Mercy Moment

Moving Families Forward

Trinity Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Neb., welcomes and cares for local families through a pro-life ministry called Forward.

“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat’” (Matt. 14:13–16).

Every Monday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., families with young children come to an early 20th-century house in downtown Lincoln, Neb. The building houses Forward, a pro-life ministry of nearby Trinity Lutheran Church. The ministry’s name is a play on the types of items it provides: food, wipes and diapers.

The Rev. Dan Wing, pastor of Trinity, and several members started Forward in 2021. Prior to that, Lincoln Right to Life operated a ministry called Diaper Heaven on the property. The pandemic caused several starts and stops for Diaper Heaven, and the lockdowns made it difficult to keep elderly volunteers. When Trinity took over the ministry, the congregation asked Director of Christian Outreach Bethany Mrosko to give it some of her time and attention.

Bethany Mrosko, director of Christian outreach at Trinity Lutheran Church, Lincoln, Neb., plays with children at Forward.

“We really just want people to feel like it’s a space where they’re welcomed and where they’re loved. … And then if they have questions [or] are looking for a church, they know that we’re here,” Mrosko said.

Forward exists to care for children outside of the womb. An image depicting Jesus Christ hangs on the wall adjacent to where families browse for donated items. Every week, volunteers give out diapers with a printed invitation to worship at Trinity.

Brandy and Martin McManaman Sr. visit Forward with children Luka and Melody on Jan. 9, 2023.

“It’s been a very big blessing not only for myself and my kids but also for my family and faith,” said mother Jennifer Luna. She collected her diapers while her son, Jeremiah, played in the toy kitchen of the home’s living room area.

Wing likens the ministry to Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew 14. He knows that God will provide. The surrounding neighborhoods are home to many immigrant families. Although a language barrier exists between some of the families and the volunteers at Forward, Wing said they are able to find ways to share the Gospel.

Jennifer Luna takes son Jeremiah’s hand as they leave with a bag of diapers. Below: A mother carries out donated diapers, wipes and a Bible.

Margaret Bitz, a longtime administrative assistant at Trinity and a mainstay volunteer and organizer at Forward, lovingly greets and registers mothers at the door and prays with them. Some mothers later call her for advice. “One mother,” said Bitz, “asked me one day, ‘Can you be my grandmother?’” Bitz is thankful for God’s providing hand, especially when the ministry is low on resources and mothers look to her for help.

Recently, this provision came through a grant awarded by LCMS Life Ministry through the Synod’s 1 John 3 Initiative Million Dollar Life Match, which is providing $1 million in matching grants to LCMS congregations involved in pro-life efforts.

In just four hours on Jan. 9, volunteers gave out 9,230 diapers and served 110 families — including seven families that came for the first time. In every interaction, volunteers seek to move families forward by pointing them to the love and forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ.

Trinity member and volunteer Marcia Beck smiles as a mother and her children leave.

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