Winning Tampa Five Houses At A Time

Winning Tampa for Christ Five Houses At A Time

Missionary to America Yolima Sanabria Cobos

Yolima Sanabria Cobos has a dream to bring the Word of the Lord to everyone in Tampa.

Yolima did not grow up in Florida. Her early years were spent in the country of Colombia during a time of terrible unrest. Her father and mother, saints committed to serving Jesus, raised their children in the love of the Lord. This love was severely tested in Colombia, where drug cartels went to war with the country’s authorities. Political parties fought each other. As a young woman she saw violence take over her homeland.

Yolima became an activist for peace and order. Eventually this would bring her to the attention of lawless people who had the power to end her life and the lives of her loved ones; it eventually caused her to flee with her family to Tampa, Florida – along with many others who feared for their and their families’ lives. In one sense Yolima saw this as God’s salvation for her, but also as God’s way to bring more people to faith in Jesus.

America is seeing many immigrants and many Spanish speaking immigrants arriving from countries like Colombia, countries torn by war and violent divisions. Many immigrants did not hear the gospel in their homeland.

Concordia Seminary has perfected an Hispanic Institute to prepare Spanish speaking missionaries to bring the love of God to the new arrivals. Yolima’s father had extensive theological training in Colombia; he entered the Concordia program to enhance his skills and be ordained. The classes are based on a distance education curriculum and Yolima, the youngest of the three Sanabria children, found them fascinating. She asked to be allowed to sit in when professors from the seminary occasionally came to Tampa to supplement online classes. Yolima says “It was beautiful sitting in and listening to the professors.” She had a hunger to learn more – and applied for entry to the seminary’s deaconess program.

Messiah Lutheran Church in Tampa, the city where the Sanabrias emigrated, saw an opportunity to reach out to the new Latino population. Pr. mark Adrian and the members of Messiah  accepted the family as missionaries and provided support to begin new missions to the immigrants. Yolima became a deaconess-missionary. She is not paid by the church – income for her and her family comes from her position as a director for Mary Kay Cosmetics. But Mary Kay is only an avocation – her vocation is bringing Christ to those dispossessed from countries where mayhem and murder are too much a part of life.

In her Mary Kay job Yolima visits five homes a day, but she does more than provide cosmetics. It is her vocation to daily bring Christ into those five homes. Her heart’s desire is to reach all of Tampa with the good news of God’s love for human beings. She brings Christ with her to meet everyone along her way. Yolima’s passion to bring God’s Word to all people fulfills Jesus’ desire, the same desire that drove Him to a cross and then through His servants to bring His love to the whole world.

So the master told his servant,‘Go out to the  highways and the  hedges and compel them to come in,so that my house will be full.'” Jesus to His servants in Luke 14:23.  

Thank you Lord for Yolima Sanabria Cobos. 

To see a brief interview with Yolima, click here

To see the full interview, click here

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

To read about a way to help your church increase its mission quotient, click here.

The Church in A Donut

The Church in A Donut: Missionary to America Carl Johnson

Carl Johnson is not your typical missionary. He had to overcome several challenges to become a missionary with Lutheran Intercity Network Coalition in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was raised by a single mother in Atlanta. His mom worked full time; when Carl was nine years old his mother was the secretary of a megachurch, a church that had thirty thousand members and sent missionaries to Ethiopia. He went to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. Nevertheless, when he became a teenager, church had no appeal for him. 

Carl did what too many young men in the city of Atlanta did, he became involved in drugs, then when he was seventeen, the drug trade. 

Alkoghol, Narkomaniia, Paghubnaia Privychka, Spirt

At nineteen he went  to jail. He tried out Islam, becoming a Black Muslim (his brother is still a member of The Nation of Islam).  On probation for his first drug offense, he went back to selling drugs. He was arrested again, this time with a friend who had a gun in the car. This brought a more serious charge.

But Carl’s friend could not be found when it was time for trial. There were too many young people coming before the courts in Atlanta; room in the jails was tight, and it was expensive. Carl, the one who showed up for the trial, was let go. Tired of being arrested, trying to start a new life, he moved to New Jersey. That’s when his addiction to alcohol began.

Not able to hold a job in New Jersey, abusing alcohol, he tried to get away from his dependency by moving to South Carolina – that did not work either. At least during his time in South Carolina he was able to follow a new passion, cooking. He attended a cooking school and learned a marketable skill. That was not enough to keep him anchored. 

Still restless, Carl Johnson thought he might find a job and a sense of normalcy by moving to Orlando. By now he was a binge drinker, and his troubles continued. One day. after a night of heavy drinking, he woke up in a place he didn’t know. Stumbling home, he passed out in front of Orlando Baptist Church. A passerby called 911 and Carl was brought to a nearby hospital. He was examined, and released, but he had no one to call to help him; setting out by foot, he tried to find his way to the apartment he rented.

