Mission-Minded congregation

„While we may not have the financial resources to start new projects in Germany, mirroring the one in Marzahn – because this would amount to starting a whole new infrastructure right from the scratch – we do have congregations of our church who do command over an extraordinary good infrastructure, already.“

That is – to cut a long story short, the center of those thoughts, our director of missions – Roger Zieger – shared with the congregation in Göttingen during our mission festival.

Well – that might sound a bit optimistic to some. Obvious is: a congregation is not automatically a mission station, too. Some congregations rather define themselves by setting up a fence, some lack the power, the charisma, the vision. Often people do not really have an an answer to the question: do we want mission – or is it ‚just‘ a growing congregation we crave? Yes, and is there a difference between the two, where do they meet each other?

Bear with me and let us think along that line: Why not – as a congregation – work out a concept, together with our Lutheran Church-Mission, which explains to us the meaning of being a mission minded congregation, a mission station? A thorough analysis – Zieger said – will be the unavoidable starting point: What are our congregational challenges – where do our strengths ly? For some congregations, this might mean an engagement to  immigrants, others might find there place in grief work. Some congregations might be well equipped to offer workshops to children, others might join or initiate a food program for the poor. Important – according to Zieger – is to develop points of contact, enabling people to get a first – if indirect or non-verbal – contact with the Gospel.

The Lutheran Church-Mission is currently examining the idea of employing a missionary who’s task it would be to help congregations in the development and running of such projects.

written by Revd Stefan Förster

translated by RZ

For once an article concerning a mission festival, written by one of the attendants, thanks for the help 🙂

RZ

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Why don’t you join us at our Senior’s Club

No, it is some time until my retirement.

Originally, I had intended to visit a family of two people, who continually supports our Lutheran Church Mission. Asking them for a time, which would suit them, the husband answered: „But you did already visit us the other year.“ (attention: this is what might happen to you, if you do not desist from continual support for a church organization :-)) „Wouldn’t you rather visit the Senior’s Club at our congregation.“

That’s the prelude. Yesterday I had the pleasure to visit the joined Senior’s Club of our Lutheran congregations in Klein Süstedt and Wriedel (two villages in Nether Saxony, near Uelzen – yes, that’s a town :-)). 25 people had gathered and formed an interested and knowledgable audience to my news from the mission field.

RZ

P.S. Well, Directors of Mission are -after all – capable to show up outside of mission-festivals and their offices 🙂

AN IRANIAN CONFERENCE OF ANOTHER KIND

At this moment foreign diplomats are meeting in Vienna to discuss a new non-proliferation contract and measures to be taken against the country of Iran. One Iranian man has taught the whole world the meaning of fear and many people connect Iranians with this one man or with some fundamentalist Muslim preachers. This is because so few people actually know Iranians.
Last weekend we had a conference of another kind in Bleckmar. Except for one Vietnamese Mother with her daughter all participants were Iranian. Only on our journey back to Leipzig, I realized what this conference really meant for these people. During the whole journey I could pick up snatches of excited chatter in Persian. From that I gathered that they really enjoyed their weekend and that the themes meant a lot to them. One elderly Gentleman who is not yet baptized took me in his arms as we greeted each other back home. He gave me a typically Iranian kiss on the cheek and said: „Man hastam benabarin choschhal ke shoma ra abadan!“(I am so happy to know you!) The weekend was the first conference of Iranian Christians in Bleckmar. As you can see, Non-Christians are also welcome! During the conference themes such as: “Iranian Christians then and now” “The situation of Iranian Christians today”, “Asylum and Integration”, meant a lot to these people.
The weekend found its conclusion in a moving mission’s festival in the Congregations of Tarmstedt and Sottrum. During the conference I underlined the importance of a Christian congregation for the integration process. Among brothers and sisters I can speak openly about my problems. I can also trust that my fellow Christians will tell me something not in order to hurt me but to help me in my plight to find a new home. The congregations of Tarmstedt and Sottrum proved what this means. They really opened their arms and hearts to us! Mazda Sarwatyan from Iran reported on his first acquaintance with Christians in a house church in Iran. Then he learnt to know what it means to have fear. But now he is free and has found a new family. “You are now my family!“ he said with tears of joy in his eyes. His words really moved a lot of people and made this missions festival a real festival of joy!

