The 2013 Synod Convention adopted Resolution 1-08, “To Work Together in Mission.” (adopted 738 – 31). The resolution called for the development of a “Best Practices” document for Short Term Mission work that Districts, Congregations, and other groups could use to carry out short term trips in ways that coordinate with LCMS career missionaries.
The Office of International Mission (OIM) also developed some additional resources that might be helpful for groups planning short term trips that can be found at http://lcms.org/service under “Short-Term :
If you are considering an International Short Term mission trip, please take a look at the documents. The Short Term Leader Manual follows this post.
On December 13-18, 2014 I was privileged to visit the Czech Republic along with the Rev. Dr. Albert Collver III (Director of Church Relations & Regional Operations), Pastor Tony Booker (Regional Director of LCMS Eurasia), Pastor James Krikava (Associate Regional Director of LCMS Eurasia), Deaconess Grace Rao (Director of LCMS Deaconess Ministry), Deaconess Dorothy Krans (Director of Recognized Service Organizations), and Mrs. Kay Kreklau (President, LWML International).
Though we spent a half day in Prague at the beginning and end of the trip, which included the Divine Service at St. Michael’s church with Pastor Tony Booker preaching and presiding, most of the time was spent in the northeastern city of Český Těšín, on the Polish border. In fact, several of us stayed in a small hotel just across the Olse River in Poland, in the sister city of Cieszyn.
The purposes of the trip were twofold: to continue talks between the LCMS and the Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (SECAC) and to lead a two day conference on the theology of mercy, both for the benefit of SECAC and its partner organization for mercy work, the Silesian Diakonia. My participation in the trip was an outgrowth of our congregation’s support of Missionary Jim Krikava who is one of five network supported missionaries (NSMs) that our congregation has adopted over the last 15 years. (From our side of things, we have known this as the Together in Mission program.) I was largely an observer at the talks with SECAC and at the Mercy conference, but also participated in many informal conversations. I had prepared a presentation on “Preaching Mercy,” but didn’t end up giving the talk due to conference schedule adjustments.
The Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession is the largest (non-union) Lutheran Church in the Czech Republic. While its formal incorporation dates from the early 20th century, her roots go back to the time of the Reformation through Kaspar Schwenkfeld and the local political support of Waclaw III Adam. Though the LCMS is not presently in altar and pulpit fellowship with this church body, the Synod did sign a working agreement with the SECAC on November 13, 2010. The SECAC is comprised of about 35 pastors and 21 congregations located in the northeastern Czech Republic in part of a larger region historically known as Silesia. Until World War I Silesia was the name for the territory located both in this northeastern part of the Czech Republic as well as in southwestern Poland. It was a very Lutheran area! In fact, still today, the overwhelming percentage of Lutherans in both Poland and the Czech Republic still live in this area formerly known as Silesia.
The Silesian Diakonia is an amazing organization for mercy work, which is closely affiliated with the SECAC and provides a full array of social services throughout Silesia. These services consist of 102 programs in 60 centers provided by 600 full time employees, 100 part time employees, and 115 volunteers. Orphanages, homeless shelters, and sheltered workshops are just a few examples of the types of services they provide for the benefit of 8,000 needy people. In Europe it is common to have such `diakonias’ or social service organizations that are affiliated with various church bodies (many of them Lutheran). These diakonias receive much of their funding from the government.
It was both surprising to me as well as horizon expanding to observe the depth of theological education of many of the pastors in SECAC. Almost all had four year university Bachelor degrees plus a seminary education. Some received their university education at the respected 14th century Charles University, in Prague. Several have studied at U.S. Lutheran seminaries. But it was also very interesting to note the differences between their theology and that which we confess as LCMS Lutherans. There is definitely still much work to be done if we are to grow together into the fullness of our Lutheran identity. These conversations, with Dr. Collver and Missionaries Booker and Krikava doing the talking for the LCMS, impressed on me the importance of confessing and taking seriously, not only the authority of Scripture, but also our subscription to the Lutheran Confessions, in matters related to international missions. On a side note, it was very impressive to witness the fluency in Czech, German, and Russian from Eurasia Regional and Associate Regional Directors Booker and Krikava! We’d have been lost without it… literally!
Besides the faithful and bold confession of the faith that was made by our representatives, I was also struck by the patience, respect, trust, goodwill, charity, and desire for cooperation in externals that was evident from all who spoke. I came to realize what a slow process such efforts at recovering a full and shared Lutheran identity can be, and how much it is aided by the values just mentioned. It also occurred to me that there are many similarities between the dynamics of `church talks’ such as these, and the kind of dialogue envisioned in the LCMS through the Koinonia Project. In the near future I hope to say more about this.
There is so much more that could be said about our interaction with these Lutherans of the Czech Republic, not the least of which is to reflect further on the Mercy conference and the things learned from our time with the Silesian Diakonia. But that will have to wait for another time.
I’d like to close by saying how much greater of an appreciation I gained for the dedicated hard work of the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM). From the things I learned about funding and budgeting issues, to aspects of the strategic plan, to the uniqueness of each Lutheran church body in the world, to the OIM’s critical relationship with LCMS diaconal work and our Recognized Service Organizations, the LCMS Office of International Mission works hard to advance the mission of our Triune God to all nations in a way that is fully integrated with everything else that our Synod does. My hope is that more and more congregations and individuals will read and take to heart the wealth of information regarding international missions that is already communicated through the Lutheran Witness, the Reporter, and the LCMS website with its various blogs. (Pastors can play a key role in publicizing this information!) And as this knowledge increases, my prayer is that we as individuals, congregations, districts, and the Synod will, by God’s grace, work increasingly closer together, in a mutually supportive and cooperative way, to advance the one mission of the Triune God—that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
Pastor Peter K. Lange, Senior Pastor
St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
The other day, just for fun, I was reading in Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, some of his descriptions of King Herod’s family (the Herod who was King when Jesus was born). This man was so jealous that when he left town, he told his brother to kill his wife if he did not return, so no one else could have her.
