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Saturday, January 31, 2015

BIM Honors Missionary for 28 Years of Service in Africa

President Matthew Harrison and Dr. David Erber, OIM Area Director for West Africa
31 January 2015
The Board for International Mission (BIM) honored Rev. Dr. David Erber, OIM Area Director for West Africa, for the 28th anniversary of his arrival in Nigeria. Dr. Erber was in Saint Louis first for the Office of International Mission Regional Directors' meeting, the ALMA conference, and the BIM meeting, where he spoke how the Gospel of Jesus was being shared in Africa by the LCMS. Yesterday, while attending the ALMA meeting, Dr. Erber mentioned that his wife sent him an email, "Happy Anniversary." Everyone, of course, assumed he spoke of his wedding anniversary to his wife, Joyce. David explained, "Not my wedding anniversary, but my 28th anniversary from when I deployed to Nigeria as a missionary." The BIM wanted to honor Dr. Erber for his service.
President Matthew Harrison, Dr. David Erber, Rev. Bernie Seter, Chairman of the BIM
The BIM heard that Dr. Erber wished he could own a copy of the Concordia Commentary Series. With the help of Dr. Bruce Kintz and Concordia Publishing House, the BIM was able to present Dr. Erber with the entire Concordia Commentary Series. Congratulations to Dr. Erber and his wife Joyce for their many years of faithful service in the mission field!
Dr. Erber presents to the BIM about challenges and opportunities in West Africa.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Latvia Guest in Regional Directors Meeting at CPH

Pictured (left to right): Rev. Tony Booker — Eurasia Regional Director, Deaconess Grace Rao — Director of Deaconess Ministry, Rev. Andris Kraulins — Board Member from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, and Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver — Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations.
During the Regional Directors' meeting held at Concordia Publishing House, Rev. Andris Kraulins visited from Latvia and met with the regional directors, in particular Rev. Tony Booker, Eurasia Regional Director.
Rev. Andris Kraulins a board member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, an LCMS partner church, and dean (circuit counselor) of the district of Jurmala visiting LCMS international center, St. Louis, January 25-27. Rev. Kraulins, who studied theology at Luther Academy, gave a presentation at IC, discussed the conservative church of Latvia in times of challenge. The presentation was informative and interesting and the audience received it well. At IC he was able to meet and have a brief talk with Rev. Bart Day, interim chief missions officer, Rev. Dr. Ray Hartwig, secretary of the synod, Rev. Larry Vogel of CTCR, associated executive director of CTCR. Later he was interviewed by KFUO, followed by a visit to CPH, where he was invited by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, director of church relations, and assistant to the president to meet all the regional directors of office of international mission. Here too, Rev. Kraulins talked about the Latvian church its structure and the challenges. Also, he brought the greetings from Archbishop, and the congregation at large.
Prior to his visit, he was at CTSFW who participated at the Lenten workshop, and the exegetical symposia, Jan. 18-21. At the seminary he had an opportunity to meet Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, Rev. Dr. Masaki and Rev. Dr. Detlev Shulz. Subsequently, he was invited by ONM to attend the Life Ministry Conference and participated in March for Life at Washington DC, Jan.21-24.
Rev. Kraulins is here to strengthen the church partnership and is interested in building the theological educational needs for pastors, and diaconal workers. LCMS welcomes Rev. Kraulins and looks forward to support and assist our Latvian partner church to reach out in mercy and compassion to those in need, motivated by Christ and His Gospel according to the Lutheran confession of the faith.
On Wednesday 28 January, the Regional Directors' meeting concluded with budget and strategic planning. After the conclusion of the Regional Directors' meeting, the RDs along with OIM staff attended the ALMA Conference on Thursday and Friday.

