One morning Jim Bickel heard his name called out in the reception area at the Greater Milwaukee Synod office. Jim is the executive director of the ELCA synod’s Outreach for Hope, Inc.
“Where is Pastor Bickel?”
Jim got up from his desk to greet his visitor. It was Larry, a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Milwaukee that receives financial support from Outreach for Hope.
“Here, this is for the bike ride. I need to mark it on my sheet,” Larry told Jim, as he carefully unfolded a $10 bill and a $5 bill that had been tightly clutched in his hand.
The sheet Larry was referring to was his pledge form for Outreach for Hope’s “Family Bike Ride and Fundraiser.” Larry’s form was more than filled out.
Jim was humbled.
There’s one more thing to know about Larry.
Larry is one of the people that Outreach for Hope was designed to support.
“Larry spends a lot of his time out on the street,” says Jim. His congregation, St. Paul’s, provides a place of welcome and stability.
“That’s why it was humbling for me to see Larry in my office handing me two creased bills, part of nearly $300 he raised for Outreach for Hope,” Jim says.
“Larry is a reminder of the witness people in poverty can share with the rest of us, and how the ministries of Outreach for Hope are vital to the synod and its congregations,” he says.
Outreach for Hope provides financial support to congregations and ministries of the Greater Milwaukee Synod that “walk with the poor.” These ministries and congregations place a high emphasis on touching the lives of people through meal programs, summer youth camps, career guidance, neighborhood ministries and worship services designed to draw in the community.
“Each of these programs is meant to bring both the giver and the receiver closer to the presence of God’s love,” says Jim.
Individuals from across the synod, along with special gifts from congregations, provide financial support for Outreach for Hope. It’s a wonderful example of how congregations support one another in mission, according to Jim.
The churchwide office also provides financial support for many of the synod’s congregations and ministries, he says, adding that together members of this church are committed to “walking with the poor.”
The ELCA’s Partnership Support Grants support qualifying congregations in this church that are engaged in a renewal process or ministries that are emerging, according to Sandy Chrostowski. She says some of the congregations and ministries in the Greater Milwaukee Synod receive support from both Outreach for Hope and the partnership grants. Sandy is the synod’s director for evangelical mission.
But it’s people like Larry who lead this church with generosity and service, says Jim.
“When I told Larry about the bicycle ride to raise funds for Outreach for Hope, Larry knew exactly what to do,” says Donna Brown, pastor of St. Paul’s.
“With his pledge sheet and information about Outreach for Hope, Larry went around the church and his neighborhood with a mission,” she says. Larry and 130 other riders, volunteers and guests raised more than $59,425.
“God has given Larry a big heart,” says Donna. “The people of St. Paul’s give thanks for his presence.”