Lutherland gift caps off Wittenberg Project campaign

The campaign to fund the renovation of the Old Latin School in Wittenberg, Germany — the first milestone in The Wittenberg Project — ended successfully on Jan. 4.

Visitors worship in the chapel at the International Lutheran Center in Wittenberg’s Old Latin School during their tour of Luther sites last September. The chapel will soon have a plaque bearing the name “Lutherland of the West.” (Kristin Lange)

That project is a joint venture of the LCMS, Concordia Publishing House and the LCMS partner church in Germany to establish and maintain a base for Gospel outreach, education and church-planting in Wittenberg.

Capping off the renovation campaign was what LCMS Mission Advancement Director Mark Hofman terms the “lasting legacy” of a gift from the board of Lutherland, a now-closed Lutheran organization.

Hofman said that in appreciation for that gift, the chapel inside the renovated building will be named Lutherland of the West Chapel — to be acknowledged on a permanent plaque there.

Today, the Old Latin School is home to the International Lutheran Center in Wittenberg.

“I’ve grown fond of this saying: God is good — all the time,” said Hofman. “Working with the board of Lutherland on this capstone gift has been a real joy for me, just as it has been a thrill to see so many congregations, families and others come together to make the renovation of the Old Latin School possible.”

Hofman connected with the Lutherland board through its vice-chairman, Doug Heideman.

‘A natural fit’

“The board was looking for opportunities to use its remaining financial blessings to take the Gospel to people who need to know Jesus,” Hofman said. “As Doug and I talked, Wittenberg surfaced as a natural fit, given the board’s desire to do something truly meaningful and how close we were to finishing the campaign. It was a special high point I will always remember.”

In 2012, the LCMS Board of Directors authorized a capital campaign focused on the Old Latin School, under the condition that only donor-designated gifts would finance its renovation.

Hofman said that through Dec. 31, “committed people” made gifts and pledges totaling $4,164,396. That included the first gift that purchased the building and support for pre-renovation design work.

He recalled that as renovation work progressed, workers discovered 500-year-old human remains while they were digging an equipment pit for a required elevator. That find triggered an archeological investigation that added to the cost of the project.

Hofman said that “a band of generous people, congregations and organizations” responded to the efforts of a volunteer campaign committee — including one anonymous donor who led with a $1 million matching grant. Lutheran Church Extension Fund collaborated with the LCMS and the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW) by supplying a line of credit to help pay renovation costs as contributions or pledges were secured.

The ILSW is the body that governs the International Lutheran Center in Wittenberg.

‘Joyful participation of many’

“Without LCEF involvement, the final price tag for the project would have been much higher,” Hofman remarked. “The joyful participation of many brought this building back to life and made it possible to repay $400,000 loaned by LCEF on Jan. 4. Walking together, a mission-minded multitude fulfilled the [Synod] Board of Directors’ requirement. Special thanks go to Rev. David Mahsman, Rev. David Bueltmann and Mr. Robert (Bob) Claus for the important leadership roles they played.

“To my knowledge,” Hofman added, “this may be the first named campaign where the LCMS accomplished a mission-focused goal and reached a challenging financial goal. Lutherland’s board, along with friends too numerous to mention here, made a conscious decision to combine their gifts and complete something no one individual could accomplish alone.”

A recent Reporter Online story, “Lutheran Center in Wittenberg welcomes tours, overnights,” highlights the facilities and resources available at the renovated Old Latin School.

Posted March 17, 2017

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