Update on Evening Devotions
The evening devotions have been warmly received and will continue as an LLC effort. We thank the Phoenix and Menahga congregations for the work they have done. In the next few weeks, we will add additional ministers to this work and also consolidate the broadcasts under a single LLC-based feed. The LLC website listen page will reflect these changes as they happen.
Update on Sunday Schiool
Preparations are being made to post a Sunday School video Easter morning. You may view this video with your loved ones as part of your Easter celebration at home. Details about when and where this video will be posted will be available before Sunday on LLC social media and website. A notice with these details will also be sent to LLC congregations.
Work is also going forward on planning further Sunday School videos that will be published in coming weeks. We will send further information on these items as it becomes available.
Limiting Our Social Gatherings
While we understand the vital importance of fellowship in the life of our believing young, we feel a need to remind them that it is also their duty to obey the recommendations and regulations set forth by local and national authorities with regards to gathering at this time. Please remind your youth, and others, the importance of doing their part during these unprecedented times. Let us all support one another in this endeavor.
LLC Office Closed, Staff Working Remotely
We continue to monitor and react to changes that arise from the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Wednesday, March 25 the LLC office has closed through Friday, April 10 as the MN Governor has issued an order to stay home except for essential needs. Though the office is closed, our work goes on. Office staff will work remotely for the duration of the office closure.
We have all felt the impact of the restrictions on gathering due to the concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic. The opportunity to listen to God’s Word online is truly a blessing under these circumstances. Many congregations that already webcast their services have transitioned to services in an online format. The LLC suggests that congregations, if they have not already done so, consider adding a Wednesday evening service or Bible class and an online Sunday school lesson. Beginning this Thursday, the Phoenix and Menahga congregations will begin broadcasting short evening devotions on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. An example of a possible weekly online schedule appears below. The Phoenix and Menahga evening devotions started as local efforts. LLC is now simply helping with the coordination and sharing of information. If it becomes a longer-term effort, it could become an LLC effort and more help would be needed and sought.
Please check congregation web sites for these or other online activities. The LLC congregations that currently broadcast online are available from the "Listen to a Worship Service" link.
Sunday: Local online Services
Local online Sunday school or a Sunday school at home by parents
Monday: Evening Devotion, Phoenix 8 pm MST
Tuesday: Evening Devotion, Menahga 8 pm CDT
Wednesday: Local online services or Bible class
Thursday: Evening Devotion, Menahga 8 pm CDT
Friday: Evening Devotion, Phoenix 8 pm MST
LLC Board: Winter Services Announcment
Winter Services Opening Announcement in Phoenix, March 20-22, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters in faith and all who are joining these services via this broadcast,
We warmly greet all of you and welcome you to these online broadcasts from the Phoenix Laestadian Lutheran Church on behalf of the sponsoring Arizona congregations as well as the LLC Board!
These special services are being held in an unprecedented manner. The church benches are empty but you, the service guests, are virtually present listening from the comfort of your home. Even though we long to be gathered together, the message and comfort of God’s word still reaches each of us bringing blessing, hope, and joy! May it also reach those who long to find the peace of heart and conscience seeking a gracious God.
The traditional LLC Phoenix Winter Services have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a sobering effect on the entire world. Nonetheless, God’s Word assures us that there is nothing new under the sun. Nothing happens without God’s knowledge. Let us put our trust in God!
As we consider the uncertainty that this crisis brings, it is good for us to pause to pray for our local authorities, national leaders, and medical professionals. We cannot fully understand the challenges they face, yet through their efforts we receive blessing and protection. They are ministers of God for our good (Rom. 13:4). We pray with the songwriter, Shield us and grant us your blessing. / Help us, Lord, most high. / Wisdom impart to our leaders; / may they regard their Creator. / Power is from on high; / virtue is in Your counsel./ Shelter our native land. SZ 535:1
In North America, national and local authorities have given us guidelines to help slow the spread of the virus. They have, using their best judgement and available information, continued to recommend that large gatherings be limited, both religious and otherwise. The LLC will continue to monitor the situation following the guidelines of the appropriate authorities, and will make changes accordingly. The Board is especially considering our upcoming camps and Summer Services.
The LLC recommends that each congregation follows the instructions of their national and local authorities. In these times, let us endeavor to lay aside our personal opinion about the seriousness of this pandemic and trust and heed the advice of our local, state, provincial and national authorities. We trust that God gives them needed wisdom to make decisions that need to be made in this time.
At this time, the LLC has suspended its LLC sponsored camp activities and foreign mission trips. We will continue to monitor this situation and reinstate these activities as possible. We have also cancelled our LLC Ministers Camp, which was scheduled for this April. We are also monitoring the situation as it may affect our LLC Summer Services and Annual Meeting scheduled for July 2-5 this year in Marquette, Michigan. We will announce any decision on whether these services will be held or not by May 1.
Just as the previous generations have worked together in times of natural disasters, war and economic turmoil, let us each take responsibility to do our part to help. We especially want to remember our elders and those with underlying health conditions while not forgetting that human life is fragile for all of us.
We can in faith also look for God’s blessing in these developments, blessings which for now may be hidden. We have been reminded what is most important in life, living faith and peace with God and how Jesus instructed us to care for our neighbor in love and with prayer. One other blessing in the midst of this trial is that it has provided a good opportunity and time to focus on those in our households, our closest ones.
Brothers and sisters, as we go forward day by day, may God give us continued patience and forbearance. Let us remember to pray! Pray on behalf of those who have fallen ill from this virus, for those who care for the ill and for those whose livelihood suffers from worldwide economic turmoil. Pray for the families who are affected as schools close and routines are upended. Let us remember those who are alone, those who are suffering, or need assistance at this time. Let us also comfort and support our children and youth who may feel distress in this uncertainty. We join with the words of the songwriter, Heavenly Father, God of all, / care for us, the weak and small. / Care for neighbors, family, / friends and loved ones dear to me. SZ 510:1
Let us look to God in all things. The psalmist writes “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1,2).
