Tag Archive for: world missions

Happy Thanksgiving from WELS Missions!

Sometimes it takes a bad situation to bring out the best in us.

Medical advances are taken for granted until someone in your family desperately needs help. Peace and prosperity aren’t seen as gifts until a country is plunged into war. A roof over our heads is not given a second thought until a hurricane rips it off. Food on our plates is expected, but that expectation can melt away in an instant where drought or famine hit hard. When help arrives in a desperate situation, thanksgiving can shine. Doctors, soldiers, emergency crews, and aid workers can fill pages with accounts of people filled with gratitude when help arrives.

Help in a bad situation can bring out the best in us. This is why thanksgiving should never be far from our lips. We were all in the most desperate of circumstances. Born into a sinful world and determined from birth to rebel against our Creator, we were in the most horrible situation imaginable. We deserved to be separated from our Maker for eternity. But God intervened. He sent his Son and saved us. He redeemed the entire world from sin by his death on the cross. He proved his success, and ours, by his resurrection from the dead. It is no wonder that the Apostle Paul encourages all believers to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

We in the WELS Missions office have the great honor of seeing God’s amazing grace reach the far corners of the world. Aid for families touched by diseases, wars, disasters, and famine are always welcomed with expressions of thanks and joy from our Christian family around the world. That thanksgiving is raised to the highest heights as we rejoice with them in the greatest gifts of all: the gifts of God’s eternal grace, mercy, and peace. Thank you for helping us bring the life-giving gospel to the world. Enjoy this short video that shares how God blessed that work in 2022.

Join with us this Thanksgiving to rejoice at what God has done for us all. Rejoice that many are helped when life in this vale of tears gets tough. Shout praises to God for the blessing of being able to share this good news with the world.

From all of us in WELS Missions, we thank God for you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions

 




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Growth and partnership in Indonesia

In July 2022, WELS Friendly Counselor Rev. Gregory Bey made his first visit to Indonesia since the pandemic began. Bey attended the convention of WELS’ sister synod in Indonesia, Gereja Lutheran Indonesia (GLI). GLI currently has about 1,650 members in 29 congregations served by 30 pastors and 5 vicars.

The GLI convention was held on the new seminary campus on the island of Java. Construction of this seminary, called Sekolah Tinggi Teologi Lutheran (STTL), was completed in 2021. Seminary classes are taught by Indonesian pastors with support from Bey. The seminary currently has 27 students, many of whom are graduates of a Lutheran high school that was established in July 2018.

“Walking through the new campus evoked emotions of exhilaration and excitement coupled with thankfulness to God for this beautiful blessing,” says Bey. “But it was interacting with the students, staff, and faculty that brought to mind these words of St. Paul: ‘Entrust the things you heard from me, in the presence of many witnesses, to faithful men who will also be able to teach others’ ” (2 Timothy 2:2 Evangelical Heritage Version).

Bey concludes: “God-willing, STTL will produce a steady stream of qualified national pastors for many years to come.”

GLI continues to grow in number and maturity. In 2015, a plan was set in motion to transition a significant amount of financial support from WELS to GLI. Pastor salaries for men in established congregations will, prayerfully, be fully supported by local members by 2025. In some cases, GLI pastors may need to serve as “tent ministers” who support themselves with secular jobs. WELS would continue to provide funding for seminary professors and possibly the synod chairman. Savings could then be used to support building projects for existing churches as well as exploratory work in new regions. This is a huge step toward self-sufficiency and independence as a stand-alone church body.

WELS’ Asia One Team is in the process of calling for a full-time friendly counselor to support and advise the work in Indonesia. Bey has been filling the role on a quarter-time basis since he retired from full-time work in 2019.

Learn more at wels.net/indonesia.

 

 

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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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A new approach to African mission work

In May and June of this year, three of WELS’ sister church bodies in Cameroon and Nigeria graduated a combined 25 men after five years of seminary studies. Seven of those men will serve as pastors in the Lutheran Church of Cameroon (LCC); nine will serve Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria; and nine will serve All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria.

