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Lutherans ENGAGE the WORLD May – June 2014, Vol. 2, Issue 5


ENGAGE the WORLD May – June 2014

vol. 2, no. 5


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Strengthened Faith, Fervent Love … Bringing Christ & Care to Inner-City Baltimore Putting Up Walls to Break Down Barriers

Missing Mayberry

19 7 Engaging the Church in the work of witness and mercy across the globe in our life together. Lutherans EngagE the World is published bi-monthly by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. © 2014 The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Reproduction for parish use does not require permission. Such reproductions, however, should credit Lutherans EngagE the World as a source. Print editions are sent to LCMS donors, rostered workers and missionaries. An online version is available ( To receive the print edition, we invite you to make a financial gift for LCMS global witness and mercy work. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are property of the LCMS. 888-THE LCMS (843-5267)

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


engage Revitalize

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10 Questions

Mercy Moment — Philippines Update

Reviving Ministry on America’s College Campuses



A Beacon for the Community

16 involve


Philippine Disaster Recovery

S TA F F Mark D. Hofman David L. Strand Pamela J. Nielsen Erica Schwan Melanie Ave Megan K. Mertz Erik M. Lunsford Carolyn A. Niehoff Chrissy A. Thomas

executive director, mission advancement executive director, communications executive editor manager, design services staff writer staff writer staff photojournalist/editor designer designer

— verb, to restore vitality, liveliness

It made the morning news — the literal collapse of a Lutheran church building in a blighted north St. Louis neighborhood. My first thought was, “So sad! Another abandoned Lutheran church, another neighborhood where the gifts of God are no longer received at a Lutheran altar.” In cities, in small towns and along country roads, empty and dilapidated church buildings dot the landscape. Reasons vary as to why, of course, but in every case, these churches lost their vitality and eventually closed their doors. This issue of Lutherans Engage the World is about REvitalizing our congregations. It celebrates the places where the Gospel is being proclaimed in the midst of challenges large and small, in places where many might have simply given up. The LCMS Office of National Mission is focused on revitalizing congregations and even replanting them where they have breathed their last. In partnership with districts, congregations, Lutheran Housing Support and LCMS Recognized Service Organizations, the people of God are working together to proclaim the Word of life in dark alleys, alongside cornfields, in challenged neighborhoods and on secular university campuses across the country. So, what about that crumbling church in north St. Louis? That’s a good news story of revitalization! The congregation is actively involved in improving the neighborhood, having helped remodel nearly 250 homes. For safety’s sake, worship services and church operations were moved long ago into the congregation’s school building next door. The Gospel of Jesus Christ continues to be proclaimed there each week! You can read about revitalization of another kind in an infographic and photo essay on the continuing disaster-relief efforts in the Philippines (Pages 10-13). God is blessing your gifts for LCMS disaster efforts and to the Global Mission Fund, making church revitalization possible at home and abroad. Thank you! In Christ, Pamela J. Nielsen Associate Executive Director, LCMS Communications

E d i t o r i a l Off i c e 314-996-1215 1333 S. Kirkwood Road St. Louis, MO 63122-7295

Cover image: Acolytes light altar candles before worship at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mobile, Ala. Photo: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford


Strengthened Faith,

Fervent Love ...

“Christians live outside themselves: they live in Christ by faith and in their neighbor by love.”

That was one of Martin Luther’s most brilliant “ahas”! It runs right along with his observation that the nature of sin is “to be curved in on yourself.” Consequently, the effect of Christ’s Gospel in His appointed Means of Grace seizing hold of you is that it begins unbending you. It begins lifting up your eyes to behold with joy the certain promises of God in Christ. To know them as true for you. To begin to be filled with the hope that flows from them. And at the same time, it opens your eyes to see and meet the needs of your neighbor with a fiery love, a divine compassion.

Luther encapsulated this “aha” in the words of the postcommunion prayer in our Divine Service. “We give thanks to You, almighty God, that You have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith toward You and in fervent love toward one another … .” Every time you gather with your fellow saints at the altar, your Jesus comes to you in His body and blood to strengthen your faith by His promises and to set your heart on fire with divine love. Which is just another way of saying: He comes to give you a share in His own divine life, for He IS perfect trust in the Father and perfect love for the neighbor. Because His life is given us as our own, the Church of Christ remains an enigma in this world. It’s a colony from the future, an outpost of the age that will triumph when our Lord appears in glory. When love will have vanquished all hatred. And thanksgiving will have replaced all grumbling. It’s true that we only experience that in a fragmentary way due to the sin that clings to us right up to the grave. Despite our weak grasp of the new life, the Holy Spirit still causes the bright light of the coming age to shine through God’s people. It is like a door to a room filled with light, opening to spill out into the darkness outside, inviting those lost and alone in the darkness to come in with us to the feast of joy that has no end. The LCMS Office of National Mission exists to serve our rural, inner-city and suburban congregations, schools, pastors, youth and youth workers, teachers and deaconesses in “holding open the door of the Kingdom,” letting the light of the age to come spill out of each “unbent” life, through strengthened faith and fiery, fervent love so that congregations are revitalized and new “outposts of the future” are planted and flourish. In His name, Rev. Bart Day Executive Director, LCMS Office of National Mission

“We give thanks to You, almighty God,

that You have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith toward You and

in fervent love toward one another … .”


