Lutheran Engage the World | Winter 2020

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Winter 2020


Winter 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

Dr. J. Gordon Christensen, head teacher at St. Paul’s Music Conservatory in Council Bluffs, Iowa, teaches organ student Augustine Terneus during a lesson at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. PHOTO: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ ERIK M. LUNSFORD


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

Editorial Office

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

the world

‘At the Works of Your Hands I Sing for Joy’ “A sweet symphony of movement and speech, compassion and joy.” That’s a phrase I used in the prior issue of Lutherans Engage the World as I tried to describe our life together in the church as the Body of Christ, ever proceeding forward in these latter days, steadfastly carrying out the work to which we’ve been called: making disciples for life. Beautiful music again appears, literally and figuratively, in this issue. You already know, dear reader, how powerfully the Gospel shines forth in the song of a human voice accompanied by instruments — prayerfully ascending heavenward, transcending cultures and generations. Music is the gracious gift of God. It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. (Ps. 92:1–4) His hands! Only in the merciful Word and work of God — in the sending of His Son to save us from our sin and eternal death — do we find cause to lift our voices with such fervent exultation and thanksgiving, accompanied by words and actions that confess the certainty of faith and hope in Christ alone. We bring our every need to the Lord Almighty in confidence, unflinchingly secure as children who “ask Him as dear children ask their dear father” (Small Catechism). It is a chorus that resounds from pulpit, altar and font, a refrain repeated through salvation history: We must decrease and Jesus must increase as He continues the work of His hands — His ministry of forgiveness, love and mercy toward us, and then through us toward the neighbor who suffers too. The song goes on. Do you hear it? In Christ, Rev. Kevin D. Robson Chief Mission Officer, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

From the Editor A vicar teaching the church’s music in Sri Lanka. An old urban congregation reaching out to students, the deaf, the blind and the homeless while also planting a church across town. A strip mall parish in the southwestern United States. Mission growth following disaster. This issue of Lutherans Engage the World is full of stories about the Gospel going forth in unexpected ways to unexpected places and reaching people through unexpected ministries. It’s amazing to see how God works through His Word, the Sacraments and His people. As you read these stories, know that we thank God for your partnership in the Gospel! In Christ, Pamela J. Nielsen Associate Executive Director, LCMS Communications


Stability 16 The of God’s Word Kevin Armbrust



Filling the Gospel Gap Megan K. Mertz

A partnership between the circuit, district and Synod helps St. Andrew Lutheran Church flourish in southwestern Albuquerque, N.M.



‘Let’s Just Sing God’s Word’ Kevin Armbrust Benjamin Vanderhyde is serving his two-year vicarage singing God’s Word with God’s people in Sri Lanka.

As Puerto Rico continues to recover from the 2017 hurricanes, LCMS missionaries care for people’s long-term needs of body and soul.



Where the People Are Pamela J. Nielsen First Trinity Lutheran Church reaches out to everyone — the homeless, the blind, college students and more — to spread the Gospel in Pittsburgh.

Departments 6 Q&A With LCMS Servant Event Host Greg Arnett 21 Mercy Moment An RSO provides housing for the homeless in St. Louis. 22 LCMS, Inc. Annual Report 28 Witness Moment A ministry in Council Bluffs, Iowa, combines music and the Gospel.

Filling the Gospel Gap

A PARTNERSHIP between the circuit, district and Synod helps St. Andrew Lutheran Church flourish in SOUTHWESTERN


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The Rev. Adam DeGroot, pastor of St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Albuquerque, N.M., greets a young worshiper before the congregation’s constituting service on Sept. 29.


t’s a rare Sunday when we don’t hear [police or emergency vehicle] sirens go by,” said Alan Arnold, president of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Albuquerque, N.M. The storefront church is tucked in the corner of an unassuming strip mall in what can be a dangerous part of town. Yet inside the church’s doors, the Rev. Adam DeGroot delivers Christ’s Word and Sacraments to his small flock each week. On Sunday, Sept. 29, more than 50 people — 26 members of St. Andrew, as well as supporters from other LCMS congregations in the city — gathered to celebrate as St. Andrew became the newest congregation of the LCMS Rocky Mountain District. “Today we constitute into The Lutheran Church— Missouri Synod, and yet it has been for four years — 1,460 mornings — where the Lord’s mercies have been new each day,” said DeGroot, an LCMS national missionary who has served at St. Andrew since 2017. “The Word of God is and shall be preached in this holy house on this day and every day until our Lord’s return.”

The Opportunity The idea for what would become St. Andrew started in December 2013, when Arnold and his father-in-law, the Rev. Theodore Kuster, pored over a map of Albuquerque. They were on the mission board at Faith in Christ Lutheran Church on the east side of town, and they wanted to know where the LCMS churches were in relation to each other, as well as where Faith in Christ’s members were located. As they marked up the map, they discovered a “Gospel gap” — the entire southwestern quadrant of the city was not being served by an LCMS congregation. “There were about 135,000 people in that section,” Arnold said. “Where I come from, which is South Dakota and Minnesota, there’d be six LCMS churches for 140,000 people.” Arnold talked to the Rev. Elisha Lietzau, his pastor at the time, about the possibility of planting an LCMS church. Together they sought buy-in from Faith in Christ, the circuit and later the district. Eventually, the project became part of the district’s “Gospel

Gap” initiative, a grassroots effort to promote new missions at the circuit level. In April 2014, Arnold, Lietzau, Kuster and retired pastor Rev. Douglas May drove to a neighborhood in southwestern Albuquerque and started knocking on doors. “We wanted to see who we would run into, see if people would tell us if they went to church, what church they went to, that sort of info,” Arnold said. A few houses in, Arnold met a woman from Norway who had grown up in the Lutheran state church and was interested in hearing what he had to say. Across the street, he

met another woman with past ties to an LCMS congregation.

Building Momentum As the canvassers made more and more connections, people kept asking them where their church was located. “Our ad hoc committee decided that we just needed to get a place that we could direct people to,” Arnold said. Most retail property in the area was out of their price range, but they found the strip mall location, and other congregations donated chairs, hymnals and an altar to make it a Lutheran oasis in an area

We wanted to see who we would run into, see if people would tell us if they went to church, what church they went to, that sort of info.”


“People are here because this is a regular church.” — ALAN ARNOLD

plagued by many issues, including gangs, drugs and violence. Several local pastors took turns holding Sunday afternoon services and other activities at the church plant, despite the thumping of the bass from the Zumba classes next door. One of the first people to attend was Sandy Westerfeld, who became the first adult confirmand at St. Andrew. “I’ve been coming almost since they started,” Westerfeld said. “When I was going to church, I’d go out to [my daughter’s] church, which is 40 miles probably. So, I didn’t go very often. She heard that they had opened this church, and it’s only two and a half miles from my house.” In 2015, Arnold reached out to the Rev. Dr. Steven D. Schave, director of LCMS Church Planting and Urban & Inner-City Mission, who helped bring DeGroot in as the church plant’s first full-time pastor through the Synod’s Mission Field: USA initiative. DeGroot arrived in 2017 with his wife and son and quickly got to work. In addition to leading worship and providing Bible study opportunities, he began visiting residents at a nearby skilled

DeGroot leads the Divine Service on Sept. 29.

