Fall 2016 Lutherans Engage the World is published quarterly by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. © 2016 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 at engage.lcms.org. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are property of the LCMS. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version ®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
A woman prays during worship at a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, a partner church body of the LCMS.
executive director, communications executive editor director, design services managing editor/staff writer manager, photojournalism designer designer designer
David L. Strand Pamela J. Nielsen Erica Schwan Megan K. Mertz Erik M. Lunsford Lisa Moeller Annie Monette Chrissy Thomas
PHOTO: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD
Our Certain Hope in Christ
he Church’s steadfast persistence in the face of trials, challenges and cultural counterattacks reveals something special: a quiet, certain hope. Such faith has its origin in the promises and works of the Savior Himself. We Lutherans are quite stubborn about this because Jesus is right here among us now (MATT. 28:20) and has promised to come again. The spectacular Gospel truth — that we have been saved from sin, death and the power of Satan by God’s grace in Christ alone — is the cause of genuine freedom. We are reborn at the baptismal font and bear the image of His sacrificial love. Jesus gave Himself for everyone; His Church and her members, in turn, embody this selfgiving to others — from the greatest to the least. This Gospel directs us to love our neighbors with the works that God has prepared beforehand (EPH. 2:10). However, such confident hope sometimes falters. Sins assail us, and the devil never stops with his accusations. He says: “Unworthy. Unlovable. Unrighteous. God could not really love someone like you.” But Satan is silenced whenever that peculiar cross comes into view (1 COR. 1:22–25). “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 COR. 15:22). This is why the children of God are continually drawn to the very instruments — the Word and Sacraments — that deliver the fruit of this cross with its eternal benefits. Our day-to-day lives are marked by continual repentance. Our sins are no more, and we are refined and strengthened to proceed into the world. So whether across an ocean or in our own backyard, a persistent hope emerges. And from such faith, we pray that the proclamation of the Gospel and the Church’s works of mercy may continue unhindered. This issue of Lutherans Engage the World includes just a few examples — in Kenya, in Texas, in countless other contexts — of how marvelously these prayers are being answered. Rejoice over God’s goodness, and give thanks! In Christ, Rev. Kevin D. Robson Chief Mission Officer, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
We’d love for you to join us on the journey. To receive the magazine in your mailbox, please call the LCMS Church Information Center at 888-THE LCMS (843-5267). To be notified when new issues are posted online, visit engage.lcms.org.
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Find more online Welcome to Lutherans Engage the World! Inside this magazine, you’ll discover why and how you and your church, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, bear witness to the Gospel and care for our neighbor in need with the mercy of Christ. It’s what life together looks like as we Lutherans engage the world in Christ’s name. Experience making a difference as you read these amazing stories, and visit engage.lcms.org/from-the-editor-fall-2016 to learn more about the magazine’s new features. Watch, listen and look as you join us on the journey! In Christ, Pamela J. Nielsen Associate Executive Director, LCMS Communications
“People are questioning, ‘Why are these people coming to us with free medications?’”
— Rev. Daniel Mutai
the Way with 12 Paving Mercy in Rural Kenya Megan K. Mertz
A Place Where Children Can Thrive Megan K. Mertz Udom Children’s Center in Kenya provides a Christ-centered environment for at-risk children.
Faithfully Waiting for God’s Timing Pamela J. Nielsen El Calvario Lutheran Church in Brownsville, Texas, receives a new pastor after a three-year vacancy.
Ministry in El Paso Extends Mercy to Cuban Sojourners Erik M. Lunsford A grant to Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care is helping to provide for an influx of Cuban immigrants.
Departments 6 Q&A with the Rev. Nabil Nour 7 Witness Moment The Synod’s new campaign promotes seeing with eyes of life. 20 Mercy Moment A congregation reaches out to single mothers in Iowa. 21 Steward’s Corner Stewardship includes the use of our tongues and tissues.
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PHOTOS: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD
Partnering to Care for the Least of These in Kenya
Young men help with chores at the Udom Children’s Center.
ifteen-year-old Pamela Cherotich gets up at 5 a.m. every day. Although it’s early, she doesn’t mind, because she has the opportunity to go to school — something she hasn’t always been able to do. Until two years ago, Pamela was struggling to take care of herself and her seven younger siblings. The children were left to fend for themselves after their father died and their mother was inherited by another man — a custom still practiced among traditional Pokot people of western Kenya. As a young woman on her own in rural Kenya, Pamela also faced an additional danger: being taken as the third or fourth wife of a much older man. That’s when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) learned of Pamela’s situation and “rescued” her, according to Deaconess Peris Kipchumba, manager of the Udom Children’s Center in Chepareria.
A Christ-Centered, Safe Environment Pamela is one of 50 children — 26 girls and 24 boys — who live at Udom, one of four boarding-school facilities operated by the ELCK with assistance from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The site, which opened in 2010, provides a Christ-centered, safe environment for children who might otherwise not be able
to attend school. While there, children also receive meals, medical care and daily opportunities to learn about the Word of God. The four facilities were built as part of Project 24, a partnership between the ELCK, the LCMS Office of International Mission, and various LCMS individuals and organizations. The LCMS recently launched a sponsorship program called Christ’s Care for Children: Kenya
Pamela is one of 50 children — 26 girls and 24 boys — who live at Udom, one of four boarding-school facilities operated by the ELCK with assistance from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
| WATC H | Hear the children singing: engage.lcms.org/caring-for-children-in-kenya-fall-2016
| READ | blogs.lcms.org/2016/christs-care-for-childrens-bodiesand-souls-in-kenya
(CCCK), which matches donors in the United States with children at the Project 24 sites. Although each child at Udom has a different story, they are all now safe and cared for because church and community leaders in the ELCK’s Northwest Diocese identified them and took action. “The children in the [CCCK] project are vulnerable in some way, as determined by the community and the church,” said the Rev. Shauen Trump, LCMS area director for Eastern and Southern Africa. “Perhaps they are orphans. Perhaps their parents are extremely poor. Perhaps they only have one parent or there’s a disability in their family. Perhaps they are the youngest of a great number of siblings or the oldest of a great number of siblings. “In some aspect of their lives, they are vulnerable to dropping out of school or not completing primary school,” he continued. “So the program allows those children to go into a place where they can focus on their studies.”
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Students at Udom and the other three Project 24 facilities attend nearby primary schools, many of which are sponsored by the ELCK.
More than Food and Shelter A flock of chickens and two cows roam around Udom, which is perched alongside a hilly dirt road. It’s quiet during the day, but the site comes alive with activity when the children return from school. Near the kitchen, girls chop vegetables for the evening meal, while one of the older boys chases an ornery cow in an unsuccessful attempt to milk her. Across the yard, a girl hangs freshly laundered clothing from a clothesline, while other children work nearby in the garden. The program is designed to equip children with everything necessary for success in life, including skills like cooking, cleaning, gardening and caring for livestock. But, according to Trump, the most important thing that happens at Udom is that “the Gospel [is] whispered into their ears and into
their hearts at every possible opportunity.” Every day begins and ends with devotions. Choir practices, Bible studies and catechism classes occur throughout the week.
are well-educated, people who are upright spiritually,” said Pastor Wilson Pkemoi, who visits Udom once a week to teach and to catechize. Pkemoi is assisted by Wilson Alukureng, an evangelist in the
Udom students gather for tea after school.
There also is an ELCK church on-site, where the children worship with their brothers and sisters in Christ from the community. The children of Udom are full, contributing members of the church, where they sing in the choir, teach Sunday school classes for children in the community and assist with cleaning the church building. “Through God’s power, we are bringing up people who …
Several students from Udom prepare for an exam with their classmates.
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ELCK who spends three days a week at Udom teaching and leading choir practice.
Adopted into God’s Family Kipchumba is affectionately known as “mother” around Udom. It’s her job as manager to ensure that the children are fed, clothed and in school. She also shares in their
day-to-day joys and sorrows. But the children have found more than one loving parent at Udom. With a warm smile, Pkemoi talks about how the children have been “adopted” by the women of the ELCK congregation. Although the children continue to live in the dormitories at Udom, church families spend one Sunday a month with their “adopted” child. They bring them special treats and provide guidance and encouragement. “All of [the children] have been adopted in this way,” Pkemoi said. “Even some church members are saying, ‘Where are our children? We need more.’” Three times a year during school breaks, the children return home to spend time with their families or clans, and they take what they have learned with them. They volunteer at their local Lutheran church, assist evangelists and even organize Christian events for other young people. “Through the children, the Word of God has really spread very far, even to the interior part of the region,” Kipchumba
said. “They share the Gospel with their families and even other youths.”
Hope for the Future Pkemoi and Kipchumba don’t beat around the bush about the challenges that their children face, especially girls like Pamela. “In this community, girls have no value. They are married off early,” Kipchumba said of life outside the ELCK. “We wish them to continue in their schooling and … to have a bright life in the future.” One way they work to make this possible is by providing career counseling. Before graduating from primary school and leaving Udom to attend secondary school, every child has an idea of what he or she wants to do in the future and how to reach that goal. So far, 11 students from Udom have graduated and moved into dormitories at different secondary schools. Even after students finish the program, Project 24 continues to provide scholarships for their tuition, room and board.
| S PO N S O R A C H I L D |
Christ’s Care for Children: Kenya is a sponsorship program that matches donors in the U.S. with children who are living at the Project 24 sites. The cost to sponsor a child is $90 per month or $1,080 for the whole year, although one-time gifts of any amount also can be made. Sponsors receive a digital packet of information on their child, as well as quarterly updates on his or her welfare, spiritual engagement and school grades. “There’s something different about Christ’s Care for Children: Kenya” compared with similar programs, said Britt Odemba, an LCMS missionary to Kenya who oversees the program. “I’ve seen how well they are taught and what God is doing in their lives. It’s exciting for me to be part of this program and to link people together across the world.” To discuss sponsoring a child, contact Anna Lockwood at Anna.Lockwood@lcms.org or 800-248-1930, Ext. 1672. To give a one-time gift in support of this project, visit lcms.org/givenow/christs-care-forchildren-kenya.
Kipchumba’s dream is that girls who have completed the program will come back to mentor others — and that one will eventually serve as her successor as manager of Udom.
