Las Posadas

Posada (or Las Posadas) is a Mexican tradition. The Advent celebration commemorates Mary and Joseph’s search for lodgings when they came to Bethlehem for the census. To watch a short clip from the journey for the kids, go here:

This was the fourth (and final) stop on this morning’s journey. The kids were refused by three other “inns” (study rooms in the library) before they were welcomed into the stable room, closing out their journey with a hymn. The last three men who enter the room in this video are the three other seminarians who served as innkeepers. They refused the kids entry, but read passages from Scripture before sending them on their way (also a part of the tradition).

Come Though long-expected Jesus
Born to set They people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

2019 Christmas Marketplace

Last Thursday, December 12, the Food & Clothing Co-op hosted the annual Christmas Marketplace for our residential students in the church worker formation programs here on campus (MDiv, AR, and Deaconess Program).

Per usual, the Church’s generosity—your generosity—to our future pastors, deaconesses, and their families was astounding. You gave a total of $59,000 for this year’s marketplace. The Co-op staff were able to stuff 123 envelopes with $350 in gift cards and put them in each of our student’s mailboxes. Gift cards are for local stores, national chains, restaurants, and gas cards, plus 10 days worth of dining hall lunch tickets for the 80 students who are here in Fort Wayne but are married and live off campus with their spouse and children. It saves them from having to pack in a lunch when they’re on campus for classes over the lunch hour.

The rest of the money went towards eight $50 gift card door prize winners, 14 gift basket drawings (which included gift sets for toddlers and one for family game nights; to a roaster, countertop convection oven, and other kitchen gift sets; plus the deaconess gift set and pastoral gift set), and an emergency fund which serves our students during times of unexpected need. There were also two dorm rooms filled with hundreds of quilts, sewn and mailed in from all over the country for each family to choose from, plus a number of other crafted items like hats and mittens.

From the Food & Clothing Co-op Director Deaconess Katherine Rittner’s Christmas note to the students:

“There are many people around the country who care for you and pray for you daily. The quilt you picked out for your family is a daily reminder of that love, care and prayer from those who are not here to tell you themselves… It is because of them you received your gifts. Enjoy them and have a blessed Christmas!”

Thank you to all who gave! Paul’s words of praise regarding the Macedonians comes to mind:

“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (2 Cor. 8:1-5).

In deepest gratitude: thank you. Not only for your love for our students (and your future pastors and deaconesses), but for the privilege we have in boasting of all of you. God’s richest blessings to you in this and all seasons!

Military Project: Words of Encouragement

Deaconess Carolyn Brinkley’s service to the Church is through the Military Project. She has an office here on the CTSFW campus where she writes to chaplains and military personnel from all over the world, answering requests and filling their needs as she’s able. One such project is the “Body and Soul Care Packages,” which go out to the family and friends of the Seminary community who are currently deployed. Every two weeks they receive a package containing such items as a CD with two abbreviated Divine Services, Lutheran Witness, theological materials according to the church year, and even some goodies.

Another of her ongoing projects is “Words of Encouragement.” This Monday, students, staff, and faculty signed notes during coffee hour following chapel, which in this season will send Christmas greetings to deployed LCMS chaplains and military personnel. As Deaconess Brinkley put it in her request to the community for help in signing the cards: “Your notes of appreciation and comfort mean so much to those who defend our freedoms far from home during the holidays. Looking forward to your help with this work of mercy.”

To learn more about the Military Project’s mission and work, go to You can also contact Deaconess Brinkley at [email protected]

Children’s Message

Last Wednesday, just before the final Divine Service at chapel for the 2019 Fall Quarter, “Word for the Wee Ones” (the weekly Sunday-school-style class for children of the Seminary community) and one of the homiletics classes met for a shared purpose. Rev. Chris Maronde, associate pastor at St. John in Decatur, IN, and graduate assistant at CTSFW while he studies for his PhD in Theological Studies, teaches a homiletics course for fourth years. Part of this preaching class involves children messages, and while most of the men in the class had been able to give a children’s message at a local LCMS church or school (recording themselves and sending the video to Rev. Maronde for grading), three of these seminarians had not yet had a chance to do so.

Rev. Maronde  first thought to have these final three students give a children’s message to his own daughters during their last class period, but then came up with a better plan. He spoke with the director of the Wee Ones program, Mrs. Renée Wiley, of the library staff, as the children’s class takes place at the same time. The children and moms in attendance that day received three short messages and prayers on different days of creation. The seminarians themselves had quite the audience, including their seminarian brothers from the class.