DeGroot hands a Portals of Prayer book to Andrea Orozco as he canvasses a neighborhood.

nursing facility and striking up as many conversations with his new neighbors as possible. “St. Andrew was one of the first pilot projects for the Mission Field: USA initiative, working together with the district,” Schave said. “This mission had all of the grit and diverse people groups that fit well for a western frontier in need of pioneers. It certainly had its ups and downs, but the Lord continued to provide what was needed, and this is the culmination of all the plowing and seeding and watering that took place over several years.”

‘No Substitute’ On a recent sunny day, DeGroot walked through a neighborhood near the church, equipped with Portals of Prayer and invitations to St. Andrew. He’s continued the congregation’s tradition of canvassing the neighborhood — something he also did frequently in his previous call as a national missionary to Philadelphia. On this particular afternoon, DeGroot stopped to talk about football with a young man walking down the street, and he prayed with an elderly man in a wheelchair who was sitting in his front yard. As he passed by, a woman called out to him. She recognized him from the nearby skilled nursing facility where she works. After DeGroot prayed with the woman and her husband, she asked him to visit her adult son, who lives down the street and recently got into some trouble.

Sandy Westerfeld, the first adult confirmand of St. Andrew Lutheran Church, signs the congregation’s charter following the constituting service.

This is just one example of the benefit of having a full-time pastor who is able to get to know people and care for them, said Arnold. “It was great when we had pastors volunteering on Sundays, but there’s no substitute to having the DeGroots living their lives here, talking to people, understanding the community that they live in.”

Challenges and Blessings DeGroot is the first to admit that the work in Albuquerque hasn’t been easy. “You had to be reliant on your neighbors in Philadelphia,” DeGroot said, “but we’re not finding the receptivity here that we did there. It’s a totally different culture in the western United States.” The area also is heavily Hispanic — with families that have been there for centuries, as well as newer arrivals — most of whom come from a Roman Catholic background, even if they no longer attend church. When people find out

that the man in the clerical collar isn’t a Catholic priest, they have sometimes asked DeGroot to leave. However, there’s also huge potential. The area is experiencing a boom, with new construction going up all around and thousands of new housing units planned for the coming decades. Even more important than that, St. Andrew has a solid core of dedicated members who are capable, well taught in the faith and not afraid to reach out to the community. “This is one of the first times that I’ve had help, people that I know are standing side by side,” DeGroot said, “and that’s a tremendous blessing.”

‘A Regular Church’ The Sept. 29 constituting service was a milestone and a moment of joy in the life of the congregation. Yet, it was just one day. After the cake and punch had been put away, DeGroot went back to work, continuing the long process to become a

Alan Arnold studies the next Sunday’s Scripture readings with DeGroot.

chaplain in the nearby detention center and meeting with his elders to prepare for the next Sunday. “We started doing this project with nothing, literally nothing,” Arnold said. “People are here because this is a regular church. They have a regular pastor. They have pastoral care. … More than that, they have a pastor who talks to them, who visits them. “There has been a lot of heartbreak and sorrow, but also a lot of real joy,” Arnold continued, reflecting on the hundreds of doors he knocked on before St. Andrew even had a location. “And that’s something that keeps you coming back — that one person who opens the door.”

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

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very year since 1996, Director of Christian Education Greg Arnett has organized and hosted “Fixin’ Up the Thumb,” an LCMS Servant Event offered through the Synod’s Youth Ministry, at his congregation, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Caro, Mich. During this nine-day event, some 40 youth work on home repair projects around Tuscola County, Mich., and participate in Bible studies and community life events. In this interview, Arnett talks about the fruits of these years of servant events, both for the community and for the participants.


DCE Greg Arnett has organized “Fixin’ Up the Thumb” in Caro, Mich., for 24 years.


What led you to start Fixin’ Up the Thumb? I started taking youth groups to different servant events in the late ’80s. Then I started hosting Servant Events of my own — my first one was down in Seymour, Ind. When I took the call here to Caro, we wanted to start one up here as well. We introduced it to the congregation, it was approved, and we never looked back!


How has the event benefitted your community? In the 24 years that we have done this, we have worked for 115 different families, many of them for more than one year. For instance, we had a member who had cerebral palsy,


and we were literally able to keep her in her house because of Fixin’ Up the Thumb. Many years, we did something on her house — the roof, the floors, etc. Tuscola County is not a real high-income area. And so, a lot of families in the area need work to be done on their houses. We provide this type of work for the elderly, the disabled and the needy.


How does an event like this impact the participants? I see growth that continues way past the event itself. We have participants that have gone on to go into ministry. We have one that actually decided to become a DCE while on the Servant Event itself.

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What have you learned from Fixin’ Up the Thumb? Every year, the sense of teamwork still humbles me. Everyone brings their gifts to the table, and they’re varied, and the total sum of what is accomplished through these varied gifts is just amazing. I mean, one of my work directors is a licensed contractor. The other one is a very skilled handyman. … What they accomplish in a week is just amazing. Then you have those who are leading the Bible studies, those who are doing the community life — the way everyone’s gifts come together is very exciting.


Why have you continued to host the event all these years? Jesus’ last words on this planet, before He ascended into heaven, were that [His disciples] would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Others have passions like “We do mission trips down to Haiti.” And it’s not one or the other, it’s both/and. It’s Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. And so, Caro and Tuscola County, that is our Jerusalem. And we’re being Jesus’ witnesses here. Stacey Egger is a staff editor and writer for LCMS Communications.



Learn More:


Vicar Benjamin Vanderhyde, an LCMS missionary to Sri Lanka, teaches music to students at the Lutheran center in Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka.

‘ Let’s Just



God’s Word ’

Benjamin Vanderhyde is serving his two-year vicarage singing God’s Word with God’s people in Sri Lanka. engage. lcms .o rg


Clouds descend over Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka.


enjamin Vanderhyde wants to teach music. And he is convinced that the most important words to sing are the words God has given to us in His Word. After Vanderhyde graduated from Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis., with a degree in parish music, he enrolled at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. As the time for his vicarage year — the third year of a typical four-year seminary education — approached, Vanderhyde was in contact with recruiters from The Lutheran Church— Missouri Synod (LCMS) Office of International Mission. Vanderhyde was intrigued by the possibility of serving in the foreign mission field.

Sent to Sri Lanka When the Rev. Charles Ferry, regional director for the Synod’s work in Asia, learned of Vanderhyde’s music acumen

and desire to teach, he worked to arrange a vicarage in Sri Lanka, an island nation southeast of India. “This is what I do. This is what I love,” said Vanderhyde, describing his work as a church musician. Vanderhyde’s vicarage, which combines his love for proclaiming Christ and music, is longer than the normal vicarage. He left for Sri Lanka in May 2019 and will conclude in December 2020, after which time he will finish his fourth year at the seminary and serve where the Lord calls him. Although the location varies vastly from most vicarages, Vanderhyde experiences many of the same things as most vicars. He is supervised by a local pastor, LCMS missionary Rev. Steven Mahlburg. He preaches regularly, with hopes that his opportunities become more frequent. He teaches Bible studies and leads Sunday school. In addition,

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Grace and Benjamin Vanderhyde hail a tuk-tuk following Sunday worship at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Vanderhyde is teaching music to the people of the Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church (CELC), the Synod’s partner church in Sri Lanka, which consists of about 15 congregations and preaching stations. The people of the CELC love to sing. They have a hymnal that they use regularly, which is similar to The Lutheran Hymnal. Yet, music is something people continue to want and need to learn. Most of the music during worship is accompanied by a keyboard and tabla (a percussion instrument) when available. Though

some of the hymns inherited from the India Evangelical Lutheran Church were written in Tamil, much of the music used by the CELC is not reflective of their culture or heritage. Instead, the majority of the settings are western with translated texts. While this is a blessing to the church, and something no one wants to abandon, there can also exist unintended consequences. Christian missionaries from the West brought their religion to this officially Buddhist country, and many still see the church and the

The Rev. P. Gnanakumar, a pastor in the Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church, prays following a music lesson in Hatton.

