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About I Love to Tell the Story

There are thousands of Gospel-focused stories happening each day in our world.  A new special focus of “I Love to Tell the Story” is to share the stories of how the Lord is working through LCMS missionaries in the different LCMS regions around the globe. Below are some of the stories in their own words. To learn more about the LCMS International Missions and become prayer partners with a missionary or missionary family please go to https://international.lcms.org.

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Rev. Matthew Wood — Missionary in Indonesia

Father and mother with three young children standing outside in front of church in Indonesia

Rev. Matthew and Kali Wood serve on behalf of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) in Indonesia and are based in Medan. Rev. Wood works closely with the Indonesian Christian Lutheran Church (GKLI). He helps train pastors and lay leaders through educational workshops, translation projects, and other efforts in cooperation with the GKLI.

Small Talk

Small talk – some people hate it, some people embrace it. I don’t think anyone truly loves it. If you’re like me typical topics of casual conversation include the weather, sports, traffic, career, or some other non-controversial bit of local news. My wife, Kali, and I quickly learned that in Indonesia the proximity to the equator means that the weather never changes. There are no major sports leagues. Most people don’t own cars. The people—at least the people we work with and encounter regularly—don’t have careers. So our familiar conversation starters don’t work.

A conversation we tend to have with someone we meet for the first time follows a regular pattern. First, we ask about age, “How old are you?” Knowing this we can ask about marriage, “Are you married?” If not, “Why not?” Then on to children, “How many kids do you have?” If no kids yet, “Why not?” From there we ask about the ages of the children, where they go to school, if any of them are married and if there are any grandchildren. Then the conversation can take an interesting turn, because the next question is typically, “What is your religion?” It’s an uncomfortable thing for Americans to talk about, especially with a stranger, but it’s part of an everyday get-to-know-you conversation in Indonesia. Once religion becomes the topic of conversation people are curious to know which church you’re a member of and which congregation you go to. 

Not many people where we live in Medan know about the Gereja Kristen Luther Indonesia (GKLI). So, we have a lot of opportunities to talk about what makes the GKLI unique. It’s their dedication to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The GKLI is committed to proclaiming the forgiveness of sins won by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and this is frequently the topic of conversation as we wait in line for groceries, ride in a taxi, or have a conversation with a stranger who built up enough courage to say hello to a white guy at the mall. A big part of the work we are doing in Indonesia is training Christians here to faithfully articulate the Gospel so that when religion comes up in conversation—and it often does—they can confidently proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. It is a remarkable opportunity. 

Indonesian Christians and culture also teach my family and me. Our family has recently returned to the U.S. for the birth of our fourth child. As casual conversations occur here, I am struck by how quickly I fall into my old pattern. Yet, returning to America, I instinctually avoid it. When the cashier at the car rental counter asks me what my plans are for the weekend, my instincts tell me to say something vague, “Just going to meet friends” or “Going to a work meeting.” When the lady cutting my hair asks me what I do, I know when I answer that I’m a pastor training Indonesians how to talk about their faith, it’s going to doom the rest of the haircut to awkward silence. It takes a lot of effort to break the formula and say, “I am going to Trinity Lutheran to talk about the work God is doing in Indonesia.” It takes even more effort to ask, “Where do you go to church?” 

Indonesians taught me that people can talk about religion and that such conversations are not all that intimidating. God worked through this cross-cultural interaction in Indonesia to reveal a way the Gospel hope can bubble over in my everyday life. It’s still awkward sometimes, but what is that compared to the eternal joys of knowing Christ Jesus the Lord?

Devotion:

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

Christ Jesus defeated death and the grave by His death and resurrection, and He promises to bring the same resurrection and victory over death when He returns in glory. He preserves us and keeps us in the one true faith through the constant forgiveness of sins, which He proclaims through His holy Church. That’s our hope. 

Reflection:

How could you reveal the hope that is in you as you respond to a simple question like, “What do you do?”

