Missionary Family Q&A Panel

June 10, 2023 – 4:00 p.m. CT

Meet the panelists:

Rev. Cale and Lauren Mead – Christ the Rock, Canton, Ga.

Home Missionary Cale Mead serves at Christ the Rock in Canton, Ga. The church in Canton was approved as a new home mission church in spring of 2022. His family and the core group of about 25 people are praying to begin Sunday worship services in November 2023 after a year of preparing, planning, and previewing the mission of Christ the Rock to the growing Canton community.

Before coming to Georgia, Cale served in East Asia with Friends Network from 2011-2014. He spent his vicar year at Lord of Life in Thornton, Colo., in 2016/2017 under Rev. Phil Sievert and then served as pastor at Christ in Juneau, Alaska, for four years.

Cale and Lauren (nee Gross) were married in 2011, right after graduating from Martin Luther College and right before leaving for Asia. God has now blessed them with three daughters: Amelia (7), Ziva (4), and Mabel (1); and one “Alaskan village special” dog named Kaiyuh.

Rev. Larry W. and Marlene Schlomer – Retired World Missionary

Rev. Larry W. Schlomer grew up on a farm in Glenham, S.D. He received his BS in Agriculture at South Dakota State University where he also met and married Marlene Johnson who was studying nursing. They were blessed with three children: Walter, Larry M., and Naomi. Pastor Schlomer changed his career plan and took pre-seminary courses at Bethany Lutheran College and received his seminary training at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, graduating in 1974. He served a home mission in Beloit, Wis., for three years. During much of their first years of marriage, Marlene worked as a nurse in various capacities.

In 1977, the Schlomer family moved to Colombia where Missionary Schlomer led theological education and evangelism/church planting efforts until 1983. They then relocated to El Paso, Tex., where Missionary Schlomer trained ministry leaders from Mexico. In 1990, Missionary Schlomer accepted a call to Nigeria to help establish a seminary for the national church, teach nine students, and train a national pastor to take over the direction of the seminary. They moved back to Mexico in 1993 when Missionary Schlomer accepted a call to train seminary students and assist with local ministries in Mexico. He was additionally called to serve as field counselor for Mexico in 1995. For the last 11 years of active ministry, Missionary Schlomer served as coordinator of the Latin American Traveling Theological Educators (LATTE), based out of Mexico. He trained students both in-person and online in Bolivia, the Caribbean, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Missionary Schlomer also participated in several exploratory trips to visit contacts and research new mission starts.

Missionary Schlomer and Marlene served in world missions for 37 years before retirement in 2014. Since then, he has served vacancies on the Apache reservation in Arizona; Duncanville, Tex.; Pierre, S.D.; Roscoe and Bowdle, S.D., as well as close to a year in a recovery project of WELS Christian Aid and Relief after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Rev. Neil Birkholz – Asian Ministry Coordinator

Rev. Neil Birkholz was called by the WELS Joint Mission Council in 2020 to serve as Asian Ministry Coordinator. He supports WELS outreach efforts that take place in Asian cross-cultural situations and coordinates the WELS Diaspora Ministry Facilitator (DMF) program that helps build connections between home and world mission efforts. This relativity new program assigns a stateside pastor to every World Mission team overseas. This stateside pastor, or DMF, helps facilitate connections and outreach between people-groups in North America and their home country. Rev. Birkholz also works with the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) as they train non-traditional students who are uniquely equipped to serve in Asian outreach situations. He encourages them through their studies while also helping identify their local mission fields where they can serve while taking classes.

Before graduating from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Rev. Birkholz served with Kingdom Workers in Brazil (6 months) and with Friends of China (2 years). Upon graduating in 2014, he was assigned to the WELS world mission field in East Asia where he served until the summer of 2020. He then accepted the call to serve as Asian Ministry Coordinator (75%) and quarter-time parish pastor (25%) at Reformation Lutheran Church in San Diego, Calif. In summer 2022 his current position as Asian Ministry Coordinator became full-time.

Rev. Birkholz, his wife Becky, and children Caleb, Malachi, Noah, and Kaia are blessed to be supported by their home congregation, Reformation, as they transitioned from living in Asia back to the United States. Becky teaches part-time at Reformation in the 7-8 grade classroom and their four children are all attending the school. Because of their location in San Diego and the outreach efforts of Reformation, the Birkholz family continues to have opportunities to connect with many Asian people in the local setting.