry is about building relationships. As we sit around food and get to know the seniors, we have the opportunity to help them build better relationships with themselves and their Savior. Our partnership with WELS Christian Aid and Relief helped us begin this ministry and expand it.”

Would you consider a special gift to the WELS Christian Aid and Relief general fund to support this new program? Such a gift will help other WELS Christians let the light of Christ shine into the lives of those who are hurting.

In Jesus, our compassionate Savior,
Pastor Dan Sims
Director, WELS Christian Aid and Relief

P.S. Gifts to our general fund also help us support the vital work of disaster relief, humanitarian aid through WELS Home and World Missions, and personal financial grants for WELS members going through a crisis.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we praise you for your compassion toward all people. Help us to reflect your grace as we love and serve others physically and spiritually. Guide our congregations in community service efforts to build a foundation of trust from which we can proclaim your salvation from sin. Grant that those in need are cared for while the members serving them grow from their experience. Guide WELS Christian Aid and Relief as they encourage churches toward this goal. We pray that your name is glorified through our ministry. Amen.

Thank You from Christian Aid and Relief – 12/21/2021

When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son (Galatians 4:4).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
WELS Christian Aid and Relief is privileged to serve the hurting and helpless in Jesus’ name. In times of disaster, we deploy volunteers to clean up the mess and restore order. When people need food, water, or medicine, we send the needed supplies. When one of our brothers or sisters is hurting, we do all we can to help and bring relief. We try to do these things in a timely fashion so that people receive the help they need as soon as possible.

When we deploy volunteers, send humanitarian aid, or help the hurting, we are just imitating what God has done for us. Of course, his acts of mercy and compassion are on a much grander scale.

At just the right time, God deployed his Son, a willing and able volunteer, to come to our rescue, to be our Substitute and Savior. He sent him into the virgin’s womb to supply us with what we need: a perfect life, the payment for sin, and victory over death and hell. He saw us as we are by nature – depraved, lost, condemned, and utterly helpless to do anything about it – and did something about it. He sent his Son to provide us forgiveness of sins and peace with God through his flawless life, priceless blood, and empty tomb.

The little one in the manger has brought us rescue and relief! Life now and life forever! Thanks be to God!

On behalf of the entire team at WELS Christian Aid and Relief, I thank you for your partnership in this vital ministry of compassion, and I wish you a Christmas season filled with the peace of the Christchild and a New Year filled with the confidence that only God’s promises can give.

In the name of our compassionate Savior,
Pastor Dan Sims
Director, WELS Christian Aid and Relief

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WELS Christian Aid and Relief responds to South Central tornadoes

On Dec. 10, tornadoes caused devastation across the South Central part of the United States. Rev. Daniel Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief, reports: “At this time, we are unaware of any of our WELS congregations or members who have been directly impacted by this storm. Praise God for watching over his people!”

Because no WELS congregations are near the affected areas, WELS Christian Aid and Relief is currently not planning to mobilize volunteers for onsite disaster relief work. “Because we don’t have the deep resources or infrastructure of FEMA or the Red Cross, it’s very difficult to go into areas where we don’t have a congregation nearby to use as our ‘home base’ for volunteers,” says Sims. “However, we will continue to look for opportunities to go to the area and help those in need.”

To support those affected by the tornadoes, WELS Christian Aid and Relief has sent a gift of $10,000 to Direct Relief, which has people on-site and active in providing disaster relief in the form of medical aid.

Sims is thankful for the response from WELS members wanting to help: “We are grateful for your support and your messages of care and concern. Your love for those who are hurting is obvious. May the Lord continue to bless our efforts to ‘do good to all people’ (Galatians 6:10).”

To help those affected by the tornadoes, you can make a financial gift through WELS Christian Aid and Relief’s disaster fund at wels.net/CARgift (designate the gift to “disaster relief”). Stay updated on relief efforts at wels.net/relief.

 

 

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Incoming Storms in the Midwest – 12/15/2021

Dear friends in Christ,

Severe storms are being predicted for the Midwest this evening. Some advice for those who are in the storms’ potential path: Keep your phones charged and flashlights ready. And, most importantly, let us pray:

Gracious Father in heaven, severe storms have been forecasted for much of the Midwest. After the terrible tornados that hit the south central part of our nation on Friday, we are all on edge. Help us, Lord, to rest peacefully in your promises. Be with all in the path of these storms. Hold your protecting hand over them. According to your will, minimize any damage or loss these storms may cause. If the storms are severe, be with all those who work in the aftermath to assist those in need and restore order. We come to you confidently in the name of Jesus, our Savior and the world’s Savior. Amen.

