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Easter in a Cemetery, India

Indian Christians have a wonderful Easter tradition. Like Christians throughout the world, they gather before the sun comes up. But unique to India, Christians here gather in the cemeteries where their Christian family members have been buried. Tombs are white washed and decorated the day before.
They light small candles and place them on the graves of their loved ones who are now in heaven Easter morning.

There they give thanks for their parents and others who taught them about the Savior. There they hear God’s promises about the resurrection and sing of those promises.  There they celebrate in the most tangible of ways the results of Jesus’ resurrection.

What a wonderful way to proclaim the truth of the empty tomb!

The Christians of India do not have this prayer in their hymnals (as we do in CW on page 60), but they know it in their
hearts: “For the faithful who have gone before us, who have shared with us your good news, whose souls are now at rest in your heavenly kingdom, we give you thanks, O Lord.  Thanks be to God.”

A blessed Easter to all of you.

By: Friendly Counselor Mark Ricke, India


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Peace in Jesus, Hong Kong

When I was a pastor in the States, I often encouraged our members to go into all the world and make disciples of all peoples. God gave me the chance 33 years ago to go to Taiwan to be a missionary. Every day I learned the Chinese language and culture. Every week I had a chance to share the good news with Chinese people. Every year I got to see how God loved the Chinese people and wanted them to believe in Jesus and receive eternal life.

Thirteen years ago, God called me to Hong Kong. There I was able to go into East Asia and start meeting even more people.  Through contacts made by American Christians who served as English teachers, we had a chance to meet together with Chinese people to study the Bible. Some were already Christians, but many were not. For some of them, it was the first time they had ever seen a Bible. Adults and children had the chance to get to know Jesus.

Chinese children are like all children. They like to run around. They like to play with friends. The children in this picture are blessed because their parents bring them to church. But most of their friends don’t know Jesus yet. We are making some Sunday school books in Chinese so they can hear and see Bible stories in a language they can understand.  We are training pastors and teachers who can teach them and their parents to know the Bible better. With your encouragement, prayers, and support we are able to share Jesus with them.

Do you see their fingers? Everyone in East Asia likes to pose for pictures like this. I don’t think they know what the “V” means. Maybe it’s “Peace.” I like to think of it as “V”ictory in Jesus.  Whatever it means, our mission is to help children and adults in East Asia know that Jesus has won peace with God for us. He’s the Savior of all the people in the world – wherever they live – whatever language they speak!

God be with you in the New Year!

By: A missionary in East Asia

 


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Registration open for 54th annual LWMS convention

The 54th annual convention of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) will be held June 22-25, 2017, in Orlando, Fla.

The convention kicks off Thursday evening with an opening worship service led by WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder. Friday and Saturday feature speakers from various WELS mission fields, including Rev. Daniel Sargent, who serves in Africa; Home Missions missionaries; WELS Home Missions Administrator Rev. Keith Free; and WELS World Missions Administrator Rev. Larry Schlomer.

This year, the Thursday night opening worship service and the Friday and Saturday missionary presentations will be streamed live at livestream.com/wels.

In addition, attendees can choose to attend workshops about the LWMS kids c.a.r.e program, evangelism, and the multi-site congregation model.

For recreation, attendees can opt to visit the Holy Land Experience, a biblical-themed museum, or an airboat ride for Florida wildlife viewing.

The conference will conclude on Sunday with a closing worship service led by South Atlantic District President Rev. Charles Westra.

Registration information can be found at lwms.org. This year, mail-in and online registration is available. Early bird registration ends April 1 and is $190. After April 1, the convention fee is $210. There are special rates for students and children.

Visit lwms.org for complete convention information and registration.

 

 

 

Home mission connections lead to world mission opportunities

“The Lord is opening some pretty big doors around the world,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator of Home Missions.

Why is the home mission administrator talking about world mission opportunities? Because the two areas are coming together in an exciting way. “When leaders in the late 1980s and 1990s began working with cross-cultural ministries, little did they know that what we would do in the United States would have impact and ramifications around the world,” says Free.

When men like Rev. Peter Bur, a South Sudanese refugee who settled in Omaha, Neb.; student Matthew Cephas, a Liberian in St. Paul, Minn.; and Rev. Bounkeo Lor, a Hmong pastor in Kansas City, Kan., hear and learn confessional Lutheran teachings, they want to share it—and not just with their neighbors next door. “What drives us so much overseas are Pastoral Studies Institute graduates who want to go back home,” says Prof. E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI).

This fall, PSI team members, who work to train, mentor, and equip confessional Lutherans around the world, visited Africa and Asia to further explore new mission opportunities and how best to serve the people in these areas.

Kenya

Bur and Sorum have made multiple trips to Ethiopia and Kenya to train South Sudanese pastors and spiritual leaders who are serving South Sudanese refugees. “We are training trainers to train trainers,” says Sorum. In 2015, they distributed copies of Bur’s translation of a simplified version of the Small Catechism, complete with artwork by Rev. Terry Schultz, a member of the WELS Multi-Language Publications team.

This fall, Sorum, Bur, and Schultz spent three weeks in Nairobi, Kenya, furthering the training of men living in refugee camps in Kakuma, Kenya.

But are these men really taking what they learned to heart? As Sorum puts it, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

Or in the worn-out catechism.

On this trip, Sorum asked the group how they used the catechisms they received in 2015. James Machar, who leads a flourishing church in what Sorum calls “one of the most rugged spots to try to even survive let alone start a church,” said, “I handed out 150 certificates of completion to the people who completed every lesson in the catechism course.”

Then Sorum saw the catechism of Evangelist Michael, one of the men who had been trained by Machar. He had traveled three days to continue his training in Nairobi. His catechism was worn out.

“I asked him, ‘Do you have it memorized?’” says Sorum. “He said, ‘Almost.’”

Sorum continues, “These people are starving not only literally but also spiritually for a lack of resources. They come to us for materials and training and then they go home and do incredible things with them in the most difficult of circumstances.”

Liberia

Sorum also traveled to Liberia with Rev. Robert Wendland, a missionary in Malawi, to see what the opportunities were for ongoing training and for working with the Confessional Lutheran Church of Liberia. Connections had been made through PSI Bible Institute graduate Isaac David and Rev. Matthew Vogt of Las Vegas, Nev., and WELS pastors had already traveled to Liberia to start training congregational leaders.

“We talked to many congregations and met stunning leaders and committed men,” says Sorum. “In one village they said I was the first American to set foot in their church. It was one of the most intensely foreign feelings I ever had. But they are a warm and friendly people, who are anxious and eager to become more Lutheran.”

Vietnam

Jon Bare in Vietnam

In November, Rev. Jon Bare, international recruitment director, and Sorum traveled to Vietnam with Rev. Bounkeo Lor and Evangelist Vicar Hue Thao to meet with 60 leaders of the Hmong Christian Fellowship, a church body with 600 pastors and more than 70,000 members. These men were contacts made through Lor, who has been traveling to Vietnam for the past three years to lead similar workshops.