But Carl did not know Orlando very well, made several wrong turns, and at 3 am, still on foot, he was still two blocks from his apartment. His feet hurt from so much walking in shoes that were falling apart, so he took his shoes off and kept walking. A prostitute he passed on the street, seeing his sorry state, said to him, “I know how you feel.”  It was then he remembered the Bible story of the prodigal son, and felt himself sinking in mud in a pig sty.Image result for image prodigal son  He cried out to no one in particular, “O God, why me?’ He did not expect an answer.

Finally home, stumbling into his apartment, he fell into a deep sleep on his couch. After a couple of hours (and he remembers this clearly) it was 6 am –  he jumped up from the couch when he heard someone yell his name, “Carl!” He sat up, looked around, but there was no one there.

Now awake, Carl says he knew exactly what he had to do. He cleaned himself up and went to church.  After church was over, he was brought to a drug treatment program for young people struggling with an addiction, Teen Challenge. The third day after entering that  program, Carl Johnson knelt at the church altar and asked God for forgiveness and healing and prayed Jesus would be his guide. That is when his life changed, the Lord led Carl to Melanie,  a wife to share his life and ministry. Shortly after,  he entered training for Christian mission work. 

Carl did not know it, but all along he was being formed as a missionary, for a specific ministry. It’s not that God made him an addict, or forced him to jail or led him to “Prodigal Son Land” – but Carl was a vessel, a cracked vessel, that was useful for important ministry, a ministry that few other missionaries could serve. Melanie was his co-missionary. 

His first call was to be the assistant to the Pastor of a new church plant in St. Louis. He grew to hate church planting – church planting felt more like a job than a ministry. Joyce Meyers Ministries is located in St. Louis and presented a ministry he felt more called to – counseling men who had become addicted. He rejoiced in the blessing to teach Basic Bible to the men. Image result for image african american bible study groupCarl says, “This brought me to life. I learned so much.” Then an opportunity presented itself to minister at an established church in Ohio.

Carl could not get the story of Jesus’ feeding the five thousand out of his head, or his heart. He heard Jesus turn to him, as he had to his disciples, and say, “You feed them.” Using his experience in food preparation, Carl established a team to work to end food insecurity in the neighborhoods around the church. The church had only 200 members in a community of forty thousand population, but with volunteers and grants those two hundred served twenty five thousand meals, “One child at a time.” Carl’s vision was to duplicate this in ten major cities in America. He did not know how it would get done, but he wanted to try.  He prayed, “God provide for us, God provide for others.” That prayer changed to “God help us provide for others.”

People saw Jesus moving in that Ohio church. Carl prayed for a chance to expand the ministry, and that’s when the senior pastor said, “Carl, you are ready to be on your own. I know you have a dream; it is time for you to be the captain of your own ship.” 

A call came for Carl to lead a new church plant in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Oh no! Not a church plant,” he sighed. God has a funny sense of humor. But a cohort of ten missionaries would enter the Twin Cities to see where the Lord might start a new mission. Carl and Melanie wanted to begin in the “Donut.” As Carl tells it, if you look at the downtown of any major city you will see a ring where there are no churches and no Christian presence.Image result for poverty downtown It will usually be a poor area, a part of town where people will not have access to a church, or good food. People living in this area may be there for the anonymity:  plus Carl believed, “The city is a refuge for the sinner.”

He began the ministry by going around and meeting people – people at the barber shop, people at the bus station. It became apparent that this donut had bad housing and difficult access to affordable and healthy food.  He was not sure what he could do about the housing, but he had expertise in preparing food – more than twenty thousand meals worth! 

At first he cooked the food himself: he could create fifty meals for $50. They cooked a lot of meatloaf and lasagna. He found a theater that offered its space for people to come to eat. He put table cloths down and arranged for dinner music. But he was not able to build capacity beyond fifty hungry people.  He had to rethink this strategy. However, this first try was the base to build a multi-ethnic core group. That is when he met Ben Griffin, the head of Lutherans in Inner City Networking. LINC’s ministry is to partner with urban missionaries to add capacity to their work. Part of that capacity was providing Carl with formal practical and theological training to become an ordained missionary.  LINC also introduced Carl to potential funders, churches with the desire and capacity to help him. The ministry took off.