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Hurricane Ida Relief Update – 12/14/2021

Last week a crew of volunteers worked to replace the roofs of two homes that belong to members of Crown of Life in New Orleans.

Pastor Jonathan Kehl writes: “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). Two things end up being extremely valuable following a storm like Ida – someone to help you immediately and someone the help you in the long haul. Both take a lot of energy and commitment, and unfortunately there are some who just don’t have that support they need. I can’t thank God enough for the support and prayers we have received at Crown of Life that poured in after the storm. The immediate support was so encouraging, as well as the long-term commitments to aiding our congregation and area in recovery. We were excited to see the crew of Christian Aid and Relief volunteers, who generously gave their time and vacations to show up in New Orleans. They spent a week repairing roofs damaged by hurricane Ida. Local congregations from our area joined them and tore off roofing, pulled up nails, repaired decking and laid down new shingles on two homes damaged by the storm. There’s more work to be done, but we’re well on our way to recovery. God never leaves his people! He provides for our spiritual needs as well as our daily needs. He gives us what we need now and what we need for the eternal long haul. He has given us a church body equipped with gifts and talents he uses to care for his people, and it’s evident in the recovery efforts in our city. Thank you for your eagerness in serving us in our time of need. Continue to pray for us in our recovery as your partners in the gospel!”

Thank you for your beautiful words, Pastor Kehl. Thank you to our faithful and dedicated volunteers! And thank you to all of you for supporting this kind of work with your gifts and your prayers! To God alone be all the glory!

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Tornados in the central part of the country – 12/13/2021

Dear friends in Christ,

I want to thank you all again for your obvious love for those who are suffering and grieving as the result of the tornados that struck the south central part of our country on Friday night. It is a joy to receive your messages of care and concern. We know how eager you are to help!

At this hour we are unaware of any WELS congregations or members who suffered damage or loss from the storms. Praise God for watching over his people! Because of this, we are not planning to mobilize and deploy volunteers for on-site disaster relief work. Since we don’t have the deep resources and infrastructure of FEMA or the Red Cross, we are unable to go into areas where we don’t have a congregation nearby. In disaster situations it is our practice to use the local WELS church as “home base” from which to train, equip, and support our volunteers.

However, we do want to help those who are hurting. This evening the WELS CAR Commission authorized a grant of $10,000 to Direct Relief (directrelief.org) to aid the survivors of this disaster. Direct Relief is well equipped to give aid where needed. Mr. Greg Mora of Direct Relief described their plans: “Direct Relief is preparing a response to see where medical supplies are needed most. My colleagues are in communication with the Primary Care Associations in Missouri, Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Indiana. We have also reached out to the American Red Cross who will most likely set-up shelters in the region and offer our assistance. In the past, pop-up clinics have been set up at emergency shelters where Direct Relief has been able to supply all the medical resources needed to care for the victims health needs.”

We have partnered with Direct Relief often in the past and are confident that they will work quickly to bring assistance where it is needed most. If you would like to support this effort please go to wels.net/CARgift and designate your gift for disaster relief.

Stay tuned to this page for further updates. We thank you again for your concern, your support, and your prayers.

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Providing care through humanitarian aid grants

WELS Christian Aid and Relief announced it has approved $470,882 for humanitarian aid projects in WELS mission fields throughout the United States and worldwide for fiscal year 2021-22.

Projects are developed by WELS home and world missionaries, who continually look for opportunities to serve hurting people in their communities with ongoing basic needs, like food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. Rev. Daniel Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief, says, “When our missionaries can assist people in this way, it also helps to build trust and leads to many opportunities to then share the life-changing news of the gospel.”

The humanitarian aid granted through WELS Christian Aid and Relief takes many forms, including providing smokeless stoves to safely heat homes in Asia, medical clinics, assistance for legal immigrants, vocational training, and backpacks and school supplies for underprivileged kids.

