By Paula Schlueter Ross
Ryan Tinetti, 22, has a year to kill before entering Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in fall 2006. A recent graduate of Michigan State University, East Lansing, Tinetti is waiting a year so that he can begin seminary studies with a friend who’s a year younger.
So, Tinetti, who finds himself “overwhelmed by God’s grace and the message of the Gospel” at this point in his young life, has volunteered with LCMS World Mission to teach English in Bangkok, Thailand, for eight months.
“What better way to use my time than to serve the Lord?” he asks.
That sentiment is shared by more than 70 LCMS missionaries — almost all of them long-term volunteers, like Tinetti –– who are beginning their service in 20 countries this year. That’s about double the number of new, long-term volunteers — those who serve six months or longer — as last year, according to Kurt Buchholz, director of personnel services with LCMS World Mission. But not as many as he’d like to see.
“Our goal is to ramp up to 400 new long-term volunteer missionaries in the next few years,” Buchholz said.
Only four of this year’s 71 new missionaries are not long-term volunteers. Rev. Ken and Jen Lieber have been called by the mission board as “career” missionaries to the Cayman Islands. Another couple, Jon and Julie Muhly, will be serving two years in Moscow, Russia, along with their 3-month-old son, David, as Jon fulfills a two-year vicarage leading to continued missionary service.
Jon Muhly, 27, is a student in the “mission track” at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and is no stranger to overseas mission work. He and Julie served LCMS World Mission as volunteer missionaries in Poland from 2000 to 2002 — “one of the wisest things I’ve ever done,” Jon says. Because of that experience, he now sees everything “through mission-tinted glasses,” he says, particularly seminary classes, which now have a “real and practical” mission focus.
Volunteer missionaries “provide a unique set of gifts and talents to support the strategies and work of our career staff and our partner churches,” said Buchholz. A variety of service opportunities are available as teachers, pastors, medical professionals, business managers, and construction workers.
Likewise, volunteer mission service gives individual Lutherans and their congregations opportunities to become more directly involved in mission, he said.
Rev. Rex Rinne, pastor of Celebration Lutheran Church in Appleton, Wis., is taking a year’s sabbatical so that he and his wife, Linda, can teach at a Lutheran high school in Slovakia. The couple, who are in their mid-50s, served the school and its students on several short-term mission trips in the ’90s and are anxious to return, they said.
“We fell in love with the people,” said Rex, along with “the challenges and the opportunities that this school has to impact the lives of Slovakians.” Many students at the school are “unchurched,” he said.
Adds Linda: “It’s a great opportunity to model and share the love of Jesus Christ with the faculty, the students, and the people of that community.”
Rex said he also appreciates his congregation’s support and willingness to make do without him. “They’re tithing with their pastor,” he said.
The vast majority of volunteer missionaries — both long- and short-term — teach English-as-a-second-language (ESL) or serve as “relationship builders” in conversational English classes, according to Buchholz. Requirements for service include active membership in an LCMS congregation and, for most positions, a college degree in any field.
An orientation for new missionaries, held June 12-24 at Concordia University, St. Paul, Minn., involved 56 missionaries who took part in worship, Bible study, community-building exercises, ESL training, and instruction in such things as staying healthy, finances and fund-raising, moving overseas, maintaining emotional well-being, and talking about Jesus in cross-cultural settings.
Most important of all, perhaps, is their willingness to serve God by becoming “personally involved in the Great Commission’s challenge that the Gospel message be proclaimed to the ends of the earth,” Buchholz said.
Posted June 30, 2005