Again, a warm welcome to all of you to our online services!
May God richly bless and comfort us through these services!
Cancellation of 2020 LLC Phoenix Winter Services
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) authorities have issued guidelines to help prevent the spread of coronavirus that has spread globally. Instructions have been given for both traveling and organizing events. The spread of the virus remains a fluid situation as we continue to monitor new and updated information. Because of this, we have decided to cancel our 2020 LLC Phoenix Winter Services scheduled for March 19–22 at Desert Mountain Middle School Desert Hills, Arizona. Although the decision was difficult, LLC felt it important to act on the side of caution for the health and safety of our membership.
As of this time, no decisions have been made with regard to other LLC-sponsored events.We will continue to monitor available information in the days ahead.
For further information:
Eric Jurmu, LLC Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Frantti, LLC Board Chairman, email@example.com
Laestadian Lutheran Church – www.llchurch.org
January 2021 Update
Happy New Year 2021!
The year 2020 was like no other in recent memory. What started as a normal year has certainly changed in ways that we could not have predicted. Due to the pandemic, Winter and Summer Services were moved to an online environment, foreign mission trips were postponed, confirmation schools were scheduled and rescheduled, most of the summer camps were canceled and local congregations adjusted their service arrangements.
We became familiar with distance learning, working from home, limits to social gathering and so on. Many things have changed around us and there may have been sorrows and trials, yet around us we see God’s abundant blessings. The greatest blessing is that one has been preserved in faith and can enter the new year as a child of God. Thus we face another year securely trusting in God’s guidance and direction for our own personal endeavor of faith and also for the work of His kingdom.
It has been heartwarming to see the care and generosity of believers in supporting the work. At the beginning of 2021, we prayerfully ask for God’s continued blessings. Most of all, the child of God has a living hope that one day faith will be changed to eternal life in the glory of heaven.
LLC Update Tour Continues
The LLC Update Tour was partially completed in 2020 as scheduled. Due to the pandemic, a number of congregation stops have been postponed into 2021. We have found the tour, which happens every three years, to be an important and needed means of communication throughout North American Zion. The plan is to complete the tour as early in the year as possible.
Kathy Laho will be retiring from her position as LLC Communications Assistant early in 2021. A notice for filling this position has been sent to LLC congregations. Kathy has served in LLC work for many years and will be missed at the office. We wish Kathy God’s blessings for the days and years to come!
2021 LLC Winter Services
We extend a heartfelt welcome to 2021 LLC Phoenix Winter Services March 18–21. The current plan is to hold the services at the Phoenix church. Services are also scheduled to be held Wednesday, March 17, in Prescott Valley.
The theme chosen for services is Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (John 17:17). The topic for the congregation discussion evening will be based on this theme and will be presented by Sam Roiko.
2021 LLC Summer Services
2021 LLC Summer Services are scheduled for July 1–4 in Marquette, Michigan. Please see additional information on page 15.
Confirmation Schools 2021
Planning for 2021 Confirmation Schools began with a web conference for directors and teachers on Monday, December 8. There will be eight camps this year, each planning for 30–35 students, with the exception of Stony Lake which can handle additional students due to the recent renovation. Online sign up began on January 4.
New LLC Office Building
Recently we’ve communicated plans to our member congregations regarding the purchase of a facility that we will use as our central office after the lease expires at our current location. The lease for the current LLC office space is expiring in 2021 and over a sixty-percent increase was planned in negotiations of a new lease. The purchase of the building in Monticello, Minnesota, is under contract.
Currently a 60-day due diligence period allows discussion with city officials and exploration of buildout costs. With the purchase of the new building and subsequent buildout, monthly costs are expected to be similar to current expenses. The closing is scheduled for February 25. Information will be communicated regularly to LLC congregations as the project develops.
Seasonal Positions Open
Seasonal positions for 2021 are available at each of our camp facilities, including core counselor, lifeguard, kitchen help, and caretaker’s assistant positions. Look for the information sent to your congregation. Contact LLC Facility Manager Phil Jurmu (firstname.lastname@example.org) for additional information. Please submit your application by completing the Camp Work Application online.
Silver Springs Development
The LLC Facilities Committee, along with the Silver Springs Development Committee (SSDC) and Management Committee (SSMC) met at the LLC office on December 3, to consider future development at Silver Springs. The meeting prioritized five immediate needs and coordinators will communicate those plans to LLC congregations early in 2021.
- The Communications Department intends to publish two books in the coming months. One is titled The Heavenly Father’s Gift, which is a sequel to Where Has the Heavenly Father Gone?, an illustrated story originally published by the SRK. Our other new book will be Christ is the Same Yesterday, Today and Forever. The individual chapters of this book have been printed in the Voice of Zion in 2019–2020 issues, and now they will be compiled into a book.
- We excitedly await the publication of Easter Messenger, the LLC’s new Easter magazine. Voice of Zion subscribers can watch for this new publication in the mail mid-March.
- Speaking of the mail, we are aware that some subscribers have recently experienced delays in receiving their periodicals in a timely fashion. This appears to be due to the fact that we utilize bulk mail to reduce postage and subscription costs. We are investigating ways to avoid this in the future.
- The Voice of Zion contained an insert in the October, November and December issues. The insert, called Round the table, aims to provide education, inspiration and activities that foster connections and discussion. We have received appreciative feedback on the insert, for which we are thankful. In 2021, we will publish Round the table every other month, in the February, April, June, August, October and December issues of the Voice of Zion.
- The Communications Department made an effort to provide a variety of digital content around the Christmas holidays. These efforts have been well received, and we are considering ways to make such content available on a more regular basis.
Workshop for New Ministers
An online workshop for new ministers is scheduled for January 22–23 and will focus on a minister’s responsibilities. The workshop aims to provide basic information, resources and support for pastoral duties. This first workshop for new ministers is especially intended for ministers called in 2017 or later. Information about the workshop has been sent to congregation contacts.
