The Making of A Missionary

THE MAKING OF A MISSIONARY: Missionaries to America Khurram and Farrukh Khan

The blog today is about two brothers who learned life was not about accumulating riches for themselves; there was a  higher purpose for living. These brothers grew up in Pakistan, and were raised in an affluent Christian family. The Khan family owned a cotton factory, and a small oil mill. They lived a pleasant life, not easy for Christians in the Muslim majority country where most Christians lived in poverty.

Before 1970 Christians and Muslims lived, studied and worked side by side in peace.  They aspired to be engineers.  Good education was available, both public and Christian schools prospered, and  Khurram and Farrukh  Khan progressed in their studies. The Khans were good Christians, but had never thought of becoming missionaries. Their lives were about to change.

In the nineteen seventies an armed revolution began and a more authoritarian government came to power in Pakistan. Refugees , many of them religious extremists, fled the Russian invasion of Afghanistan to settle in Pakistan. Zealots from western Russian States joined them. Christians began to suffer.

Muslim fundamentalism took over, and spurred on by the 

zealots; mob rule was all too common. “Law 295.C” required the punishment of death for blaspheming Mohammed, or the Koran. Local fanatics used this as a cover, taking the law into their own hands, to persecute, jail and kill those with whom they disagreed. That is when Khurram and

Farrukh decided to find a better life, a life outside of Pakistan.

Offered positions as engineers with an American oil company, they accepted the offer and began work in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government was no less repressive, but at least the law was observed in Saudi Arabia – and besides, living in company quarters, the brothers and their families had opportunity to live openly as Christians. As long as they did not share their beliefs they were safe.  The brothers had no plans to push their beliefs on Muslims; they were ordinary Christians, not missionaries. Until the Bible studies.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to ban Christian worship. In Saudi Arabia it is against the law for a group to study the Bible, even in your own home. Khurram and Farrukh and their families needed to express their faith, and, though it was against the law, they joined a clandestine Bible study conducted in a private home.

One of the members of the Bible study was an engineer from southern Illinois who not only knew the Bible, but knew grace, the kind of grace Paul celebrates in Ephesians, 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not your doing, (salvation) is a gift of God, not by human efforts, so no one can boast.” When Khurram heard this he says it was “like scales falling from my eyes.” The brothers and their wives had their eyes opened to the undeserved, full, complete forgiveness and love of God, apart from anything they might do to earn God’s love. Hearing this, they could no longer keep silent.

They were impelled, not compelled, impelled, by the Holy Spirit to share this life saving incredibly good news with all people, but especially Southeast Asians. When the Lord calls someone into ministry it is hard to stay away. He keeps coming after you, opening doors no one ever thought could open; He chooses people who never believed they could be a missionary, who never had training, or funding.  As St. Paul counsels (Romans 9:21), “After all, the man who makes the pots has the right to use the clay as he wishes, and to make two pots from the same lump of clay, one for special occasions and the other for ordinary use. ” Missionaries are for special occasions.

Knowing that sharing Christ was not going to be possible in Saudi Arabia, Farrukh Khan wrote to the mission department of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod with a request: we want to come to America, to go to seminary, and become missionaries to America. Many Southeast Asians were coming to America. In their home countries, many could not  hear the gospel of grace, of undeserved love from God; the Khan brothers believed they could share Christ’s love with these immigrants in ways American missionaries could not. A confession at this point is required.

The letter written by Farrukh was routed to the office of the vice president of our denomination, Dr. August Mennicke. At the time I was serving in the position of head of mission work in America for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. But when Auggie Mennicke brought the letter to me, I scoffed: “We do not know these men; they could be spies; they have no missionary training and we have no way of knowing how they could or would succeed as missionaries in America . Besides, (at that time, the early 1990s) the two seminaries in our denomination required candidates to have been Lutheran for ten years before they could attend. “Auggie, forget about it.” But he did not.  He wrote a reply to the letter from Saudi Arabia, and contacted Farrukh by telephone.

Two weeks later Dr. Mennicke came back to my office.”Bob, I believe these men are sincere. Isn’t there anything we can do?”  Well, the week before I had received a request from a group of churches in Toronto. They wanted a missionary to bring God’s love to new Canadian immigrants. We decided if Farrukh was willing to move his family to Canada, we would find money to support the ministry.   Farrukh paid his way  to St. Louis to be interviewed by mission leaders.  The interviewers were deeply impressed and recommended Farrukh be installed as a missionary in Toronto.  In Toronto the churches discovered that there was not one Khan, but two who were called to missionary work. Khurram became part of the mission. 

It is not easy to leave behind your work, your house, your friends – to let go of the comforts enjoyed by engineers working for an oil company. The courage, the faith, the sacrifices asked of missionaries is not only required, it is tested. Many who have the basic talent are not able to succeed. As Malachi says, “He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross” (Malachi 3:3). The Potter works the clay and fires it to make it useful. 

The Khans made tremendous sacrifices, not only of reduced income, but of prestige and comfort to begin a successful mission among Southeast Asians in Toronto. After a while, they were asked to do the same in Detroit. They scraped together funds to begin People of the Book Lutheran Outreach (Muslims call Christians and Jews “People of the Book). These were hard times. Bills were not always paid on time but they persevered, like missionaries from the beginning, like the apostles, like the women and men driven as refugees from Jerusalem to Antioch. Like Paul and Barnabas. Refined by fire, they trusted, they worked hard, they prayed and asked others to pray. They never gave up. 

