Meet our Missions – Bethany Liberian Mission

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This month in our “Meet our Missions” series, we are highlighting Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church, a mission congregation of the English District of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

By Rev. Fred Gerlach, Pastor, Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church

In 2001, Bethany Lutheran Church became a home congregation to Liberians who were displaced by the Liberian Civil war. This brutal conflict not only crippled this nation-child of American democracy, but divided families by driving people from their homes and their communities into refugee camps located outside of Liberia. Bethany was an active partner with Lutheran Immigrant Services in helping these immigrants relocate and settle in the Trenton, New Jersey area. Bethany continues to actively serve this community and other socially-challenged members of our community. Our primary objective is to educate Liberian immigrants and others to be Confessional Lutheran in understanding of scripture and worship.

Catechizing adults and children from this community has challenges in that American English does not always equate to Liberian English. On Sunday morning, we teach very deliberately to assure that we are properly communicating the Gospel. This year, we have supplied Lutheran Worship hymnals to all of the families of the congregation. Using the Lutheran Worship Hymnals teaches our Liberian families not only the faith, but it is also a reading tool. This produces several benefits:

  1. It teaches the faith and how Lutherans worship.
  2. It helps them understand the Bible.
  3. It teaches and improves their reading skills.
  4. It gives them a guide on how to pray.
  5. It teaches the hymns.

Bethany addresses many issues in our community and not just for the Liberian community. While we are a part of the city of Trenton, though we are not in the heart of the city, we have people from local group homes and the homeless who regularly visit our congregation. We serve these individuals through food, meals, transportation to church and other needs. Many of our Liberians live in the city, which like many urban centers, needs to manage crime, gangs, drug abuse and economic issues. Our grant aids this mission and congregation providing human care such as food, medicine and counseling. Many of our immigrants are the working poor because they lack education and training required for higher paying jobs. Often, we assist families with paying for rent, utilities, medical bills and other basic needs. Last summer, a Liberian woman and mother of three children needed an extensive surgery that required her to miss six weeks of work. Her disability insurance could not support the family, so Bethany helped her with mortgage payment assistance and transportation to therapy.

An important part of our mission is the support of our children. The children need assistance in a number of areas, such as tutoring, school supplies and being in a safe environment to play and socialize. In August of 2016, we supplied 61 children with backpacks and school supplies. We had two elementary school teachers give advice to parents (mostly single mothers) on how to help children with homework and how to communicate with the child’s teacher. We have a book and breakfast program each quarter for about 25 children, where they come to have something light to eat and they get to choose a book to take home and read. Each child is encouraged to write a story to bring home and read to their parents and family.  Many of the kids would love more activities, but we are limited with our volunteers.

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Every year we help 8-10 Liberian families with meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Also, on a weekly basis, we help Liberians, the homeless and shut-ins with bread, pastries and various household items. We also sponsor health events where nurses from the local hospitals come and take blood pressure and blood tests to check for diabetes. This year we held a mammogram check for the community. The event was sponsored by Princeton Hospital and we offered rides so people could participate.

There are many social events we engage in to reach out to the community, including the Ewing Drug and Alcohol Alliance, Woman’s Place (shelter for abused women), and Trenton Rescue Center. Our congregation is a caring and Christ-centered church. Our treasure is the people we serve, and our partners in the English District and our sister congregations of this district share in the work of this mission to ensure our ability to serve this community. Without the support of these partners, we would not be able to serve the community to such an extensive way.

If you have a mission or ministry story you’d like to share, please submit for consideration via email to Lynne at lcobb@englishdistrict.org.

A Golden Opportunity

If we pay close attention and listen, we may find a golden opportunity to share our faith. Today’s post is another great example of the importance of Campus Ministry.

 

October Slippery Rock

By August R. Mennell

If we pay close attention and listen, we may find a golden opportunity to share our faith. Today’s post is another great example of the importance of Campus Ministry.

