Tag Archive for: WELS World Missions

Still open, and open wide

If walls could talk, I’d be asking the walls of the Lutheran Church of the Open Bible a few questions.

Open Bible? It’s the name of a quaint, white painted wooden church in Whiteriver, Arizona, nestled on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. It was dedicated in April of 1922. That clocks the building at 100+ years old. Like any centenarian, these walls have heard a lot. Imagine all the meetings, discussions, services, studies, classes, and conversations that have taken place inside the church. If these walls could talk, I’m guessing they’d have a lot to say.

Celebrating 100 years of Open Bible

I went to Open Bible on October 15, 2022. It was no ordinary day. We enjoyed a meal and live music; we were blessed with guest speakers, historical videos, and a worship service. It was the 100th anniversary celebration. About 275 gathered that day. Looking around inside the building, some questions about the history of Open Bible came to mind. . . why then? Why there? And why are there holes in the stained-glass windows?

Oh, if walls could talk. But they didn’t. I’m being stonewalled, hey? Well, even though the walls didn’t say anything, some people did.

Why then? Bill Kessel did a masterful and engaging job of explaining the history of Open Bible. I wondered, why was Open Bible built when it was? Bill answered my question with an analogy; God answered it with a Scriptural truth. Picture two local rivers, twisting and turning through the White Mountains. At times, far apart, sometimes near, but always separated by a rocky landscape; but then eventually the two courses of water meet, flow together and form one river. Now picture two lives. Two men, one Apache and one German. Two individuals about as different as two could be. Geographically they were sometimes far apart and other times near, but their paths never crossed. Until one day they did. They found each other. Or, better said, God brought them together. With his own power and his own timing, the Lord set them on a common course. From then on, their lives, like two rivers converging, flowed as one. God had the heart of the Apache Chief Alchesay and the WELS Missionary Rev. Edgar Guenther in his hand. No one could have ever imagined that God used a flu pandemic to bring two “rivers” together to meet at just the right time (1918) to accomplish what he desired. Rev. Guenther did his work, the Holy Spirit did his. The gospel was shared. A faith was born. A friendship formed.

Chief Alchesay

Why there? God not only determined our times, but also the places. . . What was God carrying out in the rocky landscape of Whiteriver? His plans. Plans that no one ever could have imagined. With a newfound faith in Jesus, Chief Alchesay and other Apache desperately wanted a church in their Whiteriver community. Not just any church, mind you. A Lutheran one. One that would faithfully preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified. They expressed their desire for a place of worship. God honored the yearning of their hearts. A petition was signed. Permission was granted. Land was given. A church was built. It was a memorable day on April 30, 1922. A key was presented. The door was opened. Open Bible was dedicated.

On that single day, 101 Apache were baptized! Chief Alchesay was the first, but he certainly wasn’t the last. Open Bible currently has a membership of about 900 souls. The message of the anniversary day reflected the promise of God: “Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.” (Exodus 20:24b) God is doing just that. Coming and blessing. Kirk Massey, pastor of Open Bible, is quick to thank the Lord that the members of Open Bible are taking ownership of the ministries there.

But I had one more question: Why are there holes in the stained-glass windows? The answer was honest and straightforward. . . bullets and a bottle. Someone fired a few rounds of a rifle and someone else threw a whiskey bottle. The results were the same. Broken windows. What prompted the shooting and the throwing, no one knows. Probably never will. Frustrating? Yes, because stained-glass windows are a challenge to repair. The cost is high, and repairmen are few. But instead of anger over what we can’t control (or even fix), how about looking at the window holes through a different lens? Broken panes can serve as a reminder of a broken life. Certainly, our own. Who hasn’t seen or experienced a broken relationship, promise, or body? But especially that of Jesus! Ironically, the windows in Open Bible that have been broken are the ones that create the 3-paned picture of Jesus hanging on the cross. If any life was broken, it was Jesus’! Not just his body, but his relationship with his Father. The significance is as astounding as it is life-changing. By way of Jesus’ brokenness, we are made whole! What we can’t restore, Jesus can.

Bill Kessel with members from Cibecue

And he will. If not in this life, then in the next. “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered for a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10) Broken? Take heart, Jesus is the key to full restoration.

Speaking of a key, just prior to his death, Chief Alchesay had one request. (And it was honored). He humbly asked to be buried with something that was extremely special to him: A key to Open Bible. Why? He came to believe that Jesus Christ was the key that had opened the Scriptures to him and heaven for him. Alchesay was filled with humble joy that he–chief of sinners–was forgiven and chosen by God to be one of his children. He considered it a great honor to help build the church so that the Word could be preached, well, to help build the Church.

The Whiteriver church still stands to the glory of God to share with people that the Father’s heart, Jesus’ arms, Holy Scriptures, and heaven’s door are still open, and open wide.

Written by Rev. John Holtz, Native American mission counselor




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A rich welcome

Dear Heavenly Father,

The hymns have been sung, the Scripture has been read, and the sermon has been preached. The hands have been laid, the verses spoken, the blessing pronounced, and the promises made. Yes, even the cake and other treats have been eaten, the fellowship enjoyed, and the pictures taken. It’s officially done.

Lord, on Sunday, October 2, 2022, in Whiteriver, Ariz., at a historically significant WELS church called Open Bible, Pastor Kirk Massey installed me as the Native Christians Counselor on the Native American mission team. But I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know, Lord. I’m not informing you of something you didn’t already see. The comforting truth, Lord, is that you knew it all before it all even happened. Long before the Divine Call was extended, you saw that this day would arrive and you knew who would be there. You ordained what would happen and that it would happen.

It did.

Lord, thank you for all those brothers and sisters in Christ who were able to join us. The events of the day were humbling, and indeed were a rich welcome into the Native American mission. Thank you, Father, for each one with whom we will now do ministry and do life, both on and off the reservations. Thank you for the many people who stand beside and walk alongside us: our families, our friends, our synod, our co-workers. Thank you for those who have gone on before and for those who will come after. Whether near or far, in person or on Zoom, the family in Christ truly is a gift from you. And so is the work.

Ah, yes. The work.

When we stepped out of the installation service that day, we didn’t just step outside. We stepped into the mission field. One statistic in particular sticks in my mind, Lord. More than 90% of Native Americans aren’t Christian. They don’t believe in Jesus. They don’t know the true and only way of salvation.

As I stood in the open air, it was then that I once again realized: it’s not just the high altitude of the White Mountains that takes my breath away. So does the thought of the mountain of mission work looming before us. The ministry work appears, not just like a solitary mountain on the distant horizon, but more like a sprawling range surrounding us on all sides. Seemingly endless. As far as the eye can see.

Lord God, you were–and are–very much aware of all the ministry opportunities and challenges that lie before us. And around us. Bless our efforts according to your will.

Please hear me, Father. Not just my prayer here, but also the petitions, intercessions, and requests still to come. The ones that I’ll be saying later today, tomorrow, and the day after that. And the ones after that. Yes, Lord, I recognize not just the monumental task before us on the Native American mission field, but also the overwhelming sinfulness within me. It looms large. Mountain large. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” (I hear you, Paul. I feel your struggle).

But by your power, dear Father, I also hear your voice. Thank you for telling me of the rock-solid certainty of forgiveness through your Son Jesus. Because he shed his blood, I’m washed clean! You, a perfect God, in love with a sinner such as I? Yes, shocking, I know. But that’s just it. Your gospel is as surprising as it is real.

