By Pamela J. Nielsen
ST. LOUIS — At its Sept. 8-9 meeting, the LCMS Board for International Mission (BIM) — including five new members — joined the Synod’s Board for National Mission (BNM) for a full day of orientation when Synod executives gave reports and the boards went over details of their primary responsibility of setting policy for the church body’s Office of International Mission (OIM).
In addition, a brief joint meeting with the national board and the LCMS Board of Directors (BOD) featured training in board etiquette.
In individual BIM sessions, a steady stream of OIM directors provided a fast-paced introduction to that office and the way it carries out LCMS mission work across the globe.
Missionary recruitment and care, along with Ministry to the Armed Forces, drive the work of the OIM operations team at the Synod’s International Center here. Their efforts support an ever-growing field of missionaries who are focused on church planting, pastoral formation and theological education and mercy work.
In response to the 2013 Synod-convention mandate to increase the number of career missionaries, the board heard about the growth of those numbers in Western and Francophone Africa, East Africa and in Latin America — all places where missionary numbers have steadily increased.
Associate Executive Director for Recruitment and Regional Operations Rev. Dan McMiller and his staff provided a careful overview of plans for a measured expansion of missionaries and mission work. That work includes interdepartmental efforts by LCMS Communications and LCMS Mission Advancement — to continually support a missionary family through recruitment, orientation and fund raising, and finally launching them onto the mission field.
The Missionary Services team begins their work when a missionary is called and continues care through the conclusion of the missionary’s service, coordinating body-and-soul care for missionaries in the field.
Currently, there are 144 missionaries deployed around the world, including career and shorter-term Globally Engaged in Outreach missionaries — not counting their family members.
Another facet of mission service is for short-term mission teams that provide field missionaries with willing hands to help accomplish a specific goal or project.
Military chaplains’ joys, challenges
“Our LCMS military chaplains are vibrant, connected, resourced, and spiritually ready pastors joyously living in and proclaiming the Gospel wherever they are called to serve in the military,” Ministry to the Armed Forces Director Chaplain Craig Muehler told the board. He shared about the history of and current challenges facing LCMS chaplains and the critical spiritual care they provide to the service members in an increasingly challenging environment for those who confess Christ.
The BIM voted to endorse three new chaplain candidates brought forth by Muehler.
LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison highlighted the significance of the shifts in world Lutheranism, particularly in the global south.
“It’s a big week in the Lutheran world,” said Harrison, as he shared that the Malagasy Lutheran church with its six million members was electing as its president Rev. Dr. David Rakotonirina, who is a graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Ind. “Our international fellowship is becoming stronger,” said Harrison, who noted that Lutheran church bodies large and small are seeking closer ties with the LCMS because of its doctrine and practice.
“We have a great staff on the ground around the world, accountability among missionaries, and they are being supported,” Harrison said about the work of the OIM. “Progress is being made in extraordinary ways,”
Calling, appointing three new missionaries
Board action included the calling/appointing of three new missionaries and spouses for service in the Baltics (for theological education), Uruguay (church planting) and Kenya (as a seminary librarian).
“I learned a lot,” said new BIM member Rev. Roberto Rojas, pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Winter Garden, Fla. “There’s a lot of work to do and it’s impressive to see how involved the LCMS is in all of these countries.”
Rojas summed up what many new BOD, BNM and BIM members were echoing in between sessions during these first meetings of the triennium. “Being here really opened my eyes,” said Rojas. “I’m looking forward to helping with the policies and on this board. I give thanks to God that I’m able to be part of it.”
The five new BIM members elected by delegates to the 2016 LCMS convention in Milwaukee are Kristine Bruss of Topeka, Kan.; Rojas, who lives in Gotha, Fla.; Rev. Dr. David P. Stechholz, Livonia, Mich.; Rev. Samuel Cosby, Houston; and Terence Lung, Sunnyvale, Calif.
BIM members re-elected in Milwaukee are Rev. Bernhard M. Seter, Grafton, N.D. (who the board re-elected as its chairman); Rev. John F. Temple; James Wolf; K. Allan Voss; and Robert K. Van Gundy.
Deaconess Pamela J. Nielsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate executive director of LCMS Communications.
Posted September 22, 2016