From the President
Dear Auxiliary Friends and Donors,
I am excited to share with you about the Auxiliary’s Governing Board meeting held in Denver in July, 2022. Your board is a wonderful group of Christian men and women with great concern “for the least of the brothers” as shared by Christ in Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.”
The board was blessed to have the President and CEO of AbleLight, Keith Jones, join us on Wednesday morning. Keith shared the mission of AbleLight as a Christian mercy mission to support all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Christian love, example, and good works. AbleLight has hired Shelley Bobb as the new Vice President of Faith Integration (VPFI). She comes to AbleLight from Ascension Health Care (a Catholic organization) where she held a similar role. Shelley Bobb will start her job with AbleLight on August 31, 2022.
The Governing Board decided to keep the Bethesda Auxiliary active and operational. The board members are excited to begin work with the new VPFI, Shelley Bobb. Religious life and opportunities for the people served by AbleLight to attend worship services of their choice and to have Bible study and prayer in their homes is a top priority. I am looking forward to hearing from Shelley after she becomes acquainted with her new position.
On Thursday morning, the Governing Board welcomed AbleLight employees Chad Wietrick (Senior Director of Operations), Allisha Vargas (Regional Shared Living Coordinator in Colorado), and Cathy Bradbury (Area Director for Employment, Day Program and Apartments in Colorado). John O. and John V. also joined as persons served by AbleLight’s host homes. The two Johns are good friends and were great fun to have at the meeting. The group joined us for lunch before heading back to previous engagements. Thank you very much to Chad, Allisha, Cathy, John O., and John V. for spending some great quality time with us.
Scholarships for the 2023-2024 school year will again be available for upper class college and seminary students who are planning a career in a disability related field. A committee has been formed to look over the application forms and possibly establish a different time frame for application. Please stay tuned!
Congratulations and best wishes to the Scholarship winners for the 2022-2023 school year: Rev. Paul Ziegler, Lakewood, WA, is studying clinical counseling for physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities at Concordia University, Irvine, CA; Andrew Krueger, Findaly, OH, is studying pastoral ministry (with emphasis on disability ministry) at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, WI; and Kaylee Mattek, Greenville, WI, is studying elementary and special education at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, WI.
I also wish to congratulate the Cross and Bell recipients for 2022 nominated by Terry Putman, President of the Oregon Unit: Gayle Dahlberg, Joyce Twiss, Shirl and Dixie Thamert, and Joyce McCullough. These recipients were nominated for their longtime service and passion for the work of Bethesda Auxiliary. I am grateful to God for their blessings of time and talent to the Auxiliary.
Recording Secretary, Diane Simon, and Financial Secretary, Barbara Schneidenbach were given a unanimous ballot by the Governing Board to continue in their offices for another term.
The name of the Auxiliary will remain Bethesda Lutheran Communities Auxiliary. Please continue to make your checks payable to the Auxiliary and mail to your unit financial secretary or to the board financial secretary, Barbara Schneidenbach. Prayers are very welcome for the people served by AbleLight and their caregivers (staff and direct support professionals) as they work together each day; for the Bethesda Executive Team that their decisions will be reflective of God’s love and mercy; and for the Bethesda Auxiliary as they seek to do God’s will and share their love and concern with persons with I/DD.
Reaching forward in faith and serving Christ in love,
Gail Nicolaus, President
From our Pastoral Counselor: Pastor Martin Koeller
“Can Phil ever take communion?”
“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:15-17 ESV
When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” John 10:4 ESV
“Can Phil ever take communion?” In 1979, when my wife Linda and I arrived at our first church out of seminary, a devout family had a very serious question for us. They had a son with I/DD named Phil. “Could he ever be able to understand Holy Communion sufficient enough to commune with the rest of the family?” That question started Linda’s lifelong opportunity of working with kids and adults with I/DD in every church we served since. Using her education as a Special Ed teacher, and using materials from Bethesda, she helped children and young adults grow in their faith and love of Jesus.
Each child was different. But you could tell that each child, in their own way, came to know and love this Jesus who truly loved them and cared for them. They learned the meaning of the cross, the love that Jesus shared, and the heaven that awaits them. What was even more beautiful was their simple trust. With a childlike faith they did not question but embraced their loving Jesus.