Concordia Publishing House hosted the Regional Directors' meeting. A special thanks to Dr. Bruce Kintz and the staff of CPH for providing the Regional Directors with one of the most productive and peaceful from hustle and bustle meetings that they have had in recent memory. The close relationships that the Regional Directors have forged with CPH and the partnership between CPH and OIM have been and continues to be a blessing for the international mission efforts of the church. We are looking forward to many other joint ventures in the future for the benefit of the mission field.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

CPH Missionary Gift Registry Video

ntroducing the Concordia Publishing House Missionary Gift Registry, featuring Dr. Bruce Kintz - President and CEO of CPH, Rev. Theodore Krey - Regional Director of Latin America, Rev. Tony Booker - Regional Director of Eurasia, and Dr. Detlev Schultz - Dean of Graduate School and Director of Missiology Program at Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne.
The CPH Missionary Gift Registry connects you with mission opportunities where CPH Products can assist LCMS Missionaries on the field. Check out CPH's Missionary Gift Registry.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Biblical and Theological Foundations for Mission — Regional Directors’ Meeting

Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schultz Teaching "Biblical and Theological Foundations for Mission"
Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House
January 26-28, 2015
The Regional Directors, representing Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, gathered at Concordia Publishing House's Gerber Room for continuing education on missiology with Rev. Dr. Klaus Detlev Schultz, Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. Dr. Schultz serves as the Dean of the Graduate School and Director of the Ph.D. in Missiology program at the Fort Wayne Seminary. The Office of International Mission (OIM) and Concordia Theological Seminary have formed a partnership to provide advanced missiology training to LCMS missionaries. The initial pilot program began with the Regional Directors, even allowing them to take the classes for credit toward the Ph.D. in missiology. After the completion of the pilot project, LCMS missionaries will be able to take seven classes toward a "certificate in missiology."  Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary, noted, "The partnership between the Office of International Mission (OIM)  and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, has been a model of collaboration for missionary training. OIM has significant human resources and missionary experience. CTSFW's expertise in missiology is undergirded by one of the premier Ph.D. programs in missiology in the world. Together, they are able to resource the church and its mission in ways beyond what either could do on its own."
At CPH, the Regional Directors are taking Module 2: Biblical and Theological Foundations for Mission. This particular course explores the historical genius and the theological discussion on the concept of missio Dei, the Lutheran contribution to that concept, the overall missiological direction of theology, and the relationship of church / congregation and mission." A significant portion of the class focused on the relationship between  church and congregations (modalities) and mission societies (sodalities). The class also examined and critiqued Alan Hirsch's apostolicity model (that apostolic leadership needs to be revived today in the church) from Ephesians 4:3. A portion of the class also discussed the relatively recent use of the term "missional" and how Lutheran theologians can contribute to the discussion. Dr. Schultz said of the class, "Coming together around the table as theologians and as missionaries, and then interacting with one another on theology and field experiences is how we can best further our mission for the future. We cannot forego reflection on mission just as much as we cannot abstain from practicing it."
Rev. Theodore Krey, Regional Director for Latin America, remarked, "Dr. Schultz's engaging lectures are challenging OIM's Regional directors to think through missiology and its centrality in the theology of the church. The goal of missions is through the Lord's Word to incorporate people into the body of Christ, which is to bring people into a worshiping community where they can receive the Lord's saving gifts." President Matthew Harrison joined the class for a time to see how the missionaries were receiving continuing education. President Harrison said to the Regional Directors, "I am proud of the work you are doing. Now is a unique moment in time for mission."
Dr. Bruce Kintz, President of Concordia Publishing House, also joined the sessions. He attended the first missiology class that Dr. Schultz taught in the Dominican Republic in October 2014. Dr. Kintz said, "I have heard many times how CPH resources remain long after LCMS missionaries move on to a new area. Getting to know the missionaries in the field has helped CPH create the resources missionaries need." Over the past year, the collaboration between OIM and CPH has increased dramatically. Kintz said, "Having been to one Regional Directors' meeting in the Dominican Republic, I felt compelled to invite the Regional Directors to CPH for their next meeting. They will be able to see first hand our materials, to see how our associates work together to create them and gain valuable input into the creation of additional resources."
In addition to the missiological continuing education, the Regional Directors will work on OIM's strategic plan and budgeting for the next year. The week concludes with the Regional Directors attending the ALMA meeting and the BIM meeting on Friday and Saturday.
(The Course Syllabus)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