Carl was at a conference when the idea came to him: the “Donut” where we minister needs a place where city people can find quality food at a reasonable price – but it is not reasonable to have one store in one neighborhood and not give access to another area. “What if we started a grocery store in a storage container? We could move it from place to place on different days.” He approached engineers and architects  he had been introduced to. They loved the idea. Local farmers could be encouraged to bring their food downtown; meals kits could be developed for use by seniors and others who lacked mobility. He heard Jesus say, “You feed them.” His vision became, “Every church a grocery store.”

Carl Johnson may not fit your stereotype of a missionary, neither did St. Paul. Carl is a missionary, responding to God’s call to feed His people – with groceries, and with God’s Bread of Life.  



To see a short introductory interview with Carl Johnson, click here.

To see the full interview, click here. 



Found For A Purpose

Found For A Purpose

Missionary to America Professor Shang Ik Moon

Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know about me and what I am doing. I have sent him to you for this very purpose,that you may know about us, and that he may encourage your hearts. Ephesians 6:21-22 

Professor Shang Ik Moon had seen the movie. It was a good thing, because chances for his survival were not good. He can tell you in his own words:

The bullets flying and the bombs falling were just the beginning. It was after this, as a child on a dark mountain in South Korea, with snow piling up, cradling his infant nephew in his arms, hiding in a crevice away from the freezing cold winter  weather , with hostile soldiers moving around him, it was then that the memory came back. A classmate had invited Shang Ik to see the Jesus Movie. He hadn’t gotten a lot out of it, but he remembered one thing, Jesus saying, “I will be with you always.”  Now, for the first time, he prayed – “Jesus, be with me.”

 St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, cited above, was written from prison – a time when Paul must have been wondering how, if at all, his suffering would have a purpose. But Paul sends his representative Tychicus to comfort the Ephesian Christians in their struggles! What an act of love; what an act of faith.   Matthew quotes Jesus, “Lo (pay attention, this is important) I am with your always.” Sometimes it means just putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that He knows where we should go and we are just following Him, blindly, believing He is with us.  You and I know about that. I sure do.  

In 2016 LK Wood, the scion of the Wood Realty Company in St. Louis, asked for my help to write his biography. LK (Lowell Kenneth) had a story of survival and faith he wanted to share. I had never written a biography, and really wasn’t interested, I had my own purposes to fulfill,. But LK was persistent.  So, it turns out, was the Lord. 

I interviewed LK, recorded the interviews on audio tape, and wrote what he told me. It took months, and before I was finished LK, eighty nine years old, passed away. Patty, LK’s loving wife, wanted the world to know his story and brought the manuscript to a publisher, Rebeca Seitz. This had not been my understanding when the work began – it was supposed to be an account for LK’s family. The publicist concurred. What I had written was not for commercial consumption – but, she said, if I wanted to work with a coach, learn to write biography and rewrite the book, well, maybe there would be a future for the book in bookstores. 

To make a long story short, I worked with a wonderful coach, Julie Ieron, who had many books published. We took six months to re-write LK WOOD, AS EVERYONE SHOULD, for sale in book stores and on line. But that was just the beginning. I wondered what I would to do with this new skill. I realized the Lord had opened a new door for ministry:  I began Mission Nation Publishing Company to publish the biographies of new missionaries to America. These are courageous, intelligent, passionate men and women whom I had met while leading missions in the United States for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Missionaries like Shang Ik Moon.

When US Army Air Force Chaplain Eduard Vajda asked the Korean boy, “What is your purpose?” he had no idea. However, he was willing to go through the door Jesus was opening.  Decades later Professor Shang Ik Moon retired as the Provost of Concordia University. You can read the full story of how one child in the midst of a horrific experience in a horrific war found the purpose created for him by the God he had met in a movie.

Maybe you are just trying to put one foot in front of the other, unsure of where the Lord is leading. At those times, allow Him to cradle you in His arms, to carry you through the fierce storms and hostile challenges and bring you to the purpose He has for you.  This may be difficult, may even be impossible, and we may even have given up. That is why Jesus died in our place. Jesus did kep going, He followed  through on God’s purpose for His life; He did that for you and me and for all who are confused about where the Lord is leading. He said for us all and on our behalf, “Father, into hour hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus did not give up because it was God’s purpose for Him to love and forgive us all.

Still, out of His love, when you and I commend ourselves into His hands, in time He will reveal His purpose, He will help us to know Him, and He will encourage our heart. 

To purchase the biography of Professor Moon, The Bulletproof Missionary, click here.

To see the full interview with Professor Moon, 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 through a door in Saudi Arabia. For him it was a door of no return. 

Before his time in Saudi Arabia, the first door he walked through was a jail cell in Eritrea, He had been put in prison by the then communist government.  He never expected he would walk out alive, but he did. That door was “accidentally” opened. A miracle which allowed the atheist to escape and begin a long and danger filled trek 

to Saudi Arabia. There, another door unexpectedly opened – by a greater miracle than a jail door swinging open unexpectedly Tesfai  became a Christian – yes, 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. 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 could legally emigrate to was Sudan. 