One of the most recent aid projects was supporting the digging of five boreholes in Zambia to provide clean and safe drinking water. “Here in the United States, we take fresh drinking water for granted, but in Africa access to fresh, clean water is often severely limited,” says Sims. “These boreholes, which are often built near our churches, provide our missionaries a point of contact and an opportunity to talk to people about Jesus. The care and compassion shown by the gift of the borehole means that many are more willing to listen.”

Sims continues to be thankful for God’s blessings on these projects, which are supported through the generosity of God’s people. “Even though our ministry is not part of the synodical budget, we are able to carry out this vital ministry of compassion. God’s people, moved by his love, are generous.”

WELS members can support the work of WELS Christian Aid and Relief through prayers and offerings. In addition to humanitarian aid grants, the organization also provides disaster relief and medical financial emergency grants to people in need.

View a complete list of humanitarian aid projects supported by WELS Christian Aid and Relief through your offerings.

 

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New opportunities to offer pandemic relief

WELS Christian Aid and Relief has set aside $200,000 to help WELS congregations offer pandemic relief to their communities. Congregations can receive up to $2,500 in matching grant money to provide aid to those who are struggling in their neighborhoods.

“Like no other time in most of our lives, people are hurting—both in our churches and in our communities. And we can help them,” says Rev. Daniel Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief. “God has blessed us with an abundance of daily bread and with the good news of the Bread of Life, our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a tremendous opportunity to bring relief to those struggling during this challenging time.”

WELS Christian Aid and Relief already has distributed pandemic relief funding this year when it teamed up with WELS Home Missions to offer more than $160,000 in matching grant money to 24 mission congregations.

These home missions were creative with their ideas, offering plans to provide food and supplies to families in need and counseling and support groups for those struggling with their mental health. Many are partnering with other community organizations, working closely with local homeless shelters and schools in their area.

“We’re glad this grant program came up—not only for the resources—but just to spur us on to come up with an idea to help our community,” says Mr. Mark Hartman, lay member at Hope in the Heights, a home mission in Houston, Texas, that received one of the grants.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief will offer these new matching grants to congregations until June 1 or when designated funds run out.

“What an opportunity to shine the light of Christ’s love into our communities,” says Sims. “May God bless our efforts in his saving name.”

Learn more about WELS Christian Aid and Relief and these grant opportunities at wels.net/relief.

 

 

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Mission congregations offer aid during the pandemic

WELS Christian Aid and Relief and WELS Home Missions have teamed up to offer more than $160,000 in pandemic relief matching grants to 24 mission congregations that are offering aid to those in their communities who are struggling. Grants were allocated in January.

“Our mission is to relieve suffering, to reach out to those who have been hit hard by something and help them through it, while we reflect the love of Jesus and gain opportunities to share the good news of Jesus as their Savior,” says Rev. Daniel Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief. “It’s easy to look at the pandemic as a problem—and it is—but it’s also a tremendous opportunity to do exactly what our mission is set to do.”

These home missions were creative with their ideas, offering plans to provide food and supplies to families in need and counseling and support groups for those struggling with their mental health. Many are partnering with other community organizations, working closely with local homeless shelters and schools in their area.

Hope in the Heights, Houston, Texas, a home mission that started in 2019, is supporting its local Chamber of Commerce’s Adopt-a-Teacher program, which provides teachers with needed supplies, personal gifts, support, and prayers during these trying times. “With all the stress that teachers have been under, we thought it would be a nice thing to help them out,” says Mr. Mark Hartman, a lay member at Hope. The congregation decided to support teachers from two of the schools in the congregation’s target area.

Besides helping the teachers, Hope asked each teacher to nominate two families who are struggling because of the pandemic so that Hope could provide groceries to those families.

Hope was so excited about the program that it decided to get started even before the grant money came through. “I just bought groceries for our 18th family since we started [last November],” says Hartman. “We’re glad this grant program came up—not only for the resources—but just to spur us on to come up with an idea to help our community.”

He continues, “When a program like this comes along, it gives you the opportunity to say, ‘I don’t have to worry about my budget, I can just go and bless these people in my community.’ ”

And people are appreciative of that help. One local elementary teacher e-mailed, saying, “I have had the pleasure of hearing the cheerful stories from my students that you purchased groceries for. I wish you could see the look on their faces! I wanted to thank you for your generosity and kindness. This is definitely what this world needs more of.” Another said, “I am truly humbled and blessed that a church and its congregation wanted to help teachers—and especially me.”