So when I step out my door, Lord, or look out my window or drive down the road, let the mountains be a daily and vivid reminder of the one Jesus climbed for me.

For there on that Calvary mountain, as he hung on the cross. He was paying a price too steep for our blood. But not for his. Paid in full. Was it worth it? For us, yes! We get a free gift, though at a high cost. He decided that he’d rather go to hell for us than to live in heaven without us.

Open Bible Ladies Choir

Salvation won.

How richly blessed we are to have a God like you. What a great reason and motivation for us to work while it is day in the Native American mission and beyond. You give us a reason to raise our voices in song! The ladies from Open Bible congregation did just that. How wonderful it was to hear them sing How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace. . . in the Apache language, no less. All glory to you, Lord!

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for inspiring the Apostle Peter to write the text, and thank you for leading Pastor Gary Lupe to preach it. Verse 11 is such a comfort. Thank you for including it in your Word:

“And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Your Word, Lord, brings to our attention what lies ahead. (And we just got a taste of it). So when it is no longer day and when our faith turns to sight and our prayers to praise, we will be ushered into our eternal kingdom with a rich welcome.

Written by Rev. John Holtz, Native American mission counselor

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Supporting the family of believers

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Psalm 105:1-3

We have many reasons to thank our gracious Lord. Precisely in difficult times, we recognize his merciful love particularly clearly. The Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) has been part of the worldwide Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) from the beginning. Since then, there have been sometimes more, sometimes less close ties between the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) in Germany and the ULC. With the outbreak of the Russian war against Ukraine, the blessings God bestows on people from different cultures through spiritual fellowship became evident. Our history differs, but the unified faith in the common Savior, Jesus Christ unites us.

For members of the ELFK, it was not a question at all whether we will help people who had to leave their homeland because of the war. We were only moved by the question: How can we help? As Christians, we want to thank God for the grace and love he has shown us. Through the Apostle Paul, he let us know how we can show this gratitude in a special way: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galations 6:10) And so we were moved by the question: What possibilities will God open up for us, especially to help brothers and sisters in faith from the war zone in Ukraine? Since then, some refugees have also found refuge in the vicinity of our congregations. God has blessed us richly and prepared hearts to help those who often arrived here with only a suitcase or a few bags. They were warmly welcomed. Bishop Horpynchuk (ULC) and I were in communication to help brothers and sisters in faith and to find lodgings near congregations. God helped us to help. Glory be to him forever and ever!

An idea to say thank you to the helpers and at the same time to support ELFK in proclaiming the Good News among Ukrainian refugees was allowed to become a reality in October 2022 when the Baroque Plus ensemble from Kiev visited Germany. Let me take a little personal look back:

The Baroque Plus ensemble

I look back with gratitude and joyful emotion on a week in which we were able to get to know and love new friends. As president of the ELFK, I am grateful to God. I had the opportunity to experience fellowship with brothers and sisters in faith during these days. Already on the evening of the arrival of the ensemble, there was a joyful reunion for my wife and I. At the end of April this year, we had offered a guest room in our parsonage to an ill parishioner of the Resurrection Church in Kiev. When he went back home on May 11, tears flowed. We knew we would meet him again in our heavenly home, but the war was still a reality in Kiev and so we worried about him and his family. No one had told us that Petro would be one of the drivers who would take the ensemble from Kiev to Saxony. And so on October 11, exactly five months after his departure, we were happy and grateful to see and hug him once again.

Although we did not know the other members of the team beforehand, we became familiar with each other very quickly. Wherever Christians come together, they are united by the same faith. God brings them together and lets them enjoy the fellowship. We were able to experience this clearly. It was also good for us to see the smiling faces. We knew that one day after their departure from Kiev, the attacks with drones and missiles on the Ukrainian capital flared up again. Our guests also knew that. Whenever there was even the slightest thought of home, smiles changed to tears. As the group was on route to Germany, a rocket struck in close proximity to the house where the families of the bishop and a member of the ensemble live. Windows were broken, but God helped and preserved loved ones.

I would like to tell you another short incident. After the ensemble had rehearsed once again in Nerchau, there was an opportunity for a walk. We all enjoyed walking along the narrow river Mulde under the sunshine, blue sky, and colorful trees. Again and again, the conversation partners changed. During one of these conversations, a member of the ensemble told me, “It’s so nice and quiet here.” There was again, the thought of the situation at home: sirens wailing for air alerts, bullets whistling, and explosions thundering. At the same time, by God’s grace, we may live in peace, enjoy tranquility, and go about our work as usual.

Since February 24, 2022, it has been our daily prayer that God will soon give peace to Ukraine. The threatening gestures from Moscow have expanded those prayers. For a few weeks now we have been increasingly asking God to keep peace in our country and give it again in Europe. We know that God is in the regiment. He directs and guides everything. And he is also almighty in this. We can trust in him. As the Apostle Paul says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) It is perhaps not easy for us to see how a war with all its hardship should serve any human being for the best. But let me say this at the end of this unfortunately much too long article: If only one lost person has come to faith in the Savior through the journey of the Baroque Plus ensemble, through the fellowship in the church services, through the proclamation of the gospel and the love connected with it, then it was the best for this new sheep in the flock of our Lord Christ. And then there will also be joy about this sheep in heaven (Luke 15:7).

I would like to close with another thank you. Thanks to God, who made possible and blessed the journey of Baroque Plus. Thanks to the brothers and sisters in Ukraine, who had the idea and the willingness to travel almost 2,000 km by car to faraway Saxony, a part of Germany. But thanks also to all the brothers and sisters in faith in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) for all their support in praying, preparing, and carrying out this wonderful opportunity. We look forward to a healthy reunion – if not here on earth, then certainly in our eternal homeland.

Shared by Rev. Michael Herbst, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) in Germany




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Fellowship in Latvia

What does “fellowship” look like?

The Europe mission team is working to strengthen ties between WELS and a dozen confessional Lutheran churches of Europe. These churches believe the same things we do. Now what?

Have you ever heard of the Confessional Lutheran Church in Latvia? Luke and I visited Latvia once in 2002 to apply for fresh Russian visas. Two Latvian pastors (who are brothers) took extra good care of us. Ivo and Ugis Sildegs arranged a place for us to stay, showed off tourist sights, and helped us contact the Russian embassy. They also introduced us to the Latvian church. We met a team of pastors working on a weekly, professional-grade newspaper aimed at the public. We ate birthday cake with their synod president. We had a great time – even though the February weather was rough!

Then we went back to Novosibirsk. For the next 20 years WELS had only limited contact with our brothers and sisters in Latvia. In fact, it has been ten years since anyone from WELS visited them.

This past May 40 participants from CELC sister churches gathered in Albania where Luke and I are currently living. Three representatives from Latvia also attended the conference. One of them was Ivo, the pastor who had cared for us so many years ago. After the conference we kept in touch with Ivo and made plans for a fall visit.

We just finished our second trip to Riga a couple days ago. What did we find?

Rev. Luke and Jennifer Wolfgramm

We found people worried about surviving the winter. We stayed in an apartment in downtown Riga that was freezing cold inside. When we asked the neighbor if her apartment had heat, she said, “No, and we’ll be thankful if the heat ever turns on this winter!” One of the pastors kept busy chopping wood for the church’s wood-burning stove nearly every day of our visit. Another congregation is working to replace its natural gas heater with a geo-thermal system. Leaders repeatedly told us, “We can’t make plans too far in advance. We just need to get through this winter.”

