Pastor’s Corner

The Battle for Home

   his-story-part-2  “Are we there yet?” On a long car trip, how many times do your children ask that same question–over and over…and over? As Israel wandered the wilderness for 40 years, you have to wonder if Moses and Joshua heard that exact same question from God’s people. “Are we there yet?” A lot can change in 40 years. All the people who were slaves in Egypt had died, except for two: Joshua and Caleb.  Even Moses himself had passed away and did not enter into the Promised Land. And while a lot had changed over those 40 years–God had not. The promise He had made to Abraham over 600 years ago was about to turn into

     Now Joshua, Moses’ right-hand man, was Israel’s new leader. The wilderness of disobedience and defeat was behind them, and a new generation camped at Canaan’s edge.  The new generation of Israelites had heard the stories of God’s mighty power as He rescued their ancestors from Egypt.  And they too would experience God’s miracle as God parted the Jordan River so they could enter into the Promised Land.

     In this next section of His Story, we are going to walk with a new generation of God’s people. They too will experience God’s miracles and power as God goes before the people and fights for them. When Israel obeyed, God faithfully delivered her enemies into her hands. But when they failed to trust Him, they missed out on the fulfillment of God’s promises.

     After 40 long years, Israel finally has a place to call home. It was to be the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. The people were to be a holy people, set apart from their pagan neighbors. But failing to follow God and do what He asks, Israel finds that their new neighbors become a toxic influence. The people succumb to the pull of a worldly culture.

     Thus begins a destructive and violent pattern of Israel’s history:

  • Israel turned again and again to the worship of pagan gods
  • God brought divine judgment upon His people
  • The people cried out for God’s help and deliverance
  • God raised up a savior to rescue His people.

Unfortunately, this cycle of sin became a pattern of life in Israel for the next 300 years.

      We see that His Story doesn’t always paint God’s people in a favorable light. The story of God’s people is anything but clean and wholesome. It is marked by deep sin, often with dire consequences. God is never bashful about His intention for His people. And He never tolerates sin. But God also never breaks his covenant with His people. Israel my not have fully understood God’s discipline, but over and over again God brings Israel to their knees–all for the purpose of bringing them back to Himself. Let’s walk together through this next section of His Story:  The Battle for Home.

In His Hands,

Pastor Matt Conrad

Pastor’s Corner


We are Home!

    The mission team from Guatemala returned to the United States late last Saturday.  Before we returned, one of the leaders of Groundwork Guatemala asked us to say what would be different on Monday after we got home—what would we do different, see different because of how God had worked through us on that trip.  This was a wonderful question and helped us all to start thinking about what really mattered.  Our time in Guatemala was not just for those eight days but was in fact a training ground, a beginning to the next chapter in our journey of faith.

    Life happens so fast, with so many expectations and commitments that it isn’t often we get the opportunity to pause and consider how God is leading us.  What is He calling us to, asking us to quit, challenging us to grow, sending us to bless others.  So often our day is pre-scheduled, our month pre-planned, our year dictated by school, sports and work.  The chance to pause and ponder the question “what is God doing here?” or “What does God want me to do with this?” never crosses our mind.

    For those few moments as we sat there and searched for an answer to what Monday would bring I was able to really listen to God.  The answer?  I don’t know.  That is the answer I shared, “I don’t know” I don’t know what it is God wants me to do different except just that very thing.  Stop, ask and listen to Him about where He is leading.  That is what we did all week in Guatemala.  We had a schedule, but the schedule was filled with un hurried time to talk, listen, share and serve others the way God asked us to, not the way we wanted.

    This is what I am bringing home.  This is what I am doing differently.  I am changing some things to make more room for Him to act, to lead, to direct my steps.  Too much of my time is scheduled and too much of it is accomplished out of obligation.  Starting today, less of it is.  Today  I challenged the staff to make more room for God in their day.  Which means less meetings, less structure and more time to listen to God and act on it.  Make a phone call, send an email, write a letter, offer a prayer.  Do what God is asking you to do. 

