Restoring Hope in Chesaning5 min read

In 2013, after a year-long vicarage, Rev. Mitch Vogeli was called by Nativity, St. Charles to be its pastor. With only 25 committed attending members, they were not sure they would have the ability to keep the doors open, but the support from the District gave them hope that they would manage their financial resources to keep following Christ’s Great Commission. They started looking for opportunities to share Christ’s love and message of salvation with the people in Chesaning. Their story can be found here. It is apparent that God is not done yet. A new type of compassion ministry is blossoming in Chesaning, and this is the story of how it came to be, as told by Rev. Vogeli.


We see God working in a number of ways to allow Nativity congregation to proclaim the Gospel. It is wonderful to see how He has taken our willingness to share what we love to do, and made it a powerful connection with His work in the Chesaning community.

[Tweet “God has taken our willingness to share, and made it a powerful community connection “]

Through community networks, we discovered that Trinity Methodist Church had developed a widespread food distribution that takes place once a month. When we approached them to find a way to help, we were received with great enthusiasm. At first, a few Nativity members got involved in the organization and food distribution, and they saw the power of sharing Christ with the people through caring acts and sincere concern. As they shared these exciting stories, more members began to volunteer and participate. Nativity has been involved with the food distribution for almost a year, and now over 40 people are serving. There is a weekly pop can drive to provide financial resources. Nativity also commits a monthly amount from its budget to purchase meat for the food boxes. Caring for the community in this manner has established friendships that opened up doors for greater impact than we had ever imagined.


On average, 225 families sign up each month for food. This gave us a chance to get a clearer understanding of the needs of families in our area. Published statistics helped us realize the need for recovery ministry in the lives of these families.

Early in my tenure at Nativity, I asked Rev. Ed Doerner from Messiah Lutheran Church in Midland, Mich. to be my ministry coach. This wonderful relationship has provided great insight to determine future ministry design for Nativity. During a Messiah staff meeting, I spoke with Rev. Tige Culbertson about Restoration Fellowship, a ministry he had developed, and together we assessed how something like that might work in Chesaning. He explained that Messiah’s Restoration Fellowship messages are available via Livestream and recorded. I knew that would be a very valuable resource and applied for the CEF technology grant in order to get the equipment needed to present this message in Chesaning.

God opened yet another door to make this happen as I connected with a local Nazarene Church, which had renovated an indoor shopping mall as its ministry building. The pastor there has a heart for recovery ministry and said he would let Nativity use the fellowship hall for its meetings. The large screen projection and sound system make for an enjoyable presentation of Restoration Fellowship’s messages. Rev. Culbertson also schedules times to present his message live, which adds a great personal touch. There is the opportunity to feel a part of a larger group, and that builds excitement and momentum for our small ministry.

Because of these meetings, we are making contacts with more people seeking recovery ministry in Chesaning; around 20 are in attendance now. We believe God is bringing these individuals and will continue to bring others into our fellowship. Excitement is developing as more and more people realize that this weekly meeting is an opportunity to come together and to be encouraged in their recovery journey. As a bonus, we have found that these meetings are not just for those in recovering from major addictions, but also a place to gain strength and insight for any of life’s troubles and difficulties. This is a place where people support each other as we all depend on Jesus for our strength, wisdom, and direction.


To let the community know this Restoration Fellowship is available in Chesaning, we put flyers in the 225 boxes given out at the monthly food distribution. We are also sponsoring one of six free community movie nights this summer. This will give us a great deal of publicity and recognition: we are able to show a video of the ministry on the movie night, place advertising in all its written publicity, and are given special mention in community meetings. On the evening of our sponsored movie, we will be in the crowd, greeting and meeting people, and handing out information. The local newspaper, the Tri County Citizen, has also given us publicity through an article about our recovery ministry.

Members of Nativity have seen God use our willingness to care for the people of the Chesaning area through the food distribution that opened doors for our recovery ministry. We (pastor and people) have learned a valuable lesson. When we live with our hands wide open to share with others, God fills them with the resources needed to bring His love and Gospel to our community.

[Tweet “When we live with our hands wide open, God fills them with the resources needed.”]

Subscribe to Blog Button

About the Author

Rev. Mitchell Vogeli is the pastor of Nativity, St. Charles and also a church planter in Chesaning. He served the LCMS for 30 years in various positions, including teacher, principal, and DCE. He decided to go to the Seminary after spending 3 years assisting Rev. Paul Werner in planting Living Hope of the Bay in Ray, MI. Rev. Vogeli and his wife, Teri, live in Chesaning.

More by This Author