I began working with a new computer recently, and my wife took the opportunity to install a new screensaver photograph on it. It’s a picture of our two children when they were little building a sand castle on a beach. It brings back some great memories of the years we lived in Vero Beach, Florida. But I also like to look in the background of that photograph, over their shoulders, at the endless expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. If you didn’t know that the continent of Africa was out there somewhere way past the horizon, you might imagine that you were standing at the end of the earth.
Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus told His disciples that they would be His witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Lord has given us the joyous task of sharing His saving Word not only at home with our families and in church services with our fellow worshipers, but also throughout the world. The Father foretold it. Centuries before His coming in the flesh, He commissioned His Son: “I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
Currently our synod has the privilege of shining Jesus’ light in Asia, where we support and carry out the preaching of the Gospel in India and South Korea with plans to expand elsewhere, if God wills it.
Since 1968, the ELS has had missionaries working in South America, first in Peru and later also in Chile. Both of those mission fields are at the point where the national church members are doing most of the outreach within their countries.
The “ends of the earth” has also been located in the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Ukraine in Europe. In those places as well, most of the evangelism and humanitarian work is carried out by the local believers. But to this day, each one of those “overseas” churches depends to some extent on the support provided by their American brothers and sisters in the ELS.
The 100th anniversary of our Evangelical Lutheran Synod is a fitting time for us to think about and analyze our efforts at taking the Good News of God’s love in Christ to the ends of the earth. We realize that given our relatively small size and the limited resources available, we really can’t go everywhere. So we are thankful for the assistance we share with the other church bodies with whom we are in fellowship here in the U.S. and around the world.
But wherever we go, whether at home, at church, or to the end of the earth, the greatest thing is the message we bring to others. Jesus has equipped us with His Word of full forgiveness and eternal life. He earned those gifts for all people by His holiness and by His innocent suffering and death on the cross. He made the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and not only ours, St. John wrote, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
Reverend John Petersen
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church & School