Tag Archive for: WELS Missions

Breaking new ground

In Asia, meeting face-to-face is not always easy. Many East Asian cultures and governments are, to a greater or lesser degree, opposed to the gospel. This means that more than half of the local churches we serve reside in places we just can’t go.

Despite this, and by God’s good grace, most of the Asia One Team (AOT) are able to live in a safe, central location in Southeast Asia. This location has offices for the missionaries to work, a sanctuary to worship in, and now a classroom to teach in.

This month, AOT hosted their first seminary-level course in this new location. We were overjoyed to host a group of Asia Lutheran Seminary students who live in a country hostile to Christianity. Typically, these students meet with Asia Lutheran Seminary professors online to receive pastoral training. But now, God has opened a new door. We cannot go to them, but they can come to us!

One highlight of this course came at the end of the students’ time with us. After a joint, bilingual worship, one student expressed his immense joy at freely (and loudly!) singing Jesus’ praise. In his hometown, church happens in a house, in small groups, and can never be too loud (for fear of neighbors informing the police of their gathering). So we’re thanking God for the opportunity to serve our seminary students by not only teaching them face-to-face in a safe location, but also giving them the chance to worship freely.

Written by Rev. Dan Kingsbury, world missionary based in Southeast Asia.

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Latin America Mission – Spring 2024 Quarterly Update

During the last quarter, Latin America missionaries engaged in several projects beyond their usual teaching duties and visits to church planters (sembradores) and the groups they are leading (Grupos Sembrador).

Plans were set in motion for mission counselor (consejero) residencies, a program designed for missionaries to work in-person with church planters over an extended period. The “guía de metas”, a resource that facilitates goal-setting sessions between mission counselors and church planters, underwent an update to align with the five habits of a church planting group. Concerted efforts were made to provide extra support to students taking the Discipleship One capstone course, including the introduction of a capstone course specialist role. Calls were extended to new church planters and Academia Cristo professors. A system was established to announce all acceptances via video to the student body. A pilot program was launched to provide weekly sermons to church planters. A proposed revision to the Discipleship Two curriculum has been drafted and is set for development. The team experimented with strategies to offer support and encouragement to non-group gatherers who do not have churches nearby.

Most importantly, God’s Word was taught to thousands of students, students received training in church planting, and two new church plants were formed. Below, find a summary of key statistics and a snapshot of specific blessings from the quarter.

A Few Quick Stats:

  • 2.2M average weekly social media reach (user looks at the material for over three seconds)
  • 16,369 students are enrolled in self-study courses
  • 3,259 students have finished the four self-study courses
  • 232 students are enrolled in self-study courses in the U.S.
  • 911 students have completed one live course in Discipleship One with an Academia Cristo professor
  • 104 students have completed Discipleship One (13 live courses)
  • 39 students have completed Discipleship Two (8 live courses)
  • 34 church plants (Grupos Sembrador)

A snapshot of blessings during the past quarter:

1. New student orientation
Missionary Luke Beilke, in his role as Dean of Students, implemented a new student orientation program. All new students participate in a welcome session where they learn more about Academia Cristo. For their first course, they are enrolled in a course with other new students. This allows the instructor to ensure they have a positive experience. At the end of their first course, the students participate in a wrap up session which is intended to ensure clarity on how to continue their studies. Jenny Proeber, the Academia Cristo Admissions Coordinator, helps welcome the new students. She also helps coordinate and carry out these sessions. In the past quarter, three courses had over 60 finishers.

2. Open doors in Venezuela

The transition from the mobile app to self-study courses through WhatsApp has produced a high number of new students from Venezuela. Missionary Luis Acosta, who has American, Colombian, and Venezuelan citizenship, was able to make a visit to the country with Colombian Pastor Henry Herrera. They visited congregations from past work as well as new Academia Cristo students.

3. Teach n’ Go

New software called Teach n’ Go has been implemented to manage student records. It allows missionaries to track student progress, determine what courses a student has taken and needs to take, and has features to track which students are interested in doctrinal agreement and starting a group/planting a church. Lucho Herrera took the lead in setting up this software. He also helped all missionaries become trained in how to use it in instructional and multiplication work.

4. All-team, mid-quarter meetings

Last quarter, the Latin America mission team started having all-team, mid-quarter meetings. With expanded team size and multiple functions, several missionaries don’t interact with each other in a weekly L10 meeting. These all-team, mid-quarter meetings provide an opportunity for all missionaries to interact, share updates, review rocks, and discuss cross-functional issues.

5. 50th anniversary in Medellin, Colombia

The church in Medellín, Colombia, celebrated 50 years of worship services on Sunday, February 25. Retired Latin America Missionary Larry W. Schlomer and Latin America Missionaries Andrew Johnston and Matt Behmer attended the celebration, shared greetings, and participated in a question-and-answer session with the congregation. There was a worship service with record attendance, a meal, and fellowship time. There were also visitors from other congregations in Colombia.




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The impact of fellowship

As a new mission start, you ought to be focused on outreach, right? Yes, but there’s more to it than that.

In our first few years as a mission, we focused heavily on outreach. We held kids’ events, we organized other events, we piggy-backed off of community events, we canvassed, and I went to just about every community networking event that I could find. And this was good. It was extremely beneficial because we met a lot of people and had opportunities to invite someone to come hear the gospel and even opportunities to share the gospel then and there.

Before I write the rest of this, I want to say that we will continue to keep doing this outreach. It is important.

But, outreach is not the only thing that a mission church should be paying attention too and, as we would come to find out, our in-reach directly impacted our outreach.

Between 2020-2022, Sure Foundation grew relatively fast. Adding roughly 50 people within those years that came from a variety of backgrounds. Some of these additions were WELS transfers (people moving to South Dakota from other places of the country); some of these additions were adult confirmands; and a few of these additions were new births.

This was an amazing blessing and exciting times, especially for a new church. However, there was a struggle that came along with this growth. The core group of people that started this church, that had gotten to know each other really well, didn’t have the same sort of friendships with this mass of new people that had come into the church. What were we to do?

Well, we continued to do outreach, but we started to make a focused effort on in-reach. Lots of fellowship opportunities were offered – many, many potlucks. New members were slowly integrated into volunteering efforts. And do you know what happened? Relationships began to form. People knew each other’s’ names. They had shared experiences and familiarity with each other. The overall vibe (to use young person’s slang) of the congregation improved and prospects/visitors could feel this.

Here’s an example. . . Bob and Virginia started visiting worship sometime in the spring of 2023. Later that Fall, they took our Faith Builders Class and became members. At one point I asked them, what was it about Sure Foundation that they valued? They responded quickly saying two things: 1) they know that what they are receiving on Sundays is the Word of God and they didn’t have to doubt that, and 2) they felt like they were welcomed into a family, that people of this church genuinely enjoyed being together.

That warms a pastor’s heart, but it’s one thing to say that, it’s another thing altogether to mean it. Bob and Virginia meant it. They invited their family to come too. They loved their church and they couldn’t imagine not inviting their loved ones to come and hear the Word of God and experience the fellowship of a body of believers. Their invite led to two teenagers being baptized and two adults being confirmed. Praise be to God!

Their story has taught me something and that is that outreach is important, friendship evangelism is crucial, and also, that the love expressed in fellowship within a congregation has a bigger impact than you may ever realize.

Written by Rev. Craig Wilke, home missionary at Sure Foundation Lutheran Church in Brandon, S.D.

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Flyover country

When I was assigned to serve in South Dakota back in 2007, the first images that floated through my mind as I sat in the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary gymnasium were from the TV series Little House on the Prairie. Cue the theme song and little Laura Ingalls running through the grasses. That’s where I was about to go . . . somewhere in South Dakota. People came up to me afterward and said, “Oh, you are going to love it there!” Little did they know how much their words were fighting with the stereotype in my head. But, I do love it here! I love serving God’s people here, raising my family here, and reaching the lost here. I love seeing the people he continues to send here from all over the country.

I am blessed to serve on the Dakota-Montana District Mission Board, and when I travel for meetings and visits, I can’t help but stare out the window during take off and landing and think of my old silly stereotype.

Many people consider this district flyover country. How much mission work is there really to do in Montana and the Dakotas? There are rural areas that are losing population. But I have only seen the population of towns and cities grow in my 17 years here, and I don’t see any end to the mission work that needs to be done. What seems like rural America is growing. Families are moving here from all over the country looking for something better. Praise God that he would include the gospel among those better things to be found! Praise God that he would not just fly over “flyover” country, but use his people here to know the names of those living and moving here. There is just as much sin-brokenness and need for the gospel here as anywhere else. People moving here are coming along with the same hurts and burdens that weighed heavily on their hearts while living on either coast. If they were worth reaching there, they are most certainly worth reaching here.

Maybe the biggest difference is that you can see more of the sky while talking with someone about the God who created it for them. You can feel more grass under your feet when you talk with someone about the one who took on human flesh and felt the grass under his feet as he made his way to the cross for them. And you probably hear more wind while the Holy Spirit creates and strengthens faith through the same means of grace that are needed everywhere.