It was also an excellent chance to field test their skills with redirecting the unpredictable responses from their message recipients. “What’s the scariest part about water?” one of the seminarians asked his charges.

“FROGS!” immediately declared a boy sitting in the front.

A typical day at the office, as it will someday be for these future pastors.

A Look at the CTSFW Doctor of Ministry Program

Last Monday through Friday was the DMin (Doctor of Ministry) Residential Week. The DMin Program is a practical degree designed for working pastors, which is why much of the coursework and study is accomplished on their own with the support of online resources and faculty mentorship. A handful of intensive weeks are held throughout where the students gather on campus for five days at a time in order to attend classes with one another.

There is a distinctly different feel to the DMin Program, especially when these men gather on campus with their brothers in ministry. While there is a definite camaraderie among the MDiv students who are learning to become pastors (sharing inside jokes and commiseration over classes, professors, and fieldwork) they are still looking beyond Seminary; the DMin students have both that shared background as former seminarians and are also living in the “beyond Seminary.” They have an immediate connection as fellow laborers in the Lord’s harvest fields. There’s a depth to the laughter that these men share as they navigate their classes and their experiences as sinner-saints called to serve as Christ’s undershepherds to other sinner-saints.

Pastors in the DMin Program choose their concentration from the first day of their entry, either on 1.) Pastoral Care and Leadership; 2.) Teaching and Preaching; or 3.) Mission and Culture. Each pastor develops a project that is the focus of his degree, tied to their parish or other ongoing ministry at home. Thus the practical aspect of the program: they don’t first earn a degree and then apply their learning, but rather apply their learning as they serve their congregation/ministry, eventually earning the degree.

Last Friday, one such student, Rev. William Keller II, defended his dissertation project. A dissertation is a couple of hundred pages long, written on the research done throughout a student’s years in the program. His faculty mentor/reader offers suggestions before the dissertation is presented to the committee. At the defense, the DMin candidate introduces his topic, explaining his research, methodology, and conclusions, after which several faculty members and occasionally ordained guests ask follow-up questions. The committee then has all but themselves withdraw so that they can discuss the dissertation (which they have read ahead of time) and decide whether the student has successfully defended his topic.

As Rev. Keller’s defense took place during DMin Residential Week, his fellow DMin students were invited to his dissertation defense on “Evaluation of the Accountable Leadership Model of the Governance at Concordia Lutheran Church.” When called to Concordia Lutheran, Rev. Keller inherited a governance model as it was about to be implemented in his new congregation, inspiring the project. However, though the topic is narrow (specifically involving his parishioners), it’s also broad: he used his findings to take a wider view of the topic of church governance.

Ultimately, the study brought up a number of practical questions tied to deeper theological questions on authority and role of the pastor in governing a church. Should the pastor strictly serve as a shepherd? Is he also called to run his church? What are the impacts to his pastoral duties when he is called to counsel and guide his members but may also be tasked with firing them as church staff? Did this new governance model promote a healthy relationship between a pastor and his congregation? And even: what is scriptural and what is adiaphora (neither mandated nor forbidden by Scripture)?

In very short: he concluded that any governance model is a tool that cannot solve underlying problems in a congregation, but can be used to either help or exacerbate issues. The study highlighted the importance of understanding your congregation before making changes, from the church’s culture to the gifts of members and the challenges and history at the heart of any issues the congregation may be dealing with. It was also an examination of the role of the pastor and the Office of Holy Ministry.

Dr. Gifford Grobien, Director of the DMin Program and member of the Dissertation Committee, asked Rev. Keller to expound on the theological understanding he applied to the situation. Rev. Keller explained that he looked back at how the Church and past theologians handled it, starting with Luther. Summarized here:

