Christian Aid and Relief | WELS Christian Aid and Relief

Deep Water: Update from Malawi

Missionary Mark Panning, serving the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA)-Malawi, writes about severe damages from recent flooding, and the people who continue trusting in a loving God who will see them through. To support our brothers and sisters of the LCCA-Malawi, donate online A gift designated to Flood Disaster Relief will help make sure members of our sister church receive care.

Greetings from Lilongwe, Malawi!

Things have been a bit unsettled since I wrote my last Malawi Update. Our Missionary of Education and Publication, Rev. Peter Martin, has taken a call to serve as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Radcliff, KY. He and his family left Malawi in the beginning of December. In addition to this, another of our missionaries, Rev. Stephen Lawrenz, will be returning to the United States by the end of March. Rev. Lawrenz will not be replaced. We are still waiting to see if there will be a replacement for Rev. Martin. So temporarily, at least, the number of missionaries in Malawi has been reduced from six to four. That hurts.

The Malawi Mission Council has been meeting with the leaders of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) to develop a strategic plan for ministry in Malawi. To be sure, it is a wonderful thing that the LCCA is undertaking this important work. More than that, it’s a great opportunity to structure the work in Malawi in the very best possible way so that the preaching of the gospel can go forward. At the same time, however, it also involves a lot of very weighty questions, and creates a good bit of uncertainty. How many missionaries will be serving in Malawi in the future? Will even some of the remaining four end up going home? If they remain in Malawi, what specific jobs will they be asked to do? Is the national church happy and content with what missionaries have been doing in the past? These are questions that weigh heavily on the minds of world missionaries. It is not a lot of fun when you are the one who needs to wade through them.

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If I am tempted to feel sorry for myself, swamped as I am beneath the “grievous burdens” of my supposedly miserable condition, recent events in Malawi have taught me to count my blessings. There are a lot of people in Malawi who are wading through much deeper water than I am. In the past few days, Malawi has been hit with very severe flooding. No one can know at this time the full extent of the damages or loss of life. At the time of writing, at least 176 people are confirmed dead, and perhaps a quarter of a million no longer have a house in which to sleep. The damage to buildings, bridges, roads and crops is immense. Nevertheless, Malawi is still filled with people like those pictured above – people who just can’t help but smile, even as their strong-armed sons or brothers tow them by the hand through waist-deep rushing water. How stupid and arrogant of me to think that MY life was so difficult!

Whatever manner of “deep water” you might be in, we have a powerful and loving God who promises to see us through. He has shown his infinite love for sinners like you and me by sacrificing his only Son to pay for our transgressions. He has shown his almighty power by raising Jesus from the dead and seating him at his right hand. This is the God who says to us:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

Perhaps some of those smiling people in Malawi have put their trust in Christ, and appreciate God’s promise even better than I do. I hope so, because for many of them, the waters have just gotten that much deeper.

Sadly, disasters such as this are not limited to Malawi. They happen all around the world and affect many different people. The Wisconsin Synod provides disaster relief assistance through the WELS Christian Aid and Relief Committee. We thank God for all who offer their prayers and support to help suffering people all around the world.

Mulungu akudaletseni nonce,

(God bless you all)

Missionary Mark Panning

Pictures of Lutheran members houses

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On Friday, January 16, WELS Missionary Robert Wendland visited members of the St. Nathanael’s Lutheran Church in Mpemba Beni, Malawi. This is one of the areas that has been hit especially hard by the flooding. Although only a few pictures are shown here, Rev. Wendland has about 100 more that show essentially the same story repeated over and over. And this is only one small village in Malawi.

At least one LCCA member has received his eternal crown of glory as a result of the flooding.

The house below collapsed on him.

Acr3472698863060-29947-300x260An injured woman stands in front of the wall that fell on her.

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A Breath of Hope

Marina, our faithful worker in Russia!

Marina, our faithful worker in Russia!

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

At the end of October, one of our Russian members, “Olga,” suffered a stroke and ended up in the hospital. Why does God allow His believers to suffer troubles? But God had a plan.

There in the hospital, Olga met “Irina.”1 Irina had traveled from her village seeking treatment for COPD (a respiratory illness). Olga listened as Irina described her long struggle to breathe. Doctors had now prescribed a nebulizer for her, but Irina couldn’t afford it. Irina was frustrated and depressed.

Olga suggested that our church might be able to help. And so Irina called and spoke with our humanitarian aid manager, Marina.

Marina recalls, “When Irina phoned, she wasn’t demanding at all. She simply said that she reached the end of her hope and had nowhere else to turn but to God.”

Marina purchased the nebulizer and passed it on to Pastor Arkady Sedelnikov. Then Arkady went to the hospital to visit Irina. He delivered the nebulizer, a package of Christian literature, and a large dose of hope in the form of the Great Physician, Jesus Christ the Savior from sin and death.

Irina soon traveled back to her hometown. The whole episode lasted only four days.

This is the work Jesus has given us: To share His gospel wherever we have opportunity. And He Himself promises to bless His word.

Pray that God would give His word success so that Irina, her family members and others in her village may enjoy eternal blessings!

Praise our wise, heavenly Father who lovingly uses our troubles for good!