At times they were depressed: many Christians have difficulty trusting immigrants from Pakistan, difficulty believing they are not in the ministry for themselves. When they began, they had no training in how to be missionaries. Most pastors going through seminary do not have that training; they are prepared to take care of Christians, not taught how to build a mission. Our way of forming church workers attracts women and men who can be successful at higher education, not  necessarily as entrepreneurs.  The Khans refused to give up; they learned on the go, sometimes with the help of their church, sometimes in spite of that church. 

Early on they seriously considered returning to the Middle East. Then, in the next few weeks, there were sixteen baptisms at one mission they’d help begin, and eighteen at another. They stayed. Other missionaries were attracted to POBLO. At one point, after going together through a distance education program at Concordia Theological Seminary, fourteen POBLO recruited men were ordained at Faith Lutheran Church in Troy, Michigan.

Today, POBLO is a million dollar ministry, and, including ministries begun in Pakistan, over twelve thousand baptisms have occurred. POBLO owns a commercial building where they have their offices and missionary training center. Income from rental of other space helps pay the mortgage. People Of the Book carries on  mission work in eight districts of the LCMS, with plans in place to begin two to three new mission fields each year. 

Before that Bible class in Saudi Arabia, if anyone had told the brothers they would become missionaries to America, they would have been incredulous. Only the Holy Spirit would not have laughed. You see, “Christian missionary” is not a career goal, it is a calling.  If the Lord wants you a way will open. You may fight it, but the Spirit keeps coming back, opening some doors, shutting others, shaping and molding, giving faith, and courage and love – all the components for the making of a missionary.  The Potter is still  at work, creating new clay jars for His special use. 

To see a short, introductory interview of the Khans, click here.

To see the full 20 minute video, click here.

Personas reales. Historia verdadera. Intervención divina.

El misionero a prueba de balas: Personas reales. Historia verdadera. Intervención divina.
La increíble biografía del escape del Profesor Shang Ik Moon de Corea del Norte y su misión de llevar a Cristo a sus compatriotas. Ahora en un libro. 

Para encargar el libro haga click aquí

“En la guerra uno no puede evitar la bala. La bala debe evitarlo a uno”. El profesor Shang Ik Moon compartió este sobrio adagio coreano. Él lo sabía bien. Moon, uno de los profesores pioneros de la Universidad de Concordia en Irvine, sobrevivió a los horrores de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y de la Guerra de Corea. Toda su vida se ha preguntado por qué las balas lo esquivaron, cuando tantos cerca de él fueron despedazados.

Nacido en Corea del Norte y dejado al cuidado de su abuela, huyó de Corea del Norte en busca de sus padres en Corea del Sur, arriesgando su vida al cruzar la frontera fuertemente custodiada. Unos años más tarde, cuando Corea del Norte invadió el sur, se encontró de nuevo atrapado en medio de fuegos cruzados como refugiado, teniendo que huir más al sur. Tratando de sobrevivir, llegó a una base aérea militar de los Estados Unidos cerca de Suwon donde dormía en el suelo. Como no le proveían comida, se alimentaba de lo que encontraba en un basurero afuera de una base aérea estadounidense. Desesperado, se acercó al comandante de la base aérea para pedir trabajo. El capellán Vajda, un capellán militar luterano, entrevistó al niño y lo contrató.

 

Shang Ik Moon aprendió mucho del capellán Vajda: aprendió inglés, aprendió sobre los Estados Unidos y sobre todo aprendió sobre Jesús. El niño quería ser ordenado para convertirse en misionero en Corea. Con la ayuda del capellán fue al St. John’s College en Winfield, Kansas, para estudiar para el ministerio.

En St. John’s tuvo que aprender alemán, latín, hebreo y griego, una tarea nada fácil para una persona joven que había perdido gran parte de su educación a causa de la guerra, y que apenas hablaba inglés. Casi se dio por vencido con el griego. Pero el decano de la universidad le asignó como tutor a un estudiante de un curso superior: Ralph Bohlmann, futuro presidente del Sínodo de Missouri de la Iglesia Luterana. Con la ayuda de Bohlmann y el aliento de otros estudiantes y profesores, Moon se graduó y se fue al Seminario Concordia. Le fue tan bien académicamente, que se quedó en St. Louis para obtener una Maestría y luego un Doctorado en Sociología en la Universidad de St. Louis. Eso le trajo su primer ministerio: enseñar teología y sociología en el Concordia Senior College. De allí, el Dr. Moon se unió a la primera facultad en Concordia Irvine.

El profesor Moon es misionero, pero no fuera de los Estados Unidos. Cuando solicitó permiso para ser misionero en Corea, fue rechazado. Lo necesitaban más como misionero entre los inmigrantes coreanos en los Estados Unidos. Para ese propósito, Moon comenzó un proceso en Concordia Irvine para ayudar a los pastores ordenados de Corea a obtener autorización para el ministerio público en los Estados Unidos a través de la Iglesia Luterana. Más de sesenta pastores y congregaciones coreanas han encontrado su hogar en un cuerpo eclesiástico que les dio la bienvenida a través del ministerio del profesor Shang Ik Moon.

Esto sucedió porque varios mentores dieron de su tiempo y talentos para involucrarse en la vida de un refugiado. Seguramente Ralph Bohlmann ya tenía suficiente para hacer en la escuela y no tenía por qué tomarse la molestia de enseñar a un estudiante que apenas entendía inglés, menos aún el cristianismo, y ayudarlo a aprender griego. El capellán Vajda podría haber encontrado un mejor asistente, más viejo, con mejor inglés, y que fuera cristiano. Sin embargo, eligió asumir un proyecto. Nadie se pudo haber imaginado en ese entonces, las bendiciones que Dios tenía preparadas para su Iglesia.

