“I’ve met so many nice Lutherans, I may have to become Lutheran!”

The above comment was from a RAGBRAI rider from Indiana I sat next to while enjoying a Pork Chop dinner at my home congregation, St. James Lutheran in Mason City.

RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) is a big deal in Iowa.  It is an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state. Begun in 1973 it is the oldest, largest and longest bicycle ride in the world.   People come from all over the United States and the world to ride in it.

Even the synod got into the act as Charlene welcomed and offered some water to thirsty riders

The route always begins on the western border of Iowa on the Missouri River and takes riders to the eastern border on the Mississippi River.  The route in-between changes every year and this year we were lucky to have many days and overnight stops come through the Northeastern Iowa Synod.

It was a great opportunity for our congregations, not just to raise money, but to show Christian hospitality and share the Gospel with riders and others.  And our congregations stepped up to the challenge. Here are a few examples of how our synod congregations welcome RAGBRAI guests:

St. James Lutheran in Mason City (the first overnight stop in our synod) was fortunate enough to be right on the route and have a large facility (including showers!) and surrounding land to offer camp sites to over 400 riders.  Besides serving 600 pork chop dinners, riders were offered free Wi-Fi and charging stations.

The second overnight was in Waverly where Redeemer Lutheran served 600 dinners and provided space for 70 people to sleep in the church.

Redeemer member Bruce Lantzky offers ride a chance to take photos in his tractor.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School in Waverly, although off route, served a traditional German dinner to over 450 riders.  While riders waited for dinner, Pastor Schneider, a Wartburg College and UNI faculty provided entertainment singing traditional German folk songs including “The Pastor’s Cow”.

Immanuel Lutheran Church in Independence was experienced as they had hosted riders the last time the event rode through town seven years ago. They served 900 riders homemade lasagna and provided space for three riding teams to spend the night.

These are just a few examples of how congregations in our synod showed hospitality. In addition, many of our members and pastors hosted riders in their homes and parsonages.

No doubt this was a good fund raiser for many worthy causes in the congregations.  But even more important was the good will that was generated.  We put a friendly and graceful face on the word Lutheran.  Evangelism is not just about attracting new members.  It is like the sower from our Gospel lesson a few weeks ago who wildly sows seed without regard to where it may fall, trusting God to bring forth the harvest.

See more photos of synod churches hosting RAGBRAI on our Pinterest Board RAGBRAI 2014

By Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.

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