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Lutherans

ENGAGE the WORLD


March April 2015, Vol. 3, Issue 4

Lutherans

ENGAGE the WORLD


March April 2015

vol. 3, no. 4

inspire

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4 
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15 

The Time to Act

Time to Show Up
LCMS MAF, SPM Chaplains Minister
Where Needed Most

Baltic Churches Bear Mercy through


Multigenerational Ministries

Maternity Home Extends Christs Love


to Women in Crisis

12
Engaging the Church in the work of witness and mercy across the globe in our life together.
LUTHERANS ENGAGE THE WORLD is published bi-monthly by The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod.
2015 The Lutheran ChurchMissouri 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 (lcms.org/lutheransengage). To receive the print edition, we invite you to make a financial
gift for LCMS global witness and mercy work. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are property of the LCMS.
888-THE LCMS (843-5267)
lcms.org

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV), copyright 2001
by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

inform
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engage
A BOWL OF SOUP
I dont know his name, and it is likely he will
never know his face graced the cover of a
magazine read by 90,000 Americans. He could

10 Questions

Offering Christ-Centered Services with Freedom

Campus Conference Takes on Taboo Topics

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involve
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Put Your Passion into Action for Life


Have Mercy on Me!

S TA F F
David L. Strand
Pamela J. Nielsen
Erica Schwan
Melanie Ave
Megan K. Mertz
Erik M. Lunsford
Carolyn A. Niehoff
Chrissy A. Thomas

executive director, communications


executive editor
manager, design services
staff writer
managing editor/staff writer
photojournalist/staff writer
designer
designer

be anyone, anywhere, whose situation in this sin-broken


world means he doesnt always know where his next meal
will come from.
What fills that bowl? Make no mistake, with the
nourishing broth is also Christs MERCY.
This issue explores how together we bear Christs mercy
and defend the blessing of religious freedom in our land in
order to more boldly confess Christ in word and deed.
You can read about the soup line and how your gifts and
prayers over the years have made it possible for Lutherans
in Latvia to provide tangible, life-sustaining mercy as they
point their neighbors to the fonts, altars and pulpits of
the Latvian Lutheran church, where forgiveness, life and
salvation are freely offered.
From our earliest days, we in the LCMS have been
focused on bearing mercy. Today, evidence of that is seen
across the country as willing hands in congregations
come together, often working with Recognized Service
Organizations like Lutheran Family Service of Iowa, to care
for neighbors in need.
Our presence at the March for Life each year underscores
our commitment to defending the most vulnerable in our
land. But we dont just march! Read about how a maternity
home started by a Florida congregation is showing mercy
to women with few other options.
The Church faces many challenges in bearing mercy. But
perhaps the greatest challenge for us today is the escalating
effort by the government to limit what the Church may do
for her neighbors.
Our views are becoming increasingly unpopular with
the culture around us. Yet some 475 college students and
campus-ministry workers came together to explore how
faith in Christ speaks and acts in the face of lifestyles and
beliefs often considered too taboo for the church.
Theres a lot in this issue. Snuggle up with a bowl of soup
and have a read!
In Christ,
Pamela J. Nielsen
Associate Executive Director,
LCMS Communications

EDITORIAL OFFICE
314-996-1215
1333 S. Kirkwood Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-7295
lutheransengage@lcms.org
lcms.org/lutheransengage

Cover image: A man sips


soup at a Diaconia Center soup
kitchen site of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church of Latvia in
Riga, Latvia.
PHOTO: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD

ears ago, after the Evangelical


Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
solemnly declared SUVs to be
irresponsible, if not sinful, I quipped to the
ELCAs presiding bishop, The ELCA says
something about everything. The LCMS says
nothing about anything. Thats not entirely
true, but we have been rather quietistic in
the LCMS.
The LCMS once had an office in the
District of Columbia. Our plans for a new
office have been much more intentional.
Weve done a great deal of work in
preparation. The entity will be largely
independent but constituted to serve LCMS
interests (and those of other conservative
Lutheran friends). It will not tell people how
to vote. It will provide an LCMS voice at
the table with other Christians and citizens
of goodwill. We will focus laser-like on
just three issues: (1) life, (2) marriage and
especially (3) religious freedom.
Above all, this office will provide an
aggressive defense against the current
cultural and legal pressure to push
traditionally minded Christians out of
the public square, as well as a defense
against discriminatory practices against the
church by the government. And these are
mounting.
The Apology of the Augsburg Confession
praises legal action, when necessary:
Public remedy, made through the office of
the public official, is not condemned, but is
commanded and is Gods work, according
to Paul (Romans 13). Now the different
kinds of public remedy are legal decisions,

capital punishment, wars, and military


service (Ap XVI 59). Where the government
impedes our freedom to believe and act
according to our biblical confession, we will
fight for our freedoms guaranteed in the Bill
of Rights. And we also will fight shoulderto-shoulder with citizens of goodwill be
they Lutheran, Christian or not for the
religious freedoms of all. For the conscience
is bound only to God, not to men. Consider
how St. Paul made use of his rights as a
Roman citizen. I appeal to Caesar, he said
in Acts 25:11.
We have a gem to share that is,
the Lutheran/New Testament teaching
on the two kingdoms. Government is
established by God (Romans 13). The
Church is established by God (Matthew 16;
28). Government is ruled by reason (Rom.
2:12ff ). The Church is ruled by revelation
(i.e., the Bible, as John 8:31 says). Render
to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to
God the things that are Gods (Mark 12:17).
Unlike many Protestants, we Lutherans
have no interest in Christianizing the
government. The government should
operate according to sound reason. Good
laws are reasonable and do not contradict
the Ten Commandments. Bad laws are

unreasonable. It is unreasonable to legalize


the killing of the unborn. It is unreasonable to
penalize a private school because it believes
in traditional marriage. One does not have to
be a Christian to see that. Of course, the Bible
clearly rejects abortion too. Yet, Christians
oppose it on the grounds of both the Bible
and reason.
As part of our office in D.C., we envision
internship opportunities for youth, educational
connections with our Concordia University
System, and state-by-state coalitions of
LCMS lawyers and others to monitor
religious freedom issues across the country.
Our D.C. office will produce significant briefs
on vital topics, such as the two kingdoms
teaching. It will provide contact with LCMS
elected officials, as well as encouragement
and training for LCMS members (and other
Lutherans) interested in running for office or
serving in government. It will be a locus for the
many young LCMS staffers who serve in D.C.
and who are marvelous and active Christians.
There is much work to do. We are nearing
our trigger point of $2 million. The entity
will do its own funding work once launched
and will not be a burden to the Synods
budget. There is a great deal of interest and
excitement about this. Its time to act. Many
others have been carrying our water for years.
Its time to show up and support them. We
must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
In His name,
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
President, The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod

nspire

I appeal to Caesar.
(Acts 25:11)