Life was  not easy in Sudan. Refugees were overwhelming the government’s capacity to care for them. People, Tesfai and other Christians, slept on the ground in a park. The small Christian community opened their arms to them, but while there was great love to share there wasn’t much treasure. No matter the challenge,  Tesfai led the refugees from Saudi Arabia dn the thousands fleeing persecution in Eritrea to begin worship services. The numbers grew. More churches were begun. The Word of God spread like wild fire. Then, another door opened – this one truly unexpected – a refugee visa to the United States.

Today Tesfai Tesema is a missionary in San Jose, California. He is opening doors for Eritreans and the door of a congregation of ethnically diverse young 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.

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

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

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

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

To order Tesfai’s biography, No Accidental Missionary, click here.

To order the print copy or to pre-order the audio book send an email to

“¿Acaso no vale más la vida…?”

“¿Acaso no vale más la vida…?” 

Samuel Kamissa, misionero a los Estados Unidos

“Por lo tanto les digo: No se preocupen por su vida, ni por qué comerán o qué beberán; ni con qué cubrirán su cuerpo. ¿Acaso no vale más la vida que el alimento, y el cuerpo más que el vestido?” (Jesús, en Mateo 6:25).

“El misionero no tuvo que preocuparse por su estómago.” Samuel Kamissa

El misionero Samuel Kamissa se gana la vida como conductor de Uber en Los Ángeles, muy lejos del lugar donde creció en el oeste de Etiopía.

Image result for map of ethiopia


En el área rural donde vivía, no había negocios ni iglesias. Su madre fue su maestra de escuela dominical y le enseñó bien a Samuel. Samuel amaba al Señor y, más aún, amaba contarle a otros sobre el amor infinito de Jesús. Además de no tener una iglesia local, había otros desafíos.

A pesar de ser niño, Samuel salía caminando de su casa a las 6 de la mañana para llegar a la escuela a las 7:30. La misma caminata le esperaba a la salida de la escuela.

Pero los peligros a enfrentar eran peores que los leones o las víboras, o incluso los ladrones.

A los 14 años, el gobierno comunista puso a Samuel en la cárcel por hacer discípulos. Pero eso no lo detuvo. No. Como preguntó Jesús: “¿Acaso no vale más la vida…?” Samuel continuó dando a conocer el amor de Dios, aun cuando un muy conocido pastor de otra ciudad, un líder del cuerpo eclesiástico luterano “Mekane Yesu” (Casa de Jesús) fue ejecutado. La gracia de Dios estaba tan viva en el joven que, cuando se graduó de la secundaria, en vez de buscar un trabajo se fue a pie a otras villas y aldeas rurales. “¿Acaso no vale más la vida…?”

Ninguna organización le pagaba, aunque luteranos de Mekane Yesu apoyaban lo que estaba haciendo. Mekane Yesu pidió a sus miembros que le ayudaran. Samuel dice que no se preocupaba por su estómago. De hecho, había muchos evangelistas recorriendo el país. Para los cristianos locales era un privilegio abrir sus hogares a esos mensajeros de Dios; ellos le dieron a Samuel, y a los otros, alimento y un lugar donde dormir. En sus comienzos, el cristianismo también era así: el misionero no se preocupaba por la vida, la vida en este mundo. Los primeros cristianos sabían que la vida era más que alimento y el cuerpo más que vestimenta.

Con el tiempo, Samuel Kamissa fue ordenado y se convirtió en pastor de una iglesia local. Un día, se abrió una puerta nueva: Samuel recibió una oferta para venir como misionero a los Estados Unidos. Él nunca pensó que necesitaba tener una cierta cantidad de dinero para comenzar una iglesia nueva, ni siquiera en los Estados Unidos. Samuel comenzó iglesias en San Diego y Los Ángeles. La Iglesia Luterana del Sínodo de Misurí trabaja junto con la Iglesia Luterana Mekane Yesu, que es cinco veces más grande y, de hecho, el cuerpo eclesiástico luterano más grande del mundo (y el que más rápidamente crece). En los Estados Unidos podemos aprender mucho sobre el trabajo misional y los misioneros de nuestros hermanos en Etiopía. El rol que el dinero juega en el desarrollo misional es una de esas lecciones.

