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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.

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

 

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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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.

HOME MISSIONS

Learn more about WELS missions in North America.

 

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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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

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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 © 2019
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

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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 © 2019
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

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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 © 2019
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

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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 © 2019
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

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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 © 2019
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

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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 © 2019
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

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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

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