By Paula Schlueter Ross (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ST. LOUIS — Sixteen new career missionaries, their spouses and children — a total of 62 people — were encouraged to “go in the name of the Lord, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” during a March 13 “Service of Sending” at the LCMS International Center chapel here.
The missionaries and their families completed a two-week orientation March 2-13 at the International Center to help prepare them for service in more than a dozen locations worldwide.
The group of 14 married couples and two singles includes 12 ordained ministers and four laypeople who have accepted calls to mission sites in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.
In his sermon during the 80-minute service that included Holy Communion, LCMS First Vice-President Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller Jr., referencing John 4:19-39, said we cannot please God by what we do or acquire but rather what we receive from God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
“The beating heart of the Church is the life of Jesus Christ — His life lived for us, His life offered up for us on the cross, His life triumphant in the resurrection, His life freely given in His body and blood, in the forgiveness of sins, in the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.”
The “life of Jesus,” Mueller added, “does not come from a new program, or a new way of doing things, but through repentance and faith. The life of God is not the result of moral instruction or moral life, but it flows from God’s gift of a restored relationship with Him in Jesus Christ.”
Besides “receiving in faith all He has to give” and believing “His promise that our sins are forgiven in Jesus,” Mueller urged worshipers to “lift up our eyes and … see the harvest, the gathering in of the nations.”
To the missionaries who are “sent into that harvest,” he said, “You are signs of Christ’s presence and Christ’s care for the world, signs always pointing to Christ crucified and risen, alive and giving away His life.”
The orientation — one of two held for new LCMS missionaries each year — provides information, cross-cultural experiences, study materials and training for specific ministry assignments. Missionaries also get to know staff with the Synod’s Office of International Mission who will assist them during their overseas deployment.
Typical orientation sessions cover the theology of mission, church relations, staying physically and spiritually healthy, building a network of support, written and oral communications, taking photos, keeping financial records and fundraising.
The Rev. Dan McMiller, director of recruitment for the Office of International Mission (OIM), said this winter’s group includes many young families — with a total of 32 children — “and that’s a blessing. It’s wonderful for the church to see the Christian family at work in joy and in service together.”
The Rev. Dr. Edward Grimenstein, associate executive director of the OIM, echoed that sentiment, but added that the Synod is not necessarily focusing its recruitment efforts on young families. Everyone who feels called to missionary service is welcome to apply, he noted. “These are the ones that God is raising up to come to us — and they just happen to have lots of children.”
Grimenstein described the new missionaries as having expertise in a variety of vocations. “They’re professionals,” he said, “and incredibly well-qualified.”
The Rev. David Preus, his wife, Jennifer, and their six children, ages 1 to 11, will be relocating from the wilds of Montana to bustling Santiago, in the Dominican Republic (DR). Preus, pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Billings, Mont., and St. Paul Lutheran Church, Roundup, Mont., has accepted a call to serve as a church planter and pastor, and eventually a theological educator, in the DR, which borders Haiti in the Caribbean.
He recalled reading an Arch Book when he was 5 or 6 years old about the Apostle Paul and his missionary journeys and “was just so impressed” and has wanted to be a missionary ever since.
“I always had this yearning to go abroad and preach the Gospel,” particularly in a Latino culture, Preus told Reporter. And so, when the opportunity came, he “prayed about it and eagerly acknowledged” the call.
“I am confident that this is what God wants me to do,” he said, and added that the two-week orientation “has been tremendously helpful” to “ease a lot of the anxieties and answer a lot of the questions that I had.”
Living in an unfamiliar culture “is a great sacrifice, but it’s also a great adventure,” and the whole family is excited about it, he said.
He added that he looks forward to sharing the Gospel with people in the Dominican Republic: “When people love the Gospel — and you see that in your students and your parishioners — there’s no greater satisfaction in the world.”
Although she’s been leading short-term mission trips to tiny Belize — which borders Guatemala and Mexico in Central America — since 2003, Susan Dorn of Dallas only recently accepted a call to serve as an LCMS career missionary. Dorn, executive director of the Belize Mission Society, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization, is employed full-time as director of sales and marketing for a medical-device company and will be resigning “shortly” to begin full-time missionary service.
In her new role, she will spend one-third of her time continuing her work in Belize and the remainder as supervisor of the Synod’s “Foro” program, a network of support for missionaries and partner churches in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Click here to watch the video, “What is a Foro?”)
She says she “wouldn’t be doing this” if she didn’t feel called by God.
“There’s a lot of sacrifice that comes into play when you decide that you’re going to leave your family [her mother, daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren] and everything that you’ve done and built up over 30 years to become a missionary.”
Nevertheless, her call to missionary service “is a good match for my skill set, and I’m very excited to be serving God on a full-time basis,” she said, adding, with a laugh, that she’s “looking forward to hanging on and enjoying the ride — it’ll be an adventure, for sure!”
Echoing those sentiments is the Rev. Eric Stinnett, who will be serving as a missionary based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in East Africa, with his wife, Johanna, and three children, ages 1, 6 and 10.
Stinnett, pastor of three small congregations in Montana — Our Savior, Denton; Saint Paul, Lewistown; and Trinity, Stanford — has accepted a call to join the faculty of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) seminary.
The 7-million-member EECMY — the largest and fastest-growing Lutheran church body in the world — expects to gain 1 million new members a year for the next decade, according to Stinnett, who muses, “Think about how many pastors it takes to actually shepherd 10 million new Christians. There’s certainly going to be work to do there for a long, long time.”
The Stinnetts, who have never been to Africa, “are really looking forward to the cultural experience as well,” according to Johanna. “Meeting Christians in another country always feels like family, so we hope to gain another family in Ethiopia.”
Leaders of the EECMY — which ended its formal fellowship with the Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church in America two years ago — have been meeting with LCMS officials to strengthen relations between the two denominations, and have requested help with theological education.
Stinnett encourages other LCMS pastors to consider missionary work in Ethiopia, as well as in other countries, because more missionaries are needed.
“On our team alone, in Addis, I would like to have ultimately six to eight [LCMS] families,” he said, and he also hopes the Synod can place theological educators in some half-dozen regional EECMY seminaries in the coming years.
“Think about the opportunity,” Stinnett adds. “My goodness, how much of an impact could we have on the largest Lutheran church body in the world?”
But sending more missionaries across the globe “is going to take a collaborative effort of the entire Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod,” says Stinnett, who notes that those who can’t become missionaries can support them financially and with prayer.
“There is a place and a role for every single LCMS member in America in foreign missions,” he said.
To learn more about the new missionaries — including bios, birthdates and how you can support them with prayer and offerings — click here.
A second 2015 missionary orientation is scheduled for June 22 to July 2, also at the International Center.
Posted March 13, 2015