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We thank God for you!

Dear Friend,

Is it proper to thank Christians for their acts of service and gifts of love? The apostle Paul did, but notice where he puts the emphasis: “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3).

Paul thanked God for the good accomplished through God’s people. Today we give thanks to God for the acts of service you offer for the benefit of those in need through your support of WELS Christian Aid and Relief and other WELS ministries.

Working together through WELS Christian Aid and Relief, we provide financial assistance, food, medicine, and supplies to people suffering from natural disasters and extreme medical and financial difficulties. We thank God for moving his people to generously support our recent relief efforts in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean. Because of these gifts to our hurricane fund, we are amply supplied with the funds needed to complete this recovery effort.

In addition to disaster relief, we also support humanitarian aid projects in our WELS home and world mission fields. These projects help our missionaries reach out to the people of their communities with love and concern to build bridges to proclaim the gospel. This past year your gifts enabled us to fund $327,000 in humanitarian aid projects to meet community needs like:

  • Medical equipment and supplies for health clinics in Thailand, Pakistan, India, and Nepal
  • Fresh water wells for people in India and Malawi
  • Food and medicine for people in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Albania, Mexico, and Indonesia
  • Financial assistance for WELS Central Africa Medical Mission
  • Sewing classes and textbooks in Nepal
  • Welcome packets and assistance to new legal immigrants through several home mission congregations serving cross-cultural neighborhoods

(For a complete list of projects and updates on how offerings are being used, go to wels.net/relief. Also, “like” us on Facebook at facebook.com/WELSChristianAidAndRelief.)

One example of how humanitarian aid is opening doors to share the gospel: In a country where Muslims are 97 percent of the population, an elderly man approached our doctor at a free medical clinic in a small community. He said to the doctor, “I know your God is the true God because I see his love in you.”

Dear Christian friend, our WELS missionaries are continually exploring new ways to use humanitarian aid as a bridge to share the gospel. Please consider a gift to support our humanitarian aid projects in the 2018-2019 fiscal year to enable pastors and missionaries to use every possible means to reach people for Christ. We thank God for your prayers and ongoing support!

In Christ,
Pastor Robert Hein
Chairman, WELS Christian Aid and Relief
Phone: 262-334-7881

It’s Rally Day!

In 1918, Missionary Edgar Guenther established Open Bible Lutheran Church of Whiteriver, Ariz., one of 9 current WELS churches on the Apache reservation. In the past on Rev. Guenther’s birthday, we set aside time to rally the “troops”; or rather, the members! That was years and years and pastors and pastors ago. We all loved (and needed) that day. The members started asking present Apache Pastor, Kirk Massey, if they could have Rally Day again.

“We sure can. We should rally the members back to church.” said Pastor Massey. However, with a congregation of over 1,000 members, Pastor Massey had his hands full. Many members had stopped coming to church for one reason or the other, and Pastor Massey was making sure to follow up. Many came to church, but also needed their pastor daily. He needed some help and suggested to the ladies, “If you can find some people to organize a big Rally Day – we can have it, but I won’t be able to devote much ministry time to organizing it.”

Brenda Lee wanted to have Rally Day, but she needed help. After asking around, she found help in her Christian sisters at Open Bible Lutheran Church.

Rally Day organizer and Open Bible member, Brenda Lee

“The goal of Rally Day was to bring back straying and lost members into the church. To welcome them with awesome worship, joy-filled fellowship, games, and delicious food.” exclaims Brenda Lee. “And that is what happened – all to God’s glory!”

With a budget of $500, the ladies organized egg and balloon tosses, music, miniature horse rides, lots of games for kids, cream pie throwing at our pastors and teachers (that was a big hit), and a fry-bread making contest for the ladies. Pastor Massey built the fry bread fire, he and the church men were the judges, and the ladies went to work making the traditional fry bread. The fry bread winner received homemade banana bread! In the end, everyone won as they enjoyed traditional fry bread and beans, a potluck of side dishes, and fried chicken brought in from the local grocery store.

Now that Rally day has ended, the ladies can’t stop talking about what else they can do to aid in fellowship and encouragement:

  • Could our other Lutheran reservation churches hold more joint events?
  • Could we host more fellowship days where we could offer support and encouragement to visitors?
  • Is there a way we can gather to offer support for the recovery group attendees from the local neighborhoods and encourage more people to go into recovery from alcohol, drugs, anger and harmful habits?
  • The men said they’d like to teach the women to play horseshoes… can we make an event out of that?

“There are some awesome Christian fellowship opportunity there.” says Brenda Lee, whose head is spinning with all the possibilities.

Her question to other reservation churches and to YOU reading this is:

What can you be a part of organizing at your church that will offer support and encouragement to members who have strayed and to brand new visitors? How can you help strengthen those who are regulars by giving them an opportunity to serve?”

That’s a great question for all of us.

Brenda Lee is a member at Open Bible Lutheran Church in Whiteriver, Ariz. 

Written by: Debbie Dietrich, Native American Mission Communication Coordinator

The Apache World Mission field celebrates 125 years of God’s blessings in 2018. For more information on anniversary celebration plans or to learn how your church can host an Apache Mission Festival Sunday, contact Debbie at nativechristians1@gmail.com. 

To see more photos from the Apache Mission, visit the WELS Mission Flickr page.


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Celebrating WELS Missions

On Sunday, Jan. 28, St. John, Jefferson, Wis., celebrated WELS World Missions by hosting a church mission festival and corresponding school cultural fair.

Rev. Tim Dolan, chairman of the Native American Administrative Committee for WELS World Missions, preached two mission festival services and gave a presentation about Apache mission work during Bible class. Activities moved across the street to St. John’s elementary school after the second service, where a cultural fair then took place.

Principal Peter Lemke, who organized the fair, has a personal connection to WELS Missions: “When I was a young child my father accepted a call to teach at East Fork Lutheran High School, located on the Apache Indian Reservation, where we lived for seven years. I was also blessed to visit our missions in Malawi and Zambia when my parents served as missionaries there. Once you personally experience this work, you can’t help but come away with a better understanding of the need to continue mission work. It is truly a life changing experience.”

In an effort to include parents in the learning experience, each family worked together to create a display from one of the countries where WELS is currently conducting mission work or is in fellowship with a sister church body. “Passports” were handed out at the door to encourage everyone to visit other displays to receive a sticker for their books. The children sang songs in different languages, and each family brought a potluck dish specific to their country.

Kinsley, a first-grader at St. John’s, was excited to share about her world mission field. She noted, “I learned that missionaries in Mexico sometimes have to communicate through the Internet to share Jesus with other people. It was super fun to work on my project with my mom and dad!”

Megan, mom to a second-grader, was also impressed with the event. “This project was a great way to not only learn with my kids but open my eyes to all of the mission work our church body is actually doing.”

For an event guide to host a cultural fair along with your next mission festival, visit the WELS Missions Resource Center. To request a mission speaker for your event, visit wels.net/speaker-request. In addition to mission festivals and cultural fairs, mission speakers are also available for school assemblies, women’s and men’s conferences, and Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society rallies.

View photos from the event:

 

Faith and Love in Action – Africa

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Are you a planner? I am. At this time of year many people plan what they’d like to accomplish during the year and beyond. As I finish my term of service with the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM), I am starting to make some plans for what comes next. Though planning of some degree is wise and sensible, what happens when plans are upset? Do you feel frustrated or angry, wondering where you went wrong or questioning the wisdom of God?

Many people greet the New Year hoping for prosperity. But how do you define prosperity? Is it based solely on your net worth, or is it based on what you share, be that time, money, or skill? Your definition of prosperity could depend on your definition of “enough”. But what if you don’t have all you need? Does that mean God’s plans for you fizzled, or His promises don’t apply to you?

Some of the rural Malawians that the Lutheran Mobile Clinic serves are wrestling with very grim situations, just like many other people throughout the world. Grave illnesses, the death of the main breadwinner, flood, drought, the breakup of families and other consequences of living in a sinful world have snuffed out the survival and prosperity plans of some of these people. In these circumstances it is easy to forget that God is watching and intervening for their good. Hope is fleeting and future prosperity seems impossible. They may fear that God is guessing, rather than knowing His plans for their lives. They may wonder if God’s promises apply to them.

This is where organizations like CAMM and Christian Aid and Relief come in. We understand, by the grace of God, that His promise in Jeremiah is to us, just as it was to the Israelites who, being carried off into exile, were most certainly wondering about their future. However, as volunteers, donors, and those who pray for these “faith and love in action” organizations, we also understand this promise is not just to us; it is also about us.

