Dr. Steven Schave shares news on vital mission work by the Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots (LAMP) in Northern Canada throughout the past few years of the pandemic. For most mission organizations, there were high hopes—first in 2021 and then again at the start of 2022—that the amount of mission work would return to pre-COVID levels. For example, the ministry I serve with works in over 50 communities in Northern Canada. But beyond bringing much-needed supplies to the edge of a village or reserve, we only had one in-country team in 2021 that did a standard VBS such as we have done for over 50 years now. With a wait-and-see approach, only going to those places given the “green light,” we will most likely fall short of our maximum potential again this year.
We Press On
What does this mean? We certainly recall that Jesus commands us to make disciples of all nations through cross-cultural teaching ministries like ours, connected to Word and Sacrament ministry. And He says that we will be His witnesses to the ends of the earth, which we try to do by flying our planes into the far reaches of North America. Jesus says these things as He is about to ascend to heaven, but what of us who are being sent into the world to teach and to witness? It would be easy to think there must be something contextual about these commissions given to His disciples. What about this global pandemic? What about our grounded planes? What about our teams, unable to travel? What about this hostile post-Christian era when so many want to stop us from sharing Christian doctrine? Churches are shrinking. People are divided. What about that?
Does Jesus allow for a pause? Can we put His mission work on hold because it just doesn’t seem feasible? When Jesus told His disciples that they would be His witnesses, He knew exactly what was to become of the Christian Church upon His ascent. He knew the persecution and martyrdom that awaited them. He knew everything that would plague them, just as He knew what modern Christians would face today. But there was no pause. No simple button was mentioned for putting His mission to reach the lost on hold for less trying times. He makes no promises that there won’t be a cross to bear. There will be suffering. There may even be death. He promises instead that He will be with us to the end of the age. This. This is all that we need to carry on. If God is for us, then who can be against us?
We’ve Weathered Worse
And you can take heart that we have been through this before and God has been with us. If you look at the history of missions for the LCMS, whether it was the Spanish flu, the Great Depression, World War I or II, or any other national calamity—the LCMS may have had to make adjustments or carry out the mission with fewer resources, but the mission never ceased. To every language, tribe, and people. So much so that Lutheran evangelism and church planting made the cover of Time magazine for the influence it was having on our society in the 1950s. (See 1958’s April issue for the essay “The New Lutheran”). Mission work took on new forms through the use of technology and the radio, but the message was being broadcast to the ends of the earth.
So, too, in these dark and latter days, perhaps as the last laborers in the harvest fields before the Lord of the harvest returns, we will continue to find ways to be witnesses to all nations and to the ends of the earth. No doubt during the pandemic, we were very sensitive regarding the safety of indigenous communities, as there has been a history of diseases introduced by visitors that had a devastating effect on the population. Just as old wounds were being reopened recently with news of abuse and death in residential schools, where children were forced to attend after being separated from their families and communities, this required us to seek ways to stay connected, to bring healing and reconciliation from afar, while at the same time bearing witness to those who already struggled in isolated remote communities. The mission continues.
This I do know: for as long as there is a lost coin, the mission is crystal clear. In the parable of the lost coin, we see the seemingly extravagant lengths taken to find the coin. Into the wee hours of the night, into the dark corners of the room, into the remote spots where nasty cobwebs start to form, there is no pause in sweeping until that one precious lost coin has been found. And when it is found, what a celebration! God bless our efforts to look well into the night, sweeping far and wide, until every lost coin is found, sharing in the heavenly celebration of God’s amazing grace.
Learn about the incredible mission of the Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots below!