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

MarchApril 2015

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

PHOTO: ISTOCK/THINKSTOCK

The Time to Act

nform

Questions

10
with

Jordan Gehrke

by Adriane Heins

Political consultant and LCMS Lutheran Jordan Gehrke has 15 years of political experience. A partner at
Pulse Red Communications, he spends his days inside the Beltway providing strategic advice to candidates
like newly elected Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who won his November 2014 election in a landslide.

1.

5.

2.

Working in politics, especially campaigns, we


constantly have to be mindful of the Eighth
Commandment to explain everything in the
kindest possible way. Too often, you see people
saying things about their opponents that just arent
true in order to win a battle that day.

What got you started working


in politics?

Our family was very politically involved growing


up. My grandfather was very active in local
politics, and my dad was a judge. I started
working on campaigns as a kid.

Describe what a day at work looks


like.

Id say that no two days are the same, but since


2010, our team has been focused on identifying
tech problems in campaigns and trying to solve
them. When actually running campaigns, we
combine a lot of these different elements at once
and help candidates with strategy, messaging
and technology.

3.

Recount your greatest achievement


thus far in your work.

PHOTO: JEFF ADKINS

I felt a tremendous sense of gratitude seeing


Senator Sasse sworn in. [Ed. note: Gehrke served
as senior advisor to Sasse.] He built a team of
big-cause/low-ego people who were involved
because they cared about the direction of their
country and didnt really care that the experts said
we couldnt win.

4.

Politics can be intense. How do you


make your job fun?

The intense part is the fun part. You have to be


wired a little bit differently in order to enjoy
this job. You are sometimes forced to make
split-second strategic decisions in a stressful
environment. It can feel like walking a high wire,
but I enjoy it.

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

9.

Describe a moment when your beliefs


as a Lutheran collided with your work
in the political sphere.

6.

Why is it important for Lutherans


to maintain a seat at the table
in political discussions?
The ideas and actions taken in public directly
affect the way people act and believe at
home. That is not to say that government
is the ministry far from it. But there are
issues being debated in the public square every
single day that impact us all, and we neglect
political life to our great peril.

7.

Are there other Lutherans working


inside the Beltway?

There are many Lutherans working in all


sorts of areas from Hill staffers writing
policy to journalists to members of Congress.
Its great to see.

8.

How does your church family


support you?

I am deeply grateful for our pastor and our church


members. Theyve become some of my dearest
friends over the years. It really is like having a
second family.

If a young Lutheran is considering


a career in the political arena, how
would you encourage him or her as a
brother in Christ?
We need more people who understand that politics
is not the center of life. The Framers believed that
what made America great is the understanding
that all of the truly great stuff that happens in this
country happens in the states, not in D.C. With
that said, I also tell people that if they can do good
work by running for office or working at the staff
level well, we need people in this vocation who
have the right motives and want to reaffirm the
American ideal.

10.

Whats one thing the average


Lutheran might be surprised to
know about his congressman, senator
or president?
Just how hard the job is on them and their
families. Members of Congress are often far from
home, commuting every weekend, not seeing their
kids very much, being challenged in lots of ways.
Pray for the governing authorities, indeed! They
need it. Its a tough job.
Adriane Heins is managing editor of The
Lutheran Witness and editor of Catechetical
Information for LCMS Communications.
Have a question? Email Gehrke at

jordan@pulsered.com.

MarchApril 2015

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

Time to

Lutherans march with hundreds of


thousands of other pro-life supporters
during the 42nd annual March for Life
Jan. 22, 2015, in Washington, D.C. u

PHOTOS: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

MarchApril 2015

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

Its

easy to be lulled into a sense of


complacency, assuming that our
religious liberties wont be curtailed that much in
our lifetime or that, if they are, we wont really feel
the impact, admits Barb Below, assistant to LCMS
President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison.
For many Lutherans, curtailing a persons ability to feed the homeless or an LCMS congregations
right to determine who gets to use its building may
seem far-fetched.
And yet, watch the evening news or crack open
The Wall Street Journal and youll find that our
world is different from just even 10 to 20 years ago,
Below observes. Im not trying to be dramatic.
This is a current, real threat that we must take
seriously. While we pray that our freedoms arent
diminished at all, we also proactively think about
future generations and about the challenges they
will face if we dont make the case for our values
and ideals already now.

Show Up
by Adriane Heins

Free to be Faithful

PHOTOS: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD; MAP: ISTOCK/THINKSTOCK

nspire

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

The LCMS hasnt been idle. Working alongside


other organizations like Alliance Defending
Freedom, the Heritage Foundation and the Becket
Fund for Religious Liberty, the LCMS launched
Free to be Faithful in 2012. Its an initiative
that educates and raises awareness about the
increasing intrusions by the government and
culture into the realm of the Church.
The initiatives focus is three-pronged: (1)
support the sanctity of life from conception to
natural death, (2) promote and encourage oneman/one-woman marriage for life, and (3) defend
and champion religious liberty for all.
In a time when Christian morals and values are
gradually becoming more unpopular in the public
square, quietism or allowing others to speak on
ones behalf can be tempting.
But the laypeople in our Synod, and a growing
number of church workers, are increasingly voicing
concern. Laws, regulations, executive orders and
court decisions are increasingly working to silence
the right of Christians to live and act under the
Gospel of Christ, notes Mark Hofman, executive
director of LCMS Mission Advancement.
And now, more than ever, its personal.
They are affected in their homes, their schools,
their businesses and vocations, and in the public
square with a push to be silent in confessing the
Gospel in word and deed, he explains. And these
baptized people are looking to their church body
for help, counsel and resources that will allow
them to act.

