Q&A with the Rev. Dr. Cory Rajek, Eurasia Regional Director
In March 2021, the Rev. Dr. Cory Rajek received a phone call out of the blue from the executive director of the LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM). He wanted to know if Rajek would let his name stand for a position as a missionary pastor and professor based in Riga, Latvia. “That really engaged my curiosity … and, as they say, the rest is history,” Rajek says. He and his family moved to Riga in February 2022 so that he could teach in the English-language program of the Luther Academy, the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia. On Jan. 1, 2023, Rajek took over as regional director for the Synod’s work in Eurasia when his predecessor, the Rev. James Krikava, stepped into a different role with the OIM.
What are some of the opportunities you see in the region?
A: God has and continues to open doors through our region’s largest and most audacious mission project, the Luther Academy in Riga. Through this seminary, we have the opportunity to train confessional Lutheran pastors who will plant churches and proclaim the Gospel in places too dangerous for westerners. Additionally, our hard-working missionaries are pointing people to the place where God is at work, through Word and Sacrament ministry. We are seeing new churches spring up in Nepal, Greece, Romania, Italy, Israel and many other countries. People in areas where we are not present are now coming to us because they see the LCMS as a church faithful to God’s Word.
How is the Luther Academy helping to spread the Gospel?
A: The neat thing about Luther Academy is that it is not limited to our region. We have students from several countries in Africa and Asia attending our program. Every year, these students attend our in-person intensive studies. … We have a finite number of missionaries. Yet, though the academy and its use of technology, we are able to train Lutheran pastors who will then share the Gospel with the local people in their native language.
What do you like about living in Riga?
A: Many people don’t realize what Riga (and Latvia, for that matter) has to offer. I suspect that’s because it was hidden from the West by the former Soviet Union. I am amazed at the history of that area. For example, in 1522, the Latvians declared their adherence to the teachings of the Reformation. That’s only five years after Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. And I haven’t even begun to tell you about the Latvian people, especially the Latvian Lutherans who have been so welcoming to us.
Is there a Bible verse that has been meaningful to you during your time as a missionary?
A: The first one that pops into my mind is Revelation 2:10, which says, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” And there’s Romans 8:38–39: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The first verse reminds me that God doesn’t call us to be successful but faithful. And the second reminds me that no matter where I go and what I do, God’s love in Christ is always there.
What advice do you have for someone who’s interested in becoming a missionary?
A: The first thing is to pray. Ask God for guidance and discernment. The second thing is to talk to your spouse, your pastor and someone like Dr. Mark Rabe who works as a recruiter for the OIM. Dr. Rabe will guide you through the process. The OIM does a great job caring for their missionaries and preparing them for the field. Check out international.lcms.org to find out about the mission work the Synod is doing.
• About LCMS missionary Rev. Dr. Cory Rajek
• About mission work in the Eurasia region
• About the Riga Luther Academy
Megan K. Mertz
Managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World and chief copy editor for LCMS Communications.