Para encargar el libro y conocer toda la historia de la intervención divina, haga click aquí.

Para ver una breve entrevista con el Profesor Moon, haga click aquí.

Para ver la entrevista completa con el Profesor Moon, haga click aquí.

Dr. Robert Scudieri, Presidente

Mission Nation Publishing

THE BULLETPROOF MISSIONARY – Now you can purchase the book

“In war, you cannot avoid the bullet. The bullet has to avoid you.” Professor Shang Ik Moon shared this sober Korean adage. He should know. Prof. Moon, one of the pioneer professors at Concordia University, Irvine, survived the horrors both of WW II and the Korean War. He has lived his whole life with the question of why the bullets missed him when so many near him were torn into pieces.

Born in North Korea, left to his grandmother for care, he had to flee from North Korea in search of his parents in the South, risking his life crossing the heavily guarded DMZ Border.  A few years later when North Korea invaded the South, he was again caught-up in the midst of crossfires as a refugee, fleeing further south.  In search of survival, he came to a US military air base near Suwon, where he slept on the ground.  He had no food provided for him, so he did the best he could scrounging on a garbage dump outside an American air base.  Desperate, he approached the air base commander to ask for a job.  Chaplain Vajda, a Lutheran military chaplain, interviewed the boy-and hired him.

Shang Ik Moon learned a lot from Chaplain Vajda: he learned English, he learned about America, most of all, he learned about Jesus. The boy wanted to be ordained in order to become a missionary in Korea. With the Chaplain’s help he went to St. John’s College in Winfield, Kansas, to study for the ministry.

Professor Moon is a missionary, not outside the United States. He was turned down when he applied to be a missionary in Korea. He was needed more as a missionary among Korean immigrants in the United States. For that purpose Moon began a process at Concordia Irvine to help ordained pastors from Korea find authorization for the public ministry in America through the Lutheran Church. More than sixty Korean pastors and congregations have found a home in a church body that welcomed them through the ministry of Professor Shang Ik Moon.

Chaplain Vajda could have found a better assistant, older, with better English, who was a Christian. Instead, he took on a project. Who could have known then what a blessing God was planning for His Church?

To order the book to know the whole story of divine intervention, click here.

To see a short video interview with Professor Moon, click here.

To see the full interview with Professor Moon, click here.

An Important Question

An Important Question

As members of the editorial committee of Lutheran Mission Matters, the journal of the Lutheran Society for Missiology, and, more importantly, as members of the LCMS who seek to take seriously our Lord’s mission to share His salvation with all nations and to do so in ways that are joyfully and fully Lutheran, we are developing thoughts for a forthcoming article that seeks to present a more positive and hopeful future for the LCMS than that which has been reported at many district conventions this year, especially in light of the various demographic studies recently conducted by our synod.

In this endeavor, we seek the wisdom, encouragement, and input of various leaders in our synod, and this simple survey humbly solicits any response that you may deem helpful. We recognize the limitations of time and schedules, so responses can be as much or as little as you wish.

This is intended to be open-ended and inclusive, so if you know of anyone else who might be interested, feel free to pass the link below on to others. But please respond by August 30, 2018, after which the survey link will be closed.
The one question we put before you is as follows:     Demographic projections shared at recent district conventions and         elsewhere indicate that despite current efforts at evangelism, church planting, and revitalization, the LCMS may lose as many as 500,000 additional members in the next decade. Do you think there is a more hopeful future toward which the LCMS, empowered by God the Holy Spirit, might seek to work? If so, please tell us what that future would look like.

Please respond as you wish and are able by using this link:https://goo.gl/orZg5r. We are asking for your email address should we need to follow up or clarify, but the survey results will remain anonymous. We will not identify anyone by name or specific position when we write our article, and we will not share any information regarding identity or email addresses with others.  We hope that it will take only a few minutes to respond, but we also hope that you will take the opportunity to share your understanding of LCMS work in mission and ministry and how it might be done in the 21st century.Thank you sincerely for your time and assistance.  These are extraordinary and challenging times, but we are confident in the Lord of the church through His Spirit to lead us not only in holding on to His truth but also in sharing it with those who have not received it.

In Christ’s Name and Service,
 Andrew Bartelt

Jon Diefenthaler

Daniel Mattson

Robert Scudieri

Misiologia de El Camino

 

Misiología de El Camino

Misioneros Perla y Nelson Rodriguez

La antigua iglesia en el centro de Houston se encuentra junto a un refugio para personas sin hogar. Solía llamarse iglesia St. John, pero los anglos se mudaron y los inmigrantes y refugiados de América Central y del Sur, y el Caribe tomaron su lugar. Las nuevas religiones se arraigaron en el antiguo vecindario; la brujería se convirtió en la religión preferida. St. John cerró sus puertas.

Perla Rodríguez creció en ese vecindario: fue a St. John y a su escuela primaria. Luterana desde que tenía seis años, estaba profundamente comprometida con que el evangelio llegara a los nuevos ciudadanos. Entonces apareció Nelson, un joven ingeniero químico de Puerto Rico, quien había sido contratado por una compañía para trabajar en Houston. Perla y Nelson se sintieron llamados a hacer real el amor de Jesús en las personas de su antiguo vecindario. Y entonces, el Señor abrió un nuevo Camino.