“The children of Christ’s Care for Children: Kenya are happy,” Trump said. “They’ve been taken out of situations that were very difficult, very challenging to live in, and they’ve been put into a place
Deaconess Peris Kipchumba visits some of the Udom children at school.
where a family is created around them, a family with many brothers and sisters, with caretakers who love them, who enjoy interacting with them, with people who are eager to see them succeed. … That’s a place that a child thrives in.” When asked about her experience at Udom, Pamela’s whole face lights up. “I like the Project 24 because I was an orphan, but now I was tended,” she said. “In the past, I never wear even the shoes. But now I wear it, so I love.” After nearly two years at Udom, Pamela will soon graduate from eighth grade and continue her education in a new place. In the future, she hopes to become a lawyer so that she can help other children who are living on the street. “I pray for the other children,” Pamela said. “I pray to God to help them like He helped me.” Megan K. Mertz is managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World and a staff writer for LCMS Communications.
Pamela Cherotich walks through Chepareria, Kenya.
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Q & A
A Q&A with the Rev. Nabil Nour BY KEV IN ARM BR U ST
What is your role as regional vice-president? I serve as an extension of the LCMS president in the Great Plains Region, which includes seven states in eight districts. I daily pray, encourage, visit and uplift the districts and district presidents, that they may have the strength to carry out their ministry.
hat is your greatest W joy in serving as vice-president? My greatest joy is serving my Lord and Savior, Jesus, and to work with wonderful
colleagues like President Harrison and the other vice-presidents to clearly and confessionally spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. I cherish the privilege Jesus gives me to meet many of the saints, which reminds us that we are not an island but a family of faith from many different nationalities and cultures.
What is your greatest challenge? How do we reach people with the Gospel? We always try to get the Word out to everyone, but sometimes we can’t because of finances, time restraints or difficult locations. We don’t give up hope. God is faithful to His promises.
W hat misperceptions do people have about your role? It is frustrating when people assume we are not on their side, but that we are trying to mandate how they do things. We seek to help, encourage and support them in their ministry.
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What are you most excited about in your region? The Great Plains Region is a wonderful portion of God’s kingdom — very confessional and standing on God’s inspired Word. The district presidents are caring, loving and compassionate, and they work hard to visit their pastors and congregations. How do you balance the roles of vice-president and parish pastor? To be a pastor is always to balance your time: private devotion, your own family and the family of faith. I focus on each day as a unique gift from God. Whenever I am out of the parish for Synod duty, I think, “How can I best utilize my time to serve my Lord, His Church and my parish?”
What led you to become a pastor? For five years during my work as a youth minister, I resisted people’s encouragement. I met a young man at a youth conference who wanted to kill himself. A pastor and I talked to him and, by the power of
the Holy Spirit, he didn’t commit suicide. I went home and told my wife I would go into the ministry. She said, “It’s about time.”
What do you like to do when you get a day off? I take every Monday off. I like to weld and do wood work, especially making things for my children and grandchildren. I like to make crosses.
Is there anything else you would like to add? My wife of almost 40 years has greatly supported me in my ministry. I serve the best congregation in the world, Trinity, Hartford, S.D. We are blessed in the LCMS. We stand on the Lutheran Confessions. I am honored and privileged to sit, listen to and work with men who are gems. I am on the journey of a lifetime. I have traveled to 28 states preaching and lecturing on different topics, including how we witness to Muslims and how we relate to the people in the Middle East. Dr. Kevin Armbrust is manager of Editorial Services for LCMS Communications.
PHOTO: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/MICHAEL SCHUERMANN
he Rev. Nabil S. Nour has twice served as one of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s regional vice-presidents. He was elected fifth vicepresident in 2013, and in September he was installed as third vice-president. Nour, who grew up in Nazareth, Israel, loves the Hebrew language and says the word segula defines him because it means “treasured possession.”
Seeing and Living in Christ Alone
BY KEV IN ARM B RUST
PHOTOS: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD
will speak up for life because my mom didn’t kill me,” states Diego. Simple. Grateful that his mother faced a difficult decision and chose life, he now lives with his adopted family and rejoices in God’s love. The Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel had a stroke. He is no longer able to teach at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He is no longer able to preach. Or write. Or walk. He is confined to a room, unless his wife pushes him somewhere in his wheelchair. Could someone say that his worth has diminished? Or that his life no longer contributes to the greater good of society, except in the memories of those he taught? Some would suggest that he consumes resources and space that could be better used by others. Yet Nagel said, “The Lord must intend some blessing
in this.” And his life is a gift from the One who is life and light. His value is established by the One who gives him life.