Learn more about Christian Aid and Relief at wels.net/relief. Learn more about Home Missions at wels.net/missions.

 

 

 

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Colorado church receives relief from fires

“At our final outdoor worship services at Carbon Valley Lutheran we could see the smoke coming across the sky, and by the end of worship we had ash and burnt pine needles on our cars,” describes Rev. Tim Spiegelberg, pastor at Carbon Valley Lutheran Church, Firestone, Colo., and also vacancy pastor at Peace, Boulder.

While Colorado is no stranger to wildfires, 2020 brought some of the biggest and longest lasting in the state’s history. As the fires closed in, four families from Peace, Boulder, were told to evacuate.

Two of the families needed a place to go, and without hesitation, the council at Peace opened the doors of the church, allowing the members to stay on the church property as needed. Carbon Valley assisted as well, providing gift cards for necessities. Unsure of how widespread, long, or damaging these fires would be for the community, Spiegelberg turned to Christian Aid and Relief, seeking assistance before the crisis got bigger. Christian Aid and Relief answered the call and provided additional funds to help families if needed.

Spiegelberg explains, “It was incredibly easy working with Pastor Dan Sims [director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief]. I was actually surprised at how easy it was and how receptive he was. It was as simple as a phone call describing the situation and [Sims] gave me the assurance that Christian Aid and Relief was there for us.”

“I think the story here is moving swiftly with compassion before things get out of hand,” says Spiegelberg. “It turned out that those families were okay. They were able to go back. God sent snow and stopped the progression of the fire. But we were in place and ready to go. Immediately and without hesitation, the leadership said to use the church.”

After a record fire season, not just in Colorado but on the West coast as well, Sims said he will be meeting with a group of pastors from the fire-hit regions to brainstorm the best ways for Christian Aid and Relief to assist with these disasters in the future.

To learn more about Christian Aid and Relief, visit wels.net/relief.

 

 

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WELS Christian Aid and Relief makes humanitarian aid grants

WELS Christian Aid and Relief announced it has granted $455,919 to humanitarian aid projects in WELS mission fields around the world for fiscal year 2020-21.

Projects are developed by WELS home and world missionaries to reflect Christ’s love to the people of their community and open doors to share the gospel. Major items include support for health clinics, borehole drilling to provide clean water, home-based care for the chronically ill and dying, food assistance, adult literacy classes, food and nutrition to orphans and refugees, and medical equipment.

While many projects are ongoing and renewed annually, Rev. Robert Hein, chairman of Christian Aid and Relief, says, “This year we approved more grants from our home missions, especially as they minister to people in cross-cultural situations, such as providing backpacks to needy children for school.”

“Many of the people we serve are lacking in essentials like clean water, food, basic health care, and other supplies. God meets their physical needs through our efforts and they also have the opportunity to learn about their Savior, who met our greatest need,” Hein explains, “All humanitarian aid projects start with our missionaries in the field. They develop projects to meet community needs and build relationships to share the gospel with the people they serve. All requests are reviewed by our mission leaders and then brought to our commission for funding.”

He continues, “Meeting community needs is a great way to put Christ’s love into action. As we address physical needs, our missionaries also have opportunities to share the good news about Jesus with the people of their community. We are always looking for ways to make a positive impact on our communities.”

WELS members can support the work of WELS Christian Aid and Relief through prayers and offerings. In addition to humanitarian aid grants, the organization also provides disaster relief and medical financial emergency grants to people in need.

View a complete list of humanitarian aid projects supported by WELS Christian Aid and Relief through your offerings.

 

 

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Full-time director for WELS Christian Aid and Relief

Last fall, the Synodical Council made the decision to call a full-time director for WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief has been the vehicle by which WELS members have generously supported relief efforts in times of natural disaster and in other situations where our Christian love moves us to provide some type of financial assistance. Until now, the work of WELS Christian Aid and Relief has been faithfully overseen by a commission with a chairman who also serves as a full-time pastor. But experience has shown that the scope of the work requires more than what part-time commission members and their chairman can provide. That led to the establishment of a full-time position.

One of the benefits of a full-time director will be the development of a program to prepare and train congregations and their leaders in disaster response before a disaster hits. The new director will spend much of his time developing resources for congregations and providing the training needed to prepare for relief efforts. One part of the plan is to position lay coordinators in all 12 districts who can provide local expertise and advice to congregations when disasters occur.

