“It’s a Jesus thing.”

Jessica Nipp

The people of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls, IA, take their mission statement seriously: Sharing the Bread of Life with a Hungry World.   Having been fed with the Bread of Life through word and sacraments, their purpose is to share that Bread of Life with the rest of the world in as many ways as possible.  And they do! Members of Bethlehem are active in hosting community meals and a “hospitality house” for homeless members of the Cedar Falls community, engaging University of Northern Iowa students by hosting campus ministry activities, and collecting and distributing medical devices to people in their community.

This mosquito net helped Bethlehem Lutheran Church keep track of its fundraising progress.

This mosquito net helped Bethlehem Lutheran Church keep track of its fundraising progress.

For the past two years, Bethlehem has also been active on a global scale, through their participation with the ELCA Malaria Campaign. In the summer of 2011, the congregation council set a generous goal of $6,000, which is enough to purchase 600 mosquito nets to share with families in Africa—about one per baptized member of Bethlehem.  They set up a big mosquito net in the congregation’s lobby, so that everyone who entered the building was reminded of our sisters and brothers in Africa who cope with malaria on a daily basis. Sunday school kids made pipe-cleaner mosquitoes to track fundraising progress: for every $10 raised, another mosquito was added to the net—on the outside, of course!

Bethlehem Lutheran Church practices “milestone ministry”—recognizing special moments that occur in the lives of its members.  As they raised money for the ELCA Malaria Campaign, Bethlehem encouraged members to donate $10, (or to “give a bed net”) for family or congregational milestones – birthdays, anniversaries of baptism or marriage, graduations, confirmations, weddings, memorial gifts.  They printed up some personalized “business cards” cards that could be added to a greeting card or included with a gift given in someone’s honor.

These "business cards" helped to spread the word about Bethlehem's malaria campaign!

These “business cards” helped to spread the word about Bethlehem’s malaria campaign!

Pastor Gary Hedding noted that the ELCA Malaria Campaign initiative caught on easily at Bethlehem.  “It is a mark of the congregation’s generosity,” he reports proudly.

Generosity, indeed! Within a year, Bethlehem had met its $6,000 goal and decided to double it.  Why? Because our gifts make a difference in the lives of many people in sub-Saharan Africa… and “mostly because Jesus’ love has filled us and we want to love not in word or speech, but in truth and action,” preached Pastor Gary. “Doing something for someone else is a Jesus thing. It would be hard to think about following Jesus without doing some of what he said was fundamental to who he is.”

Members of Bethlehem have now given more than $12,000 for the ELCA Malaria Campaign.

Pastor Mark Anderson, who is a synod staff person in Northeastern Iowa Synod, reports that the congregation’s generosity is felt in many ways.  “Throughout their malaria campaign,” he says, “Bethlehem also maintained their level of mission support to the synod at 15%!”

To learn more about Bethlehem Lutheran Church, visit their web site or watch their “God’s Work. Our Hands” video.

- See more at: http://blogs.elca.org/malaria/post/its-a-jesus-thing-02#sthash.c1w7q033.dpuf