It’s a long road to become a pastor. For Jordan Massiah, it’s 12 years of schooling in three different states over an international border from his hometown of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
“Studying for the ministry is tough, but the feeling of knowing that you get to be there in a person’s life helping them to learn of God’s love through Jesus is something that keeps me motivated,” says Massiah, a senior at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.
Massiah also has had a lot of encouragement along the way, including support from Lucas Bitter, pastor at Intown Lutheran Church, a home mission congregation in downtown Atlanta. Bitter met Massiah in 2011 when Bitter served as a vicar at Hope, Toronto, where Massiah is a member. “I remember writing him a note in his confirmation card saying, ‘You should really be a pastor. I can tell you would be good at it and this is what you want to do,’ ” says Bitter. Massiah decided to attend Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich., one of WELS’ worker-training preparatory high schools, and Martin Luther College.
The two stayed in touch and reconnected in person this past summer when Massiah served an internship at a nearby congregation. Bitter wanted to introduce Massiah to the members at Intown by having Massiah conduct the liturgy one Sunday, but services ended up being online due to COVID-19. So instead the congregation decided to “adopt” Massiah and connect with him virtually during his senior year in New Ulm.
Now Intown and Massiah interact regularly, connecting through Zoom interviews; a Q&A between Massiah and Intown’s Sunday school kids; a virtual campus tour by Massiah; and, of course, care packages. “Pastor Bitter and my family have helped me in so many ways, whether it was sending a note of encouragement from God’s Word or just by prayers or sending some snacks—college kids love snacks!” says Massiah. “In this challenging year, [Intown’s] support also encourages me and reminds me of the end goal—to serve in the public ministry and seek the lost.”
Encouraging Massiah in his studies is just part of the reason Bitter wanted to start the “Adopt-a-Student” program. “In a setting like mine, a small mission congregation, one of the goals is teaching people about WELS,” he says. With half of his congregation being adult confirmands, Bitter says he wants to help his members understand that Intown is part of a larger church body, one that maintains an intense, comprehensive worker-training program. Having a connection with one of those students makes it all more personal.
The relationship also can encourage Intown’s youth to consider studying for the ministry in the future. “It’s been a blessing to have a different congregation get to know me as a future called worker but also to share experiences of what training for ministry is like,” says Massiah. “I think it especially helps the youth of a congregation to connect with someone who is close to their age, who knows the struggle of being a young adult in this day and age.”
Volume 108, Number 1
Issue: January 2021