Bethlehem Lutheran Church - Aloha, OR

Saving Grace

A woman looks at ultrasound pictures while sitting on a park bench near a bridge and the words "Saving Grace Maternity Home".

WHO WE ARE

Saving Grace Maternity Home is a residential home experience for single young homeless women in an unplanned or crisis pregnancy, between the ages of 13-25. We welcome women of all cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds who currently live in the state of Oregon. We have the capacity to assist and house up to four women full time and there are two beds for temporary short-term stays.Saving Grace

WHAT WE DO

Each woman receives birthing and parenting classes, assistance in connecting with adoption options, various life skills classes, assistance with prenatal and medical doctor appointments. We facilitate their enrollment in the local school district to finish high school or earn a GED, finding employment, and researching suitable housing.

There are full time house parents living in the home, along with a skilled resident assistant for weekend coverage. Trained volunteers assist in the event of the house parents’ absence. There is no cost to the young women to reside here.

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Do I Even Matter?

The cost of fame is a tax most of us will never pay. We live in relative anonymity. But that obscurity can be taxing as well, in a silent and painful way, because the lack of attention we receive leaves us wondering if our lives are all that important. If we even matter. If anyone would miss us if we just disappeared. It begins early in life, this burden of being unnoticed and feeling unimportant. We envy the cool kids in school, the quarterback on the football team, or the pretty girls, because they get all the attention. Later, we envy the associate who gets the promotion. The colleague who wins the award. Or the former classmate who still seems to be the Golden Child of life—at least, that’s what they put in their Christmas cards or out there on social media.

And us? We live and work not in the spotlight of fame, but in the shadows of anonymity. Get up, go to work, take the kids to school, eat dinner, watch T.V., go to bed. Then hit “repeat” the next day. We are, by the world’s standards, boring. Ordinary. Just another face in the sea of humanity. Unnoticed, unexemplary, unfamous.

And, in that way, we’re just like God was during most of his earthly life.

We often forget that, for the vast majority of his life, Jesus was just another face in the crowd. Yes, his birth was big news for a small crowd.  And, yes, some rabbis might have recalled that Passover, years ago, when a 12-year-old Jewish wunderkind stood toe-to-toe with them in the temple. But besides those two occasions, before Jesus turned 30, he lived a remarkably unremarkable life.

And this ordinary life, a mirror of our own, Jesus lived for us…

He was just another worshiper at the synagogue, singing David’s psalms and learning about Moses, Joshua, and Samson. Just another 14-year-old boy whose voice was deepening and who had peach fuzz on his upper lip. Just another guy in his mid-20’s, stopping at the Nazareth lumberyard to pick up some nails and 2x4s. His daily work, his weekly routine, his social life, were underwhelming. He got up every morning, ate breakfast, went to work, had dinner with his family, then went to bed. Then hit “repeat” the next day. God was, by the world’s standards, boring. Ordinary. Just another face in the sea of humanity.

And this ordinary life, a mirror of our own, Jesus lived for us, to sink himself into our existence, to become and experience everything we are and do, and to show us that our unremarkable lives are suffused with the hidden glory of God.

As you sit there at your desk, or behind the wheel, or visiting with clients, and speculate that your vanilla life makes no real difference in the world, remember that the eyes of a loving and interested Father are watching you, and a smile beams from his face. As every nail that Jesus hammered was a delight to his Father, so every email you send, every purchase you ring up, every table you wipe down, is a delight to the Father.

As you put your head on the pillow at night, think about your life and work, and feel so

photo of person walking on deserted island

Photo by Tom Swinnen on Pexels.com

small, so meaningless, remember that every hair of your head is numbered by God. And if your Father cares enough about you to count your hairs, do you doubt that he counts every minuscule detail of your life as important to him? He counts how many minutes you sleep. How counts how many hugs you give your children. He counts how many miles you commute to work. He counts how many emotions you experience, secret tears you cry, inner turmoil you feel. Why? Because you count to him. You matter to him more than you’ll ever realize. And since you matter to the Creator of the world, then you also matter to the ongoing life of the world.

