Every other month our CLC Board of Missions updates us with recent news from various mission fields.
“The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
During every Board of Missions meeting I have been a part of, at some point, someone brings up the fact that with all of the opportunities we have overseas, it would be really beneficial if we had a third full-time foreign missionary. That desire is now, perhaps, closer to being met as a result of the action taken by our church body in our recent convention.
As early as 2008, the CLC in convention recognized the need for a third full-time foreign missionary. However, since there were insufficient funds, the convention resolved, “We eagerly anticipate the calling of another full-time foreign missionary when financially feasible.” In 2010, convention concurred with the Board of Missions “that the need and urgency to call a third missionary continues to grow, but we understand that there are insufficient funds at present to fully support a third foreign missionary.” Therefore, the Board of Missions was encouraged to pursue alternative ways of providing a presence throughout our foreign mission fields.
In response, the Board of Missions has issued a number of part-time missionary calls over the past eight years. Missionary Todd Ohlmann, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew, and retired Missionary David Koenig have served as part-time missionaries in the past. Currently, Pastors Michael Gurath and John Hein serve as part-time missionaries. In 2016, as a means of further providing a presence in more areas, the Mission Board decided to restructure one of the full-time foreign missionary positions. Missionary Ohlmann currently serves as our traveling/visiting missionary. In this role, Missionary Ohlmann resides in the U.S. but spends approximately six months a year traveling overseas as he conducts a regular schedule of visitations to our many sister church bodies.
However, the need for another full-time missionary has continued to grow. Therefore, since the Lord has financially blessed the CLC in recent years, the 2018 convention authorized the Board of Missions to call a third full-time missionary. To fund this new position, convention resolved to have 50% of this funding come by way of an increase in the Board of Missions general budget (from the CLC General Fund) and 50% to come from the Mission Development Fund (MDF) for the first year. Over the next three years, the CLC Coordinating Council, in consultation with the Board of Missions, would implement a plan to move these costs into the regular Missions general budget.
It is certainly exciting to see the initial steps being taken to provide for a need we have recognized for at least a decade. However, there are still challenges. Calling a third foreign missionary would cost approximately $70,000. We rejoice that the Lord has blessed our church body such that half of this cost can come by way of an increase to the general budget. However, an increase of $35,000 to the MDF budget may prove difficult. Offerings to the MDF are unpredictable, and without an increase in those offerings, the funding of a third full-time foreign missionary would come at the expense of other programs currently being funded from the MDF. And, of course, we would wait on the Lord to lead the right man to accept the call. A foreign missionary call presents unique challenges that are not suited to everyone.
In our fall meetings, and leading up to them, the Board of Missions will, no doubt, spend considerable time discussing this opportunity. Please pray that the Lord would continue to provide for us so that we may issue this call, and pray that the Lord would lead the right man to accept such a call into our foreign mission fields which are so ripe for harvest.
Robert Sauers is pastor of Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Morris, Minnesota, and a member of the CLC Board of Missions