Music allows the words TO


A student learns violin during Vanderhyde’s music class in Yatiyanthota.

Christian faith as western. The music of the church often reinforces this perception. Music is one way to express the reality that Jesus is for all people. Though styles and music theory may differ in various locations, the church is encouraged to sing to one another. St. Paul admonished the Ephesians to make the most of every opportunity (EPH. 5:16). He continued that, instead of filling the days with evil and sin, the church should address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and

making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (EPH. 5:19–20). The church sings the Word of God, even as she confesses and trusts in His promises.

God’s Word through Song Vanderhyde notes that music allows the words to be experienced in a way that speaking only does not naturally communicate. When words

Students work with the keyboard during a music lesson in Hatton.

are wed with music, language and melody proclaim together. Therefore, music written around the sound of words better complements those words to proclaim the content of the message. Since Tamil is from India, the sound of Tamil fits better with music written where the language originated. In addition, noted Vanderhyde, “Carnatic music has a rich scope for the affect of the words.” There is a burning desire among young people in Sri Lanka to learn southern India’s Carnatic music

(Karnāt.aka sam gīta or .. Karnāt.aka sangītam). They are excited about learning Indian music, since it is part of their history. Many may associate the sound of Indian music with Hinduism. But Vanderhyde wants to teach music as a means for the proclamation of God’s Word in Christ. “If we could teach music well,” he said, “we can feed them with God’s Word as we teach them music.” In Nuwara Eliya, in the midst of tea plantations that cover the highlands engage. lcms .o rg


Music students, some from the nearby Lutheran congregation in Eila, laugh during a music lesson in Yatiyanthota.

of south-central Sri Lanka, students gathered in the Lutheran center to learn music. Vanderhyde welcomed the children and taught music theory basics as well as how to sing some fundamental intervals. After over an hour of learning and singing, the students thanked Vanderhyde for teaching them. “I love Jesus very much,” said Thilaxcy, a young lady attending Vanderhyde’s music classes. “That’s why I sing.” Vanderhyde’s other students in Nuwara Eliya, including Sweetly Medona, Akshon, Joyal, Julie, Dorin and Paveena all agreed with Thilaxcy: “We love God, and we love to sing.” When asked about their teacher, they all smiled and said they really like him.

‘The Point Is to Proclaim Christ’ In his free time, Vanderhyde is learning Tamil and composing tunes using Indian Carnatic theory. His focus is setting Scripture to Carnatic music so that the people of God can sing the Word of God. He is starting with the people, especially the children, of the CELC. But anyone who wants to join his music classes is welcome. Not many visitors to Sri Lanka learn Tamil, since it is not the dominant language, so people are curious when they hear him sing or speak in Tamil. And when he sings, and when he teaches them to sing, it sounds like music from

India. But the words are God’s Words. And now, in the high country of Sri Lanka, Indian Carnatic music is praising the God who keeps His promises in Christ Jesus. “Ben is doing Carnatic music. That is interesting for us,” said the Rev. P. Gnanakumar, a pastor in the CELC who serves at Good Shepherd, Westward Ho, and Good Samaritan, Norwood. He also supervises Lutheran congregations in Patana and Kotogala. “We are learning church music. … This is very beneficial for the CELC. We have had the liturgy and hymnal, but Ben is teaching us what church music is and how to sing it correctly.” “It starts at the theoretical level for me — at the basic premise that in whatever culture and whatever language, the point is to proclaim Christ,” said Vanderhyde. “And if Christ is Lord of the whole world, there is no surprise when you hear God’s Word proclaimed and Christ praised in another language or with music that sounds weird to our ears.” For this reason, Vanderhyde has composed two pieces of music in Tamil crafted out of an Indian Carnatic framework: the Magnificat (from LUKE 1) and the Venite (PSALM 95). These compositions result from many attempts to compose using Carnatic theory and Raga (scale). As he wrote and practiced Carnatic singing, he asked for people to listen to ensure


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his compositions accurately reflected Tamil pronunciation and feel. Though not every composition succeeded, he kept honing his skills. With learning and practice, Vanderhyde now offers both the Magnificat and the Venite in Carnatic style to the CELC and the larger church wherever Tamil is spoken.

Building a Foundation Since his time is limited, Vanderhyde is focusing on vocal music. Although he uses a keyboard to teach, his desire is for people to love to sing the words of Scripture even when an instrument is unavailable. As with many of the principles he treasures, this view of music fits well with Indian music, which is focused on the vocal melody more than the instrumentation — often a single tone accompanied by percussion. “The idea for Ben is to come and raise up future parish musicians focusing on the youth so that the church has

musicians for years to come,” said Mahlburg. “He is focusing on vocal skills so that they can teach the congregation.” The children who are learning to sing the church’s songs will grow up in the CELC and, Lord willing, lead the church in singing those songs. In addition to offering music instruction, Vanderhyde supports the current music needs in the CELC. When this issue went to press, he was preparing choirs for the Christmas program, helping refurbish the hymnal so that more copies could be printed, and organizing tabla lessons for the children so that they could accompany both the western and Tamil hymns in church. Whether the tune was written decades ago in Germany using western music theory or composed using the Carnatic style, Vanderhyde encouraged, “Let’s just sing God’s Word.” Dr. Kevin Armbrust is director of Editorial for LCMS Communications.

Vanderhyde assists with worship at Immanuel Lutheran Church, a congregation of the Ceylon Evangelical Lutheran Church.


God’s Word in Christ.

Vanderhyde and Sebastian, an evangelist in the CELC, sing and play together during music class in Yatiyanthota.

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W2here the

People A3re _7

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n a typical weekend, every inch of First Trinity Lutheran Church is in use. The aroma of meal preparation and the delightful sound of flute music greet all who enter. The deaf and their hearing friends’ busy hands engaged in silent conversations catch one’s eye, as do the white canes guiding the blind through the halls. The pastors, vicar and deaconess are there too, joining the parish members with joy-filled energy and determination. First Trinity, formed in 1837, is proud to be the mother church for most of Pittsburgh. Nestled amidst the cultural, academic and medical center of the city, its stately limestone structure blends in with the mansions of Shadyside and Oakland, two of Pittsburgh’s historic neighborhoods. People Need the Gospel

The Rev. Dr. Douglas Spittel, senior pastor of First Trinity Lutheran Church, Pittsburgh, prays with people who have come to First Trinity’s homeless ministry, part of Pittsburgh Area Lutheran Ministries.