Graduation in Nigeria

Mission work in Africa looks significantly different now than it did 30 years ago. Gone are the days of American seminary-trained pastors driving out to remote African villages to preach in churches. “Years ago, we had the idea that we were going to bring what we knew from the United States and just transplant that into Africa. It was generally missionary-driven,” says Rev. Dan Kroll, a One Africa Team missionary based in Malawi.

Now the relationship between WELS missionaries and our African church bodies is shifting to one of partnership.

The ministerial training of the recent Cameroonian and Nigerian graduates demonstrates this shift. At the outset of the LCC’s five-year seminary program, Kroll was working in person to hand the worker training program over to the capable, spirit-driven men of Africa. Kroll’s time in Cameroon soon came to an unexpected end, however, when COVID-related challenges and dangerous political unrest made face-to-face contact with the men impossible for the final three years. The situation in Nigeria was similar.

Suddenly, the African teachers in both Cameroon and Nigeria bore the responsibility for completing the seminarians’ training. While Kroll and Rev. Dan Witte, a One Africa Team missionary based in Zambia, worked tirelessly to provide guidance and materials via e-mail, the stunted communication proved challenging.

But the Lord promises us in Isaiah 55:11 that when his Word is preached, his purposes are fulfilled. Kroll explains, “The men graduated, and they’re going to be in ministry. They studied, and the Holy Spirit will strengthen them and encourage them and put out whatever he wants to put out.”

The next seminary class began its studies this month, with the African national pastors now taking the lead in the training. “Now it’s their thing, and we’re going to assist,” says Witte. “It’s important for us to empower people with Holy Spirit-given gospel gifts to do their thing their way, as opposed to us saying, ‘How can they replicate our thing our way?’”

Witte and Kroll recently met in Cameroon with their African brothers to preview course materials and seek feedback as the national pastors work to shape their own ministerial programs. “Our goal is to work ourselves out of a job,” Witte explains. “Our goal is that on the day we need to leave, [this ministry] is in someone else’s hands.”

Learn more about work in Africa at wels.net/missions/africa. Read more about our African partners at forwardinchrist.net/doing-their-thing-their-way.

 

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Update from Ukraine: Sept. 16, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


September. 15:

There has been a vacancy at St. John Lutheran in Lazarivka.  Lazarivka is located southwest of Ternopil.  Though in a safer area of Ukraine the economy has hit the people hard there as well.  Refugees from Kyiv, Kharkiv and Avdiyivka currently live in Lazarivka.  Pastor Serhiy Somin was able to visit this congregation, he held a worship service, and delivered food aid to them. Plans are being made to have services there once or twice a month.  Thank you, Pastor Somin for your love for these fellow believers, and your efforts to serve them with the Word and sacrament.

Izium was recently liberated from Russian control. We have heard from some of the members of the church, who thankfully are alive, but have not heard from everyone.  We pray for these believers and trust that they are in Jesus’ loving care. Izium is served by Pastor Victor Khaustov.  May God continue to bless his ministry to the people there.

September 14:

While there are reports of Ukrainian forces reclaiming territory, which is true, yet there is now increased rocket and missile strikes against key infrastructure targets.  There are now reports of water shortages, and even a complete cut off of water in a few locations.  In preparation for the cold of winter, and possible heating fuel shortages, many small stoves are being made and sold so that people can burn wood, coal, or peat for the heating of their homes and churches.  It suspected that Russia will continue to try to cut off utilities from the people with winter coming soon.

From gifts that our church gave to the ULC to buy more Bibles, over a year ago, they have now come and some were delivered to Kharkiv.

More Bibles and Catechisms will be needed in the future.  Many of these are being given out to refugees, who receive them with great joy.  Amazing how the Word of God can spread in times of adversity and war.  God’s ways are certainly not our ways.  We simply cast out the seed, God will give the growth.