MarchApril 2015

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

Get Involved
The Lutheran Center for
Religious Liberty
Now, however, the LCMS is primed to
give an even bolder confession in an even
bigger way. Since 2012, LCMS Mission
Advancement has steadily been raising
funds to build a permanent office the
Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty
inside the Beltway.
Its purpose will be to monitor and
protect First Amendment rights
guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution in
the public square.
It will not, notes Harrison, tell people
how to vote. Instead, it will provide an
LCMS voice at the table with other Christians and citizens of goodwill.
The planned office in Washington is
intended to serve as both the eyes and ears
of the church, Hofman says, seeking to
understand what is going on in the kingdom
of the left where it improperly crosses over
into the kingdom of the right.
The office, which will operate
independently of but in coordination with
the LCMS, will seek to equip Lutherans and
Lutheran organizations to (1) engage
federal and state officials through advocacy
and defensive legal strategies; (2) educate
future generations about serving God
through vocations in government, law
and public policy; and (3) connect with
Lutherans involved in government affairs.
The LCMS Board of Directors is
extremely pleased to approve the creation

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

of a legal entity that will establish an LCMS


presence in Washington, D.C., notes the
Rev. Michael Kumm, chairman of the
LCMS Board of Directors. The mission of
the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty
will be to advocate the positions of the
LCMS . We, as a Board, in conjunction
with Synod legal counsel, are making sure
that this entity is properly authorized and
created to benefit the Synod at-large. It
pleases us to be able to assist in this way to
further promote and proclaim the Lutheran
confession of faith.
There is a great deal of interest and
excitement about this, Harrison says. Its
time to act. Many others have been carrying
our water for years. Its time to show up and
support them.

Providing What Is Needed


Free to be Faithful including the planned
Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty
exists to meet the needs of Lutherans
asking for help in doing what they do best:
confessing the faith in a world thats not
eager to hear it.
Both can and will hear the concerns of
Gods people and then work to provide what
is needed resources, education, conversation to equip Gods people to act in
ways that are faithful to His Word, Hofman
explains. In short, they will supply what
laity and church workers are saying they
currently lack.
And as the Supreme Court edges ever
closer to a spring ruling on the definition

MarchApril 2015

Find common ground with

your family members, friends, co-workers and


those in the public square to discuss these
issues. An example might be: I know that you
as a mom are concerned about your kids. Im
concerned about children too, and especially the
thousands of preborn children that die every day
as a result of abortion.

Give a financial gift and create a permanent

Lutheran presence in Washington, D.C.


Every gift is important in the establishment
of the Lutheran Center for Religious
Liberty! reminds Martha Mitkos, LCMS director
of Campaigns and Special Initiatives, which
includes Free to be Faithful.

Subscribe to the Free to be Faithful

quarterly newsletter to get additional


information on the work of Free to be Faithful
and the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty.
Email infocenter@lcms.org to subscribe.

Visit lcms.org/freetobefaithful to download and

make use of free resources that help


you bear witness to Christ as you speak
about and support life, marriage and
religious freedom.

of marriage, and as legislation curtails the


way in which churches show mercy to others,
the LCMS moves diligently forward, keeping
an eye on the cultural and governmental
changes while looking forward with joy and
excitement to establishing a permanent presence to do the same in Washington, D.C.
There, the Lutheran Center for Religious
Liberty will be a tangible reminder that we
must always speak the truth in love both
now and in the future, Below says, especially
when it comes to defending our right
to do so in the first place.

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

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LCMS MAF, SPM

Chaplains Minister
Where Needed Most
by Roger Drinnon

icture the injured soldier, the terminally ill


patient or the accident victim struggling with
imminent death and reflecting on lifes sins,
wondering if God will forgive. Then imagine a chaplain
delivering the comforting message of the Lords
forgiveness during lifes most challenging moments of
fear and despair.

PHOTOS: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD

As LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces (MAF) chaplains


provide spiritual care for our men and women serving in the
military, the Synods Specialized Pastoral Ministry (SPM)
chaplains also minister to those with specific needs: the sick,
the imprisoned, the aging, the troubled, the conflicted and
the isolated.
Our LCMS chaplains serve wherever their flock is. That
includes places like Afghanistan, Belgium, Djibouti, Guam,
Kuwait, Okinawa, Spain, hospitals and Wounded Warrior
units, said Chaplain Craig Muehler, the Synods MAF
director. Our chaplains are in every clime, living with the
people they serve. They are making differences in the lives
of their people by offering them the comfort of the Gospel of
Jesus Christ in combat, in suffering, in loneliness and in their
life challenges.
Muehler said amid the rigors of military service, including
recurring deployments to dangerous combat environments
in the Middle East and elsewhere, chaplains often are
the only resource service members have for confidential
counseling and for hearing the life-changing Good News of
Jesus Christ to assist them in their lifes struggles.
One will never truly know how many of our service
members were saved from suicide, divorce, assault or moral
injuries because they were able to receive confidential
pastoral care from their chaplain, said Muehler, a recently
retired U.S. Navy captain who previously served at the
Pentagon as deputy chaplain of the Marine Corps.
Like MAF chaplains, SPM chaplains minister to people in
particular life situations where the need is great.
There are four general areas of SPM. One is institutional
chaplaincy in settings like prisons, hospitals, nursing
homes, hospice and mental-health agencies, said the Rev.
Joel Hempel, interim director of SPM. Secondly, there are
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MarchApril 2015

