“Masks of God” to Unmask His Word

Children are back to school in Japan. And the teachers are facing challenges. I watched a recent TV news segment that showed a Japanese teacher of English asking his masked students, “Do you have colored pencils?” The students’ response was a muffled, “I have many colored pencils.” The teacher commented later that, without visual cues, he has great difficulty assessing their language proficiency. 

How do you teach students wearing masks then? Making unmasked recorded responses on an iPad––in the school hallway––was one strategy demonstrated for us viewers of the news segment. Of course, the ideal is unmasked communication.



We in the LCMS want to share the Gospel “unmasked” in Asia. However, some of our rich theological resources are “masked” by language barriers that muffle transmission. But unlike the coronavirus, which can be life-depriving, we want the life-giving Gospel to spread. How do we unmask those resources?  Through translations, naturally. 

At the present time, many of our partner churches have God’s Word, Luther’s Small Catechism and often, hymns, and perhaps hymnals in their own language. However, for theological education and the training of pastors, many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are eager for more resources to be translated and distributed. That is what those eighty-plus Lutheran resource projects are all about, that we have written about before, and that Dan is helping to coordinate. Which brings us to those other masks.



You and me. We are the “masks of God” in this world. Now, I hadn’t heard of this phrase until the other day from Dan. He explained that Luther used it in reference to God working through us, his agents, each in his or her particular vocation. 

Of course, I wanted to learn more and consequently happened upon Gene Vieth’s excellent article on vocation, which explains:

In other words, in his earthly kingdom, just as in his spiritual kingdom, God bestows his gifts through means. God ordained that human beings be bound together in love, in relationships and communities existing in a state of interdependence. In this context, God is providentially at work caring for his people, each of whom contributes according to his or her God-given talents, gifts, opportunities, and stations. Each thereby becomes what Luther terms a “mask of God” (bolding is mine).

Aha! As Americans, we take pride in being “self-sufficient,” but we really do need each other. And as we each serve our neighbor in our vocation, we function as “masks of God.” Veith also points out that God does NOT need our good works, but our neighbor does. So, too, as your agents in Asia, we work together to carry out the Great Commission to share the Gospel with our “neighbors” in Asia. 

Dan had just finished digitizing a Japanese catechism. A day or two later, a pastor in the States contacted him about possible catechetical material for a Japanese fiancée in his congregation. You can imagine how delighted Dan was to have this resource just recently completed to share online––and in an unexpected corner of the world. It is truly a blessing to give and receive support as we serve Christ in our own vocations––as “masks of God.” Our prayer is that, even as we all serve our neighbor in many different capacities, as “masks of God” in love and care, we will also work together to unmask God’s message of salvation for all the world to see and hear.  


Tea after a Japanese bath.


A little update on our daily lives:
Still studying…but trail maps this time


While we didn’t celebrate the Fourth of July, Dan and I were thrilled to go to the mountains for two days of rest and relaxation at the start of the month.
With the refacing, painting, and cleaning of our apartment complex this summer they have enclosed the scaffolding; it looks like our building is behind one giant mask! For that reason and also because we had not left our home since March (other than by bike or foot in our neighborhood for essential activities ) we were especially eager to stretch our legs. We went when the trains were not busy and then walked and hiked and generally enjoyed ourselves––without masks, no less, since we had the trails to ourselves.
The picture I took  above is of our room at a traditional Japanese inn. Behind the sliding doors is the tatami (straw mat) room with futons for sleeping. (And yes, they made sure to supply us with a bottle of disinfectant along with the tea and water.)


Thanks, Praise and Prayers

Of course, we want to end with this. First, we would like to give special thanks to our twenty-five TIM (Together in Mission) partners this month for their  sustaining support. You are truly a blessing. In addition, 


We Praise God for:

  • God’s  blessings of His clear teaching as witnessed in our Catechism.
  • Concord in doctrine and practice as we work with various partner church bodies.


And ask prayers for: 

  • The emotional and physical wellbeing of our LCMS missionaries during the pandemic.
  • Generous support so that mission project funds can be unfrozen.

With God’s love and grace,
Dan and Joan



Thank you for your prayers and support ~Joan and Dan Jastram


More than ever, the world needs the saving Word of Jesus Christ.  With your partnership we can continue this work. We encourage you to support, continue, or increase your financial support  online through our secure LCMS website,

Did you know….? We received this idea from a current supporter (and fund-raiser himself): You can support Jastram-Asia mission work through asset-based giving. Contact LCMS Mission Advancement  (888-930-4438) or visit the LCMS Foundation  to explore the possibilities yourself.

And as a congregation, you can support us by adding us to your congregation’s mission budget as a Together in Mission partner. (Call 888-930-4438 for details.) 


 or  mail a tax-deductible gift to:

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
P.O. Box 66861
St. Louis, MO 63166-6861

Make checks payable to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod or LCMS. Include “Jastram–Asia” in the memo line.

Connect with us


Rev. Dr. Daniel Jastram





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