Tag Archives: ministry

FOOD, FAMILY AND FELLOWSHIP FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NONE Excerpts from “Stories of Hope” ELCA Central States Synod


Childrens Memorial - Lunch Line lr

In the midst of a poverty-stricken neighborhood in Kansas City is a tiny church community where a pastor, outside volunteers and highly-engaged church members have come together to create a sense of hope and joy. . .in spite of their surroundings. The church has been through some very rough times as the surrounding neighborhood has declined. But Pastor Ann Rundquist sees hope. While Ann was at Wartburg Seminary she was asked to do part of her fieldwork at Children’s Memorial. “I bit,” said Ann, “and then I didn’t want to leave.” The church is under synodical administration with an oversight board consisting of the community and synod representatives. “We really are the synod’s church. . .a mission outpost. . .with nontraditional ways,” Ann remarked.

Children’s Memorial Lutheran Church is an ELCA congregation in northeast Kansas City, Missouri that was established in 1884. The church’s name describes the story of its origination. Back in 1882 a capital campaign was conducted where children across the U.S. sent money to the congregation so they could buy land and build a new church. The church and neighborhood prospered into the 1950’s and then declined as its families moved to the suburbs.

Childrens Memorial - Earl Tony Ann lr

Ann was consecrated as a diaconal minister and installed as pastoral leader on May 9, 2013. Because of the needs of the people and as an expression of her diaconal service in this unique ministry setting, she completed additional classes and was ordained and installed as pastor on March 14, 2015. “I am so thankful that ELCA congregations’ support our unique ministry in what many think is an ‘undesirable’ location. Isn’t that where Jesus lived?” Though she serves only part-time, she is breathing new life into an area that is comprised mostly of people who are homeless or living in extreme poverty. “One of my roles is to develop leaders who love to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, welcome others, and serve one another. Our consistent message is ‘come and see.'”

Even in such a poor area, where the total weekly offering might average $5, God is doing something extraordinary. When the plate passed by me during Sunday morning worship, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the story of the widow’s mite:

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” ~ Luke 21: 1–4

“Gone are the days of just a handful worshiping and serving on Sundays. Thirty faithful disciples come together consistently as a Christ driven community,” Ann said. Retired pastor and church member Bill Pape suggested a Saturday morning worship, which gathered 30 people to word, sacrament, service and lots of singing. And the church’s street corner worship on Fridays attracts about 10 people. Bible studies are on Tuesday and Fridays. Two hundred hot nutritious meals are prepared and served each week. Holiday diners (Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas) number about 300.


The church also has a volunteer-run Thrift Store chock full of clothing bargains that helps offset the church’s expenses, and a Clothes Closet that provides free clothing for those in dire need. Pastor Ann is hoping to add a licensed Food Pantry in the near future to meet people’s requests for food to take home. Food can be bought from Harvesters at a discount, but the Pantry needs funding.

Thirteen synod congregations partner with CMLC to serve lunch, donate clothing, provide financial support and prayer. Generosity USA, a local nonprofit agency, funds all the food expenses and in 2015 MLM volunteers donated Christmas gifts. “It is amazing how adults and students come to serve lunch and before long they match their talents with our needs. An Eagle Scout built shelving units and a Girl Scout just brought us twenty Easter baskets. The Chamber of Commerce and Northeast High School partner with us, too. And we look forward to Youthworks volunteering, again, this summer,” Pastor Ann commented.

Childrens Memorial - Earl and Freezer lr

“I’m spoiled rotten!” said Earl the Church Caretaker.
Earl has served as Church Caretaker for three months now. Before that, he lived under a bridge on I-70 and Truman Road. Earlier this year, Children’s Memorial had several robberies of items used in church services, one being the altar cross. The members of the community were quite upset and organized a search. One night they found the cross in the middle of an abandoned lot, shining in the light of the moon.

“It’s a pleasure to volunteer here at the church,” said Earl. “It’s amazing and I’m still getting used to it. I get to help people who have needs most people can’t imagine. I get to use my skills around the church and make dinner for people. I get to sit in a pew and pray early in the morning and late in the day. It’s so peaceful. I’m spoiled rotten! The only thing I don’t like is having food for the kitchen but not being able to hand it out to people to take home. But we are working on setting up a Food Pantry so I won’t have to turn people away any more.”

