Epiphany is the season of the Church Year when we preach, teach, and bear witness to the one and only Savior for sinners, that Savior who revealed Himself in John 8 as “the Light of the world,” and then declared: “He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (v. 12). Because we were conceived “in sin” (Psalm 51:5b), we were in “darkness” (Ephesians 5:8a) at our conception and birth. No mere human being has ever been born a Christian, a child “of light” (v. 8b), for “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6a). This is “the natural man” (I Corinthians 2:14a), that is, the person conceived and born in sin, who needs to be “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. … And this is the Word which by the Gospel is preached unto you” (I Peter 1:23 and 25b). It is through this Gospel, this precious means of grace, that our gracious God has “called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” so that, in gratitude to Him, we believers, His children of light, are equipped to bring “praises” (I Peter 2:9b) to Him by letting our “light [the light of our saving faith in His Gospel] so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [Him, our] Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
One of the great privileges which we, the children of light, have in the work of our Conference is willingly to support and help, as we are able, our dear brethren who are in need of our assistance (Galatians 6:2, 10; I John 3:17; James 2:15-16).
First of all, we want to report to you concerning our dear brethren at St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Sauk Village, Illinois.
- This small and economically impoverished congregation has been subsidized by our Conference ever since its membership was decimated by a sizeable defection on the part of those who forsook its confessional position and followed a “false prophet” (Matthew 7:15) who tickled their ears with what they wanted to hear (II Timothy 4:3). In the earnest desire fully to support their faithful pastor in accordance with God’s Word (I Corinthians 9:14; Luke 10:7; etc.), the congregation sought and received financial assistance from their Conference brethren. A monthly subsidy was again requested for the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year (June 1 – May 31), and such was granted by the 2013 Convention.
- Pastor David T. Mensing, since last July, is the called, full-time Pastor of St. Mark’s inasmuch as Pastor Paul Bloedel, in June of last year, accepted the divine call to serve as the Pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Lebanon, Oregon. Pastor Bloedel had faithfully served St. Mark’s for nearly ten years. Pastor Mensing is also the called, full-time Pastor of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Oak Forest, Illinois.
- Since Peace, Oak Forest, has its scheduled services on Sunday mornings, the Adult Bible Class at St. Mark’s is on Sunday afternoons at 3:00 p.m., with the Worship Service following at 4:00 p.m. On Sunday evenings at 6:30, Pastor Mensing teaches an Adult Instruction Class for prospective communicant membership with three students; and on Wednesday evenings, he also teaches a Mid-week Bible Class (except during Lent, when the members of St. Mark’s attend Peace’s Mid-week Lenten Services).
- The voters’ assembly of St. Mark’s meets on the third Sunday evening of each month. Currently the voters are evaluating the feasibility of St. Mark’s being able to call a resident Pastor, that is, one who would live in its parsonage, located on the same property as the church building, and thereby being more readily at hand to shepherd the flock, thus also relieving Pastor Mensing of his taxing double-duty.
Let us remember these dear brethren at St. Mark’s in our prayers and petitions to “the throne of grace, that [they] may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in [their] time of need” (Hebrews 4:16b).
Secondly, we want to report to you concerning our dear brethren in far-away Nigeria.
- Although the nine Nigerian congregations are in fellowship with our Conference, they do not receive any monthly subsidy from our Conference, nor have they requested regular, on-going assistance, even though we are willing, as God grants us the ability, to help our dear brethren (Galatians 6:2, 10).
- However, when there is a special need, such as the debt burden of the pastors and their helpers, our United States congregations, as they are able, have provided financial assistance to these needy brethren. Let us “be careful for nothing [not worry about our Nigerian brethren], but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let [our] requests [for these brethren in Nigeria] be made known unto God; and the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7), confident that as we pray according to the will and Word of our gracious God, “He heareth us; and, if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him” (I John 5:14b-15).
Our third report is concerning our dear brethren in far off Russia.
- Pastor Roman Schurganoff and his flock in Ekaterinburg continue to express their gratitude for the monthly subsidy provided to them by our Conference.
- We are happy to report that the health of Pastor Schurganoff is much improved, allowing him regularly to carry forward the work of faithfully ministering to his dear flock, as well as doing mission work outside of his congregation.
- Brother Schurganoff is using and happy with the Rosetta Stone English course, especially with its emphasis on proper pronunciation when speaking the English words.
- The delegates to the 2013 Convention of our Conference provided Pastor Schurganoff with a special monthly stipend to assist him in lowering his family’s past medical debt. This has been a big help in decreasing this burden. We thank our gracious God for enabling us to assist him in this effort.
- The average attendance at his twice-a-month library lectures has greatly increased in recent months. Some who attend these lectures have also been attending the congregation’s Sunday worship services. In fact, two of those library attendees have now become members of the Ekaterinburg congregation.
- Pastor Schurganoff speaks highly of the fruits of his people as they share their Christian faith more and more with their relatives and friends.
Let us remember that “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers” (I Peter 3:12a), also unto our prayers as we intercede for our brethren in Russia.
As we ponder the future work of our Conference in assisting and encouraging our dear brethren in their on-going, important work in the Lord’s kingdom of grace, let us take careful note of the Apostle Paul’s instruction in Galatians 6: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (v. 10). Why ought we continue to do good to our brethren, especially those who are in need? We should continue to look upon helping our needy brethren as a blessed privilege because of how our merciful God has marvelously helped us by His “grace,… not of [our] works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9), graciously helped us through the perfect, completely satisfactory, and finished work of His dear Son, our only Savior, “who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar [special] people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14), ever living for “Him [who] died for [us] and rose again” (II Corinthians 5:15).
Pastor Robert J. Lietz,
Chairman of the Committee on Missions