Besides conducting training classes in Hanoi, they traveled to several village churches in the mountains. Bare, who has visited Vietnam on vacation, says, “You look at it in a completely different way than just seeing it as a tourist. They want our training, and their lives have been changed by the gospel message of Jesus. It’s just a beautiful thing to be able to experience that.”

Sorum says the church has grown since the leaders have been teaching the law and gospel lessons they learned from Lor, adding 2,400 members and 40 churches in the last six months. “It was one of the most inspiring, uplifting trips I’ve ever made,” he says.

Says Free, “Who would have thought a step Home Missions took many years ago to reach more cultures in the U.S. would lead to the opportunities we have today? These blessings are just another encouragement that we need to remain faithful in sowing the seed and then watch in amazement as God blesses the sharing of the gospel where and when he wills.”

Learn more about these opportunities at wels.net/missions.

 

 

 

Graduation at Asia Lutheran Seminary

Six men from East Asia were among 27 students who received a degree or certificate Oct. 30 from Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS), Hong Kong, at the school’s seventh graduation since its establishment in 2005.

According to Dr. Steven Witte, ALS president, this is the first ALS graduation that includes pastors who do not live in Hong Kong. “These six students planted eight groups and five local churches during their student years,” he says. “Now they are no longer full-time workers and full-time students—just-full time workers. So things should pick up in terms of planting additional groups in East Asia.”

Ten men—including the six men from East Asia—received Master of Divinity degrees (which means that they are fully trained to serve as pastors); eight received Bachelor of Theology degrees. Others received degrees in Christian Studies as well as certificates for Greek and Hebrew.

Witte says ALS graduates serve in various ways. Some are full-time workers in the nine established congregations in South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM), our sister synod in Hong Kong; others are starting groups that will eventually turn into local congregations. Many are laypeople who are looking for a deeper understanding of confessional Lutheranism as they serve in leadership roles in their local congregations.

Special guests at the graduation included Rev. Larry Schlomer, Board for World Missions administrator, as well as the members of the East Asia Administrative Committee. Dr. John Lawrenz, who was instrumental in establishing ALS, and Rev. Karl Gurgel, who served as a long-time visiting professor, also attended.

WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder traveled to Asia Lutheran Seminary the week before graduation to visit with the students and staff and meet with SALEM leaders. “It meant a lot for the students to see President Schroeder at ALS,” says Witte. “It helped them know that WELS values ALS and the work they are doing as students—and especially the work they are doing in the kingdom. We tell the students that there are many in America who know about them, pray for them, and support them, but seeing President Schroeder really helped put weight to those words.”

Schroeder says he was greatly encouraged by the graduation of fully-trained pastors from East Asia and by the work ALS is doing to train future workers. “It is especially encouraging for me to see the work that is being done through the faithful and generous support of WELS members, who through their gifts are taking the gospel to places they will never visit and to people they will never meet until they gather with them around the throne of the Lamb.”

Currently 53 students are attending Asia Lutheran Seminary, most part time or for single subjects. Another 11 full-time and 24 part-time students are taking courses through a satellite seminary in East Asia. ALS also works closely with Multi-Language Publications to provide theological courses to equip current and future translators of Christian literature. It has also developed an online course in Chinese called “Bible Background” that has reached more than 20,000 people in East Asia. Plans are in place for future online courses.

Learn more about WELS mission work at wels.net/missions.

 

 

 

 

Expanded Efforts to Produce Christ-Centered Materials: The crown jewel of World Missions

THE CROWN JEWEL OF WORLD MISSIONS

Adam M. Goede

“I like to call Multi-Language Publications the crown jewel of World Missions and also one of the best kept secrets,” says Phil Koelpin, former chairman of the Board for World Missions.

Multi-Language Publications (MLP) produces confessional Christian literature and other mass media in different languages for the purpose of mission work. Its history goes back to 1975 when the synod began producing Spanish materials for work in Latin America. MLP was started in 1996 with the vision of working in many languages worldwide.

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In years past, MLP reached out to Spanish-speaking people through the Spanish Correspondence Program, in which Spanish self-study books were distributed in places like Colombia, South America.

God’s hand has been evident in the expansion of MLP’s efforts. In 2002, two countries hostile to Christianity, reached out to WELS for help within months of each other. Working with these contacts, MLP distributed biblical literature that has reached thousands of people. “We virtually established fields without ever having personnel there,” says Koelpin. “That was pretty significant, especially at a time with declining resources.”

Other steps forward have included utilizing the popularity of the Internet in Latin America to offer resources, training, and worship through a website called Academia Cristo and calling regional coordinators for Spanish and Asian publications, which provides the benefit of working more closely with target audiences.

Currently MLP has 700 publications in 47 different languages. It has printed more than 2.9 million items. Its goal is to reach 100 million people with the gospel in the next ten years.

Future efforts will expand on what has worked well, like providing more digital materials through the successful Academia Cristo model. Nathan Seiltz, MLP director, says, “It is great to see how much success it has had. We want to duplicate the idea in other cultures.”

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Now MLP has moved from sending physical books to developing online video courses on the Academia Cristo website.

“Overall, this is an economical way to do missions because there is no missionary on the ground there,” he says. “It also encourages the nationals to take ownership in the mission and figure out how to spread the gospel where they are.” He hopes that online connections lead to relationships with potential workers.

National workers are also helping MLP develop a new frontier in their publications—worship materials. “Church planting is what triggered the idea,” says Seiltz. “Worship resources are part of the gathering of the group around the Word and sacraments.” MLP’s focus is developing music and hymns for different people groups. “It’s going to match their culture a lot better,” says Seiltz. “They can have something that appeals to them, applies to them.”

Koelpin summarizes how God has richly blessed MLP: “The Lord has just kept opening doors and blessed everything we have done, so the work keeps multiplying.” He just hopes that WELS can keep up with God’s pace. “My biggest concern is that we need more resources if we’re going to get done all the challenges that God has put before us. We’re only limited by our resources.”


Adam Goede, supervisor for the Ministry of Christian Giving, is a member at St. John, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

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Author: Adam M. Goede
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

Mission Updates

MISSION UPDATES


Philippines

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Phillipines

Pastor Alvien De Guzman, a native Philippine missionary, serves a small flock of faithful believers in a suburb of Manila. They are using videos and printed materials from Multi-Language Publications to reach out to the unchurched in their community and are looking to begin ministering to prospects in outlying areas. WELS supports De Guzman and Law and Gospel Evangelical Lutheran Church with monthly contact and additional resources.