    This sounds strange at first, and maybe it is the whim of a guy who just got back from a mission trip.  Maybe it is a dream that happened in Guatemala that would never work in the United States.  Or maybe, just maybe doing less and being with and listening to God more is so crazy it just might work. Thank you for you prayers, for your partnership and for listening to God’s promise of hope and life.  Because when the last day comes and everything is revealed, what we will discover is that our relationship with God and our living out our faith with one another is all that ever mattered.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:8-10

Day 4-Gonzalez Park


Upon regaining consciousness (waking up in the morning), we began the day with breakfast just the way we like it (This is one of a few phrases our host Kevin frequently uses) . Then Carlos led us in a wonderful and spiritual devotion. After that, we rode to Guatemala City.

Once we got to Guatemala City, we separated into tres(three) groups for house visits. Our group was Carlos, Kevin, Melissa, and us. Our group was led to the house of Franklin and Marta. After talking and sharing verses, we began to pray. Although we did not understand what was being said, we both understood that the prayer was very powerful. Then Carlos, Franklin, and Marta sang Franklin and Marta’s favorite song together.

Afterwards, we went back to Gonzalez Park, where the faith lessons would be held. We ate lunch together, just the way we like it, then we all bonded with each other before proceeding to play with the niños(children). Melissa talked with her friend’s  sponsor girl Evelin.  I (Jack) played tag, Jill played pattycake, Ryan read books, and I (Nick) talked with children and told them some English  words and phrases they wanted to know.

To begin the faith lesson, we led the children in songs. We then taught them the memory verse, before telling them the bible story. Shoutout to Kandi, who we missed at the lesson today, and who we are glad made it home safely. Next, we passed out a craft-which Erik  named Jill because it previously had no name – and we helped them construct it.

Just before heading back, we visited Lake Amatitlan, which the Guatemalan missionaries wanted us to see so that we could experience the more beautiful side of Guatemala. The ride home was very fun.

Once we got home, we had supper, just the way we like it, and during supper we shared highs and lows for the day. We are all excited for tomorrow; however, it is bittersweet porque(because) it is our last day in Guatemala. After an hour and a half of cheerful banter and mass confusion, we finally post this.

Day 4, from Jack Schmeckpeper and Nick Winkelman,









Buena Vista

fuegoToday our day started bright and early with breakfast from 6-6:30, loaded up in two vans and on the road at 7am.  We had about a two hour drive out of  Guatemala City which has an elevation similar to Denver CO, down to an area just above sea level near the Pacific coast.  We traveled though some breathtaking views past mountains and three volcanos to a small village called Buena Vista, which means Beautiful View.  It was much warmer and extremely humid there compared to Guatemala City.

We unloaded the supplies from the vans which includes our teaching materials, medical supplies that the mission nurse uses to set up a small clinic for the people of the village,  sandwiches, drinks and a month supply of vitamins for the children.  We went for a short walk down the street to visit the village’s school.  The school consisted of four classrooms with kindergarten in one room, first and second, third and fourth, and fifth and sixth grades combined utilizing the remaining three rooms.  The rooms were dark, hot, in poor repair, and most disheartening, there didn’t appear to be any learning occurring, which as we were told, is a common occurrence.

Upon returning to the ministry site, we divided into groups with some of us doing home visits, and myself, Pastor Erik, Jack and Nick going to a nearby soccer field to play soccer with the boys.  It is a very common occurrence here for there not to be any men in the boys lives.  Taking some time to play one of their most beloved games with them really means a lot to them, and shows them God’s love though us. As we walked to the field, the Guatemalan team member that was with us asked if it would be ok if we stopped and visited a home by the field.  Pastor Erik had previously been conflicted whether to go play with us and the  boys, or go do house visits with the others.  He decided on the soccer game, or should I say, God chose for him.  God sent him with the soccer group  and put him on this impromtu home visit.  We visited with a very ill woman named Estrada, who was awaiting surgery. She desperately needed to hear the word of the Lord for healing and encouragement.  Pastor Erik and Nick shared verses with her that brought her to tears. We prayed for relief of her pain and for God’s healing hand to be upon her. After leaving her home we continued on to the soccer field for our game. We all had an absolute blast, and it was a really happy experience for the  Guatemalan boys and for us.

