Friday, March 25, 2016

Our Support Raising Journey

Bowling Alley in the Basement of St. John, Chicago
“On the Road Again…” Yes, that has been our theme song since January when we officially hit the ground running building our support network. Our first stop was St. John's, Chicago. Months before our call to mission work Craig was asked to be the M.C for the Higher Things Conference held at Concordia University, so it was an easy decision to go ahead and start at a congregation nearby. Pastor Rich Heinz and his wife Kristin were gracious hosts, and everyone was so kind to us! While we were kind of nervous and wet behind the ears, the congregation was genuinely excited about our mission work. We got such a kick out of the bowling alley in the basement. It was almost untouched since the 50s and was still being used! 
St. John's Lutheran, Chicago
The following weekend we presented at our home church Our Savior, Fenton, MO. The music director roped me in to play piano for the students while they sang for Lutheran Schools Day during the service. I was more than happy to oblige! They asked a lot of great questions during our Bible class PowerPoint presentation, which challenged us to fine tune a few things.

The next weekend found us at Trinity Lutheran in Jefferson City (which is the capital of Missouri).  Craig preached for three services, and we had the pleasure of hearing their children’s choir, adult choir, women’s choir, handbell choir as well as some fantastic organ. Lucky us! Again, such a warm reception and genuine interest in our mission work in Eurasia. It was fun to reconnect with former St. Johns, Orange Ca. members Paul and Pamela Haynes. They were both so helpful! Craig moved on to Ozark Lake to present at a Winkle and after I took a peek at the capital building and monuments I took the train home.
Paul and Pamela Haynes in Jefferson City

Handbell Choir at Trinity

After catching some nasty colds, we travelled all the way to Pittsburg Kansas to meet some Facebook friends, Pastor Ted and Michelle Cook. Pastor Cook serves both Zion Lutheran in Pittsburg as well as Trinity Lutheran in Fort Scott. Right away we were treated to a Mardi Gras dinner at Trinity Lutheran and enjoyed getting to know the congregation. I played for services the next morning. Serving a dual parish was an interesting experience!  A volunteer from Trinity (our first church) played the last hymn and postlude for services as all of the pastors and organist rushed off to Zion to start the service there. As I made my quick exit a man came rushing up with a plate full of goodies (nicely wrapped up for me no less) to take with me! When we arrived at Zion, someone was already playing pre-service music, and I took her spot on the bench as she whispered some directions to me. Talk about winging it! Craig did the PowerPoint presentation after one of those fantastic Lutheran church potlucks. Yum! Both Zion and Trinity were so welcoming and receptive! Pastor Ted and Michelle treated us to some Chicken Mary’s fried chicken. I bet you did not know that Pittsburg, KS is the epicenter of Midwestern fried chicken! Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s have duking it out for over 65 years and been featured in Food Wars on the Travel Chanel. Check it out(I won’t spoil it and tell you who the winner was): Soon our Facebook friends fast became some real life friends.  Craig wondered if Michelle and I were separated at birth. Of course we checked out some of the most interesting roadside attractions as we headed home. After all, the highway was at one time part of historic route 66. My favorite was a Sistine Chapel only with Precious Moments figures. A few days after we got home Craig headed off to Prague to work at the Network of Young Theologians Conference and we scheduled a rendezvous in Florida when he got back to the states.
Pastor Ted Cook and Pastor Donofrio
Precious Moments Chapel

Organ in the balcony of Zion 

Before we received our call to become missionaries we had planned a vacation to Orlando, Florida. We are So. California natives but had not experienced the land of the mouse in Florida. After we received the call we thought, “Hey, as long as we are there anyway let’s find a church nearby and do our presentation in Florida!” Craig found a local LCMS congregation (Ascension Lutheran) and just called the pastor out of the blue. This was the first time we had no connection to a church, so we weren’t too sure about it.  Sometimes the best experiences come from something that is unknown! Pastor Tom Eggebrecht and his wife Tammy were incredibly gracious, all of the services were Christ-centered, and again the congregation was so welcoming and supportive of our mission. We shared a fantastic Italian meal with the Eggebrechts, and they became immediate friends.
Ascension Lutheran, Casselberry, Florida
Craig and Pastor Tom Eggelbrecht

After a fabulous but intense two weeks of our Missionary Orientation we headed off to Chicago. Our final destination was Momence, Il but we needed our Gino’s East Chicago pizza fix first! This time we were more prepared and a little more confident thanks to all of the great training we received at the International Center. Pastor David Juhl and his wife Becky invited us into their home for two fabulous home cooked meals! Their talented daughter serenaded us on the piano as well as the violin and I had a great time creating  “Holy Week Art” made out of Legos with their boys! The congregation at Our Savior Lutheran was so friendly and warm!
Pastor David Juhl and Craig on Palm Sunday

That Last Supper and the Tomb in legos
One of the members of Our Savior Lutheran
(he has such excellent sense of fashion!)

Some look at missionary support raising as kind of a “necessary evil” or something we must endure to eventually get on the field. For Craig and I, it has been extremely valuable. The Support Raising phase of our mission work is our chance to meet people of the LCMS in a very personal way and get to know them. For us, it has been a real life experience of the family of believers from all over the country. We are excited about building relationships that will last for years to come.

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