At the crack of dawn on January 6th, a group of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary students met at Mitchell Airport with excitement as they set out for a week of gospel work in Texas. After a brief two hour flight, the students arrived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area greeted with relatively fair and warm weather. One group of men went to the city of Tyler, while the other group drove about 40 minutes southwest to a small city called Midlothian.
In Midlothian, the group of students led by Professor Kock first went to the town’s conference center and shortly after to an Airbnb which was about a half-hour outside of Midlothian in the small neighboring town of Waxahachie. After a delicious lunch, Pastor Martz of Living Faith Lutheran along with two of his members, Jeff Stellick and Jeff Gaertner introduced themselves and gave us a brief overview of the community of Midlothian and the goals to be accomplished. The congregation had developed three basic goals. The first was to go a great a number of people who had just moved in to the community. The second was to assemble and distribute almost 3,000 reusable totes for a local food drive. After the totes were distributed, we would go back several days later to collect the donations. The third was to get a feel for the community of Midlothian. At the end of the week we would create a presentation about the demographics, economics, and niches Living Faith could fill in its community.
After the introductions and goals were laid out, some of the students left and began to make cold calls, while others stayed behind and prepared for the food drive. The totes were bags personalized with the church’s name. Paperclipped onto the bags was information about an upcoming concert that Living Faith was hosting along with general information about the church itself. The group spent several evenings assembling the totes out in the garage with an assembly-line technique. We made the most of our time together as we blasted excellent music which Professor Kock definitely appreciated.
The main focus of Monday and Tuesday was cold calling new members to the community. After a brief morning devotion we went out in teams of three following an assigned list of addresses. The groups met for a lunch break and another break in the afternoon to refuel and discuss logistics. Generally, we knocked on doors till sunset. It was exciting and enjoyable to hear the different stories about some of the people we had encountered and the conversations we had with them.
Wednesday and Thursday followed a similar pattern, except instead of cold calls the teams of three went to different sections of the city and placed the totes on the front porch of all the homes in that neighborhood. The idea was that people would fill these totes with none-perishable food items and then later that week leave them in front of their homes to be picked up by the students. It also provided us with an excellent opportunity to talk with some of the people that lived there. The totes would then be transported to Manna House, the local food pantry.
In addition to all of the canvassing and tote distribution we did have some free time. Professor Kock and a small group of students on Thursday afternoon drove into downtown Dallas to the George W. Bush Museum. Other students decided to go to an indoor waterpark. In true Seminary fashion, the students that went to the water park purchased matching swimsuits, thus creating the Seminary Swim Team. After all the fun, Jeff Gaertner treated the entire group to some fantastic Mexican food.
On Friday, the students broke off into two groups again. Some went to interview the Fire Marshall, while others went to interview the owners of Manna House. The idea was to talk with these people to get a better understanding of the problems and needs of Midlothian. Afterward, the students went to Pastor Martz’s house to listen to Wayne Shuffield. Wayne had served many years as a Baptist preacher for a local church and has had several different positions on city boards. For a while, Wayne was a realtor and in his retirement helped several churches with their properties. Needless to say, Wayne was a valuable resource for better understanding the Midlothian community. That evening the students enjoyed the hospitality of Judy Calvert, a member of Living Faith, as she prepared a wonderful meal which included true southern style brisket.
Saturday was dedicated to picking up some of the totes people had already filled. On Sunday, we heard a wonderful message in church from Pastor Martz. After the service, we presented our findings on the city in three groups: demographics, economics, and potential needs and niches Living Faith could fill in its community. After considering Midlothian’s increasing growth, the interest it has received from big corporations, and the identified needs of the community, the students concluded that Living Faith should look towards building and Early Childhood Learning Center.
Overall, 496 cold calls were made and 479 totes were collected. Manna House had received so much food that they were set through the summer months. The students returned home safely to Milwaukee that Monday. We would all agree that this trip fanned flames of evangelism in our hearts and equipped us with practical and reliable tactics to learn about the communities we will, Lord willing, serve one day.