Mission Outreach Stories

Written by Rose Fife, Communications Specialist
HTLC is blessed to have a strong Mission Outreach team that highlights monthly mission projects. These are a few stories of the many ways your generous donations provide ways for HTLC to give back. 

 Answering the Call


Christo Obrero and HTLC’s Jacob Lee Team Up for Kids

by Rose M. Fife, Communications Specialist
September 17, 2020
In the middle of May Christo Obrero, one of our ministry partners, posted on their Facebook page, “Volunteers needed to teach soccer.”
Jacob Lee, a junior at New Prague Area Schools and a captain of the school’s soccer team, volunteered because he thought it sounded like fun. He answered my questions over emails.
What made you volunteer? “I thought it was perfect for me because I enjoy playing soccer. It didn’t feel like a job to me.”
How did you make it work with COVID-19 precautions in place? “Initially, due to COVID, we were unable to meet so I made videos of me teaching a soccer drill that Pastor Jorge would send to the youth families. For the first month, this is what I did. Then in July we started Monday and Tuesday each week. Tuesdays were the older kids but due to low numbers we ended up only meeting on Mondays with the younger kids.”
What was the highlight of the experience?For me, the highlight was to just play soccer with the kids. I enjoy working with young players.”
How did the coaching go? “It was a good experience. We had about 4 boys and 8 girls in the Monday group, ages 3rd-5th grade. All the kids listened and wanted to be there to have fun. Going back each week was an easy decision because I was having fun, and I gave them my word that I would come each week.”
How did this strengthen your faith?   “Overall, this was out of my comfort zone. Going somewhere I’ve never been and helping with people I’ve never met.” Jacob studies Spanish at the high school but, despite his classes, he found the language barrier a challenge. “If I had to say one hard thing, it was understanding Pastor Jorge when he spoke Spanish during practice. But this experience was a great example of ‘it doesn’t matter where we come from or who we are, we all just love the game of soccer and come together to play.’”
We Are a Better Church Together
“So…why soccer?” I ask Pastor Stephanie Espinosa over the phone. She is married to Pastor Jorge Espinosa, Christo Obrero’s mission developer, and their English-speaking representative.
“We chose it because it is very well-loved in the Latino community, so we knew if we offered it, we could get to know the community better. One of the ministry goals of Cristo Obrero is providing an opportunity for our ELCA congregations to reach out with us to our Latino neighbors. We are a better church together!”
Pastor Ben agrees with her. “In a time of divisive polarization, there is an organization that seeks to bring reconciliation, healing, and unity: that’s the church. Here is an example of two churches setting aside cultural, socioeconomic, and language barriers in order to do something profoundly inclusive: play soccer together. As I listen to the negativity pervasive in our world….if Jesus were walking among us today, I believe he’d leave the bickering and belittling behind and join Pastor Jorge, Jacob, and these kids out on the soccer field.”
Woodworkers and Tutors Needed
Soccer may be over, but there are other ways to help the Christo Obrero ministry. “We really need woodworkers right now!” Pastor Stephanie says. “We’re creating a ‘Snowman Project’ this fall. The plan is to have the mobile home park covered in wooden snowmen just after Thanksgiving.” For more information, go to their Facebook Page (see August 4th) or sign up on the SignUp Genius.
Tutors will also be needed soon. “As soon as the schools allow us, we need tutors for the kids.” A few years ago the Chaska and Shakopee school districts asked them to help the kids struggling with their homework. That information will be on the Christo Obrero Facebook Page as soon as they are cleared to continue.
“Teachers told us that when COVID hit, a third of the kids [from that area] did not or could not log on [to virtual school]. They are going to need help. One woman came to us exhausted and crying. She was a single mother with four kids, working six days a week. She did not have time or the support to make sure her kids were doing well in school.”
Christo Obrero is a Mission Development of the Minneapolis area synod. What does that mean exactly?
“Good question!” Pastor Stephanie laughs. “Christo Obrero’s mission is to show that God’s love and grace is for all. We are going to a group that is not usually part of the Lutheran Church. And the Lutheran Church, especially in this area, is not very diverse, so we want to get to know them and bring members of other communities together. The church is stronger together.”

Empowering Others to Give

Rose M. Fife, Communications Specialist

August 26, 2020

2020 follows no patterns. Why should the School Supplies Giveaway be any different?  

Thanks to the generous donations of the Holy Trinity congregation and a grant from the Endowment Fund, the Missions Team prepped for our annual School Supplies Giveaway by packing bags of school supplies and handing them out on Monday, August 17. This year, volunteers handed out 145 bags of school supplies that day.

We did not have the amount of traffic as last year, so we asked some guests if they had friends or neighbors they would like to help with bags of school supplies. Their faces shone. 

They were now the givers. 

One car of two very tired people just coming home from work became so excited at the idea we gave them 10 bags. They waved and left with a loud “Thank you!” echoing out their windows.

2020 is teaching us all sorts of lessons. My takeaway this year is the importance of empowering others to give. 

