Lutherans Engage the World | Fall 2018

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Fall 2018 Lutherans Engage the World is published quarterly by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. © 2018 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 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.

Staff David L. Strand Pamela J. Nielsen Erica Schwan Megan K. Mertz Erik M. Lunsford Lisa Moeller Chrissy Thomas Rudy Blank

executive director, communications executive editor director, design services managing editor/staff writer manager, photojournalism designer designer webmaster

Cover image

An LCMS missionary holds artwork painted by an Iranian refugee who now attends Die Brücke Lutheran outreach center in Leipzig, Germany. The painting contains frightening imagery from the woman’s life. Read more on Page 12. PHOTO: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ ERIK M. LUNSFORD


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

Editorial Office

314-996-1215 1333 S. Kirkwood Road St. Louis, MO 63122-7295 888-THE LCMS  |

the world

Proclaiming Liberty to Souls in Prison “I was in prison and you came to me” (MATT. 25:36B). These words of Christ, spoken on the Mount of Olives just prior to His betrayal, arrest, suffering and crucifixion, no doubt held a place of special honor and comfort among the earliest saints of the New Testament era. Many joined their Lord Jesus in knowing what it was to suffer for their faithfulness to the sure Word of God, often in unjust, terrifying ways. They experienced imprisonment, torture and death simply for being baptized into Christ and making the good confession before the authorities. But then they were received into the hope and glory of heaven. The angels rejoiced. Every missionary visits souls in prison. Sometimes they are behind intimidating walls and bars. Yet, more often than not (as can be seen in the vivid, diverse narratives in this issue of Lutherans Engage the World), our darkest and most foreboding prisons are absent of any such physical constraints. Instead, they are addictions, religious persecution, the crippling challenges of poverty, hostility to Christianity, families wounded or split apart, or legitimate anxieties over the most basic aspects of day-to-day survival. All these are signs and symptoms of our universal brokenness in sin and death. Thankfully, coming to those in prison was exactly what Jesus did in coming into this world: “The Spirit of the Lord … has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives” (LUKE 4:18). What Jesus did, in words and deeds and in the bearing of His cross unto death to destroy sin and death, the Church does today, through every one of its members. Through you — the Church proclaiming the all-powerful Gospel given freely, God’s gift to mankind. Through you — united to Jesus in His death and resurrection, “that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (ROM. 6:6B). He is risen indeed, Rev. Kevin D. Robson Chief Mission Officer, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

From the Editor This issue of Lutherans Engage the World is full of incredible stories of the Gospel going forth behind bars, across barriers and over borders in places few of us have ever considered. In the following pages, you’ll see how the Gospel equips and enables God’s people to love and connect with others quite different from themselves. Our Lord continues to use your prayers and financial support to extend the reach of His saving Word as He blesses the work of missionaries, pastors, deaconesses and lay members of His Church. Set aside some time to read these stories as you join us on the journey! In Christ, Pamela J. Nielsen Associate Executive Director, LCMS Communications



Bringing the Reformation to Bucharest

The Confessional Lutheran Church in Romania and its pastor are bringing the true Gospel to Romanians.

Kevin Armbrust



Joyfully Lutheran in the City and the Country Kevin Armburst and Megan K. Mertz

Whether in urban Detroit or rural Iowa, all people are in need of the same thing: Jesus Christ.



Finding Forgiveness Megan K. Mertz Inmates in Columbia City, Ind., are hearing the Gospel thanks to St. John Lutheran Church’s jail ministry.



A Bridge to the Gospel Kevin Armbrust Die BrĂźcke, a Lutheran outreach center in Leipzig, Germany, is connecting refugees and native Germans to Christ.

Departments 2 Q&A With the Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich 7 Witness Moment A Taiwanese vicar is sharing his Gospel hope with others. 16 Mercy Moment Indonesian Lutherans are caring for their neighbors. 21 Spotlight The Global Seminary Initiative helps form church leaders.


Q&A Brian Friedrich



President of Concordia, Nebraska

Since 1991, the Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich has made his home in Seward, Neb., where he’s served in a variety of positions at Concordia University, Nebraska — including as president since 2004. As the university begins its 125th academic year, Friedrich took time to chat about the importance of Lutheran education.


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How do you foster Lutheran identity on campus? We make four promises of a Lutheran education to our students. First, we promise a Christian community … . Second, our promise of inquiry immerses students in an environment of rich academic exploration and inquiry, where they deeply consider, debate and critically examine the world and its inhabitants, past and present, in the context of God’s truth as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Third, our promise of purpose develops students’ skills and abilities to help them become experts in service to others in their families, communities, churches and the world … . Finally, we promise wisdom through helping students foster Christian wisdom to select and productively apply these tensions as opportunities to serve their neighbor in both conventional and unconventional ways.


Is Concordia’s Lutheran identity impacted by the growing number of nonLutheran students? As a Christ-centered institution of higher education, we have put an increased focus on our promises of a Lutheran education. Our Lutheran identity is in our DNA — it is who we are! Not because of a change in our Lutheran population, but because we have found all of our students are positively impacted by our intentional integration of Christian faith, life and learning. Our promises are not about who we teach and

impact, but how we approach the educational experience our students receive.


