Lutherans Engage the World | Spring 2019

Page 1

engage U








spring 2019


Spring 2019 Lutherans Engage the World is published quarterly by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. © 2019 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 manager, photojournalism designer designer webmaster

Cover image

The Rev. Dr. Ron Rall, LCMS missionary to Papua New Guinea, follows a local pastor (not pictured) over a fence as they trek to visit a congregation high in the Makapumanda area of the Enga Province.

the world

Our Faith-Borne Certainty of Hope Crisscrossing the world’s mission fields, what do you see? Our church’s beloved missionaries — I count you among them — experience and provide witness of humanity’s joys and hardships, sorrows and triumphs. But that’s not all. They “sing of Christ, whose birth made known the kindness of the Lord … the fullness of His deity, the icon of His grace” (Lutheran Service Book 362:1). There are tears and laughter. Apprehension against courage. Birth — and death. Shocking displays of greed and an embarrassment of earthly riches, severe famines and vast spiritual wastelands. No shortage of crosses or trials. No one righteous, but for the righteousness of the Son of God. But never too remote, wherever the Church may be found, there remains a faith-borne certainty of hope and a watchful anticipation of something new: a resurrection. “Christ to the people, gift of the future now flowing to me. Jesus is risen and we shall arise: Give God the glory! Alleluia!” (LSB 474:3). Peer into the pages that follow. Lean in. What, really, do you see? Rebellion. The prophets. The city. The temple. A hill, a tree, a Lamb. The women weeping, disciples abandoning, an apostle running. The stone, rolled away. Jesus, here and now! “Peace be with you” (JOHN 20:26). And there is peace — in and through this crucified One who has been raised from the dead. Forgive us, Lord Jesus Christ, of all our many sins, with Your Word that heals, sustains and strengthens unto a forever-ed life with you in paradise; Wash us, Lord Jesus Christ, for purification from the world’s alluring wickedness and for rescue from certain death, with the water that cleanses only at Your powerful command; and Feed us, Lord Jesus Christ, from the fire of Your sacred, holy cross and tabled fellowship through emptied tomb, with suffered body given and sacred blood shed — for this is the medicine of immortality. Amen.



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  |

In Christ, Rev. Kevin D. Robson Chief Mission Officer, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

From the Editor “You don’t know me, I don’t know you, but Jesus brings us together,” sing the people of the Gutnius Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea. These lyrics echo within this issue of Lutherans Engage the World. Jesus brings your prayers and gifts together with those on the front lines of proclaiming the Gospel and bearing Christ’s mercy and unites us all with those whose lives are being changed by the Gospel. “We are here to confess,” said the preacher at this year’s Life Conference. Indeed, we confess Christ in classrooms, with new neighbors, in “Sin City,” on the mission field and in times of great suffering. Thanks be to God for His mercy and grace, and thank you for your partnership in this work! In Christ, Pamela J. Nielsen Associate Executive Director, LCMS Communications



Gathered Around the Good News Kevin Armbrust

Papua New Guinea’s Gutnius Lutheran Church continues to grow in the Word of God.



A Welcoming Community Megan K. Mertz

The LCMS supports Christian Friends of New Americans’ scholarship program, which helps provide Lutheran education for young immigrants.



Shining Christ’s Light in Nebraska Erik M. Lunsford and Cheryl Magness Two Lutheran schools in the heart of Nebraska are preparing young people to carry the light of Christ into their communities.

Dr. Martin Dicke, LCMS missionary to Papua New Guinea, greets the wife of his father’s friend and other residents who remember him from when he lived there as a child.

Departments 2 Q&A

With Pastor Brad Beckman

15 Mercy Moment The LCMS helps care for Venezuelan Lutherans. 16 Witness Moment Lutherans confess Christ during the 2019 March for Life.


The Rev. Brad Beckman talks with neighbors who live near First Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Las Vegas. The “All Nations” mural at night among the lights of Fremont Street.


Located in the heart of downtown Las Vegas, First Good Shepherd Lutheran Church strives to be “a church for all nations.” In this interview, the church’s pastor, the Rev. Brad Beckman, explains what that means and how his congregation is a bright light in Sin City.


What’s it like to be a Lutheran pastor in “Sin City”? To me, it’s exciting! You see the best and worst of humanity in Vegas, especially in the heart of the city. As a Lutheran pastor I get to interact with all kinds of people — the working poor, senior citizens in low-income apartments, the homeless, our neighbors at the LGBTQ center across the street and the many people who work at casinos, government agencies and attorney offices in the downtown area. It’s quite a mix.


What inspires you about the urban congregation you now serve? I’ve been encouraged by the number of members who really want to make a Christ-centered impact in the community. That really fires

The Rev. Brad Beckman serves at First Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in the heart of downtown Las Vegas. BY R ACHE L BOMBE RGE R

me up! We work together to network and build relationships with residents, business owners, human-care agencies and police officers in our community. This provides opportunities to talk about First Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and share the Gospel with those around us. The vision we share — to be “a church for all nations” — is biblical, God-honoring and all over the Scriptures, especially in Matt. 28:19 where Jesus says to “go and make disciples of all nations.” A church stands out (in a good way!) when its people truly desire to reflect the complexion of their neighborhood.


How is First Good Shepherd sharing the love of Christ with its neighbors? Among other outreach programs, we partner with

2 • LUT HERAN S EN GAG E   |   S P RI NG 20 1 9


Family Promise to help homeless families in transition by letting them live with us at the church for seven days at a time, and we work with Lutheran Social Services of Nevada to provide food for people in our area. We have a caring, compassionate core of members who welcome everyone regardless of what they look, dress or smell like, and our worship services attract people from all walks of life.