After the game we returned to the ministry site for a quick lunch and then broke into our groups dividing the teens and the younger children.  Andy and Erik were with the youth again.  Kandi, Jill, Nick, Jack, Melissa and myself again worked with the children singing songs, reading a bible story in Spanish, and a fun craft containing their memory verse. Walter had ministered to the adults earlier in the day and went to do another home visit in another town. He was so compelled to leave to immediately upon hearing this persons need, he refused to wait until after he ate lunch to go.  When he returned, his lunch was gone.  Walter told us later that he got an extra sandwich that was left from the ones that the children receive after attending the Faith Lesson.  He said “God gave me a better sandwich” since he traded a peanut butter and jelly for one of his native countries sandwiches.  The Lord shows up in big and small ways here  🙂

Tomorrow we travel about 45 minutes to Gonzalez Park in Amatitlan for our next faith lesson.

Submitted by: Ryan Schmeckpeper

El Rincon

This morning we left Guatemala City and traveled to a rural area known as El Rincon. Upon arrival we visited the home of Marguerite and Carlos. They are friends of the ministry and they allow missionaries to use their bathroom/outhouse (the only one available to us in the area). On my past visits Carlos has been very gregarious in greeting the teams and sharing his faith, but today we found him to be very ill. We gathered around him to pray before he was taken to the hospital to be cared for.

From there we split into two groups to visit homes in El Rincon. My group went to the home of Luis, whom I met on my first visit in 2014 and have remained in touch with since that visit. Luis lives with his mother, sister and niece; his father left many years ago. Luis will turn 19 this coming Saturday. He is currently in the 9th grade, having been unable to attend school for a number of years when he was younger. Luis is the only member of his household who is currently employed. He works full-time in the fields, attending school only on Saturday. He struggles in school sometimes due to the demands of his life, and the poisons he works with in the fields sometimes make him sick or cause injuries to his hands and feet.

After lunch we began our first day of faith lessons. We have prepared lessons for children, teenagers, and adults, and will lead them at each of the four sites we visit throughout the week. Walter and Nivia Ramirez taught the adults; Pastor Erik and I led the lesson for teenagers; and Kandi, Jill, Melissa, Ryan, Jack and Nicholas led the childrens lesson (for about 130 children!).

Tomorrow we leave bright and early and will travel two hours for home visits and faith lessons in Buena Vista, a small settlement in the plains near the Pacific coast. Thank you for your continued prayers as we work alongside the Guatemalan missionaries to build relationships and share the Gospel throughout Guatemala.

Andrew Winkelman

Pastor’s Corner

When tragedy strikes, how can you help? When we see the awful devastation caused by something like Hurricane Matthew, our heart breaks for those affected.  The people of Haiti were still recovering from an earthquake in 2010.  But now a hurricane with 145 mile-per-hour winds strikes – killing hundreds, displacing thousands, destroying homes and causing tremendous floods from 40 inches of rain and 10 foot storm surges.

An LCMS mission coordinator to Haiti shared that many homes, churches, and schools have lost roofs, if not the entire structures themselves. The poorest people in Haiti live in shacks of wood or concrete blocks with tin roofs.  Many people refuse to go to shelters out of fear that the few possessions they do have might be stolen.

Nearly 100% of the crops were lost in Southern Haiti. Many animals have been lost.  Food is already scarce, and some areas report that many people, especially children, have gone without food since last Monday.

One of the biggest needs is access to clean water. There is a priority to get clean water and hygiene items to families as fast as possible.  The World Health Organization is sending a million cholera vaccine doses to Haiti, amid concerns of the rising number of cholera cases.  Waterborne diseases are the first threat to children.

The need is apparent – but how can we help?

God hears the cry of the poor and afflicted. And He responds.

