By Paula Schlueter Ross
Dr. Robert Roegner, executive director of LCMS World Mission, still remembers how bad he felt in December 2002, when 28 overseas missionary “unit,” or family, positions were eliminated because of dwindling funds.
Roegner called the missionaries individually to inform them of the layoffs and said the experience brought him to tears more often than in the previous 21 years of his ministry.
Those tears, he said back then, were “for those whose lives have been adversely affected, but also for the hundreds and even thousands who will not hear the saving message that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.”
Last month the Synod’s Board for Mission Services issued calls or appointments to 28 missionaries. It is believed by long-time World Mission staffers to be the largest number to be called at one time in decades and a number with special significance to Roegner.
“As bad as I felt three-and-a-half years ago, on the day that I had to call 28 mission families and tell them they had to come home, this is the other end of the spectrum,” he told Reporter. “It’s as good as one could feel about the work of mission in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.”
Among the 28 new missionary posts are:
- 11 calls to “rostered” church workers — pastors, educators, and a deaconess;
- seven solemn appointments to laypeople, who will serve as business manager, volunteer coordinator, evangelism trainer, international educator, or coordinator for human-care projects;
- seven solemn appointments to spouses; and
- placements of three vicars.
The missionaries have been called or appointed to a total of 15 countries or geographical areas, mostly in Asia, as part of a “Balanced Focus Plan” that outlines LCMS World Mission’s global mission strategy.
That strategy is cited by Roegner as one of three reasons for the large number of missionary calls and appointments. The other two are an increasing World Mission budget and a commitment by the Board for Mission Services and mission staff to set the strategy in motion.
Roegner credits the LCMS Board of Directors for giving LCMS World Mission “more resources to do the work that the church has asked us to do” — from $4.2 million in fiscal 2003-04, to $4.7 million in 2004-05, to $5 million for the current year. Other World Mission income — which includes restricted funds, designated funds, volunteer labor, and wills and bequests — also has grown, he said, making implementation of the global mission strategy possible.
That strategy calls for special emphases in different world areas, adopted with an eye toward existing opportunities for mission work: providing education in Asia, offering human care in Africa, training and equipping partner churches in Latin America, and “reconnecting people to their Christian heritage” in Eurasia.
Its domestic counterpart calls for starting ethnic ministries and revitalizing existing ministries in the Northeast, starting urban ministries and revitalizing existing ministries in the Great Lakes region, and training new missionaries through distance education in the Western United States.
All seven emphases “are intended to help us effectively carry out our purpose: ‘Praying to the Lord of the Harvest, LCMS World Mission, in collaboration with its North American and worldwide partners, will share the Good News of Jesus with 100 million unreached or uncommitted people by the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017,'” according to Roegner.
In other words, he added, LCMS World Mission’s purpose and strategies relate directly to the Ablaze! outreach initiative.
“It all really falls underneath Ablaze! — that’s the driving force behind this,” Roegner said. Introduced by LCMS World Mission, Ablaze! was endorsed Synodwide by the 2004 LCMS convention.
Those who share their faith with others are encouraged to register that activity on the Ablaze! Web site at www.lcms.org/ablaze , where a “counter” records the number of people reached so far — 1.6 million, at this writing, a figure Roegner said he feels “really good about.”
“We’re not even two years past the resolution — and 100 million is a long way off — but it’s sort of like a bank account. It will accumulate as more people get involved.
“So I don’t feel like a million-and-a-half is a negative, like some people would point out. I think it’s a very positive step.”
Roegner said he and other LCMS World Mission staff will be visiting overseas partner churches over the next six to eight months to “continue helping them to get on board” with Ablaze! and encourage them to use the Web site.
Posted April 26, 2006