Tell me about the church’s new “All Nations” mural. A mural is a great way to put a church on the map again. People will drive by a church building hundreds of times and never notice it, but put a 65-foot mural on the side and light it up at night and it

becomes a neighborhood ministry game changer. People notice your presence. That’s the power of public art. Vegas is a city of murals and lights. Downtown Vegas, especially, has an eclectic vibe — and we’re a part of it. Word spread about the church when the new mural was completed. It was featured in the newspaper and online and created buzz in the local arts district and muralist community. Six months after its completion, it’s become a powerful, perpetual reminder to our members and those in our community that Jesus welcomes people from all ethnic and economic backgrounds. To God be the glory!

Rachel Bomberger is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.

|   R EA D MO RE  |




Mamie Passawe (center) works on homework at Lutheran High School South in St. Louis.


Patricia Massalay lifts weights during P.E. class.

A Welcoming Community


The LCMS supports Christian Friends of New Americans’ scholarship program, which helps provide Lutheran education for young immigrants.

Grace Ho (left) chats with a friend before Advanced Placement Physics.

engage. lcms .o rg



t’s a chilly January morning at Lutheran High School South in St. Louis, but inside the building it’s warm and filled with activity. Senior Patricia Massalay lifts weights with classmates during a Physical Education class. Down the hall, junior Thuong Quynh Ho, who goes by “Grace,” talks with friends before the beginning of Advanced Placement Physics. In the cafeteria, sophomore Mamie Passawe looks over a homework assignment before her next class.

Although the young women hail from different locations — Ho was born in Vietnam, and Massalay and Passawe are from Sierra Leone — all three have found a supportive Christian community at Lutheran South.

Providing Lutheran Education Massalay, who came to the U.S. two years ago, admits that her first year at Lutheran South was challenging. But she says the overall experience has been amazing. “It’s a good Christian community, and they have helped me a lot,” she

says of the school. “I have met new people and learned a new culture. And I’ve been closer to God than I was because of the community.” At Lutheran South, each day’s schedule includes time for either chapel or smallgroup Bible study, and all students take religion classes. Passawe says theology class is one of her favorite parts of the day “because I love to learn about Jesus.” But a high-quality, Lutheran education isn’t cheap, and the three students receive scholarship assistance from Christian Friends of New Americans (CFNA), an

4 • LUTHERAN S EN GAG E   |   S P RI NG 20 1 9

Students discuss To Kill a Mockingbird during class at Lutheran High School South.

LCMS Recognized Service Organization (RSO) that serves new immigrants and refugees in the St. Louis area. For the last 12 years, CFNA has provided scholarships for 25 to 30 children and young adults each year to help defray the costs of attending area Lutheran schools, from elementary through high school. CFNA provides these scholarships to both Christian and non-Christian families who are interested in Lutheran education for their children. Since 2015, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has supported CFNA in this project through grants

totaling $16,700. The Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis also supports this program.

Welcoming the Stranger The CFNA office in St. Louis, called the Peace Center, offers a variety of services to assist refugees and immigrants, including English-as-a-SecondLanguage classes, driving lessons and citizenship classes. Scholarship recipients like Ho, Massalay and Passawe sometimes assist with afterschool tutoring at the center, which on any given afternoon is filled with the chatter of

Mamie Passawe works with students during afterschool tutoring at Christian Friends of New Americans’ Peace Center in St. Louis.

It’s a good Christian community, and they have helped me a lot. I have met new people and learned a new culture. And I’ve been closer to God than I was because of the community.” — Patricia Massalay, senior at Lutheran South

children who have come for help with their homework and a hot meal. On the weekend, CFNA hosts health screenings, fellowship events and leadership classes for men who are considering serving their communities as Lutheran pastors. The leadership classes are designed to prepare these men to continue their formal education through Concordia Seminary, St. Louis’ Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology (EIIT). “Parents are working two to three jobs, and they aren’t home in the evenings,” says the Rev. Dr. Stanish Stanley, executive director of CFNA.

“They hear about our program from their friends and send their kids.” Those who regularly attend are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Nepal, Syria and Kurdistan, although anyone is welcome. To develop ministry among different groups, CFNA recruits a person from that community to serve as a facilitator for mercy and ministry efforts. CFNA also helps connect new immigrants and refugees with local Lutheran congregations, celebrating with them milestones such as the Baptisms or confirmations of almost 100

Nepali at nearby Ascension, Messiah and St. Johns Lutheran Churches in recent years. CFNA is located near the International Institute of St. Louis, which works with the U.S. government to resettle 300 to 800 refugees in the St. Louis area each year. “This neighborhood is a little dangerous,” says Stanley, noting that there have been shootings in the area. “But most refugees in St. Louis are within three miles of the International Institute, and the Peace Center is a safe place.” One of CFNA’s first

facilitators was Gerald Brewah, who came to St. Louis from Sierra Leone to complete a master’s degree in social work at Washington University in St. Louis. He met the Rev. Dr. John Loum, director of the EIIT and a missionary to his home country of the Gambia. Loum introduced Brewah to the Lutheran community and CFNA. Brewah began working with West African immigrants — especially the children, whom he drives to tutoring several times a week. He was among those who initially proposed the idea of providing the scholarships.

engage. lcms .o rg


The Rev. Dr. Stanish Stanley (far left), executive director of CFNA, and Massalay work with children during afterschool tutoring at the Peace Center.

|   L EA RN MO RE A B O U T RS Os  |

“I was educated in mission schools,” Brewah says. “When I came to the U.S., I found the same pattern in the Lutheran church. You bring the kids to CFNA, and the kids bring their parents.”

