By Teri Swanner
This past summer, our congregation, First Lutheran, Colorado Springs, Colo. was recognized at the ELCA Global Mission Summer Conference for its “global vision and generous spirit.” To which Paul Peel, our senior pastor, responded, “We really do not require recognition for this ministry. This is what we are called to do.”
Members of First Lutheran felt called to sponsor our first ELCA missionary in 1999, which has led to the support of an additional ELCA missionary every year since. In 2011 we submitted 15 covenants totaling $60,000.
Since our first commitment to ELCA Missionary Sponsorship, our members have given over $250,000.00 to missionaries serving around the world.
Our commitment goes much further than a monetary obligation. A bulletin board dedicated to the mission work of the ELCA is regularly updated as inspiring newsletters arrive from missionaries around the world.
Getting to know the missionaries
When a new missionary is sponsored, we spotlight them on the bulletin board to acquaint First Lutheran members with their work and the country where they serve.
The ELCA missionaries we sponsor include Andrew and Barbara Hinderlie in East Africa, Nathan and Sharonette Bowman in Japan, Paula Stecker in Haiti and David and Alicia Brondos in Mexico.
The women of First Lutheran’s Lydia Circle correspond regularly with the missionaries, remembering birthdays, anniversaries and reminding them they are uplifted by the prayers of the congregation.
Two years ago, First Lutheran began hosting congregational potlucks, welcoming missionaries who have returned to the United States for their home visit.
This year we were honored to host Mary Beth Oyebade and her family, home from Nigeria. Mary Beth and her husband, Bayo, created the Mashiah Foundation, which manages a dynamic youth ministry that offers computer classes, AIDS awareness campaigns and other activities.
The year before, we were visited by Ted and Jane Zimmerman, from Hong Kong. Ted, teaches New Testament at Lutheran Theological Seminary and assists with pastoral leadership of a local congregation.
The children of the congregation also benefit from these home visits when our missionary guests share their experiences with the Sunday school.
The theme for this year’s Advent Festival was “Christmas Around the World” and featured many of the recipes and crafts shared by our missionaries on the ELCA website.
Participants sampled foods from 10 countries and created unique handcrafted items, making it a fun-filled celebration for all ages.
As First Lutheran continues to grow in membership and outreach, it will no doubt, continue with its ongoing commitment to increase its annual support to the global mission of the ELCA and to nurture the missionaries who seek to glorify almighty God throughout the world.