How important is it for your school to continue preparing future church workers? Concordia has been, and will be, a leader in equipping students to serve and lead for the church and world. We have an unwavering commitment to equip the next generation of church workers through our pre-seminary, pre-deaconess, church music, director of Christian education (DCE) and

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teacher education programs. I am excited to announce that Traci Kohls has accepted our call to join Dr. Mark Blanke in developing future men and women in the important role of DCE.


What are you looking forward to this school year? When our students start classes [in August], it energizes our campus and the entire town of Seward. We are thrilled to welcome to our Seward campus the largest freshman class of students in

Megan K. Mertz is managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World and a staff writer for LCMS Communications.

nearly 50 years. God continues to be so good to us, and we are abounding in thankfulness for all of His blessings to us.


Is there a Bible verse that’s especially important to you? Each year, Concordia selects a theme verse for our life and work together. This year our verse is Col. 2:6–7. I love the verse because it is a constant and beautiful reminder of how God has called us to serve Him and others: because of God’s saving love to us in Jesus Christ, we “walk in him … abounding in thanksgiving.”


The Confessional Lutheran Church in Romania and its pastor are bringing the true Gospel to Romanians.

Pastor Sorin-Horia Trifa and his son, Sergiu, hang posters in Bucharest, Romania, advertising a church service and concert.



“My people, the Romanians, need to hear the Word of God — real Lutheran theology — in Romanian,” said native Romanian Rev. Sorin-Horia Trifa, the pastor of Biserica Lutherană Confesională din România and an LCMS Alliance Missionary.* “I want to show them what Lutherans really believe.” *An Alliance Missionary is an indigenous worker who receives support from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Trifa leads Bible class before worship one Sunday afternoon.

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A woman walks into the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest, Romania, on July 21.

Saints with prominent halos adorn the outside wall of the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchal Cathedral.

|  WATCH   | A video of Pastor Trifa: Maria Niculescu and Gabriela Ivascu attend worship at the Confessional Lutheran Church in Romania on July 22.

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B The most important thing is to help people understand Christ for their salvation and what it means to live as a Lutheran. Lutheran spirituality is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” — Rev. Sorin-Horia Trifa

The architecture of Bucharest depicts its past: Eastern European and growing Western influences. Trifa and his family pray with visitors before lunch. Trifa’s family is inextricably tied to his mission, as he hosts Bible studies in his home and invites members and prospective members for meals.

iserica Lutherană Confesională din România (Confessional Lutheran Church in Romania), a small Lutheran congregation in the middle of the Romanian capital city of Bucharest, gathers around the pure and true proclamation of the Gospel and the scriptural administration of the Sacraments. “People here come to worship God, and people truly worship with joy,” said Gabriela Ivascu, a member of the Bucharest church. The people of this congregation carry the Good News of God’s love in Christ to their neighbors. Ivascu said that the members take what they learn at church and “teach others what God has taught them.”

Eastern Orthodoxy in Romania The Romanian landscape is full of large churches and monasteries. Unlike most of Europe, the churches are not empty. People regularly visit these sanctuaries to ask for prayers, listen to services and kiss relics — crossing themselves many times throughout their comings and goings. Yet, in the midst of this piety, the

departed from traditional true Gospel is rare. biblical Christianity. In addi“To be Romanian is to be tion to their theological issues, Orthodox,” says a common they preach in their native Romanian adage. Though languages — the German religious freedom is granted Lutherans preach in German to the Romanian people, the and the Hungarian Lutherans Orthodox church is tied to the preach in Hungarian. This regovernment and is central to inforces the axiom that to be the lives of many Romanians. Romanian is to be Orthodox, The Orthodox in Bucharest and to be Lutheran is to be a are proud to say that their foreigner. church remains unaffected “The most important thing by the Reformation, which is to help people understand never progressed past the Christ for their salvation Carpathian Mountains. and what it means to live Today in these Orthodox as a Lutheran,” noted Trifa. churches, relics are avail“Lutheran spirituality is the able for kissing, the bodies Gospel of Jesus Christ.” of saints are on display and To bring the true Gospel to priests are waiting to say his fellow Romanians, Trifa ofprayers. All at a cost. Money fers Bible study twice a week; boxes are placed prominently near icons, saints and mosaics. appears on a TV show when invited, which affords him The priests’ prayers are availthe opportunity to explain able for a price. Weddings, Lutheran doctrine; and serves funerals, Baptisms and other as a pastor, including offerservices can be had for a fee. ing regular preaching and To a Lutheran, this all sounds worship. In addition, Trifa has like echoes of a former era begun work in Padua, Italy, before Luther corrected the where he preaches in Italian church’s practice of offering to a small group who are besalvation for a price. ginning a congregation. But in spite of the Carpathian Mountains Building with and the Eastern Orthodox Christ Jesus as the Church, the Lutheran church Cornerstone is in Bucharest. The historic Lutheran churches have “The sermon is God’s truth, centered on love,” said Maria Niculescu, a member of the church and a professional poet. Niculescu explained that she used to be far from God. But then she heard about Pastor Trifa and his congregation. “God works through people,” she said. “They brought me here.” The people brought her, and now God’s Word strengthens her faith and keeps her in the faith. Niculescu said the preaching is her favorite part of church, because she hears the true Word of God. God’s work through His Word continues to bear fruit in the people of Bucharest. engage. lcms .o rg