“You can feel that the community wants to know you, and once you know that, it’s easier to open up and to belong in it.” — Grace Ho, junior at Lutheran South

Finding a Loving Community Ho says that CFNA’s scholarship assistance came at just the right time, as her family was struggling with tuition payments while her parents waited to immigrate to the U.S. to join their three daughters. Although Ho’s family isn’t Christian, she came to Lutheran South nearly three years ago because it was close to her sisters’ house

and “seemed like a friendly community for international students” — a sentiment that she found to be true from her first day of school. “I had trouble making friends because I didn’t know how to start up a conversation. My first day, I was eating lunch alone,” recalls Ho, who says that the toughest part was adapting to American customs. “[The American students] would say hi to me in the hallways or in class,” she says. “They tried to get me to open up, and I’m really grateful that they did. … You can feel that the community wants to know you, and once you know that, it’s easier to open up and to belong in it.”

Megan K. Mertz is managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World and chief copy editor for LCMS Communications.

6 • LUTHERAN S EN GAG E   |   S P RI NG 20 1 9





The Rev. Steven Daniel prays with his parishioners outside their church in Makapumanda, Papua New Guinea.

ou don’t know me, I don’t know you, but Jesus brings us together.” The people of the Gutnius Lutheran Church (GLC) often sing the Pidgin version of these words (from the hymn “Long Marimari Bilong God”) as they gather for worship. “Jesus died to forgive our sins,” said Imbu Yonge, as


she sat at the entrance of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Enga Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Imbu, whose husband was trained as an evangelist by the Rev. Dr. Otto Hintze Jr., the first LCMS missionary to PNG, is now unable to walk. Members of the congregation carry her to church, where she sits near the doorway to greet all who enter for worship.

Enga Province

Infant Orea Wokman also was carried to Immanuel, where he was baptized. This congregation, which resulted from the work of Hintze, was recently rebuilt after tribal fighting burned down the previous church building. Both were carried — one elderly, a reminder of the historic mission, and one young, embodying the hope and promise of the future — and by God’s grace, both are in Christ.

Growing Pains The inherent tension between tradition and growth hangs over the developing nation of PNG. Men carry both bush knives and cell phones as they walk along the road. Solar panels provide electricity, while nearby a hole in the ground serves as the toilet. Tribalism and clan loyalty remain amid democratic government. This tension is equally present in the Gutnius (“Good News”) Lutheran Church,



Left: Missionary Otto C. Hintze Jr. at Yaramanda in 1953. Right: The Rev. Dr. O.H. Schmidt, the Rev. O.E. Thiele, the Rev. Dr. Willard Burce and Hintze in 1948.

Left: The Rev. Barnabas baptizes little Orea Wokman at Immanuel Lutheran Church in the Enga Province on Feb. 10, 2019. Top right: Imbu Yonge (left), whose husband was trained as an evangelist by the first LCMS missionary to Papua New Guinea, greets current missionary Julie Lutz outside of Immanuel Lutheran Church. Bottom right: Dr. Martin Dicke, LCMS missionary to Papua New Guinea, teaches music to seminarians at Timothy Lutheran Seminary, Birip.

an independent and growing church body. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and its missionaries continue to influence and encourage this partner church, which holds the early LCMS missionaries as heroes who brought the Good News. Today, LCMS missionaries serve as the tangible link to the historic and theological foundation of the church in PNG. Like all who mature, the GLC faces both the joy of learning and growing, along with the threats of destructive and deceitful influences. Not all dangers are from without. LCMS missionaries no longer walk through the bush to bring the Gospel to tribes who have never heard the Word of God. Now, those who serve in

PNG work alongside the GLC in an officially Christian nation to encourage them in the truth of God’s Word, instructing them how to refute those who teach falsely. Where there is conflict, they work to encourage godly resolution and beneficial discussion. Though the GLC has faced leadership struggles, the people of the GLC are not consumed by these divisive fights. The faithful people of the GLC, just like their brothers and sisters in the LCMS, gather to hear God’s Word and to receive the Sacraments. Located just north of Australia, Papua New Guinea boasts over 800 unique languages and cultures, with Melanesian Pidgin as its “lingua franca.” The island nation

has been a site for LCMS missions since 1948. Only the most remote people in PNG wear traditional tribal clothing these days. But electricity and indoor plumbing still remain far from the norm. Pigs, and sometimes Coca-Cola, are often used as currency in the tribal system of “compensation.” Few people in PNG have paying jobs; most grow enough in personal gardens to be selfsufficient, thanks to the fertile soil and temperate climate of the highlands. It may seem like utopia, but all those in PNG are sinners in need of a Savior. And God, in His mercy, sent His Son to save all people and gather them together around His Word.

Pastors, Teachers and Nurses When the missionaries first came to Papua New Guinea, they focused on proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, teaching and providing health care. The Lutheran church remains integral to peoples’ lives and the legacy of many of its towns, especially in the Enga Province, where historic Lutheran churches, hospitals, schools and mission stations dot the landscape. Hintze and the Rev. Dr. Willard Burce began the first mission post at Yaramanda, Enga Province, in 1948. Later, Burce moved up the valley to what would become the mission and GLC headquarters. Scores of LCMS missionaries engage. lcms .o rg


soon arrived to join the effort. In 1961, Burce moved to Birip to start what is now Timothy Lutheran Seminary. The people of Enga still revere the names Hintze and Burce, thanking God for the ones who brought the Good News to their highland valleys. Even today, any missionary receives a warm reception and reminds the people that they are part of the universal Church.

Growing from History Although LCMS missionaries are still held in high honor, the GLC is working to train its own pastors and face issues common to all church bodies, as well as some that are unique to the people of PNG. The GLC has over 80,000 members in six regions. While the majority of GLC congregations are located in the Enga Province (the highlands), work has expanded to bordering provinces and includes at least nine different language groups. The GLC now contains between 450 and 500 congregations. The exact number is hard to ascertain, as many of the congregations are far from roads or electricity. Visiting the churches under their care requires some regional bishops (similar to the LCMS’ district presidents) to walk through the bush for days or even weeks. Congregations also come and go based on tribal and clan violence, which often results in burned houses and churches.

“PNG will remain a mission field until Christ returns,” said LCMS missionary Dr. Martin Dicke, music specialist and the country manager for PNG. Dicke, whose uncle was Burce, was born and raised in PNG while his parents served as missionaries. He returned to the country as a missionary in 2017. During a recent drive through the areas he visited as a child, Dicke observed that although the church faces many trials, Christ’s words are still true: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (MATT. 16:18).

Below: Church members gather for worship at Immanuel Lutheran Church in the Enga Province. Right: Teacher Pam Liu reads a Bible story to students at Highlands Lutheran International School in the Enga Province.

Establishing Lutheran Schools “This book is not just for CRE class but for your everyday life,” Dicke told his 11thgrade students in Christian Religious Education (CRE) class, as he taught them about Luther’s Small Catechism. “You should read your Bible every day and this little summary book also. It tells you how God thinks.” Dicke lives on the campus of Highlands Lutheran International School (HLIS) in Amapyaka, where he spent time as a child. HLIS began in the 1950s using money from the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League and originally served as a school for missionary children. Throughout its history, HLIS has faced changes. Now, the school is working

10 • LUTHERAN S EN G AG E   |   S P RI NG 20 1 9

|   WATC H A V I DE O  |

to re-establish itself as an intentionally Lutheran school. LCMS missionaries work alongside teachers from the GLC to ensure the religious teaching at HLIS is grounded in sound Lutheran theology. “I want to maintain the Lutheran teaching here,” said Pam Liu, sixth-grade teacher and principal of the primary school at HLIS, who taught her children Luther’s Morning Prayer during CRE class. “My sister and I … had to walk 10–15 kilometers each way for 10 years to attend a Lutheran school. … The important thing

is the grace of God that we get freely. That’s what the missionaries taught us. … Jesus came to save us. And we will be in heaven with Him some day.” “Christ is the way that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven,” said Makum Ripa, who teaches eighth grade at Wamapisa Lutheran Primary School in Yaramanda. Down the valley from HLIS, Wamapisa is working to teach the children of the Enga Province the truth of God’s Word. Ripa’s students made mosaics for each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, and she

A fire burns inside a home in the Makapumanda area. The fire gives off creosote, which lines the roof and protects it from moisture.

plans to do a similar activity when they study the Apostles’ Creed next term.

Building Lutheran Hospitals Immanuel Lutheran District Hospital in Mambisanda continues to serve as one of Enga’s best and most important medical facilities. Today, the hospital has a capacity of 120 beds, an outpatient center, clinics, labs, an X-ray machine, two operating rooms and the only autoclaves in the district. LCMS missionaries worked with seven Walther League volunteers to build the hospital in the 1950s. From 1954 until 1986, the hospital was operated by the LCMS. It also was the original site of the Lutheran School of Nursing, which was established to train local medical professionals. Immanuel is now government funded and operated by the GLC. LCMS GEO missionary Anton Lutz still lives on the hospital grounds and works to maintain the hospital’s

equipment, something he learned by watching his father, LCMS medical missionary Dr. Steve Lutz, who served as a surgeon and remote outreach coordinator at Immanuel from 1986 until his death in 2010. “What the LCMS put here is good quality,” said Sister Agnes Koralyo, director of Nursing Services at Immanuel. “What we still use is what the LCMS put here. Our operation rooms are the best in the area still.” The hospital and the missionary houses built around it still receive reliable electricity from a hydroelectric system installed by LCMS missionaries in 1962. Anton Lutz maintains the aging hydroelectric plant to provide electricity for the hospital and the people who rely on it for health care. The plant’s longevity testifies to the quality of work done by the first LCMS missionaries. That work is still bearing fruit in people’s lives. “If it weren’t for the Lutherans, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Trevina Epata Gima, principal of HLIS, as she explained that she was

“I want to maintain the Lutheran teaching here.” — Teacher Pam Liu

born as a preemie and would have died if the Lutherans hadn’t built Immanuel and brought in the equipment needed to save her life.