We found people worried about war. A large statue of a woman in downtown Riga commemorates Latvian independence which they won only in 1918 – and promptly lost again during WWII. Latvia has a long history of being controlled by other neighboring countries. They worry that if Ukraine falls, they will be next. Fellowship means sharing each other’s burdens. We listened sympathetically, but we didn’t despair!

Best of all fellowship means studying God’s Word and praying together. The men studied Old Testament “Wisdom Literature.” There was an especially poignant moment when they read Song of Songs: “See how the young man in this book loves his wife? Jesus is our faithful husband who shed His blood for us, His bride. Will He now abandon us to face cold and violence alone? Never!” Those words meant something to those church leaders. What a joy to share God’s promises!

We found opportunities in the church. We met talented, experienced pastors and three gifted seminary students. (That’s huge! There are only 300 people in the Latvian church.) Fellowship means sharing resources, organizing online seminary classes during the year, and in-person courses in the summer. Fellowship means worshiping together on Sunday, drinking tea, and sharing news from Albania, Finland, Germany, and the U.S. Fellowship means rejoicing in our new-found friendships and marveling that this is just the beginning of eternity.

We found opportunities in the community. Everywhere we turned we heard people speaking Russian. Some were from Russia, but many have fled from Eastern Ukraine. They’ve left everything, maybe for a time, maybe forever. They miss home. They miss their families. Fellowship means working together to assist those in physical need. Fellowship means sharing Jesus’ peace with souls groaning for good news.

It was a week of strengthening fellowship. A week of studying, worshiping, and praying together. Visiting, eating, and laughing together. Celebrating our common faith, love, and purpose, and looking forward to the next time we can meet again!

Written by Jennifer Wolfgramm, world missionary wife on the Europe mission team.

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Sharing their stories

How did you become a Christian? When did it happen? Were there other people who helped you to know Christ?

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to visit Ethiopia. The main reason for my visit was to teach a course on St. Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus. The course was intended primarily for young men who are preparing to be pastors in the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (LCE). There were seven students in the class.

When I arrived, I asked each student to share his story. How did you become a Christian? When did it happen? Were there other people who helped you to know Christ? All of them had interesting stories. One student is the son of the LCE’s one and only pastor. He didn’t ask to be born into that family, but he was. And that is how he became a Christian. Another student was a Sudanese man who came to Ethiopia as a refugee. His mother and father were not Christian, but he learned about Jesus from his uncle, a man who is now a WELS pastor. That’s how he became a Christian.

I shared my story, too. A father who was my seminary professor, who taught me so many “big religious words” and deep truths about the scriptures that I can’t possibly remember all of them. A mother who led me in my bedtime prayers, prayers that were so foundational to my spiritual development that I can’t possibly forget even one of them. And that’s how I became a Christian.

All of us told very different stories, but one thing was the same in every story. We were all so grateful to God for the people who helped us to know Christ.

St. Timothy had a story, too. His father was a Greek who almost certainly did not believe in Jesus. But Timothy’s mother was a dedicated Christian, and his grandmother was, too. That’s how Timothy became a Christian. Paul wrote in his Second Letter to Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.”(2 Timothy 1:5,6)

How can we thank God for those who shared the word of God with us? And how can we honor those people who have led us to faith in Christ? St. Paul tells us how. “Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.” (2 Timothy 3:14)

For about two weeks, the students and I studied the word of God in the Letters to Timothy and Titus. We grew in our understanding of the gospel. We honed our abilities to share the word of God with others and to lead people to Christ. That’s the best way to thank God for his blessings.

When people tell their stories and thank God for those who helped them to know Christ, how many people will thank God for you?

Written by Rev. Mark Panning, world missionary on the One Africa Team

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Summer is time for growing

What could you possibly call 60 people frantically (even raucously) scampering around trying to find an only child and a green-eyed vegetarian?

Well, a business meeting, of course. At least, that’s what we call it here in on the Apache reservations. On our Native American mission field, summer time is not just for relaxing, but also for growing! As God grows our ministries in fields ripe for harvest, He also graciously grows our mission team of harvesters. So each summer our teachers pause in their last minute preparations of arranging new desks and sharpening pencils for a new school year and our pastors clear their calendars to gather together. We meet our new team members, study God’s Word together, review ministry plans together, eat together, and even search for only children and vegetarians together. New relationships are formed, and old relationships are renewed and strengthened as we prepare to do battle with Satan and his helpers for the souls that God has entrusted to our care. This year we welcomed teachers Tony Sahatjian and Claudia Meyer to East Fork Lutheran School, and Pastor John and Mindy Holtz to our Native Christians team. They will be carrying on the important work of equipping Native American Christians to lead and serve God’s people.

Missionary John Holtz and his wife, Mindy

But we’re not done growing! This summer we have another reason to rejoice as we look forward to adding another missionary to our Native Christians team and expanding our gospel reach to more locations. More than 500 tribes that are overwhelmingly not Christian are still waiting for the life-changing, future-changing seeds of the gospel to be planted in their fields. And while we never found an only child or a green-eyed vegetarian on our current harvest team, we’re all ready and willing to get to work. Maybe the new missionary will fit that description?

Please join us in prayer that our gracious Lord would bless our team, our plans, and the people we will serve. Ask Him for opportunities to share Jesus, and the courage and love for us to make the most of them.

Written by Rev. Dan Rautenberg, world missionary on the Native American mission team.

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New seminary class begins studies in India

54 new students just began their studies in the pre-seminary program in India in July 2022. Another seven students returned to start their third year of studies in the seminary. A few additional students were unable to join or were late in arriving because of severe rains and flooding taking place in the region.

Since there is only room for about 40 students in the seminary dormitory space, the incoming students were broken into two groups. Each group will come for one week of classes each month, rather than the two weeks at a time that was scheduled previously. The students all speak Telugu and are from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Most of them are already serving independent congregations, but few have much in the way of formal theological education. They are all quite eager to learn more about Christ in the Scriptures at the seminary! In their first week, the new pre-seminary students attended classes on the life of Christ, teaching the Small Catechism, and Lutheran worship. The returning seminary students attended classes in pastoral theology, advanced law and gospel, and Christian doctrine.

Please keep these new and returning seminary students in your prayers as they grow in grace and truth found in God’s Word!

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God’s Word lost . . . and found!

Imagine not having the Word of God. This is true for many people in the world.

One people group in the northern part of a South Asian country has wanted the Bible in its language for over 35 years. They began translating the Bible from Greek and Hebrew but it was such a slow process that they made no headway.

Another man was determined to translate the New Testament from Bangla—the most common language in this country—into the language of his tribe. He worked night and day. He did nothing else. His wife was angry with him for not working in the fields. He said, “I must bring the words of the Bible into the language of our people.”

When he finished the New Testament he brought his papers to a Bible society in the capital of his country. Two months later he made a second trip to the capital to check on the progress of his translation. The Bible society then discovered they had lost his documents. Three years of work—all gone! The words of the New Testament in the language of his people lost!

Now this man is working with our team to translate the New Testament from Bangla into the language of his tribe. All of the team members are working without pay. We finished the oral and written translation in May. Multi-Language Productions (MLP) is paying for the printing of 5,000 copies of this New Testament.

We are also translating the New Testament from Bangla into the language of three more people groups. Some of these people groups are “unreached.” There are hardly any Christians in these tribes. Those who do convert to Christianity are persecuted and sometimes killed. In one tribe of 200,000 people we know of only three living Christians. All three are workers on our team.