Who knows, maybe you and your family might even consider moving to Montana or the Dakotas to reach these people, too.

We are excited to welcome Joshua Schroeder as our missionary to Kalispell, Mont., this year. Our new mission in Williston, N.D., will begin calling from the field this summer, too.

We are so thankful to be a part of a synod that sees the value in reaching the lost, wherever they may be!

Written by Rev. Mark Schutz, District Mission Board (DMB) chairman of the Dakota-Montana district and pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in Spearfish, S.D. 

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An update from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church

God has not forgotten or forsaken his faithful in Ukraine in the midst of war. The work of the pastors of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) is an inspiration to many. There are many new opportunities to pray with people, read portions of Scripture, have devotions, and even hold services in new mission stations. Since the beginning of the war, four new missions have begun. The Word of God comforts people in times of sadness and despair, and this is evidenced in large measure to the pastors and those lay people who have remained in their homes.

With support from WELS and WELS sister churches around the world, Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) pastors have been able to buy and distribute needed food, medicines, fuel, and clothing to help those desperate for these daily needs. Many times these are distributed after a worship service. This way the people receive spiritual food as well as physical provisions. Bishop Horpynchuk, who serves Resurrection Lutheran Church in Kiev, said, “We thank the Lord for our brothers and sisters in WELS, and sister church bodies, for your aid that helps so many people to survive physically. Thousands of the needy around all of Ukraine have received and continue to receive food, clothes, and basic medicine. But you rescue not only bodies. All these people hear also the Word, the law and the gospel. And the Word does its work! Hundreds of people became communicant members of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church and attend the worship services faithfully.”

Resurrection Lutheran in Kiev has had many visitors and has now gone to two Sunday morning worship services, averaging nearly 150 worshipers each Sunday. On Pentecost Sunday in 2023, more than 70 people were confirmed in the Christian faith and now commune with their fellow members. Of those 70, nearly all of them continue to worship regularly each week.

Another example of how God can use even the worst of times to bring about wonderful blessings is told by Pastor Yuri Tytski who serves in Bereznehuvate. Due to the Russian invasion, Pastor Tytski relocated with his family to the city of Kremenets, about 500 miles away. While helping distribute aid in Kremenets, Pastor Tytski met two families who were from Snihurivka, a town very close to Bereznehuvate. He met with them, prayed with them, and began having devotions with them. After some time, when it was safe to return, Pastor Tytski went home to Bereznehuvate and the two families to their homes in Snihurivka. Pastor Tytski then continued to meet with them and have Bible studies; some of their neighbors even came. A few months ago, 30 of these people were instructed and are now members of a mission church where services are held once a month. How can one not see the hand of God at work? God caused these people to travel 500 miles where a pastor was led to them, and now they are redeemed children of God, through the blood of Jesus their Savior. It’s safe to say that the war brought them together. We don’t always know how or why God allows the things that he does, but we rejoice in how God continues to grow his church here on earth during what we would consider the worst of times.

All the ULC Pastors are providing an invaluable service to the people of Ukraine by comforting those who they meet with God’s Word and prayer. It reminds us that the kingdom often grows one person at a time. There continue to be so many people who are hurting; those who have lost loved ones, are not certain where their loved ones are, or if they are even alive. Prayers offered by pastors bring these hurting and grieving people true comfort and hope. It also reminds them that there are people who care about them, that they are not alone. Bishop summarized the attitude of the pastors and people of the ULC this way, “The war brought so much suffering, ruin, and death into our country; yet they cannot separate us from Christ’s love and life eternal he has won for us by his holy suffering, death, and resurrection. He lives and we live in him.”

Thank you for your love and concern for the people of Ukraine, the pastors, and Bishop Horpynchuk, their spiritual leader and guide. Your prayers are being heard and God has been protecting his people. May God, in his mercy, bring this war to an end soon.

Written by Rev. Roger Neumann, WELS Liaison to the Ukrainian Lutheran Church




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Native Strength Network

If you previously have not heard of Native Strength Network (NSN), well, it’s because it never was.

Now it is. It’s a newborn nonprofit organization. The Native Christians Network is seeing an opportunity to reach Native American tribes across the country with the gospel and provide other help.

But isn’t our synod doing that already? Doesn’t the WELS Native American Mission already have a long history of bringing the good news of Jesus – and other help – to tribal lands?

Good question. Answer: Indeed, so. Currently, there are nine congregations, two elementary schools, and an Apache Christian Training School on two reservations, Fort Apache and San Carlos. There are worship services, Sunday Schools, youth groups, ladies’ groups, men’s groups, Bible studies, and sermon studies already going on. Builders for Christ, Kingdom Workers, Lutheran Women’s Mission Society, and so many others have contributed manpower, prayer support, and financial help in various ways at various times.

Then why are we partnering with the Native Strength Network?

Missionary Daniel Rautenberg explains:

“Oftentimes when we’re going through a difficult time someone will tell us, ‘Be strong.’ That’s not always comforting. The truth is we don’t have enough strength on our own. But God does. He is our strength. And when we connect to him and connect with each other in a network we are stronger together.”

Ah, yes…connection. God connects with us through Word and sacrament. At that very same time – through those very same means – we connect with one another. Native Strength Network aspires to see more connections made as Native community members emerge as leaders, service providers, and helpers. Stronger together.

Through a generous grant, the vision of a nonprofit became a reality. In 2023, the Native Strength Network was able to hire an executive director, Andrea Semmann. With her enthusiasm, experience, and especially her love for the Lord driving her, she hit the ground running; she’s been plowing the sticky ground of red tape to meet government requirements and obtain such things as an Employment Identification Number (EIN), a National Provider Identifier Standard (NPI), the Articles of Incorporation, a 501(c)3 tax exempt status, and a community service agency (CSA) status.

Whew.

But that’s not all. The logo that they use? The name that it is? The board of directors? The website? All these things didn’t simply come into existence with a brief four-word command like, “Let there be light.” (Oh, that it could be that easy!) It has taken lots of work, teamwork, to brainstorm and “create” Native Strength Network for what it is. And for what it will become.

And what is that?

Native Strength Network exists to serve Native American communities across the country in a holistic, peer-led approach to wellness, meeting an individual’s identified needs with love and compassion.

Andrea adds these thoughts:

“Every community has its own strengths that can be used to help and support fellow community members. The communities that Native Strength Network intends to serve are no different. With training and support, members of these communities can bring needed care in the areas of mental health, substance use, and overall wellness and resilience. Trained peers and mentors from the community offer support and help navigating the healthcare system to ensure that proper care is received for those struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder. By seeing every individual as a physical, emotional, and spiritual being, Native Strength Network will care for the whole person. This whole person approach is one that creates lasting change throughout a community that is caring for one another. I would love to talk to more community members about opportunities.”

What fuels her passion for Native Strength Network? Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35:

“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.”

Ah, yes. Love. Easy to talk about it. Not always easy to show. Especially when it comes to challenging and complicated life situations. So it’s important to keep in mind Martin Luther’s insightful comment:

God doesn’t need your good works…but your neighbor does.

What good works might our Native American brothers and sisters in Christ appreciate? Maybe these following statistics and information give us a hint as to what needs are there and how we, together, can reach out to love one another . . .

Native communities in the U.S. face challenges:

• 300% higher drug addiction rate than the national average.
• Suicide rate over 3.5 times higher, especially in youth aged 10-24.
• 2.4 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than white adults.
• The unemployment rate frequently exceeds 70%.
• Numerous Native communities are situated in Health Provider Shortage Areas (HPSAs).
• Most Native Americans do have access to healthcare but may need assistance to navigate benefits.

Wow. Where does one even begin?

Hmmm… How about on one’s knees in prayer for Native Strength Network?

Written by Rev. John Holtz, world missionary on the Native American Mission. 

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Praying dangerously in Africa

Have you ever heard people use the phrase, “Pray dangerously?” It means to ask God for things that he will almost certainly grant, but that will also probably mean challenging times for the person praying.

For example, you could pray each day that God would bring challenges into your life so that you would be drawn closer to him. You could pray each day that God would you give an opportunity to witness about Jesus with somebody. These could be considered “dangerous” requests because God will likely grant those requests, but it might mean hard or uncomfortable times for us.

In the outreach group for the One Africa Team, we often pray the prayer, “Lord, present us with more opportunities to reach more people with your gospel in Africa.” You could call that a dangerous prayer. What if God actually granted that request? What would we do with all the opportunities?

By God’s grace, that’s exactly the position we are finding ourselves in. We find ourselves high in opportunities and low in the ability to take advantage of them all in the way we would like. In addition to the eight partners we’re already in fellowship with in Africa, we are currently actively working towards fellowship with another eight church bodies! These are located in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (two church bodies there), Liberia, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Ethiopia (two church bodies here, different from the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia). We are also offering support to two of our sister churches as they reach out to establish fellowship with other churches in their areas. In addition, at any given time we usually have around 40 individuals who come into contact with us online that we are trying to get to know better to see if we can work together in gospel ministry. Finally, many of the churches and contacts we are beginning to work with are in countries where the predominant language is French, so we find ourselves in need of more people who are capable in this language.

