September 2015 – When Carl Bassett left the Vietnam War behind in the mid-1970s, he left with a hardened heart. After years of seeing his fellow soldiers killed at the hands of enemy fighters, he couldn’t have cared less whether the Vietnamese people lived or died.
So it was a poignant moment when Rev. Carl Bassett urged his fellow circuit pastors to lead their congregations in working together to provide for LHF’s Vietnamese translation of the Book of Concord.
“For us veterans from the Vietnam era, it was such a complicated issue of not feeling welcome when we came back home,” said Rev. Bassett, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Niles, Mich. “I had my own feelings about the Vietnamese, realizing that many of my fellow soldiers didn’t come back, directly at the hands of the Vietnamese.
“Christ worked on my heart over the years, opening my eyes and my heart to remember that Christ died for the Vietnamese people, too,” he reflected. “Then, when [LHF representative] Rev. Tom Batsky brought this project to our attention, I thought, ‘Wow. Thank you, Lord.’”
WORKING TOGETHER TO ACCOMPLISH MUCH
Ten congregations from the Michigan District’s St. Joseph circuit have committed to raise the $18,000 necessary to fund the Vietnamese Book of Concord project by Reformation 2017. By working together, each congregation needs to raise only $1,800 over the two years − a very attainable goal, said Circuit Visitor Rev. Michael Roth.
A start to raising the funds “will probably be to designate the funds of our circuit Reformation service,” Rev. Roth said. “I think a project like this is going to really unite our circuit around a common mission.”
Other ways some of the congregations plan to raise funds are drawing from established mission funds, including their Sunday schools and Lutheran day school offerings and simple door offerings.
WHY THE BOOK OF CONCORD?
Many of the Michigan congregations are already familiar with the Book of Concord and stand ready to help provide it for the people of Vietnam. Perhaps most familiar are the people of Christ Lutheran Church in Stevensville, Mich., where Rev. Dr. Philip Quardokus is pastor.
“For eight years, our congregation has read a Book of Concord selection during the worship service, which goes along with the lessons for the day,” Rev. Quardokus said. “When you get the Gospel right, it touches people. That’s what the Book of Concord does. It gets the Gospel right.
“For example, that whole idea of Law and Gospel – we talk about it all the time, and it’s infused throughout the Book of Concord,” he explained. “Right now on our Sunday mornings, we’re looking at the Formula of Concord and learning how perilous it was in Luther’s time for Lutheranism to continue. Those were times that everything we have today could have been lost, but bold people stepped forward and allowed the Formula of Concord to be produced. How can you get more practical than that, how God works in the lives of people today?”
As a teacher at a Lutheran seminary in South Sudan, Rev. Roth has seen for himself how important it is for pastors in other countries to have good Lutheran books like the Book of Concord in their own languages.
“They hunger for trusted, Confessional materials,” he said. “They don’t have a lot of books available to them, and so the ones they do have are quite valuable. A lot of Christian groups do work overseas, but the materials they use, if they’re not solid and foundational, have limited value and lifespan.
“The greatest value of the Book of Concord is its confession of Christ,” he concluded. “It very clearly proclaims the Gospel and identifies that as a golden thread running through Scripture.”
Rev. Bassett also reflected on the value of the Book of Concord for new and growing Lutheran pastors in Vietnam.
“When teaching someone the faith for the first time, what a joy it is to be able to have something as great as the Book of Concord with all its application, information, and rationales ready at your fingertips,” he said. “We get used that here in the United States, but we sometimes forget that other parts of the world have not been blessed in this way.”
YOUR CONGREGATION CAN HELP!
If your circuit or congregation wants to learn more about adopting an LHF mission project for Reformation 2017, email info@LHFmissions.org or call the office at (800)554-0723. LHF speakers are available to speak to your congregation, free of charge.
Only with your help can this important work continue. Prayerfully consider how you can help support LHF projects.