Changing Roles Formerly, LCMS missionaries walked through the bush to reach people in remote places with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, LCMS missionaries serve alongside the GLC to continue to supply Word and Sacrament ministry, education and care to the people of PNG. At the recent funeral of a prominent layperson, the bishops and area pastors of the GLC gathered. But it was LCMS missionary Rev. Dr. Ron

Rall who was asked to preach. Speaking in Pidgin to a crowd of hundreds, Rall clearly preached the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In Christ alone death is defeated. And all who die in Christ also rise with Him on the Last Day. Rall, who first came to PNG in the early ’70s to serve in the remote places of the bush, now fills a different role: seminary professor and educator. Now, Rall teaches at Timothy Lutheran Seminary (TLS) in Birip, Enga Province. TLS and the GLC’s five preparatory Bible schools prepare local men to serve as evangelists and pastors. The LCMS provides annual support for both the seminary engage. l cms .o rg

• 11

Left: A seminarian listens during class at Timothy Lutheran Seminary (TLS), Birip. Right: The Rev. John Nathan, principal of TLS, teaches seminarians about Martin Luther.

“Without the support of the LCMS, we couldn’t exist.”

— Principal Rev. John Nathan

and the Bible schools. The LCMS also is providing theological education for the GLC through LCMS missionary Rev. Lawrence Matro at Martin Luther Seminary in the coastal town of Lae. Although LCMS missionaries teach some courses, their primary work is to support the GLC’s church workers as they provide this education. Starting in 1979, LCMS missionaries established the five Bible schools to provide the schooling necessary to pass the entrance exams for the seminary. If men are unable to continue to the seminary, they

return to their villages and congregations equipped to serve as lay evangelists. TLS, led by Principal Rev. John Nathan, follows the same four-year plan as the LCMS seminaries in the U.S.: two years of study, followed by a vicarage and then a fourth and final year. Following graduation, the new pastors are called to serve a congregation or in other areas of the church. The 2019 school year began on Feb. 13 with an enrollment of 34 students, served by eight faculty. “Without the support of the LCMS,” said Nathan, who earned a master’s degree at

12 • LUTHERAN S EN G AG E   |   S P RI NG 20 1 9

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, “we couldn’t exist.” “This seminary is preparing young men to lead congregations, many of which are struggling with the false teaching that is all around them,” said Rall. “The seminary is crucial for the church today, because many of the current pastors are elderly and not trained well enough to combat the false teaching around them. They need in-service courses that can help them deal with the challenges of ministry.” At the seminary, men also are taught how to lead congregational singing using guitars. In a church body with no organs or pianos and few electric keyboards, guitars afford portability. The primary focus of Dicke’s work is to teach that their songs must proclaim Christ and what He has done. Dicke also works to translate materials into Pidgin and distribute them so that people can learn more about the Lutheran faith.

Strengthening Congregations An hourlong walk from the paved road brings travelers to Gutnius Lutheran Church in Makapumanda, which stands on land granted to the Lutherans over 50 years ago. “I want to show Jesus Christ to all the people,” said the Rev. Steven Daniel, pastor of the church. “Whatever work we make will not save us. Whatever Jesus did on the cross, this will save us.” During the week, Daniel visits the communities in the valleys below his congregation and works in a land that has been torn apart by tribal violence and confused by strange Christian teaching. “God is the one who creates faith. We cannot do that. I teach them this way.” Daniel has served this congregation since 2017, following his graduation from TLS. When Daniel first arrived in Makapumanda, there were 12 Christians. Now, there are 26

Far left: Anton Lutz, LCMS missionary to Papua New Guinea, services the hydroelectric generator that supplies power to Immanuel Lutheran District Hospital in Mambisanda. The “hydro” has been generating power since it was installed by LCMS missionaries in 1962. Left: The lit cross beckons seminarians and guests to opening worship at Timothy Lutheran Seminary on Feb. 13. Below: LCMS missionary families gather for fellowship at the home of fellow missionary Michael Ritzman.

members of the congregation, and others are visiting. In addition to false teachings that have caused great confusion within the members of the GLC, some of the tenets of ancestral animism still linger in people’s minds. These ancient beliefs, combined with tribalism, continue to cause strife, damage property and conflict with the teaching of the Word of God. In Tone, Patmos Lutheran Church stands at the top of a steep rocky ascent. There, Pastor Willie Kambu teaches the true and full Gospel of Jesus Christ even in the midst of many false teachers. When Kambu first came in 2000, there were 14 Lutherans in the area. Now, Patmos has 121 communicant members, with several hundred coming regularly. Thirty-three people are seeking Baptism on Easter Sunday. After Rall proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus to a special gathering there, Kambu addressed his people: “Many other churches teach other things. But the Good News of Jesus is what makes the church strong. Now you know

the Good News.” The walls of Patmos bear plaques that read, “Bilip Tasol, Bible Tasol, Marimari Tasol, Krais Tasol.” Faith alone, Scripture alone, Grace alone, Christ alone. Just down the road, Luku Poko, who graduated from TLS in 2016, leads Yakenda Lutheran Church. Poko will be ordained in April, so he can serve as pastor for the more than 170 communicant members at Yakenda. The church today in the Enga Province continues to grow and learn as it does. The roots planted firmly in the Word of God by the early LCMS missionaries continue to bear fruit. At the same time, the GLC is maturing and learning to face its new challenges with the guidance of the Lord of the Church.

Kaiam airstrip and community health post. Yet sometimes those in need have been unjustly and unfairly hurt by those in their own families or community. LCMS missionaries are working to end violence against those who have been falsely accused of hosting evil spirits, as well as to care for people who have been abandoned by society. Recently, a very disturbing form of violence has come to the Enga Province, all centered around finding a sanguma (a “witch” or “sorcerer”) to blame for the death of a loved one.