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

emergency-services chaplains
mostly fire and law-enforcement
chaplains. A third group includes
pastoral counselors these are
part-time or full-time ministers
who have received additional
post-seminary training to work in
a pastoral counseling center or in
a parish. The fourth area is clinical
pastoral education. There are only
a handful of these colleagues still
active. They teach pastoral care
and counseling to those who want
to become chaplains or who want
to become increasingly competent
in pastoral care to enhance their
parish ministry.
Hempel said contexts for SPM
chaplains also include centers for
those recovering from substance
abuse, managing developmental
disabilities and hospice services.
SPM chaplains have unique
opportunities to reach out to people
with the Gospel, he continued.
For example, if youre in
hospice ministry, youre visiting
with people who are dying, talking
with family members, listening for
any kind of spiritual or emotional
brokenness or maybe the need
for reconciliation with a loved
one, Hempel said. Carefully
and respectfully, you attend to
the pain, which unsurprisingly
often leads to unresolved issues
in their relationship with God.
Others are more immediately open
in expressing their struggle with
guilt or anxiety about life after
death. Opportunities often present
themselves for people to confess
their sins and receive Gods merciful
forgiveness through Christ.
Hospital ministry gives us
a chance to make contacts with
everyone, said the Rev. Doug Nicely,
chaplain at Memorial Hospital in
Belleville, Ill. [SPM] chaplains get
called out more often than not
when there are serious problems
with patients and their families.
8

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

Nicely said prayer with families,


especially after the death of a loved
one, is an important part of his
ministry.
It is an honor to serve our Lord
and to pray with almost everyone I
meet, he said.
Hempel said as institutional
chaplains often operate amid
the challenges of pluralistic and
ecumenical settings, it solidifies their
Lutheran identity by helping them
define both who they are and who
they are not, while teaching them
how to reach people who are outside
of the LCMS, including people of
other faiths as well as those who are
non-religious or even anti-religious.
If you go into this ministry, you
have to have the personality and the
aptitude to function (as a Lutheran)
in a non-congregational, multicultural
setting, he said. You have to like a
challenge, need minimal affirmation,
want to be with people when they
are most vulnerable and hurting, and
love seeing the Spirit of Christ
at work!
As Christian military members
face restrictions in their freedom to
exercise their faith in an increasingly
secularized military, Muehler said
LCMS chaplains remain dedicated to
the Word of God.
Our LCMS chaplains continue
to be the salt of the earth in these
challenging times. They remain
faithful, because they are men of
integrity who take their ordination
vows seriously, he said. They boldly
proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ
to those entrusted to their care.
They work within the military by
cooperating without compromising
their Lutheran Confessions or
their conscience.
Roger Drinnon is manager of Editorial
Services for LCMS Communications.
View photo galleries of the Synods

chaplains: photo.lcms.org

MarchApril 2015

PHOTOS: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Charles Varsogea (top left and right), chaplain at the Marine
Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Calif., and the Rev. Doug Nicely (second
from left), chaplain at Memorial Hospital in Belleville, Ill., exemplify the
care the Synods chaplains demonstrate for people in need in specific life
situations. u

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

t U.S. Navy Cmdr. Charles Varsogea, chaplain at

the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego,


Calif., arrives at his office to help a recruit late
one Saturday evening.

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

MarchApril 2015

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

put your passion


into action for

E
F
LI
Contact a local pregnancy
center and ask what that
centers specific needs are.
On Jan. 22, some 380 Lutherans joined the LCMS at the 42nd annual March for Life in Washington,
D.C. Nearly half of those marching with the LCMS were high school or college students. Want to
inspire your youth to stand up for life? Here are some ways you can get involved without having
to travel to the nations capital. Pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) usually welcome assistance.

MO

Cs

it

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

BAB

E S U N D AY

Distribute promotional items to local


churches, schools and businesses

MarchApril 2015

TE

PR

w
a b o u t its

Inv

re

ha
s

PROMO
10

rt

he

w ork of l

al

or

D RAISIN G

Assist
with
babysitting during
parenting classes

fo

LIF

to
ur c
h u rc h

OR
T

Pray

al
to
o cal P R C

FUN

yo

I MP

T
AN

Assist
with
organizing
fundraising
events like
banquets,
walks and
baby bottle
campaigns

ST

oc

P R AY E R

YSITTING
Offer to serve as a
translator for written
materials if you are
fluent in other
languages

TRA

N S L AT E
lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

PHO
TOS
: LCM
S CO
MMU
NICA
T

IONS
/ERIK

M. L
UNS
FOR
D

nvolve

Learn more at:

lcms.org/freetobefaithful

Y SHOW
BAB
ER

Provide
administrative
assistance
(copies, filing, etc.)

Coordinate clothing
and diaper drives

OFFICE HELP

DIAPER
D RIVE

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

CLEAN/PAINT

NS

PRC WEBSITE

Offer to clean or paint


a centers facilities

OR

Help develop or
update a pregnancy
centers website

Sort material
donations and
organize the
centers baby
closet

NI

IO

Host a baby shower


at church or with friends,
donating the gifts to a centers
baby closet

T
ZE DONA

MarchApril 2015

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

11

nspire

Baltic Churches Bear Mercy through

Multigenerational Ministries
by Erik M. Lunsford

n Riga, Latvias wintry capital city, frigid


waves from the Gulf of Riga lap the
shore as confetti-size snowflakes coat
the birch trees one February day.
Here, in this former Soviet state, a story
of mercy, accountability and flourishing
partnerships between church bodies is
unfolding.
Inside an unassuming municipal
apartment building, oddly like multicolored
Lego blocks and noticeably void of ornate
architecture, an impromptu chorus bursts
into Latvian folk music. After the song has
ended, the singers settle back with French
press coffee and Piragi meat-filled pastries.
Beaming, a woman on the verge of
tears thanks a group of visiting LCMS
representatives. Everyone is talking
about the benefit of the Diaconia Center
mercy site at the complex, which is partly

