By Pamela J. Nielsen
ST. LOUIS — A total of 23 missionaries — men and women, clergy and lay workers — were issued calls or appointments by the Board for International Mission (BIM) at its May 15-16 meeting here.
That number represents continued successful recruitment efforts toward doubling the number of LCMS career missionaries on the field to 136 by 2016 — as called for by the 2013 Synod convention.
The missionaries — slated for East and West Africa, Latin America, Eurasia, Asia Pacific and Southern Asia — will serve in diverse roles, including as nurses, evangelists, deaconesses, theological educators and international-school chaplains.
The board noted that increasing missionary numbers necessitates redoubling efforts in caring for each missionary and missionary family through their phases of service: recruitment, application, orientation, support raising, home service and at the end of service.
“Missionaries are the people Christ has called to go out into all the world and speak the Gospel,” said the Rev. Dr. Edward Grimenstein, associate executive director for the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM). “These men, women and children have given up everything they know to do this. For us at the Office of International Mission, there is no higher priority than caring for those entrusted to us. They are the very means by which Christ spreads His salvation so people may believe and by believing have eternal life.”
Grimenstein gave the board a detailed report on missionary care, underscoring, “We care for our missionaries at every phase of their service.”
In his report to the BIM, Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison emphasized the need for and commitment to missionary care. “[We’ve found] there are several lonely periods for missionaries,” he noted. “The fundraising period is often a lonely time, as is culture shock when they hit the field.”
Acknowledging recent changes in BIM leadership, Harrison noted the contributions of LCMS Director of Church Relations Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, who stepped in for the last 18 months to oversee the OIM’s regional Field Operations.
On May 20, the Rev. John Fale was appointed as OIM executive director and the Rev. Dan McMiller as associate executive director for Field Operations and Recruitment. Grimenstein remains associate executive director for Missionary Services and Collver returns to his full-time duties as director of Church Relations in the Office of the President.
On CCM Opinion 14-2724
The BIM also adopted new policy language that sought to address practical-operations questions raised by a recent Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) opinion. That opinion (numbered 14-2724) clarified longstanding language in Synod Bylaw 3.8.3 — which states, in part, that the BIM “shall serve as the only sending agency through which workers … are sent to the foreign mission areas of the Synod.” The new policy, which was subsequently sent to the CCM for review and approval, seeks to facilitate work with congregations and districts for orderly coordination and timely, purposeful calling of LCMS-rostered church workers — all while intentionally avoiding restrictions on the work of the Holy Spirit. FAQs regarding CCM Opinion 14-2724 on Bylaw 3.8.3 can be found here. The opinion may be downloaded here.
McMiller reported to the board on his approach to recruitment and the nearly 200 current “leads” for career and lay missionaries in his potential staffing portfolio.
“Do you have confidence in who you are sending out?” Harrison asked him.
“Yes, we do a lot of vetting before we sit down to talk. … There are many moving parts, lots of unknowns,” answered McMiller, who described a multifaceted approach including discussions with district presidents — to learn more about an individual’s qualifications and ability to serve overseas.
Overseas member visits
BIM member Rev. Juan Gonzalez shared his experience in traveling to Ethiopia. His enthusiastic report on the customs, people and ever-expanding Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) provided an overview of the opportunities and challenges for the Synod as it “walks” with the EECMY and her more than 8 million members.
A three-member BIM delegation who recently visited Hong Kong International School, Concordia International School Hanoi and Concordia International School Shanghai shared their observations with fellow board members. They indicated that their goal was to learn more about the education and mission of the schools and their relationship to the LCMS. BIM members Lois Peacock, John Edson and Kermit “Butch” Almstedt also provided the BIM with a detailed written report about their visit.
Kay Kreklau, outgoing president of the International Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML), reported on the organization recently meeting its mission-grant goals for the biennium and shared plans for the 36th Biennial LWML Convention, June 25-28 in Des Moines, Iowa, under the theme: “Bountiful! Sow • Nourish • Reap.” The BIM later honored and thanked Kreklau for her service and support for spreading the Gospel.
“The work going on around the world is truly amazing; the global reach of the Synod and her partners is inspiring,” BIM Chairman Rev. Bernard Seter commented after the meeting. “I am thankful for the hard work and dedication of our missionaries and staff and the folks in the pews around the country [who] support them.”
Deaconess Pamela J. Nielsen (email@example.com) is associate executive director of LCMS Communications.
Posted June 9, 2015 / Updated June 10 and June 11, 2015