 

You and your life are hidden inside Jesus, and Jesus is hidden inside you and your life. And he knows a thing or two about being just another person. He lived that for the first 30 years he was here among us. Like us, he lived a seemingly small, unimportant life. And yet was it? Hardly. He was living for us, living with love and mercy and obedience, that he might give that life of perfection to us as our own. And now, he also lives within us, works through us, prays inside us, that our lives and his become bonded as one.

A child of God, a brother or sister of Jesus, cannot live a small life because every life is a big life to the Father. There are no unimportant people in his kingdom. Every life, every job, is suffused with a secret sanctity which heaven applauds. No one else may see it. We probably will never see it ourselves. But God does. And our Father rejoices over us as only a Father can.

Modified from a devotion by Chad Bird, September 8, 2018 entitled, “DO I EVEN MATTER IN THIS WORLD?”

 

Refortoberfest

October 14, 2018
12:30pm-2:30pm

Refortoberfest (REFORmation & ocTOBERFEST) is Bethlehem’s annual Fall Festival.  It started as a simple way to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, which began when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg in 1517, and celebrate the Northern European heritage of the LCMS.

This year Refortoberfest will feature a potluck style meal where we will provide brats, sauerkraut, buns, red cabbage, and apple cider and everyone else is asked to bring a side, salad, or dessert.  Please let us know if you plan on attending by signing up on the “What’s Happening” board or calling or emailing the office.

Games are provided by the Bethlehem Youth and will include pumpkin painting, toilet paper bowling, bingo, and more!

If you have any questions, please contact the office.

An Opportunity to Bless

“Growing the Family of God…”

             Through our Preschool. 

             Through Ministry Opportunities that Bring Community Members into our Community.

             Through Ministry Opportunities that Take Bethlehem Members out into our Community.

             Through Ministry Opportunities that Build our Community at Bethlehem.

“…through relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Perhaps, you saw this slide—especially with the purple coloring—Sunday, September 9 during our Sixtieth Anniversary celebration service.  Pastor Dinger shared memories he had of ways that God had shown His power in the past here at Bethlehem—we even heard about God’s power in the founding of our congregation from our founding pastor, Ronald Dommer, and heard the promise of God’s blessing in our present as Pastor Braem spoke the Benediction.  This slide was part of our hope for the future.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food;
I was thirsty and you gave me drink;
I was a stranger and you welcomed me….”

On Sunday, September 16, we heard about how God is blessing our Preschool.  Pastor Brandt—over a year ago—suggested that we find out what we’re already doing that the Lord is blessing.  We heard the story of how the preschool board wrestled with the projected enrollment in August, wondering if we’d have enough children to fill two classes of four-year-olds and two classes of three-year-olds.  We didn’t really have the numbers in hand to support that hope.  Yet, when school opened we had two full classes of four-year-olds (with a waiting list!) and just a few students short of two full classes of three-year-olds.  God seems to be blessing our efforts as we try to be co-workers with Him in growing the family of God.

You can read elsewhere in this newsletter about some things that our Service Team is doing to meet the second focus in our hopes for the future.  One of the proposals to provide ministry opportunities that bring community members into our community involves entering into a relationship with an organization in Hillsboro called “Family Promise.”  We invited a speaker from this organization to speak at our July 1 Voters Meeting and you’ll have further opportunities to learn from some presentations during the Bible class hour in October and an informational meeting on October 28 following the worship services.

Family Promise helps families achieve lasting independence by providing shelter, meals and support to redress the underlying causes of homelessness.  Basically, a couple of times a year, we would invite three families chosen by Family Promise to shelter in our building, giving each family a room in which to sleep each night for a week.  We have opportunity to bless them with an evening meal each night and fellowship with them before the curfew.  Bethlehem members would then act as hosts for the night—spending the night to help the families make themselves at home.

I think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 when I consider this opportunity:  “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me….”  Please plan to come October 28 and find out more information and learn how you might help.