      • Martin Luther argued that Scripture is where the authority of a pastor lies. He wasn’t focused on structure, save for that applied through preaching. For example, the key interpretive principles that Rev. Keller found useful were the teaching of the two kingdoms and the theology of the cross.
      • Martin Chemnitz defined the Office of Holy Ministry through its functions; as a practice of the ways and means.
      • Johann Gerhard taught that you should take three things into consideration: necessity, usefulness, and dignity. How will a proposal impact the Office of Holy Ministry as it fits in that paradigm?
      • F.W. Walther was the first Lutheran theologian on American soil who had to grapple with the separation of Church and state. As such, he is the first on this list to speak specifically on church administration. He suggested a board of directors to support the pastor and to govern the church. He was also the first to suggest the adoption of church constitutions (preferably short ones). Walther’s suggestions on church administration essentially provided a dynamic in which the governing duties came out of the congregation and allowed the pastor to stay focused on the duties of the Office.
      • It was also important to read contemporary authors, because they better understand our times, such as the impact of sentimentalism on the Church (that moral sense is based on feelings over reason). These and other “isms” popular in our times will affect even how (and why) a church does business. “A congregation has to identity these idols and repent of them,” Rev. Keller explained. These types of idols are difficult because they grow in the heart, versus the idols set up in a temple that can be physically thrown down.

In very, very short: his dissertation was about pastoral care. In studying governance models, Rev. Keller found that often congregations want a single solution to fix what they see as a single problem, hoping that a new governance model is that fix—when in fact it is the age old problem of sin, compounded over years and generations. And no matter what else a pastor is called to do (whether he has much governing authority or little, whether the congregation tasks their pastor with intimate involvement in its administration or prefers a separate governing board), that pastor is called by Christ to serve his people, calling them to repentance and comforting them with Word and Sacrament.

After the presentation, the Dissertation Committee—Dr. Grobien, Dr. Detlev Schulz, and Dr. Charles Gieschen—asked all to withdraw from the room so that they could confer. Their conclusion was unanimous: a successful defense. Congratulations, Rev. Keller!

To learn more about the DMin Program (tuition is still locked in until March 15, 2020, after which it will increase), go to You can also contact the Graduate Studies Department with specific questions at [email protected] or (260) 452-2203.

Prayerfully Consider Visit

PCV participants during the welcome and opening.

The Prayerfully Consider Visit (PCV) is a biannual event at CTSFW; you’ve likely heard us talk about it before. We hold this three-day visit for prospective students in both the fall and the spring, to give these men and women the time and tools they need during the discernment process as they consider whether a vocation as pastor or deaconess is in their future. About 30 PCV participants were with us from October 10-12, most of them pastoral program prospects with a few deaconess program prospects plus a handful of spouses. Spouses are always encouraged to come. They are absolutely a part of any future vocation—not just vital to the success of it, but truly a part of it.

Rev. Matt Wietfeldt

PCV began on Thursday with prayer in Kramer Chapel, then a welcome and orientation breakfast. Rev. Matt Wietfeldt, head of Admissions here at CTSFW, explained the purpose of these three days. “Take the name seriously,” he said. These men and women have taken time out of their busy lives to come to campus to consider these questions: will you become a pastor? A deaconess? Or is it better to remain in your current vocation?

By coming to campus, attendees share in the blessing of the CTSFW community. “We gather together first and foremost in worship,” Rev. Wietfeldt explained, describing the identity of the people who live, work, and study here. “We’re a community that is always in prayer. It is there [at Kramer Chapel] that we are formed and refreshed in the blood of the Lamb.”

He went on. “We are a community that is in study—but learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom.” Much of the formation process happens between classes, in the student commons or in the dining hall as classmates talk and debate and pull their professors into the discussion. There is no faculty lounge at CTSFW, so the professors are always with the students and available to them. “We are community about fellowship,” Rev. Wietfedlt finished. “It’s about being together as brothers and sisters, in worship and study but also as we lift each other up in good and bad.”

After his welcome, Rev. Wietfeldt had the participants stand and introduce themselves. Participants came from as close as the Fort Wayne area but also from Virginia, Albuquerque, NM, and Seattle. A handful were seniors at university (there aren’t usually as many college students at PCV during the fall as most of them attend Christ Academy: College at the end of the month) and plenty were second career from a variety of backgrounds. Some of these men and women are lifelong Lutherans, but others have come to us by much longer journeys, like the former charismatic who loves the scriptural doctrine of Lutheranism.

“I’m here to see if this is a fit for my life,” one participant explained. “It’s been in the back of my head for a long time.” Another participant knew he wanted to work for the Kingdom but hadn’t decided whether that would mean as a pastor; he’s here to find that out.

Still others know they’ll be starting in the fall. “I was 15 or 16 when my grandma told me: you should be pastor,” one prospect admitted. “I laughed but haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.”

One deaconess prospect explained that she was a teacher and felt that diaconal work seems very similar to what she was already doing. She simply wants to get stronger in theology. An undergraduate still in college said she had attended the high school program for Christ Academy and wanted to become a deaconess.

