Within our East Valley is a microcosm of a healthy community, a stronger nation. It’s an ageless pattern offering solutions to our national fiscal crisis, our narcissistic living and our growing proclivity for surrendering freedoms.
In a big world, the actions of members of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church are ever so small, but compounded across the land, those acts could cure what ails us. Stretch with me and consider the possibilities of re-establishing the following solutions for fixing most community issues, solutions that requires no legislation or taxation.
This week, a group of East Valley homeless women will be spending Christmas Eve, Christmas day and night at that church at Ellsworth and Weir roads.
Truth is, the homeless women (ages 18-80) sheltered in the church, during this sacred time for Christians, is not unexpected. Homeless women stay various nights every week at East Valley churches under a program called I-Help, managed by The Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest. It not only benefits the receivers, but also the volunteers.
At Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, the pastor’s wife, Jeanne Nysether, directs their program. “It’s been one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever done in my life,” she said.
Her stories are plentiful. One Gold Canyon resident who checked to see how she could help, found a young, homeless woman, named Debbie, who had been diagnosed with cancer. The Good Samaritan offered Debbie a home and all that was required to get her through medical treatments. What’s startling is the Good Samaritan’s own husband had recently died of cancer, thus she knew what her generous offer would require. A year later, Debbie is now working and living with a friend. Her cancer treatments continue.
Then there’s the 90-year-old church neighbor who weekly donates meals when the homeless arrive. “Dot” is a World War II Marine. When she is thanked for her donations, her response is always, “Oh no, I’m the one who is blessed!”
In order to see this story in its entirety, meet Pastor Myron Nysether. His sermons center on the importance of living the gospel in deed as well as in word. He says evil has always been with us, but it gains ground “as churches are becoming increasingly less influential.”
This practical phrase comes to mind: Our influence is felt when “we practice what we preach.” In implementing I-Help, Nysether’s congregation changes lives.
Various East Valley churches rotate the service each week. The homeless are transported by van from Paz de Cristo in Mesa. Nysether tells of the homeless response when they arrive at his church. “We’re home,” they shout out and stream into the space that provides the shelter, beds and food for two nights. When they leave, they carry sack lunches and renewed hope for another week. During holiday stays, the homeless enjoy cooking their own meals, many singing throughout the day.
The pastor speaks with pride of the work by the volunteers and reflects on the overall mission of all believers: “If the church had been doing what it is supposed to do, the communist takeover in Russia would never have happened; the fascist takeover in Italy would never have happened; the Nazi takeover in Germany would never have happened. And the advancement of secularism and materialism and relativism and hedonism and other evil ism’s would not be happening in America. The church used to have real power in America and we were a far better country.”
He’s right, of course. Citizens exercising their freedoms to solve regional problems are the answer to this nation’s struggle, not government paternalism. For now, let’s celebrate this Christmas with renewed clarity that the power of the people must be kept by the people and not handed off to oppressive government.
• East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor.