It was 17 years ago when Tim Heiney began serving as the first Lutheran missionary in Guinea, West Africa. He questioned if he could provide proper theological training while dealing with “all the other problems, frustrations and opportunities” that go along with mission work.
But thanks be to God who, through the Jesus Is Lord Mission (JILM) society, ensured that Heiney didn’t have long to fret.
The LCMS soon opened the Lutheran Center for Theological Education (which uses the French acronym CLET) in Togo to train pastors for Lutheran church bodies in Frenchspeaking West African countries, including Guinea. Heiney calls JILM’s crucial support of CLET a ministry lynchpin.
“For years, JILM has been supporting the CLET and its work in West Africa,” said Heiney, now an area facilitator in that region with the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM).
Today, Guinea is one of 27 countries where JILM has helped share Christ’s love since the mission society began in 2002. Ten years later, the group has provided more than $1.6 million to support the work of its only partner — the LCMS.
Four Texas couples started JILM at a time when the Synod was in a financial crisis, says Dalton Noack, JILM volunteer coordinator. “Missionaries were being brought home and national ministry work in St. Louis was being cut,” Noack said.
Today, JILM has grown to more than 1,000 members in 40 states and Austria.
Each year, the LCMS spotlights mission projects in need of funds. JILM members vote on the projects they will support. This year, along with the group’s current $191,194 mission projects commitment, members plan to make a $40,000 “thank offering” honoring God for JILM’s 10th anniversary. That gift will help the LCMS support a missionary with the China Evangelical Lutheran Church in Taiwan and the development of Lutheran theological training materials in Chinese.
A “valued strategic partner” is how Mark Hofman, executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement, describes JILM.
“JILM has built an incredible network of volunteers and supporters who strengthen our LCMS church body for church planting, theological education and missionary service worldwide,” Hofman said. “We are so thankful for their faithful partnership which allows us all to work together to support the Great Commission.”