by Paula Schlueter Ross
Members of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Cedarburg, Wis., help build a house for a family in Guatemala earlier this year. The congregation used $6,000 from its Fan into Flame campaign to enable 15 of its members to take part in the 10-day mission trip. From left are Olimpia Orellana, the future homeowner (her son is in the pit), and First Immanuel members Todd Kringel and Rich Erickson.
Church planting is just one facet of the Synod’s worldwide evangelism effort known as Ablaze! Its goals also include renewing the “mission vision” of 2,000 existing U.S. congregations, increasing the number of career missionaries, expanding support for the church body’s 30 partner churches around the globe, and sharing the Gospel with 100 million “unreached” people.
Operating hand-in-hand with the five-year-old Ablaze! initiative is Fan into Flame, a capital campaign to raise $100 million for new Ablaze!-related ministries.
As of July 30, Fan into Flame was halfway to its goal, having raised more than $50 million in gifts and pledges from more than 7,000 individuals and 850 congregations.
“We thank God for the resources He provides, and we thank each and every donor for these generous gifts,” said Dr. William R. Diekelman, LCMS first vice president and Fan into Flame spokesman.
Fan into Flame funds already are being used by congregations, districts, and LCMS World Mission, says Diekelman, “to reach the lost with the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
That’s the beauty of the campaign, according to Jeffrey A. Craig-Meyer, who oversees the fund-raising as associate executive director of Development Services with LCMS World Mission. Each congregation and district that contributes to Fan into Flame receives back a portion of the funds they collect to start new outreach ministries.
With funding from its $1 million-plus Fan into Flame effort, First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Cedarburg, Wis., is training members for outreach, funding adult daycare programs, providing financial assistance so that unchurched families can send their children to the congregation’s school, and organizing overseas mission trips.
Since the Southeastern District launched its Fan into Flame effort two years ago, it has raised $5.82 million and used its campaign distributions to start 23 new mission projects, including congregations, urban and Chinese ministries, outreach to Spanish-speaking people, and an Open Arms childcare center.
Craig-Meyer said he is amazed that, even in the midst of a recession, contributions this year have surpassed those of 2008. And, about a third of the Synod’s 35 districts are just starting their Fan into Flame campaigns, he noted, so the total amount likely will grow.
Funds received so far are “a tremendous blessing,” he said, and have enabled the Synod to place 26 new missionaries, among many other mission-related efforts.
Dr. Thomas R. Zehnder, executive director of LCMS World Mission, said the campaign is “making great impact at the local level, where congregations apply their Fan into Flame funds to immediate community outreach.”
It is in these local neighborhoods, he said, “that many people are being connected to the love of Christ.”
For information about taking part in the campaign, contact your congregation’s district office or call the Fan into Flame office at 800-977-2017.