Joy in the journey,

Pastor Jeff Shearier

 

The Mission Continues

At the July 1 Voters’ Meeting, I had the opportunity to share the directions for ministry developed by the Long Range Planning team.  This team was authorized by the Administrative Council a year or two ago to talk about Bethlehem’s mission.  I would like to thank all of  those who served these many months:  Joe Bernard, Douglas Bernhardt, Dena Bindewald, Jim Cullen, Jon Harwood, Jeff Hoffman, Harvard Isaak and Cindy Schmick.

The process involved re-examining our mission statement; gathering community information; gathering ministry ideas from Bethlehem members through the meeting with Dr. Brandt and the cottage meetings and then, discerning directions for ministry that fit our mission statement.  We listened to those past mission statements.  We asked questions:  why was the Community Center built? Why is Bethlehem here?  What is happening in our community around us and how might we connect?

We decided that our current mission was not yet completed.  We let our current mission statement continue to direct our work and planning.

“Building the Family of God…”

Through our Preschool.  The Preschool is our primary interface with our community.  In terms of “connecting people to Jesus,” we get the most “return” on our “investment” through our Preschool.  We can build relationships between our members and the preschool families/students; we can invest in the physical plant; we can work with the staff to “stabilize” the ministry (attract enrollment; guarantee classes, etc.).

Through ministry opportunities that bring community members into our faith community.  While this would include activities sponsored by our Service Team, like Comforts of Home, the Red Cross Blood Drives or the Clothing Give-Away, it could also engage the Discipleship Team to offer “informational classes” on matters of faith and ethics or other appropriate topics.  We could also host events such as concerts, car shows, community meetings that would make Bethlehem known in our community.

Through ministry opportunities that take Bethlehem members out into our community. Again, our Service Team has already begun to take the lead here, offering opportunities like the Backpack Program in conjunction with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish that aids schoolchildren in our area or volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank.  There is a need for some sort of “Outreach Team” or “Evangelism Team” to plan ways we can meet those moving into our area—especially South Hillsboro, but Aloha is seeing a great number of apartments and townhouses being built.  There may be ways to partner with or support the teachers at an area school, for example.

Through ministry opportunities that build our faith community at Bethlehem.  The Discipleship and Relationship Teams would probably carry much of the ideas for ministry forward in this direction.  Our Youth and Children’s Teams would also play a part. Rebuilding the Heart to Heart network of home-based Bible study groups, supporting our seniors (especially) with fellowship opportunities; Rally Day/Church Picnic and Refortoberfest, would be examples of ways to build our spiritual “infrastructure.”

“…through relationship with Jesus Christ.”

This will always be the beginning point as well as the goal of all that we do at Bethlehem.  Our Worship Vision Team, Disicipleship Team, our Elders, our Trustees and our Administrative Council—all our groups and members—are focused on what God through His Word and sacraments is doing for us and through us as the Spirit continues to work and keep us in relationship with Jesus Christ.

These Four Directions will be handed off to the various teams (Worship Vision, Relationship, Discipleship, and, Service as well as Youth) and our boards (Preschool, Trustees and Elders) and the Administrative Council to serve as tools to describe existing ministry activities; and, create, plan and implement new activities.  The implementation of these directions may well be primarily staff-driven, but eventually, with some mentoring, will be member-driven.  Accountability for the implementation of these directions will again be a partnership between staff and leaders within Bethlehem’s community.  Leaders will hold staff accountable and members will hold our leaders accountable through input, volunteering, elections and budget support. Assessment of what’s accomplished will also come through this partnership, discovering what the Lord blesses, discerning the reasons for any failures and the ways to improve existing programs—initially, this will probably be staff-led.

In a way, these directions aren’t new.  There’s something good in that.  There is still work to be done and our Lord continues to call us into the field.  What will make these directions fresh will be the new people the Lord brings into our “family” to work with us; the new tasks He shows us as we walk together; and, the new places He takes us as we follow His lead.

There’s joy in the journey,

Pastor Jeff Shearier