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Retired Florida Conference pastor uses media to spread word in Lithuania

Retired Florida Conference pastor uses media to spread word in Lithuania

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Retired Florida Conference pastor uses media to spread word in Lithuania

Sept. 20, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0549}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

One person at a time — that’s how the Rev. Herbert R. Lange is making an impact.

A retired clergyman from the Florida Conference serving a church in Lithuania, Lange recently caused a stir in the country’s capital.

Church members hand out brochures about The United Methodist Church to passers-by in Vilnius, Lithuania's capital. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Herbert Lange, Photo #06-435. Web photo only.

United Methodists from across the country gathered in Vilnius one week last July to distribute brochures to people on the city’s streets. They met every morning in Lange’s church, called the Upper Room and located above a car repair shop, before beginning their work. While the volunteers were a little apprehensive about the task that first day, Lange steadied them with words of encouragement.

“Today I said your hands are becoming God’s hands,” he recounted in an e-mail from Lithuania. “The only hands He has are yours here today. I said, ‘As you hand out the brochures you only have to smile and say, 'Please, take and read.’ Then they joined a team leader, went to selected
areas and handed out 400 to 500 brochures.”

When the volunteers returned Lange received a welcome surprise in their report. “In the evening when they returned I asked, ‘How do you feel?’ The answer was by all, ‘This was one of the best days in my life.’ They were all excited to be God’s hands that day.”

By the end of the week Lange said the team had delivered 65,000 brochures.

The brochure distribution campaign was adopted by the Lithuanian Annual Conference as its evangelism outreach project for 2006-2007. The conference plans to repeat the outreach in other cities.

“The United Methodist Church in Lithuania has a responsibility to share the Good News with the people in Lithuania,” Lange said. “These brochures tell how to know God through faith in Jesus Christ and also say something about our church. The Lithuanian people need to see that The United Methodist Church Christians are willing to go to the streets and share the Good News person to person.”

While the brochures alone had the ability to reach thousands of people, when coupled with Igniting Ministry commercials airing during the same time period, it was the best of both worlds — print and television — taking advantage of the way most people receive information.

A grant from United Methodist Communications in Nashville made it possible for Lange and the conference to bring the “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” media campaign to televisions throughout Lithuania. 

The $15,554 grant — the first Igniting Ministry grant given to a church outside the United States — paid for 19 30-second commercial spots that aired on LIETUVOS TELEVISIO, the major television station in Lithuania.

The Lithuanian language commercials mark a new expansion of the advertising campaign into languages other than English. Commercials have been produced in Spanish and Korean for Spanish- and Korean-language audiences in the United States.

This wasn’t Lange’s first experience with Igniting Ministry.

“I remember Igniting Ministry from Florida,” he said. “I thought then and now that it is a wonderful tool to share what The United Methodist Church stands for. The people here in Lithuania know more now about our great church then ever before.”

There was also an article in RYTAS, a Lithuanian newspaper. Lange said the combined efforts were “perfect.”

As the word spread and more people began to visit to church, Lange said he had to remind himself that the numbers of people flocking to the church weren’t the main goal. “Some people are already coming, but I had to remind myself that this effort is planting the seed, as it is described in the parable of the sower (found in) Mathew 13.”

Lange is committed to spreading the message of Jesus Christ in Lithuania because it’s his home — he lived there until he was seven years old. The German occupation during World War II forced his family to move to Germany. They came to the United States in 1954.

Lange graduated from Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Ken., and was ordained a pastor in The United Methodist Church. He became a member of the Kentucky Annual Conference in 1963. He and his wife, Sylvia, were missionaries under special appointment to the Pacific Islands from 1965 to 1979.

Lange served two churches in Tampa from 1979 to 1982. He went on to serve at First United Methodist Church, Pinellas Park, for six years and Tarpon Springs United Methodist Church for 14 years.

During his last appointment, Lange took short-term mission assignments to Lithuania. When he retired he decided to serve there full time as a pastor. He is currently in his second year.

Lange receives financial support from Tarpon Springs United Methodist Church and other conference churches. “I am very grateful to the churches who are supporting this effort,” he said of the funding for the brochure distribution. “There is no money here in Lithuania for it.”

Serving in Lithuania is very different from serving in the United States, Lange said. He said the country is predominately Catholic and the Protestant church is small and considered a sect by the majority of the Catholic Church.

All ages took part in the initiative to spread the word about The United Methodist Church to the people of Lithuania's capital city. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Herbert Lange, Photo #06-436. Web photo only.
“As I was handing out brochures a Catholic priest stopped and commented, ‘Don’t you know that Lithuania is Catholic?’ My answer was, ‘No, it belongs to God.’ He walked away. The people here are religious, just like people during the reformation or (John) Wesley’s time in England.”

Currently Lange is focused on growing his church and spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ. “My church is small, but it will not stay that way,” he said. “The Lithuanian Christians are getting excited about sharing their faith, and that brings unity to the whole body. The harvest will be greater than we imagined, and the people of Lithuania will know more about The United Methodist Church of Lithuania.”

The United Methodist Church began its “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” advertising and welcoming campaign in 2001. United Methodist Communications offers $1 million in funding annually to local churches, districts and conferences to help expand a welcoming ministry through an advertising presence in their communities.


This article relates to Evangelism.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.