These are just a few of the people sharing their stories through Eyes of Life, a campaign from The Lutheran
How can you show that you see with eyes of life? Opportunities exist all around us: • PARTICIPATE in the conversation about life and life issues by sharing your story at eyesoflife.org/share-your-story/. Join in by talking about how God has taught you to see with eyes of life. Speak the truth of life. • VOLUNTEER with organizations that support life. You can help those who are facing beginning-of-life questions or end-of-life situations. Support a local pregnancy center. Volunteer with a local hospice program. Hold a drive to collect diapers, formula or other basic essentials to support those who have chosen life. • Make plans to JOIN in the March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 27, 2017, and stay for the LCMS Life Conference in Arlington, Va., Jan. 27-29. Proclaim life in the One who conquered death through His resurrection. • SUPPORT LCMS Life Ministry’s efforts with your prayers and gifts at lcms.org/life. | L EA RN MO RE | eyesoflife.org
Church—Missouri Synod about the way God sees life. In the midst of a world dominated by death, God sees through eyes of life. Through the resurrection of Jesus, life wins. Life defines the content and context of our conversations as we learn to see as God sees. Those who are in Christ are called to witness to life. Those who have been transformed from death to life through the death and resurrection of Jesus are called to see all of life through the eyes of life — and to proclaim life. At eyesoflife.org, read reallife stories about children, teenagers, adults and their families, stories that proclaim the gift of life in God’s hands. Jesus is alive. He reigns over all things through His life. He teaches us how to see. Death is the defeated enemy. Life wins. Look at life. Learn to see how Jesus sees. With eyes of life.
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PHOTOS: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD
y c r e m extends BY E R I K M. LUN S F OR D
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ildelisa Mesa had a pain in her heart. For months, the warm and soft-spoken Cuban fencing trainer slept on garbage bags and inside cardboard boxes in Panama, eating bits of rice and tuna as she fled from Cuba toward the United States. Mesa was one of nearly 4,000 Cuban migrants who had left home to seek a better life. Mesa was in Ecuador raising money to help her two daughters who were studying at a university back home when she fled to the U.S. Her journey was treacherous. She scaled mountains in Colombia, helped bury a man who died of a heart attack along the climb, and lamented children who were lost and a woman who fell from a cliff and died. She was afraid along the way as people who promised to help instead stole money from the group of traveling Cubans. Like Mesa, Antonio Cutino had a decision to make. He was in Ecuador working at a temporary job. Before his return date to Cuba, Cutino fled north. At one point during his journey, he hiked with others through a deep jungle in Colombia, fearful of predatory animals. Along the way, an indigenous community received them and treated them well. Cutino said he left “because there was no diversity in expression and, secondly, because of the economic situation that is happening throughout the country … a difficult situation where life’s basic needs are difficult to have.”
People carry bags of food away from the weekly food distribution at Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care in El Paso. t Hildelisa Mesa (right) greets a fellow Cuban immigrant. The two women journeyed together through South and Central America to reach the United States.
Amauris Fernández Arrate left Cuba in December 2013. After working in Venezuela while waiting for part of his family to arrive, they left for the U.S. He shares similar views to Cutino and paid a high price both in time and money to come. He left because “people don’t feel free.” All three immigrants were allowed to enter the U.S. under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1996 (CAA). According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the CAA provides
a special procedure so that Cuban natives and their accompanying spouses and children can be granted permanent, legal residence in the United States.
Care from the Church Arrate, Cutino and Mesa eventually crossed the U.S. border in El Paso, Texas, and with help arrived at Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care (YLM), a human-care and church-planting nonprofit founded in 1982. YLM is an LCMS Recognized Service Organization. “It’s as if we arrived in heaven, our lives completely transformed,” Mesa said.
Ysleta — a 5-acre campus with a dormitory, thrift shop, medical clinic, food distribution center, education building for English instruction and the parish of San Pablo — continues to house several dozen Cuban refugees following the peak of immigration, which occurred in May 2016. YLM is part of a larger network of Christian agencies in El Paso caring for this influx of legal immigrants. YLM also sustains six mission sites in its sister city of Juarez, Mexico, and three farther south in Chihuahua. At the peak of the wave, and for several weeks after new arrivals stopped, Ysleta housed 80 Cubans every night. “From the moment I got here, it is like being at home,” Cutino said. “It’s like the people have known you all your life. You don’t feel strange; you don’t feel overprotected nor overvalued, they treat me with respect and admiration, the way human beings should be treated.” “We need a lot of help and encouragement,” said the Rev. Stephen Heimer, pastor of nearby Zion Lutheran Church and chief operating officer of YLM. Months after the Cubans arrived, many have left for other cities, but several dozen have remained in El Paso and some still live in the dormitories.
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El Paso, Texas
Staff and volunteers distribute food at Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care in El Paso.
| WATCH |
Hear more from Hildelisa Mesa: engage.lcms.org/ministry-tocuban-sojourners-fall-2016
A vintage automobile drives down a roadway in El Paso.
Since May 10, YLM’s small staff — which includes Heimer and his father, the Rev. Karl Heimer — has worked almost nonstop. They have made themselves available morning to night for the newly arriving Cubans, even staying up well past midnight to provide logistics and shelter. Elvira Viramontes, humancare program coordinator at YLM, manages a number of projects at the mission in El Paso and Mexico, including a weekly food distribution that serves 120 people. “I see a lot of love here for everybody. We don’t discriminate; we accept everyone with a lot of love and respect, and
we try to serve them with a lot of quality,” she said. As immigrants arrived, Viramontes or other volunteers ushered the Cubans into the thrift shop for fresh clothing and then onward to the cafeteria for a meal, which was prepared by Cuban volunteers who were already at the mission. An LCMS grant for $12,600 to YLM helped provide for these sojourners and brought pastoral help from other LCMS congregations. The Rev. Steve Massey came from Michigan, and Vicar John Benito came from Kansas City. Both men have since returned to their parishes, but they
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continue to help the immigrants with encouragement and prayers. In addition to offering English-as-a-Second-Language classes for immigrants, the mission is looking forward to providing a financial basics class, encouraging driver’s education and teaching about the country’s laws.
