Rev. Steven James Essenburg (Michigan District A2E Missionary at Large deployed to Charity, Detroit), 67, was called to his heavenly home on January 23, 2020.
Essenburg was born on March 21, 1952 in Holland, Mich., son of the late Erwin and Betty (DeVries) Essenburg. He married his beloved wife, Anita, on June 12, 1973 and they were blessed with two sons, John and Eric.
Essenburg worked as a salesman for W. H. Porter in Holland before volunteering for the Army, where he served for eight years, reaching the rank of Captain. After leaving the military, he entered the automotive industry in Michigan as an Account Manager for nearly 20 years. In those days he spent his free time serving his community, expanding his love to others in many ways. He was one of the pioneers of the Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter Team, serving as its first president for several years. He conducted Sunday morning Bible study for many years at Trinity, Clinton Twp., where he also served as Director of the Board of Elders and was very involved in the church community.
Essenburg established Lutheran City Ministries and served as its Executive Director from 1996-2000. Following a lifetime passion, he graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Ind. and became an ordained LCMS pastor in 2000. He served at Nazareth and Charity, Detroit before being deployed as Missionary at Large by the Michigan District. He also served as the Circuit Visitor for the Detroit East Circuit of the Michigan District, LCMS for the past 12 years. The last monthly Circuit meeting led by Essenburg took place on December 5, 2019.
Essenburg collaborated with the city of Detroit on the Mayor’s Crime Council, working with neighborhood groups and the police department to improve the safety of the community. He served as Executive Director of Charity, Inc., established for the purpose of purchasing homes in the neighborhood around Charity, rehabilitating the houses, and providing affordable homes for families. In recent years, he served on the board of Habitat for Humanity. It was his faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that gave him the courage and the commitment to help others.
Rev. Gerald Grimm, emeritus pastor based in Detroit, recalls that a few years ago Essenburg enjoyed placing a needy family into one of the houses near Charity. The house had been rehabilitated through Charity, Inc. Months later, Essenburg expressed even greater joy when he baptized all five of the children in that home.
Rev. Dr. Rob Kasper was Essenburg’s supervisor for the last 6 years. He describes him as steady in doing his job every day: talking to people, helping people, being available, and sharing Jesus. He says, “Whenever you were in a meeting with him, his presence and his personality filled up the room, and you already knew what he was going to say before he even spoke up: ‘How can we connect people to Jesus?’ He had a passion for people—to help them, to help their families, and ultimately to lead them to Jesus Christ. He was a ‘one person at a time’ kind of guy. He gave his undivided attention to anyone who needed it. He was well respected by police precincts and city leaders, and the biggest gift he brought was that of showing what it’s like to be the church working in conjunction with the community.”
You can get a glimpse into Rev. Essenburg’s heart by reading this blog which we published in 2012.
Essenburg’s funeral was described as a great blessing to those who attended. There were approximately 30 pastors in attendance.
Photos by Elisa Schulz/Michigan District, LCMS