Annual LWMS convention goes virtual

Annual LWMS convention goes virtual

From its inaugural 1964 convention in Winona, Minn., to its 2019 convention in Des Moines, Iowa, the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) has faithfully hosted annual conventions for the past 56 years. Each year, the event draws attendees from throughout the country and worldwide who gather to joyfully praise God and support WELS mission work.

Three missionaries were commissioned at the closing service for WELS Taste and See: (left to right) Paul Bourman to a mission restart in Tigard, Ore.; Joel Nitz to Southeast Asia; and Howard Mohlke to Africa. A Q&A with these missionaries is on the Taste and See website.

The year 2020 was to be no exception. Plans were well underway for the 57th annual convention in Athens, Ga., in June. The theme “2020 Vision for Missions” was chosen, and hours of planning and preparation were already complete.

Then the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe, and for the first time in 57 years, LWMS made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel its in-person convention.

“The decision to cancel was agonizing,” recalls Cynthia Natsis, LWMS president. “But by the end of April, it became obvious that travel and staying in hotels would be dangerous to our members.”

Despite its deep disappointment, the LWMS team adapted to carry out its mission of supporting WELS mission efforts, but in a bold new way—virtually. If people couldn’t come to the convention, LWMS would bring the convention to them by way of technology.

Several congregations, including Rock of Ages, Nashville, Tenn., held “watch parties” for the opening and closing services.

Through a partnership with WELS Missions, the LWMS convention was combined with WELS Taste of Missions—another in-person event that was canceled due to the pandemic. “Taste and See,” the combined virtual event, was born. LWMS committee members and WELS Missions staff met weekly for months to determine how to offer key elements of both events in an engaging and interactive online format.

On June 27, the Taste and See virtual event launched. For two weeks, thousands of WELS members worldwide tuned in to view the opening and closing worship services, “Moments with Missionaries” videos, recipe tutorials from around the globe, the commissioning of new missionaries, and the LWMS flag presentation. Viewers even hosted “watch parties” for the opening and closing services.

“It became such a blessing to all involved, and due to the new format, we were able to reach so many more people than if we had held it in person,” says Natsis.

Sean Young, director of WELS Missions operations, was thrilled with the unexpected number of website visitors, totaling over 9,300. “I thought we’d get a few thousand views,” he says. “But from the opening service to the final day, God again demonstrated that we can’t pray audaciously enough!”

Young is grateful for LWMS’ dedication to WELS Missions and its flexibility in a challenging time: “LWMS is a passionate ministry partner that works diligently to share what’s happening in WELS Missions. Its leadership should be commended for their willingness to embrace a brand-new model for the event.”

Even during a pandemic, God continues to advance his kingdom. Through Taste and See, God moved the hearts of his people to contribute the largest service offering to date for an LWMS convention: $72,925—all to support WELS mission work.

“I am blown away at the generosity of my fellow believers and their love for spreading the good news about Jesus,” says Natsis. “Thank you for making this time of uncertainty about the virus a time of rejoicing instead. God is good!”

See more videos and additional resources at welstasteandsee.com.

Volume 107, Number 9
Issue: September 2020

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