When he thought two of his sons were plotting against him (which they probably were) Herod had them killed, and then bribed his Roman over lords to cover the crime. So, kill a few babies in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:16-18)? Herod was quite capable of doing much more in his jealous rages.
Into that dark world hope was born.
Into the stillness of the night came the song of the angels to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14). They went to catch a glimpse of hope in the Christ-child laid in a manger.
At about the same time, Magi in the East saw a miraculous star and somehow recognized the dawn of hope. They followed that star to find in Bethlehem the Light of the world.
Mary and Joseph, too, believed the word of the angels that they were holding in their arms the Hope of the world. While carrying him in her womb, Mary had sung “He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever” (Luke 1:54-55).
In the same way Zechariah, with tongue loosed by the Spirit, praised God: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people…to show mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his Holy covenant” (Luke 1:68,72). Old Simeon also, with eyes illuminated by the light of God, when Mary placed in his hands the child who is the Hope of the world, proclaimed: “my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples” (Luke 2:30-31).
That’s what they believed, yes, but the 21st century world is different, is it not? No, not really. Human nature and sinful activity are the same, no matter what the century. What you see on TMZ (a contemporary gossip TV show) about today’s celebrities is no better or worse than King Herod and his family. The first century Roman world was full of conflicting religious claims, violence, sexual abuse and grinding poverty next to unimaginable riches. Our 21st century is full of the same foolish and sinful violence, producing in many the same sense of hopelessness.
Into our dark world, we believe, real hope was born in Bethlehem’s stable, as we sing: “The hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight” (O Little Town of Bethlehem-LSB 361). The Scripture says: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:22-24). Jesus Christ is that one sure hope of the world.
Here is why we who believe in Jesus are people of authentic hope. We have seen in our own lives the meaning of what the Scripture says:
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4). God’s word of hope has lifted our eyes to see in Jesus the assurance, absolute and certain, that God is for us, that He is the God of life, not death, and that God’s promises overcome aimlessness and despair.
The world has many counterfeit hopes, but we celebrate Christmas and Epiphany exactly because Jesus has made us people of hope, people who look to the future, people who know how history will turn out. Again, Scripture says: “…to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:9-10).
So do you ever feel hopeless? Do you ever feel as though life is dead end? With no purpose or meaning? Jesus was born for you! Christmas is your holiday. Every Christmas display you have seen this season has been a sign that God has not abandoned you, that your life has meaning in Christ, that you are valuable to God, and that in Jesus, born for us, crucified and raised from the dead, you have “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Every Christmas service we attended sent us back into the same world, but filled with hope in Jesus, to be agents of His lasting hope. We now enter the Epiphany season “in our hearts regarding Christ as holy” but also always “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). We are people of hope in Jesus.
A very blessed and hope filled New Year and Epiphany to all!
+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President – LCMS
The Christmas and Epiphany seasons in the church year are excellent times to remember the Synod’s efforts to share the Incarnation, Nativity, Epiphany, Baptism, Death, Resurrection, Ascension of Jesus (see “The Litany” from LSB pg. 288) with the entire world. The 140 Synod International Missionaries (career and GEO missionaries) share the Gospel with those who haven’t heard it before and work to strengthen Lutheran churches where they serve. Please remember them in your prayers.
January 2015 marks the Synod’s Mission Emphasis. The link to the Synod’s emphasis on International Mission includes link to bulletin inserts and other resources (including prayer cards for LCMS missionaries) that can be used by Districts or congregations to increase awareness of international mission work and to support the Synod’s missionaries and mission efforts around the world.
The LCMS Reporter Insert for the month of January also features international mission work, as does the upcoming January Engage magazine.
With the Lord’s help, the coming year looks very exciting for International Mission. Pray that the Lord of the Harvest send labors into his field.
Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D.
Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations
The Gospel for New Year’s Day, the “Name of Jesus,” is very simple: “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21).
That’s all. Eight days after his birth (which we celebrated December 25th), he was circumcised and given the name Jesus.
Yeshua = “the Lord saves” – “for he will save his people from their sins,” the angel had told Joseph in dream (Matthew 1:21).
So we begin the new year 2015 in the name of Jesus, as the church observes on January 1.
Whatever the new year brings, Jesus has it covered. Whatever happens to us, we bear the name of Jesus. Whatever we go through, Jesus has been there before us.
Eight days old and he already sheds his blood for us. Eight days old and the name he is given is for our redemption. Eight days old and he is already being prepared for his saving work for us. It is as the church sings:
Jesus! Name of mercy mild, Given to the holy Child
When the cup of human woe First He tasted here below.
Jesus! Only name that’s giv’n Under all the mighty heav’n
Whereby those to sin enslaved Burst their fetters and are saved.
Jesus! Name of wondrous love, Human name of God above;
Pleading only this, we flee Helpless, O our God, to Thee.
(Lutheran Service Book, #900, st. 4-6)
Happy New Year, then, in the name of Jesus. “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11).
A blessed New Year to one and all!
+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President – LCMS