Changing Lives through Kindness “We are changing lives through simple acts of kindness,” said Karl Heimer, president of YLM and pastor of San Pablo on the YLM campus. He himself is a native
of Cuba who came to the U.S. after high school to study for the ministry. “I really love them and care for them, and I will be with them and show the love of Christ to them.” Cubans such as Arrate volunteer their time to help repair the facilities, cook food and help other immigrants. “I have a double blessing, being able to receive and being able to help and work for others — that’s what it’s all about,” Arrate said. While the strain of the immigrants have challenged the normal operations of YLM, Stephen Heimer is confident the mission can continue its
Cuban immigrants smile as they are recognized after worship at San Pablo Lutheran Church in El Paso.
work with the Cubans thanks to the ongoing prayers and support from local Lutherans. “It’s all part of a wonderful work of God,” he said. After Mesa arrived, she walked the YLM campus in the mornings and prayed. She inquired about the church, and the Heimers talked with her. “When I arrived here, it was a blessing from God because I have met the most wonderful people in my entire life, and they are what motivated me in this world. … I feel as though I am with my true family,” she said. After she had attended catechism classes, Mesa was baptized by Karl Heimer one Sunday in May.
“Blessed be this church,” Mesa said, “and blessed be these people who have chosen us. We will be forever grateful.” The pain she endured — the harrowing journey and fearful struggle — is now gone, and she looks forward to providing a better life for some of her family members who are still in Cuba. The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, finally brought peace to Mesa. Erik M. Lunsford is managing photojournalist for LCMS Communications.
A Cuban immigrant is baptized at San Pablo by the Rev. Karl Heimer.
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ould you use two weeks of vacation to travel halfway around the world with total strangers to serve people you don’t know in an unfamiliar cultural setting? Delivering Body and Soul Care Each morning, two land cruisers shuttled the team along barely discernible desert roads to the clinic site, where a crowd was already sitting under a straggly acacia tree. Some patients walked for miles to attend; others came from a nearby camp for people displaced by disaster or political or ethnic violence. The first stop for each patient was the evangelism tent, where volunteers from an
EVANGELISM TENT The MMT chaplain and local Lutheran evangelists presented the Gospel message in three languages: English, Swahili and the local Turkana language.
PHOTOS: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD
That’s exactly what 12 members of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) did in June, when they came together on a Mercy Medical Team (MMT) to Nataparkakono, a village near Lodwar, Kenya. Team members came from all around the United States and from all walks of life. There was a retired nurse from Iowa who brought her granddaughter, a recent high-school graduate. There was a recently married couple — a teacher and a medical student — from Illinois. There was a pastor from Texas, a doctor from Ohio and a city planner from Virginia. Most members of the team met for the first time at the airport, although they participated in a month-long email Bible study before departure. But it didn’t take long for them to form a strong bond, as they worked together for a common goal: to share the love of God by providing free medical care to underserved people. Since 2006, the LCMS has organized numerous MMTs that have provided desperately needed health care to more than 30,000 patients around the globe. And MMTs provide much more than physical care; they also help local Lutherans bring the Gospel.
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A member of the MMT counts pills for a patient.
A local woman walks to the Mercy Medical Team clinic.
T R I AG E A N D E XA M I N AT I O N MMT members took patients’ vital signs before moving them on to the nurses and doctors. Top Conditions Treated • Malaria • Arthritis • Pneumonia • Hypertension • Allergies • Bacterial Infections
PHARMACY Patients picked up medication they had been prescribed, even if it was just a package of vitamins or Ibuprofen tablets.
A Kenyan doctor talks with a patient during the clinic.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) congregation in another town were waiting to help them register. In this tent, MMT Chaplain Rev. Robert Pase, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Midland, Texas, and Faith Lutheran Church, Andrews, Texas, and local Lutheran evangelists presented the Gospel message in three languages: English, Swahili and the local Turkana language. “I know in Jesus if I don’t see you again on this earth, I will see you in heaven, with no need for translation,” Pase said to the people listening attentively at the end of one of his presentations. The patients then moved on to a second tent, where members of the MMT took their vital signs before sending them on to the nurses and doctors. Although the clinic was limited in the medications available and the diagnostic tests that could be performed on-site, the team was able to deliver physical relief to patients suffering from maladies like malaria, pneumonia, tuberculosis, mumps and scabies. They also were able to run tests and share the results with patients — from a joyful pregnancy announcement to tragic news about an HIV diagnosis. The final stop was the pharmacy, where patients picked up any medications they had been prescribed. Everyone left with something, even if it was just a package of vitamins or Ibuprofen tablets to ease the aches and pains of daily life. “Simple things, like getting somebody who clearly has allergies antihistamines, can make a big difference in the way they feel,” said Dr. Jeffrey Pruitt, a general surgeon and member
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of St. John Lutheran Church in Defiance, Ohio, who served as the team’s doctor. In just five days, the team treated 1,861 people, distributed boxes upon boxes of medications and gave out 2,000 toothbrushes.
