By Paula Schlueter Ross
Everybody’s hurting in today’s poor economy, and LCMS World Mission is no exception.
Donations to the Synod’s mission arm are down in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and, unless funds are found, cuts may have to be made.
Before issuing a call to the church body’s mission donors, though, the 10 members of the Synod’s Board for Mission Services and dozens of administrative and missionary staff of LCMS World Mission contributed their own dollars to establish a “challenge” fund that will be used to help support LCMS missionaries and fund mission work worldwide.
The seven-member “leadership team” for LCMS World Mission got the ball rolling last December when they “pushed each other to commit at least $1,000 each to our organization before the end of the fiscal year,” explained Jeffrey A. Craig-Meyer, associate executive director of Development Services and a member of the team.
Craig-Meyer explains the action by tying it to “leadership.”
“It’s important for those in positions of leadership to ‘put their money where their mouth is’ and be the first ones to step forward in difficult situations and set an example,” he says.
To date, the lead team has raised $27,500 in gifts and pledges — a surprisingly large amount, Craig-Meyer said, that encouraged him to offer his own challenge to St. Louis missions staff and missionaries worldwide to raise an additional $20,000 by June 30.
So far, that challenge has received $12,236 in gifts and pledges. Another $14,700 has been contributed by the 10-member Board for Mission Services, which now is opening the fund — totaling $54,436 at press time — to others synodwide.
Right now, several LCMS missionaries are “under funded,” according to Dr. Thomas Zehnder, interim executive director of LCMS World Mission. “We don’t want to pull missionaries off the field. We don’t want to make cuts,” Zehnder told Reporter. “We’re determined to turn this around and continue to do what God wants us to do in national and international missions.”
Board members announced the new fund in a letter mailed Feb. 17 to about 93,000 mission donors, encouraging them to designate their gifts to “under-funded missionary support” or “where needed most.”
The letter acknowledges today’s tough economic climate, quoting Dr. Frederich Pfotenhauer, who served as LCMS president during the Great Depression.
“It is true that the present economic conditions throughout the world induce us, if we do not keep our vision clear, to curtail our church activities,” Pfotenhauer told the Synod convention of 1932. “No doubt, money is more scarce than in previous years. All the more, we must keep before us the lesson of history: first, that the more evil the days, the greater the prospect of success in our Christian work; and secondly, that when children of God are eager to promote their Savior’s glory, the Lord supplies the necessary means and blesses them.”
“These people did not just talk about it,” the letter continues. “In 1936, in the depths of the Depression, the LCMS, together with its partners, stepped forward in faith to begin mission work in Nigeria — work that grew into The Lutheran Church of Nigeria that not only has congregations all over Nigeria today, but is now sending its own missionaries around the world.”
The letter also quotes St. Paul in Rom. 8:31-39, in which he encourages Christians to remain close to God in tough times, and it lists some of the Synod’s “unprecedented opportunities” to share the Gospel today in Asia, Africa, and U.S. cities.
“In times like this, it can be easy to say no to any request for help,” says the letter. “But it is exactly in times like this that your support of our church body’s mission outreach is so important.”
“Whether we are in a time of economic prosperity, stability, or recession, the mission of the church is always paramount,” said mission board member Roger Buck, a former missionary to West Africa.
The idea to establish the fund, he said, “simply opened a door” for mission board and staff members to put their faith into action. Now that opportunity is being shared with others, and Buck said he believes they, too, will respond, as God provides them with resources. “It’s a simple principle of Christian stewardship — you can’t outgive God,” he said.
“I am thankful that our LCMS keeps moving forward,” he added, “focusing on the goal, regardless of other circumstances.”
Posted April 1, 2009