During the last week of 2019, missionaries of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) from across the Asia region gathered together with their families on the southern tip of Taiwan to connect, learn and relax. The Office of International Mission (OIM) Asia leadership team organized the four-day event, focused on the theme of reconciliation, for over 70 attendees.
Although the Synod’s missionaries in Asia are based on the same continent, thousands of miles can separate them. Opportunities to come together to hear of both ministry successes and challenges are few and far between, and the missionaries relish these occasions to share news and encouragement.
To give the missionary pastors a well-deserved break, the Rev. Steven Cholak of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Roswell, N.M., led the group in liturgical services three times a day. Missionary family members added musical accompaniment through their talents on a variety of instruments. The services were a rare and precious occurrence for many of the missionaries, since they don’t often get to worship and sing hymns with others in English.
Dwight Schettler, president of Ambassadors of Reconciliation (AoR), led daily morning sessions to guide the missionaries to be better prepared to carry out Christian peacemaking responsibilities. Schettler offered practical solutions based on Scripture by role-playing different conflict scenarios, which were often acted out by the young adult and teenage children of the missionary families. The group actively participated in learning to identify various manifestations of sin that typically stand in the way of forgiveness, preventing true reconciliation. The skills shared through the resources of AoR are instrumental within the context of the church, in families and with individuals.
The Rev. Dr. Daniel Jastram, an LCMS missionary based in Japan, noted, “We each had the personal experience of identifying occasions of past conflict; then, through instruction and role practice, [we] learned to navigate the waters of conflict and reconciliation with the strong guiding support of scriptural doctrine and practice. What a blessing! May God grant His church the wisdom and courage to put these blessings of reconciliation to use in His church throughout the world.”
The coastal city of Kenting, Taiwan, features breathtaking views of God’s creation. During the morning training sessions for the adults and teens, the youngest missionary children enjoyed activities together, including time at the beach. Afternoon group outings to a nearby aquarium, a historic lighthouse and a deer farm offered the many city-dwelling missionaries a reprieve from urban life. Mealtimes and breaks also provided the families a chance to strengthen relationships and compare experiences.
“It was great to be with other like-minded Lutheran kids who, like me, live out their lives in a foreign country. To hang out and center on fellowship in Christ with kids that I share so much in common with made me feel safe and comfortable,” commented John Trinklein, age 17, who lives and serves with his family in Seoul, South Korea.
We praise God for the opportunity to refresh our missionaries through gatherings such as the retreat in Taiwan, and we appreciate the efforts of the many people who made the event possible.