We have also translated Luther’s Catechism from English into Bangla. Oh, how our men worked on this project! They love the catechism. Four different men/groups proofed the translation. This is hard work—but worth it. They went “the extra mile.”

One of our team leaders worked with the publisher so that pages of the Bangla catechism “line up” perfectly with the pages of our English catechism. What is on page 29 of the English catechism, for example, is exactly what you will find on page 29 of the Bangla catechism. Now we will be “on the same page” (pun intended). This is helpful for teaching.

Even the wonderful diagrams in the English catechism are in the Bangla catechism. The color of ink (blue and black), the binding and cover are the same! MLP is generously providing the funds for the printing of 5,000 copies.
MLP is our partner in bringing God’s Word to those who do not have it. Humanly speaking two mission fields in South Asia would not exist without MLP. God’s Word was lost—and now is found!

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Unity and peace

The Winter Olympics, you may remember, took place this past February. One highlight of the Olympics is always the opening ceremony. Nearly a hundred nations stream into the stadium waving their flags, people from Asia and Africa, Europe and the Americas all join together under one Olympic banner.

This image of all these countries coming together is a beautiful image of unity, of togetherness. The problem, however, is that these countries do not come together because they’re striving in unity toward the same goal. They come to compete. Once the opening pleasantries finish, it’s time for the fierce competition. It doesn’t take long to see that the supposed “unity and peace” of the opening ceremony, while seeming beautiful, are nothing more than nice thoughts.

Yet for us who belong to the Kingdom of God, unity and peace are more than just “pleasantries.” At a recent East Asia meeting of local leaders and missionaries, brothers from different regions and countries all joined in unity. There were three different languages spoken and many different faces shown on the screen. The brothers gathered not to compete, not for pride of glory as the world sees it, but to spread the good news about Jesus Christ crucified.

A beautiful foretaste, it seemed to us, of what’s waiting in heaven, just as Revelation 7:9 says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . .” What a beautiful scene, the nations gathered together under one banner, in one place, in true unity!

As we continue to reach and train Christian leaders here in East Asia, that multitude John describes in Revelation seems to swell. We thank you for all your prayers for the East Asia missionaries and local leaders as we continue to bring the gospel to the nations.

Written by a missionary in East Asia.

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Back to square A (Albania)

Luke and I moved to Russia in 1997 right after he finished seminary. We arrived in Novosibirsk with next to nothing. . . no cultural knowledge, language skills, children, ministry experience, or possessions. Gradually over the next 25 years, God gave us all those blessings and more. Russia became our home, the place where we felt comfortable, the place where we raised our three children. We knew where to fix the transmission, how to file taxes, which plumber to call, what to substitute for cream soup, and where to get stitches. We had one adventure after another at church, school, and home, and each adventure gave us new knowledge, appreciation, and experience.

Now we are living in Durres, Albania. . . and it feels like déjà vu!

Once again, we are the new guys, sorely lacking in cultural knowledge and language skills. We don’t know much about how ministry works in Albania. We are empty nesters. It’s like we’re newlyweds again!

We’ve spent a grand total of 87 days in Albania. That isn’t much, but we are having adventures and learning.

Albanians are hospitable and friendly. Pastor Nikola Bishka (Niko) and his family found us a lovely apartment to live in and let us borrow things we needed. They are always happy to help. (We especially appreciate their old espresso machine!) Church members have welcomed us warmly.

Albanians don’t want to tell you “No.” I learned this the hard way. Don’t keep waiting around if someone says they’ll do it “in 20 minutes.”

You can buy eggs one at a time. And there’s always a lady selling live chickens just down the block. (Should I surprise Luke some day?)

Locals advise me to look for goods imported from Italy. That is the signal for quality. My new favorite butter comes from Italy. And coffee. And small appliances. And laundry soap. And wine.

Don’t buy bread or baked goods at the grocery store. A nearby bakery will offer fresher goods and cheaper deliciousness.

In Durres, directions are given much like in rural Nebraska: by landmark. We don’t even have a street address. We’re in the apartment building by the pub, “Bar ZaZa.” Taxi drivers and pizza delivery guys know exactly where we are.

Don’t eat olives off the tree. They don’t taste good. Fresh olives must be brined for at least two weeks before eating. My favorite olive merchant is also an excellent, patient man to practice language with. So I buy a lot of olives!

You can keep your washing machine outside on the balcony. (This isn’t Novosibirsk!) I don’t think they are worried about freezing pipes in Durres.

Our apartment is on the 10th floor, and we have a beautiful view overlooking the Port of Durres on the Adriatic Sea. The deep turquoise of the sea at noon becomes a lovely light blue at sunset.

Sunset is the perfect time to wind down and take a walk. The sun is not so hot, the water is beautiful, and the ice cream vendors are still out in full force.

Though I can’t understand most of the words at church, I can see the fruits of faith. I see that the people are happy to gather for worship. They care about each other. They love their pastors. They sing praises with gusto. They are patient and loving with us.

Right now, we are in the U.S. for some family time, classes, and meetings. God-willing we’ll head back to Albania soon. We’re looking forward to learning more about life and work in Albania with new adventures!

Written by Jennifer Wolfgramm, wife of World Missionary Luke Wolfgramm.

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Blessings of Academia Cristo in Colombia

Latin America Missionary Matt Behmer made a trip to Colombia in early July 2022 to connect with Academia Cristo students in the country. Here are a few updates:

 

1) On Wednesday, July 6, Academia Cristo student Álvaro Moreno (pictured far left) and Missionary Behmer (far right) shared a law and gospel message with approximately 15 workers from the estate where Álvaro lives in Armenia, Colombia. That night, one of the workers died in his sleep. We praise God he got to hear the gospel in his final hours. On Thursday, July 7, Missionary Behmer and Álvaro made five in-person visits to potential members of Álvaro’s soon-to-be-formed Grupo Sembrador (A group that gathers regularly around God’s Word using a two-year packet of worship and Bible study materials provided by Academia Cristo).

 


2) On Saturday, July 9, Academia Cristo student Yeison Lozano from Bogotá, Colombia, conducted a two hour interview with Missionary Behmer about our ministry on his radio program. He made several pleas to his listeners to download our app and enroll in live classes. Yeison gathers an independent group in a rented space in Bogotá and shows serious potential to become a church planter.

 


3) On Sunday, July 10, they held an in-person workshop in Bogotá. There were 27 in attendance. Among the participants were Academia Cristo student Verny (pediatric physician) and his family from Costa Rica. They were in Bogotá on vacation. Lucho Herrera from Doral, Fla., was in Bogotá and served as the keynote speaker. Academia Cristo student Camilo Herrera hosted at his restaurant and led the final worship service. Missionary Behmer had the privilege of baptizing the son of an Academia Cristo student! (Pictured)

 

 

Please join us in giving thanks to God for the work of the Holy Spirit in Colombia! View more photos from Missionary Behmer’s trip in our Flickr album.

 

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Double the Pastors in Nigeria

Two of our sister synods in Nigeria doubled the number of pastors serving in their church body in one day!

Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria is based in the town of Uruk Uso, and All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria is headquartered in Ogoja. Until now, each of those synods had nine men serving in the public ministry. After five years of study during some unique circumstances, our mission partners each received nine new pastors on June 11, 2022. We praise the Lord for doubling the number of pastors who will shepherd God’s people with the truth of his Word!

