All posts by Dr. Robert Scudieri


Marmaduke Carter’s Children

The Reverend Elstner Lewis Pastor of St. Philip Lutheran Church, Chicago, Ill.

In eighteen years as head of national missions a few experiences stand out. One of these I wish I could erase.

Once a year our national church’s Board for Missions would deepen its understanding of the challenges and joys of mission work by traveling to a mission field. That year it was a trip to Los Angeles to visit urban churches.

One of the churches was in an area that at one time had been a middle class African American neighborhood but the neighborhood was changing . Spanish speaking immigrants were moving in. Store signs were in Spanish.  African Americans were moving out. As we approached the church we saw a haggard building covered with graffiti – a sue sign the church was disconnected from its community. 

Inside we spoke with the long time president of the congregation, an older man who had left the neighborhood to find a nicer home in the suburbs, as had most of the African American members. It was my assignment to conduct a conversation to help our board understand ministry in one of the most diverse cities in America. But when I asked “What is your vision for the church for ten years from now?” the president responded, “To have church where our older members can be taken care of and from which they can be buried.” The members of our board could see my jaw drop. 

I heard a remarkably different and more wonderful account when I spoke with Rev. Elstner Lewis, pastor of St. Philip Lutheran Church in the Woodlawn and Hyde park neighborhoods of Chicago. St. Philip, the first African American LCMS Church in Chicago was committed to reach the people in their changing neighborhood. Their passion can be traced back to the missionary who founded St. Philip in 1937. Rev. Marmaduke Carter. Dr. Carter was a missionary for the old Synodical Conference. The name “Marmaduke” has an Irish background. The Irish Marmaduke was a missionary in the sixth and seventh centuries. Recognized as a saint he founded more than thirty churches in Ireland. 

The American Marmaduke came out of Virginia. After graduating from Concordia Seminary, Springfield Illinois in 1921 Carter was ordained a missionary and sent to Lutheran farmers in Nebraska and Minnesota- an African American bringing Christ to White Europeans. He learned to speak, write and preach in German.



Chicago Sunday Tribune April 10,1955

In 1924 he came to Chicago to begin St. Philip Church. At that time the neighborhood was becoming African American, working class folks who were rising into middle class. He stayed as Pastor of St. Philip for forty years, and saw the church grow to more than five hundred members – middle and upper middle class African Americans. In time the church was complemented by a parochial school. However, as all communities, the neighborhood would change again.

A while after Pastor Lewis arrived the middle class members had begun moving to larger homes in the suburbs. Listening to the new people moving into the now older and less expensive homes Elstner Lewis adjusted worship. Gone was the cassock and surplice, no alb and stole – in came the academic gown, the more traditional African American hymns and a little more free wheeling worship. St. Philip thrived. Then, another change.

The community is not far from the University of Chicago and the nascent Obama Library. The neighborhood is becoming gentrified.  American Korean and American European professors and students from nearby colleges have begun attending St. Philip Lutheran. Elstner Lewis response? Listen to the people.

Rev. Lewis knows his community. The issue is always how to make the love of Christ real in word and in deed to the people of the community. That is a reasonable response. Reason can be used in a ministerial or magisterial way in this world. If a strategy is used in a ministerial way, in service to the Word of God, it can be a blessing.  

Pr. Lewis told us, “We are going to have to develop a mission strategy to reach out to the community. As we become a more diverse church we will have to change. Right now we are talking about what that means. One thing  is things will not be the same.” Right now it appears there is a need for a  more formal worship and more traditional Lutheran forms and hymns. This came from listening to the community. 

Pr. Elstner says the older African American members at St. Philip refer to the younger more diverse members as “our children.” And they are the children of Marmaduke Carter. 

I think Dr. Carter would be amazed and thankful that the mission he began still reaches people in the community – like the ones He preached to on Midwest farms and the more diverse neighborhood in the city where he served. 

To see a two minute introductory video with Pr. Lewis, click here.

To see the full seventeen minute video, click here.

To check out the new audio book from Mission Nation, “NO ACCIDENTAL MISSIONARY,” click here.






How We Hallow

 How We Hallow:Missionary Zerit Yohannes:

Rev. Zerit Yohannes

This morning millions of us prayed “Hallowed be Thy name.” It is later in the day and I wonder if we thought about what we were praying – specifically, what does it mean to “hallow”?.  Dr. Martin Luther thought about it. Rev. Zerit Yohannes, a missionary in America from Eritrea, showed us.

