For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Ephesians 1:15,16
There are no more fitting words than these verses, first penned by St Paul, to express my gratitude and admiration for the faith-inspired support of LWA for the work of LCA International Mission. Your joyful generosity, love of the gospel and desire for all to be saved, together with your unwavering compassion have brought me great encouragement throughout this triennium and have blessed countless souls among our partner churches. So, as I thank God for each of you, I want you all to hear how deeply appreciative we are for the incredible support you offer for the mission of the church, and for the many hours of work that goes into raising that support.
LWA remains our single biggest supporter, and the projects you help fund typically represent essential mission projects of our partner churches that we simply cannot fund by ourselves. Your partnership is instrumental in ensuring these priceless projects continue, that many more may come to faith in the Lord Jesus and so be saved.
In Malaysia you have continued to support Bethany Home, a safe place for children and young people with disabilities who would otherwise be marginalised and severely disadvantaged in their community. This diaconal ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia has a long record of Christ-like service which equips young people for life in the wider community, while taking opportunities to share the saving Word of Christ with the mostly Hindu students they serve. Bethany Home is closely linked with the local congregation and seeks to bear witness to Jesus’ love in Word and deed.
For around 15 years, the LCA has supported Debora Orphanage in Indonesia and LWA have been instrumental in that support. Through this support, scores of young people have been granted access to education, been secured in the gospel of God’s mercy in Christ and gone on to further studies and by so doing, have transformed the future of their extended families. As we bring this support to an end due to Australian government advice regarding financial support for orphanages, we want to acknowledge the work of Rosemary Winderlich who has been a tireless promoter, a faithful visitor, and a constant pray-er for the children at Debora. Through her, countless women in our church have been swept up in the story of Debora Orphanage and have joined Rosemary in providing support and a sense of fellowship with both children and staff there. We thank God for Rosemary and all those who have been part of the lives of those served by the orphanage.
In 2019, I had the joy of spending several hours at Home of Praise in the slums of Bangkok, Thailand where young children get to experience Jesus’ love in very practical ways. I witnessed a centre filled with children from the surrounding slums who are given a daily reprieve from the harsh life their families are forced to endure. At Home of Praise, they are bathed each day and given clean clothes to wear. They enjoy healthy meals together and learn and play like any other pre-school aged children anywhere else in the world. But most importantly they are fed with the Word of God and reminded daily that the love and care they receive, at Home of Praise, is a foretaste of the love and care God the Father offers them in Jesus. Thank you for your support which brings these little ones to Jesus.
Mission is a challenging business at the best of times, let alone in a country like Cambodia which has been ravaged by genocidal violence in its recent past and is still burdened by the legalistic demands of its ‘folk’ Buddhism. It is in this context that the Lutheran Church in Cambodia joins in God’s mission as a very young and relatively small church. As you would expect, churches filled with young Christians face constant challenges as they grow in faith and understanding of what it means to lead a Christian community. The financial support of LWA has helped LCA International Mission provide ongoing administrative support, for this church, which is bearing fruit as local leadership take up more and more responsibility for governance and mission.
Although COVID-19 has created many challenges to our regular scholarship programs which see partner churches sending students to study both short – and long-term courses at Australian Lutheran College, technology has meant that we have been able to continue this vital work in new ways. The support LWA provides for these scholarships is helping form future leaders and teachers in our partner churches so that their mission can continue to grow and thrive. During this triennium we are most grateful for your support of scholarship holders from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Myanmar and Malaysia.
The LCA has had a long history of supporting the mission hospitals and health centres in Papua New Guinea. LWA continues this support in the provision of solar panels to health centres in remote and isolated communities, often providing the only source of electricity to these front-line medical facilities. The story published in the November 2020 edition of Lutheran Women highlighted the impact solar panels had at Yagaum Rural Hospital as staff enjoyed lighting in the labour ward for the first time ever! Similarly, is the tireless work of all those women who put together birthing kits for our sisters in PNG to provide a tangible link between Lutheran women across the two countries as you care for them and their newborn babies. In the words of Ribi, a young mother who received a birthing kit, ‘Tenkyu long dispela present. God i blesim yupela.’
The connection between the women of the LCA and the women of the ELC-PNG continues through your support of Meri Wok Trening Skuls. These four schools provide vocational training for women and equip them as Christian leaders in their communities. After completing their studies, the young women return home where they support other women in their own villages to live out their faith at home and in society. LWA provides the only source of funds coming from the LCA for all these projects in Papua New Guinea.
The support LWA provides to LCA International Mission not only makes these projects possible, but also enables us to invest in other essential aspects of God’s mission in our region. During this triennium we have seen a continued emphasis on training in Biblical Reconciliation which has been life changing for participants at workshops in Indonesia and for the those who have undergone intensive training in Australia via scholarship. As participants have been lavished in the gospel (1 John 3:1), they have come to a deeper appreciation of God’s unconditional love in Christ and have gone on to proclaim that message powerfully in their own homes, seminaries, and congregations. We have also seen a resurgence in requests for the translation and publication of Lutheran resources, along with an unquenchable thirst for training in Lutheran theology and pastoral practice which has been delivered via in-person seminars and, more recently, via webinars. By God’s grace we have established new funding partnerships with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod which has enabled us to call two LCA pastors to serve in PNG and the Philippines respectively, and all this while our local budget has been decreasing. What a joy to participate in God’s mission which is not held back even when we think we lack the necessary resources!
At the midterm meeting of the LWA executive, I proposed several projects for LWA to consider supporting for the next triennium. Among those projects was a Women’s Care and Counselling Centre in Malaysia where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia serves women with unexpected and often unwanted pregnancies, offering a safe place to live, connection with supportive services, along with Christian witness and care. Following the meeting I was contacted by your treasurer who reported that the executive was so moved by the work that is being done there, that they wanted to immediately provide the salary support for the deaconess who leads this vital ministry. I was deeply moved by the compassion, love, and faithfulness of these dear sisters in Christ who heard a need and responded with generosity and joy. It is this commitment to meet our partners’ needs and to share the love of Christ, that makes it so encouraging to partner with LWA.
I thank God for the Lutheran Women of Australia and for your loving, generous support of God’s mission that brings so many people to Jesus and offers them his gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Your brother in Christ,
Rev Matt Anker
Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission