story submitted by Pamela Schuetz, Shepherd of the Hills, Clermont
On an oppressively hot, but sunny day, the members of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church (SOTH) in Clermont, Florida, gathered together for worship, enjoyed a bite of lunch together and ventured out into the community for service together. Donned in their yellow T-shirts, 55 people from the church, who had previously signed up for various age-appropriate service projects, either stayed at the church or converged upon four cities in Central Florida: Clermont, Tavares, Groveland and Kissimmee. No matter where they went, it was quite clear that “God had a hand” in “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday!
Pastor Dennis Schmidt and his wife, Rita, began their journey at the Clermont Police Station to deliver homemade chocolate chip cookies and a thank you card. After a nice visit with the police officers, they returned to the church and Pastor told us those policemen wolfed down those cookies so fast that they thought they’d come back to see if there were any cookies left to supplement the officers’ original allotment. Unfortunately, all the cookies were accounted for, so Pastor “suggested” we make more cookies next year. Other homemade cookies and cards were delivered to the four fire stations in Clermont by two other groups of people from the church. While on the subject of cookies, one group of ladies were our “bakers” and another group of ladies (and one man) were our cookie “baggers” and “bag labelers.” Occasionally, a stray cookie ended up in someone’s tummy!
Besides the first responders, visits were made to four retirement centers in Clermont with additional cookie deliveries. At one center, two members called BINGO for the residents. Much to their chagrin, they found out rather quickly that the residents take their BINGO quite seriously. No joking around! “Call those numbers out faster!!” However, one of the residents donated his $11 winnings to the church which will go to the Bahamas Disaster Fund. At another center, the church’s choir entertained the residents with church hymns and old time sing-along tunes, such as You are my Sunshine, very fitting for Florida!
Our four-legged friends were not forgotten during our service day. Two groups of members volunteered at animal shelters in Tavares and Groveland. In addition, the Kuropkat family of five had a delightful day at DreamCatchers Horse Ranch and Rescue. Eventually–after feeding and petting cats, horses and dogs–they got around to doing some chores around the ranch. The owner, June Edralin, was completely enchanted with the three boys who loved everything about the ranch and worked hard in spite of the extreme temperatures.
Other service projects included one of our members making a blanket and delivering it to a homeless shelter. Nine members headed over to the Faith Neighborhood Center and gave the pantry a well-needed deep cleaning. Trish was so pleased to receive such a large group to help her out. FNC is one of the outreach programs that the church supports. Another service project involved a couple who sponsored an emergency food drive called the Blue Bag Project on behalf of New Beginnings of Central Florida. The SOTH congregation stepped up to the task and brought in 55 bags of food for the homeless! At Give Kids the World in Kissimmee, the Faraci family and four teenage friends were quite moved by the families who were at the resort free of charge because their child was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Heather was the train’s engineer and she shared that when she blew the train whistle, the children squealed with delight and it did her heart good.
Back at the church, a group of ladies wrote thinking of you and get well cards for the members on the prayer list. Also, a couple stayed behind to work on a fence that required some repairs. Finally, two of the teenagers put up the fall sign, announcing that the church was returning to a two service schedule.
After hearing all the great stories of the day and reflecting upon the theme of the day, one can arrive at the realization that there is nothing more fulfilling in life than the service our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, taught us to do. At Shepherd of the Hills, an Outreach Team has been formed and the plan is to lead the congregation into service, not only in the nearby communities, but including the world. In closing, Nelson Mandela once said, “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.” What a fitting quote for this day of service! Thanks to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who followed the Holy Spirit’s calling and created a day of service for all Lutherans across America: “God’s work. Our hands.”