This year’s Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) Fall Leadership Conference, Nov. 16–18 in San Diego, continued its decades-long tradition of presenting the Gospel-inspired results and benefits of LCEF’s work.
Organized around LCEF’s annual corporate meeting, the conference — held since the early 1980s — serves as an opportunity to acknowledge and applaud all that God has done through LCEF’s partnerships with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
The 2018 conference theme of “Lead Boldly” continued previous years’ themes of “Live Boldly” and “Love Boldly.”
One ministry celebrated for leading boldly was Virginia Evangelical Lutheran Church Mekane Yesus in Annandale, Va., which received LCEF’s Fred E. Lietz Mission Project Award in recognition of its outstanding mission efforts.
Started in 1997 as a Northern Virginia Ethiopian congregation, Mekane Yesus was formally chartered with the LCMS in 2015. Almost all of its 84 confirmed members are Ethiopian immigrants, and worship services are conducted in their native language.
“We have truly been blessed to partner with them,” said retiring LCEF Southeastern District Vice-President Steve Heemann. “I have learned from them a new level of excitement and passion for ministry that is not typical of many congregations. They have welcomed us into their midst more as a treasured guest than as a provider of resources.”
Those observations were echoed by LCMS Southeastern District executive Rev. Dr. Yared Halche, who noted that “the culture of an Ethiopian congregation is different than a traditional Lutheran congregation.”
For their tireless and charitable work for their congregation and community, Howard and Jackie Breitenfeld received the 2018 Fred E. Lietz Individual Ministry Award, which honors LCEF volunteers who have shown extraordinary dedication in sharing the Gospel and the ministry of church extension. The Breitenfelds are members of Grace Lutheran Church in Escondido, Calif.
During the award presentation, Steve Strauch, LCEF West Region vice-president, noted that the couple taught Sunday school and served on numerous church committees over the past 60 years. They also have spoken at Lutheran Marriage Encounters for 10 years, and were involved in planning the recent construction of the congregation’s two-story school building.
Strauch added that Howard Breitenfeld also has served as congregation president, elder, usher and on many call committees.
The awards are named in honor of Fred E. Lietz, an early church-extension pioneer and LCEF’s first president.
Addressing the conference theme in their one-of-a-kind ways were presenters such as best-selling author and business speaker Patrick Lencioni and interrogation expert Eric Maddox, responsible for collecting the intelligence that lead to Saddam Hussein’s capture.
Diving into his book 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni shared his perspective about leadership and the essential qualities that make up a successful team, starting with trust.
“Remember, teamwork begins by building trust,” Lencioni said. “And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability. Great teams do not hold back with one another. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses and their concerns without fear of reprisal. Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team.”
Maddox was an Army interrogator in 2003 when he was assigned to a Delta Force team in Tikrit, Iraq. Over a period of five months, he conducted over 300 interrogations and collected the intelligence that directly led to the capture of Saddam Hussein. For his role in the capture, Maddox was awarded the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement, the Defense Intelligence Agency Director’s Award, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.
Maddox shared his story with conference-goers, emphasizing that bold leaders listen with empathy and sincerely care about the people they lead.
Other speakers included LCEF President and CEO Rev. Bart Day; Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership; Gretchen Jameson, senior vice-president for Strategy and University Affairs at Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, and Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Dr. Leo Mackay Jr., businessman and a former deputy secretary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs; Edwin Meese, Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow Emeritus at The Heritage Foundation; and Michael Meese, executive vice-president of the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association.
The Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa, senior pastor of Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine, Calif., led conference Bible studies with a focus on understanding that faith is full of dualities and paradoxes, a reference to 2 Cor. 5:7, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”
“When we are mindful of these dualities,” Espinosa said, “then we discern with greater precision ourselves, our environment and those we lead and serve.”
On day two of the conference, LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin Robson facilitated a panel discussion featuring LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison; Rev. Dr. Patrick T. Ferry, president of Concordia University Wisconsin and Concordia University, Ann Arbor; Sue Hewitt, executive director of UpWorks, a Christian nonprofit in St. Paul, Minn.; and Dr. Kurt Senske, chief executive officer of Upbring, formerly Lutheran Services of the South.
Among topics discussed were bold leadership for the church in the 21st century and ways to reach across cultural, language and geographic boundaries.
This year’s conference was the first for Gary Rezeau, a member of Hope Lutheran Church in Melbourne, Fla. “I participated in all the events, and found my time well-spent and the quality of the presentations top-notch,” Rezeau said.
A servant event, hosted just hours before each annual conference starts, is a highlight for many attendees. This year’s participants filled care packages for sailors at Naval Base San Diego. The Rev. Scott Shields, an active-duty Navy chaplain serving in San Diego, delivered the care packages and also served as conference chaplain.
Church extension business
LCEF’s annual meeting — an official review of the fund and current objectives of the organization — took place after worship on Sunday morning, the last day of the conference. Attending the two-hour meeting were LCEF’s board of directors, officers, members at-large, former staff, district vice-presidents and district voting delegates.
George Cook, international consulting director with Graystone Consulting, shared a positive outlook on the economy, tempered by four concerns: the trade war with China, rising interest rates, wage inflation and rising oil prices.
LCEF President and CEO Day reported on LCEF’s:
- 2018 fiscal year performance metrics — with an increase in the number of new investors and a loan-delinquency rate below 1 percent;
- earnings distribution of $2,139,095 to the Synod and partner districts; and
- core initiatives for the 2019 fiscal year, which include developing greater partnerships with LCMS entities and ensuring its continued financial and operational health.
Re-elected to LCEF board of directors posts were:
- Don Scifres, of the LCMS Indiana District, to a seat in the LCEF East Central Region. Scifres is president of SmartFile in Indianapolis and serves on the Indiana District’s board of directors.
- Ron D. Wheeler, of the LCMS Missouri District, to a seat in the South Region. Wheeler is founder and president of MKI Inc., an insurance product provider he started in 1990.
To fill a board vacancy in the LCEF North Central Region, members elected Christopher Soyke from the LCMS South Wisconsin District to his first term. Soyke is a lifelong banker, technologist and marketing leader.
“We appreciate all of our investors and borrowers and friends,” Day said at the close of the conference. “We look forward to seeing you next year in Houston, where we will celebrate all of God’s blessings that have been poured out on LCEF.”
A nonprofit organization, LCEF offers funding and resources to congregations, schools and rostered church workers through the investment support of LCMS members.
For more information, visit lcef.org.
Posted Dec. 7, 2018