You are currently viewing Moments with missionaries: Craig Wilke

Moments with missionaries: Craig Wilke

The response to free

Sermon illustrations are not always easy to come by. Sometimes you rack your brain for a story, a life experience, something you’ve read, but nothing comes to mind. Other times you experience something that you just know will be a great sermon illustration someday.

garage sale clothes for sale free
Sure Foundation participated in a citywide garage sale, giving away everything that was donated for free.

I recently had one of those experiences at Sure Foundation. Each year in Brandon, S.D., there are citywide garage sales that are widely popular. People will come from Brandon, Sioux Falls, and even farther away just to see what they can find.

As a church, we decided to get in on this event—but not as a fundraiser. We decided to collect things from our members to give away to the community. Here was the catch. We weren’t advertising it as free. People would come hoping to find a deal at a garage sale, only to find out that everything was free.

Nearly every member family participated by donating their stuff. We even had prospects, neighbors, and people from the community contributing. Just like that, three big garage stalls were packed full.

Throughout the eight-hour event, we gave away almost all of it! Those who attended were shocked to find out that everything was free. It was in that moment of shock that a smiling volunteer would hand each person a card that said, “Just like salvation in Jesus is free, so are these. Enjoy this gift from your friends at Sure Foundation.” What an easy way to share the love of Christ!

But we haven’t gotten to the sermon illustration yet. When our volunteers insisted that everything was free, some people were so thankful that they responded in some way. Sometimes it was just the expressions on their faces, but other times people showed their thanks by giving. They gave and they gave and they gave. We put what they gave in a box designated to go to a school district fund to buy lunch tickets, snow pants, and boots for those who couldn’t afford it.

The response was remarkable. Just shy of 300 people showed up to this event and we raised $1,000 for the school district fund. All from a free event! There’s the sermon illustration. What’s the response to free? What’s the response to grace? The response to grace is a thankful heart. Our volunteers witnessed example after example of thankfulness overflowing into giving.

What an amazing blessing! It was an event that blessed the community with free things and an event that blessed us with an opportunity to share the gospel. Oh, and it blessed me with a great sermon illustration too.

Read more stories from WELS Missions at

Shining the gospel light

Community involvement is an important part of Sure Foundation’s ministry. Besides participating in the citywide garage sale, the congregation works closely with the local food pantry.

Those connections are important for many reasons. “Recent studies have shown that fewer people than ever are being introduced or re- introduced into church by coming to a worship service,” says Craig Wilke, pastor at Sure Foundation. “That means the church can’t sit within the borders of its worship space and wait for new connections to be made. The church needs to be in the community. How will the community see the light of the gospel if that light is kept under a bowl?”

Author: Craig Wilke
Volume 110, Number 03
Issue: March 2023

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Facebook comments