Why call a pastor for this work? The primary reason is that disaster relief efforts often provide opportunities for gospel outreach efforts in the communities affected by disasters. The Synodical Council recognized that in addition to providing aid as an expression of our Christian love, this work is also a ministry in which the sharing of the gospel can and should play a vital role. As a pastor, the new director will also have many opportunities to preach in congregations throughout the synod as he represents the mission of WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

Learn more about WELS Christian Aid and Relief at wels.net/relief.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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WELS Christian Aid and Relief approves humanitarian aid grants

The administrative committee for WELS Christian Aid and Relief approved $466,212 for humanitarian aid work in fiscal year 2019-20. These are projects developed by WELS home and world missionaries to reflect Christ’s love to the people of their community and open doors to share the gospel.

Christian Aid and Relief Chairman Rev. Robert Hein, says, “Humanitarian aid projects help our missions put Christ’s love into action by meeting community needs. As missionaries develop relationships with the people they serve, they also find opportunities to tell people about Jesus. In some world mission fields, hostile to Christianity, humanitarian aid is essential to keep the doors open to share the gospel.”

All projects originate in the mission fields as the missionaries discover opportunities to help. Then the projects are brought to the Christian Aid and Relief administrative committee as well as to the WELS Missions administrators for approval.

Some of the approved projects are:

  • New or repaired water wells in Zambia and Malawi.
  • Medical clinic renovation in Zambia.
  • Rural medical clinic and medical care in Nigeria.
  • Food assistance for the poor in Indonesia.
  • Medical, vacation Bible school, and English training in Thailand.
  • Outreach programs in Bulgaria and Russia.
  • Assistance for war refugees, orphans, and the poor in Ukraine.
  • Food and transportation programs in Mexico.
  • Water projects and medical equipment in South Asia.
  • Medical clinics, sewing classes, clothing for poor, and flood assistance in Nepal.
  • Medical assistance and skill training program in Pakistan.
  • African immigrant assistance in Las Vegas.
  • Welcome programs for immigrants in Toronto.
  • Various outreach and assistance programs in Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, College Station in Texas and Denver, Colo.

To view a complete list of humanitarian aid projects, visit wels.net/relief.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Hope after the storm in Puerto Rico

Three visitors! No big deal on some Sundays . . . lost in the crowd at some churches . . . a below-average turnout on many occasions.
Certainly nothing to write home about (or for Forward in Christ).  

But this is different. There hadn’t been one single visitor at Cordero de Dios (Lamb of God) Lutheran Church in Puerto Rico for months. In fact, there hadn’t even been a worship service there for almost year and a half! 

When Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico in September 2018, it devastated much of the Island of Enchantment, as it is known. Buildings were destroyed, power grids were damaged, and cell phone towers were knocked down. Tragically, lives were lost. Morale deflated quickly. As the days and weeks and months passed with no electricity, water, Internet, or cell phone service, tensions started to rise, hope began to depart, and a feeling of helplessness set in. 

Our brothers and sisters who are members of the three congregations of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church in Puerto Rico were also affected. While one church building was damaged, another wooden chapel was completely destroyed. Worship services at Cordero de Dios in Humacao stopped. There was no place to gather! 

As news of the devastation brought by Maria spread, WELS members responded quickly in love. Generous donations were received for hurricane relief. WELS leaders visited Puerto Rico and assured our fellow believers that we would walk through this together. WELS Christian Aid and Relief provided shortterm help and a longer term plan of assistance. Retired Pastor Larry Schlomer and his wife Marlene spenseveral months in Puerto Rico coordinating relief and reconstruction efforts. Volunteers from the States came to lend a hand. Pastors and leaders and church members worked together to rebuild homes and churchesand hope. 

On Feb. 10, the newly rebuilt (in concrete) chapel in Humacao was dedicated to God’s glory. Members from the three island congregations gathered together to thank God and celebrate his goodness. During the service, long-time member and seminary student Kelly Alvarez was ordained and installed as pastor of Mi Dios Verdadero (My True God) Lutheran Church in San Juan. The message from God’s Word that day included the reminder that we are a holy temple in the Lord, being built up together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:21,22). 

What will happen next in Puerto Rico? Two pastors currently serve in the town of Guayama. One pastor and one student pastor serve in San Juan. A rotation of pastors leads worship in Humacao. There are still jobs to finish, but now plans for gospel ministry can be worked out in order to share the good news with those visitors as well as to reach out to those who likely won’t come on their own. 