Romani

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Romania

Iliyan Itsov, a pastor in the Bulgarian Lutheran Church, has a new mission project in Europe: outreach to Roma (gypsies). A Roma himself, Itsov has a unique understanding about how to share the gospel with the western world’s most mistreated ethnic group, a group numbering about 10 million people. He ministers to the Romani in five villages in Bulgaria, including training leaders in each village to conduct worship. Pictured is a new group in Zlataritsa, Bulgaria, where a core group of 17 Roma worships weekly using sermons Itsov provides. Itsov is also working with WELS sister churches in Europe to gather groups of Roma workers and immigrants whom these sister churches will then serve.


Liberia

Liberian spiritual leader Isaac David is reaching out to legal immigrants in Las Vegas, Nev., as well as working to establish the Confessional Lutheran Church in Liberia. He opened a church in Las Vegas—the Chapel of Improvement Christian Fellowship—and is working closely with Water of Life in Las Vegas. He also is studying with local WELS pastors. David and several WELS pastors traveled to Liberia in April 2016 to train leaders and members (pictured in top photo) and to attend the church body’s first convention.


United States

The Board for Home Missions authorized eight new mission starts in 2016, five of which are second sites for established congregations. The new ministries include:

Rockwall, Texas: Connected with Divine Peace in Garland, Texas, this multi-site mission will have two locations for worship, but one leadership team and budget. More than 20 members from Divine Peace are living in the target area.

Victoria, Texas: A second pastor will be needed to serve this new multi-site mission outreach by Redeemer, Edna, Texas, as the pastor at Redeemer offers both English and Spanish worship each Sunday.

Stevens Point, Wis.: In 2015, Divine Word, Plover, Wis., called a second pastor to focus on campus ministry at UW–Stevens Point as well as reach out in the community. Recently, Divine Word purchased a building for a campus center and second worship site.

Meridian, Idaho: Cross of Christ, Boise, Idaho, is starting this multi-site mission to serve families living in the neighboring city of Meridian.

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: Members of St. Matthew, Spokane, Wash., will support this new mission, located about 35 miles away. More than 25 adult members will make up the launch team that will work with the mission pastor.

Lehi, Utah: Prince of Peace, Salt Lake City, is starting this mission south of Salt Lake City in an area that has a strong Mormon presence.

Fredericksburg, Va.: Members from Trinity, Woodbridge, Va., are eager to start a mission in this growing community about 40 miles away.

Atlanta, Ga.: The city of Atlanta is ringed by seven WELS churches. Over the past two years, WELS members have been holding Bible studies in the city, and a core group has been established.


THANKS, LWMS!

For 53 years, the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) has been increasing awareness of, interest in, and support of WELS mission outreach. More than 1,100 women met at the recent 2016 national convention in St. Charles, Ill., to learn more about missions and to show their support. About $53,000 was gathered during the convention for mission projects, and more than $143,000 was received throughout the year.


MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

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Author: Various Authors
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

New Partnership To Broaden Outreach Efforts: Asia

MINISTRY TRAINING IN ASIA

Linda R. Buxa

Each year, pastors originally from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Korea meet at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to discuss their plans for reaching out and expanding their ministry. These men are the spiritual leaders and drivers of outreach to Asian peoples in North America and overseas.

One of these pastors (name withheld for safety reasons) is from a country that is in the top 30 countries that persecute Christians. Those who reject ancestor worship, animism, or Buddhism are either removed from their villages or beaten.

This graduate of the Pastoral Studies Institute could safely stay in the United States and pastor the people he serves. Instead, he and his wife choose to spend their own money to travel back to their country of origin. There they risk their lives to tell people about the one true God.

“As I go into the country, they ask if I am going to talk about God,” he says. (They hold his passport and threaten not to give it back if he does.) “I said, ‘No,’ but in my head I said ‘Yes.’ ”

On his first trip, he spoke to a group about marriage. “The women were crying. I was teaching the husbands that God says to love their wives,” he says. They had never heard that before, and it brought them to tears. They begged him to bring Bibles the next time he came.

So he did, even though it could put him in grave danger.

As he walked through security, he had Bibles in his backpack. “At the gate they searched all my luggage. Except my backpack. I went through and gave away all the Bibles,” he says.


OFFERING PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL HELP

Meet a medical assistant in Southeast Asia who travels from village to village on his motorbike to share his medical skills with his patients. He also shares the gospel.

This man, who became a Christian when he was a child, wants to learn more about his faith so he can share more with others. To do that, he takes classes through the seminary’s Pastoral Studies Institute via Skype. Twice a year, he travels to the United States to take classes.

He isn’t quite sure where his studies might lead. “For now, his focus is on studying and reaching others,” his translator shares. The people he reaches are hungry for the gospel and are looking to WELS for even more support. “They are excited to hear from the national church body.”


Linda Buxa is the communications coordinator at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin.   

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

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Author: Linda R. Buxa
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

New Partnership To Broaden Outreach Efforts: Ethiopia

MINISTRY TRAINING IN ETHIOPIA

Linda R. Buxa

The Rev. Dr. Kebede Yigezu is the founder and president of the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (LCE). With more than three hundred members, the LCE proclaims a solidly Lutheran confession to the people of Ethiopia. The LCE’s Maor Theological College serves as a strong anchor for this heritage.

Three years ago, Kebede contacted WELS to discuss fellowship possibilities. In 2014, Peter Bur and Prof. E. Allen Sorum met with this group of believers. In September 2015, Kenneth Cherney, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and a member of the WELS Commission on Inter-Church Relations, visited Ethiopia and participated in Maor Theological College’s first graduation ceremony.

“A huge amount of amazing things are already done. The LCE is on the way to being in fellowship with the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference. Through gifts of WELS people for Maor college and seminary program, the group is stabilizing its presence by purchasing land and building the first floor of a multi-floor facility,” says Sorum.

That building will provide more ways to support this growing church body. In addition, through the world mission seminary program, a professor will visit the church in 2016 to teach a course.

“Rev. Dr. Kebede continues to meet other people in WELS, and every time he meets someone, it’s another person who is appreciative of his unconditional, confessional heart,” says Sorum.


Linda Buxa is the communications coordinator at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin.   

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

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Author: Linda R. Buxa
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

Using Cultural Connections to further Outreach: St. Paul, Minnesota

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA

Julie K. Wietzke

With 230 members, Immanuel Hmong, St. Paul, Minn., is the largest US WELS Hmong congregation. But it’s not only concentrating on spreading the gospel message in Minnesota. Since fall 2015, Immanuel Hmong has been livestreaming its worship services to broaden the spread of the gospel to Hmong people around the world. “This will help us to share the gospel to places where we are not able to go or where our people do not have a church,” says Pheng Moua, pastor at Immanuel Hmong. WELS Hmong members also can tell their loved ones around the world about this opportunity for weekly worship. About 50 people watch every week from places such as Thailand, Vietnam, France, Australia, East Asia, Laos, and the United States.