What kinds of opportunities to proclaim the Gospel come up in your casual conversations? What changes could you make to your casual conversations so that you have more opportunities to reflect the hope that is in you?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, by the forgiveness of sins You have given us the eternal hope of Your Son’s victory over death and the grave. Continue to fill us with Your Holy Spirit so that we may grow ever more confident in the hope we have and let that confidence fill our everyday casual conversation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Written by Rev. Matthew Wood

 


We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them to the Vice President of Gospel Outreach here.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

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Me, A Short-Term Missionary?

Me, a short-term missionary? During the church service announcements, my pastor asked if those in the congregation, who were interested in serving on a two-week mission trip that summer, would speak with him after church. I have to admit I was a little taken aback. Was I interested…after so many years? So much time had passed. Don’t get me wrong, I was intrigued and a little excited about the possibility. But I was asking, or maybe — I hate to admit this — questioning the Lord. Now, You are asking, Lord?

A long time ago, on a very distant high school yearbook page, under my graduation picture, it was written that my future aspiration was to become a missionary. I do not, to this day, know when or from where this aspiration had come. But it must have been from the Holy Spirit somewhere deep within me. Years had now passed and I was content to know we all have our own “mission fields” that surround us. Until that Sunday, my mission field was my life filled with serving the Lord in church, LWML, marriage, children, grandchildren, friends, community, and a vocation of teaching adults with disabilities.

Now, my pastor’s question had me asking: wasn’t being a missionary to another culture, a door that was never opened long ago, a thing of the past? It was a path that was not chosen for me by the Lord — or was it? I kept coming back to the Scripture, …for such a time as this (Esther 4:14). Had the years of sharing my faith with my “personal mission field” been in preparation for another, albeit different, opportunity to serve our Lord? Had the Lord previously not shut the door? Had His response been to wait for His time?


Yes, I told my pastor. I was interested in learning more about this short-term mission trip. I learned the LCMS had many opportunities to serve in short-term ministries both in the United States and abroad each year. They varied in length and location depending upon the need. Pastor and I volunteered to serve on a team of six people that would teach in an English-speaking Bible camp serving children in Poland. It was an outreach mission! I didn’t even need to speak a different language.

The Bible camp’s focus was to share God’s love with the children. It was very similar to teaching in a week-long, all-day vacation Bible school in the United States. Our mission team was one of nine different teams sent to Poland that summer. We prepared all our lessons before we left and brought along all our materials. Our plane landed in Warsaw, Poland, and we were met by a few career LCMS missionaries in the region. They generously trained the teams in the Polish language, culture, and Polish church history.

When we arrived at the church, where the Bible camp would take place, we were warmly greeted and we quickly made friends. We served 40 children from the surrounding area of that Polish church. As camp began, each of our group leaders/teachers had an adult who interpreted for the children and us. The children were in varying stages of learning the English language and they welcomed practicing their English. There was such joy in learning about Jesus. We return to these friends each summer, when we are able, as we volunteer to be on a team to teach in this Bible camp. Many emails and social media posts shorten the distance between us and our young Christian friends while we are apart. We have made life-long friends with these children.

Short-Term Missionary Me? Yes! Tak (yes in Polish)

Devotion:

Isaiah’s commission:

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

Reflection:

Who is in your personal mission field?

Have you heard a voice calling you to step out in faith in serving the Lord? Might He be asking you to serve Him in a different way?

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). You have Jesus by your side and the Holy Spirit within you. Go ahead and step out in faith.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for all the opportunities and Your loving guidance in sharing Your Gospel with all in my mission fields. Help me to always walk in the path You have set before me. Your plans are ALWAYS better than any I could make. Instill in me the discernment to know Your will and help me boldly step out in faith as I know You have me in the palm of Your hand. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Leslie Colligan
Gospel Outreach Committee Chairman


We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them to the Vice President of Gospel Outreach here.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

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Love Like That

Listen to Love Like That on the LWML On The Go Podcast or read it below!


The sound of muffled crying drew me back to the door I had just passed. As I knocked gently on the open door, I called out, "Ada? Is there something I can help you with?" She sat in a wheelchair, her back to me, her shoulders trembling. As she reached up with a white cotton handkerchief to wipe her tears, she said, "No. I'm not in your group tonight."

