Mission Interpreters at 2016 Synod Assembly

Mission Interpreters were active and visible at the 2016 Assembly. Our display was close to the entrance to the Assembly hall and provided an opportunity to share information about Mission Interpretation with many. Our display included a wide range of information, but had a strong emphasis on World Hunger. This was a good tie with the challenge to the Synod to raise $1 million for World Hunger by October 31, 2017. Our workshop was well attended and was another way to reach folks with information about Mission Interpretation. We look forward to having several folk join our MI team in the coming months as a result of this effort. The Mission Moments were again a highlight of the Assembly.

Thanks to Erv Uhlman for coordinating this effort.

The Moments included:

  • Advocacy - Ken Olson
  • World Hunger - Rev. JoAnn Post
  • RefugeeOne - Greg Hammond
  • Five Loaves and Two Fish - Dan Dorman (on video)
  • Kidz Express - Rev. Kathy Nolte
  • Lutheran Suicide Prevention Network - Sue Cahalan
  • Antiracism Team - Barbara Wahler, presented by the Rev. Ben Adams
  • Walk for Water - Maggie Paulson


Ken Olson, Lord of Life, Schaumburg

Thank you Bishop Miller

When we at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Schaumburg heard the words “Another week and Illinois is still without a state budget!“ we knew that action was needed to try to make a difference.  

Two weeks before we had seen the news that because of the lack of a state budget Lutheran Social Services Illinois, the largest provider of social services for the state and one of our partners in doing “God’s Work, Our Hands,” had been forced to close 30 programs and lay off more than 750 employees that provided needed services for about 4,700 people. Other social service providers across the state were also impacted drastically with services being eliminated or severely limited for many people.

Lutheran Advocacy Illinois had basically become inactive due to budget constraints; however we were able to draw on resources they had developed to conduct a letter writing campaign to the political leaders in Springfield. We used the model of Bread for the World and invited our members to write letters to the Governor and leadership of both parties. We did this following worship on Sunday with hand written letters that emphasized the need to work together for a fair budget that provide funding for needed social services and education.

We cannot claim a great victory due to our advocacy because the budget impasse has not yet been bridged and people are still denied needed services, but we know that our voices were heard. We did begin to help make a difference, but we as Lutherans need to continue to speak out for justice. We need to continue to work together on advocacy efforts as we continue to be “Transformed and Transforming.”

ELCA World Hunger
The Rev. JoAnn Post
Lutheran Church of the Ascension, Northfield

She appealed to my vanity, calling the church office on a cold December day to invite us to be part of the ELCA’s Forty Days of Giving Challenge. For all I know the caller had been bending ears all day, in search of a congregation willing to commit all of Lent to education, worship, action and offerings to the World Hunger component of the ELCA’s campaign. My ear was bent, my interest piqued and my pride stroked when she said, “We think your congregation could easily raise $10,000 for the campaign, don’t you?”

We did. We did so much more than that. We almost doubled that challenge amount in forty days. We challenged people to walk, to fast, to pray, to slurp soup, to buy chicks, to practice grocery shopping on a SNAP budget, to purchase ELCA Good Gifts, to fill coin boxes, to write checks. One of our elders handed me a small box of silver coins saying, “I’ve been holding on to this for years and didn’t know why. Now I know. Use it feed hungry people.” (His small box contained almost $1,200 worth of coins.)
There were days, early on, when it felt like an act of holy hubris to take on such a challenge. $10,000 is a lot of money—even on the North Shore. But our congregation, like so many of yours, is both transformed and transforming. We gave been transformed by signs of the Spirit’s work among us, and transforming from congregations that fear our own long-term survival to mission outposts committed to outrageous service.

That small Lent success is becoming a model for our whole ministry. Rather than doing a lot of things modestly well, we are moving toward ministry planning that is tightly-focused, time-sensitive, intellectually and theologically engaging, broadly communicated, with multiple entry points, and, most important, challenging of our time, talent and treasure.

It started with a phone call on a cold December day. A call to action. A call to care. A call to use our hands for God’s work.

Greg Hammond, Grace, Mt. Prospect

Thank you Bishop Miller,

Since 1982, RefugeeOne has helped more than 15,000 refugees build new lives in the Chicago area after they fled war, terror, and persecution. Alongside co-sponsors ( often a congregation, school, or alumni association) and volunteers, RefugeeOne is there to greet refugees at the airport, support refugee children in school, assist with integration into American culture, help adults learn English and employment skills, and connect them to their first jobs.

In December 2015, two fellow church members and myself from Grace Lutheran, Mt. Prospect, were asked to attend a workshop being presented by Refugee One. After that workshop we reported what we had learned to our pastor. It was decided that we would form a refugee ministry in our congregation. Our pastor met with other area pastors and we were pleased that 3 other churches were willing to help with our endeavor. We met again with Refugee One to discuss the parameters; that night we began the task of sponsoring a family.

After four months of hard work, watching our group procure the necessities to furnish an apartment & feed the family for 2-3 weeks, we found out that the family was supposed to arrive on May 24th. However, due to circumstances beyond our control, that did not happen. We now know that the family will be arriving on Monday, the 13th of June. Our group did a great job getting our church and others to pitch in and make this family feel welcome when they arrive at their new home.


Five Loaves and Two Fish Community Lunch
Dan Dorman, Trinity, Des Plaines

Kidz Express 
Rev. Kathy Nolte, Good Shepherd, Oak Park

Kidz Express is a holistic program sponsored by Good Shepherd Lutheran in Oak Park and operating in the South Austin neighborhood of Chicago. “Transformed and transforming” is the goal of our program that has transformed the lives of hundreds of students in the past 19 years and seeks to increase it’s transformational impact this year.