SEVERE FLOODS IN MALAWI

“If one part [of the body] suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:26-27)”

Today, some of our fellow members of God’s church are suffering. Just a few months ago, the country of Malawi was suffering a severe drought, and the government was having difficulty in providing water to people. Last week, Malawi went from one extreme to another. Days of heavy rains resulted in widespread and severe flooding throughout the African nation, destroying homes, crops, and lives. Many congregations and perhaps thousands of members of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa-Malawi, our sister synod live in the devastated areas and have been severely affected by the floods.

together-malawiWe are not yet aware of the full extent of the damage, since many LCCA congregations in remote areas are hard to reach on the best days. With travel and communication abilities limited, a full assessment of the damage to LCCA churches and members’ homes is ongoing.

WELS missionaries in Malawi have been in contact in WELS Christian Aid and Relief to begin a formal request for relief aid. Christian Aid and Relief is making an initial grant to help with immediate needs and will be able to offer more assistance as ongoing needs are determined. Christian Aid and Relief has also reached out to the Central Africa Medical Mission, which operates a mobile health clinic in Malawi, as medical needs are expected to increase in the flooded areas.

This situation is one in which members of one body can show our love to others who are suffering. To help our Christian brothers and sisters in Malawi, you can donate online or send checks to WELS, Re: Christian Aid and Relief, flood disaster relief fund, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive, Waukesha, WI 53188-1108.

Read more from Malawi Missionary Mark Panning.

Serving in Christ,

President Mark Schroeder


WELS members volunteer help in Black Forest restoration project

IMG_0310On June 11, 2013 a fire started in the foothills of Colorado Springs, CO in a section of the Black Forest. The fire spread quickly to the suburbs and in the end consumed 486 homes and did over $85,000,000.00 in damage.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief was contacted shortly thereafter by Pastor James Seiltz of Salem Lutheran Church. (One of two WELS churches in Colorado Springs). Pastor Seiltz reported that the fire came close to his home and the church but, that by the grace of God both were spared. He further reported that only a few members had some damage to their homes and thankfully no members lost their homes completely. With that said, Seiltz also reported that he knew that many friends of the congregational members of both his church and the other WELS church in town, Fount of Life were affected.

Christian Aid and Relief immediately dispatched funds to help those affected. The two WELS congregations created a joint committee to organize relief efforts and to prioritize needs to be addressed.

ccIMG_0336It has been a slow but steady recovery process for the affected communities but they now are starting to restore public access areas in the forest that were damaged by the fire. The joint committee has seen this to be a wonderful opportunity to help in the restoration project and to reach out in Christian love and compassion for their community. The committee decided to use some for the granted funds to have t-shirts made to help identify their volunteers and to also assist with the cost of feeding the volunteers.

We thank our gracious Lord for providing these opportunities to our Colorado Springs congregations to “let their light shine” in service to their Lord and their communities. And we pray that the Holy Spirit would use these volunteers to share the saving Gospel with those who may not know their Savior yet.


PS. Christian Aid & Relief is helping to support Gospel outreach among the deaf in Russia

Deaf Club in Berdsk

Deaf Club in Berdsk. Gennadi is second from the left in the front row in the brown suit coat.

At age five, Gennadi was thrown from a horse and lost the hearing in both ears. For the next 70 years, Gennadi worked, fished, tended his garden – and knew nothing about his Savior. But God knew Gennadi and had plans for him.

About two years ago, Gennadi’s friends invited him to deaf Bible class in Berdsk, and he started coming to weekly classes. He came to socialize with friends, but he also listened to God’s Word. He heard how God created the world and all things, including our first parents. He heard how Adam and Eve fell into sin, and how God promised them a Savior. For the first time, he heard what Jesus had done for him, how He had died and risen from the dead, and how God promised His believers eternal life.

Then one week’s Bible lesson focused on baptism. We learned that Gennadi had never been baptized. “Gennadi, would you like to be baptized? God wants to give all these wonderful promises to you personally.” “Oh, no, pastor, I’m too old for that kind of thing!”

But Gennadi kept coming, and he kept listening. And God kept working in his heart. Finally, about a year after he started attending Bible class, Gennadi announced that he would like to be baptized. What a happy day that was!

And Gennadi kept coming. And he kept listening. And God kept working. About six months later, Gennadi came to Bible class and announced that he would like to be confirmed. Why? Gennadi wanted to take Lord’s Supper with us.

John Lange and Gennadi

John Lange and Gennadi

I think the Lord Jesus instituted His supper just for Gennadi. Do you remember how Jesus once spoke sign language to a deaf man He intended to heal? He put His fingers into the man’s ears. He touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and sighed before speaking one powerful word: “Ephatha!” “Be opened!”

The Savior does the same thing now for Gennadi. “Look! Take and eat! This is My body, which I gave for you. Look! Take and drink! This is the blood that I shed for you on the cross. Gennadi, go in peace. All your sins are forgiven!”

On Gennadi’s confirmation day, I said, “Gennadi, we all know you like to fish. Jesus is a fisherman too. The only difference is that Jesus catches people. Gennadi, when you catch your fish, you take them home and you eat them. When Jesus catches His fish, He takes them home and gives them eternal life. And now, Gennadi, Jesus has caught you too, hasn’t he!” And Gennadi nodded and smiled. Thank God for the work He is doing in Russia and around the word! – Missionary Luke Wolfgramm

PS. Christian Aid & Relief is helping to support Gospel outreach among the deaf in Russia.