Lutherans Engage the World | Summer 2020

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Summer 2020


Summer 2020 Lutherans Engage the World is published quarterly by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. © 2020 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

A view of the sanctuary at Trinity Lutheran Church, Millstadt, Ill., on a quiet weekday morning in May. PHOTO: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ ERIK M. LUNSFORD

Clinging to God’s Certain Promises We waver, we flinch, we doubt, we’re frightened. Is God’s promise — His hope — lost in the middle of pandemic and pandemonium? Never. He gave you everything (ROM. 8:32) in order to keep His promise to you, to give you all things, that you would never be separated from Him. To that end, even in the face of what seems impossible, He is working that His will be done. In every time and place, Jesus Christ is the foundation of genuine courage in confession. He is God’s truth, “our confidence alone” (Lutheran Service Book 909:1), the guarantee of life in the secure, blissful joy of His risen and ascended presence. These things shall have no end. They cannot possibly be bound by time or limited by worldly orders to shelter in place or work from home. You and I are heading to our real home! We do not place our faith in created things, for they are passing away. What came in the beginning, then from Sinai, from Calvary, from the mouths of God’s spokesmen, from countless altars where the body and blood of Jesus was distributed, from the time and place where you were baptized, is a beautiful sacred mystery of being one — in Christ, with Him, with you and me and all the saints who have gone before. This blessed unity presses forward to the day when all are filled with the fullness of God, when the mortal has put on immortality (1 COR. 15:53) and every voice is lifted in genuine praise at the triumphant feast of the Lamb of God. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [we] press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (PHIL. 3:12–14). Turn the page and see for yourself. In Christ, Rev. Kevin D. Robson Chief Mission Officer, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod


We’d love for you to join us on the journey. To receive the magazine in your mailbox, please call the LCMS Church Information Center at 888-THE LCMS (843-5267). To be notified when new issues are posted online, visit

Editorial Office

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

From the Editor During the time of COVID-19, the church has been scattered, stressed, struggling, shut in, serving … and SAVED. Dear reader, this issue of Lutherans Engage the World speaks to all of it and more. A beautiful thread runs through these pages, despite the challenges of the day, as the church continues for the life of the world. The Gospel goes forth and Christ’s mercy changes lives — and God blesses all of it. Your prayers and financial support of the witness and mercy work of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod have never been more important. We thank God for His providence. We thank God for you. In Christ, Pamela J. Nielsen Associate Executive Director, LCMS Communications



The Church of Today and Tomorrow Stacey Egger

For 40 years, Lutheran Youth Fellowship has raised up strong leaders for the church.



Extraordinary Measures in Extraordinary Times



The Synod’s missionaries serve in new and changing ways amid the coronavirus pandemic.


Easter 2020 Erik M. Lunsford On April 12, LCMS congregations celebrated Easter Sunday despite lockdowns and other restrictions.

Kevin Armbrust Like pastors across the country, the Rev. John Zimmerman and his flock have adjusted to the realities of the coronavirus pandemic and eagerly await a return to in-person fellowship.

Megan K. Mertz and Jana Inglehart


We Are All Shut-ins (for) Now

Departments 2 Q&A With Chaplain Steven Hokana 7 Update

Assisting church workers during the pandemic.

8 Mercy Moment

Stemming the spread of COVID-19 in Africa.

20 Witness Moment

Bringing the Gospel to soldiers in all situations.

Q&A What led to your interest in the topics of PTSD and trauma mitigation? When I entered into an Armysupported Doctor of Ministry program around 2002, knowledge of PTSD was in its infancy. I sat down with an LCMS four-star general, and he told me, “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, that’s an area that you really need to look at.” With veterans in my family, I had found that they want to share. But they have a lack of trust, because there have been those few moments when they’ve tried to open up, and it just didn’t go well.


How do you recognize when you are facing PTSD? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a medical condition, a diagnosed behavioral health condition. The symptoms are re-experiencing the trauma, difficulty talking about the trauma, depression, detachment, avoidance.


Where should someone who is struggling with PTSD go for help? Can they talk to their pastor? If someone feels sincerely that they have PTSD, they need to talk to a certified, qualified behavioral health provider.


But pastors offer things that the behavioral health community cannot. Scripture is so absolutely important, with its reminders that in the midst of tumultuousness, God is still God. The Sacraments are absolutely important. Baptism reminds us of who we are, the Lord’s Supper that we belong to the whole Christian church on earth. The prayers and liturgy tie us to the church [of all ages]. And the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they can’t do any of that.


How might PTSD manifest itself in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic? The CDC has observed this pandemic exacerbating issues that people already have, such as depression. This is a time of isolation. There’s a price to pay for that.


How can people support those who are suffering during this time? It’s important to build trust: If they want to talk to you, be

available; if they aren’t able to talk, be understanding. If they start to get emotional, recognize that it’s not about you. They’re deeply hurt. Let them know that you love them, and that you’re there for them. Let them know that they’re loved because they are a child of God in Christ, even if they don’t feel it. And pray for these people. If you say you’re going to pray for them, do.


Anything else you’d like to add? There can be growth and healing after trauma. God, in His grace and mercy, journeys with us. Yes, we’ve gone through terrible things. But it’s a great, wonderful, beautiful world, and God has sent us His Son, Jesus, to redeem us. You can come back from even the worst trauma. Stacey Egger is a staff writer and editor for LCMS Communications. LEARN MORE

about LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces:

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Steven Hokana, assistant director of LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces, is a clinically trained hospital chaplain with a specialty in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He has written many articles, served on panels, led pastoral conferences and worked in trauma mitigation with children and adults. However, his experience with trauma is not purely academic. He served 26 years as an activeduty U.S. Army chaplain and saw combat during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He also served for years at multiple Army medical centers. He recently took a few minutes to discuss Christ’s hope and help for those with PTSD.

QA &

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WATCH a presentation from Hokana on caring for pastors

during the COVID-19 pandemic:


Chaplain Steven Hokana





Jen-Yi “Irene” Paul (far right), an LCMS missionary to Taiwan, holds Sunday school outside the church in May. Although most activities have continued in Taiwan during the pandemic, many people now wear masks.

Extraordinary Measures in Extraordinary Times



s the world grapples with the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, billions of people have been impacted in one way or another — including The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) 100-plus missionaries. Throughout this changing situation, the LCMS Office of International Mission has walked alongside them, offering counsel and assistance at every step of the way. After careful consideration, more than 90 percent of the Synod’s missionaries opted to stay on their foreign fields and continue serving as best they could. Here are a few ways they have continued their ministry during the various restrictions and lockdowns.

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LCMS missionary Rev. Adam Lehman and his family join their neighbors every evening to applaud essential workers for their service in Seville, Spain.


Because of the spread-out nature of the Lutheran church in Spain, all of our services were being streamed via Zoom and Facebook Live even before the quarantine. This means that we were not ‘starting from zero’ and trying to figure out how to use technology to reach our people.” — Rev. Adam Lehman

Moving Online in South Korea International Lutheran Church (ILC) in Seoul, South Korea, was among the first Lutheran churches to have to adapt to the emerging coronavirus pandemic. In late February, LCMS missionary Rev. Carl Hanson, who serves as pastor of ILC, realized that services were going to have to move online. Not only were public gatherings being restricted, but he was worried about the health of his Korean and expat members — some of whom travel several hours via public transportation to attend the church. On Feb. 26, Hanson enlisted his daughters’ help to create a video devotion for Ash Wednesday. By the following Sunday, he had created the first of many prerecorded worship services. Each week, the organist records herself playing the

hymns on her piano at home. Different members then record themselves reading the Scripture passages and singing, and Hanson edits them all together with the sermon and liturgy and posts them to The congregation also has continued having Bible studies, fellowship events and game nights — all online. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Hanson said, noting that the online format has enabled the congregation to reconnect with former members who moved away. While they used to have about 100 people in attendance on a Sunday, they now get between 400 and 800 views each week. “As wonderful as all this is, we still long for and need to see and encourage one another face-to-face,” he said. At the time of this writing, Hanson was looking forward

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to holding the first “socially responsible” in-person service on May 24, although online services will continue for the foreseeable future.

Uniting the Scattered in Spain Spain has been among the hardest-hit countries during the pandemic, and its government declared a nationwide lockdown on March 14 that was only just starting to ease up by mid-May. During this time, the Synod’s two missionary pastors to Spain — the Rev. David Warner and the Rev. Adam Lehman — continued their work from their respective homes in Cartagena and Seville. “The Lutherans in Spain are spread out, but interestingly that has kind of been a blessing for us during this time of quarantine,” Lehman said. “Because of the spread-out

nature of the Lutheran church in Spain, all of our services were being streamed via Zoom and Facebook Live even before the quarantine. This means that we were not ‘starting from zero’ and trying to figure out how to use technology to reach our people.” Instead, they were able to expand their online community by adding online coffee hours and office hours to their slate of services and Bible studies. This allowed Lutherans in different parts of the country to spend some time with their pastors and each other. Despite the tough restrictions during this time, the Lehman family enjoyed joining their neighbors in a nightly round of applause for essential workers, while the Warners gained a newfound appreciation for taking out the trash. As Spain begins to reopen and the mission team makes

Jen-Yi “Irene” Paul (left) shares a Mother’s Day carnation with a neighbor. The carnation distribution was a way to reconnect with neighborhood women during the pandemic. A man glances at a sign welcoming guests to an English camp at Fuente de Vida (Fountain of Life) Lutheran Church, Ponce, Puerto Rico, in 2019. After LCMS short-term mission teams were canceled due to the pandemic, the Office of International Mission launched an online English conversation project that matches volunteers from the U.S. with students in Puerto Rico and other locations.