"Now, Ada. That's not what I asked," I said as I moved around to face her. She wore her flannel pajamas and fuzzy slippers, and her curly white strands escaped her flowered night cap. Her wrinkled hands clenched a well-worn Bible and a devotion book. "Are you ready for bed? I can help you get in if you want," I said as I knelt down to look in her eyes.


She shook her head “no,” and ran her hand over the books in her lap. "Tina said she doesn't have time to read my Bible and my devotion." The tears began to flow again. This time, I wiped them away with the handkerchief, noting the pink embroidered cross in the corner.

With Ada tucked snuggly into bed, I sat in the wheelchair next to her and read God's Word and her nightly devotion. As I closed the Bible, I noted that the edges of the cover had tattered over time and the gold edging on the pages had been worn away in spots. I thought of all the times those hands of hers had sought solace, strength, and comfort in the words of our Lord; those wrinkled hands where each line and furrow weren’t just evidence of time, but of seeking out God’s guidance and doing His work.

“Thank you,” Ada said. “You and Vince are the only ones who do my reading for me.” I bent down and kissed her forehead before turning off the light. 

I left Ada, but in my head, I kept hearing, “You and Vince. You and Vince.” Our rotation switched every week, which meant neither Vince nor I assisted Ada two weeks of every month. Did she cry herself to sleep those nights? Her Bible readings were just as important to her getting ready for bed as were brushing her teeth, washing her face, and putting on her night clothes. She had been well into her 90s before losing her sight, and though she missed seeing blue skies, a child’s smile, or the brilliant red of a rose, what she missed most was reading God’s Word.

Before I headed home that night, I slipped into Ada’s room and absconded with the devotional booklet. The next morning, I took out my own Bible and her devotions and recorded the readings for the week. In between the readings, I inserted a hymn to allow Ada time to turn the machine off between each night’s reading. Afterwards, I headed back to the nursing home. As I explained to Ada how she could hear her readings even if Vince or I weren’t working, the embroidered handkerchief made another appearance. The tears she swiped were tears of joy.

Devotion

God Is Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us (1 John 4:7–12). 

Take some time to reflect on how God loves you. How can you show others that same kind of love?

Consider those in your life who have shown you the love of God, and pass it on to someone else.

Pray

Dearest Lord, thank You for Ada and Your light shining through her. Knowing that being deprived of Your Words was her greatest loss has inspired me in my faith walk. Oh, to have a love like that! Help me to live a life that lets others see You, not just through mite offerings, but in everything I do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Deborah Young
North Wisconsin District


We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them to the Vice President of Gospel Outreach here.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

View more of I Love to Tell the Story

Go to Gospel Outreach main page

Where’s the Bread?

Listen to Where's the Bread? on the LWML On The Go Podcast or read it below!


Our district weekend retreat was in progress. Everyone was full of joy and looking forward to communion with LWML sisters during the retreat worship service. Months before, one board member had volunteered to bring the bread for communion. You guessed it, she didn’t make a note and forgot all about the commitment.

As the altar was being prepared for the service, the woman was asked, “Where’s the bread for communion?” The woman immediately froze and then began to silently weep. How could she forget something so important, so vital? There was a stunned silence, yet there was no reproach from the woman who was doing the altar care. Everyone stopped for a moment, not sure what to do. There were no stores close by, and even if there were, there was not enough time to go and buy bread. 

A small voice from an onlooker said, “I have my small loaf of special gluten-free bread.” It was as if the voice of the small boy with the loaves and fishes had miraculously been heard once again. The forgetful woman could not help prepare the bread for communion, as she had other essential tasks to do before the service. The altar care woman volunteered to cut the small loaf of bread into tiny squares for over 150 people.

No one else at the service, or for the rest of the retreat, knew there had almost been no bread for communion. The altar care woman never shared the near disaster. She simply continued to grace the woman who forgot the bread with smiles, love, and total forgiveness. How many times can one person apologize? How many times can one person forgive a sin? Profuse apologies were put to a stop by the statement, “It’s okay. With God’s help, we will make this bread work.” Smiles and a hug followed the compassionate statement.