In the midst of relics and paying the Church to intercede with God, the pure Gospel of Christ stands as a beacon, calling people to trust in God in Christ. One of those brought to the cross of Christ is Ghiurca Adrian, a former Catholic priest. Adrian said that after hearing Trifa preach, he would like to become a Lutheran pastor, because “I would like to preach the true word of Jesus. What Jesus did for us that we might be saved.” Currently, Trifa’s congregation meets in an Anglican church building, which they rent for a few hours every weekend. The congregation yearns for a space of their own where they can offer more opportunities for instruction, community events and, especially, worship. “My soul is clean,” said Anka Cherciu when asked why she’s thankful for her church. Cherciu’s smile as she talks about her family at church is compelling and genuine. Hands outstretched to the other congregation members nearby, she said, “They are my family — my brothers and sisters.”

largest obstacles is the availability of accurate Lutheran material in Romanian. The present Romanian writings about Luther and the Lutheran church were not written by Lutherans. In addition to his work as missionary and pastor, Trifa also is pursuing further education, including a Master of Sacred Theology degree from Gothenburg, Sweden, in coordination with Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., and a doctorate from the University of Bucharest. This additional education will allow him to provide instruction and material for the Confessional Lutheran Church in Romania as it moves forward.

“Most Romanians only know Lutheranism from history books,” Trifa said. “I want them to know that we are real and we are here now.” To fill the void of good Romanian Lutheran materials, Trifa is writing and translating confessional Lutheran documents. Sergiu Trifa, his teenage son, worked with him to translate Luther’s Small Catechism. Both the catechism and Trifa’s book, which is translated as The Means of Grace in the Confessional Lutheran Church, are available for people when they come to worship. “Everything I do and everything going on is to fulfill the task of proclaiming the Gospel,” said Trifa. “The academic learning, the training, the TV show,

“Communicate with us that we are not alone in Lutheranism. Follow us on Facebook. Let us know we are in this together.”

Building for the Future As Trifa lays the foundation for a confessional Lutheran church in Romania, one of his

anything else isn’t good unless it helps the mission.” Trifa works not only to serve the people of Bucharest and Romania today, but to lay the foundation for the Church in generations to come. The written materials are part of that plan, and even Trifa’s regular appearances on TV have resulted in many looking to him for Lutheran answers instead of to the historic Lutheran church in Romania. As with every mission and ministry, Trifa’s family works with him to share the Gospel. He and his wife, Florentina, often host families for meals to share the Gospel with them and encourage them in the faith. Sergiu currently serves the congregation as acolyte and lector, and he hopes to attend an LCMS seminary and then return to serve the church as pastor. “We are a small church, with few people … we need relationships with other Lutherans,” observed Trifa. In addition to the support he receives from the LCMS, he said that people can pray for the work and “communicate with us that we are not alone in Lutheranism. Follow us on Facebook. Let us know we are in this together.” Dr. Kevin Armbrust is interim director of Editorial for LCMS Communications.

The Confessional Lutheran Church in Romania currently meets in an Anglican church, which they rent each Sunday, since they do not have their own building. Trifa (preaching, left) and his son, Sergiu (serving as lector, right), translated Luther’s Small Catechism into Romanian (center), which is available for free at each worship service.

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Gospel Comfort for


Fearful Souls



he Qianjia preaching station of the China Evangelical Lutheran Church, a partner church of the LCMS, sits in the middle of an aboriginal community in Hsinchu, Taiwan. In the shadow of glittering towers that house a quickly growing technology district, this aboriginal community appears earthy. Gardens weave between the homes, and livestock graze around the buildings. These people could afford to live elsewhere, but they prefer to live off the earth that has sustained them for many years. Vicar Changlong Chen often walks among the crumbling buildings and talks with the people. He prays with them; he teaches them Luther’s Small Catechism and God’s Word. This soft, gentle man

stands in stark contrast to the man he used to be. Chen belongs to Taiwan’s Tayal aboriginal tribe, which has lived off the land for many years. As other groups of Asians moved to Taiwan, the

missionaries evangelized these tribal groups. While more than 70 percent of them claim to be Christian today, the message they heard lacked a clear proclamation of the Gospel. This Law-heavy preaching failed to resolve their superstitious fears. “I suffered being a Christian, because when I was young, I was happy believing in Jesus. But as I grew older, I became frustrated that I could never be good enough,” Chen says. “This is not just my problem, but all the aboriginals have the same background where all they hear is Law.” Chen became a police officer and eventually attained the

Vicar Changlong Chen found hope in the Gospel, and he wants to share it with others in Taiwan.

tribal peoples were displaced further up into the mountains, where they now hunt and forage for food. Many traditional Tayal beliefs and religious practices are driven by folk religion and fear of evil spirits. Toward the close of the 19th century, Christian

rank of sergeant, an uncommon achievement for an aboriginal officer. But this work focused him even more heavily on the law. He tried serving as a deacon in his church. “I was always trying to reach the expectations [of the Law] but could never do it.”

