Immanuel Lutheran Church and School has begun taking bolds steps of faith. The church has bought the entire block. Within the desire to build out the footprint on this block is another dream. This idea deals with getting outside our block. What this means is, how does our church help the needs of our community and beyond. My call is Pastor of Discipleship; I help our members serve the community of St. Charles and beyond.
This past year I have been engaging the community to see where Immanuel can help. Covid-19 has caused a delay in the process, but has not stopped me from making connections to the needs of our community. Let me tell you a few things Immanuel has started to get involved in and how you may be involved.
By now, I hope you all know the story of Pastor Reinke. A man who arrived on our doorstep a few years ago. Pastor Reinke was passing through when he decided to stop at Immanuel. After an initial conversation, an idea and partnership began to form. Utilizing the Harmony House, Pastor Reinke travels the world. He connects with deaf Christians throughout the globe. He trains them to be on a mission. Then in our fellowship hall basement, he teaches sign language classes with a purpose. There he teaches our members not only how to communicate with deaf people but to tell them about Jesus. On Saturday night, deaf members of our community come to a service where he and others sign the entire service. Recently a young woman was confirmed through Pastor Reinke’s deaf confirmation! Pastor Reinke is always looking for people to help. If you can help him give the church office a call.
A year ago, Pastor John Schmidtke, was invited to speak to Immanuel’s members. He had started an initiative in North St Louis entitled, Greater Things; that grew into More Greater things, and this March starts its third year, as you guessed it, Even More Greater Things. Each night at-risk youth attend an afterschool program at various Lutheran churches in North St Louis. They play basketball and other games. Then they are taught about Jesus. This ministry piqued the interest of one of our Vicars. He took groups to serve in the Spring of 2020. Through Vicar Matt, we will continue this effort; if this is of interest contact, Matt, and he will get you involved.
But, that is just the tip of the iceberg of how Immanuel does outreach into the community. We have Zillah our comfort dog, our women’s guild does projects, a group of ladies makes dresses for little girls in Africa, our social ministry team serves the salvation Army, and now has the giving tree out for the holidays. We send money to organizations such as the seminary to train up pastors. We support missionaries like Katie Bradley who does work abroad. We collect money and food for Oasis and the Seminary food bank. Our men made bunk beds for kids in St. Louis who did not have a bed. And countless other ways we work to expand the Kingdom of God.
Recently we have started having conversations with another group outside of Immanuel’s Walls. This group is a few “thousand” miles away in Russia. The Russian Lutheran Seminary trains up Pastors in one of the most anti-Christian places on the planet. It takes a lot of red tape to keep this school open. Through the support of churches in America, they are doing their best to keep their doors open. Next January a group from their seminary will be here. They will teach bible class and preach on Sunday morning. We are excited to host them and welcome them.
Finally, a new initiative is just starting. We all saw what unfolded in Afghanistan this year. The United States pulled out of the country swiftly. Because of the rapid exit, families fled the country out of fear for their lives. Many of them are here in the states. The government has chosen cities for these families to relocate to and one of those cities is the greater St. Louis area. No, matter how we feel about situations or groups of people, Christ has a clear call "Love your enemy, love those who persecute you, let your gentleness be evident to all the Lord is at hand.”
An estimated 40-60 Afghan refugees will be relocated to St. Charles. They will arrive in the coming months. The challenge is daunting. The St. Charles coalition has been working with the International Institute of St. Louis to find ways to support these families when they arrive. I have attended several of these meetings and housing is the biggest need. One of our young 8th graders has been collecting gift cards to help offset some of the cost. When a family is relocated they receive some money to pay for housing. It is never enough. Gift cards help offset that cost until they can find a job.
Currently, we are looking for sponsors of around 5-10 people to help transition families into the American way of life. I am working on getting church members together to help in this process. Just imagine if we could reach some of these families for Christ. Show them Christian, hospitality and then watch as God works in their lives.
We are not a church unto ourselves. No, we are a church that stands for the Gospel. I pray we can continue to be a church that is involved outside our block. If you were wondering how Immanuel gets off the block, be assured we do. And it’s starting to ramp up more. If you want to get involved and help out in any of these ministries, give me, Pastor Ryan a call. I will gladly sit down with you and talk about how you can be on a mission for Christ.