supported by a grant from the LCMS


through partnership with the Evangelical
Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL). Its one
of four sites that focus on showing Christs
love to low-income residents.
In comes the Rev. Ivo Kirsis, parish and
Diaconia Center pastor. He sports a Sean
Connery beard and a charming smile. Its
time for Divine Service, and everyone files
into a small reception room complete with
an altar, crucifix, candles and an open Bible.
Kirsis kneels in prayer, and heads bow in
silent reverence. A disabled man leans on
his crutches.
One-third of Latvias population lives
at or below the poverty line, according
to Ramona Petrika, a staff member at
the Diaconia Center in downtown Riga.
Emigration is a problem, although its
unlikely a tourist in Old Town would see

this statistic as clearly as the amber jewelry


and wooden toys dotting the window
displays of souvenir shops.
Diaconia is part of the church, says Inta
Putnina, Diaconia Center director. She sips
Rooibos tea and adjusts her delicate shawl
during conversation. On Sundays we have
service, and on weekdays we go and help
the people.
What exactly does diakonia mean? In
Greek, it means service, and the Christian
Church through the ages has understood
this as bearing the mercy of Christ to
those in need. In this case, it also is an
establishment that serves the poor, but its a
little more complicated than that. Matthew
sheds some light in his Gospel: And the
King will answer them, Truly, I say to you,
as you did it to one of the least of these my
brothers, you did it to me (Matt. 25:40).

Children play together at


the Generations Day Care
Center in Riga, Latvia.

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MarchApril 2015

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PHOTOS: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD

An elderly woman walks past municipal apartments, the


site of a Diaconia Center mercy project in Riga, Latvia. u

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MarchApril 2015

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13

Each year, the Diaconia


Center in Latvia serves

123,345 people.
23,250 children
27,500 adults
70,675 people through
soup kitchens

Truly, its about people helping people


in the context of Christ and His Church,
says Putnina.
The Diaconia Center in Latvia has four
mercy sites. Two are for children and
families, one for children and adults, and
the last for adults only. Putnina says the
mercy sites serve 123,345 people each year
23,250 children, 27,500 adults, 70,675
people through soup kitchens and another
1,920 who receive food packages.
Put this into perspective: The LCMS
has 2.2 million members, while the entire
population of Latvia is 2.1 million. The ELCL
has 712,531 members.
The Diaconia Center was established
in 1994, and diaconal work with the LCMS
began when Deaconess Grace Rao, director
of LCMS Deaconess Ministry, started in
2006. She and the Rev. Tony Booker, LCMS
regional director for Eurasia, continue
the partnership, helping to train diaconal
workers and assisting with a new diaconal
project directed at the aging population
of the Latvian church that resides in
rural areas.
Diaconia work is an act of the church,
Booker says. Were a body of Christ, and we
cant help but do what needs to be done as
we look around our neighborhood and our
backyard. Thats how the actions have been
driven here, and thats centered through
congregations, pastors, through volunteers
from congregations reaching out to
their neighborhood and delivering Christ,
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if you will, both in person and in Word


and Sacrament.
A few years ago, the LCMS gave a
substantial amount of money to the church
for diaconal work. Instead of infusing the
money into various projects right away,
the Latvian leaders waited for the right
time. Now the fruits of their patience have
blossomed into projects that show excellent
organizational skills, administrative skills
and tremendous accountability.
Booker adds, This is exactly what we
want to encourage in all of our partner
churches.
And while theres a worry that faithbased organizations can fall away from
the church when nourished by municipal
subsistence, the centers here are perpetually
bound to the church, not unlike a sneaker
shoelace hopelessly knotted together.
Along a street in Riga lined by tall
trees and even taller buildings sits the
Generations Day Care Center for adults
and children. Strong tea swirls, chocolates
soften and children pray before supper.
They hold hands, laugh and crack jokes
together. Some saunter to a side room for
soccer, while another boy handily beats
an adult in two quick games of pingpong.
Lifelong relationships form here, a witness
to life together.
But the story of mercy work in the Baltics
doesnt end in Riga.
To the south, in the neighboring country
of Lithuania, large neighborhoods of Soviet-

MarchApril 2015

1,920 people through


food packages

era housing in various towns still bring to


mind the years of oppression both secular
and religious. Snow blankets the rolling
hills; ice forms at the fingernails of waves off
the Baltic Sea.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of
Lithuania, led by Archbishop Mindaugas
Sabutis, is a minority, confessional,
liturgical partner with orphanages, soup
kitchens and a treatment center for drug
and alcohol addicts. A new phase of the
addiction program is currently underway.
Renovation of a vacant building in rural
Garliava will provide a chapel and halfway
home for addicts as they transition toward
independence.
We are happy that this part of our
mission is very blessed, Sabutis says. Its
about the context of Word and Sacrament in
their historical experience of diaconal work.
During treatment, addicts will receive the
comfort of Gods Word through services to
be held at the chapel.
To come alongside our brothers and
sisters in Christ and fellow Lutherans here
in the Baltics, Booker says, and to see
them pulling themselves up by their own
bootstraps, as we come alongside them and
assist them as were able to, and to see the
results now in these later years is fantastic.

Erik M. Lunsford is the staff photojournalist


and a writer for LCMS Communications.
View the photo gallery: photo.lcms.org

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

PHOTO: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD

Ilze Juhnevia with the Diaconia


Center of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church of Latvia doles
out hot soup to area residents
and homeless in Riga, Latvia.

