By Paula Schlueter Ross
PEORIA, Ill. — Delegates to the 34th Biennial Convention of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, meeting here June 23-26, adopted a new mission goal of $1.825 million for the 2011-2013 biennium.
The goal is the same as that adopted for the 2009-11 biennium. Contributions given by the auxiliary’s 250,000 members nationwide over the next two years will be used to cover organizational expenses and support 19 mission grants to:
- pay operational costs for at least four Lutheran orphanages in Haiti ($70,000).
- purchase a new embossing device so that Lutheran Braille Workers can continue to produce braille Bibles and Christian materials ($100,000).
- produce Bibles, audio Scriptures and literacy materials in local languages for people in Africa through Lutheran Bible Translators ($97,344).
- teach God’s Word and show His love to at-risk children in Metro Detroit through Lutheran City Ministries Inc. ($55,000).
- fund care packages containing Bibles, spiritual tracts and practical and personal items to be given to cancer patients through Phil’s Friends ($100,000).
- enable the Crow Indian Ministry to continue its work in Montana ($69,999.64).
- enable Lutheran Social Services of the South to provide spiritual care to children and youth affected by natural disasters ($50,000).
- provide English classes and humanitarian aid to children in Vietnam through LCMS World Mission ($72,255).
- fund three Grace Place retreats — in Asia, Eurasia and Latin America — for LCMS missionaries ($75,000).
- provide and renovate a facility for counseling, care and Gospel-sharing for pregnant women in Malaysia ($54,500).
- support the Lutheran Malaria Initiative — a cooperative effort of the LCMS and Lutheran World Relief, Baltimore, to eradicate malaria — in Kenya, East Africa ($100,000).
- provide two scholarships for international or minority graduate students at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis ($50,000).
- support Project Joel, an effort of Lutheran Hour Ministries to educate children and young people in Central and South America on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, violence and promiscuity ($75,000).
- enable Good Shepherd Lutheran Homes to build a group home and rehabilitation center for children and youth with disabilities and their families in the Dominican Republic ($100,000).
- provide education for “missionary kids” where needed most around the world ($100,000).
- enable the Open Arms Institute to help establish and support child-care ministries ($65,000).
- expand the Lutheran campus ministry at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan. ($100,000).
- help fund a Synodwide conference for clergy and laypeople serving prison and jail ministries ($27,500).
- continue the ministry of Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care, which provides food and spiritual nourishment to needy people (a partial grant of $27,970.36).
Some 585 LWML delegates also elected a new president. Kay Kreklau of Drayton, N.D., will serve the next four years as the auxiliary’s 17th president, succeeding Janice Wendorf of Grafton, Wis., who served in the post since 2007.
Newly elected LWML President Kay Kreklau talks about her new position.
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Kreklau was elected on the second ballot with 285 votes; 284 votes were needed to win. She and Shari Miller of East Helena, Mont., were on the original ballot; a third candidate, Janis McDaniels of Greensboro, N.C., was nominated from the floor.
“Thank you for your love, your hugs, your compassion,” Kreklau said immediately following her election on June 25. “Thank you for your confidence in me. And I thank my family. I think they’re ready to live on the edge.”
Some 4,600 people attended the convention under the theme “Being with Jesus — Living on the Edge,” based on Acts 4:13b, 20.
Also elected to four-year terms were:
- Pat Reichert, Hartford, S.D., vice-president of Special Focus Ministries.
- Carolyn Blum, Hartford, Wis., vice-president of Organizational Resources.
- Lois Anderson, Twin Falls, Idaho, treasurer.
- Rev. John Heckmann, Gatesville, Texas, pastoral counselor.
Newly elected members of the LWML Nominating Committee are Beverly England, Tulsa, Okla., who will serve as chairman; Marge Bruning, Ashland, Va.; Sally Krueger, San Antonio, Texas; Sheila Lutz, Pekin, Ill.; and Cheryl Petersen, Elbow Lake, Minn.
The convention featured processions with banners from all 40 LWML districts and the flags from countries where the LCMS has missionaries; activities for children and youth; a first-time “Tee Up 4 Mites” golf benefit; a “Mission in Motion” pledge walk and exercise; presentations by Lutheran missionaries and luncheon speakers; and a performance by Sibling Harmony.
Convention-goers gave daily offerings of:
- $47,388.33, which will go toward the 2011-13 mission goal.
- $37,273.04, to Mission Central, Mapleton, Iowa, for work in Cambodia, Russia and Uganda.
- $32,172.12, to Amigos de Cristo, a mission outreach to Hispanic people in Sedalia, Mo.
- $32,078.98, to support students in the Specific Ministry Pastor program at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.
“Mission in Motion” walkers raised $56,806.96 in pledges, which also will go toward the new mission goal.
Attendees also brought “Gifts from the Heart” — including 2,587 quilts; 2,382 towel sets; 2,795 underwear sets; 5,587 personal-hygiene kits; and 13,205 Arch books — that will be distributed to people in the Peoria area.
Synod President Dr. Matthew C. Harrison joined convention music leader Lana Gibbons onstage, playing his banjo in accompaniment to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and other tunes. Greeting the convention later, he said he “achieved a lifelong dream — to play banjo at an LWML convention!”
Harrison introduced his wife, Kathy, and called out to his mother, a delegate from the LWML’s Iowa West district, “love you, mom!”
He said the auxiliary “represents one of the strongest forces” for outreach in the world today, and he often sees LWML dedication signs on buildings as he travels worldwide.
