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Fifty years of blessings for the Lutheran Laymen’s League of Canada

August 15, 2017 No Comment

CANADA – As the Lutheran Laymen’s League of Canada marks its 50th anniversary in 2017 it is celebrating and giving thanks to God for the men and women of the Lutheran Laymen’s League who have made it their objective to assist the Lutheran Church of Missouri, Ohio & other States (later known as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) in word and deed since 1917 and Lutheran Church–Canada since 1989.

When the Lutheran Laymen’s League (later the Int’l LLL) was formed in 1917 by twelve men to relieve the Synod of its crippling $100,000 debt, members of Canadian congregations were among those who joined. In 1920, the LLL raised $2.7 million to establish a benevolent fund for the Synod’s retired and invalid professors, pastors, and teachers and the widows and orphans of deceased “servants of the Word.” In 1923 and 1926, it helped equip radio station KFUO operating out of Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis.

Re-organizing in 1929, the LLL expanded its membership and its focus shifted from just gathering funds to encouraging lay participation in all phases of church work, particularly in congregations.

In 1930, it resolved to “put the Gospel on the air” through a national radio program and on October 2, 1930, the first broadcast of The Lutheran Hour aired on WHK Cleveland, with legendary speaker Rev. Dr. Walter A. Maier. These continued until June 11, 1931 when network policies and financial uncertainties during the depression stopped the weekly broadcasts. 1935 saw the broadcasts re-start and in the decades since, listeners have received inspiration and encouragement from messages preached by many speakers: Rev. Dr. W.A. Maier, Rev. Dr. Lawrence Acker, Rev. Dr. Armin Oldsen, Rev. Dr. Oswald C.J. Hoffmann, Rev. Wallace Schulz, Rev. Dr. Dale Meyer, Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus; and Rev. Dr. Greg Seltz.

At first Canadians heard the early broadcasts from American radio stations near the border. By 1941, six Canadian stations were also airing the weekly program. This number increased to a high of 102 stations, with the number currently sitting at 84. Now the Internet makes these programs available anytime and anywhere.

The influence of The Lutheran Hour is difficult to measure and stories of its impact come from surprising sources. It’s not unusual for the LLL-C office in Kitchener to receive a call from someone who listened to the program at home when they couldn’t attend church during illness, wild prairie winters, or while in remote areas of Canada where there was no Lutheran church. John Daniels, who served as the Director of the LLL office in Canada before becoming the Executive Director of the Int’l LLL, said The Lutheran Hour was instrumental in his becoming a Christian. Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel (LCC’s Executive for Missions and Social Ministry) tells how the program was instrumental in him meeting his wife and her coming to faith in Brazil. When interviewing Rev. Dr. Paul Meier, son of the original speaker, on the Canadian TV program 100 Huntley Street, host David Mainse admitted that every Sunday before his family left home for their Pentecostal church service, where his father was the pastor, they always listened to The Lutheran Hour!

When television gained popularity in the 1940s, the Int’l LLL produced four feature films and even televised some Lutheran Hour broadcasts. In 1952, the LCMS started producing “This is the Life”, a television drama series and in 1967 invited the Int’l LLL to join as a co-sponsor of Lutheran Television. The League assumed sole responsibility for production in 1975 which continued until 1988. “The Life” was seen across Canada on a number of TV stations and early on the films were distributed from the homes of two pastors, one in Edmonton and the other in Kitchener. LLL Canada purchased time for the program on the national cable network Vision TV from 1989 to 1995 when “On Main Street,” hosted by Dr. Dale Meyer, became a staple for the channel. For eight years it generated ongoing response to its biblical approach to hot topics. Television specials for Christmas and Easter, produced by Lutheran Television, were also popular with Canadian stations and audiences.

1967 was a banner year: Canada celebrated its centennial; there were 242 LCMS congregations in Canada; and LLL Canada incorporated and registered as a Canadian charity. It continued distributing the Int’l LLL programs in Canada and working with congregations, and LLL members, groups and volunteers. Those volunteers have faithfully served both LLL Canada and the Int’l LLL, as well as hosted Int’l LLL conventions in Toronto, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Saskatoon.

When Lutheran Church–Canada formed in 1988, LLL Canada began working with this new church body. Over the years there have been a number of cooperative efforts including: Parish Media Team workshops for more than 350 people from 90 LCC congregations; support for translation in Thailand; funding for television outreach in Ukraine; medicines for Ukraine; printing of the catechism in Russian; Equipping to Share workshops; funding for the national youth gathering; multi-media outreach in Quebec; Living for Tomorrow in Saskatoon; and the Reach Out Canada conference marking LCC’s 25th anniversary.

LLL Canada also focuses on meeting the needs of the members and congregations of LCC with printed devotions for Lent and Advent, translating them into French and Chinese and posting them on Facebook. During the 1980s it produced a French language radio program with speakers, Rev. David Elseroad and Rev. Denis Fortin. It now hosts a website featuring a radio program from France and translates LHM Project Connect booklets to reach francophone speakers as well as those whose native tongue is Chinese. You’ll also find the organization on Facebook.

Responding to a recent survey, LLL Canada is developing new resources to help Christians in their everyday witness and outreach. “SolasAlive” features short internet videos using the themes of Luther’s reformation to connect people with the Gospel and the church. “Serving with Joy” is an easy and fun way to use simple serving opportunities to connect people with the Gospel.

“So many of our LCC congregations are making use of the resources offered by LHM through LLL Canada,” explains Rev. Ron Mohr, Mission Encourager in LCC’s East District. “The video and print Bible studies are very popular, especially the series on Martin Luther and the Reformation marking this year’s 500th.” He notes that one of the first places many pastors look for helpful resources for parishioners is the Project Connect booklets. “All of the LHM resources apply Biblical truths to practical needs of the people in our communities.”

“All of the LHM resources apply Biblical truths to practical needs of the people in our communities.”

The Int’l LLL conducts outreach from 30 ministry centers around the world. LLL Canada is responsible for Canada but has also provided financial support for the work in France, India, and Nigeria. Currently, it partners with LHM Nicaragua in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ alongside the local Lutheran church.

One thing that makes LLL unique in Christian media outreach organizations is that it does not rely primarily on the ‘audience’ for financial support. Most of the funds to produce and distribute Lutheran Hour Ministries’ programs and materials come from donors across Canada who simply want to participate in a ministry dedicated to effectively sharing the Gospel. As an auxiliary of LCC, LLL Canada is financially independent and is not funded by the Synod; instead it relies on the faithful and generous support of individuals, groups, and some congregations.

For the past fifty years in Canada, LLL Canada’s efforts have reflected the organization’s slogan: “Bringing Christ to the Nations and the Nations to the Church.” God willing, LLL Canada will continue on in that mission for many more years to come.

Find LLL Canada online at www.lll.ca.

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