More and more, people blame an unexpected death on an evil spirit living in a human host. The accused host, usually a vulnerable woman, is tortured to death in a literal witchhunt. “It’s wrong. It’s against God’s Word. It’s against the law,” said Anton Lutz, referring to the violence against women. “I think we must do something, so I am. I speak in public, at events and in the media. I’m educating people. I’m notifying the police and even personally intervening in cases. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

Caring for People LCMS missionaries continue to reach those in need wherever they may live. Similar to the Synod’s historic work in the country, this still sometimes includes building airstrips, such as the recently completed

engage. lcms .o rg

• 13

Worshipers sing during the service at Immanuel Lutheran Church.

As part of the work against false sanguma beliefs, LCMS missionaries wrote “23 Theses and a Statement of Faith for Christians,” which states: “Women, men, and now even children are falsely accused of possessing spiritual powers and are then tortured and often killed. … [These] false beliefs … do not follow the Word of God, are in complete opposition to the Christian faith, and fail to reflect how Jesus wants us to live.” LCMS missionaries have also worked with the many people who suffer from diseases that are considered shameful, such as AIDS and leprosy. Many ignore these people, but LCMS missionaries reach out with God’s love to those who are outside of the community.

Getting the Gospel Out The work of LCMS missionaries in PNG doesn’t always fit into categories. “I am involved in practically every project you can imagine that makes running a church body possible,” said Michael Ritzman, business manager for the LCMS mission in PNG.

Ritzman assists with the business needs and facilities of TLS and the Bible schools, teaches administration to students at these schools, and works to end the false beliefs that lead to the sanguma violence. Ritzman also watches over the administrative needs of his fellow LCMS missionaries in PNG. His workload may not reflect what most people think of when they hear “business manager.” “But then again, PNG is not your typical mission field!” he said. “I’m always thinking … how can we use these resources to get the Gospel out?” Over the decades, those resources have been used to bring the Word of God to the people of PNG and care for each person as one for whom Christ died. “We thank God that we have the privilege of being here,” said LCMS missionary Julie Lutz, who first came to PNG with her husband, Dr. Steve Lutz, in 1986 and whose extended family has now served for a combined total of 150 years on LCMS foreign mission fields, from India to Cote D’Ivoire to PNG. “Let’s follow Christ. We find our fellowship in Christ.”

14 • LUTHERAN S EN G AG E   |   S P RI NG 2 0 1 9

In Christ Alone A member of Patmos smiled and shook hands with the missionaries and visitors from America as they left. “Thank you, thank you for coming,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Please don’t forget us.” A partner church on the other side of the world, in a country on the opposite side of the technological and

LCMS missionary Rev. Dr. Ron Rall and the Rev. Willie Kambu go over the order of worship for an upcoming funeral service at Sukutea Lutheran Church in the Yaramanda area of the Enga Province.

developmental divide. A partner church with language barriers and cultural differences. Yet together in the Body of Christ, the GLC and the LCMS proclaim the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and administer the Sacraments according to the Word of God. And in Christ alone is our hope. A massive bamboo tree stands in the middle of the TLS campus. Decades ago, this “Birip Bamboo” was planted by Burce with the promise to the locals that the Word of God would take root and grow here in PNG. Over 50 years later, the tree is still growing, and the Word of God is still bearing fruit. “Yu no save long mi, na mi save long yu, tasol nau Jisas i bungim yumi,” which is Pidgin for “You don’t know me, I don’t know you, but Jesus brings us together.” Dr. Kevin Armbrust is director of Editorial for LCMS Communications.


Caring for Lutherans IN



am an oncology patient and also am diabetic,” said Mercedes, who attends a Lutheran church in northeastern Venezuela. “I have no source of income other than my social security pension, which is not enough to buy both food and medicine.” Right now in Venezuela, millions of people like Mercedes and other members of the Lutheran Church of Venezuela


Responding to these dire needs, a partnership between Lutheran church bodies is bringing relief to people in Venezuela. After hearing firsthand stories about the current situation from Venezuelan refugees, the leaders of the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile worked through the Venezuelan government’s stringent regu-

One person who benefited was a man who has been struggling with an infection after a failed surgery to rebuild his digestive tract in November 2017. “Thanks to you, he received colostomy bags with their bases, adhesives and gauze in this shipment, and now he can even walk to the church for services,” said the man’s sister-in-law.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (GAL. 6:10) . are being impacted by the unprecedented humanitarian crisis plaguing their country. In 2017, many Venezuelan families were already experiencing extreme poverty (defined as an inability to meet basic food needs), and the situation has only grown more extreme since then. “Everyone is hungry now, and mums and dads have to stop eating so they can feed their children,” reported a 14-year-old Venezuelan girl in an interview aired by the BBC in February. As malnutrition escalates, so does sickness. Diseases formerly considered preventable, easily managed or even eradicated now run rampant in a country where hospitals are not receiving the basic supplies and medicines they need to operate.

lations and began sending medications to their brothers and sisters in Christ nearly 3,000 miles away. In July 2018, LCMS World Relief and Human Care Disaster Response provided a grant of $9,500 to the Chilean church to help send even more medications. Following the arrival of the most recent shipment, Lutheran congregations in Venezuela were able to distribute medicine to 630 people. Most of these medications — all of which come from a government-approved list of drugs that can legally be brought into the country — went to help people manage chronic, life-threatening conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, epilepsy and dementia.

