By Megan Mertz
Mission Central, located in rural Mapleton, Iowa, was abuzz with activity on Monday, Aug. 28, as two district presidents, 26 pastors and some 70 other attendees converged for the installation of the Rev. Steven Schulz as pastoral advisor and visitor host.
Schulz will assist “Old Missionary Gary” Thies in raising awareness about the Synod’s international mission work. Mission Central, an arm of LCMS Mission Advancement, plays an integral role in telling the church about the work of the Synod’s 100-plus missionaries as well as receiving many of the voluntary gifts and offerings that keep LCMS missionaries serving around the world.
Despite being a 1.5-hour drive from the nearest airport, Mission Central draws visitors from all over. Last year, 52 busloads of visitors from LCMS churches, schools and other organizations made the trek to this bastion of LCMS mission work. Some groups are able to meet missionaries who are visiting during their home service, while all visitors can tour the Creation Theater and nearby Barn Museum, which is stocked from floor to rafters with interesting items brought back from all over the world.
To his new role at Mission Central, Schulz brings more than 30 years of experience as a parish pastor. He and his wife, Susan, recently moved to Mapleton after spending 12 years in North Dakota, where Schulz served as associate pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Fargo, and campus pastor at North Dakota State University. During this time, he also served as first vice-president and chairman of the Board of Directors for the LCMS North Dakota District.
Before that, Schulz served congregations in Iowa District West, where he met Thies 29 years ago while attending his first district convention. “The next week Gary was in my office telling me about missions in Taiwan,” Schulz recalled, laughing. From then on, Schulz and his family frequently invited missionaries who were passing through to stop for a meal.
“I’m really excited about working with Gary and raising mission awareness. A lot of people don’t realize you can adopt missionaries and email them,” Schulz said. “My hope is that the Lord can make use of me here.”
Thies is excited too. “This is an answer to prayer,” he said, following the installation service. He hopes that “the good work that God has provided here,” which started in the basement of his house in 1994, will continue for years to come.
But he also took a moment to dispel a misconception about Schulz’s arrival: “I’ve had several people call me and say, ‘Gary, we’re so happy that you have Pastor Schulz. Now you can retire.’ That is a lie,” Thies said with a smile. “The truth is, God willing, I hope to come to Mission Central and be a part of Mission Central as long as I can crawl across the road.”
Posted on Oct. 13, 2023