Mission Work Update
- A church facility was recently completed in Busumbala, Gambia.
- Construction of the church facility in Atimé, Togo, is now underway.
- Weekly online services for Ecuador have been scheduled through May 2021.
- Recorded devotions are being delivered in WhatsApp in both English and French for congregations in Africa and Pakistan.
- Evening devotions have been scheduled for four evenings per week through 2021.
At the beginning of 2021 preparation for the 2022 LLC Operating Plan has begun. The theme chosen are words of Jesus, Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33). The Operating Plan is an important tool for office staff as it gives clear direction to the work of the LLC.
God has given us a blessed time of work; may God continue to guide and bless our new year as only He can.
December 2020 Update
Lo, how a rose e’er blooming from tender stem has sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming as men of old have sung.
It came, a flower bright amid the cold of winter, when half spent was the night.
Isaiah had foretold it in words of promise sure,
and Mary’s arms enfold Him, a virgin meek and pure.
Through God’s eternal will, this Child to us is given at midnight calm and still.
During this festive season we are thankful for the many blessings which God has given. We are most thankful for the fulfillment of the promise of a Savior. For this we say, “Immanuel, God is with us” (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). On behalf of the LLC office staff, I wish each of you a joyous and peaceful Christmas. May the message of God’s perfect gift to humankind be centermost as we celebrate this Christmas season.
Updates on LLC Activities
- Just in time for Christmas, we have released two new items. One is an album, called Christmas Peace, of Christmas music on classical guitar and organ. The other is our latest board book, titled Away in a Manger. Both would be wonderful gifts for loved ones and can be purchased on the LLC website or in your local congregation bookstore.
- Approximately 100 ministers joined the annual LLC Ministers Teleconference on November 5. LLC Board Chairman Jim Frantti opened the teleconference by summarizing the current spiritual situation in North American Zion. He then presented the topic “The Christian & Government.” The discussion on the presented topic was united and one-minded. We wish to remember one another in love and patience, serve our neighbor amid challenges presented by the worldwide pandemic and be respectful to and obey the various mandates which are currently in place.
- Representatives from the Eastern Region congregation boards met online November 7.
- Midwestern Region boards met in Rockford, Minn., November 21. Ben Waaraniemi introduced the topic “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost,” from 1 Thess. 1:5, as basis for the spiritual discussion. The meeting also addressed terms for LLC Board members, camp board members and region mission committee members.
- In early November, we asked for input from parents who have a 2021 confirmand to indicate their first and second choice for Confirmation school. Based on those results, eight LLC Confirmation Schools will be held in 2021. The signup for confirmation will open January 4.
- Dates and locations of the 2021 Confirmation Schools are as follows:
~June 20–27: Hasscib Lake 1
~July 10–17: West Coast 1
~July 11–18: Prairie Shores
~July 11–18: Stony Lake 1
~July 17–24: West Coast 2
~July 18–25: Hasscib Lake 2
~July 18–25: Kamp Kipa
~July 25–Aug. 1: Stony Lake 2
Capacity at Stony Lake is 50 students and 30 at the other locations.
- Positions are open for SLC Caretaker and Kitchen Manager. For additional information, contact LLC Facilities Manager Phil Jurmu (email@example.com). Submit your application for these positions by December 31, 2020.
- Watch also for announcements regarding core staff openings for the 2021 camp season at all LLC-owned facilities. Notices will be sent to congregations in December or January. There will also be openings for paid kitchen staff at HLC for the months of July and August.
- Subscription renewal notices have been sent out for the 2021 Voice of Zion and Shepherd’s Voice. Note that along with this subscription, access to digital and audio versions is available by contacting the LLC office. We thank you for your subscription! It helps to support LLC work.
- In December, the Humanitarian Aid Committee sends an annual Christmas gift package to congregations in Ecuador, Togo, and Ghana. This year, due to the world-wide pandemic, the package serves as a well-received gift for believers in far-away lands. Year-end contributions can be made for this effort on the LLC website. Click Donate and then write “HAC Christmas gift” in the Payment for box.
- It’s not too early to start making plans for 2021 LLC Services. Winter Services in Phoenix, Ariz., are being planned for Desert Mountain Middle School, March 18–21. The Phoenix church is reserved as a back-up location, in case the pandemic affects our planning. Summer Services will be held July 1–4 in Marquette, Michigan. As further information becomes available, it will be published in the Voice of Zion, on LLC social media and on the LLC website.
- As the year comes to an end, may each of us pause to reflect on the abundant blessings God has showered on the work of His kingdom. At LLC, we are mindful of the generosity of believers who support our central organization’s work in its many forms. We ask God to richly repay you as only He can.
I wish for you all God’s abundant blessings in the New Year!
November 2020 Update
The cold winds of winter are starting to bite in the upper Midwest. An early snow reminds us that another year is coming to a close; what a year it has been! Despite the challenges that the worldwide pandemic has brought, we can be thankful for God’s protection and care.
November also marks the end of the church calendar year and the approach of Advent. On November 1, All Saints’ Day, we lovingly remember those who have gained the victory of heaven. We remember them with longing and with the hope of a reunion one day.
At the end of the month we observe Thanksgiving Day. As this holiday approaches, and as we look forward to Advent and Christmas that follow, may we remember our Heavenly Father’s many blessings and the hope of heaven that waits at the end of our earthly journey.
Updates on LLC Activities
- The pandemic has halted travel, but services continue to be arranged in foreign mission fields. Weekly services are hosted each Sunday via Zoom for Ecuadorian believers. The midwestern area mission trip to Rolla did not take place this October, but was replaced by remote services using Zoom. Recorded sermons are sent via WhatsApp to support our brothers and sisters in Africa. We marvel how God has opened these possibilities during this time!
- The southwest area congregations extend a warm welcome to online LLC Youth Days hosted from the Phoenix church November 13–14. The theme for the weekend is “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” (1 Cor. 10:13). A presentation will be kept Friday evening titled “Bear One Another’s Burdens,” followed by an evening devotion. Youth Days will continue on Saturday with services at 4 p.m. and a panel discussion at 7 p.m. Youth Days will be shared online via Zoom, and also streamed through Mixlr.