Believing that God is the source of every blessing and that everything belongs to Him, we are free to use everything He has given to care for ourselves as we care for others. Because God places us and gives to or withholds from each of us as He sees fit, there is always something you can do for someone in need, whatever that need looks like. Perhaps you have nothing but time; be a full-time volunteer. Maybe God has given you money; give wisely and generously. Have you identified and developed the talents with which you were blessed? Use them in service, wherever you are. Are you enduring a season of life where time is limited, money is tight and you’re unsure of or unable to use your skills? Be a prayer warrior and expect the Lord’s guidance in His time.

Will this be a prosperous year for you? It might depend on your definition of prosperity. However, no matter what sort of year this turns out to be, we are confident in God’s providence, and privileged to share with others, because God is faithful and He never breaks His promises.

Written by: Amanda Artz, Clinic Administrator at the Lutheran Mobile Clinic in Lilongwe, Malawi

P.S. – Want to learn more about the Central Africa Medical Mission (CAMM)? Visit their website at www.camm.us or follow them on Facebook


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Our Chair Problem – With a Surprising Outcome

The Peridot-Our Savior’s Mission Elementary School has been growing each year. It’s a combined school serving Peridot Lutheran Church (on the school campus), Grace Lutheran in San Carlos (4 miles away) and Our Savior Lutheran in Bylas (25 miles to the East). There are three towns on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, and each one is blessed to have their own Lutheran Church.

Students from Peridot-Our Savior’s Lutheran School

In the past five years, the school has grown from 60 students to 70, 80, 110 and now 127 students!

This is an AWESOME blessing from God!
… but this was a HUGE problem for the Peridot-Our Savior’s Christmas Service!

  • None of our churches have enough space to put 127 children, 10 teachers and 300 parents, aunties, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, and community visitors
  • All together, our three churches do not even have 200 folding chairs
  • Renting chairs is $1 a chair, and the rental company wasn’t sure they had more than 100
  • Peridot-Our Savior’s had exhausted it’s budget by putting up a much needed addition in order to accommodate most of the people wanting to send their kids to our Lutheran school
  • It was Bylas’ (25 miles from the school) turn to host this service

And so the school board went to work solving this awesome problem. We needed seating for 127 children, 10 teachers and maybe close to 300 people.

The Apache Tribal office allows tribal members to reserve the Stanley Recreation Hall (a gym) for free! The men of the Bylas Church Council were on it and agreed, that even though we’ve never held a Christmas service outside of one of our churches, it was necessary. They secured the gym and prayed people would come. However, Stanley Hall only owns 75 folding chairs. We wanted 300 chairs – just in case that many came.

The School Board came together and contacted the Apache Gold Casino. They had 200 chairs.

That would help!

For a reimbursable down-payment – they were ours to use. We just had to find men, trucks to pick them up, and a crew to set them up approximately two hours before the service would start because the gym would be used till that time.

After lots of up and downs…

“I can haul chairs.” – “Now I can’t haul the chairs, neither can I, neither can I”.
“You can set up early.” – “You now have to wait three more hours to set up.”
“Some of our chairs are broken.”
“The alternative high school kids will set up the chairs.” – “The alternative high school kids can’t set up the chairs any more.”

… it actually came together and worked!

Robert Olivar, a Bylas church councilman, brought family to help set up chairs. Liza Stanley brought relatives to help decorate. Wilfred and Jayson Stanley hauled chairs. Loren Victor and Beverly Robertson came to sing solos with the kids, the teachers handled last minute signage, and the children came to proclaim the good news.

But the BIG story is, 300 people did NOT come…

Over 550 people came! The gym was filled with almost 700 people including the students… Standing, on bleachers, against the side walls.

The Savior the children proclaimed and the people worshiped was the Savior that took care of all the details. The Savior that has taken care of our biggest problem, sin, also took care of our littlest problem (that we incorrectly thought was big) – chairs!

The Service, Reformation 500 Christmas: Promise Foretold. Gospel Retold. To Scripture We Hold, rang out boldly to more people that any of us expected!

Ben Pagel is principal of Peridot-Our Savior’s Lutheran School. He and Pastor Joe Dietrich of Bylas cannot thank the Apache men of the Peridot-Our Savior School Board and Bylas Church Council enough for all they did to make the school Christmas Service happen! These Apache Lutheran leaders are taking this 1st WELS world mission to new heights. Keep them and their work in your prayers.

To see more photos from the Apache Mission, visit the WELS Mission Flickr page.

The Apache World Mission field celebrates 125 years of God’s blessings in 2018. For more information on anniversary celebration plans or to learn how your church can host an Apache Mission Festival Sunday, contact Debbie Dietrich, Native American Mission Communication Coordinator, at nativechristians1@gmail.com. 


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We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Sean Young, Director of Missions Operations, and his wife Kirsten visited our WELS mission field in the area around Novosibirsk, Russia in October 2017. Kirsten documented their stay:

It really hit me at 12:30am when we were standing on the tarmac in rainy Moscow, all trying to get on the plane at once, that “we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

I have met and spoken with both Missionary Luke Wolfgramm and his wife Jennifer before, and I really enjoyed our conversations in the past. I knew we would be very comfortable as their guests during our stay. Our first day in Novosibirsk was spent adjusting to the time change in the fresh air of the Siberian countryside, while getting to know some of the national pastors and vicars. After some much needed recuperation, I could fully enjoy Sunday church services with our Russian brothers and sisters.

We attended two churches, one in Iskitim and the other in Akadem. I didn’t realize how lost I was going to feel during the services. I really wanted to follow along during the first service because I recognized the music, but I could not place where they were. I then realized that’s what it must be like for others to try and hear God’s Word in someone else’s language. Thankfully, we had a wonderful translator in Kate Wolfgramm. During the second service in Akadem I was able to find a Russian hymnal to follow along more and sing some of the hymns. The choir sang during the service and it was so wonderful to just listen and let the Holy Spirit work in my heart since I couldn’t understand the words.

Jennifer Wolfgramm prepares the Children’s Choir in Iskitim

While Sean met with the Russian pastors and took care of the mission operations business during the trip, Jennifer Wolfgramm showed me around Novosibirsk to take in the sights. We toured multiple art museums and cathedrals. From an artist point of view everything was fantastic! But from a Christian’s point of view (who knows the truths of scripture) it was sad to see people not only praying, but KISSING the frames of paintings and relics of either Mary or the Saints. I wanted to go around telling everyone they didn’t need to do that! One of the chapels we tried to visit was closed… but what was even more sad was the lady that spoke with us and conveyed that she was hoping the chapel was open so she could light a candle and say a prayer to a saint because her grandson was sick. Again, I wanted to explain to her that she can just pray to Jesus.

I’m sure I would be thrown in jail quickly if I lived in a foreign mission field.

Kirsten Young with a Russian Shut-In

The Sunday before we left, we were again blessed to attend church in Iskitim. I was prepared this time, making sure to grab a Bible and hymnal from the apartment we were staying in. We only needed Kate to translate the sermons. It was spiritually uplifting (and made me cry both times) to receive communion at both churches with people half way around the world – knowing that they believe in the same thing as me. After church, I got to help Jennifer teach Sunday school to the preschoolers. I helped a 4-year-old boy put together a craft, which was amazing that we could complete it since neither of us knew what the other was saying.

When I think about our visit, I still get chills thinking about prayers we said together – to think that even halfway around the world they’re still understood and applied the way we apply it and the way God intended. We can’t say enough how wonderful of hosts the Wolfgramms are! Thank you, God, for the experience of a lifetime!

Want to see more photos and videos from their trip? Visit the WELS Missions Flickr Album.

Cultural Insights:

  • The Greek Orthodox church is the only religion allowed to freely practice anywhere in the country by the Russian government
  • Russian meals usually start with 2-3 different kinds of cold salads
  • Russians don’t like to pass around food dishes at mealtime – there are always 2-3 different dishes of the same thing spread out around the table.
  • Russians don’t talk in public. They all have their pashminas (scarves) around their necks and usually a phone in hand.
  • Russians see an empty glass as one that NEEDS to be filled (this one we figured out on our own)


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Not a Bite Left, but a Hunger for More

We wanted all members to come together for fellowship. It didn’t work. We wanted everyone to hang out after church and visit. It didn’t work.

HOWEVER, something else worked! We didn’t see it at first…

Our Savior’s Lutheran in Bylas, Ariz. hosted their annual Christmas Dinner – a Mexican Fiesta on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Church was full that morning. The dinner was for all the members. As requested, after church and Bible class the members were given extra time to go home, get their dishes and bring them back for the potluck an hour later.

Only it didn’t work. Most of the congregation members didn’t come back. At first we hardly had anyone and not many dishes to pass at the Mexican Fiesta potluck. YIKES! “I was worried, even though I know I shouldn’t worry and God will work things out.” exclaimed Cecelia, the president of the Ladies Group.

And then enough dishes came. Several families came. Community members who hadn’t been to church in years and several interested neighborhood children came – children who invited their parents who wouldn’t come but said their kids could come. People who had heard about the “Mission Church” and had seen us at community events came.

