Hillside Homes gets assist from Indiana, local youth

Skip Vogel

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Sam Homann, Anika Reiland and Sam Borger work as a mission team at Hillside Homes in Spring Valley, weeding the garden and doing other projects.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Rebekah Rose, of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Mishawaka, Indiana, paints a patio chair at Hillside Homes last Thursday morning.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Youth from an Indiana church joined Spring Valley youth to take on a service project at Hillside Homes in Spring Valley Wednesday, July 10.

The project came together due to a large youth gathering set in the Twin Cities over the weekend, a long-standing relationship with First English Lutheran Church in Spring Valley along with connections the minister at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Mishawaka, Indiana, had to a Spring Valley resident.

About 20,000 young Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) members from across the United States as well as 12 other countries converged on the Twin Cities last weekend for a five-day event that included worship services, community service projects and other activities for high school-aged church members. The conference is held every three years, but this is its first time in Minnesota.

The Indiana contingent was on its way to the Twin Cities for the international gathering, but had planned the stop in Spring Valley prior to the conference. They spent time weeding and mulching the garden and painting the patio furniture for the residents of the apartment building.

The stop came about because of its relationship with a sister church in Spring Valley, but also because one particular resident had an impact on the minister at the Indiana church.

“About 30 years ago, I graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.  Skip Vogel was my professor, and now he’s a dear friend and mentor. In my class, about 10 of us gravitated toward Skip, and we all think highly of him,” stated the Rev. Bryan Borger of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Mishawaka, which is on the Indiana-Michigan border.

Since it just so happened that this year’s youth gathering was set to take place in Minneapolis, it offered Borger a chance to bring his young church members to Spring Valley for a service project and to stop in to see Vogel and his wife, Gloria, who have lived in Spring Valley for at least two decades. 

Dave Homann has been taking the St. Peter youth on mission trips ever since 1995, organizing everything and making the phone calls. The project prior to the youth gathering every three years was added in 2007.

The Indiana church is associated with First English Lutheran in Spring Valley, so half the youth at Hillside Homes last week were from First English and the other half were from St. Peter Lutheran Church in Mishawaka. 

“We always leave a day early for the youth gathering, and we usually try to pick a sister church in a small town because small town churches are being faithful, too, ”Borger said. “Mishawaka isn’t a small town, but it isn’t big, either.  But we try to partner with a sister church in a smaller town to do a mission project, and this is how we encourage the youth, and this is how they encourage you in your town.  It’s part of the Christian walk to worship together, do Bible study together and love our neighbors together.  This is how we live out our baptismal calling together and grow in faith.”

St. Peter youth lending a hand on their way to their convention included Samuel Borger, Meghan Carter, Curtis Gurnee, Sam Homann, Alexa Hunt, Rob Hunt and Rebekah Rose, accompanied by Rev. Borger, Emily Buch, Dave Homann and Brentley Lothamer.  First English Lutheran youth being led by Vicar Matthew Goehring included Anika and Zach Reiland, Emily and Abby Biermann and Lily Freet.

“Usually, the national youth gathering is in San Antonio, New Orleans, other big cities in the South, so when we had a chance to come here and work in Spring Valley before the gathering, we were excited to do it,” the pastor noted.

And, it seems, there were quite a few Hillside Homes residents pleased with the spectacle of young people clearing weeds and mulching earth in the name of heaven, as passersby paused to greet the mission team on their way in and out of the apartment building, offering a “Good day” and “Thanks” for the work being done to spiff up their front gardens.

Standing back, Borger and his crew simply looked glad to be able to lend a hand and get ready to sing to the Spring Valley Care Center residents after lunch.