A note from Rev. McMiller
In March, as the spread of COVID-19 continued to cause worldwide travel bans and calls for limiting the size of gatherings, the Rev. Daniel F. McMiller, executive director of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Office of International Mission (OIM), wrote a note of encouragement to LCMS missionaries and their families. An excerpt follows.
All of you have had to deal with life-changing alterations in the last days and few weeks. You will face great challenges and tribulation in the days ahead, far from home. Many in the church are uttering, “Things will never be the same.”
I just finished a phone conversation with a concerned layman who said, “This might be the end of foreign missions.” To this I quickly responded, “Absolutely not! Career missionaries through the LCMS will continue in their vocations for years to come, and hopefully till Christ returns in glory.”
The LCMS can and must continue to support career missionaries. The Lord has called you to the very place you are now. He knows your concerns and all your needs. You have received much communication of late from your International Mission office, the president’s office and your regional/area offices. Be assured that you are in the verbal dialogue, planning, communication … thoughts and prayers of nearly everyone at the International Center, in virtually every department of this building beginning with the president’s office. The people of your church hold you near and dear in prayer.
Allow me to tell you what you already know. The burdens of faithful ministry are not new. This is the legacy of the prophets, the apostles and evangelists, the generations that followed them, and our Lord Jesus Himself.
I have often referenced the tentatio (suffering), meditatio (meditation) and oratio (prayer) that Luther says makes a theologian. The Canaanite woman of Matthew 15 was such. She suffered (tentatio) and cried out to Christ (oratio) and only suffered more (tentatio) by the rejection of the disciples and seeming rejection of Jesus. But she continued to cling (meditatio) to the news that Jesus is mercy and love and continued to cry out (oratio). She was commended by Jesus and her daughter healed from that very moment.
You are Christ’s missionaries in the place you call your temporal home. You are there for the long term and need our support and prayers in this one additional hour of trial. We appeal to Jesus on your behalf. You are our hands and feet and voice in that place. This we intend to communicate effectively in the weeks, months and years ahead and also hold before the Lord in fervent prayer while appealing to the church that has sent you to also hold you near and dear in prayer before Christ — and continue your support. …
God bless and keep you and grant you courage and strength. It is for times like this particularly that you have been sent. Here the true church does its finest work, standing before the lost; striking down the idolatry of this world in which men put their hope; and pointing to Jesus, His passion and His loving victory for all.
—Rev. Daniel F. McMiller, executive director, LCMS Office of National Mission
Update from Sierra Leone
In April, the Synod approved a grant of $6,250 to Sierra Leone to help combat the transmission of COVID-19 by increasing public awareness of the need for safety measures such as hand-washing and by providing funds to build 154 hand-washing stations (one at each church and school). A small portion of the grant will also be used to purchase isolation gowns for medical personnel working with COVID-19-positive patients. (An LCMS Mercy Medical Team had been scheduled to visit Sierra Leone May 4–14 but had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.)
The LCMS first began working in Sierra Leone in 1983. Since that time, the country has been ravaged by civil war (1991–2001) and an Ebola epidemic (2013–16). There are currently 126 Lutheran congregations with about 4,000 members, 28 schools, 156 teachers and 5,159 pupils.
The Rev. Daniel F. McMiller, OIM executive director, said the Lutheran church in Sierra Leone is “extremely poor, has suffered greatly … grown quite well and is living at peace. It is also minimally supported from the outside, which is a great blessing and no small factor in its peaceful nature and its focus on the establishment of sound teaching and practice rather than political interests vying for power and influence over material assets coming from the U.S. … This [grant] is a great endeavor at modest cost that will save money and — most importantly — lives in the future.”
Stephanie Schulte, a nurse who serves as mercy medical coordinator for West and Central Africa, said, “The church in Sierra Leone has been through the refiner’s fire and is one of the strongest churches that we work with in West and Central Africa. We have received several messages from different leaders within the CELCSL (Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church—Sierra Leone) expressing concern for our health and the health of our families. It is a blessing to work with such an outward-looking church.”
The LCMS is funding similar grants in Guinea, Togo, Burundi and Republic of Congo. The grants will be used for hand-washing stations, soap, educational materials and some food supplies, as people are sheltering in place and finding it difficult to feed their families.
Posted April 28, 2020