May–June 2014

Photo: Istockphoto/Thinkstock


he Rev. James Sharp is in the trenches of daily ministry as one of about 6,000 pastors currently serving an LCMS congregation. Leading a dual parish in Maryland — Christ Lutheran Church in Dundalk and Nazareth Lutheran Church in Baltimore — Sharp shepherds two congregations, in two locations with two schedules, and with two very different types of members and needs. He is a busy man. He also is a man committed to teaching and confessing the faith with a lot of help from God and a lot of energy from the massive amounts of black coffee he consumes daily.



with the Rev. James Sharp by Melanie Ave


I’m hoping we’ll work more closely together and with other congregations in the area. We’ve been looking at ways to extend the partnership.


2. Describe Sunday mornings.

The Rev. James Sharp

We have church at 9 at Nazareth. By the time I’m done with church, I have 15 to 20 minutes to hobnob and head over to the other church, where we have church at 11. I spend a lot of time driving back and forth between two churches. I grew up in a larger congregation with two or three services. Pastors were always running around. It’s not too different from that.

3. How has being a pastor changed you?

It’s forced me not to think about myself so much. Being a pastor in the cities where I serve … I have a much more clear desire to serve others than to serve myself. Being a pastor for almost 10 years now has helped me be less selfish and more loving and caring for other people.

4. Where does your energy come from?

I drink an awful lot of coffee. I have a pretty good relationship with the local roaster.


What do you enjoy in your time off?


What is your view on church revitalization?


Any church revitalization tips you want to share?

It doesn’t mean we have to reorganize the church from top to bottom. It doesn’t mean change everything. It means we can add something new, and when the new ministry takes off, then the Lord blesses the new ministry. It will change your congregation and change you in ways you can’t anticipate.

I definitely encourage congregations to look at multi-parish ministries. My congregations were forced into it by decline. Both had full-time pastors in the past but neither could continue to afford it. Churches could work together before that point and share an outreach pastor. I encourage congregations and pastors to cooperate and work together more than we have in the past.

10. What is one thing you would like people who live and

work near your congregations to know about what goes on inside?

These are places that really love people. Whatever they might have heard about church or know about Christianity, if they walk into one of my parishes, they will find people who will love them and love them unconditionally. That’s something I don’t think people expect.

Melanie Ave is a staff writer and the social media coordinator for LCMS Communications.


photos: Thinkstock, James Sharp

I have two boys and two girls. I try to spend time with my family. That’s where I get a lot of energy and joy for the ministry … . Every pastor, first and foremost, is a priest and minister to his family. I take that very seriously.

Do you ever say no?

No. (Laughs.) I’ve been working on that. It’s hard to say no to a congregation, church members, to my family. There are things that I’ve decided not to say no to. When my kids were little I said I would never say no if they asked me to read a book or to sit on my lap … . I’ve learned you don’t always have to give people what they ask for. Sometimes you can offer something better and give them what they need.

What do you want your congregations to be like in 10 years?

What’s it like leading a dual parish?

It’s a lot like having two kids. I want to love them both and treat them fairly. It doesn’t mean treating them the same, necessarily.


May–June 2014


Far left: St. Thomas Lutheran Church is seen on the Baltimore skyline. Left: A cross hangs above a couch void of cushions at the Concordia House recovery center. Right: The Rev. Charles Wildner, pastor of St. Thomas, hugs John McLeroy, facing camera , a resident of the Concordia House recovery center.


by Erik M. Lunsford

„ Bottom right: The Rev. Charles Wildner prays with Faye Blasy, a homebound church member. Far right: The Rev. Roy Axel Coats, center, leads a group in prayer during a youth confirmation study session at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore. With him, from left, are Princess Greah, 17, Samantha Nah, 16, and the Rev. Steven Schave, director of LCMS Urban & Inner-City Mission.


May–June 2014

He pokes his head up the stairwell and calls the residents down, partly in search of the cushions. Several men in their 20s and 30s emerge. Clean of heroin or cocaine, one dons a tie for visitors. A new man with a weathered face and a dirtied camouflage hat arrives with the others. Clean from drug abuse for a week, he says he needs a place to sleep. Wildner rattles off a list of rules, and the two men hug. The man will sleep with a roof over his head tonight. Earlier in the day, Wildner sits at the table of a small café in Baltimore and pokes at a crab cake sandwich. He pushes the bread aside and dunks grilled veggies into ketchup. He recalls the beginning of his inner-city ministry days. “I thought I would never be an inner-city pastor,” Wildner says. He adjusts his glasses and thinks for a moment. His salary could be double in the suburbs, and it would be a comfortable life with great Lutheran schools. He knows this. One day, almost 40 years ago, while serving as a volunteer chaplain, Wildner read a quote on a leaflet: “I go where it’s most difficult because that’s where the Lord needs me most.” Someone made a copy of the leaflet for Wildner. He went where the Lord needed him most. St. Thomas is one of several Lutheran churches working to bring Word and Sacrament ministry to residents of inner-city Baltimore. East of St. Thomas sits Martini Lutheran Church, guided by the Rev. Elliott Robertson. West of St. Thomas is the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, led by the Rev. Roy Axel Coats. When plotted on a map, the churches form an almost-perfect westward line — one of the migratory patterns from the city to the suburbs. While many have looked outward, the pastors of St. Thomas, Martini and Redeemer look inward. Coats, a scholarly man with a caramel-orange beard, wears a beret and walks quickly, as if there’s always a pressing need at the end of

photoS: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

Bringing Christ & Care to Inner-City Baltimore

he Rev. Charles Wildner, pastor of St. Thomas Lutheran Church, opens the door to the drug recovery house he runs next to the church in the inner city of Baltimore. Nearby, trash blows across the street while prostitutes huddle on the corner. As he walks inside, Wildner sighs and shakes his head: Someone has stolen the couch cushions again.


