Tag Archive for: world missions

A community of digital disciples

The screens slowly appear one by one. Some cameras are focused on faces, some cameras remain off. Living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, stools, couches, bare walls, windows, the backdrops vary. I count nine screens. Nine people who clicked an ad on their phone. Nine people who entered their names and phone numbers. Nine people who watched a few hours of video lessons and learned about Jesus. Nine people who clicked to learn more. Nine people in whom the Holy Spirit is hard at work.

It is my first night teaching a TELL class to a group of students throughout Asia. I offer a prayer of thanksgiving that God has given me the opportunity to learn the Bible with these nine people.

These students have completed the first level of TELL self-study courses. The course I am teaching is “Work of the Savior.” It is their first live class as well as mine. Two of my students are new to faith. One young man from Pakistan lets me know that he has been reading the Bible for a month and is excited to learn more and grow in his faith. Four men introduce themselves as Pastors: two from India, two from Pakistan. They too share the excitement of having found an opportunity to learn and grow so that they can better lead their small congregations. One camera remains off, the microphone remains silent. Another young man from Pakistan lets me know that he has been a Christian his whole life. He is currently working on a master’s degree but believes God might be leading him to study at a seminary instead. The final picture is a young woman. Although she is the only female in the group, she confidently shares her faith throughout the night, proclaiming God’s power to heal our sin sick souls as we learn about Jesus healing the paralyzed man.

We talk, we listen, and we learn. I can see the joy in people’s faces as they relish the opportunity to study the Bible with fellow believers. I can see the light in their eyes as they hear about God’s plan of salvation. As we close our evening class, the screens disappear one by one. Nine screens, nine strangers, nine brothers and sisters were able to meet together in God’s Word. I am humbled to have had this incredible opportunity. I can’t wait until the next night where I will turn my computer on and find nine of God’s children ready to hear his Word.

Written by Mr. Jeremy Seeger, missionary on the Asia One Team and TELL teacher in Asia. 

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God allows for wonderful plans to unfold

Peace in Jesus Vietnamese Lutheran Church in Boise, Idaho, is a Vietnamese congregation in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. We are thankful that the Lord allowed myself and Trung Le to study to be pastors through the Pastoral Study Institute (PSI) program. Pastor Daniel Kramer was the active pastor of the congregation while we were in training to be the pastors. Pastor Kramer was also a Vietnamese-speaking pastor, and he led the worship services, preached and taught in Vietnamese.

The congregation was always wondering what would happen to Peace in Jesus as well as the Vietnamese outreach ministry after Trung Le and I graduated from the PSI program. Everyone was excited for the work of the Lord, but the congregation was curious, “What would happen next for Peace in Jesus?” They didn’t know the answer at that time, and they prayed to God for direction.

Finally, that day came and God allowed for a wonderful plan to unfold. In 2023 there were a lot of blessings that happened at Peace in Jesus. Two Pastoral Studies Institute students, Trung Le and I, graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in May 2023.

That same month, Pastor Trung received a divine call to serve as a Vietnamese outreach pastor at King of Kings in Garden Grove, Calif., where there are a lot of Vietnamese living in the area. Pastor Trung accepted the call and moved to Garden Grove  in early October 2023.

L to R: Pastor Tao Nguyen, Pastor Daniel Kramer, Pastor Trung Le

Shortly after Pastor Trung received the divine call, Pastor Kramer also received three different divine calls. He accepted to serve at Crown of Life in New Orleans, La. Crown of Life is about one mile away from the Vietnamese community in New Orleans. He and his wife, Karis, made their move to New Orleans in early October 2023. We pray that if it is God’s will, many more Vietnamese in New Orleans will hear the gospel.

With Pastor Trung and Pastor Kramer leaving to serve God at other locations, Peace in Jesus extended the divine call to me to serve at as their pastor, and I accepted the call in August 2023. We thank God for all these transitions and that they have gone smoothly.

During the transition, many members have stepped up, served, and become more involved in church activities. Most of the members had mixed feelings. They didn’t want to see any of the pastors leave Peace in Jesus because of the strong bond developed by being a part of Christ’s family. Nevertheless, all of us also recognized that the Kingdom of God is way larger than any of us can imagine, and no one can measure his love for humankind. Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” God not only allowed for a wonderful plan for Peace in Jesus to unfold, but God also has a plan for everyone who believes in him.

We thank God for his wonderful plan for Peace in Jesus in Boise, Idaho. We pray that his kingdom continues growing in Vietnamese communities, not only in Idaho and in the States, but also abroad.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

Written by Rev. Tao Nguyen, missionary at Peace in Jesus Lutheran Church in Boise, Idaho

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So I am sending you

“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ ” (John 20:21)

When was the last time you paused for a moment to reflect on how your life has changed? Consider where you are at now in life compared to one year ago, five years ago, or even further back. As Christians, we benefit from a time of reflection when we recognize God’s guidance of our lives through various experiences and encounters.

Years ago, the parents of Dan Kingsbury sought out a church whose teaching was faithful to scripture. After becoming WELS members, Dan was enrolled at St. Croix Lutheran High School. It was at St. Croix where Dan enjoyed interacting with international students from Asia. Over 50 percent of the world’s population resides in Asia, and it was on Dan’s heart to learn more about Asian people and their culture. While attending Wisconsin Lutheran College, Dan enrolled in Chinese Mandarin language classes with the hope of better connecting with others. While Dan had been encouraged to consider serving in full-time ministry before, it was a presentation from a Friends Network teacher that opened a new door. As Dan prayerfully considered his options, he reflected on the words of John 20:21 where Jesus speaks peace to his disciples’ hearts and sends his disciples to do the Father’s will.

Pastor Dan and his family

When Dan joined the Friends Network team and relocated to Asia in 2013, there were opportunities to help lead worship and Bible study. It was through serving both his mission team and the local believers that Dan grew as a leader. With the support of his team and his wife, whom he met in Asia, Dan eventually enrolled in Asia Lutheran Seminary. While his goal of wanting to be a better Bible teacher remained simple, the blessing of reflection reveals God’s incredible plan for Dan and through Dan’s work.

While attending Seminary classes, Dan helped with recruitment for the seminary and even taught pre-seminary courses. Following his graduation, Dan was called by Asia Lutheran Seminary to serve as Professor of New Testament and is one of several professors who can teach his courses completely in Mandarin.

God has guided Dan into a position where he now equips and helps to send others. As God guided and previously sent Dan, so God is now guiding and sending Dan’s students to further carry out The Great Commission. In January 2024, over a dozen students from various parts of Asia gathered with Dan to study the New Testament using only the Greek language. These Christian leaders take the gospel home to places where our mission teams cannot go.

Another large group of Asian Christians have identified four candidates from within their membership for future spiritual leadership. Dan and Asia Lutheran Seminary have the privilege to prepare this next generation. As a result, the older generation can apply the words of Jesus in John 20:21 to their own home mission field. As our Heavenly Father had previously sent them to share the Good News, so this new generation of spiritual leaders will one day be sent to serve their people.

When you look back over the last year or even ten years, how has God guided you?

Where do you see yourself when you read John 20:21?

Over the last decade, God has used the interests and abilities of Dan Kingsbury to reach the lost and encourage fellow believers. As Asia Lutheran Seminary continues to equip the Asian world with the Good News of Jesus, remember these professors, missionaries, and students in your prayers. Pray that they would enjoy the peace that only Jesus can bring. Pray that they would enjoy the courage to serve that only God can inspire.