Hugo Gevers, Missionary

Seminar for Asylum Seekers

The church mission arm of our partner church (Lutherische Kirchenmission-LKM) The Independent Lutheran Church in Germany, held a seminar for Iranian and Vietnamese asylum seekers in Germany. Many are interested in Christianity and the claims of Christ, so this seminar addressed the history of the Church in Iran as well as issues relating to life in Germany for refugees. Missionary Matthew Heise also shared with them the work of LCMS World Mission-Eurasia as well as a devotion.
This was a marvelous opportunity for LKM to witness and show the love of Christ to those living in the limbo-like existence of an asylum seeker. We pray that the Lord will bless our friends at LKM and their listeners as they share the hope of Christ with those who seek Him.
MH

„Nobody should say, that he did not hear anything about Jesus in Germany“

An author wrote this in a letter, which he included in a package of Bibles, sent to our missions project in Leipzig. Also included in the letter was a very generous offer to re-supply us with Persian Bibles as soon as we run out.
In the 16th Issue 2012 of the Christian magazine “Idea” we had included an advertisement. Many other people responded to this advertisement. Some only to order our newsletter “Die Brücke”, others wanted to help in re-locating our office to Volkmarsdorf(in the East of Leipzig where most MIgrants live).
In the 15th Issue 2012 of the same Christian magazine an article was included, entitled “The other revolution”. This article touched many people. Some are filled with awe and respect that Iranian Muslims are converting to Christianity, even though they could be executed for this. Others are astounded that so many Iranian exiles are turning to Christianity. That is why the article was entitled “The other revolution.”
The advertisement in Idea Magazine was a small attempt to mobilize help from the Christian community in Germany. In Leipzig, as well as in many other congregations of the SELK, Iranian Muslims are asking for baptismal classes and the Bible. Pastor Dr. Gottfried Maartens from St. Mary’s in Zehlendorf says: “Slowly I am running out of biblical names for the new converts.” Many of the new converts had Muslim names, which they do not want to keep after their baptism. Perhaps we should start with the less common Names like Epaphroditus, Zeruja or Tychicus, or we could just start from the beginning again. (That last sentence is said in jest)
Some of these Persian Christians will travel to the headquarters of Lutheran Church Missions in Bleckmar in a fellowship meeting from 4. May to 6. May . In this meeting they will share their experience and news of Christianity in Iran as well as in other countries. They will also hold devotional services and prayer meetings for their brothers and sisters in Iran and elsewhere.

Hugo Gevers, Missionary

Anything but . . . Gardening Mission-Wise

„Son, you may become anything but a florist or a gardener“ that’s what my mother – herself a master florist, whose father had been a master gardener, whose brother is a master gardener, and whose husband is a master – guess what – always kept telling me.

Well, if it weren’t for me, being the dutiful son I am, maybe I would have been the one directing workforces the other day – but being the unskilled worker I sadly am – I was doomed to be the menial digger. 🙂

Seriously: For one day, all the members of our team, put away their titles as qualified housekeeping leader, administration manager, executive director of public relation (MBDML*), and director of missions, in order to redo part of our garden, situated between our guesthouse and the church. Why don’t you come and have a look at what we accomplished – maybe on occasion of our annual mission-festival on the 15th of July, or if you should happen to be in the vicinity anyway?

Taking up the occasion, here’s a proposal: Would you – per chance – be interested in taking part in our work here, at our Mission-centre? Who about a regular stay with us – we’d be happy to provide the housing – and you joining our team on a honorary basis? If this offer should ‚tickles your fancy‘, don’t hesitate to give us a call (+495051986911) or send us a mail (lkm@selk.de).

RZ

*Member of the Board of Directors of Lutheran Missions

First Meeting of Joint Study Group on the History of Apartheid and Its Impact on Confessional Lutheran Churches Working in Southern Africa

On Monday, March 19, 2012, a first meeting of a joint study group on the history of apartheid and its impact on confessional Lutheran churches working in southern Africa took place on the premises of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane, Pretoria, RSA. Represetatives of the Lutheran church in southern Africa (LCSA), the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSiSA), the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (SELK) and the Mission of Lutheran Churches (MLC/LKM) gathered to discuss the design of a joint study programme which is meant to provide a scholarly basis for describing the history of the confessional Lutheran churches in southern Africa during the last decades.