I go where it’s most difficult because that’s where the Lord needs me most.”

his path. Only a handful of years out of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., Coats assumed a struggling parish of five members on a quiet inner-city street in Baltimore and carefully nurtured it into a growing church of 40. On a Thursday evening in March, Coats visits with a woman and her seven children when her husband, Augustine Tarley, a quiet, impeccably dressed Liberian man who immigrated to the United States in 2003, walks through the door of his home.

Bearing a slight resemblance to the experience of the Lutheran missionary Rev. F.C.D. Wyneken when he mistook a Methodist prayer meeting for a Lutheran worship service after landing in Baltimore in 1838, Tarley first encountered the Methodists upon his arrival. During a service, he realized he didn’t share their beliefs and left the church. While driving one day, Tarley took a wrong turn and stumbled on Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. He found his home there just

weeks before Coats was ordained and installed. The timing, as it turns out, wasn’t coincidental. Coats believes the Lord sent Tarley to help him structure his outreach ministry. Now the two visit the homes of Africans who recently immigrated and are looking for a church. “I found out he was someone who wanted to stand with me and help me in every way reach out to more people, and that encouraged me,” Coats said.


Far left: From left, Jonathan O’Connor, Daniel Broumas, Robb Carr, John McLeroy, the Rev. Steven Schave and the Rev. Elliott Robertson converse before dinner. Left: The Rev. Charles Wildner, center (at end of table), leads a prayer during a fellowship dinner at his home.

“It’s something I wasn’t expecting … to instantly have people to go and visit and officially bring into the congregation, with kids to be baptized … there’s a great, you know, excitement and energy to the congregation. The Lord, through him, provided me an understanding of how to reach out and visit with Jesus Christ the people in my neighborhood.” Robertson, the cheerful, red-cheeked pastor of Martini Lutheran Church, has a soothing yet authoritative voice. On a rainy Friday morning in March, Robertson sits at a table in the fellowship hall of Martini. Across from him is 54-year-old Dennis Schramm, a man freed from drug addiction, discussing donations to the church’s food pantry. Upon the 2008 death of his beloved grandmother, Schramm’s drug addiction ensnared him. Homelessness followed. He eventually found work at a local motel, but he continued to bounce from shelter to shelter. One day several years ago, Schramm crossed Robertson on the street. Robertson invited him to church, but Schramm felt self-conscious about his appearance. His clothes were tattered, his hair a mess and his shoes full of holes. He thought others might look down on him. According to Schramm, Robertson said, “Well, Dennis, it’s not how you come to church. The Lord wants you as you are and where your heart’s at.” Several weeks later, Schramm came to worship. “I felt really welcome … a warm welcome … and accepted,” Schramm says. Schramm plans to become a member of 6

May–June 2014

Martini Lutheran Church. He currently serves the church in a variety of ways. The church has restored his trust, which was eroded by others in the shelters. “My foundation in life isn’t good … but I do have a foundation in the Lord,” he says. After a short breakfast on a rainy Friday morning, Robertson walks with Betty Bland-Thomas, an expert in community redevelopment. She stresses the need for church engagement and education in urban renewal. Robertson nods in agreement as a man drives a forklift down the street in the mixed-use neighborhood surrounding Martini. When people hear the word “missionary” they may think of church workers planting churches and administering the Sacraments in exotic foreign lands. But the Rev. Steven Schave, director of LCMS Urban & InnerCity Mission, wants to append that notion to include inner-city ministry. Having been an urban-ministry pastor for years, Schave is acutely aware of the reality facing the church. “We can’t afford to lose any more ground in our cities, and we thank God for these men who stand and fight to bring Christ to those who so desperately need it,” Schave says. The new missionary field, he says, is not only international missions but missions in tattered neighborhoods in the backyards of American cities. Back at the café, Wildner describes his daily life as a pastor of an inner-city church. On any given day, he may cook, cut the hair of a member preparing for a job interview, prepare music for worship, pick up men recently released from jail and give them

bus fare home from his own wallet, or take a call in the middle of the night from a member on the precipice of a drug relapse. Later that evening, just as they do each evening, Wildner and his wife, Judy, invite residents of the recovery house and other church members to their nearby home for dinner. Before dinner, some guests assist in meal preparation while others gather in the parlor. Here, at the warmly decorated row house on a rough street in Baltimore, fine china is meticulously set on period furniture, prayer is said and a collection of pastors — including Wildner, Robertson and Coats — church members and recovery house residents dine together. Conversation flows from aspirations to sports predictions. The split pea soup is a hit. Coats, Robertson and Wildner form a ring of ministry that serves neighborhoods left behind by suburban sprawl and development. Anchored by the altar, the ministry is multicultural, focused on urban renewal and giving care to the marginalized. As Coats says, “It’s hard work, persistent work, patient work and long suffering — you suffer with people, you keep visiting. They’re working through a lot of different problems. You hope they find their peace of the Lord … being part of the church.” Erik M. Lunsford is the staff photojournalist and an editor for LCMS Communications. Learn more: „ Photo album: NationalMinistries/Bringing–Christ–and–Care/. „ LCMS Urban & Inner-City Mission:

photoS: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford


Putting Up Walls

to Break Down

Barriers by Jeni Miller


n his explanation of the first article of the Creed, Martin Luther acknowledges that God not only creates His people, but He also sustains them.

