WHEN SOME WOMEN OF THE ELCA GROUPS are asked to pitch in, they bubble with enthusiasm.
That happened recently when Teresa Nygaard, mission coordinator for Church on the Street, Sioux Falls, S.D., asked women in South Dakota to contribute laundry pods and quarters to one of the church’s newest ministries.
“The Women of the ELCA have touched my heart to no end,” Nygaard said. “They just want to know how they can help.”
Nygaard travels throughout South Dakota to speak to congregations and women’s groups about the various ministries of Church on the Street, an ELCA Synodically Authorized Worshiping Community (SAWC) with people who are without homes.
Rebel Hurd, mission developer with the South Dakota Synod of the ELCA, founded Church on the Street in 2015. A candidate for ordination with the ELCA, she is currently attending seminary.
“Some people might say, ‘We are a church for people who don’t quite fit in,’” Hurd said. “But we like to say, ‘We are the church where you fit in perfectly.’”
The community worships outside from April to November and indoors from December to March or April, depending on the weather, she said. Attendance runs between 70 and 140 people, she said. “And after services, we share a meal with them.”
Women of the ELCA groups contribute to several Church on the Street ministries. “Different WELCA groups in the area make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for children’s snack kits and help with other feeding ministries,” Hurd said.
“Some people might say, ‘We are a church for people who don’t quite fit in.’ But we like to say, ‘We are the church where you fit in perfectly.’”
Laundry of Love
Lately Nygaard has been traveling and talking about the church’s most recent ministry, Laundry of Love, a twice-a-month opportunity for people without homes to wash their clothes at no expense.
“When I start talking [to Women of the ELCA groups] about this Laundry of Love and that we can use laundry pods and rolls of quarters, and maybe some cookies too, they say, ‘Oh, you’ve got to be kidding, we can do that.’”
The South Dakota Crossroads Conference of Women of the ELCA recently donated 33 containers of laundry pods and more than $800 in quarters, Nygaard said.
Erika Lehmann, a pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in rural Dimock, S.D., and a member of the Women of the ELCA group there, said her congregation was among the first to deliver rolls of quarters and laundry pods for the church’s laundry ministry last summer. St. John Women of the ELCA also pack lunches for Church on the Street worshippers and make mats out of plastic for them to sit on when services are outdoors.
Surveying people on the streets
Hurd said church volunteers often walk a 1.2-mile radius of the Church on the Street’s office space—gifted by First Lutheran Church in downtown Sioux Falls—to talk to people living on the street.
“We ask them two questions very consistently: What are your prayer requests and what are your needs?” Hurd said. “We listen very carefully to what they say, and we take notes.”
That’s when volunteers discovered those living on the street needed a place to do their laundry, “especially teens who were embarrassed to go to school in dirty clothes,” she said. “When we first started the ministry last summer, we just handed them the pods and the quarters, but we felt that that wasn’t enough of a ministry.”
Now, Hurd said, volunteers stay with the people as they wash their clothes—for two hours every other Tuesday.
“We sit with them and talk to them. And if they let us, we help them fold their clothes,” she said. “This is a ministry with people, not for people.”
We kept the machines busy
Harriet Monson, Laundry of Love’s event coordinator, organizes and advertises the clothes washing ministry that served 12 families on its first night, May 22.
“We kept most of the machines busy for the two hours we were there,” she said. “[One] woman shared how she has been washing clothes in the sink and then drying them at the laundromat to save money. She washed her children’s clothes tonight and plans to wash hers in two weeks when we do our next Laundry with Love.”
Monson added, “Thank you to the Women of the ELCA South Dakota Synod groups who collected laundry pods and quarters to make this ministry happen and thank you to the wonderful volunteers.”
Terri Lackey is director for communication for Women of the ELCA. Feature photo, clockwise from left: Harriet Monson helps a woman with her laundry, bags of laundry, a man rolls his laundry in with a baby carriage, Church on the Street’s worshippers. See more photos on Church on the Street’s Facebook page.