Harrison said today’s world is open to Christianity as never before, and foreign church bodies are contacting the LCMS “constantly.”
“We’ve got to be there — with your help,” he said.
In her president’s report, Wendorf said that, as a result of her LWML service, she is “a changed woman … transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in and through God’s Word and His people.”
She also related many changes in the auxiliary, including its updated website at www.lwml.org and other technological advances; a new book, God Gave the Increase, about the impact of LWML mission grants; and a soon-to-come DVD-based Bible study series for women titled “Your Strong Suit.”
Wendorf encouraged LWML members to read and study Scripture on a daily basis, and asked them to:
- be “encouragers and enablers” for women in their congregations,
- continue to support the mission goal “with prayer and giving,”
- “share the joy that you have as a dearly loved child of God” and
- “tell others about Jesus and the assurance that you have of forgiveness in Him and life eternal.”
In his sermon at the opening worship service, Dr. Ken Klaus, speaker emeritus of “The Lutheran Hour,” said we live in an age when saying “Jesus is Savior” is “too controversial” and the media portray Christians in a negative light — an age when “living with Jesus means living on the edge.”
Don’t be afraid to ask the world, he told worshipers, “What do you have to offer that is better than Jesus, which can provide a more sound foundation than Jesus?'” Follow that, he said, with the invitation to “come join us … this throng of the redeemed, the forgiven, the saved in the Lord Jesus. Join us as we live on the edge.'”
Katie Stam, Miss America 2009, said Klaus’ call to witness moved her and made her realize that “I was really not living on the edge for my Lord” with a true “conviction” to her faith.
The “one thing you can’t do in heaven,” she said, is “witness to a non-believer,” and she became emotional as she recalled missed opportunities to share her faith with strangers. “I simply froze,” she said, wiping away tears. “Maybe I could have just planted a seed, but I didn’t do it.”
She recounted the story of God calling Jeremiah to be a witness and assuring him “I have already put my words in your mouth.” Likewise, she said, God “will put the words in your mouth,” and she encouraged convention-goers to “witness for the Lord — the reward will always outweigh the risk.”
In her keynote address, Deb Burma, author of women’s Bible studies and devotions, stepped onto the stage barefoot and wearing a green “froggy floatie.” As she inched her way onto the edge of a “scary,” makeshift “diving board,” she said that “spending time with Jesus” can make “our once-timid tootsies become bold and courageous.”
Burma said Jesus “lived life on the edge … courageously … intentionally … compassionately … and sacrificially” and that’s how He also calls us to live.
“Where lie your God-given gifts and passions to make a difference in someone’s world for Christ?” she asked. In today’s world, she added, “to speak the truth of Jesus is really edgy living.”
Convention Bible studies were led by Dr. Reed Lessing, associate professor and director of the Graduate School at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
“Being with Jesus, living on the edge … only happens in your life and mine when we are repeatedly Spirit-filled,” Lessing said. It is God who fills us, he said, and when we are filled “we must speak and live as Christians.”
Lessing mentioned Barnabas as Paul’s “encourager” in the Book of Acts. “Maybe you can’t be a Barnabas,” he said, “but you sure can be a Barna-babe. … You can stand beside people and move them.”
Beth Marth, a delegate and member of St. John Lutheran Church in Dublin, Ohio, was attending her sixth LWML convention. As usual, she celebrated her birthday — her 46th, on June 24 — at the convention.
“It’s a big birthday party for me,” she laughed. “My birthday is always [during] the convention, and I love to spend them here.”
She attends the biennial gathering, she said, because “I love Jesus, and I love the LWML organization and what they do with their mites and mission. And also, getting together with new friends and old friends.”
She said she’s “excited” that delegates were able to choose 19 mission grants for the new biennium — “over half” of the 30 listed — “and I’m just excited for where our mites are going to help serve and spread the [Good] News.”
Edith Shire, 89, a member of St. John Lutheran Church in Darien, Ill., was attending her fifth LWML convention. Shire came with her two daughters — Donna Simundic from Darien and Edith Anderson from Deer Lodge, Mont.
Why does she come? “Oh, I tell you, you can’t believe the feeling you get, knowing you’ve got all these women believing like you do,” Shire told Reporter. “And when prayer time comes, you feel the Lord with you.”
It also invigorates her, she said: “You want to get back and try to convince the women of your church to get moving.”
Lisa Steinbrenner, 29, of Kalispell, Mont., was among 65 Young Women Representatives attending the convention. She said she’s involved in the LWML “because I just love the idea of all of the mission work that’s being done [with] all the mites.
“And I think it’s just a wonderful group of women to have a connection with,” she said.
Nancy Parra, a 24-year-old Mexican-American and a member of San Pablo Lutheran Church in Aurora, Ill., was attending her first LWML convention as part of the Heart to Heart Sisters — a gathering of women from various ethnic groups.
“I honestly thought [the convention] was amazing,” Parra said, especially seeing “so many people and so many different ethnicities coming together.”
Parra, who came with about 10 women from her congregation, said she “loved how everybody is so down to earth and they all treat you equally. It’s unfortunate that you don’t see that out in the real world. Seeing this here really gives you a lot of hope.”
She described the Heart to Heart Sisters as “the Lord’s sorority” where “you can do something for God,” and said she plans to be involved in the LWML “forever.
“They accept you with open arms,” she said, “and it’s beautiful.”
Parra was one of 19 Heart to Heart Sisters —