Admittedly, these are great challenges for us to have to face! We thank God for his grace in leading us to all these opportunities. Now we ask that he also give us the capacity to overcome the challenges facing us. Please join your prayers to ours about these things! Pray that God would send us more workers to fill the three empty positions on our team. Pray that we can excel in language learning so that we can better communicate the truths of the gospel in different countries. Pray that these new groups would have a love for the pure word of God and that we would find ourselves in agreement with them on doctrine so that we can work together for the sake of the gospel. And yes, pray that we would have even more opportunities for gospel outreach in the future! It may be a “dangerous” prayer, but is one filled with God’s blessing!

Written by Rev. Ben Foxen, world missionary in Lusaka, Zambia.

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Vicars and graduates assigned to home and world mission fields

Martin Luther College graduates to world mission fields

  • Borgwardt, Matthias P. – Peridot-Our Savior’s Lutheran School – Grade 6
  • Vilhauer, Jake L. – Lusaka, Zambia – One Africa Team Outreach Missionary

Seminary pastoral assignments to home mission congregations

Six pastoral graduates from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary were assigned to serve WELS home mission congregations.

  • Bitter, Benjamin D. – Peace, Trinity, FL
  • Fury, Clayton J. – New Start, Conway, AR
  • Pankow, Tristan J. – Living Shepherd, Laramie, WY
  • Schroeder, Joshua M. – New Start, Kalispell, MT
  • Steinbrenner, Eli E. – Good Shepherd, Plymouth, WI
  • Ungemach, Jacob D. – New Start, Cincinnati (Oakley), OH

Vicar in a Mission Settings program assignments

29 Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary students were assigned to serve as vicars through the Vicars in a Mission Setting program, and one additional vicar was assigned to serve a WELS World Missions partner in Colombia. The Vicar in a Mission Settings program allows third-year seminary students experience ministry in a mission-minded congregation thanks to financial support from WELS Home Missions and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. *Denotes home mission congregation

Backus, Jonah A. – Apostles, Billings, MT
Bain, Abel B. – Christ, Denver, CO*
Balge, Philip R. – Beautiful Savior, Marietta, GA
Boulden, Nathan B. – Amazing Grace, Myrtle Beach, SC*
Brauer, Nathaniel A. – Living Savior, Asheville, NC
Dimke, Alexander M. – Faith, Anchorage, AK
Fix, Jon P. – Beautiful Savior, College Station, TX
Fluegge, Eric M. – Immanuel, Findlay, OH
Friesenegger, Michael F. – Abiding Grace, Covington, GA
Gensemer, Daniel R. – Tree of Life, Cary, NC
Heichelbech, Gregory J. – Zion, Denver, CO
Helmer, Eric. M – St. Peter, Schofield, WI
Lewis, Jacob H. – Trinity, Kiel, WI
Lindemann, Kyle D. – Christ Alone – Keller, TX*
Loersch, Josiah L. – Light of the Valleys, Reno, NV*
Melso, Noah J. – Gethsemane, Omaha, NE
Mittelstadt, Josiah S. – Our Savior, San Antonio, TX
Neumann, Micah C. – Carbon Valley, Firestone, CO*
Nguyen, Minh T. – Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel, Madison, WI*
Nordlie, Noah P. – Grace, Sahuarita, AZ*
Prins, Ethan D. – Resurrection, Verona, WI
Rugen, Matthew A. – Santísima Trinidad, Medellín, Colombia (World)
Schroeder, Justin M. – Good News, Mt. Horeb, WI*
Schulz, Jonah W. – Sure Foundation, Woodside, NY*
Sims, Marcus J. – Hope, Toronto, ON, Canada*
Vogt, Noah J. – Abiding Faith, Smyrna, TN
Westra, Caleb L. – Foundation, Peyton, CO*
Zabell, Jacob D. – Risen Savior, Chula Vista, CA

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Faith beyond four walls

As a mission congregation with no permanent facility, Peace Lutheran in Gilbert, Ariz., has had to adapt.  We have worshiped in a number of different locations—member’s homes, school cafeterias, classrooms, etc.  In 2022, our Sunday morning services were being held in a high school auditorium.  But that Fall, we were notified that some renovations were going to be taking place and we would have to find another place to hold our services.  Our leadership came up with the idea of setting up a tent on the land we had purchased for our future church home.  The property already had an older barn structure on site.  We poured a concrete pad, extending off of the barn and set the tent up for services, with the barn acting as our “fellowship hall.”  The members instantly loved it!  Despite the fact we had heavy rain the first few Sundays, God’s people gathered around Word and Sacrament.  Despite the fact at times it got windy and chilly, God’s people invited their families and friends.  “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1).

By the Spring of 2023, the renovations in the high school auditorium had been completed and we moved back inside due the Arizona heat.  However, it didn’t take long before people started to ask, “When are we going back to the tent?”  So in the Fall of 2023, we did just that—we went back to our church home.  And it has been a wonderfully blessed experience!

Over the course of the past two years we have been working on the building project for our permanent church home.  Our building plans have been completed and submitted to the county for approval.  God’s people have been incredibly generous. We’ve raised enough money to put a shovel in the ground.  We are excited to finally have a permanent church home and during this planning process we have decided that we will incorporate outdoor services as a regular part of our Sunday services because people loved them so much.

This entire experience has highlighted for all of us at Peace that church isn’t just a building or a structure. Church is God’s people gathering around his means of grace. Church is God’s people celebrating and sharing the news of Christ’s empty cross and tomb. Church is God’s people proclaiming the forgiveness Jesus brings to souls aching for peace. And that’s something we can do, wherever we are.

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Written by Rev. Mark Schroeder, home missionary at Peace Lutheran Church in Gilbert, Ariz. 

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CAMM May 2024 Newsletter

Greetings in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is April and people have started harvesting their maize fields. The harvest has happened a little bit earlier this year as people are trying to protect their crops from theft. These theft cases have risen because a lot of people have empty fields due to the prolonged dry spell that Malawi experienced in January and February. This dry spell has really affected this country and the harvest is worrisome to the point that the Malawian President declared Malawi in a state of disaster.

Newa Amos

The Lord has been faithful to the Lutheran Mobile Clinic and all its staff. He is keeping us healthy so that we can continue serving his people. However, we are still experiencing a huge number of patients in all the clinic sites. The top diagnosis at all these sites remains malaria. For the past weeks, our Mwalaulomwe Clinic has seen a huge turnout of patients. So much so that we ran out of medication during clinic hours and had to send our ambulance back to our pharmacy in Lilongwe for restocking. This is happening because the government hospitals have a low supply of malaria commodities, includes malaria testing kits and medication. We hope that the supplies will be available soon and that God brings healing upon his people.

I would like to tell you about our disabled kids at Msambo Clinic; the Lord has been so faithful in their lives. Newa Amos is a four-year-old little boy. In 2022, at two years old, Newa suffered cerebral malaria and was admitted to Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe. This malaria affected him such that he lost developmental milestones. He could not sit, stand, or walk. He lost speech and started drooling. After he was cured of malaria, the boy was discharged through the physiotherapy department and the mother was told to visit three times a week. Due to transportation problems, the mother was unable to visit the hospital as required and was just staying at home with the little boy. After a few weeks, this mother together and her boy came to our clinic at Msambo to find out if we could help in any way. Our clinic was able to help with money for transport and the boy started getting physiotherapy sessions at Children of Blessings Hospital which is a little bit closer to her home.

2024 marks two years since Newa started his physiotherapy sessions at Children of Blessings. He visits the hospital two times a week. The mother was taught how to do the physiotherapy at home. Both the physiotherapists and the mother play a great role in making sure that Newa gets back on his feet. Today, Newa is four years old, and he can sit, stand and walk alone without support. He is now in a speech class, and he can utter a few inaudible words, but there is hope that he will be able to talk.

Currently, our clinic supports five kids with transportation money so that they get their physiotherapy at Children of Blessings. There is a great improvement in all four kids, and there is hope that they will be able to live normally. The mothers and the kids’ families are very happy and thankful for the help they receive.

The medical mission’s work in fighting disease and malnutrition in children, especially the disabled ones, helps to prolong their lives and gives them and their parents a chance to hear the gospel and be saved. We are so very thankful for all who give to the Central Africa Medical Mission to make it possible. May God continue blessing you.

Written by Violet Chikwatu, Nurse in Charge for the Lutheran Mobile Clinic in Malawi

 




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From information to experience

There’s a difference between knowing something and truly experiencing it. During my time at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, we learned the Greek terms “oida” (possessing information) and “ginosko” (understanding through experience). As the saying goes, “hearing is not the same as living it.” This truth struck me during a recent visit to Nicaragua.

Julio Vargas, one of our church planters, arranged a visit with Amy, a woman he ministers to in the village of San Benito, 40 miles from Managua. I had met Amy and her family seven months prior. She was a hardworking mother of five and had recently taken in a five-year-old boy abandoned by his mother as she was seeking work abroad. Despite her limited income and heavy responsibilities, Amy said, “I couldn’t say no. I knew this child was brought to me so he could learn about Jesus.” Her heart reminded me of the widow of Zarephath, who had almost nothing but offered what she had to God first.