Written by Rev. Neil Birkholz, Diaspora Ministry Facilitator for the Asia One Team. 

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Mission Journeys opportunities in London

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

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

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

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




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Impact of TELL teaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Missionaries called to explore new world mission fields

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

Missionaries asked to relocate to Australia

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

Calls issued for Muslim outreach in Senegal

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

New Native American outreach in Four Corners region

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

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

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

 

 

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Technology changes but the gospel message remains

486 million people speak Spanish. Could it be possible to reach all of them with an invitation to hear the gospel?

Technology allows us to do just that. From the jungle of Ecuador to the bustling city of Buenos Aires in Argentina, we can reach almost anyone right where they are with a simple click of a button.

Academia Cristo reached over a million people through an app that brought many blessings. Currently ten missionaries in Latin America travel to guide and encourage over 30 church plants. Missionaries and church planters teach Bible instruction courses almost every day of the week to hundreds of people eager to learn more about God’s Word.

The app was great, but we have now found an even better way to reach 486 million people.

Technology is all about ease of use. The platforms we use must be easy and user friendly. In Latin America and many other places around the world, the way to talk with people is through something called WhatsApp. WhatsApp is a messenger service that is completely free and easy to use. 92 percent of Spanish speaking people already use WhatsApp so why not build our Academia Cristo app on WhatsApp?

Six months ago, our team ensured that the entire Academia Cristo app was re-built for WhatsApp. Now, anyone can simply send a message to Academia Cristo and with a simple click get started studying the Word of God with us. Through an automated messenger system, anyone throughout the world can complete the four self-study courses. There is no need to download an app, just send us a message and complete 40 lessons to start a live class.

Working through WhatsApp is changing Academia Cristo in a good way. The previous application would have an average of 12 new live students every week. With our new messenger system, we expect 50 new live students every week. The quality of student is the same and the chances of finding more people who want to bring the gospel to their community increases exponentially.

Technology changes but the gospel message remains the same. Reaching four million people every week through social media and with an expectation of filling online live classrooms with 60 new students every week, Academia Cristo seeks to reach millions and to start churches throughout Latin America beginning with a simple messenger system that almost everyone already has.

May God bless this new way of reaching more people starving to hear the gospel.

Written by Mr. Jon Gross, Multi-Language Productions Producer for the Latin America Mission Team

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Teach with TELL

TELL Network’s exponential growth has resulted in an immediate need for male instructors to teach TELL classes in English. What is TELL Network? TELL Network is an online leader training program of Multi-Language Productions, providing an in-depth Bible study curriculum in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Tagalog to students in places where WELS does not have a presence. Learn more about the program at wels.net/tell.

TELL offers a unique chance to connect with believers around the world and support them as they begin sharing the gospel with their community.

What to Expect

  1. TWO 1-hour Zoom classes per week for 4 weeks.
  2. 2 weeks to review Final Projects.
  3. WhatsApp communication with students (sending class materials, sharing Zoom recordings, answering questions).
  4. An honorarium of $300 per course taught.

Course materials, including slides and teacher guides, are already made for you!

Requirements

  1. A male called worker in fellowship with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod OR a current Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Student in their Middler or Senior year.
  2. Strong organizational and administrative skills.
  3. Above-average digital literacy (or a willingness to learn).
  4. A WhatsApp account (free and easy to set up).
  5. A passion and excitement for training future church leaders around the globe!

If you or someone you know might be interested in this opportunity, learn more and apply at teach.tellnetwork.org.




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CAMM January 2024 Newsletter

Originally appears on the Central Africa Medical Mission website. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

As I write this letter, it is late December and it’s amazing how it feels just like yesterday that we were celebrating the beginning of 2023. Now that we are just a few days away from ending 2023, there is so much to be grateful for—especially the gift of life that the Lord has granted us throughout the year.

Here in Malawi, December always comes with heavy rains. It’s the time when all the farmers plant their fields knowing that the rainy season has arrived. However, this December was different because a lot of districts had not received any rain until mid-month. This brought so many worries to farmers as they had no hope on when the rains would start. But because our Lord is good, by December 20, Lilongwe and other districts received heavy rains. People were happy and ready to work in their fields.

Despite being happy about the rains, during this rainy season the clinic faced challenges in so many ways. December 20 was a clinic day at Suzi, and because it had rained heavily we had difficulty traveling to the clinic site. The road was bumpy and very muddy making it hard for driving. Despite all these difficulties, we still made it to the clinic as our land cruisers are good, even on bad roads.

Upon reaching the clinic, we found a large crowd of people—men, women, and children—sheltering under the roof of the clinic and some under the trees as it was still raining. The people were happy seeing us as they thought we wouldn’t make it due to the bad road. When our staff were setting up the clinic, our clinicians had already started seeing the patients that were triaged by the village staff before we arrived. These people were very sick and the complaint that presented the most was malaria.

Malaria is a condition that worsens during the rainy season and is one of the leading causes of death in Malawi. From the month of October on, our clinic started registering an increase in malaria cases that worsened in November and December. Not only has this malaria affected children under five, but it is also affecting adults. As a clinic, we are always prepared for this as we carry enough malaria testing kits and medication for uncomplicated malaria. Not only that, but we also carry with us medication for complicated malaria, which we give to patients before we refer them to hospitals for continued management. As always, our staff, who are hardworking and team players, did an outstanding job in dealing with the large number of patients we saw that day. When a staff member sees that a colleague needs help, they can be relied on to jump in and assist without being told to do so. We thank God for this and may he continue blessing all of the staff.

Written by Violet Chikwatu, nurse in charge at the Central Africa Medical Mission Lutheran Mobile clinic in Malawi. 

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Celebration in Uganda

Last summer, our synod declared fellowship with the Obadiah Lutheran Synod (OLS), a small confessional Lutheran church body in the African nation of Uganda. On Jan. 13, the OLS held a synodwide worship service celebrating its fellowship with WELS. Members of the OLS traveled from towns and villages through southeastern Uganda to attend—some for more than six hours. More than 800 people attended the special worship celebration. Missionary Howard Mohlke and I were blessed to attend as the representatives of WELS.

The morning began with heavy rains. Because the celebration was to be held outdoors and the dirt roads leading to the location were impassable, the service was delayed for several hours until the rain stopped. But the weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of those who came to worship. The service began with songs by the youth choir and with the robust singing of many hymns by the worshipers. The service also included the ordination of a new OLS pastor, an address by OLS President Makisimu Musa, and words of encouragement from many of the OLS pastors in attendance. The celebration also included words of greeting from the WELS representatives as well as encouraging words of congratulations by local and national Ugandan government officials.

Just as the delegates at our WELS convention last summer were overjoyed to establish fellowship with the OLS and thanked God for the blessing, so the people of the OLS shared in that joy and thanks.

The OLS is planting new congregations in towns and villages throughout Uganda, and it is being blessed with a growth in membership. Along with that growth comes challenges, especially when it comes to the need for all-wheel drive vehicles that can negotiate the bumpy and muddy roads to enable contact with remote congregations. And while the synod builds its own churches with locally made mud-fired brick, it is in need of funds to provide roofs for those buildings.

WELS members have been generous in their support for these projects, and the OLS is very grateful for what has been received. But additional funds are needed to complete the necessary projects. If you would like to support the OLS in the gospel ministry it is faithfully carrying out, you can send your gift to WELS World Missions, designated for the OLS in Uganda, or donate online.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

Learn more about the work in Uganda.

