With the festive 2017 Winter Services in Phoenix behind us, we look forward as “birds of heaven” to gather in Howard Lake, June 30–July 3, for 2017 LLC Summer Services. The child of God rejoices at such opportunities. May God continue to refresh each of us with His Word of grace as we journey homeward.
As we make plans for the upcoming camp season my thoughts often turn to our children and youth, and join in the words of the songwriter, “The youth of Jesus journey as morning dew, so pure in light and grace so holy, on Zion’s Mount so fair. The sea of grace is found there, and all who there abide are cleansed from all defilement in Jesus’ blood divine. From vict’ry unto vict’ry in Zion’s midst below, with strength of God Almighty, they strike the evil foe. Their souls are peace enjoying. Their gaze is pure and chaste, and childlike they are pleading e’er to remain in faith” (SHZ 478).
As a new year begins we often look back and remember events of the previous year. We also look forward and make plans for the coming year. As we reflect on the past year it is heartwarming to see the support and generosity of believers in supporting the work of God’s kingdom. Without this support, the work would be in vain. Looking forward we wonder what plans God has for us. We see additional needs at our camp centers and the possibility of adding more facilities to support camp work. Local congregations continue to grow and so does the request for additional support from the office. With these requests, we prayerfully ask for God’s continued guidance and blessings.
On behalf of the LLC office staff, I wish each of you a joyous and peaceful Christmas season. Scriptures relate how many years ago the heavens opened as angels announced the birth of the promised Savior. The same joyful message, which comforts the weary traveler and gives hope of eternal Christmas in heaven, resounds today. May the message of God’s perfect gift to mankind be centermost as we gather with loved ones this Christmas season.
November brings with it a hint of winter and close proximity to the end of another calendar year. It also marks the end of the church year, the beginning of Advent, and plans for the holidays, which are right around the corner. Fall also reminds of man’s life, how we are like the grass that grows but in time withers away. November 1 also marks All Saints’ Day, when we remember those who have gone before us and gained the victory. Our hearts join with the songwriter, “Saints of God have peace forever who endeavored while on earth to battle, strive. Oft their memory brings a longing; we are yearning there in heaven to abide” (SHZ 140:1).
As summer fades into fall we can reflect on the many blessings that God has gifted to His children. We see how plans that were prayerfully made came to fruition. God blessed our Summer Services and meetings, and our camp season went well. Congregations have experienced growth, and God is blessing them with new church buildings. This time of year many congregations will be hosting fall services, with opportunity to gather around God’s Word and also discuss plans for future work.
September brings with it cooler weather and the first day of fall. It also marks the beginning of the school year and the end of a busy camp season. My heart joins with the words of the songwriter in prayer for our children: “Father dear, to You we pray as our children leave today and return to school and study. You have given them this duty; be with them and bless them! (SHZ 447:1).
When I visited the Essa Agriplex late last fall, it was a cold, wet, and windy day, and it was hard to imagine how Summer Services might go in such an open and airy venue. However, God blessed the 2016 LLC Summer Services in many ways, including the weather. It was an opportunity for us North Americans to experience in a small way what summer services in Finland might be like. Essa Agriplex
is an agricultural complex with acres of fields that housed the nearly 50 RVs and over 30 tent sites. Temporary showers were built in wash bays for services guests that stayed at the site. Without kitchen facilities meals had to be prepared
in advance and taken to the site as needed. And, as it has been in recent years, the grill was a popular choice for meals
. Even breakfast was provided for those staying onsite.
June and July are busy months with graduations, family trips, and a host of activities at our LLC camp centers. I want to congratulate all of the 2016 high school and college graduates—you have reached a milestone in life! June also marks Father’s Day. Dear fathers, may God richly bless you for the love and care that you provide for your families.
May brings excitement as another camp season is here and plans are made for young and old to attend. The theme chosen for this year’s camp work, “For the people had a mind to work” (Neh. 4:6), reminds us of the many efforts and sacrifices God’s children make and offer in support of our camps. May God richly bless this year of camp fellowship, teaching, and instruction.
