Tag Archives: What missionaries do

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.



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Missionaries Are Different

Missionary to America Kasongo Gui Kabeo

Missionary Kasongo was forced to flee his home country, a country on the west coast of Africa,  the Congo.  A revolution forced a president from power, and Kasongo and his family had to flee to America. From his time working in the banking system in the Congo, he had made friends in the United States. He was known as someone who was smart, hard working and intelligent – just the kind of people needed in the US. He was confident he would become successful in his new country.

Kasongo had been active in his home church; he was a lay leader who took on difficult projects. But the most difficult was yet to come.

He and his small family landed in Chicago, Illinois. Kasongo had dreams of “making it big in banking.” He had heard the stories of wealth in his new country; he knew he had what it would take to become a leader in that industry. But for Kasongo, first things first: he had to find a place of worship for his family.

He tried a nearby Christian church, but the worship services were in English. The immigrant from the Congo spoke some English, but French was his heart language. He could not understand the English sermons, hymns or prayers.  Other immigrants near his family’s small apartment were in the same situation as the Kabeos. Kasongo Kabeo was not someone to give up easily; he began a house church, in French, in his apartment, inviting the immigrants who spoke French to worship in the house church. The church grew to over thirty in that small apartment.

African worship is a little more lively than it is in most American worship services. There are guitars, and drums, and loud singing. Like Lutherans in general, they sang boldly.  As you might expect, that did not go over well with the other renters, particularly those above and below the house church.  A move to Milwaukee by the family only caused the church to grow – to fifty, sixty, seventy; but this time it was in the welcoming walls of a Lutheran Church.

Part of the genius of this Missionary to America was that it was not just the number of worshipers that was increasing.  Kasongo recruited leaders to work with him, and, with the encouragement of Rev. Peter Kelm, he recruited and trained missionaries to begin French speaking churches in other parts of Wisconsin and Illinois, and that is what makes him a missionary. Local churches offered financial support, as did the mission arm of the South Wisconsin District of the LCMS.

Missionaries are different. They do many pastoral tasks, but, they are different from pastors. This is not well understood. I learned this when I was in Japan for the fiftieth anniversary of the Japan Lutheran Church. The Lutheran Church sent wonderful missionaries to Japan, however, they were forced to leave too quickly. They had nurtured great Japanese pastors, but did not have enough time to teach them how to be missionaries. Fifty years later our partner church in Japan was just beginning to take steps to become a  “missionary church.”

We need pastors who will care for those who are already followers of Jesus. I know it sounds strange, but today in America, we also need pastors who will be missionaries. We need missionaries who will see part of their ministry as finding laity, women and men, who have a heart for starting new churches – like Kasongo, like Aquila and Priscilla, who had a church meeting in their house. It is for this reason that some seminaries now offer a distance education track to prepare pastors and missionaries without having to abandon the missions they had begun.

Missionaries are different: they take more chances, they are not afraid to fail, they see themselves developing a mission field, not caring for just one congregation. We need pastors, and, today in an increasingly agnostic America, we need missionaries. Like Kasongo Gui Kabeo.

To see a short introduction to Rev. Kabeo’s missionary heart, click here.

To see a longer, twenty two minute video interview, click here.

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