 

 

 

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A picture is worth a thousand words

Originally appears in the One Africa Team blog. Subscribe to future updates from Africa at oneafricateam.com.

A picture is worth a thousand words – in any language. Members of the Obadiah Lutheran Synod (OLS) in Uganda speak English, Luganda, Lusoga, and many other Bantu dialects. It is a challenge to communicate Scriptural truths across linguistic and educational barriers. It’s even more challenging to explain abstract concepts like justification, redemption, and Christ’s humiliation and exaltation to students in confirmation class. But a well drawn picture can tie timeless truth to a tangible target.

Rev. Dr. Terry Schultz is an experienced WELS missionary who creates print and music materials for WELS Multi-Language Productions. Schultz supports WELS mission work around the globe. OLS President Maksimu Musa requested One Africa Team’s assistance in training Sunday school teachers. One Africa Team turned to Schultz, who has graphically portrayed the Apostles’ Creed with full color illustrations. He and Missionary John Roebke engaged 35 Sunday school teachers and OLS pastors with the task of translating these illustrations into lessons.

The pictures

The 1531 edition of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism contained 23 pictures printed from woodcut images. Like these images, Schultz’s drawings help a teacher tell a simple story to explain a complex teaching. A courtroom scene depicts a young man standing before a judge with his accuser to one side and his attorney at the other. The next scene shows him standing before God, flanked by Satan and Jesus.

Another picture unfolds the drama of a kidnapping and payment of ransom. The next scene represents the divine story of Christ’s redemption – not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood. A comic book panel of pictures illustrates each of the stages of Christ’s humiliation.

A composite illustration presents the stages of his exaltation. Schultz carefully crafted each picture to maximize understanding and teaching. A teacher’s manual with minimal text supplements each picture, bearing in mind the target audience’s literacy level. WELS Multi-Language Productions has produced three booklets to date – one for each of the three articles of the Apostles’ Creed. Schultz is finalizing the illustrations for the Sacrament of Baptism, with the other chief parts of the Catechism to follow.

The teachers

Attendees began each day of the workshop with animated singing and dancing. In addition to performing local melodies, the group learned a few African American spirituals from Schultz. OLS pastors delivered inspiring devotional messages in English. Schultz infused his own energy into the workshop as he introduced each picture to the participants.

After this, the Sunday school teachers broke into smaller groups of three to five people. In each group, an OLS pastor walked through the concepts behind the picture. Thirty minutes later, each small group took turns teaching the lesson to the larger audience. Some teachers appeared more confident than others, but by the week’s end all of them had made significant improvement.

Next steps

Unfortunately, time did not allow for Schultz to present all 45 teaching posters the group. The teaching posters and manuals remain with the OLS in Uganda. We encouraged the pastors to work through these materials with their Sunday school teachers. The pastors have a much better grasp on both Lutheran teachings and local culture.

Regardless if Schultz returns to Uganda, the OLS now has a powerful instrument for instructing youth and adults. Can you picture their faces gathered around Jesus’ throne some day?

Please pray for those working in fields that are ripe for harvest. Share their story, engage with future news, and receive updates. Learn more about our mission fields in Africa and how the Holy Spirit is working faith in people’s hearts.

Written by Rev. John Roebke, world missionary on the One Africa Team.

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CAMM December 2023 Newsletter

Originally appears on the Central Africa Medical Mission website. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

“Praise the Lord, all you nations! Worship him, all you peoples! Because God’s faithful love toward us is strong. The Lord’s faithfulness lasts forever!” – Psalm 117:1-2

This Bible verse certainly describes the work of the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) in 2023. God’s faithful love has been strong toward both of our clinics in Zambia and Malawi. God’s blessings have reached the staff and patients in countless ways; they have been abounding! And we thank and praise him for his love and faithfulness.

CARE OF PATIENTS:
In 2023, we saw over 70,000 patients. The patients came for physical healing or preventative care, and we were able to provide treatment, medications, testing, and health education. At the beginning of 2023 we were challenged with the thought that cholera would continue to spread and possibly create a pandemic. Thankfully, this was not the case and it quickly receded. HIV rates have chronically been high in the past several years. By God’s grace, while testing at our clinic sites has been increasing, the number of positive HIV tests has been decreasing. Staff continues to educate and test visitors at the clinics. At the Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Zambia, the clinic continues to be recognized by the Zambian government for exemplary care.

CLINIC LOCATIONS:
By the blessing of God, all our clinic sites were remodeled and have been in full use in 2023. The improvements in lighting, privacy, and safety not only help patient care but also give staff a safer and more enjoyable place to work. During the COVID epidemic, CAMM placed hand sanitizing stations at each of the clinics and grass fencing at the Malawi clinic sites. These remain in place for the patients and staff to use because they are good practices to promote hygiene at the clinics. In Zambia, we were blessed with generous donations this year so that we could install permanent metal fencing around our clinic. The fencing was needed to keep livestock and goats out of the clinic buildings. It has now been successfully installed, is effective in banning the livestock from the clinic buildings, and the grass around the clinic has started to grow back.

STAFF:
We are grateful for the staff that CAMM has been able to employ. From the guards and drivers to the nurses, clinicians, laboratory technicians, and midwives, everyone is critical to the work that CAMM is doing. We have 14 employees in Zambia and 17 employees in Malawi. We also have church and government volunteers who help us every day. We are thankful for the care they give to patients, and for treating patients in a Christian manner—with respect and dignity in support of the mission of CAMM to provide “Christ-Centered Healthcare Supporting Gospel Ministry.”

EXPANSION:
In 2023, we were given the green light to explore expansion opportunities for clinic care. The expansion could include new sites within the countries of Malawi and Zambia or in an entirely new country. There are many factors to consider when looking at a site for expansion. One of the most critical is to have the support of a Lutheran church body in fellowship with the WELS at the site. With the aid of WELS Board of Missions, WELS Christian Aid and Relief, and the Lutheran Church of Kenya, we are making plans to hold a five-day short-term clinic in Kenya in February of 2024. What an amazing opportunity to be able to heal the physical needs of the Kenyan people, while also filling their souls with spiritual guidance!

GRATITUDE:
It would not be possible for the Central Africa Medical Mission to carry out our work for over 60 years without our faithful and generous supporters:

• Your interest in staying informed with presentations, requests for promotional materials, and e-mails keeps the mission of CAMM present in your congregations, schools, social circles, and church groups.
• The continued monetary support all of you promote by sharing information about the needs of CAMM.
• The boxes of medical supplies and clothes you carefully gather, package, and ship to Zambia and Malawi.
• God hears your many prayers for the continued success of CAMM, the continued care of our patients and staff, the safety of the countries we are located in, and prayers for the expansion into Kenya in 2024. May God continue to bless CAMM every day!

While reflecting on the past year, we are reminded that God’s faithfulness does last forever! Let us all worship and praise him for our many blessings!

Written by Angela Sievert, Central Africa Medical Mission Chair.

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This feels like a Hallmark movie!

Do you open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Do you love the neatness of the artificial tree or would it be unthinkable to not have the sap and scent of a real tree in your house? Is the highlight of Christmas dinner Mom’s special ham or is it grilled salmon, beef brisket, or even Grandmother’s tamales? Families have different traditions when it comes to celebrating Christmas. But the best traditions are the ones you make.

If participation makes memories, then Christmas on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation this year was a success.