En los Estados Unidos, en cambio, lo que demasiadas veces determina la misión es el dinero: antes de comenzar una nueva misión tomamos inventario de los bienes materiales. en Etiopía, en cambio, lo que impulsa a la misión es el evangelio y la presencia del Espíritu Santo. El Espíritu impulsa a los cristianos a llevar el amor de Dios a todas las personas. Cuando los cristianos, movidos por la fe, salen a compartir el amor de Jesús con otros, el Señor suple todo lo que necesitan para hacerlo. Como misionero con LINC Los Ángeles, Samuel no trabaja solo con etíopes o africanos, sino con todas las personas. Algunas de ellas son las que conoce mientras maneja para Uber.

En mi opinión, hasta que el dinero no deje de dirigir la misión en los Estados Unidos, la proclamación del evangelio se verá afectada y el número de discípulos no habrá de crecer. Sin embargo, veo signos de cambio. Hay una nueva pasión para compartir el evangelio y hay nuevos brotes naciendo, muchos desde fuera de los Estados Unidos, uno de ellos es el número de misioneros de otros países, misioneros como el Rev. Samuel Kamissa. El dinero no es el factor principal en la obra misional. “¿Acaso no vale más la vida…?”

Para ver un segmento de un minuto de la entrevista con Samuel, hacer clic aquí.

Para ver la entrevista de quince minutos, hacer clic aquí.

Needed: A Seat At the Table

Needed: A Seat at the Table

President Michael Gibson, Pacific Southwest District, The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

“Listen, my beloved brothers: Has not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?” James 2:5

“Go into the Word of God – it transforms us! It’s not OK to be a country club.” Mike Gibson. 

To be honest, in my experience, many but not all District Presidents  are passionate about Christian missions. Mike Gibson, the first term president of the LCMS Pacific Southwest District, has made bringing more souls to Christ his first priority. That means challenging the ninety five percent White English speaking Lutheran Churches in America to “get real” and get out, to love all people, especially those unlike them. According to Mike,  the church of the global north, a church of privilege, has to listen and learn from the church of the global south, a church that has learned to lose all for the sake of the gospel.    

Picture: Recent student graduates of CUI’s “Cross-cultural Ministry Center.”




Not that the southern global church knows so much more – but it has been left out of the conversation. How would the church be different if there was a seat at the table for those “left out” of economic power, left out of political, church, local and world power even as we cater to those who have the most?  How would our lives be different if the “least of these my brethren” had a full seat at the global north table? If we listened to them, what would we learn? Mike Gibson wants us to listen and learn.

Mike grew up in an ethnically diverse community in Sacramento, California. As a consequence, the ministries he has served have brought him into close contact with a diverse population. He benefited from that life experience. He didn’t have to learn not to be afraid of someone who did not look like him, who spoke in accented English, whose faith challenged his. That kind of learning cannot be bought with money, it has to be acquired. This kind of learning is paid for with the profit from daily gospel interaction with people of different backgrounds. 

In the January 2019 issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research William P. Gregory searches the heart of Pope Francis’ missiology.

For Francis mission “involves love, and love always involves closeness to other people. To engage in mission means, ‘going forth, coming out of ourselves and drawing near to others…This was the point when he told pastors to be shepherds with the smell of the sheep.'”(Holy Thursday Homily, March 28, 2013).

Gregory goes on to tell us, “Put simply, in their intention to be faithful and in their intention to be missionary some things Christians in fact do are counter missionary in their effects and damage the church’s relationship with the potential recipients of the gospel. The problem in essence is the church ‘Pharisee problem.’ That is, the church often comes across looking and sounding more like the stereotyped scribes and Pharisees of the Gospels than Jesus himself.”

When I asked Bishop Gibson, at the beginning of your time in office what is your deepest desire, he responded: “Congregations were raised up in a particular place for a mission reason. But over the years we have moved away from this. I pray  congregations will ask ‘What have we done with our “place’? As a church we have to repent and ask ‘how  we can engage our neighbors with the love of Christ?'” As an example Gibson sites the church in the global south.

In his experience Christians coming to the United States from Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East have a lot to each the church in the north, in America. Mike sees these Christians as gifts God is giving to the American church. These Christians have suffered and sacrificed greatly to identify with their communities. By their lives of sacrifice and forgiveness, by their willingness to lose everything and hold back nothing they are the living proof of a God who held back nothing for the sake of the world. That is the kind of witness that attracts; that is the witness of Jesus. 

The new president of the Pacific Southwest District told me, “The church of the global north is better served by the church in the global south by listening to the south, to become students of southern Christians. This is something we all need. This is something the Spirit of God can use to revitalize His church.” 

Where do you have an opportunity to hold out a seat for a global southern partner?

To see the full 24 minute interview, click here.

To see a piece of the longer interview, click here




Is Not Life More?


