Essential Connections

On the night of December 10, 2021, Pastor Colleen Winkler’s daughter and son-in-law told her it was time to move to the basement due to a tornado warning. Colleen was trying to lead her tired husband, who had just been diagnosed that day with Covid-19, downstairs when she noticed the patio doors rattling back and forth. She now wonders if that might have been the time the tornado was passing through.


The family sat together in the basement waiting out the storm. While the others were watching news about the weather, Pastor Colleen was constantly connecting through texts with the members of her congregation, St. Matthew by the Lake Lutheran Church in Benton, KY, to check on how all of them were doing. The news they shared with one another was that while most families were doing ok, a few had been trapped in their homes by debris. She got updates from a member whose home had been destroyed and whose son-in-law was traveling to get to them from Paducah, stopping along the way to cut the branches and tree limbs that blocked the road. 


The next day, Saturday, there was some debate about whether to have church on Sunday, since Colleen had been exposed to Covid and couldn’t preach, and so many people’s lives had been disrupted. Colleen put a stop to those conversations. While she hated not being able to gather with them, she said, “That (canceling church services) is the last thing we need to do. We need to get people together.”


Pastor Colleen and her congregation didn’t focus on looking inward. They reached out to see how they could help in the community and Pastor Colleen became involved in organizing and helping recruit volunteers for wrapping stations for Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s Christmas gifts for tornado victims. 


Establishing and maintaining connections continued to be a priority for Pastor Colleen and St. Matthew by the Lake church members. One connection led to another. A contact Pastor Colleen met at the Christmas wrapping station at Kentucky Dam reached out to her and asked if their church would provide a meal there one day a week. In January, St. Matthew by the Lake began that ministry, sponsored by a financial donation from St. Matthew, Paducah. Meals were cooked at St. Matthew by the Lake, then taken to Kentucky Dam to feed many people, including Red Cross volunteers and tornado survivors. A Red Cross worker then asked Pastor Colleen if they could set up a station at St. Matthew by the Lake to help people who had experienced major home damage. On Ash Wednesday and the day before they made their church, computers, and volunteer resource people available to help survivors apply for available financial resources.


Volunteers who Pastor Colleen recruited for these service opportunities made comments saying how glad they were that she had asked them. “It was something people wanted to do- to be the hands and feet of Jesus to help these people,” Pastor Colleen noted.


IN-KY Synod Disaster Response, in collaboration and cooperation with Lutheran Disaster Response, is working to help with the long-term recovery efforts following this deadly tornado in Kentucky. Like Pastor Colleen and the members of St. Matthew by the Lake Lutheran Church, your congregations and faith communities have a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus. This year’s synod assembly offerings will go to IN-KY Disaster Response to help Kentucky tornado victims through the long-term recovery process and help IN-KY Synod be ready to respond to unexpected disasters in the future.


To donate as a part of your faith community or as an individual, please click the button below. Select Synod Assembly Offering from the drop-down “Give To:” box and put your faith community (congregation) name in the Note/memo section.


Synod Assembly Offering for IN-KY Disaster Response


Hannah Limbong, a member of Christ Lutheran Church in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, is musical, leads well, has a willing spirit, and an infectious smile. As a first-year student in high school, Hannah was feeling a bit lost and wasn’t really sure about her purpose in life. She was searching.

Hannah became friends with Maddie Engelau through synod youth ministry events. Maddie attended the ELCA Youth Leadership Summit, and afterward, she shared with Hannah how transformative the experience was for her. Maddie shared that it strengthened her faith and got her more involved in the church.

When Pastor Dan Fugate invited Hannah as one of the two synod participants to the upcoming Summit, she was open to the experience and accepted the invitation because of what Maddie had shared with her. However, Hannah didn’t have any expectations that she would have the same experience as Maddie.

“Although it sounds like a cliché,” Hannah said, “attending the Summit really was life-changing. I felt the presence of God and how God is working through us and through our church. I’ve always been involved in our congregation, but never on this scale. I wasn’t aware of all the ways the ELCA is actively responding to things that are happening in the world.”

Hannah says seeing youth lead the Summit inspired her to know that she, too, could be a leader in the church. As a result of her experience at the Summit, Hannah applied to be part of the ELCA Youth Core Leadership Team, a group of high school leaders who plan each year’s Summit. Hannah was chosen to be part of the team for two years. “Being part of the Core Leadership Team changed the trajectory of my high school career and of my life really.” Hannah added, “Through this service, I learned a lot about myself. I learned what it means to be a servant leader.”

Hannah, now a senior in high school, says she has grown as a person and has picked up skills that will benefit her throughout her entire life. Hannah was elected at the 2021 IK Synod Assembly as a voting member to the 2022 Churchwide Assembly. “I can’t form the words to express how grateful I am for the experiences I have had. I am amazed at God’s miraculous work in small ways at the synod level, national level, and global level. I am grateful that in the ELCA youth are being listened to.”

Your gifts to the Indiana-Kentucky Synod make it possible for Hannah and other young people to participate in the ELCA Youth Leadership Summit as well as our Synod’s Youth Leadership Summit and other synodical youth ministries. As Hannah said, investing in young people can change the trajectory of their lives. Thank you for your generosity in making it possible to make a difference in the lives of young people in the Indiana-Kentucky Synod.

Camp Connections

Kelli Smith has been deeply involved in her congregation, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Muncie, Indiana, all her life. Her experiences at camp – Lutheran Hills, Lutherwald, and Lake Luther, all part of Lutheran Outdoor Ministries, Indiana-Kentucky (LOMIK) – form a centerpiece of her faith journey. Kelli cannot remember a time before camp. “My first memories are of being at Lutheran Hills with my congregation for Family Camp on Memorial Day and Labor Day.” She later went to summer camp with friends who became lifelong.