September 6:

An example of another door that our Lord has opened to his Pastors in the ULC happened recently.  Pastor Yuri Tytski, who serves Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Bereznehuvate, but has moved his family to Kremenets until it’s safe to go back, encountered some people who came to the church in Kremenets for food and aid.  He found out that they were from Snihurivka, not far from Bereznehuvate.  He, along with Pastor Roman Anduntsiv, welcomed them to worship and they have now begun Catechism classes with them.

September 1:

Earlier this week, Pastor Khaustov who serves in Kharkiv was able to travel to some of his members who have moved to Poltava.  Poltava is located about 85 miles southwest of Kharkiv.  He held a worship service with them and delivered some People’s Bible Commentaries.  Many of the ULC Pastors are now serving smaller numbers of worshipers, due to the fact that so many people have moved to safer areas.  Yet, they continue to serve their members who have stayed.  We thank them for their faithful service.  Other pastors who have taken refuge in other areas help serve in those places.  The ministries continue, by God’s grace.


WELS World Missions provided this map to show where major Ukrainian cities are located and, more specifically, where the Ukrainian Lutheran Church has congregations.

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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What does starting a Lutheran seminary look like?

Walking through the central streets of Medellín, Colombia, is sensory overload. Smell the oil from the fried empanadas. Traffic everywhere. Whiny motorcycles. Carts selling some of the most beautiful fruit you’ve ever seen. Hey, is that WELS vicar Zach Satorius with a guitar case slung over his shoulder? Hard-working people scurrying off to their jobs. Others we see are obviously struggling in life. I wonder if people even noticed us. . . A tall professor from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and three short men: a Bolivian, a Colombian, and an American missionary, walking the streets for an hour or two every day, talking as we went. Is this what the start of a seminary looks like?

Followers of Jesus in places as far as Bolivia, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic have banded together to form a new international confessional Lutheran synod in Latin America: Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional. God-willing there will be a representative from this new synod at the 2023 WELS Synod Convention, so you’ll be hearing more about this.

WELS mission efforts in Spanish-speaking Latin America are focused on Academia Cristo. We find people through social media. A mobile app walks people through the basics of the Christian faith. It’s up to each person if they want to continue learning. Those who finish the app are invited to participate in the first level of online discipleship training courses. By the end of level one, some of those who finish will join the Lutheran faith. They’ll also have the desire to teach others and start a core group. In level two we provide training for leading such a group through its early stages, with the goal of forming a church. (By the way, you can share our app with Spanish speakers in the U.S.)

As God blesses the work of the new Latin American synod and WELS mission efforts, groups become churches of the new synod. So how do people get further ministry training? It’s okay to start simple. WELS has been training pastors for almost 160 years. Know how it started? My understanding is that theological training happened inside the school building of St. Mark’s in Watertown, Wis. Humble beginnings. Not so different from the test classes that leaders of the new seminary, Seminario Cristo (Christ Seminary), have already started for more than a dozen group leaders to build on their Academia Cristo training. Participants learn to apply law and gospel, counseling, and biblical interpretation. They get to apply some of what they’re learning with the group they’re teaching right away that same week. Preaching, advanced doctrine, and other topics are coming. The Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) and WELS missionaries advise and consult. The new synod leads the seminary in training people for different forms of ministry.

We did work in Medellín. Seminary leaders made philosophical and curriculum decisions. It was clear that we all shared the same faith and values. Everything needs to be Biblical, Christ-centered, and practical. We all knew it.

We preached to each other and prayed together. We played dominos. Shared life stories. We drank tinto (Colombian coffee) several times a day. We walked the streets of Medellín for hours. We laughed and prayed and bonded in Christ. Starting a confessional Lutheran seminary. . . there’s real work to be done. But it’s easy to forget that the love of Christ, walking together and loving one another. . . that’s part of starting a seminary too.

