You Could Hear A Pin Drop
Missionary to America Dr. William Utech
William Utech has an unusual view of missions. He is the Assistant for Missions in the Minnesota South District. 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. “The only place there are more Somalis is Somalia.” According to a missionary in Minneapolis, two thirds of the population of Minneapolis are other than White English speaking people.
How do you help congregations that are primarily White and English speaking want to reach out and welcome these 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.
Bill focuses on new mission starts in Minnesota South. One of the primary roles of a mission executive is to nurture a vision for mission. 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 sharper “mission eyes”?
Trinity Lutheran Church in Medford is fifty five miles south of Minneapolis, but those 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, Mark Biebighauser, to organize a mission trip to Guatemala. Bill himself went on the first, exploratory trip. Helping a congregation to think outside of itself is a must for opening a door to a heart for missions.
Utech knew about CALMS, the Central American Lutheran Mission Society, an organization that helps churches be successful on mission trips. CALMS provides a consultant that helps churches understand the culture of people in Central America, and a translator. Before they went on the trip the congregation had to agree to a five year partnership; just going one time does not allow for building relationships.
On January 15, 2016, Pr. Biebighauser and seven Trinity members left for Taguayni, Guatemala. Of course they shared their love for Jesus, and they ran a sports camp, establishing 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 says, “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. But 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, need the love of Jesus in their community, the Spirit of God opens our eyes, our ears, and our hearts, so that “you could hear a pin drop.”