El Camino

El nombre, que fue ampliamente utilizado por los primeros creyentes y puede ser el más desconocido para los cristianos de hoy, es “El Camino”. Cristo se llamó a sí mismo “El Camino, la Verdad y la Vida” (Juan 14: 6). De hecho, Jesús afirmó ser el único Camino a la vida eterna. “El Camino” era el nombre usado para los primeros cristianos; se usó ampliamente en el libro de los Hechos (19: 9, 19:23, 24:14, 24:22). “Cristianos” se convirtió en el nombre común para los creyentes sólo después de que la fe llegara a Antioquía, alrededor del año 34 DC.

“El Camino” es la razón por la cual, después que Jesús regresara de entre los muertos (Hechos 1:15), la iglesia creció de ciento veinte a más de seis millones en el año 300 DC. Si las iglesias de hoy quieren convertirse en herramientas útiles para que el Espíritu haga crecer a la iglesia, deberían prestar atención al Camino – el Camino de Cristo, el Camino de los primeros misioneros: los Apóstoles.

Pero ¿qué es este “Camino”? ¿Qué tiene de distintivo? ¿Y por qué hablar de esto en un blog sobre los misioneros Perla y Nelson Rodríguez en los Estado Unidos? Porque el Camino es la base del trabajo de cada misionero cristiano.

Primero y más importante: es el Camino a la vida eterna. Está envuelto en el evangelio, en las palabras de San Pablo: “Ciertamente la gracia de Dios los ha salvado por medio de la fe. Ésta no nació de ustedes, sino que es un don de Dios; ni es resultado de las obras, para que nadie se vanaglorie.” Efesios 2:8-9

San Pablo continúa diciéndonos lo que eso significa para el modo en que los cristianos viven su amor a Dios y a los demás (1 Corintios 13:13): “Y ahora estos tres permanecen: fe, esperanza y caridad. Pero el mayor de estos es la caridad. ” “Caridad” (“caritas” en latín, “ágape” en griego) es una palabra mejor que “amor”. En nuestra cultura, el significado de la palabra “amor” se ha vuelto demasiado confuso para entender lo que decía San Pablo. La caridad está más cerca de lo que el apóstol-misionero quiso decir.

América una vez lo supo y lo celebró. A mediados del siglo XX pudimos escuchar la versión de Don Cornell de la canción de Dale Evans en cada estación de radio secular: “Fe, Esperanza y Caridad, esa es la forma de vivir con éxito. ¿Cómo lo sé? La Biblia me lo dice.”  ¡Cómo han cambiado las cosas!

La fe y la esperanza han sido dejadas de lado en nuestra cultura secular del siglo XXI; la caridad parece estar todavía de moda, aunque nos preguntamos por cuánto tiempo. Los misioneros de El Camino viven de tal modo que sus vidas dan testimonio del Dios que representan. Las vidas de Perla y Nelson  re presentan a Cristo a los pobres de Houston a través de la forma en que viven su fe, esperanza y caridad.

Después de que St. John Lutheran cerrara sus puertas, LINC (Lutheran Inner City Network Coalition) fue autorizado a utilizar el edificio. En 2005, Perla y Nelson vivían cómodamente en los suburbios. Ahora su fe sería probada. El Espíritu puso en sus corazones el convertirse en misioneros, ministrando a una comunidad creciente de inmigrantes jóvenes y pobres del centro de la ciudad de Houston.

Nelson, había sido un estudiante de la Biblia y luego un líder en su iglesia. Fue elegido para ingresar al Centro de Estudios Hispanos, un programa de tres años del Seminario Concordia de St. Louis. Es un programa de educación a distancia que conduce a la ordenación. Habría de ser misionero de LINC Houston.

Perla le preguntó al Director de LINC, Rev. Mark Junkans, qué papel podía desempeñar una mujer en la misión, y así conoció el programa para Diaconisas también dirigido por el Centro de Estudios Hispanos. Se convirtieron en un equipo, acercándose a su campo de misión como cualquier otro equipo misionero cristiano: estudiaron a su comunidad para ver cuál era la mejor forma de llevar allí el amor de Jesús.

Sin dejar sus trabajos seculares, se lanzaron al trabajo misional. Nelson continuó su trabajo como ingeniero químico mientras predicaba el Camino de Jesús, compartiendo y demostrando la esperanza que tenía como hijo de Dios. Dirigió las clases bíblicas de los miércoles y la adoración. Los misioneros de LINC financian su trabajo de misión.

Perla continuó trabajando como docente, a la vez que se convirtió en el rostro del ministerio en los vecindarios circundantes. De este esfuerzo nació una despensa de alimentos. Hoy, la despensa ayuda a alimentar a más de mil adultos y niños cada mes. Cuarenta voluntarios han expandido el alcance, la mitad desde dentro y la mitad desde fuera de la comunidad.

Algunos de los voluntarios son hombres del centro de rehabilitación al lado de la iglesia. Seis de los hombres del refugio pidieron ser bautizados y luego confirmados. La iglesia creció. El cincuenta por ciento de los miembros llegó a la fe a través de la caridad de los trabajadores de la despensa de alimentos.

Cuando planificamos la expansión de nuevas misiones tratamos de ser buenos administradores y considerar el costo, no sólo financiero, sino también físico y emocional. Planeamos, porque queremos ser fieles (Mateo 25:14-30). Pero permítanme sugerir que antes de todo esto, no en lugar de, sino antes, deberíamos considerar el Camino de la misión, el Camino de los apóstoles, el Camino de Cristo. Pregúntese: en su misión ¿ven los demás su fe, su esperanza, su caridad?

Luego agradezca a Dios porque ha aceptado el Camino de fe, esperanza y caridad perfectas de Jesús en el lugar de todos nuestros caminos imperfectos.

