by Roland Lovstad
Distinctions between U.S. and international missions are diminishing, observes Dr. Robert Scudieri, LCMS World Mission associate executive director of National Mission. Scudieri says they ought to be seen as a synergy.
“Immigrants who come from around the world, particularly those who are brought to Christ here, have this passion for bringing the Good News of God’s love back to their families and their friends,” he explains. At the same time, the Synod draws from international experience to work in the U.S.
Scudieri cites the example of People of the Book Lutheran Outreach (POBLO), which works among Muslim populations in North America. “POBLO is sending missionaries around the world in concert with LCMS World Mission,” he says. Other immigrant groups are using their resources to send Bibles or make trips themselves and, in some cases, support work of missionaries their congregations send.
Scudieri says LCMS World Mission seeks to facilitate mission initiatives in the U.S. and overseas. Regional directors for overseas mission meet annually with district staff to talk about initiatives being taken in the U.S. and try to form relationships internationally. “We want to be the first place where people turn for quality mission involvement, both nationally and internationally,” he adds.
Assistance has come from overseas, too. Several years ago, the Lutheran Church of Ghana sent one of its best evangelists to New York to mentor a local pastor from Nigeria. In the process six congregations were planted in New York and New Jersey.
Other partnerships are addressing diverse opportunities. Working with the Rocky Mountain District, a district that borders Mexico, LCMS World Mission has a full-time missionary, Rev. Richard Schlak, teaching at the Lutheran Hispanic Missionary Institute in El Paso, Texas. There, in the Spanish language, immigrants are being trained as church leaders, missionaries, pastors, and teachers.
As part of a plan to place “mission strategists” in major metropolitan areas, LCMS World Mission called Rev. E. Johnson Rethinasamy to serve in New York. There he will help local missions train leaders, access theological education, and find resources to carry on their ministries.