And so, IT DID WORK. We served food to all of our guests, and some even took extra plates for relatives at home. The last person to eat found one piece of everything left! It was really quite miraculous. Several community members were able to get to know our members. Some even exchanged cell phone numbers so they could join in future events. Members brought friends and family who hadn’t met the pastor yet (who has been here for a full year now) and made solid connections with invites to visit.

There wasn’t a bite of food left at the end – but miraculously we had enough food for everyone and extra for them to take home to hungry relatives that live in their family trailers. And everyone left with a hunger for more Christian fellowship!

Cecelia was satisfied and happy. She had prayed God would use this opportunity to God’s Glory and accomplish whatever He wanted. And for her, she once again learned what we all often have to be shown over and over: that we don’t have to worry. God will always use our efforts to His good plans and for the people He loves!

Cecelia Dillon has served as Ladies Group leader at Our Savior’s Lutheran in Bylas, Ariz. for years – maybe decades. She, her husband and her young and grown children often organize and serve at fellowship gatherings, demonstrating the gift of hospitality that often opens the doors to sharing the Gospel with others.

The Apache World Mission field celebrates 125 years of God’s blessings in 2018. For more information on anniversary celebration plans or to learn more about this world mission field, contact Debbie Dietrich, Native American Mission Communication Coordinator, at nativechristians1@gmail.com. 


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Time to Tell the Story

One of the many differences about living and working in East Asia is this time of year, Christmas-time. Instead of reminding everyone about the “real meaning” of Christmas or reading about how we need to stop the materialism and stress to enjoy Christmas, I’ve found that over here I more often get to share the answer to this most basic question: “What is Christmas?” Each time I’m asked the question, I’m given another chance to sling my well-rehearsed What-Is-Christmas story. And, “well-rehearsed” is the right word. I probably told the Christmas story individually over 30 times last year. That’s a lot of telling and retelling. Last year, as Christmas drew closer I thought, “I’ll be glad when this is over because I’ve been telling the same story so many times”. I was getting flashbacks of practicing for Christmas pageants as a child, mechanically shout-speaking the words of Luke 2, “IN THOSE DAYS CAESAR AUGUSTUS…” But as Christmas arrived, my attitude was refocused as I got to thinking…

First, I appreciate the opportunity to focus the Christmas story. Sometimes we pack the nativity scene with extra characters, metaphorically and literally, finding every possible story that relates to Christmas to give it a fresh look. However, I’ve found that retelling the simple story of Luke 2 helps me cut it down to the basics. The conditions tell us Jesus’ beginning was a humble one, yet the angels tell us this was a massive event. After telling it so many times, I find myself ending the story by saying something like, “Basically God loved us so much he sent his own son to save us.”

It’s after telling people this focused message over and over that I see just how important this event is. This is God’s love put into action. Here is where I consider myself blessed to have heard other aspects of the Christmas story – of all those who waited for a Savior, or of those who scoured the writings for news about his coming, or about how so many promises of God were completed in this birth. It’s such an important point that I have to add it to my retelling. Unfortunately, I can’t share every detail every time without drawing a blank stare, but I’ll keep working on it. Nonetheless, all those facts tell me that Jesus’ birth is a massively important event – for me and for the person I’m telling it to.

Be like the Bethlehem shepherds, sharing the news of Christ’s birth

That leads me to these thoughts: How can I feel worn out from telling this amazing and important story?! And, how could it feel old when these people are hearing this news for the first time ever?! At Christmas, I’m excited to play the role of a shepherd of Bethlehem who goes throughout the city telling people “about this child.” I’m able to do this because our synod loves these people so much that they support and allow me to live over here to tell them. It’s even more exciting to see the people that have learned the Christmas story and are now becoming “Bethlehem shepherds” themselves, telling this story to others clearly and more naturally in their native language – sharing it better than I ever could.

This isn’t just a phenomenon on this side of the globe. There are people where you live that need to hear the Christmas story too, whether it’s for the first time or retold for the who-knows-how-many-time. This story is worth telling and retelling.

After thinking it through, I was excited for Christmas, and I’m excited for the new year. Let’s go tell the story of Jesus and his love.

By: A Missionary in East Asia


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A Most Blessed, Christ-filled Christmas from Malawi

Written by Missionary John Holtz for his Mission Partner Newsletter – appears on the One Africa Team blog. To learn more about the One Africa Team and their outreach efforts, subscribe to their blogs at www.oneafricateam.com or follow their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OneAfricaTeamWELS/.

I just have to smile. After all, it’s Christmas time! It’s the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I just have to smile.

I just have to chuckle, too. Christmas is also a time that I do.

Here’s why: at Christmas time my family and I display some of our nativities in remembrance of our newborn King. When setting them up and seeing them displayed, my mind immediately recalls the time I once bought a Crèche in an open air market here in Lilongwe, Malawi.

What’s so funny about that?

Picture this: Mary and Joseph and Jesus, some shepherds, the Wise men, a star,1 a cow, a couple of sheep, a donkey or two…

and a hippo.

My Nativity Scene Hippo celebrating the season

Ok, granted, it is Malawi. It is Africa. And hippopotami are abundant here. And to top it all off, it is a very different culture from the USA. But a nativity scene hippo? Hmmm… maybe this explains a few things.

For years I always pictured that Joseph was wide-eyed in amazement because of the birth of the Baby. Now I’m wondering if his eyes were like saucers because he was a bit worried and astonished that the three-toed, barrel-shaped beast with the beady eyes, big mouth, and bad breath was meandering just a bit too close to the manger.

We all love to sing Silent Night and we seem to think that all was indeed calm, but now I doubt if it was really all that quiet. I mean if

the cattle were lowing,
the sheep were baaing,
the donkeys braying,
and now the hippo gets a bit edgy and chimes in with its snorting, grunting, bellowing and blowing, then maybe the Baby was crying after all with the noise!

And yet we faithfully and confidently proclaim “No crying He makes” when we sing Away in a Manger. Yikes! Strange thoughts run through my mind! I just have to chuckle. I guess it’s fun to have fun with it. Gives a lighter side to the very important and monumental fact of Christmas:

The INCARNATION!

The “ten dollar” word that means God became Man. The second Person of the Trinity, True God, became the “first-born among many brothers,” True Man! (Romans 8:29).

Born to die!
Died to live!
Descended to earth so that we might ascend to Heaven!

That means we can sing Joy to the World with gusto all year round if we want! We have untold, incalculable, immeasurable, even indescribable joy not just on the 25th of the last month of the year. That gives us reason to worship every day of the year!

And worship we do. All around the globe Lutherans are worshiping this Christmas season. Which brings up something to ponder again at this time: Lutherans worship in different cultures and different cultures worship in different ways. Lutherans in fellowship worship in different ways. Even at Christmas.

The instruments played in your church may not be the ones in ours. Dancing choirs may be common place here, but not there. Your congregation dresses one way, but they do so very differently on the other side of the world…or maybe even on the other side of town.

There really wasn’t a hippo in the stable on that first Christmas in Bethlehem, but it didn’t seem to bother the marketer much that he included one in the nativity set he sold me. I walked away with a good deal and a good deal to ponder each Christmas in Africa: there are many differences at Christmas time in Malawi compared to an American Christmas in Wisconsin. Here are some:

  • No snow! While you may be singing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” we are opening up our umbrellas because it’s the front end of the rainy season.
  • Decorations? There are a few but there are probably more in one Wisconsin Walmart than in the whole country of Malawi.
  • I’ve never seen a Christmas tree set up in a Malawian house.
  • Strings of lights framing houses? Are you kidding? Most houses don’t have electricity hooked up and the ones that do don’t have power most of the time anyway.
  • The most common and most favorite Christmas meal in Malawi seems to be chicken and rice.
  • I have never seen or heard of a Living Nativity in Malawi enacting the Christmas story. (Maybe it’s because it’s too difficult to get the hippo to cooperate).

Plenty of differences, but there are also similarities:

God’s people gather for worship.
Sins are confessed and songs are raised.
The Word of God is preached.
The Bethlehem Story is pondered.
Gospel news shared.
Fellowship enjoyed.

The Babe in the manger is honored with humble gifts and worshiped with happy voices. I just have to smile… at the absurdity of it all. There are many things more surprising than a hippo in a Nativity set! Imagine…

A God in love with us!
A night sky of angels exploding in song!
Shepherds who seek!
A virgin birth!
A believing husband-to-be!
God becoming Man!
A leading star!
Wise men who followed and those who still do!

And there still are missionaries who live in far off lands who, at Christmas time, still set up trees, decorate their houses and string lights even though there’s little power. Some still display nativity sets… with or without a hippo. On behalf of the Lutheran Mission in Malawi, have a most blessed Christ-filled Christmas!