Working Together Each American nurse or doctor was teamed up with a Kenyan counterpart, so that both parties could learn from each other. Not only did the Kenyan medical team help translate, but they also were more familiar with the illnesses and conditions commonly seen in the area. Pruitt commented that this collaboration is one of his favorite things about the two MMTs he’s experienced. It was the Kenyan doctor, he noted, who recognized one patient’s trachoma — a bacterial infection that can lead to blindness if untreated. Shane Lund, a firefighter paramedic and member of Faith Lutheran Church, Merritt Island, Fla., was assigned to run blood and urine tests in the clinic lab — tasks he rarely performs at his job. He was grateful that the lab technologist from the Lodwar hospital was there to walk him through the process and teach him how to tell patients the results in their own language. “We were just able to come together with the Kenyan medical team and get the people the care that they needed,” he said. “I’ll remember the people on the team forever.”
Sarah Kanoy, a nurse and LCMS missionary to East Africa, sets up an IV for a young woman with low blood pressure.
The MMT also gave several team members who hope to work in the medical field one day some hands-on experience. Daniel Boeder, a second-year medical student and member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Springfield, Ill., found that practice really does make perfect. He said he’s not going to have any problem passing the vital signs portion of his med school exam next year after taking the blood pressures of 300-plus patients. “It was really interesting to see how the local Kenyan doctors did treatment there knowing that [the patients] were probably never going to go to a doctor again,” he said. There was a job for everyone on the team, not just the doctors and nurses. Lorrie Kirst, a city planner and member of Hope Lutheran Church in Manassas, Va., helped in the pharmacy, and Boeder’s wife, Nicole, a teacher and former missionary with the LCMS, gave out toothbrushes and toothpaste. “At first I was kind of worried that there wouldn’t be anything very helpful for me to do, but you use the skills that you have,” Nicole Boeder said. “Since I’m a teacher, I was able to teach people about how to brush their teeth.”
Building Up the Church The ELCK, a partner church of the LCMS, had
Dr. Jeffrey Pruitt (right) works with a Kenyan doctor to treat a young patient.
specifically requested that the MMT come to serve in this remote place. The ELCK had been given some land in the area and dispatched the Rev. Daniel Mutai to establish a new mission station there. The MMT was an important step in that process. As the team cared for the old and young and played with the local children who gathered every day, the community took notice. “People are questioning, ‘Why are these people coming to us with free medication?’” Mutai said. “They are talking positively. This will actually help me to open a congregation here in Lodwar because many people will know that there is a church called the Evangelical Lutheran Church. “We have been telling many that our mission … is to preach the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to serve humanity spiritually and physically,” he continued. The LCMS and the ELCK have a plan in place so that people who heard the Gospel during the MMT can continue to learn about Jesus Christ and be brought into the new church that will soon be founded here. Even in this barren place, Mutai is able to say, “Working here is a blessing. … Turkana people are good people. They are welcoming, and they are willing to work with you for [the] mission for God.”
The Rev. Daniel Mutai was sent by the ELCK to establish a mission station.
| R E AD |
Learn about Mercy Medical Teams: lcms.org/mercyteams
| WATC H | ear more from the Rev. Daniel H Mutai: engage.lcms.org/mercymedical-team-to-kenya-fall-2016
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BY PA ME LA J . N I E LS E N
Faithfully � �Waiting � � for God's Timing�
Once again it’s Gospel-planting season in Brownsville, Texas.
his past April, church members sat in the fellowship hall and fretted. There was a weariness in their voices as they talked about efforts to keep the church running without a shepherd. “We’ve been praying for years for a pastor, because we cannot afford a pastor,” said Danny Hopinks. “I always thought that the church was going to die when the pastor left, but it hasn’t died. Thank God for that. “We always kept worshiping God every week — we never stop, every week.” You hardly notice El Calvario Lutheran Church as
you drive by it in an aging part of town. But appearances often deceive. The small, white, century-old former store building, battered by time and weather and neglected by economic necessity, is home to the faithful flock who gather, in season and out, at this church in Brownsville. A few blocks away, aging buildings line the downtown streets. Once-grand storefronts, built more than a century ago, offer food, clothing and other colorful merchandise. The plethora of items draws a steady stream of Mexican citizens over the Rio Grande River border bridge.
Students head to class on the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley campus in Brownsville.
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Car trunks, backseats and pushcarts overflow with items carried back. Brownsville, long plagued by unemployment, is leveraging an economic upturn. A wide range of industries — including manufacturing, automotive, medical, retail, space and aviation, international logistics, and food processing — provides steady employment for those with specific skills and education. The state of Texas is investing heavily in the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, a regional university and leading institution for Hispanic engineers and research in the
aerospace industry. A new medical school and research center are set to open yet this year.
Looking Back and Eyeing the Future On a typical Sunday morning, the church fills with members from other parts of the city, where new homes and neighborhoods draw residents eager to make a good life with their families. “There’s a lot of very poor families,” said Gloria Palacios, describing the old neighborhood around the church. “We [the congregation members] don’t really have
Shops line the the historic business district on Elizabeth Street, soon to be revitalized through the Texas Historical Commission’s “Main Street City” program.
Members of El Calvario participate in the installation of their new pastor, the Rev. Antonio Lopez, on July 31, 2016.