I assume you know to “hallow” is to “make holy.” But how does a human hallow God’s name? In his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer’s first petition Luther points out,“God’s name was given to us when we were baptized.” Then this: “it becomes holy when both our teaching and our life are godly…” (The Large Catechism). 

 In my understanding the petitions following  “Hallowed be Thy name” explain how we do that, how humans “hallow” the Name of God. For instance “They kingdom come.”  We hallow God’s name when we help to usher in the Kingdom of God. We hallow God’s name when we pray “Thy will be done” – trusting God loves us and His will for us is for always good. “Give ‘us” this day our daily bread;” not only me, but the “us” of those around us, especially those in need.  When we pray “Forgive us our sins AS WE FORGIVE” we hallow God’s name, if we really mean what we are saying. As we pray “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us in the time of trial,” we are preparing to hallow the Name of God. We pray all these things because we know “Thine is the kingdom.” We do not rule ourselves – we want to live under the kingship of our Father in heaven. Which brings us back to the second petition. 

Although never fully realized here on earth, the Bible has much to say about signs that God’s kingdom is coming. 

When John the Baptist  (Mathew 11:3) called out to Jesus,”Are you the Coming One?” In his answer Jesus enumerated signs the prophets used to describe the coming of God’s kingdom “Go tell John …the blind see and the lame walk; lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (see Isaiah 29:18, 35:4-6; Psalm 22:26; Isaiah 61:1; Malachi 3:1).

God’s name is hallowed when those in distress hear the good news of Jesus and see His love in action.  Zerit Yohannes was an instrument God used to bring in the kingdom. At times it was harrowing.

Rev. Yohannes lived through “The Red Terror” in Eritrea. Through that time in the 1970s his faith held and grew; he was a missionary during the worst times,  an instrument to usher in the Kingdom to a war torn people .

Missionary Yohannes graduated from the largest Lutheran seminary in Africa, in Tanzania. He spread the good news of Jesus throughout Africa as a missionary broadcasting over the radio in Nairobi, Kenya, and through mercy work. He began a ministry among immigrants arriving in Kenya fleeing war and famine, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked. An instrument to usher in the Kingdom of God. Zerit was hallowing God’s name as he made God’s kingdom real in that place and time.

The African Christians hallowed the name of God when they developed programs to aid victims of HIV, hunger and poverty: the church’s role as a servant of the people made lasting impressions in Tanzania and in Eritrea. Then, A door opened for Zerit and his family to go to Canada, where he began ministry to African immigrants in Toronto. He also attended Concordia Seminary in St. Catherine, as well as at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. 

The Kingdom of God was made concrete, the mission in Canada grew, the poor heard the good news and experienced it in the work the churches did. Then a call came for Pr. Yohannes to return to Eritrea to teach mission work at the Church’s seminary. For nine years he worked to equip new pastors and missionaries to usher in the Kingdom of God. He was hallowing the name of God. 

Rev. Zerit was called back to North America, to St. Luke Lutheran Church in Lansing, Michigan, to train missionaries from Africa to the United States. When we recently spoke via Zoom, Rev. Yohannes with his fellow pastors of St. Luke Lutheran and Rev. Todd Jones, Mission Secretary of the Michigan District, were preparing to teach about thirty missionaries (men and women) who came from the Democratic Republic of Congo making God’s love real in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Iowa and South Dakota. “Hallowed be Thy Name.” His insights on mission work are important for all who would bring the lost to Christ in America, for all those who hallow God’s Name.

St. Luke Lutheran Church, Lansing, MI. 

Each petition of the Lord’s prayer is, finally, a way to hallow God’s Name. The next time you pray the Prayer – think about how you can hallow God’s name in the coming day – pray “Thy Kingdom come” -and then go out afterwards to heal and preach the gospel to a hurting world.  

It is a a gift of His grace that you and I have been allowed to pray the Lord’s  Prayer – and this day to hallow the Name of God. 

To see a short video introduction to the work of Rev. Yohannes, click here.

To see the complete video, click here.

To purchase a biography of a missionary to America, click here.

To listen to the opening chapter of our coming audio book, No Accidental Missionary: the life of Dr. Tesfai Tesema, click here.

To order the new audio book, click here

To donate to Mission Nation and give a voice to more missionaries to America, click here.