L to R: Missionary Luis Acosta and Mr. Julio Vargas

Amy seemed more subdued than before. When I asked if something was wrong, she tearfully said, “Thank you for visiting. You’re the answer to my prayers. I’ve been battling depression, questioning if God has abandoned me. Only my responsibility to God’s children keeps me going. I’ve been praying for a sign, a reminder that he’s with me.”

This was a powerful and emotive moment. I went from having “oida” knowledge of Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news,” to experiencing its truth firsthand. Amy’s gratitude for my visit, the timing of it, solidified my understanding. When I said to her this is what the Lord says, “Never will I leave you, never will forsake you,” I knew I was not just repeating a Bible verse, the Lord was talking to her.

To comfort Amy, I pointed to the ultimate symbol of God’s love: Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and resurrection. I assured her this promise guaranteed God will never abandon her.

I told Amy that sharing the gospel with her was a true privilege, but it wasn’t a solo act. Our ministry at Academia Cristo thrives and is possible thanks to the prayers and support of countless believers who share our same faith and pray and care about her and her family.

Thanks for walking alongside us; your feet are quite beautiful. Please keep Amy, her family, and our ministry at Academia Cristo in your prayers.

Written by Rev. Luis Acosta, world missionary on the Latin America mission team based in Doral, Fla. 

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CAMM April 2024 Newsletter

The Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) mobile clinic in Malawi depends on having reliable ambulances for our daily trips to our clinics. While the Toyota Land Cruisers we use are rugged and tough, after a few years they start to require more and more maintenance. So, if we are going to use them on a daily basis, we cannot have them sitting in the shop waiting for repairs. For that reason, we replace them every five years.

Unfortunately, if we want to buy a new ambulance in Malawi, we cannot go down to the local dealer, pick one off the lot, pay for it, sign the paperwork, and drive it home that day.

Instead, we use a company called Toyota Gibraltar. They are named after where they are located, on the rock of Gibraltar, the British Overseas Territory and city located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula in Spain. Toyota Gibraltar specializes in providing vehicles to non-governmental organizations, such as ours, who operate in third world countries within South America, Africa, and Asia. The advantage of using them is we see significant cost savings over the local Malawian Toyota dealer. The bad news is that it takes a while for the vehicle to arrive, and we (CAMM) must deal with all the local customs and vehicle registration issues instead of the dealer. As clinic administrator, Lusungu Mwambeye handles these challenging details with help and guidance from me.

We ordered and paid for the vehicle in September of 2023. It arrived in Lilongwe on March 30, 2024. To get here, the vehicle traveled from Japan to Gibraltar. There, it was put in a container where it left Gibraltar by ship in late December enroute to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, via Oman and Jakarta. Once in Dar es Salaam the container was put on a truck for the 1,000-mile overland trip to Lilongwe. The ambulance is now at the clinic house/office in Lilongwe, but it will be a while before we can put it on the
road. Lusungu still needs to get final customs clearance before we can begin the registration process. As we use the vehicle as an ambulance, we can import it duty free. A savings of $35,000, but duty-free status requires a lot more paperwork.

For registration, the vehicle first needs to be checked by Interpol to make sure it is not stolen. Then it must be inspected by Malawi Road Traffic to check the engine and chassis numbers match the paperwork, then it can be registered. Visits to the road traffic office are not for the faint-hearted; your local DMV is a haven of efficiency and serenity by comparison. Once registered it will go to Toyota Malawi to complete the delivery inspection and installation of the roof rack and any other remaining parts. Finally, it needs a government safety inspection called a Certificate of Fitness, throw in some insurance and we are ready to go. I’m praying that it will be ready for the road by late April. Then we can worry about selling the old ambulance.

It is getting toward the end of the rainy season in Malawi and Zambia. Malawi had a period of three weeks with no rain in the middle of their growing season, but rains had returned to the central region by early March. Unfortunately, a little too late. People are not expecting a good harvest. In Zambia this year, rains have been very sparse. The government has already declared a state of emergency and began scheduling power cuts because of low water levels in the Zambezi River – the country depends heavily on hydroelectric generation for its power needs. Normally by this time of year the fields are lush with freshly grown maize. I am no farmer but much of the maize I saw when I visited Zambia in March looked brown, stunted, and poor. Very likely, this is not going to be a good harvest, and hunger could be a very real possibility.

Thank you to everyone who made our new ambulance a reality and please pray for our brothers and sisters in Malawi and Zambia. They are going to need a lot of prayer and support this year.

Written by Gary Evans, CAMM Field Director

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A new city, the same gospel

“Here in Bread of Life: the Church of the Lord, members of his body, by God it was formed. Reunited family, branches of the Vine, reconciled people, declare his love divine.” On November 19th, 2023, over 80 individuals gathered to celebrate the reality of these beautiful words, an English translation from the hymn “Aquí en Pan de Vida” adapted and translated by Pan de Vida’s longtime worship coordinator and staff minister, Amy Reede Nuñez. Pan de Vida Iglesia Luterana in Garden Grove, Calif., celebrated its 20th anniversary on that night with a special worship service followed by a meal and a mariachi band.

All Nations Sunday at King of Kings Lutheran Church.

Although this Spanish outreach mission currently calls Garden Grove its home, most of its rich history occurred about five miles east of its current facility. Pan de Vida launched in Santa Ana, Calif., back in 2003 under the leadership of Pastors Brian Doebler and Chris Schroeder, recent Seminary graduates who did six months of language training in Mexico. English classes and Bible studies blossomed into Spanish worship services, first in the pastors’ homes, then in local elementary schools, and finally in Pan de Vida’s own building that they purchased and renovated in 2008.

In all of these different locations, the Holy Spirit quietly worked through the means of grace as his church proclaimed Christ’s message of reconciliation. Individuals who came to learn English stayed after class to hear about God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit planted and grew faith in their hearts. Families invited their friends, and their friends kept coming back to hear about their heavenly Father’s infinite love for them in Christ. A couple walked across the street from their apartment one Sunday morning to inquire about this new church and kept coming Sunday after Sunday to hear the good news of the gospel. To this day, the highlight of their week is when their pastor comes to their home to feed them with Word and Sacrament, and then they get to feed him with home-cooked food that is way too spicy for him to handle. One of my favorite parts of my first nine months as pastor at Pan de Vida has been getting to hear everyone’s story of how God worked through the faithful proclamation of his Word to connect them to this body of believers. He blessed so many people through the ministry that took place in Santa Ana.

In 2021, due to a number of factors, Pan de Vida had to sell their longtime home. However, God provided for his people once again, this time through the brothers and sisters at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Garden Grove, who graciously opened their facility for Pan de Vida’s use. Although many changes have occurred for Pan de Vida in the last couple of years, the celebration of its 20th anniversary reminded us of one thing that will never change. The same gospel that called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified this family of believers in Santa Ana is the gospel it continues to proclaim in Garden Grove. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. May the Lord of the Church bless his people as we strive to faithfully carry out his ministry and declare his love divine to those around us.

Written by Rev. Grant Hagen, home missionary at Pan de Vida in Garden Grove, Calif.

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Building trust in the heart of Japan

In the heart of Japan, gospel outreach is blossoming through the power of building relationships and serving the community.

Kanon, the son of Pastor Haga of Megumi church in Mito, spearheaded an impactful English camp. With meticulous planning and heartfelt efforts, Kanon orchestrated an enriching experience for 15 children. From engaging geography and science classes taught by Sam of Kingdom Workers and Annalisa from Friends Network, to fun-filled activities like kickball and board games, the camp was a hit! The kids enjoyed a scrumptious pizza lunch that allowed them to creatively construct their own pizza. This camp not only provided a refreshing break for parents but also played a pivotal role in building trust within the community. The experience mirrors the experiences Kanon had as a child as well, learning about the church through these community activities where people can see Christians as loving and generous people right in their own town—not a strange and mysterious western religion.

Further strengthening the bond among Christians, a recent BBQ event by the members of the Tokyo church took place at Koganei. Here’s what one member, Yuki, said: “We had a BBQ event at Koganei Park. There were 12 brothers and sisters present. We brought all the ingredients ourselves. Takahashi-san bought and cut all the meat and vegetables for us! We are very thankful to her! It was a little windy that day, making it hard to start a fire; however, we still enjoyed cooking because everyone helped each other and seemed so happy! The meal was delicious!”

One attendee suggested we play some sports after the meal, so he went back to his house to gather equipment. We had our meal for around an hour and a half, then started singing hymns. One had the same melody as “It’s a Small World,” but the lyrics were about praising God. The other was “Jesus Loves Me.” Takahashi-san prepared the lyrics for us. She accompanied us with her guitar, making our singing even more amazing!

After singing, we all joined in playing frisbee with one another. We tried to make a game out of it and see how many times we could catch a frisbee in one minute. It felt like we had returned to our childhood.

Thank you, God, for giving us this gracious time with our brothers and sisters!