Maternity Home Extends


Christs Love to Women in

Crisis

nspire

MERCY MOMENT

q Resident Director Rachel Woolery (center) joins

Jenny (left) and Lillian as they make lunch at


Redeeming Life Maternity Home in Sanford, Fla.
The Christ-centered home of Redeeming Life
Outreach Ministries is a safe haven for single women
experiencing crisis pregnancies.

by Megan K. Mertz

HEADER PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO, LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD

n August 2014, Lillian was pregnant,


alone and on the verge of homelessness.
When she was fired from one of her two
jobs because of the pregnancy, she didnt
know how she was going to make ends
meet for herself and her unborn son, due in
late March.
In desperation, the young woman, whose
last name is being withheld to protect her
privacy, went to a local crisis pregnancy
center, which referred her to Redeeming Life
Maternity Home in Sanford, Fla.
Now, just a few months after moving
into the maternity home, Lillian said she has
undergone a total transformation.
Redeeming Lifes Resident Director
Rachel Woolery helped her set goals, seek
counseling and successfully appeal for
reinstatement in her undergraduate-degree
program, from which she had been forced to
drop out. Now Lillian is looking forward to
her college graduation in December.
Lillian is one of 13 women in the midst
of crisis pregnancies who have lived at
Redeeming Life since it opened in November
2013. The home currently has four adult
residents and one baby, with three more
babies due this spring.
The home provides a respite from
the world a safe place where residents
can reflect on who they want to be, learn
important life skills and work toward goals
for the future.
Each week, Woolery meets one-onone with the residents. During their stay,
residents learn about time management,
parenting and financial literacy. They
also receive regular prenatal care and are
expected to work or volunteer, if they arent
yet able to get a job.
Some of the residents come from abusive
homes, Woolery said, so its important for
Redeeming Life to model a healthy family
lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

environment. Every evening, she and the


residents gather together to cook dinner,
keep the house clean and have a Christcentered devotion.
Its a very intense and personal
ministry, Woolery said. When you say you
are going to be their family, youve got to
meet them where they are.
Woolery and Sheryl DeWitt, Redeeming
Lifes executive director, also encourage the
residents to attend the adult instruction class
at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer,
which is just across the street from the home.
For Lillian, the class helped her
understand principles of the Christian faith
and make friends at the church. This past
December, she was confirmed and became a
member of the congregation.
Its the very first time that Ive become
a member of a church, she said, calling the
love she has received at both the home and
the church life-changing.
Lillian also is proud to report that while
living at the maternity home, shes been able
to save money to provide a financial safety
net in case of emergency.

I feel like Im a different person. Im


a lot more capable, I believe in myself, I
have stronger faith, she said. I still have
moments of anxiety, but I know that things
are going to work out for us.
Despite the daily ups and downs of
the ministry, Woolery and DeWitt find
encouragement in the small things:
sonogram photos, news of a residents
unexpected debt relief and the many other
ways God is working in their lives every day.
There are days when its overwhelming,
DeWitt said. But were growing, were
learning, were loving these women the very
best we can, and were trying to honestly
reflect the love that Christ has showered
upon us.
Megan K. Mertz is managing editor of
Lutherans Engage the World and a staff
writer for LCMS Communications.
Learn more:
u Read about Redeeming Lifes founding:
blogs.lcms.org/2013/planting-seeds-of-life
u View the photo gallery: photo.lcms.org
u Visit Redeeming Lifes website: rlom.org
MarchApril 2015

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

15

OFFERING
CHRIST-CENTERED
SERVICES WITH

by Melanie Ave

utheran Family Service of Iowa


(LFS) doesnt want the government
interfering with its ability to offer
intentionally Christ-centered services. The
stance is clear, whether visiting its website
or talking with employees.
And because of that, the nonprofit
organization, a Recognized Service
Organization (RSO) of The Lutheran
ChurchMissouri Synod, does not seek
or receive government funds as it offers
adoption services; church worker support;
congregational services; and pregnancy,
mental-health and marriage counseling.
About 46 percent of the organizations $1
million budget comes from private support,
such as congregations, other organizations
and individuals. The remainder comes from
program fees.

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We dont take federal funding and


wont so we dont have to compromise
our Christian witness, said the Rev. Max
Phillips, executive director of LFS.
Despite this, Phillips speculates that
one day the organization will be targeted
for placing Jesus at the cornerstone of its
ministry and using Lutheran theology as a
guide for how it delivers services.
I believe we will be challenged at
some point, Phillips said. I think its an
opportunity for us to stand up for what we
believe in and to express our faith.

Facing Pressure
Increasingly, Christian and faith-based
organizations are facing pressure to
provide services without regard to sexual
orientation, marital status or gender

MarchApril 2015

identity, even if it runs contrary to their


religious beliefs or convictions.
Stanley Carlson-Thies, founder and
president of the Institutional Religious
Freedom Alliance, wrote in Outcomes
magazine that even though most
Americans believe in God, lawmakers
and judges are imposing secular
norms on their operations. He cited the
following as examples:
Some agencies have been forced out
of providing adoption and foster-care
services because of conflicts about
placing children with same-sex or
unmarried couples.
Some universities have denied granting
religious student groups official campus
status because of their requirements that
leaders be faithful believers.

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

nform

PHOTO: HEMERA/THINKSTOCK

FREEDOM

Doctors and counselors have been


charged with discrimination for referring
patients elsewhere instead of serving
clients whose sexual standards they
oppose.
Religious liberty is at risk, said
Deaconess Dorothy Krans, director of RSOs
for the LCMS.
The LCMS works with 175 socialministry RSOs. RSOs are independent,
but they extend the Synods mission and
ministry. They also agree to ensure that
their programs are in harmony with the
doctrine and practice of the LCMS.
Our organizations do mercy work,
Krans said. They serve those who are
needy, hurt, suffering. And they do so
because of their faith in Christ, showing the
love and compassion of Christ to others.

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

We dont take federal


funding and wont
so we dont have
to compromise our
Christian witness.
Rev. Max Phillips, executive director of
Lutheran Family Service of Iowa

Theyre compelled to do mercy work


because they are living out their faith.
That brings with it concerns regarding our
religious rights of freedom.
In the Winter 2012 edition of Outcomes
magazine, Carlson-Thies wrote that the
narrowing scope of religious freedom is

the fast-growing determination to define


faith-based practices as discriminatory
and illegal.
Lutheran Family Service of Iowa requires
its counselors to be professionally trained
and licensed, to be mature Christians and
to have a desire to incorporate their faith in
their work. When it comes to adoption, it
requires adoptive couples to be married and
active in the Christian faith.
We really try to base our decisions
on what is best for children, said Wanda
Pritzel, the organizations director of
Ministry Support and Congregational
Services. We believe its best for children
to have a mom and a dad and to have both
those roles filled and active in their lives.
That means that we dont place
children with same-sex or single parents.