When One Door Closes…

When One Door Closes…

Image result for image tesfai tesema

Tesfai Tesema

“I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10

Tesfai Tesema walked out through a door in Ethiopia. For him it was a door of no return. 

The door he walked through was from a jail cell. He had been put in prison by the then communist government in Ethiopia. He considered himself an unbeliever, an atheist. But his mother in Ethiopia never stopped praying for him. Tesfai did not expect he would walk out of the prison alive, but he did. The door was “accidentally” opened, a miracle that allowed the atheist to escape and begin a long and danger filled trek across the Danakil desert to find refuge in Djibouti. Abandoned by his guide, he and two companions were left at the mercy of a group of Muslim nomads.

After spending time in the impoverished country of Djibouti, he made his way to Saudi Arabia. There, another door opened – by a greater miracle than a jail door swinging open. Tesfai  became a Christian – in Saudi Arabia. As a part of the Saudi underground church he used every means to tell Muslims about Jesus. Unable to contain the joy and hope and love that lived in him, he caught the attention of the wrong people.

Saudi Police

One day he came home to find a threatening note from the local police. To save his family he had to exit the country.  It is a truism that when God closes one door He opens another.

The only country he and his wife Abeba could legally emigrate to was Sudan. 

Life was  not easy in Sudan. Refugees were overwhelming the government’s capacity to care for them. Tesfai and other Christians had to sleep on the ground in a park – in danger from thieves and incessant mosquitos. Nothing could stop their proclamation of the gospel of Jesus.The small Christian community opened its arms to them, but while there was great love to share there wasn’t much earthly treasure. No matter the challenge,  Tesfai led refugees fleeing persecution in Ethiopia and  Eritrea to begin worship services. The numbers grew, worshipping first under a tree, then in a small office and then in larger spaces.  More churches were begun. The Word of God spread like wildfire. Then, another door opened – a refugee visa to the United States.

Today  Dr.Tesfai Tesema is a missionary in San Jose, California. He is opening doors for Ethiopians and doors to Jesus for ethnically diverse millennials. Who could have believed an atheist from Ethiopia could be brought to the United States as a Christian missionary? 

This was no accident. Jesus made a bold claim in John 10: 7,“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved…” In Tesfai’s life this has proven to be true many times. It is true in my life and, I expect you can say the same.

Doors close on you and me all the time, but one door always remains open, the door to salvation – the door that opens after one door closes, the door opened by our Lord to realms no human can imagine. 

We thought so much of Tesfai’s journey that we published his biography, “No Accidental Missionary.” You can purchase the book from Amazon by clicking here.

Soon an audiobook of No Accidental Missionary will be available. If you would like to hear the first chapter, click here.

To pre-order the audiobook send an email to

To view a brief video of our interview with Missionary Tesema click here

To view the full video with Missionary Tesema, Click here. 






Gagan Gurung found it difficult to find shelter – until Jesus found him.

His family was forced to leave Bhutan and return to their native Nepal.  The Gurung family lived in a squalid refugee camp for 22 years. On his way to be baptized by a river outside the camp Gagan  became terrified and ran up into the mountains. 

The boy hid in a Hindu-Buddhist temple. His life was in crisis. After a miracle he was baptized in the refugee camp. He had met a God Who would not leave him alone – Who would give him shelter in place.

This is the story of a miraculous conversion. How did a man from Nepal who had once avoided baptism end up as a missionary to America leading more than fifty souls to baptism in St. Louis, Missouri?

The Lord led Gagan Gurung through very difficult times as a lesson for you, and me and someone who needs to hear a word of assurance. Someone who needs shelter. Like St. Paul:

St. Paul says to us in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”

While you and I are sheltering in place we can find inspiration from Gagan’s story. If you know someone else who needs support during this time why not share this account of God’s mercy and protection with them? 


The Kindle book normally sells for $4.99. For a limited time beginning at 7 am ET on April 13 The Unexpected Missionary will be on sale for $.99. From April 16-19 the sale price will be $2.99. The book can be downloaded to your smart phone, your computer or a Kindle. 

The Goldhap refugee camp in Nepal

During this difficult time please call someone at home to pray with them and reassure them with St. Paul’s words, “God will continue to deliver us”. 


Gagan and the New Life Singers today.