“Fe, esperanza y caridad. Esa es la forma de vivir con éxito. ¿Cómo lo sé?”

Robert Scudieri

Tr. Beatriz Hoppe

Para ver una breve introducción al video de la entrevista, haga click aquí.

Para ver la entrevista de veinte minutos, haga click aquí.

A Missiology of The Way

A Missiology of The Way

Missionaries to America Perla and Nelson Rodriguez

The old church in downtown Houston sits next to a homeless shelter. It used to be called St. John church, but the Anglos moved out and immigrants and refugees from Central and South America and the Caribbean took their place. New religions became rooted in the old neighborhood; witchcraft became a religion of choice.  St. John closed its doors.

Perla Rodriguez grew up in the neighborhood, went to St. John and to the church’s elementary school. A Lutheran since she was six years old, she was deeply committed to seeing the  gospel reach the new citizens. Then, Nelson came along. A young man from Puerto Rico with a degree in chemical engineering; he had been hired by a company on the mainland and put to work in Houston. Perla and Nelson felt called to make Jesus’ love real to the people in her old neighborhood. Then the Lord opened a new Way. 

The Way
The name which was widely used for the earliest believers, and may be the most unknown to Christians today, is “The Way”. Christ called Himself “The Way, the Truth and the Life”(John 14:6).  In fact, Jesus claimed to be the only Way to eternal life. “The Way” was the name used for the very first Christians; it was used widely in the Book of Acts (Acts 19:9,  Acts 19:23 , Acts 24:14, Acts 24:22).  “Christians” became the common name for believers only after the faith reached Antioch, around 34 AD – and then as a pejorative used by the gentile unbelievers. 

“The Way” is why the church grew from one hundred and twenty after Jesus came back from the dead  (Acts 1:15) to over six million  by 300 AD If Churches today want to become useful tools for the Spirit to grow the church they should pay attention to The Way – the Way of Christ, the Way of the very first missionaries – the Apostles. 

But what is this “Way”? What is distinctive about it? And why talk about this in a blog about the missionaries to America Perla and Nelson Rodriquez? Because the Way is the basis for the work of every Christian missionary. 

First and most important it is the Way to eternal life. It is wrapped in the gospel, in St. Paul’s words: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.

St. Paul goes on to tell us what that means for the Way Christian live out their love for God and each other (1 Corinthians 13): “And now these three remain: faith, hope and charity. But the greatest of these is charity.” “Charity” (“caritas” in Latin, “agape” in Greek) is a better word than “love.” In our culture the  meaning of the word “love” has become too muddled to understand what St. Paul was saying. Charity is closer to what the apostle-missionary meant. 

America once knew this, and celebrated it. In the middle of the twentieth century we could hear the Don Cornell version of Dale Evans’ song on every secular radio station:  “Faith, Hope and Charity, that’s the way to live successfully. How do I know? The Bible tells me so.” How things have changed. 

Faith and hope have been sidelined in our twenty first century secular culture; charity seems still to be in vogue, although we wonder for how long.  The Way missionaries live testifies to the God they re-present. Perla and Nelson’s lives are re-presenting Christ to the poor of Houston through the Way they live out their faith, hope and charity. 

After St. John Lutheran closed its doors LINC (Lutheran Inner City Network Coalition) was given the use of the building. In 2005 Perla and Nelson were living in comfort in the suburbs. Now their faith would be tested. The Spirit put it on their hearts to become missionaries, ministering to a young, growing, and poor Houston inner city immigrant community .

Nelson, had been a Bible study student and then a leader in his church.  He was chosen for entrance to the Center for Hispanic Studies, a three year  program at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. It is a  distance education program  leading to ordination. He would be a missionary for LINC Houston.

Perla asked the Director of LINC, Rev. Mark Junkans, what role a woman could play in the mission. She was introduced to the Deaconess program also run by the Center for Hispanic Studies. They became a team, approaching their mission field like any other Christian missionary team: they studied their community to see how best to make alive the love of Jesus.

While still holding their secular jobs they threw themselves into mission work. Nelson continued his paying job as a chemical engineer while he preached Jesus’ Way, sharing and demonstrating the hope he had as a child of God. He led Wednesday Bible classes and conducted worship. LINC missionaries fund their mission work through St. Paul like “tent making” strategies. This strategy attracts a different kind of student, one more entrepreneurial, more courageous. 

Perla continued earning income from her teaching job, at the same time she became the face of the ministry in the surrounding neighborhoods. Out of this effort came a food pantry.  Today the pantry helps feed over one thousand adults and children every month. Forty volunteers have expanded the outreach, half from inside and half  from outside the community.

Some of the volunteers are men from the rehab center next door to the church. Six of the men from the shelter asked for baptism and were confirmed. The church grew. Fifty percent of members came to faith through the caritas of the food pantry workers. 

When we plan for the expansion of new missions we try to be good stewards and consider the cost, not just monetary, but physical and emotional costs. We plan, because we want to be faithful (Matthew 25:14-30). But let me suggest that before all this – not instead of  but before – we should consider the Way of the mission, the Way of the apostles, the Way of Christ. Ask yourself, in your mission do others see your faith, your hope, your charity?

Then thank God because He has accepted Jesus’ Way of perfect faith, hope and charity in the place of all our imperfect  ways. 

“Faith, hope and charity. That’s the way to live successfully. How do I know?”

To see the short introduction to the full video interview, click here.

To see the full twenty minute interview, click here.

 

 

 

“¿Y qué es lo que demanda el Señor de ti?”