In its heyday, First Trinity had 1,500 members. That number declined to 20 in 1990 before rising to today’s membership of 165. “Historically, we’ve been closing churches [in the cities], but that has to stop,” says the Rev. Dr. Douglas Spittel, who with his wife, Leigh, live next door in the rectory. It’s a reality playing out in cities across America. Within Pittsburgh city limits, there are only six LCMS churches — most are struggling, and one is a mission. “This is where people are, and this is where the Gospel needs to be preached,” says Spittel. “People need the Gospel. They need to hear about Jesus Christ.” It’s not pious talk. Spittel and the members of First Trinity are all in.

First Trinity Lutheran Church reaches out to everyone — the homeless, the blind, college students and more — to spread the Gospel in Pittsburgh. First Trinity’s vicar, Timothy Kern, walks through the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

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The blind mission serves about 40 people, and the deaf ministry about 20. The homeless who come are hard to count. Some 70 students are enrolled in the flute academy. And the congregation’s campus ministry draws students from five nearby universities.

‘This Is a Big Deal’

Cindy Fenger, interpreter for Pittsburgh Lutheran Deaf Ministry, part of Pittsburgh Area Lutheran Ministries, signs during the Divine Service while the Rev. Dr. Douglas Spittel preaches at First Trinity Lutheran Church.

On the second floor of the parish hall, people line up to receive clothing and toiletries from volunteers. The people are audibly grateful for the Word of God and the prayers Spittel offers before they enter. “I love helping people,” says Lisa Davis, a volunteer who is eager to offer a hug and words of encouragement. She first heard about the outreach when she fell on hard times some years ago.

“[The community] love them here,” says Davis. “This is a big deal here, there’s a lot of respect for this church.” The homeless ministry began 10 years ago. Director Dr. Angela Hadbavny manages the $6,000 annual budget. “We do a lot with very little money,” she says, noting that support comes from area congregations, granting agencies and individuals.

‘Go and Do It’ “The reason that we were successful in all of this is that we have an operating board that doesn’t get involved in all these missions,” explains Mike Fenger, First Trinity’s treasurer. “The ministries started because someone stepped forward with an idea. The pastor and the board eagerly say,

Volunteer Lisa Davis hugs a recipient of First Trinity’s mercy distribution for the homeless.

Spittel (right) prays with volunteers of First Trinity’s homeless ministry before the mercy distribution.

Attendees sign the Lord’s Prayer during Bible class.

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Wendy Kumer (far left) leads members of the Flute Academy during the Divine Service at First Trinity.

If your congregation is interested in learning

‘Go and do it, and we’ll support you in terms of volunteers and enthusiasm for the mission.’” Each ministry has its own budget, apart from the parish budget. Each lay leader creates a written plan that includes finding funding and volunteers. When one ministry falls behind financially, its leaders have a year to get it back on track. In the meantime, the other ministries assist as they are able.

Seeing, Hearing and Believing “We are now into the blind community as a result of a parish member who started the blind mission,” says Fenger, who explained how a rent-subsidized apartment complex for the blind opened near the church 30 years ago. The Pittsburgh Lutheran Center for the Blind was opened in 1999 as a prototype.

The Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh

more about starting similar ministries or planting a church, there is help through the Synod’s Making Disciples for Life initiative. Contact to learn more.

“I started coming here in 2004 because of the blind ministry,” Hadbavny recalls. “I went to catechism and got confirmed and joined the church in 2008.” The worship bulletins and other materials are printed on the blind center’s Braille printer. A Braille theological library occupies a small corner of the fellowship hall, and a monthly meal and Bible study are held on Saturday afternoon before Vespers. In another room, Pittsburgh Lutheran Deaf Ministry provides Bible studies and other resources in American Sign Language. Many of these materials come from Lutheran Friends of the Deaf, an LCMS Recognized Service

sessions prepare flautists to help lead the church’s song in worship. The full-time campus ministry, led by Pastor Eric Andrae, supports students from five nearby universities and sends them out into their vocations ready and eager to share their faith. A number of students have also matriculated to LCMS seminaries to become pastors or deaconesses. There is also a weekly English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) class, as well as Intro to the Bible and Christianity classes for ESL students.

Organization. Deaf interpreters Cindy Fenger and director Debra Terhune lead the gatherings and interpret worship. A monthly luncheon and social is held for the deaf following the Sunday service. First Trinity also is home to what may be the Synod’s only flute academy. This unique ministry is led by professional flautist and First Trinity member Wendy Kumer. Drawing students from both the parish and community, group

new ministry. Their sights are set on the hillside community of Hazelwood, once home to a thriving steel mill. More recently, the area had fallen on hard times, but now a billiondollar investment by local industry and government is underway to bring in jobs and an influx of new residents. Kern was tasked with exploring the neighborhood and writing up a plan for planting a new church. The mission is building on the

The Cavalry Is Coming In addition, Spittel and Vicar Timothy Kern have plans for a

efforts of a handful of people who kept the doors of an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America parish open with a clothing and food distribution center.* “You really answer God’s call to feed and clothe people,” Spittel tells Walt Brooks, who with his wife, Ginger, helped lead the effort. “If we can put those things together, your ability to get people together and our ability to bring the Gospel to those people, it’ll start slowly, but it will happen. People will be turned to Jesus. That’s how a congregation is formed.” On a recent Saturday morning, in a room at the local library, Brooks and the others gather with Spittel and Kern — who have brought along their district president, Bishop Jamison Hardy of the LCMS English District — to discuss the next steps.

“Picture a time someone you know was in a battle and they were losing because they didn’t have any resources,” says Hardy. “The cavalry is coming over the hill, and we’re coming to reinforce the line. … We are coming here to reinforce what you’re already doing.” They’ve waited so long. May God grant it. Deaconess Pamela J. Nielsen is associate executive director for LCMS Communications.

*As this issue went to press, Pittsburgh Area Lutheran Ministries, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization, agreed to buy the ELCA church property for $1. A $20,000 grant from the 2019–22 LCMS National Offering will enable expanded outreach to the Hazelwood neighborhood and the eventual chartering of a new LCMS parish, Holy Cross Lutheran Church.

The Rev. Gustavo Arturo Maita (right), an LCMS alliance missionary and pastor of Principe de Paz Lutheran Church, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, prays with local resident Jose in his hurricane-damaged house.


Stability of God’s Word


As Puerto Rico continues to recover from the 2017 hurricanes, LCMS missionaries care for people’s long-term needs of body and soul.

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he same as it means to you,” answered Jose.

Standing in Jose’s partially rebuilt house, the Rev. Gustavo Arturo Maita, an LCMS alliance missionary in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, asked what the crucifix around Jose’s neck meant. His reply led to a conversation about our dwelling in Christ and the promise of our eternal home in the heavens. And in the midst of the ruins of disaster, the hope and light of Christ brought shared joy. Jose’s response encapsulates the prayer of LCMS missionaries and all those who proclaim the Good News of Jesus to the people in Puerto Rico — to share the same hope in Christ. In 2017, Hurricane Maria ripped off the roof and destroyed walls in Jose’s house. Now, his roof has been repaired, but some walls are still missing. Maita and LCMS World Relief and Human Care Disaster Response provided for the replacement of his roof. And this day, Maita visited Jose to follow up, to pray and to share God’s promises. “In every encounter we have with the community, we try to bring the people to the hope we find at the foot of the cross,” said William Torres, a lay evangelist working with LCMS missionaries at Principe de Paz (Prince of Peace) Lutheran Church in Mayaguez. Torres, a native Puerto Rican, started attending Principe de Paz as a teenager, and now he works to bring the Gospel to those in his community.