The establishment of this joint study group goes back to suggestion brought forward by the bishop of the LCSA, Dr. Wilhelm Weber, jun. (Preoria) and Prof. Dr. Werner Klän (Luheran Theological Seminary, Oberursel, Germany) on the occasion of the LCSA pastors’ convention in September 2010. The FELSiSA pastors’ convention gathered in august 2010, had decided to enter into conversations with the LCSA accounting on harmful past experience. A symposium held at Lutheran Theological Seminary Oberursel in November 2011 headed “Mission and Apartheid”, might be seen as a prelude to the work of the Joint Study Group.

The LCSA delegates to this commission are bishop em. David Tswaedi (Soweto), D.D., and Mr. Peter Ntshoe (Johannesburg); those of the FELSiSA are Rev. Dieter Schnackenberg (Lüneburg, RSA) and Rev. Matthias Albers (Pretoria); Rev. Christoph Weber (Durban) represents the MLC, and Dr. Werner Klän SELK. The participants discussed the definition of the project commissioned to them and the timeframe. Dr. Klän was appointed as chairperson, and bishop Tswaedi as secretary.

The commission came to agree that first of all the historical sources ought to be secured and sorted. It is quite obvious, that the separate development of the two confessional Lutheran churches began, long before apartheid was developed as an ideology and established a political system in 1948. In addition to historical research that has to be done, a genuine theological evaluation of these developments is necessary. It is planned to set up a research library containing all relevant sources that originate fro the various churches and institutions involved in this process. In this way, the official documents might be made available to research and scholars. In addition, it was decided to ask experts from outside the commission for scholarly support, and to embed the project into the current state of discussion on the prehistory and history of apartheid in South Africa. By the end of the process, it is hoped, that the research done by the commission would help establish mutual respect, appreciation, and esteem for one another in view of a hurtful past, and help create an amicable fellowship of confessional Lutheran churches, congregations, and church members.

“Telling people about our freedom in God“ Annual General Meeting of the Lutheran Church-Mission in Bleckmar

“Whenever someone is reading the Bible, wherever God’s word is proclaimed within the Divine Service, every time – He gives himself to us within the Sacraments, this is part of His Mission: God is with us.” It is task of every mission society to carry this Mission into the world. The Lutheran Church Mission (LKM) has been partaking in this Mission for 120 years. It is doing so as a Lutheran Mission, because it is telling people about this freedom, which men only experience if they have God as their companion – or rather – by letting God use it as a herald of this Good News” So far the current director of the LKM in his introduction to the annual report before the general meeting (AGO), which took place on the 14th and 15th of March, chaired by Hermann Borchers, at the guest house – owned by the LKM – at Bergen/Bleckmar (Nether-Saxony, Germany).

In the presence of roundabout 30 members of the AGO from all parts of Germany, as well as national and international guests, the LKM’s director gave an account of the mission’s work in different regions of the world. According to Zieger, the main fields of Work are – up to the present – the southern parts of Africa. He also pointed out that LKM focuses, too, on mission work back in Germany, especially with post-Christian Germans and emigrants from Iran.

Treasurer Helmut Meyer was able to tell the delegates about a slight surplus in 2011, in spite of some problems with actual liquidity. These problems were due to the fact that donations did not spread out equally over the year, but rather tended to be given near the end of it: In 2011 nearly € 190.00 of the expected € 700.000 were donated in November and December.

“The said surplus must not blind us”, Meyer remarked, “against a structural deficit of € 100.000, which had to be levelled by taking money out of the existing – but steadily diminishing – pension fond. Should the current situation not be ameliorated, there will be two missionaries less proclaiming the Gospel in years to come. The other, much better possibility would be to interest new donators and funds. Even today, more money is being spent on pensions, than on actual salaries.”