Misionero en los Estados Unidos – Vijay Gurrala

A veces me preguntan: “¿Cuándo decidiste ser pastor?” Mi respuesta siempre es la misma: “Cuando me desperté esta mañana.” La verdad es que nunca tuve un sueño o una visión que me llamara al ministerio público, sino que es la mejor manera que he encontrado de servir al Señor. Pero nunca he tenido una revelación divina al respecto. Pero no para todos es así, como por ejemplo, para el misionero Vijay Gurrala.

El Rev. Gurrala creció en la fe cristiana en Guntur, una pequeña villa en India. Es miembro de la cuarta generación de Gurralas cristianos, luego que su bisabuelo Enoc fuera evangelizado por misioneros alemanes en el siglo 19.

Los misioneros habían impresionado a Enoc Gurrala con los sacrificios que hacían por mostrar a su villa el amor de Jesús. Misioneros europeos y norteamericanos viajaron miles de millas para llegar a muchas pequeñas villas; iban de una villa a la otra a pie, estado por estado, muchas veces durante la temporada de lluvias. Pasaban la vida aprendiendo los idiomas y costumbres locales como señal de respecto. Los sacrificios hechos por los misioneros mejoraron la vida de los locales. Ellos invirtieron años creando escuelas para sacar a los granjeros rurales de su pobreza. Muchos de esos misioneros nunca regresaron a sus países de origen; sus tumbas han quedado marcadas con simples cruces. Al igual que su Señor, se sacrificaron a sí mismos para compartir el amor de Cristo.

Por experiencia personal puedo decir que ninguna gran misión ha sido jamás lograda sin un gran sacrificio.

Con la educación recibida, el abuelo de Vijay Gurrala fue entrenado para ser pastor y luego supervisor misional de las iglesias en diez villas.

Su padre tuvo el beneficio de ser educado en escuelas cristianas y llegó a ser empleado del gobierno. Aun así, sacrificó sus fines de semana para ir a lugares donde el evangelio aún no era conocido. Ya mayor, vendría a los Estados Unidos y eventualmente habría de ministrar en las prisiones, aunque podría haber hecho muchas otras cosas.

¿Y Vijay? Gracias a los sacrificios de los misioneros europeos, recibió una buena educación. Se recibió de ingeniero en computación, obteniendo luego una maestría en ciencias de computación. La familia Gurrala fue traída a Houston por Amoco. Vijay ganaba bien, vivían confortablemente y participaban de la iglesia luterana Epifanía donde Vijay comenzó grupos de estudios bíblicos.

Así inició un grupo cristiano Télugu que se reunía mensualmente para orar y cantar himnos, socializar y compartir comida india. Con el tiempo, el treinta por ciento del grupo eran cristianos recién convertidos y un quince por ciento eran esposas y niños hindúes. Todos era bienvenidos y queridos.

Un día, volando de regreso de un viaje de negocios, Vijay estaba estudiando Miqueas 6, donde el Señor demanda a su pueblo que lo escuchen y respondan en forma significativa a su amor increíble. “¿Y qué es lo que demanda el Señor de ti?” (v. 8) ¿Qué sacrificio vas a hacer? El espíritu de Vijay se sintió sacudido. Instantáneamente supo lo que tenía que hacer, lo que el Señor le estaba pidiendo que hiciera. De ahora en más dejaría de lado su vida confortable y comenzaría el programa de estudios de cuatro años para ser un pastor ordenado. No tenía que hacerlo, pero sabía que estaba siendo llamado a una vida diferente.

Vijay Gurrala fue el primer misionero ordenado de LINC Houston ((Lutheran Inner-City Network). Trabajando con LINC, el Rev. Gurrala pastorea la iglesia Our Redeemer Lutheran (Télugu), que funciona en Pilgrim Lutheran Church. Tres veces al mes los servicios son en inglés, y el tercer domingo (el día siguiente a la reunión mensual del grupo cultural Télugu), el servicio es en Télugu. Vijay también ha comenzado varios grupos de estudio bíblico en hogares en distintas partes de Houston, uno de ellos a cincuenta millas de distancia, como simientes para nuevas iglesias Télugu.

Los misioneros europeos que fueron a Guntur jamás soñaron con que un descendiente de Enoc Gurrala llegaría a Houston, Texas y sería misionero en los Estados Unidos. Aunque, en realidad, quizás sí lo hicieron… si oyeron lo que oyó el profeta Miqueas, si creyeron lo que los primeros misioneros creyeron: que las buenas nuevas habrían de viajar de Jerusalén a Judea y Samaria y a los confines de la tierra.

Para ver el video de la entrevista, haga click aquí.

Dr. Robert Scudieri, Presidente, Mission Nation Publishing

Tr. Beatriz Hoppe

 

“What Can you do, O Man?” Micah 6…

“What Can You Do, O Man?” Micah 6…

To see a short introduction to the twenty five minute video interview, click here.

Missionary to America Vijay Gurrala

People sometimes ask, “When did you decide to become a pastor?” My answer is always the same: “This morning, when I woke up.” The truth is, I never had a dream or vision to call me into public ministry; it is the best way I have found for me to serve the Lord. If you asked if I had a divine revelation at some point, sorry – that wasn’t the case. That is not true for everyone. Take the missionary to America Vijay Gurrala. 

Rev. Gurrala grew up as a Christian in a small village in India, Guntur. He is a member of the fourth generation of Christian Gurralas, his great grandfather, Enoch, having been evangelized by German missionaries in the 19th century. 

