Where are they now?
In Forward in Christ, we report the news but aren’t always able to follow up. “Where are they now?” is our way of giving you the rest of the story.
In May 2017, we reported that WELS Home Missions approved funding for four new mission congregations at its March 2017 meeting.
Here’s a recap:
After reviewing proposals submitted from its district mission boards, Home Missions supported opening new missions in Hendersonville, N.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Huntersville, N.C.; and Candelas, Colo.
So where are they now?
To bring the gospel to more people, Living Savior, Asheville, N.C., began holding a Saturday night worship service in Hendersonville, N.C., almost two years ago. In January 2018, Paul Zell began serving alongside Caleb Kurbis as pastor at Living Savior. Zell has primary responsibility for the Hendersonville campus while Kurbis oversees the Asheville campus.
“Yet we really are and intend to remain one congregation at two locations,” notes Zell.
On Sept. 16, Living Savior, Hendersonville, will make the switch from Saturday evening to Sunday morning services. The group is currently worshiping in a rented space in a commercial area in town.
Zell and other members from Living Savior canvas Hendersonville neighborhoods three nights per week and recently sent 20,000 postcards to area households.
“We want to get our name, some Scripture, and a brief summary of who the Savior is in front of as many people as possible,” explains Zell.
A group of WELS Christians living in the Chattanooga area saw the need for a Lutheran church on the city’s growing east side. With no other WELS church within 100 miles, the group asked Home Missions to send a missionary for a new congregation. Eric Melso, a 2017 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., was assigned to be that missionary.
Melso arrived in July 2017 and spent the first six months of his time planning and strategizing with the core group. He also took time to get to know the Chattanooga community.
During its launch meetings, the core group chose the name “Living Hope” and developed a mission, vision, and logo for the new church. The group also met monthly for worship in the parsonage.
Since Easter 2018, Living Hope has been holding public worship once per month at a local cinema. “God has greatly blessed our preview services and allowed us to reach many with the gospel,” says Melso. “We have averaged 38 in attendance since starting our services, having begun with only a dozen in our core group. We even had 52 in attendance at our July service, 13 of whom were first-time visiting prospects.”
Living Hope is now looking forward to its grand opening worship service on Sept. 9.
In summer 2016, the pastor at Grace, Charlotte, N.C., realized that many of his members were driving from Huntersville to south Charlotte every Sunday for worship. He began offering worship services in a hotel conference room and asked WELS Home Missions to consider planting a church there.
Doug Van Sice arrived in July 2017. “Getting assigned to plant a church in a city you’ve never lived in with people you don’t know is daunting,” says Van Sice. “So, I began planting this church by focusing on three main tasks: 1) Get to know the people who would become the launch team; 2) Figure out the city of Huntersville; 3) Plan.”
In order to devote time and energy to those tasks, public worship was suspended. Van Sice then met with as many city officials as he could, and the launch team took a short survey to their neighbors to gather information about the community and its needs. It also used a survey to choose its name—Huntersville Lutheran Church.
The congregation is planning its first official public worship service on Sept. 9 in a local elementary school.
Members of Shepherd of the Valley, Westminster, Colo., saw an opportunity to spread God’s Word to those in Candelas, a growing western suburb of Denver. The congregation asked Home Missions to support a second pastor to reach out to this new area. Although Home Missions did grant funding for this position in March 2017, the call was not filled until this summer.
Jeremy Belter arrived at Shepherd of the Valley in August. He has met with each member of the core group and begun working to get the second location of this congregation launched.
As the chairman of the district mission board, notes, “This newest mission in our conference has been set up by the good work of Pastor Phil Kieselhorst and the members of Shepherd of the Valley in Westminster, and it looks to be a promising place to share what our Lord has done for the world.”
Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.
Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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