Barb’s Posts

The Future is Here



by Barbara A. Below

On a beautiful spring evening in Palmar Arriba, Dominican Republic, as pictures were displayed on a makeshift screen set up in the street outside the three-bedroom home, little Ramona stood in the spotlight and danced. Along with over 200 other people who gathered from the community, Ramona enjoyed the dedication of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Home, a group home for children with disabilities, where she and five other children with developmental disabilities now live. This is their new home, the community in which they attend church and school. This is their new life. This is their future.

It was just five years ago that Danelle Putnam, LCMS Developmental Disabilities Outreach Missionary, and Rev. Walter Ries, Jr. of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brazil, came to the Dominican Republic and began the Witness emphasis of this LCMS mission through evangelistic outreach efforts and theological education. Five years ago, Willy Gaspar had asked the missionaries to come to Santo Domingo and “teach us about Jesus.” In March 2010, the Witness efforts of the mission resulted in the ordination of the first Dominican Republic Lutheran pastor.

Together with Rev. Ted Krey, LCMS Regional Director for Latin America, the mission work in the Dominican has never slowed down and has now expanded to include several congregations and preaching stations, where people gather weekly to hear the Gospel proclaimed and to receive the Sacraments.

While the Dominicans were learning about the Church through the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, the missionaries were also teaching them how to be the Church by reaching out with Christ’s mercy to the many orphaned and disabled children in the Dominican Replublic. These little ones are cared for by the government in institutional settings, where they receive minimal attention, limited medical treatment, no education and no therapy services to improve their condition.

That’s why, from the beginning, the Lutheran mission desired to better the lives of and care for these children through acts of Mercy. Over many years of working with and visiting these institutions, an agreement was reached in December 2010 with the Dominican government to allow the first six children to be placed at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Group Home.

While everyone involved gave thanks and praise to God for His great wonder and many glories revealed in the Witness and Mercy work of the mission, the Dominican Republic Lutheran Mission was also expanding its role in the koinonia or Life Together emphasis of the mission. In September 2010, the mission opened the doors of Concordia Lutheran School in Palmar Arriba. There the school provides a Lutheran education to 80 children with plans to double enrollment next year. In March 2011, mission leaders signed an agreement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina to assist in theological education with the goal of establishing a Lutheran seminary in the Dominican Republic by 2017.

No wonder Dr. Jack Preus of Bethesda Lutheran Communities of Watertown, Wis., at a recent partnership meeting in the Dominican Republic, spoke in favor of the President’s three-fold emphasis and humorously quipped that “The Dominican mission was doing Witness, Mercy, Life Together long before President Harrison came up with the idea.”

While Witness, Mercy, Life Together is the President’s emphasis for our Synod, it is also the way in which the New Testament church operated (Gal. 2:9–10). Both Jews and Greeks bore Witness to the Gospel, extending the right hand of fellowship in Life Together and showing Mercy to the poor. As this was the model for the first-century church, so also has it become the way of life for the Dominican Republic Lutheran Mission and a way to move forward into the future for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

The President’s Transition Team and the Restructuring Work Group, charged with developing recommendations for a new structure, used these three emphases to think about how best to reorganize and focus the work of the national office. The recommendations adopted by the President will organize the national office around work teams and program units that focus on the emphasis of Witness, Mercy, and Life Together.

Just as in the Dominican mission field Witness efforts are done side-by-side with Mercy and Life Together efforts, so too must the program units of the national office work side-by-side, thus ridding the national office of a “siloed” culture, one of the desired accomplishments for restructuring mentioned in Res. 8-08A.

As Ramona danced, she celebrated the new life and future she is able to enjoy at the group home. Many others recently celebrated the ordination of the first Dominican Lutheran pastor, Rev. Willy Gaspar, and the bright future of the Lutheran Church in the Dominican Republic.

We in the LCMS have much to thank and praise God for because of all that He has accomplished in the Dominican Republic. The wonders He has done there show us that our own future with the Lord is a bright one as our Synod presses forward to bear Witness to the Gospel, to grow in showing Mercy and to rejoice in our Life Together around a common confession of Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Savior. To God alone be the glory!

> For more stories on Witness, Mercy, Life Together,

> “We have therefore for our synodical work a clear and simple rule: Everything that does not serve the course of the Gospel . . . does not belong in the circle of our considerations” (Friedrich Pfotenhauer, 1911).

