2015 Synod Assembly Mission Moments

As is past synod assemblies, "Mission Moments"were shared by some of our Mission Interpreters and partner ministries. Here are those stories. You can click on the photographs for larger images.

Moms and Tots ESL Class
Beth Gibbs, Prince of Peace, Schaumburg

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Schaumburg is doing God's Work with Our Hands. We started an English language class for adult women and their infants/preschoolers in Fall 2014. It all started
with a chance encounter at a local store last Spring, when a Japanese lady named Saya recognized one of our members from the Read to Learn Program.

Read to Learn is a one-on-one tutoring program, sponsored by the school district, for adult students studying English. Saya had to drop out of the class in 2013 when her son was born, because children are not allowed at Read to Learn classes.

Saya was very eager to talk to Chris, and told her she missed being able to come to class and practice her English. On impulse, Chris invited her to come to our summer conversation group: an informal gathering of students and tutors hosted by Prince of Peace, to help the students practice their English speaking; Chris told her that her 7-month old baby would be welcome as well. Saya came with her son, and enjoyed the summer class. It turned out that she had several friends who were in the same position as she was—moms with young children, who could not go to the tutoring class. She thought that many of them would want to come to an informal class with their children, and it turns out that they did! 

After the approval for this new ministry was obtained, the class started with a few students, and is still growing; our average attendance is 4-5 moms, plus their children. It’s free to the students, and doesn’t cost the church anything. We use children’s library books or books from our home collections, and the moms bring toys and snacks for their children. In class, the students read stories or articles, write sentences on the board, keep notebooks with vocabulary words and their meanings, and have homework writing assignments on topics that are interesting to them. We talk about anything that they want to talk about. We have had guest speakers, including a nurse who came to help the ladies learn some medical terms, and we role-played making an appointment to see a doctor.

The students are very appreciative of this ministry. They are learning English in a comfortable, welcoming environment, where their children are nurtured as well. The moms and little ones especially enjoy the action songs we do together! A little child shall lead them!

Bethel New Life – West Side Forward
Lori Vallelunga

Thank you, Bishop Miller. Last year when we spoke to you, we shared with you our frustration at not creating transformational change in our communities despite 36 years of effort and nearly $700,000,000 of investment. We introduced you to our new approach, West Side Forward.

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West Side Forward is about reducing concentrated poverty through employing more community residents in jobs that pay a living wage. We know that we can lift the entire West Side of Chicago out of poverty through employing 63,000 West Siders in good jobs. Doing this drops the poverty rate from 39% to 9% and creates opportunities for West Siders to build the community that they want. And we believe that a community built around opportunity can begin to realize God's vision of a restored society.

While we are a maverick when it comes to nonprofits and are working to change entire systems and communities, our efforts are based upon shared values and beliefs that we believe you can support. Rather than continuing to apply bandages and temporary, unsustainable ‘fixes’ to the problem of concentrated poverty, we believe that we must create an entirely new reality. We know that you will agree that everyone should have the opportunity to get a good job and support themselves and their families. But we are not doing a very good job achieving this ideal. In our communities, less than 30% of residents have access to and are prepared for a good job. Without opportunity, we shouldn’t wonder why communities fail. Until we create sufficient opportunity, prepare people for those opportunities, connect people to those opportunities and support people once they have an opportunity, our communities will continue to fail. We cannot have a society that reflects God’s vision if more than 70% of our residents are prevented from using their gifts and talents to provide for their families, live in dignity, and contribute.

If we are going to use our hands and minds and souls to do God’s work, we should be about work that will make a lasting change and bring about a new reality. At Bethel New Life, we have learned from our past failures and our Band-Aid approaches and we are keenly focused on doing the work that will result in restored communities, built by restored people. We would love to share more of our efforts and our story with you. Please stop by our table in the display area. Until we have the opportunity to speak to you individually, I wish to thank you for lending your hands, your hearts, and your prayers to this work. Bringing about a new reality and transformational change requires a community. This community is a good place to start.