Pastor Ann found a creative solution to two problems by asking Earl to volunteer at the church. Caretaker Earl makes use of his handyman skills and has fixed long-neglected problems with plumbing and electrical, as well as an issue with the gutters that resulted in water pouring down the stairs of the main entrance people use for the Community Kitchen and Chapel services whenever it rained. He also serves as a cook in the kitchen and is proud of his homemade spaghetti sauce.

“Our ministry is word, sacrament, fellowship, meals, and clothing. Most of the people who come here learn about us from a friend on the street. Creating a safe, family environment has been key in welcoming others as many don’t have families. So we visit, eat, work, and pray like a family. Nutritious meals, which include fruits and vegetables, are often a luxury to our diners. Travel with us from the dinner table to the Lord’s table,” said the determined pastor.

Because of the support from other congregations and God’s grace and abundance, a growing church ministry has been created here at the corner of Independence and Brighton, right in the midst of poverty. Instead of children across the U.S. sending their pennies here to build a new church, local congregations and volunteers are making contributions and driving a short distance to rebuild what was once a thriving congregation.


“There certainly are other churches in our neighborhood,” Pastor Ann said, “yet, people tell me they worship and eat at Children’s Memorial because they feel respected, listened to, understand worship, seek forgiveness of sins, like the food, and have opportunities to participate and lead.”

“The tremendous, collaborative ministry that’s happening at Children’s is a vivid example of what God’s people can do when we work together,” said Roger Gustafson, Central States Synod bishop. “The overall theme we’re exploring as a synod is HOPE, and all of those who are lending a hand at Children’s are showing that in the midst of difficult and challenging circumstances, hope springs to life when we focus on sharing our abundance.”

“As you may guess, we have few ‘frills,’ such as a telephone, janitor, secretary, or musician. However, our followers of Jesus pitch in and take leadership roles to maintain the building, sing solos, prepare meals, and spread the good news of Jesus Christ,” said Pastor Ann. “The majority originally came for a ‘sloppy joe’ meal and stayed for the Lord’s meal. . .over and over again. Jesus instructed us that ‘when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. . .you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

Childrens Memorial - Chapel Service lr
Quick Look at Children’s Memorial Congregation
A recent survey of 53 adults at Saturday lunch found:
64% Have disabilities
42% Receive Social Security disability
17% No income
41% Intermittent jobs: scrap metal, clean parking lots, move furniture
3% Full-time employment
38% No permanent shelter
21% Live outside
21% Have transportation
55% High school diploma or GED
30% Addictions
43% Receive food stamps
34% Former felony convictions
96% Come to Children’s Memorial for food, clothing, and to socialize
87% Attend worship weekly
62% Volunteer at church

Read the article by Rick Moser in it’s entirety here.


Wartburg’s campus has been enriched by the presence of international students for decades. Second year Michaelo Abasori, who is from Ethiopia, shares his passion about God’s work in the world and his own call to ministry.

“I am called to serve everybody,” Michaelo asserts. “I’ve been in ministry since I was young; I serve every people in every culture. God has called us to serve every people in every culture, the big, the small, the rich, the poor.”

Michaelo’s gifts and passion for ministry were recognized by others at an early age. At fourteen he began to take on leadership roles in his church, which was Lutheran. He lead choir, Bible studies, prayer, ministered to people, heard their stories, and worked on building community, bringing people together from different backgrounds, cultures, and languages.

As a child, his foundation of faith was built through attending church, Sunday school, confirmation, and hearing the pastors’ teachings. “I started to have faith in God, learning about people around me, [and] how to love people. That’s the foundation,” recalls Michaelo.

Did he always know one hundred per cent that he was called to being a pastor? He answers, “When I was young I had mixed feelings. I knew that I lived to serve the community [and] the church, but [at] the same time, I didn’t know that it was the right thing for me, so I struggled with that feeling. That’s how it starts. People liked what I did in the church, how I prayed with them, how I led worship or Bible study, and they said this is your gift, you’re going to make a good pastor, but I didn’t like it! I think everybody has that kind of feeling, right?” Michaelo laughs.

“Through time, through my struggle, I came to know that [this] is what God’s calling me to do, because I’ve seen that the ministry that we do in the church and in the community has great impact in the community and world [and it] is changing lives. So I decided there’s nothing better than this to do in my life. I committed myself to the call.” Michaelo was around 20 years old.