Immanuel Hmong also was the site of the recent WELS Hmong National Conference (pictured), in which Hmong pastors and laymembers from around the world strengthened their faith through worship and Bible study and learned more about each other’s ministries.

More than 165 people came from Hmong congregations such as

• Grace Hmong, a home mission in Kansas City, Kan., that recently obtained its own worship facility through a special grant and loan from WELS Church Extension Fund.

• Faith Hmong, Anchorage, Alaska, which shares a building with Faith Anglo, a congregation reaching out to Spanish-speakers.

• Mount Calvary Hmong, a congregation supported by La Crosse, Wis., area WELS churches.

• Trinity Hmong, Manitowoc, Wis., a congregation that grew out of a 30-year mission of First German to reach an immigrant community in Manitowoc.

• Christ’s Gospel Hmong, Clovis, and Faith Hmong, Fresno, two newer California congregations reaching out to family and clan members in the area.

One pastor and his wife from Thailand also attended.

“The encouraging moment is when I see members who live in places where we do not have a church or the church is very small come and see that we have many people worshiping and praising the Lord,” says Moua, who helped plan the conference. “The gathering is uplifting to the members and will encourage their walk with Jesus Christ.”


Julie Wietzke is managing editor of Forward in Christ magazine.

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

 

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Author: Julie K. Wietzke
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

Using Cultural Connections to further Outreach: Combining Home and World Mission outreach efforts

COMBINING HOME AND WORLD MISSION OUTREACH EFFORTS

Julie K. Wietzke

“Around 15 million Hmong are living in darkness. They are oppressed, not only by the power of the devil but also by the power of men,” says Bounkeo Lor, a native Hmong man trained as a pastor through the Pastoral Studies Institute of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.

Lor has a passion for reaching out to his Hmong brothers and sisters. With a foot in outreach in both the United States (pastor at Grace Hmong, Kansas City, Kan.) and abroad (teaching leadership workshops in Vietnam), he is a natural pick as one of two Hmong pastors serving on the WELS Global Hmong Committee, a group that oversees Hmong ministry around the world.

Started as a pilot project in 2015 by the Joint Mission Council, this four-person committee allows the Hmong to have a greater input and responsibility for outreach to their people group. This includes weighing outreach opportunities—both domestic and international—and determining where funds should be spent. “It’s not a bunch of white guys making a decision of what’s best for Hmong ministry, but it’s guys on the front lines who know the culture,” says Robert Raasch, World Missions representative on the Global Hmong Committee. “You get the best of both worlds: men with a strong theological foundation and a passion for outreach—and it’s their culture.”

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In January, the Global Hmong Committee met with Hmong national pastors and lay leaders in Thailand to share ministry developments and to discuss further opportunities for working together.

Worldwide in WELS, 25 Hmong pastors serve 8 ministries in the United States and 15 congregations and preaching stations in Thailand and the surrounding area. In addition, there are new opportunities for further Hmong outreach in Vietnam and East Asia and potential for new ministries in the United States.

Lor shares that family, or clan, connections are strong in the Hmong culture, tying these world and home mission fields together. This, he says, makes a joint committee all that more important. “We need each other for the growth of the Hmong ministry,” he says.

He continues, “Sometimes the gap of doing ministry across cultures is so wide that without Hmong representatives, we may lack insight into the best way to do Hmong ministry.”

Both he and Pheng Moua, the other Hmong pastor on the committee, are thankful to be part of a group that is working to further Hmong outreach around the world.

“It is an honor to serve the Lord in this capacity and to touch the lives of the Hmong in different locations and walks of life spiritually,” says Moua. “I serve them to the best of my ability as a bridge builder, to connect and to share their concerns and to walk alongside them. It is not my intention to enforce programs and plans for the mission field; it is my intention to let them grow and take ownership of the mission and ministry.”

He continues, “Hmong outreach is a part of the Great Commission inside the Lord’s church. We will do as much as we can to reach out to them so that their souls will be saved.”


Julie Wietzke is managing editor of Forward in Christ magazine.

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

 

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Author: Julie K. Wietzke
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

A New Way to Reach Spanish Speakers: From home, reaching thousands

FROM HOME, REACHING THOUSANDS

Rachel Hartman

After serving as a Lutheran pastor in Mexico for 10 years—a role he treasured—Carlos Cajas retired.

Before stepping away from the ministry, Cajas’ health wavered and then faltered. He was diagnosed with heart troubles and diabetes. “Sometimes I had to sit down while preaching a sermon,” he recalls.

The future for Cajas in his retirement looked as bleak as his health conditions. Over time, however, he saw God still had a plan for his life and, better yet, he saw an opportunity to reach thousands with the gospel message from his own home.

Cajas had always had a strong desire to share God’s Word with others. After working in a factory in Mexico for 15 years, he decided to leave his position as supervisor behind to be a pastor.

He completed his seminary training and went on to serve in various places in Mexico City and Puebla, about 60 miles southeast of Mexico City.

As his years of service drew to a close, Cajas faced a debilitating heart condition and also open heart surgery. Then diabetes struck his eyesight, leaving him legally blind.

Today, he can see a little on some days; other days, nothing at all. “When my sight darkens—these are the worst days for me,” he explains. “I am, as they say in Mexico, ‘on the knife’s edge.’ At any time, I could have a heart attack due to my artery problems.”

Cajas lives with his family in Puebla, where his wife, two grown children, and other relatives help oversee his medications, doctor visits, and daily activities.

Not long ago, his son gave him a tablet. Cajas found that by holding the tablet inches from his face and using a magnifying glass, he could read the words on the screen.

Cajas saw this gift as a tool to share God’s Word. He started posting Bible verses and images on his own Facebook page. “Today there are lots of Facebook addicts,” he explains. “Everybody has a smartphone.”

His efforts coincided with those of Academia Cristo, a site that offers free Christ-centered resources to Spanish speakers around the world. Those involved with Academia Cristo’s Facebook page spotted Cajas’ efforts and asked him to participate.

Today, Cajas volunteers as an administrator of this page, which shares God’s Word every day and has more than 285,000 followers. “The little that I can see is enough to create posts with texts and images about appropriate topics,” says Cajas. “It is a wonderful opportunity to share the message of salvation with thousands of people.”

Cajas’ messages uplift and inspire those who follow Academia Cristo’s page. At the same time, the chance to serve encourages Cajas and reminds him of his purpose. “I am a disciple of Christ,” he says. “And God has given me certain abilities—he hasn’t taken them all away.”

Instead of feeling anxious about the coming days and health issues he may face, Cajas finds confidence in his new role. “God hasn’t retired us,” he says. “God wants us to serve him until the end of our days, and to serve him with joy. We already have this wonderful gift—eternal life in paradise—waiting for us after our time here.”


Rachel Hartman and her husband, Missionary Michael Hartman, serve in León, Mexico.

