`Harvesters` say program, `Ablaze!` `dovetail beautifully'

Those who have served on “Harvesters for Christ” teams agree with Rev. Al Tormoehlen when he says that Harvesters and the Synod’s Ablaze! movement “dovetail beautifully.”

Harvesters is accepting applications from congregations that would like to host a team this year to help members begin, revitalize, or expand efforts to reach unchurched people in their churches’ communities.

Teams are typically volunteer retired laypeople or church professionals “with a zeal for outreach,” as Tormoehlen puts it — most often couples — trained to spend up to four weeks with each congregation.

During that time, the congregation covers its team’s needs, including supplies, travel, food, and lodging.

Congregations interested in applying for a Harvesters for Christ team should contact Tormoehlen at (800) 248-1930, Ext. 1287 or al.tormoehlen@lcms.org.  For more information about the ministry, click here.

Ablaze! is the Synod’s movement to share the Good News of Christ with 100 million people — unreached by the Gospel and uncommitted to Christianity — by 2017.

“We definitely see Harvesters as a tool that can be used to help meet the goal Ablaze! presents,” said Al Axelson, who has been on Harvesters assignments with nine congregations in the last six years, along with his wife, Joy.

“On just about every one of those assignments,” he said, “someone has made the comment after they’ve been through a Harvesters event, that it helped them realize they can witness in an easy, natural, and sincere way what their faith means to them.

“We’ve found that LCMS members really know the Scriptures and have strong faith,” Axelson said, “but typically feel uncomfortable sharing it because they don’t want to say anything wrong.
 
“But we stress in Harvesters that there is no wrong way to share your faith, when it’s grounded in God’s Word,” Axelson said, “because God promises His Word will never return void.”

“Harvesters doesn’t teach theology,” Axelson emphasized.  “But it helps members see how to apply their faith and to be who they are in sharing it.”
 
The Axelsons — both retired from the telecommunications industry — are members of Trinity Lutheran Church, Fountain Hills, Ariz., near Scottsdale.
 
“Oh, yes, Harvesters for Christ and Ablaze! definitely fit together beautifully,” said Deanna Hegedus, a member of Hope Lutheran Church, Milledgeville, Ga., in the central part of the state.
 
After serving on three Harvesters teams in the last two years, Hegedus said she’s come to realize that a “major strength” of the ministry is “how it prepares members to feel comfortable sharing their faith with other people.  After all,” she said, “we share our faith in whatever we are doing.”
 
It’s wonderful, the former bookkeeper said, “to see people in Harvesters training realize that they, too, can use the tools it offers for reaching out to their communities by sharing their faith.”
 
Hegedus particularly recalls an instance when she was on a Harvesters team training members of an LCMS congregation in Central Illinois by conducting a prayer canvass of their community — “going out into the neighborhood, and just asking people if they had something they would like us to pray about.”
 
A member who brought along his three young children “had never done any canvassing at all,” according to Hegedus.  “You could tell he was a bit uncomfortable at first,” she said, “but he ended up wanting to know when he could do it again.”
 
Hegedus said such turnarounds are not uncommon for Harvesters participants –“people who may have at one time even been afraid of witnessing.  But once they experience the joy of it, they have real enthusiasm for it.”
 
Tormoehlen said that since Harvesters for Christ started in 1998, 122 congregations in 31 of the 35 LCMS districts have hosted Harvesters teams.

Posted Dec. 16, 2005

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