Written by Rev. Joel Sutton, world missionary on the Latin America mission team

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Images of Grace – Partnership between MLP and Bethany Lutheran College

WELS Multi-Language Productions (MLP) is partnering with the Bethany Lutheran College Fine Arts department to produce illustrations of Bible stories and Catechism lessons for use in world mission fields. Fourteen ELS/WELS artists came together alongside Rev. Dr. Terry Schultz, Artistic Development Missionary for MLP, to illustrate 54 Biblical accounts for use in Zambian Sunday Schools. Church leaders in Zambia plan to distribute these illustrations for use as inexpensive, impactful visual aids in Sunday School classes.

The “Images of Grace,” exhibition will be available from August 31-September 27 in the Ylvisaker Fine Arts Center Gallery. A special gallery reception is being held on September 1 at 7 p.m. and will include a panel discussion with Rev. Dr. Terry Schultz; Rev. Larry Schlomer, WELS World Missions Administrator; Professor Andrew Overn, Art Director; and various contributing artists. All are invited to attend.

This exhibit represents the beginning of an ongoing project and partnership between Bethany’s Art Department and Multi-Language Productions. Learn more about MLP and the resources they provide to WELS world mission fields at wels.net/mlp.

Learn more about the exhibit and gallery reception on the Bethany Lutheran College event page.

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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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Together Video Update – August 9, 2022

Rev. Ben Foxen and Rev. Keegan Dowling were commissioned to join the One Africa Team as missionaries in Zambia, Africa, on June 11. The Foxen family arrived in Lusaka, Zambia, on Aug. 2. The Dowlings are scheduled to arrive at the end of August. See what Missionary Foxen and his wife, Becky, had to say following the commissioning. Learn more about their family, their plans to serve overseas—and how you can help them in their new ministry.

 

 

 

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WELS Missions – 2022 Impact Report

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. . .

Matthew 28:19

God is blessing the efforts of WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions in amazing ways! Your prayers and gifts are making a difference in communities across the U.S. and around the world; we are grateful for your generosity.

Here are some ways your gifts are being used to share the good news of the gospel.

HOME MISSIONS

  • Five new churches were approved in Windsor, Colo.; Wichita, Kans.; Canton, Ga.; Conroe, Tex; and Lodi, Wis. Home Missions also approved enhancements or unsubsidized mission status at seven other locations. Learn more at wels.net/newstart.
  • Campus Ministry provides over 30 campus ministries with financial support and assists hundreds of other congregations in their campus ministry outreach.
  • Plans and preparations are being made to plant 100 new home mission churches and enhance 75 existing ministries from 2023-2033. Learn more at wels.net/100in10.

WORLD MISSIONS

  • Two missionaries are beginning ministry in London this year.
  • Over 500 worldwide gospel ministers are proclaiming the Good News, and more than 90 additional men have graduated from worker training programs this year alone.
  • Building of the theological education center in Vietnam has begun.
  • Plans are being made to welcome a synod in Uganda and an international synod in Latin America into WELS fellowship at the 2023 Synod Convention.
  • Nine new missionary positions have been approved.

JOINT MISSIONS

  • The Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) is working with One Teams around the world and providing theological training to immigrants in the U.S. for service to their people groups.
  • Mission Journeys provides opportunities for volunteer trips to WELS mission fields at home and abroad.

Praise God for his mercy and grace and thank YOU for your prayers and support! There is always more work to do, and we are grateful for your continued partnership. Pray for God’s blessing on his Church. Share God’s grace and forgiveness with others you meet. Ask God to give us strength to serve others with love.

