Community Care and Compassion grants
In 2020, Bethlehem, Richland Center, Wis., an exploratory mission, was looking for a ministry space to call home. After one option fell through, God provided a perfect fit—a former elementary school that had just come on the market. The building was more than just a former school. It was also home to a crucial community service—a county-run program that provides hot meals each week to senior adults. Daniel Lewig, pastor at Bethlehem, said it wasn’t even a question as to whether the congregation would continue to house the meal program.
“We didn’t just purchase a facility,” says Lewig. “We got a ministry right along with it—and an open door to see where God leads.”
Supported by offerings and a pandemic relief grant from WELS Christian Aid and Relief, Bethlehem members went to work upgrading the former classroom in which the meals are served. The revitalized dining area is so much more than a place to provide a hot meal. It also serves as Bethlehem’s fellowship hall, and seniors from the community are invited to all church activities. In addition, Lewig visits with guests each week and leads them in prayer. Bethlehem members help serve the meals or simply spend time getting to know their neighbors.
“It’s not the food that brings them together,” Lewig says. “It’s the connection. Our members help with that connection and connect it to a higher purpose. We created an environment where you’re not just eating a meal for a day but a meal for eternity.”
Once seniors are in the building, it’s a natural progression to introduce them to the renovated worship space in the gym. Several of the seniors have attended worship, and some have taken Bible information classes and become members.
WELS Christian Aid and Relief is offering matching grants to congregations that want to reach out in their community through a compassion ministry. Grants are available up to $2,500.
“When we act with compassion and love, it gains us opportunities to talk about our Savior,” says Daniel Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief. “I encourage congregations to find the people who are hurting in your community, formulate a plan to help them, and get in touch with us. Let us help you to reach out to them in love.”
Learn more at wels.net/relief.
Did you know?
In 2022, WELS Christian Aid and Relief distributed Community Care and Compassion grants to 25 congregations for a total of $45,975.
Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Sept. 28, 2022, as a powerful Category 4 storm. Thirteen WELS congregations were in the vicinity of the storm. Although they had no loss of life, each congregation had varied degrees of damage to their church building and in their community. WELS Christian Aid and Relief responded with monetary relief and also helped coordinate manpower for cleanup and rebuilding.