• A first-year student at the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.) drowned in a swimming accident off Cape May, N.J., on June 5. Eric S. Heiser was on a beach trip with two other seminarians—hisfiancee, Tiffany Hopkins, and Harry Hiltner. The seminary community gathered for a memorial service June 7, and a funeral was held at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hainesport, N.J.
• At presstime authorities were investigating the suspicious nature of a June 29 fire in which an ELCA pastor and his daughter were killed. Ivon Harris, 65, was pastor of Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church in Chicago. He and his daughter, Sarah Harris, 24, were found in their Buffalo Grove, Ill., home. Both victims showed signs of blunt trauma, police said. Harris’ wife apparently came home to find smoke coming from the house and called 911.
• Each Wednesday noon, Bismarck, N.D., high school students can stroll over to First Lutheran Church and leave with full stomachs and a new mantra: there is so such a thing as a “free lunch.” Five Lutheran churches in Bismarck—First, Lord of Life, Church of the Cross, Trinity and Faith—work together to offer the free lunch, no strings attached. The only stipulation is that students bus their tables. A freewill offering is taken, half of which goes toward expenses and half to a local charity. About 200 students attend. Missy Kopp, youth minister of First, told the Bismarck high school newspaper, the Hi Herald, that the lunches are about building relationships with youth—especially those who don’t attend church on Sundays. To high school students, the free lunch has other advantages: a shorter line and “handy if you forget your lunch money.”
• “People think mission work is so hard, but how easy this could be, to introduce people to Jesus Christ over a soccer ball.” That’s what Bill Nybeck told the Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, Iowa) last spring when word spread about his campaign to collect soccer equipment for kids in Liberia. In early July, Nybeck said he had a 70-gallon drum filled with shoes, balls and uniforms ready for shipping. His friend, William Y. Boymah, a recent Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, graduate, returned July 9 to his native Liberia to do youth ministry. Boymah and Nybeck, a member of Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Dubuque, and also a seminarian, came up with the idea over coffee. Both men hope soccer will help unify Liberian children and give them focus in a country torn apart by years of warfare. Children as young as 7 were recruited by both sides to fight in the recent civil war. “On the soccer field, you feel more equal. If you are a good soccer player, people don’t care what side you are on,” Boymah told the Telegraph Herald. “War broke down the social system. Many people lost family in the war and many still live in displaced camps because their homes were destroyed. ... The children think God is dead. They need a sense of hope to feel not all is lost.”
• Richard H. Bliese, Luther Seminary’s dean of academic affairs, became president of the St. Paul, Minn., seminary July 1. Search committee chair Paul Dovre said Bliese “is passionate about the mission of Luther Seminary and will lead with vision, intelligence and understanding.” Said Bliese: “The ELCA needs more and better-prepared leaders for an apostolic age of mission in a world of many cultures and religions. This is key to Lutheran congregational renewal in North America. We are ready to move into this promising future.” He has served in Germany, Rwanda, Zaire and Glenwood, Ill. He served as director of graduate studies and associate professor of global mission and evangelism at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and was Luther Seminary’s academic dean and associate professor of mission.
• First Lutheran Church, Topeka, Kan., is located on busy Fairlawn Road. When Pope John Paul II died, the church put on its outdoor sign: “We pray for our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers as they mourn Pope John Paul II.” No message has evoked so much public comment, said Elwyn J. Luber, pastor. “At least a dozen of our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers phoned to express their thanks,” she said, adding that others sent cards and eight people stopped in to the church office to express their appreciation.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers