An old hymn has been stuck in my head for the past couple of days that goes “Christ is our Cornerstone. On Him Alone I build.” If you know that hymn, you are quite literally singing my tune because it speaks to some truths that make themselves evident in all sorts of ways. It even has relevance to Sunday Drives. However, what I do know is that in all of the small towns that we drive through during during our Sunday Drives, there is one thing that stands in the middle of the community: A Church. And if you want to get a sense of the story of that town the church is a great place to start. I experienced this very thing when I had the pleasure of going to St. John Lutheran Church in Arnold, MO last week.
St. John’s Lutheran Church sits on St. John Church Rd. If that doesn’t clue you off that this old church has a fascinating story, you haven’t been driving with us long enough. This church started in 1848 when a group of German immigrants to Jefferson County sat down to meet with C.F.W. Walther, the president of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Missouri, Ohio and Other States (now the LC-MS) and asked him to send a pastor.
Only a few months later on June 4, 1848 J. Michael Johannes was ordained. We’d like to think that Pastor Johannes must have had that Driving on Sunday spirit because he knew that even in this little church, there were stories to tell. He bought himself a camera, which is now displayed proudly along with some of his photos. Newly ordained, he began serving them in the brand new log church on land donated by a local farmer. The church continued to grow and in 1888 they started a school in a log cabin that was donated by yet another farmer. These farmers surely knew how important a church was to their community! The church was so important that it had to be rebuilt two more times to fit their ever-growing congregation. Once in 1929 and then in 1997 when the current church building was built. Their current building can sit 650 people.
But this isn’t the end of the story of St. John’s Lutheran Church. In fact a new chapter has just begun! They know that their church serves a unique role as cornerstone in the community and they took that seriously on Saturday when they called LCMS Disaster Response to lead a Lutheran Early Response Training (LERT) so that they could reach out to their community when disaster strikes.
Across the country there are over 13,000 trained LERT volunteers who have taken the one day course and now meet the federal requirements for deploying to disaster zones. When disaster strikes, these volunteer teams can be sent out within days and provide services ranging from feeding the hungry with mobile kitchens, to basic debris removal, spiritual care, and even chain saw crews trained at performing surgery on a mangled mess of trees and limbs. (Want to see a LERT team in action?)
Every year, LCMS Disaster Response gives over $700,000 worth of aid to disaster victims all over the world, and they do it through local congregations like St. John’s Lutheran Church in Arnold, MO who have stepped up in a big way to continue being the cornerstone in their community.
Now here’s a confession. I didn’t just stumble on St. John’s Lutheran Church. I was helping to facilitate the LERT training. But just because I was there working didn’t mean there wasn’t a story to be told. Like this story, I’d bet if you took the time to talk to the people you work with every day, you’d dig up a story. And when you do, be sure to share it with us! Because even your daily commute can become a Sunday Drive.
(I was not paid to write this blog post by LC-MS disaster response…)