The LCMS sends short-term volunteers around the world to assist with mission outreach. The volunteers are sent in response to requests from missionaries or local churches to fill a need.
Here are a few stories of how these volunteers made an impact.
Mercy Medical Teams
Volunteer participants on Mercy Medical Teams staff primary medical care clinics in under-served parts of the world in partnership with local church bodies.
Volunteers include primary care providers, nurses, other medical professionals, and hard-working lay people.
Two participants on a Mercy Medical Team in Madagascar in July 2017 put their medical training into action to change a family’s life.
Emma Simonson explains the situation:
“We were able to provide a family with a gait belt to help their son, Patrick, walk,” Simonson said. “My educated guess would be that Patrick, who is 14, has cerebral palsy.
“At times he has difficulty walking, and his family has to help pull him along by his clothes. The gait belt, worn around his hips, will allow family members to more easily aid him. It was exciting to put what I’ve learned in the classroom into action.”
Laura Porath explains more about the impact this had.
“Once our message was translated and interpreted across the language barrier, Patrick’s mother looked at us and immediately started crying,” Porath said. “… She was so surprised and thankful someone was showing an interest in her son because no one had ever done that before. … I am humbled by how such a small gesture could have such a large impact on this family.
“I will never forget Patrick and his mother. I thank God for allowing me to meet them as it rekindled my passion of working with people with disabilities.”
Gabrielle Bahr, a nursing student from Missouri, reflects on the impact volunteering on a Mercy Medical Team in Tanzania had on her.
“My goal is to work in the emergency department after I graduate before going on to get my emergency nurse practitioner degree, focusing on preventing (post-traumatic stress disorder) in the ER,” Bahr said. “Eventually, I would love to translate this work over to working in the field of disaster relief, refugee camps, and battlefronts.
“My trip to Tanzania has provided me with the ground work to grow comfortable traveling internationally and to learn to overcome barriers such as culture, language, and healthcare beliefs.”
Seven Mercy Medical Teams are planned for 2018. About 60 volunteers from the U.S. will join volunteers from partner churches in hosting 35 days of clinic that will provide medical care for more than 10,000 people as well as sharing the Gospel with them.
English Bible Camps in Poland
For the last 10 years, the LCMS has been sending volunteer teams to Poland to help host English Bible Camps.
This grass-roots partnership supports the work of the local Lutheran church by providing opportunities to connect with families in their community.
Rev. Jim Butler led a team serving in Konin, Poland, in August 2017.
“On Tuesday, one of the moms came in to talk to Ewa, the pastor’s wife,” Rev. Butler recalled. “On Monday, her son did not want to come to camp. He complained that his mom had ruined his summer.
“He came home raving about his day; he couldn’t wait to return. He told her that he didn’t care about any other summer camp, but he wanted to come to the English Bible Camp again next year.”
Stacey McIntyre, team leader in Brenna, Poland, had a similar experience.
“The older boys at camp often acted disinterested or ‘too cool’ to participate in music or group activities,” McIntyre said. “However, every single one of them attended camp every day. In fact, one of the ones who complained the most had an allergic reaction and had to leave early one day. He told the pastor to let me know that he would be back the next day.”
Over 40 volunteers are currently working to prepare to lead English Bible Camps in Poland in 2018.
Their work will share the Gospel as well as encourage members of the small Lutheran churches in Poland.
Agricultural work in Malawi
In February, Delano and Linda Meyer and Jacque Breman traveled to Malawi, Africa, to teach agricultural classes to the people there.
Rev. Davis Wowa of the Confessional Lutheran Church—Malawi Synod shared feedback on their work and how it impacted the local church.
“First and foremost I would like to thank the committee for coming up with this very important idea,” Rev. Wowa said. “Frankly speaking, the couple, Delano and Linda Meyer, showed us three very important things in the country — they had shown us that they are people of three worlds; they are the economists, Biblical expositors and farmers.
“Their presentation of lessons were of great enthusiasm to all who were attending their lessons personally did not identify any weakness as so my fellow members. They proved to be very hard working and zeal for the work.
“They contributed a lot to the missionary field in that people learned new ways of farming, learned the Christian way of living and also the budget lessons taught them much so as to use the resources they have to meet their daily livelihood.
“If they could have enough time with their lessons it would be very helpful. People were very excited for the first time and when it comes to have lesson penetration, the time is gone. Know that teaching was started at 10 a.m. till 16:30 p.m. So according to perception and indeed all who attended say that time was too short.”
About Jacque, Rev. Wowa wrote:
“The strength lies on the way he had been working in the country among people from different tribes, culture and faiths. … He is a good Bible narrator, able to explain, analyse, and apply the Bible truths.”
Partner churches in East Africa continue to request this type of short-term agricultural teaching. This allows them to strengthen their community and provide opportunity to share the Gospel with their neighbors.
We thank God for all our volunteers.
There are many more stories to tell: those who taught English in Hong Kong, theologians who taught in partner seminaries, teams that assisted with construction, pastors who served vacancies at international congregations, and many, many more.
By partnering with long-term missionaries and local churches, volunteers shared the good news that Jesus is our Savior.
Anne Gonzalez serves in the Office of International Mission as Manager of Short-Term Training and Engagement.