By: Missionary John Holtz – Malawi


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Mexico – Not Quite Potlucks and Pipe Organs

I’m a pretty WELSie (WELSy?) guy. I could bore you with details, but suffice to say I feel pretty connected to a lot of people in our synod. And I don’t consider that to be a bad thing of course! I truly enjoy seeing how God has woven together people to do his work. I enjoy a good potluck with a long line of Midwest-made casseroles. I enjoy a pipe organ blasting out the old Lutheran favorites.

But I live in Mexico and I serve as missionary in Latin America. My background and what I enjoy might not matter all that much.

In this part of the world very, very few people share my commitment to potlucks and pipe organs. Much more troubling is this: very few people share my Spirit-given understanding of God’s commitment to mankind in his Son Jesus Christ.

While the souls of men are dying (to quote a favorite hymn), you’ve got to ask yourself again and again and again:

Is the most effective way to share the Gospel the way I/we are doing it? Maybe it doesn’t need to be said again (but probably should be stated anyways) that the message will not change. Pure grace is non-negotiable… as is every other stroke of the inspired Scriptural pen.

A fellow missionary on our Latin America Missionary team, Terry Schultz, recently came to Mexico. Terry is a Doctor of Ministry with coursework in Ethnomusicology. Until his recent visit, I wasn’t 100% what that was.

As we toured around Mexico, celebrating the Reformation with a few of the widely scattered Lutherans in this country, Terry shared his songs. Songs designed to share the unchangeable message in ways that make sense to the people who are hearing them.

The confession of sins is there. The song of praise after the absolution is there. The Song of Simeon. Even a Kyrie. Many of the hymns have lyrics ripped directly from the pages of the Bible. To a pretty WELSie (WELSy) guy like me, the music was unfamiliar. Prior to spending the last 11 ½ years in a couple different countries thousands of miles south of the “WELS heartland”, to be honest the beat pounded out on a conga drum probably would have made me at least a little bit nervous.

It did not make the people in Mexico nervous at all. Most of the people who attended the workshops were long-time and/or lifetime Lutherans. They love the message of pure grace in Jesus. It is not an exaggeration to say that they were overjoyed when they heard that precious message expressed with music that makes sense to them and makes sense to the people outside their small gatherings whom they have an overwhelming desire to reach.

At first, Terry tried to get me to play a drum so that I could provide a little supporting rhythm as he played his music on our short tour. Me. The very WELSie (WELSy?) guy with an affection for casseroles and pipe organs. Wrong guy. Putting me on the conga is like putting habanero pepper in your 7-layer salad. But it’s not about me, is it? And if putting the Gospel to a cumbia beat gives our brothers and sisters the opportunity to share Jesus with just one more person, then by all possible means.

I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. – 1 Corinthians 9:22

By: Missionary Andrew Johnston – Leon, Mexico

P.S. – Want to learn more about how World Missions and Multi-Language Publications are using ethnomusicology? Check out this video.


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Thankful to Be Let Go

“I’m sorry, but I can’t be your teacher anymore …”

It is rarely enjoyable to be let go. It’s challenging when your boss tells you that he or she can no longer keep you on staff – the pain and the sadness are real. Oftentimes, it leads to us to ask, “Why is this happening to me?” and, “Where do I go from here?”

If you have ever spent significant time learning another language, more than likely you have invested in a teacher or tutor. After 3 years of serving on the East Asia mission field, I have not met a better tutor than Linda. Linda, a professional teacher in our local preschool, is encouraging to all of the skill levels that enter her classroom, and she also knows how to push each student to give their best effort (my 5-year-old son thrives in her class as one of the few foreign children). She and her husband both serve as teachers in our school system while also raising their young son without full-time daycare assistance from the grandparents, which is very uncommon where we live. On top of all of this, Linda has been my regular language tutor along with tutoring several other missionaries on our field. When the missionaries gather, the conversation often turns to the blessings of studying with Linda.

While it seems somewhat trivial to be sad over being “let go” as a student, the truth is many of us on this mission field know that Linda is one of the best. We genuinely enjoy her company! We had always told Linda that if she ever needed to step away from teaching us, we would not be upset but instead be supportive and understanding. As I considered this possibility, I never figured I would feel “thanksgiving” for Linda letting me go as a student, but that is exactly how I feel and how our mission team feels right now.

Linda and her husband Adam have a strong desire to share their Savior with the lost souls living around them. They saw potential for a new church plant in our area, and this past summer they moved to our neighborhood. For years they have been growing under the guidance of our missionaries, Friend of China teachers, and national Lutheran pastors (graduates from our seminary in Hong Kong). Part of the reason Linda was eager to tutor us was to enable us to serve the people in the local language. Now she is a part of the core group that is launching a sister church in our neighborhood this upcoming Thanksgiving weekend. Adam and Linda are answering the call to prepare this location for worship, which includes taking the time to meet with local prospects that are interested in learning about Jesus and what it means to go to church. In summary, Linda has stopped training the missionaries so that she herself could go and serve the people – her people – by sharing the Gospel in her native tongue. This is something she can do far better than any of the foreign missionaries could ever even dream of doing.

The Apostle Paul gave thanks for the work God did in the hearts of his brothers and sisters:

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 1:2

This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for our partners in ministry and their excitement to share their faith, love, and hope in Jesus. So, yes, it actually feels good to be let go because we get to watch our God accomplish great things through servants like Adam and Linda. Please keep this young church in your prayers.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving (and eat some extra turkey for the missionaries who can’t get any)!

By: A Missionary in East Asia


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Reformation Rain

Written by Missionary John Holtz for his Mission Partner Newsletter – appears on the One Africa Team blog. To learn more about the One Africa Team and their outreach efforts, subscribe to their blogs at www.oneafricateam.com or follow their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OneAfricaTeamWELS/.

It doesn’t rain in October in Malawi. October is an oven preheated to broil. The sun is intense. The heat blisters. The ground hardens. Rivers dry and the lakes recede. It never rains in October in Malawi.

But to everyone’s surprise, showers fell on the 29th of October. People are still talking about it. “Hey, did you hear…?” That was the very day that most churches in the Lutheran Church of Central Africa – Malawi Synod (LCCA-MS) were celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.

A Mother Nature mistake? A global warming mix-up? Climate change chaos?

Or…the gift of God?

I prefer the later. After all, if God controls ALL things, then doesn’t He also have command of the weather? Interestingly, as the rains pounded the roof and streaked the windows during the worship service at Our Good Shepherd in Mzimba, the liturgist Pastor Milton Nyirenda was reading the Scripture lesson:

“As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread from the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10.11)

Like lightning, it struck me: it was raining more on the inside of the church than on the outside! Not because there was a hole in the roof, but because the LORD was showering His people with His grace!

Women’s Choir from Madalitso, Malawi

A raining of the life-giving gospel message. An unending downpour of good news in Jesus. A surprising cloudburst of love and forgiveness. This rain had already started to fall in the Garden of Eden and has continued to this day. 500 years ago Martin Luther got soaked. On the 29th of October 2017, so did we. On that day in Mzimba, and throughout Malawi, God’s grace in Jesus was proclaimed, preached, taught, received, shown, sung and danced! Even drawn and colored!

The picture at the beginning of this post shows some of the northern region ladies coloring Luther’s Seal or Coat of Arms. We studied the meaning and Scripture truths behind each of the five components that make up the Seal:

  • The black cross
  • The red heart
  • The white rose
  • The blue sky
  • The gold ring

Luther’s “logo” proclaims his faith and theology and ours as well. Isn’t the cross not only the central message of Scripture, but also central to our lives? Aren’t our hearts alive in Christ and beating with His love? Aren’t we, saints dressed in the white robes of salvation, place delicately in a joyous white rose of hope? With a firm resolution, hasn’t Jesus promised His second coming? And don’t we, with eager expectation and with our spiritual eyes to the skies, look forward to it? Isn’t God’s love more precious than gold and as unending as a circle?

A resounding YES to each one! With Jesus being the Answer to each question, every one of them falls upon us like rain: cool, refreshing, invigorating, motivating.

No wonder the Lord included verse 10 in Ephesians chapter 2: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Apparently God must have been quite busy prior to the 29th of October because on that day His people were actively doing the good works He prepared for them:

Structures were erected.
Tarps were hung.
Food was prepared.
Guests served.
Dishes washed.
Hospitality was extended.
Offerings were given.
Shut-ins were visited.
Songs were sung.
Gifts were shared.
Children were taken care of.
Cups of cold water were given to thirsty people.

But there was not a greater work done that day than what God was doing for us by raining down His Grace in Word and Sacrament. Vicar Frank Mukhweya preached his sermon using the theme that was previously chosen and used by all the other LCCA-MS called workers who stood in the pulpit that day. It was the same text that is imprinted on the special Reformation chitenje (skirts) that the LCCA-MS had designed and made for this significant occasion: Chipulumutso chichokera kuchisomo (We are saved by grace).

