Stories of Faith in Action

Welcome to stories of Faith in Action! It is hoped as you read the testimonies and stories from fellow individuals and communities of faith you and your faith community might be inspired to share similar stories or seek to partner with one of your sister congregations in a similar faith action.  Through the power of story-telling it is anticipated that many may be inspired to see how Jesus is alive and the Spirit is blowing in the Grand Canyon Synod and beyond.  Don’t be shy! Share the good news happening in the life of our faith community.  Our partners in faith enjoy reading your stories of Faith in Action

Your Partner in Mission,
Bishop Steve Talmage

Click here to share your story!

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Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Prescott Valley, AZ
2015 “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday
by Ms. Gail Kenny

Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Prescott Valley is no stranger to service work. You might say it’s been a part of the congregation’s DNA since members started worshiping here 25 years ago this month. Each month, the church teams up with a different nonprofit organization monthly for education and services. Emmanuel hosts interfaith meals, food drives, backpack and school supply drives, blood drives and more. But Sunday, Sept. 13, the church took service to a new level on God’s work. Our hands. Sunday. The Sunday is part of a national event throughout Emmanuel’s national denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Congregations are encouraged to make a difference in their local communities on this day.

“This is the first time Emmanuel Lutheran has been a part of this ELCA national day of service,” said Pastor Kirk Anderson. “It’s taken a lot of work to organize such a big venture, but our congregation has taken this idea and run with it!” Emmanuel’s members, from toddlers to seniors, participated in a dozen projects in the community, and five activities at the church. These included: partnering with nonprofit organizations in Prescott Valley, Chino Valley and Prescott; a project at the church’s adopted school, Liberty Traditional School; writing letters of encouragement to members of the military, college students and teachers; delivering fliers about the church’s upcoming community Fall Fun Fest on Oct. 3, and creating a mailing for the Hungry Kids program.

“Rolling up our sleeves and making a difference in the community is just our way of taking the Gospel message seriously,” Anderson said. “This Sunday and every day, we are encouraged to take love into the world and serve.” Emmanuel Lutheran Church is located at 7763 E. Long Look Drive, Prescott Valley. For more information about Emmanuel’s ministries and programs, go to www.EmmanuelLutheranPV.org or call 928

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Spirit of Hope Lutheran Church, Mesa, Arizona
Seniors that Rock

by Ms. Wendy Sontag

Every Thursday morning the church doors swing open at Spirit of Hope Lutheran Church in Mesa, AZ, as the coffee pots are turned on and conversations start. Worship supplies are fished out of the narthex cabinets. A cross generational crew called “Seniors Rock” descends upon the sanctuary to reload the pew chairs to ready them for the weekend worship services as others set up tables to work on the latest community project. These projects include putting together goody boxes for troops overseas, and collecting and stuffing pocketbooks for pregnant women in difficult situations living in a locate shelter. This group’s summer project includes packing 94 lunches every week for a men’s transitional housing facility in Mesa which grew out of packing lunches for the homeless in Phoenix. Every third Thursday, these willing workers follow Pastor Glen to a Memory Care Center just down the street from the church. Once there, the residents gather as volunteers greet and prepare them for worship. Holy Communion is celebrated upon every visit with the singing of “the oldies” from hymn books gone by.

The dream is to keep growing, keep reaching and keep serving the community. Ideas are constantly welcomed. There is a generous spirit that lives and breathes within these men and women. They have discovered the joy of what it means to be called a servant and would never choose to have it any other way. These people truly “rock”! (Pictures available on the GCS Facebook page.)

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Living Springs Lutheran Church, North Las Vegas, NV
Care for Homeless Neighbors
by Pr. Stephanie Johnson

Through a generous grant from the East Valley Thrift Store in 2013 Living Springs Church in North Las Vegas has been packing and providing basic care items to our homeless neighbors in need.

Since September of 2014 we have handed out over 200 bags. Each bag contains a substantial “snack” that won’t melt in our cars, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap or body wash, water, toothpaste, a new toothbrush and in the winter a warm head covering, gloves and a scarf – in the summer a new pair of flip flops. In addition to the helpful items inside, each bag is reusable and has two reflective strips on them to help keep the recipients safe.

We pack our bags on the second Sunday of each month following worship for people to take with them and keep in their cars to hand out throughout the week. Our goal is to hand out at least 500 of these survival bags. We know we are touching the lives of those who receive the bags but this simple action has also changed the lives of those who share the bags. The people who stand on street corners or in parking lots are no longer invisible to them. They each have a story and a face. This project is changing lives and keeping a spirit of service alive at Living Springs.

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Ascension Lutheran Church, Paradise Valley, AZ
Homeless Jesus Continues to Help

by M. Jayne Baker, Diaconal Minister

After the dedication of Homeless Jesus sculpture last November, we have been selling the miniatures of this profound piece of art. All the proceeds from the sale of the miniatures have been collected in the special “Deacon’s Homeless Jesus” fund. After these seven months, there is now enough money to distribute in amounts large enough to help make a real difference for some of our partners in Jesus’ work. All distributions were presented directly in worship to those heading the projects, and appropriately all the projects selected directly benefit the “homeless” in one way or another.

