Two years ago, a group of women from all four Moravian churches in North Dakota—Bethel, Canaan, Goshen and Shepherd of the Prairie— gathered in a home in Fargo. Rather than gather for a traditional Bible study and collect monies to send off for missions, we sensed it was time for a change.
It was time to see some action in our own neighborhood. What could we do locally that would fulfill both our need to serve God, and represent Jesus in the flesh to others? How could we be the fruit of the vine?
For the second year in a row, North Dakota Moravian women
have “raised the roof” for an area family. As a group, we have raised $3,000 each year for the Fargo-based charity Down Home. The non-profit provides furnishings and décor for families that are transitioning from homelessness into permanent housing. Down Home works closely with community agencies to identify candidates and it helps each client family develop a “Pay It Forward” plan to foster connections to communities, schools and churches.
After we completed our fundraising, Down Home paired us with a single mom, Alexandra and her son, Gabriel. Alex had graduated from the Jeremiah Project, a faith-based program that provided her and her son a place to live and childcare as long as she was enrolled full time in a school. Now employed full time as a technician in a hospital, Alex had found and rented a small condo.
Down Home was on tap to provide furnishings to make the condo a true home. At a scheduled time, a group of Moravians helped move furniture, towels, beds, linens, dressers and decorative items into the condo.
“It was like an episode of Extreme Makeover,” said Madison Heuer, a member of Bethel Moravian Church. “We got the keys and the condo was empty. We arrived with the UHaul that Down Home provided and just got to work!”
A team of Moravians unloaded the furniture and got to work assembling beds, stocking linen cabinets and hanging pictures. After four hours, the condo was complete—from the bedrooms to the kitchen—and ready for the family to move in.
In retrospect, it seemed easy. But initially, we were apprehensive about raising the money. It seemed like a lot! What could we do? The Moravian women, when brainstorming, fell back on a tried and true method: the bake sale.
The four churches banded together to stock and sell baked goods at community events like Casselton Days, Leonard’s Fall Festival and Shepherd of the Prairie’s annual Pork Supper. Each sale yielded close to $1,000. The second year yielded close to the same results.
“Never underestimate the power of the oven,” joked Becky Czichotzki, a member of Shepherd of the Prairie Moravian Church in Fargo. Different flavored popcorn, relishes, jams and jellies joined the traditional cookies and pies at each site.
“It was so exciting and so humbling to work with Down Home,” said Sylvia Medd, president of the group. “The four church families came together and it gave us a purpose—not only to work together—but to help others locally.”
The churches received a thank you from Alex, the woman for
whom they’d prepared the condo. She wrote in part: “You and your churches are an incredible group of people. Your desire and willingness to serve is amazing. Our house is truly something beyond our hopes and dreams. God bless you.”
We are waiting for Giving Hearts Day, Feb. 13, 2020, to present our second donation of $3,000 to help Down Home qualify for matching funds.
One cookie, one banana bread loaf at a time, North Dakota Moravian women are changing lives, demonstrating and living “in all things love.”
Jan M. Russell is a member of Bethel-Goshen Moravian Churches. Photos by Jan.