National Lutheran News

ELCA experiencing growth in the number of long-term active mission personnel

The Rev. Tessa Moon Leiseth, her husband, Jon, and their two children will soon call Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, home for the next four years. Leiseth is among 15 new missionaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) beginning service in July.

The ELCA is one of the few mainline denominations that fully supports its long-term mission personnel. Every year, 225 ELCA mission personnel serve in more than 40 countries, working hand-in-hand with global neighbors teaching, preaching, healing, peacemaking, building, and growing communities. Of the 225, some are self-funded volunteers and others are serving a two-year commitment.

As the Leiseth family eagerly awaits its new journey, they acknowledge that it will be hard to leave family and friends, and, particularly, their home in Moorhead, Minnesota.

Even so, a clear and compelling call drives them forward, she said. “That is the rock and anchor we hold onto as we navigate this. We don’t know what it means, we don’t know what it will be like, and we cannot even imagine the ways in which this experience will transform who we are. Yet we know this is what we are being called into.”

Supporting missionaries

Financial support for missionaries is made possible through the generosity of congregations, individual members, and others.

“The ELCA Missionary Sponsorship program is an excellent way to make a direct connection between the hearts of our people and the ministry of ELCA missionaries around the globe. Together, God’s work is truly happening through our hands,” said the Rev. Lanny Westphal, who directs missionary sponsorship at ELCA churchwide ministries.

“Support for missionaries is more urgent now than ever before,” said the Rev. Twila Schock, a former missionary and former director for missionary sponsorship. Schock is senior pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Belvidere, Illinois.

“Our church has not wavered in its commitment to supporting our missionaries,” despite some economic setbacks, said Schock, adding that the ELCA is experiencing a resurgence in the number of fundable long-term missionaries.

Long-term service positions are carefully developed with the priorities of ELCA global companion churches, according to the Rev. Stephen Nelson, ELCA global specialist. “Our global companions request ELCA personnel to fill positions identified as critical needs.”

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