- A new piano primer Make a Joyful Noise is now available! It is a beautifully illustrated piano book that helps beginners learn to play songs and hymns of Zion. Order your copy online at the LLC webshop or ask for it at your church bookstore.
- The annual ministers teleconference, originating from the LLC office, is held November 5. Discussion centers around timely matters and concerns. This gives opportunity for ministers to discuss matters central to the work and also serves as a tool to maintain unity and love of the Spirit, which is so important in these times.
- The LLC Board of Directors met on October 24 and took several actions, some of which include:
~ Approved 2021 staff wage and benefit package
~ Approved amended 2020 budget
~ Approved 2021 Operating plan and budget
~ Approved proposal to name the LLC Easter magazine Easter Messenger. This special Easter magazine, similar in concept to Christmas in Zion, will be published early next March.
~ Approved Lea Waaraniemi’s appointment to the LLC Music Committee. We wish Lea God’s blessings as she takes Saana Johnson’s spot on the committee. We also thank Saana for her years of service.
~ Approved adjusting LLC Confirmation Schools to seven-day camps, with further curriculum development for Pre-Confirmation camps.
~ Board members John Stewart and Steve Haataja gave notice of their plans to retire when their board terms are up in 2021. Communication has been sent to area mission committees to begin discussions for their replacements.
~ The board agreed that an LLC-wide meeting of ministers, board members and delegates is necessary in order to discuss spiritual matters that have caused concern for some years in North American Zion. Communication on this will be sent to LLC congregations as plans develop.
- The Eastern Mission Area holds its annual fall area-wide meeting as an online meeting on Saturday, Nov. 7.
- The Midwest Mission Area (MBMAC) holds its annual fall meeting at the Rockford church on Saturday, Nov. 21.
- Since the fall SLC Ministers Camp was canceled, plans are now being made to hold a Ministers Camp at SLC April 9–11, 2021, God so willing.
We ask for your continued prayers that God would continue to guide and bless His work.
Statement on LLC Summer Services
We continue to monitor how the COVID-19 situation may affect our LLC Summer Services and Annual Meeting scheduled for July 2-5 this year in Marquette, Michigan. As the situation remains fluid, we are making contingency plans if physical services are indeed canceled and we move to holding Summer Services online. As previously stated, we will make this decision and announcement by May 1.
Statement on LLC Camps
We continue to monitor how the COVID-19 pandemic affects LLC activities. With the current situation, including schools in various regions closed to in-person learning for the duration of the school year, we have canceled all our camp activities at LLC facilities through the end of May. The situation will be monitored on an ongoing basis, and announcements of any further camp cancelations will be made going forward.
We continue to focus our efforts on 2020 Confirmation schools. While no changes have been made at this time, it is possible that the Confirmation school plans will be affected. We will make a decision by June 1 about how we will conduct LLC Confirmation Schools..
Language Camp (July 6-13) includes a group that travels from Finland each summer. Because of the international travel and the additional logistics it requires, Language Camp has been canceled for this year.
If you have already paid fees for activities that are canceled, they will be applied as credit toward other camp events. We can issue refunds also if that is desired.
2020 LLC Summer Services Announcement
Change in Plans for 2020 LLC Summer Services, July 2–5
The 2020 LLC Summer Services will not be held in Marquette, Michigan. Due to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Summer Services this year will be changed from a large, in-person assembly of service guests to an online format. Although we will miss the fellowship of gathering together, we remember the core purpose for which all services are arranged, the preaching and hearing of God’s Word. Due to this change, the Ishpeming congregation and the Eastern Area will host their long planned-for Summer Services in Marquette, Michigan, one year later, July 1-4, 2021, if God so wills.
A decision on changing the arrangements for this year’s Summer Services has been pending since LLC Winter Services in Phoenix were canceled. Those involved with planning these services have anticipated that large gatherings may not be possible in July. Nonetheless, all have hoped that things would somehow be different. In light of so many uncertainties, the LLC Board’s decision to change services is deemed as the right and responsible decision to make at this time.
The Annual Meeting of the LLC is held yearly in conjunction with Summer Services. Notice of the plans for holding the LLC Annual Meeting will be sent to LLC congregations in early May. Currently plans are being made for an online meeting format. The agenda for the meetings, along with the 2021 LLC Draft Operating Plan and an Operating Plan video, will also be provided in May.
Amidst disappointment, joy comes knowing that there is yet possibility to preach the Word of God. At the core of the sermon is the freeing message of the gospel, the forgiveness of sins. It may be possible this year that listeners will be able to gather with friends and family to hold small-scale Summer Services in the security of their own homes and yards.
As we transition to an online format, our plan is to join with the Summer Services Radio (Kesäseuraradio) programming in Finland, in cooperation with our sister organization, SRK. The online programming will be in English and originate from the LLC office. Programming will be accessible on the LLC website and will include continuous broadcasts between scheduled service times. More information will follow as work continues. Refocusing our planning will require much effort. We pray for God’s blessings!
Eric Jurmu, LLC Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Frantti, LLC Board Chairman, email@example.com
May 2020 Update
Motherhood is a labor of love and a gift to each of us. It may seem that mother’s work goes unnoticed and is unappreciated. This Mother’s Day – and all days of the year – we can take time to celebrate and remember our mother’s selfless acts of love, show her our appreciation and thank her for all she does. Remember mother in prayer:
In all her joy and weeping hold mother in Your keeping. Increase her faith, we pray. Oh, strengthen her and guide her, Your wisdom, Lord, provide her to teach her children every day.
O gracious Heav’nly Father, our mother gently gather to Jesus’ heart of love. Through all of our tomorrows we cast on Him our sorrows and yearn for heaven’s home above. (SHZ 423:5,6)
Happy Mother’s Day and God’s abundant blessings to you, dear mothers.