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

 

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Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

A New Way to Reach Spanish Speakers: Serving both sides of the border

SERVING BOTH SIDES OF THE BORDER

Rachel Hartman

Many Hispanics in the United States have close ties to other areas in Latin America. For Hispanic Lutherans, the desire to share Christian resources with relatives and friends in other areas is often strong. Occasionally, Hispanic members are even looking for a new church home as they head back to Central or South America.

In the past, sharing gospel resources with those south of the border was frequently a challenge. Congregations are spread out, and travel distances between them are often great, making it difficult for those interested in attending worship.

Today, through online resources such as academiacristo.com, which offers free Christian materials to Spanish speakers everywhere, that is changing.

“We have such a diverse congregation,” notes Abe Degner, pastor at Christ the Lord, Houston, Texas, which serves a Spanish-speaking population in the area.

With members from more than ten different Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, when it comes to the opportunity to use sites like Academia Cristo, “there’s a lot of potential,” he explains.

Twice when members moved back to areas south of the border where there were no nearby Lutheran churches, Degner directed them to these online resources.

Two women involved at Christ the Lord lived in El Salvador during their early years. Now in Houston, they have used Academia Cristo as a way to share the gospel with family members back home.

Not long ago, one of the ladies pulled Degner aside and asked how to do a baptism if there wasn’t a Lutheran church. “I talked her through it,” notes Degner. “That’s an example of where those resources can be so useful.”


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Dalila Campos

Meet Dalila Campos, originally from El Salvador, now living in Houston. She attends Christ the Lord in Houston and appreciates the resources from Academia Cristo, as seen in her Facebook post: “Thank you, Academia Cristo, for your faithful work in preaching the gospel to all people. Having you has been a big blessing for me. As I meditate on your publications, I renew my faith in Christ my Savior, but I also review things I learned as a girl and thought I knew but am now remembering. In this way I am ready, every day, for the work of spreading the gospel to others through this fresh and simple method, which is easy to understand. May God continue blessing you. I truly love you in the love of Christ our Lord.”


Rachel Hartman and her husband, Missionary Michael Hartman, serve in León, Mexico.

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HELP WELS REACH THE WORLD

Your offering to WELS Missions will help more missionaries go to more places and share the gospel with more people.

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Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

New Partnership To Broaden Outreach Efforts

MEETING EMERGING NEEDS FOR TRAINING GOD’S PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD

Linda R. Buxa

“We live in a world of rapid change, and this is true also in the area of theological education as the line between home and world missions disappears,” says Bradley Wordell, world mission seminary professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis.

One of the changes in education comes because of circular immigration. As God brings refugees and immigrants to the United States, congregations reach out to them with support and the gospel. “Then they have the desire to learn more, to share the gospel with other immigrants, and to bring the gospel back to their home countries. They introduce to us candidates for gospel ministry,” says Wordell. This circular immigration gives us a complete partnership in the gospel.

The second group of people who are changing the education landscape are Christians throughout the world who have already gathered together in groups, churches, and communities. They want support, training, and connection to a church body that shares the good news that Jesus has done it all and that the Bible is true.

Until now, the seminary has handled these requests through two programs, the Pastoral Studies Institute of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (PSI) and the world mission seminary program. The PSI helps non-traditional students through its preseminary and seminary training. PSI director E. Allen Sorum works with local pastors to help provide training for North American-based students. For the world mission seminary program, WLS professors travel throughout the world teaching courses in seminaries that are part of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference. In 2015–16, 7 members of the seminary faculty administered 10 different courses in 9 countries to more than 100 students as well as 100 pastors and a few members.

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PSI director E. Allen Sorum (far left) traveled with Peter Bur, a South Sudanese pastor, to Kenya in 2015 to meet with and train spiritual leaders for South Sudanese refugees as well as pastors in a Kenyan church body looking to establish fellowship.

Today, more than 300 potential students are contacting our church body looking for support and training in their journey toward becoming confessional Lutherans. With the abundance of people reaching out, the scope of requests is beyond that of missionaries to handle while serving their people and is more than the seminary faculty can undertake while maintaining a high level of education on the Mequon campus. To address this God-given opportunity, the Synodical Council approved a position of international recruitment director. Jon Bare, a 2008 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, began serving in this position in summer 2016.

“The creation of this team connects World Missions, Home Missions, and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in a new and exciting way,” says Bare. His task is to coordinate with the world mission seminary professor and the PSI director to implement a culturally informed vetting process for individuals as well as church bodies who wish to become part of our church body’s worldwide outreach. This team will administer a curriculum for men in America and abroad who want to serve as pastors in these church bodies. Bare will work closely with Sorum and Wordell to also develop an appropriate assessment of skills and abilities in ministry and negotiate the appropriate degree or certificate that the student would receive upon the completion of his given level of training.

“The three of us each bring our unique gifts, strengths, and experiences to this new team. This partnership will serve to meet the emerging needs for training God’s people at home and around the world,” says Bare. “I am excited to see how God will continue to grow his kingdom and equip new workers.”

Through all these changes, one thing that doesn’t change is the seminary’s mission. “We prepare pastors and we provide continuing education for pastors,” says Paul O. Wendland, seminary president. “At the same time, the ministry is adapting. The Mequon campus is more a base of operations than a single venue for theological and pastoral training. With more than 300 potential students from around the world asking for help, we have an incredible opportunity.”

Opportunities to reach every neighbor and every nation. The time is now.


Linda Buxa is the communications coordinator at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin.   

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

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Author: Linda R. Buxa
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

New Partnership To Broaden Outreach Efforts: South Sudan

MINISTRY TRAINING IN SOUTH SUDAN

Linda R. Buxa

When Peter Bur emigrated to the United States, no one could have anticipated how God’s plan would unfold—and how a ministry would explode.

Peter Bur, originally from South Sudan, began worshiping at Good Shepherd, Omaha, Neb., in 2010. Already serving as a spiritual leader for Sudanese immigrants, he started taking classes with Michael Ewart, pastor at Good Shepherd, to deepen his training. Ewart then assisted Bur to become a student in Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI). The more Bur learned, the more he connected other South Sudanese people to WELS congregations all throughout North America.

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Peter Bur training South Sudanese spiritual leaders serving refugee camps in Ethiopia. These leaders are studying a simplified version of Luther’s Small Catechism translated into Nuer, which Multi-Language Publications helped develop.

In 2015, Bur graduated from the PSI and was called by the WELS Joint Mission Council to serve as the coordinator of South Sudanese ministry for WELS, overseeing the pastoral training of South Sudanese leaders in North America who are studying with their local pastor. Bur is also reaching out to pastors and spiritual leaders in Africa who are serving South Sudanese refugees.

In 2016, for the third year in a row, Bur and Sorum encouraged the men who are serving the ever-growing groups in refugee camps in neighboring countries of South Sudan. Bur taught a simplified version of the catechism, which he translated into Nuer, and also spoke on protection from demons.

