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When they gather here for a five-day convention that begins today, volunteers for the International Lutheran Layman's League will be reassured that the work they are doing to deliver "the good news" is paying off.

"Nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Christianity, God's message continues to spread throughout the world," thanks to their efforts and those of others, said the Rev. Dr. Dale Meyer, speaker of "The Lutheran Hour."

About 1,500 League volunteers and leaders from 35 foreign ministry offices that reach into 135 countries are expected to attend the convention today through Wednesday in the Buffalo Convention Center.

One of the highlights will be a Lutheran Hour Rally at 4 p.m. Sunday featuring a sermon by Dr. Meyer. The event, expected to draw 3,000 people, is free and open to the public.

During a telephone interview from his St. Louis office this week, Dr. Meyer said his message will be that the work of the volunteers, who participate in a variety of ministries, is producing obvious results in terms of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and gaining conversions to Christianity.

For instance, Dr. Meyer said, there are now 37 million Lutherans in Europe and 8.7 million in Africa where the church is gaining 500,000 members annually.

"That's a demonstration that the Gospel -- faith in Christ -- is progressing around the world," he said.

"The Lutheran Hour" is a half-hour weekly radio program begun in 1930 by the late Rev. Dr. Walter A. Maier.

Calling itself "the world's oldest continually broadcast Christ-centered radio program," it is carried on 1,200 stations in North America, including WBEN and WFBF locally, and in numerous foreign countries.

The International Lutheran Layman's League is the parent of Lutheran Hour Ministries which also produces the "Woman to Woman" radio show and "On Main Street," a syndicated television program. "The Lutheran Hour" is also accessible on the Internet.

Dr. Meyer said league volunteers promote the programs of Lutheran Hour Ministries and work with the new "Living for Tomorrow" television commercials that will begin airing soon in the Buffalo area.

The commercials invite viewers to call a toll-free number for a booklet and tape about the faith. Volunteers man the telephones and mail the materials.

League volunteers also collect and ship food and other essential supplies to countries, like Russia and Ethiopia, where there is an urgent need. The league is affiliated with the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church, Canada.

"If there is a need, these lay people will do what they can to meet that need," said Dr. Meyer.

Other highlights of the convention will be the previewing of "The Puzzle Club's Christmas," a new 30-minute animated television special, and demonstrations of the various kinds of ministry undertaken in foreign countries.

The convention also will include exhibits that will be open to the public. Exhibit hours are as follows: today, 2 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 3 to 4 p.m. and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.; Monday, 6:30 to 8:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.; and Tuesday, 7:30 to 11:30 a.m.

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