By Melanie Ave
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod commissioned 34 new career and long-term missionaries and educators into global service with a special “sending service” July 15 at the LCMS International Center chapel in St. Louis.
The 2011 career and GEO (Globally Engaged in Outreach, serving one- to two-year terms) missionaries range in age and experience and include recent college graduates, retirees and mid-career couples from Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. Most are first-time missionaries.
All the missionaries begin their service sometime this year in 16 countries including Cambodia, the Czech Republic, England, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Kenya, Macau, Russia, South Africa and Taiwan.
The sending service concluded a two-week annual orientation, which was held for the first time at the Synod’s International Center. During the orientation, missionaries took part in various training sessions to help prepare them for life overseas. They attended presentations and workshops on teaching English-as-a-foreign language, fundraising, community building, communication, health, cross-cultural ministry and prayer life.
Married since March 2010, Tim and Megan Dooms, both 25, of Indianapolis quit full-time jobs to spend at least a year in Kenya. Both will work alongside African Lutherans in Kisumu — Tim, as a teacher at a school for orphans, and Megan, as an office worker for a nonprofit ministry.
Becoming missionaries was something they decided to do together, they said, and their lifelong Lutheran faith made the decision “doable and understandable,” according to Tim, whose mother served as a missionary in Japan before he was born.
“God,” said Megan, “placed this on our hearts and gave us the faith to trust in Him to make it all work.”
Megan said the orientation gave the couple a sense of reassurance, comfort and guidance. She said they are now confident that “it’s not us doing the work — it’s the Lord working through us. And He’s the one who’s going to plant the seed” of Christian faith in others.
Friday’s sending service began with the hymn, “Jesus Shall Reign” and included a reading from Acts 2:42-47 in which the followers of Christ “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
LCMS President Dr. Matthew C. Harrison delivered the homily. He told the missionaries they are not alone but are the “body of Christ, the church.”
“You will be prayed for virtually every day in this chapel,” Harrison said. “You are part of a fellowship …. When you stub your toe in Timbuktu, we will feel it in St. Louis … because we are made one by His body and blood.”
Afterward, the missionaries gathered at the altar as the worshipers prayed for them.
“Go in the name of the Lord,” Harrison said, after each missionary’s name was read aloud. “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
The 34 new missionaries join a global mission team of more than 1,000, which includes short-term missionaries, military chaplains, international educators and other career and GEO personnel. The 2011 missionaries include 23 GEO missionaries, four career couple missionaries, one theological educator and two international educators.
Marva Ludgood, a retired teacher from Mobile, Ala., said missionary work is “a dream come true” for her and something she is able to do at this time in her life because her four children are grown.
“I have wanted to do it all of my life,” she said. “When I was a child, I used to tell my dad about all of the wonderful places I was going.”
Ludgood will teach in an elementary school in Middelburg, east of Pretoria, South Africa, for two years.
She believes mission work “is one of the most rewarding undertakings that a person could do.” She added that she is certain she is “doing exactly what the Lord would have me to do, and that this was the plan that He had for me.”
The LCMS has been involved in mission and outreach since 1851 when it established its first mission board and sent its first overseas missionary to India in 1895. Today, the LCMS trains, sends and supports called and appointed, long-term GEO and short-time missionaries throughout the United States and in various countries around the world where there are mission stations, partner churches, schools and mission relationships.
For more information about missionary service, visit the LCMS World Mission website at www.lcms.org/worldmission, or contact a missionary placement counselor at 800-433-3954 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about LCMS missionaries, or to support their efforts, download their prayer cards from the LCMS website at www.lcms.org/prayercards.
Melanie Ave is public relations coordinator for LCMS Communications.
(Some information for this story was provided by Paula Schlueter Ross.)
Posted July 15, 2011