They came to enjoy opportunities to show their love for Jesus. Candy treasured carrying the star to guide the Wise Men to the manger scene. Maria loved being Mary, the mother of Jesus, during our passion play. Trevor dressed up in his finest for Sunday worship. Phil had the biggest smile as he went up for communion to receive Jesus’ body and blood– all because someone took the time to help them in their faith journey.
Jesus did not say we are saved because we can understand it all. All Jesus wants is for us to know Him; to have a childlike unquestioning faith and trust in Him; to know His voice and follow Him. Then we, too, can know how faith, even as small as a mustard seed, can move mountains. (Matt 17:20)
Jesus wants us to know Him. We do this by being reminded over and over and over again: through church worship; through personal devotions; through Bible reading and Bible studies how much God loves us, cares for us, and helps us. Forgiven by God, we walk in His grace. We become so familiar with Him that we learn what most children learn in the children’s message, that the best answer is usually always “JESUS!” Then we can answer as Mark, one of her students, does “I know, Mrs. Linda, I know!”
Thanks be to God for His faithfulness, love, and care! And thanks be to God for His Spirit Who can guide us with this transition from Bethesda to AbleLight and not lose sight of the mission to help physically, mentally, and especially spiritually– people with I/DD and their families.
Heavenly Father, give us opportunities to seek out members of our church families and communities who have or care for those with I/DD to help them in their faith journeys. May we never shy away from them, but rather embrace them, pray for them, and love them. May Your love be shown in us and through us in all we say and do. To You be the glory forever! We love You, JESUS! Amen
What About People With I/DD?
Most people with I/DD, like you and me, laugh, smile, cry, dream, sing, learn, hope, hug, yearn, play. They also listen, watch, feel, grow, and can learn to trust and believe—like you and me—by the power of the Holy Spirit—just like you and me.
I once had a conversation with a co-worker at a secular run group home. After telling her about my confirmation classes I was teaching for people with I/DD, she responded, “It isn’t necessary to teach people with I/DD. It’s a waste of time, as they will automatically go to heaven.”
Have you ever really taken time to wonder what life would be like without Jesus? Perhaps you turned from Him or for other reasons you have come a long way in your life and can compare life without Him to life with Him. Or like me, you are unable to fathom life without Him. Thankfully, I have been a Christian since I was baptized as a baby. I knew Jesus was with me every moment, I sang to Him, learned of His love for me, His forgiveness, His promise of life eternal in heaven– His amazing grace! I have felt His peace. I have experienced joy, trust, hope, purpose.
By knowing that the Holy Spirit hears the prayers of ALL and prays FOR us, and that the seeds of His Word grow by His power, we know our labor for people with I/DD is not in vain. We have a Lord and Savior Who “desires all to be saved” (1Timothy 2:4a). He instructs us to go and teach ALL nations—not some nations or some people. Jesus died for ALL!
I have witnessed people with I/DD responding to and learning the Gospel differently in my classes. They may sing or answer by nodding their head or swinging their arms. They may pray silently. Some speak audibly and some do not. Some point to pictures or answers, some giggle with joy. It is the work of the Holy Spirit Who grows their faith so that they, too, can enjoy being a Christian– like you and me. ALL need to hear the Gospel and are DEARLY loved by Jesus. May we joyfully and confidently continue the work He has given us with and for people with I/DD!
Vice President Linda Koeller
Bethesda Auxiliary Project (2022-23)
Bethesda Auxiliary Scholarships: $15,000
Scholarships for junior and senior college students and seminary students who are pursuing a career in a disability related field.
Dominican Republic Group Home: $5,000
Supporting the needs of 6 young adults in their group home in the Dominican Republic. These young people who were once orphans are now part of the family of God and are thriving members of their church and community
Bethesda Auxiliary News from State Chapters
Howdy, from Big Montana Sky! We Montanans are really enjoying some big blue beautiful skies (say that 3 times!). For years, we have seen some amazing red sunsets due to the smoke-filled skies, typical for Montana. This year, we were blessed with so much moisture this spring that our fires have been limited, Praise be to God!
As I ponder writing on this article for our September newsletter, I was remembering Rev. Koeller’s devotion he shared with us at our July meeting in Colorado. I will sum it up by saying, with the transition of Bethesda Lutheran Communities to AbleLight, both staff-wise and name-wise, we can’t see the whole picture, “the forest through the trees.” But from God’s view, He sees the rest of the story. (I like this part) Remember, He’s been there before, He’s the master builder, He’s got the best seat in the house! He sees our past, present, and future! Thanks be to God for His Spirit who can guide us with this transition and not lose sight of the mission to help people with I/DD and their families: physically, mentally, and especially spiritually. (good huh?)