Learn more at wels.net/missions and like us on Facebook at fb.com/WELSMissions

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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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Missionaries receive support and direction during orientation

Six new world missionaries, one world mission vicar, and their spouses attended world missionary orientation at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry in Waukesha, Wis., from July 11-14. Attendees included

  • Rev. Keegan and Mrs. Kate Dowling, One Africa Team;
  • Rev. Ben and Mrs. Becky Foxen, One Africa Team;
  • Rev. Conifer Berg and Mrs. Ruth Nitz, Europe Team;
  • Rev. Luis and Mrs. Carolina Acosta, One Latin America Team;
  • Teacher Luke and Mrs. Rachel Beilke, One Latin America Team;
  • Vicar Caleb and Mrs. Emily Koelpin, One Latin America Team; and
  • Rev. Jonathan and Mrs. Kim Bare, Asia One Team.

Rev. Paul Nitz, WELS World Missions’ One Team counselor and former missionary in Africa, organized the training. He notes, “Our missionaries are very excited to get out into the world and help get that sweet message of Jesus and salvation into the hands and hearts of the lost. They would be a bit odd if they weren’t also going out with a bit of worry. They will confront challenges. We can all imagine the physical challenges. We think of things like driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, learning how to shop and cook, and putting kids into a school. There are also cultural challenges they will face. As we are sending out our new missionaries, we want to help them with some encouragement and some perspective.”

“The orientation was immeasurably valuable,” says Mrs. Kate Dowling. “Before that week, I was drifting in a rough sea. During the orientation I learned that there is an entire well-organized team behind all the missionaries. The Board for World Missions administration is made up of experienced missionaries and an operations director who know the concerns we have and who know what to say to calm our fears. The most valuable part of everything was making connections with other people and feeling supported as we go across the ocean to a new place with a new culture. And all of this to serve the Lord—what a privilege.”

“To be welcomed and accepted by experienced missionaries like this was a very uplifting experience for all of us new to this calling,” says Rev. Keegan Dowling. “Priorities for what we should do when we first land on the field were clearly laid out. So were the core values of the WELS World Missions global team as well as our team’s goals and dreams of what we’d like to accomplish over the next few years—laying it all at the feet of our Father in heaven. For all these reasons, I came away from orientation feeling that we new missionary families were given clear and concrete direction.”

“Our prayer,” explains Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions, “is that the Lord uses these few days as a way to help ensure our missionaries are not shipwrecked by difficulties that are common experiences for all missionaries. We want these families to be able to serve for many years in this most important task, to take the gospel to places and people that do not have it yet.”

For more information, including biographies about each family, visit wels.net/missions.

 

 

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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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Aid distribution in Ukraine

As Russia continues to wage war against Ukraine, the effort to support WELS’ brothers and sisters in Ukraine has been blessed by our Lord Jesus. WELS has received more than $1.4 million from individuals and groups to support the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), WELS’ sister church body in the Ukraine, and its efforts to help members and others affected by the conflict.

WELS has sent more than $300,000 in aid to Ukraine. Approximately $200,000 has been sent to the ULC (as it has requested it) for clothing, food, medicine, and other supplies. About $100,000 has been sent to Direct Relief, an organization equipped to provide emergency medical supplies to those remaining in Ukraine or who are refugees in Poland. As the conflict continues, and as needs arise, additional funding will be sent. WELS also is anticipating significant rebuilding costs when, Lord willing, the war ends.

Rev. Roger Neumann serves the Board for World Missions as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He maintains regular contact with ULC leaders and provides updates about how the aid is being used and how doors are opening to share the gospel, even in trying circumstances. These are just a few examples of the many ways people are hearing about the love of Jesus through your gifts.