> God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:9).

About the Author: Barbara A. Below serves as assistant to LCMS President Rev. Matthew C. Harrison.

Barbara A. Below

May 2011

Chapel at the International Center

A view from the balcony

Every day at 10:00 a.m., the building pauses for chapel. A beautiful, two-story, glass walled chapel with a black onyx altar from India, a Zimmer pipe organ, a balcony, and seating for about 200+ people is the place where employees and guests of the LCMS International Center spend about twenty minutes each day worshipping God. A gentle voice on the intercom reminds the building inhabitants that chapel is starting, and the many staff and visitors stop what they are doing and go to the second-floor chapel which looks out onto the busy I-44 freeway that flows east and west through St. Louis.

The Zimmer pipe organ

Over the last couple of months here at the IC, we have enjoyed a refreshing change in our chapel schedule. On Mondays, we follow the order of Matins, and a pastor from the Executive Office preaches. For several months now they have been preaching through Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. This week Rev. Ray Hartwig, Secretary of Synod, preached on Galatians 2:11–14. He spoke of the hypocrisy that frustrated Paul and how precious the Gospel message is, encouraging us that nothing should ever defile the grace-filled Gospel message of Christ. Next Monday, Rev. Matt Harrison will preach, picking up where Rev. Hartwig left off.

On Tuesday mornings, a pastor from the staff preaches on one of the appointed readings from the previous Sunday, and we follow the order of Responsive Prayer 2 from Lutheran Service Book.

Rev. Weedon

On Wednesdays, Rev. William Weedon of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, IL, has been preaching a wonderful, question-and-answer format sermon series through the Small Catechism. He began in January by leading us through the Ten Commandments. This week he is finishing up the Apostles’ Creed. Next week he will begin taking us through the Lord’s Prayer.

On Thursday’s we follow the order of Daily Prayer: Morning from Lutheran Service Book, with a pastor from the staff preaching on one of the appointed readings from the previous Sunday.

Entering the chapel

I describe Friday as “open mic Friday,” and we include a variety of styles, formats and music to fill our chapel with worship. Last Friday, for instance, a “string band” (made up of guitar, mandolin, tambourine, and other instruments), led us through the order of Matins, a psalm, and a hymn for the Annunciation of our Lord. It was wonderful to hear “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came” on these instruments! On most days, through, one of our small band of organists and pianists leads chapel attendees in liturgy and song on the organ or piano.

A view from the black onyx altar

I thank all the pastors and musicians who have given their time and effort to provide such  excellent worship services here at the International Center. Even though, on occasion, we break mid-meeting for chapel, it is always refreshing and truly a blessing to be able to hear God’s Word each day. If you are ever in St. Louis at 10:00 a.m., Monday through Friday, please be sure to stop by and join us for chapel. You will be glad you did.

– Barb Below


My elliptical machine has a display screen on it where you can monitor your distance, time, calories burned and heart rate while you work out. I especially like watching my heart rate during the last few minutes when I sprint to the end. Sprinting is good. You are intensely focused on the goal and block out the rest of the world and you can even block out any pain you feel in your ankles, knees or lungs. There is great satisfaction when you reach your goal after pushing yourself hard – past beyond what you thought you could do. The problem though is you can’t sprint forever. Eventually you have to stop.

During these economic times, many people feel like they can’t afford to stop. On the other hand, they secretly know they can’t sprint forever. They work longer hours, work on weekends, work all day and then come home and work at night, take phone calls from work but don’t return phone calls from a family member, work on emails rather than working out at the gym. The demands are great, the burdens are heavy, and many people struggle with complicated challenges and circumstances. How long can people last sprinting like this?

It is true that every situation will demand a different level of effort and every person will have to decide how to “run their race,” when to sprint and when to pull back and rest.

Here are a couple of thoughts I’ve had for myself. Maybe they are helpful to you.

1.  Don’t forget the rest of the race. There is a whole lot of the race that happens before the sprint. If you are running a long race, like most of us do with our jobs, family, and church, you can’t sprint the entire race. Believe me, you will eventually lose. Manage the race prior to the sprint and then the sprint, when necessary, is doable.