Sometimes He uses churches to do this work of revitalization. Such is the case in Fort Wayne, Ind., where homes are being rehabilitated through a partnership between LCMS National Housing Support Corp., or Lutheran Housing Support (LHS), and

three local LCMS parishes — Redeemer, Emmanuel and Zion — located in downtown Fort Wayne. The project focuses on providing critical home repairs to families in need. The congregations send volunteers and resources into the community to perform the needed repairs for as many as 10 families in surrounding neighborhoods. The goal is to halt the deterioration of neighborhoods, build connections between residents and service agencies and share the Gospel through acts of mercy. May–June 2014


“Revitalization is part of the Church’s work of diakonia, works of mercy,” said James Kienker, director of advancement for LHS. “We believe that we are individuals of body and soul — and you can’t care for the soul without caring for the body as well. These revitalization and community development efforts are a piece of that, just like disaster relief and soup kitchens.”

The Seeds that Started It All LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison began the process of neighborhood revitalization near Zion Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne in the late 1990s as a parish pastor. That work was the precursor to today’s joint revitalization efforts between Zion and a neighboring congregation, St. Peter’s Catholic Church. “The St. Peter/Zion Project has been going for many years, 15 or so,” said the Rev. Douglas Punke, senior pastor of Zion. “In that


May–June 2014

time, the neighborhood has been transformed into a place where families can own their own homes and raise children, where one does not have to be afraid to walk around the neighborhood.” Meanwhile, a few miles away at Emmanuel, church members called on the LCMS as they hoped to reach out to their community in a big way. The “Planting Gospel Seeds” initiative, headed by the Rev. Dr. Carlos Hernandez, helps congregations enable their neighbors to break the cycles of poverty and struggle. “In June of 2008, Emmanuel began efforts in neighborhood transformation with an initiative called ‘Planting Gospel Seeds’ in which Emmanuel members were trained and sent out into the neighborhood with the simple goals of establishing connections with our neighbors and getting their feedback on the key issues in the community,” recalled the Rev. Thomas Eggold, senior pastor at Emmanuel. “This was an important catalyst for breaking down

„ Three LCMS congregations in Fort Wayne, Ind., are rehabilitating homes in partnership with Lutheran Housing Support.

The goal is to halt the deterioration of neighborhoods, build connections between residents and service agencies and share the Gospel through acts of mercy.

barriers that kept us from working in our neighborhood.” Similarly, the Rev. David Petersen, pastor at Redeemer, and his congregation sought advice from the Gospel Seeds initiative. Hernandez visited in September 2012 to help them plan and take action. “It’s been very good for us to canvass the neighborhood again and have an excuse to do that,” explained Petersen. “We went out and said, ‘We’re from the church down the block and just want to know what you’d like to see in the neighborhood.’ Most of their responses were human-care type stuff. Some ideas were well beyond what we or anyone could do, like offer free day care or a cure for Alzheimer’s. But what we consistently heard was that they wanted ways to help improve the property values and make the neighborhood safer, as houses were falling into disrepair.”

Coming Together With the three churches on board, LHS was called in to walk through options and connect the churches with other agencies to enhance the process. LHS typically works by supporting the community development efforts of local LCMS congregations, districts, Recognized Service Organizations and their partners by providing access to funding, customized consulting services and training resources. By working with Fort Wayne code enforcement, the churches were able to identify at-risk homes in their areas that were in violation of the city’s building codes or had potential health or safety-related issues. According to Cindy Joyner, deputy director of Neighborhood Code Enforcement for the city of Fort Wayne, the effort will make a difference in these neighborhoods. “Lutherans have always done so much for the community in my experience in Fort Wayne, so it wasn’t a far-out plan when [LHS] contacted me because of all the great things they’ve done already,” Joyner said. “There are lots of property owners right now, more so than before, and a lot of people have come in to hard times and may not have money to do work on their homes. When a group like this comes in to do work to bring that [home] into compliance, it’s a win for everyone — the neighborhood, the homeowner.” Due to the scope of the project, the churches need volunteers skilled in home repair. Most of the rehab work on the homes will be carried out by Lutheran Church Extension Fund Laborers For Christ (LFC), a group of retired, volunteer builders. The Laborers will work with the assistance of volunteers provided by the LCMS churches and the community. A local construction manager will oversee the entire project. Since the Laborers come to Fort Wayne from all over the country, the Fort Wayne parks and recreation department has agreed to partner with LHS and provide the Laborers with a place to park their RVs during the duration of the project. “[The Fort Wayne project] is an awesome opportunity for the LCMS parishes to reach out and engage and connect with their

surrounding neighborhoods,” said Marcy Scholl, specialist for Laborers For Christ. “This initiative offers hands-on assistance to improve their homes. It is walking alongside the people and offering hope, just like Jesus did.” The project includes another benefit to the families who will be served: financial management training from Lutheran Social Services of Indiana. They will learn ways to save money and support future home repair needs, ultimately becoming self-sustaining.

Now’s the Time “In these neighborhoods, especially recently, the communities are declining significantly because of the economic downturn,” said Nicole Ridley, CEO of LHS. “This is an opportunity for the congregations to lend a hand and assist. There’s so much potential there for them to be the catalyst for revitalization.” Joyner agrees that the moment is now, and the LCMS is wellpositioned to help. “A lot of social agencies don’t have the financial wherewithal anymore to sustain this kind of work,” Joyner explained. “Something as in-depth as this program with [LHS], you don’t see this anymore. These churches stepped up and this is what the community needs.”

