By Megan K. Mertz
ST. LOUIS — At its Oct. 16-17 meeting here, the LCMS Board for International Mission (BIM) voted to issue calls or solemn appointments to 14 individuals and accompanying spouses. Of these, six are transfers or internal changes for families already serving on the mission field.
The missionaries will serve in a variety of roles in the Africa, Latin America, Eurasia and Asia Pacific regions.
“Probably the most important thing we do as a board is call our missionaries,” said BIM Chairman Rev. Bernard Seter. “It is always a privilege to prayerfully consider these calls and remember that we also make these considerations on behalf of the church. The church decided many years ago that we send missionaries through a Synod board so we are all in this together.”
“We take all the overtures and convention resolutions seriously,” Seter continued, “for all the folks in the pew and for the missionaries themselves the message is important: the church sent you, the church will care for you, the church prays for you.”
Caring for missionaries
In addition to sending missionaries, the BIM members also are concerned with the support of missionaries throughout their service.
During the meeting, the Rev. Dr. Edward Grimenstein, associate executive director for the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM), demonstrated a new tool that his department has created for missionaries.
The digital Missionary Care Chart “encapsulates almost every single moment in which a person in this building is caring for missionaries on the field,” he said.
Missionaries can use this tool to find the right contact person for any issue they are facing. It includes staff people from five areas: Recruitment, Missionary Services, OIM regional directors and business managers, Communications and Mission Advancement.
“One of the desires in creating this document was to provide transparency,” Grimenstein said. “We’re very proud of work that we do here in Synod. We’re never trying to hide it. If anything, we want it to shine, to let people know how we’re caring for missionaries.”
Grimenstein also detailed other procedures LCMS International Center staff members have put in place to care for missionaries at every stage of their journey. This includes children’s and spouses’ programs that have been added to new-missionary orientation, a two-day DOXOLOGY retreat geared specifically for missionaries who are preparing to move to the mission field, and extended benefits for missionaries who are transitioning back to the United States.
LCMS international schools report
At its meeting in May, the BIM agreed to devote time at this October meeting to discussion of the Synod’s three international schools: Hong Kong International School, Concordia International School Hanoi and Concordia International School Shanghai.
The three heads of these schools — as well as the executive director of the Asia Lutheran Education Association (ALEA) — attended the meeting to report on their organizations.
Alan Runge, head of school at Hong Kong International School, reported on the growth of the school since it first opened with 190 students in 1966. This school year, it will celebrate its 50th year. When construction on the lower primary building is completed in fall 2017, the school expects to have approximately 3,000 students between early childhood and 12th grade.
Head of School Gregg Pinick of Concordia International School Shanghai said his school has grown to an enrollment of 1,200 since it was founded in 1998 by Dr. Allan Schmidt. Pinick also spoke about the community centers the school helped start for the benefit of the expatriate community in Shanghai. These centers offer classes and information for people who are adjusting to life in a foreign country.
Steven Winkelman, head of school at Concordia International School Hanoi — the youngest of the three schools — told the board about the construction underway at the new campus. The school currently has some 230 students, but Winkelman expects that to expand to 425 when the first phase of the new campus opens in June 2016.
Although the context of each school is different, all three heads of school talked about their great emphasis on service learning. They also mentioned the challenge of attracting rostered LCMS teachers and said they hope to be able to add more of them in the future.
Karin Semler, executive director of ALEA, also attended the meeting to introduce the organization, which aims to connect 250-plus Lutheran schools in the region that are serving more than 100,000 students. This number includes 85 schools in Australia, 83 in India and 45 in Hong Kong, among others.
Semler said ALEA’s purpose is to help connect Lutheran schools and Lutheran educators in Asia to each other, while assisting in the establishment of more Lutheran schools throughout the region.
“We’re our best resources,” she said. “My hope is that … we’re creating a self-sustaining Asian network that’s growing.”
“The work and witness of the international schools has been for many an open secret,” Seter said. “They have an amazing story to tell, and we need to extend ways that the story may be told. What they need is qualified and motivated Lutheran teachers.”
Megan K. Mertz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a staff writer and managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World with LCMS Communications.
Posted Oct. 27, 2015