Reaching communities with compassion
Through its new Community Care & Compassion Matching Grants Program, 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.
Grants can support any compassion ministry in a community, such as a Christmas toy drive or a Thanksgiving meal at your church. It can also support those who need encouragement, like seniors, veterans, or victims of domestic violence. WELS Christian Aid and Relief Director Rev. Daniel Sims recommends that a good place to start is to determine the particular needs in your community. If there is a local charity working to serve those needs, find ways to assist them.
“When we act with compassion and love, it gains us opportunities to talk about our Savior,” says Sims. “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 reach out to them in love.” To learn more and apply for a grant, visit wels.net/relief.
One example of a congregation taking advantage of this new grant program is Bethlehem, Richland Center, Wis. In 2020, this exploratory mission was looking for a ministry space to call home. 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 county-run program that provides hot meals each week to senior adults. “We didn’t just purchase a facility,” says Rev. Daniel Lewig, pastor at Bethlehem. “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 upgraded the former classroom in which the meals are served to make it more welcoming and encourage conversation and connections.
The revitalized dining area 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.
Once the seniors are in the building, it’s a natural progression to introduce them to the worship space in the gym. Through God’s blessing, several of the seniors have attended worship, and some have taken Bible information classes and become members.
Bethlehem plans to apply for a new Community Care & Compassion Matching Grant through WELS Christian Aid and Relief to offer even more fellowship opportunities for local seniors, like dinners and movie nights.
“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.”
Sims discussed the Community Care & Compassion Matching Grants Program in last week’s Together video update.