The ever-timely and always-pertinent message of Galatians 5 is for each of us: “Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (v. 13). In our mutual work and service in God’s kingdom of grace, how vitally important for us, as His dear children through faith in Christ (3:26), to remember that we are here on this earth “not henceforth [to] live unto [ourselves], but [to live] unto Him which died for [us] and rose again” (II Corinthians 5:15). “Beloved, if God so loved us [by sending “His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” – I John 4:10b], we ought also to love one another” (I John 4:11). Since our Conference’s 2009 Convention, the Committee on Missions has had the privilege to work with and also, in several instances, share with some in our fellowship, motivated and moved by the marvelous truth that Christ, in eternity (Revelation 13:8b), perfectly worked out our redemption and salvation “that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar [special] people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14b).
Here’s the interim report on our dear brethren at
— St. Mark’s, Sauk Village, Illinois: In January of this year, the Voters’ Assembly addressed the undersigned as the chairman of the Committee on Missions, asking whether the Conference might be able to assist their small congregation in defraying pressing financial needs. Thereafter, by invitation from St. Mark’s, Pastor Mensing, as President of our Conference and, therefore, an ex officio [advisory] member of all committees, and yours truly met on January 28 at St. Mark’s with the voters and Pastor Bloedel to evaluate the situation. (Since all the other members of the Committee on Missions are members of our far west congregations, Pastor Mensing was asked to participate in this St. Mark’s meeting.)
After this very brotherly meeting, the Committee on Missions recommended to the Board of Directors that emergency relief aid from the Conference’s General Fund be given immediately to St. Mark’s congregation. This recommendation was unanimously approved and supported by our Board of Directors, motivated by the love of our loving Savior according to the apostle’s exhortation in I John 3, verses 16-18: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good and seeth his brother have need and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
—The Orthodox Lutheran Church of Ekaterinburg, Russia: During the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 (a period of about two months), Pastor Schurganoff was very sick with the flu. Since he does not have any medical insurance, he had to pay out-of-pocket for whatever treatment he received during this period. In his communications with us, he has to use a friend’s computer because his own computer has been “broken down” for many months. However, before his computer became inoperable, he did some of the beginning lessons on the Rosetta Stone “Learning the English Language Course.” This is an excellent, very methodical, and highly-recommended course for speaking, reading, and understanding the English language.
Our God has marvelously provided us with a man in one of our congregations who can speak, read, understand, and write Russian and English. His name is Mr. Alex Popoff. He recently was received as a member of St. John’s, Lebanon, Oregon. His knowledge of Russian and English has made him a valuable asset in our work with and service to our sister congregation in Russia. He has in recent months translated into Russian the tract, The Scriptural Principles of Christian Giving, and the 2008 Pastoral Conference paper by Pastor Bloedel on The Full Support of the Ministry. These translations will be proofed and then printed for the continued spiritual instruction and training of our Russian brethren. Mr. Popoff asked whether it would be possible for us to bring Pastor Schurganoff to our June Convention, since he (Mr. Popoff) would gladly serve as a faithful translator for us and thereby overcome the language barrier. Possibilities in this regard are presently being explored.
—The Seven Nigerian Congregations: On January 2, Pastor and Mrs. Onesimus Ekele were blessed by their gracious God with a healthy child via c-section. We rejoice with them over this precious gift. “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, because His mercy endureth forever” (Psalm 118:1). (Their first child died last year before they got to the second hospital after the doctor at the first hospital had sent them away because they did not have sufficient funds.)
On January 22, Pastor Fyneface wrote: “The military boys [the Nigerian army – RJL] will soon leave [Abonnema – RJL] for the barracks. The militants are happy, but we, the citizens, are not. However, the Naval Officers have requested for an area for their permanent operational base in Abonnema. The chiefs yesterday gave them a good site by the waterside. It seems very soon they will start to install their materials and equipments. This will save us greatly from the madness of the militants.”
Pastor Fyneface continues to be afflicted with pain and discomfort due to a chronic medical condition, and sometimes even his speech is affected. He tried a round of new medication, but that did not help him. We are investigating ways to help him from this end. For example, we are hoping, in the next weeks, to get a doctor from the University of Chicago (who has offered his services at no cost) to open up an e-mail communication with Pastor Fyneface to assess his condition and determine possible ways to eliminate, the Lord-willing, this on-going and vexing problem. We had even thought of bringing him to our country if good and necessary medical care cannot be provided for him in his own country. In the meantime we commit him to the Lord’s grace (II Corinthians 12:9).
In a February 18 e-mail, Pastor Fyneface communicated to us that he and his wife were having some additional urgent medical problems, the cost of which had to be borne out-of-pocket. At the Committee’s request, Pastor Fyneface detailed the cost for us; and, having this information, the Board of Directors unanimously approved the necessary brotherly relief from the Conference’s General Fund. At the same time these funds were sent, Mr. Robert Bloedel, our Conference Treasurer, included a gift of $550.00 from St. John’s, Lebanon, for the general needs of all the Nigerian brethren.
The words of Galatians 6, verse 10, are such a clear light and lamp for us: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” And why ought we to keep on looking at such opportunities as great, blessed, and wonderful privileges? The answers for the believing children of God are always the same: Because “the Lord hath done great things for us” (Psalm 126:3a), because He has “called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light; which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (I Peter 2:9c-10), and because He has justified us “freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24), so that now, “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
— Pastor Robert J. Lietz, Chairman Committee on Missions