By Megan K. Mertz and Melanie Ave
ST. LOUIS — Thirty-five new missionaries, spouses and their 21 children gathered before the altar of the LCMS International Center chapel here June 27 during the “sending service,” where they were sent out to serve on the international mission field.
“You have a very clear word of Law and Gospel, which people need,” LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison told the new missionaries in his sermon for the service. “The Lord has hard-wired people to understand the Law. You have the word of Gospel that can break through even the most difficult shell of unbelief.”
The service marked the conclusion of a two-week new-missionary orientation in St. Louis.
Orientation is the first major step in a missionary assignment. It provides information, experiences and study materials that will help establish a solid foundation on which new missionaries build as they prepare for missionary service. It provides specific training for their ministry assignment and an introduction to the LCMS staff and structure that will support missionaries during their international deployment.
The latest class of missionaries will serve in 15 countries, including Kenya, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, Papua New Guinea and the Cayman Islands. Some also will be sent to Spain, Uruguay, Puerto Rico and Mexico — to support new and existing LCMS church partners.
The group includes laypeople and teachers, as well as pastors and deaconesses. They will serve as church planters, business managers, teachers and theological educators, often working with LCMS church partners.
The Rev. Dr. David, 44, and Julie Faulkner, 42, have three children, ages 15, 12 and 10, and currently serve a Wisconsin congregation.
David Faulkner said that after two short-term missionary trips, the family settled on the possibility of becoming missionaries. They will serve in Uruguay, known as one of the most secular countries in Latin America.
Faulkner will be one of the first LCMS pastors to serve in Uruguay and his wife will be one of the first LCMS teachers serving at a Lutheran school there.
During orientation, the Faulkners said they both were happily surprised to learn about the amount of staff support available to missionaries.
“If people knew the level of support you receive as missionaries, more people would be missionaries,” Julie Faulkner said. “From health care, to emotional care, to spiritual care while you’re out there … you’re really not there on your own.”
As the number of missionaries increases, new-missionary orientation has expanded from a once-a-year event to a semiannual one. For the first time, two gatherings for new missionaries were held this year, with the first being held in February.
Come September, the LCMS will have 85 career (or long-term) missionaries serving overseas, up from 68 the year before — a 25 percent increase.
The group of new missionaries is among the 20 clergy and 80 laity the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM) hopes to place in the field in the next year.
“We just need more missionaries in the field,” said the Rev. Dr. Edward Grimenstein, OIM’s associate executive director. “We’re branching out into newer areas. We are supporting church partners in greater ways. We’re trying to create fuller teams so our existing missionaries can be better supported.”
Grimenstein attributed some of the increase to an intentional recruitment emphasis by the OIM following the 2013 Synod convention when delegates approved a resolution calling on the Synod to make it a priority to “double the number of missionaries” by 2016.
In March, the OIM, which oversees missionaries outside the United States, unveiled a new office space for a four-member recruitment team.
“We would be moving in this direction regardless of the convention resolution,” Grimenstein said. “The Synod resolution confirmed what we already knew was going to be, God-willing, happening in the world.”
Throughout the various presentations given during orientation, missionaries were equipped with tools to help them navigate the major life changes that come with overseas service.
At the “sending service,” Harrison reminded them: “You are called by Christ to do what you do. You’re forgiven. That’s something to remember during these stressful days of transition.”
“You are going to places where the Lord has already been, preparing for you to show up to proclaim His Good News,” he continued.
To learn more or to support LCMS missionaries, visit lcms.org/missionaries.
Megan K. Mertz and Melanie Ave are staff writers with LCMS Communications.
Posted June 27, 2014 / Updated June 30, 2014