A Tale of Two Fortresses2 min read

In 1521, while construction was concluding on the fortress of Juan Ponce de León, the Spanish governor of the new colony of Puerto Rico, Martin Luther was taking his stand before princes and kings at the Bishop’s Palace at the Diet of Worms.

In both fortresses, events were underway which would shape the next 500 years of history. In Puerto Rico, the work began to strengthen the hold on the island and continent by the Spanish Crown and the Catholic Church. In Worms, Luther spoke those words that still reverberate across the world: “Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me. Amen.”

500 years later, Lutherans in Michigan spoke those same words and made that same confession; “Here we still stand!” They gathered their offerings and, through the Here We Stand campaign, gave to support Lutheran missionaries who would go to that far-flung stronghold of Charles V and into the whole world. For 400 years, the Spanish crown forbade Lutherans from worshiping or teaching on the island of Puerto Rico. Pope Leo X even made Puerto Rico the headquarters of the “new world inquisition” to keep Lutheranism out!

Today, as your Lutheran missionaries to that same island, and on behalf of the fledgling Puerto Rican Lutheran Church, we would like to thank you for standing with Christ, and with Luther, and for standing with us. God’s Word which endures forever is going forth, by water and Word rather than blood and steel, and here in Puerto Rico we still stand!

Rev. James Neuendorf (L) plays the guitar as the Bible study group sings together

Deaconess Christel and I are actively working to plant a new church in the city which is named after that first governor, Ponce. Already there are over a dozen people who share in your confession and communion! We are also active in sharing the love of Christ through works of mercy to those affected by hurricane Maria, poverty, mental health crises, as well as the recent earthquakes. We are happily doing all the things Pope Leo X forbade for all those years in Puerto Rico: teaching and putting Bibles in the hands of the people, preaching the Gospel of justification by grace alone through faith in Christ, and confessing Christ crucified to everyone! Our teammates in Mayagüez are doing the same, and it is all because of your support. Thank you for standing with us!

To learn more about our work in Puerto Rico, visit

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Photo (c) Stephanie Klepacki/Unsplash

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About the Author

Rev. James and Deaconess Christel Neuendorf serve as missionaries in Puerto Rico.

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