Letters from a Counselor was written to encourage pastors in mission congregations during the busy, stressful times of Advent and Holy Week. Wayne Schulz’s encouragement to his missionaries to witness for Jesus is relevant for us all, not only in these “holy” seasons, but throughout the year as we carry out our responsibilities in the priesthood of all believers.
In the Forward, Joel Schulz gives the reasons his father wrote these words of encouragement to men who were enduring the “whirlwind of preparations for the upcoming season of gospel outreach” (9). He writes: “The letter was the result of digging deeply into the Word and came from a heart fired up by the Holy Spirit that wanted more than anything else to share the good news of our Savior with the lost. A heart that wanted more than anything to give the hope of Jesus to the hopeless. A ministry dedicated to inspiring, empowering, and encouraging his colleagues to step out into the world and share the gospel with all people” (9). Wayne Schulz spoke in behalf of the lost. Joel goes on to say, “The reason he wrote these letters to his missionaries during these crucial times was to spur them on to action and encourage them to do what is necessary to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus” (10).
Beginning with the Christmas season of 1997, the book is yearly arranged through Holy Week of 2011. Other than 1997, Holy Week encouragement is presented first, followed by the Christmas season. The words of encouragement of Holy Week of 1999 are missing.
Schulz covers a multitude of topics in his letters to the missionaries. Concerning planning he writes: “Remember that solid churches are not built in a day. God can build a mushroom in a short period of time, less than a day. But He takes years to build a strong oak tree. In Isaiah 61 He calls people His ‘oaks of righteousness.’ There are no shortcuts in this growing process. As you plan, clarify the purpose for everything you do….Focus on the essentials. Keep it simple. Learn from mistakes. Build from your strengths” (19).
Concerning the missionary’s family life, Schulz encourages in a letter at Christmas time: “Take some time with your loved ones. Rest a while next to the manger scene, bathed in the shadow from the cross. Listen carefully to the carols. Look to the light of the empty grave. Remember that your robes are washed and that you have a right to the glory which you now can see in Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” (25).
Concerning the missionary’s own spiritual well-being, Schulz points out how the missionary can preach the events of Holy Week and Easter from the heart when he writes: “This may be a good time to read Matthew 23 in its entirety to remember your own desperate need for the messages of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. Then one can preach and witness as one who has known the depths” (34). Schulz grants comfort to the missionary when he say, “This week is for you standing under the cross as a spiritual beggar. This week is for you whom the Lord fills with good things through the silver chalice of his good news. This week is for you, a witness and a preacher, to give content and validity to your message. This week is for you, showing how everything fits together in the time line of God’s history centered at the cross and the resurrection grave” (35).
Throughout the book, Schulz expresses his gratitude to the missionaries and their families for their faithful service to the Savior King. At the Christmas season of 2000 Schulz wrote to the missionaries: “I truly respect and honor you and your efforts to bring the light of the bright pearl to enlighten the lost for life and to build up the saints for service…know that I do not forget you in my prayers” (40).
In his encouragement letter of 2002, the author encourages the missionary to pray. He wrote: “Right now would be a good time for you to be doing the same. Praying! Pray that God energizes you for this most important weekend. Pray that you proclaim his Word clearly. It’s your time to arise and have compassion on Zion. It’s your time to show God’s favor to His people. It’s your appointed time to be at your best in a week in which God gave His best. It’s your time to be steady and resolute as you proclaim Jesus to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people. It is your purpose to have compassion on Zion and to unleash the power of the cross that energizes life and people for mission to the world. This is not an ordinary week. Your opportunity is not ordinary. Pray! Now!” (52-53). Then Pastor Schulz makes a list of things for the missionary to pray for.
What great encouragement and comfort Schulz gives in his Christmas letter of 2003! “Now the desert rejoices and blossoms as a rose! In a personal way, this is Isaiah’s picture of you – the new creation by baptism into Christ, you – the object of God’s love and forgiveness, you – the receiver of His Gift, you – the believer of His promises. Ponder that! Deserted no more, your desert rejoices. Shriveled no more, your rose blossoms. Sorrow-filled no more, God wipes away every tear from your despondent eyes. And all the trees of the field clap their hands!” (69).
On page 84, in the Holy Week, 2005, letter, entitled “The Lord Needs A Donkey”, Schulz asks a thought-provoking question: “Have you ever thought about yourself as a ‘donkey’ for whom the Lord has need? It may be worth the contemplation” (84).
When I entered the ministry in July of 1980, Wayne Schulz was the district president of the Dakota-Montana District. I received a “snail-mail” letter from him. It was a letter of welcome and encouragement. I saved that letter and have read it often throughout my ministry. I had dealings with him many times throughout my ministry. He was not only my mentor, teacher, and advisor, but he was also my eternal friend. God, in His grace, made Wayne I. Schulz a modern day Barnabas, the original Son of Encouragement. I would strongly urge every pastor, missionary, mission counselor and even congregational leaders to own a copy of this book and read it not only during Holy Week and Christmas, but read it daily.
Wayne Schulz encourages all of us, all Christians to live their faith when he writes in his Holy Week, 2008, letter: “We children of light have enough mission statements. What we need are mission involvement and missional relationships. The living Savior moves us to get out of bed, out of the pews, out of our doors, out of our shells. Wear the gospel, rejoice in the gospel, live the gospel, and proclaim the gospel” (123).
In his afterword, Joel Schulz sums up his father’s life, ministry, and words of encouragement: “Jesus is the only thing that matters” (163).
To purchase a copy of this, please contact Pr. Joel Schulz @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wayne Schulz, a 1966 graduate from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, served as parish pastor in South Dakota from 1966 to 1989. During that time he served a multiple terms as the District President of the Dakota-Montana District of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. He served as WELS Mission Counselor in four districts, including nine states and three provinces of Canada, from 1989-2010. He served the Lord on mission boards throughout his ministry and spoke at Schools of Outreach throughout North America. He and his wife Anita made their home in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. He departed this life and entered eternal life in October of 2011.
Letters From a Counselor: Christmas and Holy Week Messages to Missionaries, by Schulz, Wayne, ed. by Joel Schulz.. Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing, 2013. 167 pages.