–By Elizabeth Ahlman
Missionaries live far from family and close friends, and often also far from those who speak their same language. They face all the same challenges that others may face, like illness and loneliness, but amplified by cultural and language barriers. Sometimes, missionaries also live far from a partner church body where they can receive the Lord’s Supper. For all of these reasons and more, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s Office of International Mission (LCMS OIM), along with the input of past and present missionaries in the field in Eurasia, have created new positions to facilitate direct care of missionaries on the field. The Rev. Rex and Mrs. Linda Rinne have graciously answered the call to serve in this capacity. They deployed just a few short months ago, but already they have been helping, encouraging and serving their fellow missionaries. Pastor Rinne is the Pastoral Care Facilitator for Central Europe in the Eurasia Region. Linda comes alongside him in caring especially for female missionaries on the field. Despite the title of “for Central Europe,” the Rinnes do plan to offer care and encouragement to all who need it in the Eurasia field.
So far, the Rinnes have been able to visit several Globally Engaged in Outreach Missionaries (GEO), as well as several career missionaries. Despite themselves having recently deployed, learning the Czech language (they are based out of Ostrava, Czech Republic) and going through a bit of culture shock, they have made it a top priority in their first months to make a visit to every missionary to get to know them and their needs. Many of the GEO missionaries are placed where we have working agreements with local church bodies, but have not yet entered into altar and pulpit fellowship. Pastor Rinne provides them with a service in English with the Lord’s Supper to strengthen them in their faith and their vocation. While they attend the local churches, having the ability to worship in English, as well as partake of the Lord’s Supper is extremely important to their care and strengthening. Pastor Rinne plans to visit these particular missionaries every 4-6 weeks on rotation. This will greatly increase their ability to partake of the Lord’s Supper compared to before the position was created. The work that GEO missionaries do in building relationships with local churches, proclaiming the Gospel and offering often the much-needed service of English-language instruction is vital to work in the region.
As a family, we have also already benefitted from the care and service of Pastor and Linda Rinne. My husband, Rev. Dr. Christopher Ahlman, travels periodically from Leipzig to Russia for about a week at a time. I have managed these travels before while taking care of our two children and pregnant with our third. However, when he went in October of 2014, we were battling an as yet unknown illness with our young son. In the midst of the normal daily routine of getting our 6 year old to and from school, I was also dealing with multiple hours-long visits to the University Clinic in Leipzig as we tried desperately to figure out what was wrong…and I was doing it all in German, right down to signing anesthesiology papers for an MRI for our not yet 2 year old. It was a stressful and difficult time. On top of everything else, the oil light came on in our van, and I navigated our first oil change auf Deutsch, leaving me without the car for a majority of one day.
That week we survived, but just barely. So when my husband’s trip coincided this time with a follow-up MRI (after a surgery Matthias received just after Chris’ return in October), I was overjoyed when the Rinnes proposed to visit us. I asked half jokingly if Linda would come and help me while Chris was gone, and she joyfully and eagerly said yes! Having her with me during the MRI and to watch Matthias while I took Thomas to school, to help carry the groceries up three flights of stairs (I was 29 weeks pregnant at that time), and more, was a huge blessing. Pastor Rinne joined us later in the week, and we were all able to also spend time together after Chris returned. We have no doubt that the Rinnes’ service to the region will be hugely impactful. While we as a family are extremely well cared for in our church here in Leipzig and beyond, it is so helpful to know that there are those within the region we can call to talk and ask for help in difficult situations. This is just one example of the type of care the Rinnes will be offering all of the missionaries in the field.
- Learn more about the Rinnes.
- Pray for the Rinnes as they also navigate their own transition.
- Pray for their travels around the region.
- Give thanks for these new positions which help to bolster the care of missionaries and their families.