Dealing with Ambiguity Puerto Rico is the “island of enchantment.” Her inhabitants are American citizens, yet they live on foreign land. The United States Congress can pass laws that govern Puerto Rico, yet they have no voting representatives. Their currency and postal service are American, yet their heritage and lives are Hispanic. People come to Puerto Rico for vacation, while many who live here desire to move to the mainland. In this paradise, suicide rates and social problems are soaring. The economy is struggling due to many people leaving after the hurricanes. The economic downturn is exacerbated by many

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businesses relocating to the mainland. In many ways, Puerto Ricans struggle with identity. And their struggle is understandable. Roman Catholicism informs many of the popular and public religious expressions on this island. Yet, Catholicism is often mixed with superstitions or mystical ideas. Often, people look to signs and occurrences in their daily lives to identify God and where they should put their trust. Pentecostalism and its false teachings, which lead people to focus on their feelings and lives as evidence of God’s love, inform many of the modern expressions of Puerto Rican

Christianity. And although American missionaries brought mainline denominations, those churches still largely exist as American denominations. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico received renewed focus by Americans in September 2017, when two hurricanes devastated the island. Irma did not hit the island directly, but it left many without power. Less than a month later, Maria hit and caused extensive damage. Maria was a major disaster for Puerto Rico, and the effects of the storm are still evident two years later. Puerto Rico’s economy, population and infrastructure were all severely

impacted by Maria, and many Puerto Ricans fear their island will never be the same. “People in Puerto Rico don’t feel like they have an identity because of their relationship with the U.S. It is important for them to know their identity in Baptism and that their citizenship is in heaven,” said Maita. “Especially after the hurricane, the church is spreading the love of Jesus and people in the community are hearing that love and feel loved.”

Serving After Storms The people of the LCMS responded generously to the plight of Puerto Rico, and the result of that response

is renewed mission work and new opportunities for outreach. Judith Oman, a member of St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Esko, Minn., vacationed in Puerto Rico in 2005. “My heart was broken when I saw Hurricane Maria on the news,” she said. “On Easter Sunday, I saw in our bulletin that our church was coming to Puerto Rico ... I knew I wanted to go to help the people however I could.” This past November, Oman served in Puerto Rico on a short-term team with her church. Much of the damage is still apparent. Even after two years, abandoned buildings and tarped roofs evince

“In every encounter we have with the community, we try to bring the people to the hope we find at the foot of the cross.” —William Torres

The Rev. James Neuendorf, an LCMS missionary to Puerto Rico and pastor of Fuente de Vida Lutheran Church, Ponce, gets a thumbs up from a passerby as he walks with his wife, Deaconess Christel Neuendorf.

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the power of the storm. An increase in homelessness, resultant from both the loss of property and the emigration of families to the Unites States mainland, reflects new needs facing Puerto Rico. Yet, the true damage from the storms is sometimes unseen. Suicide rates have risen dramatically. Depression is a common ailment. Many suffer from emotional and mental trauma as a result. And it is into this situation that LCMS missionaries bring the Good News of Jesus Christ. “We all suffer. We walk alongside people in suffering,” said Deaconess Christel Neuendorf, an LCMS missionary in Ponce, Puerto Rico. “That’s what Christ did. That’s what we do.” The immediate response to the hurricane involved meeting essential physical needs, especially through the distribution of food and clothing.

After those basic needs were no longer as prevalent, the response moved to helping people with larger needs like roofs and house repairs. Now, the work is transitioning to a focus on people’s longer-term situations. The first two phases of the response provided many contacts within the community, which now provide opportunities for further outreach. This outreach is not always due to direct support given, but it sometimes occurs through contacts in the community who have witnessed the care given by the Lutheran church. In some instances, social workers and care facility directors are welcoming LCMS missionaries to work with the people for whom they care. “Many groups came to Puerto Rico after the hurricane and were helpful for the first couple of months, and they have moved on to other

A street dog waits outside the door next to a sign welcoming guests to an English camp at Fuente de Vida Lutheran Church, Ponce.

The Rev. Gustavo Arturo Maita, an LCMS alliance missionary and pastor at Principe de Paz Lutheran Church, Mayaguez, visits a resident who received a new roof thanks to LCMS Disaster Response.

work in other places. LCMS Disaster Response is working through our two Lutheran congregations to provide a long-term response to care for people whose lives were shattered in the storm,” said the Rev. Dr. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response. “As the church, we also address the spiritual needs of God’s children who were left destitute and in a spiritual crisis after the hurricane. We share the love of Christ with them. People are being baptized, catechized and going to church weekly for the first time in their lives.”

from the hurricane ... and life in general is difficult,” said Ruth Maita, a GEO missionary who teaches music and English at the CARD. “Music is a balm for a soul and an opportunity to share Christ.” The music program is now entering its second year. Through both music and English instruction, people are equipped for future opportunities and to sing of hope in Christ. In a society where many jobs are from the mainland and many are seeking to move there, English is becoming more important every day.

In Mayaguez

In Ponce

Principe de Paz, in Puerto Rico’s third-largest city, is well-established. Yet much of the work there is new. LCMS missionary Rev. Anthony DiLiberto serves the congregation alongside Maita and lay evangelist Torres. “Lutheran missiology is entirely incarnational. At its center is our Lord, who gives Himself to His people in particular ways,” said DiLiberto. “The objectivity of the Means of Grace … our Lord coming to us in His Word and Sacrament is the bedrock of our missiology. All that we do here revolves around that.” The congregation’s work in the community is greatly aided by the CARD (Casa de Amparo y Respuesta a Desastre), which is located on the same property. There, English and music classes, along with continued disaster response, bring people in to learn life skills. And when they come, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed through the stories used to teach English and the words of the songs learned. “Music is good for the soul. We have a lot of people who continue to suffer trauma

LCMS mission work in Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second-largest city, began in 2016 with the first service at Fuente de Vida (Fountain of Life) Lutheran Church in January 2018. With the recent purchase of a new facility, the congregation is ready to move and expand outreach to the community. The permanent space opens up new options for ministry as well as the establishment of a new CARD house. “People are coming into the community of the church, where they receive their identity in Christ through His gifts,” said Christel Neuendorf. The Rev. James Neuendorf, an LCMS missionary in Ponce, centers his ministry around instruction in the Word between weekly services. In all of this, the Neuendorfs seek to create a community centered on the Law and Gospel. “It just keeps coming,” said James Neuendorf, as he left to make an emergency hospital visit. Much of his time is spent addressing suicidal people and the many who suffer from mental and physical ailments. Fuente de Vida offers the hope that so many in Ponce desperately need. engage. l cms .o rg

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“I think of our congregation like the woman at the well. She came for physical needs, water from the well. Christ supplied her with even better water, the living water that only He can give. He patiently talked with her, an outsider and outcast, speaking both the Law and the Gospel to her,” said James Neuendorf. “We want the same for our church. Outsiders and outcasts come here for physical reasons, but they encounter Christ through His Word, who offers them living water through Baptism and new life in Him. Then, joyful at this gift, the same people bring the news to others. Ponce has a lot of people who have been marginalized, and this story from John’s Gospel is a wonderful picture of what Christ does with marginalized and sinful people even today, through mercy ministry and evangelism.” Sometimes this means inviting people into the church. Other times, it involves going places to bring the Word into their lives. The Neuendorfs have laid the groundwork with community leaders and social

workers to reach out to people who live in many of the care facilities in Ponce, especially the geriatric centers near the new church location. Often these opportunities result from simple conversations and a willingness to talk and serve as needed. The people of Puerto Rico, though American citizens, speak Spanish. This means that both Pastors Neuendorf and DiLiberto preach and teach in Spanish, and they both rejoice that the Lord has called them into this field at this time. Both have mission experience in Spanishspeaking countries, and these two good friends share a common love for proclaiming the Gospel to the people in Puerto Rico.