As he grew older, Chen wanted to learn how to find peace. So, he enrolled at a local seminary, China Lutheran Seminary. As part of his fieldwork, Chen spent several years learning about Luther’s Small Catechism from the Rev. Dr. Michael Paul, LCMS missionary to Taiwan. “The Small Catechism changed my life,” Chen says. He learned that he was a sinner. But he also learned about the peace that comes from the forgiveness of sins in Word and Sacrament. Chen wants to take this same life-changing message of hope in the Gospel back to his people. He does this as he prays and teaches in the aboriginal community near the Qianjia preaching station. But he also visits his tribal area and hopes one day to return and start a Lutheran congregation there. The work takes time; the church he serves does not overflow every Sunday. This does not deter Chen. He trusts in the Word of God: “I know God is working,” he says. “I know God’s Word will work.”

The Rev. Roy S. Askins is director of Communications for the Synod’s Asia region.


|   LEARN MORE  | About the work in Taiwan:

Vicar Changlong Chen shakes a child‘s hand at the Qianjia preaching station where he serves with the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lu and the Rev. Dr. Michael Paul, LCMS missionary to Taiwan.

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William Holloman receives Holy Communion during the sanctuary dedication service at Family of God Lutheran Church, Detroit, on March 28.

Tractors or mass transit? Row houses or farmhouses? It often seems like there’s a big divide between urban and rural living, yet people everywhere are all desperately in need of the same thing: Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God, He calls His people to serve Him in different ways and in different places. Read on for two stories of how God’s people are being “Joy:fully Lutheran” — the theme of the upcoming 2019 LCMS convention — as they love and serve their neighbors in the unique contexts in which they’ve been placed.


Loving and Feeding People

On a chilly Wednesday evening in late March, Family of God Lutheran Church in southwest Detroit was so full that even the first pew was filled. People came from all over for the dedication of the ministry’s new sanctuary. They came to celebrate what God was doing in this inner-city area. Before moving into a better facility and receiving

renovation assistance from Laborers For Christ, Family of God was located between two decrepit buildings that housed evils such as illegal drug use and prostitution. The ministry served food to the community in order to bring hope and healing to the neighborhood, all the while praying for God to do His work there. Now, the community gathered to celebrate that those buildings that once enabled sin have been demolished

and the ministry has a proper place to worship. Yet in the midst of the handshakes, hugs and smiles after the dedication service, a man sat silent and alone in the first pew. He did not come to celebrate. He was broken. The Rev. Jim Hill, pastor of Family of God, joined him and sat with his arm around the man’s burdened shoulders (photo, Page 8). They spoke of addiction and its devastation on the man’s family. They spoke of need and desperation. And then Hill spoke of Jesus. This is the life and ministry of Family of God. The ministry serves all who come, drawn by the offer of a free meal, a friendly face, informal counseling, tutoring or simply the feel of family. Many who attend Family of God are struggling with addiction and other destructive patterns. Many who come will never join a church. But in the midst of sin and struggle, Family of God feeds and cares for the body and, most importantly, proclaims Christ. The work of Family of God is supported by at least 18 area congregations that provide financial support, bring food

and send volunteers. On average, 60 to 70 people come for the meals, which are offered six days a week. Some come long before the food is ready, and many stay after the meal is over. On the day of the dedication service, one man sat and copied the Bible by hand. It’s something William Holloman does regularly — sometimes copying his favorite verses, sometimes entire books. “When I write the Bible, it’s Christ Jesus and the Holy

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Ultimately, God’s expectation is for us to love Him and love other people — and tell them why.” — Rev. Tom Schlund

Spirit,” said Holloman. When asked what Family of God means to him, he smiled and said, “Pastor Jim is my teacher.” “God’s grace can reach into lives even when the world says we are worthless,” Hill said in his sermon that evening. “God’s love is so great, His sacrifice so powerful that there is no one who can’t be saved. You can never be too gone. No matter who we are or where we’ve been … we are all desperately in need of the

iowa Caring for People through Quilting

Church member Gary Reynolds works at a sewing machine in the basement of Trinity Lutheran Church, Algona, Iowa, on July 12.

same grace.” As Hill spoke, he pointed to a painting of the thief on the cross. The plea of the condemned criminal is the prayer of Family of God. “Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” Sinners in repentance turn to the only one who can save. And Jesus’ gracious response is the only hope: “I tell you the truth. Today, you will be with me in paradise.” The words of the Crucified One make us family — the family of God.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the basement of Trinity Lutheran Church in Algona, Iowa, is filled with chatter, laughter and the hum of sewing machines. From this humble space, the church’s TLC Quilters serve the community in small but powerful ways. The group consists of about 60 women — and a few men — who sew quilts, teddy bears, doll clothes and other items for those in need. Last year, the group gave away 1,301 quilts and more than 700 teddy bears. These items are lovingly made and given to community children, veterans, cancer and Alzheimer’s patients, and anyone who needs a little TLC. The church works with the Kossuth County CARE Team, a community nonprofit, to identify possible recipients and invite them to Trinity for giveaway events each year.

