EARLIEST HOME MISSION WORK
Our history of home missions has ties back to the first pastors arriving from Europe as our nation expanded into a new frontier. The earliest home mission work is very well summarized in the synodical history book Built on the Rock.
Pastors such as H.A. Preus, J. A. Ottesen, and U.V. Koren, were typical of the synod’s home missionaries. Many of them covered so extensive a territory that, as time passed and as new pastors arrived to share in the work, their labors resulted in sometimes a dozen, two dozen congregations being formed in the area they first served alone. It meant travelling on horseback or on foot. Wading across rivers. Slogging through swamps. Sweating under the hot sun. Feeling cold, biting winds down to their very bones. Trudging through rain and snow. (Built on the Rock, page 9, 1992, Evangelical Lutheran Synod)
The average pastor in the mid-1850s received a $400.00-per-year salary and many on the frontier lived in simple one-room cabins. To be sure, members of their congregations also provided much of the food and firewood needed to care for the pastors’ families.
SNAPSHOTS IN HISTORY
After the reorganization in 1918 at the second synod convention, a Home Mission Board was elected. Soon after the reorganization, there were missions on the East and West coasts. Twenty-five years later (1943), the synod received $83,000.00 from its sixty-five member congregations. The prior year (1942), the Home Mission Board reported the subsidy support of twenty-one congregations costing $7,140.00 and salaries for seven missionaries totaling $9,000.00. We jump ahead another twenty-five years to 1968 and we find eighty-eight congregations with a synodical budget of $155,000.00. The Home Mission Board budget for that year was $29,240.00. Ten congregations were receiving Home Mission Board support to varying degrees.
HOME MISSION WORK TODAY
We have seen that from the earliest missions through the snapshots in history that the cost of doing mission work has been on the rise. That trend has not changed. In 2015, the ELS had one hundred and thirty-one congregations and our synodical giving was reported at $743,652.77. The Board for Home Outreach (BHO) supported one exploratory mission, three home missions, and two congregations at a cost of $283,000.00. In 2016, the BHO will be working with two of our home missions involved in building projects, and one of our home missions will be buying a plot of land in 2017. The need for monetary support is great and will continue to grow.
As heirs of the Reformation and heirs of our early ELS missionary fathers, we have a great opportunity to take our ELS’s Home Missions well into the next 100 years. How? By generously supporting this anniversary thank offering with our gifts. Remember, this gracious command of our Lord is backed by a gracious promise.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Will you help us support home missions? You will have an opportunity to support this work individually or through your home congregations soon. The other place to show support will be at the annual Synod Convention, June 19-23, 2016. We are asking our pastors and delegates as well as guests to come forward with a gift and/or a promise in support of this offering in order that we may continue to “Proclaim the Wonders God Has Done.”
Reverend Larry Wentzlaff
ELS Evangelism & Mission Counselor