These stories are not just about the events; they are about the transformative power of relationships, community service, and faith. Whether it’s through educational camps or fellowship over BBQ and hymns, the gospel is being shared and relationships are deepening. The Lutheran church in Japan is actively and creatively reaching out to build trust within the community. Since the camp, two of the children attended the Easter service in Mito, and after finding belonging and purpose among the brothers and sisters in Tokyo, one of the East Asia members was recently baptized. Join me in continuing to pray for the spread of the gospel in Japan and thank God with me for all he has done in Japan.

Written by Rev. Peter Janke, world missionary for the Asia One Team.

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A growing faith leads to a growing group for TELL student

On a recent trip to Africa, Joel Hoff, TELL Missionary to Africa and I were visiting many TELL students in Kenya. One remarkable student is John Omondi. “I built a patio onto my house so we would have room for my group to meet, worship, and study the Bible,” says Omondi. Omondi is already leading a group and preparing to plant a church, following the TELL multiplication plan.

It is in the heart of Kenya, amidst the bustling city life in Kisumu, that Omondi is leading a Bible study group in his home. There is no WELS presence in his neighborhood – yet. But, by way of TELL Network, for the first time, Omondi is getting real gospel training online with the goal of sharing the saving message of the gospel with others. Omondi found TELL’s unique online training platform through Facebook during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. His story is a testament to the power of Christian faith and the impact of TELL around the world.

John Omondi and Rev. Nathan Seiltz

“It was during the pandemic that we first started to meet, and I had to get permission from the local leaders so we could gather together,” says Omondi. Despite some challenges, he gathers 50 to 70 people together weekly, all eager for deeper study of God’s Word and fellowship. Imagine colorful matatus (minibuses) whirring by with graffiti painted on the sides, loud music from all directions, and sidewalks lined with vendors selling street food. Omondi’s home is more than an escape from the clamor; it’s become a sanctuary where people gather every Sunday to worship and learn from the Bible.

But Omondi’s ministry is not limited to Sundays. Every Thursday, spiritual life is breathed into various homes among his group members. These get togethers are intimate—a blend of worship, prayer, and sharing the Word of God, culminating in a shared meal. Teaching his brothers and sisters in Christ is all part of Omondi’s journey to grow closer to the Lord and encourage others to do the same. His path, however, is not without obstacles.

John Omondi with Rev. Joel Hoff, TELL Missionary to Africa

The transient nature of new Christians, the lack of resources like cell phones and internet access in rural areas, and the language barrier with materials that require translation from English into Kiswahili and Masai present significant hurdles. Yet, Omondi remains undeterred, committed to continuing study and leading his group.

As an advanced student, Omondi was paired with Missionary Joel Hoff as his personal TELL Counselor. Based in Lusaka, Zambia, some of Hoff’s time is spent mentoring TELL students who complete at least eight courses and making personal visits throughout Africa to continue guiding students as they organize groups of their own. Hoff says, “I was John’s teacher for several of his online TELL courses, and I finally got to meet him in person last month in Nairobi, Kenya. It was such a pleasure to see him and hear about his ministry and how TELL has motivated and impacted his life and his ministry.”

“TELL has been such a blessing to me and my ministry. I know the Bible so much better, and I know how to teach the Bible to others. TELL is different because it focuses on the Bible, not on people’s opinions,” says Omondi. Omondi has now come into doctrinal agreement and has met leaders of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), one of the national church partners of WELS.

Please pray for our brother John Omondi. That he continues to grow in his faith and in his leadership, that his group may grow in number and in faith, and that it may multiply to plant a new church to serve his community. And, pray that many will hear and be inspired by the precious gospel message he shares.

TELL instructors continue to teach and encourage students like Omondi in Africa, Europe, Asia and places in-between. If you’re a trained WELS pastor, or teacher, and would like to become an online TELL instructor, visit, teach.tellnetwork.org

Written by Rev. Nate Seiltz, director of Multi-Language Productions and TELL Network. 

Rev. Nate Seiltz and Rev. Joel Hoff took time during their travel to visit with Rev. Davison, the national pastor and president of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa -Zambia. His choir performed a few of their songs at Malembo Onse in Chongwe, Zambia.

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CAMM March 2024 Newsletter

Almost three years ago, Pastor Mark Anariko Onunda from Lutheran Congregations in Missions for Christ—Kenya approached the One Africa Team (OAT) and the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) with a proposal to hold a week-long medical camp at a Lutheran congregation near the town of Sagana, Kenya. These medical camps are common in Kenya, and the government approves of them to reach people in rural areas with free screenings and medical care.

The CAMM committee prayerfully considered and agreed to this, knowing that nothing should be done that would detract from the work we are doing at the Lutheran Mobile Clinic in Malawi or the Lutheran Mission Rural Health Center in Zambia. OAT was in favor, because Pastor Onunda’s main goal was to bring patients to the church by providing evangelists to lead devotions and share the gospel of Christ with people coming to the camp. With a generous grant from WELS Christian Aid and Relief, the cost was covered. After almost a year of preparations by our Field Director Gary Evans, Pastor Mwangi, John Michoro, and other leaders of the congregation at Karima Lutheran Church, together with the Kirinyaga County Health Department, the four-day camp became a reality from February 26-29.

Six volunteers from the CAMM committee arrived four days early to complete the work of sorting and organizing supplies and medications in the storage room and setting up the camp in a large field near the church, joining Gary and Pastor John Roebke. They met with key government staff to confirm what supplies were still needed and which services would be provided. Tents and toilets had already been installed. Volunteers from the congregation were available to help set up chairs, tables, handwashing stations, and rope lines. Everyone worshiped together under one of the tents on Sunday prior to the start of camp. There was a sense of unity of faith and joy in the mission ahead.

The government staff included clinical officers, nurses, nutritionists, laboratory technicians, a pharmacist, pharmacy techs, and record keepers. There was a truck in which women could be screened and even treated for cervical cancer. American volunteers assisted wherever they could, whether taking blood pressures, checking blood sugars, doing triage, weighing patients, finding equipment, running to the storeroom to bring medications to the pharmacy, placing garbage and sharps containers, and monitoring the overall workflow. The church volunteers registered and numbered patients, directed them where to go, answered questions, emptied garbage, cleaned, translated the Kikuyu language, spent time talking with patients, and led Bible studies, and hard-working women made traditional African food lunches for 70 people each day!

All patients were screened for hypertension and diabetes and received nutrition advice, health education, and medications as needed. Over the four days, 1,400 patients were seen. One 12-year-old girl with a very painful ulcerated rash on her ankles for two years was finally treated with the correct antifungal and antibiotic medication, and follow-up was arranged. A woman who had dangerously high blood sugar but had not been taking medication for diabetes was treated with IV fluids and insulin. She could go home with oral medication and was taught how to change her diet to help keep her glucose levels down and to follow up at a local clinic. “Asante sana” (thank you very much) was heard often. We were told the community had benefited greatly from the camp, and the church leaders knew that there would be many new visitors to church the next Sunday.

Although the volunteers were tired, dirty, and sensory overloaded at the end of each day, it was gratifying to know that it was mainly the Kenyan peoples’ initiative and efforts that made the camp happen. We were watching God’s plan unfold for people to hear about their Savior as well as have their health needs met. Will there be more Lutheran medical camps in Kenya? God willing, yes. Meanwhile, our clinics in Zambia and Malawi continue to thrive.

Thanks be to God!

Written by Beth Evans, CAMM Nurse Advisor

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Small in number, mighty in love

Crosspoint Church  in Georgetown, Tex., has been putting on an Easter Eggstravaganza event for over four years now. Each year it has become bigger and bigger, yet membership has stayed at 40 members. In 2023, the event attracted nearly 1,000 people. Rev. Mike Geiger and the members at Crosspoint were expecting just as big of a turnout, if not bigger, for this year as well. However, being a congregation consisting primarily of retirees, they needed more resources than what they had available to help this event be another successful one. The University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire’s campus ministry was asked if they would be willing to go down to Texas during their spring break. Four students volunteered and spent the week going door-to-door handing out invitations to both the Easter Eggstravaganza event and the Easter Sunday service, doing the heavy lifting of tables, tents, and signage to set up for the event, running different stations at the event, and helping take it all back down at the end of the day to get the church ready for service the next morning.

While Crosspoint may be a small church in number, it is still mighty in love and God’s grace. I don’t think there was one member who didn’t contribute in some way to the event, whether it was helping host the college students, stuffing all 14,000 eggs, setting up the event, lending tables or tents for the event, running the event, or helping take it down. There was so much love and hospitality everywhere you went. While planning and putting on the long-awaited event, the congregation was so full of joy and hope, praying that the Holy Spirit would use it as an opportunity to bring some more people closer to Jesus. After a week full of work by the campus ministry students and months of work by the congregation, the event was finally able to commence.

There were 817 people in attendance at the Easter Eggstravaganza, enjoying the event and learning more about what Crosspoint stood for. On Easter Sunday, four new families joined us. The families had either been at the event the day before or had gotten an invitation during our canvasing earlier in the week. We hope that through the Holy Spirit these people will come back and learn about Jesus, and eventually be led to become members at Crosspoint. May God bless all the work Crosspoint is doing to expand their ministry and grow their congregation in one of the fastest-growing areas of Texas.