They were accompanied by Terry Schultz, a member of the Multi-Language Publications team, who created the artwork for the catechism. “These are high quality materials in terms of both content and production,” says Sorum. “After Peter Bur taught courses based on these materials, we left the materials with the spiritual leaders to teach others.”

From the South Sudanese work, connections have been made in Kenya and Ethiopia, all because one Sudanese man sought out one American pastor and they worked together. From one neighbor to many nations.


FINDING FELLOWSHIP IN KENYA

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Pastor Mark Anariko Onunda in front of the piece of land where his congregation worships. He hopes to build a church here. Onunda is the chairman of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, which seeks fellowship with WELS and ultimately the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.

After doctrinal issues caused many Kenyan Lutheran congregations to leave their previous church body, the churches were looking for support. One of the pastors, Mark Anariko Onunda, has spent the past year visiting all the pastors who left, encouraging them to galvanize and join in fellowship with the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference. More than 20 pastors and 50 congregations are looking forward to meetings with representatives of the PSI international team and with WELS Missions administrators in Africa to review the Augsburg Confession with them and encourage them in their journey. “These brothers and sisters are very eager to become part of our fellowship and will be good partners,” says Sorum. “We are doing everything we possibly can to encourage them in their path toward joining the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.”


Linda Buxa is the communications coordinator at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin.   

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

 

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Author: Linda R. Buxa
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

A New Way to Reach Spanish Speakers: Online resources present new opportunities

ONLINE RESOURCES PRESENT NEW OPPORTUNITIES

Rachel Hartman

Latin America is expected to have approximately 246 million smartphone users by 2019, compared to 182 million in 2016.*

This growth has led to new opportunities for outreach and training in Latin America. “We are using online means of communication God has given us to empower more people to do on-the-ground ministry,” notes Mike Hartman, field coordinator for Latin America.

Three main online resources reach out to Spanish speakers:

Academiacristo.com (Christ Academy) offers free Spanish video and audio resources. The WELS movies Come Follow Me and My Son, My Savior are the most popular downloads.

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Christ-centered resources from Academia Cristo are reaching Spanish speakers around the world. In 2016, an average of 480 videos a day are being downloaded, with a total of more than 320,000 views.

Visitors can ask questions and chat online with national pastors and missionaries. Local lay leaders can access guides for Bible studies and materials to use in their own communities.

“We want to help people start churches that faithfully teach Christ,” explains Hartman. “Our main focus is working with contacts who reach out to us.”

Academia Cristo also has a Facebook page, which is used to help spread awareness about Lutherans in Latin America. It reaches an average of 400,000 people a day with Christ-centered messages and links to the Academia Cristo website.

Iglesialuteranacristo.com (Christ Lutheran Church) hosts weekly livestreamed Christ-centered worship. Based out of the Lutheran church Most Holy Trinity in Medellín, Colombia, services are broadcast each Sunday by pastors and leaders in Latin America.

In addition to viewing the services, visitors can download the liturgy and hymns for their own use. The service also includes a live chat window so online viewers can interact.

Cristopalabradevida.com (Christ Word of Life) serves as a digital newsletter for Spanish speakers. The site, which is geared toward Lutherans in our fellowship, contains daily audio devotions, Christian resources in Spanish, and news about confessional Lutheranism.


Rachel Hartman and her husband, Missionary Michael Hartman, serve in León, Mexico.

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HELP WELS REACH THE WORLD

Your offering to WELS Missions will help more missionaries go to more places and share the gospel with more people.

700x150-Ad-MissionsAd

 

Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

A New Way to Reach Spanish Speakers: Online resources lead to on-the-ground mission work

ONLINE RESOURCES LEAD TO ON-THE-GROUND-MISSION WORK

Rachel Hartman

Once a week, nine individuals gather in Ferney Santofimio’s apartment. They come to study God’s Word and learn more about the Bible, and they are thankful for the opportunity: there is no Lutheran church in their city of Ibagué, Colombia.

For the study, Santofimio uses resources he has gathered through his time studying through academiacristo.com, which offers free Christian materials for Spanish speakers everywhere.

Academia Cristo is great for both new and experienced Christians that don’t have a nearby church,” explains Santofimio.

In addition to opening his home once a week, Santofimio attends weekly online worship through the website iglesialuteranacristo.com.

Santofimio first learned of these resources when he was going through a difficult time in his life and was searching for a source of truth. In 2014, Santofimio, who has a wife and three children, left his government job after a number of disagreements. “At first, this brought on an economic crisis in my life, as well as family and emotional issues,” he recalls. “Due to this, I decided to look for a place or website that taught the Word of God.”

He diligently searched online and also visited different churches in Ibagué, a city of about 500,000. “Many of these preached God’s grace and salvation by faith, but they also emphasized things we had to do, such as fast and tithe,” he says. “They said in order to have God listen to us and offer his help, we had to obey certain things. I didn’t understand this.”

Then he saw a Facebook message that had just two words: “Academia Cristo.” It caught his attention, and after looking at the site, Santofimio signed up to learn more. About a week later, Henry Herrera, a Lutheran pastor serving eight hours away in Medellín, Colombia, called Santofimio to talk more. Then Herrera visited Santofimio to give him some materials to study.

After the visit, Santofimio started studying once a week with Herrera and became a member of the church. “I am so blessed to have found people who encourage me to read and study the Bible in its truth,” says Santofimio. “This was one of my goals, and in the past, it was frustrating for me to not find a place that taught the Bible as it is.”

Today, Santofimio, who has a degree in education, teaches at a number of schools in his area. He also looks for ways to share the message of salvation with others. “I have been able to recognize God’s immense mercy in my life,” he notes. “And I have the chance to share God’s love and mercy as well.”


Rachel Hartman and her husband, Missionary Michael Hartman, serve in León, Mexico.

MISSION STORIES

Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.

HELP WELS REACH THE WORLD

Your offering to WELS Missions will help more missionaries go to more places and share the gospel with more people.

700x150-Ad-MissionsAd

 

Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

New worker training program starting in Cameroon

The Lutheran Church of Cameroon is taking a big step toward becoming an independent church body by calling its first full-time Cameroonian teacher and dean of students for its worker training program in Kumba, Cameroon. Rev. Mesue Israel, the church’s only second-generation pastor, has accepted the call. Plans are to start the program in September.

“[Having] a Cameroonian man on campus will help to make this a truly Cameroonian worker training program,” says Rev. Daniel Kroll, missionary in Cameroon. “That means that much application will be made to ministry in Cameroon that we from WELS might not be able to understand or explain.”

Israel has been a pastor in the Lutheran Church of Cameroon since his graduation in 1999. A bone disease he contracted in 2008 makes it difficult for him to move freely, which, Kroll says, allows him to study more. “He has been outspoken and is not afraid to tackle hard issues; he is straight-forward and fair,” says Kroll. “Pastor Israel gives credit to God for teaching him perseverance through the difficulties of his disease and his ministry.”

