If you follow this blog, by now you know that we have been engaged in a series of three mercy conferences in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.  But what was the mercy conference all about?  Here is a short summary of the conference, listing the presenters.

Herbert Mueller – First Vice President of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod brought a keynote address on our Biblical and Confessional Theology of Mercy (summarized elsewhere in this blog).

Bryan Salminen – Serving as pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in St. John’s, Michigan, Dr. Salminen is also a psychologist teaching a class at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.  His presentation focused on a theology of the body and of passion.  Our sexuality is a pointer for our need for communion with God, a need God fills with Himself in Christ.

John Fale – is a pastor of our Synod presently serving as the interim executive director of LCMS World Relief/Human Care. Before coming to the Synod, he served as a hospital chaplain for 14 years.  He led conference participants into a deeper understanding of the need for the pastoral care of the sick.  Times of personal illness will often make a person emotionally and spiritually vulnerable to the attacks of the devil.  The pastor’s task is to bring the right medicine at the right time for each person.

Grace Rao – serves as a deaconess, presently on the staff of LCMS World Relieve/Human Care.  Grace organized this conference with the help of her counterpart in Latvia – Ms. Inta Putnina, in charge of diaconal work in Riga, Latvia. She also made a very interesting presentation on the calling and work of deaconesses and their relationship to the pastoral office.

Sara Bielby – is a deaconess serving two congregations in Michigan: Immanuel Lutheran Church, Macomb, and University Lutheran Chapel in Ann Arbor.  In a moving way, she focused on the need for visitation of the marginal and lonely.  Deaconesses put the love of Christ into action, leading to the cure that is found in Christ and His means of grace.

John Pless – teaches pastoral theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana.  His lecture focused on the pastoral care of the dying. Death is not the natural end or course of things, but death is the last enemy.  Yet it is an enemy defeated by Christ Himself, who died and rose for us.  Life is not ours to take, but God’s to give and to take according to His plan.  Death brings judgment, a judgment Christ received on our behalf, so that now, in Christ, we are judged righteous. Death swallowed up in Christ’s death and resurrection becomes the portal to life everlasting.

Of course, we would not have been able to hold a conference in Latvia without a great deal of help in Latvia.  We had the cooperation and help of all the bishops in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, led by Archbishop Janis Vanags.  However, Ms. Inta Putnina, director of the diaconal center of the church in Riga, was invaluable in her work to support and organize our conference.  Mrs. Sandra Gintere (wife of one of the Latvian pastors and instructor at the Luther Academy, who also has a PhD from CTS, Fort Wayne) worked untiringly as our interpreter, with the help of Ms. Mara Zviedre (who had translated several theological papers on the Church’s work of mercy into Latvian). We pray God’s continued blessing on our partnership in the Gospel and in the Church’s work of mercy with our brothers and sisters in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.

+ Herbert C. Mueller