September begins a new season. It means the end of summer to most, the start of the harvest to some, the commencement of a new school year to others, and to sports fans the beginning of a new football season. September this year, incidentally, marks the opening of the 100th anniversary season of the National Football League (NFL). In the US media there will be endless reports of wins and losses on the football field. So too, the Eurasia region reports wins and losses on the mission field. But glory be to God, the wins are outpacing the losses.
Like a well-orchestrated game plan, the Rev. James Krikava, Regional Director for LCMS Eurasia, and the Eurasia mission team organized several strategic meetings for the last week in September.
These meetings will take place at a week-long conference of pastors, seminary students and missionaries in Odessa, Ukraine. The conference will be hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (ELCU).
There are threefold objectives for the Odessa conference
The first objective is to meet with six Pakistani men traveling from Islamabad. These men wish to become Lutheran pastors. The Rev. Tim Droegemueller, pastor of Living Faith Lutheran Church in Cumming, GA, and his vicar, Jay Dass, himself a Pakistani, help mentor these six Pakistani men. Droegemueller, Das and his wife, Julie, were scheduled to travel to Odessa to assist with the Pakistani candidates. The Eurasia team planned an orientation for them. They want to help them understand what it means to be a Lutheran pastor and what it would take to become one.
The second objective is to offer a theological seminar for the Ukrainian pastors and students in Odessa and the six Pakistani men after the orientation. Krikava wanted “to give these visiting Pakistani men a taste of the level of education and depth of study in which they were about to embark.” The seminar would focus on Romans 8–16.
Then the team received word from the Ukrainian embassy in Islamabad that, after reviewing the applications, they decided not to approve the visa requests of the six Pakistani men. The Eurasia mission team was crushed. The score: 0:1
In planning the theological seminar, the third objective is to have the Rev. Dr. Charles Cortright teach the course on Romans. Cortright is a theological educator for the LCMS Eurasia region.
He lives with his wife Connie in St. Petersburg, Russia. Cortright accepted the invitation to be the conference educator, and so the conference goes on! Put this in the win column: 1:1
This Odessa conference is part of a series of seminars that the Eurasia region has provided the ELCU since 2018. There are plans to continue the conferences through 2020.
The ELCU desires altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS. The LCMS has come alongside the ELCU since its separation from the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). This break away was largely due to the tireless efforts of current ELCU Bishop Serge Maschewski.
“The upcoming pastor’s conference will draw the ELCU and the LCMS closer by giving opportunity for the ELCU pastors and students to obtain firsthand knowledge of LCMS’s missiological emphasis, to preach Christ alone, and Him crucified,” said Maschewski. Put this in the win column: 2:1
Over the last two years, the ELCU has demonstrated a genuine desire to assist the LCMS by engaging in joint planning with the LCMS Office of International Mission. The ELCU helps with local accommodations, conference facilities and other logistics. Their cooperation and collaboration with mission-minded LCMS pastors, congregations and lay people is praiseworthy.
Though all three of the objectives will not be fulfilled this time, the Eurasia team still chalks up the effort to a win. “The process, work and life together in Eurasia has been wonderful to see and be a part of,” said Rev. Krikava. “We’re not finished by any means, and we will continue to forge ahead in this outreach of the Gospel to dark lands, like Pakistan.”
As St. Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6). And God will give growth in His way and in His time. The season has just begun.