Mexico Missionary Meets Parish Pastor
For the Rev. Andrew Schlund, life on the mission field isn’t much different from life in the parish.
When someone mentions the word “missionary,” what images come to mind? For most people, it’s visions of remote tribes, unusual food and Bible studies in a grass hut. For the Rev. Andrew Schlund, LCMS missionary to Mexico, life in the mission field couldn’t be further from that clichéd imagery.
Instead, the missionary life is filled with council meetings, potlucks and the Divine Service.
With a twist, of course.
Since 2016, Schlund has served as pastor of El Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd) Lutheran Church in Mexico City. As a career missionary, Schlund will likely serve this small parish for at least five years, or perhaps longer, until one of the Mexican seminarians is ready to be ordained.
“My mission work here in Mexico was originally to serve as a theological educator, and that’s still a great part of my work here, but it’s also become serving the congregation of Buen Pastor, a congregation that has been around for about 70 years,” Schlund explained. “It was originally an English-speaking congregation but now it has a bilingual ministry that tries to reach out to expats of the United States, but also has a good Spanish ministry too. They like to emphasize good doctrine and reaching out into the community to serve people and their needs.”
The Mission in Mexico
Schlund is one of only two LCMS missionaries serving in the whole country of Mexico, which is quite a privilege and responsibility considering that the population in Mexico City alone is more than 25 million people.
Together with the Rev. Daniel Conrad, another career missionary in Mexico, Schlund helps to affirm a Lutheran presence in the city while Conrad provides assistance in sending out workers to share the Gospel. Conrad also serves as interim pastor to a local congregation in Mexico City: San Pedro Lutheran Church.
“I would say that [Conrad] is the lead missionary when it comes to the mission work in Mexico,” said Schlund. “He has a number of years of experience, and he’s in charge of theological education. We have weekly meetings on Wednesdays to discuss the work at our respective churches.”
Weekly meetings of pastors — it almost sounds like the circuit meetings pastors attend on the northern side the border.
There are dozens of other similarities between Schlund’s work in Mexico and that of a “typical” parish pastor in the states: budgets, issues within the membership, visitation, feeding and teaching the people, and catechizing, to name a few.
“We have a worship service every Sunday at 10:30 in a sanctuary that looks like many I have attended in the United States,” Schlund explained. “All of our people are in need of the grace and forgiveness given by Jesus Christ.
“Currently it takes me a couple days to complete my sermon in both English and in Spanish and so that takes up most of my time,” he added. “I also have two confirmation classes, one for two adult Spanish speakers and the other for the son of an expat family. I am also working on learning more Spanish, as well as preparing the service for the coming Sunday. We also have an adult confirmation class about the basics of the Lutheran faith.”
Watch a video about the Rev. Daniel Conrad and his work in Mexico City.
Of course, not every aspect of parish life is typical for Schlund, and he still has particular challenges to overcome, just like any other missionary sent to a foreign locale — especially considering that he is still in his first year of serving as a pastor in the Lord’s Church.
“I am a pastor fresh out of the seminary — this has made things more challenging for me,” he said. “I am serving a congregation, mostly in Spanish, and I do not have the experience that most pastors have. The language barrier has made it difficult to understand what is happening. There are times when I think I know what’s going on and then something happens that proves I did not understand the situation. There are just certain cultural differences that I can’t put into words yet, but they certainly make life different here.”
Not all differences are so bad, of course. “The potlucks are more delicious here — sorry, congregations in the states!” he added. “It’s hard to beat authentic Mexican food, in my opinion.”
Watch a video about the Rev. Andrew Schlund and his life as a missionary in the parish.
Un Buen Amigo
Thankfully, Schlund has found an ally in the congregation, a well-catechized parishioner named Alejandro Arevalo, who now serves the parish by leading a Bible study and assisting wherever he’s needed.
“Alejandro has been a key part of my adjustment to serving at Buen Pastor,” Schlund said. “He also serves as my assistant during worship, and he makes the bulletins. After church, our family and several other members pile into his minivan, dubbed the ‘Lutheran mobile,’ and Alejandro and his family give us rides home.”
Schlund’s family — his wife, Kelsey, and daughter, Charlotte — also have enjoyed the adjustment to life in Mexico City, despite the occasional challenge.
“Overall, we really enjoy living in the city,” Kelsey Schlund said. “There’s lots of parks and delicious restaurants near where we live. Mexico City has many fascinating cultural and historic sites. Going out and exploring new places is fun for us, and it gives us many opportunities to practice our Spanish.
“Apart from learning the language, the biggest challenge has been figuring out how to use public transportation,” she added. “This makes simple things, like running errands, more complicated. The traffic here can be horrible, so we need to strategically plan when we’re going out so we avoid the major rush hours.”
Andrew Schlund agrees that transportation is quite the challenge on this particular mission field. “It’s been interesting trying to adjust to life without a car. However, we have found it easier to live without it. Uber has been our best friend.”
As is standard anywhere in the world, children are often better than adults at overcoming challenges and learning new ways of life.
“Charlotte’s adjusted well to life here,” Kelsey Schlund said. “She loves walking around the city and visiting new places. She’s picked up on some cultural norms, like kissing people on the cheek when they say hello and goodbye, and she’s learning some Spanish words. She’ll probably learn Spanish faster than we will!”
Similar to the experience of other parish pastors, the joys of the ministry — whether one is serving as a career missionary in Mexico City or as a sole pastor in rural Nebraska — are bountiful and always rooted in God’s Word.
One of my greatest joys is learning about the passion that the members of this church have for this congregation. The Rev. Andrew Schlund
“One of my greatest joys is learning about the passion that the members of this church have for this congregation,” Andrew Schlund said. “I would like this parish to be focused on God’s Word, focused on His Sacraments, because I firmly believe that, from that, people reach out to one another, people gather other people into His Church, and we can be a place that is loving, caring, a place centered on Jesus and what He has done for us, focused on His work in the world, and gathering all nations to Himself. So I’d very much like it to be a place about the Gospel, and that’s my main goal.”
Spoken like a true parish pastor.
Pray with Us
You once confused the people’s language, O Lord, and also united all tongues at Pentecost to proclaim the Gospel. Bless missionaries who proclaim Your Word in foreign countries and tongues. Continue to sustain, strengthen and give wisdom to Pastor Schlund and those who serve You in Mexico City. May the Gospel continue to lead the work done there and bear fruit among those who hear. Grant endurance and good cheer to Pastor Schlund and his family as they continue to learn and adjust to life in Mexico City. May their joy and comfort in the Gospel keep them each day and strengthen them for the work ahead. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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