Ministries and non-profits in the Indiana District are developing creative strategies to continue serving others during the current COVID crisis. Here are three ministry organizations who altered their programs in order to meet ongoing needs in the midst of the pandemic.
Digital VBS at Immanuel
At Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seymour, a digital vacation bible school was planned after cancelling their summer VBS. They decided to take their program, Rainforest Explorers, and record it to video so families could still participate from their homes. Since the church already had a YouTube account, they knew it would be an easy way to provide families with a summer resource. The digital version of their VBS program includes their opening session, craft, snack, and lessons by pastors from three Lutheran congregations in the area (Zion, Redeemer and Immanuel).
“We wanted to provide something accessible all summer long that they could share with other people,” said Patti Miller, Immanuel’s children’s ministry director.
The VBS had 150 people sign up for the digital event. Since families could watch it whenever they wanted, it gave them the flexibility to participate whenever it suited their schedule.
Their digital VBS can be watched here: http://immanuelseymour.com/grow/our-digital-vbs/
Health Fair and Diaper Giveaway
The Shepherd’s Hand Community Outreach Center in Fort Wayne had planned to do a health faith and diaper giveaway in March, but with the current health crisis had to cancel the event.
Instead, they planned for a drive-through fair on May 9 offering health information and free diapers. Organizations who were planning on attending the original event provided printed information on their services. Volunteers delivered a packet of health materials and diapers to each car, while collecting contact information for The Shepherd’s Hand Community Outreach Center.
Deaconess Rachel Jaseph, director of The Shepherd’s Hand Community Outreach Center, said they served 148 families and distributed at least 5,920 diapers in a 3 hour period. They also gave away 73 packages of baby wipes and 20 Bible story books in Spanish and Burmese.
The Lutheran non-profit center is working to develop a diaper bank so they can offer these types of events throughout the year. Lutheran congregations can support this effort through donations, volunteering, or by giving diapers to their next diaper drive. Local churches are also welcome to contact the non-profit if they have a member family in need of diapers.
To find out more about their ministry, go to shepherdshandfw.org.
Mobile Food Pantry
The Lutheran Community Outreach Center (LCOC) Food Pantry across from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Evansville had to rethink how to keep their food pantry running in the midst of the stay-at-home order.
The Tri-State Food Bank in Evansville, who is a supplier for local charities and organizations feeding the hungry, suggested transitioning to a mobile food bank. Instead of people selecting their food inside, now volunteers pack items for them, and people pick up their food through a coordinated drive-through effort.
Volunteers arrive early and fill a standardized box of food with grocery items including pasta, peanut butter, canned meat, cereal, canned goods, and frozen meat. “We maintain minimal contact using gloves and masks. We’re making sure we’re doing everything we can to keep things safe,” said Pastor Matthew Schilling, associate pastor at St. Paul’s.
The LCOC Food Pantry is one of the larger food distribution sites in the area, located in an impoverished area that is considered a food desert. Although the food pantry is located in the LCOC building across the street from St. Paul’s, there are a number of volunteers from area Lutheran congregations who participate in this joint effort to get food in the hands of those who need it most.
“We’re seeing people who haven’t utilized the food pantry before,” noted Pastor Schilling. “That’s why it’s been important to have discussions on how to continue this, especially this fall and winter when the weather changes.”
He also noted that many of their previous volunteers fall into the at-risk category for COVID, so they’ve had to recruit younger volunteers like college students.
Even with all the changes, the LCOC Food Pantry has learned to adapt so they can continue meeting a need in the community by coming together to serve their neighbors.
“This is truly a Lutheran community reaching out to our neighborhood as a whole,” added Pastor Schilling.