The author, Rev. Henry Simon, spent 46 years in pastoral ministry. Hank’s father was a pastor, and two uncles and four cousins also were in ministry. Though he loved journalism, he felt and obeyed God’s call parish ministry.  This is Hank’s first full length book. His love of research, his care for people, his mission heart all went into a stirring account of loss, danger and salvation. 




Evangelist, Apostle or Pastor?


Missionary to America Alemayehu Wedajo

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.” Ephesians 4:11

 It seems from the beginning there were apostles besides the Twelve ( see Acts 14:14, 1 Corinthians 15:3-7; 1 Thess 2:7, Galatians 1:19). Who are these apostles? Are there apostles today? Paul, writing somewhere between 60 and 80 AD, lets the Ephesians know God has given gifts to His church – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Over the centuries the roles have mostly collapsed into the one gift, “pastor.” In a Christian country that might make sense – where most are Christians all that is needed is a pastor to care for the needs of those already won to Jesus. That is the mindset we still have in America. But what about on a mission field? It would take someone from a mission field to help us. Like the missionary from Ethiopia, Rev. Alemayehu Wedajo.

Rev. Wedajo grew up on a mission field – a country where a cruel authoritarian government was attempting to cleanse his ancient Christian country, Ethiopia, of Christians!    But God preserved witnesses to His love. One of those was an eleven year old – Wedajo.

Wanting to know more about his family’s beliefs one day he picked up a Bible, and could not put it down. He says “a fire began to burn in my soul.” At twelve he began telling others, teaching and preaching about Jesus to anyone who would listen. This earned him a place in an Ethiopian prison, but the faith grew – his faith and faith in the hearts of the prisoners. In prison the Christians prayed and fasted. Miracles occurred, people were cured of illnesses and injuries. Out of what was supposed to be a purge of Christian faith the seeds of the Mekane Yesus (Place of Jesus) Church was watered, sometimes in the blood of martyrs.  

After the communist government fell the people were even more hungry to know about God, to come to love and serve Him. Wedago heard a call to leave Ethiopia and come to America, but in a dream Wedajo heard the Lord say, “Not now. This is not your time.” He served the Lord as an ordained evangelist, and went from from place to place, wherever the wind of the Spirit blew, and he asked people, “Do you know who Jesus is?”  In time he became a pastor over a congregation with twelve thousand members. He preached to a larger number of people over the radio. Then he became an apostle. The gifts St. Paul spoke about are needed on a mission field. But what is an apostle today? And how is that different from a pastor? 

Maybe we should take a close look at the apostles Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:14). We remember Jesus calling Paul into public ministry, stopped in his tracks on his way to imprison and/or murder Christians in Damascus. But Barnabas? Paul and Barnabas became apostles when the church in Antioch laid hands on them and prayed and sent them off – to do what?. To go around the world planting new missions, raising up leaders in those new missions and moving on (Acts 13, 14:22).

Paul stayed only long enough to raise up leaders, then, on to the next mission field. The missionary meaning of “apostle” lasted for centuries, and still today we talk about an “apostolic mission.” To confess the church is “apostolic” is to say we hold to the teaching of the apostles, but just as much it means the church is at its soul missionary.

Rev. Wedajo came to the United States and immediately began to start a new mission. From the start his goal was to identify those whom the Lord would send to be evangelists and apostle-missionaries. Why? Because that is the way church develops on a mission field. Even if Americans could not see it this apostle from Ethiopia saw clearly the church in America needed help. In decline for many years even as the population of America grew, Wedajo could see that he was on a mission field. 

Alemayehu Wedajo does not call himself an apostle. I don’t know if he would accept others using that description. But he would call himself a missionary, a missionary to America.

Out of the mission he started he intentionally raised up and is training six missionaries, preparing them to leave Silver Springs and find where the Lord wants a new church to begin. Remember Paul and Barnabas? Apostles, missionaries, just what is needed for a mission field.  In America, most pastors see themselves as caring for one group,  a congregation they were called to serve. The congregations also sees things that way. That is how things are done in a Christian country, but not on a mission field. 

To see a short introductory one minute video of Rev. Wedajo, click here.

To see the full twenty three minute video interview, click here. 

To read more about apostles in the New Testament, click here.



When The Love is Gone

Bob’s Blog: “When the Love is Gone”

Missionary to America Paul Lauaki

“Why are you debating about having no bread?” Mark 8:17.

Is it just me, or does it seem the Twelve were a little dense? Jesus seemed to think so.