LCMS missionary Rev. Dr. Michael Paul teaches catechism class prior to worship at Qianjia Lutheran mission station in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

plans to safely gather for worship again, Warner said, “The Lord is our Rock and our Refuge, an ever-present Help in trouble. Clinging to Christ by His Word and Spirit, we know He will bring us through.”


Connecting with Puerto Ricans 2020 has been a less-than-ideal year for short-term mission. With the earthquakes and then the pandemic lockdown, four short-term mission teams were forced to cancel their trips to Puerto Rico. LCMS missionaries from the Synod’s world regions brainstormed ways for people to serve without ever leaving home. The result of their discussion was an online project to pair native Englishspeaking volunteers with students desiring to practice their English.

Members of the canceled trips, members from past short-term teams and Concordia University System students were invited to participate. They received an overwhelming response, and 42 volunteers were matched with students from Ponce and Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. Other volunteers were connected with students in Russia and the Czech Republic. Orientation sessions for the five-week program were held in early May to introduce volunteers to the LCMS’ churchplanting work in Puerto Rico and help them understand how teaching English functions as a bridge into the community. If the program proves beneficial and viable, it may expand to include other countries served by LCMS missionaries. The program “has been one of the wonderful, creative ideas to come out of COVID-19

isolation,” said volunteer Hilary Tew, who tutored a woman in Puerto Rico. “I hope the LCMS will continue these virtual missions opportunities even after people are able to resume meeting in person, because it is a great way to connect with and help people in the community who might not attend in-person ESL classes.”

Continuing Ministry in Taiwan Even as many countries implemented strict measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, life in Taiwan continued as normal — albeit with a few more face masks than before. “Because of Taiwan’s experience with the SARS virus of 2003, the government, health officials and general public were quite prepared to respond to this pandemic,” said the Rev. Dr. Michael Paul, an LCMS missionary to Taiwan.

In-person services have continued in the China Evangelical Lutheran Church (CELC), the Synod’s partner church on the island, although Paul now wears a mask while distributing communion, during Bible class and while talking to students at the CELC’s seminary. His congregation also has started livestreaming services for those who have been discouraged by their employers from attending public gatherings. “The biggest challenge … has been the difficulty to meet with non-Christian neighbors,” Paul said. “People are less willing to have social interaction with those beyond their family and close friends.” Paul’s work also includes developing Lutheran resources in Mandarin. During the pandemic, use of these materials has increased, especially in places where worship is restricted or prohibited. engage. lcms .o rg


Boosting Morale throughout Latin America Most missionaries will agree that living away from family is difficult in the best of times. With lockdowns and curfews in many countries, the Synod’s missionaries are sheltering in place with various restrictions. Concern for the long-term effect on the mental health of these workers is paramount. The Latin America and Caribbean region’s humancare team took a proactive approach by organizing a Spirit Week. Missionaries came together virtually for some light-hearted fun, submitting photos of themselves and their children dressed up for the daily themes, such as sports day, twin day and retro day. Spiritual care also has been stepped up with daily written devotions and a prayer service in video format shared by the regional chaplain. In addition, six online Bible study groups are available for the missionaries. Game nights, lettering workshops and hymn-sings have offered even more opportunities for social interaction.


It is our prayer that, through this ministry, not only will the overall physical health of the community improve but, most importantly, by God’s grace the church will also grow.” — Sarah Kanoy,

shown here treating a young patient during a Mercy Medical Team clinic in 2016

A favorite among the missionary children in the region is a weekly craft time, which includes an online game and Bible study. “It is fun to play games with missionary friends from all over. And it helps to know that I am not the only one struggling right now,” said Abigail Warren, who lives in the Dominican Republic with her parents and two sisters. More morale-boosting activities are planned for the future, with the goal of enhancing the mental and spiritual health of the Synod’s workers in the field.

Promoting Healthy Habits in Africa Since 2016, LCMS missionary nurses Stephanie Schulte and Sarah Kanoy have been walking alongside local Lutheran churches in Africa, providing care and health education to those in remote

Deaconess Miriam Kimath of the Lutheran Church in East Africa cares for her community, such as by helping LCMS missionaries Stephanie Schulte and Sarah Kanoy lead CHE training in Kahe, Tanzania.

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areas. The Community Health Evangelism (CHE) lessons they teach — which pair a health concept with the Gospel — have become even more important during the time of COVID-19. In February, Schulte taught several CHE lessons in Dapaong, Togo, including a lesson on how to prevent the spread of viruses. Schulte and Kanoy also recently worked alongside Deaconess Miriam Kimath of the Lutheran Church in East Africa to lead a weeklong CHE training seminar in Kahe, Tanzania. Together they trained 15 local church leaders on how to teach these lessons to others. And during the lockdown, Schulte and Kanoy taught 21 missionaries about CHE via video conferencing. One popular CHE lesson explains what germs are and how they make people sick. It also includes instructions on how to build a “tippy tap” — a handwashing station constructed from locally available

materials — for those who don’t have access to indoor plumbing. Since then, the newly trained CHE leaders have taught these lessons to others throughout their communities. As a direct result of their hard work, approximately 20 new tippy taps and 10 new latrines have been built. “In addition to increasing the health knowledge of their communities, they are sharing the Gospel and inviting people to their local Lutheran churches,” said Kanoy. “It is our prayer that, through this ministry, not only will the overall physical health of the community improve but, most importantly, by God’s grace the church will also grow.”