Why Revitalize? “In this work, we’re not just addressing a community need; we’re building relationships,” said Petersen of Redeemer. “It gives us something in common, and we’re less scary to them. It humanizes us, roots us here in the neighborhood. This project helps to establish us in the minds of those in the neighborhood as a stable, reliable place. If our neighbors find themselves in spiritual crisis or have a need, they won’t be afraid to reach out to us.” “This partnership also gives us an opportunity to get to know them, pray with them, share Christ with them,” said Punke of Zion. “God places congregations in particular places with a particular context and with particular needs. Not every congregation may need to do work with housing, but surely there is some way that every congregation can make an impact in [its] community.” This work is, Petersen said, the very “definition of mercy: to help people in need. There is real value in helping people.” LHS, together with the churches involved in this project, have asked for prayers and support from those in the LCMS as the rehab phase of the project begins on June 1. To engage with them in this work, visit or call James Kienker at 800-248-1930, Ext. 2823, for more information. Deaconess Jeni Miller is a freelance writer and a member of Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta. „Learn more: „Contact: the Rev. Dr. Carlos Hernandez, director of LCMS Church and Community Engagement, at 314-956-2005 or „Explore other options for revitalization offered by the LCMS Office of National Mission: May–June 2014



May–June 2014

May–June 2014


First Two photos courtesy of Lutheran Church in the Philippines



Philippines Update

All other photoS: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

Mercy Moment

November 8, 2013: Typhoon Haiyan barrels across the Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people, displacing more than 4 million and damaging or destroying more than 1 million homes. The storm also damages an estimated 33 million coconut trees, taking away the livelihood of many coconut farmers, a significant loss in a country that is the world’s second-largest coconut producer.

November 2013: An LCMS team journeys to the Philippines Nov. 15-22 to provide immediate relief and 12

May–June 2014

begin planning for long-term recovery. The team is invited by the Rev. James Cerdeñola, president of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP), an LCMS partner church body. The LCMS OKs initial disaster grants of $250,000 to help the LCP’s relief efforts. The LCMS makes an additional $100,000 grant to Lutheran World Relief in Baltimore for immediate aid in the Philippines. Seeing the damage firsthand enables the disaster team to develop a “Disaster Action Plan” that will include immediate, intermediate and long-term assistance aimed at relief, recovery and restoration.

Over the course of four days, a joint LCPLCMS team worships and meets together, using the badly damaged Christ Lutheran Church as a base of operations. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Xavier James Palattao, stresses that nearly every resident of his community is affected by the typhoon. Carrying backpacks filled with energy bars, bottled water and other supplies, the LCMS group treks by foot and vehicle in the hot and humid tropical weather to visit with Lutherans in Mahayag and Tacloban City, located in the center of the storm’s fury. In a nearby town, where St. James Lutheran Church suffered significant damage,

photo: LCMS Communications/Al Dowbnia

congregation and community members gather to welcome the team, eager to tell their typhoon stories. The principals of three public schools attended by children of two Lutheran congregations say the Lutheran team was the first to visit and check on the schools, and they indicate that school supplies and health kits for school children are needed. The team purchases a chainsaw so church members can turn downed coconut trees into lumber to be sold or used for repairs to homes.

March 2014: A team from the LCMS travels to the Philippines for three days to document recovery efforts. Team members interview storm victims, spend time in the community and survey the results of the LCMS recovery effort. Months after the typhoon killed thousands and displaced millions, they see the island of Leyte springing back to life. They see patches of green and hear the sound of hammers, chainsaws and other tools. More than 50 homes of Lutheran families and others connected to the church have been rebuilt, restored, new roofs constructed or new walls installed. A new

roof, well, dormitory and parsonage will soon appear at Christ Lutheran Church in Mahayag. Before the LCMS group returned to the United States, team members led a spiritual-care retreat for the families of LCP pastors and lay workers who responded to the disaster. “You can see how there is hope in people’s eyes,” says the Rev. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response. “There is joy that is being restored.” So far, the LCMS commitment to the Typhoon Haiyan recovery effort stands at $1 million. The LCMS, Johnson says, is walking with the LCP during its long-term recovery. May–June 2014


Reviving on Am



by Megan K. Mertz ccording to the Pew Research Center, the number of “nones,” Americans who do not identify with any religion, is on the rise, especially among young people. Despite this, the Rev. Marcus Zill, coordinator of LCMS Campus Ministry, said the future is bright for Lutheran outreach to university students. “It is vital to not only support campus ministry where it is already taking place, but the challenge is to help congregations care for their own students who are away at college,” he said. It is also important to “reach out to those who are in their midst at a neighboring school.” In January 2013, LCMS Campus Ministry rolled out

The Rev. Daniel Burhop, left, and graduate student Thomas Currey hand out coffee outside of University Lutheran Chapel in Boulder, Colo.


LCMS U, an initiative to expand and support ministry on America’s college campuses. Currently, there are 175 LCMS U chapters around the country, one of which is University Lutheran Chapel (ULC) in Boulder, Colo.

