• Ron Martinson had no idea that as bishop of the Alaska Synod he would use skills that helped him work his way through college and seminary. In July, September, November and February, Martinson metaphorically traded in his bishop's miter for a miter saw while helping rebuild the burned and badly damaged Brevig Memorial Lutheran Church, Brevig Mission, Alaska.
• One thing John Williams wants while serving in Iraq isn't for himself or fellow Marines — it's for the Iraqi children. "Soccer balls are gold to them," Williams told Peter Muschinske, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, Marshfield, Wis. The two served together in the Navy Reserve unit and have kept in touch via e-mail since Williams went abroad. Muschinske's wife, Katie, organized a drive for soccer balls. When the Marshfield News-Herald interviewed her, she had just sent the first box that cost about $50 to mail. Rather than asking people to buy a ball and bring it to her, she told them they could sponsor a ball for $10, the average price. Within two days of starting the drive, Katie had $1,000 from 70 sponsors, had cleaned out local store shelves and received eight from the recreation department's lost-and-found — 91 soccer balls in all.
• The Nordic Choir of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, gives $3 from the sale of each of its world music CD, Eight Chestnut Horses, to Lutheran World Relief. The choir says it's a way to give back to the various cultures whose music it performs.
• Chris Mietlowski, pastor of Dobbs Ferry [N.Y.] Lutheran, not only finished the Philadelphia Marathon Nov. 21, he raised more than $10,000 for the congregation's preschool and the Kibeta English Medium Primary School in Tanzania. He presented his "Run for the Children" idea to the preschool board just weeks before this, his first marathon. Thanks to publicity and a T-shirt his son designed (with the names of children from both schools written on it), the money poured in. "As I promoted the race, I kept asking one person to step up and make a commitment to be my '$100-a-mile companion.' That never happened. But on the eve of the race, as I looked through the long list of names who made pledges, it occurred to me that I was seeking the wrong thing. Instead of one amazing companion pledging $100 a mile, I received hundreds of companions for each mile. That meant more," Mietlowski says.
• The ELCA Board of Pensions won the 2004 Champions of Health award sponsored by BlueCross and BlueShield of Minnesota for promoting health and wellness within its organization and to members under the "Healthy Leaders Enhance Lives" initiative.
• St. Paul Lutheran Church, Ironton, Ohio, in December held a Holiday Gift Giveaway for needy families. Ironton is an Appalachian community where 23.1 percent of the 11,000 population lives below the poverty line — 32 percent of them under the age of 18. Gifts were sorted and arranged, and both children and parents could "shop" for each other and wrap their gifts. Musicians from St. Paul and other congregations provided entertainment.
• What was once soup became bread and wine at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Des Moines, Iowa. As at many other congregations, Lenten services were routinely preceded by a light supper. In 1998 that expanded to include a Wednesday noon meal followed by prayer and communion. That practice grew in numbers of attendees and days, says Sara Downs, pastoral assistant. It burst from the Lenten season to throughout the year, and from Wednesdays only to Sundays as well. "We learned that while we, like many Lutheran churches, offered communion every other Sunday ... we were getting feedback — some from parishioners such as hospital and retail employees whose work schedules included Sundays and Wednesday evenings — that it would be nice if communion were offered the Sundays they could attend. Thus, Good Shepherd now has communion (nearly) every time there is a worship service." Downs says she still encounters members who say communion at every service "is too Roman Catholic" or that its frequency will "lose its meaning." She counters with: "We do it to serve our members and visitors and because Jesus said, 'Do this often in remembrance of me.' "
• Through their participation in the Angel Tree ministry of Prison Fellowship, Shepherd King Lutheran Church, San Antonio, supports 56 children from 26 incarcerated parents. The ministry makes sure children have Christmas presents but also tends to family needs year round.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers