• The head of the family farm in Mabton, Wash., where mad cow disease was found, says they have the ability to survive this situation, reports their pastor, Ronald Jetter, Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Sunnyside, Wash. "She wasn't referring to financial resources but to spiritual ones," he says. The family, he adds, doesn't want to be identified in writing, they "just want to farm." They received many cards and letters and offers of replacement cattle, Jetter says, adding: "But most of all, people cared and were praying for these folks and wanted them to know it. The television cameras missed what was really going on here."
• "We'll stick together. We'll rebuild the church and be stronger than ever," said Audun Tangen, in early January as he gazed at the burned-out shell of Hope Lutheran, Port St. Lucie, Fla. An arsonist, who confessed to the crime, set fire to the church and wrote satanic graffiti on the walls. Members have decided to rebuild and in the meantime worship at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Port St. Lucie. Among the damaged items was an $8,000 sign erected a month before the fire, church records and an altar made by parishioners. Betty Jean Andrianoff, choir director, also made a plea for choir music (firstname.lastname@example.org). TCPalm.com quoted member Ann Flis, who was at the scene the day after the Jan. 4 fire: "Our cross survived. At least our cross survived."
• It's a baby boom year at Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa, among staff--including a set of triplets and a set of twins. Some just had babies, and others are to deliver any day (and just may have by the time you read this). There are the Malaceks, the Woods, the Willises, the Meiers, the Prieses, the Madlocks, the Franzens, the Walkers, the Doyles, the Figuras and the Golden-Neessens. "The largest representation comes from the admissions counselors," says Karris Golden, who's currently carrying the Golden-Neessen baby. "They're building prospective students from the ground up."
• A confirmation project at Hope Lutheran Church, Minneota, Minn., turned a few heads and maybe even hearts at Christmas. Their "alternative" Nativity scene featured an old Toyota truck parked outside the church with a display of a modern-day homeless couple and their baby. A sign said, "What if?" The ninth-grade boys in the confirmation group--Shaw Jeremiason, Kelby Meiners, Jon Myhre, Patrick Petersen and Matt Sjurseth--also wrote to the local paper to say they've been learning about serving others and that the scene was meant to ask people to think beyond themselves. "What if an old rusty truck and Nativity scene got us to pay more attention to the world around us, including the poor and less fortunate?" they wrote. They also researched hunger and homelessness in Minnesota and in the world, and put together an informational poster.
• Giving is said to be better than receiving. But what if receiving actually encouraged more giving? That's the question posed at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Combined Locks, Wis., one December Sunday. Instead of putting money in the offering plate, worshipers were encouraged to take an envelope out. "You opened it up and it said what your assignment was or 'please use this money to do God's work,' and there would be a $50 or $100 bill in there," explained parish secretary Connie Westbrook to the Post-Crescent, Appleton, Wis. The 24 mission assignments included sharing food with a neighbor, shoveling snow for an elderly person, giving someone a ride to church or donating dog food to the animal shelter. Members receiving money had to decide what to do with it. Although the reverse offering was a huge success, Pastor Steve Nelson said they probably won't do it again. "We won't have the surprise factor," he said, adding his own take on seeing the surprise on people's faces when a $100 bill dropped out. "We gave it to our young people, too, to remind them that service in the world isn't just for adults."
• Waldorf College, Forest City, Iowa, received $5.5 million from Best Buy CEO Bradbury Anderson and his wife, Janet. Bradbury Anderson is a 1969 Waldorf graduate.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers