Growth and opportunity for God’s mission in Honduras

April 7, 2011

by Leonardo Neitzel

My mission trip to Nicaragua this time included a visit to Honduras with the president of the Iglesia Luterana Sinodo de Nicaragua (ILSN) Pastor Luis Turcios. In Tegucigalpa we met with Pastor Edmundo Auger, a Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod pastor serving in the Cayman Islands and with Tulio Cesar Mejia, who lives in Tegucigalpa, the capital city. We wanted to explore and discuss the possibility of mission work with LCC’s missionary, Pastor Douglas Aguillar, who is established and serving in the northern part of the country, Olanchito.

Tulio Cesar Mejia; LCMS missionary Pastor Edmundo Auger; LCC missionary Pastor Douglas Aguillar; and Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel discuss plans for expanding the mission work in Honduras.

Tulio, a young church leader, took Lutheran Church–Canada-sponsored seminary classes in the Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua (ILSN), worked as lay evangelist volunteer in Panama, and is currently conducting Bible classes with children in Tegucigalpa. Pastor Auger has mentored Tulio and is very encouraged with the work he’s doing.

At our meeting we agreed that Tulio should continue his seminary training at the ILSN as part of the new class starting in October 2011. He will work with Pastor Douglas and both men will report to the ILSN and LCC on their missionary programs. Rev. Auger will visit Tulio during the year, study foundational theological doctrine and related areas with him, mentoring and supporting his work with Pastor Douglas. Rev. Auger, in his kindness, offered to assist in special gatherings and mission outreach events in both places, encouraging our church workers in their family life as well as in the work of the mission.

Dr. Neitzel participates in the mission outreach in Olanchito, Honduras

President Luis and I travelled to Olanchito where Pastor Douglas gathers children and adults under trees to proclaim the Gospel. We had the opportunity to take part in one of these events which gathered about eighty people. There is a small and faithful group of people who own a piece of land donated by the Lutheran Church in Victoria, B.C. They would like to have their church built as soon as possible. Dr. Paul Loofs and his wife, Elia Enid de Loofs, originally members of the church in Victoria, live in Olanchito and have been of great blessing and very supportive of the work in that area.

The congregation’s challenge is now building a church, but they don’t have finances. They own the property, have a blueprint for a good-sized church building, a cost estimate, and are working on the building permit. They would welcome any financial support or labour work in their endeavour.

As in Nicaragua, it would be possible for LCC to arrange the building project in Olanchito to be carried out in stages until completion. A volunteer team of builders could lay the foundations in the first stage, then the walls, roof, doors and windows until it’s finished.

We pray and trust the Lord will provide these brothers and sisters with help from North American teams to help them build a place for them to continue worshipping the Lord and proclaiming His Gospel to the people in Olanchito.

Rev. Leonardo Neitzel is Lutheran Church–Canada’s executive responsible for overseas missions.

What happens to quilts and We Care kits?

October 3, 2010

by Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan
Have you ever wondered what happens to those CLWR quilts you made or maybe those various CLWR kits you put together? It was my privilege to participate in the distribution of some of the Children’s Kits and quilts made available to us through a container received from Canadian Lutheran World Relief.

CLWR We Care Kit distribution

Our travel took us first to Somotillo, about 65 kilometres north of Chinandega. There we were met by 38 children and their teachers. I shared with them the story of “We Care” and Canadian Lutheran World Relief and then reminded them of One whose care goes beyond anything that we could ever provide; the care of our good and gracious God and His love for us in Jesus Christ. I joined our Mission business manager, Roberto Jose Zepeda and our Synod president, Pastor Luis Diaz, in distributing first, the Children’s Kits and then a quilt for each child. Perhaps I distributed the one you made!

He loves his quilt

On our return trip we stopped at another community, Villa Salvadorita. There 41 children waited for us. We gave kits and quilts to all of these children as well. These were just two of the 22 communities where we have distributed CLWR quilts and kits since we received the CLWR container in May.

Our thanks goes to Canadian Lutheran World Relief and all those ladies and men, boys and girls who made quilts and prepared kits for distribution through CLWR. Our thanks also to those who provided the funding to enable CLWR to send shipping containers like the one we received to developing countries around the world. We join with the children in Somotillo and Villa Salvadorita in saying to you all, “Gracias!”

Pastor Oleg Schewtschenko reflects on celebrations in Ukraine

August 21, 2010

Grace of our Lord and the Love of God be with you all!