Israel will be responsible for teaching several of the courses as well as for enforcing rules for campus life. The campus has modest dormitories where students will live from September through mid-May, with two weeks off at the end of each quarter to go home to see their families and tend their crops. After the two-year Bible institute, students will immediately begin three years of seminary studies and then be eligible for a call.

Currently 10 pastors serve 32 congregations in Cameroon. Thirteen men have been selected from among 31 certified assistants to start classes this fall. These certified assistants have had limited training but help their supervising pastor with keeping records, teaching Sunday school, and occasional preaching.

Having a Cameroonian man involved in the training of church workers is important for the future of the Lutheran Church of Cameroon. “Funding, health issues, government regulations, and a host of other matters can create problems for us keeping a missionary here,” says Kroll. This is actually the first active called worker training program in Cameroon since 1999 because of turnover in missionaries and other issues.

He continues, “But even if there is a lack of a missionary (or inconsistency thereof), we hope to create a program that will have some consistency for many years to come.”

Learn more about the Lutheran Church of Cameroon at wels.net/missions and in the March issue of Forward in Christ.

 

 

Mission Stories: Japan

Blessed!

Bradley D. Wordell

I have enjoyed studying the Bible and worshiping with Reika for almost ten years. But when she started coming to our congregation in Tokyo, my “American thinking” almost caused big trouble.

At that point she had been worshiping with us for weeks, but this was her first potluck meal in our church basement. Reika was born and raised in Taiwan but had moved to Japan as a young adult. That day she had brought some Chinese food to share with everyone. While I was waiting in line, she loaded a plate with various foods from the table and brought it to me. “Pastor, this is for you.” Noticing that my choices would have been a little different, I responded, “Thank you, Reika-san, but please eat what you have chosen. I will go through the line myself.” She offered it to me one more time, but my mind was set.

 

Download a PowerPoint slideshow showing the WELS mission work in Japan.

I had sent the signal to Reika that I did not appreciate her kind gesture. When I realized my blunder later that week, we talked about it. We both came to understand better what the other was thinking during that incident. I apologized. She forgave me. The problem was resolved.

This story is a good illustration of Reika’s life: Reika is a foreigner in Japan, holding out a plate to others. That plate is heaping with the Bread of Life. At first people are not interested. But through her witnessing, many people have come to know, as she does, how blessed the Lord’s people are.

Verses from Psalm 1 help share more of Reika’s story.

NOT IN THE SEAT OF MOCKERS

In this world, we encounter sin every day. Sadly, we sometimes “walk in step with the wicked.” Our sinful flesh wants us to keep company with certain sins; we “stand in the way that sinners take.” How horrible it is when the hardened hearts of people have them living in the camp that is opposed to the Lord. All people are born into that camp, “[sitting] in the company of mockers.” Some people remain there all their lives.

The Lord rescued Reika out of the idolatry of two Asian nations. She remembers as a child the burning of “ghost money” and pretend items, with the purpose of sending help to dead ancestors. Her family also offered real food and drinks to keep those ancestors happy. Angry ancestors might cause problems for their descendants living on earth. Religion in Taiwan taught Reika about good works, religious ceremonies, respect for elders and ancestors, good and bad spirits, the enlightenment of Buddha, and detachment from the world.

As a young adult, Reika moved to Japan and later married a Japanese man. They were blessed with one daughter, Commy, who is now a college student. The religions of Japan, with their millions of gods and countless festivals, did not offer Reika any more hope. In Japan “one-god-religions” are considered narrow-minded and dangerous—the main reason for hatred and war in the world.

In the seat of mockers, some people are defiant against the Lord; others just don’t know what they are doing. Reika is blessed not to be in that seat any longer.

WHOSE DELIGHT IS IN THE LAW OF THE LORD

The Lord led Reika to a Christian church in Japan. As she heard the good news about Jesus, the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of her heart to see the glory of the Savior. She and her daughter were baptized. Later they moved to our neighborhood and visited our church. Through English worship on Saturday nights, Japanese worship on Sunday mornings, and a weekday study of Luther’s Small Catechism in her home, Reika grew in the grace and knowledge of her Savior. She became a member through adult confirmation.

The family decided that Commy would benefit from Christian education in the States. She attended St. Croix Lutheran High School in Minnesota and was supported by her host family, her local congregation, and the faculty and students. With the use of modern technology Reika and Commy were able to read and discuss the weekly sermons—mostly in English and Japanese, but sometimes in Chinese. Commy was confirmed in the States.

Reika’s Bible, catechism, and sermon copies are full of handwritten notes—a testimony to her love of God’s Word. She is like a tree planted by a stream, drinking in the water of God’s Word. She is blessed!

WHATEVER THEY DO PROSPERS

Reika has her own business; she runs an aesthetic salon. Reika’s clients are women who come to her salon for beauty treatments. Through her study of God’s Word, Reika has come to appreciate that everything she has is a gift from her Father in heaven. She wants her business to give glory to God. Every week she gives a portion of her income to support her congregation. In her contact with clients, she is always looking for opportunities to share the hope that she has. Clients can see Bible pamphlets in her salon. When people tell her their problems, she is quick to talk about the solution to all life’s problems. She will ask, “May I say a prayer for you?”

The weekday Bible study in her home (one floor above her salon) is often attended by clients she has invited. She invites and brings them to weekend worship too. She speaks the Word of God to them, telling them what she knows. Of the people baptized at Aganai Lutheran Church in Tokyo in the last ten years, Reika can say, “Eleven of them, though they were served in many other ways as well, attended Bible classes with the pastors in my home.” Reika considers it a privilege to be one of God’s instruments, working with the other members of her church family to reach the lost.

Included in the people she has reached are her sister-in-law, her sister-in-law’s daughters, and her own father, who came from Taiwan to visit her. He was made a child of God through baptism in April of 2015 at the age of 81.

The Lord has blessed Reika and prospered her work in his kingdom.

THE LORD WATCHES OVER THE WAY OF THE RIGHTEOUS

Reika has many favorite Bible passages, but she would put Psalm 1 at the top of her list. She knows that she is one of the “righteous” because she has a Savior—a redeemer who has paid for her sins. She says, “I have learned that God loves me even though I am not perfect. I know my sins and how important it is to repent and believe the good news. The most important thing in my life now is my Savior, Jesus. I want to proclaim God’s Word all my life.”

Brad Wordell is the world mission professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin. He served as pastor/missionary at Aganai Lutheran Church in Tokyo from 1999 until 2015


 

LUTHERAN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH IN JAPAN
Year mission work began:
1957
Baptized members: 378
Congregations: 6
Preaching stations: 2
National pastors: 4

Unique fact: The LECC is a founding member church of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, a group of 29 member churches worldwide that provides a forum for confessional Lutherans who are in fellowship.