Of Students for Students The Rev. Daniel Burhop was called to ULC in Boulder, Colo., in 2007 because of the dedication of the LCMS Rocky Mountain District, four vicars and several Lutheran graduate students at the University of Colorado. Their efforts resulted in a mission society — originally comprised of three area churches — committed to supporting ULC and its fulltime pastor. Since its founding, the mission society has grown, adding an eighth congregation last year. The churches provide financial support. But their backing of ULC doesn’t end there. They also send members to cook meals and mentor students. The students, in return, give back to the churches through service. Unlike many other campus ministries, ULC is not a “townMay–June 2014

andgown” congregation, where a congregation reaches out to students of a nearby college or university. It is a congregation of students for students. The students serve on the church council and determine outreach opportunities. In September 2013, when heavy flooding severely damaged ULC’s roof and building, the student leaders took ownership of the renovation. “Our students are trying to figure out how to make this building better for the next 20 years,” Burhop said. “When I joined ULC, it was the first time that the church I went to was ‘mine,’” wrote Kyle Lampe, a 2009 graduate of the University of Colorado, in ULC’s newsletter. “What I mean is that it was no longer my parent’s church or just a church I went to on Sundays. If there were decisions to be made, communion to be ushered, paraments to be changed, windows to be replaced or

Ministry erica’s

flowers to be planted, we did it.” Thomas Currey, a graduate student in the university’s law school, is grateful for the mission society’s involvement. “Although our congregation is primarily comprised of students, it is also truly a blessing to see how ‘conventional’ area congregations care enough to actually engage us in fellowship,” Currey said. “It is nice to know we are not alone in our desire to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.” Thanks to the support of the district and area congregations, ULC is a place where students are equipped to move into leadership positions at other congregations after they graduate.

But Zill said campus ministries also have amazing opportunities to support and shape young people during a time of great personal growth. As ULC demonstrates, when congregations, districts and dedicated people work together, they can make a difference in the lives of college students — whether those students are Lutheran or non-Lutheran, from down the street or around the world. In addition to helping revitalize current campus ministries, Zill sees a great opportunity for the LCMS to be a “trailblazer” in two new fertile mission fields: urban college communities and community colleges. During the next few years, he’d like to see the number of

LCMS U chapters expand from 175 to 300. “We not only need to maintain and build upon our traditional town-and-gown campus ministries, but we also need to help everyone — parents, pastors, congregations, students — see the part that they all play in campus ministry,” Zill said. “The opportunity for mission is breathtaking,” he said, “and the Church needs to have a place at the table of ideas in the academic square.” Megan K. Mertz is a staff writer for LCMS Communications. Learn more or find a campus ministry near you: „ „

It Takes a Synod America’s college campuses can be difficult places for Lutheran students. And the Synod’s campus ministries face great challenges, financial and otherwise.

During spring break, students from University Lutheran Chapel helped with flood-recovery efforts in Estes Park, Colo. May–June 2014


photoS: University Lutheran Chapel, Istockphoto/Thinkstock


A Beacon


for the

Community hen the Rev. Ulmer Marshall came to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mobile, Ala., in 1973, no one expected him to stay long. The neighborhood, Trinity Gardens, was in a downward spiral. There were problems with drugs and crime. Many of the streets weren’t even paved. Trinity Gardens was like a “dirty word,” Marshall said. To the Streets But Marshall and other concerned church and community members were determined. They coordinated a neighborhood watch program and worked with the police to drive out the dealers selling drugs on the street corners. “We started standing on the corners. We thought, we have just as much right to stand on the corners as the drug dealers. They would go to another, and we would move too,” Marshall recalled. “It was a dangerous ministry, but we had the Lord on our side.” Eventually, the drug dealers left, and community leaders turned their attention to cleaning up urban blight, rebuilding the neighborhood and caring for residents. In the 1980s, Trinity started a hot lunch program for senior citizens. The program regularly drew some 85 seniors before it was moved from the church to a newly built community center. In 1997, Trinity member Leevones Fisher founded the Bay Area Women’s Coalition, a nonprofit committed to improving housing and educational opportunities in Trinity Gardens. Since its establishment, the coalition has organized the planting of 4,000 trees and 16

May–June 2014

helped rescue more than 60 houses from dilapidation and foreclosure. If the owner of a run-down building can’t be identified, the organization works with the city to tear it down so a new house can be built. Church members have pitched in to build 12 houses in the area for lowincome families. “Before, it was a disaster … with houses collapsing in, people still living in them,” Fisher said. “We still have people who … need help … but the good part about it is the people act like they have some sense of hope now.” The congregation continues to seek new ways to serve the community. One summer several years ago, Trinity received a grant to pay approximately 25 young men to mow grass and do other tasks to clean up the community. Marshall’s only requirement was that the youth attend Sunday school at Trinity every week. “We had one of our young men teach them about starting a business,” Marshall said, “and we got to tell them about the love of God.” For the past 17 years, Trinity has held the Summer Enrichment Program for community children. Grant money from the state

photoS: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

by Megan K. Mertz

enables Trinity to hire teachers and provide meals to students during the free summer school. Last year, 186 children attended. In February 2014, the church held a job-training seminar to help Mobile’s young people get jobs with new companies moving into the area. The event included information about how to dress for job interviews and fill out applications. Even though Trinity did not advertise the event, more than 200 people showed up. “A church is in a community to serve that community,” Marshall said. “It’s our job.”

A Legacy of Education Over the years, Marshall has fought to keep Trinity’s day school open, despite times of struggle during its 62-year history. As a historically black Lutheran school in Alabama, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School has special significance for Black Ministry in the Synod. In 1877, just 30 years after the Synod was formed, the LCMS officially began outreach to the country’s black population when the first missionary was sent among them to