Meyer, nevertheless is positive that the current problems may be overcome. This was also stressed by Director of Missions Zieger, who observed that: “by solely planning ones future on the basis of statistics, a mission society would be transforming past burdens into problems of the future, omitting the unforeseen.” Zieger encouraged the assembly to look confidently into future with a view, guided by God. “This”, he said, “is as well part to Christian stewardship as thorough financial planning is.”

Highlight of the AGO was a Divine Service in the house own chapel. While Zieger preached, Revd Brent Smith from the Lutheran-Church Missiouri-Synod, executive director for this region, lead the congregation in absolution. The prayer took up different prayer requests, sent in from the mission fields – thus uniting AGO and mission congregations from all over the world in forgiveness of sins, prayer and Holy Communion.

The Lutheran Church Mission – Lutherische Kirchemission (Bleckmarer Mission) e.V. – has it’s office in Bergen-Bleckmar and is the mission of the Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church – Selbständigen Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche (SELK) -. Missionaries of LKM are currently working in South Africa, Botswana, Brasil, Belgium and Germany

Revd Martin Benhöfer, member of the board of directors, LKM

Translated by RZ

INSTALLATION OF DEAN AND COUNCIL OF BOTSWANA DIOCESE

The excitement of the installation started when on Saturday different congregations local and from outside started to arrive. This event was marking a turning point in the history of Botswana Diocese. Since the beginning of mission work in Botswana in 1971 the Diocese was led by Deans Adolf Hafner, Rudolf Pfitzenger both from Gemany and Modise Margelo from South Africa.

Yes it is true 2012 Rev Tsimako is the first Motswana Dean from Botswana. All the Dioceses were represented in the installation except Mpumalanga. The Deans from various dioceses congratulated Dean Tsimako and wished him well in his new assignment.

He was presented by the bible and the constitution by Botswana Diocese so that he operates by God’s constitution and of the (LCSA). His office was given a nice cross by the first dean of Botswana Diocese Dean Emeritus Haffner. Rev Weber gave a word of encouragement from the Mission of the Lutheran Churches. The installation was done by Bishop Weber for the Dean and the Council together with the deputy Dean by Dean Tsimako. The work of the day was shared by Pastors both local and visitors.

All the congregations within the diocese attended the occasion. The choirs from different places together with brass band from Gaborone grazed the occasion. For this day to be a success there was an organizing committee which comprised members of the DC together with volunteers from the congregations who worked tirelessly. The congregations responded very positively with their financial support and participation.

We would like to thank each and every person who helped make this day a success including those who responded to our invitation. Please continue to pray for the Dean his council and the entire diocese of Botswana. As Botswana Diocese we will always carry the cross of Jesus our Saviour.

Revd Paul Mosenogi, Missionary

News from Umlazi

After blogging the article on our „wall-project“* we received a total of donations of 34,000 Rand. Our heartfelt thanks to all those, who gave money to help us. It is our idea to lend this money – free of interests – to the congregation, in order to enable them to build a fence.

The congregation is also confident to renovate the church in order to have everything „ship-shape“ for the 28th of October, when we shall celebrate a service together with the several other congregations (Westville from the FELSISA, Phoenix and Chathworth from the LCSA and Ntshongweni, also LSCA but other than to prior two mostly Zulu). It will be the parish fair for our 40th anniversary.

The cost estimates have already been done, the property has been surveyed and on yesterday, on the 7th of March, construction work began. My brother in law, Gerald Scharlach, together with five of his employees from his farm in Lueneburg to raise the picket fence. We had considered a stonewall but – in the end – decided against it – not wanting to hide behind a wall. While raising the fence, we shall take the opportunity to install a gate we received as a gift from Westville-conregation. In addition, Gerald and his team will remount our church bell, which came down during when being tolled at Christmas – luckily no on Mondi who tolled it and not into our church room, but right on the roof ridge. The wooden beams are to be replaced by steel.

Who knows – maybe the money will even last us long enough as to high-pressure clean the roof . . .

You see – there is still a lot to do for us this week.

Missionary Christoph Weber

translated by RZ

*This article has been blogged on our German blog. Missionary Weber fell victim to a crime, when parking in front of our church in Umlazi