Updates on LLC Activities
- Although the LLC office was closed for the month of April, staff were able to work remotely from their homes.
- Due to COVID-19, Northern Michigan University (NMU) has closed all its buildings through the end of the school year and gone to online classes. As I write this, we are preparing a contingency plan for Summer Services if they need to be canceled. An announcement about services will have been made by the time you receive this issue of the Voice of Zion. Regular updates on Summer Services planning can also be found on the LLC website.
- Contingency planning will be prepared as well for the LLC Annual Meeting, how a virtual meeting might be organized if this is needed. We will look into meeting apps that can be used for such things as virtual voting.
- To prepare our congregations and their delegates for the LLC Annual Meeting, a video outlining the main points of the 2021 draft LLC Operating Plan will be sent to congregations by May 15. The meeting notice, agenda and related information will be included.
- All foreign mission trips are on hold as the COVID-19 situation remains closely monitored. This includes LLC’s summer mission trips to Finland.
- We will continue to monitor plans for the SRK and SFC mission trips scheduled to North America this summer, with prayerful hopes that they happen as planned.
- All LLC-sponsored camps are canceled through May. We will continue to monitor the situation with our camp directors and make adjustments as necessary.
- A contingency plan is being worked on in case LLC confirmation schools in July and August need to be altered. We will make any announcements regarding changes by June 1.
- The HLC Language Camp scheduled for July has been canceled, due to the significant amount of planning required and the uncertainty of international travel.
- The Humanitarian Aid Committee (HAC) sent a larger than normal quarterly grant to our foreign mission areas. Many in those countries are experiencing an interruption in daily life that also affects their daily bread. It is good to remember them in prayer.
- Because of the uncertainties due to COVID-19, we will wait to see how this situation unfolds before posting for LLC office positions being vacated by employee retirements this summer and fall.
- The current situation has also brought positives and blessings. It seems that God is giving opportunity to consider other ways of doing the work and is preparing us for the future. The short evening devotions that started due to the request of those confined and lonely have been very positively received. Plans are to continue them at least for the near-term.
- Congregations have requested Sunday school support. Staff will continue to develop digital lessons to assist in this, similar to the first more broadly distributed lesson on Easter Sunday.
- Jon Bloomquist and Jim Frantti served Ecuadorean believers with online services on Easter weekend. The brothers served from their respective homes and Maria Wuollet translated from her home in Phoenix to listeners in Ecuador. It is one small way we can support those in faraway lands during this time of uncertainty.
God has graced us with a time to work. May He continue to guide the efforts in His kingdom.
The Impact of COVID-19
The situation that we are experiencing in our countries, and throughout the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic is something that we have never previously experienced. It is also new to those in positions of leadership in our governments. Many restrictions have been put in place to try to prevent the spread of this virus and to keep people safe. As a result, people have been living through a difficult time with many challenges, including financial difficulties for many.
As believers, we have experienced these challenges in our daily lives. In addition, we have felt the absence of fellowship and gathering at our churches for services and other occasions. We long for the opportunity to again freely gather. At the same time, this has served to remind us of how important and precious the fellowship of God’s children is in our lives. We also can be thankful that, through the means of technology, God has provided the possibilities for us to hear His word and to connect with loved ones.
As individuals, we can have many different thoughts and viewpoints on the approach that has been taken in dealing with this situation and on the current restrictions that the government has put in place. Certainly, we can each have our own opinions, which we can peacefully express. At the same time, we want to respect the opinions of others and, in particular, we do not want to allow our differing opinions to break the love between believers.
God’s Word teaches us how we should conduct ourselves with regard to our country, government, and leaders. Apostle Paul wrote, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Rom. 13:1) He goes on to encourage the believers not to resist our government but to respect it “for conscience sake.” Paul says of someone in a position of authority, “For he is the minister of God to thee for good.” (Rom. 13:4) It is good for us to remember that, as parents and elders, how we speak about our government and those in authority sets an example for our children and youth.
Again quoting Apostle Paul, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Tim. 2:1,2). Paul did not say to pray only for those whose positions we support. God can effect good from our government regardless of who may be in positions of power.We may think that some current guidelines of the government are unnecessary or may have other thoughts as to what should be done. However, it seems that the proper and safe way to respond is to follow the instructions of the government. These guidelines vary between countries, States, and Provinces. Local congregations can freely follow those guidelines that are applicable to them and also be free to decide on their best course as restrictions are lifted.
We want to remember that God, who allows those in our government to serve, also knows all that is happening in the world, in our countries, and in our lives. We can encourage each other to trust in God. He knows our needs and will take care of His children. We want to be patient and remember to pray to God that He who is almighty would take care of us and His kingdom and also guide our countries and our leaders.
The Board and staff of the LLC are continuing to monitor the current situation and restrictions and their impact on all aspects of our work and planned events. We also are doing this together with our sister organizations in Finland, Sweden, and other countries where the believers are served. Thus far, our Winter and Summer Services have been moved to online events, our May camp activities have been cancelled, and the LLC Language Camp has been cancelled. By mid-May, a decision will be made regarding June camp activities. A special priority will be given to our Confirmation Camps and contingency plans will be prepared in case changes must be made in these special events. We will keep the congregations informed of any developments and changes as we go forward.
May God continue to bless us and keep us all in His care.
Jim Frantti, LLC Board Chairman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Eric Jurmu, LLC Executive Director, email@example.com
Statement on LLC Camp Activities, LLC Confirmation Schools
LLC CAMP ACTIVITIES
We continue to monitor how the COVID-19 pandemic affects LLC activities. States and provinces have differing schedules and parameters as they reopen for various activities. Camp boards will continue to monitor the regional situation with the goal of opening camp facilities and holding camps when the situation allows. LLC Confirmation schools will be the primary focus as facilities are opened.
