The Rev. John Suguitan plays with Norell Cody during Prince of Peace Lutheran Church’s weekly Wednesday evening devotion service and dinner in Cincinnati. (LCMS/Erik M. Lunsford)


Do they care?

Another week with some very important meetings about the mission work of the church. Meetings to discuss starting new missions, serving the poor, reaching the lost, identifying missionaries.

And the conversation usually has two parts. First, the great work to be done — that can be incredibly transformative actually. But the second part is usually how we are going to fund it. And it is no easy thing especially in the urban/inner city context. 

So many times, the question is raised to me, “Does anybody care, Pastor Schave?”

  • Don’t they care that there are homeless women and children out on the street?
  • Don’t they care that the young refugee family of new Americans are sleeping on the floor?
  • Don’t they care that there is a young man about to drop out of school to join a gang in a life of crime?
  • Don’t they care that a young woman will sell herself in the night because she thinks there is nothing else?
  • Don’t they care that a hopeless man will end his life on the bathroom floor with the pierce of a heroin needle?
  • Don’t they care that another prisoner can find no work on the outside and ends up back in jail for life?
  • Don’t they care that there is a little one of Christ’s lambs who will go to bed hungry tonight or — worse — has never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, has no spiritual food or drink, and has no eternal home?

You cared about the seminary

But I know that they care, even if they wonder, “What can my little donation really do anyways when there is so much work to be done for the sake of the Gospel?” And I know you care, because I know firsthand what that little donation can do.

My wife and I had successful corporate careers when we decided to leave it all behind for me to go to the seminary. Even with my Executive MBA and her CPA, we could never make the numbers work.

Now, we did our parts — I went to class all day and worked nights teaching at Indiana Tech, and she taught at a local business college. It still didn’t always add up.

But even then, during those seminary years, there was important work to be done. I was training to go into national missions, and to prepare I asked my fieldworker supervisor if he could give me the most challenging assignment that would be most rewarding.  Hospice: ministering to the dying and the grieving.

And you cared.

You put food in the seminary food pantry for my family to eat; you put food on our table. And with your monetary donation, you came with me. You came with me as I ministered to families who were grieving the loss of a loved one.

Without you, I’m not sure how we would have supported my family for me to become Rev. Steven Schave. Without you, I don’t see how seminarian Schave is there at the deathbed of a lost and tortured soul who had a giant cross lifted from his shoulders as he heard the Gospel for the first time.

But you cared. You stood with me, even on the wrong side of town, preaching the Good News to the poor and setting the captive free.

You cared.

You cared about church planting

Then there was central Georgia to plant a mission church where Lutheranism was pretty much an unknown. Folks asked if Lutherans were like Mormons, some sort of cult, and didn’t know the history of the Reformation.

It would be a challenge, but the harvest was ripe to plant the seed of the Gospel and the message of grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone.  The harvest was ripe to start a new mission framed by witness, mercy, and life together. 

We served even in the shanty towns at the edge of the city. Along gravel roads, some places didn’t even have running water, and it was where nobody thought a church would minster to this group of mostly addicts and elderly rural poor. 

But we were there because you cared. 

Without you, I wouldn’t be able to serve full time as a missionary, serving at the local hospital, shelter, nursing home, prison. You came with me as we planted the church, started a community center, and brought together the most wonderful group of people to charter a new congregation. This was done by a family in Christ who would love their neighbor with joy. 

Even in the brutal heat of Georgia in the summer at a trailer park lot covered in prickly thorns and insulation, they loved being there to serve just because it was something we were doing together as a family. We were able to tell others the Good News.

And you were standing there with me.

You cared about urban missions

And then God called me into the city, to a neighborhood in decay, and to a congregation struggling to make it. A missionary was needed to not only bring the congregation together again but to go back into the community. There were big plans for neighborhood renewal, and the plans included a renaissance of the campus around the church.

Again, doing my part, I took my plan to every bank, foundation, and corporation that would listen. Something had to be done about the deplorable living conditions for our senior citizens and our families in the community. Like the immigrants who, while on the way to our VBS one morning, had to pass by a slain teenager in the hallway of a Section 8 apartment after a drug deal gone bad.

Without you, I don’t know how we’d get folks into livable conditions and resolve the problems of the “Devil’s Playground” across the street from the church. 

But you cared.

You were there with me as what was once the most notorious spot in the neighborhood went from what was called the devil’s playground to affectionately be known as “Schave Park.” To see a congregation flourish again and share that love with their neighbors in the community. 

You stood with me in prayer, and in your giving, to make a difference with the Gospel.  All of those contributions over all of those years were changing lives, including mine.

You care about your neighbor in ‘Mission Field: USA’ when you stand with your missionaries

And to be sure these were not the lives of strangers that were changed. Even the most marginalized by society are created in the image of God; they are the apple of His eye.

God cared so much that He sent His one and only Son to suffer and die and rise again for their salvation. They are someone’s sons and daughters, our own brothers and sisters in Christ.

Even the least and the lost are the little ones that the Good Shepherd will not stop seeking until they have been found. And so they are not strangers to us, but they are our very own neighbors across the nation.

And so now I am asking, will you come with me again? We are going to go around the country — the third-largest mission field in the world — where the nations are coming to our doorsteps in our global cities.

Will you stand with me even in the grittiest, toughest neighborhoods of Gary, Ind.?  Will you be there in one of the most impoverished border towns in the U.S. in Brownsville, Texas?

I know you care, and I know you can make a difference. Because you came with me before, and you stood with me where God called.

Together we will reach the least and the lost in MissionField: USA, and we will bring the Gospel to new people in new places across the country.  We are going to tell the Good News and love our neighbor.

We will welcome in the newcomer, feed the poor, visit the prisoner, and watch the faces of children light up as they hear about Jesus.

So what more can I say than:

Thank you that you cared!