A Gift from God “He is our helper. He is our comforter,” explained the Rev. Tom Brinkley, pastor of St. Matthews, Esko, during a devotion before English instruction. “He is the one who gives us faith.” Brinkley, who previously served with LCMS


World Mission, led the recent short-term mission team in Mayaguez and Ponce. “Short-term teams are awesome. We need them, and we appreciate them. There is a lot of work involved … but they really help us branch out into new areas with the Gospel and provide manpower,” said Ruth Maita, who coordinated with the team from Esko. “Overall, they bring a lot of encouragement to the field.” Many of the short-term teams that come to Puerto Rico are part of the FORO model, wherein districts, circuits, congregations or individuals partner with mission fields to encourage and support the ongoing work. Teams, which visit for a week or two, volunteer to assist however most benefits the mission and the people they serve. The team from Esko supplemented the music and English classes already begun in Mayaguez and brought those classes to people in Ponce. They also helped with facility maintenance and painting. In all that they did, it was the love

The Rev. Tom Brinkley, associate pastor at St. Matthews Lutheran Church, Esko, Minn., wraps up a music program at Principe de Paz, Mayaguez.

A short-term team member from St. Matthews Lutheran Church, Esko, Minn., works with a young guitar student during a music program at Principe de Paz, Mayaguez.

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of Christ that motivated and shone through. “I wanted to come to encourage people and to show Christ’s love,” said April Bissonette, a member of St. Matthews, Esko. She brought her teenage daughters with her, so they might experience sharing the love of Christ with people in a different setting. “Even though there is a separation of language and culture, we are united in Christ,” said Brinkley. “It helps us to realize that if we are willing to go to the ends of the earth, then we better be willing to go next door. … We better be willing and ready to proclaim the message everywhere.” Through it all, the same message of Christ echoes. “Things in Puerto Rico today are pretty unstable. There is a lot of uncertainty,” said Anthony DiLiberto. “It is our goal to counteract the instability with the stability of God’s Word.” And by the power of the Holy Spirit, to those who hear and to those who proclaim, Christ and Him crucified means the same: hope and salvation.



Providing Hope through Housing

LCMS Recognized Service Organization Humanitri assists homeless families in St. Louis. BY ME GA N K . ME RT Z


osalind DurhamGore walked into the Humanitri office in North St. Louis in desperation. But after telling her story to the staff, she left with hope. “I was relieved that I could go back to my children and say, ‘God is working it out. We just have to be patient and continue to trust Him,’” she said. That was more than a year ago. At the time, her apartment had failed yet another Section 8 inspection, and she needed to move out within two weeks. When she couldn’t find a suitable place for her three children, they ended up living in a hotel. Durham-Gore is one of about 1,050 families facing homelessness in the St. Louis area at any given time. She’s thankful for finding Humanitri, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization that helps stabilize homeless families by

providing transformational housing, education, employment and counseling services as they show the love and compassion of Christ. On July 31, Humanitri celebrated the renovation of four units in South St. Louis with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and house blessing. Each of the totally refurbished units has four bedrooms, making them perfect for large families in need of housing assistance. “These properties will provide a safe haven for families that typically are turned away by other agencies for lack of available housing that will fit their needs,” said Humanitri Executive Director Deaconess Kim Schave, noting that large families are often the hardest to place. The units have a long history in the Synod. Holy Cross Lutheran Church, located next door, once owned the building

and used it to house LCMS missionary families who were on furlough. Schave is pleased to have an LCMS church so close by. “In addition to the mercy care that Humanitri is providing, we have opportunities to ensure that the spiritual needs of our families are addressed in a holistic manner,” she said. The $650,000 rehab was made possible by partnerships with Lutheran Housing Support and PNC Bank. Over the last few years, Humanitri also has received several small grants from the LCMS, as well as many hours of volunteer service from LCMS International Center employees who have assisted with landscaping and home maintenance projects. In August, after living in another Humanitri property, Durham-Gore and her children became the

newest residents of one of the renovated units. During the past year, Humanitri staff have helped Durham-Gore find a job and learn how to budget so that she can pay her own bills and save for the future. She has even started thinking about the steps she needs to take to own her own home one day. “Humanitri has helped me to be self-sufficient. I’m not on any [government] assistance anymore,” she said. “It feels good. I’m able to save. I’m able to budget. I’m able to say no, we can’t do this now because we are looking forward to the future.” LEARN MORE:

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OUR MISSION In grateful response to God’s grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacraments, the mission of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities and the world (Adopted by the Synod in convention, 1995), making disciples — for life! Guided by the mission statement of the LCMS, the people serving at the LCMS International Center labor to synchronize the strategic internal ministry capabilities and coordinate with the districts, agencies, auxiliaries, educational institutions, Recognized Service Organizations and formal international church partners of the Synod to enhance efforts and activities that make known the love of Christ throughout the world, as together our Synod makes disciples — for life.


2019 NOTE TO READERS: Because the 2019 external audit of LCMS financial records was not available by the printer’s deadline for this issue, the Statement of Financial Position and Statement of Activities (audited) will be included in the official online version. The official Annual Report will be available at giving/transparency.

Fulfilling Mission through Seven Focused Strategies

Mission Priorities of the LCMS — some samples of progress




International: The church plant in Licey (lee-SAY), Dominican Republic, outgrew its first facility and has relocated to a renovated, larger space to better serve its community and members. National: Making Disciples for Life is a new, convention-mandated emphasis with a goal of providing easy access to mission and ministry resources designed to support and enhance congregation and district ministry in the United States.



Contributors generously and joyfully supplied more than $3.7 million in financial resources to support our two LCMS seminaries through the LCMS Joint Seminary Fund, the Global Seminary Initiative, Synod subsidies and specific grants (see Reporter insert, March 2019). International mission influences theological education and pastoral formation through relationships with seven international partner church seminaries in Africa, eastern Europe, Russia and Asia; and the Latin America region operates the third LCMS-owned seminary — Concordia the Reformer, in Palmar Arriba, Dominican Republic.

The LCMS launched a sustained multi-year Synodwide initiative to increase enrollment of students preparing for church-work vocations at the Synod’s seminaries (St. Louis and Fort Wayne) and the Concordia University System institutions. This initiative focuses on church worker formation beginning at infant Baptism and encompassing spiritual, character, confessional, physical, emotional, Synod and intellectual development. Ongoing development of Preach the Word, designed to help pastors work together to improve their preaching through video modules with accompanying resources and by interacting with seminary professors and fellow preachers.