He does so through organizations like Lutheran Church Charities (LCC). God sends His people who become His eyes, arms, and feet to bring help.  Lutheran Church Charities, in partnership with the Lutheran Church in Haiti, is raising support to be handed out through our churches in Haiti. But LCC needs your partnership.  Tim Hetzner of LCC has already headed off to Haiti to deliver financial aid and access further needs to help the people of Haiti.  Would you like to help make a difference?  You can do so through LCC.

You can help by praying for God’s grace and care to the people of Haiti. You can help by donating to the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund through LCC. You can help by sharing this need with as many people as you can.

May your prayers and support bring Mercy, Compassion, Presence, and Proclamation of Jesus to those suffering in Haiti.

Pastor Matt Conrad

Humble and Kind

621d13fc8300929eaf9b50b375446838Hola! Beinvenidos de Guatemala! Today we have experienced emotion overload.

Our morning started with meeting the amazing Guatemalan missionaries who we will be serving along side us this week. They are so very grateful that we are here to help teach their people about the love of Jesus Christ. We enjoyed our morning devotion time together with them and then shortly after we hit the streets. First, we went to meet Jorge, a Boston native who came to Guatemala to help young boys get off the streets, out of gangs, and share the love of Jesus with them.  He came after reading an article in 1987  in the Boston Globe about a boy named Giovanni who was killed in the streets.

Jorges establishment, Only a Child, is a shelter for these boys where he cares for them, protects them, and teaches them the trade of wood carving. It was truly a blessing to meet these young men, hear their stories, and see their handiwork.

We then took off to visit the cemetary, which is more of a mosoleum. As we drove toward the back of the cemetary we started to see that quite a few of the graves had been tampered with, but we kept driving. We reached the end of the cemetary and we got out to look around a bit. Instantly, the foul smell turned our stomachs and we were surrounded by vultures swarming around our heads.  We walked a few more steps and found that we were at the top of a pit. As our eyes started to focus in a bit this place, steps away from the cemetary, was called the dump, we saw garbage trucks driving in and dumping the trash from the city there. No sooner than the trucks could dump and go, did we see people waiting to pick through it to find their next meal. Our hearts were aching… we felt the Holy Spirit led us to join hands and pray. Pray for them, for us, for the mission at hand.

We came home for lunch and  went right back out again for our first of many home visits for the week. We broke up into three groups so our experiences vary during this time but we all had the opportunity to meet the people, in their homes, and share the love of Jesus with them. The people were so grateful for this and many asked us to return. I encourage you to ask one of us, upon our return, about these visits. They are truly powerful and worth sharing.

We are home now to eat and prepare for our first teaching lesson tomorrow. Please continue to keep us and the people of Guatemala in your prayers.

Kandi Alfredson

Our Sunday in Guatemala

praise-dance-1Our first full day in Guatemala was more than I can process in a blog, however at 11:35pm I will try to walk you through a small but big piece of this beautiful day.

We had the priviledge of attending a church service this morning, unlike any I have ever attended. Thankfully, much of the service was graciously translated for me. Even not understanding the language, it was a powerful and unforgettable service. There was beautiful music and dancing, that extended out to the entire congregation. People were praying simultaneously aloud. Every person celebrated their worship time together, and yet everyone expressed their worship very differently. There was no right or wrong way, only the sincere desire to love and praise our Heavenly Father. I was struck by the intencity of the intimacy displayed, and honestly longed for the the freedom that this way of worshiping together fostered.

It was explained that Guatemala time is very different. In Guatemala, a relationship takes presidence over the clock. There is no predetermined time when meetings begin or end. The meeting ends when it is finished, and not a minute before.  People and relationships matter everywhere, and I find it very refreshing that here, time to develop relationships is greatly valued.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers. Please pray that we will be a blessing to everyone that we meet. We are so blessed to be here.



After a few delays we have arrived in Guatemala!  We thank you for all the prayers and covet them greatly as we have already sensed that what God says in Ephesians 6:12 is true!  Many of us on the trip have circumstances back home that could use our attention.  From normal family routine all the way to family crisis. Please continue to inteced on our behalf that God would keep His promises and provide for all His people in our times of need.