History of the Old Latin School

 The Old Latin School, known officially as the Wittenberg Gymnasium of 1828, was build in the church yard of St. Mary's in Wittenberg, where Martin Luther preached over 1,000 sermons. The first two floors of the school were built in 1564. The second two floors were built in 1828, hence the official name "Wittenberg Gymnasium of 1828." When the school originally was built it served to train young men who would later attend the University of Wittenberg and other universities to become pastors, doctors, lawyers and so forth. In its 450 year history, the building has been used for a variety of purposes and visited by historically famous people. The building even served as a make shift hospital when Napoleon rolled through Wittenberg. A detailed history (in German) can be read below.

Pictured above: St. Mary's City Church, where Dr. Martin Luther preached. Circled is the Old Latin School. The location right next to the church where Martin Luther preached the Reformation Gospel to the world is a powerful reminder for the purpose of the school. The Old Latin School existed to facilitated the Gospel to the world. Today, the opportunity for the Old Latin School exists again. The renovations to the building are nearly completed. It will be dedicated in May 2015. The building will serve as a preaching station, a conference center where theological education will take place. The Old Latin School provides an opportunity to be a witness to the world regarding Confessional Lutheranism, especially during the 2017 Reformation celebration. Interested individuals and groups will be able to stay at the Old Latin School. You can learn more by visiting The Old Latin School Website ( To see some of the fascinating history of the Old Latin School, take a look at the book below.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ethiopia — New Work in An Ancient Land

(Originally from:
Ethiopia is a country with an ancient history and rich culture dating back to the Old Testament period. Some Bible versions translate Cush in Ezek. 29:10 as “Ethiopia,” and the Oromo, the largest of Ethiopia’s many tribes, is known as “Southern Cushite.”
Christianity has been in Ethiopia for nearly 2,000 years. It became the state religion in 330 A.D. when Archbishop Athanasius of Alexandria sent a bishop to Ethiopia, resulting in the birth of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and it remains the predominant religion to this day.
Lutherans are relative latecomers to this African nation—and the LCMS later still.
Lutheran contact with Ethiopia began in the 17th century with the arrival of Dr. Peter Heyling, a young missionary from Lübeck, Germany. Heyling practiced medicine while teaching Lutheran theology to the Ethiopian clergy. Echoing Luther’s work, he translated the Gospel of John and the liturgy into Amharic, the language of the people.
When Islam demanded his conversion, Heyling refused and was martyred. His teachings, however, survived in the Ethiopian desert for nearly 200 years. Once discovered, they laid a foundation for the work of Lutheran missionaries who came to Ethiopia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The missionaries — who were sent by Lutheran mission societies in Sweden, Germany, Norway, Finland, Denmark and the United States — planted a patchwork of independent churches that merged over 50 years ago to form the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY).
Mekane Yesus means “the dwelling place of Jesus.” It aptly describes this rapidly growing church body that is focused on ministering to the whole person with Christ’s gifts in Word and Sacrament.
The LCMS began regular contact with the EECMY in 2000, though informal connections occurred through individual students and professors of the EECMY in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
The EECMY, with its zeal for missions and revitalization of congregations, has grown significantly from a church of 20,000 members in 1959. Its membership will soon surpass 7 million.
Such rapid growth creates a tremendous need for pastors and provides a challenge for this young church body with a goal of training 10,000 pastors and evangelists in five years.
Because the LCMS has an international reputation for excellence in theological education and pastoral formation, the EECMY has asked the Missouri Synod to assist in helping train future professors who will teach at its central seminary, five regional seminaries and 40 Bible schools.
The Rev. Dr. Berhanu Ofgaa, the EECMY general secretary, says that the EECMY needs a strong Lutheran identity to remain faithful in light of the many challenges the church faces — challenges ranging from Islam to Pentecostalism to liberalism. This is a conviction shared by EECMY President Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa.
In November, an LCMS delegation led by the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, LCMS Director of Church Relations and Regional Operations, met with EECMY leaders to discuss and sign a revised working–partnership agreement. The agreement includes provision for theological education and support for Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa.
“Though differences remain,” said Collver, “the EECMY has a great respect for the LCMS’ commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inerrant Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions. At the same time, the LCMS can learn from the EECMY’s zeal for mission and revitalization of congregations.”
“The EECMY has a strong desire for confessional Lutheran Theology taught to the highest standards,” said the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kloha, provost at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. “By strengthening their graduate programs, pastors and professors of the EECMY will be built up in the Scriptures and Confessions … We are pleased to have several pastors from the EECMY already studying for advanced degrees here through the Global Seminary Initiative. They will return to Ethiopia to strengthen theological education there for the next generation.”
The Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr., president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., expanded on this, stating: “Students from the EECMY have benefited from educational opportunities at Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS) in Fort Wayne for more than a decade now. At the same time, faculty from CTS have built deep and lasting relationships with Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa. Through this mutual interaction, we see God at work building and strengthening His church for a robust future.”
“There are great opportunities ahead for the LCMS and the EECMY as this relationship develops,” Collver said. “Thanks be to God for opening this door. LCMS ministry leaders look forward to continuing this work together.”
The Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, LCMS director of Church Relations and Regional Operations, and Deaconess Pamela J. Nielsen is associate executive director for LCMS Communications, contributed to this story.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