Missionary to America Samuel Kamissa

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? ” Jesus, in Matthew 6:25

“The missionary did not have to worry about his belly.” Samuel Kamissa

Missionary Samuel Kamissa earns his livelihood as an Uber driver in Los Angeles. That is a long way from where he grew up in western Ethiopia.

In his rural area there were  no local stores or churches. His mother was his Sunday School teacher, and she taught Samuel well. He loved the Lord and even more, loved telling others about the endless love of Jesus. Besides having no local church,  there were other challenges.

As a child he left his home at 6 am, walking to school, to arrive at his elementary school at 7:30 am. The same walk awaited him when school was over.

But there were more dangers to be faced than lions or snakes or even thieves.

At the age of fourteen Samuel Kamissa was put in prison by the communist government for making disciples. Did that deter him? No. As Jesus asked, “Is life not more…?” Samuel kept on making God’s love known, even when a well known pastor in another town, a leader of the Lutheran church body called “Mekane Yesu” (House of Jesus), was executed. The grace of God had become so alive in the young boy that when he graduated from high school he did not look for a job; instead, he went on foot to other towns and villages in rural areas. “Is not life more?

There was no organization to fund his work, although Mekane Yesu Lutherans supported what he was doing; Mekane Yesu asked their members to help him. Samuel says he did not worry about his belly. In fact, there were many such evangelists crisscrossing the country. Local Christians saw it as a privilege to open their homes to these messengers of God; they gave Samuel and the others food and a place to sleep. Early Christianity was a lot like that. The missionary did not worry about life, life in this world.  The early Christians knew life was more than food, the body more than clothing.

In time Samuel Kamissa was ordained and became the pastor of a local church. One day a new door opened. Samuel was given the chance to enter the mission field of the United States. For Samuel there was never a question of having  a certain amount of money to start a new church, even in America. Samuel started churches in San Diego and Los Angeles. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod partners with Mekane Yesu Lutheran Church. Mekane Yesu is five times larger than the Missouri Synod, in fact, it is the largest Lutheran church body in the world – and the fastest growing. We in America have a lot to learn about mission work and missionaries from our sisters and brothers in Ethiopia. The role money plays in mission development is one of those lessons.

In too many cases money drives the mission in America. In this country before we begin a new mission we assess our material wealth; in Ethiopia the driving force is the gospel and the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit impels Christians to bring the love of God to everyone; when Christians step out in faith to make the love of Jesus real to others, the Lord supplies all we need to get His message out.  As a missionary with Los Angeles LINC Samuel does not reach out to Ethiopians, or Africans only – but to all people. Some he meets when he gets behind the wheel to drive for Uber. 

In my opinion, unless and until money no longer drives the mission in the United States the gospel proclamation will be hindered and the number of disciples will not grow. However, I see signs this is changing. There is a new passion to share the gospel, there are new shoots springing up in America – many from outside the United States – one of those is  the number of missionaries from other countries, missionaries like Rev. Samuel Kamissa. Money is not the major factor in mission work. Life is more. 

To see a one minute segment of our interview with Samuel, click here.

To see the whole fifteen minute interview, click here. 






Back To the Missionary Future

Equipper to Missionaries to America Dr. Todd Jones

Todd Jones has a doctorate and works in the trenches. He eschews the ivory tower to walk with missionaries on the grass roots of mission. We forget that for hundreds of years there were no formal, concrete seminaries preparing Christian pastors or missionaries. Jone’s work is a return to an older way of preparing missionaries: bringing the seminary to where the mission is. Like Jesus, and St. Paul and the earliest church.

St. Paul moved from city to city, identifying local leaders. He began their preparation for mission work, then moved on. He used the distance education strategy of visits by mature Christians and epistles to continue their formation. 

Dr. Jones is developing a first step online course to prepare missionaries in Michigan for a second step, a distance education program to certify immigrant missionaries as public ministers of the gospel.

The missionaries are new to America but seasoned in their Christian faith. They were torn out of their homelands to be thrust into a strange culture. Being the leader of a Christian community in America is alien to their first ecclesiastic formation.  The Holy Spirit still impels them to preach the gospel and there are many in America who want and need to hear the message of salvation through faith in Jesus alone. Like the Swahili speaking  immigrants from the Congo. Now in Michigan, they graduated from seminary in Africa and need certification for public ministry in the United States.

As immigrants they do not have the resources of time and money to leave their families, their jobs, their states to be educated in a brick and mortar seminary. More important, if they left Michigan then  the missions they now serve would have great difficulty.  Besides, a distance education program in some ways is better than the traditional route.

