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Global Mission Update: Going the Distance (January 2013)
“When you are working on the body of Christ,” said Rev. David Birner, former missionary, “you’re in God’s timeline. Missionaries come into focus for a short time, then other missionaries step in and continue the work. Going the distance is a perspective that you are always bound to the body of Christ to extend His body...everywhere in the world.”
More than 30 years ago, the LCMS sent Birner, a new seminary graduate, halfway around the world to live in the “bush” of Papua New Guinea. Missionary Rev. Ron Rall was already there, and the two worked together for three years before “passing the torch” to Birner, who continued service for a total of 14 years among indigenous people hungry for the Gospel.
Rev. Birner and other LCMS missionaries also helped the local tribes build an airstrip between their villages. The project took more than a year of manual labor, but when completed, it gave the Hewa people vital, life-changing access to government services, like medical care and education.
Missionary Birner and Rall were one small part of the larger, ongoing witness and mercy work of Papua New Guinea. The LCMS has been sending missionaries to the country since 1948. God has greatly blessed this work accomplished through your missionaries and those mission supporters whose financial gifts have ‘gone the distance’ for the sake of the Gospel, not only in Papua New Guinea but also on mission fields across the globe.
Today, commitment to bearing witness and mercy in Papua New Guinea continues, with Rev. Jeffrey Horn accepting the call to serve the people of Papua New Guinea. A seasoned pastor of 14 years, he is leaving his parish ministry in Indiana to provide theological education and guidance to men in the Gutnius (Good News) Lutheran Church who want to share the Gospel with others.
Today, the Gutnius Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea has more than 54,000 baptized members in some 550 congregations. But the work of the LCMS is about more than planting one congregation or building one airstrip. It’s even about more than establishing one church body.
Rev. Horn joins a growing number of theological educators being placed in Lutheran seminaries across the globe as part your LCMS strategy to strengthen our partner churches. “The Gutnius Lutheran Church is asking us to help train their pastors so that they can send their own missionaries,” said Birner. “Papua New Guinea is located next to a large Muslim population in Indonesia, a mission field indeed.”
While we can’t all travel to faraway places to share the Gospel, we can go the distance by supporting the efforts of LCMS global mission work through our prayers and financial support. Thank you.
Will you go the distance to proclaim the Gospel? Please join me today in supporting this vital work of our church. Your gift today of $50, $85, $150 or the amount the Lord leads you, to the Global Mission Fund will enable your Synod’s Offices of International Mission and National Mission to go the distance through bold acts of witness and mercy both here at home and abroad.
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod
PS: To learn more about the work of Rev. Birner and the building of the airstrip in the 1980s in Papua New Guinea, watch and share “One Stone at a Time” online video on YouTube here: www.lcms.org/onestonevideo.