On Wednesdays in December, the members of Peridot and Grace Lutheran Churches gathered to prepare for Christmas. After worshiping together by spending time in the Word and singing Christmas carols, the evening transitioned to a beautiful, organized chaos. Confirmation students worked hand-in-hand with the Women in Christ and church council members to clean and make each sanctuary sparkle. Then, out came the Christmas decorations. The tree was assembled and each member of the family decorated from oldest to youngest. Adults took the tops of the trees while the littlest hands and smallest people decorated the bottoms. Teens climbed ladders to hang banners on the walls. The garland was wrapped, the nativity scenes were placed, and the lights and candles were tested and twinkling. In the background a quartet of musicians played Christmas music on piano, guitar, flute, and mellophone. (Yes, there is such an instrument and it is as delightful as the name suggests!). A steady stream of Christmas cookies and hot chocolate provided ample opportunities for rest, laughter, and fellowship.

Peridot Lutheran Church

As some church members took it all in near the end of one evening, the remark was heard, “This feels like a Hallmark movie.” Another replied, “Yes, but better because this is real.”

The true value of the Christmas traditions was revealed in subsequent weeks as more than three dozen adults and children joined together to tell full churches the magnificent true story of God coming from heaven to earth to save us. The ancient story was proudly passed on from parent to child and grandparent to grandchild.

These are the traditions that matter because this is the story that matters. These are the memories that we want to imprint on the minds and hearts of each new generation because we want them to last into eternity. An event so momentous and beautiful deserves that.

Written by Rev. Daniel Rautenberg, field coordinator for the Native American Mission. 

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Eagerly awaiting the Women’s Workshop

Early on a November morning in South Asia, four women arriving from Thailand carefully stepped along a narrow path between rice paddies to a remote church where over a hundred women had gathered for a workshop. As we neared the church, we could hear the drum beats and songs of praise to our Savior welcoming us in.

We had been preparing for this workshop for about three months. “We” are three WELS missionary wives including Christine Doebler, Linda Marquardt, Mary Witte, and one Friends Network evangelist, Lydia Schultz, all stationed in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Eager to serve our Savior and these women in South Asia, we thoughtfully planned three days of Bible study, crafts and activities centered around the story of Jesus’ birth. We all had varying degrees of experience in cultures different from our own, but none of us had been to this country. So we began the workshop a little unsure of how our plans would be received, but confident that our love for Jesus would shine through.

Having already served on mission fields, we recognized the need for flexibility and teamwork in situations like this. Our carefully planned schedule quickly became a loose guide of things we wanted to do each day. Opening devotions became late morning devotions since the pastors leading these traveled to the church by slow tuk-tuk. There were more women than materials that we had brought, but we had activities where all could participate. Teaching through a translator took some practice and patience. We identified some English speakers who could help bridge the gap of language. Some of us were struggling with sudden family distresses back home. But this only spurred us on in love for the women in front of us.

The women were entranced with the Bible teaching, crafts, and activities. They cut out hearts and hands to represent our love for Jesus and our eagerness to serve him and then strung them up on the walls. The women diligently placed all the pieces of a nativity scene with Velcro fasteners for each day in December before Christmas. After we modeled a pageant of the nativity story, the women giggled and posed as they performed the drama in the roles of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, magi, soldiers and King Herod. By the end of the workshop, the women could easily tell the story of Jesus’ birth to each other using a booklet of pictures. We shared Bible songs in English that we knew and they shared even more beautiful Bible songs in their language for us. We worshiped together, sang together, prayed together, and laughed together. And…there may have been some dancing.

As the days went by, we were amazed by the eagerness of the women to participate, their hunger to learn, and their love and compassion for each other. They spent their days and nights of the workshop in and around the church building, eating and sleeping together, spending time talking, praying together, and caring for each other, especially for the elderly and children. Some of the women had traveled more than six hours by bus from their remote villages to the workshop. This time together with other Christian women was precious to them.

Some women and local pastors shared their testimonies and struggles in coming to Christ and as Christians. We were humbled to hear of the trials they had been through just to be there and confess their Christian faith. The difficulties we faced to get to the workshop – leaving our comfortable homes in Thailand where we can easily share our faith, the long travel of three different flights, cold showers, mosquito nets over our beds, riding over bumpy roads and hiking through the rice paddies – seemed so very small compared to their daily challenges of being a Christian.

We are thankful for this opportunity to share our faith and love of Jesus with these women in South Asia. We look forward to meeting, sharing, laughing, praising God, and maybe dancing with them again someday either in their country or in our heavenly home.

Written by a WELS world missionary wife in Asia.

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“Pastor, you get seven minutes!”

It is our largest and most time intensive outreach event of the year. It involves over 60 participants and volunteers, months of preparation, with practices on Sunday afternoons often going past 5 p.m. All leading up to Hope Lutheran Church’s annual free Christmas concerts for the community.

Why Christmas concerts?

Honestly, to me, Hope seems unusually blessed with musical talent in voice and instruments. Standing out among the instruments is Hope’s steel pan orchestra, which has been a part of Hope’s worship from the start and reflects the Caribbean roots of many members.

Years back Hope was searching for a church building to call its own. A building became available in an area of the city that typifies Toronto’s population, which encompasses over 50 percent first generation immigrants from all over the world. This diversity is reflected in languages, foods, customs, and religious beliefs.

Hope was searching- searching for different ways to reach out to our new and present community. A mission counselor visited and simply said, “Make use of your strengths. Share your strengths. You love music. Share your music.” From that encouragement, Hope has used music for outreach. In the summer, Hope plans a music camp for children, and in December, Hope offers free Christmas concerts for the community. Many non-Christians see the outward signs of Christmas and are interested in learning more. And who doesn’t love free?

This is where, “Pastor, you get seven minutes” comes in. The concert is planned out in detail and to the minute. Every year I am reminded that I get seven minutes for a devotion. If this is our biggest outreach event of the year why only seven minutes?! Is it because I am the least musically gifted of all people? Perhaps.

Or as a church leader said to me when I first came and got my first seven minutes, “People are coming for a concert, but we want our community to know you, see you, hear you. Tell everyone the message of Christmas – and please do it in seven minutes.”

And so I plan and prepare a message for those seven minutes for so many who are searching but don’t really know the Christ of Christmas. Then I sit down and realize once again that it’s more than seven minutes. From the start of the concert to the finish; in words, songs, and the re-enactment of Luke 2, the message of Christmas is shared – and shared in a beautiful way. From parking lot guides and greeters welcoming, to refreshments and fellowship afterward, Christian love is shown and invitations are given, “Christmas Eve is coming, won’t you join us?”

Written by Rev. Mark Henrich, home missionary at Hope Lutheran Church in Toronto, Ont. 

To view Hope Lutheran Church’s full concert by visiting the Hope Toronto Youtube channel.

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Great gospel power in Vietnam

Dear Friend,

Jesus taught: “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade” (Mark 4:30-32).

In God’s kingdom, small beginnings lead to great endings. A person who examines the mustard seed through his own wisdom concludes, “This tiny seed cannot grow into the largest tree.” The person who examines the mustard seed through Jesus’ wisdom concludes, “The Lord will perform a miracle with this tiny seed. It will become the largest tree, just as he promised.”

With confidence in Jesus’ wisdom, we began the rural training program for the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam in a small way. While we were able to train 55 church leaders in the doctrines of God’s Word, we still did not have training for the many church members in the rural congregations. Could we use the small group to reach the large group?