What can we learn from all this? God in his wisdom allowed Hurricane Maria to pass through Puerto Rico, but the Lord will not abandon his people or his church. In fact, he often creates opportunities out of challenges. Think of those visitors from the neighborhood who saw the work on the church progressing, shared the excitement, and wanted to be part of that special day. People do notice the fruit of our labor, but they need encouragement. Let’s keep on encouraging, inviting, witnessing and pointing other to Jesus.  

What can we do now for Puerto Rico? Please pray for those three visitors in Humacao. Pray for our three congregations in Puerto Rico, which still face challenges. Pray that the gospel might be preached and believed in Puerto Rico, to God’s glory.  

Because as we look forward to the Last Day, this is our attitude as we live and work for God’s glory and the spread of his kingdom today and tomorrow: The best is yet to come!


Timothy Satorius, WELS liaison to the Puerto Rican church 


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Author: Timothy Satorius
Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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God’s eternal dwelling place

Originally appears on the One Africa Team Blog. To subscribe to receive future updates directly in your inbox, visit oneafricateam.com. “Like” the One Africa Team on Facebook at fb.com/OneAfricaTeamWELS


Come along with me. . .

I’m weaving through villages and fields, traipsing down narrow foot paths and trudging through muck. I’m jumping over mud puddles and broken bricks. I’m skirting around fallen walls, bent roofing sheets and twisted trusses. I’m stepping over soggy blankets and dirty clothes.

Malawi 2015 revisited. What happened? A deluge of rain: rivers overflowed, Maize fields flattened, Bridges demolished, Roads cratered.

Different year, different people, different location, same result: devastation.

Rains are a double-edged sword. Just enough and wells fill, fields drink, crops grow and the land produces.Too much and houses collapse leaving them useless; pit latrines overflow rendering them a danger. It all happened in Malawi.

Again.

People are reminiscing that this same thing happened just four years ago. The Malawi 2018/2019 wet season had a great start. A great balance of rain and sunshine. Crops were looking good.  Tobacco. Maize. Groundnuts. Farmers were ecstatic!

It’s going to be a bountiful harvest! We can sell our cash crops, our granaries will be full, we will harvest plenty to eat good, our bellies satisfied. . . no hunger this year!

Then came the March 6, 2019. Ash Wednesday arrived, and so did another rain. Well, not just another rain, but a downpour. The heavens opened. Water fell by the bucket. Cats and Dogs. Didn’t let up for 3 solid days. This time the land and the areas most affected are quite flat so the water didn’t have a natural run off. When rains fall that rapidly and that powerfully, mud houses just don’t stand a chance against such force and pressure of water. The torrent was enough to bring down the roof.

It did.

LCCA-Malawi member’s home destroyed by flooding

Many houses were destroyed. Families are displaced. Women and children are sleeping in church buildings. Husbands and fathers are staying in any manageable place that they can find in what is left of their houses. A makeshift shelter. A tiny covered corner of a room. Some are sleeping under the stars. All who are affected are trying to pick up the proverbial pieces. And lurking right around the corner? Disease. It’s what happens when outhouses collapse and the holes brim over. It’s a stream you don’t want to be near. But there is a stream you do. A river actually. A river of living water.

“Though the earth give way. . . though its waters roar and foam. . . there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” (Psalm 46:2-3)

The one who wrote those words also wrote these: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) 

To the people who are sitting in the rubble, asking themselves questions and trying to make sense of it all, the pastors in the Lutheran Church have been able to bring this kind of message: God indeed is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Though many people have many questions, there’s another question that rises above all the others. It stands tall and strong like a beacon in the storm:

“Who or what can separate us from the love of Christ?” We know what is written in Romans 8:35. A bunch more questions that answer that first one. (If you’re not sure, check it out). But what about the questions on the minds of the homeless people in Malawi who are wondering how they are going to start over and rebuild?

What can separate them from God’s love? Rains? Floods? Unusable toilets? Obliterated fields? Collapsed houses? Lost property? Can these things remove God from their world of broken walls and caved-in roofs?

NO.

Paul, what do you mean, “NO”?  Tell us more!