One of the attendees who has been thinking about becoming a pastor for the past thirty years recognized his thoughts in the words coming out of his fellow brothers’ and sisters’ mouths. “I wondered: gosh, am I the only one who grapples with these things?” He looked around the group, grinned, and answered it for himself: “Nope.”

The student panel, left to right: Ethan Stoppenhagen, Anna Barger, Katherine and Aaron Schultz, Jeremy McDonald, Haley Kazmierski, Jeffrey Kazmierski (with admission counselor Rev. John Dreyer in the background between the Kazmierskis.)

They would hear much of their thoughts echoed back to them later that evening, during the student panel discussion. The Admission Department had five current students (plus two spouses) answer questions about what their own journey was like. One couple, for example, attended 3 or 4 PCVs before they officially joined the CTSFW community. “We took our time,” he explained. “There was no doubt we were going to come, it was just a matter of when.” It took them about four years to work first through the discernment process and then prepare for the move. They had to uproot their family, and the couples’ own parents were worried. “They thought we’d be on food stamps.” Instead, that Christmas they came home with an abundance—fresh produce, given to them by the Food Co-op that they didn’t want to waste. “In the absence of truth, the imagination takes over,” his wife explained.

The transition was far faster for another couple. A Lutheran school teacher for ten years, the thought of becoming a pastor had always been with seminarian Aaron Schultz. “I felt a restlessness,” he explained, which grew alongside those long-held thoughts of becoming a pastor. He told his wife he finally wanted to go for it in October, and he was attending classes by the next September. She was on board from the first. “It was a quick process for us,” she explained.

Another student was a former Specific Ministry Pastoral program graduate, whose District President encouraged him to go back to Seminary to earn an MDiv so that he could serve full time. “I made a decision and went for it…God finds you and steers you,” he explained. “I had a lot of people praying for me. I’m not a lifelong Lutheran, and this doctrine is important to me.”

Second-year deaconess student, Anna Barger, is the daughter of a deaconess. So naturally: “No way, I thought. Not me.” However, she has long been interested in sign-language and, during a weeklong intensive course about the incredibly specialized vocabulary of signed liturgy, learned that 85-90% of the deaf community had no faith. “No one speaks their language,” she explained. “That didn’t sit well with me. I realized how much I took it for granted that I can go anywhere in the country—even the world—that I can sit in a pew and know what’s going on.” She gave in: she would become a deaconess, continuing to hone her skills in sign language alongside the specialized niche of theological language.

Another second-year seminarian came to us immediately out of college. Ethan Stoppenhagen has known his course for years. In high school, he explained to a teacher that he too wanted to become a teacher. “Why not a pastor?” she asked. His immediate response: “Well I can’t do that!” It stuck with him, though. He attended Christ Academy High School and by the time he was in college he knew exactly where he was going to go.

Rev. Wietfeldt summed it up well: “The discernment process is specific and unique because they’re all specific and unique,” he pointed out. Their ages are different, the length of discernment is different, and the transition process too is shaped by the individuals going through it.

Earlier in the day, Dean of the Chapel, Dr. Grime, had introduced himself to the participants of PCV as they began the three-days of discernment, speaking briefly on bringing Christ to a fallen world. “Into that hopelessness, you have interest in taking a sliver of that hope into a corner of the world. And it is a corner. Thank goodness we haven’t been asked to save the world.” And why are some called to these unique vocations? Or, in the words of the late Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel, “Why would you want to do it? Because it was given us to be done.”

Coffee hour following chapel. PCV participants mingled with both current students and faculty (that’s Dr. David Scaer in the foreground talking to one of the prospective students).
Prospective deaconess student meets and talks with current first-year deaconess students.

2019 Field Education Assignments

Supervising pastors and first-year seminarians sign in before the Field Ed convocation.

Today after chapel, our first year class of pastoral and diaconal students received their field education assignments. Each student is assigned a congregation, where they will serve under a supervising pastor for two years during their education. Prof. John Pless, Director of Field Education and head of these assignments for 20 years, began his short lesson about the role of field education with Paul’s first letter to the young pastor under his wing, Timothy:

“Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:15-16).

“‘Practice these things,’” Prof. Pless repeated. “It’s really the purpose of field education to put into practice what you are learning in the classroom.” He spoke of his joy as a teacher as well as the joy of a congregation in seeing the progress of their fieldworkers as they begin this first step of many. “You are being entrusted with the Lord’s Word,” he continued. As fieldworkers, these students are already expected to look beyond the demands of the classroom to those they will serve for the next two years. “It’s about the salvation of the people He is placing in your care, who need to hear the Word of the cross…that they might be strengthened, built up, and know themselves to be sheep of the Good Shepherd.”

