Rev. Matthew Heise still remembers the missionaries who came to his Lutheran grade school in Dearborn, Mich., when he was just a young boy.
“Those experiences really made an impression on me,” he said. “I learned that things aren’t always like they are here in the United States. It’s a different culture, but the people still need Christ, and we are united in Him.” It was a concept that would shape Rev. Heise’s life, although he didn’t realize it at the time.
As the years passed, Matthew became a high school history teacher in the Detroit area. But God had different plans for this grandson of Russian, Hungarian and Slovak immigrants.
“In 1994, I had the opportunity to be a volunteer missionary in Russia, where I taught English,” Rev. Heise recalled. “Russia had just opened up, and at that time the government allowed us to go into public schools and witness. I also taught catechism classes at a Lutheran church in Moscow, which got the bug in me and I ended up going to seminary in St. Louis (Mo.).”
After ordination, Rev. Heise was called as a missionary for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, serving for 12 years in former Soviet-bloc countries like Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia. There, he saw firsthand the value of having good Lutheran books in the languages of the people.
One area Rev. Heise worked in was Kyrgyzstan, located on the western border of China. Ten years ago, there was no Lutheran presence in the predominantly Muslim country.
“As I traveled into Kyrgyzstan, I found that the people literally had no Christian background,” Rev. Heise remembers. “A book about Jesus Christ, written in their own language, gave them something to read and begin to absorb.”
He found that Luther’s Small Catechism, published by LHF in the Kyrgyz language, was invaluable to the house churches starting to spring up.
“Now the people had this foundation of the faith, translated into their own language, that they could take home with them. When they’re out in a village and the only thing there is a mosque, where could they get a catechism? But now LHF is getting into the villages, the highways and byways. Getting into these different languages and small regions – it’s taking Scripture to the ends of the earth.”
WOULD YOUR CONGREGATION LIKE TO HEAR MORE?
Contact the Lutheran Heritage Foundation to schedule Rev. Heise as a special speaker at your congregation. You can hear Rev. Heise’s inspiring accounts of God’s church persevering and growing under the most adverse circumstances, and how you can take part in this “second Reformation.”
E-mail the LHF office, or call the LHF World Mission Center at (800)554-0723.
Download Rev. Matthew Heise’s biographical information, formatted as a church bulletin insert.