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The World Comes to the Thumb3 min read

The pews of Good Shepherd, Cass City were overflowing in November, when the congregation hosted an “Old Fashioned Mission Rally and Pig Roast.” More than 300 people attended the event, where they had the opportunity to meet and talk with a dozen international visitors from places like Ghana, South Sudan, Thailand, and Russia.

“It was simply an incredible day for our Lutheran churches in the Thumb,” enthused Rev. Steve Bagnall, who spearheaded the event sponsored by the Thumb West and Thumb East circuits. “When else in our lifetimes will our children be able to meet Lutheran bishops and church leaders from Africa, Europe, and Asia, all in one place? As we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together in 10 different languages, it was like a modern-day Pentecost!”

Rev. Slavik Horpynchuk, bishop of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, was the featured speaker at the rally. Bishop Horpynchuk shared his experiences growing up as a Christian in Soviet-era Ukraine, where pastors were executed and churches forcibly closed. His message of God’s faithfulness to His people during hard times was particularly meaningful to the crowd, where many were concerned about America’s religious freedoms being eroded.

Bishop Slavik Horpynchuk

“The Word will always do and accomplish what God wants, what He desires,” Bishop Horpynchuk said. “Whatever happens in the world, whatever else Satan and his cronies organize against us, we shall stand! We shall go through them, as long as we are in the Word, as long as we are faithful to the Word of God and to our Confessions. It doesn’t matter whether it’s America or whether it’s Ukraine – God’s blessings will be on us to the very end.”

The mission rally also featured the work of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation (LHF), an LCMS Recognized Service Organization based in Macomb that translates and publishes Lutheran materials for churches around the world.

Rev. Dr. Matthew Heise, LHF’s executive director, presented copies of two books recently published through mission offerings from Thumb churches: the Korean Small Catechism, provided by Good Shepherd, Cass City, and a devotional booklet written in the Farsi language of the Iranian people, sponsored by the Thumb East and West circuits. A freewill offering at the event resulted in another $1,800 raised for the mission.

More than two dozen children attended the children’s mission track, where they learned about the country of Ukraine and their Lutheran brothers and sisters who live there. They also created Ukrainian crafts, read folk tales Ukrainian children grow up hearing, and made gifts that they then presented to the international visitors.

At the conclusion of the rally, attendees gathered together to enjoy a feast of smoked pork and homemade side dishes, provided by a grant from Thrivent and prepared by volunteers from a dozen Thumb congregations.

“Sometimes small congregations can feel they are insignificant, but this mission rally is proof that, when we work together, God can use us to do great things,” said Rev. Bagnall. “We look forward to many more joint events in the future.”

Featured image: children present gifts to the international visitors. Photos courtesy of Good Shepherd, Cass City.

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