Written by Ally Veley, member of In Christ Alone, the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire WELS Campus Ministry.

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Multiple home missions under one roof

St. John’s Lutheran in St. Paul, Minn., is an old congregation established by German immigrants over 150 years ago. It was the second WELS congregation started in the Twin Cities area. In the 1980s, the neighborhood demographic started to change. Asians and African Americans moved in while Caucasians moved to the suburbs. Throughout the 1990s and in the 2000s, the change continued as Hispanic immigrants moved into the area.

In 2005, St. John’s opened their facility to Immanuel Hmong, a WELS congregation focused on reaching out to the local Hmong community. As the neighborhood around St. John’s changed, so did the congregation. By 2015 the membership had decreased to about 300 souls. Enrollment in the school continued to decline throughout the years. In 2017, St. Johns made the difficult decision to close the school.

Over the next three years, St. Johns considered merging with other area congregations or closing their doors as they could no longer completely support a full-time pastor. Then, in 2020 a member of the church passed away and left a large bequest to the congregation. With the help of District President Rev. Dennis Klatt and Rev. Tim Flunker, Hispanic Outreach Consultant, the members of St. John’s “opened their eyes and looked at the fields” around them and decided to move forward in a new direction. They decided to ask WELS Home Missions for some financial help to call a bilingual pastor with the goal of starting a Hispanic ministry in addition to the English-speaking community.

In spring of 2022, St. John’s installed Rev. Tim Otto to serve as pastor to focus on outreach to the Hispanic community. What a joy to see God answer in a greater fashion than we could ask or imagine: the building now hosts worship in three languages every weekend!

Check out below some of the recent activities happening at St. John’s facility.

Hispanic Services in St. Paul, Minn.

Over the past year, St. John’s has started up Hispanic services and held various local community events under the name of Iglesia Lutherana San Juan.

In September, San Juan had a table at Fiesta Latina. It served to create a prospect list of around 100. The group gave away over 100 Bibles and a lot of flyers advertising their Hispanic ministry. This event was held by CLUES (Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio) at a building next door to the church.

In January, San Juan started an evangelism program to the community called Kicks and Conversations (Patear y Platicar). They invited the community to come out of the cold and to play soccer or basketball in the gym. Attendees could also practice their English on Wednesdays in January and February leading up to Ash Wednesday. There was good participation and attendance from the community varied from 10 to 30 people.

In summer 2023, San Juan started a summer evangelism program partnering with Raices y Ramas, a Hispanic pregnancy counseling organization. The program is called Community Thursdays (Jueves en comunidad) and ran for six weeks over the summer. San Juan opened the gym and volunteers organized and ran crafts for the moms.

For more information on St. John’s/San Juan, please visit their website at stjohnev.net

Celebrating Thanksgiving & Hmong New Year in St. Paul, Minn.

In November each year, the congregation of Immanuel Hmong Lutheran in St. Paul, Minn., welcomes friends and guests to a special Thanksgiving and Hmong New Year celebration. This is a yearly celebration that includes members dressing in traditional Hmong attire. The celebration includes a special worship service followed by dinner that includes many Hmong dishes.

In addition to the annual Thanksgiving and Hmong New Year celebration, Immanuel Hmong also hosted various other activities such as marriage retreats, vacation Bible studies, summer fun festivals, family camping, and many different choirs.

God has truly blessed Immanuel Hmong, and we pray that God would continue to bless this home mission!

For more information on Immanuel Hmong, please visit their website at immanuelhmong.net

Written by Daryl Schultz, Minnesota District Mission Board member.

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Resilient in the face of rejection

“Christianity is dying.” “Religion is a waste of time and money and energy.” “I will be blocking any further posts from you.”

Our church ran an advertisement on Facebook recently for our Lent sermon series. The quotes above are a sample of replies we got as people scrolled through their feeds and ran into our post. Encouraging, right?

You’ve probably heard similar things. Perhaps no one has said something like this to you when you’ve invited them to church. Usually, people are much more polite if you already have a relationship. But they may have thought it. “Who still cares about that ‘church’ stuff?”

When we see churches all over the country shrinking, and people reacting more and more negatively to our invitations, we can become discouraged. We might even get angry. We’re tempted to lash out at those who disparage our faith, whether online or in person.

But some people responded quite differently to our ad.

“God bless you at all times and all places.” “Thank you.” “Pray for me.”

God’s children, even in an age that seems less and less interested in the gospel, are known through our attitudes of peace, joy, and kindness. Your neighbors see Christ’s love reflected in you, which is a wondrous work of God’s Holy Spirit.

The early Christians faced similar rejection and persecution. Many people accused them of cannibalism (because they were “eating someone’s body and blood” in worship) or of conspiracy and sedition (because they claimed another Lord ruled over them).

Likewise, we may face rejection and scorn for what seems like unfair reasons. But in that, we’re no different than our Lord. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness”. 1 Peter 2:23-24

I’ve got an appointment on my calendar this week to stop by a new member’s home; someone who’s been ill recently and hasn’t made it to worship in a couple weeks. Their reaction to Christianity? A text that made me smile. “I’m frustrated. I really want to get back to church.”

This is going to sound obvious, but it’s a truth I’ve had to remind myself of more than once during our church’s restart project, “Don’t look for encouragement in discouraging words.” I found myself returning to those negative comments, reading them again and again, as if I expected a reply to suddenly occur to me that would absolutely flip their worldview on its head and convince them of the truth of the gospel. That won’t happen!

Instead, find encouragement among your brothers and sisters in your church. Cling to one another. “The family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings,” so let us “love each other deeply” (1 Peter 5:9 and 4:8). Love like that will stand out today, tomorrow, and always.

Written by Rev. Timothy Walsh, home missionary at Grace of God Lutheran Church in Dix Hills, N.Y.

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Pastoral Studies Institute: Winterim 2024

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous WELS member, the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) was able to bring five of our East Asian PSI students to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary for an intensive one week of instruction. They were able to attend classes that were specifically focused on their course requirements but also upon their cultural background. One of the PSI courses is “History of Christianity in the Student’s Context.” Our students were able reap the blessings of being taught by Professor Emeritus Glen Thompson who served at Asia Lutheran Seminary teaching Historical Theology and New Testament. Professor Thompson shared his class “History of Christianity in East Asia.” Much of his course was new information for our students since most East Asian history is rewritten to coincide with the current government’s policies.

While on campus our PSI students were able to attend daily chapel and meet and interact with our traditional students who were also on campus for their intensive Winterim courses. Our PSI men made the most of their time on campus in a second course, “Engaging the Spirit World.” This was a very practical addition to their training as future pastors, given the high rate of spiritism in East Asian culture.

This is just one more way that the Pastoral Studies Institute attempts to be flexible in our training methods, but consistent and academically rigorous in delivering our Confessional Lutheran content. This is another fine example of our WELS members partnering with us to be able to provide these kinds of exceptional learning opportunities. For more information about the Pastoral Studies Institute, please visit wels.net/psi.

Written by Harland Goetzinger, Pastoral Studies Institute director

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Mission Journeys: Connecting with cultures in the U.K.

“John 3:16 tells us that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ Our sins are forgiven and heaven is our home because of Jesus!”

This was our response to a question moments earlier. We were attending a course on Christianity and a young man had asked, “But why did Jesus need to die on the cross?” As lifelong WELS Lutherans, we were eager to provide the answer we knew so well. But, as we surveyed the room, we were met with blank stares and raised eyebrows. The course leader moved on quickly with another question, “So, do you guys actually think Jesus rose from the dead?” People went on to debate theories and opinions, never once mentioning the Bible. We left the class with heavy hearts. In a room full of 30 questioning Christians, why did our words have little to no effect? Why did the Bible cause so much confusion and offense? We realized that for those British Christians, evidence, emotion, and reason determined faith; not God’s Word.

How do we communicate God’s word in a culture that is not our own? During our six months of volunteering for WELS Missions in the United Kingdom, Pastor Michael Hartman challenged us to answer this question while working to start a church in Central London. By visiting other churches and building relationships with locals, we have learned that the vast majority of London churches lack a clear understanding of the Bible and disregard the Means of Grace entirely. They view Jesus as a good role model and God as our benevolent cheerleader. People in the U.K. are missing the real hope found in the Bible.

Realizing that Biblical illiteracy would play a role in how we communicate Christ, British members of the U.K. mission effort decided to name the church, “Holy Word – Your Hope.” This name and tagline communicates that our church values God’s holy word as its foundation. Through Scripture-based worship services and quality Bible courses, we plan to spread our hope to searching souls in London and across the U.K.

Connecting with cultural values provides opportunities to share God’s Word in an unfamiliar setting. In the past, WELS has done this in various countries by providing free medical care, English classes, and soccer camps. In the United Kingdom, we have found that charity work is highly valued. There are thousands of charities sprinkled throughout London, with programs to help protect the environment, make and distribute meals for the poor, and provide companionship for the lonely. Many people, including the royal family, dedicate hours of their time to volunteer work. We plan to reach out within our communities by providing volunteers for various charities in London throughout the summer. We hope to build relationships through these volunteers and connect people to Holy Word.