Brownsville, Texas 1848 Brownsville founded
1854 First Catholic church started
1937 El Calvario Lutheran Church formed
2016 Missionary pastor Rev. Dr. Antonio Lopez installed
2013 Last pastor called to El Calvario leaves engage. l cms .o rg
people from here that attend church.” Palacios and her fellow parish members talk about the opportunities to share Christ in the neighborhood. They reminisce about a time some years ago when they had both a pastor and a director of Christian education who led a vibrant outreach to the neighborhood. Recently, a young construction worker passed members conversing on the sidewalk next to the church. He remembers coming to El Calvario’s after-school program as a young boy to do homework, play and learn Bible stories and songs. “You should do that again,” he says as he gives them his address and phone number. “I would like to help.” “The [LCMS] Texas District had subsidized El Calvario for well over 50 years and had made the difficult, but understandable, decision [three years ago] that limited mission funds needed to be invested in other areas of the state with growing Latino populations,” said the Rev. Dr. Carlos Hernandez, director of LCMS Church and Community Engagement, which includes the strategic development of Hispanic ministry. With the encouragement of Texas District Mission Facilitator Rev. Michael Newman, Hernandez traveled to Brownsville to deliver the Sunday sermon, lead Bible class and visit the members. “After church, former pastor Steve Morfitt (now a district mission trainer) and I sat around the table and brainstormed,” said Hernandez, who knew that the Synod does not subsidize individual congregations. How do you call a pastor you desperately need but cannot afford?
Morfitt and Hernandez worked out a plan to revitalize the parish, plant a new church in the north Brownsville neighborhood, where many first- and second-generation Hispanics live, and begin ministry on the University of Texas campus just three blocks from the church. With the new plan in sight, Hernandez brought the Rev. Steven Schave, director of the Synod’s new church-planting
of their new missionary pastor, the Rev. Dr. Antonio Lopez, one of the Synod’s new national missionaries placed through the Office of National Mission. Lopez, who is fluent in Spanish, will not only serve the congregation, but his missionary call includes the expectation that he will help start a campus ministry at the University of Texas and a new church plant in north Brownsville.
| LEA R N MO R E |
In God’s Time “[We are] just overjoyed, because we’ve prayed for this for years … we were just waiting to have our pastor,” beamed long-time member Sara Zambrano following the installation service. “God answered our prayers, and we knew that He would and He did, at the right time.” Thanks to this new model of partnership with districts and a growing network of
Long-time member Gloria Palacios views children’s chalk art in the fellowship hall of El Calvario.
Read about Mission Field: USA and the Synod’s national missionaries: lcms.org/ churchplanting See where Mission Field: USA is working: engage.lcms.org/thefaithful-in-brownsville-fall-2016
Deaconess Pamela J. Nielsen is associate executive director for LCMS Communications. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter at @deac_pam.
initiative, Mission Field: USA, to Brownsville. “Brownsville is a modernday Ephesus,” said Schave, determined to make it a new Mission Field: USA site. “It’s an international seaport and a corridor into Mexico, Central and South America.”
A Missionary for a Modern-Day Ephesus On July 31, Hernandez joined area clergy and the saints at El Calvario for the installation
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Lopez said he feels led by God and is “excited to see what the Lord is going to do.” Lopez has always considered himself a missionary, even before he was ordained, pointing to Jesus’ words in Matthew 28: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” — a message for all Christians. There’s no distinction, he said, “between being a Christian and sharing your faith.” He believes that “evangelism begins in your home, in the family.”
support that includes congregations and individuals from across the Synod, congregations in forgotten cities like Brownsville once again have pastors who will care for the faithful and reach out to the lost. “I’m so proud of my church,” said one member of El Calvario. “I pass by here every day and tell everybody, ‘Look! That’s my church; it’s there! Look at my church!’”
The Rev. Antonio Lopez blesses the congregation at the close of his installation service. Joyful members take pictures of their new pastor after the service.
Learn more about the Rev. Dr. Antonio Lopez: lcms.org/lopez
Old hymnals testify to the ongoing presence and ministry of El Calvario.
Members of El Calvario receive Holy Communion.
Members and guests received bookmarks to commemorate Lopezâ€™s installation.
Members young and old fill the pews for the installation of their new pastor.
Members gather for a meal following the Sunday worship service at El Calvario.
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, Grant gives relief strength to single moms in Iowa Three years ago at this time, I was living my dream — I had a happy marriage, was able to stay home full time with my kids, and my husband and I were in the process of adopting two little girls from foster care, increasing our family from four children to six,” said Sarah, who did not want her last name to be used. “Then, my husband suddenly died. Overnight, I went from living the dream to being a single mother, wracked with grief over my own loss and having six little hearts that I had to help heal.” Sarah and her children were among some 75 single moms and 80 children who took part in “Single Moms’ Morning Out” April 30. It was a mercy and outreach event organized by Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Urbandale, Iowa, and made possible with a $5,750 LCMS “Stand With Your Community” (SWYC) grant. These grants are part of the Synod’s efforts leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. About 250 volunteers provided car care, food service, prayer, encouragement, hair styling, child care and vacation Bible school-style activities for children. The planning
Clementine Karl (left), a member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Urbandale, Iowa, chats with a woman at the church’s “Single Moms’ Morning Out” event.