PROMOTE AND NURTURE THE SPIRITUAL, EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL WELL-BEING OF PASTORS AND PROFESSIONAL CHURCH WORKERS Produced a special Reporter Supplement — “What we heard: Church workers speak on wellness” (May 31, 2019). Unveiled online devotions for church workers through LCMS Worker Wellness (Reporter Online, April 10, 2019) Launched a new web resource ( to assist the church and its workers, following discussions with workers via online wellness focus groups (Oct. 2, 2018).


Ongoing partnerships with Grace Place Ministries, DOXOLOGY and Shepherd’s Canyon to care for pastors and other workers.

Grants and other services fueled LCMS humanitarian relief work in the wake of several disasters, supporting LCMS congregations and international church partners as they reached out into their communities with God’s mercy — and His Word.

Ongoing care and support of pastors and their wives transitioning into the first three years of his call through the Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support (PALS) program, with ongoing care and support and relevant curriculum.

The LCMS is training more than 100 indigenous women to serve as deaconesses in foreign lands.


COLLABORATE WITH THE SYNOD’S MEMBERS AND PARTNERS TO ENHANCE MISSION EFFECTIVENESS Collaborated with Lutheran Church Extension Fund and LCMS agencies to create The Rosa J. Young Scholarship Endowment, a new source of funding for African-American students pursuing church-work careers. Collaborated with Ambassadors of Reconciliation to bring training to Rwandan pastors and laypeople impacted by the 1994 genocide (see May 9, 2019, Reporter). Relocated the Asia regional headquarters to better, less expensive facilities offered by the Lutheran church in Taiwan (see whether-hong-kong-taiwan-synods-asia-mission-doesnt-change). Completed a major multi-year task force effort and accompanying adopted convention resolutions (addressing necessary bylaw revisions and key implementation issues) to revise the Synod’s Recognized Service Organization (RSO) program, with future expectation that local congregation and district mission and ministry will be substantially enhanced through strengthened partnerships with RSOs.


ENHANCE EARLY CHILDHOOD, ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION AND YOUTH MINISTRY Helped college students gain tools for evangelism at LCMS U “Witness” conference (Jan. 30, 2019). Hosted the 2018 Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) youth conference in Prague under the theme “Future and Hope.” Continued a sustained effort to improve the Lutheran identity and ethos of the Synod’s three international schools in Asia (Hong Kong, Shanghai and Hanoi) and integrate their work into the strategic and operational plans of the LCMS Office of International Mission in the Asia region.


STRENGTHEN AND SUPPORT THE LUTHERAN FAMILY IN LIVING OUT GOD’S DESIGN Produced a study on young adult retention (Jan. 2, 2019). Produced a new Every One His Witness module focused on reaching adult children who have left the church (Sept. 5, 2018). Sent Lutheran Young Adult Corps teams to Boston and inner-city St. Louis.


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Spending: How Dollars Were Put to Work ($s in thousands) — unaudited

Indirect Services $15,337

Common Services***

Direct Services $56,828

$9,130 Missions 51 percent*



Pastoral education 7 percent

University education (see note a)

24 percent

Communications 6 percent KFUO 2 percent

Constitution/ convention-mandated direct services**

11 percent

Total $72,165 *Due to rounding, direct services percentages do not add up exactly to 100. ** A n independent review by the Better Business Bureau categorized expenditures required by the Synod Constitution and Bylaws, or by convention-mandate, as direct services (program). ***Human resources, legal services, information technology, accounting, audit, risk management, operational services. IMPORTANT NOTES: a. I n 2019, the LCMS made $11.48 million in principle and interest payments against the historic Concordia University System debt, sufficient to fully retire that debt by June 30. The payment creates a one-year distortion in total expenditures, and an abnormally high percentage of program spending under the “University education” category. b. I n 2019, the Financial Accounting Standards Board implemented new standards under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) requiring nonprofits to (re)classify expenses reported under a “general and administrative” category. This change in accounting practices further clarifies which types of expenditures are program, management or fundraising. The change in GAAP for FY2019 and future years means that the percentages reported here do not and will not precisely match how expenses were classified and reported in prior years, making year-to-year comparison more difficult. The Better Business Bureau, Guidestar and Charity Navigator endorse a standard that indirect services costs should not exceed 33 to 35 percent of a nonprofit’s total expenditures, with program expenditures being not less than 65 to 68 percent of the total.


Budget & Spheres of Mission Chief Mission Officer

Plan (Budget)


Available Net Assets Released

International Mission, incl. Projects and MAF




International Missionaries & Workers







National (domestic) Missionaries




Disaster Response; Disaster Relief




National Mission, Programs and Projects

Pastoral Education Seminary Subsidies & Joint Sem. Funds Global Seminary Initiative














Mission Advancement













Fiscal Year 2019 — unaudited

Office of the President, BOD, COP Constitution–Mandated Officers Work Boards & Councils Commissions (CCM, CTCR, etc.)




University Education‡



Church Relations








Concordia Historical Institute




Housing Support Corp Subsidy







Chief Financial Officer, Chief Adm. Officer Common Services

Release of Unrestricted Net Assets Totals


Plan (Budget)


Net Assets Released




† Services and resources indirectly supporting Synod’s mission efforts, not mandated by convention or the Constitution/Bylaws. These include accounting, human resources, information technology, internal audit, building services, legal counsel, print and copy services, travel and meetings, etc. **Includes congregation worship offerings, undesignated gifts/grants/bequest, certain investment income, fees and net sale proceeds. ‡ University education included $11,478,746 in principal and interest payments on the historic CUS debt, which was fully retired by June 30.

Our Synod at a Glance Baptized congregants Congregations Pastors Commissioned workers Districts Early childhood centers

1,911,187 5,991 9,668 12,057 35 1,774

Elementary schools High schools Colleges/Universities Domestic seminaries International seminaries International schools

785 96 8 2 1 3

RSOs Career missionaries GEO missionaries Formal church partners Emerging church relationships Military chaplains LC M S A N N UA L RE PORT

326 102 19 37 15 60

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Our Giving


Fiscal Year 2018 (adjusted and audited) DONORS GIFTS AMOUNT ($)


35 439 13,799,617 Synod Unrestricted (regular worship offerings via districts) 35 434 13,906,801 4,758 7,139 2,388,328 Synod Unrestricted (contributions and bequests direct to Synod) 4,634 6,573 4,724,165 12,675 25,234 6,810,475 Shared Funds — Global Witness & Mercy, National Offering 12,358 24,180 5,772,902 14,869 56,233 24,625,491 International Only (work/missionaries) — Witness & Mercy 15,997 57,003 20,738,566 2,642 4,634 1,938,898 National Only (work/missionaries only) — Witness & Mercy 1,693 3,320 1,354,807 11,321 13,246 4,000,049 Shared Funds — Disaster Response Work 30,414 26,576 10,237,458 5,591 3,474 2,758,590 Pastoral Ed, incl. LCMS Joint Seminary Fund, GSI (general) 3,055 5,059 2,535,695 543 580 246,108 Global Seminary Initiative — Grants to LCMS Seminaries 70 79 315,156 1,426 2,679 1,201,454 Worldwide KFUO 1,421 2,558 929,725 218 3,773 450,624 Synod — Other Restricted Uses 257 3,500 564,513 54,078 117,431 58,219,634 69,934 129,282 61,079,788 SYNOD RESTRICTED CAMPAIGNS & SPECIAL INITIATIVES 23 73 5,645 Lutheran Malaria Initiative (concluded; pledge fulfillment only) 39 100 7,871 1,971 2,419 570,444 Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty (active) 2,329 2,667 1,000,666 384 476 47,763 Wittenberg Project Old Latin School (building, outreach and education) 147 232 67,996 – – – Reformation 500th Anniversary Celebration 5 5 572 2,378 2,968 623,852 2,520 3,004 1,077,105 OTHER ENTITIES/PROGRAMS




Concordia University System




399 786 225,383 Lutheran Housing Support 499 886 206,462 549 1,097 496,301 843 1,465 470,489 FY19 figures are subject to auditing and adjustment. Amounts are gross contributions, not adjusted to reflect fundraising, contributor care or regulatory compliance costs.

