From the Field – German and English Exploratory Outreach – Manitoba – July 14, ’17

Written by | July, 2017
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The CLC has services in Canada in British Columbia and Alberta. Pastor E. Starkey and D. Maas have made trips to Manitoba in the past. Most recently Pastor T. Daub has gone across the border to do exploratory work in both English and German. Here is his most recent (June) report of the basic leg work that is necessary to reach out.

“The last time I was in Manitoba, I had made contact at a state-run nursing home about a German service for their residents. The last month, I have been communicating with the Bethesda Place activities directors. We had scheduled for me to hold a German Lutheran service Fri Jun 23 in the morning. He wanted to meet me and observe the service, since we had only communicated by e-mail. He also contacted references in order to give me access. He understood though that he would not be participating in the service and that this German Lutheran service was distinct from a daily English devotion he does with some residents.

I brought my entire family along on this trip (Thurs – Sat) for my wife to see the area and to make a family vacation of it. I printed out 100 copies of Pastor Fleischer’s “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word” pamphlet on confessional Lutheranism with my contact information on the front. I also printed out 30 copies of “Was Ist ein Lutheraner?” and “Was Sagt die Bible ueber die Kirche zu Gehen?” from the website.

The first town we encounter as we cross the border is Tolstoi, MB, which has buildings in Cyrillic lettering, an old Ukrainian community. We stopped at a garage sale in Tolstoi and visited with the homeowner. She informed us that both Catholic churches (Ukrainian and English) were active although it was unclear that they had weekly services. She did not indicate she attended either but that she went to their social functions. She was happy that we were doing mission work in the area and gave us a bouquet of flowers from her garden for us to take to the nursing home service. She took my canvassing materials to read.

We explored the town of Grunthal on the way to Steinbach. It is mostly a Mennonite settlement.

Upon arriving in Steinbach, we stopped at a local Doener shop my daughter and I ate at the last time we were here. The owners remembered me from my last visit. We visited some, and I left copies of my English and German canvassing materials with them.

That afternoon, I canvassed a small neighborhood, a newer group of houses on the north side of Steinbach. 20% Mennonite, over half English Canadian, others not home. I left materials at the homes with no response. The Mennonites would not take the materials. Most of the others took the English pamphlet.

That evening, we traveled to LaBroquerie to visit with David’s… family. Their two sons had a school activity and were not home. David, Rita, and my family shared a meal together followed by tea and kuchen. I discussed with David and Rita my plans for the next day. They appreciated the effort to reach out and find Lutherans in the area but were not optimistic at first that much would come of it. As we continued to discuss, though, David began to say that there were many people in the Steinbach area who had had a Lutheran background in childhood but have now wandered into other denominations they are not happy with. The only “Lutheran” options in Steinbach are the ELCiC church (extremely liberal) and the Bruedergemeinde …

David still attends a Bruedergemeinde congregation. He says he appreciates the 19th century sermons that are read and the chorales that are sung but that he does not agree with the doctrine of the others in the congregation. I told him as on every visit that this is not a God-pleasing situation he is in. He must avoid those who teach differently.

As we discussed the service in Steinbach more, I could see that he began to realize I was serious about doing mission work in the area. He began to become excited and suggested I invite other people to attend, about to call some on the phone about it that evening. I told him that was my intent for the future, but as I was unsure about the service location, the openness of the nursing home staff, and the expectations of their chaplain, I was not inviting others at this time. This is the first step. After assessing how the service goes and verifying that it is not a confusing context in terms of fellowship, I would begin encouraging others to attend. David said he would have attended the next day if it had not been for work.

I said that I could conduct the service that evening in his home since he could not come, and he agreed.

While finishing kuchen, he gave me three names of people in Steinbach to visit who he was convinced would have interest in a confessional Lutheran service. I told him I would reach out to them when I got back to the US (limited cell service and agenda this trip) to arrange visits for next time.

David showed me some of the Luther materials he is studying at home and asked me to find some references on the centrality of the forgiveness of sins in Luther’s theology. He finds that this doctrinal confusion within the Bruedergemeinde is as common as chiliasm. They go hand in hand.

After kuchen, I played piano to lead the devotion from the bulletin I would use the next day and preached my prepared homily to the (family)… It was well-received, and David said he would pray for many to come.

The next morning (Friday), I arrived early to meet with the chaplain, Larry …, a half hour before the service. He had said the purpose of the meeting was to meet me personally so he felt comfortable with allowing me access to residents. That turned out to be the case, a very secular meeting. My impression is that he went through burn out as a Baptist pastor and took this secular employment. He explained that his job as chaplain under the Canadian government was more of a hospice counselor and morale booster than that of pastor. He said a resident’s pastor should be their pastor. He expressed that the German Russian residents generally do not have pastors or contact information for a church they used to attend. I explained that they most likely wouldn’t but had had some form of Lutheran background before immigrating.

I briefly explained some of the differences between the CLC and other Lutheran groups in the area. I also explained that we want to make a clear witness and not join together with those who teach differently. He respected that, said that this was my time, and that nothing else like this happens there. He reads a brief devotion in English with some residents. It is a different group that gathers for that, not a full service with music. I felt comfortable with the context that I did not give a confusing witness, but I am open to correction on this. Also, if it turns out multiple German services begin there or other factors come to light, the context will have changed, and I will have to reassess continuing. I felt comfortable with yesterday morning.

The service was held in a common area. The activities staff began helping interested residents assemble while I played Lutheran hymns on the piano. About 40 gathered. One person in attendance was a non-resident wife who came to be with her husband for the service. I gave an introduction of myself in German and then in English and conducted the service. I preached in German then preached the homily in English. There was much engagement through the sermon, and afterwards, several residents asked me to return.

… A video of the devotion is posted on my Facebook timeline.

There was positive response during the service, and as I greeted people at the end, many expressed thanks and asked me to return.

Afterward, Larry said that I was welcome to hold a similar service as often as I was in town. He would simply put it on the activities calendar, and staff would notify residents. He also said on my next trip, I could play piano and visit with residents individually as an evening activity.

I canvassed a few neighborhoods. Most apartment buildings have a buzzer system and “No Soliciting” signs explaining that no one should enter the building without an invitation. I did find one apartment building without the lock and sign, but one resident there yelled at me that no one’s allowed in an apartment building without permission. I picked up that this was a law, apologized, and quickly left. I kept to detached homes after that. I canvassed another neighborhood. No overwhelmingly positive response, but some people said they would take and read it. I could not find specific German neighborhoods though. When you visit with people downtown, you barely use English, but each of the neighborhoods I canvassed seemed to be English households. I will have to research more. It began raining, so I returned to spend the rest of the day with my family.

We explored Steinbach some more, and I posted my information on a few community billboards. We had lunch at a restaurant where Rita … works. I shared with her how the service went that morning, and she said she would report back to David.

Friday evening, we went to a German restaurant in St. Pierre Jolys. The owner remembered me and that I was a Lutheran pastor. She asked what I was back in town for and I explained about the service and visits. She said she would be interested in attending. She said she is a member of the ELCiC congregation in Steinbach but indicated she hasn’t gone in a while. I left her my canvassing materials, including the German articles.

On the way back this morning, we are going to drive through the towns of Zhoda, Vita, and Stuartburn, three towns in the area I haven’t seen yet. David says there are many German residents there.

I will report back to our elders and voters in Hecla and see what their interest is in going forward with more visits to the area. I intend to propose a service once a month or once every other month. I will also follow up with the additional names David… gave me and open a personal invitations to others.”

Let us pray that in both German and English there is response to the Word from the contacts.