I am sitting at the Los Angeles airport contemplating the sheets of rain that are blowing across the tarmac. It reminds me of Luther’s comparison of the spread of the gospel to a rain shower, moving across the plains. It waters in one place, causing vegetation and fruit to spring forth, but then moves on to another, leaving behind the place it watered before.
My wife, Deborah, and I are on our way to the 65th anniversary of the Lutheran Hour in Australia. It is hard to imagine the excitement of 1945, with World War II still not quite brought to an end, when it became possible for people in Australia to hear the gospel through the preaching of Walter A. Maier on some thirty-six to forty-four radio stations throughout Australia (reports vary on the precise number of stations). It was September 2nd, 1945, the very same day in which the commander of the Imperial Japanese Army General Tomoyuki Yamashita surrendered to Filipino and American troops at Kiangan, Ifugao in Northern Philippines. The Japanese surrender was signed on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. People from Australia had heard Maier’s preaching since the 1930s via shortwave radio, but now it would become much more widely available through the Australian local radio stations.
God does cause the good news of Jesus to move around the world. It is not only the gospel that moves, however, but God’s people. In fact, many times that is how he brings the gospel to new regions—through the movement of his people– migration! We know that the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, a truly American church today, began as an immigrant church, brought forth as a result of the migration Europeans to the “New World.” The Lutheran Church of Australia also began with immigration. Through those movements of the people of God, his gospel has taken root in the Americas, Australia, and many other parts of the globe.
During our recent visit to China, we saw firsthand how churches were being planted in the cities, as Christian villagers from the countryside migrate to the cities, establish a congregations, and from there reach out to the general population of the city. The photo shows such a church in An Ming, Yunnan Province. This building, which can hold more than a thousand worshippers was dedicated only a few months ago. But what is amazing is that most of the original believers of this congregation were people who migrated to the city in search of jobs in the steel mills. These new urbanites are now speaking the gospel to the people of the city of some 500,000 people.
Well, back to Australia. After spending a couple of days in Sydney with Rev. Richard Mau, director of Lutheran Media for the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA), we will head for Adelaide, where the headquarters of the church are located. We will get to meet up with our old friends, Dr. and Mrs. Gregory Lockwood and Dr. and Mrs. Andrew Pfeiffer of the seminary, and Rev. and Mrs. Mike Semmler, president of the LCA. I will speak to two separate seminary classes on Thursday morning, at the celebration banquet Friday evening, meet with the board on Saturday, and then preach at the celebration worship service at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Adelaide on Sunday. Should be fun! I’ll try to keep you posted.