Missionary Wagenknecht & Pastor JorgeWELS World Missions is announcing changes to its work in Latin America. All WELS missionaries serving in Latin America, including those who are members of the Latin American Traveling Theological Educators, will now be part of one Latin America mission team.
As Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions, explains, “The flexibility this group will have allows our missionaries to be deployed where they are needed most and to be redeployed when the assigned tasks are done. This one Latin America mission team can provide exploration of areas and contacts, church planting, an evangelism push, evangelism training, lay leader training, pre-seminary and seminary education, and whatever else can be useful and effective for each unique situation. Missionaries can be deployed for years at a time or serve a country with short visits and encouragement.”
Several factors contributed to this change in mission planning, including the growing maturity of national church leaders in WELS missions in Latin America, fluctuating security concerns in certain areas, and a reduction in missionary manpower.
Schlomer notes, “For several years WELS mission work in Latin America has covered the training and support of national workers in many different countries. Our Latin American Traveling Theological Educators have traveled to Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, and there are now 24 national pastors and seven evangelists serving in these Latin American countries. There are also 18 more seminarians who are being trained with the current program in conjunction with the national churches. These leaders form a small army of confessional, Lutheran, Hispanic ambassadors of Christ serving in local congregations and reaching out into their communities. The growth of these national churches allows them to stand on their own with occasional visits and support from WELS.”
Missionary Nate Wagenknecht, who had served as a Latin American Traveling Theological Educator, is the first called worker to be redeployed since the inception of this new strategy for serving Latin America. Wagenknecht, who had been based in Puebla, Mexico, has relocated to Houston, Texas, to help Hispanic members of WELS reach back into their home countries with the gospel. It is estimated that as many as 2,000 WELS members are immigrants from a Latin American country.
“The friends and family members of these brothers and sisters can be the starting point for mission work in many areas of the Americas that desperately need the saving truth,” says Schlomer.
Wagenknecht adds, “We want to network better with stateside Hispanic ministries and tap into the relationships our stateside members have with their family and friends back in their home country. We also want to maintain a healthy balance between outreach—sharing the gospel with new contacts—and discipleship—helping Christians mature in their faith and service in God's kingdoms.”
If you know of a contact in Latin America who needs to hear the gospel and you would like to work with the Latin America mission team to reach them, contact Wagenknecht at 1LA@wels.net.