Top: The Rev. Ulmer Marshall preaches at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mobile, Ala. Left: Trinity member Leevones Fisher has been instrumental in revitalizing the surrounding neighborhoods. She is pictured in the revitalized neighborhood of Richardson Heights. Right: Students hug teacher Jonathan Clausell near the end of class at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School. Opposite: Preschooler LaTerry Kennedy prays during school at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School. May–June 2014


proclaim the Gospel. That missionary, the Rev. J.F. Doeshcher, established the first black Lutheran church and school in Little Rock, Ark. Almost 40 years later, in 1916, the Synod partnered with Dr. Rosa Young, an advocate of education for African-Americans in the South, to help start 37 schools in the Black Belt. Under her initiative, Concordia College Alabama, Selma, Ala., was founded in 1922. It continues to hold the distinction of being the nation’s only historically black Lutheran college. Today, the LCMS works with 258 congregations in Black Ministry that serve blacks and African immigrants in a variety of ways, including through education, mercy projects, and Word and Sacrament ministry. Marshall says Trinity’s school — the only one of the 37 schools started under Young’s initiative that remains in operation — has been one of its “greatest outreaches,” noting that thousands of people have come through its doors. It currently has about 130 students in preschool through seventh grade. This year, Marshall and other leaders will officially change the name of the school to the Rosa Young Academy to celebrate its historical significance. The school also has a public library branch on its campus. When Trinity expanded its school facilities in 2005, leaders saw the opportunity to partner with the public library to add a branch for the Trinity Gardens community. In exchange for providing the space, Mobile Public Library provides computers and staff. This unique partnership brings people to the church property every day and “gives our children access to a public library right here on our campus,” Marshall said. In the future, the Rev. Roosevelt Gray Jr., director of LCMS Black Ministry, hopes to use Trinity’s historic school as a model

The Rev. Ulmer Marshall greets Valarie FloydBridges after worship at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.

for starting new schools and revitalizing existing ones that can, in turn, renew black churches and communities. “Word and Sacrament ministries will come out of these educational opportunities,” Gray said.

The Life of the Church Keeping people engaged is a priority for Marshall, who shepherds Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Point Clear, Ala., in addition to Trinity’s 350 members. Trinity offers opportunities for every age group. The youth and men’s groups go into the community to clean up yards, paint houses and build wheelchair ramps. Each year, Trinity hosts at least two church groups that come to volunteer in the community. In addition, Trinity has the largest Lutheran Women’s Missionary League in the LCMS Southern District. One of the two groups is specifically for younger women. The church celebrates its life in Christ during worship each week. There are four different choirs, including a Gospel choir,

and several different dance groups that praise God through movement. During his 40 years of service, Marshall has served the Synod locally, regionally and nationally. He has the distinction of being the first black member of the Synod’s Board of Directors and the LCMS Commission on Worship. He also has served as second vicepresident of the LCMS Southern District and as chairman of the Black Clergy Caucus, among other roles. To recognize Marshall’s many years of service, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in May. Of Marshall, Gray said: “He has been a steady foundation of spiritual stability, hope and optimism in serving Trinity and the LCMS through some of the most challenging times of change in our church, country and his community. His pastoral leadership and longevity have been a model for how pastoral ministry … and visionary leadership can positively affect the mission and ministry of a local congregation serving its community with the Gospel of Christ.” Although Trinity’s previous pastors came and went, Marshall has dedicated the last 40 years to building up the church and community. Now, he said, he’s proud to say he’s part of the Trinity Gardens community, despite its rough past. “Getting involved in the community and seeing the great needs and seeing the progress we’ve made over the years, that’s one of the things that’s kept me here,” he said. “Our church has been a beacon for this community.” Learn more about LCMS Black Ministry: „ „

LCMS Black Ministry In November 2013, the Rev. Roosevelt Gray Jr. took the helm of LCMS Black Ministry as its director. Gray says that his priority is to revitalize “congregations in black ministry as 21st-century mission and ministry outposts for their communities by providing training resources in strategic planning, community outreach and collaborative partnership.”


May–June 2014

Going forward, the ministry plans to focus on: • Informing, educating and motivating LCMS members and districts to plant new congregations; • Providing leadership and training opportunities through conferences and workshops; • Revitalizing less-engaged and declining congregations to refocus on Christ’s mission; • Supporting and strengthening school ministries and assisting in the accreditation process; and • Maintaining a scholarship fund for urban children in need.

„ St. Paul’s Lutheran Church along


photoS: LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

Main Street in Concordia, Mo.


Mayberry by Adriane Heins

“It ain’t Mayberry anymore!”

exclaims the Rev. Luke Brown, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Aliceville, Kan. He’s speaking of people’s perception of rural and small-town America, that iconic place immortalized in Norman Rockwell paintings where everyone knows the difference between a Holstein and a Hereford, where retired men meet downtown for weak coffee and donuts each morning, and where lemonade stands are perched on every corner. But the perception isn’t necessarily the reality. “Rural and small-town areas are changing,” he admits, “and there is significant poverty, ethnic group changes, stresses on families, crime, deteriorating infrastructure and housing, limited access to health care and mass transportation and other challenges.” „ The Rev. J. Patrick Niles, associate pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, outside of Concordia, Mo.

May–June 2014


„ Congregants listen during a Lenten service at Lutheran Good Shepherd Home in Concordia, Mo.

Brown would know. The pastor of an “extremely remote parish” in Kansas, he shepherds a congregation in a community where the population sign reads 25. But the challenges of rural life are more than just ones of travel, weather and agriculture. The church has its share too. The Rev. J. Patrick Niles, associate pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Concordia, Mo., explains, “In a larger city or a suburban context, it is easy to assume that there is a constant mission field in which you can ‘do’ ministry … . You lose this perception in many small towns.” “So often we measure the success of a church and the ability or competence of a pastor by church attendance,” Brown adds. “In a rural and small-town environment, that can be discouraging.” In these areas, “funerals may outnumber Baptisms 2-to-1 and the Sunday school may have a small handful of kids no matter what the pastor does.” That’s why Brown and his congregation have both been helped by and are actively involved in LCMS Rural & Small Town Mission (RSTM), a ministry of the LCMS Office of National Mission, which is the Synod’s effort to “support congregations in rural and small-town settings in the work to which God has called them.” And on the flip side, Brown and his congregation are exactly the reason RSTM is focusing on the triennial theme of “Strong Faith, Fervent Love,” a purposeful emphasis 20

May–June 2014

Th  eir daily vocation will be shaped by the cross.” — Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission

on the gifts Christ has given in His Word and Sacrament, and the way in which those gifts embolden Christians to bear witness to Him no matter where they live.