This summer presented a golden opportunity for campus ministry at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center. Three international students: Wendy and Paula (not their real names), who are Muslims, and Jane, an Orthodox Christian, were on Slippery Rock University’s (SRU) campus a week before most of the students had arrived. Because these students were not yet taking classes they had little to do. They were eager to talk and to visit places in the area. They were glad to share just about everything, including their religious beliefs. The Lord had given campus ministry a golden opportunity.

In today’s politically-correct world, many secular people and some Christians believe that although sharing friendship is fine, they believe it is an imposition to bring up, even just to mention, religious beliefs. In short, personal religious beliefs must never be brought up in public. Campus ministry, however, believes that sharing the Christian faith is not an imposition, but is a God-given opportunity.

Wendy is a practicing Muslim. She came to All Saints because an Ethiopian student had told her that All Saints would help her. She was lonely and missed her family in Pakistan. She had no way to get around town. She needed transportation to buy an international telephone card so she could call her parents.

Wendy was easy to talk with. She described how excited she is to be studying in Slippery Rock; how she wants to travel to New York and California before her exchange program ends in December; and how she has signed up for the most challenging classes she can enroll in at SRU. She explained that she has chosen to wear a head covering, to pray five times a day, and to observe Muslim religious festivals because she is serious about her faith.

In the days that followed she came in regularly when she realized that we were kind and would help her. As we talked during the days before classes began, we became friends and we made time to visit a quilt shop in an Amish community near Volant; got the phone card in Butler; and ate ice cream cones at several shops in the area. A special day arrived when Wendy came to Sunday worship and we sat together. We helped her understand the service. She felt very welcome at All Saints and says she will try to come again as her studies permit.

Wendy did not stop coming in to visit when classes began. She feels so appreciative for the kindness shown to her that she rushed back from a trip to Chicago just to be here on time for All Saints’ Labor Day student meal. Wendy is a warm, friendly student who smiles a lot. She is interested in everything including talking about her faith and listens to what Christians believe. The sharing of faith is an awesome opportunity.

Jane, an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, enjoys the friendship that she got when she came to All Saints before classes began. She showed her appreciation by preparing a delicious, very spicy dish to share. She came several times to converse. She said she is an Orthodox Christian; that she would come to our Lutheran worship service, which she did. She enjoyed the worship which she said is not so different than her own.

Jane told us about her religious beliefs. She said she does sometimes fast, but she added that she does not really understand the Lord’s Supper. We invited her to come in so we could share more about the Bible and faith issues. Her first reaction was to decline the offer for a Bible study. She said no to the invitation, commenting that Christianity does not seem to be part of the real world. The real world, she believes, is so filled with corruption that faith does not seem to make a difference. Jane added one more comment regarding our invitation to study the Bible. She said she believes she needs to “feel” like doing this before she would do so. She implied that until she is “good enough” and has right feelings she should not come to worship or Bible study. I asked if she always “felt” like going to classes. She said no. And then she amazed me. Almost out of the blue she asked if we could meet on Saturday or Sunday to talk about faith. Wow! We will find a way! What an opportunity, one too good to pass up.

Paula from the Middle East also came in to ask for help learning to drive. She had attended a Christian high school but did not learn who Jesus really is. She still finds more comfort in the Koran than in the Bible. Even so, she is quite comfortable at All Saints. She talked about her research, her attempts to deal with the stress of studies, and her joy in learning to drive. She has let us know she is willing to describe her faith and to listen to who Jesus is according to the Bible. We could not ask for a better opportunity. It is golden.

This semester is bright with the chance to share the Gospel with international and American students at Slippery Rock University. We would appreciate your prayers for what we are doing.

Augusta R. Mennell is the Campus Ministry Director at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center in Slippery Rock, PA. If you have a mission or ministry story you’d like to share, please submit for consideration via email to Lynne at lcobb@englishdistrict.org.

 

What is there to do?

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By Vicki Helmling

This article first appeared in Grace English Lutheran School’s weekly newsletter. It has been reprinted with permission.

“What is there to do?”