I mean, imagine the scene in Mark 8:17. Jesus had just fed four thousand, excluding women and children. His disciples had witnessed this. The Lord and His disciples then climbed into a boat to cross to Dalmanutha, near Magdala (the possible hometown of Mary Magdalene). Along the way they became hungry; it was then they realized they had taken only one of the loaves with them – and that was not enough. “They began to discuss with one another the fact they had no bread.”

Jesus is astonished. “Why are you debating about having no bread?” “How many baskets were left over?” Of course there were seven baskets of leftover bread, but beyond that, these church leaders had the Bread Maker with them in the boat! What more do they need? What more do you and I need?Paul Lauaki was in need.

His family had moved to northern California from the Island of Tonga. Paul grew up as a Christian but somehow missed the part of the Bible that says, “God’s way of putting people right with Himself has been revealed, and it has nothing to do with the Law. The Law and the Prophets witness to it, but GOD PUTS PEOPLE RIGHT THROUGH THEIR FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.” (Romans 3:20-22)

As a young man Paul was tied up in the belief that in order to be blessed by God you had to work for it – the more you worked, the more blood, sweat and tears, the more the blessings would fall down. Only it wasn’t happening for him. He worked hard to feed the hungry, to shepherd younger Christians – and the blessings did not fall on him.  Depressed, angry, disappointed, his faith was tested and he fell away from church. His love was gone: “I love God, but I hate the church.” Until a friend confronted Paul with the grace of God – those words, “God puts people right” and other arrows of Christ’s love found their mark.

He became part of a small group with a few young adults at a church in Menlo Park, California. The friends wanted others to experience the undying love of Jesus. They began a ministry called “SOYL,” “School of Young Leaders.” And Paul thought he was done, that was it, he had been part of a group to start a new young adults mission. Not so fast.

The purpose of SOYL was to empower young adults eighteen to twenty seven to become leaders who would impact the San Francisco Bay area with the love of Jesus. This would be a six week program focusing on eleven young adults who were hurting, who did not realize they would always be imperfect but that they were loved – by a perfect God. Six weeks teaching young adults to know God’s undying love – knowing that love would overflow into the lives of others. But who should lead this program? Paul was tapped.

Paul was terrified. He had thought of himself as a failure; no ministry he had started had been successful. But he had experienced something new, the radical love of God. The Tongan kid who had given up stepped up. When the love is gone Jesus will come. All we have to do is listen to Him. 

SOYL has grown into a summer course employing thirty seven local pastors, held in four different churches in the Bay area. Volunteers first come to know the love of Jesus, go through faith formation, and are formed as leaders. They help themselves and others learn new life habits, better communication skills as they serve where needed in local communities. They began with no bread and watch as the Lord of Life multiplied the loaves. 

Maybe one of you reading this blog has really messed up, and it is obvious not only to you but to many around you that you are one of those”no loaf” disciples. Listen now to the words of the Bread Maker: As you go on your way, make disciples, baptizing and teaching, but remember – pay attention to what I have to say – I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS.



The Best Support for A Missionary

The Best Support for A Missionary

Missionary to America John Cobos

Missionary John Cobos grew up in a city in the mountains of Ecuador, a long way from his mission in Tampa, in distance and customs.

Thirty years ago, before Missionary Cobos came to America life in Ecuador was difficult – at one point 30% of the population was unemployed. At nineteen and eager to make a better life for himself  he joined his father and brother who had come to New York to find opportunity. With the support of his family he began studying law and devised a plan to complete most of his studies in America and return to Ecuador to begin his own law firm. But the Lord had other plans. 

A door was opened for him and his brother to begin a dry cleaning business. With no work prospects if he returned to Ecuador John took the opportunity. Looking to extend the dry cleaning business, he came to Tampa. There the Lord had another surprise.

One of the workers he employed in the dry cleaning business invited the young man to church, to Messiah Lutheran, to serve in her wedding as her godfather. At the wedding he met Yolima Sanabria. Yolima’s father is a missionary to Spanish speaking people in Tampa and John was attracted – to Yolima and to the idea of serving as a called representative of Jesus.

With a push from Pr. Sanabria,  John became a part of Concordia Seminary’s “Hispanic Institute.”   On line classes allowed John to continue to run his dry cleaning business and to serve the Lord as a missionary. Income from the business gives him and his young family the monetary income they need. Preaching and teaching the Word of God gives John the fulfillment he longed to have when he decided to come to the US. But he and Yolima could not sustain the mission on their own. The best support for a missionary is partnership.  