The missionaries had impressed Enoch Gurrala through the sacrifices they were making to show his village the love of Jesus. European and American missionaries came thousands of miles to many small villages; they walked from village to village, state to state, many times in monsoon rains. The missionaries spent their lives learning the local language and customs, as signs of respect. The sacrifices of the missionaries improved the lives of the local people. They invested years starting schools to lift poor rural farmers out of poverty. Many of those European and American missionaries never returned to their homelands, their graves in the new land marked by simple crosses. As did their Lord, they sacrificed themselves to share Christ’s love.

I can tell you by personal experience, no great mission was ever accomplished without some great sacrifice. 

With the education he received, Vijay Gurrala’s grandfather was trained to be a pastor, and later a mission supervisor over churches in ten villages.

His father benefitted from the education in Christian schools and rose to be a government worker. Still, he sacrificed his weekends to go to areas where the gospel had not been known.  In his later years Vijay’s father would come to America, and choose to minister in prisons.  There are many other things his father could have done. 

What about Vijay? Because of the sacrifices of the European missionaries he received a good education. He became a computer engineer, earning a Masters in Computer Science. The Gurrala family was brought to Houston by Amaco. He was making a very good living. The Gurralas were comfortable; they worshipped at Epiphany Lutheran Church, where Vijay started Bible study groups.

A layman, he started a Christian Telugu fellowship that met monthly to pray and sing hymns, socialize and share Indian food. In time, thirty percent of the group became composed of new Christians. Another fifteen percent were Hindu spouses and children. All were welcomed; all were loved.

One day, flying home from a business trip, he was studying his Bible, Micah 6, where the Lord demands His people listen to Him and respond in significant ways to His incredible love. Then the question – what is required of YOU now , (verse 8) “What can you do, O man?” What sacrifice will you make? Vijay Guralla’s spirit was shaken. He knew what he had to do, what the Lord was asking of him. From now on he would set aside his comfortable life, become a student, begin a four year program leading to ordination as an ordained pastor. He did not have to do this, but he knew he was being called to a different life. 

After graduation, Vijay Guralla became the first ordained missionary for LINC Houston, the Lutheran Inner City Network. Working with LINC Rev. Guralla leads Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (Telugu), based at Pilgrim Lutheran Church. Three times a month the worship service is in English, then, on the third Sunday – the day after the Telugu Cultural Group meets – the worship service is in Telugu. The missionary also started several home Bible study groups around Houston, one fifty miles away, as seeds for new Telugu churches. 

The European missionaries who went to Guntur could not have dreamed that a descendent of Enoch Guralla would be brought to Houston Texas to be a missionary to America.  Well, maybe they did – if they heard what the prophet Micah heard. If they believed what the earliest missionaries believed – that the good news was to travel all the way from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. 

To see the full video interview, click here.

 

 

Un Lugar Seguro Para Los Misioneros

Un Lugar Seguro Para Los Misioneros

Mark Junkans – Misionero en los Estados Unidos

“La misión es desordenada.” Al igual que la manera en que nos volvemos misioneros, como fue con el Rev. Mark Junkans. Hijo de un pastor, si bien todavía se consideraba cristiano, Mark se había alejado de la fe. Al terminar la secundaria se fue de su casa en el medio oeste para hacer surf en el sur de Tejas. El pelo lo llevaba largo, y podríamos decir que su comportamiento no iba de acuerdo con la Escritura. El comentario de un amigo lo dejó frío: “Tú eres la razón por la cual no soy cristiano. Dices ser cristiano, pero no te comportas como tal”. Le dolió mucho escuchar eso, pero fue un llamado de atención. En una revista de surf leyó un aviso que decía: “Sirve a Dios haciendo surf”. Era del grupo “Juventud con una misión” y ofrecía preparar y enviar jóvenes a dar testimonio en Méjico. Le preguntó a un pastor local qué opinaba, y el pastor le dijo: “¿Por qué no servir allí a Dios?”

Ahora Mark quería compartir el amor de Jesús con los inmigrantes de habla hispana. Aprendió que en Houston ya había tres ministerios que estaban haciendo eso, así que se ofreció a servir de voluntario. Se encontró con que sería útil pero sólo si hablaba español, y ese no era su caso. (Recuerden, la misión es desordenada.) Lo que sí sabía era tocar la guitarra, y uno de esos ministerios necesitaba a alguien que ayudara con la música en los servicios de adoración.

Mark se dedicó a estudiar español, encontró trabajo con albañiles hispanos y alquiló una habitación en la casa de una familia hispana en un barrio mejicano en Houston. Para acortar la historia, cuando el misionero de la iglesia donde Mark estaba trabajando se fue, a Mark lo licenciaron como diácono y le pidieron que liderara la iglesia. Y entonces la iglesia empezó a desplomarse. Y ahora, ¿qué?

Una vez no apareció nadie para el servicio de adoración. Sin embargo, después de cuarenta minutos, una mujer vino y dijo: “¿No vino nadie? No te preocupes. Fuiste llamado a estar aquí.”  Y luego se fue. Esa sabia mujer se convertiría en la suegra de Mark.

Mark Junkans persistió. Comenzó una clase para ciudadanía, un coro, clases de inglés como segundo idioma y un club de fútbol, con el objetivo de establecer contactos con inmigrantes hispanos. La iglesia comenzó a crecer, pero como muchos de los nuevos miembros eran inmigrantes, también eran móviles. Se mudaban a distintas partes de la ciudad, más cerca del trabajo o de la escuela, o a una vivienda mejor. Así fue como el misionero se dio cuenta que tenía que cambiar. Estaba llevando a cabo su ministerio como si fuera una iglesia, cuando lo que tenía que hacer era pensar en su congregación como una base misional, una base a partir de la cual formar misioneros.

