Charlie Schwartz may have been the most popular person at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, but he was more concerned with his mission than his fame.
Each day Charlie, the president of Lutheran Men in Mission, sat at his scroll saw near the entrance of the Heritage and Hope Village cutting wooden crosses out of chunks of cherry. Behind him, Art Johnson, an LMM board member from Kane, Pa., sanded and finished the crosses.
By the assembly's close, the pair had handed out--free--more than 1,800 "Bethany" crosses. The crosses are named for Schwartz's congregation, Bethany Lutheran Church, Fredericksburg, Texas.
Schwartz cut 1,000 crosses in his shop in Texas--Charlie's Sawdust Factory--and cut another 800 while talking about LMM with those who lined up to watch him work and receive their cross.
"LMM is the best kept secret in the ELCA," he says. "People don't know we have a men's ministry, but 3,500 congregations have some kind of men's ministry. [LMM] builds men for Christ's mission. We're not a Lutheran Lions' Club. We also deal with issues facing men today--divorce, single-parent families, domestic violence." (See Reader's Viewpoint, page 57.)
Geneva, Charlie's wife, named his retirement woodworking business several years ago when he worked out of the couple's garage, where they have their washing machine. "Clothes were always coming out of the washer with sawdust on them," Charlie says.
Charlie's been "scroll sawing for Christ" at men's events and church gatherings nationwide for about 10 years. During that time, he's made and given away more than 8,000 crosses. At some events he tells the recipients, "I don't want you to keep it. I want you to give it to someone else and say what that cross symbolizes in your life."
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