United in the Mission of the Church
Meet three of the Synod’s missionaries who are serving in the Czech Republic, Papua New Guinea and Kenya.
Bullet trains or bicycles. High-rise apartments or humble cinderblock houses. Fried rice or fufu. The daily lives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) 100-plus missionaries vary greatly, depending on their locations and roles. As they spread the Gospel, plant churches and show mercy, they walk and live alongside the people they serve. It’s not easy; adapting to a new culture and language can be challenging, confusing and lonely.
But by God’s grace, there are also moments of great joy. No matter where they live or what they eat, the Synod’s missionaries are united in the one mission of the church: to make known the love of Christ.
Read on to meet three dedicated missionaries and get a glimpse into their day-to-day lives.
Benjamin Helge, Havířov-Šumbark, Czech Republic
Benjamin Helge has been serving with the LCMS since 2013. His role has expanded over the years, and he now coordinates all the GEO missionaries serving in Eurasia, while also teaching English in local public schools and leading weekly mission clubs in both the English and Czech languages. During the summer months, Helge helps organize English Bible camps in the Czech Republic and Poland.
Each day provides unique and varying opportunities. It’s 5:30 a.m. This morning, my alarm echoes throughout the apartment building. Devotions with coffee — always coffee — and a hearty breakfast. I’m out the door by 6:20 for a morning prayer group in our basement clubroom where mission activities and Sunday service happen in the community of Havířov-Šumbark. Conversations with a few students follow this prayer time, as others leave for work or school.
An hour later, a new group arrives. This time it’s retirees coming to learn English basics, which is a way to further connect with the community. After singing 123s and ABCs, I assign homework and we chat for a bit (many times about God). Then I head home for an hour to write emails and prep for English Talk Group, an English conversation and Gospel sharing gathering for high school students every Wednesday night.
This week, I meet a friend for lunch: soup, meat, sauce and dumplings. I zip over to a Polish (but still in the Czech Republic) elementary/middle school for an afternoon lesson. On the way back through Havířov (population of 75,000), I pick up Daniel, a 15-year-old, new Lutheran who’s also now my godson. We talk, maybe read the Small Catechism, open Scripture and have some more coffee.
Then it’s time for a powernap and an espresso. In the evening, I am back in the same basement clubroom for a Lutheran church plant meeting and time of prayer with the Czech team. Upon returning home, I am grateful for the multitude of opportunities God provides each day to meet people where they are and to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. This day, as every day, is His.Benjamin Helge
Britt Odemba, Nairobi, Kenya
Britt Odemba has served the LCMS as an educational consultant to Kenya since 2012. In this position, she oversees Christ’s Care for Children: Kenya, a sponsorship program of the LCMS that works in conjunction with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya’s Project 24 boarding facility program for children in need. Odemba also previously helped restore Karama Academy, a Lutheran school in the largest slum in Africa.
I always start my day with my little family, as my husband and I eat breakfast with our 2-year-old and 4-year-old. We pile into the car and drive through Kibera slum to go to my mother-in-law’s house, which is on the other side of the slum. On the way, we pass school children in their uniforms, adults waiting to catch public transportation, and vendors selling chapatis or mandazis (Kenyan breads and pastries) to the people walking by.
After dropping the kids off, I stop by Karama Academy in Kibera to meet with the head teacher and to go into each classroom to pass my greetings to the students and teachers (a Kenyan tradition). I spend some one-on-one time with each staff member before heading out to the East Africa Field Office outside of Nairobi city. In the office, I check for any emails from the site managers or the director of our Project 24 program. I also spend time updating the database for our child sponsorship program, Christ’s Care for Children: Kenya, and send any of their letters back to my counterpart in the Synod office.
In the afternoon, I may sit in on a meeting or two and then write thank-you notes or other correspondence to my supporters back in the states. After a full day, I sit in Nairobi traffic and am rewarded with a cup of chai and quality time with my family when I finally arrive back at my mother-in-law’s house.
Here in Kenya, missionary life is about relationships. To an American, it may seem like we are wasting time. But here, it is important to spend time with people and build relationships. Passing greetings to people and sitting down with one another for fellowship is when the Gospel is shared. That’s why it is such an important part of my day — both with the staff and my own family. I have learned a lot from this culture and have embraced these wonderful moments as mission moments.Britt Odemba
Julie Lutz, Mambisanda, Papua New Guinea
Julie Lutz serves as mission service coordinator in Papua New Guinea, where she works to strengthen and support the ministry and service of those in the Synod’s partner church, the Gutnius Lutheran Church, and the LCMS mission team. Lutz has been serving with the LCMS in Papua New Guinea since 1986.
Missionary service in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a ragged, rough and bold calling — a calling only possible because of the grace of God. While many missionaries do go to the unreached, work still remains here to help the nascent church rise to meet the challenge of a soaring youth population. We work with faithful families, pastors, Sunday school teachers and Lutheran schools to help strengthen our partners in Christ in this monumental task.
A “typical” day — and I chuckle to think there could be a typical day — begins with the screeching of hundreds of Rainbow Lorikeets roosting in the eucalyptus tree outside my house on the grounds of Immanuel Lutheran Hospital. Breakfast and quiet devotional time might conclude before the first knock at the door, but likely not. The flow at the door is sporadic but ongoing: workmen getting their orders for the day, patients from distant areas who need attention, students who have questions, pastors seeking encouragement. It is all expected in a culture where relationships are paramount.
Around the knocks, I carry out the day’s office work. My office is in our house. My son Anton, who is also an LCMS missionary, has an office and workshop in our home as well, though he is frequently engaged in ministry away from home. I have a variety of projects to work on. Some are administrative tasks for our mission team, the LCMS and the PNG government. Other tasks are more focused on preparing ministry resources.
Missionaries are still needed here in this “Christian” country. In many parts of Papua New Guinea, superstitions about sorcerers and witches who magically kill others are driving extreme violence against accused men, women and children. Under God’s protection we have begun to respond, but more needs to be done. It’s a privilege to be part of the effort to prepare media and print resources, workshops, and Bible studies to combat false belief and strengthen faith in our Almighty God.Julie Lutz
- About missionary Benjamin Helge.
- About missionary Britt Odemba.
- About missionary Julie Lutz.
- About the Synod’s other missionaries.
Pray with Us
Heavenly Father, You sent Your Son into our flesh that we might receive Your love and mercy. Be with those whom You have sent through Your church to foreign lands. Bless their work, that Your Kingdom might come to the people they serve, according to Your gracious will. We thank You for those who have served many years and ask Your continued blessing, protection and strength to be upon them as long as You call them to witness to the love of Jesus Christ. In His name we ask this. Amen.
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Megan K. Mertz
Managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World and chief copy editor for LCMS Communications.