Existing and New Projects for Lutheran Church of Australia International Mission

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people — the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. Colossians 1:3–6a

These words of Scripture capture the joy and thanksgiving I have as I reflect on the support Lutheran Women of Australia (LWA) offer to the work of LCA International Mission. Your generous, enthusiastic, prayerful, and passionate support for our partner churches bears witness to your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all God’s people – a faith and love which was born in you through the true message of the gospel.

Like many of you, I was eagerly anticipating our time together in Horsham for the LWA Convention where I was hoping to offer these words of thanks in person and share with you the proposed projects for the next triennium. While that is not possible, I give thanks to God that even a world-wide pandemic and constant lockdowns are not enough to stifle his mission to bring forgiveness and life to people everywhere. In fact, in these days of social isolation and uncertainty, we have the only message that can bring hope and peace, as we offer people life together in the Body of Christ now, and into eternity. If ever there was a time when the world needed the hope of the gospel, it is now. I thank you for your continuing commitment to support the work we do on your behalf to help our partner churches share this message of life with God through faith in Jesus.

This next triennium we are proposing that LWA continue to support many of the projects you have made possible over recent years. These include Meri Wok Trening and Birthing Kits in PNG, Home of Praise in Thailand, and scholarships for international partners. The financial support that you provide for these projects has an enduring impact on the mission of the church. In each of these projects people are lavished with the gospel of grace and built up in his saving Word, so they become natural witnesses to Christ in their local communities. We will never know the full impact of your support, but rejoice that God is working through you to build his kingdom.

We are also proposing a few new projects for LWA to support over the next triennium which will also provide a lasting witness to the gospel through the provision of Lutheran training to church leaders, and through works of mercy inspired by God’s love for us in Jesus.

Lutheran Study Centre – Indonesia

The inauguration of the Luther Study Centre (LSC) in Pemetangsiantar in northern Sumatra realised a long-held hope of the Lutheran churches of Indonesia. The centre was opened on 4 December 2020, when members of the Indonesian churches were joined online by friends and partners from around the world.

In recent years there has been an awakening among the churches with whom we partner in Indonesia. Key leaders have realised that despite their historic connections to the Lutheran confession, their church bodies have often strayed from distinctive Lutheran teachings on sin and grace. Recognising that this has the potential to rob people of the comfort of the gospel and the certainty of salvation through faith in Christ, they have called out for help. LCA International Mission is privileged to be one of the partners who has been able to respond. The LSC is primarily about strengthening understanding and the practice of theology that rightly distinguishes law and gospel and points people to the completed work of Christ on the cross.

The Reverend Basa Hutabarat, executive secretary of the National Committee of LWF churches in Indonesia said, “Our expectation is that the LSC will offer a program in Lutheran doctrine that will be compulsory for all theological students. Even teachers in Lutheran schools should take this program. From this doctrine we understand and know the relevance of Lutheran theology for our Christian life.

Your support of the Lutheran Study Centre in Indonesia will help pastors and church workers better proclaim the saving work of Christ to those they serve, as well as build up the local churches for even more effective mission in this predominantly Muslim country.

Myanmar – Biblical Lutheran Women’s Conference

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a large southeast Asian country. It has a population of 54 million people belonging to more than 135 ethnic groups and speaking more than 100 languages. The people are primarily Buddhist, with Christianity at around six per cent of the population. While the country is rich in natural resources, including gems and minerals, much of this wealth is held by supporters of the military junta and the income gap between rich and poor is one of the widest in the world. In early 2021, the military seized control of the country once again and the churches now work in extremely difficult and dangerous conditions.

During these challenges, the four churches that make up the Federation of Lutheran Churches in Myanmar remain committed to growing in faith and sharing the hope of the gospel with those they serve. For many years LCA International Mission has provided both the funding and the teacher for a biennial Biblical Lutheran Women’s Conference aimed at equipping women in all their various vocations. These conferences have been led by women from both Australia and New Zealand and have highlighted the importance of women in passing on the faith and in the life of the Body of Christ. Your support for these conferences and the solidarity it represents will be an enormous encouragement to our sisters in Christ in Myanmar.

Home of Grace – Thailand

Home of Grace is an outreach ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thailand. It provides a safe home to young mothers-to-be and those that have given birth, in addition to women in difficult situations who need shelter. The young mothers-to-be come from many different contexts – whether that be prostitution, unplanned pregnancy, and a variety of social situations that make pregnancy unbearable. Home of Grace offers a safe place for mother and child where they are surrounded by the love of God, through the words and deeds of caring, Christian staff. Home of Grace provides counselling and skills training, English and Bible lessons and it helps the women to find support for keeping their babies or help to safely adopt their children to others.

Through this humble ministry the lives of many babies have been spared and mothers have been provided the loving support and nurture they need when they have been at their most vulnerable. In 2019, I met a young woman who was a former resident at Home of Grace. While her Buddhist family have forbidden her to officially convert to Christianity, she comes every week to volunteer and be reconnected with the Christian community at Home of Grace where she is once again swept up in the gospel and reminded of the love of God for her in Christ. This ministry doesn’t always result in people flooding the churches, but the seed of the Word is sown, and the Holy Spirit finds ways to nurture it so that it may bear the fruit of faith in the lives of the women who are served through this home.

Women’s Care and Counselling Centre – Malaysia

Like Home of Grace, the Women’s Care and Counselling Centre (WCCC) was established by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia to reach out to women with domestic issues and, at the same time, to work with young women to help address the horrific reality of baby dumping. WCCC provides residential counselling services for women and young mothers seeking help and offers a safe environment where the proclamation of the gospel is as much a priority as the physical and emotional care they receive. WCCC is served by Deaconess Elizabeth Gopal who works closely with other agencies to address the physical needs of women and babies, while also sharing the forgiveness and life that is offered to all through faith in Jesus. In the name of Jesus, they provide medical assistance, temporary shelter for vulnerable women, as well as pregnancy support and adoption services.

I was deeply humbled when the LWA executive responded to this need already in 2020 and generously provided financial support for Deaconess Gopal. Your continued support will ensure these vulnerable women and babies are blessed with Christ-centred care and the hope of the gospel.

As I consider the wonderful support of LWA in the past and look to the support of these new projects in the future, I really cannot do better than to repeat the words of St Paul: We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.

The faith and love of Lutheran Women is a gift to our church and those we partner with. For this I thank each one of you, and thank God for you.

About the Author

Pastor Matt Anker

A Victorian by birth (Birregurra), Pastor Matt grew up moving, every couple of years, as his father worked his way up the ladder of the National Bank. After moving towns seven times in 14 years, Matt’s family settled in the outer north east of Melbourne where he finished his schooling. While studying Economics at Monash University, Matt met Laryssa who is now his wife and, together, God called them to faith through the ministry of the Lutheran church in Croydon. Prior to being called to ministry, Matt worked in hospitality, finance and also owned a lawn mowing franchise. Since ordination, Pastor Matt has served Holy Trinity, Mildura, the Goulburn Murray Lutheran Parish (Shepparton and Echuca) and now serves as Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission. Matt and Laryssa have four daughters, two son-in-laws, four grandchildren and a mini dachshund.

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