“Risen is our Sun in vict’ry shining on the mount today! Beams of warmth from Him are streaming, sorrows, griefs are cast away! Gather now, O birds of heaven, soar through pure, refreshing air. Chirp and twitter, larks and sparrows on vine branches fresh and fair” (SHZ 119:1). Another Easter is behind us, yet the message of Easter offers hope for the tired traveler. Through Christ’s redemption work, the child of God will make it to heaven. Our hearts join with the songwriter: “As the heav’nly angels do, we can be rejoicing. We can run to tell the news: “Our Jesus now is living!” (SHZ 111:4).
During the Lenten season, and with the festivities of the 2016 Phoenix Winter Services behind us, we again pause and ponder the events leading up to Easter, a day of great festivity, as the songwriter has written: “Easter is our day of great festivity, when the Lamb was offered there on Calvary. Through His blood redeeming from our sins we’re free, robed in righteous garments, clothed in purity. Praise to Thee, dear Jesus! Sing my tongue and soul to Thee! Sing Hosanna! Amen!” (SHZ 107:1) It is by faith that the tired traveler will one day attain the glory and peace of heaven.
This time of year as we make plans for the coming camp season, our thoughts often turn toward our children and youth. God has given us His kingdom and blessed us with a time of work. He has gifted opportunities for us to teach and care for our young. So often my thoughts turn to the words of the psalmist, where he says, “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God” (Ps. 84:1–3). In a restless and sinful world, God’s kingdom remains as a safe haven for the child of God. It is a secure place where the gospel is preached and a place where we can raise our young.
Happy New Year! Yet another year has ended of the time allotted me. For thy gifts of mercy, Father, I will thank Thee joyfully, for Thy love that guides my way, for Thy goodness ev’ry day. Thou hast shed on me Thy blessing through this year which now is passing.—SHZ 56:1
As a new year begins, we often look back and remember events of the past year. We also look forward to plans for the coming year. As we reflect on this past year, 2015, one thing that is very heartwarming is the believers’ support and generosity in LLC’s many work forms. Without this support, the work would be in vain. Looking forward, we wonder what plans God has in store for us. On the horizon we see additional needs at our camp centers and the possibility of adding more facilities to support in the area of camp work. Local congregations continue to grow and so do the requests for additional support from the office. With these requests we prayerfully ask for God’s continued guidance and blessing.
On behalf of the LLC office staff, I would like to wish each one of you a joyous and peaceful Christmas season. Scriptures relate how many years ago the heavens opened as angels announced the birth of our Savior. The message brought relief and joy to the tired traveler. The same joyful message resounds today, gives comfort to the weary traveler, and gives hope of an eternal Christmas in heaven. May this message of God’s perfect gift to all people be centermost as we gather with loved ones this Christmas season.
November brings with it a hint of winter and nearing the end of another calendar year. It also marks the end of the church year and the beginning of Advent, with plans being made for the holidays right around the corner. Fall also reminds of the life of man, how we are like the grass that grows but in time withers away. As we make plans for the holidays, and also for 2016, may it be that we remember the many blessings of our Heavenly Father and the hope of heaven that waits at the end of our journey.
As summer fades into fall, we can pause again to reflect on the many blessings that God has gifted into the life of His children. We see how the plans that were prayerfully made came to fruition. God blessed our Summer Services and meetings, our camp season went well, and many have returned to the normalcy of autumn routines. This time of year many congregations will be hosting fall services. There, also, is opportunity to meet around God’s Word and discuss plans for future work. Fall is also a busy time at the LLC office with staff members, the LLC Board, and committees meeting to finalize plans for 2016.
September brings with it the first day of fall. Each season brings changes, and this is also true with the work of the LLC. One of the changes is Randy Herrala’s official retirement as executive director on August 31. We wish Randy and his wife Noella God’s blessings in this new phase of life for them. In replacing Randy in this position, I ask for your prayers of support in my new duties.