TLC Quilters organizer Barb Bitterman and CARE Team executive director Linda Vaudt have many stories of the people who’ve received the gifts: There was the little girl who told everyone the handknit hat she received was her “God hat” because it came from the church. Then there was a boy who said the giveaway event, which includes dinner and Bible stories, was the first time he’d heard about God. “When we first started, people said, ‘You’ll never get people to come. There’s no one like that here,’” Bitterman recalls. “But they do come. They’re thirsty for love.” Production has greatly increased since the group formed in 2011, and they have expanded to provide items for people in need even further afield — such as children receiving counseling from Lutheran Services in Iowa and victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Yet, they still put great care into each project,

Barb Bitterman, organizer of the TLC Quilters, pauses and prays at the Giving Chair in the narthex of Trinity Lutheran Church, Algona, Iowa. The quilt on the rocking chair can be taken by any member of the church family and given to someone in need.

from the smallest doll dress to the largest quilt. “The details show the love and care that goes into them,” Bitterman says. “We want the recipients to see and feel that.” Bitterman encourages the TLC Quilters to attend the giveaway events. In addition to quilts, they often give out dolls, stuffed monkeys and wooden trucks. “I love the nights we give away [the quilts and toys],” says quilter Lois Berhow, as she talks about the time she described each quilt to a boy who couldn’t see so that he could pick out just the right one. “I love seeing the expressions on the kids’ faces as they choose which one is going to be theirs.” The TLC Quilters’ enthusiasm is contagious. During the summer, a group of about 25 children from the community joined them to learn to sew.

They even taught church member Gary Reynolds. “I never thought at 85 I’d be sewing,” says the retired horse trainer. But now he comes regularly to make large pillows that can be used as temporary beds for refugee children at a public elementary school in Des Moines. Trinity’s senior pastor, the Rev. Tom Schlund, says they’ve had several people join the church as a result of this outreach. One was a family that attended a giveaway event; another was a woman who came for the sewing and later stayed for the message that was preached of Christ crucified. “Ultimately, God’s expectation is for us to love Him and love other people — and tell them why,” Schlund says. “That’s something the TLC Quilters do very well.”

|   REA D MO R E STO RI ES   | |   WATC H   | A video about the TLC Quilters

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a bridge to the

Gospel Die Brücke, a Lutheran outreach center in Leipzig, Germany, is connecting refugees and native Germans to Christ.


“The Bridge is a staple in the community. When the doors are open … they know that they can come in and have coffee with us,” said Deaconess Kim Bueltmann, an LCMS missionary in Leipzig, Germany. The Bridge Lutheran outreach center — known as Die Brücke in German — offers Bible classes, crafts and other activities through which the missionaries there help refugees learn German and teach children (mostly German) the Bible. “Even though they say they are atheists, they come back every week and they are hearing the Word of God.” Die Brücke serves as a bridge for many people, including refugees, children and local Germans. It connects refugees to the community, brings refugees and German members of the congregation together, and — most importantly — joins people to Jesus.

“Christ is in the work that is done here,” said LCMS missionary Deirdre Batiansila Christiansen. She sees “the Pentecost effect — they are hearing the Word of God in their own language. You see the joy they feel when they receive the Word of God.”

Harrowing Stories Voices shaped and honed by hardship and suffering join together in praise of the One whose death redeems sinners. Ahoura, Atefeh and Bijan, refugees from Iran now living in Germany, sing in Persian harmony, using original words mixed with Iranian tunes and rhythms. And the congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church in Leipzig welcomes their voices, works to heal their wounds and joins them as they come for God’s Word and Sacraments.

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The Rev. Hugo Gevers, a missionary with the Synod‘s partner church in Germany, distributes the Sacrament at Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Lukaskirche in Leipzig.


“It is so important to teach the Christian message. Many churches are baptizing many migrants, but there is often no teaching after the Baptism."

— Rev. Hugo Gevers

Refugees talk over notes from a Baptism instruction class in Chemnitz, Germany.

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“If you have experienced the love of Christ, why would you want anything else?” said a refugee from Iran, who must remain anonymous to protect her family. The young lady loves Jesus and rejoices that He loves her. She paints to express her faith and to process her pain. One painting contains frightening images: a police officer spying on a house church, a prison cell and hangman’s noose (below).

The refugees describe meeting in house churches underground. Military officials often showed up disguised as interested Christians. But when they learned the names of the people, they arrested many. In prison, the Christians were severely mistreated. Many were hanged or “released” to be killed on the streets. One refugee shared a story about his brother,

who was arrested, incarcerated, released and then found mutilated. In another story, the pastor of the house church was arrested, and the members were told that their names were now known and they must flee the country. A young girl described how men assaulted her repeatedly and left her in the wilderness. As she sat with her mother, tears and fear covered her face. The refugees tell stories of terror and unbelievable cruelty. Yet they insist that the people of Iran are not bad, but the Muslim regime is cruel and has ruined their country. Islam is forced upon the citizens, with the choice of belief or death. A young woman related that after learning Islam, she decided she would rather have no religion than the God of the Quran. Her cousin told her about Christianity and invited her to church. She said the people there were different, that Jesus taught forgiveness, and that changes everything. The refugees journeyed through Turkey, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy and other places until they landed

in Germany. One related the story of a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea, when 35 people were saved from the cold waters. Some walked and hid in forests and sewers to avoid being found by Muslims hunting down Christian refugees fleeing the Middle East. Germany offers refugee status and assistance to those fleeing Iran or other places. In the Saxon cities of Leipzig, Dresden and Chemnitz, the Selbständige EvangelischLutherische Kirche (SELK), a partner church of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, works with refugees to teach the faith and help them adjust to life in Germany.