Holy Family Ministry - Lucille 
Resale Reinvented
Margaret Flanagan

Late last October, Holy Family opened its first resale store in Arlington Heights…Lucille! Lucille isn’t just a little corner store…we have 10,000sq feet on Rand Road! Lucille is literally right between Goodwill and Salvation Army! We knew we would have to stand out and we are! At Lucille, we are


Here’s how….and YOU can help!

SHOP – Lucille is clean and bright and offers fantastic merchandise at unbelievable prices. Superior customer service makes our customers feel welcome from the minute they walk in the door---making it the BEST resale shopping experience around. Stop in and see what treasures you can find.

VOLUNTEER – What keeps our store running so smoothly? Our amazing team of volunteers! They make it all possible …and have fun doing it. Do you have a few hours a week? We need you!

DONATE – we are a 501c3 charity and all donors get a receipt for taxes. We take almost everything that is in good condition! Clothing, housewares, home décor, children’s items can be dropped off at Lucille 7 days a week. Furniture – we will pick up from your home! Before we opened, we piloted an On-The-Spot collection at churches, which has taken off! In fact, we had 4 collections this month and are scheduling into the summer and fall! It’s so easy, all your church does is promote the sale, we do the rest. We park our truck at your church on a Sunday morning, as people arrive for church, they pull up to the truck - we unload their items and take everything directly to the store! No storage, no sorting, its so simple! Be sure to sign your church up!

EDUCATE – The best part about Lucille is that proceeds support tuition assistance fund, so that fees charged to parents can remain affordable.

Bright Stars of Bethlehem and Diyar
Working Group on the Middle East
Joe Scarry

Thank you, Bishop Miller. In most news from the Middle East we learn only about trouble and fighting. In our very brief time today, we will present a video made in Bethlehem and narrated by Pastor Mitri Raheb from Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and president and CEO of Diyar and Bright Stars of Bethlehem.

(Find video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIuZzRjGKhc)

Please visit the display table from our Working Group on the Middle East to learn more about the many peace-making efforts of Lutherans in the Holy Land.

Ecumenical Mission
Synodical Women's Organization
Ruth Beck


Thank you, Bishop Miller

In October of 1989, a Covenant was signed by Metro-Chicago Synodical Women’s Organization and ACCW (Catholic Women’s Organization). From the very beginning, our focus has been on the things we have in common…..the things that promote Unity. The things that brought us together were our Baptism, our practices of praying, singing, sharing the peace, our social concerns, our faith in Jesus Christ and that we are ALL one in Christ.

Since 1990, we have had an Annual Morning of Dialogue and Prayer. Each event has been unique, not only in location, but with different themes, speakers and style of worship. We have always kept our focus on the things we have in common and that we are all sisters in the body of Christ.

Our most recent event was held on April 25, 2015 at St. Julie Billiart Parish in Tinley Park. The theme was “Let Your Light Shine”. What immediately comes to mind is the song….”This Little Light of Mine, I’m going to Let it Shine.”

The Keynote Speaker, Dr. Vanessa White, on the right, challenged us to look at the choices we make and asked us “Does it reflect who we are? Are we letting our light shine? Are we sharing the good news?”

The homilist was Pastor Brian Wise, the Ecumenical Officer for the Metropolitan Chicago Synod. He said that God calls us to be One…not separated. What we are doing with our Covenant matters! We are the church called to love and grow together. Pastor Wise commended the Synodical Women for carrying the Ecumenical torch for the past 26 years.

Plans will be soon started for another event in 2016, this time in one of our Lutheran churches.

Please share this information with the women of your church and plan to attend.

Weekend Backpack Program
Grace Lutheran, La Grange
Pastor David Hulse

Thank you, Bishop Miller. Three years ago Grace began an outreach program to help feed children who receive a free lunch at their school but have limited food and sometimes no food on the weekend. 

We are working with Congress Park School in Brookfield and are providing food bags for over 20 children – identified by the principal and social worker – who need weekend meals. Each Friday we pack individual bags that contain several breakfasts, lunches, dinners and nutritious snacks that will sustain them for the weekend. 

Lists of backpack items are available on the Mission Interpreter display table.

Last year we were also able to provide food baskets for the families of these children on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. All of this was possible because of donations of food and dollars from generous and caring people.