Just as Important As rural and small-town congregations rediscover how the Lord is at work through them to serve their neighbor, new questions arise. That’s when RSTM comes alongside. “While there is no one picture of what a healthy, revitalized rural or small-town church looks like, they will share a very distinct and important set of characteristics,” explains the Rev. Todd Kollbaum, director of RSTM. “These congregations will primarily be outwardly focused. They will not be so concerned with how they can protect themselves … but will consistently be striving to engage those around them with the Good News of the Gospel.” Understanding this is a game changer for many small-town churches. “We can be sure of God’s activity in our midst for the exact same reasons we can be assured of His activity anywhere else,” Niles says. “Do His people gather together around His Word and Sacrament? Are sins forgiven?

Are people being taught to daily die to sin and through baptismal grace rise to new life in Christ? … Yes!” “Jesus spent time in rural areas,” Brown agrees. “Our mission is just as important as what happens in the biggest church in the Synod.” For members of St. John’s that mission — the desire to serve both their fellow members and the community around them — flows from what happens in the Divine Service on Sunday morning. A healthy, revitalized congregation is a “congregation rejoicing in who the Lord has called them to be,” explains the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission. “They won’t measure themselves against others. Revitalization is about daily dying and rising in Christ.” Healthy congregations “will be faithful, receiving God’s gifts, showing love and mercy to those in their community, sharing the Gospel with those who are still in darkness,” Day says. “They will be the body of Christ in the building and out of the building. “Their daily vocation will be shaped by the cross.” Understanding the value and worth of a congregation in this way sets a refreshed tone for work in rural areas.

“Many new pastors are placed in rural and small-town churches and may see them as stepping stones to the big time and to glory,” Brown says. “That may happen, but my hope is that they just relax, enjoy where they are, love and serve the people in their church and their community, respect and honor their traditions and history, celebrate small victories, and know that God is at work just as much in a rural and small-town church as in a big suburban church.”

increased attendance from 20 to 22 in the previous year,” Brown recalls. Brown’s response? “Wow! That’s a

No ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ Model Encouraging the revitalization of congregations in “Strong Faith, Fervent Love” in rural and small-town areas may seem like “an insurmountable

10 percent increase!” Brown also assisted with an “Engaging Your Community” event, hosted last spring in the LCMS Kansas District. “It was an invitation and encouragement to be more outward focused rather than inward focused,” he explains. Focusing on Christ’s gifts of Word and Sacrament and the gifts that flow from them can and does change how rural and small-town churches understand the Lord is at work in them to serve others. This, in turns, helps congregations “let go of preconceived notions of what a ‘successful’ congregation must look like and instead embrace that there is no ‘onesize-fits-all’ ministry model and rejoice in the fact that they are the Body of Christ

„ Above and right: The Rev. Dr. Lee Hagan of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church greets congregants following a Lenten service at Lutheran Good Shepherd Home and reads to students at St. Paul’s Lutheran School.

endeavor,” Kollbaum confesses. But RSTM staff witness just the opposite. “This is why we have placed all of our time and resources in assisting and equipping congregations through their respective districts to handle these challenges.” It’s worth it, he explains, “so that we do not lose our presence in what makes up over half of our Synod’s congregations and membership. It would be a travesty to cease to be able to deliver faithful Word and Sacrament ministry to what has become a most vulnerable and often underserved part of our mission field.” St. John’s is proof. Working with RSTM has caused Brown and his congregation to change how they view themselves, their congregation and those around them. “I visited with a pastor who kind of hung his head and said his church had

in that place to do the work He has called and equipped them to do,” Kollbaum says. “It can be easy to get into ruts, to grow discouraged or complacent, to feel isolated and that nobody knows if you’re even alive,” admits Brown, who says that much of the life together of a rural congregation “nobody else will ever see and probably won’t be appreciated by the world.” But, he says, “God sees.” Plus, “We have the promises of God that tell us His Word will not return to us empty,” Niles says. And that, it turns out, is even better than the stuff of Mayberry after all.

„ Above and left: The Rev. Harold Block, visitation pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, visits a 103-year-old church member outside of Concordia, Mo.

Adriane Heins is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness and editor of Catechetical Information. „ Learn more: May–June 2014





ittenberg Project

C a m p a i g n

Beginning May 1, 2014

Welcoming Lutherans Home

To Gather • To Learn • To Confess “The vision of establishing a distinctly Lutheran presence in the very cradle of the Reformation has been on my heart and mind for some time. As we anticipate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, it is time to renovate and transform the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Germany. The Wittenberg Project will provide the place, the opportunity and the inspiration for people to gather and learn about the Gospel Luther preached there. It will give the LCMS a unique venue, attractive to all of our existing and

emerging partners worldwide, to help us share the Gospel that Luther rediscovered in the 16th century ­­— the Gospel our world desperately needs to hear today.

We are almost there. Join me in realizing a distinctly Lutheran presence in Wittenberg.” Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

 Opportunities for matching funds and naming rights are available for individuals, groups, schools and parishes. • 888-930-4438

2014 - Lutherans Engage the World - May-June  

The Moment: Church Revitalization

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