  • ULC Pastor Taras Kokovsky and his wife were asked to visit Latvia by Latvian Lutheran pastors to reach out to Ukrainian refugees who settled there. The goal of the trip is to determine how to best serve them and their spiritual needs, invite them to worship, and tell them about the ULC, so when they return they might find a church to attend.
  • A member of Resurrection Lutheran in Kiev was able to get an additional package of food for a 72-year-old neighbor who is struggling to buy food.
  • Liudmyla, a retired member of the ULC church in Kyiv, was having a difficult time getting her medications, and the church was able to supply them for her.
  • Food and medical supplies are regularly being distributed to people in need in the communities around ULC congregations.
  • After an outpatient hospital in the small town of Bereznehuvate was destroyed, a ULC church member who is a dentist there was provided with funds to purchase tools and medicine so that she can help those who need it.
  • Bishop Horpynchuk, the head of the ULC, delivered soap, shampoo, toothpaste, detergents, etc., to members and visitors in Kyiv.
  • Iryna from Bachmut and Valentyna from Brianka heard about the ULC church and attended worship. They told their stories of how they left home with only a few things and found shelter in Kyiv. Horpynchuk and his congregation shared with them food and drink, detergents and soap, and Christian love.

We thank our heavenly Father for the generous gifts that we’ve received, for Rev. Neumann’s faithful contacts, and for WELS World Missions’ partnership with the ULC.

To learn more or to support the relief efforts in Ukraine, visit wels.net/ukraine.

 

 

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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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Your gifts are making a difference in Ukraine

“Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

1 Timothy 6:12

The effort to support our brothers and sisters in Ukraine has been blessed by our Lord Jesus. As of this writing, WELS has received over $1,400,000 from many individuals and groups for the support of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and those affected by this conflict. We thank God for these gifts and continue to pray for peace.

After months of conflict, the war in Ukraine shows no signs of letting up. What a comfort to know that the Lord of the Church will always care for his people. Trusting his infinite care even in these perilous times, WELS members and friends have given generously to support those affected by the war, especially the members of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. During this time WELS provided well over $300,000 in aid to Ukraine (as they have requested it), which has been distributed as follows:

  • Approximately $200,000 for the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) for clothing, food, and medicine
  • Approximately $100,000 to Direct Relief to provide medicine and supplies through the Ukraine Ministry of Health and financial assistance for Ukrainians remaining in the country or who are refugees in Poland

Up to this day we have still been able to send gifts to Ukraine to support the ULC’s efforts to feed and house refugees and others in need, the travel of pastors to care for their flocks, and ongoing subsidy for the work of the church in Ukraine. More funds will be given as the ULC is able to buy the supplies that are a help to those around them and as the Lord allows them to rebuild churches and homes.

Today we are reminded of the many confessional Lutheran church bodies that are united with us in gospel proclamation around the world. WELS’ Board for World Missions has the high honor of connecting with these brothers and sisters in good times and in bad. We carry each other’s burdens and sorrows. We rejoice when our brothers and sisters rejoice and mourn when they mourn. Your tangible gifts in this time of need are another expression of God’s love through us to a world in desperate need. These times remind us of our high calling. We don’t know how the Lord has knit together the plans of nations and men to further his kingdom until he comes. We do know that he will continue to govern all things for the good of those who trust in him. May God grant us the continued opportunity to bring his love to a world that is lost without it.

Thank you for your generous support as we show the love of Jesus to people whose lives are torn apart by war.


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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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 – Lolly

Ermon “Lolly” Stover was in a dark place. Battling addictions and alcoholism, he felt spiritually dead. The day came when he couldn’t handle it anymore. Remembering the encouragement to “take it to the cross” from his catechism days at the Lutheran Church of the Open Bible on the Ft. Apache Indian Reservation, he cried out to Jesus. He wanted Jesus to take charge of his life and knew that Jesus alone could help him. He started attending Bible studies at the Apache Christian Training School (ACTS) and at Open Bible. His life is a living testimony to God’s power to change lives in every way. “I just want to be different,” he tells people, “I can do that through my Savior Jesus Christ.”

He is now a suicide prevention program director on the reservation, and he recognizes that it’s the front line of a spiritual battle between God and Satan. He continues to try to help people, always being ready to give an answer for the hope that he has. When he’s not at work you’ll find him posting Bible meditations on Facebook, teaching Bible studies at church, and continuing to attend ACTS classes to sharpen his Bible skills.

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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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