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My Christian life: One of the first members of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society

A woman dedicated to supporting mission work shares stories about the start of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society.

When I was growing up, my grandma, Carol Niemeyer, was a steadfast example of a devoted Lutheran. Her faith and dedication were evident in everything she had accomplished, such as creating a loving family that believes and knows God’s love. Yet, it wasn’t until later in my life that I noticed how much she has been involved with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). I have been blessed to have many wonderful conversations with my grandma over the years, and as I got older, I learned about her dedication and love for the WELS community.

One thing that makes my Grandma Carol so special is her dedication to the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS). This group of Lutheran women supports missionaries and missions around the world by learning about, praying for, and financially backing them. Carol was at the very first LWMS convention in 1964 at the age of 26 and still is involved today.

Devoted to mission work

Carol not only attended the first LWMS convention but also was part of the organization’s beginning. After she got married, Arnold Mennicke, pastor at St. Matthew, Winona, Minn., offered Carol a position as the church secretary. There she was introduced to the first ideas of LWMS by Mennicke’s wife, Thea. Thea wanted to create something for women to do within the church. Being the wife of the chairman of the Central Africa Medical Mission in Zambia, Thea wanted to help missionaries across the world. Carol agreed to join this new group, which led her to be nominated—and elected—as the organization’s secretary at the first LWMS convention. “I thought, Nobody knows me. Sure, put my name on the ballot,” she says. “But I didn’t know they were going to vote for everyone.” Her service as secretary that first year makes her the last living board member from that first convention.

Though she struggled to attend when her children were little, Carol was able to go to at least 15 conventions throughout her lifetime. She says that the friendships she made at LWMS conventions were connections that you couldn’t find anywhere else. Being around Lutheran women who were all there for the same reason was inspiring to her. She told me how she met her friend Renata Woychik at one of the conventions: “She did not have a motel room to stay in. My sister, Alice Schmidt, and I had no one staying in our room, so we said, ‘Sure, you can come and stay with us.’ By the end of those four days, when we were together, we were the best of friends.” She was blessed through LWMS to have made such great friendships.

Being part of LWMS made her feel more a part of her church as well. She was excited about the growth of LWMS and how the women were able to be involved more within the WELS community. Besides the friendships and connections she made, she also learned about the missionaries’ trials and tribulations. “The stories they bring make you thankful that they are there,” Carol states, “and they’re so thankful for all this help that LWMS gives.” Not only did these women give money to the missionaries, but they also gave greetings. They also used to make bandages and supplies to send abroad to missionaries in Africa.

Changes through the years

Carol says that the conventions have changed tremendously compared to 60 years ago. “The first convention we were really struggling because no one knew what to expect,” she says, “so that’s very different from now, where there are over a thousand people, . . . and we have to have a big convention center.” Although she was there from the start, she never anticipated the growth and how much ladies wanted to participate in this organization. “It’s the Lord who has blessed this because it’s helped the missionaries so much,” she says. “Not only do the ladies give their mission funds, they also pray, and prayer works so much for anything.”

In these conventions, my grandma made memories that lasted a lifetime. She wants to encourage the younger generation of women to join. She was only in her mid-20s at the first convention, and having these connections and friendships during that age was beneficial to her. She loves knowing that she was helping these missions and feels that she grew spiritually. “God commanded us ‘go and tell all the world’; this is something women can do. We don’t go ourselves, but as Christians, we want to expand,” she says. She wants to encourage men and pastors to go to these conventions as well so they can learn about the mission work that is happening all over the world.

Last year, LWMS celebrated its 60th anniversary at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Since it was so close to Winona, my grandma was able to attend with her sister, Alice, and her daughter Andrea Frick. While talking about this convention, she kept bringing up how they mentioned there are more Christians in Africa than there are in the United States. She says, “That blew my mind. Back then, we had no concept that any of this would be so huge.” She says she feels that she benefited more from going to these rallies and conventions than she had put into it.

Despite my grandma wishing she could have done more, she has accomplished so much during her lifetime. Being a former WELS teacher, church secretary, and LWMS secretary, she is grateful for the experiences the Lord has blessed her with. LWMS has been a staple in my grandma’s life, and it amazes her that she was involved in the beginning of this thriving and expanding WELS community.

Author: Jenifer Frick
Volume 111, Number 06
Issue: June 2024


Then and now

The Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) has grown by leaps and bounds since the first seed of an idea of women supporting mission fields around the world. About 250 attended the first convention in 1964; more than 1,200 attended in 2023.

Through it all, its mission and motto remain the same: “United to serve Jesus. LWMS is women dedicated to serving Jesus by increasing awareness of, interest in, and support of the mission outreach of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).”

To read another look back, read “A lifetime of service to LWMS,” written when LWMS celebrated its 50th anniversary. 

Watch this special video prepared for the 60th anniversary of the LWMS.

now and then at the first LWMS
Carol Niemeyer was elected secretary at the first LWMS convention in 1964. Here she is pictured (center back) with members of the first LWMS board in 1964 and with the outgoing LWMS president Patsy Kramer at the 2023 convention.

 

 

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This entry is part 1 of 51 in the series my christian life

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