So, we are still The Bethesda Lutheran Communities Auxiliary, we haven’t changed our name. We are still working on grants and projects in partnership with AbleLight to bring materials and scholarships to those who work with and need education for the spiritual welfare of those with I/DD.
I wanted to write this article to point out a few things that some of you are doing to benefit the Bethesda Lutheran Communities Auxiliary:
- We received Memorials on behalf of our members who have since passed, what a beautiful way to remember our loved ones who helped with our BLC Auxiliary.
- Did you know that we, The Bethesda Lutheran Communities Auxiliary are on the list for AmazonSmile? For each donation, we, Bethesda Lutheran Communities Auxiliary, get a deposit each quarter of the year. AmazonSmile is a simple way for you to support Bethesda Lutheran Communities Auxiliary every time you shop on Amazon, at no cost to you. AmazonSmile is available at smile.amazon.com on your web browser and can be activated in the Amazon Shopping app for computers, iOS, and Android phones. If this is your shopping of choice, would you think of us on your AmazonSmile for your next shopping venture?
- And those of you who have products with Thrivent Financial, be sure to take advantage of their Thrivent Choice program which allows you to contribute to Bethesda Lutheran Communities Auxiliary using their gifting, at no cost to you. Go to www.thrivent.com and click on the Generosity Box to learn more about their gifting programs.
May God bless our new adventure and with the new transition, Barb Schneidenbach, Financial Secretary
The amazing “Leadership” project of “Equipping People living with intellectual and developmental disabilities to share the Gospel and their faith stories”, continues to be a great blessing to the presenters and the hearers.
Mona Fuerstenau, creator of the project and Quiet Waters Outreach (QWO) board member, and Becky Lindsley, co-executive director of QWO, are both former employees of Bethesda Lutheran Communities (now AbleLight) who know the value the Lord sees in this project.
In June, 2022, at the Oregon District LWML convention, Becky and Mona presented a short video about QWO’s ministry. Please view it on QWO’s YouTube site.
They also shared the Lord’s blessing of the Leadership project and how QWO has continued to equip people to share the Gospel interactively through leading Bible studies for their peers, giving devotions, leading worship, all via ZOOM.
The highlight on Saturday at the convention lunch was the presentation of God’s love for ALL people by two young women, Kristie and Amy, assisted by Becky and Amy’s mother, Jackie. It was a big outing for Kristie and Amy as they stood before the convention attendees and told of their love for Jesus. Their shy smiles revealed how much the opportunity meant to them. Becky said, “It was a precious time for them and both ladies enjoyed it.” Mom Jackie shared that on the way driving home, “our friend Kristie said, ‘she felt so honored’ and kept saying, ‘I feel important’ and that it gave her a beautiful sense of purpose.”
After hearing this, Becky said, “I’ll be putting Kristie to “work” co-leading future zooms! What a blessing to serve Him among these amazing people.”
Craft supplies and kits for the people AbleLight supports in Oregon
Oregon District LWMLers brought boxes and bags of basic craft supplies as well as craft kits to the convention at St. John Lutheran Church in McMinnville near the end of June. A few wrote Thrivent Action Team grants to use to purchase supplies. In 94-degree, windy weather, under a tent canopy, the ladies grabbed tote bags with the group homes’ name on it and the number of people in the home and filled it with all the items that were spread out on long tables. Trying to keep the items from flying off the tables was a challenge. We decided not to try dividing a huge bag of colored feathers into smaller bags. Then we had to haul all the bags inside so the crayons wouldn’t melt. Pastor George and Terry Putnam delivered the bags to the Dogwood home in Cornelius on Monday morning, where the staff let the other homes know to come and pick up the bag(s) with their name.
We hope the fun items will bring lots of joy-filled smiles. We ladies sure had fun visiting while we put the supplies together and thought of our friends enjoying painting, cutting, pasting, and making gifts for their staff and friends.
Putting supplies and kits together for the homes
Cross and Bell Award – OR
Gayle was married late in life to her sweetheart, Kenneth, and the Lord blessed them with one son, Kive, who has Down’s Syndrome. Kive is now 46 years old and is a special guy who has a job two days a week at a Thrift store in Astoria. He and his Dad go on long walks everyday and Kive goes on his own the library to rent movies and to the local pool to swim. He is a joy to his parents.
