by Rev. Jerry Kieschnick
At about age 10, I heard a missionary speak; from then on I wanted to be a missionary,” Rev. Vernon Schindler says. “I believe that the Lord put this desire in my heart to accomplish His good and for His glory.”
Called by the Synod’s mission board, Vern and his wife, Belva, went to Ghana, West Africa, in 1967 and served there for a dozen years. LCMS mission work had started in Ghana only seven years earlier.
In September, I traveled to Accra, Ghana’s busy and crowded capital city. There I saw wonderful mission and ministry being carried out by our sister church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG). The Schindlers were in Ghana during the ELCG’s infancy.
The primary reason I was in Ghana—to attend the biennial conference of the International Lutheran Council (ILC)—was a reminder of how the Holy Spirit has blessed our mission outreach over the years. Many of the churches represented at the meeting grew out of LCMS work begun years ago—as long ago as 1895, in the case of India, our first overseas mission field.
Most members of the ILC also are LCMS sister churches. A sister church is one with whom we have formally recognized full agreement in doctrine and practice and therefore have entered into altar and pulpit fellowship. We have 30 sister churches in 29 countries (see the map).
With most sister churches, we also have a formal “partner church” agreement that describes how we will work together and relate to one another.
Partner church relationships promote good stewardship. Our partners are able to continue the work we began, but unencumbered by language and culture barriers that face American missionaries overseas. At the same time, we can provide resources—often pastors and professors who provide theological education—that help our partners spread the Good News of Jesus.
Through these relationships, our congregations more readily can connect with an overseas field and assist with a wide variety of mission opportunities. This year’s Synod convention urged our congregations “in coordination with the Board for Mission Services to team with other sister and partner church congregations in praying for each other, sharing resources, communicating, and encouraging each other in the work the Lord has placed us here
That’s the bottom line—doing the work the Lord has placed us here to do, to tell others the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. May our Lord’s name be praised for giving us partners who work with us in this Gospel task!