God’s Word transcends cultural barriers. Because London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, our church has the unique opportunity to teach God’s Word globally. We experienced this when we had an opportunity to serve our Christian sister from Pakistan, who left her home to pursue a master’s degree in London. We helped her through extreme culture shock. Despite the vast differences between our cultures, were able to connect and encourage her through our shared faith.

Our experience volunteering in the U.K. has shown us that the Bible is both deeply needed and immensely powerful. In a country struggling with loneliness and doubt, God’s holy word is a sure and certain hope. Our prayer is that God continues to bless the members of Holy Word as they consider how best to communicate the Bible in the U.K. and abroad.

Written by Ben and Abby Hillmer, Mission Journeys volunteers in England.

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Celebrating God’s goodness forever

May you keep celebrating birthdays until the year 3000! This is the last line in the Colombian version of the song Happy Birthday. Recently, members of Most Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Medellín, Colombia, sang these words when celebrating their congregation’s 50th anniversary. In addition to singing, there was a worship service with record attendance, a meal, and fellowship time. Former and current WELS Latin America missionaries had the opportunity to attend, share greetings, and participate in a question-and-answer session. There were also visitors from other congregations in Colombia, many hugs, laughter, and tears of joy.

When WELS missionaries began outreach in Medellín 50 years ago, their efforts spanned from teaching English classes to managing Christian Information Centers to cultivating friendships to training leaders. The Lord blessed this work. Today, Most Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is an active, growing congregation. Members meet for worship and Bible study. Children and youth are taught God’s Word in Sunday School and Catechism class. The congregation uses small group Bible studies as an outreach strategy. These studies, held in the homes of members in various strategic locations of the city, create an opportunity for their members to invite their friends and neighbors to learn about Jesus.

From Medellín, the work spread to other parts of Colombia. Congregations were established in other cities. A Confessional Lutheran synod was formed. Recently, this synod helped form a new, Latin American synod called Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional. The congregations in Colombia also partner with Academia Cristo to promote church planting in new parts of Colombia and throughout Latin America. Most importantly, over the past fifty years, Most Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is a place where the good news of Jesus has been preached, taught, and applied to countless hearts and lives.

Celebrating the 50th birthday of the church in Colombia was a special occasion. Will the church still be celebrating its birthday in the year 3000? Its members can look forward to something even more amazing. They get to celebrate God’s grace, goodness, and mercy without end. Through faith in Jesus, we can look forward to sharing with them an eternal celebration in heaven. Praise God for his 50 years of grace in Colombia. Praise him for his unending love, blessings, and salvation!

Written by Rev. Matt Behmer, world missionary on the Latin America Mission team.

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Sowing seeds in urban soil

When you think of church, what pops into your head? I think of my home church building, St. John’s in New Ulm, Minn. I can see the stained-glass windows and large wooden cross up front. I can hear the organ and bells, the singing of hymns, and the subtle crack of the microphone as the pastor proclaims the sermon. I can smell the midweek Lenten supper simmering in the basement. I recall conversing with family and friends in the narthex after the service. It transports me to another world. Maybe you can relate.

Now, imagine you don’t have most of the things in that “other world.” There is no church building. No grand pipe organ blasting “Speak, O Savior; I Am Listening.” No microphones. No midweek Lenten soup. No Sunday morning conversations that last until the lights are shut off, telling you it’s time to go home. Would it still feel like church?

It might not feel like church, but it would be.

We don’t have a traditional church building in Boston or a large music ensemble yet (and one day, I hope we do). But we still have a church. Our church meets in many different places around the city: in libraries, co-working space, coffee shops, restaurants, and homes. We don’t have a large group of people, but we gather together to take in the scriptures, confess sins, recite creeds, and pray the Lord’s prayer. We do gather for fellowship and eat food together, and we share in the Lord’s Supper – just like you do.

It can be challenging for church to always feel like church when planting a new mission congregation. No programs are established and there isn’t a regular meeting on Sunday morning. It’s hard for the members of the congregation as well. Many of them are familiar with growing up in well-established congregations. I ask that you keep us in your prayers as we continue working on planting.

This may all sound a bit pessimistic up to this point, but I promise it’s not meant to feel that way. Why? Because church planting, especially in a city, gives us opportunities to reach many people with the gospel. Some predict that 68 percent of the world will live in urban centers by 2050. That tells me that we must continue to plant churches in urban environments. We have to start somewhere. From a human perspective, if we can work in cities, we can reach more people worldwide.

Church planting efforts, like the one in Boston, may feel small to begin with. At times, they may not feel like church, but they are. Efforts like the one WELS is making in Boston are critical as we seek to see the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.

I am incredibly grateful for all the prayers and support of the work in Boston. Continue to pray for us and all of our church plants as we attempt to reach many with the good news of Jesus!

Written by Rev. Joshua Koelpin, home missionary in Boston, Mass.

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Registration now open – Taste of Missions 2024

We are thrilled to announce that registration for Taste of Missions 2024 is now open! Whether you join us in person or virtually, we invite you to be part of this special day as we celebrate the spread of the gospel of Christ throughout the world.

Date: Saturday, June 15, 2024
Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. OR online!

The day kicks off with a worship service, as we commission new home and world missionaries to their important work. It’s an inspiring occasion that sets the tone for the day ahead. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, you’ll have the opportunity to explore displays, hear missionaries share their stories and answer your questions, and sample ethnic dishes. Bring the entire family to learn about the diverse mission fields where WELS is making a difference and get a glimpse into the lives touched by Jesus.

For those joining us virtually, you can still be part of the experience! Tune in to our livestreamed sessions, including the commissioning worship service and insightful talks from speakers across our home and world mission fields. Plus, we’ll be sharing mouthwatering recipes for you to try at home.

View the full list of activities for the day and register at tasteofmissions.com. Registration is $15 per person, with children 13 and under attending for free. Those attending in person will receive food tickets to sample ethnic cuisine and can purchase additional food from the food trucks. Or attend virtually for free! Sign up today at tasteofmissions.com/register.

We can’t wait to welcome you to Taste of Missions, where together, we’ll celebrate our Savior’s mission and the incredible work being done around the world.

 




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Latin America Mission – Winter 2024 Quarterly Update

During the last months of 2023 and the beginning of 2024, our Lord of the Harvest continued to bless the work of the One Latin America Team and Academia Cristo. The team focused on the transition from using a mobile app to WhatsApp for its first tier of study. New groups were started in the United States and Latin America. Steps were taken to further reshape Grupo Sembrador en la Ruta Cristo, Academia Cristo’s church planting program and materials. A podcast on a Christ-centered life was implemented. The instruction function took steps to ensure the Academia Cristo curriculum is aligned around the team’s church planting goals. Missionaries continued to make visits to key students, leaders, and groups.

A Few Quick Stats:

  • 2.2 million average weekly social media reach (user looks at the material for over 3 seconds)
  • 2,767 finished the four self-study courses either through the mobile app or WhatsApp
  • 764 completed one Discipulado Uno course
  • 95 completed Discipulado Uno
  • 35 completed Discipulado Dos
  • 32 Grupos Sembrador

A snapshot of blessings during the past quarter:

1. Self-study through WhatsApp
Learning from TELL and taking MLP’s recommendation, Academia Cristo transitioned from the use of a mobile app to WhatsApp for its self-study courses. By delivering the four self-study courses through WhatsApp instead of a mobile app, Academia Cristo was able to reach more people for less money. At the end of January 2023, there were over 9,500 people in the self-study workflow (taking one of the four self-study courses). Approximately 50 people are finishing the self-study courses each week. Upon completion of the four self-study courses, students are invited to enroll in live courses with Academia Cristo professors.

For more information on the switch from the mobile app to WhatsApp, please reference this video available in Spanish.

2. New Grupos Sembrador
Three new groups became Grupos Sembrador. Grupos Sembrador are led by an Academia Cristo student. They meet weekly, have studied Los cuatro conceptos (a course on sin, grace, faith, and works), and have studied at least three lessons of Aprendan de mí (a course similar to a Bible Information Course). These groups are in Deltona, Fla., United States; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Lima, Peru.

3. Ministry Certification
Elise Gross completed her ministry certification, and her call was made permanent. Luis Herrera took a course towards his ministry certification.

4. Meeting with 1LA, BWM, BHM, CICR, WLS, PSI, and COP
A meeting was held with representatives from the One Latin America team, the Board for World Missions (BWM), the Board for Home Missions (BHM), the Commission on Inter-Church Relations (CICR), Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI), and the Conference of Presidents (COP) on Oct. 25, 2023, at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. The group discussed a paper written by Professor emeritus Paul Wendland on mission and ministry in Latin America. The One Latin America Team visionary and leader, Andrew Johnston, wrote a follow-up paper on the missiology of Academia Cristo.