LLC CONFIRMATION SCHOOL
The present pandemic has certainly brought many changes and it seems likely that it will force changes to our confirmation schools this summer. We are considering alternatives and expect to make a decision on how we will hold our confirmation schools by June 1. If alternative arrangements are necessary, details on these arrangements will be shared at the time the decision is made. Confirmation schools will take precedence over other camps this summer. The last resort would be to do confirmation school in a remote-learning situation.
We are currently considering arranging a larger number of confirmation camps, but with a smaller number of students at each camp. The camps would possibly be shortened (Sun-Sat) to allow time for the additional camps. Our hope would be that each student could attend camp at the facility where they are currently scheduled, but most likely students and families will need to make arrangements that do not involve crossing the US-Canadian border. Due to the circumstances the camp dates will likely change and we most likely will need to assign students to a camp. This tentative plan is based on the assumption that states and provinces will allow for groups of up to 50 people to gather. There are currently many unknowns:
- If and when states and provinces will allow gatherings at camps.
- What size groups will be allowed if camps are opened.
- If and when the border between the US and Canada will open
Camps are an important part of the activities we participate in each year. We ask for God’s continued guidance and pray for His blessings for this work and all the work of His Kingdom.
October 2020 Update
As summer fades to fall, we are reminded again how our life is in God’s hands. We understand that all people suffer and feel the effects and trials of life, but the believer can rejoice knowing that he or she faces them securely as God’s own. We can feel secure remembering how God blessed our Summer Services and meetings even in an online environment.
At the Annual Meeting, congregation delegates gave clear support to the work of the LLC board and staff here at the office. And although the camp season was much different than what we had planned, delegates expressed heartfelt thanks to God for His abundant blessings to the confirmation schools. Our young are to be remembered and we pray for God’s increase to the seed sown in the hearts of His own.
Updates on LLC Activities
- Opisto scholarships for 2021–22 have been awarded to 14 North American students. We wish the students God’s blessings as they begin planning for their year abroad. Opisto students for 2020–21 have begun their studies after being quarantined for 14 days upon arriving in Finland.
- Phil Jurmu has been hired as LLC Facilities Manager. It is a new full-time position which will oversee the general management and operations of all LLC-owned facilities, including Silver Springs. The primary focus of the position is to maintain the overall spiritual atmosphere at camps while supporting the camp boards with planning and overall supervision of camp operations and maintenance. We wish Phil God’s blessings as he begins work at the LLC office.
- Although we can feel frustrated by the changes to our lives and work caused by the world-wide pandemic, we have seen many positives which have come from it. It feels that God has stopped us for the moment to refocus on the purpose and nature of LLC work. While none of us knows when God will allow things to return to normal or what new normal He might lead us to, we trust that He knows all things and has allowed matters to go as they have.
Due to the pandemic, an increase in online content has been evident. While it doesn’t replace meeting in-person, it has given opportunities to experience God’s blessings in other ways. For example:
~ We have experienced both Winter and Summer services as online services. Though we prefer to meet in person, many have shared positive experiences which have come from online events.
~ The LLC Annual Meeting was held as an online meeting. All of us felt God’s presence there.
~ Now, regularly scheduled evening devotions have reached far and wide. One father mentioned how his unbelieving daughter often joins the services when she wouldn't normally do so. We find with this kind of medium that the threshold to hearing God’s Word is lowered.
- Listening to online services continues to be the most accessed feature on our website. This has been accessed 33,000 times in the past months!
- The map above shows the locations from which people have accessed the LLC website in the past three months. During this time there have been over 115,000 website visits.
- We began broadcasting evening devotions in April, and there have been over 70 listeners each evening. Since April, the archived evening devotions have been listened to over 11,000 times.
~ An LLC YouTube channel has been created where you can find e.g. Sunday school lessons which were made last spring. Monthly lessons are planned for the 2020–21 Sunday school year as well.
~ With travel bans, live online services are broadcast and translated weekly for the congregations in Ecuador. Believers there from different localities are interacting much more than ever before on a regular basis.
~ Weekly WhatsApp services are recorded and sent to Kenya, where they are translated into many different languages and used in homes and villages in different parts of the country.
~ With religious gatherings in Minnesota limited to 250 people, the LLC Silver Springs Youth Days will be changed to an online event for youth in North America. It is planned for November 13–14, 2020. More details will follow as plans are developed. One blessing from this kind of event is that it gives opportunity to those outside of Minnesota to attend.
- When we must change our plans and adjust schedules, it can be hard to accept. Looking ahead in times like these, we don’t always see the blessings that may await, but afterwards we can often reflect on how God continues to care for us.
~ 2020 LLC Ministers camp was rescheduled for April 9–11, 2021 at SLC. We are also planning to hold a Board member workshop next spring as well, with dates still to be worked out.
~ 2020 Peace Gardens Youth Days were also postponed until 2021, due to closures caused by the pandemic.
~ As we look toward the new year, we pray circumstances will allow SRK and SFC mission trips to North America to resume in 2021.
- Planning committees in the Eastern area congregations are ramping up again in preparation for 2021 LLC Summer Services in Marquette, Michigan. Much of the planning was done already last year and was put on hold due to the rescheduling of the event. The Superior Dome on the Northern Michigan University campus has been reserved for July 1–4.
- The annual Ministers Teleconference, originating from the LLC office, will be held November 5. This teleconference gives the opportunity for ministers to gather around matters central to the work. The teleconference serves as a tool to communicate unity and love of the Spirit, which is so important in these times.
We ask for your prayers that God would continue to guide and bless His work.
September 2020 Update
Due to the worldwide pandemic, many things will be different than normal as we begin a new school year. Typically, as fall approaches, students excitedly anticipate and prepare for their upcoming studies. Some this year still feel that excitement, yet others facing a mix of in-school learning and online or distance learning might be wondering how this year will go.
Studying at home or online is suitable to some – perhaps they already study this way. For others, however, this can cause worry for students and add challenges for families learning to navigate through schedules, resources and home instruction. May God give each of us patience and wisdom to accept this situation which God has allowed. Let us also be thankful for God’s guidance and care.