The text was preached, the Lord’s Supper was received and God tipped the water jars. His people were doused. And if you ever wonder what the weather will be like the next time you go to your church, just open up your Bible to Ephesians 2:1-10. No matter the day or the month, there you can count on Reformation rain.

By: Missionary John Holtz – Malawi


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Will the hurting ever end?

Dear Fellow Evangelists,

Jesus said it would be this way.

Earthquakes, hurricanes, wars and rumors of war, hungry and hurting people . . . We want to help but are overwhelmed by the needs. Jesus keeps our focus clear. “All these are the beginning of birth pains . . . and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:8,14).

You can help in the best possible way. People need to know that this shaking, dangerous, and sin-sick world is not all there is. The gospel we share allows the Holy Spirit to open the gates of heaven—helplessness and hopelessness melt away with this sure hope of salvation through Christ.

Through exploration in several new countries and the support of gospel outreach in almost 50 nations, WELS World Missions is busy with preaching this gospel to the entire world. See the joy of those touched by the gospel in this short video.

Thank you for your prayers and support of world mission work through your offerings. Please consider a special gift today toward God’s plan to help the hurting. We don’t know when the next crisis will hit, but we know what the affected people need.

Working together for him,
Pastor Larry Schlomer
Administrator, WELS World Missions

MLP continues to work in South Asia

The bag weighed almost as much he did.

But that didn’t stop a pastor from South Asia from hoisting the almost 100-pound bag of Multi-Language Publication booklets onto his back and walking for hours back to his hometown. What’s even more amazing is that in the past his church had been destroyed and he had been beaten and imprisoned for worshiping his Savior and sharing his faith with others.

“It’s really a privilege and a great honor to help [people like this],” says Rev. Nathan Seiltz, director of WELS Multi-Language Publications (MLP). “Printed publications are a wonderful tool for them to reach out and do some discipleship among the people there.”

Seiltz conducted his first field visit of the area in September. While there, he was able to help conduct a leadership workshop in which 75 men and women learned more about the prison epistles Philippians and Colossians, discussed the Lutheran Reformation, and went home with self-study booklets explaining Lutheran doctrine to distribute in their communities.

This field in South Asia wouldn’t exist if not for these MLP publications. “Multi-Language Publications is the parent of these fields. It was a seed-sowing ministry and they planted so many seeds the church grew,” says WELS’ field coordinator for South Asia. “It’s a tremendous tool for our church in outreach and in discipleship training.” The church body in this area currently has 42 congregations and 14 seminary students.

Seiltz and the field coordinator also visited several local congregations and met with our national contact to discuss future plans. One idea is to develop a radio station that would include programming to teach people about Jesus. MLP also will continue to provide printed materials like these self-study booklets and The Promise, a 16-page brochure that presents the basic biblical message from the fall into sin to life in heaven. “These are the tools that people are using to share their faith with other people,” says Seiltz. “That was really encouraging to hear.”

Seiltz visited South Asia after catastrophic flooding hit the region in August and September. While he didn’t visit any of the areas affected by the flooding, he says the leadership workshop was moved and delayed a day because the flooding delayed many of the workshop attendees who had to travel. WELS Christian Aid and Relief has granted almost $20,500 to provide flood relief in South Asia. Funds will be used to purchase and deliver supplies like mattresses, blankets, and mosquito netting to people in the affected areas. Our contact says providing this help gives the opportunity to show Christ’s love in action to the different communities.

Learn more about Multi-Language Publications, which has printed more than 2.9 million items in 47 languages, at wels.net/mlp. Learn more about WELS Missions at wels.net/missions.

 

 

Grace in Indonesia

For the past 14 years, Gereja Lutheran Indonesia (GLI) has been working together with WELS as a sister church body. It has been a blessing and an honor for us to be involved together in spreading the gospel to the many people who are lost and thirsty for the truth in my country. Only the Gospel, through which the Holy Spirit works, can bring more people to know God’s plan of salvation through Tuhan Yesus Kristus – The Lord Jesus Christ.

Reformation is observed every year in Indonesia at every congregation and preaching station of GLI. As we celebrate the 500th Reformation anniversary this year, we are especially thankful for the ordination of new pastors in 2017, which brings the total of ordained ministers in GLI to 20. Also related to this year’s Reformation celebration was a church music seminar for teens and young adults, with a focus on equipping them with a better understanding of biblical music and song. Another special event was a theological conference in October for our called workers and seminary students in Indonesia that elicited specific discussions about liturgy and preaching methods.

Looking ahead, we are currently planning Vacation Bible School 2018, an exciting four day event which will include around 130 young men and women from all regions of Indonesia where GLI is doing the work of Gospel ministry. These younger members will have the opportunity to learn more about their church, their Savior, God’s Outreach Plan of Salvation, being “the next generation” of our church, and the importance of biblical knowledge in daily life. Through this special event we hope to engage more of our young people and encourage them to be involved in GLI’s ministry both now and in the future.

The expression “one size doesn’t fit all” explains the unique challenges and struggles in Indonesia since the geographic areas of ministry are many and so diverse. Some of us struggle with regulatory controls, extremism, and political tension. Others struggle with practical challenges such as the lack of electricity and even clean water in remote areas. These challenges mean that outreach is never the same from one area to another, or from one day to the next.

However, Jesus IS the one size that fits all! We must always remember these words of the Apostle Paul:

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” – Romans 1:16

The Apostle Paul encourages us to be confident in the Gospel and love the truth. When we love the truth, God will be there to guide us, to encourage us, to open our mind to a variety of ways to proclaim the gospel. We are moved and motivated by the Gospel to spread the good news to people who are lost and thirsty. The One, Jesus Christ whom we proclaim, DOES fit all. His active and passive obedience is a fit for our sinful condition. We have the definite hope that lays in the Father’s hand: salvation through Jesus Christ.

Cultural challenges will always be there to draw people away from Christ. Satan will use these to manipulate us. We in the church must work very hard so that local belief systems, customs, and traditions do not affect the beliefs of our newborn Christians. The Bible reminds us:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” – 2 Timothy 3:16

It always works well when a good portion of our church strategy in overcoming cultural challenges includes increases in attendance at Bible information classes, such as New Life in Christ and Luther’s Catechism, Bible group studies for families, and a strong focus on our youth group, because in our country the youth impacts us significantly. The church should be a place for our Christian people that feels like home. In all of this, we ask the Holy Spirit to let God’s Word create the biblical pattern in our lives.

We see only opportunities to spread the Gospel when we see every place as a green pasture. God be with us. Please keep us in your prayers, that God’s grace in Indonesia becomes a powerful message for everyone who puts their hope in our Savior Jesus Christ.

By: Pastor Mikael Simanjuntak – Gereja Lutheran Indonesia (GLI)


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God Willing, No Waiting in India

One-third listening; two-thirds waiting.  Imagine you’re teaching in a classroom and for every 10 seconds that you talk you have to pause for 20 seconds as your students sit there and wait for more.  That means you’re only teaching for one-third of the time you have with your students.  And if you’re a student that means you have to fight the temptation to drift off and zone out for two-thirds of the time you’re sitting in class!

This is just a taste of the challenge we friendly counselors in India face with our students for each seminary class we teach.  There are 22 official languages in India.  The students at the CELM Seminary primarily come from the regions of Andhra Pradesh (and Telangana) and Madhya Pradesh, where the primary languages are Telugu and Hindi, respectively.  Since our students come from the lower, Christian castes their English level is often not very high.  This means that, if we want to teach them about being shepherds for God’s flock, the English sentences we speak have to be translated into both Telugu and Hindi for each class.  One-third listening; two-thirds waiting.

Two-thirds listening, or even one-hundred percent listening in a second language?  The friendly counselors and their wives try to overcome this great challenge in a few ways.  One way is by offering English classes.  Teaching English to the students slowly increases that 1:2 listening to waiting ratio over their time at the seminary.  And God willing, by the last few years of classes they’ll be able to learn in English-only classes.  While it would still be using their second and not native language, it does give our counselors more class time to teach them God’s Word.  This also allows the students to use the numerous English resources available for Bible study and to converse more with the counselors on a deeper personal level.

One-hundred percent listening to a non-native speaker?  Conversing with the students both on a personal level and in class without a translator is the ideal situation for the friendly counselors.  Because of this, the counselors are also in the process of learning the Indian languages.  While this presents its own immense challenges, it provides another opportunity to improve that one-third listening amount.  It also equips the counselors to respond better to questions asked in class and during study periods.

One-hundred percent listening to a native speaker?  That’s the goal.  In order to get there the seminary is using a method that has already been mentioned: providing in-class translators.  How does that overcome the current listening-to-waiting ratio?  If members of our national faculty do the translating then it allows the seminary to transition better to national-led classes in the future.  The faculty members doing the translating are then, in essence, auditing the classes and preparing themselves to teach the class in the future.  This naturally leads to the ultimate goal: seminary classes in India being led and taught by Indians.  One-hundred percent listening; no time waiting.

