By Paula Schlueter Ross (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Proclaiming “Jesus Christ Above All” (from Phil. 2:9), the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League welcomed some 3,470 people to this “mile-high” city June 22-25 to help the Synod auxiliary celebrate 75 years of service and be encouraged and equipped to share their faith with “boldness and confidence” among family, friends and neighbors.
During business sessions, more than 560 voting members adopted a record $2.075 million biennial mission goal — $75,000 more than the previous goal for 2015-17 — and chose 22 mission grants (out of 34 presented) to support with their offerings over the next two years. (To see which mission grants were adopted, click here.)
Besides adopting an optimistic mission goal — which covers mission grants and organizational expenses — delegates also made a bold move to provide nearly $40,000 more for mission grants after the last two grants adopted received the same number of votes.
Rather than fund one of the tied grants only partially, past LWML President Jan Wendorf noted that delegates had “asked for God’s direction” in prayer before voting, so perhaps “God wants us to step forward” and fund both fully.
Delegates voted overwhelmingly (465 to 13) to affirm that idea, pledging to raise the extra funds for mission grants — as part of the $2.075 million mission goal — over the 2017-19 biennium.
They also elected officers and other leaders:
- Jennifer Huecker of Bunceton, Mo., vice-president of Christian Life;
- Charlotte (Char) Kroemer, Newberg, Ore., vice-president of Communication;
- Angelina Jauregui, Los Angeles, Calif., vice-president of Gospel Outreach;
- Ginger Starrett, Belvidere, N.J., recording secretary;
- Rev. Mitchel Schuessler, Troy, Ill., junior pastoral counselor;
- and Nominating Committee members Joy Anderson (chairman), Prior Lake, Minn.; Karen Morrison, Wichita, Kan.; JoNette Brogaard, Alexandria, Minn.; Linda Fees, Miller, Neb.; and Sherrie Smith, Justice, Ill.
LWML’s new look
A new LWML logo bearing the alternate name of the auxiliary — Lutheran Women in Mission — was unveiled during the convention.
“It is our prayer that this new logo will help women take a first look — or even another look — at the LWML,” said LWML President Patti Ross.
The logo features a heart, representing the “heart of God, which is behind all that we do”; a drop, to symbolize “the blood of Christ shed for us”; and a cross at the top showing that “we lift high the cross of Christ, guiding our thanks and praise and service,” according to Ross.
Ross urged LWML members to “get your one-minute story or interpretation of that logo ready” for those who might ask about its meaning. And that story, she added, “better include Jesus Christ.”
‘So much good’
The convention offered a wide range of activities — from a golf outing (which raised $12,550), to blood donations (from 106 volunteers), to a “mission pledge walk” (held indoors because of the heat, raising more than $73,674), to servant events (which produced 3,000 personal-care kits, 639 school kits, 354 fleece blankets and 99 quilts, among other things).
Convention-goers brought with them “Gifts from the Heart” — including 4,607 underwear items; 1,161 health kits; 340 sheet sets; 229 school kits; 161 baby kits; and $31,256 in gift cards, cash and checks — for distribution to area aid agencies.
And offerings on each day of the convention totaled $166,378, which will go toward the new mission goal, the LWML endowment fund, a ministry on the U.S.-Mexico border, and spiritual and physical outreach to low-income residents of Albuquerque.
“There’s so much good about it,” Bea Wolf, of Blue Earth, Minn., said about the convention, which provides an opportunity to “see what happens when women are on a mission.”
Over four days, attendees of all ages — from children in strollers to senior citizens in wheelchairs — heard inspirational speakers, took part in Bible studies and worship services, enjoyed a lively “Fiesta” with a mariachi band, sang — and danced! — laughed and cried.
They brought along noisemakers and flashy “bling” — sparkling (and mostly purple, the LWML’s signature color) hats, clothing, costume jewelry — to wear to the Saturday-night 75th Anniversary “Diamond Dazzle” celebration, where they were treated to blinking “diamond” rings, vignettes, ballads and pop hits delivered with gusto by singer Rebecca Smith, as well as a video highlighting the eight decades of LWML history.
The convention included 81 Young Woman Representatives (women ages 22 to 35, the most ever, and who received the longest and loudest applause when the group was introduced); 850 first-timers; and a procession featuring six past LWML presidents (who served a total of 24 years, from 1991 to 2015) and flags representing the 71 countries (from Afghanistan to Vietnam) that have received LWML funds for mission work.
During a tribute to Betty Duda, who was LWML president from 1987 to 1991 and died last year on Christmas Eve at the age of 84, an emotional Ross said Duda had attended the 100th-anniversary celebration of the International Lutheran Laymen’s League last October in St. Louis, where she seemed to know “everyone.”
