By Adriane Heins
“An investment in the church is an investment in the Gospel,” explains the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission and co-editor of the LCMS’ The Journal of Lutheran Mission. “No matter the country, the project, the program — the purpose of the church is to bring the light of Christ to a dark world.”
“It’s quite unbelievable how the Lord is stirring many hearts to answer the call to serve overseas,” says the Rev. Randall Golter, who co-edits the Synod’s mission journal with Day and also serves as executive director of the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM). He estimates that there will be a total of 90 LCMS career missionaries and 140 Globally Engaged in Outreach (GEO) missionaries by the end of June.
Supporting or adopting specific missionaries is only half of the equation; the work and projects needed by partner churches and in specific countries require funding, too.
“Our joy happens when we see ‘people supporters’ join forces with ‘project supporters’ to bring the Gospel to the world,” says Mark Hofman, executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement.
With new missionaries poised to head to the LCMS International Center for training this month, supporting the whole mission — both the people (the missionaries) and the projects — is key.
“The LCMS is standing up to supply our mission field with a wonderful group of missionaries. We have pastors serving to plant churches, retirees who are using their gifts to manage projects and even to run libraries, and recent graduates teaching English as a foreign language,” says the Rev. Dr. Edward Grimenstein, associate executive director of the OIM.
“It also takes support to have building materials to build a church in which a pastor serves,” he explains, “or money to have a library for a retiree to run, or to pay for a student to come so that a recent college graduate can teach.”
The request for LCMS missionaries today comes largely from churches that are already in altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS or from churches that would like eventually to become partners with the LCMS. The call for special project support likewise bubbles up from the needs of those church bodies — whether partners or not. “We are responding to calls from those who know best what works and what doesn’t,” Hofman says.
“When projects are funded,” the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, director of Church Relations, explains, “an LCMS missionary finds himself or herself with plenty to do. When a missionary begins preaching and teaching, the Christians who gather around him asking, ‘Can we have a Bible in our own language to study?’ can be handed a Bible in their own language. Take away the funding, and this could not happen.”
Projects and missionaries, Golter explains, are God-given opportunities for LCMS members to deepen their involvement in sharing the Gospel, investing in work around the world. “God did not save us to sit around and do nothing, waiting for eternity,” Golter says. “With God’s increase of career missionaries in the LCMS, the door is open for the baptized for greater giving, not only for their support and care, but also for their projects. We ask in the spirit of St. Paul: ‘Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit’ ” (Phil. 4:17).
Those open to investing in the mission in a cost-effective way that supports both missionaries and projects are encouraged to consider prayerfully the International Mission General Fund. Click here or call LCMS Mission Advancement toll-free between 8 a.m. and 4:10 p.m. CST at 888-930-4438.
“Other charities certainly do great work but in many cases their work is not done in connection with altars, pulpits and fonts. What good is anything apart from Christ and the saving message of the Gospel?” questions Day. “Your gifts to the church assure that Witness, Mercy, Life Together remain anchored and united in Christ alone.”
“It’s amazing,” Golter marvels. “We prayed to the Lord for more workers for International Mission not long ago. He’s supplying beyond our imagination. “
And when it comes to supporting both the missionaries and the projects? “We boldly speak in this way because Jesus speaks about both,” he says. “He — and His church — love all people and their souls. That’s the bottom line.”
A “Support the Mission” poster is being mailed to rostered LCMS church workers, congregational chairmen and elders chairmen with the June printed Reporter, and it will be mailed to all congregations later this summer. This will allow congregations to display both sides of the poster on bulletin boards and elsewhere.
Adriane Heins (email@example.com) is executive editor of The Lutheran Witness.
Posted June 3, 2014