For many years, WELS has sent missionaries to Nigeria four or five times per year. Those missionaries reviewed what the students had learned with their previous teachers. They also taught new material at the seminary in Uruk Uso. In addition, they provided direction and study materials for the coming months until the next teacher came. In the meantime, Nigerian Pastor Aniedi Paul Udo directed their studies.

Joyfully celebrating God’s gift of kingdom workers

Things were different with this current class of graduates. WELS provided the students with food and study materials, but we were unable to send visiting missionaries due to safety concerns. Director Udo and Missionary Dan Kroll made the best of the situation, attempting communications via the internet when it was working. Our missionaries and brothers in Nigeria learned a lot of valuable lessons after five years of training like this. Students learned about the need to be flexible and open to change during the time of transition. . . invaluable qualities for gospel ministers.

At the end of the day, we are trusting the Holy Spirit to transform these Nigerian students into faithful servants of God. And that isn’t unique. In all of our ministry partners’ worker training programs around the world, the success of building God’s kingdom depends on the Holy Spirit. We plant the seeds and wait for the crop – a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown (Matthew 13:8).

Or even double the pastors.

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Faces of Faith – Crispin

Crispin Chikonka has been working as the Psychosocial Counselor at the Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Mwembezhi, Zambia. As a Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) member, he leads clinic devotions and can see Jesus working through the clinic visitors every day. Through those devotions or when counseling patients, Crispin can feel God’s presence in the clinic. He states, “His Word pull us together when working as a team and respecting one another, and there is good communication among us at work.”

While the clinic is at times full of many sick people, he finds joy in his work. Not only do these devotions boost the morale of the visiting patients, but Crispin is also fed with God’s Word. He feels blessed when he observes his working environment and clinic building along with knowing that patient’s concerns and ailments have been addressed. The parable of the ten lepers resonates with Crispin, “Then He said to them, rise and go; your faith has made you well.” – Luke 17:19

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Faces of Faith – Anya and Sonya

“I always knew there was a God, but I didn’t know Him.” Anya is typical of many who grew up in the Soviet Union. Her parents were “believers” who didn’t know Christ. But Jesus knew her.

Many years ago, a friend invited Anya to our church in Russia. Sermon by sermon, class by class, the Holy Spirit changed Anya’s heart. Anya’s daughter, Sonya, was baptized as an infant. “I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know Jesus. God is always with us and will be with us even if something bad happens.”

After the Russian people’s worlds changed in February 2022, Seminarian Andre Gydkov continues to spiritually care for Anya and Sonya and all our brothers and sisters in Christ in Iskitim. He says, “I’m preaching the same things I always did, but now it means more. People are coming to listen. We’re citizens of heaven who own eternal treasures no one can take!”

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Faces of Faith – Abdullah

Abdullah and his mother were kicked out of their home and village when they converted from Islam to Christianity. And yet every day they set aside a handful of rice so that they have something to share with the poor. Abdullah rides a bicycle to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in one of the most dangerous areas of this Muslim nation. He befriends the people, prays for them, and tells them of the love of Jesus. An imam (a Muslim cleric) who is a fish farmer became friends with Abdullah. As they sat in front of his home, he told Abdullah how his fishponds were not producing fish. Abdullah said a simple prayer asking that, if it is God’s will, the imam’s ponds would produce fish. And they did! In great numbers.

Later this imam became a believer in Christ. At his baptism, a mob of over 500 people came to kill him and those involved. The imam spoke with the people, and by the grace of God his life and the lives of those with him were spared. Abdullah continues to share the gospel of Jesus – even though his life is in danger. And God is giving him an abundant harvest of fish and souls.

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Faces of Faith – Timothy

Calling fishers of men . . . to work in the harvest field.

We usually do not speak of fish and fields in the same sentence, but here is a story where both come together.

Timothy Mulando was content with his life in Choonga Village in Africa. Farming during the rainy season, fishing during the dry season. Born and raised a Methodist, he knew Christ. Body fed, soul fed. But life would change.

The Methodists moved out, and in 1953 the Lutherans moved in. Timothy joined the new Lutheran church in Shabasonje Village. Over the years, he served as a lay preacher under Missionaries Habben, Kretzmann, and Sauer.

Then in 1968, Missionary Kirby Spevachek recommended him to train as an evangelist. Timothy began his studies in Lusaka, Zambia, leaving his family behind until accommodations for married men were completed. In 1972, he graduated as an evangelist, serving congregations in Joni Mumba and Mukobela, west of Lusaka. After two years, he was recommended to join the Seminary.

In 1977, he was assigned to Lwimbo, north of Lusaka, to serve as a vicar. At the time he was sent, he was given a small hut that was so small his feet protruded from the doorway. Thankfully there were no dangerous animals among the other wild animals prevalent in the area. And there was no congregation. No converts. But he went to work, and a church grew. As for the house, he and his wife spent time making mud bricks and built a two-room house for the growing family.

In 1979, Vicar Mulando was ordained by Missionaries Cox and Hartzell. Now as Pastor Mulando, he continued to serve Lwimbo until 1985, at which time he returned to serve Joni Mumba and Mokobela.

In 1993, he accepted the call away from village life to serve St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in West Chelston, Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia.

Eight years later, at the age of 71, he retired and returned to the family farm in Shabasonje Village, returning to the maize fields he had left behind so many years before.

But other fields were still calling for workers! From 2002-2005, Pastor Mulando served a vacancy in a nearby village to help prepare them to call a full-time pastor. And in 2006, he began serving the vacancy at his own parish after the pastor accepted a call away. His faithful bicycle carried him between the three churches of the parish, until he retired again in 2014 at age 84.

Today, at age 92, we can understand why Pastor Mulando doesn’t fish anymore in the streams and rivers. Family members do most of the work in the maize fields these days. He has put in his time, fishing for souls in the ripening harvest fields.

From John Hartmann, missionary in Zambia.

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Faces of Faith – Huajvam

He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (Acts 9:4)

My name is Huajvam. I’m a Hmong Christian living in Vietnam. I personally witnessed the persecution of believers in my country. I really hated to see the way that they were treated. Then I came to realize that I, myself, also persecuted the members of my congregation through man-made rules and traditions. I punished those who didn’t follow them.

When the Lord struck the Apostle Paul from his horse, I am sure he felt ashamed to find out that the one whom he was persecuting was the Lord Jesus himself. I too, felt ashamed before my Lord Jesus. I claimed to be a believer of Christ, but I really trusted in my rules and traditions for my salvation, not Christ. I am the worst sinner! Only in Christ are my sins forgiven.

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceThen an unexpected change came into my life: the teaching from WELS. The biblical teaching that sinners are saved by God’s grace alone. WELS shared the teaching of Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fides. This pure teaching has changed me from head to toe. It gave me a new perspective about myself and my faith in Jesus. Now I am pressing on in the name of the Lord to challenge man-made rules and traditions in my community. Nowadays I only know one thing in my life, as the Apostle Paul said, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Since this unexpected change has come, the Lord has tremendously blessed my ministry. People are coming to Christ daily through that message, a Christ-centered message. My district has gained more than 20,000 members in the last few years.

Praise the Lord for his love toward a sinner like me. Please continue to pray for the brothers and sisters in Vietnam.

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Faces of Faith – Alejandro

Rolling through the highway in Villa Maria, Argentina, one sees Nebraska-like cornfields. My fellow missionary said the view was bucolic. (Yeah, I had to look the word up too.) Grandpas and grandmas proudly tell what part of Italy they or their parents came from. Most are barely practicing Catholics.