With God’s help, the friendly counselors in India are overcoming the three-language challenge more each year.  Once one-third listening becomes one-hundred percent listening, the Lutheran pastors in India will become more effective pastors and evangelists.  That means not only will there be more listening and learning in the CELM seminary, but someday there will be even more voices singing and praising God in heaven whatever their language on earth may have been.

Brock Groth, Friendly Counselor to India


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MLP reaching Malawi and beyond

Imagine if you could speak 47 different languages. Suppose you are able to…

Greet someone in Nuer.
Ask for directions in Burmese.
Order food in Kurdish.
Say a prayer in Urdu.
Read a book in Tagalog.
Explain a concept in Mizo.
Tell an idiom in Russian.

Sound improbable?  Even impossible to speak so many languages?

Rev. Nate Seiltz1 can!

Well, to be more accurate, Multi-Language Publications can.  Rev. Seiltz, former WELS missionary to Dominican Republic and Haiti–and a Spanish speaker himself –is currently the Director of the Multi-Language Publications (MLP).  He travels the world making sure that the Word is getting out and the Word is getting in.

In homes.
In schools.
In congregations.
In hearts.

Try to wrap your head around these numbers: in its 20+ year history, MLP to date has printed over 2.9 million items2 in 47 languages!  I guess the Word has gotten around and is getting around.  But now consider Rev. Seiltz’s vision and MLPs goal:

“To reach 100 million people with the gospel in the next ten years with the additional goal of having at least 2 million people using discipleship training media produced by MLP.”

“это не мелочь”

In Russian, “It’s no small thing!” You might say, “That’s no small potatoes!”

100 million people hearing the gospel never is. Reaching even just one is not insignificant. Heaven rejoices when even one coin is found.3

If you want to meet someone passionate about reaching out to lost souls, sit down with Rev. Seiltz. He realizes the MLP potential and knows that it’s not merely about ordering food or asking for directions in many languages.

He shared this story:

“I met a young Indian man in an airport in India. He was Christian pastor…I asked him if he had any converts from Hinduism and he said ‘yes.’ I asked, ‘What are some good ways to reach them?’” He replied: ‘Really the only thing that works is the gospel.’”

Good answer. No…great answer.

So just think, in that respect, then, it is about food: Jesus, the Bread of Life4 and the Living Water!5  And it is about directions:  the one way to heaven!  Jesus is it!  John emphasizes, “no one comes to the Father except through him.”6

According to the Scriptures, not only is there only one road, it’s also a bit narrow.7

But there’s room for all.

Because of MLP, some people who speak and read Nuer or Burmese or Kurdish or any of the other 44 languages can now discover the amazing, bewilder-ing, perplexing wonders of God in Christ Jesus.

By the way, I’m just borrowing those words, “amazing, bewildering and perplexing,” from Acts 2. There you will find the story of the original MLP, the Multi-Language Pentecost. That’s the day when people of different nations suddenly heard Galilean locals speak their own native tongue. It raised eyebrows as well as accusations. It probably would have been headlines in the Daily News. More than surprising and greater than astonishing, it was…

Amazing!
Bewildering!
Perplexing!

Not just the men, but the message. Especially the message.

Sin and Savior. Law and Gospel. Hell and heaven. Works and Grace. Repentance and forgiveness. Ah, yes, forgiveness.

Really?  I, too, am forgiven?

The message of today’s 21st century MLP is the same message as the first-century MLP:

Yes, you are forgiven in Jesus Christ!  Believe it!

No wonder Nate writes in MLPs 2016-2017 Catalogue: “The majority of MLP products are evangelism and Bible Study materials.  These can be used by anyone who sees a need for ministering to others in Christ.”

After all, who doesn’t need that kind of message?

We, on the Malawi field, were blessed to have Rev. Seiltz visit us this month of March 2017.8 He took time to travel to “The Warm (and these days, rainy) Heart of Africa” to share information, goals and visions of MLP.  He met with the Lutheran Mission missionaries and with some of the national pastors in the Lutheran Church of Central Africa, Malawi Synod. (LCCA-MS).

His visit revealed, not only his work but his joy.

His joy?

“Being able to put gospel materials in different languages so many people can learn of their Savior and grow in their faith. Working with national churches and missionaries, brothers and sisters in the faith as they minister in their Savior’s Kingdom.”

Dear Mission Partner, do you have a friend who speaks Spanish?  Got a Ukrainian neighbor?  Is there a member in your church whose mother tongue is Chinese?  Anyone you know come from Korea or Japan?

Do you speak his/her language?

Even if you can’t, MLP can.  If it can’t, it’ll do what it takes to speak that language, too.  After all, it wants to help you in…

Declaring the Wonders of God.9

By Missionary John Holtz, Malawi, Africa

  1. Seiltz is married to Natalie and they have 3 children Brett, Carlos, Angela. They live in Jackson, Wis., and are members of Morning Star Lutheran Church.  His MLP office is at the Synod Headquarters, (Center for Mission and Ministry) in Waukesha, Wis.  Rev. Seiltz regularly travels internationally and domestically for MLP promotion.
  2. Items such as Sunday School materials, The Promise, Bible Stories in Pictures, Evangelism movies, What the Bible and Lutherans Teach, Book of Prayers, etc.
  3. Luke 15:3-10
  4. John 6:25-59
  5. John 4
  6. John 14:6
  7. Matthew 7:14
  8. On this same trip to Malawi, Rev. Seiltz also visited Cameroon and Zambia for the same purpose of promoting MLP and its materials.
  9. Acts 2:11

 


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The how’s and why’s of a new program Academia Cristo update

It started with some statistics and became an “aha” moment. These are the beginnings of a new program for MLP.

In January 2013, the Excelsior newspaper in Mexico reported that the average citizen in Mexico read only half a book a year and that 35% of those surveyed said they had never read any book (www.excelsior.com.mx/2013/01/18/879972). Anecdotal evidence from other countries in Latin America seems to reflect similar experiences. Don’t misunderstand: it’s not that they can’t read, it’s just they don’t have the habit of reading for pleasure.

When Missionary Mike Hartman came across those statistics, he started observing that at bus stops and at home, in waiting rooms and restaurants, you rarely saw anyone with a book. But you did see people with smartphones, reading Facebook posts and watching videos.

That led to the “aha” moment.

Missionary Hartman approached Multi-Language Publications and asked the question: What if, instead of spending our budget on printing and distributing books that might never be used, we converted those books into videos and distributed them over the Internet? MLP was willing to give it a try.

And so, MLP partnered with Latin American missions to launch “Academia Cristo.” The initial vision became a detailed plan with this goal: to use everyday technologies to empower Spanish speakers to plant and develop churches that faithfully proclaim God’s word.

You could say there are two phases to Academia Cristo. Phase one involves “sowing seeds” to become a known entity among Spanish speakers. It starts with sending evangelism fliers to literally millions of people through social media, especially Facebook. Those fliers invite people to visit the Academia Cristo website where they can access devotions, movies, hymns, liturgies, streamed church services, and prepared Bible studies that they can use on their own or to lead a group – all for free.

Over 2.3 million unique visitors have visited the website, and hundreds of thousands have downloaded resources. We thank God for these resources and the many partners who develop and allow us to share them… Thank you!

Phase two involves personal contact with individuals. Every Spanish speaker in the world is invited to take Academia Cristo’s introductory class. This 10-lesson course entitled Here I Am is taught live over the Internet or face-to-face. In the class, students learn essential truths about God’s word as well as a simple way to teach Bible stories and God’s amazing good news to others.  For a final project, students take a video of themselves sharing one of the Bible stories they learned in class with someone else.

Those who successfully complete Here I Am are invited to continue to study in the Academia Cristo Live program. Many of these students are connected to a pastoral mentor. The mentors encourage and guide these individuals as they grow in the knowledge of the truth, work to share God’s good news with others, and ultimately strive to plant and develop churches in their communities that clearly and faithfully teach God’s word.

Almost 2,000 new contacts have registered to study the Here I Am course, and 120 of those have expressed the desire to continue their training while at the same time gathering others around God’s word to form new churches.

You don’t have to speak Spanish yourself to participate. Just share the www.academiacristo.com website with anyone you know who speaks Spanish. And pray in whatever language your heart speaks that God continue to bless this united effort to empower Spanish speakers to faithfully proclaim God’s word to the world.

We invite you to watch a video update to learn more.

 

 

MLP PRODUCTS

View a complete catalog of Multi-Language Publication’s products.


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MLP as partner in mission fields

When the gospel hits the hearts of people and excites them to share Christ’s love with others, the Holy Spirit does amazing things. Look at the impact of Apostle Paul and the rest of the early Christian Church! Read about centuries upon centuries of people passionately stretching out with the good news of Jesus into territories where people never heard of him.

