• Members of two northeast Iowa Lutheran congregations —St. John, Farmersburg, and First, McGregor — are honoring their pastor, Bruce Hanson, on the 25th anniversary of his ordination with gifts of teddy bears. Hanson is chaplain for the Iowa State Patrol. Recent state budget cuts threaten to end the patrol's tradition of carrying teddy bears in squad car trunks to give to children affected by accident or arrest. The congregations hope to collect 1,000 bears. The first "Lutheran" teddy bear was given to a girl whose father was arrested for a driving offense last July 4 weekend. Send bears to Hanson at P.O. Box 87, Farmersburg, IA 52047-0087.
• Proving that you're never too old for Luther League, former members of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Greeley, Colo., who belonged to the youth group in the '30s, '40s and '50s, gathered at Ascension Lutheran Church, Cheyenne, Wyo., for a reunion. Between 40 and 80 Luther League alums from Our Savior have attended the annual summer reunion since 1984.
• In a time when most colleges and universities are raising tuition, Waldorf, Forest City, Iowa, plans to lower tuition by 15 percent for next fall's incoming students. Current students will be able to choose between their current cost and financial aid package, or a new package that includes frozen tuition fees, lowered room and board, and adjusted financial aid.
• Edith Sloop, a member ofAscension Lutheran Church, Towson, Md., estimates that the new Assistance Center of Towson Churches helped 8,000 people this year. Forty-three churches from various denominations organized the center so individuals needing help could go to one central location. Congregations take turns providing food each month, and 40 volunteers offer emergency services, including shelter, fuel assistance, medication, transportation and clothing.
• Christ Lutheran Church, San Antonio, will celebrate with Florencio Tristan and his family Dec. 7 by blessing the Habitat for Humanity house built by 160 members and Tristan's own 300 hours of sweat equity. It's the church's 70th anniversary gift to the community and the fifth house it has helped build.
• The work of bike elves from Joy Lutheran Church, Gurnee, Ill., is drawing to a close for the year. The elves meet Monday evenings from mid-March to mid-December to repair bikes for needy children and adults. The bikes are delivered year-round, with the bulk handed out at Christmas. "It's a basic childhood toy," says Corey Pelland, who leads the ministry of six men. "For us, our bikes were freedom as children. To be able to give people the freedom they need is what motivates us."
• Who knows what the Christmas program will be like at Zion Lutheran Church, Mohall, N.D., this year? They'll have a hard time topping last year's event when two Sunday school members, 6- and 4-year-old brothers, teamed with their father and two elderly members (both over 85) to connect the reading from Luke with a power-point presentation of church photos from past to present. Kathy Paulson, lay minister, says this is "how church works on the prairie, connecting timeless traditions to present-day technology. God is alive and well on these North Dakota prairies."
• It was a "bridle story" of sorts when Carl Smith Sr. and his wife, Peg, renewed their vows — on horseback — after 30 years of marriage. Their love of horses is shared by daughter, Jennifer Smith, and grandson, Tate Streightif, as well as their pastor, Arlyn Eisenbrandt, who presided. Twelve of those who attended the service at St. Mark Lutheran Church, Adrian, Pa., were also on horseback.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers