The Lutheran Heritage Foundation Harvest of Souls

As the harvest continues so does our emphasis this month on the harvest of souls. In this post I will focus on the Lutheran Heritage Foundation, (LHF) an organization that was founded by Rev. Dr. Robert Rahn in 1992.

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If 1992 sounds familiar it should. It is the same year that Orphan Grain Train, (OGT) the organization I highlighted in the first post in this series on the harvest of souls, was founded. The similarities between the two organizations is pretty interesting.

Both OGT and LHF were founded by pastors. Rev. Ray Wilke founded Orphan Grain Train and Rev. Dr. Robert Rahn founded LHF.

Both organizations were founded in response to needs that arose due to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Both organizations are Recognized Service Organizations of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS).

Both organizations work closely with other mission groups in the LCMS and with other mission organizations.

Both organizations operate with a small staff at their organization’s headquarters and have 100’s of volunteers putting in countless hours for their cause across the country.

And God has blessed both organizations with some pretty incredible growth.

It’s interesting to me that these two organizations are so similar but they are involved in very different kinds of mission work. OGT does mission work by supplying things peoples’ physical needs like food, clothing and other supplies. LHF does mission work by supplying Lutheran reading materials.

Rev. Rahn started LHF in his basement. It quickly outgrew his basement and they moved into a rented facility nearby. Eventually they built their own headquarters in MaComb, Michigan.

Rev. Rahn knew that there already were groups that were translating the Bible into different languages but not any organizations that were translating our good Lutheran writings into other languages. So that is what he decided to focus on.

The Bible is necessary for mission work but it is also necessary to have Lutheran writings that explain how Lutherans understand the Bible.

Our Lutheran understanding of the Bible is that it teaches salvation by God’s grace, for Christ’s sake through faith. Purely by God’s grace we are called to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died on the cross to pay for our sins. Good works are necessary in response to God’s gift of salvation but we are not to depend on our good works for salvation.

Under the Lord’s blessing, LHF now produces 1,092 Lutheran publications in 113 languages. Those languages include:

Chinese, Czech, Hindi, Hausa,

Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portugese, Russian,

Spanish, Slovak, Somali, Swahili,

Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, and many, many more.

LHF has published Martin Luther’s Small Catechism in more than 92 languages. In the past decade, LHF has published and distributed 3 million Lutheran books to pastors, seminary students, missionaries and churches – all at no cost to them.

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LHF makes use of 300 translators, reviewers, editors, linguists and theologians around the world for its translation work.

As always, there are some great LHF stories to share.

LHF works with a Lutheran church body in Tanzania that has 7 million members. That’s over three times as many Lutherans as the LCMS has. They are growing so fast they do not have enough pastors. In many instances one pastor is responsible for 9-10 churches.

Since the pastors cannot get to every church every week they rely on Martin Luther’s Small Catechism which is supplied by LHF. The people eagerly study their catechisms on their own and then discuss what they’ve read with their pastor when he is able to be there.

Then there’s Transylvania, the birthplace of Dracula, a land shrouded with myths and superstition. Transylvania was settled nearly five centuries ago by German Lutherans who brought their Lutheran faith with them. In fact, the first book ever printed into the Romanian language using the Latin alphabet was Luther’s Small Catechism.

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But that was centuries ago. Romania became part of the Soviet Union and Christians were persecuted and their churches confiscated. Now Rev. Sorin Trifa is in Transylvania trying to reverse decades of Communist influence. One of the first things he did was work with LHF to get a new translation of the Small Catechism in Romanian developed. The group of believers there is small but it is growing.

Many mission efforts were started when the Soviet Union collapsed. Many of them by now have faded but both OGT and LHF are thriving. Although they operate in very different spheres they are both part of the Lord’s mission of bringing salvation to those who are lost.

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