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Seize the opportunities

When the apostle Paul, Silas, and Timothy were in Galatia on Paul’s second mission journey, they made the prayerful decision to head north with the gospel. Their intention was to go to a region called Bithynia, but “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to” (Acts 16:7). Instead, they headed west to the city of Troas on the coast of the Aegean Sea. There Paul received his vision of a man from Macedonia in Greece saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). Recognizing that this was a call from the Lord himself, Paul and his team crossed the sea and traveled to Philippi where they began to share the good news about Jesus. This was the first time the Bible mentions the gospel reaching the continent of Europe. God’s plans were different from Paul’s, and those plans presented opportunities for sharing the gospel that Paul could not have anticipated.

God’s ways are always higher than our ways. That’s especially true in the ways that God chooses to build his church. He often presents opportunities for the spread of the gospel in ways that we could not have thought or imagined.

WELS World Missions is responsible for supporting current mission efforts in about 44 countries around the world, but it also is responsible for exploring new places to share the gospel. World Missions makes those decisions with much thought and prayer. Sometimes the places identified are places in which we are blessed to begin new mission work. In other cases, God directs us, as he did with the apostle Paul, to go elsewhere, places we might never have considered or expected.

For example, who would have thought that a place like Vietnam would be a field ripe for the gospel harvest? But in God’s infinite love and wisdom, he has brought our synod into contact with the Hmong Fellowship Church, a 140,000-member Christian church body in Vietnam. Leaders of that church body recognized that what we teach is biblical and true and asked us to train their pastors and help them become a confessional Lutheran church. Not only that, but the government of Vietnam has invited our synod to build a theological education center in Hanoi. Now, only a few years after our first contact, 60 of their pastors have been fully trained in Lutheran doctrine, and a newly constructed school will soon be used to train the rest of their pastors. God’s ways are higher than our ways.

God has placed similar unexpected mission opportunities before us in places like Bangladesh, Myanmar, and London.

God also is blessing our efforts to expand the reach of the gospel in another way. Increasingly, Lutheran church bodies and individuals are looking to WELS when they become concerned about the theologically liberal church bodies with which they had been associated. Within the last few years, WELS has declared fellowship with the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia and the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ–Kenya. At our synod convention this summer, we will declare fellowship with the Obadiah Lutheran Synod from Uganda. Doctrinal discussions are also taking place with a Lutheran church body in Tanzania. While our synod was not a part of the founding of these synods, we have the privilege of helping and supporting them as they proclaim God’s saving truth.

When God presents such opportunities, we marvel and give thanks. We also ask him to make us ready and eager to seize those opportunities when he gives them to us.

Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 110, Number 4
Issue: April 2023

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This entry is part 4 of 49 in the series presidents message

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