By Cheryl Magness
As the world continues grappling with the effects of COVID-19, the church continues sending missionaries into that world to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
During an Aug. 7 Service of Sending at the LCMS (Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) International Center (IC) in St. Louis, the Rev. Daniel McMiller, executive director of the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM), told four new LCMS missionaries that they don’t go into that world alone, but with the entire church behind them.
Preaching on Luke 24, Jesus’ appearance to the disciples and ascension at Bethany, McMiller said, “Remember what Jesus promised: ‘Surely I am with you always, even unto the end of the age,’ and ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.’
“You received this blessing in your Baptism. It has been nurtured in the Word and … in His very body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. …
“All of us here — your family and the entire church that is sending and will be supporting you — want you to be filled with great joy in your ministry … because you know who this Jesus is. … [He] has promised, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you.’”
‘Warm welcome’ in St. Louis
Of the four new LCMS missionaries, one will be serving in Asia, two in Central America and one in Eurasia.
Barbara Rebentisch, missionary to Taiwan, will work to develop faithful resources in Mandarin Chinese. She has already spent many years serving the people of Taiwan in the areas of youth ministry, social work, counseling and English as a Second Language (ESL).
Rebentisch said the missionary training was a “fantastic, intensive and very rewarding experience. The thing that stood out for me the most was how humbly and prayerfully this group of incredibly talented individuals approached everything we did.”
Justin and Jordan Logston will serve as missionaries to Belize, Central America. As a communications specialist, Justin will report on the Latin America and the Caribbean region, shooting video and taking photographs, as well as writing, editing and publishing articles and mission news.
Jordan’s primary responsibilities will include growing the ESL program in Belize, working with short-term mission teams, providing consistent communication updates regarding the mission work being done, and building leadership training in Belize.
Jordan said, “The gift of meeting the many wonderful teammates face-to-face is something I will always cherish … [and] the warm welcome in St. Louis was unparalleled, even through
Justin described the week as “an amazing, exhausting and wonderful experience! The team fit in mountains of content. Having the orientation in person was a monumental blessing! The team took excellent care of us during this unusual time.”
One more missionary will be working as an ESL director and teacher in Europe and Central Asia. Reflecting on the week of training, the missionary said, “I’m thankful that we came together in person. Masks block germs, but kindness and assistance were freely given and received. I learned so much during the week!”
Earlier this year, two more missionaries completed orientation and training in St. Louis, but due to the coronavirus shutdown, a Service of Sending was not possible (it is hoped that it can be rescheduled in the future).
Deaconess Sandra Rhein serves as a sacred music educator for the Asia region, and Rachel Krause as a refugee outreach missionary in Germany. Rhein, who was previously contracted by the OIM as a hymnal consultant, acknowledged that transitioning to the role of called missionary was made more challenging by the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus.
“Our training came on the brink of the COVID shutdowns,” Rhein said. “Rather than meet at the IC, our training was moved to our hotel and was condensed to four days. It was a little disappointing to miss out on the IC experience, but understandable. Little did we know, at the time, that that was the tip of the iceberg with how life would change due to COVID. Lookiwg back on it, that was a sacrifice not worth mentioning!”
LCMS missionaries in the Network Support Model help raise funds for their positions, something that, Rhein noted, is made even more difficult during a widespread economic shutdown. She lauded the efforts of LCMS Mission Advancement, which “has worked overtime to provide us with creative alternatives,” and of Mission Central, which she described as “a godsend. During the many weeks when travel was not possible, donations through both kept me from feeling discouraged.”
Krause had a similar experience. “It was slow getting started with support raising due to the fact we couldn’t go out and physically visit churches because of the stay-at-home orders. But God always provides for His children! Everyone in OIM and Mission Advancement in St. Louis and at Mission Central in Iowa are very supportive and have been instrumental in helping us connect with donors and supporters electronically. …
“During this time, I started learning Persian (Farsi). Since I will be working with refugees who speak Persian, I would have normally taken classes when I got to Germany. But now, I have a head start!”
An OIM travel restriction was recently lifted for some missionaries, allowing Rhein to plan her first official support-building trip. Even during the travel ban, though, Rhein said she was able to connect with many people via email, phone and Zoom: “I’ve given my presentation via Zoom to a Bible class, a church council and various individuals and small groups. I’ve written four monthly newsletters now, and each month the list of recipients has grown.
“I am ever so thankful for Zoom and similar technology, and I know the Indonesian hymnal project, as well as the rest of my work and my life, is in the Lord’s hands. We pray for His will, and rest in peace. I serve as I am able, knowing that He is in control.”
Learn more about new LCMS missionaries
Posted Aug. 27, 2020