When candidates are removed from their communities and brought to a central seminary their formation tends to me monolithic. I saw this when I was a seminary student: the few African American students in my seminary class were formed in the same way as the White students – to be pastors of White suburban congregations. Many of those who ended up serving rural or urban churches or ethnicities other than White had to relearn what it meant to be a minister.  Others simply put in their time and left the congregation or left the ministry. 

Adult learning is “action-reflection,” and asynchronous – available when the student can devote their time and energy.  According to Dr. Jones, those already in ministry learn better when they suddenly realize they are faced with a need to know the ancient learnings about the Trinity, or end of life issues, or Biblical views of Christian marriage and family.   

Tools used for many years in overseas ministries are more and more being imported for new church development in America. For instance, Dr. Paul Bruns, when he was a missionary in Africa developed a tool for equipping new leaders on a mission field. The Mission Bible Commentary was developed for new leaders who spoke English as a second language. The Commentary focuses the reader on the mission emphases in Scripture, and provides commentary to explain those emphases. The Commentary is now being used on mission fields in America, and not only by immigrant mission leaders. 

The Center for US Missions at Concordia, Irvine, Ca. is an organization that prepares clergy and lay candidates to be missionaries. Using on the job training and coaches, candidates learn the difference between being pastors and missionaries.  It also has strategies to prepare congregations to be bases for new mission starts. You can find out more at

There will be more and more integration of on site and distance education. I can see the day when many former seminary campuses are sold and new seminaries built with state of the art distance learning centers, as well as a few  on site classrooms and dormitories. We are at the beginning of the transition now – it may seem strange, or even awful, to some – and we need courageous, intelligent, faithful leaders to show the way. Leaders like Todd Jones. 

To see a short video interview with Dr. Jones, Click Here.

To see the full interview, click here.



Lo que motiva a un misionero

Lo que motiva a un misionero

Stella Yau, misionera a los Estados Unidos

Mientras Jesús caminaba junto al lago de Galilea, vio a dos hermanos, Simón, llamado Pedro, y Andrés, que estaban echando la red al agua, pues eran pescadores.  Jesús les dijo: “Síganme, y yo haré de ustedes pescadores de hombres.” Ellos entonces, dejando al instante las redes, lo siguieron.  Mateo 4:19-20

¿Te has preguntado alguna vez qué hace que alguien abandone su estilo de vida y se vuelva misionero? Podemos aprender algo sobre lo que motiva a un misionero, de la misionera Stella Yau.

Stella y su familia huyeron de Hong Kong cuando ella tenía cinco años.

En ese momento, el gobierno comunista chino se estaba preparando para recuperar posesión de la isla de Gran Bretaña. Muchos en Hong Kong, particularmente los cristianos, tenían miedo.

Para entender esto, solo basta hablar con un cristiano de China. Los cristianos y el cristianismo son tolerados, pero no estimados. Al contrario, son ridiculizados y la discriminación es endémica.

El pastor de la familia de Stella en Hong Kong fue un muy querido misionero norteamericano, el Reverendo Will Holt. Para hacer frente al flujo de refugiados, este misionero regresó a los Estados Unidos donde comenzó una misión en San Francisco para dar la bienvenida a los nuevos inmigrantes de Hong Kong y China. Esto sucedió casi al mismo tiempo que la familia de Stella salía de Hong Kong, algo que resultó ser un toque de gracia para muchos asiáticos, y también para Stella.

Establecer un hogar en un nuevo país no es fácil. Stella sufrió burlas por ser inmigrante y por su acento. Se sentía sola y vivía asustada, excepto cuando estaba en la iglesia con Jesús y su pastor, Will Holt. Holt había comenzado una congregación formada por inmigrantes chinos. Dios bendijo a la iglesia y la misma creció, no solo en números, sino también en la fe y en su preocupación por quienes no conocían el amor interminable de Dios. Los miembros de la iglesia luterana Espíritu Santo estaban tan comprometidos a compartir el amor de Jesús, que comenzaron a enviar algunos miembros como misioneros a otros países: China, Hong Kong, Tailandia, África.

Viviendo en San Francisco, Stella aprendió a hablar bien el inglés, tuvo éxito en la escuela y en la universidad y comenzó a ascender en la escala ejecutiva en Honeywell. Fue entonces cuando comenzó: una lucha interna por dejar atrás la vida corporativa y convertirse en misionera para ir con Jesús a encontrar a quienes no conocían su amor y mostrarles un nuevo camino. Stella quería que los nuevos inmigrantes en los Estados Unidos conocieran el amor y consuelo que ella había conocido a través de la familia de su iglesia. En la actualidad, Stella Yau es una directora de los ministerios LINC (Lutheran Inner City Network Coalition) en Los Ángeles y trabaja como misionera en una congregación anglo que ha ido decayendo, ubicada en una comunidad que ahora es setenta por ciento asiática.