Megan K. Mertz is managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World and chief copy editor for LCMS Communications. Jana Inglehart is an LCMS missionary and regional communications specialist for the Latin America and Caribbean region.


Read more stories from the field at


“There is a very great need for a stronger Lutheran voice in the Chinese church worldwide,” he said. “The pandemic has helped in a little way to let that voice be heard a little more loudly.”



Assisting Church Workers

Impacted by the Pandemic BY M E GAN K. M ERTZ


teacher at a Lutheran school who was unexpectedly furloughed. A school secretary struggling to afford groceries now that the office is closed. A pastor who can’t quite make the mortgage payment this month. These are a few examples of the ordained, commissioned and lay church workers who could receive a special Soldiers of the Cross— Amplified grant from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) to help cover their expenses amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As of May 31, $492,402 had been distributed in 334 grants to workers across the Synod. Since 2004, the Soldiers of the Cross program has delivered emergency financial support and pastoral care to rostered professional church workers in crisis. In early April, as churches and schools across the country were shutting down to help stem the spread of the

coronavirus, the program’s scope was expanded. Now any employee of an LCMS church, school, Recognized Service Organization or institution can request a one-time Soldiers grant through their district. A pastor in Florida who received a grant shared the impact it had on his life: “With the funds from Soldiers of the Cross, we were able to pay for our mortgage and utilities for a month, which took some of the stress off me [and allowed me] to regroup and focus on productive measures to sustain our ministry … . Thank you again for your support.” Initially, $2.5 million was earmarked for this COVID-19 response — $1 million from Lutheran Church Extension Fund and $1.5 million from the LCMS, pulled from contributions previously given for Soldiers of the Cross, LCMS World Relief and Human Care, and LCMS Disaster Response. The LCMS also is encouraging ongoing donations to help even more workers. Through

the end of May, God’s people have already responded to that call by providing $400,000 in additional funding for more grants, with another $438,570 to coordinate “after care” services likely to be needed by exhausted LCMS clergy when the pandemic is over. In addition, some districts are underwriting at least 20 percent of each grant given to its workers. For example, the Minnesota South District is drawing from its Worker Wellness fund to supplement the grants — many of which

have gone to its preschool and day care teachers, who have been among those hit hardest by furloughs and layoffs. “In this tumultuous time that we’re going through as a country, we’re also seeing that affecting our church workers in very tangible, financial ways,” said the Rev. Dr. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response, who is currently overseeing the grant program. “This is a way that we can help our church workers who are going through a financial hardship.”

“With the funds from Soldiers of the Cross, we were able to pay for our mortgage and utilities for a month, which took some of the stress off me [and allowed me] to regroup and focus on productive measures to sustain our ministry … . Thank you again for your support.” — A pastor in Florida

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Angela Athumani Haji uses a homemade handwashing station during a recent Community Health Evangelism training seminar held in Kahe, Tanzania.

Grants Aid African Churches in Stemming the Spread of COVID-19 andwashing has been touted as the best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But for people who don’t have regular access to soap and water in public places, this can be a challenge. In April, the LCMS approved a grant of $6,250 to the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church—Sierra Leone to help combat the transmission of COVID-19 by increasing public awareness of the need for safety measures such as handwashing and by providing funds to build 154 handwashing stations (one at each church and school). Part of the grant also was used to print and distribute educational materials on good hygiene amid the pandemic. The LCMS first began working in Sierra Leone in 1983. Since that time, the country has been ravaged by civil war (1991–2001) and an Ebola epidemic (2013–16). There are currently 126 Lutheran congregations with about 4,000 members, 28 schools, 156 teachers and 5,159 pupils. The Rev. Daniel F. McMiller, executive director of the LCMS Office of International Mission, said the Lutheran church in Sierra Leone “has suffered greatly … grown quite well and is living at peace. It is also minimally supported from the outside, which is a great blessing and no small factor in its peaceful nature and its focus on the establishment of sound teaching and practice rather than political


interests vying for power and influence over material assets coming from the U.S. … This [grant] is a great endeavor at modest cost that will save money and — most importantly — lives in the future.”

local languages and are now in the process of installing handwashing stations and providing training both on how to use them properly as well as how to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Stephanie

Churches in 14 countries benefited from your donations, through grants for education and handwashing facilities.