This year we have partnered with Mariano’s Grocery Store in Westchester to drastically increase the amount of food we are able to collect. For the month of June shoppers at this store are able to purchase $5 or $10 premade bags of food for the program.

We hope in the near future to expand this program to more area schools to reach even more children.

We learned of the great need of hungry children – and are able to do God’s work with our hands – right here in our community.

LSSI – Foster Care
Pastor Linnea Wilson

Thank you, Bishop Miller. 

A child knows when someone cares. At LSSI, they care, and they show you.” These words were spoken by a girl enrolled in LSSI’s Steps to Life program which helps at-risk children in foster care attain positive life achievements. 

At LSSI, a large focus of the care we provide is helping young people—from infants to teens—have the best possible start in life, often amidst trying circumstances such as poverty, neglect, and abuse.

Our Intact Family Services provides a safety net for parents whose children are at risk for abuse or neglect. Parents receive intensive guidance from a social worker and referrals to resources with the goal of keeping families together, thus minimizing the turmoil and trauma children face when placed into foster care. 

For those children who must be placed into foster care, we work diligently to find loving foster parents, and provide them with the support and resources they need to create a stable and loving home.

Ron Guhl, who himself grew up in foster care, exemplifies this goal.

Mr. Guhl was a foster father to three brothers, whom he eventually adopted. “God gave me these boys for a reason,” he said “I think this is my purpose in life—to care for them, nurture them, and then set them free.”

Children need to be heard for us to help them. And once we can help children, we have opened unlimited possibilities for them to lead us.

Holy Family – New Life Cabrini Green
Viola Collins Brown

Thank you Bishop Miller.

What Good can come out of Cabrini Green….It’s Holy Family Lutheran Church and its Youth!!!  

As of The end of summer our Career Development Youth Program will be revamped to take on new middle schoolers. Presently 95% of post high school students in our church are in 4 year universities with some graduates just this month. They are on the Dean’s list, at Howard, Spelman, Xavier University and recent Graduates of SOKA University. Our Students have been and are ‘A’ students academically strong, President of Sigma Gamma Rho, now this team of brilliance is asked to come together to forge our newly designed outreach for youth from our Parkside area with only the Cabrini-Green 1942 designed and constructed Row-House development still standing, from which I was raised.

Youth have learned from the program that although inner-being strength is essential it is the gathering and the serving of God where their energy and reliability of power through Christ came from. The strategy that’s being approached and worked on by our focus group of youth is that the more the Spirit is leading each individual group, conflict recedes and allows them, to be empowered through self- acceptance and God’s love. They discovered through our years together that the comradery was fun and the creativity, energy and outward focus on making a difference allowed freedom to serve in the community.

We partnered with Police District 18 to form a collaboration of working and being visible in the community. We feed the homeless outside the area, play bingo and serve in Senior living facilities, nursing homes and celebrating All-Saints Day with women’s shelters with children. Our mission is trying to show that our young are in love with God and serving each other we live with joy, even through the study and hard work application that must be applied, life is less a power struggle and more fun. These youth agreed that family base worship is important and we might have to continue to work through our young to reach the family root. Our free-based afterschool program and Summer camp programs are going strong (but need essential financial support as we plan to be more culturally diverse). They have swimming at Staton Park with other community organizations to outreach.

These young want us to continue to implement God’s ability to love us through our imperfections that keep us from falling and continue to carry them through the unbelievable obstacles that youth are face at early ages. Our young understand that our recruitment of young from our newly designed area is a humongous challenge, solely because they understand that a man centered universe has always attempted to substitute a God centered universe. They want to spread the good news that GOD IS ABLE.

So our mission with the help of our wonderful Pastor, John Roberts and our alum will forge by strategy, design and faith and battle the odds: i.e. $10M church parallel from us, a 1-fifth filled school adjacent from us because the school populations for the culturally diverse are bussed; and reach our new families by reclaiming in our own lives service in church and community with a renewed spirit of our youth that God is a necessary item on the agenda of life. We are the priesthood of all believers with a new hope knowing that we must lead by example. As we revamp and recruit new relationships we depend on the eyes of the child, the wisdom of sojourners and the word of Christ.


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