Hope in Christ “We aren’t just here to listen to their gut-wrenching stories,” said Christiansen. “We are here to give them hope in Christ.” Baptism classes attract refugees, since it is one activity the government approves for refugee status. Many of the refugees, even the Christians, are not baptized. In Chemnitz, more than 30 refugees

Trinity Lutheran Church in Leipzig welcomes their voices, works to heal their wounds and joins them as they come for God’s Word and Sacraments.

Persian refugees Ahoura and Atefeh sing during worship at Trinity Lutheran Church in Leipzig, Germany.

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gathered one day to hear about the Lord’s gift of Baptism. The Rev. Stefan Dittmer, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Dresden, taught about sin, guilt and God’s love in Christ. He explained that God’s love is for the whole world in Christ, and that in Baptism it is for you, for each refugee. “They long for community,” said Karen Cecil, who, along with husband Carl, is an LCMS missionary. Carl noted that along with instruction, “We are here to build relationships and to befriend those who come.” LCMS missionaries work alongside SELK congregations and pastors. Bueltmann and Christiansen work closely with SELK missionary Rev. Hugo Gevers, who serves alongside the Rev. Markus Fischer, pastor of Trinity in the renovated historic St. Lukaskirche in Volkmarsdorf, Leipzig. The Cecils build relationships with refugees in Dresden and Chemnitz, working alongside Dittmer in Dresden. There also are other outreach activities occurring through the SELK, including two small house churches in Borna, Germany.

Intentional Mission Work among Refugees “There are really very few churches who are doing mission work among the migrants,” said Gevers, who works at Die Brücke. “This region is really an atheist region, so many Germans do not believe in Christ and have not known Christ, since the young generation has not heard of Christ,” Gevers continued. “The migrants from Islamic countries also have not heard the message of Christ yet. That is why I am here.”

The Rev. Stefan Dittmer (right), pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, a SELK congregation in Dresden, Germany, leads a Baptism instruction class for refugees.

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Gevers is able to speak Farsi, the native tongue of many of the refugees. When he first came in 2006, he quickly observed that it would be necessary to learn their language and culture in order to communicate the Gospel with the migrants. “Many come to us because they know we talk in Farsi,” he said. Gevers provides sermons in Farsi for the churches in the area, but this is not easy. He spends about six hours a week translating his sermon, which he writes in German, into Farsi. That sermon is then emailed to over 200 people and churches for use. Trinity, Leipzig, offers Farsi and German services every Sunday at St. Lukaskirche. On most Sundays, the early service is in German. A coffee hour and then a service in Farsi follow. While people do interact during the coffee

hour, the congregation is working to bring the Farsi and German people closer. To that end, one Sunday a month the congregation offers one service in both Farsi and German. “If they can’t live at home, they are welcome here,” said Eva Lindecke, a German member of Trinity, Leipzig. “We welcome them in everything we do.” “It is so important to teach the Christian message,” said Gevers. “Many churches are baptizing many migrants, but there is often no teaching after the Baptism. It is so important that we clearly want to do outreach to the Muslim people. It is not only good for the Muslim people, but also for the German people in the churches.” Some Lutheran materials have been translated into Farsi, with more work on the horizon. Over 7,000 copies

of Luther’s Small Catechism in Farsi have already been distributed. The SELK works hard to minister to the German people as well. Refugees, Germans and all who come to church or an outreach center are welcome. The work is not always easy, and it’s rarely glamorous. Yet with the promises of God, their work is bearing fruit, as He works through His Means of Grace. “Every Sunday, it’s like Pentecost — different languages, all hearing the Gospel,” observed Christiansen after the combined Farsi/German service in St. Lukaskirche. No matter the language, God speaks His Son into sinners’ ears even as He has washed them into His death and resurrection and continues to feed them with the bread of life. Refugees. Native Germans. Missionaries. Visitors. All are

About the work in Germany: Hear the refugees singing in Farsi: germany-fall-2018

drawn to the beautiful renovated church because the bells ring again. All hear Christ. “God is so amazing, just how He works. These kids keep coming back week after week,” observed Bueltmann. On a recent retreat she led, a young girl sang songs about Jesus’ resurrection during her free time. “They come and say they are atheists, but God’s Word works.” In Leipzig, Jesus is the bridge. Not in the way many picture, as the One who opens the possibility of God to the world, but as the One who bore our sins in His Body and gives us eternal life.

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‘Such as I Have Give I Thee’ I

n Acts 3, a man begged Peter and John for alms. Peter gave what he could: healing. The Kuamang Kuning congregation of the Indonesian Christian Lutheran Church (GKLI), an emerging partner of the LCMS, has reached out in the same way to the Sanak people of Indonesia. Sanak is a portmanteau of the Indonesian phrase Suku Anak Dalam, which means “the people who live inside the jungle.” These tribes live nomadic lives in the jungle, where they hunt, fish and forage. As plantations and farms have shrunk Indonesia’s jungles, the Sanak way of life has become difficult. About a year ago, one such tribe in Jambi Province was displaced from a coconut oil plantation. They packed their tents and went in search of a new home.