Prof. Pless begins the convocation.

The students stood as each of their names were called and their assignments given, to exchange waves and/or nods with their supervising pastor. A meet-and-greet lunch in the Dining Hall always follows field education assignments, giving these men and women a chance to meet and begin getting to know one another.

The Seminary Guild was also on hand to gift a copy of the “Pastoral Care Companion” to each residential pastoral and diaconal student who received a fieldwork assignment today. Though the book has “Pastoral” in the title, the content is useful and appropriate for both male and female churchworkers as it is designed to guide those caring for individual in times of both celebration and distress with suggested readings, hymns, liturgy, and prayers.

Women of the Seminary Guild hand out copies of the Pastoral Care Companion as the students were leaving with their supervising pastors.

Donors from across the country have made this project possible for the third year in a row. Mrs. Ilona Kuchta must, in particular, be pointed out this year, as her generous donation paid for all of this year’s Care Companions. You can learn more about the Legacy Project at Mrs. Deborah Steiner of the Seminary Guild spoke to the students, introducing the women who made this particular gift happen, and then finished on the words of the apostle to the saints at Colossi:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).

Thanks be to God for all those who care for these students as they train, including the many local and area churches who volunteered for a fieldworker but were not needed this year. Your interest in serving in the training process and your love for our future pastors and deaconesses is a source for much joy. As always, we also look to you, our brothers and sisters, to pray with us as we ask the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers, so that next year we need all 62 volunteering congregations and eventually every church seeking a candidate receives one. The harvest is plentiful and the sower continues to sow.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:10-11

To learn more about the pastoral or diaconal programs at CTSFW, visit If you would like to recommend anyone as a pastor or deaconess, you can also contact our admission counselors at [email protected] or by calling (800) 481-2155.