We are thankful that despite the shortened schedule at confirmation schools this summer, God granted abundant blessings for those that attended. We remember these young ones as they return to their families and home congregations, with the prayer that God will bless the instruction and encouragement in faith they received.
There has been a significant impact to LLC work due to COVID-19. Yet we have seen God’s blessings during this time as well, blessings which are so often tucked neatly alongside the trials. I have thought of how Paul wrote: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33).
Updates on LLC Activities
- Sandra Pylvainen has been hired as LLC Editor, replacing Lori Loukusa, who retires in late-September. Sandra and her husband Marty had planned to travel to Finland for the 2020–21 school year, where Sandra was to teach English at Jämsä Opisto. However, due to the pandemic, plans changed and they were unable to go. Sandra has committed to one year at the office with a wait-and-see approach for the future. We wish her God’s blessings as she begins work at the LLC office.
- Foreign mission trips remain on hold and will resume only when it is deemed safe to do so. Despite trip cancelations, online services are broadcast regularly into many foreign mission fields. For example, online video devotions take place weekly for listeners in Ecuador. Although this is not in-person and also doesn’t replace the need for in-person fellowship and soul care, the connection has allowed the congregations to gather and meet more often than they normally would. The online services have been seen as a blessing during these times.
- Similarly, weekly WhatsApp sermons are recorded in North America and Finland for the believers in Kenya. The sermons are then translated into various languages and distributed throughout many villages. One Kenyan believer mentioned how the sermons were listened to at a family gathering, and in this way, God’s Word was heard by some for the first time.
- Even though travel can be challenging due to the pandemic, 14 North American Opisto students left for their year of study in Finland. The students were required to quarantine for two weeks before beginning the school year. We continue to recognize the importance of this program and wish the students God’s abundant blessings.
- After discussion with camp directors, it was agreed to cancel all remaining 2020 camps at HLC and SLC. We had hoped that this wouldn’t be the case, but restrictions have not eased so this was deemed to be the safest decision. It also means that the SLC Ministers and Wives camp is canceled as well. There has been discussion around the possibility of an online Bible course to replace the annual Bible camp, so stay tuned! Kamp Kipa will continue with the fall schedule as planned following Arizona guidelines.
- The need to cancel 2020 Peace Garden Youth Days – the first time after 48 consecutive years – was a big disappointment. God willing, the event will take place again in 2021.
- We continue to monitor any financial impact to LLC work from COVID-19 and will be prepared to make budget recommendations if and when needs arise.
- The LLC office remains open, with current mask requirements based on Minnesota law. We have updated the LLC-preparedness plan which also outlines proper social distancing measures, hygiene requirements and office cleaning protocol to provide a safe and healthy workplace for employees.
- Interviews to fill the new LLC Facilities Manager position have taken place. We expect to announce the results by the end of August, with a September 14 start date. This position will oversee all LLC-owned and operated facilities, including the development of Silver Springs. The Facilities Manager will also work closely with LLC staff and area camp boards.
- The 2021 LLC Summer Services planning committee remains hopeful that we will be able to gather in-person for the July 1–4 services, in Marquette, Mich.
May God continue to guide and bless the work of His kingdom.
June/July 2020 Update
The impact of COVID-19 is being felt around the world. It continues to create challenges and hurdles that young and old alike need to navigate. I wish to offer congratulations to all 2020 high school, college and university graduates. Even though many of you haven’t been able to celebrate with friends and family as you otherwise might have, you still have achieved a milestone in life!
Every June we celebrate Father’s Day. May the Heavenly Father bless and protect you dear fathers for the love and care you show your families and loved ones. In these times and always your children need clear, loving instruction.
May God also bless this year’s confirmation school students. Due to current circumstances, confirmation school may be a bit different than originally planned. We understand that it is an important time in the life of a young believer! Dear youth, remember that your parents send you to camp with many prayers, hoping that you will have a rewarding experience and make lasting friendships, but above all that your faith will be strengthened.
Updates on LLC Activities
- Notice was sent to LLC congregations informing them that Aimo Koskelo’s (SRK) and Timo Löppönen’s (SFC) summer mission trips to North America are canceled. We are still hoping that the fall SRK trip can take place as scheduled.
- All other foreign mission trips are on hold indefinitely with the situation being closely monitored. Trips will resume when it is deemed safe to do so. Despite trip cancelations, online services are broadcast regularly into many of the foreign mission fields.
- We continue to monitor how the COVID-19 pandemic affects LLC camp activities. States and provinces have differing schedules and guidelines as they reopen for various activities. Camp boards will continue to monitor the regional situation with the goal of opening camp facilities and holding camps when the situation allows.
- LLC confirmation schools will be the primary focus as facilities are opened and will take precedence over all other camp activities. It may mean that confirmation school is shortened a bit to allow additional camps with fewer students. Any proposed changes will be communicated to students and families with ample time to make necessary adjustments.
- The 2020 LLC Annual Meeting will be an online meeting on Saturday, July 4 and originate from the Rockford Laestadian Lutheran Church. The meeting agenda and draft 2021 LLC Operating Plan and video was sent to help congregations prepare their delegates for the meeting. We will continue to communicate meeting details as they are finalized.
- We continue to prepare for 2020 LLC Online Summer Services, July 2–5, which will originate from a studio set up at the LLC office in Loretto, Minn. Noteworthy items include:
~ Although physical services are canceled, we can still gather around God’s Word and take part in that most important part of services.
~ The services motto, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God” (Isa. 40:1) was selected to remind us that even during these times God continues to care and comfort His own.
~ The services schedule can be found on the LLC website, and essential service information will be available to download.
~ Sermons will be broadcast live on LLC’s website, LLC YouTube channel and SRK Summer Service Radio.
~ Facebook users can find services information at “Laestadian Lutheran Church”
~ Instagram users can find information @laestadianlutheran
~ In place of a Ministers and Board Members meeting on Friday evening, a congregation presentation, “The Kingdom of God – Our Home,” will be broadcast online.
