PORTLAND, Ore. — Delegates to the 33rd Biennial Convention of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, held here June 25-28, adopted a new mission goal of $1.825 million for the 2009-11 biennium. It is the largest in the organization’s 67-year history — $125,000 more than the previous mission goal — and will fund a record 19 mission grants.
More than 3,300 people attended the convention, held in this “City of Roses” under the theme “Look to the Hills … God Reigns,” based on Psalm 121:1-2 and Isaiah 52:7. Included in that figure were 69 “Young Women Representatives” ages 18 to 35, and 32 “Heart to Heart Sisters” from 16 countries.
Funds raised by the LWML’s 250,000 members nationwide over the next two years will be used to fund the following mission grants:
- $80,000 to Lutheran World Relief, Baltimore, to defray the costs of shipping more than 100,000 Lutheran-made quilts to needy people worldwide.
- $50,000 to assist Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in relocating its food bank to larger quarters.
- $26,000 to Grace Lutheran Church, St. Petersburg, Fla., to purchase tools and a used cargo van to enable the congregation’s youth and advisers to refurbish the homes of elderly and needy residents.
- $50,000 to Lutheran Social Services of the South to provide emergency aid to victims of natural and other disasters.
- $36,000 to Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., to update its equipment for producing study materials that are available electronically worldwide for students in the Specific Ministry Pastor program.
- $88,000 to Lutherans in Tanzania, East Africa, to purchase 10 chapel roofs, motorcycles for pastors, and bicycles for evangelists, and to prepare five men for the pastoral ministry in Tanzania.
- $50,000 to provide residential education and care of underprivileged children at the Missouri Evangelical Lutheran India Mission School, and “body and soul” care for school drop-outs and women and children in India.
- $50,000 to LCMS Prison Ministry to provide 5,000 copies of Lutheran devotional materials to U.S. prison inmates.
- $100,000 to Lutheran Braille Workers to produce 13,700 volumes of English Braille Bibles for blind schools in Africa.
- $100,000 to LCMS World Mission to equip local leaders to bring the Gospel message to the people of Kyrgyzstan, most of whom are Muslim.
- $90,000 to establish The Hope Center for Refugees and Immigrants in northeast Ohio.
- $87,500 to Lutherans in Latvia and Lithuania to provide temporary housing for abused women, training for youth outreach and pastoral leadership, and women’s ministries.
- $50,000 to the Dominican Republic Lutheran Mission to provide “body and soul” care for disabled children in the Dominican Republic.
- $100,000 to the Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots U.S. to provide three to five scholarships to partially cover expenses for Native American men and women currently enrolled in the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology.
- $90,000 to LCMS World Mission establish a transitional home for orphans, outreach to blind and deaf people, and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) classes in Kazakhstan.
- $30,000 to International Student Ministry Inc. to provide Bibles and Christ-centered resources for international students and their families.
- $100,000 to LCMS World Mission, working with the Evangelical Lutheran Church–Peru, to provide humanitarian aid and plant churches in earthquake-damaged areas of Peru.
- $75,000 to the Light of Christ Mission, St. Louis, to continue offering Bible studies, ESL, parenting classes, and other outreach activities in order to reach Asian people in the Olivette community.
- a partial grant of $82,482 to LCMS World Mission to begin an agricultural program in North Korea.
Attendees contributed to five offerings during the convention:
- $40,114.89 will go toward the 2009-11 mission goal.
- $23,974.21 for the Lutheran Hispanic Lay Training Program in the Synod’s Pacific Southwest District.
- $28,117.29 for Alaska Mission for Christ, to provide transportation for workers in Alaska.
- $25,485.91 for the LWML Endowment Fund, which supports LWML ministries and leadership training.
- $52,606.01, from the “Mission in Motion” pledge walk/run, for the 2009-11 mission goal.
In his sermon during the convention’s opening worship service, Dr. Warren Schumacher, retiring president of the Synod’s Northwest District, spoke about God’s reign and the rain garden on the rooftop of the Oregon Convention Center that captures nine acres of falling water.
“God does rain on us abundantly, but here it is usually softly, slowly, and tenderly,” said Schumacher. He encouraged attendees to turn their umbrellas upside down to catch God’s blessings.
In her report to the convention, LWML President Janice Wendorf said the LWML “continues to be well in this time of economic uncertainty.”
“We are strong in the numbers of women who support the LWML … we are strong in our financial giving … we are blessed abundantly.”
Wendorf challenged attendees to “spend time in God’s Word” by reading through the entire Bible in two years, and suggested for their use the LWML Today’s Light Bible.
“Each time we take in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit causes faith’s roots to grow deeper in Christ, the Lord,” she said, quoting the March 24 entry in Portals of Prayer. “Dear friends, spend time in the Bible!” She distributed bookmarks and encouraged attendees to use them in bringing others to Christ.
Wendorf also asked convention-goers to:
- “be encouragers and enablers for the women in your home congregations” by loving and accepting them, and providing opportunities for ministry.
- “continue to support the mission goal through prayer and giving.”
- “share the joy that you have as a dearly loved child of God” by telling others about Jesus.
- “pray regularly for me as your president, for the Executive Committee, and for the entire organization, as together we lead this organization.”
Wendorf quoted singer Bruce Springsteen, saying “A time comes when you need to stop waiting for the woman you want to become and start being the woman you want to be.” She added, “It is exactly the time to move ahead, confident of His blessings; to step out in courage and boldness in witness; and to serve others with the intensity of the Lord’s love.”
Bible study leader Dr. Mary Hilgendorf, professor of education at Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, encouraged participants to look at women of the Bible with new eyes and shared her background as a pastor’s daughter in Chester, Ill.