Saturday started at 7:30am with prayer and an extra early departure because the Miami airport had been closed from Hurricane Matthew.  Security and customs went great but the delays were with departures and arrivals.

On the trip from Miami to Guatelmala we left an hour later than scheduled.  Early in the flight a request came for help as another passenger was having health troubles.  One of our own, Ryan is a retired firefighter and went forward to offer assistance and helped to stabilize the passenger inflight. The pilot must have sensed some urgency as we had left an hour late but only arrived 20 minutes later than our scheduled arrival!  This also meant we arrived in Guatemala before we left Miami!  You read that right, there is a two hour time difference and the flight took less than two hours.  This was lots of fun to think about as we waited for the plane to unload.

We eventually were able to meet our amazing hosts, Kevin, Ginny and Manuel as they picked us up at the airport.  It was dark outside so we could not see the mountains or any other terrain. Most suprising was the presence of familiar sights like Shell, Domino pizza, McDonalds and others.

This morning it was easy to tell we were some place new.  4 vocanoes are visible from the flat roof of the house, two are actively erupting right now! music from the streets, architecture and the voices of the people passing by and so much more.

After an orientation to the house: how not to dispose of toilet paper, the right and wrong ways to use water, how to not draw attention to the gringos in the house, etc, we held a devotion, prayer and settled in for the night.

Today is a day of rest.  We will go to worship this morning, recover from traveling and put some finishing touches on our lessons for the week.

Each day someone from the team will post a blog entry so stay tuned here!  You can also follow us in picture format on the Facebook page for Groundwork Guatemala.  Also, please be patient and gracious to all of us posting since the computer and the keyboard are all set to spanish!  This makes it difficult to impossible to find all the grammatical punctuations and such we are used to using 🙂

Blessings in Christ!

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Ministry Support Team

As autumn rolls around, the leaves change and there is a crispness to the air. So, too, around here in the fall things seem to change and crispness sets in as we make our march through the busy season of the school/ministry year.  I wanted to highlight a few of those changes.  You are probably aware of some and others will be new!

Hillary Weis – Hillary started as a new 3 and 4 year old preschool teacher with us this fall.  Her addition is both a blessing and exciting as it happened because our preschool continues to grow!

Kayla Olson – This is Kayla’s first fall with us as an intern.  She is a student at Concordia University Chicago in the Director of Christian Education (DCE) program.  Our first weekend of Children’s Ministry this fall saw our participation nearly double over last year!  What a blessing and a challenge.

Regarding Kayla, we will be having information meetings regarding her ongoing involvement at Cross.  Upon graduation in  December/January, we would like to have Kayla remain on the ministry team.  This requires the congregation’s prayerful discernment and approval.  The Governance Board will hold information meetings the weekend of October 15-16.  They will be held in the food court on Saturday at 6 PM and between the services on Sunday at 8:45 AM and 10:15 AM.  Kayla would serve as the Coordinator of Children’s Ministry and Congregational Assimilation where she would support children and their families, as well as support all newer people in the congregation find their place in the Body of Christ here at Cross.

Mary Pat Bretthauer – Mary Pat has launched into her first fall as the Interim Coordinator of Care Ministries.  We are very pleased to have her leading the way in caring for those that are often forgotten:  the elderly, the grieving, the poor, the hungry, the lonely, the homebound.  This is a powerful and rewarding ministry to be a part of.  Please consider volunteering as the needs in the community far outpace our abilities to provide complete care.

Susan Thanepohn – Susan is our newest addition to the ministry support team.  She serves as our church secretary alongside Diane Andermann.  Susan serves primarily on Mondays and Tuesdays, but as a team member you may see her in many different places and times!  Susan will serve in a vacancy created by Elizabeth Koenig, whom we will certainly miss.  Susan brings a very rich background in community service along with experience in marketing, grant writing, administration, and social media.  We are very excited to welcome Susan to the team!

This new team will need to work together and grow together with each of us as we grow as a Body of Christ!

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  Ephesians 4:11-13