Taking a Swing
The Rev. Dr. Daniel Jastram, theological education manager for the Asia region of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), stood before the assembled Asia region missionaries. He assumed the stance of a golfer; he gave his shoulders a shake and made a swing for an imaginary golf ball.
The confused missionaries watched for a few minutes—and a couple of strokes—before Jastram explained. He was practicing his swing. And, over the next few days, the Asia region missionaries would likewise be practicing their theological “golf swing.”
Jastram explained that a professional golf player perfects his form by making the same swing again and again.The people of God likewise practice their theological “golf swing” through the regular study of God’s Word and memorization of the Small Catechism.
To guide practice, Jastram provided the missionaries with a theological compass. Rather than pointing to the cardinal compass points, this compass points to the central teachings of the Church. True north points to justification, the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls. The other points of the compass included the Means of Grace, Law and Gospel, and finally the priesthood of all believers and the Office of the Holy ministry.
Gathered for Practice
The last week of September, Asia region missionaries gathered to study God’s Word, receive training and updates from regional leadership, and to encourage one another. The regional office in Chiayi City, Taiwan provided plenty of space for the 27 missionaries to study, eat and reconnect with each other.
“These meetings provide an essential opportunity for our missionaries who are spread to the four corners of Asia,” said the Rev. Charles Ferry, LCMS Asia regional director. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we are lone rangers working all by ourselves, when in fact we belong together not just as part of the LCMS, but more importantly, as part of Christ’s Church around the world.”
As part of the gathering, Dr. Jastram provided three sessions of theological practice for Asia missionaries to strengthen their theological “golf swings.”
Leadership Support and Guidance
Another key part of gathering together as missionaries is to receive guidance and direction from leaders in the region and the LCMS. The Rev. Kevin Robson, chief mission office of the LCMS, extended one of his existing trips in Asia to join the missionaries in Taiwan.
Over the course of two sessions, Robson expounded on the effects of the LCMS convention held this summer in Tampa, Fla., and how it would affect the international mission field. He also introduced a discussion about the new LCMS triennial emphasis, “Making Disciples for Life.”
The Rev. Daniel McMiller, executive director of the office of international mission, shared the goals and strategies of the international operations while Ferry opened a discussion of how to implement these goals and strategies in Asia.
Food and Fellowship
Living in a foreign country as a lone expatriate family will often wear down even the hardiest international worker. Food and fellowship with other missionaries fill a need international workers have to connect with fellow missionaries.
Friendships were renewed and new friendships were forged. Missionaries learned about work occurring in other regions of the Asia. And they helped each other refine and focus their witness to Christ and Him crucified for the whole world.
Gathered in the Name of Jesus
Even though the Asia missionaries live in 10 different countries and work in 18, they serve together as part of the one body of Christ. And so, it comes as no surprise, that they also gathered three times a day to receive Christ’s gifts in worship.
The theological educators from the region preached sermons based on the texts for the Easter Vigil service. Ferry selected these texts because “they emphasize the great deliveries our Lord performed.”
“Of course, the greatest of these deliveries is Easter,” Ferry noted. “So now, we can move forward without fear into the work Christ has called us to perform.” United together in this one body of Christ, confident in the victory He earned for them in the cross, Asia missionaries returned to their fields of service eager to continue bringing the message of Christ and Him crucified for the people of Asia.