Mercedes was also able to receive the medications her doctor prescribed for her treatment, and she wasn’t forced to choose between them and the food she needs to live. “My brethren, I pray to God for you,” Mercedes said. “I do not have the words to express my appreciation.”

YOUR PRAYERS AND CONTRIBUTIONS make possible acts of life-saving mercy like these. Each “where needed most” donation supports action when unexpected opportunities to bear mercy and share the love of Christ arise. In addition to this grant, the Synod’s mission team in the Latin America region is planning ongoing ministry efforts that will expand the medication program, while also providing pastoral care and other assistance to Venezuelans who are struggling during their country’s economic crisis.

engage. l cms .o rg

• 15


LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison sings with the LCMS contingent at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18.

Lutherans from around the country joined the March for Life in Washington, D.C., in January and learned about God’s gift of life at the LCMS Life Conference.

Confessing Christ in the Capital BY K E VI N A R MBR U ST

he Lord’s Prayer. The Creed. “A Mighty Fortress.” The Agnus Dei. The First Amendment. These were some of the things sung or recited by a group of Lutherans as they made their way down Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., at the March for Life on Jan. 18, 2019. In the midst of many different groups, people from LCMS congregations around the United States proclaimed their faith in Christ and their role as citizens.


16 • LUTHERAN S EN G AG E   |   S P RI NG 2 0 1 9

“We’re not here to protest. We are here to confess,” said the Rev. Christopher Esget, LCMS sixth vice-president and pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Va., during his sermon at the Divine Service prior to the march. “And we leave here ready to live in, with and under that confession.” Esget proclaimed that this is not just a dogmatic statement, but a living confession: “God is not merely alive; He is life. And that life is not static, but dynamic. He is living.” Following the Divine Service, the LCMS participants took the

Metro downtown to participate in the march, alongside hundreds of thousands of others. “Being pro-life is not in opposition to science. It’s quite the opposite in fact! Medical and technological advancements continue to reaffirm the science behind the pro-life cause — that life begins at fertilization, or Day 1, when egg meets sperm and a new, unique, human embryo is created,” according to the 2019 March for Life website. “Science is on the side of life.” “The issue of life is at the intersection of faith, love and science,” noted the Rev. Robert Zagore, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission. “And in this matter, all three are on the side of life.”


As has become the custom, the marchers from the LCMS wore bright green hats and carried signs bearing the eyes of people at different stages of life. But at the march, the LCMS is becoming known for something other than signs, slogans and hats: The Lutherans sing. “This is a fantastic chance to be joyful about an issue that is anything but joyful. We can be so different than the rest of the groups there in the way we sing and confess, even though we are there for the same purpose,” said Audrey Rich, a senior at Concordia University, Nebraska, Seward, Neb. In between the singing, they prayed the Lord’s Prayer and confessed the Apostles’ Creed. Words and actions in concert proclaimed in the middle of the March for Life that true life is found in Christ alone. When asked why she was there, Katlyn Selbe, a member of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, Baser, Kan., answered: “To speak for the ones who can’t speak for themselves, and to walk with other Lutherans for babies.” As she marched with her 5-week-old son, Selbe said, “It’s such a blessing to hand down the Lutheran faith

from generation to generation.” As the march moved toward the Supreme Court, it passed by the Newseum, which has engraved on its edifice the words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. At the building, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, who was leading the LCMS marchers, stopped and led a recitation of those words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This poignant moment evinced why Lutherans march for life. It is not to protest, but to lawfully assemble to confess God’s truth. “Being Lutheran, having a biblical background for the meaning of your life,” said Katelyn Hamilton, a freshman at Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis. (CUW), when asked why she marches. “We have more meaning behind our stance.” Hamilton’s observation was illustrated when she and her friends from CUW encountered an atheist who told them

that he hopes he won’t see them next year. When the girls asked why, he told them he hopes there won’t be a need. “I wondered what his reason was. What’s the point of protecting life if you don’t believe life comes from God?” wondered Kristin Rindt, a freshman at CUW. Glad that her new atheist acquaintance is “for life,” Rindt explained to him that she marched because of God’s love. “We believe Christ died for us. The Gospel gives us a reason to believe in life.” “You have to have an answer for the hope that you have. People here can help support that. There’s strength in numbers,” said Krista Wright, a member of Zion Lutheran Church, Newton, Kan. “Catholics kinda have a corner on this issue, but they shouldn’t. Lutherans are prolife. The Christ Child came to earth as a baby, and we all have a part in that life.”

When the march ended in front of the Supreme Court, Harrison led a short devotion, encouraging all to pray, advocate and, above all, confess Christ. As the crowds dispersed, the Lutheran group headed back to the 2019 LCMS Life Conference, “Joy:fully Alive — Body & Soul.” The conference provided an opportunity for fellowship, discussion, encouragement and learning. With the mutual encouragement of the group and the wisdom of the presenters, those who came returned home to help their congregation celebrate life — all life, from conception to natural death. Opportunities for worship and study of God’s Word continued to root the conference in the One who is life, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Addressing the Life Conference on the opening evening, Harrison said that many people will ask us who we are at the march. Our response is simple: “We are the Lutherans. We confess Christ.”

|   L EA RN MO RE  |

engage. l cms .o rg

• 17

Shining ,

Christ s Light in Nebraska

Two Lutheran schools in the heart of Nebraska are preparing young people to carry the light of Christ into their communities. BY E R I K M. LU NSF OR D A ND CH E RY L MAG N ES S

The Rev. Aaron Witt, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Columbus, Neb., says if you find yourself in his neighborhood, chances are good that you’re lost. The church is not actually in Columbus, but about 12 miles out of town in the middle of a cornfield, and people “don’t just drive by.” Three miles west of Christ, at the corner of an intersection bordered by crops, is a stone sign for the church, complete with its founding date — 1871 — that beckons drivers eastward. Even with the sign, Witt says the location makes it a little difficult to get the word out about Christ Lutheran School.

