By Stacey Egger
MOBILE, Ala.—“This celebration doesn’t end when you walk out that door. This celebration is for all of God’s people, all of the time,” said Debbie Larson after being elected the new president of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML).
That sense of celebration permeated the LWML’s 38th Biennial Convention, held June 20–23 in Mobile, Ala. Participants from all over the country — 3,105 in number — gathered under the theme “In Praise to the LORD!” (1 Chron. 16:23–24a) for fellowship and devotion, but also for business. Following eight meeting sessions, delegates elected new LWML officers and chose mission grants for the coming biennium (2019–21).
From mites to mission
Over the past two years, the LWML has given out over $1.5 million in mission grants to organizations and initiatives around the world. Their mission goal for the coming biennium is a record $2.1 million, most of which will be distributed among 21 mission grants chosen by the voting body.
While these funds start small, as coins in LWML Mite Boxes, they will do big things, such as:
- bring God’s Word to people in their native language with a grant to Lutheran Bible Translators,
- provide resources for rural Kenyan schools through a grant to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, and
- train mercy workers through a grant to Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Deaconess Ministry.
Convention attendees noted the excitement and joy of seeing these small donations come together and bear fruit.
“It’s been eye-opening to see the amount that it builds up to at the national level when everyone contributes at the church level,” said Kaitlyn Hamilton, a Young Woman Representative to the convention from the LWML Southern Illinois District. “You wouldn’t think that those little boxes that you put your spare change in would build up so much.”
Dixie Voscamp of Brenham, Texas, who has been active in the LWML for over 50 years, said that she has appreciated the efforts at recent conventions to show the ladies of the LWML the ways in which their grants have been put to work.
“They come back and tell you what you’ve built, or how they’ve spent your money, and that’s really a blessing. Because you wonder, you know, ‘Did that bus work?’, or ‘Did they ever build the building?’ It’s really neat to get to see your money at work.”
Delegates also elected new LWML officers, including:
- Debbie Larson, president;
- Marie Chow, vice-president of Organizational Resources;
- Deaconess Betty Knapp, vice-president of Special Focus Ministries;
- Karla Koehler, treasurer; and
- Brian Noack, junior pastoral counselor.
The officers were installed on Sunday, June 23, at the conclusion of the convention.
Larson’s new role as LWML president follows four years (2004–08) as LWML North Dakota president. She has also served as LWML’s director of Marketing, director of Public Relations, and vice-president of Organizational Resources. Her priority as president, she said, is to encourage more LCMS women to become involved in the organization.
“That’s what the LWML does so well; we celebrate our faith and invite others to join, in praise to the Lord!” she said in her address at the convention.
Blessings to the Synod and the world
Some of those gathered at the convention were not LWML members, but grateful recipients of the LWML’s support, through both grants and service.
The Rev. Ralph Schmidt, director of Donor Advising at Orphan Grain Train, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization, said that the LWML has been “a tremendous blessing” to Orphan Grain Train, both with financial support, and through personal service, “coming to our branches to work personally, bringing goods, bringing clothing and so forth that others can use.”
“These wonderful ladies are the hands used by our Savior to help the poor and disaster-stricken,” Schmidt said.
The Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., said that the LWML has supported the seminary in “many and marvelous ways over the years,” especially by “taking care of our students through food and clothing co-ops.”
Rast added, “There is no place like this anywhere else in the Missouri Synod. The way the women are committed to Christ and His mission is inspiring, and all of my experiences here are edifying: they work to build each other up. It’s a great joy to be able to participate along with these sisters in Christ.”
A time of celebration
Other events at the convention included Bible studies, worship services, mission presentations, and a “Tee-Up 4 Mites” golf event to raise money toward the LWML mission goal. An exhibit hall with around 70 exhibitors was open for attendees to browse.
The Rev. Michael Newman, president of the LCMS Texas District, said, “It’s a real joy to be with people who are so passionate about sharing the love of Jesus with others … and who volunteer their time and give their generous gifts to make sure that so many ministries can be blessed.”
But Newman said that the LWML isn’t just special because of the work it does.
“In addition to their cause, their demeanor and attitude is just so profound. They love one another, they’re unified, they know how to do a convention in a great way,” he said.
The next LWML national conventions are planned for June 24–27, 2021, in Lexington, Ky., and June 22–25, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wis.
Posted July 11, 2019