Because of COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 we could not continue the scheduled seminary classes in Hanoi. We decided to use online training for the new program of rural training. The 55 leaders met with us on Zoom to study the first course in the rural training program.

We met to study the gospel of Mark using the theme “In the Mighty Name of Jesus.” The students delighted to have a greater understanding of the mighty name of Jesus through this gospel’s history, miracles, and revelation of our salvation in Christ our Lord. By the end of class, they eagerly wanted to share this message with all the members of the Hmong Fellowship Church.

This happened when the small group of 55 leaders taught a larger group of 700 leaders. Those leaders in turn instructed the leaders of more congregations. Then the leaders of all the congregations shared the mighty name of Jesus to all 145,000 members in the Hmong Fellowship Church. The small beginning with 55 grew to a great ending with 145,000!

Since that time, we have taught many other courses in our rural training program. Eventually we will complete a curriculum of 30 courses. God be praised!

The many prayers and generous gifts for this ministry have allowed us to train 700 of the 1,400 church leaders we want to train. Support from WELS members provided travel, meals, and lodging to the leaders conducting the training. With the help of your gift today, we could expand the program to reach the 700 additional church leaders. Then, by God’s grace, we will have trained 1,400 leaders to reach all of the rural congregations of the Hmong Fellowship Church more quickly and efficiently.

During this season of Christmas joy, please consider making a gift of love to our Lord Jesus for our brothers and sisters in the Hmong Fellowship Church. Jesus will use his great gospel power to make our efforts, as small as a mustard seed, grow into the largest tree in his garden of grace.

Serving our newborn King,
Rev. Joel Nitz
Missionary in Vietnam

Prayer: Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—it is by your hand alone that we’ve been able to conduct gospel ministry in Vietnam. We praise you for letting us support the training of Hmong Fellowship Church leaders at the theological education center in Hanoi. Continue to bless this program that trains pastors, who then return to their congregations to teach other pastors and members. Thank you for giving the members of the Hmong Fellowship Church a love for your Word. May a similar spirit spread across the world so that your kingdom grows rapidly according to your will. Amen.

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Isolation and gathering together

If there were 100 Thai people in a room, how many would be a Christian?

One.

Let that sink in for a minute.

How would it feel to be the only Christian in a room with 99 unbelievers?

Let’s change the question.

If there were 100 Thai Christians in the room, how many would be Lutheran?

One.

Let that sink in for a minute.

How would it feel to be the only Lutheran in a room with 99 other Christians?

If you answered “isolated,” you would be correct. Often, Lutherans end up feeling especially isolated in their communities. On one hand, they are different from the 99% of unbelievers around them. On the other hand, in the small Christian group, they are different from the 99% of other Christians. They don’t preach in a non-Lutheran worship service. They don’t commune with Christians in other churches. Due to fellowship problems, they will not participate with other Christians in evangelism or church activities. They are isolated.

Yet, they aren’t. Lutheran members gather regularly for church and fellowship. The pastors meet twice a year for conferences. During the conferences, they grow together, encourage each other, update each other, and preach the gospel to each other. They remind each other that they are not alone in their struggles.

Hebrews 10:24-25 – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds his readers to think about each other. He reminds them to stir each other up to love and do good works. Meetings face to face give Christians the time and place to spur each other on as well as encourage each other.

The leaders in Thailand take these reminders to heart. They encourage each other. They encourage each other with God’s promises: God no longer remembers their sins (Hebrews 10:17-18), God’s Word is powerful and active (4:12), and God is with them (13:5). They especially remind each other that God is with them in their lives and ministry, always (Matthew 28:20) even if they feel isolated. God is with them, even when they are the only Lutheran in a room with 100 other people.

Please keep the Lutherans in Thailand in your prayers, especially their leaders. Pray that they continue to encourage each other with God’s promises. Pray that they continue to stir each other into acts of love. Pray that they continue to gather—and all the more as they see the day of Jesus’s return approaching.

Written by WELS World Missionary to Thailand..

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Hmong Christmas celebrations

Dear Friend of Missions,

This Christmas as we worship our newborn King with family and friends, we would also like to share some of the beautiful Christmas traditions and celebrations of our Hmong brothers and sisters. In Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, the city comes alive with Christmas lights and decorations from November through December. People say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Christmas” even though they have little idea that this holiday celebrates the birth of the world’s Savior, Jesus Christ. They celebrate Christmas as a winter festival from the world’s dominant Western culture.

But in the Hmong Christian community, they understand the true meaning of Christmas. They use some of the same decorations and lights as those who celebrate Christmas as a winter festival, however, they rejoice to know Jesus as the Light of the World who came to redeem all sinners. Their Christmas celebrations give thanks to God for the gift of his Son and celebrate the news announced by God’s angel: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

In early December, most Hmong Fellowship churches plan Christmas celebrations that include several choirs. The older generation sings traditional Hmong Christmas hymns, while the younger generation sings more contemporary songs, including ones familiar to WELS members. Church leaders also help the children perform a skit featuring a part of the Christmas account from Matthew or Luke. These words help the congregation remember the angel’s proclamation of good news to the shepherds and the visits of the shepherds and wise men to the baby Lord Jesus.

To share their Christmas joy, some congregations purchase small gifts for every member: a bag of candy or even new clothes for children. They give food or clothing to neighbors. Some larger congregations may even butcher a cow and invite the entire community to a feast in celebration of Jesus’ birth. In this way, many unbelievers will hear the Christmas story.

After the many joy-filled Christmas celebrations at church and in the community, Hmong families gather in their homes for Christmas dinner. They share and open Christmas gifts, and after midnight, the head of the family prays for and blesses the family and reads the Christmas accounts. The family often sings Christmas songs and gives thanks to the Lord for blessing them as the year comes to a close.

As you gather with family and friends this Christmas and give thanks for the priceless gift of Jesus, please pray for our Hmong Fellowship Church brothers and sisters. Ask God to continue to bless our outreach to the Hmong in Vietnam and consider a gift of support for these ongoing efforts.

Merry Christmas and God’s peace from the missionaries to the Hmong in Vietnam!

Rev. Bounkeo Lor and Rev. Joel Nitz

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Faces of Faith – Zag

“John 3:16 says that God loves me, but I did not see or understand it until I started my training. . . Now it is the most precious and special verse to me. God has revealed to me, ‘my love is here’.”

Meet Zag Yaj, a church leader in the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam who is in the second group of 60 students studying to be a pastor. Hear how this training has been “the most rewarding experience in his life” in this special Faces of Faith video.

Learn more about theological training and mission work with the Hmong in Vietnam at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.

Faces of Faith – Num

“Before, I worked hard to earn grace, but I now know grace is free. God sent his son to die for us.”

Meet Num Ntxawg Yaj, a Hmong regional church leader in Vietnam who’s benefiting from WELS’ rural training program. He also began his pastoral studies in July 2023 as a member of the third cohort of students. Hear how this training has revealed the truth that sets him free in this special Faces of Faith video.

Learn more about theological training and mission work with the Hmong in Vietnam at wels.net/vietnam.

CAMM November 2023 Newsletter

Originally appears on the Central Africa Medical Mission website. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

The Zambian government through the Ministry of Health and its partners is working hard to provide the necessary commodities to end HIV/AIDS by 2030. In Zambia, there are more than 1,190,000 people living with HIV who are on antiretroviral therapy (ART). As of October 2023, the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre services about 892 clients currently on ART, making it the second highest in Shibuyunji Health District.