I hear that a lot with the kiddos in my room. I’m often amazed, since they have school work to keep them busy. What they really seem to be saying is that they don’t want to do what is being required of them.

Are we this way?

How often do we say we want to help, but we want to do this on our own terms. We question those we are offering to help – are they deserving of our help. We put conditions on the help we give them.

Right now, we are seeing the need to help many people in many different places in our nation as well as around the world.

The children of Grace English School are helping others in a very basic way – they are collecting coins: pennies, nickels, and dimes during the month of September. The children don’t question if the two schools we will be helping (one in Florida and one in Texas) are deserving of our help. They haven’t asked if these schools have checked out all the possible other resources. The students just bring in their coins and know they are helping their neighbors as Christ commanded them to do in the story of the Good Samaritan.

The children of Grace are thrilled to be able to bring in their coins. So far, they have brought in $99.80 to help the hurricane victims in Florida and Texas.

The children understand Christ’s words from Matthew 25:35-40. They understand they don’t need to know the people in need; they understand they don’t need to know the needs of the people; they understand; they know there are people in need and they are willing to help – willing to help out of the love they have for their LORD and Savior.

Can and will we do the same?

Vicki Helmling is the school administrator at Grace English Lutheran School in Chicago, IL.  Do you have a ministry experience you would like to share? If so, you, too, could be a guest blogger for the English District. For consideration, please send an email to Lynne Cobb, Communications Coordinator for the English District LCMS, at lcobb@englishdistrict.org.

Meet our Missions – Lutheran Student Fellowship (LCMS) – Pittsburgh

In this edition of Meet our Missions, read about the student ministry at Lutheran Student Fellowship (LCMS) in Pittsburgh, PA.

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By Rev. Eric R. Andræ, Campus Pastor, Lutheran Student Fellowship (LCMS)/First Trinity Church

So what exactly does Lutheran Student Fellowship (LCMS) – Pittsburgh do? Below is an example of the student ministry that not only touches lives, but changes lives.

Queen (not her real name), a former University of Pittsburgh graduate student from China, was an atheist when she arrived here. After we met at an on-campus Graduate Student Orientation Fair, she started attending worship and was aided in her understanding by the simple structure and uniformity of the Lutheran liturgy; she also found that the people at First Trinity “care for each one’s life, thinking, problems. So more and more students visit this church and stay because we have found our home in both physical sense and spiritual sense.”  On Christmas Eve, Queen was baptized!

The Lutheran Student Fellowship reaches out to college students on several campuses in the Pittsburgh, PA area, such as the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University, Point Park University, Duquesne University, and others. Here is a sample of the programs available to students:

  • The second Saturday of each month, students get together for a meal and games or a movie or a pit-fire, etc.
  • Each Wednesday they study God’s Word and break bread together, with supper at 7:30 p.m.
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are offered.
  • Sometimes rides are provided to church or other events.
  • Sunday Divine Service, daily morning prayer, mid-week evening prayer.
  • Local and international mission and service projects.
  • International Student Ministry (ISM).
  • And so much more!

Pastor Eric R. Andræ (S.T.M., Lic.) is the ISM Director and Chaplain. Because he holds a dual citizenship, he can relate and identify with the international community.

Making students feel welcome is a priority in this ministry, as well as meeting their needs. (See this article in Lutherans Engage.) For more information, feel free to contact Rev. Eric R. Andræ at LCMS Campus Ministry at First Trinity Lutheran Church, Pittsburgh, PA. Call (412) 683-4121, visit their web site, http://lsfpgh.com/, and like them on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/LSFofPGH/

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If you have a mission or ministry story you’d like to share, please submit for consideration via email to Lynne at lcobb@englishdistrict.org.

 

“Who is my “Nextdoor” neighbor?”

“And who is my neighbor?”

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By Tom Kuwazaki, Morning Star Lutheran Church, Lakeside, CA

In Luke 10:25, a lawyer started asking Jesus questions and in Luke 10:29, to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus then starts to share with the lawyer the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In Luke 10:36-37, Jesus shares, 36““Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.””

