Belle Plaine, MN–The Lutheran Home Association’s (TLHA) Care of the Soul Leadership Award recognized three volunteer recipients for their work being accomplished in the area of special ministries. Three former teachers have humbly serving the Lord in a variety of ways professionally an as volunteers. They have used their abilities to share God’s Word to people who have developmental and other disabilities in our Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM) programs.
Emily Armstrong of Belle Plaine, Minnesota
Emily believes outreach is vital in the area of special ministries. She spent her teaching career in special education and much of her volunteer work helping others learn academically and spiritually.
Once retired, Emily served as a volunteer coordinator for the Jesus Cares program at Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, Wisconsin. She shares, “I learned so much about reaching out to these special people, developing a meaningful program of teaching them about Jesus and the love these people had to offer.”
In 2009 Emily and her husband, Robert, moved to Belle Plaine, Minnesota. A reason they chose the community was so that they could be involved at Trinity Lutheran Church and School and The Lutheran Home Association, specifically Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM).
Emily has become involved in The Lutheran Home Campus Auxiliary. A great deal of her time and energy is given to Trinity Lutheran, where she is a member.
Soon after their move, Emily became involved at The Lutheran Home: Hope Residence on The Lutheran Home Association’s Belle Plaine campus. She recalls, “Pastor Miller helped me get started working with materials, especially the development of a new teaching tool.” Using the pictures from JCM’s Dear Christian Friend, they reviewed the Bible lesson that the chaplain had taught during the week.
“Because I was constantly searching for appropriate and useful materials when I worked with the Watertown program, I found pleasure in helping develop these materials. I can imagine them being used in many different settings. It is such worthwhile work.” Emily frequently arrives at the JCM office and uses a computer to work with the Dear Christian Friend pictures on a new game being developed by JCM. She is one of two JCM leaders evaluating this game and is always excited about using it to share the message of the story connected to it.
“I often say that I work with JCM because I am selfish. I can be crabby, but after spending time at Hope Residence, I am happy. The genuine, open acceptance of Jesus’ love and salvation remind me of what is important.” She encourages others to “check it out. People with special needs are just people and their needs, when all is said and done, are not so very special after all. Who doesn’t need Jesus, love and friendship?”
Kathy Augustine of Goodhue, Minnesota
“God is gracious. All people deserve to be reached with the message of God’s grace.” These words reflect Kathy Augustine’s deep conviction about the importance of sharing the Gospel message, particularly with people who have special needs.
Her work with Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM) began when Pastor Dallas Miller and Pastor Carl Ziemer recruited her to work with the Red Wing Conference program 21 years ago in Rochester, Minnesota. She became involved with this group partially because of a need she saw with her nephew, who had cerebral palsy. The group in Rochester, which her nephew attended, is still up and running and very active. Kathy also helped teach at a JCM group at Vasa Children’s Home in Red Wing, Minnesota. Now Kathy and her JCM students meet two Tuesdays a month at Jordan Towers in Red Wing. She teaches the class a Bible lesson, and four area pastors alternate holding a “Worship at the Cross” service. There is always a lot of singing, fellowship and fun involved. Sometimes after classes the group will go out to eat at a local restaurant or celebrate a member’s birthday. They also host an annual Christmas party.
Kathy was part of the organizing group for the “Joy in Jesus” Retreat at Camp Omega in Waterville, Minnesota, over a decade ago. Members of the Red Wing JCM program still attend this annual event.
Her interest in people with disabilities began at an early age. During college, she took special education classes. As a JCM teacher, Kathy recognizes the importance of outreach. She points out that just one of Red Wing’s services to people with disabilities cares for more than 50 people, “There are so many special people that should be served.”
She encourages others to become involved with this type of Kingdom work and is pleased with the resources available. “The materials that have been developed are easy to use. They can be adapted to various abilities.”
She and her husband, John, attend St. John Lutheran Church of rural Goodhue, where she continues to be involved with their Lutheran Elementary School and other church work.
However, JCM is where Kathy has poured out the majority of her time and talents. The person who nominated her wrote, “It is more than evident how much the men and women that Kathy serves love her. You will always find a smile on their face as they look forward eagerly to hearing about Jesus’ love. Kathy faces every situation with devotion and patience and is truly witness of our Lord’s love to ‘even the least of these.’”
Grace Bartel of Madison, Wisconsin
“What a great day!” That’s what the Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM) volunteers say after each JCM class at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin. These “great days” began in 2004 when, according to the person who nominated her, Grace Bartel “almost single-handedly motivated and organized Holy Cross to be involved in JCM. She has faithfully led this effort ever since. The Lord has blessed her efforts.”
Grace’s work with JCM includes recruiting, training and communicating with the volunteers. She helps oversee the planning of JCM at Holy Cross. The nominator adds, “She and her husband, Fred, arrive early on the days we have a JCM class and make sure the facilities are open, ready and set up. They find or provide rides for any students who need them and have befriended the students.
“When Grace teaches the class, she does a fantastic job. She has gotten the students involved in playing simple musical instruments, which they love. She also is actively recruiting students for our JCM class.”
To help with recruiting efforts, Grace recommends keeping “a JCM brochure handy in a purse or a wallet. You never know when you might use it. I happened to sit next to a lady with Down syndrome at a concert at a nearby mall. When she saw the picture of Jesus on the brochure I was holding, her eyes lit up. She has been a faithful member of our JCM class ever since.” Grace has a passion for sharing God’s Word and for music.
Grace has been teaching string instruments for many years and shares her musical talents at her church.
Her mother was first involved with classes for people with developmental disabilities in the 1960s and then later with a JCM program in Milwaukee. Grace recognized the importance of this work, “but never got involved with the students until 2004. I’ve found that I enjoy this work immensely.” Grace states about her JCM experience, “I love it, and I know the students are learning to grow in their faith through our classes. There are so many of Jesus’ lambs and sheep who need to know more about their dear Savior.”
Over the years she has also worked with students who were hearing impaired and has shared her writing talents with the WELS in national publications and in teaching materials. Today she writes plays for her church’s JCM classes, which she has shared with the national JCM program.
Grace encourages others to become involved with special ministries, “Jesus says that what you do for others is doing something for Him. What a privilege and joy to do something for Jesus! And besides, it’s fun. Try it, you’ll like it.”
Emily, Kathy and Grace were recognized for their work at The Lutheran Home Association’s Annual Meeting on January 17, 2012. Arvid Schwartz, Chair of TLHA’s Board of Directors, and Michael Klatt, President and Chief Executive Officer, presented the awards to Emily and Kathy. Grace was unable to attend.
Read more about the Annual Meeting