Being Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, it’s obvious that the state of the Wisconsin has many WELS churches… 433 to be exact. With such a large number of congregations, we assume that every county would be served with the gospel in its truth and purity. Currently there isn’t a single WELS church in all of Richland County, a rural area in the Southwest corner of the state. Dual parish members at nearby St. John’s Lutheran Church in Hillpoint, Wis., and Trinity Lutheran Church in Lime Ridge, Wis., saw there was a need to reach out to their neighbors with the life-saving message of the gospel. They decided to act.
Over the past 18 months, the two churches have paired up to conduct exploratory mission work in the nearby city of Richland Center. Since starting, two Easter for Kids events have been held at the local community center. Twenty-five people attended in year one, and they were blessed with 40 children in attendance this past spring. Pastor Dan Lewig, who serves both congregations, now holds a monthly, Saturday Bible Class at a local restaurant called “Bible Breakfast Hour.” The local District Mission Board (DMB) and the Board for Home Missions (BHM) have been working alongside them since the beginning. In September of this year, the dual parish requested and was approved by the BHM to receive unsubsidized mission status1.
On Sat., Dec. 16 at the Richland Center Community Center, the churches hosted their largest outreach event to date: A Journey to Bethlehem Live Nativity Event. Pastor Lewig notes, “This event has been a wonderful example of our synod working together. My two congregations have over 25 volunteers helping; to put it in perspective, we average 75 people in church on Sunday mornings between our two congregations. One of my members has built all the wooden structures we will be using for the event. In addition, we have partnered with the Ladies Aid from St. John’s in Juneau, Wis., who is making the costumes for the event. Members of Lakeside Lutheran High School’s Junior Choir will be there singing Christmas carols, and we also have a Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary student helping us out.”
The Board for Home Missions provided a special grant, which was used to create a direct mailing that was sent to the mailbox of everyone in Richland County – over 6,500 mailings total. The local newspaper picked up on the event and did a wonderful front-page story that reached many in the community. Pastor Lewig is also being interviewed by a local radio station for continued promotion. With the Lord’s blessing, the group hopes to draw over 200 people from the community to this event.
Pastor Lewig commented on the large volunteer initiative backing the event, “It has been amazing watching this all come together, seeing so many different sources partnering on this project – all sharing the same desire to reach out with the gospel. We are excited for this opportunity to share the true joy and peace that is found in the manger in Bethlehem!”
Post-Script: Pastor Lewig reports, “What an amazing day! Preparing for our first year of hosting this we didn’t know what to expect. We were hoping to have maybe 100-200 people attend our first year… and over 400 came to our Live Nativity this year!”
1An unsubsidized mission is a mission church that does not receive budgetary financial support (subsidy) from Home Missions. Unsubsidized missions have access to a Mission Counselor and can make requests for special project funds through its District Mission Board (DMB).
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