« WORKING AGREEMENT SIGNED BETWEEN ILK AND LCMS ILC Executive meets inEngland, plans for 2015 World Conference

Pictured, from left: President Gijsbertus van Hattem (Belgium); President Egon Kopereck (Brazil); Archbishop Christian Ekong (Nigeria); ILC Executive Secretary Dr. Albert Collver (USA); Chairman Jon Ehlers (Great Britain); Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt (Germany); President Antonio Reyes (Philippines).

By Mathew Block

ENGLAND – The Executive Committee of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) met January 15-16, 2015 at the St. Cuthman’s Retreat Centre in Coolham, West Sussex, just south of London, England. ILC Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany, presided over the sessions.

The committee’s primary task was to make preparations for the ILC’s 25th World Conference, set for September 2015, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Bishops and presidents of all 34 full and associate member churches are being invited. The chosen overarching theological theme for the gathering is Bringing the Reformation to the World. In addition, delegates to the conference will choose a chairman and other executive officers for the coming three-year term.

Chairman Voigt expressed his joy over the fact that five Lutheran church bodies from various continents have made inquiries about taking up membership in the ILC. The Executive Committee also spent time examining the financial status of this global organization, which needs to be further developed.

Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (USA), facilitated intensive planning sessions for the Executive Committee as they strategized for the future and analyzed both strengths and weaknesses of the Council’s existing form and function.

Summing up at the close of the meetings, Chairman Voigt commented, “At various times in history, the Church has been especially strong when in the midst of its limitations it focused on the primary thing—that is, the proclamation of the Gospel.” Bringing the Gospel to people is the Church’s main responsibility, he added.

Monday, January 19, 2015


19 January 2015
For Immediate Release

Representatives from the Istanbul Lutheran Church (ILK) and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) met in Istanbul on 17-19 January 2015 to discuss the creation of a working agreement between the church bodies.

Representing the ILK, Leading Pastor, Rev. Ville Typpö, together with Rev. Mikko Tiira, met with church leaders from the LCMS, including Rev. Tony Booker, LCMS Eurasia Regional Director, Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations, Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, and Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne and Chairman of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations.

The agreement states that the goal is “to work together to make Christ known primarily among the Turkish speaking people and to strengthen the Lutheran witness by word and deed in the church and community.” The two churches also agreed to respect each other’s founding documents and conscience, to have regular contact between leaders, to share plans with one another, and to share theological and education resources.