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Author: Bradley D. Wordell
Volume 102, Number 11
Issue: November 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Japanese congregation celebrates 50 years

For 50 years, the members of Aganai Lutheran Church in Japan have been sharing the message that their name proclaims—redemption through Jesus—in a country where it is estimated that only one percent of the people are Christian.

The congregation celebrated its 50th anniversary Oct. 12 with a special worship service, featuring a sermon delivered by Rev. Kermit Habben, who served in Japan for 41 years, 28 of which were at Aganai Lutheran Church. A potluck and slideshow followed the service.

“It meant so much for us to have a former missionary couple who had spent more than 25 years in Aganai attend our special event,” says Kaori Egawa, a member at Aganai. “We were encouraged by Pastor Habben’s sermon to renew our commitment to serve the Lord faithfully until we reach our heavenly home. We truly wish to do so in Aganai Church with the help of God.”

More than 145 people attended events throughout the day, including the three other national pastors of the Lutheran Evangelical Christian Church (LECC), WELS’ sister church in Japan. “Celebrating 50 years of ministry in Japan was not just a closed event for the members but one of the biggest outreach events we ever had. It was wonderful that many people who have lost close contact responded to our invitation,” says Egawa. “God blessed us with beautiful weather that day, and it became a great chance to tell our non-Christian friends and family about our church history and share our faith in Jesus Christ.”

The congregation works hard to spread God’s Word in its community. Egawa says that includes inviting members’ friends and families to the congregation’s café for coffee and snacks as well as offering special children’s events, parenting classes, and lunch parties. The congregation also has Bible classes, Sunday school, and worship in English on Saturday nights and in Japanese on Sundays.

“The appearance of our church building has served as a good tool of outreach,” Egawa adds. “Our building stands out as an ‘authentic’ church in a quiet residential area in Higashikurume. When someone is looking for healing and hope and wanting to know who Jesus Christ is, seeing the church’s pointed roof and the cross becomes an encouragement for them to knock on our doors. I’ve often heard people say that they feel comfort just by looking at it and coming inside to see the wooden interior. As they join our gatherings, they soon find out that it is God’s Word and the people who stay faithful to the gospel that makes a true church!”

Aganai is one of six LECC congregations. The 110-member congregation mostly has been served by WELS missionaries but now has a resident Japanese pastor, one of four for this national church body. The LECC currently has 378 members and no resident missionaries.

Says Egawa, “We ask you to continue to keep us in your prayers as we walk with you the narrow road to heaven.”

Learn more about Aganai Lutheran Church and the LECC in the November issue of Forward in Christ or at wels.net/missions. Or visit the congregation’s website, www.tokyoaganai.com.

View a slideshow from Japan.

 

More workers for the harvest field

Two seminary graduations in fields connected to WELS Missions took place this month.

A new pastor, Iliyan Boykov Itsov, was ordained as the sixth pastor of the Bulgarian Lutheran Church (BLC) on Sept. 5. Rev. Michael Ewart, chairman of the Board for World Missions Europe Administrative Committee, preached the sermon at the ordination. Rev. John Vogt, WELS regional coordinator for Eastern Europe, and Mr. Ron Drecktrah, another member of the Europe Committee, were also at the service held in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The new pastor was issued a call by the Europe Committee to be the coordinator for outreach to Romani, also known as “gypsies.” “Itsov, himself a Romani, is uniquely qualified to reach out across Europe to the Romani people since he has worked in several countries of western Europe and speaks seven languages,” says Vogt. Using his home congregation in the village of Dunavtsi as his base, Itsov will work with WELS Multi-Language Publications to prepare literature as well as seek to establish congregations as the Lord opens doors.

“Since there are family and clan links among the Romani people all across the world and since there is one basic Romani language used globally, it is the prayer of the Europe Committee that this new project can reach many for Christ in many locations,” says Vogt. Several European sister churches have already expressed interest in and given support to this new ministry.

Founded by WELS Missions in 1994, the Bulgarian Lutheran Church has six pastors serving four congregations and 355 baptized souls. The BLC’s leader has asked WELS to help with training three additional students. WELS does not have an expatriate missionary in Bulgaria.

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Graduates from the Christ Evangelical Luther Ministries seminary program in India.

In Asia, 12 men graduated on Sept. 10 from the seminary program of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Ministries (CELM) in India. Another 40 men are currently studying while serving congregations on a part-time basis.

Two friendly counselors help train these national pastors as well as work with existing congregations and national pastors. Forty-five national pastors serve 5,500 souls in 120 congregations. In addition, CELM operates seven children’s homes that care for the physical and spiritual needs of more than 200 children and Gentle Shepherd Lutheran School that provides a Christian education for 220 children. WELS also supports a translation and publications program that provides Christian literature in both Telugu and Hindi languages.

“World Missions works hard to train workers from within a culture to pick up the gospel work in that location,” says Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions. “They know the people. They know the language. God makes them ready for the challenge. Every seminary graduation in these far-off places is an answer to the prayer Jesus asked us to pray, ‘Lord, send out workers into your harvest field.’ ”

Learn more at wels.net/missions.

 

 

Ten years at Asia Lutheran Seminary

Asia Lutheran Seminary (ALS) in Hong Kong celebrated its tenth anniversary during the month of May. Special events included a banquet dinner, an anniversary worship service, and a lecture series by ALS’ former president, Dr. John Lawrenz.

“These three nights of lectures not only showed the Christ-centered nature of the Old Testament to our students and visitors but were excellent examples of the Christ-centered nature of Asia Lutheran Seminary and all of its teaching,” says Dr. Glen Thompson, one of the four full-time ALS professors.

Since 2009, ALS has graduated 27 people with theological degrees, with all but two trained to serve as full-time workers in East Asia. More than 20 visiting professors from the United States have helped with the training. The seminary also provides the opportunity to help laypeople grow in their knowledge of their Savior and confessional Lutheranism. Seventy-five percent of the 100 current students will remain laypeople in their congregations, “creating a proper theological leaven in their church body as teachers and leaders,” says Dr. Steve Witte, ALS president.

In addition, a satellite seminary has started in East Asia. Six students graduated with bachelor of theology degrees in November 2014. Another group of six men from various metropolises throughout East Asia will start training this year.

The Translation Working Group, which translates, produces, and distributes confessional Lutheran materials in Chinese, also is based at Asia Lutheran Seminary.

“Through the workers ALS has trained, ALS has given legs to our vision of establishing Lutheran churches in East Asia,” says Field Coordinator Rob Siirila. “God has used ALS instruction to deepen the theological roots of our sister church in Hong Kong. Finally, by wisely using the resources given by God through WELS, ALS is firmly positioned to be a clear voice for evangelical Lutheran theology in Asia!”

Learn more about ALS at www.wels.net/missions. You can also view and download a PowerPoint presentation on ALS and our sister church in Hong Kong, South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission, at www.wels.net/images.