Every new mission and every missionary would long to have a partner like Paul had in the Philippian Christians. This was the first church Paul established in Greece, sometime between 49 and 51 AD.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians was written about ten years after the church was established.  Paul was  in prison and wrote in part to thank the Christians in Philippi for their support. He had seen them go through much in ten years; they were not a perfect church – but they had been faithful and sacrificial. So he wrote to them, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In every prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (St. Paul to the Christians in Philippi, Chapter 1 verses 3-5).

Forgive me when I say too many “partnerships” are vandalized by three things, things that kill good partnerships:  suspicion, selfishness,  and ignorance. This is not necessary. At Messiah in Tampa it took a while for the Anglo church and the new outreach to Spanish speaking immigrants in the church’s neighborhood to trust each other. The secret to the ten year partnership they enjoy is found in the respect  and trust the two groups have invested in each other – this is also one sign of good leadership. It is also found in each group’s willingness to sacrifice – the church sacrificing space, money and even dedicated times of worship in order to accommodate the mission.  The mission in its sacrifice of talent and time – John is a bi-vocational missionary. Not only does he have to balance time with his family and his calling to missionary work, but add to that running a small business. 

Jesus the Carpenter knew about sacrifice – He left His Father and all the saints in His heavenly home. He sacrificed His life for us and now is our Partner in the greatest work imaginable, the temporal and eternal salvation of human souls. Mathew 28:18-20 is a great commission but it should better be known as the Great Promise. When we go on our way to make disciples Jesus’ promise is, “Lo (which means “pay attention to this – this is important”) I am with you always.” 

When Christians partner with Jesus’ in His mission they value each other’s sacrifice, they are willing to make offerings of themselves to each other and they sincerely respect what each has to give away. When such a partnership exists they have more of a chance to say what Paul did in his letter to his partners in Philippi, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” 

To see a one minute introduction to Pr. Cobos’ mission click here

To see the full eighteen minute video interview, click here.



Rev. Mark Adrian, Pastor/Missionary

“Where there is growth in American Christian denominations, it is driven mostly by nonwhites, whether Catholic or Protestant, evangelical or mainline. Over the past half century, 71 percent of growth in Catholicism, for instance, has come from its Hispanic community. In the Assemblies of God, one of the few U.S. denominations to show overall growth, white membership slightly declined while nonwhite membership increased by 43 percent over 10 years.” Wesley Granberg-Michaelson*

The most important mission for a church in America is reaching an ethnic group different from their own. We are in the midst of a great change – from a time not so long ago when eighty percent of the people in America were White English speaking to a time not so far away when White English speaking people will be less than fifty percent of the population in America. 

Pr. Mark Adrian is the pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Tampa, Florida. His congregation has been successful in reaching out to their increasingly Spanish speaking neighbors.  Pr. Adrian and Wesley Granger-Michaelson know this: unless an Anglo (White English speaking) church is reaching an ethnic group different from its own it is contributing to the demise of the church in America.

The same could be said for a homogeneous African American, Korean or other congregation.  And we are not talking only about numbers. As Granberg-Michaelson says in the same article, ““Multiracial congregations are expanding to draw 1 in 5 churchgoing Americans, and surveys report a higher level of spiritual vitality among them compared with racially homogeneous congregations.”

Pr. Adrian inherited his multi-ethnic mission. Previous leaders took the initial risk to call someone to help them reach Spanish speaking people in their community – a wise thing to do in Tampa, Florida, where 20% of the population speaks Spanish. Pr. Adrian came to Messiah Tampa partly because he wanted to be on the forefront of God’s mission to America. 

I asked Pr. Adrian what his advice would be for a congregation that wanted to reach out to an ethnic group different from their own.  This is what he said:

  1. Listen to God, and listen to the people of the new group you want to reach. Do not lay your ideas on the new ministry. How I would have proceeded is very different from the way those doing the work want to reach a new ethnic group for Christ.
  2. Take time to see who is a leader in the new group. Do not make that decision quickly or lightly. Who reflects the image of Christ, is spiritually and emotionally mature?Who among the new group has ideas the rest want to implement, and can lead the group from a vision to reality? Who is willing and able to invest four or more in a process to become certified to lead Christ’s people? This takes time to discover.
  3. Be prepared to sacrifice. The original church should realize they will have to give up some things, and this will cause consternation among the members. This can be managed if the people are mature Christians, and proceed in love, ready to forgive. 
  4. Realize one of the things you will have to sacrifice is space. Messiah does not have a large plant and at one point had to rearrange their times of worship so the new Spanish speaking service could succeed. In fact, the initiating church should be ready to give the new people priority for using the space. Sacrifice. It is not just a word, and to be taken lightly. 
  5. Speaking more about sacrifice, the new group may need financial support, at least for a while. The original church should allow the new group to fund raise among the sponsoring church’s members. But the group can and should be encouraged to develop resources as much as possible from among themselves, as well as finding support from other groups. 