But that doesn’t mean it always goes well. It didn’t always for Paul. There are plenty of accounts throughout history of reduplication of efforts or clashes over direction. Often it detoured God’s people from a clear focus and cooperation in our great co-mission: making disciples of all nations so all can know Christ’s love and live with him forever. How do we maximize the gifts and responsibilities of our mission workforce and minimize the obstacles?

The One East Asia Team is an example of bringing different groups together to marshal all the forces into a cohesive team. Individual ministries that have developed independently with their own unique focus and administration have come together to fit into one larger plan for the field. Life-Net, Asia Lutheran Seminary, Friends of East Asia, 360 Now, WELS East Asia mission work, East Asia Lutheran Synod and Multi-Language Publications joined together under the umbrella of One East Asia Team. At least annually all the individual group leaders come together to look at the bigger picture, share insights and resources, and make plans to carry out their unique segment of it. Also brought into the dialogue are efforts happening in the States and Canada – like Chinese outreach work in Vancouver and digital outreach carried on from Minneapolis. During the year regular interaction takes place with each of the groups to collaborate on further development and carrying out the goals of the One East Asia Team.

At the beginning of November 2016, MLP sat together with the East Asia Team in Hong Kong as Larry Schlomer led them through the Traction training and the Vision/Traction Organizer (V/TO) long-range planning process. The discussions converged on the passion to reach the lost and to see discipleship multiplied through culturally appropriate ministry so that new churches can develop. We left with appreciation for our joint efforts and a renewed sense of urgency to fulfill our roles.

MLP-Asia is honored to be included as an integral part of the team to envision, plan and develop digital and print resources that help facilitate the direction or priorities of the field. We also hope to eventually provide a tool-kit for gathered groups. MLP-Asia also is working on the same type of partnership approach where it intersects with Asia Pacific Rim, South Asia, Hmong, Vietnamese and other global cross-over mission work.

Want another great example of this?  Check out Latin America with the 1LA team. It is another type of partnership with Multi-Language Publications that could be duplicated throughout our world mission efforts. To find out more, contact your MLP area coordinator or Nate Seiltz for more information.

 

 

 

MLP PRODUCTS

View a complete catalog of Multi-Language Publication’s products.


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A Hidden Gem, Malawi, Africa

It’s a travel cliché describing an intriguing place that is little known and seldom visited.  These “must-sees” are often not seen because they are off the beaten track in “out-of-the- way” places.

But they are worth the effort. Those who stumble upon them feel as though they’ve found, well, a hidden gem.

There are a few of them in Malawi, Africa.

Now there is one more.

This one, however, is not a place, but a person. Her name is Amanda E. Artz. She is the new Administrator for the Lutheran Mobile Clinic (LMC).

The Central Africa Medical Mission Committee (CAMMC) first “stumbled upon” her when they received her application for the position.  As Christians, however, we know it was not a mere “stumbling upon.”  This did not happen by chance.

God had His hand in the whole process!

Amanda saw the ad from CAMMC at her church1 (By the way, an Africa-size thank you, Pastors,2 for including the announcement in the bulletin!).  God then stirred in Amanda a desire to ask questions and eventually apply for the position.  God then moved the committee to select her.

What God ordains is always good.3

So here we are now in Malawi – and in particular at the Lutheran Mobile Clinic – so very blessed because God has ordained that Amanda be here!4

God has given us a kind, compassionate Administrator who is a good listener and hard-worker.  She’s eager to learn and ready to take on challenges.  Respectful, dutiful and humble.  Active church goer.  Bible Study participant. Accomplished musician.

A hidden gem.

In case you might be interested in the work of an LMC Administrator, Amanda gives us peek into it:

“As clinic administrator I attend clinic each week, keep track of the day to day and monthly finances and financial transactions, manage payroll, manage clinic, house, dog, and vehicle maintenance and schedules, stock and inventory house supplies, maintain regular communication with each member of the staff, hear and attend to staff requests and concerns, manage staff employment documents, participate in planning landscaping and gardening projects, request and attend meetings as needed with businesses and organizations in Lilongwe,  pay the bills, submit payroll taxes, pension and life insurance payments, and various other duties as needed and as necessary.”

So if you assumed that you’d always find Amanda in her Lilongwe home office, sorry, you just won’t.  On any given day she’s “off the beaten track in out-of-the-way places” doing what LMC Administrators do and being found where LMC Administrators are found:  the rural villages, government offices and health care facilities.

But be forewarned:  if you are going to find her, you may just need a 4 X 4 Land Cruiser to do so.

As you might well imagine, living and working in a developing country like Malawi brings not only unique joys and adventures but also its challenges.  Amanda humbly yet confidently begs your prayers.  For what specifically can you pray?

I’ll let Amanda answer that:

“Pray that in the thick of the daily stresses of living in Malawi, the people representing the Lutheran Mobile Clinic are clear displays of Christ’s love.  Pray that in everything we say and do, and in our interactions, approaches and executions of tasks big and small we are fit ambassadors to those who don’t know God as well as those who do.  Pray that we remember we are involved in something much bigger than any one of us and that we always re- member our Father is watching and interested and eager to help.”

Well said, Amanda.

Yes, to be “a clear display of Christ’s love.”

A sparkle off a precious Stone.

An eye-catching ray of light off a polished Jewel.  The glint off a discovered hidden Gem.

Is not the Kingdom of heaven actually likened unto a Hidden Treasure and a Pearl of great Price? (Matthew 13:44-46)

Is not Jesus, our resurrected and living Easter Surprise, also THE HIDDEN GEM?

Even though the Lord has revealed Himself in Holy Scriptures as the Pearl of Great Price, not everyone finds it.

Even those who have, at times, take it (Jesus) for granted. (Forgive us, Lord!)

While Amanda was contemplating the question whether or not to apply for the position in Malawi, she had other questions rolling around in her mind:

Will I fit in?

Can I do the work?

Should I give 3 years of my life to this venture?

What will I do for a job when I return to the States?

These questions circled around her heart like vultures around a dead animal.  But Amanda’s mother kept focusing her on Jesus.  Amanda appreciatively recalls that her mother’s (Mary) most frequent response to her concerns was:  “Trust in the Lord.”

Just what Amanda needed to hear.

And just what she did.

So when the plane landed at Kamuzu International Airport on 22 November 2016 one of the passengers who disembarked without a return ticket was Amanda E. Artz.

We are glad – and blessed – because she was.  For those of you in the States, yes, Amanda is now a bit “off the beaten track” and a bit “out of the way.”  But for the Lutheran Mobile Clinic in Malawi, it has been worth all the effort to get Amanda on field.

Oh, by the way, did you notice that Amanda’s middle name starts with an “E?”

Maybe you guessed it already…

Emerald. : )

Amanda Emerald Artz.

A hidden gem.

___________________________________

By: Missionary John Holtz, Field Coordinator, Malawi


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Facing Challenges While Remaining Faithful, Thailand

Working in a foreign field is not only exciting, it’s challenging.  We are faced with cultural and language barriers that are unfamiliar to our work in the USA.  The devil is also very active in the foreign mission field.  In Thailand where 98% of the people are devout Buddhists, it is often difficult to break through the superstition and work righteousness that have such a strong hold on the people.  Add to that the fact that the very culture of everyday life is permeated by Buddhist philosophy and it can seem like a long uphill struggle to reach out with the gospel.

Today the Lord blessed me with something that brought a smile to my face in the midst of adversity.  As I said, the devil uses every opportunity to exert his power to thwart the efforts of the gospel.  But he cannot win.  One of our young national pastors is a 27-year-old man who was married a year ago.  He graduated from our seminary in Thailand two years ago and has served as my assistant, a translator, and a co-worker in the administration of our Thailand mission field.   We are in the process of applying to the Thai government to establish a Thailand Evangelical Lutheran Synod Foundation that will benefit our missions and the communities we serve.  This young pastor is listed in the application to become the first president of the Foundation.

He had not been feeling well for the past couple of months and frequent visits to a medical clinic were unsuccessful in treating his condition.  The symptoms were alleviated for a couple of weeks only to return again and again.

Today he was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph glands.  I was at the hospital with him and his wife when the doctor told him the results of the CT scan they had taken.  He was 95% sure of his diagnosis and a biopsy of the lymph nodes was sent out to confirm his findings.  As the doctor told Pastor Ching about the results of his test, I watched him closely.  Most people would react with a certain degree of shock or disbelief or distress when first hearing the news, but Pastor Ching did not.  He remained collected and listened intently as the doctor explained everything to him.

His wife too, sat quietly and listened.  She did not break down, but when the doctor was finished, she did show signs of becoming teary eyed and it was her husband who then comforted her in the face of the news.