This July we will purchase a closed CPS school to expand from 50 students to over 200 students and further increase programming.

The main objective of Kidz Express is to move children from age five through a "pipeline" of progress and self-sufficiency as they grow into adulthood which includes after school programs; summer programs; GED classes; health and nutrition; athletic fitness; homework and tutoring; mentoring; jobs training; academic and career planning; and affordable housing.

There are three distinctive differences between Kidz Express and other programs:

  1. First, any student who wishes to join the program is eligible, since there are no costs assessed to students, either for daily programming or special outings to places like Starved Rock and Wrigley Field. Students invite their friends to the program leading to a current waitlist of over 30 names.
  2. Second, rather than bringing in outsiders to serve as staff, the program serves as a job training program for students as they mature. Middle school students serve as junior mentors who tutor young students. High School students receive a stipend as they expand into programming responsibilities. College-level students, who are responsible for all programming, provide a nurturing environment where younger students see the positive outcomes from making good choices in life.
  3. Lastly, rather than just focusing on one aspect of child development, Kidz Express is a holistic program that seeks to build the whole person resulting in many college graduates. This year one will enter Northwestern University’s master’s program in Sports Media at the Medill School of Journalism.

Talk to me later about how you might help our efforts in “Transformed and Transforming.” 

Lutheran Suicide Prevention Network
Sue Cahalan

The ELCA "Message on Suicide Prevention" was written by Rev. John Stumme and approved by the Church Council in 1999. The Message 'urges synods to support members, congregations and affiliated institutions in their efforts to prevent suicide' and calls upon the church's educational advocacy programs to make suicide prevention an important concern in their ministries.'

Research indicates most people agree churches should do more to prevent suicide. 

Congregants want their pastors to talk more about mental health issues than they do.  

The Lutheran Suicide Prevention Ministry, was founded by Jerry and Elsie Weyrauch, Lutherans who lost their daughter to suicide. LSPM is an Independent Lutheran Organization approved by the ELCA Church Council in November 2013. It works collaboratively with the Disabilities Mission Unit of the church-wide organization to implement policies approved by the ELCA. LSPM is staffed and funded by volunteers. Its mission is to activate the ELCA's social message on Suicide Prevention.

The goals and objectives of the Lutheran Suicide Prevention Ministry include:

  • Increase suicide prevention awareness in order to reduce stigma and shame
  • Educate congregations and church leaders on appropriate actions to take to prevent suicide and to recover from a suicide death
  • Make suicide prevention and recovery important ongoing efforts of congregations with an emphasis on local resources.
  • Give voice to those who have lost family members or loved ones to suicide, as well as those who have acted on suicidal ideation.
  • Build suicide prevention collaboration among Lutheran and other faith-based communities.

Suicide is a growing concern, as reported in the May 2016 issue of ‘Living Lutheran’. Over 42,000 persons take their life each year in the US, a 24% increase from 1999. It is the second leading cause of death for 15-25 year olds. 

To get more information, stop by our display, take our handouts, check our website lutheransuicideprevention.org. Together we can offer transforming and life-saving hope to those who have lost it.

Antiracism Team - Barbara Wahler
Presented by the Rev. Ben Adams

Barbara Wahler has been a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran in Lakeview for over 30 years. She’s seen it grow from a small congregation) to a thriving, welcoming, family-friendly, inclusive home with three services in two locations. The Holy Spirit is truly transforming our congregation – and isn’t through with us yet!

Holy Trinity has long been a progressive congregation.

However, while the congregation has prided itself as being welcoming to all, we haven’t always done so well with diversity in terms of including people of color. The prevailing attitude – as often is the case in primarily white congregations – is “You’re welcome here… to do it OUR way.” It’s been Barbara’s own 25-year vision to see Holy Trinity become an INTENTIONALLY antiracist church; that is, more than being open to people of color, that we would make strategic and structural changes to include people of color in all the ways of our church – from worship, to Sunday School, to church council, to administration.

After meeting years of resistance (largely around the word “antiracism”) or perhaps merely disinterest, the congregation embarked on a months-long process to redefine who we were and how we worked in our community and in the world. The outcome of this identity work brought a new purpose statement: Open to the mystery: connect, strengthen, and serve with joy. We have these guiding principles: To act with courage; be radically inclusive; cultivate empowering relationships; delight in God’s beauty; and engage with intention.

Following this new energy Holy Trinity began a series of bible studies and book readings from 2010-2015 on white privilege and racism.

Then, at our annual meeting in January 2016, we voted in a continuing resolution to our constitution stating that all church leaders (pastors, staff, council, teachers, etc) are expected to attend antiracism training and providing the funding to do so. The motion passed unanimously.

We still have miles to go to become a multicultural, antiracist church; but the energy and commitment is there to do the work. Every Sunday we hear: Whoever you are, whatever the color of your skin, whoever you love or marry, whatever your gender identity, whatever your feelings about religion – you are welcome here. That, I believe, is the mission we are now striving to live into.

Walk for Water  
Maggie Paulson, Gloria Dei, Northbrook

It was not long after the ELCA Youth Gathering that we sat in our own Youth Group and couldn't stop talking about it - the "Walk for Water." It had gotten into our heads and into our hearts as well. We had learned how precious water is and how many struggle every day to bring home this "gift" to their families. We wanted to do something. We needed to do something.

So with the help of our Youth Group leaders, Pastor John (our fearless leader), parents and the backing of Thrivent Financial, we brought the "Walk for Water" home and along with it a priceless experience for ourselves and our congregation.

When we were done, we had raised almost $3000 for ELCA World Hunger, enough money for a spring box in Africa to bring clean water to a village and later additional money for water filters for the people in Flint Michigan.

My name is Maggie Paulson and here is our story. 

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