Dr. Nordling in Nigeria

The last of our faculty travel highlights this week is actually the first: Dr. John Nordling, professor and Greek instructor for many of our summer Greek students, who taught beginning New Testament Greek in Nigeria for five weeks this past spring. His travels began before the end of our last academic year, from March 4–April 5.
Greek classes at the Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary (JEMLS) in Obot Idim Ibesikpo, Uyo, AKWA Ibom State, Nigeria, began at 8 a.m., broke for chapel at 10 a.m. (Dr. Nordling also served daily as preacher for four out of the five weeks), and resumed until noon. Dr. Nordling taught a class of 50-60 students, in English. Though Nigerians know and speak dozens of tribal languages, English serves as the country’s unifying tongue.
In the afternoon, he taught a New Testament elective to a much smaller class of 15 or 20 second- and third-years. “The first one was Romans: very important for any Lutheran pastor,” Dr. Nordling said. “Then the pastoral epistles, Timothy and Titus. I gave lectures based on the Greek text. The third one was the Gospel of Matthew. I quizzed them to keep them honest. I’m a big one for quizzing, even here. That’s the only way to make sure that students are with you and engaged. I’m a great respecter of the Old Adam. Every day is a test.”
The seminary is located in a developing urban setting on the southeast corner of Nigeria, a part of the infamous Slave Coast, close to the ocean and the equator. Hazy with heat, humidity, and pollution, the large classroom was an open air room with no panes in the windows, located next door to a canal and noisy brick factory. Out the windows, factory workers shoveled sand in 90 degree weather. In the large room, many of the students couldn’t see the whiteboard, the inked words faint and far away. Dry-erase pens dried out quickly. “I became very covetous of markers,” Dr. Nordling admitted.
Dr. Nordling teaches Greek from the front of the room.
Outside of class, study at home was difficult due to a lack of electricity. “This is right on the equator. The sun comes down at 6 p.m. and goes down in an instant.” Without dependable lights, “It gets dark real quick.” To get the printouts he needed for each class, Dr. Nordling depended on Seminary Rector Dr. Michael Adoga, an old student and friend (“I was his doctoral father 8-9 years ago,” he explained), who would run to the print shop down the road each day. Dr. Nordling preached his chapel sermons directly from his computer to cut down on these runs.
Though daily Greek classes were composed of approximately 50 or 60 students, Dr. Nordling technically taught Greek to 80 students. Some of the missing were pastors who had to prioritize their pastoral responsibilities over study; others cut class as needed for travel back home on the weekends, though there was a cultural aspect to that as well. “Everything was kind of looser,” Dr. Nordling explained. “Education is not as intense there as I was making it. Part of the problem was me. The students were more laid back. Some of them just hadn’t had to learn the way I was trying to get them to learn. There was no flippancy, no disrespect, nothing like that; I didn’t have discipline problems. They respect authority. Every morning when I’d come in at 8 a.m., they’d all stand.” It was simply a matter of different cultural expectations.
He also began each Greek class by having the class sing the Lord’s Prayer. “They loved that, and were very good at it. They sang like only Africans can sing. The guys at the brick factory would sometimes look over.”
JEMLS is the seminary of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN), an LCMS partner church and member of the International Lutheran Council, an association of confessional Lutheran church bodies. Begun in a rural clan in 1936, the LCN now has approximately 80,000 baptized members (50,000 communicant members), served by 72 active pastors. The president of the synod, called an archbishop, is The Most Rev. Christian Ekong, a descendant of the pioneering father of the LCN after whom the Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary was named.
Chapel service at JEMLS; the Lord’s Supper was celebrated during the Lenten season.
JEMLS is also located in what Dr. Nordling called the Christian part of the country, with very little Muslim influence. The story is different in the north. During those few times Dr. Nordling watched local television (his hosts put him up at a hotel with three generators, and though power cut off frequently it came back quickly), he heard reports of Christians killed by Muslim marauders. “You have Christian farmers up there,” he said, describing the tensions in the region. “It’s kind of like the range wars in the Wild West. They’re more nomads. They would break into the farms and sometimes they would kill people. They had herds and stuff. They were kind of competing for land.”
One of the common complaints among the Christian community in Nigeria is the underreporting of the violence. “I saw stuff on Facebook that wasn’t in the news,” he said. “I think there were several hundred people killed while I was there. It’s like it didn’t even happen. It’s just a common thing.”
CTSFW’s connection with JEMLS is through her loyal sons, one of whom is the Rev. Charles Wokoma, LCMS Missionary to West Africa. Born in Africa, Rev. Wokoma received his MDiv from CTSFW in 1997 and has since served in both nations. In September of 2013 he accepted a call to Africa as a theological educator. He works tirelessly at JEMLS, and teaches and preaches at local congregations each week.
“He’s very supportive of confessional Lutheranism, liturgical Lutheranism,” Dr. Nordling said of Rev. Wokoma. Christianity in Africa tends toward Pentecostalism, which emphasizes the importance of personal and spiritual experiences over the centrality of God’s promises in His Word (promises which are kept regardless of personal feelings). Speaking in tongues and faith healing are commonly associated with the experience-based movement. Rev. Wokoma is ashamed of the troublesome theology that plagues the nation, and determined to train pastors who are loyal to the confessions. In chapel services he insists on serving as the celebrant so that he can demonstrate and teach the blessings of closed communion and the importance of fellowship under the same confession.
Left to Right: JEMLS Rector Rev. Dr. Michael Adoga, Missionary Rev. Charles Wokoma, Dr. John G. Nordling
Rev. Wokoma also assisted in Dr. Nordling’s class nearly every day, helping to keep the students focused and engaged. And when Dr. Nordling worried that he was not reaching his students as well as he did with his summer Greek students here in Fort Wayne, Rev. Wokoma was quick to reassure him. The students had already learned a lot more Greek from this class than they had in the entire history of JEMLS.
There were also the exceptional students, who thrived on the Greek training and went above and beyond both in and out of class. Several of the fourth-year students helped Dr. Nordling call on students for translation and composition; another, Rev. David Imuk, was the reason that he even came to teach at JEMLS in the first place.
In 2015, Dr. Nordling came to Nigeria for the first time to teach a very small class of about ten laymen—successful businessmen wondering if they ought to become pastors. He also met a bright, young pastor named Rev. Imuk, who he discovered had learned Greek on his own. His questions about the text were pointed and clear. During his second trip to Nigeria in 2016, Dr. Nordling asked Rev. Imuk if he would like to study Greek at CTSFW. “I asked him if he wanted to come and his eyes lit up.”
Through donations, they gathered enough money to bring Rev. Imuk to America for summer or fall Greek. However, the US embassy rejected his applications for a visa twice, for no discernible reason. Dr. Nordling wrote letters, to no avail. With only the fees for the failed attempts to show for it, they decided they were not defeated, though perhaps redirected. “I talked to the archbishop, Rev. Christian Ekong,” Dr. Nordling continued. “’If Mohammad can’t come to the mountain, then the mountain has to come to Mohammad.’” Since Rev. Imuk couldn’t come to America, Dr. Nordling asked if he could come to Nigeria instead.
Archbishop Ekong made it happen, carving out the time in the seminary’s schedule. Instead of coming for 10 weeks at a time, they decided to schedule Dr. Nordling for two trips: five weeks for this trip (his third time in the country), then another five in the spring of 2020. As to Rev. Imuk: “He became my grader and daily tutor—and so probably ended up learning Greek far better by my coming to Nigeria than if he had had the opportunity to study with me in Fort Wayne.”
Rev. Imuk plans to continue working with students on vocabulary during the intervening year, in preparation for Dr. Nordling’s return next spring. CTSFW assisted by sending blank flashcards to JEMLS through Rev. Wokoma, when he came to the LCMS Convention in July.
“All said, it was very rewarding. I’m glad I did it,” Dr. Nordling concluded. He admitted that it was both the hardest he has ever worked as a pastor, but also the most rewarding—made possible by many, from Archbishop Ekong, Dr. Adoga, missionary Rev. Wokoma, to Rev. Imuk, to name only a few. Deep thanks are also due to the donor who sent the mountain to the West African coast: Mr. Gerald Schultz of Rathdrum, Idaho, whose material support brought this intensive Greek course to pastors and seminarians in Nigeria.
Dr. Nordling with JEMLS leadership and about two-thirds of the Greek class on the final day. Of particular note is Archbishop Christian Ekong sitting in the center. To his left is Rev. Gary Schulte, Area Director of LCMS Missions, West and Central Africa; and to his right is Dr. Nordling. Rev. David Imuk is standing to the right of Nordling, and Rev. Charles Wokoma is standing on the far left of the first standing row.