Un grupo en Dallas ya se había embarcado en esa misión, creando una sociedad misionera llamada LINC, Lutheran Inner City Networking Coalition. El objetivo era poner en marcha un espacio sagrado, un lugar seguro para formar misioneros para la ciudad. El grupo proporcionaría una “burbuja” para proteger a los misioneros, utilizando nuevas técnicas para identificar, equipar y apoyar a aquellos que podrían comenzar nuevas comunidades de fe. Sería un modelo bi-vocacional, independiente de subsidio externo, que proporcionaría un sistema de apoyo y cobertura oficial para los misioneros. Dado que las diferentes culturas requieren diferentes enfoques para el ministerio, la capacitación sería sensible a las necesidades particulares de cada grupo.

Mark dice: “En el pasado, exigíamos que las personas se vistieran y cantaran como nosotros, que adoptaran nuestra cultura, en vez de contextualizar la adoración y el ministerio”. Se inició un Instituto Bíblico con entrenamiento a nivel básico. Quienes tuvieran éxito en el Instituto Bíblico estarían listos para ingresar a un Instituto Étnico preseminario de teología, donde trabajarían como vicarios bajo la supervisión del clero ordenado. Uno de los resultados secundarios, inesperado al principio, fue la red de apoyo que se desarrolló entre los misioneros de diferentes orígenes étnicos. Los líderes y la red, según Mark, “avivan en los líderes la pasión por llegar a sus comunidades con el evangelio, y luego equipan a otros líderes para llevar el evangelio y ser entrenadores de líderes en sus países de origen”.

La misión es desordenada. Fue desordenada cuando Jesús nació como bebé en un establo, cuando ministró y confrontó las ideas equivocadas del liderazgo arraigado, y fue aún más desordenada cuando colgó en una cruz. Pero el Señor sabe cómo traer victoria de la derrota, vida de la muerte y misioneros de hijas e hijos descarriados.

Para ver el video de la entrevista con el misionero Junkans, haga aquí.

A SAFE PLACE FOR MISSIONARIES

A Safe Place For Missionaries

Missionary to America Mark Junkans

“Missions is messy.” Even how we become missionaries. Take Rev. Mark Junkans for example. Mark, the son of a pastor, had drifted away from his faith, although he still considered himself a Christian. After highschool, he left his home in the Midwest for the surfer life in south Texas. His hair was shoulder length, and his behavior was not, shall we say, according to Scripture.  A comment from a friend caught Mark up short: “You are the reason I am not a Christian. You call yourself a Christian, but you do not act like one.” It was painful to hear, but it caused the young man to take stock of his life. In the back of “Surfing Magazine” he read an ad: “Serve God and surf” it said. It was an offer from the group “Youth With A Mission,” an offer to prepare and send young people to witness in Mexico.  He asked a local pastor what he thought – the pastor said, “Why not serve God here?” 

Mark now felt a desire to share the love of Jesus with Spanish speaking immigrants. He found out there were Hispanic outreach ministries in Houston, three to be exact. He approached one to volunteer, and found out it would be helpful if he spoke Spanish. He did not. (Remember, missions is messy). But he did play the guitar and one of the ministries needed someone to accompany the worship services. 

Mark studied hard to learn Spanish, found a job working with Spanish speaking construction workers and rented a room from a Spanish speaking family in a Mexican neighborhood of Houston.  To make a long story short, when the missionary at the church where he was working left, Mark was made a licensed deacon and asked to lead the church. It was then that the church took a nosedive. Messy! What’s next?

One time, no one showed up for worship. After forty minutes, though, one woman came and said, “Nobody here? Don’t worry. You were called to be here.” Then she left. This wise woman later would become Mark’s mother in law.

Mark Junkans persisted. He began an American Citizens Class, an after school choir, English as a Second Language class, a soccer club – all to make contacts with Hispanic immigrants. The church began to grow – but, since many of the new members were immigrants, they were mobile. They moved around the city, closer to work, or to school, or to better living conditions. It was then that the missionary realized he had to change. He was working the ministry as a church, while what he needed to do was to think of his congregation as a mission base. A base from which to form missionaries. 

Another group, one in Dallas, had already embarked on such a mission. They created a mission society called LINC, Lutheran Inner City Networking Coalition.  The aim was to put in place a sacred space, a safe place, to form missionaries for the city. The group would provide a “bubble” to protect missionaries, using new techniques to identify, equip and support those who could begin new communities of faith. It would be a bivocational model, independent of outside subsidy – supplying a support system and an official cover for missionaries. Because different cultures require different approaches to ministry, the training would be sensitive to the needs of individual groups. 

Mark says, “In the past we would require people to dress and sing like us, to adopt our culture, instead of contextualizing worship and ministry.”  A Bible Institute was started as entry level training. Those who were successful at the Bible Institute would be ready to enter a preseminary Ethnic Institute of Theology, where they would work as vicars under the supervision of ordained clergy.  One of the side results, unexpected at the start, was the supportive network that developed among missionaries from different ethnic backgrounds.  The leaders and the network, according to Mark, “fan into flame a passion for leaders to reach their communities with the gospel, and then equip other leaders to bring the gospel to their home countries, to go back and be trainers of leaders in their countries of origin.”

Missions is messy. It was messy when a baby was born in a stable, when He ministered among and confronted the wrong ideas of entrenched leadership. It was even more messy when He hung on a cross. But the Lord has a way of bringing victory out of defeat, life out of death, missionaries out of wayward daughters and sons. 

To see the video interview with Missionary Junkans, click here.