To support the tribe, the Sanak people often sell their wild game to local Indonesians. One such buyer attends the Kuamang Kuning congregation, and he brought the plight of this tribe to Pastor Anton Bengurian Hutagalung’s attention. Like Peter and John, the congregations of the GKLI do not often have much to share financially. Hutagalung helps tend a small grove of 10 to 20 palm oil trees, which provides most of his income. Despite their lack of resources, the congregation started gathering clothing for the Sanak people and providing food when they come to church. The tribe recently secured land on which to live, and Hutagalung and the congregation are helping them learn how to live on this land. They are teaching the Sanak people

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how to farm, how to build and how to read and write. But Hutagalung does not only tend to their physical needs. The Kuamang Kuning congregation also shared the Gospel with the Sanak people. They brought them to church, shared the Word of God and proclaimed their hope in Jesus. The tribe cannot often attend church in Kuamang Kuning. They lack proper roads for travel; only footpaths will take you to the property. So, the tribe asked for a church building where they can host worship services. Hutagalung and the congregation could not meet this need. Materials are expensive and supplies must be hand-carried to the property. Through the GKLI, Hutagalung applied for and received a grant of just over $4,600 from the LCMS to build a church and

community center on the Sanak tribe’s land. The Sanak have begun to build with the guidance of Hutagalung and the Kuamang Kuning congregation. To keep down costs, they are using reclaimed lumber. This church and community center will provide a place for the people to hear the Gospel and a classroom for the community. “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee,” said St. Peter (ACTS 3:6 KJV). These also are the words of the pastor and people of the Kuamang Kuning congregation in Indonesia. They reached out with the mercy and forgiveness of Christ, and now an entire tribe has found temporary and eternal hope.

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Finding Forgiveness

Deaconess Carole Terkula from St. John Lutheran Church, Columbia City, Ind., hugs Nan Harman. Terkula serves as a friend and mentor for Harman, who lives in the local homeless shelter.

|   WATC H  | A video on this ministry:

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“I think a lot of us feel like we 're too damaged or no good, like there’s not enough

forgiveness for us,” says Stephanie Rich, an inmate of Whitley County Jail in Columbia City, Ind. “I was thinking the other night about some of the horrible mistakes that I’ve made. And I got a lot of peace out of knowing that out of God’s grace, I am forgiven.” Rich has been at the jail a long time, and she knows a thing or two about being brought low. But in the midst of her troubles, she met the jail ministry team from St. John Lutheran Church, Columbia City, and started to wrestle with questions of faith. As she attended the weekly Bible studies and semimonthly services, Rich says she progressed from an atheist to an optimistic agnostic to a Christian. Now, when Rich thinks about “how large God’s grace really is,” it brings her to tears.

A Training Program Seventeen years ago, an elder at St. John encouraged the congregation to begin a jail ministry program. That’s when the Rev. David Mommens, pastor of St. John, sought permission

to sit at a table and offer Bible study in the men’s cell block of the local jail. Over time, other people from the congregation and the wider Lutheran community joined him. One of the church’s field workers from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, became interested and asked to come along. He went back and told his classmates, and soon other seminarians — about 25 over the years — were coming to get hands-on experience. Later, Mommens received permission to take deaconess students and female volunteers into the women’s cell block, where they would eventually meet Rich. One of those deaconess students was Carole Terkula, who came to St. John two years ago as a deaconess fieldworker assisting with the jail ministry.

This past year, she also served her deaconess internship at the church and took on more responsibility for ministry in the women’s cell block. After finishing her studies this past spring, the church called her as a deaconess to continue working in this capacity. “For me, part of the joy of jail ministry is really seeing the power of God at work,” Terkula says, as she describes how she’s seen God’s Word work on some “pretty rough and tough” people. “It’s about providing as much love and support as we can,” she continues. “In the process, we sometimes get used, but we don’t lose hope.”

Fear Fading in Christ “I remember the first time that Carole and I walked in for Tuesday evening Bible study and that door slammed behind me. I think I jumped,” says Diana Rainer, a member of St. John who volunteers with the jail ministry. Like Rainer, many volunteers are nervous at first. There is a lot to learn, and there are many restrictions on what can be brought into the jail. But soon, that fear fades and the incredible opportunity to share Christ takes center stage. Only a couple of inmates may show up when a Bible study starts, but by the end a

The Rev. David Mommens (center), pastor of St. John, chats with Terkula and Captain Sean Martin, commander of the Whitley County Jail.

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“We’re providing the aftercare,” Terkula says. “We weren’t involved in the original witnessing. Another was planting the seed. Now we’re continuing to help sprinkle that with God’s Word and love.”

‘Help My Unbelief’ Volunteers from St. John’s jail ministry pray before Bible study inside the Whitley County Jail on Aug. 7.

group has gathered around the table and people are actively asking questions about what they’ve heard. “It’s an excellent opportunity to bring the Word of God to people that probably wouldn’t give you a second thought in any other circumstance, especially in talking about Jesus,” Mommens says. “But it’s an open door in those cell blocks. You bring your Bible and Jesus.” Mommens and Terkula usually don’t know why the inmates are in jail, and it doesn’t matter to them. “To me, Stephanie is just another child of God,” Terkula says. Captain Sean Martin, jail commander, has observed the ministry since its beginning. “Some people use church time to take advantage of making relationships with other people or talking to people. But there are people that are there and they want to learn

and benefit from what that service offers them,” he says. “I feel that the church ministry here in our facility has been a fantastic asset for the inmates of Whitley County.”

