Helping Others is Good for Your Health4 min read

They say that helping others is good for you. The same holds true for churches. Nativity, St. Charles, was struggling to continue existing, so they asked for help. The Michigan District stepped in and a somewhat surprising plan was made. The plan was to call a full-time pastor – not only to help bring Nativity back to health, but also to plant a mission ministry in nearby Chesaning, a town without an LCMS presence.

Rev. Mitchel Vogeli was called to serve in the dual role of pastor and church planter. He says,

“The first task was to get the 20 active members left at the church on board with a strategy that used their strengths and passions God had given each of them. It was soon obvious that the most common desire was to care for the needs of the congregation and community, especially in regards to providing for the hungry.”


Rev. Vogeli was able to join the Chesaning Task Force, a group of city leaders, and this helped him see “opportunities for Nativity to connect with the things God was doing in Chesaning.” He found out that the Methodist church had a well-established food distribution program, which provides 225 families with a large box of food every month. Rev. Vogeli reports, “The leader of this ministry was elated when I met him and said we would like to participate in the distribution.” And so began a partnership.

One of the things Nativity did was to pledge to provide funds to purchase an item that will increase the protein and vegetable content of each box. Until then, the food donated had come from large retailers who would give their extra and expiring foods (a semi-truck load worth of it!), but these were mostly breads, desserts, and boxed foods. With this in mind, the mission is not only trying to supplement the food with healthier items, but also including instruction in nutrition for better health, which is done through a partnership with Michigan State University. They also partnered with local grocery stores in order to offer instruction on smart shopping and using free coupons.


Rev. Vogeli and his wife live in Chesaning and have joined the Main Street Development Group. “The group has created the new Farmers Market in town, the outdoor movie night, and is planning new activities to build the community involvement and neighborhood connection of the town,” says Rev. Vogeli. Mission planters also participated in the town’s Beautification Day alongside with high school students and their parents.

“Life on Tap” is another initiative brought to town by the mission. It is intended to be a time for local business owners to meet and discuss life issues under a godly perspective. Currently, says Rev. Vogeli, “We are meeting once a month to build community and get to know the people who come for the weekly trivia game at the River Front Café. We have talked with the owner and are planning a more directed teaching conversation time before the trivia game. We are prayerfully waiting for the Lord to move and open this opportunity.”


At the food distribution event, Nativity members help pack the boxes and give the food to the families, thus connecting with both volunteers and recipients. They also interview families to help discern what their needs are. There they are able to let the people know they are from Nativity, announce events [and] share the love of Jesus. They talk with people about opportunities to get involved with, such as Life on Tap and Bible studies in town; they let people know about their participation in the Chesaning Farmers Market and also about their desire to increase the food distribution. Rev. Vogeli shares, “This [food distribution event] has been an amazing blessing for us to get our ministry started.”

Rev. Vogeli continues, “Planting a new mission ministry in an established small town must revolve around the felt needs of the community that are expressed by the people. The love of Christ must be seen and felt in the hands of those beginning the ministry. In our culture today, very few un-churched people are looking for a church service. They are, however, longing for a place to feel cared for, and a place where they can care for others. When they meet Jesus there it all makes sense.”

God has blessed the mission initiatives in Chesaning. And what about Nativity? Attendance and membership is growing. Focusing on a mission doesn’t take away from the mother church. On the contrary, everyone benefits.

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About the Author

Elisa is a staff writer, copy editor, and photographer for the Michigan District, LCMS.

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