Thanks be to God for His generous gifts, for the confession we share with our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas, for His promises to every nation and generation. May He continue to bless those seminaries built on the rock of His firm and unchangeable Word, as they work in Christ to train pastors to serve as undershepherds for His flock, and deaconesses to serve as His hands of mercy.

While [Jesus] was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Matthew 12:46-50

Deaconess Placements

Yesterday in chapel, Dr. Bushur, Director of Deaconess Formation, announced three placements and one internship of our deaconess students. He began with his thanks:

“As I announce these placements, I again, of course, also express my appreciation to the whole Placement Department and all who contributed to the process. I especially give thanks to God for Deaconess Amy Rast, my Associate Director, for all of her work. The placement process of deaconesses is a little bit like farming. Placements take cultivation and maybe even a little nourishing and fertilizing, maybe even some weed pulling, that are involved before they come to fruition. And let’s just say Deaconess Rast has become a pretty good farmer over the years. So I certainly appreciate her work.
“And finally, we must also, as always, give thanks to God for these calling congregations and institutions. And so, as always, these placements are made with our fervent prayer that the Lord bless our students, blesses these congregations, institutions, and their pastors as they now together fulfill their service to Christ.”
Deaconess placements occur throughout the year, and in this particular case all four women were placed in the Indiana District:

Wendy Boehm (2019 grad)
Placement: Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Ossian, IN

Amanda Hahn (2018 grad)
Placement: St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church, Brownstown, IN

Katherine Rittner (2019 grad)
Placement: Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN
(Note: Serving as Director of the Food & Clothing Co-op)

Taylor (Brown) Fickenscher (Intern)
Internship: Grace Lutheran Church, Columbus, IN

2019 Student Academic Awards

Fourth-year seminarian Paul Gaschler, President of the Student Association, begins the awards convocation.

“All of us are aware that the Seminary principally prepares pastors and deaconesses for service in the Church,” Dr. Charles Gieschen, Academic Dean at CTSFW, said in introduction to the awards convocation following chapel today. “In preparing individuals for these vocations, however, we have rigorous academic programs that involve a wide variety of learning experiences, which are constantly evaluated, as you all know only too well. Although academic achievement is by no means the sole aspect of these formation programs, nevertheless, high academic achievement merits our respect and our recognition. This annual academic awards convocation is one small way through which we recognize these outstanding academic achievements. So on behalf of the entire faculty, I express our sincere appreciation for the many ways that you student pursue academic excellence in your theological studies.”

