In the beginning
“It is quite interesting, looking back on it…the opportunities and God’s hand in it all,” Jim Haag noted with a smile. Jim co-founded Kingdom Workers with Bob Grebe over 30 years ago, although he is quick to note, “It’s not that Kingdom Workers happened because of Bob Grebe and Jim Haag, but that he and I happened to have the opportunity to be involved.”
Jim’s prior involvement with mission work opened the door for that opportunity. “I was on the Southeast Asia Executive Committee and had served on the Board for World Mission for 18 years. As a lay person on a three-member committee I had a little bit of influence, and there weren’t too many positions in the WELS where that happened.” This experience caused Jim to wonder what it would be like if more lay people had similar opportunities to be involved in mission work.
“In 1986, Bob Grebe and I were invited to a World Seminary Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and we were the only two laymen there. We realized they didn’t really need our input, on the topics being discussed, so we went out and talked. Bob said, ‘You know, we should be able to start a lay organization to do mission work.’” With that the idea for Kingdom Workers was born.
Kingdom Workers' first global program sponsored a lay couple to serve in Mwembezhi, Zambia in 1989. For 30 years we have worked to establish close partnerships with the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) and the communities we serve. These connections help us better understand and meet the specific needs of people in places like Zambia and Malawi. While the ways in which we serve have adapted over time, the main goal is to connect people to Jesus.
Over the next few months, Jim and Bob met to develop and solidify their idea. They eventually got support from the Board for World Missions and then Synod President Mischke and brought the idea to the Synod convention. “In the end, the Synod adopted it. That was exciting!” They soon found an office space, added volunteer staff, and registered Kingdom Workers as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Eventually they became one of the few organizations to receive major gifts from the Marvin M. Schwan Foundation. “God blessed us with just a ton of people who had the talents and wherewithal to be at the right place at the right time for Kingdom Workers to get off the ground.”
"God wants us to do mission work; that's our number one reason for being here. We can get lay people involved in doing and helping."
Since the beginning Kingdom Workers’ central focus has been to get lay people involved in mission work. "God wants us to do mission work; that's our number one reason for being here. We can get lay people involved in doing and helping." Kingdom Workers started by sponsoring a lay couple to serve in Mwembezhi, Zambia, and by supporting Mark Cares as he wrote the book Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons about reaching out to Mormons.
From those two initiatives, Kingdom Workers grew and for the last 30 years has worked to spread the gospel around the world by mobilizing believers. “God has blessed Kingdom Workers; I mean that very sincerely. He continues to bring us more opportunities, and Kingdom Workers still has a lot of work to do.”