According to Pr. Adrian, in the end there are many more blessings than sacrifices! The mothering congregation will learn about its community, and will find the new group may be even more ready to join in projects at the church than members who have been longer at the church. In his experience, the new ethnic members are more willing than many to help – help each other and help those in the mother church.

It was not our Lord’s intention that His Body be divided into separate pieces defined by language, culture  or skin color. His Great Commission Promise sent the church to every nation, to every ethnic group – as difficult as it was for Peter and the other early leaders to accept. 

The most important mission in America today is for a church to reach an ethnic group different from their own.  If it takes a miracle, maybe a sheet coming down out of heaven with strange food on it to open our eyes, so be it. However I would pray that we would be motivated by His Word alone.

Can the face of the church look more like the changing face of America, better still, more like the face of heaven as John describes in Revelations 7:9? 

*Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, RNS, January 10, 2019. See the full article under the “Resources” section of this website.

To see a three minute video clip of Pr. Adrian’s interview, click here

To see the full thirteen minute interview, click here. 



A Path To Missionary Service

A Path To Missionary Service

Missionaries to America Deaconess Flor and Rev. Miguel Sanabria, Sr.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

 His proud father set out the path for his oldest son.The ten year old boy stood quietly as the older man  made arrangements for him to enter a Roman Catholic seminary in Colombia, South America.

Everyone agreed that the boy, Miguel Sanabria, was smart; he loved going to class, he loved learning. But his father saw something more – saw the boy’s love for the Divine – saw the making of a priest. Parents could make that decision for their sons and feel blessed to have a child who could grow in service to the Lord. Miguel would not disappoint. The path he was on led  to more responsibility. 

Later, as a young man, he was singled out by his professors as someone with rare potential.  Miguel was one of two students from his seminary chosen to continue his studies at a higher level. After ordination an early assignment saw him serve as a university chaplain. A Cardinal recognized the promise shown by the young priest and invited Father Sanabria to accompany him to Rome. That path led to even higher service. Miguel  became a professor at the seminary in Colombia –  but  then God turned Miguel in a different direction. 

Realizing his father’s choice was noble he still knew he was not called to walk the road his father had laid out. Miguel Sanabria left the priesthood. It was a courageous decision. Recognizing Miguel’s talent and love for the Lord’s work, the church made him the head of all education programs for the Catholic Church in Colombia. That was only the first change.

By God’s grace  he later met Flor, they married and formed a partnership to follow a passion put in their hearts by the Spirit of God – the passion to bring the good news of Gods’ undeserved love and forgiveness to all. The assumptions the people of God had made about the Messiah were way off track. Jesus surprised them all. He came as a servant, a servant who died in our place, taking the punishment we deserve – so we could live with that heavenly Father forever.  To share that good news Miguel and Flor were put on a path that led them to Tampa. Today they minister to four new missions in Tampa, missions begun by the family of Deaconess Flor and Rev. Miguel Sanabria.  

Miguel’s earthly father would not have guessed his son would become a missionary.  Or that he would go with a wife and children into the mission field. And not in Colombia, even though there was great need in that country, but the mission field of Tampa, Florida. The Heavenly Father had laid out a different path.

 I wish I had a dime for every missionary who said to me, “I never thought  I would be sent to (you name it) Africa, China, South America.”  Let alone the United States.  All of which says to us, “For your thoughts are not my thoughts neither are your ways my ways, declares  the Lord.” ( Isaiah 55:8)” We do not choose God, God chooses whom He wants to serve where He wants them to serve. Few feel worthy or prepared to serve.