As part of this educational effort, members of the Sierra Leone church are using the Community Health Evangelism (CHE) curriculum, which pairs health concepts with the Gospel. “The church leaders there have translated the COVID-19 lessons that the CHE website has shared into several of the

Schulte, an LCMS missionary nurse who serves as mercy medical coordinator for West and Central Africa. “I just love seeing them take this project to heart,” she continued, “and it perfectly aligns with the CHE philosophy.” Because you choose to give generously, the LCMS is able to supply similar grants, of

varying amounts, in Burundi, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Rwanda, Tanzania and Togo. In Madagascar, the Malagasy Lutheran Church used the grant to help prevent COVID-19 transmission in its North of Nania Synod region. This area has a high incidence of people impacted by malnutrition and undernutrition, which makes them particularly susceptible to contagious diseases. Since churches in Madagascar had been closed since March, the awareness campaign helped pastors and church workers serve their communities in a new way by distributing informational flyers. As they shared the guidelines from the World Health Organization, they also were able to share the Word of God. In addition, a few of the grants given out to these African churches also included food provisions, since people in some areas — especially urban areas — were finding it difficult to feed their families amid the lockdowns, curfews and travel bans that some countries put in place. “Churches are concerned for their congregants and the surrounding communities who are suffering. The grants will assist them in providing some relief … while also preventing the spread of the virus,” said Shara Osiro, an LCMS missionary and regional communications specialist for Africa. engage. lcms .o rg


EASTER 2020 ON APRIL 12, 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, LCMS

congregations celebrated Easter Sunday through livestream and recorded videos. These screen captures provide a glimpse of the Synod rejoicing in the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Like pastors across the country, the Rev. John Zimmerman and his flock have adjusted to the realities of the coronavirus pandemic and eagerly await a return to in-person fellowship.

We Are All Shut-ins (for) Now  “E

very situation is different, but we know the end. We know that we are going to heaven because of Jesus. ... Keep that compass pointed to Jesus Christ alone as Savior ... it is peaceful and true,” said the Rev. John Zimmerman, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Scranton, Pa., and St. John’s Lutheran Church, Pittston, Pa. As one of his members told him, “I follow the one who rose from the dead. I go where He goes.” Scranton, Pa., the setting for “The Office,” sits in the northeastern hills of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This blue-collar community contains divergent ethnic (largely European) neighborhoods situated on the surrounding hills. It is in this setting that Zimmerman serves as undershepherd of the Good Shepherd. He proclaims the Word and administers the Sacraments. He visits his people. As all pastors, he goes to those who are shut in, those in nursing homes, those

in the hospital. He calls on those who are not attending worship. Zimmerman has been a pastor for four years, since graduating from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, in 2016. He spent much of those first years establishing a normal routine — for himself and for those in the congregations he serves. Zimmerman has worked to get to know the members of these parishes, and they trust

that he will provide Word and Sacrament ministry for them.

From Boom to Bust Anthracite coal — black coal — was once the premier fuel for heating houses. Although difficult to ignite, anthracite burns easily once lit and provides a low-ash, clean and low-smoke fuel. From the early 1800s through World War I, anthracite grew in popularity and was often the

The Rev. John Zimmerman, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Scranton, Pa., and St. John’s Lutheran Church, Pittston, Pa., takes a moment to read a devotion as he visits Immanuel’s cemetery.

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fuel of the elite. The mines of the Northern Field of the anthracite mining region of Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) employed many of Scranton’s citizens. All that came to a screeching halt on Jan. 22, 1959. In the Knox Mine, workers punctured a hole from the mine into the Susquehanna River above the mine. The resultant flood killed 12 miners and took three days to fix. This devastated the surrounding area and the coal-mining industry, as natural gas and other fuels were simultaneously gaining in popularity. Church attendance plummeted with the loss of the socioeconomic bedrock of the town. Yet, the communities of NEPA continue on. At the time of the accident, Immanuel averaged between 300 and 400 people each Sunday. The congregation offered services in German, Polish and English. As mines and businesses shut down, the church, which began in 1895,



Zimmerman distributes the Sacrament to Immanuel member Olga Kropa during a visitation on March 10.

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Zimmerman chats with Immanuel member Olga Kropa during a visit to her house.

In all of this, Zimmerman and his people long for the day when they can return to gathering together. lost many of her members. Yet the congregation continued, and most of the families there today are related to founding members. Like each parish and community, Immanuel and St. John’s present challenges and opportunities. Part of the challenge of NEPA is the proximity to large cities. Scranton is about two hours from both New York City and Philadelphia. Young professionals often move to the larger cities. That, combined with smaller family sizes, means the congregations are largely aging and facing different challenges. “Here at Immanuel, we try to meet [those] needs,” explained Zimmerman. “A small group cannot make Sunday service, so we have Wednesday night services.”