Continuing Care Ministry inside the jail is one important step. Now, Mommens and Terkula ponder, “How can we provide continuity and follow up once they are released? How can we get former inmates confirmed and connected to a church?” The U.S. has a high rate of recidivism — the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that 68 percent of released state prisoners are arrested again within three years. This staggering reality has led St. John to expand ministry to the work release program and Mission25, a local homeless shelter where inmates may go upon their


LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry offers a number of free resources for those involved in prison and jail ministry. Check them out at, or write to

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release if they don’t have a safe living situation available. Several months ago, Terkula also started working with Mission25’s mentorship program for residents. That’s how she met Nan Harman, a woman who served a prison sentence in Texas and participated in a prison ministry there before moving to Indiana. “Miss Carole makes me feel safe. She makes me feel worthy. She answers any questions I have about anything I read in the Word. She lets me just talk,” Harman says. “She always ends our day with something from the Word that is so … fitting. And I carry it with me until the next time that we meet.” Harman is currently living in the homeless shelter while she works to build a new life for herself, and it’s helpful for her to have a friend and mentor in her new community.

But change doesn’t come easy, and there are often setbacks and disappointments. “Many of these women who are in jail … are struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, which aren’t getting fully addressed. It’s easy for them to slip back into that lifestyle if they don’t have proper support,” Terkula says. “The challenge is not to get discouraged. Remain faithful in delivering God’s Word.” Even Rich admits she still struggles with doubts about God and His Word — something she was afraid to say out loud at first. But through the jail ministry, she learned about the Bible story of the father whose son had an unclean spirit. “[Carole] brought up a passage from when Jesus had spoken to a man whose son was ill. He had his doubts, and it was said in the presence of Jesus!” Rich says. “It was so comforting to know that he had doubts.” Like the father from Mark 9, Rich now prays, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And by grace, God gives her that faith through His Word, thanks to those who serve.


‘If You Teach a Man to Fish’ The Global Seminary Initiative helps form international leaders for church bodies around the world.




are not willing to become [a] pastor because he old adage is truer than ever when it pastors are not paid in our setting. I have comes to theological education and misBY M E GAN K. M ERTZ noticed that much of the lack of support on sions. In many places, the LCMS is known as a the part of our members is due to pastors storehouse of theological treasure, and partnot having formal theological training.” ner churches are looking to the Synod to help Through a partnership called the Global them prepare future Lutheran pastors and Seminary Initiative (GSI), however, Kollie leaders to shepherd their own church bodies. found the opportunity to study theology at Edward Kollie, a Liberian student at one of the LCMS’ two seminaries. Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, is working Behind the scenes, the Synod and both toward an advanced degree so that he might LCMS seminaries “work closely with generreturn to Liberia to teach other pastors I have noticed that ous contributors and other supporting in a local school or — hopefully someday much of the lack of entities who desire to make a difference — a seminary. support on the part of through worldwide pastoral formation,” “In 1993, I was appointed to serve as a lay our members is due said the Rev. Dr. James Baneck, chairman preacher in my hometown where there was to pastors not having of the GSI Steering Committee and execua small congregation of about 150 members,” formal theological tive director of LCMS Pastoral Education. recalled Kollie. “I have served the church “Edward Kollie, and others like him, desire as pastor from 1993 up to present without a training.” — Edward Kollie the robust biblical and confessional theosalary or stipend. Pastors in most missionlogical education our two LCMS seminaries established churches are not paid.” have to offer. GSI gives hope of grant-fundDue to a civil war in Liberia, Kollie trav| L EA RN MO RE | ing support to eligible international pastors eled to Sierra Leone in 2002, where he met as they prepare to become theologians, prothe Rev. David Londenberg, an LCMS misfessors and leaders in their own country for sionary who established a school called the the spread of the Gospel in making disciples of all nations.” Coordinating Center for Theological Studies. Thanks to several hundred contributors, GSI is supplying “I took advantage of this opportunity and attended the more than $400,000 this coming academic year in focused fischool,” explained Kollie. “I graduated from there as a cluster nancial aid to 37 GSI-eligible graduate students like Kollie, who trainer in 2006, then returned to Liberia and started serving come from 19 foreign countries. the four congregations and two preaching points as trainer of “I ended up at Concordia Seminary [through] my bishop/presthe lay pastors we had there at the time. I [also] had to work as a ident,” shared Kollie. “The Global Seminary Initiative can make classroom teacher to sustain my family.” it possible for me to pursue this degree and achieve my goal … . Still, Kollie desired a deeper theological education. UnforI would be very glad if the GSI would help train more men from tunately, his pay as a teacher was just enough to support his my church body who would also join me.” wife and four children. There wasn’t much left over for an advanced degree. Kollie said almost 95 percent of pastors in his church body Deaconess Jeni Miller is a freelance writer and member do not have formal theological education. “Most often people of Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta.

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