It was because of Kive that Gayle got involved in Good Shepherd Auxiliary as she desired to help others living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Through Maggie Royston, who lived nearby years ago and was deeply involved with Good Shepherd and then Bethesda Auxiliary, Gayle became involved and has until this very day.
Gayle has been a faithful member in prayer and financial support, also in getting memberships for members of her congregation, the Methodist church in Seaside. Now at 87 years of age, with significant health issues (on oxygen 24/7 and congestive heart failure and anemia), she continues to pray for and financially support Bethesda Auxiliary, sending in a $200 membership
s donation last year.
She loves getting the Oregon Unit news-updates and will write or call me to ask questions and give me information. She phoned recently and wanted to make sure I knew of Maggie Royston’s recent death. She said, about herself, Ken and Kive, “We’re still kick-in’ , but not so high!”
What joy to hear her love for life, for her family, and for helping others through Bethesda Auxiliary. She would be so honored to receive the Cross and Bell Award. I am delighted and honored to nominate Gayle Dahlberg for this award.
Even though no AbleLight homes are anywhere near Cottage Grove, Joyce’s dedication to Bethesda Auxiliary’s ministry of sharing God’s Word and Jesus’ love with people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities is so very evident in so many ways of support and faithful service.
Always involved in the Annual Celebrations of the Oregon Unit, Joyce not only solicited and donated items for the auction, but had fun bidding on them. In her congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove, she faithfully collects memberships and with the help of the Auxiliary and LWML members there, has regular fund raisers throughout the year.
Joyce’s prayer support, faithful service, and enthusiasm over the years show her love and passion for ministry with people with I/DD. Honoring her with the Cross and Bell Award is long overdue. I am pleased to present her for this special award.
Dixie and Shirl Thamert
Years and years of supporting Good Shepherd Auxiliary, Good Shepherd Lutheran Home of the West, Bethesda Auxiliary, and Bethesda/AbleLight are the history of this fantastic couple’s involvement in intellectual and developmental disabilities ministries.
I met Dixie and Shirl when they were helping with the GSLH of the West golf tournaments, – first having activities for the people supported to enjoy while they had an outing at the tournaments. They also helped the people at the meal which followed the tournaments. They actually organized and hosted the golf tournaments several years in the Vancouver area.
Dixie has served for years as the congregational contact for St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vancouver, along with her friend, Mary Ann Davis. They are terrific at gathering memberships each year. Dixie has arranged for Bethesda Auxiliary Sundays, for Bethesda Auxiliary to have time to speak to the congregation during the worship service, and to present the children’s sermon. On these Sundays, the Oregon Unit’s Traveling Gift table was set up in their gym, and congregation members could enjoy shopping and supporting the Auxiliary through their purchases.
Dixie always attends the Annual Celebrations and often donated items for the auction. She and Shirl have been a great encouragement to me as Unit President, and in the preceding years. For their history of service and continued support and involvement, it is a joy to nominate them for the Cross and Bell Award.
The energy level of this little lady with a huge heart is amazing. She is always ready to help and honor others. This has been especially true of honoring our elderly, long-time Auxiliary members. What joy she has brought them and those who attended the gatherings.
As a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Portland, Joyce is instrumental in taking gifts to the Simpson group home and its residents to celebrate birthdays and special Christian holy days.
Her congregation has hosted the Oregon Unit Annual Celebration. At the annual Celebration at St. John Lutheran Church in McMinnville, she talked to one of the Bethesda staff who had brought the four ladies she supports in one of the group homes. Joyce told the staff to let the ladies bid on one of the auction gift baskets which contained coloring books, puzzles, and other activity books, and some snack items. What fun those ladies had as they got to bid. (and Joyce actually bid against them to keep the bidding fun going). When the ladies won the bid, they cheered. Then their staff told them that Joyce was paying for their basket. The ladies all went over and gave Joyce big hugs. What Joy!!!
Joyce also donates many items to the traveling gift table, as well as needed items for the group homes, like vacuum cleaners and wall decorations.
Her passion in serving her Lord by serving His people is so evident and inspires others. She is very active in the Oregon District LWML serving as Historian, and a Zone President. Also Trinity has an active Hispanic ministry and guess who knows the names of all the Hispanic children and receives their hugs!
May the Cross and Bell Award acknowledge Joyce’s servant heart for her Lord Jesus. She truly believes, “When you have done it for the least of these, my brothers, you have done it for Me.”