Leading Pastor Ville Typpö rejoices in the agreement, stating, “It was the intention of Martin Luther himself to send able men among Turkish speaking people to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was not possible during his times, but is possible in our times. Now we, as churches sharing the same confession and the same goal, are invited to take steps toward working together for this purpose.”

Dr. Albert Collver expressed, “We are very glad to be able to sign this working agreement with the ILK. Their commitment to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, along with their experience in both Turkish culture and language, are invaluable to carry forth a witness in the region.”

The two churches intend to hold additional conversations towards future work.

About the Istanbul Lutheran Church

Istanbul Lutheran Church (ILK) is a Turkish speaking Confessional Lutheran Church officially established in 2004, nowadays consisting of four congregations located in Turkey and Bulgaria. The ILK carries the tradition of the first Lutheran congregation established in Constantinople at 1709. Learn more at
About The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a biblical, confessional, witness-oriented Christian denomination with 2.2 million members — 600,000 households — in 6,200 congregations. Through acts of witness and mercy, the church makes known the love of Jesus Christ worldwide. Learn more at

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) speaks about the Old Latin School recently being renovated and finished for its dedication on 3 May 2015 in Wittenberg Germany. The Old Latin School was built in 1564 across from St. Mary's ( Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien zu Wittenberg) where Dr. Martin Luther preached the majority of his sermons during this tenure in Wittenberg. Throughout its life the Old Latin School prepare young men for further study, was seen by Peter the Great, and served as a hospital when Napoleon marched through. More recently, under the communist it served as a printing office and a garment factory until it laid vacant for 40 plus years. Under the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW), a partnership of the Missouri Synod, Concordia Publishing House (CPH), and our partner church the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK). The Old Latin School will serve as a Gospel outreach to the Wittenberg Community, with the establishment of an Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) congregation inside the building. It also will serve as a conference center with boarding for classes on Lutheran studies and confessional studies, as well as a place for tour groups from around the world to stay when they visit Luther sites and learn more about the Reformation. After many years the Old Latin School is almost completely renovated. Below are some photos showing the progress. Additional information can be found at the Wittenberg Project Site. Screenshot 2015-01-13 09.01.42
Location of the Old Latin School is adjacent to St. Mary's where Martin Luther preached the Reformation Gospel.


 Bishop Voigt and Dr. Collver standing on Jüdenstraße outside of the Old Latin School. IMG_7912

 The Plaque on the outside of the Old Latin School.

 This is the renovated space inside the Old Latin School where the chapel and SELK congregation will meet on Sunday mornings.


 This space is where the bookstore will be located in the Old Latin School. CPH is providing the initial supply of books.
 Office space on the upper level in the Old Latin School.
View from the Office Window.

 A portion of the Old Latin School Director's Apartment

 The outer door from the inside.

 Above the door on the outside.

 The Old Latin School from Jüdenstraße.

 The Old Latin School at night with St. Mary's in the background.

 The Old Latin school at night from the St. Mary's Entrance.

 -- Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D., Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Persian (Iranian) Lutheran Congregation in Berlin

IMG_7805.JPG On Sunday, 11 January 2015, The Baptism of the Lord, we visited Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Berlin, Germany. Trinity is a SELK congregation (in altar and pulpit fellowship with the Missouri Synod) and a "satellite" congregation of St. Mary's in the Zehlendorf district of Berlin. Pastor Gottfried Martens serves as the senior pastor. The majority of the people who attended Trinity were Persians who had come to Germany from Iran. Most of the attendees were formerly Muslim. The worship attendance was approximately 300.