Last month we distributed a check to the Homeless ID Project which serves the homeless population by obtaining identification/birth certificates/licenses/ in order for employment to be possible. Accepting the award, Steve Stivers, Exec. Director stated that this money will seed a new project in which they will be able to go to the homeless  and obtain information to start the process of ID—rather than expect them to get to Cass to the office of Homeless ID. This will certainly expand critical service to that population.

This month we provided funds for the Justa Center which provides multiple services to the over 55- year- old homeless population. The newly assigned pastor, Rev. Rock Freemont, accepted the check and delivered a short temple-talk regarding the services that the Justa Center provides. As I understand it, several members of the congregations felt the God nudge after hearing all that the center does and decided to help as volunteers.

Next month, we will be providing funding for the women of I HELP, a program of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, which provides amazing services to homeless women. Connie Phillips and Rev. Deborah Hutterer will be accepting the award and also giving a temple talk about their work. The intent of that money will be to provide much needed funding for bus passes for the women.

It has been a joy to see how this sculpture truly has been a gift that keeps on giving. We will continue to sell the miniature sculptures from our office and encourage everyone to stop by our web page or call us for purchase. The price is $125. You can be certain that when one is purchased, Jesus’ work continues.

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Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church, Clarkdale, AZ
Waiting to See What God Will Do Next
by Pr. Mari Larson

On the topic of waiting to see what God will do next, here’s a little story to brighten your day:  Adam is a 19-year-old who “happened” to come to the SOJ campus recently with his friend and her mom.  Adam’s grandpa had been a hellfire and brimstone (non-Lutheran) pastor who had loudly reminded him regularly that he needed to conform or he would go to hell.  As such, Adam was quite anxious about being at a church and with a pastor.  But something very significant was happening to him and he started asking questions, and then (much like the Ethiopian eunuch) he blurted, “I want to be baptized.”  And I said, “OK… when would you like that to happen?”  “Tomorrow!”  Yikes!  “Umm, OK.”  We chatted awhile longer about what baptism means in our denomination, and he went on his way, smiling from ear to ear.  Two hours later, Adam learned (and then I did) that a friend of his had a violent encounter with a deputy the day before and was shot and killed.  And Adam’s urgency suddenly made a lot of sense (to both of us).

The next Sunday I was led to preach “without a net” (without a manuscript) about how we can’t ever fully understand the Trinity but that that’s OK, and ended the message with a time for people to ask questions about things they don’t understand.  After worship, a whole table full of SOJ folks talked with Adam about his friend and how we all make bad choices but they usually don’t get us killed.  He told us how surprised he was that I included his friend’s family in our prayers (apparently, in grandpa’s religion, “bad people” aren’t mentioned at all).  He told me that he’d see me at worship next week, and I believe  he will be bringing friends.

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Christ Lutheran Church, Sedona, AZ
Workday at Navajo Lutheran Mission, Rock Point, AZ

by Pr. David Brandfass

Christ Lutheran in Sedona, one of the smaller congregations in the synod, recently re-sided one of the apartments at the Navajo Lutheran Mission in Rock Point, in addition to providing classroom support, health screenings, and free haircuts to members of the Rock Point community. Through generous member gifts, and support from Thrivent Financial, the congregation was able to purchase the materials and have them shipped to the Mission. Approximately 15% of Christ Lutheran members actively participated in this project doing God’s work with our hands. At the request of Mission management, the installed siding was in the “primer” color, awaiting another group to paint it in a scheme developed by members of the Rock Point Community.

It’s your turn now.

Imagine what 15% of your congregation could do to make the Navajo Mission shine. As Lutherans we have been at this mission since 1953. There’s still much to do. Prayerfully consider this as your call to mission. Information on how you can help is only a phone call away.

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Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, Henderson, NV
2014 Mexico Mission Trip
by Pr. Diane Drach-Meinel

In 2014 two Nevada congregations, Christ the Servant and Saved by Grace, participated in a joint mission trip to Mexico and then produced a video about their journey. Click here to watch the video!

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Grace Lutheran Church, Phoenix, AZ
Sharing Our Space, Joining Others in Mission
by Pr. Sarah Stadler-Ammon

Since coming to Grace, I have been praying for another congregation to share our space.  First, we became the home of Native American Urban Ministry (NAUM); NAUM worships in our fellowship hall the second and fourth Saturdays of the month at noon. As well, Pastor Mary Louise Frenchmen utilizes office space near the fellowship hall. Grace’s relationship with NAUM has proved to be a symbiotic relationship. NAUM has drawn into worship and service several of the guests from our outreach programs who previously did not regularly worship anywhere, and NAUM blesses Grace by being a good resource of support and community, especially for Native American visitors to the church.

