“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV)
This well-known verse is the ultimate biblical call to the mission field, to serve the Lord of the harvest … to become a missionary.
Since 1847, when The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) was founded, thousands have responded to God’s call and served in mission fields both abroad and here at home, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with untold thousands who had never before heard His name or learned of His sacrificial life and death born out of His great love for all.
The world is much smaller now than it was then. Smaller, too, than it was in 1895 when the Rev. Theodore Naether (pictured right), the first LCMS missionary, was sent to India. But one fact has not changed: Millions still do not know Jesus Christ or know Him only dimly.
Because of you, our Synod can continue to recruit, call, prepare and send missionaries into a world that is very different from the way it was even a decade ago.
What does international mission work look like today? Now?
The era of sending fresh seminary graduates and their families to live in remote villages, teaching the rudiments of the Christian faith to natives isolated and disconnected from the rest of the world is almost extinct. Air travel by jumbo jet, smart phones, satellite television and the Internet have transformed the globe — and connected people of all cultures and languages in ways inconceivable to our pioneering missionaries. So, too, has the spread of dictatorial communism, radical Islam, global terrorism, agnostic secularism and outright heresy changed the world. Today there are overt and complex challenges to spreading the saving Gospel.
Today’s missionaries must be skilled individuals from all walks of life. They are church workers and lay members. They are married and single, young and not-so-young, retirees and new college graduates. They live in established cities around the world and work in concert with LCMS partner church bodies to vigorously make known the love of Jesus Christ in word and deed. They are specialists in mercy work, communications, teaching, construction and one-on-one evangelism.
With all this in mind, consider now a new and very exciting shift taking place in the world.
The number-one request we hear from current and potential partner churches around the globe is, “Help us train our pastors.” This is a new, key way LCMS missionaries will spread the Gospel to those who have not yet heard it. The LCMS is being asked to support, revitalize and sustain faithful Lutheran churches around the world! This is the changing but oh, so very important face of missionary service today.
James and Christel Neuendorf are an example of the new reality of mission work. Five years ago they became LCMS missionaries deployed to the Dominican Republic.
“We’ve been looking to solve one of the biggest problems in the region — a lack of faithful theological resources for pastors,” James said. “A wealth of information exists, but the vast majority is in other languages, enormously expensive to acquire and must be shipped through complicated and sometimes unfriendly channels.”
Working from an LCMS regional office in Santiago, the Neuendorfs are collaborating with Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, and LCMS partner church leaders in Central and South America to create an online electronic library of theological resources in Spanish and Portuguese to enhance the formation of Latino, Brazilian and Hispanic pastors and missionaries. The Chemnitz Initiative, as the library project will be known, will solve that problem. With solid theological materials in the hands of Lutheran pastors — in their own languages — throughout the region, they will be more fully equipped to shepherd their flocks.
A virtual library! I wonder what our Pastor Naether would think of his Synod today!
Good things are happening. The world is coming to us, the LCMS, to learn how to vigorously make known the love of Jesus Christ in word and deed.
For that reason alone, I am bold to ask for a gift today — restricted to supporting LCMS international mission efforts — to strengthen your Synod’s work out in the harvest fields of the 21st century. Please be generous. With your partnership, the Gospel message shall fly out all across the world for the salvation of many souls.
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
PS: Last month, 10 new LCMS missionaries completed their orientation and training in advance of moving to the mission field. Follow their work online at www.lcms.org/international and please consider a gift today in support of LCMS international mission work.