By Megan K. Mertz
DES MOINES, Iowa — “Here come the powerful praying women in purple,” humorous interrupter Jan Struck quipped during the 36th Biennial Convention of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML), held here June 25-28.
And come they did. More than 4,600 — including 1,042 first-time attendees — gathered at the Iowa Events Center under the theme “Bountiful! Sow • Nourish • Reap,” based on 2 Cor. 9:8. Another 2,782 unique viewers in 49 states and 25 countries joined the convention’s sessions via the live stream.
During the convention, delegates elected Patti Ross of Tulsa, Okla., to a four-year term as the auxiliary’s 18th president. Ross succeeds Kay Kreklau of Drayton, N.D., who has served in the position since 2011.
The 576 delegates also adopted a record-breaking mission goal of $2 million for the next biennium. This goal, recommended by the LWML Board of Directors, is $170,000 more than the goal set two years ago — and exceeded — for the 2013-15 biennium.
In addition to Ross, also elected to four-year terms were:
- Debbie Larson of Bismarck, N.D., as vice-president of Organizational Resources;
- Kaye Wolff, Southfield, Mich., vice-president of Special Focus Ministries;
- Marilyn Schroeder, Boone, Iowa, treasurer; and
- Rev. Robert L. Mundahl, Faribault, Minn., pastoral counselor.
Katy Gifford of Falls City, Neb.; Margo Dupre of Lubbock, Texas; Deaconess Betty Knapp of Marquette, Mich.; Melissa Salomón of Chula Vista, Calif.; and Deb Poese of Rockville, Md., were elected to serve two-year terms on the nominating committee. Gifford will serve as chairman of that committee.
“I’m excited because I really do believe it’s the best [women’s] auxiliary of any Christian church on earth, and we just have so much that we can accomplish by all working together,” Ross told Reporter about her new position as LWML president.
She also noted her excitement about celebrating the LWML’s 75th anniversary at the Salt Lake City convention in 2017 and her hope that LWML districts will form personal connections with the mission-grant recipients for the next biennium.
“I want them to establish personal contact … so it’s not just a name up there with a dollar amount,” she said.
Contributions, or “mites,” donated by members of the LWML during the next two years will be used to fund 19 mission grants totaling more than $1.4 million as well as to pay for other organizational expenses. The grants, in the order they were adopted, will be used to:
- provide clean water and share the Gospel through Mission Opportunities Short Term (MOST) Ministries ($50,000).
- provide matching funds for 20 LCMS congregations to establish disaster-response trailers for use in their respective district ($80,000).
- pay for Christ-centered care packages for cancer patients across the nation through Phil’s Friends ($50,000).
- renovate the buildings of Jonathan Ekong Memorial Seminary, the seminary of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, the oldest LCMS partner church in Africa ($120,000).
- provide housing and program services for residents of Redeeming Life Maternity Home, a Lutheran maternity home in Sanford, Fla. ($100,000).
- implement Gospel-oriented programs for the Navajo people ($75,000).
- provide humanitarian aid and outreach to 15,000 women and children living in refugee camps through Lutheran Hour Ministries’ Middle East Lutheran Ministry in Lebanon ($72,000).
- build and strengthen individual, family and community life through Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska ($60,000).
- provide scholarships for pastors from emerging and partner-church bodies of the LCMS to obtain advanced degrees at the Synod’s two seminaries as well as to send LCMS professors and qualified pastors to teach at seminaries around the world through the Synod’s Global Seminary Initiative ($100,000).
- assist Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in equipping teachers and leaders from Lutheran churches around the world through advanced theological degrees ($100,000).
- assist with completing the final phase of the seminary in Uganda and continue the work of the Women of the Pearl to teach and put resources into the hands of women and men in the Uganda ($100,000).
- fund printing and distribution of ongoing and recently completed translation projects by Lutheran Bible Translators in Botswana, Ethiopia and Angola/Namibia ($50,000).
- supplement expenses of six students from impoverished countries who are studying at Saint Paul Lutheran High School, a boarding school in Concordia, Mo. ($32,500).
- recruit, train and deploy indigenous leaders for mission work in Israel through Apple of His Eye Mission Society ($100,000).
- provide funding for 10 home projects for low-income, disabled or elderly residents near LCMS congregations ($100,000).
- provide training to underprivileged women around the world who want to serve the church as deaconesses ($90,000).
- provide scholarships for Lutheran young adults who have been selected to serve as volunteers through the Synod’s Lutheran Youth Corps ($25,000).
- fund Acts 2 Enterprise outreach programs for the people of Detroit ($100,000).
- provide children with a safe environment for education and spiritual growth through the Synod’s Rosa Young Academies (a partial grant of $14,063.94).
The LWML is already on its way to meeting these commitments. During the convention’s opening worship, $60,478.87 was collected for the 2015-17 mission goal.