We now reflect upon the 2015 LLC Summer Services and meetings held July 2–5 in Outlook, Saskatchewan. Countless hours of planning, from scheduling microphone activation or announcements, to cleaning the bleachers, building a boardwalk, and measuring for chair layout, all joined together to benefit service guests when they arrived at the Jim Kook Recreation Complex. The throng of travelers from many locations lifted their voices to sing songs of Zion from the words projected on screens and then quieted to hear the sermons. This year’s motto, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27), reveals how God’s children hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, and follow Him in life, suffering, and doctrine. We thank the Heavenly Father for this time of refreshment, and we also thank the Laestadian Lutheran congregations in Outlook, Dunblane, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and the supporting congregations of Lethbridge, Alberta and Williston, North Dakota for hosting this year’s event.
The birth and life of John the Baptist will be the theme for special worship services in several LLC congregations in June. St. John’s Day occurs near the summer solstice, when the days are the longest, six months before the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:36). John the Baptist is remembered as the last prophet, the forerunner of Christ. Scriptures say he “came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light” (John 1:7). Seeing Jesus coming toward him, John said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). In Jesus’ farewell speech, He spoke how He would go to the Father, but then the Comforter would come. After Jesus’ resurrection at Easter, He ascended into heaven, and then came the shedding of the Holy Spirit. Ascension Day and Pentecost are among the special events we observe in May.
April begins with the celebration of our greatest festival, Easter. On Easter morning, our Lord Jesus rose victorious. Apostle Paul wrote of Christ’s victory, stating, “Death is swallowed up in victory…thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54,57). Our Savior sacrificed himself for our sins and prepared a way for us to enter heaven’s home. From beautiful Easter church services we hear the sound of a beloved Easter song, “Risen is our Sun in vict’ry, shining on the mount today!” (SHZ 119).
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). With this motto, guests gathered February 19–22 for the 2015 LLC Winter Services at the Phoenix Laestadian Lutheran Church. Throughout the services and during the congregation and youth evening, where a presentation titled, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people” (Isa. 40:1) was heard, listeners were encouraged to trust in God’s guidance and pray for His protection during all phases of life. Guests were reminded to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). God’s kingdom is a refuge, and the children of God who dwell in it, endeavoring to keep faith and a good conscience, are protected from much evil on the journey to heaven.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases
(Ps. 103:2,3). “The benefits given to us by our heavenly Father are brought out by the psalmist. The greatest benefit given is the gift of faith to believe our sins forgiven, which we hear when God’s children gather. Whether at services, in our homes, at camps, or other places, we recognize this gift when God speaks to us through any of His own… As we look forward to the 2015 camp season, let’s consider all the benefits we have been given at our camps and in our youthwork.”
Happy New Year! With this familiar greeting we wish one another good fortune in the new year just beginning. At the same time we are reminded that another year has ended and that time has gone quickly. Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians that we should walk not as fools but as wise, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16). We want to make wholesome use of our time. As we make plans for the coming year, let us pray to God that He will bless our plans and guide our footsteps, protecting us in faith and from harm on the journey to heaven.
Sing, O people and rejoice of the Child, now raise your voice,
join the joyous Christmas hymn, for Christ is born, the Holy Son of Mary.
Now behold what was foretold by Gabriel. Eia! Eia!
Grace and mercy Christ has shown, and the way to heaven’s throne. Hallelujah!
Sole Redeemer, Lord and Savior, in the manger God divine!
Yea, the only Savior we shall ever find.
Jesus Lord, O Blessed One, Immanuel, born to us as was foretold by Gabriel! (SHZ 36:1)
May the beautiful songs of Christmas and their messages bring joy to your hearts as you celebrate the birth of our Savior!
November brings All Saint’s Day, Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., and the end of another year on the church calendar. As we begin the month in observance of All Saint’s Day, we remember the children of God who have lived before us and died with the testimony of living faith. In Hebrews it is written, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report” (Heb. 11:1,2). Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8).