Today many people live in fear and we are given a solution for that in 1 John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…”  By loving our neighbors as Christ Jesus has loved us, we are instruments of His Love.

There are many ways of building relationships with our neighbors to help them experience Christ’s love and one of those ways that has been helpful to us at Morning Star Lutheran Church in Lakeside, CA is the use of a smartphone app call “Nextdoor.”  So far, we have been able to help a family that had financial needs, give resources that helped a person with his job, and just meet up with others for a cup of coffee. In essence, we have been given a great opportunity to show “mercy/grace” to a neighborhood that has not known the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The following is an excerpt from Nextdoor.com about the service their app provides. I would like to encourage you to consider using this app as another way of reaching out to a lost people.

Nextdoor is the private social network for you, your neighbors and your community. It’s the easiest way for you and your neighbors to talk online and make all of your lives better in the real world. And it’s free.

Thousands of neighborhoods are already using Nextdoor to build happier, safer places to call home.

People are using Nextdoor to:

  • Quickly get the word out about a break-in
  • Organize a Neighborhood Watch Group
  • Track down a trustworthy babysitter
  • Find out who does the best paint job in town
  • Ask for help keeping an eye out for a lost dog
  • Find a new home for an outgrown bike
  • Finally call that nice man down the street by his first name

Nextdoor’s mission is to provide a trusted platform where neighbors work together to build stronger, safer, happier communities, all over the world.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for helping us to fulfill the Great Commission that you have given us to reach out to those who know not the greatness of your Love and Mercy!

If you have a mission or ministry story you’d like to share, please submit for consideration via email to Lynne at lcobb@englishdistrict.org.

 

Serving the Lord while parallel parking

Parallel parking

What does parallel parking have to do with campus ministry? Today’s guest blogger shares a story about teaching and sharing life skills – as well as the Gospel. 

By Augusta R. Mennell

We must have looked crazy as we tried over and over again to parallel park our car. We did this many times on many afternoons. Isuri from Sri Lanka was practicing her parking so that she could pass her driver’s test.

Campus Ministry at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center wants to be available to help international and American college students who attend Slippery Rock University. We’re here to take students to the Giant Eagle for groceries. We are here to listen to their problems. Some face the clash of two cultures; so they want to know how to convince their parents to let them marry the person they love, rather than going along with tradition and allowing their parents to make the choice of a mate. Others want help dealing with a boyfriend or girlfriend who has been unfaithful. And some, like Isuri, ask for help learning how to drive a car.

Isuri has been part of All Saints for some time. She has helped with the student meals, and she has kept us in touch with the international students (she has been the president of the international students group). She went from being an occasional visitor at our congregation to attending rather regularly. We have often taken her to lunch after church at the Red Rock Restaurant at the edge of Slippery Rock.

Those lunches turned into a friendship outreach event when she met Donna Jean Heintz (Bethel Evangelical-Glenshaw). We had all gone out to lunch after church when Isuri mentioned that she was looking for an internship this summer or in the fall semester. Donna was able to tell her about Concordia Lutheran Ministries in Cabot as a possible internship location. She urged Isuri to apply, which she did. She was accepted by Concordia and will be an intern there in the fall. She cannot wait to begin.

When Isuri asked us to help her learn to prepare for the driving test, it was a great opportunity for us. It gave us extra time to talk as we practiced driving. Isuri described her warm, loving, flexible and supportive family at home. She shared that the reason she is familiar with and comfortable with our liturgy is because she attended a Christian church occasionally at home in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. I asked her what she thought of the teachings at the church there, as well as Buddhist teachings at the temple she also attended. She replied that she did not, and does not, see any difference.

Isuri took the driver’s test but failed the first time. Even though she had sailed through parallel parking and driving on the road in Mercer, she let the car’s tires touch the curb at the end of the test and that meant she had failed! We were crushed. However, we returned a week later and she passed, with a great deal of relief and joy.