Other convention offerings were: $37,075.29 for Lutheran Special Education Ministries, Farmington Hills, Mich.; $41,135.80 for Lutheran Valley Retreat, Colorado Springs, Colo.; and $41,018.84 for Family of God Mission, Detroit.
Sharing the ‘big picture’
Keynote speaker Rev. Dr. James I. Lamb, outgoing director of Lutherans For Life, reminded attendees that they are one in 70 trillion — the number of possible chromosomal combinations at conception.
“Living and growing surrounded by the bountiful grace of God brings value to every human being,” Lamb said. “Your value doesn’t come from what you are able to do or not do. It comes from what God has done. And what God has done … can be encapsulated in three simple but profoundly powerful words: created, redeemed and called.”
Finally, Lamb noted that those who live in the bountiful grace of God want to share it with others.
“That’s what the LWML does so well,” he continued. “Your mite projects … are evidence of this. You help sow seeds of faith through the Word of God in so many ways through these projects.”
Several “Mites in Action” speakers also addressed the convention:
- Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities, spoke about the organization’s K-9 Comfort Dog ministry.
- Rev. Dr. Jeffery D. Nehrt, representing the LCMS Southern Illinois District’s prison ministry, spoke about how grants from the LWML have helped bring the Word of God to incarcerated men and women.
- Carly Hatcher, executive director of MOST Ministries, shared stories of how a grant from the LWML enabled students to go on mission trips. One of these teams provided eyeglasses to 572 people and participated in 188 baptisms.
- Rev. Dr. Tilahun Mekonnen Mendedo, president of Concordia College Alabama in Selma, Ala., spoke about how the institution is preparing students to serve the community.
Two LCMS missionaries — Deaconess Kathryn Ziegler, serving in the Dominican Republic, and the Rev. Frederick Reinhardt, area facilitator for French-speaking Africa — also shared stories from the field.
“In all the sessions, you learn so much, so many things you didn’t know,” said first-time attendee Roxanne Stuertz of York, Neb. “You live kind of a sheltered life at home, so you come to learn the big picture.”
Kreklau also addressed the convention during the president’s report, when she reviewed how mites given 54 years ago to the Lutheran Church in the Philippines are still serving the Lord through the seminary buildings they were used to build. Finally, she challenged attendees to continue studying God’s Word and looking for ways to serve others.
“Four years, how quickly those days go by when you love what you’re doing,” she said. “Be intentional. Do something different. Show the joy of serving our Lord.”
Harrison brings greetings
LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison also brought greetings to the convention.
“The $1.8 million in mites that you have provided [last biennium], and giving a wonderful priority to international missions of the Missouri Synod, has been an absolute constant encouragement and breath of fresh air,” he told the audience.
“It’s a challenging moment, but don’t lose heart,” Harrison continued, mentioning the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage that had been announced earlier in the day. “You are called to a place where you have a sacred vocation, as sacred as any call of a pastor. You have a sacred vocation to your family, to those around you … to serve and love them and speak the saving word of Jesus Christ to each one of them in your daily life. As you do, the Lord will bless.”
Connecting through service
The convention provided many hands-on ways for participants to serve. Ten on-site servant events were held June 25. In addition, more than 1,300 people participated in the “Mission in Motion” pledge walk through the streets of Des Moines, which raised $82,994.03.
Attendees also brought in thousands of donations for “Gifts from the Heart.” Some 40 boxes of items were collected for Luther Care Services, an assisted-living facility in Des Moines. Another 29 boxes of donations were collected for Lutherans For Life.
“I think it’s pretty amazing what this organization does,” said Ellen Burbank of Torrington, Wyo., one of 70 Young Woman Representatives (YWR) who attended the convention. “I was able to help with the ingathering, and the amount of items collected and given to the various organizations was amazing.”
Karla Stahlecker, a YWR from Saginaw, Mich., had a similar experience.
“Feeling the love that these women have for missions and service and their dedication to get things done is staggering,” Stahlecker said. “I feel like being bonded with all of the other YWRs in service and sleep exhaustion has just made us a really close-knit group.”
It was announced at this convention that the 2021 national LWML convention will be held June 24-27 in Lexington, Ky.
As announced at earlier conventions, the next convention will take place June 22-25, 2017, in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the 2019 convention is set for June 27-30 in Birmingham, Ala.
“This is my first time coming to the convention, and I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Camilla Durham of Genoa, Ill. “The people are so friendly and so willing to share their faith with you. We’re already talking about going to Salt Lake City in two more years.”
Eighteen-year-old Jayme Lowe of Atchison, Kan., told Reporter that anyone considering attending an LWML convention should “definitely come!” Lowe has been attending conventions with her mother since she was a baby, although this was the first year she was old enough to join the sessions.
“You get to be with a lot of other Lutheran ladies,” she said. “It’s super amazing worshiping God and helping out the church and hearing about all the cool things everyone is doing.”View photo gallery: 2015 LWML Convention
Megan K. Mertz (email@example.com) is a staff writer and managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World with LCMS Communications.
Posted July 7, 2015