The Voice: Connecting for the Gospel
When we started Voice of the Middle Ground, we knew that we wanted the gospel to be the
voice not just behind our initiatives, but also to be the voice that connected us as we worked
together to achieve the goals associated with them. It seems only right then that, as we move
into 2021 and identifying a name for something so important to helping us stay connected, we’d
pick a name for our newsletter that communicates that. Welcome to The Voice, the official
newsletter for Voice of the Middle Ground.
The Journey to Connection
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For Bettina Winfrey, Community Connections Committee Chair at St. Paul’s First Lutheran Church in North Hollywood, the first steps that set the stage for her journey were those of her parents. Both called workers, they didn’t just speak words, they lived them.
Bettina explains, “My parents lived the gospel. They still do. There was never a holiday we spent with just our family. There was always someone who needed a family or food or a roof over their head who was with us”.
Bettina notes that this level of generosity wasn’t something that faded as the holidays ended. As called workers, her parents didn’t make much money. But this didn’t stop them from making giving their norm.
“It’s ridiculously dangerous now,” says Bettina. “But I can’t remember a time driving through Milwaukee that, when we had pouring rain or a blizzard…I can’t remember my mom not stopping our minivan and giving random people on the corner rides”.
Growing up as the child of called workers meant that Bettina also had access to other unique experiences. One of these experiences was boarding school. Bettina credits this experience with boarding school with also contributing to her perspective on the world.
“I went away to boarding school and I had roommates from different countries and different cultures,” Bettina said. “Being immersed in that made me feel comfortable with being different and being uncomfortable I have no problem, because of watching my parents and because of the way I was raised, standing up and verbalizing what I believe even if other people are going to push back against me. And certainly growing up and having the blessing of going to Christian schools my whole life, just sort of being soaked in God’s Word…It’s just almost second nature that I know where to turn”.
It was this experience and her faith that Bettina drew on earlier this year when her home church was cast onto the national stage for all the wrong reasons.
Bettina briefly describes the incident, “We had a young, black woman sit on our church lawn and it really escalated very quickly”.
The story did indeed escalate quickly, even making the news on CBS and yielding thousands of comments on social media platforms like Twitter. But, while some might look at this incident as a complete tragedy, Bettina and her congregation’s president looked at it as an opportunity. Bettina describes moving forward with the push and blessing of her congregation president and also talked more about her feelings after the incident, “It was sad and it was angering and it was embarrassing to have our church painted in the light of the actions of a few but we are now branded as the racist church and the unfriendly church and so I wanted to show people that we are different because I think you can stand up and say, “That’s not us” all you want but it’s really actions that speak for you,” she continues. “Through that incident, I really found myself ashamed that I wasn’t doing more with my church and that I couldn’t really speak to who we were in the community”.
This opportunity was one that Bettina and the other members of the Community Connections Committee were determined not to waste. Instead, they moved forward with a three-pronged approach.
“It’s to do outreach to people in our community in need. And, it’s also doing outreach to people who are looking to help those in need and find a church home,” Bettina says, describing the first two prongs.
She also describes the importance of reaching the first two groups, “ So we’re not reaching out just to those who need food but also the person walking by who wants to be involved in a volunteer effort who says, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there was a church there. Oh, cool. They’re doing outreach. Maybe I’ll come, help them’”.
To Bettina, living out the Great Commission means not just reaching out to those in need. Opening the doors of the church also to those who want to help achieves another goal–communicating that the message of the gospel really is for everyone. This message is also furthered by Bettina’s efforts to also reach out to those who are already members of her church, “The third arm of our mission is also to help those within our own church body who need extra help and right now,” Bettina says. “ We’ve been focusing on our homebound members especially with Coronavirus and with the holidays and with people being very isolated”.
Bettina notes that she has been surprised by where some of the help she has received has come from as she continues to work toward these goals. God has opened doors for the ministry at St. Paul’s that she never would’ve expected and, in the process, she has also found that her faith has been strengthened. In fact, we’re grateful to Bettina for submitting a special Christmas-themed devotion that we were able to place on our Facebook Page.
The Middle Ground
Conversations about diversity can be polarizing. The news and politics can make it seem like there are only two sides on which to stand. In December’s Juice Bar, we talked about one of the issues that can make it feel this way. You can find the video on our website or Facebook Page. Or, if you’re curious, you can check out the audio version on Spotify.
See You in Wisconsin?
We’re excited to announce that our first conference will be coming up on January 15. If you haven’t had the chance to register, you can do so by clicking here. Come on by and see us in person. Or, register to attend virtually and enjoy finding out about how the gospel speaks clearly even in a time of racial conflict while relaxing comfortably in your PJs.
Voice of the Middle Ground invites you to contribute to our fundraiser coming up on January 9, Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. The fundraiser will continue to the 10th. Stay tuned to our Facebook Page to find out ways that you can contribute. And…if you’d be interested in a gaming fundraiser, let us know by responding to this e-mail or messaging us on Facebook.
Thanks for being part of our Voice of the Middle Ground Community and for supporting us through your prayers and financial gifts. We appreciate you!