From the Lutheran Witness:
A Church Body that Would Teach
by Albert B. Collver III and Timothy C.J. Quill
From her inception, The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod has been a church focused on mission. Few churches were engaged in mission work at the time, leaving such work to mission societies. But in the mid-19th century, the LCMS recognized the central role the church had in missions and stated in her constitution that the extension of the kingdom of God was one of the reasons for the formation of a synod. While the first four decades of the LCMS' mission work focused on Native Americans, European immigrants and African Americans, the Synod had an eye toward foreign mission work, even if she initially lacked the capacity to carry it out.
In 1893, the Synod in convention resolved to form a foreign mission board and to begin work in Japan. The Sino-Japanese war and other factors delayed the work, but it did not diminish the Synod's desire to work in foreign missions. Out of these mission efforts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the LCMS founded her first partner churches.
The LCMS became officially involved in foreign missions when Theodore Naether and Franz Mohn were commissioned as missionaries to India in 1894. They were instructed to go to a part of India where the Gospel had not been heard, rather than going where others already had laid a foundation. Their work began as a combination of witness and mercy, focusing on orphanages, boarding schools and hospitals--each providing opportunities for the study of Scripture and the preaching of the Word. Within 30 years, a seminary was built to produce Indian pastors.
And today, although less than 3 percent of the people in India are Christians, President Samuel, the leadership of the Indian Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC) and the IELC's 125,000 members continue to work diligently to maintain a Lutheran identity and to reach out to the 1.2 billion people of India.
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