IMG_7774.JPG There are a growing number of Iranians coming to Germany, both due to the brain drain of professionals from Iran and due to persecution. Germany has the largest population of Iranians (around 150,000) in Western Europe. Pastor Gottfried Matins, in a Christianity Today article, noted the irony of Persians converting from Islam to Christianity in Eastern Europe, which is one of the most atheistic and godless regions of the Western world. IMG_7767.JPG The service follows the regular order of service found in the SELK (Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church) hymnal; however, the congregation provides two supplements, 1. A German-English supplement and 2. A German-Farsi (Persian) supplement to assist congregation member and visitor alike. The service began with a "Service of Corporate Confession and Absolution." The Lutheran Service Book (LSB) has a similar service. At Trinity in Berlin, the Service of Confession begins 30 minutes before the main service. After a corporate confession of sins ("I, a poor, miserable sinner confess to all my sins ..."), the penitent are invited to come forward and kneel at the communion rail to receive absolution (forgiveness of sins). Although fewer people attended the Confession service than the main service, it was still well attended with perhaps half the number of the divine service. After hearing the pastor speak, "Dir sind deine Sünden vergeben (Your sins are forgiven)" 200 hundred or so times to each individual who came forward, it is hard to walk away unclear what Jesus has done for you. The effect of hearing your sins are forgiven must be even more profound for a person coming from a Muslim background which does not teach forgives or grace.

IMG_7779.JPG The German-Farsi supplement has the Lord's Prayer in Farsi (Persian) with how to pronounce the words on the left. During the service, the Lord's Prayer was said in Farsi. Now if an English speaking person looks at the Lord's Prayer in Farsi (Persian), he can recognize a few of the words (pedare, name, et al). For instance, the familial words in English such as "father," "mother," "daughter," and "brother," all originally came from Persian. Likewise, the English word "name," originally came from Persian. As an Indo-European language, Persian (Farsi) influenced the development of several European languages including English. Another Persian word every English speaker would recognize is "paradise."


A number of the Persian attendees were catechumens (those who had not been baptized but were receiving instruction in the Christian faith). Those awaiting baptism received a blessing at the communion rail commending them to the day of their baptism. No doubt those who have completed the Christian instruction will be baptized at the Easter Vigil service. Pastor Martins has people study the Scriptures, the Creeds, the Small Catechism of Martin Luther, and the liturgy before baptism. IMG_7772.JPG The Jesus of the Bible not the Jesus found in the Qu'ran must be preached. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, through the preaching and the teaching of Jesus. Pastor Martins preached on the baptism of Jesus, especially relevant for those Persian catechumens who will receive Holy Baptism in a few months. IMG_7783.JPG Pictured: Rev. Dr. Jon Vieker, Rev. David Bueltmann, Deaconess Pamela Nielsen, Rev. Dr. Gottfried Martins, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Rev. David Mahsman, Mr. Rick Steenboch. After the service, the congregation invited us to eat lunch with them before we departed for Wittenberg. To read more please see: Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church welcomes Iranian converts From Christianity Today -- "The Other Iranian Revolution" -- Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D., Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations

Monday, January 5, 2015


IMG_7327   On December 13-18, 2014 I was privileged to visit the Czech Republic along with the Rev. Dr. Albert Collver III (Director of Church Relations & Regional Operations), Pastor Tony Booker (Regional Director of LCMS Eurasia), Pastor James Krikava (Associate Regional Director of LCMS Eurasia), Deaconess Grace Rao (Director of LCMS Deaconess Ministry), Deaconess Dorothy Krans (Director of Recognized Service Organizations), and Mrs. Kay Kreklau (President, LWML International).   IMG_7319 Though we spent a half day in Prague at the beginning and end of the trip, which included the Divine Service at St. Michael’s church with Pastor Tony Booker preaching and presiding, most of the time was spent in the northeastern city of Český Těšín, on the Polish border. In fact, several of us stayed in a small hotel just across the Olse River in Poland, in the sister city of Cieszyn. IMG_7415 The purposes of the trip were twofold: to continue talks between the LCMS and the Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (SECAC) and to lead a two day conference on the theology of mercy, both for the benefit of SECAC and its partner organization for mercy work, the Silesian Diakonia. My participation in the trip was an outgrowth of our congregation’s support of Missionary Jim Krikava who is one of five network supported missionaries (NSMs) that our congregation has adopted over the last 15 years. (From our side of things, we have known this as the Together in Mission program.) I was largely an observer at the talks with SECAC and at the Mercy conference, but also participated in many informal conversations. I had prepared a presentation on “Preaching Mercy,” but didn’t end up giving the talk due to conference schedule adjustments. IMG_7435 The Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession is the largest (non-union) Lutheran Church in the Czech Republic. While its formal incorporation dates from the early 20th century, her roots go back to the time of the Reformation through Kaspar Schwenkfeld and the local political support of Waclaw III Adam. Though the LCMS is not presently in altar and pulpit fellowship with this church body, the Synod did sign a working agreement with the SECAC on November 13, 2010. The SECAC is comprised of about 35 pastors and 21 congregations located in the northeastern Czech Republic in part of a larger region historically known as Silesia. Until World War I Silesia was the name for the territory located both in this northeastern part of the Czech Republic as well as in southwestern Poland. It was a very Lutheran area! In fact, still today, the overwhelming percentage of Lutherans in both Poland and the Czech Republic still live in this area formerly known as Silesia.   The Silesian Diakonia is an amazing organization for mercy work, which is closely affiliated with the SECAC and provides a full array of social services throughout Silesia. These services consist of 102 programs in 60 centers provided by 600 full time employees, 100 part time employees, and 115 volunteers. Orphanages, homeless shelters, and sheltered workshops are just a few examples of the types of services they provide for the benefit of 8,000 needy people. In Europe it is common to have such `diakonias’ or social service organizations that are affiliated with various church bodies (many of them Lutheran). These diakonias receive much of their funding from the government.   It was both surprising to me as well as horizon expanding to observe the depth of theological education of many of the pastors in SECAC. Almost all had four year university Bachelor degrees plus a seminary education. Some received their university education at the respected 14th century Charles University, in Prague. Several have studied at U.S. Lutheran seminaries. But it was also very interesting to note the differences between their theology and that which we confess as LCMS Lutherans. There is definitely still much work to be done if we are to grow together into the fullness of our Lutheran identity. These conversations, with Dr. Collver and Missionaries Booker and Krikava doing the talking for the LCMS, impressed on me the importance of confessing and taking seriously, not only the authority of Scripture, but also our subscription to the Lutheran Confessions, in matters related to international missions. On a side note, it was very impressive to witness the fluency in Czech, German, and Russian from Eurasia Regional and Associate Regional Directors Booker and Krikava! We’d have been lost without it… literally!   Besides the faithful and bold confession of the faith that was made by our representatives, I was also struck by the patience, respect, trust, goodwill, charity, and desire for cooperation in externals that was evident from all who spoke. I came to realize what a slow process such efforts at recovering a full and shared Lutheran identity can be, and how much it is aided by the values just mentioned. It also occurred to me that there are many similarities between the dynamics of `church talks’ such as these, and the kind of dialogue envisioned in the LCMS through the Koinonia Project. In the near future I hope to say more about this.   There is so much more that could be said about our interaction with these Lutherans of the Czech Republic, not the least of which is to reflect further on the Mercy conference and the things learned from our time with the Silesian Diakonia. But that will have to wait for another time.   I’d like to close by saying how much greater of an appreciation I gained for the dedicated hard work of the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM). From the things I learned about funding and budgeting issues, to aspects of the strategic plan, to the uniqueness of each Lutheran church body in the world, to the OIM’s critical relationship with LCMS diaconal work and our Recognized Service Organizations, the LCMS Office of International Mission works hard to advance the mission of our Triune God to all nations in a way that is fully integrated with everything else that our Synod does. My hope is that more and more congregations and individuals will read and take to heart the wealth of information regarding international missions that is already communicated through the Lutheran Witness, the Reporter, and the LCMS website with its various blogs. (Pastors can play a key role in publicizing this information!) And as this knowledge increases, my prayer is that we as individuals, congregations, districts, and the Synod will, by God’s grace, work increasingly closer together, in a mutually supportive and cooperative way, to advance the one mission of the Triune God—that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.   Pastor Peter K. Lange, Senior Pastor St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Topeka, Kansas