Funds vital for `body and soul` Ablaze! work

By Kim Krull

Agricultural missionaries Delano and Linda Meyer teach West Africans techniques to grow more food and also help them grow in their relationship with the Lord.

That’s just one example of 15 projects LCMS World Relief/Human Care is funding with a $500,000 block of grants to LCMS World Mission for “bodablaze/meyery and soul” work critical to the Ablaze! movement.

The projects were selected by LCMS World Mission and include efforts in 10 countries on four continents.  Each project reaches out to people in need with both physical assistance and proclamation of the Gospel. 

Two projects that put staff on the ground in Africa and Latin America “are probably our most important projects for Ablaze!,” said Rev. David Birner, LCMS World Mission associate executive director for international.

The funds from LCMS World Relief/Human Care help enable the work of project coordinators Joy Mueller and Olga Groh in Africa and Latin America, respectively, as they oversee efforts that combine human care and Christian witness and touch entire communities.

“Consequently, we have multiplied dramatically the opportunities for Christians to connect with people in their everyday lives, every day of the week — in health and welfare and in the spiritual issues faced by the people they serve,” Birner said.

Because LCMS World Mission and LCMS World Relief/Human Care partner on these projects in Africa and Latin America, Birner said, “the number of critical events where Jesus is shared with individuals far exceeds what either discipline (human care or evangelistic outreach) could achieve by itself.” 

LCMS World Mission Executive Director Robert Roegner calls LCMS World Relief/Human Care a key partner in Ablaze!, the worldwide Lutheran movement to reach 100 million unreached or uncommitted people with the Good News of Jesus by 2017.

“LCMS World Mission and LCMS World Relief/Human Care are in a partnership that is critical to our strategy related to Ablaze!, which is to engage people with the Gospel in whatever circumstances they are in,” Roegner said.

“All one needs to do is look around our country and the world, and it’s easy to see so many people who are in great physical need,” he continued.  “With the assistance of LCMS World Relief/Human Care, those needs can be met in ways that provide the opportunity also to proclaim the Gospel in Word and Sacrament — the means that God uses to meet their spiritual needs as well.”

LCMS World Relief/Human Care Executive Director Rev. Matthew Harrison says the Synod’s mercy arm is “committed to supporting Ablaze! through what we do best — putting Christ’s love and mercy into action by reaching out to people who are poor, hungry, sick, or devastated by disaster.”

“The church, motivated by the gifts received in the Word and Sacraments, reaches out with a corporate life of mercy,” Harrison continued.  “LCMS World Relief/Human Care’s unique mission is to strengthen Lutheran partners to respond to Christ’s love by serving local communities.”

Funding from LCMS World Relief/Human Care also supports the continuation of on-site work in Indonesia that began immediately after the 2004 tsunami.

Now that needs have been identified and relationships established, Birner said, those connections allow the LCMS to remain for the long term in Indonesia, even after other agencies have left as the spotlight moved to other parts of the world.

“This is significant for Ablaze! because it greatly expands our opportunities for demonstrating the love of Christ in an area of the world where this was not possible before the tsunami,” Birner said.

Along with those 15 projects funded with the $500,000 from LCMS World Relief/Human Care, the ministry also is providing additional grants for missions-related projects through its international grants program.

Posted May 1, 2007

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