“NO, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. None of these things shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

Ah, yes. Good words, Paul. The people need to hear those words. So do I. . . when things in my own life collapse! You, too? For three days we surveyed the destruction and assessed the damage. So much rain, so much ruin. With such incalculable devastation I could only imagine incredible loss. What I didn’t imagine–or even think about–was the incredible gain.

Incredible gain? 

Members from the LCCA-Malawi rejoice in their Lord

As the people shared their stories, I noticed that they had gained something: a new appreciation for the goodness of the Lord. A renewed indebtedness to the grace of God. Gratitude for something bigger than earthly comfort. Heavenly blessings! When we arrived, they not only spoke of the rains that came down from heaven but of the promises of God that do, too! They shared with us how God spared them, protected them and saved them. We paused here for a prayer. Sat there for a devotion. Spent time with the families in meditation and thankfulness. We were invited to so many places we didn’t have time for everyone. We brought our phone cameras, but took more than pictures and videos.

We took heart! (The people encouraged us!)
We took assurance! (The presence of problems doesn’t mean the absence of God!)
We took with us a renewed sense of joy! (Our Lutheran members know the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus despite the trials that come)

After seeing one collapsed house after another, what falls like rain upon my heart are the words of Moses: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. . . from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:1,2)  Like Paul said, “. . . we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1) His is a house that will never fall. The roof won’t leak and the walls won’t collapse. The foundation is strong and the rooms are safe.

Meanwhile, here on earth, whether in Malawi or the USA or somewhere in-between, we groan and are burdened. All creation, too. Apparently, that includes the rains. And the mud from which many houses are built. But we look forward to a time when all those in Christ Jesus we will be safe and secure in . . .

God’s Eternal Dwelling Place.

Your Malawi Mission Partner,

Missionary John Holtz


Dear Mission Partners,

Maybe you know and maybe you don’t, but our beloved WELS is showing faith in action by getting involved with both prayer support and financial aid.

The Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Malawi Synod (LCCA), the WELS Board for World Missions, and WELS Christian Aid and Relief (CAR) have been working hard at evaluating the immediate needs of those in our Lutheran congregations who are greatly affected by the floods, especially in the southern region of Malawi. (It was the southern region that was affected in 2015, too). Through funds made available through CAR, the LCCA members affected by the floods will receive some much-needed practical items. Things like buckets for clean water, blankets for warmth, and plastic sheeting for temporary roofing can meet immediate needs. A church building that has collapsed can be rebuilt.

Your Africa Missions team would like to encourage anyone whose heart is moved to give a gift to help people in need (due to flooding or other disaster) to please donate to WELS Christian Aid & Relief. 

 

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Church dedication in Puerto Rico

On Sept. 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria swept over the island of Puerto Rico causing great devastation and destruction.

WELS members responded generously with gifts to WELS Christian Aid and Relief. But the devastation caused by the storm made communication with fellow Christians in Puerto Rico difficult. It was hard to know what needed to be done to help and how that help could be delivered.

Early last summer WELS Christian Aid and Relief sent retired missionary Rev. Larry Schlomer Sr. to the island. He was asked to stay for up to a year to help the church leaders determine what needed to be done and then to help organize relief and rebuilding efforts.

God has graciously taken care of the people of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Puerto Rico and restored their church in Humacao. On Feb. 10, 2019, this church celebrated the completion of the rebuilt church with a dedication service. Many of the national pastors were in attendance along with Rev. Larry Schlomer Sr., WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder, and Rev. Tim Satorius.

View a slideshow of the dedication service.

WELS CAR - Puerto Rico Church Rededication

Volunteers begin cleanup after Hurricane Michael

WELS Christian Aid and Relief is now coordinating volunteers to help with cleanup and rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Michael. Efforts are primarily focused on Amazing Grace, Panama City, Fla., which was hit directly by the storm. Amazing Grace’s church and parsonage experienced extensive damage, as did homes of several members and many in the community.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief quickly mobilized two of its relief trailers after Hurricane Michael struck the Panama City area and began coordinating volunteers to help with the cleanup project, including a group of 10 students from Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn.

“These students had so much energy and enthusiasm,” says Elizabeth Zambo of Christian Aid and Relief. “They gutted the church and parsonage that had been flooded, ripping out drywall and insulation. It was messy work, but they never complained.”

