LHF founder looks back at 25 years in mission

Categories: Asia, Europe, LHF History, Russia

“I’m here to raise a banner for the Lord, and I’m looking for people who will stand with us on the truth of Scripture.”

“It’s not something I talk about very much, but as I look back on it, it’s clear that the Lord had a path arranged for the Lutheran Heritage Foundation from the time I went to my first call as a Lutheran pastor,” recalled Rev. Robert Rahn, who together with a Board of Directors headed by Rev. Robert Preus, founded LHF on Nov. 10, 1992.

It was a time of amazing opportunity. The atheistic Soviet Union had collapsed and for the first time in 70 years, doors were open to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people living behind the Iron Curtain.

LHF in 1992: Distributing Bibles in Russia’s Red Square, where such literature had been forbidden just a year earlier.

Rev. Rahn seized the opportunity by traveling to Moscow, where he and a few friends distributed Bibles and tracts in Red Square (pictured here).

“It was Reformation Day 1992, and we decided to test the degree of religious freedom in Russia,” he said. “It was a smooth operation. What was most significant was that after the literature was distributed, we checked every garbage can in the Red Square area, and we didn’t find a single Bible or discarded tract. Everything disappeared!”

During his time in Russia, Rev. Rahn saw a hurdle to telling the people about Jesus: there was very little Lutheran literature available in the language of the people.

So from the basement of his home, Rev. Rahn started LHF, a mission organization that 25 years later would be translating and publishing confessional Lutheran literature for people in more than 80 countries and 100 languages.

Though the organization has gone through many changes throughout its growth, one thing has never changed: the commitment to solidly confessional Lutheran teachings, most simply put forth in Luther’s Small Catechism. 

“When the Baptists and Pentecostals and the Russian Orthodox come to us and ask, ‘Can we have this book,’ well, we’ve never seen anything like this!” Rev. Rahn exclaimed. “And why shouldn’t they want it? It’s the best tool available for explaining Scripture and the faith that is ours. It’s certainly worthy of being shared not just in Luther’s Germany or our Lutheran churches in the United States, but everywhere, for all people.”

As he has stepped back from the daily leadership of LHF activities, Rev. Rahn expressed confidence in Rev. Matthew Heise, who has been LHF’s executive director since 2014.

“Matt has brought a wealth of mission experience and connections to the mission, and this bodes well for the future,” Rev. Rahn said. “My vision for the next 25 years is for LHF to be at work in all areas of the world where the Truth needs to be taught and demonstrated. There’s a hunger for the understanding of Scripture, and we have the materials that can fill that gap. We’re not interested in just feeding somebody’s stomach, but to feed people’s souls with the Word of God. ”

Only with your help can this important work continue. Prayerfully consider how you can help support LHF projects.