The facility also offers other services to help eradicate HIV by intensifying identification of new positives, prevention of mother to child transmission, provision of pre-exposure/post-exposure prophylaxis, cervical cancer screening, voluntary male circumcision, viral load monitoring, condom distribution, adult/pediatric nutritional assessment for people living with HIV, and tracking of late clients.

Even though the facility receives support from the Ministry of Health and other implementing partners in the eradication of HIV and AIDS, adult nutrition programs is one area that has not received much funding or support. As the Mwembezhi area is rural and has a high poverty/illiteracy rate, it has been bit of a challenge to implement adult nutrition programs for people living with HIV.

Currently the facility has over 100 clients on HIV treatment with body mass index less than 18, which is below normal rate for an adult. This is mainly related to the non-availability of a nutritious balanced diet in their homes because of they do have the money to purchase adequate food. There is also a lack of understanding regarding the importance of having a balanced diet. Weight, height, and age play a very big role in certain ARV prescriptions and recording such high malnutrition cases hinders and slows boosting of immunity.

After the facility recorded such high numbers of adult malnutrition in many people living with HIV, a staff meeting was held to discuss on how best we can help our clients and some of the interventions than can be put in place before end of December 2023. These measures include:

  1. Continuously give informed information education and communication to not only people living with HIV, but also to the community at large.
  2. Lobby for more height boards and scales to be used during outreach programs so that all client’s height and weight will be assessed regularly to enable early detection of new cases.
  3. To order high energy proteins, an instant porridge fortified with vitamins and minerals for healthy growth
  4. Enforce responsibility in keeping appointments so that monitoring of our clients will be easy and all needs are met on time.
  5. Revamping of the support group for people living with HIV at the facility

As the Zambian government continues adopting tolerated regimens and other models of care with established benefits, our clinic in Zambia,as a health facility and as community health care workers, will continue to put in the effort to meet our patients’ expectations by providing cost effective solutions to help maintain our client’s good health and nutritional status.

Written by Mr. Jackson Kalekwa, Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) clinic officer in charge at the Mwembezhi Lutheran Mission Rural Health Centre in Mwembezhi, Zambia

 




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Latin America Mission – Fall 2023 Update

As of October 2023, Academia Cristo has two million followers on social media. The social media platforms used by Academia Cristo include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Through these platforms, Academia Cristo manages over 30 million engagements every month. Over a million people have downloaded the Academia Cristo mobile app that launched in February 2020. 2,400 people have completed the self-led courses offered in the mobile app or through WhatsApp since March 2020 and are signed up for live courses. 696 people have completed one live course since March 2020 with a WELS missionary or national partner. 85 students in the Academia Cristo program have gone through a doctrinal agreement process designed for leaders and church planters. There are 29 groups that Academia Cristo leaders have taken through at least seven lessons of a two-year program of worship and study. One congregation formed through the program has joined Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional and several others will soon be reaching the criteria required to apply for membership.

A snapshot of blessings from August through October 2023:

  1. An alternative to the mobile app was identified and tested.
    • Through a platform called respond.io, those interested in studying with Academia Cristo are guided in WhatsApp through the same four self-study courses that have been offered in the app.
    • This alternative, self-study through WhatsApp, produced more students with less spending on advertising. It also offered several other positive features, such as the opportunity to engage with students while they are in the self-study process and collect their contact information.
    • Because of the success of the app alternative, it was decided at the 2023 annual meeting to use this alternative instead of the app.
    • Going forward, the “Self-Study Level” through WhatsApp will be the way for students to move from social media to participating in live courses.
  2. A music summit was held in Quito, Ecuador, with representatives from the Latin America mission team and Multi-Language Productions (MLP). Plans were adopted to produce more hymns and liturgical music for use by church planting groups.
  3. The instruction function of the Latin America team focused on incorporating course and lesson objectives into the Academia Cristo curriculum.
  4. An admissions coordinator was hired to help enhance the student onboarding experience.
  5. A program was started to identify and recruit volunteers and match them with needs within Academia Cristo and church planting groups.
  6. Iglesia Cristo WELS Internacional held their first convention in Moca, Dominican Republic.
  7. The Latin America seminary program (Seminario Cristo) is wrapping up year two of test courses and has plans in place for 2024. Artemio Garcia from Mexico is currently teaching Old Testament Isagogics.
  8. Plans are set for Rev. Larry Schlomer to lead the Diaspora Ministry Program, continuing the foundation that was laid by Rev. Carl Leyrer through Hispanic Outreach Project in the United States.

 

 




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Port of calling

“Port is where the heart is.” If you’re stitching a saying onto a pillow or a quilt for a sailor, maybe you can use that one. Port is important: It’s where a sailor reconnects with land and with all the comforts to be found there—if only for a short time, until the ship is ready to sail again.

L to R: Stefan Felgenhauer, Dan Witte, Joel Hoff, Dan Kroll, Keegan Dowling

I was once a sailor on the M/V James R. Barker, a thousand-foot-long freighter ship hauling coal and taconite pellets back and forth across the Great Lakes of North America. Did you know that we have a system of Great Lakes here in Africa, too? My favorite port-of-call was Duluth, Minn. I enjoyed the beautiful book and music shops, as well as Erbert & Gerbert sub sandwiches. However, I had been hoping for more. I had hoped to find a WELS pastor who could visit me and give me communion. But there was a vacancy, a situation far too familiar to many of us in today’s WELS, some 20 years later.

The Port of Douala is one of the greatest port cities on the continent of Africa. In fact, it is the largest city in the country of Cameroon. When it comes to WELS mission work in West Africa, the Port of Douala actually functions like a spiritual port. When several of us missionaries met with pastors in September, only one of them was from Douala. All the rest of us were “ships,” so to speak, coming to Douala simply for the purpose of meeting around the gospel of Jesus Christ! Douala—for WELS mission work—is nothing more and nothing less than a “port of calling.”

Missionaries Dan Witte and Dan Kroll were studying and meeting with pastors from three West African synods: Christ the King and All Saints of Nigeria and the Lutheran Church of Cameroon (LCC). Because of the multi-dimensional security threats present in the region, for the moment WELS missionaries are not able to travel to Nigeria or to Cameroon, apart from just one city in Cameroon: Douala. Because we couldn’t meet them where they were, our brothers came to meet us in port. Missionary Joel Hoff flew in from Zambia, to give a presentation about the very successful TELL online outreach program, which pastors can use both to teach their congregations and to discover new prospects in their own country. Director of Missions Operations Stefan Felgenhauer also flew in from Wisconsin.

Missionary Keegan with Pastor Israel, professor at the seminary of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon

I, Missionary Keegan Dowling, also ended up in Douala, our port of gospel calling. I met with yet a different church body: Holy Trinity Lutheran Synod. They hail from a distant part of Cameroon, where there is a violent and dangerous conflict. Yet, a group of leaders trekked down to Douala, so that we could study the Bible together and talk about Holy Trinity’s mission plans. Holy Trinity is not yet in fellowship with WELS, but this is their desire. So, my job is to work with Holy Trinity along a pathway of studies and discussions that the One Africa Team uses to bring church bodies into fellowship.

An interesting thing about Holy Trinity Lutheran Synod is that many of the leaders and members speak French! In fact, they are our first French-speaking partner church body (although God is blessing our efforts in other parts of francophone Africa, too—stay tuned for future blog posts!) When we “drop anchor” in our “port of calling” we read the Bible together in French. We discuss the issues in French. And outside of class, walking around the Port of Douala, guess what? Missionaries like Pastor Kroll and I get to practice a lot of real-life French! Each trip adds to our capabilities. It further increases our ability to call: to call our fellow sinners to our common Savior throughout French-speaking Africa. This is why the Port of Douala is our “port of calling.” And, God willing, it will be joined by more ports of calling, too.

