By Stacey Egger
For 10 days in April, more than 10,000 Lutherans in Missouri and 8,000 Lutherans in Illinois went out into their communities to serve their neighbors as part of SHINE!, a servant event co-sponsored April 14–23 by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Missouri and Northern Illinois districts. Wearing blue SHINE! T-shirts, members of LCMS churches, schools, youth groups, LWML groups and others undertook a variety of service projects, caring for their communities in the name of Christ.
When the first SHINE! event — planned by the Missouri District for Fall 2020 — had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hard to imagine how the event would flourish in the coming years. But in April 2021, SHINE! came to fruition, drawing 5,500 participants. In 2022, there were 8,000. This year, the Northern Illinois District (NID) joined in too, bringing the total to 18,000.
“It’s the thing that we do in the district that everybody can be a part of. The churches, schools, Recognized Service Organizations, the different ministries that the district supports — they all have their own SHINE! teams. It makes no difference the size of your community or church or school, SHINE! is for everybody,” said Leah Sieveking, director of Mission Advancement for the Missouri District.
NID President Rev. Dr. Allan Buss said, “It’s always rewarding when God’s people are at work — watching them serve with joy, with laughter, with care for others. It’s just amazing.”
Buss continued, “There’s a lot of discouragement in the church, there’s a lot of loneliness and discouragement in the world, but the church … is reflecting the presence of Jesus and His power. We get to be the church in the sanctuary, but we also get to be the church in our communities.”
“Our staff has been encouraged by the commitment and dedication of the laypeople across the district who want to serve their neighbors and their community and bear witness to Christ as they serve,” said the Rev. Dr. R. Lee Hagan, Missouri District president. “I’ve seen groups in the hundreds and groups of less than five, but they are all working to meet a need of people in their community.”
‘One big community’
At Immanuel Lutheran School in Perryville, Mo., each of the grades took on its own service project. For example, seventh-graders spent the day picking up trash around Perryville and in a local park.
“We’re happy because we can show Jesus’ love, and we can work for the community,” said Anna Yamnitz, a seventh-grader with trash bag in hand. “It’s great because it feels like we are just one big community, helping each other out.”
Andy Spieler, Immanuel’s principal, said that the school has done many service projects in Perryville over the years, but that the district-wide event is particularly meaningful for the students.
“It helps train our students to start thinking about others, put others in front of themselves and be a part of the community and a disciple of Christ,” said Spieler. “And doing it all in one week and being able to tell students that the whole Missouri District is doing it all at one time is really neat.”
Here are just a few examples of other service projects that were carried out by Lutherans across Missouri and Illinois:
- Immanuel Lutheran Church, Honey Creek, Mo. — The youth group sang at two senior living facilities, accompanied by a Gospel bluegrass group made up of Immanuel members.
- Trinity Lutheran Church, Fredericktown, Mo. — Ladies from the LWML group cleaned and prepped flower containers around the city hall and court square.
- St. Paul Lutheran High School, Farmington, Mo. — Working with Habitat for Humanity, students drywalled, mudded and taped a house for a new U.S. citizen family. They also chopped wood, raked leaves and cleaned the garage for a local retired Lutheran teacher.
- Hope Lutheran Church, Republic, Mo. — Members held a vitamin drive, helped the Republic Pregnancy Care Center prepare for its annual banquet, and did house and yard work for homebound members.
- St. Paul Lutheran Church, Fulton, Mo. — Members volunteered at Faith Maternity Home, building two raised-bed garden boxes and doing some landscape work.
- Walther Christian Academy, Chicago — Students made tie blankets for the Ronald McDonald House at Loyola Hospital and for the Edward Hospital infusion unit.
- Trinity Lutheran Church, Burr Ridge, Ill. — Church members dropped off coffee, sugar, creamer, deodorant, underwear and shower shoes for the psychiatric wing of Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital.
- The Lutheran Church and School of St. Luke, Itasca, Ill. — Students visited Forest View Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center to play bingo with the residents.
- Immanuel Lutheran Church, Freeport, Ill. — Youth group members made cards and cookies to deliver to local service organizations and collected items for local animal shelters.
“God has given us all such unique gifts, and it’s the gifts of 18,000 people that are coming together this spring. That is such a beautiful thing to see,” said Sieveking. “To Him be the glory! That’s the point of being out here.”
The congregations and districts of the LCMS serve their communities in a variety of ways throughout the year, but a designated, district-wide emphasis is one way to raise awareness of the joy of serving. Sieveking welcomes a conversation with anyone who would like to learn more about SHINE! Contact her at 314-590-6211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted June 6, 2023