For the past 25 years, The Lutheran Home Association (TLHA) has been sharing the love of Jesus with individuals with special needs through Jesus Cares Ministries (JCM). Through programs like Worship at the Cross (simplified worship), Dear Christian Friend (tailored Bible class curriculum), and New Friends (event-based groups), JCM has enriched innumerable lives around the world. Now, with the goal of continuing to grow this ministry, TLHA has chosen to transition Jesus Cares Ministries into the hands of Kingdom Workers.
In this post-pandemic era, TLHA leadership has found the world of healthcare—particularly for seniors—increasingly challenging. The organization has placed a majority of its resources into sustaining its senior care communities. Mark Hayes, TLHA president and CEO, explains, “Rather than maintaining status quo for Jesus Cares Ministries, our Board of Directors proactively sought a WELS-affiliated ministry that had significant potential to take gospel outreach to individuals with special needs to the next level. . . . [Kingdom Workers] has the staff, resources, and experience to engage and expand volunteer opportunities for JCM.” Additionally, because TLHA and Kingdom Workers are both volunteer-based ministries and had already been working together since 2013 to start Jesus Cares programs overseas in Malawi and Grenada, this path seemed the natural next step.
According to Anna Greenman, Americas regional director with Kingdom Workers, most aspects of Jesus Cares Ministries will remain unchanged—including Worship at the Cross, Dear Christian Friend, and New Friends. Looking ahead, she explains, “We will be focusing on what inclusion and true belonging look like for people with disabilities in our churches, and we will maintain the ministry and continue to grow as God leads us to new churches and places.”
For JCM and Kingdom Workers, the future is bright. Carrie Ogonowski, who brings years of extensive experience leading programs for children with disabilities, will be leading Jesus Cares Ministries. “The goal is to maintain the work so that the change is seamless to those with disabilities who are served through the program,” says Greenman. “Extra care is being taken to make sure that both volunteers and donors feel informed and at ease with the change.”
Despite this transition, Hayes explains that The Lutheran Home Association isn’t done caring for special needs communities: “In addition to caring for seniors, we also provide care for 65 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities at Hope Residence in Belle Plaine, Minn., and High Island Creek Residence in Arlington, Minn.”
These homes—like all TLHA’s homes and communities—provide not only 24-hour physical care for residents, but full-time pastoral care as well. “[The chaplain] shares their life experiences,” explains Hayes. “He provides worship, Bible study, daily devotions, and pastoral counseling. . . . Sharing the gospel through chaplains at TLHA is ministry we intend to carry on as long as the Lord allows.”
Learn more about Kingdom Workers and its Jesus Cares programs at kingdomworkers. com/jesus-cares.
Volume: 110, Number 10
Issue: October 2023