Written by Rev. Keegan Dowling, world missionary on the One Africa Team, based in Lusaka, Zambia. 

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Medical camp in Kenya planned for February 2024

Originally appears in the Central Africa Medical Mission October 2023 Newsletter. Learn more and follow updates at camm.us.

The work of the One Africa Team has been blessed as they continue to build relationships with various Lutheran synods throughout Africa. One of those is the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) in Kenya. The synod is led by Pastor Mark Onunda. Pastor Onunda and several other pastors left the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and began the task of building the LCMC from scratch. LCMC is now in fellowship with WELS and has congregations scattered throughout the country. Pastor Onunda spends much of his time on the road, (Kenya is about the size of Texas) encouraging and training leaders and bringing God’s Word to the congregations. We pray God gives him the strength to keep up this monumental effort.

In Zambia and Malawi, our clinics have demonstrated God’s love for all people by looking after their physical and spiritual needs. In fact, part of WELS’ early success in Zambia in the 1960s was due to the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) clinic in Mwembezhi. To help grow the church in Kenya, Pastor Onunda has proposed something similar: a medical camp. The members of thee CAMM stateside committee have prayerfully considered expanding their work to help in Kenya based on several investigative visits by Gary Evans and One Africa Team Missionary John Roebke.

Short term medical camps, which last about a week, are common in Kenya and are used by church organizations to bring people to church properties where they are given physical and spiritual care. A camp might expect to see 3,000 to 4,000 patients over a four- or five-day period. The local government health care agencies support these camps as they are a means of health screening to populations who might otherwise have no access to health care.

CAMM is partnering with the One Africa Team, Christian Aid and Relief, and the LCMC-Kenya to conduct a medical camp in late February 2024. The camp will be held on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church, Kwiangachi, Kirinyaga County, which is located about a 3-hour drive northeast of Nairobi. The church has land, but no buildings, making the camp quite a logistical exercise. Two large 100-seat tents will be provided for shelter and privacy; one will be used as a reception/triage/devotion area and one as a pharmacy. Smaller tents will be used as individual consulting rooms on nutrition, cancer screenings, outpatient services, dental work, eye treatments, and mental health. We will provide the medications and medical supplies. We will also rent port-a-potties and provide a tank for drinking water. Medical staff and some medical equipment will be provided by the government. Transport and accommodation will be provided for staff and volunteers.

The LCMC-Kenya is engaged in much of the ongoing planning and coordination. They will also provide volunteers for security, administration, and making lunch time meals. Pastors from the LCMC-Kenya will hold ongoing devotions and provide pastoral services during each day of the camp. Patients who need follow-up and referral will be directed to go to local health agencies. We have met with Kirinyago County Health Officials who have approved the camp and will provide 25 medical staff, medical equipment, and an ambulance in case of emergencies.

CAMM has agreed to manage the clinic on behalf of the One Africa Team. The camp provides an opportunity for U.S.-based medical and non-medical volunteers to provide assistance. As this is the first of what could be many medical camps, CAMM stateside committee members will be the first set of volunteers to attend the camp. If this camp is successful, we hope to offer similar camps in the future, which will open volunteer opportunities to more WELS members.

Please pray for the success of this camp as it provides an opportunity for healing; and, most importantly, sharing God’s Word with so many people.

Written by Mr. Gary Evans, Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM) field director.

 




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Your gifts are making a difference in Africa

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:3-6

The WELS One Africa Team currently works with established church bodies in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zambia. Your gifts are making a difference for these sister churches as we partner with them in outreach and assist in their theological education programs. Below are just a few specific ways that God is using your support to bring his gospel message to more people throughout Africa:

Constuction on the new school in Ethiopia

  • WELS is supporting the building of an additional elementary school campus that the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia will operate in Gambella, Ethiopia. The current campuses in Dukem serve over 750 students.
  • Missionary John Roebke and his wife, Nancy, assisted with a marriage workshop for pastors and their wives from the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ – Kenya (LCMC–Kenya) alongside LCMC-Kenya President Mark Anariko Onunda. One attendee shared, “It has refreshed our family and taught us new things that will strengthen our staying together and our work in the Lord’s vineyard too. It was a good encouragement.”
  • Missionary Daniel Witte continues to visit various sister churches throughout Africa to provide theological education for pastors, and partner with the LCMC-Kenya to lead workshops for Kenyan lay and called church leaders.
  • Pastors from Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia come together in various locations throughout Africa to study different courses as they work towards a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. A course on marriage was taught in Zambia in June, and another course on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was held recently in Malawi.

Thank you for your support! We pray that God continues to work through WELS’ sister churches and the One Africa Team to change lives in Africa—like those of Eric Kebeno from Soweto, Kenya, and Eunita Odongo, a deaconess in the LCMC-Kenya.

Pray for our African brothers and sisters in the faith as they continue to spread the message of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and love for sinners like you and me. Follow the One Africa Team on Facebook and subscribe to their blogs at oneafricateam.com for updates and stories of the Holy Spirit at work. Ask God to bless the work of the One Africa Team as they help spread the gospel throughout Africa.

Learn more about mission work in Africa at wels.net/africa.

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Taking the gospel to the people

How much time do you spend on the internet every day? Do you know? Is it more than you read your Bible? More than you pray? More than you exercise?

If you’re like me, then the answer to all of these questions is yes. This isn’t meant to be a guilt trip though, but rather to draw our eyes to an opportunity! Yes. God has given us an opportunity in the internet. We could become discouraged by the fact (as I do sometimes) that the internet is stealing our attention from the most important things in life and we should all just set down our phones and computers and enjoy each other’s company. But. . . that’s not the world we live in. We live in a modern age in which technology has improved our lives immensely. And now, as always, we will go to where the people are whether that’s by a river, in a village, on the “other side of town,” or on the internet.

In some parts of the world, like North America, COVID hasn’t been a big deal for a while, but in other parts of the world, mask mandates and PCR tests hung on for a long time. We in Asia felt the full brunt of that. COVID is basically over here now too, but it’s just been in the last six months or so that all restrictions have been lifted. That means that for the past three-plus years pretty much everyone has been doing almost everything on the internet: buying clothes, groceries, watching movies, finding partners, etc.

What does this have to do with the gospel?! Well, #theinternet. That’s how people do everything so that’s where the gospel must go as well. And we must go there and be present there with all our might, in the best way we possibly can.

And so, that’s what we’re doing. Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS) and Multi-Language Productions (MLP) have partnered up to reach all in Asia with God’s grace.

MLP has produced an online training platform called TELL Network. TELL Mandarin is a translated version of the TELL Network high-quality self-study courses called TELL which includes videos and quizzes. TELL Mandarin helps people read and understand God’s Word on their own and then teaches them how to lead others to do the same. MLP has translated and contextualized TELL for a Mandarin speaking audience, so that Mandarin speakers in East Asia and all over the world can learn of God’s love for me. After completing TELL Mandarin, ALS guides these students through its degree programs so that, in the end, they can become church leaders and shepherds for God’s people.

