Twenty minutes west of downtown St. Louis is the suburb of Manchester, Missouri, home to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Wartburg Seminary’s direct connection to this congregation is that many students, since 1983, have been recipients of scholarships Good Shepherd provides to help defray costs for unexpected medical expenses. David Franz began his tenure with this scholarship program about ten years ago, taking over for Harold Thieman, who had shepherded the scholarship for many years. Why Wartburg? When asked this question, David responds, “We are connected by the ELCA. When we can make ties that are close to us, that is important.”
The source of the scholarship for Wartburg Students comes primarily from Good Shepherd’s Thanksgiving Eve service offering. It is designated specifically for medical expenses because they believe such burdens can be a barrier for student success, both financially and emotionally. David said they feel this is a small way to help our future church leaders. The students’ needs (names are not shared) are posted in the bulletin prior to the Thanksgiving Eve service to familiarize the congregation with their stories. A service team of about a dozen members then meet to discuss the student applications and decide on awards. While they know they typically can’t fully meet the financial needs of the students who apply, they do know they can hold them up in prayer.
Wartburg Student Sarah Schilcher, a current intern with Bethany Lutheran Church in Emmetsburg, IA and Lost Island Lutheran Church in Ruthven, IA, said about receiving a scholarship last year: “As a recipient of funding from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, I can speak to the large impact they have had on me and my family. My daughter, Lydia Rose, was born at only 25 weeks gestation, earning a 161-day NICU stay which added up to over 3 million dollars. Thankfully we had insurance, but the entirety of the bill was not covered. My daughter is a beautiful, healthy, active 2-year-old now and some of the financial burden of her early arrival has been lifted by the generosity of the congregation at Good Shepherd Lutheran. We are forever grateful.”
This 1200 member congregation is mission focused. They believe that being one of the largest churches in their synod creates a responsibility that goes beyond the church walls. In addition to the medical expense scholarship, Good Shepherd is involved in providing scholarships for those attending ELCA colleges, packing meals for Feed My Starving Children, ministering to those affected by cancer, and monthly community conversations surrounding racism. While not a comprehensive list, these are ministries that align with Good Shepherd’s vision: “Guided by God’s Grace, and with a longing to grow our faith, we will be the church that helps people make a difference in our local communities, in the world, and in our congregation.
Wartburg Theological Seminary is forever grateful to the Good Shepherd community for their prayers, dedication, and support of our students and for the greater church.