“It was an eye-opening experience,” says Hailey Stade, a sophomore at MLC and a member of Immanuel, Farmington, Wis. “I had no idea what to expect until we crossed the bridge to Panama City. Buildings were flattened. Every tree you saw was on the ground or bent in half. Power lines were all over the sides of streets and sidewalks. Large boats were tipped to their side in the water, and a building was considered lucky if it even had some of its roof intact.”

“This experience was definitely life changing,” notes Becky Pruss, a junior at MLC and a member at Redeemer, Fond du Lac, Wis. “When people who have lost so much still greet you with a smile and genuine conversation, it puts everything in perspective. Our God is definitely greater than the storms that may come our way in life. It really showed me that every day is an opportunity to live your faith.”

Zambo notes that volunteers will continue to be needed for months as work progresses on the church, parsonage, six to eight members’ homes, and homes of those in the community. Amazing Grace is currently worshiping at a nearby Christian camp facility, and its vacancy pastor, Rev. Jerome Enderle, and his wife are living in rented housing provided by Christian Aid and Relief.

Christian Aid and Relief has provided $108,000 toward this relief effort to this point, and more grant requests are expected. Monies distributed have been allocated for items such as supplies, building materials, gift cards, and volunteer expenses.

“The members of Amazing Grace have been overwhelmed by the love and support of their Christian brothers and sisters around WELS,” says Enderle. “This has served as an encouraging reminder that our small flock of believers is a part of a much larger family. The support and assistance of Christian Aid and Relief and the outpouring of gifts from people too numerous to begin to name cause us to thank and praise our Savior God. Truly he is the God of Amazing Grace.”

Christian Aid and Relief is partnering with Kingdom Workers’ Builders for Christ as the rebuilding process begins. Builders for Christ provides volunteers with building skills to serve alongside Christian Aid and Relief volunteers. To apply to serve as a volunteer to help with cleanup and relief work through WELS Christian Aid and Relief, visit wels.net/relief and fill out the volunteer form.

 

 

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Christian Aid and Relief Oct. 2018 update

When Hurricane Michael made landfall, Amazing Grace, Panama City, Fla., took a direct hit. Rev. Jerry Enderle, pastor at Amazing Grace, reports the church and parsonage suffered extensive damage, as did several members’ homes, along with the entire community. Rev. Joel Russow, pastor of Faith, Tallahassee, Fla., also reports trees down in the neighborhood, but the church and parsonage are okay.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief chairman, Rev. Robert Hein, reports:

“We have mobilized relief trailers from Mobile, Ala., and Jacksonville, Fla., to assist in cleanup and recovery efforts. Right now, some areas are still hard to reach and power is still out. For the short term, Risen Savior, Navarre, Fla., served by Rev. Craig Born, is serving as the relief staging area. Members of the local WELS congregations in Florida and Alabama are eager to help out once it is feasible to go into the affected areas. We have also made funds available to local pastors to provide immediate aid to those in need and to purchase needed supplies. Efforts are underway to provide temporary housing for those displaced from their homes.

“Many homes suffered roof damage, so our first priority is putting plywood and tarps on top of the parsonage and sanctuary at Amazing Grace and salvaging sanctuary furniture, and then repeating those steps for members with major loss. We will bring in a project manager soon to help us assess damage and opportunities for assistance throughout the community. We also made a $10,000 gift to Direct Relief, which provides immediate assistance to people affected by this hurricane.”

While Christian Aid and Relief is working to assess and help with the recent hurricane damage, it is also conducting ongoing rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of last fall’s Hurricane Maria. Missionary Larry W. Schlomer accepted a call to Puerto Rico in June 2018 to assist in coordinating the rebuilding and repairing of churches and pastors’ homes as well as aiding in the ongoing training of our sister church body’s future called workers.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief approved a $150,000 hurricane relief grant for phase one of repair and rebuilding in Puerto Rico, which includes rebuilding the church building in Humacao, repairing the church in Guayama, and repairing pastors’ homes. Schlomer reports that rebuilding in Humacao began earlier this fall.

To support WELS Christian Aid and Relief hurricane relief efforts, you can donate online (select “Hurricane Disaster Relief” in the designation field) or send it to WELS Christian Aid and Relief, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Dr. Waukesha, WI 53188, and designate it for the “Hurricane Fund.” If you’d like to volunteer to help with clean up and repair work, visit wels.net/relief and fill out the volunteer form.

 

 

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