Michaelo’s commitment and call has led him to Wartburg Seminary. “When I came to United States, I was looking for a way in which I could serve the church of Christ,” recalls Michaelo. “Through prayers and through time, I knew God was guiding me through the Northeast Minnesota synod, by the support of brothers and sisters there.” Now, Michaelo is in his second year of seminary at Wartburg “to learn more and engage the gospel in the context of the culture.”

From Ethiopia to the US and beyond, Michaelo sees God at work and finds much hope in that. “God is not only working in this century; God is working from the beginning in every culture, in every society, all over the world. The hunger [and] the hope the church has right now—it’s great. There is hope for the church. God is working through them, through us, you know,” he nods.

Michaelo is encouraged by people’s response to the gospel. “God is working in people’s lives—in everybody’s life, that’s what I’ve seen. God is doing great things here in the US and other parts of the world.”

GOOD-BYE AND HELLO – TRUSTING GOD’S CALL By Michelle Kanzaki, Final Year M.Div.

Yes this is about my call and how God uses us in strange and unique ways.  I am not the typical seminary student. I am a 3rd or 4th career seminarian (depending on whose counting). I am old enough to be the grandmother of a 21-year-old and young enough to be the grandmother of children 4 and 6 years old. Since the beginning of this journey I knew the day would come when I would have to leave the safety of my home community. The place where I was born, grew-up, worked, had a child, enjoyed sisters and a brother, as well as cousins, aunts, uncles, and of course friends. I think you get the picture. This is the place where at my age, I thought I might finish my life, but God has other plans for me. Beautiful plans, glorious plans, but these plans were not chosen by me. Yet I am excited and delighted to look forward to new adventures and following God’s will for my life.

Yet at the same time, it is with a heavy heart I say “so long” to all those I love. It is not good-bye because you will always be treasured by me. We can still communicate via cell phones, skype, e-mails, letters, cards and in so many other ways. I can come back and visit and better still, you can come and visit me. Yes indeed, that would make my new home more like my old home. You know that in my warped sense of thinking I always thought that my daughter (my only child) would be the one to move away. And, had this been the case, although, it would have been hard for me, it would have been the natural order of things. But, no, God is sending me away from my child. Granted, if she is old enough to be the mother of a 21-year-old and a four and a six-year-old, she is plenty mature enough to live without her mom in a radius of less than 2 miles.

Now I want to say “Hello” to new friends. I look forward to getting to know you. I believe you have been praying for me and I know I am praying for you. I am trusting that you will tell me your cares, your fears, and joys. I am hoping you will allow me to be me and know that I am excited to be here. I want this change to be a long term change and I hope you do too. I am thanking God for giving me to you. May God’s will be done today tomorrow and forever.

BOOK REVIEW: ASH WEDNESDAY by Roberta Pierce, WTS, 2012

by Harold Eppley
Waverly, Tennessee: Oconee Spirit Press, 2012, 260 pages

Harold Eppley, a 1988 graduate of Wartburg Seminary has published seven non-fiction books, but this is his first novel. “Ash Wednesday” is the story of two pastors whose lives intersect in some very interesting ways. Both are struggling, but for very different reasons. Pastor Gerald Schwartz struggles with losing his wife to another woman, while trying to pacify a small church full of bickering people and still maintain his sense of liturgical correctness. Pastor Allan Weiss seems to have it all: a mega-church that affords him a luxurious lifestyle, a wife, children, and parishioners who adore him. Unfortunately, Pastor Weiss takes the adornment by some of his parishioners a bit too far, especially those who are young and attractive. In other words, he has no boundaries and, as long as his wife doesn’t find out, he is willing to have as many affairs as he can fit in to his busy schedule.

Although Schwartz and Weiss do not agree on many things, they are colleagues and when you live in a rural area, colleagues are not in great supply. They meet on a regular basis because the bishop mandated that each pastor in the district partner for a weekly meeting with a pastor whose approach to theology and ministry was different than theirs. This was a perfect match for those reasons.

At first, I was not sure I liked the portrayal of a pastor who jumped into bed with any attractive female who was willing or could be persuaded to have a sexual relationship with him. It was not the image of a pastor I want people to read about. That being said, I found Eppley’s writing sharp and page-turning. It was hard to put down. The book is full of satire and pathos. There are many sexual references in the book. It is definitely a book for adults only. What I found I enjoyed most about the book was Eppley’s way of intertwining the many colorful characters. He artfully captures the essence of each person and makes them come alive. I liked the ending. It was not what I expected, but it brought the book to a fitting conclusion for me.