Hilgendorf urged women to speak with their pastors about serving as lay voting delegates at LCMS national conventions. Even though more than 50 percent of the Synod’s members are women, only 14 percent served as voting delegates at the last LCMS convention, in 2007, according to Hilgendorf.
“It’s important for the voices of women to be heard” in the Synod, she said, and she encouraged Lutheran women to “speak up — you have something to say.”
In her keynote address, Ruth N. Koch, author, speaker, and consultant on mental health issues, invited convention attendees to join her on a virtual hike up the “mountain of change.” She illustrated the importance of trying something new to welcome all women into the LWML, especially younger women who are more relationship oriented.
“Just love on them, and for heaven’s sake don’t ask them to join a women’s group,” Koch said. Instead, she added, ask them to come to get acquainted, share experiences, or join hands in mission.
Women of all ages “have so many things in common,” she said, and Jesus “will lead the way” up “change mountain,” turning any difficult time into “a time of blessing.”
In his greeting to the convention, LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick mentioned the doctrinal solidarity of the LCMS in major matters of faith and life.
“We simply are not arguing or even debating the major doctrines of the Christian faith that are in contention in many parts of the Body of Christ,” he said.
Kieschnick also referenced some areas of disagreement in the church body, including differing views of who should receive communion in LCMS congregations, the service of women in the church, questions about proper forms of worship, and inter-Christian relationships.
“We are undeniably blessed with God-given unity and harmony,” he added, “and have so much more that unites us than those things that would divide us.”
He applauded the LWML for its spirit of joy, hope, camaraderie, passion for mission, and love for the Lord, that he said are “present in spades in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.”
Kieschnick’s wife, Terry, who wore purple shoes (the LWML’s signature color), recalled receiving a pair of official LWML socks during a previous LWML convention. Whenever she wears them, she said, they remind her to “stop, observe, celebrate kindred sisters” (SOCKS). Since she couldn’t “hug all of you,” she asked attendees to tell the person sitting next to them “I love you, kindred soul. God bless you and take care.”
The 601 delegates also elected new officers to four-year terms:
- Patti Ross of Tulsa, Okla., vice president of Christian Life.
- Linda Arnold, Woodridge, Ill., vice president of Communication.
- Marilyn McClure, Tucson, Ariz., vice president of Gospel Outreach.
- Judy Carlson, Paola, Kan., recording secretary.
- Rev. Kristopher Whitby, Arlington Heights, Ill., pastoral counselor.
Newly-elected members of the Nominating Committee are Dianne Diekmann, Yankton, S.D., who will serve as chairman; Lois Ford, Eustis, Fla.; Pam Kercher, Billings, Mont.; Melody Rosenwinkel, Irwin, Idaho; and Marcia Wittenburg, Baker, La.
Heart to Heart Sister Jenifer Robert, 33, of Shelby Township, Mich., was attending her first LWML convention. Robert, who came to the United States in 1998 from her home in Chennai, in southern India, said she was very impressed by the convention and will “absolutely” attend future gatherings.
“I am so proud to be a part of this LWML,” she told Reporter. “You know, as women, we can stand up and say, ‘I can do so much’ for the community and as a Christian — stand up and reach out to the people.”
As a “Heart Sister,” she said it was fun to get to know the women of other cultures. “You know, each person, they do things in different ways. But we’re all unified as one — believing and honoring the same God.”
Robert said the women “exchanged so much in ideas, as how to reach out to different groups of people,” and she spoke about reaching out to Hindus in this country.
Sandy Maya of Kalamazoo, Mich., who used a motorized wheelchair to get around, said she looks forward to LWML conventions. “It’s just the most awesome experience a woman can ever have,” she said. “It’s so uplifting — you can just feel the Holy Spirit working in everybody. It’s just unbelievable.”
David Hohenstein, of Winona, Minn., accompanied his wife, Margaret, to the convention — his second. “You come away from here so uplifted,” he said. “This is absolutely a spiritual high, mountaintop experience.”
Do men — who are definitely “minority” attendees — get as much out of it as women? “No. More,” he responded.
“‘Cause they get hugs from the women,” his wife quipped.
First-timer Lisa Molotla of Chicago called the convention “mind blowing.”
“I didn’t know what to expect because I’ve been to district [gatherings], but this is like multiplied times four. It was just a great experience. I would tell every LWML woman to come experience this.”
Terry Kieschnick, wife of the LCMS president, described the gathering as “joy filled.”
“You see women who reach out and touch one another’s hearts and lives,” Kieschnick told Reporter. “And I praise God for that organization in our church — they are the heart of our church.”
The convention also featured processions with banners from all 40 LWML districts and the flags of 38 of the 50 countries where the LCMS has missionaries; activities for children and youth; a “Mission in Motion” pledge walk and exercise session; an inspirational message from Heidi Floyd of the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer; presentations by LCMS missionaries; and performances by singer Lauren Randall and the Pride of Portland.
Comic relief was provided by Jan Struck as “Ruby Begonia, of the Sweet Home, Ore., Begonias,” who admitted she agreed to work at the convention for the “free shirt, free meals, and free stuff at the exhibit booths.”
Trying to understand the LWML, Begonia finally got the “big picture” of the organization. “I’m usually the triple-p person when it comes to missions — pew, pray, and pay!” But upon meeting the Heart to Heart Sisters, whom she called “mission mites in the flesh,” she understood. “I’ve had a glimpse of glory!” she said.
Attendees brought “Gifts from the Heart” for distribution in Portland:
- 308 health kits.
- 194 art kits.
- 697 packages of socks (five to 10 pair per package).
- 308 teddy bears.
- 421 packages of T-shirts (one to five per package).
- 1,776 miscellaneous items.
It was announced at the convention that the 2017 LWML convention will be held in Salt