“Betty saw everyone as a loved child of God with potential,” Ross said. “She believed in the potential each of us has as a gift from God. And that belief led her to be an encouraging cheerleader to women to step out and use their gifts in service to God and the people in the world.”
Duda, Ross said, “made a difference.”
Harrison: LWML is ‘fantastic blessing’
As “proclaimer” at the opening worship service, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison began with, “Happy birthday. You look pretty good at 75,” and said he looks forward, “one day, to knowing just how many people heard, and came to know Jesus, because of the work of this organization. What a fantastic blessing.”
Even though all people are sinners — and in need of a Savior — Harrison reminded worshipers that Jesus “takes upon Himself all of your sins, the sins of the whole world. And more than that, He knows each one of you by name. And loves you.”
Jesus’ death on the cross is “your death … your sin. He who knew no sin became sin for you, that you might be the righteousness of God.” In other words, he said, “a happy switch.”
“You get everything that belongs to Jesus, His eternal life, His blessed promise of resurrection. All of it is yours.”
He urged listeners not to “reject it by being too proud to be a sinner.”
“Be encouraged” by God because “He has a purpose for your life,” Harrison said. He also underscored the value of every vocation — mother, daughter, sister, brother — in sharing the Gospel.
Harrison spoke of the “overwhelming” pain of the recent death of his brother — who in the year before his death was welcomed back to the church after 35 years away.
“And yet, in the midst of that pain, precisely almost because of it, the response of the spirit and Christ and His Word is joy unbelievable. Blessing beyond blessing. … Eternal life is ours. And it’s yours,” he said, and sharing that Good News “is the business Christ has called you to.”
A Presidential Proclamation
The next day (Friday, June 23), Harrison — with a helping hand from his assistant, Barbara A. Below, who serves as his representative to the LWML — presented his first “Presidential Proclamation of Thanksgiving” to Ross, in honor of the auxiliary’s 75th anniversary.
Noting that the LWML has raised some $100 million for mission work worldwide since it was organized in 1942, Harrison called the women’s auxiliary the Synod’s “true partners, in the deepest sense” through its prayers, mite offerings and service.
In the proclamation, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod “gratefully acknowledges and thanks God for the LWML and our continuing partnership in the Gospel” and offers a prayer of thanksgiving to God for blessing “the outreach of the Synod through the ladies of the LWML” and asks Him to “strengthen their leadership and their members in their joyful resolve to continue to make Christ known to all.”
“This is for all of you and all the women back home that you represent,” Ross told the convention.
Mall’s keynote: laughs, tears
In an emotional presentation that prompted both laughs and tears among convention-goers, keynote speaker Ida Mall — the LWML’s 12th president, who served from 1991 to 1995 — likened faith-sharing to a grandmother anxious to share news about her granddaughter’s college scholarship.
In conversations with others, “grandma is looking for any word — such as book, school, bus — that will let her slide right in there with the news,” said Mall, a grandmother herself. And if those words don’t come, “she is going to tell it anyway. Grandma doesn’t care whether you want to hear it. She doesn’t care whether it’s the right time. She’s going to tell it.”
Mall encouraged the convention “to have the same zeal about telling others about Jesus,” and to do it “in a winsome way.”
She offered 12 ideas for “engaging with others and sharing our faith in Jesus,” such as sending greeting cards with a Christian message, wearing jewelry with a cross, or leaving a tract or LWML “Mustard Seed” with restaurant tips. (Mall said she tells the server that the money is “for your body,” and the tract is “for your soul” and is “so much more important.”)
Mall recalled a Christian workshop she led in Canada, where she was shocked to be “paired” with a teenage girl who blurted out that she did “not know” Jesus. She realized later that she had “gone to speak to the 99 sheep, but God had sent me to speak to the one lamb.”
She encouraged LWML women to continue serving God “with joy and gladness, to honor Him and set a good example for others, be they young or old.”
Be a missionary ‘where you are’
A two-part Bible study (Part 1 and Part 2) led by Deaconess Betty Knapp of Marquette, Mich., explored LWML convention Bible studies through the years, and how women are called to be Christ’s disciples.
In small groups, convention-goers discussed what makes a “good” faith witness and how they can become better witnesses. Knapp encouraged them to write their own “personal mission statement” with a “changeless focus” — “Jesus Christ Above All.”
Not everyone gets the chance to be an overseas missionary, but it’s equally as important, Knapp said, “to be a missionary where you are,” sharing your faith with “everyone you meet.”
She told the story of a friend who reached out to a nonbeliever poolside, while on vacation, by sharing his faith, a book of devotions he had brought, and even the names of area LCMS churches.