Just like Alejandro the Butcher. I know, it sounds scary. But you’d like him. Alejandro’s only church experience was a Catholic confirmation class as a teen. The death of their firstborn son as a toddler left Alejandro and his wife, Viviana, devastated. Alejandro’s drug use left his family with financial problems.

He started searching for help just as the pandemic sent families into lockdown with lots of time on their hands. First, he saw an Academia Cristo announcement on his Facebook feed (thanks Multi-Language Productions!) After 38 self-study lessons on Academia Cristo’s mobile app, he joined the Lutheran faith while taking 15 short training courses via Zoom.

I asked, “Would you like to start a Bible-study group to disciple others? We’ll show you how.” He responded, “Well, yeah but I’m a new Christian and don’t really know how to teach.” He invited them to study the Bible for a few weeks and then stopped. He got discouraged. I encouraged him to with one disciple: his 11-year-old son, Eliel. They have started reading through the Bible together in one year.

Men on motorcycles shout Alejandro’s name and wave as they zoom by. Will they be his next disciples? Someone at the butcher shop where he’s the manager?

He laughs when he’s told he’d make a good Old Testament priest, reading about all the bloody animal sacrifices. How he knows it’s all about the blood of Christ which cleans our conscience from sin. Now Alejandro the Butcher serves the living God!

From Rev. Joel Sutton, missionary in Paraguay

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Faces of Faith – Saul

I was a Buddhist follower before. I know there are many divisions in Buddhism, so I did research and studied each denomination. When I became a Christian, I also studied to figure out which church I wanted to join. Then I realized that there are even more denominations in the Christian church than in Buddhism. It took me a year and a half before I got to know the Lutheran Church.

When I started to dig, one of the first things I found was a YouTube series on the small catechism by an American pastor located in East Asia. He mentioned Law and Gospel, and I wanted to know more. As I was searching, I found another YouTube video from an East Asian pastor. The gospel touched my heart, and I contacted the East Asia Lutheran Church and joined their Life of Christ class. After all these years, I found the truth. I am sure now. I got baptized and joined the Christian Studies Certificate Program offered at Asia Lutheran Seminary to learn even more.

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Cameroon Seminary Graduates Seven

May 27, 2022, was an amazing day for our brothers and sisters in Cameroon. Amidst celebrations that reached across Africa, the Lutheran Church of Cameroon graduated seven men into the full-time work of the holy ministry.

In 2016 the LCC identified 14 men to begin ministerial training. They were men with a reasonable level of education, a Spirit-led love for the Lord, and some years of service as laymen in their congregations.

There were, of course, losses along the way. A few students left the program for valid reasons. A political crisis made it unsafe for the men to be together and caused the loss of an entire year of classroom studies. The same crisis made it impossible for WELS missionary Dan Kroll to do any face-to-face teaching in the final three years of the five-year program.

Although the devil uses such things to try to discourage us, we endure with the knowledge that the Lord is refining us as he promised through Jeremiah (9:7): “I will refine and test them.” The Holy Spirit was refining well for the gain of the Lord’s church, so that seven men were able to complete the course to prepare them for full-time ministry. The LCC’s teachers have grounded these men in God’s Word and prepared them to shepherd the Lord’s flocks in Cameroon. The Lord has strengthened each of them to face the challenges of his unique ministry.

The names of the graduates are Solomon Anim, Jean-Jacques Dooh, Nicole Epie, Ferdinand Fomenyam, Thomas Ngalame, Vincent Ngalame, and David Tembuc, They essentially double the LCC’s ministerium.

One of the LCC’s other pastors, Gervase Ngalame, is moving to the seminary campus to assist in training the next group of men for the ministry. Currently, Pastors Mathias Abumbi, Joseph Njume, Daniel Muankume, Julius Njume, Barnabbas Ngalame, and Fon George are serving as full-time congregational shepherds.

We give thanks to God for the addition of these seven men. The Lord has reminded us that he is watching over his church in Cameroon!

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The seven provinces of Costa Rica

This past March I visited a number of our Academia Cristo students in Costa Rica. The last time WELS missionaries had been in the country was in March 2018, and even then, only briefly. We traveled there mainly to get to Nicaragua. A short stop. We didn’t have very much online student activity yet in Costa Rica.

But, four years later, the focus was Costa Rica. A lot more students and a lot more activity!

Pedro and María

For example, I’d like to introduce you to Pedro and María, who live in the capital of San José.

María and Pedro downloaded our Academia Cristo app in late 2020. They watched all 38 self-study videos in the App. When they finished those foundation lessons, they were invited to sign up for live, online classes. They successfully finished all 13 live classes in 2021 and loved what they had learned. After a thorough review of the doctrinal points with me, we welcomed María and Pedro as our new brother and sister in the faith.

Pedro and María were ready for the next level of Academia Cristo classes. They were now Lutherans and they wanted to share that message with others. For these students, we start training them to start what we are calling “planting groups,” which, if the Lord blesses their efforts, will eventually become more established congregations.

One of the tools we use to help these new leaders make plans and takes steps toward their goals are monthly goal setting meetings, usually online. We study a portion of the Bible together and then we talk about their dreams for their ministry efforts and we discuss what small steps they can take before our next meeting.

It’s nice to talk about their dreams during an in-person visit because you get to spend much more time together. Pedro, María, and I did just that. They invited me into their house. We studied the Bible. We walked around their neighborhood. We met up with other Academia Cristo students. We visited their family and another family who would like to start a congregation one day. Lots of time together.

As I listened, I heard a theme that I could tell was Pedro and María’s dream for the ministry in Costa Rica. They kept saying, “We want Academia Cristo to be in all seven provinces of Costa Rica.” There it was! The big dream. The hope and prayer of a couple excited about the gospel.

So we wrote it down on the document that has their goals and next steps on it.

“THE SEVEN PROVINCES OF COSTA RICA”

We review this goal every month and pray about it together. Then we discuss the next steps they can take to help achieve it. Step by step. Aiming for that goal.

May the Lord bless Pedro and María and other Costa Ricans as they start their groups and work to reach all those seven provinces of Costa Rica.

Written by Rev. Nathan Schulte, world missionary on the Latin America mission team.

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World Missionary Conference 2022

From April 19-23, 41 world missionaries, board members, and other supporters of World Missions gathered at Camp Shiloh in Pittsburg, Tex., for a world missionary conference.

This conference allows for much-needed fellowship and encouragement, and it also provides a forum to share best practices and valuable professional growth opportunities. Each field presented on the gospel outreach occurring in their corner of the world, and selected speakers presented on topics like leveraging technology for lasting gospel relationships and how to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically resilient missionaries.

Learn more about World Missions and the 62 countries where missionaries are conducting/exploring outreach at wels.net/missions.

 

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Faces of Faith – The Mwale Family

Anderson Mwale began working with the Lutheran Mobile Clinic as a maintenance worker for the Msambo village clinic in January of 2020. He was married to Annah, and had a one-year old girl named Harriet who was active and playful. They were members at one of our Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) church in Msambo, outside of Lilongwe, Malawi. Anderson had once considered becoming a pastor and was an elder at Mtima Woyera Lutheran Church where they were members. As part of his duties with the clinic, Mr. Mwale would give a devotion for the people who had come to clinic in the morning each week. He would weigh children, direct patients where to go, and be responsible for cleaning the clinic building and getting it ready for clinic. He helped oversee the completion of a new clinic building and kept the site secure during construction. When COVID-19 came to Malawi and the clinic had to temporarily shut down, he would supervise the use of the building, keep the grounds clean and safe, and gave sermons on Sundays. When clinic resumed in October, he helped supervise new volunteers who maintained COVID precautions at clinic with our patients.

