By Stacey Egger
On Aug. 26 at the LCMS International Center (IC) chapel in St. Louis, the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM) hosted a Service of Thanksgiving to recognize nine new missionary families and honor eight missionary families who are ending their service.
“Any opportunity the [OIM] has to thank these missionaries and confirm them in their calling and service is precious,” said OIM Executive Director Rev. Daniel McMiller. “Our appreciation for them cannot be overstated.”
The missionaries and families who were newly sent at the service were Chelsea Irwin (Czech Republic); the Rev. Phil and Deaconess Rachel Jaseph (Uruguay); the Rev. Nathaniel and Emma Jensen (Germany); the Rev. Gustavo and Ruth Maita (Puerto Rico); the Rev. Tyler and Yanela McMiller (Italy); Michael and Nancy Morizio (Italy); the Rev. Dr. Cory and Jenny Rajek (Latvia); and Hayden Rensner (Czech Republic). The Rev. Dr. Tom Park also attended and will complete the first week of orientation later.
The nine missionaries and missionary families leaving the field were the Rev. Dr. Tom and Mary Aadland (Kenya); the Rev. Joe and Deaconess Dr. Jennie Asher (Germany); Peter and Lucy Hoffmann (Czech Republic); Joanna and Richard Lee (Taiwan and Thailand); Cindy Pine (Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico); the Rev. Dr. Steve and Cindy Schumacher (Ghana); Blake and Liz Warren (Dominican Republic); and Krista Young (Ethiopia and Kenya). Young’s husband, Joel, was not able to attend.
‘The beauty is in Christ crucified’
McMiller’s text for the homily was Romans 10:9–17. He noted the irony of verse 15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news,” in the context of first-century Rome, where sandaled feet often got dirty. McMiller reflected on the beauty of the Gospel message that is communicated in spite of, and even through, human ugliness.
“You new missionaries will see ugliness … the sin of the world around you, perhaps even in the church body with which you’re working, in the congregation you’re planting, and [your] parishioners or co-workers,” McMiller said. “But your work is not to focus on that. Focus on the bloodied, torn, unclean feet of Jesus. There you will see that God mysteriously, lovingly, patiently, graciously — yes, beautifully — uses even sinners like us to bring the Good News of salvation in Christ Jesus to the ends of the earth.”
A final week of training
The Service of Thanksgiving coincided with the final week of the new missionaries’ two-month orientation process. The week started out with a multi-day program hosted by DOXOLOGY: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care and Counsel. The missionaries received guidance on preparing spiritually and psychologically for service.
The week also included training on some practical topics such as living in a high-risk environment, the logistics of emergency evacuations, the new networks the missionaries will be engaging with, and the expectations they will face from the OIM and their regions. After the Service of Thanksgiving, the missionaries leaving the field hosted a two-hour panel discussion for the new missionaries and shared their experience on a variety of topics — including the difficulties and joys of missionary service, avoiding burnout, adapting to a new culture and preparing to leave the field.
“What was great to me was hearing from people who had served in different places, [with] different backgrounds … ages and … professions, and hearing them express some of the same … challenges, joys … [and] tactics for adjusting despite the diversity of the group,” said Rachel Jaseph.
‘Like a giant reunion’
Nine current missionaries and their families, 10 “alumni” missionaries, and several distinguished guests also attended the service and a reception after it.
“It’s like a giant reunion. There are so many friends here,” said Erin Mackenzie, LCMS missionary to the Dominican Republic.
“When you serve abroad, you gain experiences that generally only others that have served abroad understand. So there’s this unique bond that you have,” said Blake Warren, who recently came off the field after five years as the Synod’s regional business manager for Latin America and the Caribbean. Seeing everyone in one place, said Warren, builds upon that bond.
“After the first [phase of] orientation, it all seemed kind of overwhelming,” said Rensner, “but after this week … I’m excited to get to work.”
Posted Oct. 11, 2021