Working together

“We were all working together—the district mission board, WELS Church Extension Fund, and us,” says Bob Giebelhaus, president of Our Shepherd, Cornville, Ariz. “We were all going for the same thing. And to me, God was leading the way.”

Our Shepherd, an unsubsidized home mission, recently bought land with an existing house and shop and is renovating the buildings to serve as its new church in the Verde Valley. The 82-member congregation which started as a satellite of Christ, Prescott Valley, Ariz., in 2014, held its charter service in October 2015.

The congregation currently worships in a local elementary school. “We need to show that we’re going to be here for the long haul,” says Giebelhaus, “so that’s the reason we started looking for property.”

Our Shepherd worked closely with its district mission board through the process, which included becoming an unsubsidized home mission. This allowed the mission to apply for a loan and grant from the WELS Church Extension Fund (WELS CEF). The congregation plans to have an open house for its renovated facility this fall.

WELS CEF and the Board for Home Missions are excited to work together in this way to help congregations build churches for future generations. Our Shepherd is just one of 19 congregations that received a loan from WELS CEF in fiscal year 2016. Each congregation has a unique story:

Redemption, Watertown, N.Y.—This relatively new mission started in 2014 to reach out to a largely unchurched city as well as serve military personnel at nearby Fort Drum. The congregation meets weekly on Sunday for worship and Bible study at the local community center but has no place to go during the week for fellowship and community outreach events. “People are really skeptical of religion here,” says Harland Goetzinger III, Redemption’s pastor. “I knew we needed a permanent place because it was too great of an obstacle for people otherwise.”

Because rental properties are expensive in this area, the congregation began looking for a building to buy. It purchased an old furniture store in December 2015 and is working on renovations. Loans and grants from WELS CEF is making that possible. “To get a loan from a normal bank would have been impossible because we have no credit history,” says Goetzinger. “To have this resource [in WELS] is just immense.”

Living Word, Montrose, Colo.—Living Word is a veteran in terms of working with WELS CEF. It received its first loan in 2011 to build its original facility and is now working with WELS CEF to finance a 1,900-square-foot addition. The congregation originally worshiped in a storefront but built a church so that it could start a preschool. That preschool has grown and serves 28 children, only one of whom is a member. “As the preschool grew bigger and our congregation grew bigger, we decided we would like to have dedicated space for the preschool as well as extra space for bigger events,” says Matt Frey, Living Word’s pastor. Builders For Christ, a division of Kingdom Workers, built the original church and is now constructing the addition.

Living Promise, Morristown, Tenn.—Matt Westra, Living Promise’s pastor, arrived in 2011 to start this home mission with nine core members. Now the almost 80-member congregation has outgrown its second rental facility. When members began looking for a new space, they discovered that it wasn’t that much more expensive to build their own facility, especially after receiving a special grant from WELS CEF to purchase land. In October 2015, Living Promise broke ground on its new building, which includes space for a future early childhood ministry. It plans to hold a grand opening this August.

Westra says that since construction started, the congregation’s website traffic has tripled and a dozen people have visited for the first time. “There are three dozen storefront churches in our town of 30,000, most of which don’t last more than a few years,” says Westra. “Having our own facility just gives us a bunch of legitimacy. Morristown is Living Promise’s home, and we pray we’re going to be here for generations to come.”

He also is thankful for partnerships. “Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School students came down to hand out fliers that a Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society group helped pay for that promote a project that would not be possible without WELS CEF. Thank God that we can walk together as a synod!”

Learn more about WELS CEF at and in this month’s edition of WELS Connection.



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Volume 103, Number 8
Issue: August 2016

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