“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing over one sinner who repents than over
ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7
How exciting it is to witness a person coming to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit! We are blessed in our congregations, schools, centers, youth groups, networks, Sunday schools, and many other ministries of our churches to witness these incredible miracles. I share a few of the many accounts that happen in our Lutheran schools, where nearly 18,000 students/children hear about the love of Jesus each day and experience His love through the caring relationships developed by teachers and staff members. We rejoice and thank God for this wonderful privilege of sharing His love in Jesus Christ with so many each school day.
By: Dr. Bill Hinz
Director of School Ministry
Story 1—He was Famous Like Elvis
I (the pastor) was contacted by a fifth grade teacher who asked if I would have lunch with a new student in our school. I did so and learned the student knew very little, if anything about Christ (she had only attended public school up to this point, and her family was not connected to a church). She was intrigued by the “water fountain thingy” she saw in our sanctuary. I explained it was the baptismal font, which led to an incredible discussion about baptism, Christ and salvation over a period of several months.
When I first asked her if she knew who Jesus was, she replied, “Well, I know he was famous like Elvis. He came down from heaven as a baby, had a crib that had hay in it, was raised by his brothers and sisters, went back to heaven and came back down when he was thirty. He walked around the streets saying ‘I am the Son of God’, and they didn’t like him saying that so they put him on a cross and killed him. I don’t think that was fair.” When I asked her if she knew what a Bible was, her reply was “Oh, that’s the thing you put your hand on when you go to court and they call you up to the witness stand.” (Her father was a lawyer and that was her only connection to the Bible.)
I gave her a Bible that day, and through many lunches and lots of conversations with me and her teacher, we welcomed this student into the faith through Baptism later that year. And towards the end of that school year, she proudly came to me one day and handed me a piece of paper. She had taken the words of the benediction I used at the end of our school chapel services, and roughed out a song. She and I fine-tuned it, and today, it is the song our youngest children sing at the close of our weekly pre-school chapel. It’s title “God, God, God”. Here are the lyrics:
God, God, God — God the Father,
God, God, God – God the Son,
God, God, God – God the Spirit,
God the Three-In-One!
He goes above me, to watch over all,
He goes beneath me, to catch me when I fall,
He goes before me, to show me the way,
He goes behind me, to protect me every day. (Chorus)
He goes beside me, because He is my friend,
He goes inside me, and loves me to the end.
He is my Savior; He died upon the cross,
He is my Savior, without Him I am lost. (Chorus)
Story 2—Little Gestures Make Big Impacts
Just this morning my husband, who is a welder, called to say one of his customers, whose granddaughter attends Trinity ECLC, just asked him, “Doesn’t your wife work at Trinity?” which he replied, “Yes.”
“Well when my wife died she (the Trinity teacher) gave Aria a book about Jesus. And well I have been reading it to her. It was real nice of her.”
My husband said he called to tell me because he thought it would make my day. And it did! Isn’t it great how little gestures can make big impacts.
Story 3— Serving Others in His Name
In an age where relationships have been reduced to superficial interactions of retweets, likes, and emojis, students at Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball have found a better way to build relationships—by building houses. Every year since 2012, groups of 15-20 students have given up part of their Christmas or Spring break to travel to Costa Rica, a country usually known for its exotic vacations and ecotourism. However, shortly after getting off the plane, students meet their soon-to-be new friend and guide, Daniel, who seems to know everyone in Costa Rica. They climb aboard a bus and begin the 3-hour drive away from the usual tourist hot spots into the rural heart of the country.
Here they find their purpose – three young children, a disabled single mom, and her grandmother, struggling to make ends meet, while living in a “house” made with leftover scraps of lumber, rusty metal sheeting and fraying tarps. There are no doors. Chickens run in and out freely, pecking at insects on the dirt floor. And yet, there is joy and gratitude. Here, in the midst of extreme poverty, these Concordia students forget about their makeup, smartphones and air-conditioning back home, and become the hands and feet of Jesus.
In almost no time at all, a new house, which the students have fundraised to pay for and flown to Costa Rica to build, stands as a physical representation of the relationships that were built in the process. Science Instructional Leader and Christian Social Action teacher, Paul Cheney, the organizer of the trips says, “We keep coming back to this same rural community in Costa Rica each year so that our relationship with the people there will continue to grow and allow for deeper conversations of life and faith. We come to share Jesus through service, and in the process, I get to see my students profoundly impacted by the experience, as they see the world and their place in it in a whole new way.”
Concordia student, Emily Brandenburg, who has helped build two of these houses adds, “To come home from a mission trip and say that your eyes and heart were opened and that your life was changed may be a cliché, but coming home from everything that I experienced in Costa Rica, from building a house with people I had just met who spoke a different language than me, to eating termites found on a tree in the middle of a Costa Rican rainforest, I can honestly say that my eyes and my heart were opened. I was shown what it really means to love, how to truly be grateful for every single one of God’s great blessings, and it became clear to me that by serving others in His name, lives can be changed through big and small acts.”
Concordia students will build their sixth house in Costa Rica during Christmas break.