And she assured listeners that when they share His Good News with others, they’re not going “for Jesus” but rather “with Jesus — He’s doing the work,” she said, paraphrasing the Rev. Greg Finke and his book, Joining Jesus on His Mission.
Mites in Action
Four “Mites in Action” speakers — Sanya Parson of Rebecca’s Garden of Hope (an after-school program for at-risk children), Katia S. of Lutheran Hour Ministries, Vicar Tim Norton of Lutheran Indian Ministries and Steve Cohen of The Apple of His Eye Mission Society (Jewish outreach) — explained how LWML mission grants have furthered their work.
Cohen thanked the LWML for its “bold financial” support to The Apple of His Eye Mission Society and said the $100,000 mission grant is being used to help start a new mission effort in Israel, “where 99 percent of the 6 million Jewish people there are facing a Christ-less eternity.
“It is not that my people have rejected Jesus out of hand,” he said. “It is that they have never seriously considered Jesus the Messiah.”
He asked for prayers for the Rev. Dr. Robert and Kristi Roegner, who will be joining the ministry’s staff in 2019 to help build the mission work in Israel. Robert Roegner will continue as pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in O’Fallon, Mo., until he and Kristi join the Apple of His Eye ministry.
Anderson: ‘You may be the only Jesus … people see’
As “proclaimer” for the Sunday-morning “Service of Sending,” the Rev. Allen D. Anderson, president of the LCMS Rocky Mountain District, told worshipers, “We’ve got the gift, we’ve got the promise, it is ours, and we all have to just share it. …
“You may be the only Jesus, in your heart, that people will see. Grab onto it! Engage it!”
Anderson said his late mother kept a mustard seed on her watch to remind her to share her faith, that “now is the time to plant the seed, or to water it, no matter where you’re at, no matter what you’re doing.”
Struck as Katie Luther
A lighthearted look at the life of Martin and Katie Luther was provided in several short sketches featuring comedian Jan Struck as Katharina von Bora/Katie Luther.
In her Saturday-morning skit, wondering aloud what “important” work God has in store for her as Luther’s wife, “Katie” comes to the realization that “my daily life is the important work” — as she manages guests, meals, household chores, farm animals, a fish pond, a fruit orchard, a vineyard.
“And,” she says with pride, “I have learned to make a very good beer. Martin despises drunkenness, but he loves my beer.”
‘A huge, powerful movement’
Everyone this reporter interviewed — no matter what their ages — said they had a good time at the convention.
Rachel Schwiesow, 31, of Pryor, Okla., described the event, her first, as “an absolute blast,” particularly the “Diamond Dazzle,” which was “fantastic” and “so much fun.”
Schwiesow, the mother of three children ages 2 to 8 and president of the LWML group at St. John Lutheran Church, Pryor, said she felt “chills” and shed tears while singing “A Mighty Fortress” with thousands of others “singing their faith” during the convention’s opening worship service.
St. John’s has fewer than 50 Sunday worshipers, so being with so many like-minded Lutherans at the convention — “all working towards the same goal,” she said, was an experience she’ll not soon forget.
Christy Ndem, who’s part of the LWML’s “Heart to Heart Sisters” program that brings together women of different ethnicities, said the auxiliary works hard to make everyone feel included.
Originally from Nigeria, West Africa, Ndem is a member of Somerset Hills Lutheran Church in Basking Ridge, N.J., and believes “diversity is good because it encourages us to love others and enjoy them, as Jesus has done for us.”
LWML conventions, she said, provide opportunities to “see what heaven is like … when people of all nations, speaking in different tongues, will rejoice and praise God.”
She’s with the LWML, she added, “to serve the Lord, to lift up His name, share the Good News and be part of the mission — that Jesus Christ is above all.”
The Rev. Larry Kribs, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Monmouth, Ore., said he has been to “a few” LWML conventions with his wife of 52 years, Sherry.
Is it a good thing for men to come? “It’s not going to hurt,” he said with a laugh, adding that the events give both men and women an opportunity to see friends and hear outstanding music and sermons.
Sherry Kribs said the event “broadens your perspective of what missions are all about” — how the “awesome” amount of mite offerings contributed and combined are “going for good, to uplift other people.”
The event, she added, is “an encouragement, and it just helps you to grow.”
Schwiesow, of Pryor, Okla., added there is “absolutely” something for everyone at an LWML convention, and she encourages all Lutheran women to check out the auxiliary.
“Talk to your local church, find out how you can get involved,” she said, “because it’s a huge, powerful movement — and come be a part of it!”Watch convention videos
Future national conventions of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League are planned for June 20-23, 2019, in Mobile, Ala., and June 24-27, 2021, in Lexington, Ky.
Posted July 7, 2017 / Updated July 10, 2017, with a new figure for convention offerings.