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Connecting people to the gospel

“I would use the illustration of a switchboard operator from the early days of telephone communication to explain the work of a diaspora ministry facilitator,” says Neil Birkholz, WELS’ Asian ministry consultant and diaspora ministry facilitator for East Asia. “When an inquiry from my designated people group comes to me directly or to someone else in WELS, I become the middleman/operator and connect them to the right person.”

baptism of asian woman
Steve Gabb, pastor at Hope, Los Angeles, Calif., baptized Amber in February. Neil Birkholz connected Amber, originally from East Asia, with Gabb when he learned that she was looking for a WELS church in the Los Angeles area.

Birkholz further explains, “If someone from Korea is looking to connect their son with a WELS church in the United States, I help connect them with the local WELS church where their son will be living. If a member of my WELS church in California is returning to their home country of Thailand, I help connect them with our WELS World Mission One Team in Thailand so this member can continue to worship with other confessional Lutherans while living in Thailand.”

The role of diaspora ministry facilitator is a new one. As globalization has increased, so have global migration rates, which has opened up new mission opportunities for WELS churches. Diaspora ministry—or people group ministry—is coordinated by Joint Missions because it involves both World Missions and Home Missions.

Each World Missions One Team (Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Native American) has at least one diaspora ministry facilitator, which is a role that a pastor takes on in addition to his full-time call. These facilitators have experience serving the people group with which they are working and stay in touch with the World Missions One Team for their area.

Four pastors sitting at a restaurant table
Aaron Bublitz (front left), pastor at Heritage, Gilbert, Ariz., serves as the diaspora ministry facilitator for Africa. To his right is Peter Bur, a Sudanese pastor who serves Good Shepherd, Omaha, Neb. Also pictured are (back left) Fred Berger, Nebraska District Mission Board chairman, and (back right) Nate Buchner, who also serves as a pastor at Good Shepherd, Omaha, Neb.

“Diaspora ministry certainly makes the world feel a lot smaller,” says Aaron Bublitz, pastor at Heritage, Gilbert, Ariz., and the diaspora ministry facilitator for Africa. “Our WELS congregations have opportunities to connect to and share the gospel with people who have come here from all over the world. We then have the opportunity to connect to and share the gospel through them in many places in the world. We are helping facilitate the Great Commission we have been given to take the gospel to all nations.”

Learn more at, including how to contact diaspora ministry facilitators to connect people groups.

Author: Forward in Christ
Volume: 110, Number 04
Issue: April 2023

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