By Sue Sprang

FREELAND – Thanks to the Bertha H. Wilson Fund Endowment, which provides grants to Saginaw-area churches, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Freeland has been able to build on its commitment to community involvement and outreach. The congregation supports several endeavors, but three have been boosted by the generosity of the Wilson Fund.

The Bertha H. Wilson Endowment helps Zion, Freeland build on its community outreach ministry.

Like many congregations, Zion has an annual Vacation Bible School ministry. Sponsored by the congregation’s Education Committee, the goal is to present Christian education through scripture, music, and crafts in a fun, safe, and caring atmosphere. The ultimate goal is sharing God’s love and giving children an experience they can carry into their faith life.

This year’s theme was Christmas in July and over 40 children, age preschool through grade 6, got into the winter holiday being transferred to the hot summer weather. Alongside Bible study they enjoyed singing, decorating cookies, painting, and a slew of recreational games, including kickball. About 20 volunteers kept things moving along.

VBS at Zion includes a service project. This year’s project was collecting donations for Operation Christmas Child, which will culminate later in the year with sending Christmas boxes to children all over the world.

“We had a very successful turn out and had an amazing team to help,” said Zion member Jim Neumeyer. “We appreciate the continued support in our efforts to teach the youth the word of the Lord.”

VBS is just one of many ways Zion seeks to build relationships.

Hit the Streets for Haiti 5k Run/Walk, an annual event, the latest of which was held Sept. 28, takes place on the Saginaw Valley State University campus. Several Zion members serve as volunteers and/or participate in the run/walk.

Funds raised go towards sustainable health care efforts in Haiti, including establishing nursing care in Haitian villages around the Port-au-Prince area and further development of the Haiti clean water project. The mission is to serve “the least of these” (Matthew 25) by providing medical care throughout various Haitian churches. 

“We also aim to further community involvement in these efforts, as well as the nonprofit organization Project Piti Pami,* which organizes the Haitian health care efforts,” Neumeyer said. 

The Ministry of Community Food Baskets has been supported by the Wilson Fund since 2012.

“Every year asked, the Bertha Wilson Fund has responded with a grant a varying levels and at no time was a zero amount received,” Neumeyer said.  “It is a blessing that this fund realizes that every amount helps this ministry.  

Zion has been involved in the ministry since 2003, working alongside other local churches, specifically St. Agnes Catholic, and Freeland United Methodist.  The ministry began in the late 1990’s as people realized the real need for helping those less fortunate.  Even though Freeland is a small close knit rural community, the need still exists.  

“It is surprising how many people think that small towns don’t have poverty problems,” Neumeyer said.  “Part of this ministry is to bring attention to this need through communication and service.”

Each year these three churches come together working with local clergy and low income housing management in compiling a list of families in need, with the only stipulation being that they reside within Freeland’s zip code.  From this list, they work together to ensure minimum duplication and real need.  A letter is sent to all of the families asking for them to respond if the need is still present.  

During the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons food is collected, boxes are filled, and distribution is made in time for the holiday meals.  Every attempt is made to provide at least a week’s supply of food, based on the reported family size.  Those in receipt of the food are very appreciative and it is a real blessing to those involved as they put together the baskets and visit with the recipients.  

“It is uplifting to see multiple faiths working together in this ministry with the purpose of helping others and bringing increased awareness toward helping others,” Neumeyer said.

Learn more about Project Piti Pami at 3pHaiti.org.

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