To continue supporting the work of the LCMS with your contributions, please contact Mission Advancement or visit

Concordia College, Selma, Closes


y action of its Board of Regents, and after endorsement by the Concordia University System Board (following Synod’s Bylaws), the Synod’s college in Selma, Ala., ceased operations in fiscal year 2019. This painful loss of the Synod’s only historic black college is a reflection of the economic and demographic pressures impacting many private and church-owned institutions of higher education around the country, pressures which could see as many as one-third of all private colleges closing or consolidating in the coming decade. A court-ordered dissolution of Concordia, Selma’s assets resulted in a new endowment fund, The Rosa J. Young Scholarship Fund, to provide ongoing scholarship assistance to eligible African-American students in CUS programs leading to service as rostered LCMS church workers. (Note: LCMS, Inc. did not benefit economically from the closure or sale of Concordia, Selma.)


To all who contribute to the national work of the LCMS, who give of themselves freely even as they have freely received Christ’s love and forgiveness, who by their selfless generosity fuel vital mission and ministry …

Historic Concordia University System Debt

THANK YOU. +++ Soli Deo Gloria +++

Reader feedback regarding this annual report, including recommendations for improvement, is welcomed. EMAIL CALL 888-930-4438

This annual report document — along with supporting documents, financial statements, board minutes and other information — is available as a no-cost, downloadable electronic file (PDF) on the LCMS website at












Our special thanks to Thrivent Financial whose generous support again made possible this year’s annual report.





WRITE LCMS Mission Advancement 1333 S. Kirkwood Road St. Louis, MO 63122-7295

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017* 2018 2019 The Synod’s budget is impacted by $1.4 million annually to provide funds to the Concordia University System Inc. to service the historic debt. *No fiscal payments for one fiscal year.

Synod Board of Directors Retires the Historic CUS Debt


t the end of fiscal year 2019, the Synod’s Board of Directors moved to retire the cumulative operating debts of the schools in the Concordia University System, called the “historic CUS debt.” Operational and resource stewardship decisions of the LCMS leadership team over the course of the fiscal year presented an opportunity for the Board to retire the debt. Final action was completed in June 2019.

STATEMENT OF GIFT UTILIZATION Contributions designated (restricted) for a specific purpose when accepted are used only to fund expenses related to that purpose. Occasionally, the LCMS may receive more in contributions for a particular purpose than can be wisely applied to it in the foreseeable future or the purpose may cease to be feasible. In these situations, the LCMS will make reasonable attempts to contact contributors to apply their contribution differently. If a contributor cannot be contacted, the LCMS will use the gift to meet a similar pressing need that most closely matches the contributor’s original intent. (Ref. FASB Statement No. 116) Consistent with Synod Board policy, not more than 12 percent of a charitable contribution may be applied to the costs of administering gifts (soliciting, receiving and properly recording donations) and communicating with contributors. The annual ceiling (percentage) is calculated by dividing advancement costs by the total charitable response of contributors (gifts, grants and bequests including worship offerings) over a rolling three-year period. The phrase “costs of administering gifts” does not include expenditures related to the administrative structure of the LCMS as a corporation (boards, commissions, councils, elected officers, indebtedness and other expenses required [legal, auditing, insurance, etc.] either by law or regulatory bodies) which are to be funded entirely out of unrestricted worship offerings from member congregations. Contributions received and accepted by the LCMS are deemed to be in agreement with this statement. The LCMS, Inc. (which includes Mission Central in Mapleton, Iowa) is a Better Business/Wise Giving Alliance Accredited Charity and a Guidestar Platinum seal-holder. Our IRS tax-identification number as a not-for-profit corporation under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code is 43-0658188.


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Hector Aguilar takes his first piano lesson from the Rev. Timothy Frank of St. Paul’s Music Conservatory.

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St. Paul’s Music Conservatory in Council Bluffs, Iowa, uses music to proclaim the Gospel.

“ Every single teacher in this place is personally invested in every student. They want the children learning about music, but more than that, they want the children learning about Jesus.”

— Jo Raymond


t St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa, “the Gospel is coming out of the cracks in the walls, and it’s a blessing, a huge blessing,” said church member Jo Raymond. The Rev. Nathan Sherrill, senior pastor of St. Paul’s, sold his 1992 white Ford F-150 for $400 in 2006 and bought a $400 piano in Des Moines. He brought it back and set it in an unused space in the church. His wife, Tina, started teaching piano lessons, while fellow teacher Mike Rollins started students on guitar. Word spread quickly in and out of the parish concerning the lessons. Over time, lesson slots filled, rooms were remodeled and instruments were updated. St. Paul’s is home to St. Paul’s Music Conservatory (SPMC), a parish-based music school designed to share the Gospel through music education. Today, SPMC offers lessons in piano, guitar, organ, voice, strings, winds and brass. “There is a level of personal engagement,” said Raymond. “Every single teacher in this place is personally invested in every student. They want the children learning about music, but more than that, they want the children learning about Jesus. They do everything they can to be disciples in the classroom — not just teachers — and it’s bearing a lot of fruit.” The conservatory brought on Dr. J. Gordon Christensen,

a gifted music teacher who spent 40 years as an elementary music teacher and organist in Imperial, Neb. The congregation later called the Rev. Timothy Frank as associate pastor, conservatory administrator and piano teacher. Recently, one of Christensen’s high school students was baptized. She asked that her teacher serve as her baptismal sponsor. Now, her pastors are taking her and her father through confirmation class.

will create musical resources and develop strategies to help churches, schools and mission organizations bring Christ into the world through music. On a recent Wednesday, Christensen taught student Augustine Terneus on St. Paul’s organ. With his signature bow tie and circular glasses, Christensen methodically led Augustine through the musical notes. Later, Christensen took a group of preschoolers on a tour through the sanctuary,

explaining the baptismal font, altar and rail. “We have people who have been baptized in the last few years who’ve come from utterly unchurched lives, and they came to Jesus through the Gospel being brought to them through the music of the conservatory,” said Raymond. “It doesn’t get any better than that.” Erik M. Lunsford is managing photojournalist for LCMS Communications.

Dr. J. Gordon Christensen leads the children’s choir.

The conservatory has started producing its own musical resources to complement the studio instruction it offers. One example is a series of graded piano books, with arrangements by Dr. Elizabeth Grimpo of Concordia University, Nebraska. To acknowledge that music is a wonderful vehicle for Gospel proclamation, SPMC also is establishing a Recognized Service Organization (RSO). This RSO

Christensen, head teacher at St. Paul’s Music Conservatory, teaches children about different parts of the church.

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