It was long way, it took us long time, we had some difficulties and we had so much support!!! But the day of dedications has come! What a JOY! I hope you are part of this joy with us.

Rev. Oleg Schewtschenko

We are so thankful for everything what God is doing in our lives, we are thankful for you your prayers, concern and support! Yes there are still so much that has to be finished on the building, the big kitchen, some lights and some other small but important things… but very soon this all will be done and we will be able t use our new Mission Centre to the glory of God!

Even though it is very early in the morning… but when I am looking out of my window I can see more and more people coming to share my joy with me. People are staying outside and talking to each other, there is a smell of fresh coffee and bread, and some other wonderful things that we will enjoy for the breakfast. I see some people reading their Bibles and some other talking to the guests. David writes: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” I think today we can truly be all in unity and rejoice in our Lord and Saviour!

It would be so good if you would be able to be here and to share this Joy with me and my Ukrainians friends. But even thought you are not here you continuing to be in my prayers and my heart even today!

Only in bit more that 24 hours will come the day for me to be installed as the pastor in Odessa congregation. I thank the Lord every time I remember you about the time I could be with you and be part of your family. Tears comes to my eyes when I am thinking about all that time, I see your faces and smiles… So you will be with me even that moment!

I continue to treasure your friendship, love, encouragements and prayers…

In Him, who is Our Lord, Saviour and Brother

Pastor and friend Oleg

Tap into the potential

July 6, 2010

Sitting in an airport waiting for the flight home to Winnipeg has given me the time to reflect on the events of the past five days.

That the youth gathering happens at all is only by the grace of God. It is an entirely volunteer effort. With overall attendance above 500, it is the largest event LCC holds, yet no paid staff is involved, except the person responsible for writing cheques in Winnipeg! Yes, the president is consulted and I provide some input, but that involvement is miniscule in the planning of this kind of event. Much of the work is done by LCC’s deacons who give their time beyond the call they currently serve.

I had a glimpse of the passion that drives the volunteers to take vacation, drive for hours and spend five sleep-deprived days all for the sake of ensuring LCC’s young people stand firmly in their faith and their leaders are well equipped for ongoing service. At one point Lynn Gergens had tears in her eyes as she told the story of Jesus reaching out to Peter, restoring him. “Jesus is reaching out to you to restore you as He did Peter,” she said, her voice breaking. Everyone knew at that point how much she loved the Lord and how much she loved the youth.

Then there were the volunteers known as iBods, young men and women whose role was to help guide people to venues, hand out materials…in a single word—serve. What a great example for everyone. The iBods were a tangible expression of what it means to serve one another.

Our church body is blessed with so many talented, gifted, skilled people who are willing to give freely of their time in service to God and His people. I wonder how many servants will come from the hundreds of youth who attended the gathering, what talents and gifts they have to offer? The potential is enormous, and I’m excited about the possibilities.

What about next time?

July 5, 2010

Day three of the National Youth Gathering and everyone is tired. Yesterday at Concordia University College featured a lot of physical activity, plus the temperature was cool and it rained. This morning at the plenary session it looked like a number of participants had spent little time sleeping Sunday night. But that’s what a youth gathering is all about. Actually, from my experience a lot of church conventions result in sleep deprivation!

My impression, with which many others agree, is that this is a particularly well-behaved group. That doesn’t mean they aren’t having a lot of fun and hearing some very challenging presentations. But I haven’t seen a lot of undue rowdiness or questionable behaviour. They listen intently (maybe some are just asleep!), participate willingly and a just plain happy to be here. The “belonging and believing” theme is very evident in the way people treat each other.

As I look around at all the young faces, many in their early teens, I realize these are the kids at risk of our nemesis “post-confirmation drop-out.” I think to myself, How many will still be at this level of activity in their congregations by the time the next youth gathering rolls around? I pray that the theme of belonging grows in their hearts so that they grow into their congregations as they mature. I invite you to join me in that prayer.

Keeping youth where they belong

July 4, 2010

I may not be overseas, but I’m definitely “on the road” in Edmonton at Lutheran Church–Canada’s National Youth Gathering. This is my sixth so I guess that means I’ve been at two gatherings per district. The first in Alberta for me was in Three Hills at Prairie Bible Institute, not so fondly remembered for its hourly fire alarms beginning at midnight.