HUGE thanks to our wonderful volunteers: Mary Busch; Debbie and Frank Deichelbohrer; Maddy Fife; Pastor Diane Goulson; Linnea Hautman; Amber, Charlie and Jack Kahnke; Lex Lammers; Marge Larsen, Tim Miller; Liz Nelson; Julie and Lydia Popple; Sande Schoenecker; and Dennis Tietz. 

Click HERE to watch the video of our escapades.


 Superheroes Will Be Masked This Year

Rose M. Fife, Communications Specialist
August 12, 2020

“My dear, I think we need to open early.” I hear the urgency in her words before Jamie, Holy Trinity’s incredible office manager, reaches my office door. It is the first day of the first annual School Supplies Giveaway (2019) and she has been fielding calls all day from desperate people asking if they could pick up early.

I glance at the entrance outside and see the cars filing into the parking lot. We walk quickly (Jamie only has one speed), to the far south entrance and see the line of people through the glass. Nearing the door, we realize the line stretches down to the sidewalk. And into the parking lot full of cars. We still have forty-five minutes until our stated opening time. 

“We don’t have enough stuff.” I whisper to Jamie. But beyond praying for a loaves-and-fishes-type of miracle, there is nothing more we can do. 

Walking into the rooms covered in neat piles of notebooks, backpacks, pencils, Crayons, Clorox wipes, and tissues, I ask the volunteers, “Everyone OK if we open early?” They nod nonchalantly. Most of them are retired teachers and have stared down the crush of incoming parents and students for years. Of course they are ready. They were ready last week. We open early. 

Crowds of parents, guardians, and children come flooding in. The kids run first to the table full of backpacks to pick the most colorful or the one with their favorite superhero. They are gleeful and excited, their eyes lighting up with what they will get to use all year. The parents and guardians work their way methodically through the school supplies list (handed out by the volunteers because, you know…they rock).

A parishioner stops by to drop off more materials. Seeing we have very little left, he offers to run to a store for us, returning with bags of supplies. “I took all the wipes and Kleenex I could find!” he announces to the full room buzzing with families. 

A woman with three children in tow comes up to me. “Thank you so much for this help,” she says, her voice wobbling with emotion. “My husband just lost his job.”

“Can’t thank you enough,” an older man tells me quietly. “We were just given custody of our grandchildren and we couldn’t have afforded this….” he trails off, gesturing to the backpacks full of needed items.

“It was either school stuff or rent this year.”

“We’ve just had a really hard year.”

“My wife got hurt and the medical bills put us back a lot.”

Forty-five minutes later it is 5 pm, our original starting time. The backpacks are gone, Clorox wipes are gone, even the crayons are gone. A few piles of loose-leaf paper and some pencils are all that remain as people continue to file in the door. We didn’t have enough, but perhaps “enough” is not an attainable goal. Perhaps just doing the best we can was enough for last year.  
New Plan Needed

In September 2019, the Missions Team gathered to write plans for 2020. We vowed to allocate more money from our budget, lengthen the school supplies drive around town, and involve Vacation Bible School more. We promised to be even more prepared in 2020.

But in September 2019, who could have predicted the upheaval of COVID-19? What will school look like in Fall 2020?

A few months ago, the Missions Team began asking ourselves: How do we help this community and others without endangering them and transmitting the virus throughout multiple communities? How could we fill a room with people when crowds are dangerous? How do we collect supplies from the congregation when contact makes them vulnerable?

Three members know the answer. Liz Nelson, Linnea Hautman, and Sande Schoenecker, three retired teachers, proposed a Drive-by plan with bags of pre-packed school supplies to be handed out. When we decided it was unsafe to accept supplies from the congregation, Dr. Tim Miller helped to allocate more money from our budget and the Endowment Team was gracious enough to give us a grant. Julie Popple helped me with the orders and Amber Kahnke created mental health resource handouts to be included in the bags. 
New Plan Determined

So this is our COVID-19 School Supplies Giveaway Drive-by Plan: Tim Miller will direct traffic in the parking lot while Dennis Tietz makes sure we don’t hold up traffic on Highway 19. Marge Larsen, Amber Kahnke, Lydia Popple, and Pastor Diane Goulson and I will be masked and handing out bright blue bags of pencils, papers, Expo markers, and highlighters. 

Please send up your prayers on Monday, August 17. We pray for the safety of our volunteers, for the health and well-being of our guests, and that we have enough stuff.
Thank You!

HUGE THANKS to the School Supplies Team of 2019: Audrey Austin, Mary Hanson Busch, Mary Eagan, Linnea Hautman, Liz Nelson, Sande Schoenecker, and Laurie Thorpe. Your work was inspirational..

Thank you to the Missions Team: Audrey Austin, Pam Edel, Linnea Hautman, Amber Kahnke, Marge Larsen, Timothy Miller, Liz Nelson, Julie Popple, Sande Schoenecker, Dennis Tietz, and George Winn.

Thank you to the Endowment Committee for the grant and being another team behind the missions of HTLC.

Finally, Thank You Always to the congregation and staff for your donations and continued support of Holy Trinity’s missions! 

Now, seriously…. send up those prayers.