Recently, four previously unchurched people who started coming to the Wednesday night service were baptized. “It’s daunting, yet the joy is that the Spirit is at work,” noted Zimmerman. “God says to preach the Word in season and out of season. So, I do.” Zimmerman may be relatively new to the pastoral office, but he is not unfamiliar with the vocation. He was born while his father was on vicarage from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. His grandfather was a pastor, as are his cousin and brother.

The Challenge of COVID-19 But his established routines and visits came to a screeching halt with the coronavirus

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(COVID-19) pandemic. Scranton, with the rest of the world, was shut down, with gatherings stopped and congregations no longer offering worship in person. “We are all shut-ins now,” said Zimmerman. “In the midst of the pandemic, we need the comfort of meeting together and receiving the Sacrament. ... It’s really hard to not be able to meet together.” Like all pastors, Zimmerman seeks to serve His people in humble obedience to the Lord’s will. At the same time, he obeys the laws and regulations of the land. On March 19, Pennsylvania allowed religious institutions to continue to meet under certain restrictions, such as by maintaining social distancing and limiting gathering

Zimmerman teaches Bible study at Immanuel on March 10.

sizes, but an April 16 communication encouraged leaders to find alternatives, asking that people not gather at this time. As a result, Zimmerman’s congregations have offered services with reduced attendance and social distancing, while stressing that members were not under compulsion to attend. His elders reasoned that if people are able to go to the grocery store to get bread, then people should be able to feed on the bread of life. About

Church member Alan Drummond listens during Bible study at Immanuel.

half of his active members have been able to attend and were thankful for the opportunity. Others have been unable or unwilling to attend. For those, Zimmerman — like others in the Synod — has worked to provide online services and opportunities. Zimmerman also has continued to visit — although the visits were on the phone instead of in person, and it was not possible to bring the Sacrament of the Altar. Yet, the ministry of the church continues. And sinners need to hear the Word of God. The ministry of the Word still includes Law and Gospel proclamation. The people of God still need to hear that their sins are forgiven. Prayers may be said over the phone instead of in person. The necessitated distance means that touch is no longer an important part of the visits. And in all of this, Zimmerman and his people have longed for the day when they can return to gathering together. “I hope the Body of Christ can admit that they

missed meeting together,” said Zimmerman. He noted that it is vital that the church “hunger and thirst for the feast, for the Sacrament, for the forgiveness of their sins.”

A Time to Reflect Similar to other difficulties faced in the history of Scranton, Pittston or other towns, this present situation causes the church to pause and adjust. Yet, the Word and the Sacraments remain the promises of God, and those called to proclaim and administer continue faithfully in that calling. “I would like our congregation to look back and say, ‘Despite the fear of 2020 we met together with our Lord and Savior, through Word and Sacrament,’” said Zimmerman. “We said, ‘Alleluia! Christ is risen!’ We made sure that those who can’t come are still hearing the Word.” And the people whom Zimmerman serves are blessed by that Word and their pastor’s

efforts to provide podcasts of his sermons. “What a great idea to create the devotional in the church. The listener heard a powerful Easter sermon instead of a well-constructed and presented essay. ... Good stuff,” said Joan Jaditz, a member of Immanuel, Scranton. She continued, “Your messages are tremendously appreciated by us as they provide a familiar voice sharing the Word, and that instills comfort and peace.” “I don’t have all the answers,” admitted Zimmerman. “It is good to have charity and patience with each other as we decide how best to go forward.” Anthracite coal, demographic shifts and other factors continue to change the situation in NEPA, and the coronavirus has brought even more disruption and questions. Yet, pastors like Zimmerman continue to bring the Word and Sacraments to God’s people.

Kevin Armbrust is director of Editorial for LCMS Communications.

Zimmerman welcomes church members to a Lenten service at Immanuel on March 11.

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The Church of Today and Tomorrow


James Wright (left) of Madison, Neb., and Cullen Flieth from Jamestown, N.D., work together during a March 13 session at the Lutheran Youth Fellowship’s 2020 Leadership Development Training in St. Louis.

Aidan Quirk, a Lutheran Youth Fellowship executive team member from Bismarck, N.D., leads a small-group discussion during the 2020 Leadership Development Training in St. Louis.



outh are not just ‘tomorrow’s church.’ They’re a part of the church now,” commented Jessica Bordeleau, gesturing toward the group deep in conversation behind her. On a mid-March day in St. Louis, small groups gathered around tables in the Pallottine Renewal Center. The scene looked a lot like any youth group meeting: high school youth, adult leaders and pastors in the midst of sincere discussion and occasional bouts of laughter. But here there was something special. A high schooler sat at the head of each table, leader’s guide in hand, guiding the discussion. “In our session this morning, we heard a lot about the tension in our lives between being ‘sinners’ and ‘saints.’ How do you see that tension play out in your own lives?” asked Aidan Quirk, a high school junior from Bismarck, N.D., of his group. This is what the Lutheran Youth Fellowship (LYF) Leadership Development retreat is all about. It has helped prepare LCMS youth for leadership for 40 years. Countless church workers and LCMS

members number among its alumni, and a strong community of dozens of LCMS youth make up its ranks today.

