'Ablaze!' Ambassadors program looks to expand

By Paula Schlueter Ross

Two years ago, Ida Mall, who served as president of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) from 1991 to 1995, received a letter from Synod President Gerald Kieschnick asking her to consider serving as an “ambassador” for Ablaze!, the wordwide initiative to share the Gospel with 100 million non-Christians by 2017.

If they chose to accept the challenge, Mall and dozens of others who received similar letters would become spokespersons for Ablaze!, agreeing to give presentations about the effort in congregations, schools, and other venues to encourage their fellow Lutherans to share their faith with family, friends, co-workers — even strangers.
Mall says she agreed to serve as an Ablaze! Ambassador because of her “passion for outreach.”  And, it fit well with her personal mission statement: “To actively seek opportunities to share my faith in Jesus Christ with others.”

Since joining the inaugural ambassadors program two years ago, Mall and 35 other former district and national Synod leaders have touted Ablaze! in countless LCMS churches and classrooms, sharing the initiative’s vision “slowly but surely,” according to Dr. Richard Bimler, past president of Wheat Ridge Ministries and a member of the Ablaze! Ambassadors Planning Team.  As team members, Bimler and several others provide leadership and direction to ambassadors, encouraging their ongoing participation.

“One great thing about it is that it enables us ‘veterans’ in the LCMS to continue to be pumped up to help focus our church body on Jesus Christ and what He has done for us, and celebrate what He is doing through us and so many others,” Bimler told Reporter.  “The Ablaze! Ambassadors have been significant leaders for many years through the LCMS and it is exciting to see them continue their influence and speak loudly and strongly about the Lord at work in their lives!”

Bimler says the Ambassadors program works well with his latest venture — serving older adults through Lutheran Life Communities, based in Arlington Heights, Ill.

“I want to do all that I can to help people ‘celebrate God’s gift of aging,'” he says.  “Since we Ablaze! Ambassadors are all ‘aging,’ this movement is a great complement to provide exciting ministry opportunities to older adults who have so much to share and to celebrate!  It’s a great fit!”

Rev. Scott Snow, director of national outreach with LCMS World Mission who has been involved with the Ambassadors program from the beginning, said those currently serving are proven LCMS leaders and include former district presidents, LWML presidents, and LCMS and Lutheran Hour Ministries executives.  They are, he said, “people of influence” who have “national vision and national reach.”

They are being asked to stay with the program as it grows — 27 more Lutheran leaders have been invited to become Ambassadors, beginning next year.  A meeting planned for Jan. 13-14 in St. Louis will bring current and future Ambassadors together, along with Ablaze! representatives in LCMS districts, to learn more about the program and hear how it is changing.

Among new developments, each Ambassador will be asked to make an annual presentation to his or her own congregation, as well as to two or three other groups, with an average of 100 people attending each time.  That means the program could conceivably reach 20,000 people a year, according to Snow — 20,000 more Lutherans who might be encouraged to share their faith as part of Ablaze!

Past LWML President Linda Reiser, who also serves on the Ambassadors Planning Team, says the program’s volunteers have great potential to meet, and perhaps even surpass, that goal.

“I think the Ambassadors are a wonderful group of individuals, highly visible and very significant leaders who bring integrity, leadership, and encouragement to others about faith-sharing opportunities we all encounter daily.”

Those opportunities can strike anywhere, anytime, according to the ever-enthusiastic Bimler.  “A few weeks ago, I was at one of my Starbucks ‘offices’ (I call it St. Arbucks),” he related via e-mail.  “As I ordered my usual ‘tall of the day,’ a man saw the Ablaze! shirt I was wearing and also noticed my ‘AH-HA’ button.  He simply asked, ‘Why are you so excited so early in the morning?’

“I quickly explained that Ablaze! is a movement that enables people to share their faith in the Lord and that my ‘AH-HA’ button was one of the ways I share my faith through Lutheran Life Communities as the AH-HA person — the Ambassador of Health, Hope and Aging!”

Bimler said he plans to meet with the man again “because he wants to talk more about his life and challenges.  It helped to remind me of a favorite quote of mine: ‘Sharing the Gospel is not our job — it’s our joy!'”

For more information about Ablaze!, including a number of resources designed to help Lutherans share their faith, visit www.lcms.org/ablaze.

Posted Oct. 9, 2008

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