Each gathering seems to have its own personality. Gathering committee chairman Deacon Michael Gillingham and his team have created an event that focuses clearly on the theme belong&believe>> believe&belong, even in little things. This isn’t a “high tech” event. Sure, there is Powerpoint reinforcement and video clips shown to help illustrate points, but there is no video projection of speakers, the sound is not overpowering, but the energy and enthusiasm from a room full of teenagers is still there. The simplicity is building a sense of belonging. The messages are clear, strongly Scriptural and authentically Lutheran.

Each session is built around a Scripture passage and includes a Bible study. After Friday night’s opening, everyone was asked to bring their Bibles with them to the plenary sessions. Sure enough, Bible-toting Lutherans showed up the next day—and some of those Bibles were showing signs of wear and tear! (Our next Synod Convention in June 2011 will also be a BYOB—bring your own Bible—event!)

At events like this I look for unique stories. I found one in the attendance statistics. The largest delegation from a single congregation is from La Ronge Lutheran Fellowship in northern Saskatchewan. Thirty-four youth and their leaders travelled 12 hours by bus. To keep expenses down, they are sleeping at Grace Lutheran Church. I talked with a young lady who was really enjoying the gathering, her first time attending something like this. It reminded me of a conversation I had at a previous gathering with a young man from a small rural congregation who was thrilled to be among so many people his age who believed the same things he did! That’s the beauty of a youth gathering. It’s a time of great encouragement and spiritual challenge and resulting growth. Tonight’s dinner companion was a pastor who told me that being part of a youth gathering cemented his decision to attend seminary and become a pastor. Not only that, he told me of two others for whom the Lord used a youth gathering to lead them in the same direction.

This afternoon was encouraging in another way. The schedule included 11 breakout sessions, and most of these were aimed at developing gifts and talents youth could take back to their congregations. Imagine spending 90 minutes under the direction of a nationally recognized choral director learning about vocal production and conducting! Or discovering how you can use your photography skills in the service of your congregation and church body. And tomorrow at Concordia University College of Alberta there are another 20 similar opportunities.

What we adults need to do when our youth return is help them keep developing their God-given skills and talents and involve them in the areas of service for which they are trained and equipped. It’s not enough to have a “youth Sunday.” Our youth should be integrated into every church activity As the gathering sessions keep reinforcing, they already belong to Jesus and to His family through their baptism. By asking them to participate just as all the other baptized members of the family do, we affirm their place in the church, where they belong.

Convention service webcast from Nicaragua

January 22, 2010

Plans are in place to webcast the closing service of the first regular convention of ILSN from the Martin Luther Chapel at LCC’s Mission Centre in Chinandega. The service is scheduled for Sunday, January 24 beginning at 11 a.m. CT and will be recorded. Internet service can be unreliable from Nicaragua, so please be patient. Watch the service at

Gracios a Dios

October 17, 2009

Missionary Maximo teachingChildren hearing the WordUnder the shade tree, hearing the WordLast March, with the graduation of 3 new pastoral candidates, our Nicaraguan missionaries were freed of their congregational responsibilities and fanned out to begin new outreach ministries. In this report, I will share with you a new beginning initiated by Missionary Maximo in Gracios a Dios, a small community north of the city of Leon.

The name of the community is most interesting. According to one resident, there had once been a large farm in the area. The farmer in developing the land had taken out a rather significant loan. After a number of years he was able to pay off that loan and his wife heard him exclaim in joy, “Gracios a Dios (Thanks be to God!)” Later when he asked his wife what name they should give to the farm, she said, “You’ve already named it!” It’s “Gracios a Dios.” Over the years a community grew up around that farm and it took the name. The farm is now gone, but the community and name remain.

Missionary Maximo made his first visit to the community several months ago. He discovered that there was no church in the community, but that people were open to his visit and the message he brought. He began making regular visits to the community going from home to home sharing a little of who he was and the “Good News” that he brought. Homes opened to his visits; People responded to his message. Soon, one family invited him to use their yard and shade trees as a place for people to gather for study and worship.

On the day that I visited the community, over 30 adults gathered under the large shade tree. Missionary Maximo led them in Bible Study on John chapter 3, the story of Jesus and Nicodemus. Assisting him was Pastor Henry, the new graduate pastor now serving the two congregations that Missionary Maximo had formerly served. Together they shared the message of God’s grace and love for Nicodemus and for the world. They heard how “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son. . . .”

Under another shade tree in that yard were some 25 children gathered around Deaconesses Jyrll, Maximo’s wife and Deaconess Anna. Using a flannel board and felt characters, they were also telling another Gospel story. After the lesson, the Deaconesses joined with the children in play and then returned to review the story and have a Bible quiz and win little prizes.

