Missionary to America: Dr. William Utech
Sharing God with Immigrants in America
Dr. Robert Scudieri, President
Mission Nation Publishing
How do you help congregations that are primarily white and English speaking to desire reaching out and welcoming new citizens? How do you encourage them to get involved in immigrant communities and share the love of Christ? How do you make them passionate about mission work? Bill Utech and the Minnesota South District have found a way.
We usually think of the Great Commission as going to the ends of the earth, but Bill sees the ends of the earth coming to Minnesota. Bill has a unique view of missions as the Assistant for Missions in the Minnesota South District. According to the missionary in Minneapolis, two thirds of the city’s population are other than white English speaking people. The only place with a greater concentration of Somalis is Somalia.
New Mission Starts From Minnesota South
One of the primary roles of a mission executive is to nurture a vision for missions. Bill focuses on new mission starts in Minnesota South. In Bill’s district, mission leaders see their primary role as helping existing churches start new churches. But how do you help churches that have been around since 1935, like Bill’s home church, Trinity Medford, gain a sharper focus on missions?
Trinity Lutheran Church in Medford is fifty five miles south of Minneapolis. However, refugees and immigrants who first arrived in Minneapolis are moving to small towns all over the state. As mission executive, Rev. Utech did not want to ask others to do what he was not willing to do himself. He worked with the Pastor of Trinity, Pr. Mark Biebighauser, to organize a mission trip to Guatemala. Helping a congregation to think outside of itself is a must for opening the door to a heart for missions. Bill himself went on the first exploratory trip.
Missions at Home and Abroad
Rev. Utech knew about the Central American Lutheran Mission Society (CALMS), an organization that helps churches be successful on mission trips. CALMS consults with churches to help them understand the culture of people in Central America and provides a translator. Before embarking on the trip, the congregation had to agree to a five year partnership because just going once does not build lasting relationships.
On January 15, 2016, Pr. Biebighauser and seven Trinity members left for Taguayni, Guatemala. Of course they shared their love for Jesus. They also ran a sports camp and established relationships with the local people. When they returned, Pr. Biebighauser made time on Sunday morning for the team to report back to the church members. Bill said, “You could hear a pin drop.”
Just talking about the mission to a congregation is a first step. Sharing pictures and stories about the needs of others is helpful. When God opens a door for mission, and the people of God meet and form relationships with those who need our love, need our prayers and need the love of Jesus in their community, the Spirit of God opens our eyes, our ears and our hearts. So much so, that you could hear a pin drop.