He remembers the date – February 28, 2021, when Harriet became very sick with malaria. It was not a clinic day so he and his wife brought her to Kamuzu Central Hospital where she was treated for nearly a week. Afterwards, she had weakness in her right side, and could no longer run and play. They prayed for her to recover, but cerebral malaria had caused permanent neurological damage. The Mwale’s brought her to our clinic for follow-up where one of the clinicians realized that she would need ongoing therapy and seizure medication. Harriet was the first child who was referred to Children of Blessings, a private clinic giving free therapy to children with physical needs. The cost of transportation to the clinic three times a week, however, was not affordable for the Mwale’s, so the Central Africa Medical Mission, with the help of special donors, began providing the funds for this in March of 2021. Within a few months, Harriet could hold her head straight, stand with support, and was no longer crying in pain. Her seizures were under control. Her mother learned the exercises to do at home. The Mwale’s were thankful that there was hope for their daughter.

Within a few months there were four more mothers who came weekly to the Lutheran Mobile Clinic for help with their children’s disabilities, as well as their illnesses and malnutrition. Mrs. Mwale befriended these moms and often traveled with them and their children to therapy. Meanwhile, a new vicar at Msambo had weekly Bible studies with the women. One mom became a member of the church and her daughter was baptized. Since the start of 2022, two more children were baptized by Pastor Msiska, who became the vacancy pastor at Mtima Woyera, and continues to share God’s Word with these mothers.

Mr. Mwale said that many prayers have been answered concerning Harriet, and he is thankful she is getting the help she needs. He expressed his gratitude to the donors who support the Lutheran Mobile Clinic and provide the transportation needed for Harriet’s therapy. He trusts the Lord for her future, and knows she is loved and saved by Jesus.

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New evangelism resources in Vietnam

I’m sitting at a laptop in a government hotel room in Hanoi, Vietnam. Ten days of quarantine ahead. I’m ready to teach a class to Hmong student pastors. Due to COVID, the pastor students are unable to attend classes in person. Instead, they must Zoom in. What a joy to watch that little number at the bottom corner of the screen grow as more and more students connect. We end up with 60 student pastors eager to learn about Jesus! And the topic for the course: How to make an evangelism presentation, using a set of thirty illustrative posters! How did we arrive at this exciting project?

Pastor Bounkeo Lor, Hmong Asia Ministry Coordinator, knows that it is very economical to print full color posters in Vietnam. One day, the request came in from the Vietnam pastors: “Please create an evangelism presentation that includes a set of posters!” The pastors would use the evangelism presentation throughout the hundreds of Hmong villages in Vietnam.

A script for the evangelism presentation was developed under the direction of Pastor Boun. I visited him at his home in Kansas City to review my prototype drawings. He suggested many revisions that would make the pictures more compatible with the Hmong culture. Months later Pastor Boun approved a final script and drawings. He then placed an order for 650 sets of the thirty posters to be printed in Hanoi. Each of the student pastors will teach another three or four church leaders how to make the evangelism presentation. Those church leaders would in turn teach more leaders in the remote villages.

The evangelism presentation describes the lost condition of all humanity and God’s marvelous way of saving the world from sin. A three-panel poster on infant baptism is very graphic. The baby, born with a sinful nature, has been swallowed by the Serpent! The baby is pictured in the belly of the Beast! But the third panel of the poster depicts what happens through the waters of baptism: Jesus reaches down—right through the Serpent’s mouth—and rescues the baby!

Three posters are used to explain the doctrine of Justification. In his inspired words in Romans 3:19-31, Paul uses a forensic or “courtroom” analogy to explain how we are declared “not guilty” before God. Our first poster depicts a secular courtroom scene, complete with a boy on trial, a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and a judge. The next poster depicts the “spiritual courtroom,” where we see Satan accusing the boy before God, demanding that the boy be sentenced to eternal punishment. But Jesus, our mediator, our defender, declares that he has already taken the punishment the boy deserves. God declares the boy “not guilty!”

It would be exciting to describe all the posters, because they illustrate the amazing love of God for once-lost sinners, But I will mention one more, the final poster in the set of thirty. In the picture, Jesus stands in his white robe behind a white-robed boy. The hands of Jesus rest on the boy’s shoulders. The picture explains what it means to be God’s own child in a constant state of grace under the loving hands of our Savior. As Paul explains in Galatians 3:26-27: “In fact you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Indeed, as many of you as were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ” (EHV).

Our Vietnam student pastors ponder with excitement that last picture. Is this truly how we appear before God—all the time—clothed in a white robe of Christ’s righteousness? The answer for all of us through faith in Christ is a resounding “yes!” God says it many times and in many ways throughout his Word, and succinctly in these words: “I will remember your sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12).

Written by Dr. Terry Schultz, Artistic Development Missionary for Multi-Language Productions.

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Equipped for ministry – Seminary graduation in India

Dear Friends in Christ,

Greetings from Christ Evangelical Lutheran Ministries (CELM) of India.

We have a Lutheran seminary in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India to teach God’s Word and to train our workers. On Friday, March 25, 2022, we had a graduation service, and by the grace of God eighteen students graduated. All of them studied over seven years in God’s Word and were equipped for the ministry work.

Out of the 18 students, 14 of them belong to Telugu states (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) and 4 of them belong to North India (Madhya Pradesh, Chattishgarh, and Uttar Pradesh).

These men are very talented and learned God’s Word to preach in their communities. All of them have congregations, and they have gone back to their congregations for full time gospel work. They were all very happy when they received their certificates and also some gifts from WELS (such as laptops for their continuing education).

Please pray for our new graduates that God may use them in his kingdom work.

Written by Rev. Prasad Babu, seminary professor in India

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New gospel outpost in Brazil

Rev. Denício Godoy was ordained and commissioned by the Lutheran Church of Portugal as a missionary in Brazil on April 3, 2022. The celebration took place in Dom Cavati and was officiated by Rev. Artur Villares, president of the Lutheran Church of Portugal, and Rev. Kenneth Cherney, Old Testament professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. You can view photos from the service on the Flickr album.

Rev. Godoy connected online with Rev. Villares from the Lutheran Church of Portugal, WELS’ sister church, and took classes with him to be colloquized as a Confessional Lutheran pastor. Rev. Godoy will begin outreach in Brazil as a mission arm of the Lutheran Church of Portugal, with support from the WELS Europe team and continued encouragement from Rev. Cherney. We praise God for this new outpost for the gospel in Brazil!

Learn more about the Lutheran Church of Portugal and how they came to connect with Pastor Godoy at wels.net/portugal.

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Little pastor

Forty years ago, his pastor called him “Xiao Mushi” (little pastor). He was planting seeds in this young boy’s heart. Michael was just a second grader. He lived in a village in central Taiwan. It’s 300 year old temple to the goddess Mazu is among the largest on the island. Sometimes while his small church is worshipping, a temple procession a half-mile long makes its way past the country church. She is taken out of the temple once a year to be among her people. Inside the church, worship has to pause as small trucks passed by blaring loud music. Right in the middle of the procession, a statue of Mazu, often called the Holy Heavenly Mother, is carried along by worshippers as “she” sits on a chair. Her expression is calm but wooden eyes can only look forward. Throngs of people bow down and worship along the narrow road, hoping she will grant peace and prosperity.