Amazingly, there was communion bread left over from that very small loaf.

Devotion

Read Matthew 6:5–14, Acts 20:32, 2 Corinthians 12:9, and Hebrews 4:16.

Reflection

“Forgiveness and grace” are words from God our Father that we hear every Sunday when we attend church, either online or in person. In our eyes and in our mind, we often see big crushing sins, little sins, and in-between sins. However, in God’s eyes we are all sinners, and sin is sin. 

What sins have you been able to forgive without constantly reminding the person that you have forgiven them?

What sins have you forgiven and said, “It’s okay,” but still had the eye-roll or the condemning slight shaking of your head? Is that truly forgiveness?

The woman who forgot the communion bread was covered with grace and forgiveness. The woman who forgave? She modeled Christ. It is a very small, simple story amidst all the stories of sin in the world. Yet, as Jesus meets people where they are in the moment, so He met those retreat women in their moment of need with His provision, forgiveness, and grace.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, thank You for covering us with Your forgiveness and grace. Help us to finish the race and complete the tasks You, Lord Jesus, have given us. Enable us to testify through our own actions, the Good News of God’s grace and salvation. In Your holy name. Amen.

Christine Maconachy
LWML Chesapeake District 


We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them to the Vice President of Gospel Outreach here.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

View more of I Love to Tell the Story

Go to Gospel Outreach main page

Measured Risks

Listen to Measured Risks on the LWML On The Go Podcast or read it below!


Just as the pandemic was rearing its ugliness in March 2020, Mary needed to resign from her education position for health reasons. She missed her students, the interactions, and challenges. Most of her students were very poor and had little support at home. Mary’s daily advice to her students was, “Choose and take measured risks.”

Shortly after retiring, the love of Mary’s life unexpectedly died. Quarantined, Mary became increasingly lonely. Her husband had given her purpose, and their time sheltering at home together had been full and sweet. Even though her loved one had died, Mary felt there still must be a plan for her. She kept thinking, “I am still here!”

Mary put a camping chair in her car and began visiting with friends. She sat in her camping chair, socially-distanced, on their driveways. Yet, Mary was still lonely. She Googled “grief support groups” online and stumbled upon a support group facilitated by an LCMS church.

In Mary’s fog of grief, she saw glimmers of hope and was uplifted by the kindness, love, and support of the grief leaders. She wondered why they were so kind and welcoming. Mary wanted to know more. She began watching the church’s online worship services and was invited to try one of the online Bible studies that the church offered. Mary felt gentle nudges, being pushed in a direction she had never been before. She now began thinking “God has a plan for me. I am still here!” She wanted to participate more, but she didn’t own a Bible, so how could she participate in a Bible study?

It was arranged for Mary to come to church and pick up a Bible. Mary measured her risks, and honestly shared that she was afraid, due to the virus, to come into the church. Could she meet someone outside the church and pick up the Bible? After arranging a meeting time, she pulled into their driveway, and there was the church’s recently ordained LCMS associate pastor and a young woman, a new Concordia graduate and director of church ministries, waiting for her. What a surprise — they were sitting in camp chairs! They had several different Bibles waiting for her! Visiting there in the cold, the three of them talked, shared, and prayed. The pastor told Mary about each Bible and offered suggestions about which of them might best fit her needs. Mary came away with two Bibles: an English Standard Version and a journaling Bible. She later commented that she was “blown away” that the pastor and the young woman stayed and camped out with her and that “the Bibles were free!”

Mary knew very little about the Bible and was hesitant to join an online Bible study. She was afraid people would think she was stupid, and that she would have nothing to contribute. But Mary decided to take another “measured risk.” The people in that online study embraced Mary’s interactions with joy, insight, compassion, and understanding. Within weeks, Mary began attending online services and two online Bible studies. She recently attended a monthly Zoom LWML Bible study and gathering. Mary began donating to the church’s food bank and asked for addresses of shut-ins so she could send prayers and comfort. 