MarchApril 2015

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

17

Both of those fly in the face of current


culture.
Krans said the organizations often
feel governmental pressure due to state
and federal grants and contracts. These
grants and contracts may carry with them
restrictions that limit organizations from
living out their Lutheran identity.
That can make it very difficult for a faithbased organization, especially Lutherans,
to say, This is who we are. This is what we
believe. This is why we serve those in need
because of our faith in Christ, Krans said.

Living Out the Faith


Lutheran Family Service of Iowa was
founded in 1901 as a home-finding society.
The organization operated an orphanage
and placed children for adoption. Over the
years, the organization has found homes for
thousands of children.
In 2014, it placed 10 infants, two older
children and three embryos, who were
adopted and born, making it one of the

largest adoption organizations of its kind


in Iowa.
Jeremy and Dawn Mills of Garner, Iowa,
adopted the youngest two of their four
children through LFS. Their family now
includes 10-year-old Dalton, 3-year-old
Emersyn and 1-year-old McCoy. Makinley
died in 2007 of a terminal genetic disease.
What drew us to Lutheran Family
Service of Iowa were its religious goals and
beliefs, which really matched ours, Dawn
Mills said. We just had a gut feeling, a
feeling in our hearts that thats where we
wanted to go.
While some faith-based adoptive and
foster-care agencies have curtailed their
activities out of fear, Phillips said Lutheran
Family Service of Iowa has redoubled
its efforts. It has taken a larger role in
advocating for religious liberty, traditional
marriage and life.
At the 2015 March for Life and LCMS Life
Conference in Washington, D.C., in January,
Kim Laube, the organizations director

of Pregnancy Counseling and Adoption


Services, was there, standing up for the
unborn. She met with Rep. David Young
(R-Iowa) about pro-life legislation.
Krans said now is a good time for RSOs
and LCMS members to speak their faith in
the public arena.
Our organizations should be able to
live out their faith and still have the ability
to receive government funds, she said.
Its very important for our church and
for our members to be aware that this is a
great opportunity for them to stand by the
side of our organizations and say, We are
Lutheran, and this is what we believe.
Were serving people who are in need,
who need housing, who need aging care,
who need homes, who need food. Our
Lutheran organizations should have their
religious rights of freedom protected.
Until recently leaving the Synods employ,
Melanie Ave was a staff writer and the
social media coordinator for LCMS
Communications.

What drew us to Lutheran Family Service of


Iowa were its religious goals and beliefs, which
really matched ours.

PHOTO: DAWN MILLS

Dawn Mills, pictured below with her husband, Jeremy,


and children McCoy, Dalton and Emersyn

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MarchApril 2015

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WITNESS MOMENT
nform

CAMPUS CONFERENCE

Takes on

Topics

by Megan K. Mertz
Theres a battle taking place on Americas
college campuses. Unbiblical viewpoints,
especially those on issues of sexuality, are
gaining ground among the nations young
adults even among those who come from
Christian homes.
To educate Lutheran college students
and campus-ministry workers on some
of these issues, LCMS U, the Synods
campus-ministry arm, held TABOO
Jan. 5-7 at Saint Louis University (SLU) in
St. Louis. The conference addressed the
issues of marriage and sexuality, including
homosexuality, dating and defending the
traditional view of marriage.
Approximately 475 college students
and campus-ministry workers from some
100 colleges and universities around the
country attended TABOO, and several
attendees had the chance to immediately
put what they were learning into practice.

PHOTO: LCMS COMMUNICATIONS/ERIK M. LUNSFORD

Confrontation at the Conference


But Lutheran college students werent the
only ones interested in the conference. On
the final day, SLUs LGBTQ (lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer)
student group, Rainbow Alliance, set up a
table outside the lecture hall with a sign that
read, Our love is not taboo.
At the suggestion of a college student
who was attending TABOO, the Rev. Eric
Andr, assistant chaplain at the conference
and LCMS campus pastor at various schools
in Pittsburgh, and Shana Ziolko-Marting,
director of the Lutheran Campus Center at
Northwest Missouri State University, bought
the students hot chocolate on behalf of the
conference.
This simple act started a conversation
that lasted more than two hours and
included about a dozen people on each side
of the issue.
They had a lot of misunderstandings
about what we are really all about in terms
of what love is, what repentance and for-

lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

giveness are, what hate is and is not, what


the Bible actually teaches, Andr recalled.
One of the students said, I dont think
you realize how hard it is. Youre asking
[homosexuals] to be celibate for life, he
continued. I said, youre right. I cant
imagine it. All I can tell you is you wont be
alone. Were willing to walk with you as you
struggle under that burden and to support
you and hear you. And the Lord will be
with you.
Ziolko-Marting called the experience
very positive.

The Rev. Eric Andr (left) talks to LGBTQ


supporters during the TABOO National LCMS
Campus Ministry Conference at Saint Louis
University in St. Louis.

We werent just talking about the


issues on an island, we got the chance to
experience it and do that ministry, she said.
Talking, being civil, not yelling this was
the ideal version of the ministry.

Continuing the Debate


The debate that started on the final day continued even after its closing worship service.
In the following weeks, the SLU student
newspaper reported that the Rainbow
Alliance sent the university a list of
demands, which called for disciplinary
action against the staff members who
allowed LCMS U to rent space for TABOO
and a public apology, among other things.
The group claimed the conference violated
SLUs mission as a Jesuit institution.
In response, Bethany Glock, a senior
undergraduate student at SLU and an LCMS

member from Wenona, Ill., wrote an editorial


that was published by the same paper Jan. 29.
We, the members of the St. Louis LCMS
U chapter, hold that this conference was in
line with the Jesuit mission, SLU policies and
the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church,
she wrote.
If open discussion and dialogue are
something to be desired at SLU, why would
an effort be made to ban events like this from
campus and to marginalize conservative
religious groups like the LCMS, of which
many SLU students are members?
At the time of this writing, SLUs president
had agreed to review the universitys policies
on renting space to outside groups.
These kinds of situations will increase,
where we are confronted, where we have to
face not only the issue but those who stand
at the forefront, Andr said. Thats why we
need conferences like TABOO that equip
pastors and laity and especially students.
They are going to be the generation that will
reach out the most, and they are indeed
already doing this a lot on campus.
Learn more:
R
 ead the Reporter article: blogs.lcms.
org/2015/lcms-college-students-tackletaboo-topics-2
R
 ead Glocks letter to the
editor: unewsonline.com/2015/
01/29/a-call-for-diversity-of-opinions

