In the Good Shepherd’s Fold
At The Shepherd’s Hand Community Outreach Center in Fort Wayne, Ind., Lutherans reach out to the community with human care and the Gospel.
God, the Good Shepherd, holds us in the palm of His hand. In His love, He forgives our sins and provides for our needs. The Shepherd’s Hand in Fort Wayne, Ind., seeks to reflect God’s love by serving those in the community, providing for physical needs and witnessing to the love of God in Christ.
On a Saturday in late February, Deaconess Rachel Jaseph, founding executive director of The Shepherd’s Hand Community Outreach Center, stepped out into the finger-tingling cold and crunched through the packed snow holding a large, handwritten sign that read “free diapers.”
A motorist passing by saw Jaseph and pulled over. After talking with her for a moment, he backed up and parked at the outreach center, situated southeast of downtown Fort Wayne and across the street from Shepherd of the City Lutheran Church.
On this day, The Shepherd’s Hand was hosting its third Family Health Fair and Diaper Giveaway. Inside the center, donated diapers formed a pile several feet tall, and yellow smiley face balloons bounced on strings at the tables of community partners who have come alongside the ministry to promote secular health resources in the city. Masked volunteers were on hand to usher recipients through the center as they picked up diapers and different resources set out on socially distanced tables.
The Shepherd’s Hand ministry points people to Jesus Christ in this often-overlooked urban neighborhood of Fort Wayne. Shepherd in the City Lutheran Church started laying the groundwork for the ministry in 2011 with assistance from donors, The Lutheran Foundation serving northeast Indiana, the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Other LCMS congregations now walk together by providing volunteers and financial assistance. It is a model of ministry that corrals resources to bring people to Word and Sacrament ministries at Shepherd of the City and surrounding LCMS congregations.
“The work here directly connects people to the Gospel because at all of our events we definitely begin and end with prayer, but we also invite people to join us for worship at Shepherd of the City or at any other of our partner congregations as well,” Jaseph said.
It wasn’t long before the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Pulse, Shepherd of the City vacancy pastor and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, professor, dropped in with Vicar Jason Zoske to help with the event. They came ready to talk and offer prayer, if desired, with recipients working their way through the health fair.
The Rev. Dr. Steven D. Schave, director of Urban & Inner-City Mission and Church Planting for the LCMS Office of National Mission, has been involved and seen the work of The Shepherd’s Hand since its beginning. “What a joy it has been to see this harmony of God’s mercy along with a strong Christian witness. They have maintained a great example of how human care helps to empower communities, while still holding firm to their Lutheran identity, through our theology of the cross and sanctity for human life,” he said. “We have been proud to come alongside them to help support their work in reaching out to the least of these and welcoming them into the life of the church.”
Before lunch, attendee Adriana Aguilera took a seat for the upcoming choking prevention workshop led by Deaconess Tiffany Manor, director of LCMS Life Ministry. Aguilera watched as Manor used two firm fingers on a mannequin to demonstrate how to clear the airway of an infant. Manor shared with participants that God’s creation and design of the body allows people to care for one another because He loves and cares for all humankind. Christ-centered education like this on health and other topics is a collaborative effort to increase knowledge and skills to better support the needs of families in the Fort Wayne community.
“LCMS Life Ministry is really encouraged to work with partners and our Recognized Service Organizations like The Shepherd’s Hand to holistically care for people in body and soul throughout their lives, from conception to natural death,” Manor said. “Our Lord Jesus Christ cared for people in both body and soul during His earthly ministry with love and compassion, and so we care for one another because we’re Christ’s people.”
The Shepherd’s Hand is a new LCMS Recognized Service Organization (RSO), which is a ministry that walks in harmony with the doctrine and practice of the LCMS.
“We see the benefit of being aligned with the LCMS so that we can share the Gospel of Christ with others who also believe in Word and Sacrament ministry as well as being able to work together for the good of the kingdom,” said Deaconess Kimberly Trombley, the organization’s new executive director. “We know that we have more strength when we’re working together. … As an RSO, we have been blessed and fortunate to not only be networked with other RSOs, but also it helps us to say, this is who we are, this is our confession, and this informs our partnerships, informs the way we walk, and informs the ministry that we do every day.”
Throughout the course of the event, nearly 4,500 diapers were distributed to the 70 or so people who came through the outreach center, one of whom was Roshawn. She isn’t a newcomer to The Shepherd’s Hand. She previously visited for a Trunk or Treat event and at Thanksgiving.
“This place is really helpful to me,” Roshawn said. She helps care for family members and relies on the ministry in her efforts to assist others who aren’t able to visit on their own.
Repeat contacts like this are what Trombley has in mind for connecting people to the Gospel: “When we are connecting with someone, we’re sharing the love of Christ with them with a ‘hello,’ and that is a door opener to bring them into this space, but then beyond that, it is that relationship that develops that is our hope and prayer that will lead to Word and Sacrament.”
- Learn more about LCMS Recognized Service Organizations and available resources
- Visit The Shepherd’s Hand in Fort Wayne
Pray with Us
Heavenly Father, You so love this world that You sent Your Son to be our Good Shepherd. So bid Your church to love our neighbor and to reflect Your grace and mercy as we serve. Strengthen those who perform acts of mercy and service to those in need in their communities. Especially be with The Shepherd’s Hand and other RSOs as they point people to Christ in their interactions. Draw all people to hear Your Word and to receive the Sacraments according to Your will. In Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, we pray. Amen.
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Erik M. Lunsford
Managing photojournalist for LCMS Communications.