2. Challenge any preconceived limitations and the lies. Messages you tell yourself like “I can’t do that” or “I’m afraid what might happen” or “what if I fail” or “just this one time” or “I’ll make it up to my child this weekend” get in the way of healthy living.  Lies and fears often times fool us into unnecessarily sprinting, giving up too soon, or not even trying.

3. Watch the display screen. Listen to people around you for clues as to whether or not you need to start sprinting or to rest. Their input is invaluable for monitoring your progress. Stay in God’s Word and listen to His voice. Remind yourself of God’s grace, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith.

Every time I catch myself sprinting unnecessarily through life, I need to run to the cross in confession to God for making myself out to be more powerful than He. My faith is certain that God gives strength but my sinful side does not want to be weak.

Martin Luther wrote about this battle between sprinting and resting in his commentary on Isaiah 40:29 – “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength”. His words really struck a chord with me:

“God gives strength to the weary, the oppressed, and the troubled. The emphasis lies on the word “faint”, but we look for the stress on the word “power”. It is as if God were saying: “You must be weary and emptied, so that there is now way out for you. Then I will give you strength. First you must become nothing, then consolation and strength will come.” This happened to me, Martin Luther, who against my will came up against the whole world, and then God helped me. Summary” The Word of God is the Word of those who are lying under sin and weakness. Therefore let us learn to console ourselves when we are afflicted and say, “What I do not have and what I  cannot do, that Christ has and can do.”

Luther’s Works: Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66, (p.31)

Incredibly powerful words about our powerful God!

– Barb Below

Expanding the Circle: Restructuring at the International Center

By Barbara A. Below

From the January 2011 Reporter Insert

A Restructuring Work Group (RWG), established by the President’s Office, began its important work on December 6 in St. Louis and will continue through the beginning of February 2011.

The purpose of the RWG is to look closely at the budgets, personnel, functions, and processes of, primarily, LCMS World Mission, World Relief and Human Care, Communications and Fund Development efforts of the national office, and then to make recommendations to the Transition Team of the President’s Office. Other areas of the national office will also be included in their work and in restructuring efforts.

Led by consultant Jim Lowitzer of Collierville, Tenn., the RWG will identify areas of ministry overlap, consider new processes to put in place to enhance the work of the church, and make recommendations to the Transition Team as to how the national office can best be organized within the new structure to move into the next fiscal year. The goal of the Transition Team and the RWG is to have a new national office structure defined by February 2011 so that budget development for the next fiscal year can begin and a good, strong budget can be submitted to and adopted by the LCMS Board of Directors at its May 2011 meeting.

This work group is composed of 12 talented national office employees from a diversity of disciplines, with a variety of expertise and talents that will benefit the restructuring work:

  • Rev. Dave Birner, World Mission
  • Kama Bernabo, World Mission
  • Travis Torblaa, World Mission
  • Jeff Craig-Meyer, World Mission Fund Development
  • Rev. John Fale, World Relief and Human Care
  • Al Dowbnia, World Relief and Human Care
  • Maggie Karner, World Relief and Human Care
  • John Lewis, World Relief and Human Care Fund Development
  • Myron Koehn, Information Technologies
  • David Strand, Communications
  • Adriane Dorr, Communications
  • Rachel Asbury, Worship (admin. support)

In addition to these group members, Rev. Herb Mueller, First Vice President, will serve as Theologian in Residence, and Barb Below and Rev. Jon Vieker will serve as the President’s representatives.

All national office employees have been asked to engage in the restructuring effort so that together a new structure can be developed that best serves districts, congregations, Synod members, and partners. People outside of the international office may also be asked to be involved in or offer consultation to the RWG. All are encouraged to prayerfully consider serving in any capacity if asked by the RWG to lend consultation or expertise.

The challenges the Synod faces in the future years regarding restructuring of the national office, as well as other matters the convention resolved to address in the next few years, are complex and multifaceted. There is an urgency to this work, but at the same time, it must be well thought out, calculated, realistic and make use of all the gifts endowed by God to the Synod.

This will not be easy and will require wisdom for good decision making, clarity of mind to dig through the complex factors, patience to continue when it is frustrating, and steadfastness to His Word throughout it all. The President, the Transition Team, and the RWG ask for prayers from all of Synod as they move forward to take on the challenge of restructuring.