5. Grupo Sembarador en la Ruta Cristo
Plans to overhaul the Grupo Sembrador en la Ruta Cristo program continued. A temporary plan for providing sermons to groups was developed and an outline for a Bible study program was drafted. This program will include Bible history lessons, doctrine lessons, and practical lessons. Plans are in place to write these lessons during the next quarter.

6. El Sembrador de Hoy es el Consejero de Mañana
The team began preliminary work on creating a plan for today’s group gatherer to become tomorrow’s mission counselor. This is in anticipation of exponential growth of students and church planters in the Academia Cristo program.




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Taste of Missions school challenge and poster contest

The 2024 Taste of Missions School Challenge is now open! This year brings two different opportunities for students of all ages to learn about WELS mission work:

School challenge for grades K-8

All Lutheran grade schools are invited to participate in our annual Taste of Missions School Challenge! Visit tasteofmissions.com/schools to view Missions-themed activities that grade school teachers can use to help students in their classroom learn about WELS Home and World Missions and get involved with WELS Missions’ annual Taste of Missions event. Two classes (one from grades K-4 and one from grades 5-8) will be randomly selected to win a Taste of Missions party for their classroom, tickets to the event, and additional surprises. Get involved and submit the form on the Taste of Missions website by Fri., April 12, for your chance to win.

High school poster contest

Calling all WELS and ELS high school artists! Encourage high school students to participate in the first ever Taste of Missions high school poster contest. Students can express their creativity and learn about WELS mission work by crafting an 11” x 17” masterpiece capturing the heart of WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions. An overall winner will receive a $250 Amazon gift card, Taste of Missions swag bag, and their artwork will be displayed at the Taste of Missions event on June 15, 2024, at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis. All other submissions will be eligible to be voted Fan Favorite by attendees at Taste of Missions for another chance to win.

The deadline for students to submit their poster is Fri., April 26, 2024. Digital or mailed/dropped off submissions are accepted. Find official rules and specifications as well as submission information at tasteofmissions.com/postercontest.

 

 




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Save the date! Taste of Missions 2024

Taste of Missions is back, and we couldn’t be more excited! Last year nearly 500 WELS members gathered in Mequon, Wis., to send off nine new home and world missionaries to spread the gospel in the far corners of the world. Even more celebrated with us online. It was a remarkable day, filled with engaging conversations with home and world missionary families, insightful Q&A panels, ethnic eats, and uplifting worship alongside brothers and sisters from across the globe. See what it was all about by exploring our Flickr album.

We want YOU to come join the fun again at this year’s Taste of Missions on Sat., June 15, 2024. Bring your family to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis., to send off new missionaries in our special commissioning service, enjoy delicious offerings from food trucks, and connect with some of your synod’s current missionaries. Can’t make it in person? Virtual attendees can watch all the events via livestream, view exclusive video updates from missionaries, and even try their hand at cooking up some ethnic recipes from our website.

Mark your calendars—registration opens on March 11! While you’re waiting, visit tasteofmissions.com for some additional event details and catch up on any videos you may have missed from last year’s gathering.

We can’t wait to see you there!

P.S. The fourth annual Taste of Missions School Challenge and NEW poster contest for WELS/ELS high school students will open on February 19! View photos and activities from last year’s challenge and keep an eye out for future announcements at tasteofmissions.com/schools.

 




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Mission Journeys opportunities in London

The new world mission field in London has partnered with WELS Mission Journeys to establish a volunteer program in London. Through volunteering, you have the exciting opportunity to experience life and share the gospel in a global city rich with history and culture. London is filled with people from numerous nationalities and backgrounds, many of whom are in desperate need of hearing the gospel message. You will learn about new cultures, meet people from all over the world, and share the truth of God’s Word with those who are lost.

Short-term opportunities
We are looking for groups of eight to ten people to come volunteer for eight to ten days in London. Your time will be spent attending two Sunday church services at our WELS church, volunteering at various charities throughout the week, and exploring the city. You have the humble opportunity to serve your neighbor and let your light shine by helping others. You will also be a positive representation of what our Lutheran church teaches. When you’re not volunteering, enjoy spending time in London! Go to a pub, eat fish and chips, watch the changing of the guard, drink tea, and soak in the beauty of a city that has been around for almost two thousand years. You will leave London with a greater appreciation for the world we live in, the millions of people God has created, and a renewed fire to share the gospel with others.

Long-term opportunities
If you are interested in taking some time off of school, work, or you have time to spare, consider serving as a long-term volunteer in London. In this role, you will spend up to six months working one-on-one with the missionaries, serving at local charities, and growing in your understanding of a new place and culture. You will be able to encourage others in their faith as well as grow in your own faith. Spending extended time in a foreign country is a valuable experience that will leave a lasting impact on your heart and mind.

Interested in either opportunity? Contact WELS Mission Journeys for more information at [email protected] or call Mr. Shannon Bohme, Mission Journeys coordinator, at 651-324-4218.




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Impact of TELL teaching

Where will my mission field be? As I sit in class in my last year at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, sometimes my thoughts drift toward the end of the year. A place. Faces waiting. People who need to hear about Jesus. But for now, waiting.

Or at least that’s how I thought I would feel.

As my wife, Grace, and I made the move back to Mequon after my vicar year, I learned that the TELL Network was looking for teachers for their live courses. I decided to sign up, thinking it might be a good way to practice teaching while I wait for parish ministry.

I underestimated the impact teaching for TELL would have on me.

Logging on for my first lesson, I was greeted by 25 names, faces, and voices. Separated by half a world, here were a couple dozen people who wanted to gather, learn, and grow in the word of God. An instant mission field. Bingo. I was excited to teach these eager students from South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, and even Pakistan.

Once again, I underestimated the way this would impact me.

As we studied the stories of persecuted prophets and God’s faithfulness to the exiles, my faith was strengthened as I learned about God’s hand working through the lives of these ambassadors for Christ Jesus.

Like Isaac, a student who faced considerable danger. As we studied Daniel in the lion’s den, he boldly shared, “Even if Daniel had died, God wins. That is comfort for me.” Isaac and his classmates were committed to the study of the word in mission fields filled with danger. They live like modern Daniels, committing themselves to prayer and witnessing despite the obstacles.

Or Emmanuel, who would find a shady place under a tree to park his truck in the heat of the day. Taking a break from his commute to join live class. He is like that “tree planted by streams of water” as he thirsts for the Word of God.

Or Joseph, who recently gave me a reminder about witnessing to any mission field. As the class discussed the fears and apprehensions we have when sharing the Word of God, I reflected on failed opportunities and fears that I’ve had. I couldn’t help but think ahead, knowing that those fears will be there in the future. That’s when Joseph spoke up, sharing the verse he recalls whenever he has a witnessing opportunity: Luke 12:12, “The Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

I pray that this is my confidence and yours, too. That wherever the mission field might be, that God the Holy Spirit gives us the words to speak through his Holy Word.

Written by Seminarian Jacob Ungemach, senior at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. 

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Missionaries called to explore new world mission fields

The Board for World Missions, working alongside the various World Missions One Teams, has identified new world mission fields and is taking steps to deploy missionaries into three new areas. “Spreading God’s Word in any and every place is our high calling,” says Rev. Larry Schlomer, World Missions administrator. “We ask the Lord of the harvest to use us to bring many into his kingdom through our work.”

Missionaries asked to relocate to Australia

Two missionaries from the Asia One Team, currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, have been asked to consider relocating to begin outreach based in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Schlomer shares, “People in Australia have asked us for help. WELS members who have moved to Australia, brothers and sisters who have had to move from Hong Kong, and long-time partners in churches in the Brisbane area, have reached out. It is a joy to be able to meet these needs with WELS missionaries.” Both missionaries would remain on the Asia One Team as they continue their work with contacts throughout Asia.

Calls issued for Muslim outreach in Senegal

Two calls have been issued to explore new outreach in the West African country of Senegal. The goal would be for new missionaries to spend up to six months living with a Muslim family from the Wolof tribe, immersing themselves in the culture and language of the people they are trying to reach with the gospel. Once they have a better understanding of the culture and Muslim influence, they would develop more specific plans for outreach. The Board for World Missions is committed to supporting this new mission field for a minimum of two years in order to give the missionaries ample time to work within the culture. Learn more about this opportunity at wels.net/mission-work-approved-in-senegal.

New Native American outreach in Four Corners region

The Board for World Missions has approved a new missionary position to coordinate outreach to the Native American tribes in the Four Corners area of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. This new missionary would be tasked with developing a new model for Native American outreach, working closely with native Apache members who want to reach out to friends and family members from other tribes with the pure gospel message. He will work closely with Missionary John Holtz, who leads the discipleship arm of the Native Christians Network and is training Apache WELS members for service and outreach through the Apache Christian Training School (ACTS) program. This missionary also will coordinate with Christ the Rock, Farmington, N.M., to develop existing outreach to Native Americans in the area and work to expand digital outreach efforts.

“These new fields will allow us to bring the gospel to places where the announcement of pure grace is scarce or even nonexistent,” says Schlomer. “May God use these missionaries to bring joy in sadness and hope where darkness has hidden God’s face.”

Learn more about additional world mission fields that are being explored at wels.net/newworldmissionfields.

 

 

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