This is where Michael grew up. In his Lutheran church Sunday School he heard about the Savior who also was born in a small village. This Savior gave his life for the world, rose and then ascended to heaven. He doesn’t need to be carried around on a chair, but rules from a heavenly throne. Michael’s dad, an employee of a local bicycle factory preached this good news to the congregation on the Sundays when the pastor was not there. Michael was watching his dad be a Christian leader. Michael was growing in his faith in Jesus.

Michael’s church

Thirty years later, his pastor – the son of his first pastor! – encouraged him to take Christian leadership training courses offered by the church with help from Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS). Over several years this somewhat shy man started to come into his own. He completed the first phase of his training. The next step was clear. Late in 2021, this “Xiao mushi” was officially installed as a bi-vocational leader for his church! Michael has been given the chance to proclaim Jesus in this part of Taiwan that still has the fewest churches per capita on Taiwan. As his father retires, Michael joins the ranks of many around the world who serve God in their secular jobs as well as in their called gospel ministry. Like his father, Michael designs bike parts and  preaches the Good News to a small congregation of the faithful.  May God bless Michael and all who serve in this way! May God multiply the ranks of “Xiao Mushi” around the world!

Written by Rob Siirila, part-time East Asia missionary

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If those doors could talk

“Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:7).

Psalm 24 paints an interesting picture for us. Gates and doors lifting their heads to joyfully welcome the King of Glory passing through them? Amazing! Wouldn’t it be something to hear how they would describe such a tremendous scene?

Rev. Kirk Massey, pastor at Church of the Open Bible, and his family

There’s another set of doors I’d love to hear. What stories they could tell about the people who’ve walked through them and the wonderful things that happened inside! This year marks the 100th year that the doors of the Church of the Open Bible in Whiteriver, Ariz., have swung open and welcomed people inside to hear about the King of Glory.

If those doors could talk . . . maybe they would talk about the first person to ever walk through them. On April 30, 1922, a crowd gathered on the front steps of a brand-new church building in the middle of Whiteriver. Several years of planning and believing and finally building had led up to this moment. The hard work of their hands was finished. A church anchored on a shelf of volcanic lava, thick timbers placed carefully, a cross on the top that had been carried up the steep roof strapped to the back of the missionary. Now, all eyes were on the two men at the doors. The “Inashood ‘Ndaezen” (Tall Missionary) Edgar Guenther, and Chief Alchesay, leader of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. As they watched, Alchesay took the key, turned the lock, and led his people into the church. He strode down the center aisle and told everyone following him that “This was the only church I put my thumbprint on.” Pointing to the Bible and looking at Rev. Guenther he said, “You listen to him when he speaks from this book.” Then he and 100 of his band were baptized.

If those doors could talk, they would talk about Alchesay passing through them one last time, six years later. As he was dying, he had one request: to be buried with the key to the church in his headband, since that key had opened God’s house for him, and opened heaven for him.

If those doors could lift up their heads and talk . . . oh the stories they could tell from the last 100 years! Seeing babies brought in by proud parents to have their names written in the Book of Life at the baptismal font, hearing the sounds of children singing songs about their Savior Jesus, rejoicing in the adults who came in burdened with sins and leaving in the peace of forgiveness. So many people have gone through those doors, some of them finding peace and being changed forever, some walking away in anger, and other leaving in a casket while their footsteps ring in heaven.

The doors of the Church of the Open Bible have been open for 100 years, because about 2,000 years ago, the doors of this world opened up to welcome the King of Glory into it to save us, the gates of Jerusalem opened up for Him to pay for the sins of all people, and the Holy Spirit has continued to open the hearts of people like Alchesay for the King of Glory to enter in.

Pray that those doors continue to open and say, “Come in! You’ll find the King of Glory here. And He’s got good news for you!”

Written by Rev. Dan Rautenberg, world missionary on the Native American mission team.

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Prayers for a church

In 2010, Caroline McCatty prayed that God would help her and her husband Lawrence to find a really good church. At the time, the couple was in the process of moving from England to the United States. Caroline knew the transition would take them to a new place, and she didn’t have any connections in the area to which she could reach out and ask for a church recommendation. As they settled in the East Coast of the United States, God led the McCattys to a small WELS church. The pastor there taught from the Bible, and focused on Jesus as the Savior of the world. Previously, the McCattys had attended a church in England, but not one that clearly preached the truths of Scripture. At the WELS church in the United States, they learned messages from the Bible that they had never heard before–and quickly grew to love.

Five years later, the McCattys returned to their home country as WELS members. Upon their return, they lifted up a different prayer – one that requested Scripture-based worship and instruction. The couple observed a different scene in England than what they had witnessed at the WELS church in the United States. They asked for that same Christ-centered gospel message to come to England: they wanted the solid meat that WELS offers, rather than a watered-down version of Scripture they saw throughout England. They prayed for six years; then God led WELS to start up mission work in England. Missionary Michael Hartman is leading the effort and is working with the McCattys and others in England to coordinate services and ministry.

The McCattys serve as an example to us of an existing core group of WELS and CELC members living in England. Thus far, members of the CELC church bodies on four continents are known to live in England. The goal is that this core group serve as a starting place for gospel outreach to the country. If you know a member or contact currently living in England, please contact Missionary Hartman. (Email: Michael.Hartman@wels.net / WhatsApp: +13058900560 or +447360712166.)

Read the rest of the McCatty’s story in their Forward in Christ article.

Written by Rev. Michael Hartman, world missionary in London, England.

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Strawberry fields forever in Vietnam

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey (strawberries?) to my mouth!

Despite COVID-19 restrictions and obstacles, our mission to the Hmong people in Vietnam moves forward. We continued in our second year of online instruction for our Hmong students.

Recently I taught a course on the book of Psalms to our 57 students. My partner Bounkeo Lor taught a class on Christian Stewardship. His brother Ger Lor taught the Augsburg Confession.

About half an hour before each class began, I opened the Zoom classroom. Students like to check in early, talk to each other, catch up on news, and say prayers. I get to practice my limited Hmong vocabulary by greeting the students and asking them questions.

On the day of the final session of our Psalms class, one student showed us a blessing from her garden. Ntshuab showed us a basket of strawberries. I quickly consulted my Hmong-English dictionary to find the Hmong word for strawberry. “Kuv nyiam txiv pos nphuab,” (I like the strawberry) I said to Ntshuab.

Then I decided to change my Zoom background to show a basket of strawberries. The students smiled and chatted about strawberries. More students entered the classroom and probably wondered why I featured a picture of strawberries.

The class continued for two hours. We reviewed and celebrated the message of the Psalms. One student remarked, “I never realized before how much the Psalms talk about Jesus.” He had learned the chief message of Scripture and the Psalms.

When we concluded, the students regretted that we couldn’t study more of the Psalms. We focused our ten sessions on just 12 of the 150 Psalms. I also regretted that we could not study more of the Psalms but promised we would do so in the future.

I said, “Each Psalm we studied is like a sweet strawberry. They are delicious and we want to eat more of them.” “Yes,” said one student, “I wish we could have eaten more strawberries in this class.”

Our Hmong students remain eager to learn God’s Word. We finish one class. They want another class. We study one book of the Bible. They want to study the next book. We cover one topic. They want to hear all the topics.

Our brothers and sisters in the Hmong Fellowship have the desire of the psalmist who wrote, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey (strawberries?) to my mouth!”

Written by Joel Nitz, world missionary in Vietnam.

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