The president of the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States stepped to the microphone for his opening convention address in 1917. World War I raged. The globe was on the brink of a flu pandemic that would claim 50 million lives. Rev. Dr. Friedrich Pfotenhauer needed to set a tone for the Synod during the most challenging time since its founding.
What did he say? Did he argue with a nation that was pummeling the Synod with anti-German rancor? Did he counsel convention-goers to be self-protective and inwardly focused against a hostile culture? Quite the opposite. That day in Milwaukee, Pfotenhauer reaffirmed the heart of God’s people and His Church:
“Our Synod meets this year under very extraordinary conditions. In the world a terrible war is raging, in which nearly all the nations of the earth are engaged, so that streams of blood are flowing daily, and thousands, yea, millions, of human beings are being cut down by the sword, or by famine and pestilence.
Although we are living in such troublous times, and all happenings are pointing to the end of the world, yet we Christians may not become slothful or discouraged, but we must lift up our heads and be active.
Lest we think that it would be useless for us at this convention to plan for the extension of Christ’s kingdom, the Lord tells us that even during war and rumors of war, during famine and pestilence, the Gospel is to have free course and is to be preached.” Pfotenhauer emphasized: “The signs of the times should urge us to labor incessantly and with all our powers” (Proceedings, CPH, 1917, 3-4, emphasis added).
All our powers. Like ours, theirs was a generation that needed Jesus and His Word of life.
Among the bold ministry efforts of that age, women stepped up. Women’s groups from around the Synod provided essentials for war-ravaged Europe. They rallied together during those tenuous war and pandemic years to increase mission efforts in India, providing missionary families with a mountain retreat for refreshment and recreation.
Those women’s mission groups around the Synod were precursors to the formation of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League in 1942. As the LWML pledge states, “We consecrate…every power of our life to the great task of bringing the lost and erring into eternal fellowship with [our Savior].” Every power.
This pandemic year, the Texas LWML voted to provide over $200,000 in mission grants to a dozen worthy ministries. They adapted quickly to hold an inspiring, effective, and collaborative online convention. During one of the most challenging times in recent history, having the heart and passion to reach a broken world with Jesus, Lutheran Women in Mission labored with every power. By God’s grace, this is who we are and what we do as Christians and as Lutherans.
By Rev. Michael Newman
President, LCMS Texas District
Questions for reflection:
How do President Pfotenhauer’s words and the LWML’s actions inspire you and your church in mission—even during these challenging times?
Read Matthew 24:14. What mandate does Jesus give His people as we await His second coming?
Prayer starter: Read 2 Timothy 1:7 and ask God to replace your fear with His Spirit.