Then, we were approached by New Life in Christ Fellowship, a small Tongan congregation that broke from a larger United Methodist congregation in the Valley.  A small but vibrant congregation that fills our space with beautiful music, New Life in Christ worships on Sunday afternoons from 1:00 until 4:00pm in both English and Tongan. Because New Life in Christ Fellowship could not afford to pay rent for using our space, we set up an alternative but equally valuable plan: volunteers from New Life in Christ care for Grace’s landscaping two weekends a month.  “We see this as our church too, so of course, we care for the property as if it were our own” said one of New Life’s pastors.  Prior to our partnership with New Life in Christ, we had been in jeopardy of burning out Grace members who cared for the lawn.  It’s a lot of mowing, so we see this partnership as an answer to more than one prayer!  New Life joined our community for Rally Day last September, our Advent family picnic last December, and our Easter egg hunt just a few weeks ago.  They are generous in sharing their music with us; their choir serenaded us over Rally Day card-making and Advent crafts.

Finally, we were approached by a Spanish-speaking congregation from the ecumenical Catholic tradition. “Old Catholic” is how they refer to themselves in English for ease and Old Catholic needed both worship and office space. Thus, we are home to 4 congregations, including, of course, Grace’s own congregation. A young, growing, Spanish-speaking congregation, Old Catholic just joined us on our property three months ago.  Already, they are joining us in mission by planning to serve the pancake breakfast on a Sunday morning this summer.  They celebrate many weddings, baptisms, and quinceaneras so bring much joy and light to our community.

Together, all four of the congregations that worship at Grace will host a Vacation Bible School this summer on the evenings of June 8-12. Together, we will teach our kids about the love of God made manifest in Jesus. The other congregations who worship here would not have necessarily organized VBS for their own children, but the people of Grace love Vacation Bible School. Because our youth group has now aged out of VBS, we might not have had it this summer. But now, the Spirit has convened us for a truly multi-cultural, ecumenical, faith forming time of prayer and study, games and crafts, singing and dancing!  We could not be more delighted!

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Ascension Lutheran Church, Paradise Valley, AZ
Food Truck Gathering
by M. Jayne Baker, Diaconal Minister

On March 27, 2015, Ascension Lutheran tried something new with astonishing results: we invited friends and neighbors to a “Food Truck” gathering in our garden. We enlisted two food trucks to park in our parking lot.  It was a BYOB event and folks were encouraged to bring blankets to sit family picnic style in our garden and enjoy the evening. We did not anticipate the massive crowds of young parents and children!! We also didn’t anticipate that they would stay for 3 hours+!!

It was simply fabulous–so fabulous in fact that we are repeating the event this month with the Lobster Lady Food Truck, root-beer floats for the kids (who will pay Wilber the pig –our version of the Heffer Project– $0.25 for a small float) and cookie sales for Mission of Mercy. The playground will have bright lights again and live music throughout the evening as background. (More pictures of this event are available on the Grand Canyon Synod Facebook page.)

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Love of Christ Lutheran Church, Mesa, AZ
Stephen Ministry-The Old is New Again…
by Ms. Dianne Oien

Over the years many congregations have taken advantage of the Stephen Ministry Program (a lay ministry of one on one care in times of need). Here at Love of Christ we just commissioned 25 ministers and six leaders and discovered we were the 12,000th congregation to begin Stephen Ministry!

WOW, has it has been well received, providing additional care for those in need, relieving the Pastors of some follow-up care that may not have been possible and using the gifts of those who go through the training in valuable ways! If you have questions about this ministry or would like to learn more don’t hesitate to call us, our Stephen Ministry number is 480.584.6203.

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Faith Lutheran Church, Phoenix, AZ
First Lesson Learned
by Dr. Arlo Nau

Faith Ecumenical Institute (FEI), housed in the renovated chapel of Faith Lutheran Church, 801 E. Camelback, Phoenix, celebrated its first year of existence with a “Paper Plate Banquet” on Sunday night, April 19.  It was a good first year with a student body of 38 adults and a faculty of three. The first and most important lesson learned, however, was the unexpected realization of just how much adults – graying mid-lifers – really love to learn!  So much so, in fact, that one is tempted to ask: “Why do we waste education on the kids?” There were none of the usual complaints of classes being “boring” or professors “stupid.” Rather, one participant wrote: “Thank you for your insight and inviting us to be part of a very exciting project that enriches us all in so many ways. Congratulations on the 1st year. I believe I have a recruit for the fall semester. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!” Another wrote: “I must let you know how much I truly enjoyed your classes. Your experience, knowledge, objectivity, and openness to creative thinking enlightened me in ways I would have never considered. My thirst for knowledge and thoughts to ponder has been kick started into high gear thanks to you.  I can’t express to you how grateful I am for the experience.”

To enroll or receive information on the four course curriculum proposed for the fall semester of FEI beginning September 2015, please phone 602.908.3321 or email info@faithecumenical.org.

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Thank you to all the congregations for sharing their Stories of Faith in Action!

If you would like to share your story 
please email Kim Stevens (kstevens@gcsynod.org).