Dr. Gieschen first acknowledged and thanked the seven graduate students in this current academic year (while pursuing further study): Jacob Benson, Daniel Broaddus, Christopher Maronde, Roger Mullet, Justin Mason, Eli Voight, and Aaron Zimmerman. He then announced next year’s graduate assistants: Daniel Broaddus, Christopher Maronde, Roger Mullet, Hayden Folks, Keith Kettner, Joseph McCalley, Titus Utecht, and Jay Weideman.

He also announced that seminarians Robert Schrader and Eli Voight will be involved in archaeological digs in Israel, as funded by the Lois Ann Reed Endowment Fund for Archaeology. The awards, as broken down by departments, were then presented as follows.

Dr. Arthur Just, Exegetical Department

St. Timothy Award (established some years ago by an anonymous donor to encourage a second-year student in his continued study of the Holy Scriptures): Dylan Smith

Zondervan Biblical Greek Award: Hayden Folks

Zondervan Biblical Hebrew Award: Kyle Richardson

Exegetical Theology Department Writing Award: Carl Hingst, “The Song of Hezekiah as a Universal Song of Lament: A Study of Isaiah 38:9-20”

The Classical Association of the Middle West and South Award for Outstanding Accomplishment (for exemplary work in advanced Greek class, producing an outstanding term paper): Joshua Ralston

Dr. David Scaer, Systematic Theology Department

Lepper-Draves Scholarship, awarded to a fourth-year student for outstanding academic accomplishment and analytical thought in the study of Dogmatics and Confessional Theology: Timothy Sheridan

Zondervan Theology Award: Kyle Brown, for his paper on “The Resurrection and Theology of Benedict XVI”

Systematic Theology Department Writing Award: Titus Utecht, “How Real Is the Resurrection? A Review of Stefan Alkier’s ‘The Reality of the Resurrection?’”

Dr. Carl Fickenscher, Pastoral Ministry and Missions Department

First, he asked for a round of applause in acknowledgment of Dr. Don Wiley and the three students currently serving a Spanish-speaking congregation in Columbus, IN: Vicar Gino Marchetti, third-year student Daniel Fickenscher, and second-year student Tyler McMiller. All four take turns recording a sermon that is sent to the Spanish-speaking worshippers at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, which are also uploaded to the Seminary YouTube channel “CTSFW en Español.” Dr. Fickenscher then moved on to the following awards:

Gerhard Aho Homiletics Award (Outstanding Sermon Award): Matthew Schettler, for his funeral sermon, “Pearl Was Ready” based on Luke 2:25-33

Pastoral Ministry and Missions Department Writing Award: Robert Ricard, “Luther’s Creedal Explanation for Stewardship”

Dr. James Bushur, Historical Theology Department

Historical Theology Department Writing Award: David Wurdeman, “Johann Gerhard’s Christology in Consideration of the Crypto-Kenotic Controversy”

Finally, Paul Gaschler, President of the Student Association (which helped plan the awards ceremony and funded the reception that followed), presented the 2019 Shepherd’s Staff Award to Michael Terkula. “[It] is given to a member of the graduating class who displays the most pastoral qualities, as voted on by the graduating class,” he explained.

President Rast addresses the students, following presentation of the awards.

Dr. Rast, President of CTSFW, concluded the presentations with the following thank you and encouragement to our students, with a nod to the fact that today is the commemoration of C.F.W. Walther:

“The striking thing of a convocation of this sort is the variety of gifts that the Lord gives to His Church. And it never ceases to amaze me how the Lord provides, in respect to the wellbeing of His Church and the carrying out of its mission. A hundred and thirty-two years ago today, our second seminary president passed away; Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther—C.F.W. Walther—passed away and he brought to the Missouri tradition, along with our first president, Wilhelm Sihler, a strong emphasis on the wedding together of academics and pastoral formation. And so we see today, as we are nearing the end of our 173rd academic year, the continuance of that translation. My hearty congratulations to all of the students recognized here today, and my thanks to all of our students for the excellent work you do and the excellent work you will continue to do as you move out into Christ’s Church, whatever your area of service.”

Front Row: Academic Dean Dr. Charles Gieschen, Hayden Folks, David Wurdeman, Kyle Brown, Matthew Schettler, President Lawrence R. Rast Jr.
Middle Row: Joshua Ralston, Dylan Smith, Kyle Richardson, Robert Ricard, Carl Hingst
Back Row: Michael Terkula, Titus Utecht