The first Sunday in October is Michaelmas Sunday. This day is also known as “Angels’ and Children’s Sunday,” where we remember portions of Scripture following the theme, “The messengers of God.” During the time of Moses and again during the time of Jesus, there was persecution against children. Even today there are many who do not wish to accept children, and there are those who do violence against them. The gospel of Michaelmas emphasizes a child’s faith and reminds us that the kingdom of heaven is a kingdom for children and the childlike.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). As summer vacations end and schools resume, we are reminded about the importance of education and teaching our children. During the weeks of summer, many of our young have been able to learn through confirmation schools, youth camps, and summer employment—even serving as camp counselors. Now a new school year begins, and many begin or continue their education in primary, secondary, and higher education settings. Member congregations resume Sunday school to teach about Scripture and matters of living faith. The learning that takes place in the time of youth lasts a lifetime. Let us nurture and embrace opportunities for education and be thankful for them, especially to teach our young about God’s Word and living Christianity.
A summer festival, the 2014 LLC Summer Services and meetings, concluded on July 6. God gave a time of refreshment to pause around His Word in the fellowship of His children. Saturday evening’s youth presentation, “Remember, now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” (Eccl. 12:1), by Sam Roiko, spoke of the joy of a child of God and noted that the time of youth is a special time of visitation. “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth” (Eccl. 11:9). The Summer Services weekend was truly a time of joy for the children of God who gathered there!
“Come and see” (John 1:46) is the motto for the upcoming 2014 LLC Summer Services in Rogers, Minn. This was the invitation given by Phillip, who had found Jesus, to his friend Nathanael, who doubted whether Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah. Whether you attend in person or listen via the Internet webcasts, “Come and see.” Welcome to the festive worship services of God’s children, July 3–6!
In recent months I have written about the LLC Ministers Camp scheduled for early April. Now, with joy, I can tell you how it went! Although questionable weather just prior to the camp kept many wondering whether or not they would be able to attend, most of those who planned to come were there. In fact, 84 of our 103 North American ministers attended, and others joined by teleconference during portions of the weekend. The tone for the weekend was set with the opening devotion by Saskatchewan minister, Art Simonson, speaking from 1 Peter 5:1–4, encouraging our ministers to feed the flock with a humble and willing mind. Throughout the many discussions, newly called and long-serving ministers alike took turns to speak. In freedom, love, and unity our ministers learned and were uplifted by the speeches of their co-workers.
This Easter season we again remember our Lord Jesus Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. He was the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Knowing of His approaching death and resurrection, Jesus told His disciples, “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me” (John 16:16). As the disciples pondered the matter, Jesus said, “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (John 16:20). The first visitors to Jesus’ sepulcher on Easter morning heard from the angel of the Lord, “He is not here: for he is risen.” They departed quickly “with fear and great joy” (Matt. 28:6,8). Jesus soon appeared to His own, saying, “Peace be unto you” (John 20:19). A child of God rejoices in Easter morning’s miracle. Our risen Savior won over sin, death, and hell and prepared
a way for sinful man to believe and inherit eternal life.
The beginning of Lent and the coming of spring become our focus in March. Another holiday observed this season is Mary’s Day, marking the time when the angel of the Lord announced to Mary that she would bear the Son of God. She questioned, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34). Hearing the angel’s answer, Mary left a beautiful example of living faith, replying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).
A midwinter highlight in LLC-sponsored activities each year is the event we call Winter Services. The 2014 LLC Phoenix Winter Services will take place at our traditional time over the last weekend in February, from February 20–23. This year’s theme comes from Proverbs 3:6, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” This verse continues the thought from the verse before it, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). Service guests will be uplifted in faith as they hear sermons encouraging them to remember God in every aspect of life and to allow Him to guide their footsteps. The service schedule now appears on the LLC website (www.llchurch.org). If you are not able to attend in person, welcome to listen to the Internet webcasts!
Let us begin the new year with thankful hearts, as we reflect upon the past year, and with prayerful hearts, as we look upon the year to come. When we have felt God’s guiding hand and protection up to this moment, we can also believe that His blessings will continue in the days ahead. With the passage of time, we see and experience many changes, but God’s Word provides us with a sure foundation. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8). “The word of the Lord endureth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:25.)