Two Sundays later she came to All Saints’ worship late. This was unusual for her, and it happened because Pittsburgh friends – who were helping her find a car to buy – shocked her by bringing the car to her apartment. She beamed as she showed her new car keys to everyone at All Saints. The congregation broke into applause for her.

Immediately after worship she approached Rev. Larry K. Loree, Jr., and asked if he would give her car a blessing. He was thrilled to do so. He gave the blessing in Jesus’ name, asking God to keep Isuri safe and happy in her car.

Helping Isuri learn to drive was a great opportunity to grow a friendship and to talk about God. Campus ministry will continue to teach driving skills as a way to connect with college students. We’re already doing this with another student who is from Iran. Such help does not obligate the students to become Christians. It does not mean that they will come to Bible class, worship, or student meals. But it is a great opportunity anyway!

I recently read something that applies to campus ministry. An article by Chad Fox in the July-August 2017 issue of the Lutheran Layman titled ,“Increasing Persecution of Christians Opens Doors for Gospel Proclamation,” says, “While you would think that persecution would have a negative effect on Christianity, we see quite the opposite,” says Rev. Peter Kirby, LCMS regional director for Europe. “It actually opens doors for the Gospel.”

The very same phenomenon can be said to work concerning campus ministry outreach at our nation’s universities. Although Christianity is often treated with hostility and the secular view that “Putting me first” is treated as profound truth, nevertheless, campus ministry grows anyway. Therefore, it is a blessing to have had this crucial opportunity to influence students for the past 40 years at All Saints. It is a blessing to help a student learn to parallel park. Who knows where parallel parking will lead? Please pray that we will have 40 more years of parallel parking instruction for students.

Augusta R. Mennell is the Campus Ministry Director at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center in Slippery Rock, PA. If you have a mission or ministry story you’d like to share, please submit for consideration via email to Lynne at lcobb@englishdistrict.org.

 

Meet our Missions – Holy Cross Lutheran

Learn about the ministry and mission of Holy Cross Lutheran Church and Student Ministry, Toledo, OH.

Helping hands
The crew from University Lutheran Chapel in Ann Arbor, MI, came to lend a helping hand.

This month, our “Meet our Missions” introduces the missions and ministries of Holy Cross Lutheran, Toledo, OH.

By Rev. Peter M. Burfeind

Originally we were simply a campus ministry, but through our group “Engineers in Christ” – a “high-tech” service group – we’ve done service work not only in the Appalachia but also in Toledo’s inner city, less than two miles from the college campus. We’ve built handicap ramps, renovated rooms, and constructed playground equipment, to just name a few things. Through this service work, we’ve made connections in the inner city community and we are currently working on renovating a dilapidated house to become a “mission house” for various ministries, including Word and Sacrament ministry.

We also have a connection to a jobs retraining program for robotics maintenance and programming.  We’ve touched quite a few lives through this ministry.  As we help people connect to the hope of a good, secure job, we are able to reach out to them and their children with the Gospel. Currently, we need help getting this mission house complete. We have a tight budget, but also need professional and trades help.  This mission can be a wonderful blessing – I’ve seen the fruits already at this early stage – but we risk getting bogged down in just getting it up and running.

Meanwhile, the students in our campus ministry are blessed by such work as well. Students are at a transitional period in their lives, and many are falling away from the faith in these critical years.  Our weekly services, Bible Studies, and Engineers in Christ group provides an opportunity to address many of the challenges of today’s world.  This year, we’re beginning to see the first of our students  – those who were with us when we began – graduate. These are young men and women who have matured in Christian faith and leadership, and they will be a blessing to their future congregations.

Learn more about Holy Cross Lutheran’s ministry by visiting their website.

Follow their mission on their Facebook page.

Do you have a mission or ministry experience you would like to share? If so, you, too, could be a guest blogger for the English District. For consideration, please send an email to Lynne Cobb, Communications Coordinator for the English District LCMS at lcobb@englishdistrict.org.

Click HERE to donate to missions supported by the English District LCMS.

BBQ and jobs fair
Members of the community join us for a BBQ and jobs fair.