Para alcanzar a su comunidad, esa congregación comenzó un preescolar. Con veintidós niños, en su mayoría chinos y casi todos inmigrantes, hay muchas oportunidades de misión. Stella reúne a los padres inmigrantes de los niños para ayudarles a comprender lo que sus hijos están aprendiendo sobre Jesús. Viniendo de China, donde a los niños se les enseña que la iglesia es el enemigo, se necesita mucho tiempo para que los adultos conozcan el amor del Salvador. A veces la congregación anglo se impacienta. En esos momentos, el ministerio de Stella es ayudarles a ver un futuro en el que surgirán líderes chinos para llevar las buenas nuevas de la gracia de Dios a más personas.

Pensando en lo que tuvo que sacrificar para ser misionera, Stella dice que le encanta su trabajo y que volvería a hacerlo todo de nuevo en un abrir y cerrar de ojos. Y eso es precisamente lo que Dios hizo: dejó de lado los privilegios de su vida y vino a la tierra dispuesto a sacrificar todo, porque su corazón latía porque el mundo pudiera conocer su bondadoso amor.

Cuando conoces el amor de Jesús, el Espíritu de Dios te impulsa a compartir su amor, su perdón y su gracia dondequiera que estés. Para algunos incluso hace que dejen sus ocupaciones para convertirse en misioneros.

Para ver el video introducción de dos minutos de la misión de Stella, cliquear aquí

Para ver el video de veinte minutos de la entrevista con Stella, cliquear aquí



The Motive of A Missionary

Missionary to America Stella Yau

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” And at once they left their nets and followed Him.” Gospel of Matthew 4: 19-20 

Have you ever wondered what causes someone to give up their current way of life and become a missionary?  We can learn something about the motive of a missionary from the missionary Stella Yau.

Stella and her family fled Hong Kong when Stella was five. At the time the Chinese communist government was getting ready to take the island back from Great Britain. Many in Hong Kong, particularly Christians, were afraid.


To understand this just talk with a Christian from China. Christians and Christianity are tolerated but held in low regard. Christians are ridiculed and discrimination is endemic. 

Stella’s family’s pastor in Hong Kong was the beloved missionary from America, Rev. Will Holt.  To meet the flow of refugees, Missionary Holt was transitioned back to the US. He began a mission in San Francisco to welcome new immigrants from Hong Kong and China. This was around the same time Stella’s family was leaving Hong Kong – something that turned out to be a happenstance of grace for many Asians, and for Stella. 

Making a new home in a new country is not easy. Because she was an immigrant Stella was bullied; she was called names, other children made fun of her accent. The little girl was lonely and afraid, except when she was in church, with Jesus, and her pastor, Will Holt. Holt had begun a congregation made up of Chinese immigrants. God blessed the church and it grew, not only in numbers, but in faith and in concern for those who did not know God’s unending love. The church was so committed to sharing the love of Jesus they began sending some members  as missionaries to other countries. Holy Spirit Lutheran sent missionaries to China, to Hong Kong, to Thailand, to Africa. This was not lost on the young girl from Hong Kong. 

As Stella grew up in San Francisco, she learned to speak English as an American, succeeded in school, and in college and began to climb the executive ladder at Honeywell. That is when it happened: the tug to leave the pursuit of the corporate life behind to become a missionary. She would go with Jesus to find those whom did not know His love and show them a new Way. Stella wanted the new immigrants to America to know the love and comfort she had received from her church family. Today Stella Yau is a director for LINC (Lutheran Inner City Network Coalition) ministries in Los Angeles and a missionary.  She works for an aging, declining Anglo congregation in a community that is now seventy percent Asian.

To reach out to its community, the Anglo church began a preschool. With twenty two children, mostly Chinese, almost all immigrants, there are many mission opportunities. Stella brings the children’s immigrant parents together to help them understand what their children are learning about Jesus. Coming from China where children are taught  the church is evil, an enemy of Asian people, it takes a long time to bring the adults to know the love of the Savior.  Sometimes the Anglo congregation gets impatient; Stella’s ministry is to elevate their vision so they see into the future, when Chinese leaders someday emerge to bring the good news of His grace to more people.

Thinking about what she gave up to be a missionary she says she loves her work and would do it all again in a heartbeat. And that is precisely what God did. He put off the privileges of His life and journeyed on earth, willing to sacrifice everything, because His heart beat for a world that might know God’s gracious love. 

When you have come to know the love of Jesus, the Spirit of God impels you to share His love, His forgiveness, His grace wherever you are. For some, it even causes them to leave their current lives to become a missionary. 

To see a two minute video introduction to Stella’s mission, click here.

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