I had a devotion with them and we prayed before I left the hospital.  As I was walking to my truck, I reflected on everything that had just taken place.  I thought about his future and the dreams he and his wife may have for a family.  I thought of his age and how sad it would be for someone so young to face such a great trial.  I thought of our work in establishing the Foundation as well as all the other important work he carries out for the church.  And for a minute I thought the devil was applauding what might seem to be a victory in his effort to thwart our mission work and the proclamation of the Gospel.  But then I smiled to myself, because the victory is still ours–it’s the Easter message.

Today Pastor Ching demonstrated a strong faith and confidence in the Good Shepherd.  Even if there are personal set backs for him and detours for our mission work, the devil did not and can not win in his battle to stop the message of salvation.

Please keep Pastor Ching and his wife Khu in your prayers.  And please continue to pray that the Lord will use these trials not only for their benefit, but also for the benefit of his church.  He not only can do that, He will.  Pray that He does it mightily.

By: Missionary Ken Pasch, Field Coordinator, Thailand

Post Script:  The biopsy results have come back and the diagnosis was confirmed. Pastor Ching will begin chemotherapy treatments as soon as additional tests have been completed to determine the exact course of treatment.


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Multi-Language Publications reaching Malawi and beyond

Imagine if you could speak 47 different languages. Suppose you are able to…

Greet someone in Nuer.
Ask for directions in Burmese.
Order food in Kurdish.
Say a prayer in Urdu.
Read a book in Tagalog.
Explain a concept in Mizo.
Tell an idiom in Russian.

Sound improbable?  Even impossible to speak so many languages?

Rev. Nate Seiltz1 can!

Well, to be more accurate, Multi-Language Publications can.  Rev. Seiltz, former WELS missionary to Dominican Republic and Haiti–and a Spanish speaker himself –is currently the Director of the Multi-Language Publications (MLP).  He travels the world making sure that the Word is getting out and the Word is getting in.

In homes.
In schools.
In congregations.
In hearts.

Try to wrap your head around these numbers: in its 20+ year history, MLP to date has printed over 2.9 million items2 in 47 languages!  I guess the Word has gotten around and is getting around.  But now consider Rev. Seiltz’s vision and MLPs goal:

“To reach 100 million people with the gospel in the next ten years with the additional goal of having at least 2 million people using discipleship training media produced by MLP.”

“это не мелочь”

In Russian, “It’s no small thing!” You might say, “That’s no small potatoes!”

100 million people hearing the gospel never is. Reaching even just one is not insignificant. Heaven rejoices when even one coin is found.3

If you want to meet someone passionate about reaching out to lost souls, sit down with Rev. Seiltz. He realizes the MLP potential and knows that it’s not merely about ordering food or asking for directions in many languages.

He shared this story:

“I met a young Indian man in an airport in India. He was Christian pastor…I asked him if he had any converts from Hinduism and he said ‘yes.’ I asked, ‘What are some good ways to reach them?’” He replied: ‘Really the only thing that works is the gospel.’”

Good answer. No…great answer.

So just think, in that respect, then, it is about food: Jesus, the Bread of Life4 and the Living Water!5  And it is about directions:  the one way to heaven!  Jesus is it!  John emphasizes, “no one comes to the Father except through him.”6

According to the Scriptures, not only is there only one road, it’s also a bit narrow.7

But there’s room for all.

Because of MLP, some people who speak and read Nuer or Burmese or Kurdish or any of the other 44 languages can now discover the amazing, bewilder-ing, perplexing wonders of God in Christ Jesus.

By the way, I’m just borrowing those words, “amazing, bewildering and perplexing,” from Acts 2. There you will find the story of the original MLP, the Multi-Language Pentecost. That’s the day when people of different nations suddenly heard Galilean locals speak their own native tongue. It raised eyebrows as well as accusations. It probably would have been headlines in the Daily News. More than surprising and greater than astonishing, it was…

Amazing!
Bewildering!
Perplexing!

Not just the men, but the message. Especially the message.

Sin and Savior. Law and Gospel. Hell and heaven. Works and Grace. Repentance and forgiveness. Ah, yes, forgiveness.

Really?  I, too, am forgiven?

The message of today’s 21st century MLP is the same message as the first-century MLP:

Yes, you are forgiven in Jesus Christ!  Believe it!

No wonder Nate writes in MLPs 2016-2017 Catalogue: “The majority of MLP products are evangelism and Bible Study materials.  These can be used by anyone who sees a need for ministering to others in Christ.”

After all, who doesn’t need that kind of message?

We, on the Malawi field, were blessed to have Rev. Seiltz visit us this month of March 2017.8 He took time to travel to “The Warm (and these days, rainy) Heart of Africa” to share information, goals and visions of MLP.  He met with the Lutheran Mission missionaries and with some of the national pastors in the Lutheran Church of Central Africa, Malawi Synod. (LCCA-MS).

His visit revealed, not only his work but his joy.

His joy?

“Being able to put gospel materials in different languages so many people can learn of their Savior and grow in their faith. Working with national churches and missionaries, brothers and sisters in the faith as they minister in their Savior’s Kingdom.”

Dear Mission Partner, do you have a friend who speaks Spanish?  Got a Ukrainian neighbor?  Is there a member in your church whose mother tongue is Chinese?  Anyone you know come from Korea or Japan?

Do you speak his/her language?

Even if you can’t, MLP can.  If it can’t, it’ll do what it takes to speak that language, too.  After all, it wants to help you in…

Declaring the Wonders of God.9

By Missionary John Holtz, Malawi, Africa

  1. Seiltz is married to Natalie and they have 3 children Brett, Carlos, Angela. They live in Jackson, Wis., and are members of Morning Star Lutheran Church.  His MLP office is at the Synod Headquarters, (Center for Mission and Ministry) in Waukesha, Wis.  Rev. Seiltz regularly travels internationally and domestically for MLP promotion.
  2. Items such as Sunday School materials, The Promise, Bible Stories in Pictures, Evangelism movies, What the Bible and Lutherans Teach, Book of Prayers, etc.
  3. Luke 15:3-10
  4. John 6:25-59
  5. John 4
  6. John 14:6
  7. Matthew 7:14
  8. On this same trip to Malawi, Rev. Seiltz also visited Cameroon and Zambia for the same purpose of promoting MLP and its materials.
  9. Acts 2:11

 


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A Water Festival at Easter Time, Thailand

In Thailand the month of April is often considered to be the most unpleasant month of the year because as the impending summer heat mounts, the humidity levels rise, and the air becomes heavy with moisture.

April is also the month in which the Thai celebrate the traditional Thai New Year.  It is based upon the Buddhist calendar and the date of the Buddha’s birth.  In Thailand, the official calendar year is 2560, though 2017 is also used.

During the New Year observance known as “Songkran,” the Thai set aside three days to officially ring in the new year though the festival usually stretches out to a week. The actual new year date is tied to the lunar calendar, but for the past century, it has been fixed to April 13-15.  Throughout the country, most businesses, schools, and government offices are closed. People travel to their home towns and villages for large family gatherings (similar to our Thanksgiving traditions) and religious observances.

Many people visit the Buddhist temples during this time to make merit and seek forgiveness for their past sins.  Water is poured over the Buddha statues as an act of purification.  Food and offerings are given to the monks.  In the home, everything is cleaned and washed.  We might call it a thorough Spring cleaning.  Children pour water on the hands and over the shoulders of their elders as a sign of respect and a wish for good luck in the coming year.

Over time, the festival evolved into what has become a country wide water festival.  The hot, humid April days have no doubt contributed to its development.  People young and old gather on the streets with hoses, water blasters, buckets, and pails of water to douse anyone and everyone that passes by.  Those riding on motor scooters are often soaked to the bone before they arrive at their destination.  In the cities, pickup trucks patrol the streets filled with party revelers and garbage pails of water.  Anyone within reach as they pass by is likely to be doused with water.

It’s all done in fun and is an accepted (and expected) part of Songkran.  For many, it is a time to stay off the streets, not just to keep dry, but to avoid the long traffic jams that inevitably accompany the water festival.

It is also a time to reflect upon the deep seated history and beginnings of the festival.  Westerners and those who are not of the Buddhist faith may find it to be a fun-filled holiday, but underscoring the festivities are the sad tenants of work righteousness and merit-making that are carried out in an effort to appease the conscience, cover one’s sins, and seek good luck for the future.  For Christians, joy is found in the fact that Jesus has covered us with his merit and righteousness, granting us full and complete forgiveness of sins.  Luck does not play a part in our lives for we walk hand in hand with our Savior who guides us each step of the way on life’s path.

Pray for our work among the Thai people as we reach out with the gospel of Christ to bring hope to those whose lives are guided by superstition and the teachings of work righteousness.

By: Ken Pasch, Thailand


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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 native language and culture. Every week I had a chance to share the good news with East Asian people. Every year I got to see how God loved the East Asian 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 East Asian 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.

East Asian 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 in their native language 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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