40 Years of Fellowship After parting ways with the Walther League in 1968, the LCMS had no national youth organization and few national youth opportunities — and this lack was felt. Then, in 1978, Lutheran Youth Fellowship was born.

The Rev. Dr. Terry Dittmer, who oversaw LYF for decades until his retirement in 2016, said that it didn’t take long for LYF leaders to recognize that young people were taking on leadership roles not only in the church but also in their schools and communities, and that LYF could help. “In the ’70s and the years following, youth didn’t necessarily need another social organization to be a part of. But they did value leadership

“[Youth] had sophisticated questions, and LYF became a way to address some of those.” — Rev. Dr. Terry Dittmer

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training. They did value being a part of the church. … They had sophisticated questions, and LYF became a way to address some of those,” said Dittmer. The first official LYF Leadership Development retreat was held in 1980, and it has remained essentially the same ever since. LCMS Youth Ministry develops a resource on a topic such as witnessing, apologetics or an aspect of Lutheran theology. (This year’s resource, “Promises Delivered,” focused on baptismal identity.) An LYF “executive team” of five youth, elected every three years, are trained in the new resource. Then during the four-day Leadership Development event, the executive team, in turn, trains their peers in the resource. And it spreads from there. LYF participants return home and find opportunities to train more youth in the resource at youth group retreats, in Sunday school classes and at district youth events. “It has a ripple effect,” said the Rev. Steve Richardson, associate pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Montgomery, Ala., who has engage. l cms .o rg

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It’s a brotherhood, it’s a sisterhood, a family of Christians who want to change the world for the better.” — Rev. Steve Richardson

brought youth from his congregation to LYF training for the past five years. While LYF’s focus is primarily on leadership training, this does not keep it from fostering a strong community as well. In fact, these training events are the perfect opportunities for strong and lasting friendships to grow. “Seeing all these 40 years of [LYF participants] get together at events like the [LCMS] Youth Gathering — they’re like family,” said Richardson. “It’s a brotherhood, it’s a sisterhood, a family of Christians who want to change the world for the better.”

‘Something to Contribute’ “The youth here see that youth are leading. And that empowers them to want to go

back to their church and help lead,” said Bordeleau, who has worked with LYF training events in different capacities for 15 years. LYF’s leadership training is organized around the premise that youth can realize their potential as leaders only when those skills are recognized and allowed opportunities to develop — when youth can see other youth lead and are given chances to lead themselves. “My biggest takeaway from LYF has been just the idea that youth can lead,” said Quirk, who is a member of the executive team. “The fact that it’s youth leading youth just changes their perspective,” said Richardson. “They’re being led by their peers, and also have the adult leaders in the room, reinforcing them. When I’m a pastor and I’m sitting there saying,

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Ginger Richardson (left) and Joanna Shaw share a moment during an exercise at the LYF Leadership Development Training on March 13.

‘Yeah, that’s an awesome observation,’ these kids are going, ‘Wow, I guess I do have something to contribute.’” When Richardson started bringing youth from his congregation to the LYF training five years ago, he saw the change immediately. One of his young members, Jackson Smith, who now serves on the LYF executive team, was eager to put his newly realized leadership skills into play as soon as they returned to Alabama. “We got back, and he started hitting up key leaders in the church, asking, ‘How can I help you do your job?’” said Richardson. Smith quickly took over operation and organization of St. Paul’s acolyte program, training young members of the congregation to acolyte and managing the scheduling. “Whereas youth can be leaders tomorrow, I think it’s important that we’re leaders today,” said Smith. “Because if we’re leaders today, that just

better equips us to be leaders in the future.”

The Next Generation of Leaders Youth are a part of the church now. But they are also “tomorrow’s church.” LYF participants have gone on to become pastors, teachers, directors of Christian education, district presidents, seminary and Concordia University System professors, and missionaries, as well as faithful laypeople working in a variety of occupations. “The LYF training over 30 years ago,” said the Rev. Dr. Lee Hagan, president of the LCMS Missouri District, who attended the training in the late ’80s, “was the first time that, as a teenager, someone was talking to me about being a leader. That was really significant, this idea that I could have a role to play, even as a young person.” The Rev. Dr. Erik Herrmann, professor

Left: The Rev. Dr. Mark Kiessling, director of LCMS Youth Ministry, speaks at the LYF Leadership Development event on March 13. Right: Cullen Flieth from Jamestown, N.D., takes notes during the training event. Below: Nate Laesch of Florissant, Mo., and Neveah Schreiber of Worthington, Minn., work together during an exercise.

of historical theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, attended the event every year from age 15 until his sophomore year of college, in the early ’90s. “The support that adults gave me at LYF and when I came back to my district was probably the single most important encouragement toward me going into the ministry,” Herrmann said. “Did I say anything really important as a youth? Probably not. … But all these various opportunities we have for youth — the National Youth Gathering, district youth gatherings — I’m not sure the programming of any one of those things makes as big a difference as the fact that they exist, that youth have adults around them who respect them, and can say, ‘Oh, this is a possibility for me.’” Herrmann and Hagan can

still list the names of those who participated in LYF the same years they did — many of whom are their peers in church work today. They can also name current LYF participants. Both have watched one or more of their children attend the training event in the past few years.