for the entire event was led by two lay members, Penny Schramm and Jenny Lappin. “Our event was greatly aided by the SWYC grant. It was a blessing to start with that amount of funding so we could dream big and offer the mothers and children who attended a beautiful, God-glorifying experience,” said Chris Thomson, Gloria Dei’s executive director. “Our plan for next year is to recruit two other churches to carry out the same ministry and help them make it a success based on what we learned and experienced.” Thomson said the idea for Single Moms’ Morning Out came from Gloria Dei’s senior pastor, the Rev. Joe Meyer, who had seen this type of ministry
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at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Peoria, Ill. The congregation chose April 30 since it was close to Mother’s Day. Prior to the event, the congregation partnered with a local radio station to help spread the word to single moms in the community and garner donations of clothing and gift cards. “The partnership with 107.1 went very well. They were very pleased that we did all the work surrounding the event and they just had to advertise for us on the radio,” Thomson said. “It was a great way for us to get the word out.” Since hosting the event, the congregation has sought to evaluate how well it went by seeking feedback from the
families who participated. “We could not be more pleased with how it went. God was clearly over and through the planning stages and the entire day of the event. We had wonderful testimonies from the women who were here, and this event brought our church community together in ways we have not seen before,” Thomson said. “It was a great example of how when we bless others, we are the ones who receive the greatest blessing.” “I came away from the morning so incredibly blessed,” Sarah said. “My little ones, who had grumbled that morning about being awakened so early on a rainy, non-school day, had the most amazing time as well. The way you loved our family and helped to strengthen and encourage me was straight from God. I have learned on this journey that while the many blessings our family has experienced have come through the hands of others, they are truly from God first.” Roger Drinnon is director of Editorial Services and Media Relations for LCMS Communications.
PHOTOS: LIGHTSTOCK, GLORIA DEI LUTHERAN CHURCH
BY ROGE R D R I N N O N
The Power of Words
As the children’s song says: So be careful little tongue what you say So be careful little tongue what you say For the Lord up above is looking down in love So be careful little tongue what you say.
f you read or listen to enough stuff about Christian stewardship, you may run across a familiar saying: We are God’s managers (stewards) of our time, talents and treasure. These are often called “the Big Three Ts.” An insightful pastor I know, the Rev. Heath Curtis, coordinator of LCMS Stewardship Ministry, talks of stewardship in terms of our vocation as a Christian, or what some mistakenly labeled as a fourth “T”: toil. What Curtis means by “vocation” is our entire life as baptized and redeemed children of God living under His Word. I have several vocations: father, husband, son, member of my congregation, called worker of the LCMS, team leader and coach, and more. What I do or don’t do in each of those specific vocations
involves the wise management of something or someone God has placed into my care. So the fourth “T” (toil) represents all the joyful actions under our various vocations that serve both Jesus and neighbor. That gets me to a fifth and often-ignored “T”: tissue. I don’t mean the kind that comes out of a box. I mean the physical body God has given me. Stewardship of the body — the very tissues it contains — is and can be as tough as managing time and finances. All I have to do to see that I need to improve in this area is to compare the size of the pants or shirts I wear today to what I wore several years ago. But the biggest piece of tissue I struggle to steward is the one inside my mouth: my tongue. Words matter. What I say to others and about
others, or even about myself, is a matter of stewarding my tongue and even my brain. I can choose to speak idle gossip, selfish or self-absorbed tirades, or condescension and judgment. Or I can choose words of compassion, empathy, forgiveness, tenderness, respect and love. Sometimes, I choose to say nothing at all. The Rev. John Fale, who leads the Synod’s Office of International Mission, caught me one time in a situation where my stewardship of my tongue was found wanting. After listening to me vent, he calmly counseled: “Sometimes the best response [to that kind of situation] is to not respond at all.” I’m often amazed, although not surprised, to see how our great enemy can and will use the tongues of Christians to split the church. Lutherans,
well meaning and passionate as they are, will “speak in tongues” that divide one part of the body from another. Our personal wants and needs, our desire to control, or even our fears and distrust of one another become tools in Satan’s hands. Thanks be to God that we are forgiven by the death and resurrection of God’s own body in our Savior, Jesus, and empowered by His Word and Sacrament to seek a more excellent way: the way of love, forgiveness and compassion toward one another and our neighbors. For in Christ, all things are possible — even stewardship of the tongue and all our tissues. Mark Hofman, CFRE, MBA, is the executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement.
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Stewarding THE Fifth ‘T’
BY MA R K H OF MA N
Experience Making a Difference
You are an essential part of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s work around the world, and the stories found in these pages are about how YOU are making a difference and changing lives with the Gospel and Christ’s mercy. You may have seen Lutherans Engage the World before, but we’re excited to announce these new options and features: u Free bulk subscriptions for congregations; v Free subscriptions for individuals; and w A new, multimedia website with videos, audio clips and more.
To sign up for a free individual or bulk subscription:
• Call the LCMS Church Information Center at 888-THE LCMS (843-5267). • Visit engage.lcms.org.
2017 LCMS Life Conference
REGISTER TODAY! Join LCMS Life Ministry as we proclaim God’s truth that all life is sacred — from the very beginning until the natural end.
We're taking a 360° look at life!
WASHINGTON, D.C. JAN. 27–29, 2017