No one in my high school class guessed I would enter seminary, let alone manage missionaries. St. Paul was even less likely a candidate. Even after he gave in to the Voice on the Road (Acts 9) there were times he still couldn’t find the path. Eager to be a missionary in Bithynia in Asia, his path was blocked and he found himself a missionary in Europe. I wonder if he was disappointed; after all the prayers and planning he would have to forgo mission work in Bithynia. Who would have guessed that three hundred years later Nicaea in Bithynia would become the site of the first worldwide church council, and produce a creed endorsed by the Emperor of Rome? God’s way is full of surprises. 

There are still surprises your Father in heaven has in mind for you. 

Out of love a father in Colombia put his son on a path he believed would lead to serving a wonderful God as a priest in Colombia. His heavenly Father had another path. We can all remember that., and  pray Show me your ways, O Lord. Teach me your paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

To see a short introductory video interview of Rev. and Deaconess Sanabria, click here.

To see the full video, click here. 

To order a biography of a missionary to America, click here. 

What Does It Take To Start A New Mission?


To purchase a biography of one of the new missionaries to America, click here.

Missionary to America Miguel Sanabria, Jr.

Last Spring I asked the President of the Florida/Georgia District Greg Walton to suggest a missionary I could interview for the Mission Nation website. He did better than that – he suggested the Sanabria-Cobos family in Tampa, Florida. Mark Adrian, the Pastor of Messiah, Tampa, works with this missionary family. As of today they have begun four new Spanish speaking missions in Tampa. 

Decades ago when I was the mission executive for the English District I worked with faith-filled congregations that asked if they could begin a new mission. Back then just asking the question was a bold move. The assumption was that districts began new churches. I had to remind pastors and church leaders that wasn’t always the case.

A young pastor reminded me of that – he had recently become the pastor of a church where his grandfather had been pastor. He showed me a church bulletin from his grandfather’s time in the 1920s; along with the morning service there was a scheduled “Mission Service.”  I asked him what that was. He told me that most churches in those days held worship in the morning for their existing church and another in the afternoon for the new church they were starting. It was assumed that every pastor would lead their church to start a new mission and lead an afternoon “mission service.”  How times changed. 

By the 1980s churches did not know they could start a new church. That was “district’s” responsibility. I made it part of my ministry to try and change that and encourage congregations to start a new church. When an existing church was ready to begin a new mission one of the questions I would invariably, and rightly, be asked was “What does it cost to start a new mission?”  So it is interesting that a modest church in an urban area like Tampa could begin three new churches. I was curious to know how the missionaries had done that.

So, what does it take to start a new mission? At Messiah Tampa it boils down to passionate sacrificial mission leadership by a team. I’ll try to explain. in 2007 Miguel Sanabria, Sr. led his family from Colombia, South

America to Tampa. In Colombia the senior Miguel had decided to leave the Roman Catholic priesthood after a distinguished ministry as an educator. After he left, the Roman Catholic church selected him to lead ministries in higher education in Columbia. He married and raised his children with a desire to make Christ’s love real to all – a challenge in a country being torn apart by crime and poverty.  

In America  Miguel Sr. was given an opportunity to use his education background. A Spanish speaking friend invited him to a meeting where theology was discussed. It turned out to be a meeting  of students in a seminary extension program. Run by the Concordia Seminary Hispanic Institute the seminars prepared students for ordination. Miguel did something significant – he invited his son, Miguel, his daughter, his son in law and his wife to attend the meetings. 

Miguel Jr. joined his father in Tampa to study for ordination in the Lutheran Church. Eventually  Miguel Jr, Miguel Sr, his son in law John Cobos would be ordained as missionaries to America. His daughter Yolima and wife Flor became deaconesses in that same effort. As a family they entered theological training. 

The family has given itself to bringing Jesus to a weakened American church. By God’s grace their passion to serve Jesus has overcome the obstacles of leaving their home and coming as missionaries to a foreign land.

What does it take to start a new mission? Not money, not luck, not an easy life – but passion, primarily the passion of Jesus, whose passion won freedom from death for humanity, whose Spirit moves us out of lives of comfort to step out onto a platform constructed of the love of Christ for all people. His passion is what creates new missions. 

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and calamities; in beatings, imprisonments, and riots; in labor, sleepless nights, and hunger; in purity, knowledge, patience, and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, slander and praise; viewed as impostors, yet genuine; as unknown, yet well-known; dying, and yet we live on; punished, yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:4-10)

To see the full video interview with Missionary Miguel Sanabria Jr, click here. 

To see the short introductory video, click here.

To purchase a biography of a missionary to America, click here.