Sitting under that shade tree with its large branches, I was reminded of the story of Zaccheus and the words of Jesus, “Zaccheus, come down for I must stay at your house today.” Given the chance to speak, I told that story and how Jesus wanted to stay in their homes too. It didn’t matter who they were or what kind of a mess their house or their life might be in.  Jesus still wanted to stay. And you, dear reader, know the reason why? Because “God so loved the world. . . .” Give thanks to God for “Gracios a Dios” and remember these dear people and our missionaries in your prayers!

President Bugbee reports from Korea

August 27, 2009

After a 13-hour flight from Chicago, Gail and I arrived safely in Seoul, Korea, on Tuesday afternoon. It took two hours to drive around the edges of this city of 10 million to arrive at the hotel which is hosting this 23rd World Conference of the International Lutheran Council.

Surprisingly enough, we were met at the airport by Michael Choi, a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Moncton, New Brunswick, who is here on holidays visiting loved ones in Korea! He and his pastor drove us to our accomodations to spare us a long bus ride.

The days are filled with business, Bible study, and getting to know the Korean Church. We visited Luther University and Seminary yesterday. Despite its small size, the Korean Church has published Bible studies which have been used by nearly a half-million of their fellow citizens. And the university touches the lives of many people far beyond the church’s modest membership.

Our topic studies are arranged around the theme “In Christ: Living Life to the Full.” I will serve as a Bible study leader on the final day of the conference. This coming Sunday we will be attending the services of one of our sister congregations in the Seoul area, which is hosting us at a special dinner afterward.

It’s the end of the rainy season, which means hot and humid here in Korea! Thank the Lord for air conditioning. Also had a wonderful luncheon with President and Mrs. Mike Semmler of the Lutheran Church in Australia, who are good friends of President and Mrs. Ralph Mayan, and who send their greetings to our Synod and their friends in Canada.

If I can get some more time on this coin-operated public computer, I’ll try to check in with you again sometime later in the week.

From Yongin, Korea…

Gail and Robert Bugbee

New Workers for the Kingdom

March 30, 2009
Consecration of Nahima Cabrera

Consecration of Nahima Cabrera

Ordination of Pastor Immer Montoya Ballesteros
Ordination of Pastor Immer Montoya Ballesteros
New Class of Pastors and Deaconesses
New Class of Pastors and Deaconesses

Sounds of thanksgiving to God flowed from Martin Luther Chapel as the pastors and deaconesses of Iglesia Luterana Sinodo de Nicaragua together with family and friends celebrated the graduation of 5 pastoral and 9 deaconal students from “Seminario Teologico Reforma Luterana (Theological Seminary of the Lutheran Reformation). This was the third seminary program held by the Mission in Nicaragua. But this class was unique. Three of the students did not come from the mission and churches of Nicaragua. Three (two pastoral and one deaconal) came from the Lutheran Church of Panama.

Following the graduation rite and sermon, President Luis conducted the rites of consecration and ordination. The eight deaconesses who had each received  a call to serve in her home congregation were consecrated and the three pastoral candidates also receiving calls were ordained. Linda Mayan, on behalf of LWML-Canada, presented each deaconess with a cross and I had the privilege of presenting pectoral crosses to the three pastoral candidates. Stoles that had been handcrafted in Nicaragua were placed upon the three pastoral candidates by Dr. Roger Humann. Letters from President Bugbee (LCC), from Milton Castillo Arosamena, the president of the Lutheran Church of Panama, and Mrs Judy Grande, LWML-Canada were also read. The graduates from the Lutheran Church in Panama were not ordained or consecrated at this event. They will be received their own church and in a service of celebration in Panama will be ordained and consecrated for service. Each of the graduates however was presented with the appropriate cross in anticipation of this special event.

The Nicaragua theological program held in co-operation with Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St Catharines, was coordinated by Dr. Roger Humann. During this past theological program, some 15 different professors and pastors including one deaconess were involved in preparing these gifts of God for the church. The church thanks them as she gives thanks to God for the services of Dr. Humann and our seminary partner, CLTS. A word of thanks is also expressed to the Marvin Schwan Foundation for their financial support of the program.

Guests at this years graduation were Dr. Roger Humann from Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, Mr. Eric Burgdorf from the Schwan Foundation and Dr. Jorge Groh, the Regional Director for Latin America of LCMS World Mission. We pray God’s blessing upon these new workers in the kingdom. May He strengthen them with the “grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

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