TELL Mandarin has enrolled thousands of students in Asia and the number of those who enroll is growing every day. We thank God for all those precious souls he brings to us through these digital means. We are blessed to be able to have such a far reach with such an incredible tool as TELL Mandarin to educate and bless people all throughout Asia!

Written by Tony Barthels, world missionary for the Asia One Team and recruiter for Asia Lutheran Seminary.

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Mission work approved in Senegal

The Board for World Missions has approved a plan to send two missionaries to Senegal to learn the culture and language in preparation for sharing the gospel and gathering a congregation.

The country of Senegal has a population of almost 17 million people. The Wolof tribe makes up about 40 to 45 percent of the total population and is less than 0.01 percent Christian. Even though Senegal is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, the constitution staunchly defends freedom of religion and is a relatively peaceful and stable place. “This would be extremely ‘raw’ mission work, where we’ll be starting gospel outreach from scratch,” says Rev. Larry Schlomer, World Missions administrator. “While we do not have an invitation to be in Senegal, we are going because we know these people do not have the gospel.”

Schlomer and Mr. Stefan Felgenhauer, director of World Missions Operations, made an exploratory trip to Dakar in September. They met people from the business community, local charitable organizations, and an international school to determine how easy it is for Americans to live and work in the country. They also connected with a well-respected, cross-cultural learning consultant agency. This agency will serve as a valuable resource moving forward as it’ll be able to connect future WELS missionaries with an immersion opportunity to live with a Muslim Wolof family. This opportunity will allow the missionaries to settle into the culture and community, learn the language, meet the people, and seek opportunities to share the gospel.

“This will be a new attempt by WELS to reach into the Muslim world,” says Schlomer. “The opportunity for learning, outreach, and immersion in this culture will help us grow in our understanding of Muslim influence. We pray this becomes not only a blessing to the Wolof people but also a resource for future Muslim outreach around the world.”

In 2021, world missionaries were tasked with researching where WELS might have the opportunity to plant new world mission fields, with the goal of bringing the gospel to some of the 7,000+ unreached people groups around the world. The Wolof tribe in Senegal was identified as a potential mission field opportunity. Other areas identified include Bangladesh, Dubai, New Zealand, and other U.S. Native American tribes.

Learn more about these locations for future mission work at wels.net/newworldmissionfields.

 

Senegal

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Lutheran Seminary installs principal in Zambia

Originally appears in the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) newsletter. Subscribe to future updates from the CELC at celc.info/signup.

Pastor Davison Mutentami, LCCA-Z Chairman

The Lutheran Church of Central Africa – Zambia (LCCA-Z) joyfully gathered for the installation of Pastor Chibikubantu Simweeleba (pictured center above) as the new principal of the Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia, on Saturday, September 16, 2023. Pastor Simweeleba is the seminary’s fifth principal in its nearly 60-year history. He is the second Zambian national pastor to fill this call.

Seminary Board of Control Chairman Pastor Edward Bangwe officiated at the morning service. Pastor David Baloyi based his sermon on the theme “Be Strong and Courageous!” from Joshua 1:1-9. Following the sermon, several area pastors shared their blessings and encouragement for Principal Simweeleba during a laying-on-of-hands ceremony.

A short program followed the service. LCCA-Z chairman Pastor Davison Mutentami brought the new principal greetings from the synod, encouraging Pastor Simweeleba to be among the synod’s pastors and members as an ambassador for the Seminary. The Simweelebas received well wishes and gifts from the attendees. The festivities concluded with a fellowship luncheon.

Pastor Simweeleba has been a pastor since 2009 and has served on the faculty of the Lutheran Seminary beginning in 2018. His responsibilities as principal will now take him beyond the seminary campus. He will use his experience in ministry to reach the synod’s membership as the face of the Seminary to recruit new students, nurture collaboration with the synod’s pastors and lay leadership, and along with the seminary faculty and the Board of Control, tailor the Seminary’s instructional program to meet the future ministerial needs of the LCCA-Z.

Written by Pastor Anthony Phiri, Dean of the Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia

 




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The brotherhood in Nepal

The gospel creates a brotherhood. Jesus taught the gospel to his twelve disciples. They became his brothers. Yes, Judas betrayed him, forsaking the brotherhood. But when Jesus called Judas, he called him as a brother. Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:34,35).

WELS missionaries enjoy a brotherhood in their mission fields. The Holy Spirit calls them to teach the gospel to church leaders in other nations. As they grow together in the gospel, they become friends and brothers. Yes, some, like Judas, will betray the cause of the gospel. But many will remain loyal. The brotherhood continues.

We enjoy a brotherhood with the church leaders of the CELC of Nepal. Our brotherhood grows when we study God’s Word together. Recently I traveled to Nepal to teach the book of Isaiah to ten church leaders.

We learned the gospel from Isaiah. We learned gospel encouragement from Isaiah. As we studied the call of Isaiah, we thought of ways to encourage others who have a ministry like Isaiah. God called Isaiah to “Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes” (Isaiah 6:10). Isaiah had a difficult ministry, announcing God’s judgment on his unbelieving people.

The students composed messages of encouragement to share with WELS missionaries and national church leaders in difficult situations. The Nepal leaders have also suffered persecution for their Christian faith. Their own experience helped them express their encouragement.

One leader wrote, “I heard you are having trouble in your ministry, sometimes people come to beat you and hinder your work. I’m very sad to hear about that. Sometimes they will blame you with false things. But don’t worry. God is with you. God will help you in your ministry and work there. Don’t be discouraged. God will give you strength. Wherever there is persecution the believers remain. I’m praying for you and your ministry.”

We sent the messages through WhatsApp to our WELS missionaries. They rejoiced to receive such messages. They asked to share the messages with others. The brotherhood grows.

Praise God.

Written by WELS Asia One Team missionary.

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West African kickoff

Originally appears in the One Africa Team blog. Subscribe to future updates from Africa at oneafricateam.com.

A kickoff always signals the start of a football game. From September 2-9, 2023, we kicked off a new organization in Africa. The One Africa Team brought together two leaders from each of WELS’ three partner church bodies in West Africa: Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria, All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria, and the Lutheran Church of Cameroon. These six men sat together to solve some very sticky issues involving budgets, curricula, and staffing of their seminary programs.

We set up a WhatsApp chat group to communicate throughout the week. It was useful for communication about what we had done in the conference room, details about meals, etc. We also came to understand that we could also use this forum for a monthly meeting. Regular communication will greatly assist us in making plans and holding one another accountable so that things get done.

Our biggest topic of conversation was to gain an understanding of the One Africa Team’s vision for quarterly ministry plans. Much has changed since the days when missionaries resided in Nigeria and Cameroon. Due to security, WELS missionaries do not live in West Africa. In those days our partners were quite free to come and tell us, “We need ____ to carry out our ministry.” Then the local missionary would see what he could do to provide it for them.

Now, our West African brothers are writing their own plans. They are very clear about the programs that they are planning to implement. These plans include the purpose of the proposed program and who will be the participants and the teachers. Plans also include where the proposed program will take place and benchmarks to gauge the program’s effectiveness. The focus of ministry planning must remain on reaching people with the gospel. However, detailed estimates of expenses and funding sources are important for successful planning. We now have a good understanding of what our partners need for the upcoming quarter. With some minor adjustments, our partners will be ready to move forward with assistance from the One Africa Team.

We have opened a line of communication between the One Africa Team and the West African leadership group. After the initial kickoff, the ball is now rolling.

Written by Rev. Dan Kroll, world missionary on the One Africa Team and liaison to West Africa

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