While Kelli felt connected to her church and camp, she didn’t realize how much deeper her relationship with God could go until she served on summer staff. At LOMIK, the most reflective event each week is “Christwalk”- a walking drama in which the camp staff act out major events in Christ’s life. Kelli’s first time participating in the drama touched her deeply. “There’s something innately powerful about acting out the stories of Christ’s life with people you already love … it connects the story to your heart.” She also remembers time spent around the campfires each evening. “The peaceful moments atthe campfires were sacred moments. We experienced true fellowship with each other.”

Kelli’s experiences at camp had a profound impact on her life. Two of her closest friends are camp friends. They each lost a parent too young in life, and they leaned on each other the way camp taught them to do. Camp is a shared experience for her family. Her mother and aunts attended Lutherwald, Kelli’s husband attended a different church camp when he was young, and now their own children are enjoying camp.

Kelli is passionate about camp to this day. “Honestly,” she says, “camp and the connections we made at camp are what have kept me and my family in the church.” Your gifts of Mission Support to the Indiana-Kentucky Synod help support our three LOMIK Camps, making life-changing faith experiences possible for our youth throughout Indiana and Kentucky. Thank you for your generous support of the IK Synod and our camps!

By Pastor Jerry O’Neal

Walking the Neighborhood

Deacon Barb Limbach recalls that when their church, Resurrection Lutheran in Ft. Wayne, IN, first moved to their current location, they were “in the middle of a cornfield.” The area was hit by rapid growth, and now within a mile radius of the church’s new location around 900 new homes are expected to be built.  In their new space, the church created a 5-acre park intended as a magnet for community members. Among other things, the space includes fitness stations, music stations, a butterfly garden, playground, gazebo, and a firepit.

In the fall of 2022, Resurrection Lutheran participated in Stewardship for all Seasons, and according to Deacon Barb, the mission and vision goals generated as a result were centered in evangelism and stewardship. Neighbors weren’t accessing the new park frequently, and that was a key element in their plan to reach out to the community.

To raise awareness of the park, the congregation organized a “Free Frozen Fun” event in September of 2021. Barb recalled a conversation with Pastor Nancy Nyland about the best way to interact with all those new neighbors and shared Pastor Nancy’s suggestion suggested that the members of Resurrection “walk the neighborhood” to advertise the event and meet neighbors in person. Members did walk the neighborhood, talked to 27 neighbors, passed out flyers, and mailed information about the event. The event, with frozen treats, a bounce house, and all the park amenities, drew more than 85 people- 27 members, and over 60 people from the neighborhood.

The next event was a tree event with free seedling distribution and a planting demonstration by Indiana Trees. Advertising again included walking the neighborhood, passing out flyers, and a mailing. Only about 20 members from the congregation and 3 families from the neighborhood attended this time due to bad weather, but the trees were heeled-in (temporarily planted and preserved) and the congregation will distribute the tree seedlings to neighbors in the community this spring.

Barb says the change that happened within their congregation was that members are becoming more loving, accepting, and aware of their neighbors. They have become more intentional in planning events that include people from their church neighborhood. Deacon Barb identifies her initial conversation with Nancy Nyland, INKY Synod Director of Evangelism, as “the big thing that triggered our engagement with the neighbors”.

Stewardship isn’t only about collecting dollars. Stewardship is about building relationships. Thanks to your mission support, IN-KY Synod is able to make the Stewardship for All Seasons program available to congregations at a reduced cost so participating congregations can reach out and build connections. To find out more about Stewardship for All Seasons, contact Pastor Nancy Nyland.

by Susie Swenson

A Glimpse

Candice Hinkle and her husband, Jeremy, were not actively involved at Faith Lutheran Church south of Logansport, Indiana. Then Pastor Marissa Harrison invited them to a meeting to learn about the IK Synod Connect Transformational Ministry process for congregations. Candice agreed to attend. When Pastor Nancy Nyland, Director for Evangelical Mission in the IK Synod, explained the congregational life cycle, Candice was filled with the Holy Spirit.
“I came to the realization that if our congregation didn’t do something we were going to die,” Candice shared. Faith Lutheran decided to participate in the Connect process. Pastor Marissa invited Candice to be the leader of the Connect Team. “Pastor Marissa recognized gifts within me,” Candice shared. “One of them was the gift of bridge-building.”
Candice became the leader of Faith Lutheran’s Connect Team and with the team began to discover the Holy Spirit at work among them. During Connect training, Candice began to discern a call to ministry. “Waking up during the night,” she shared, “I got down on my knees and heard God say, ‘The plans I have for you are beyond what you can imagine.’
Candice is thankful that she discerned a call to ministry through Connect. “Before Connect, God was missing in my life. I was not seeing and really diving into scripture. God was always there, but I didn’t recognize that and give God the glory. Now I realize that God can use even the mundane of your life. God can use you in moments when you don’t even realize that God is using you. The mystery, the hope, the mind-blowing – God is so much bigger than I could ever think. This is so exciting to me. The Spirit is at work, and I get a glimpse and I get so excited!”
Candice is currently serving her internship year at Our Savior Lutheran and the Purdue Campus Ministry in West Lafayette, Indiana. “There are 40,000 people on campus, and I could have conversations with all of these people. I want to talk to everyone to share God’s love and care.”
Thanks to generous gifts of Mission Support to the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, the Connect Transformational Ministry process was available to congregations throughout the synod. The lives of people like Candice and congregations like Faith were transformed through this process. Continued gifts of Mission Support, help support the newly created E-Connect (Ecumenical-Connect) process that transforms individuals and congregations in four denominations across Indiana and Kentucky. Thank you for your generosity and partnership in ministry.
by Pastor Nancy Nyland