“That’s a big part of LYF training, to talk about vocation,” said the Rev. Dr. Mark Kiessling, director of LCMS Youth Ministry. “To help them understand how God is using them in their current vocation, and also give them an eye toward their future vocations, whether that’s church careers, doctors, engineers or anything else.”

By the grace of God, across the country, 40 years of LYF alumni and current participants are using their leadership skills to serve their churches and their neighbors. Through the ministry and community of LYF, God is raising up strong leaders for His church.

LYF alumni and current participants are using their leadership skills to serve their churches and neighbors.

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Serving Soldiers Even During a Pandemic BY ME G A N K . ME RT Z

Thanks be to God, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) 200 military chaplains are there alongside members of the military, providing the hope and comfort of the Gospel — even during a pandemic. “One of the great things about being an Army Chaplain is that I’m able to go to people where they live, where they work and where they play,” said Chaplain (1st Lt.) Michael Kearney, who deployed to Afghanistan in March. “I’ve been able to bring Christ to pilots on the flight line, soldiers gearing up to go outside

the wire, mechanics and engineers as they fix and build equipment, soldiers and civilians sitting in quarantine, and people going about their lives in a deployed setting.” Even on a military base in Afghanistan, Kearney’s ministry has been impacted by the pandemic. The U.S. military implemented new measures to keep soldiers safe for duty, and Kearney spent two weeks in a precautionary quarantine upon his arrival. Once cleared, he began offering virtual services as well as in-person services by appointment. He works a 12-hour shift, starting

I've been able to bring Christ to pilots on the flight line, soldiers


gearing up to go outside the wire, mechanics and engineers as they fix and build equipment, soldiers and civilians sitting in quarantine, and people going about their lives in a deployed setting.” —Chaplain (1st Lt.) Michael Kearney (pictured far left) 20 • LUTHERAN S EN G AG E   |   S U MME R 2 0 2 0


A military deployment is never easy. It’s challenging for the service member and his or her family. But the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has added an extra layer of anxiety for many serving in the U.S. military as they worry about their own health and the safety of their loved ones back home.


at noon, to better accommodate the schedules of his flock. He also is responsible for the base prayer box, where people can leave prayer requests. “Seeing and offering these prayers has humbled and inspired me. Many people are praying for their families back home, their livelihoods here, for specific needs or the general welfare,” he said, noting that he loves to see prayers of thanksgiving come through when a prayer has been answered. Soldiers have reacted to COVID-19 in different ways. Some have reflected on their lives and looked to their chaplain to answer questions about the faith. For many soldiers, the chaplain and religious affairs specialist — who together make up the Unit Ministry Team — may be the first people of faith they have gotten to know. “This time has made me a sounding board as soldiers are reevaluating priorities and looking at what they want to do next when this mission ends and their ‘regular’ life starts back up again,” said Chaplain (Col.) Robert Carter Jr., who is in the Army Reserve

This time has made me a sounding board as soldiers are reevaluating priorities and looking at what they want to do next when this mission ends and their ‘regular’ life starts back up again.” —Chaplain (Col.) Robert Carter Jr.

in addition to serving as director of Pastoral Care for Montefiore Nyack Hospital in Nyack, N.Y. He also leads Sunday worship at the Old Cadet Chapel at the United States Military Academy, West Point. Prior to being mobilized and sent to New Orleans to assist FEMA with the COVID-19 response, Carter was already adapting to the emerging pandemic. At the hospital, he was wearing personal protective equipment, carrying copies of the liturgy to avoid bringing his Pastoral Care Companion into patient rooms, and

helping patients connect with loved ones virtually. Carter says that many in his unit feel proud to be helping people during this time, but it’s not easy to leave their family members on their own, especially now. He understands, since his wife and five children are still in New York state. “One of the scariest parts of service in the military is you have to recognize that your family learns how to exist without you,” he said. In addition, the isolation and uncertainty of the pandemic have increased some people’s struggles, whether that’s with

substance abuse, thoughts of suicide or other issues. As Carter provides individual counseling and spiritual care, he’s always ready to refer someone to the right resources when he notices these warning signs. Whether conducted in person or online, the task of Carter, Kearney and the Synod’s other chaplains is still the same, as they care for their flocks and share the hope of the Gospel. “The Chaplain Corps is committed to … cultivate community, physically and virtually, regardless of the operating conditions,” Carter said.

Chaplain (Col.) Robert Carter Jr. (far right) stands with the 377th TSC Chaplain Directorate at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.

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