~ A youth presentation, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd” (Isa. 40:11), will also be broadcast Friday evening.
~ Several new publications will be available around the time of services. These will be announced during the services on the services radio as well as on social media. There will also be more information on these new publications in the August Voice of Zion.
- Applications for the 2021–21 opisto year were due May 1. There are still openings, however, so if you’re interested in applying, do so as soon as possible.
- Helen Hillukka will retire from the LLC office on July 31. We thank Helen for her time working for the LLC and wish her and her husband Elmer God’s abundant blessings in retirement.
I ask for your continued prayers during these times of uncertainty, and I wish each of you a blessed summer!
Statement on HLC & SLC Youth Camps, Pre-Confirmation Camps
We continue to monitor how the COVID-19 pandemic affects LLC activities. States and provinces have differing schedules and parameters as they reopen for various activities. Per membership request the primary focus has been on LLC Confirmation schools, which are now scheduled in July and August. Because the situation remains fluid and rescheduling youth camps requires adjusting the camps to smaller sizes, we have decided to cancel all planned Pre-Confirmation and Youth Camps at SLC and HLC. Camp boards will continue to monitor the regional situation regarding summer camps, and weekend camps in the fall.
August 2020 Update
The motto chosen for the 2020 LLC Online Summer Services, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God” (Isa. 40:1), promises that God will always care for His own. Although we were unable to gather at Summer Services in Marquette Michigan, as previously planned, God provided a way that we could be refreshed around His Word. More people than ever before were able to join Summer Services in its online format.
Already in August, 2019, when SRK reached out to ask if the LLC could provide resources to create English language programming for SRK’s Summer Services radio broadcast, little did we know that God was also preparing us for our 2020 online Summer Services. From that request a small committee was established and work began. Not knowing what the future holds, I again marvel how God in His infinite wisdom prepares us for what lies ahead.
Coverage about these services and those instrumental in making it happen are covered in this month’s Voice of Zion issue. Many thanks to all involved in making the online services a possibility. LLC Summer Services in 2021 are now scheduled for July 1–4, in Marquette. Welcome!
LLC Board Meeting, July 2
- Board members reviewed planning updates for the current Summer Services and future Winter and Summer Services. The 2021 Phoenix Winter Services will be held March 18–21, with the motto: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). 2021 Summer Services will be at the Superior Dome in Marquette, Mich., July 1–4, hosted by the Eastern Region, with the motto: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
- The Board approved the hiring of an LLC Facilities Manager. It is a full-time position which will oversee all LLC-owned facilities, including Silver Springs. The position will also work in support of camp boards with planning of events and staffing. Notice for the position was posted in late July with a hiring date of September 1.
- The Board heard a report of work done by the LLC Sexual Conduct Policy and Program Review Committee (SCPPRC). Work and recommendations of the committee will be shared more broadly to LLC congregations in coming months.
- The Board approved the Bible Translation Evaluation Committee (BTEC) in bringing their work for discussion and review to the 2021 LLC Ministers Camp.
LLC Annual Meeting, July 4
- We are very thankful for the gifts that Sarina Siljander brought to the office in preparation for the LLC Annual Meeting. In April we decided to move forward with the meeting, even if it meant being an online event. The meeting was held via Zoom, which allowed discussion between delegates and staff. Sarina researched a voting app which was used to allow secure voting during the meeting. Sarina has worked for some time on LLC’s recording committee, and it was a blessing to have her help on a part-time basis leading up to services.
- LLC delegates reviewed and gave support for the proposed 2021 LLC Operating Plan.
- Delegates re-elected Ken Wuollet (Western Area), Sam Roiko and Carey Simonson (Midwestern Area), to three-year terms on the LLC Board. Delegates also elected Rick Nevala and Dean Simonson (Midwestern Area) to replace retiring Board members, Randy Herrala and Duane Pirness.
- Services dates were confirmed:
~ 2021 LLC Phoenix Winter Services, March 18–21
~ 2021 LLC Summer Services, Marquette, Mich., July 1–4
- Delegates will be prepared to give a detailed report to congregations when meeting minutes have been finalized.
Updates on LLC Activities
- A heartfelt “thank-you” to parents of 2020 LLC Confirmation School students, for your patience as we worked through the many details in planning confirmation schools this summer. As you’re well aware, due to the uncertainties of COVID-19, there were many starts and stops to planning. In the end plans were made and we pray for God’s blessings as students take part in this important milestone in their lives.
- At this time, foreign mission trips are still on hold. Trips will be scheduled as it is deemed safe to do so. Online services are kept regularly for those in many foreign countries.
- Helen Hillukka retired from her work at the LLC office on July 31. Helen has worked closely with the Pastoral department, in support of pastors, and also in organizing the many foreign mission trips in her 12-plus years of LLC work. We wish Helen and her husband Elmer God’s abundant blessings in retirement.
- Due to complications and changes to immigration policy, shared LLC and Phoenix pastor Harri Vahajylkka, moved his family back to Finland. Although we were sad to hear of his leaving, we are thankful that Harri will now work in the SRK office as Communications Director. This position is in regular communications with LLC office staff so it will bring the connection between organizations even closer. We thank Harri and Elina for their time of serving here in North America and wish them and their family God’s continued blessings.
- Keith Waaraniemi has left his everyday responsibilities at the LLC office to work on researching and writing the 50-year LLC History book project.
- The plan is to have the book published and ready for release at 2023 LLC Summer Services.
- Due to the uncertainties of COVID-19, notice was sent to LLC congregations announcing the cancellation of summer youth and pre-confirmation camps at SLC and HLC. Camp boards will continue to monitor the situation in their respective areas and make scheduling adjustments as needed.
- As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the LLC Update Tour to congregations will continue in late summer and fall.
- The planning committee for 2021 Summer Services in Marquette, Mich. remains intact and will resume planning this winter in preparation for the event.
Remember to take the opportunity to spend extra time with your families and friends before school and fall activities begin next month, God willing.