Mary describes her faith walk as “measured steps.” She timidly put her toes in, then her foot, her ankle, and now Mary is up to her knees in the waters of faith! With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3). It is exciting and humbling to witness her becoming close to her Lord!

Devotion

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:1b–2a).

How do you hear Jesus calling you, reaching out to you? An excellent resource for learning how Jesus is calling you is “God’s True Desire for His Children,” written by Patricia Willoughby, 2019. Her study is found on pages 235–239 in the online 2019–2021 reSOURCEs for Planning Programs.

Reflection

“A true friend encourages us, comforts us, and supports us like a big easy chair, offering us a safe refuge from the world” (Anonymous). Mary has found her true friend, Jesus, who has been seeking her out and calling her His own.

Jesus meets us wherever we are. He knows our needs and yearnings. People sat on the hillsides to hear His Sermon on the Mount. Jesus spoke: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:3–4).

If we were listening to our Savior on that hillside in today’s social distancing climate, we would all be in camping chairs, talking, sharing, and listening to Him. Where can you take your “camping chair?” With whom can you share Jesus’ kindness, love, and grace? You can use chairs outside — or phone calls, emails, online studies, or written notes, depending on your comfort level.

Prayer

Dearest Jesus, thank You for Your everlasting love for us. Thank You for never giving up on us and for reaching out to us. Enable us to find ways to reach out to others with Your love, compassion, and kindness. Help us to measure all our daily choices as service and love for You. In Your precious name. Amen.

Christine Maconachy
LWML Chesapeake District 


We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them to the Vice President of Gospel Outreach here.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

View more of I Love to Tell the Story

Go to Gospel Outreach main page

Afraid? Of What?

Listen to Afraid? Of What? on the LWML On The Go Podcast or read it below!


After 12 years of being at the same job, I made the decision to leave. It was terrifying and one of the toughest decisions I have ever made. I thought about the people with whom I’d worked and how those relationships might change. These were the people who nurtured me. They were people with whom I’d laughed and cried. They saw changes happen in me, both good and bad. This was my work family. 

I had always loved where I worked, but found myself having frequent ethical disagreements with a new boss. I felt it to be the right time to make a change. I questioned each part of my reasons for leaving. Is this the right time? Will I be happier? What if the grass isn’t greener? I applied to a dozen jobs and did not receive a single response, until one morning, after another disagreement, I received an email job alert for an opening at Lutheran Social Ministries. I thought to myself, should I apply? Doubt crept in. I was afraid. The “what if’s” began to take over my thoughts. Then I remembered the Scripture passage: do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:6–7).

So, I did it. This was an opportunity to work in an environment of my faith. This was the job that I had been waiting for. I applied right away. I received an alert within two hours asking for additional information. Although hopeful, I still had doubts. Was this an automated response? Two hours later, I received a call to schedule an interview. Several days later, I had my interview. The following morning, they offered me the position. This all happened within seven days of submitting my application. Yes, change leads to fear, but faith in our heavenly Father leads to peace!

Devotion

If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security. You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor (Job 11:13–19).

What are your fears? How do those fears impact your decisions? How do you manage those fears? Are there Scripture passages that strengthen you to face your fears?

Reflection

When I look back on this series of events, I realize that God knew what I was looking for. He always knows. He knows when we need Him, and He lovingly meets our needs. There is no need to be afraid. Change is difficult, but God always protects us. He knows the path that is best for us. I am confident He was present during my job change, and that He is present with me as I find my place to serve Him in this new job. 

Prayer

Lord, I thank You for comforting me with Your Word so that I could say, “Afraid? Of what?” Thank You for the continued reminders that You will guide me and lead me. Instill in me continued faith to know that You have chosen the right path for me, the path to salvation. Help me not stray from this path as I face change. Instill in me an understanding that it may take time, but You will work good in every circumstance. Thank You for always having us in Your heart. Amen.

Written by Alicia Starrett-Seidel


We would love to hear YOUR stories! Please send them to the Vice President of Gospel Outreach here.

Thanks from the Gospel Outreach Committee!

View more of I Love to Tell the Story

Go to Gospel Outreach main page

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