MarchApril 2015

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

19

STEWARDS CORNER

nvolve

Have Mercy on Me!


by Mark Hofman

Here is an uncomfortable truth: The


financial resources required to carry out
our Synods work rarely flow in unsolicited.
Most people today prefer to be asked for
help, even if they have to decline, and most
prefer to select the organizations with which
they partner, even to the point of restricting
gifts to doing specific work within that
organization. For these reasons, the Synod
writes, calls and even visits personally
(like any other nonprofit), inviting you and
others to partner with us through prayers
and financial contributions. Without you,
very little of what the Synod does to share
Christs love could ever happen.
That said, I know it can be
overwhelming, confusing and even
frustrating to be asked too often and by
all kinds of different ministries. When
that happens, I hear it, read it and see it in
reports because people pull back on their
giving. So, what can we do together to avoid
getting to that point?
The best thing we can do is seek to
understand you and the impact you
want to have each year. The truth is that
appeal letters, beyond being the least
expensive way to solicit gifts, are a way for
an organization to find out what types of
ministry work readers care about, whether
there is a particular time of the year they
make gifts, if they prefer to write checks or
use credit/debit cards, if a more personal
conversation is needed as part of the giving
decision, and more. Without a donor telling
us the answers to these questions, we are
20

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MarchApril 2015

left to try to discern the answers through our


solicitations.
Imagine for a moment what it could
be like if we understood you and your
needs very well, if we understood all of our
ministry partners very well. The appeals
you receive would ask for gifts in support
of the types of ministry work you care most
about. They would come at the time(s) you
want them to come. They would come in a
way that you prefer. It would eliminate the
appeals that dont fit your needs or goals.

And I can go one better: We also could


resurrect the concept of pledging support
or setting up recurring gifts. In one swift
shot, a pledge of support from a donor
communicates a tremendous amount of
good information and virtually eliminates
the need to solicit his or her support
throughout the year.
This past Thanksgiving, my wife and I
sat down and talked about the impact we
want to make with our charitable gifts in
2015. After thanking God for His blessings,
lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

PHOTOS: ISTOCK/THINKSTOCK

Over the last several months, I


have spoken with donors who are
overwhelmed by the number of mail
appeals, phone calls and email messages
asking them for a charitable gift or
another charitable gift. Some but not
all were requests from The Lutheran
ChurchMissouri Synod. Perhaps
you also are one who cries to the Lord
for mercy when being solicited for
charitable support.

we worked out a plan. We chose the


organizations, programs and amounts we
wanted to give away. We also decided when
and how we would make each gift. We wrote
it all down. All that was left was to notify
each of the organizations about what they
should expect from us in 2015 and what
information we wanted or needed to receive
in order to reaffirm our choices.
Planning makes it easier to ask the
organizations we care about to limit the
number and types of solicitations we
lcms.org/givenow/globalmission

receive. Why? We give them more than


money. We give them valuable information
about us information that actually equips
them to wisely manage their investment in
us as financial partners.
My point is that sharing information
works. You receive and read this magazine
because you want to know how your gifts
are sharing Jesus with people all over the
world. You want to make a difference using
the Gospel because you are a steward of
that very Gospel. We want to know you, a
baptized child of God, well enough that
our requests for support match up to your
unique needs, dreams and goals for sharing
Jesus with the world. And we want to know
you well enough to suggest strategies to
enhance your joy as a donor and lower our
fundraising costs even more.
I see that a great shift is required in how
we engage you and others in our shared
mission to vigorously make known the love
of Jesus in word and deed. We must ask
you to share important information about
your preferences and goals in charitable
giving, and we must work hard to integrate
whatever information you choose to share

into our recurring schedule of appeals. That


work will begin in the coming months.
You can help us get there by telling
us more about yourself, your needs as a
donor and your goals as a steward of Gods
blessings. With good information about you,
we can bring before you the ministry areas,
projects, missionaries or programs you care
most about, at the right times of the year,
through the communication mechanism
you most prefer and for the right gift amount
all determined by YOU.
This great shift is something we will
need to master. I can promise we will make
mistakes. My team and I will tear down
old habits and build toward best practices,
learning the best way to respond to what
you both need and deserve as an important
partner in our shared mission.
I pray for your patience as we continue
to improve our stewardship of each and
every contribution, given for the sake of
bringing people into the presence of our
Lord and strengthening their faith in Him.
Mark Hofman, CFRE, MBA, is the executive
director of LCMS Mission Advancement.
MarchApril 2015

lcms.org/LUTHERANSengage

21

NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION
U.S. POSTAGE PAID
Burlington, WI
Permit No. 12

Synodwide Appeal

for The Wittenberg Project

PHOTO: DAVID L. MAHSMAN

At the most recent Synod convention, delegates from across the


country united behind establishing a permanent Lutheran outreach
and educational presence in the birthplace of the Reformation: the
city of Wittenberg, Germany.
Our conventions delegates then encouraged a special appeal to all
LCMS congregations and households, so that everyone has a chance
to be a part of shaping history. As Lutherans, weve done it before.
As Lutherans, well do it again, with the help of God.
In early March, this special appeal to help fund the outreach
centers renovation was mailed to LCMS congregations and
households. The center will be dedicated on May 3. This is a unique
moment, but your participation can be planned and sent at a time
convenient for you. Ask your pastor or congregational leaders
how you can connect to this outreach, with its 500-year focus.

Learn more: Visit thewittenbergproject.org


or call LCMS Mission Advancement at 888-930-4438

The

ittenberg
Project