Through the Decades Nevertheless, this small K-8 school — the current enrollment is 27 in three multi-grade classrooms — has been teaching God’s Word to children for almost 150 years. It started as

18 • LUTHERAN S EN G AG E   |   S P RI NG 2 0 1 9

a one-room school in 1871, and a new building was completed in 1949. Some people spend their entire lives here, attending the school as children, raising their own families in the church and watching their grandchildren and great-grandchildren do the same. On a recent rainy Friday, students walked down the sodden path from the schoolhouse to the church, passing the cemetery as a pair of outdoor cats scampered around. In the church, Witt led chapel and Karla Dixon, the school administrative assistant, played piano. Upperclass students served as acolytes, and younger students slumped over the pews with a sleepy look in their eyes. Everyone sang “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” In chapel, older students are assigned to the younger ones, and prayer partners from the congregation are assigned to various children. It’s much the same now as it was decades ago. Witt says some of the oldest members


Teacher Alison Rudolph works with students at Christ Lutheran School, Columbus, Neb.

engage. l cms .o rg

• 19

remember attending the school when the teacher would go home during lunch and students would slide on the ice at the nearby creek.

Part of the Family of God It’s part of what gives Christ Lutheran School the feeling of being a family. Eighth-grade student Kavan Splittgerber states it simply: “Everybody’s friends.” He’s used to being at church on Sunday with his friends and then seeing them again on Monday. Witt knows each student by name as a child of God and nourishes their faith in the sanctuary and in the classroom. About 45 miles to the north, in Norfolk, Neb., is Lutheran High Northeast (LHNE). The town is the boyhood home of celebrity talk show host Johnny Carson, and visitors to the small downtown can see a large mural of his career

“ The joy comes from the ability to be part of Christ’s kingdom and grow that kingdom.”

— Principal Daniel Sievert

on the side of La Macarena Tienda, a Mexican store and restaurant. Nearby also is the home office of Orphan Grain Train, which routinely works with LCMS Disaster Response to bring needed relief supplies to disaster areas around the world. With about 115 students, LHNE is larger than Christ Lutheran School, but it has the same family atmosphere. “The teachers genuinely care about you,” says LHNE senior Jeremiah Nichols. LHNE Principal Daniel Sievert agrees, saying that much of the learning at LHNE occurs outside the classroom as faculty and staff work to carry out the school’s mission statement, which reads: “Educating for life — Proclaiming the faith.”

“To God be the glory” is written on the blue exterior sign along Good Shepherd Drive. On a blue locker inside, a student involved with cross country has posted another sign that says “Run for the One” with a cross beneath it. “We are distinctly Lutheran,” says Perry Miller, who teaches religion classes at the school. He helps nourish the students in their faith through daily prayer and involvement together in activities that reinforce the family-focused environment. Local congregations, he says, also play a vital role in the students’ lives. “We have good, dynamic churches in the area that these students come from.” “Having grown up in Lutheran schools all my life,”

says LHNE senior Julia Witt, “I’ve been able to develop the strong faith that’s been able to get me through a lot of hard things and a lot of good things.” Witt drives from Columbus each day where her father, Aaron (as noted earlier), is pastor. Her mother also teaches at LHNE. She cherishes the faculty and staff and the relationships she’s built at the school. “I love how every class we’re in, whether English class or math class, we’re able to take what we’re learning and bring it back to God somehow. … It’s awesome.”

‘Shine His Light’ The students, Sievert says, will be faced with a world

The schools’ Christian identity is visible throughout the classrooms and hallways of Christ Lutheran Church and School, Columbus, Neb., and Lutheran High Northeast, Norfolk, Neb.


During the 2017–18 school year, the LCMS had:


early childhood centers


high schools


elementary schools


students served across all schools

20 • LUTHERAN S EN G AG E   |   S P RI NG 2 0 1 9

“that doesn’t know Christ and openly attacks in many cases, so we’re preparing them to defend the faith.” A hallway at LHNE has a cross with the words “Shine His Light” painted on it. That’s what both of these Lutheran schools in the heart of Nebraska are doing as they teach young people to carry that light of Christ into their communities and the world beyond. “I couldn’t imagine serving in a school where you couldn’t talk about Jesus Christ,” says Sievert. “The joy comes from … the ability to be part of Christ’s kingdom and grow that kingdom. I’ve never known anything else … and it’s always been a joy.”


|   LEARN MO RE  |

Erik M. Lunsford is managing photojournalist for LCMS Communications. Cheryl Magness is managing editor of Reporter.

Principal Daniel Sievert talks with students during lunchtime at Lutheran High Northeast in Norfolk, Neb.

engage. l cms .o rg

• 21


YOU are making a difference and changing lives with the Gospel and Christ’s mercy. To sign up for a free individual or bulk subscription:

• Call the LCMS Church Information Center at 888-THE LCMS (843-5267). • Visit

Interested in working internationally? Have business acumen? Excited about the church’s mission? Is this you or someone you know? Learn more about this exciting opportunity by visiting