By Cheryl Magness
The coronavirus pandemic and its associated shutdown have led to unexpected and serious challenges for people around the world. Church workers are no exception.
In response, the Synod’s long-time Soldiers of the Cross grant assistance program has been “amplified” so that not only those workers who are on the Synod’s roster, but also lay workers in LCMS churches, schools and organizations, may apply for assistance.
As of June 4, $492,402 in Soldiers of the Cross—Amplified grants has been disbursed to 334 workers, with an average grant of $1,474.26 per worker. The grants process is administered by the LCMS Office of National Mission, and workers in crisis are encouraged to contact their district office for an application and guidance.
The Rev. Dr. Ross Johnson, director of LCMS Disaster Response and lead administrator of the Soldiers—Amplified grants process, said, “Soldiers of the Cross is a donor-funded effort that provides one-time financial grants to LCMS church workers who are going through a financially challenging time.
“When a financial crisis hits a church worker, he or she sometimes does not have the personal funds to take care of essential needs such as rent, groceries, medical bills or auto repairs. As the Body of Christ, we can pool some of our financial resources to care for our workers at this time.”
To maintain confidentiality and protect workers’ dignity, the identities of grant recipients are not made public. Their stories include:
- A pastor whose only vehicle broke down and who does not have enough money to pay for the repair but who needs the vehicle to care for his flock.
- Workers who are having difficulty making their mortgage payment because they have been let go or because their employers don’t have money to pay them.
- A church worker whose wife died in childbirth.
- A pastor who had a kidney transplant and faces extensive medical bills beyond what insurance can cover.
Notes of thanks
One district assisting its workers with Soldiers—Amplified grants is the LCMS Florida-Georgia District. Below are excerpts of several notes of appreciation from those workers.
- “This grant held us over until we received our economic stimulus in May, the governor lifted the order and we were able to pick up where we left off. It is a tremendous blessing that we did not fall behind on our mortgage or have to rack up credit card debt trying to both eat and pay the bills. Thank you so much and God bless you!”
- “God provides us with certain weapons to fight specific battles. He provides all our needs. … We aren’t lacking for bread, nor are we in debt because of you, God’s faithful servants. We are very grateful for your generosity, and greater is your reward in heaven.”
- “Thank you! I didn’t expect to be out of work, and for so long. … We are so grateful, and we know that it was a mighty God who was listening and found a way [to help] through the grant.”
- “My wife’s job was very slow, and she was called to stay home often. At the same time, my mother passed away. You can’t imagine how happy I was when I received the check, and I started praying and praising God because His mercy lasts forever. With this money, I have paid my monthly mortgage and sent money for my mom’s funeral expenses. I am still going through hard times, but the check you sent has been helping a lot.”
Good news for difficult times
Another district assisting its workers with Soldiers—Amplified grants is the LCMS Southeastern District (SED). SED President Rev. Dr. John Denninger said, “As of May 13 in the Southeastern District, 94 grants totaling $64,000 had been awarded. We are grateful for the partnership that makes these grants available to church workers through our Synod’s Soldiers of the Cross organization, LCEF and individual donors throughout the LCMS.
“There is a significant group of workers on whom our churches and schools are dependent,” Denninger continued. “Janitors, day care providers, administrative assistants, musicians and preschool teachers are all church workers, in addition to our called workers, whose livelihood is threatened due to COVID-19. Our early childhood centers are some of the hardest hit by this crisis. In addition to the constant threat of the coronavirus, their monthly income has evaporated. Some of these church workers are single parents. The Southeastern District has received many expressions of thanks from workers who have been helped by a Soldiers of the Cross grant.”
Denninger reported that a director of a child development center in the district wrote to share the appreciation of the teachers who had received grant funds:
“They are so thankful. During these difficult times, it’s so nice for them to receive some good news. This is GOD news, not just good news. Thank you for all you did and continue to do.”
Another SED worker wrote, “I have been out of work and trying to figure out day by day how I’m going to survive, but I know that the Lord above will always provide. I just wanted to say thank you.”
Funding for the Soldiers of the Cross program depends entirely on designated gifts and offerings from those who want to assist workers confronted with ministry-disrupting personal crises. In April, LCEF “fast-tracked” $1 million to the COVID-19 response effort by providing initial grants of $28,500 to each of the 35 LCMS districts. LCEF is now working to raise an additional $1 million. The LCMS, which previously allocated $1.5 million to the Soldiers of the Cross—Amplified initiative, has launched an effort to increase its commitment by an additional $1.5 million.
To find out how to support the Soldiers of the Cross—Amplified program through the Synod or an individual district, visit lcms.org/soldiers-of-the-cross/covid-19.
To support LCEF’s COVID-19 response, visit lcef.org/product/give.
Posted June 4, 2020