vignette (vin-yet’), n. 1. short literary essay; sketch
vignettist (vin-yet’ist), n. a maker of vignettes, painter, photographer, or writer
Dateline: Hales Corners, Wisconsin
PAUL R. KOCH, VIGNETTIST
first pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church
Led by his guiding hand
The Lord does things in such a marvelous way. For example, when we (family of four) left WELS in the fall of 1959, and with it my call and income as teacher at Fox Valley Lutheran High, I was led to a career opportunity in the U. S. Civil Service, IRS. A training program necessitated leaving our Appleton home to cope with living in either Chicago or Milwaukee. The megalopolitan nature of both was somewhat daunting, and a trip to Chicago with a look at tenement living gave us the chills. We opted in favor the Milwaukee area and began some serious house hunting. We prayed and we looked, then prayed and looked some more, wandering all over metropolitan Milwaukee. We finally decided on a place within walking distance of my wife’s aunt, Ruth Schaller. We were thankful for the promise of just a small oasis of family and fellowship in this new land that had no church home for us. But the Lord had more goodness to bestow as He guided our wanderings.
In March of 1960, in the middle of unpacking and getting settled, a neighbor stopped by to welcome us to the neighborhood. She returned later with a luscious pie and a message. She had kept in touch with some former occupants of our new home and just happened to hear from them that day. When she told them that a Lutheran minister from Appleton had moved into the house next door, they asked his name, and then sent the message which seemed to us to come from heaven: “Please call us; we have heard of you.”
We were completely puzzled as to how that could be. When I made a call that evening, I found myself speaking with someone I had never heard of. Mr. Rudy Mueller had received a letter from his brother, Teacher Gerhardt Mueller in Fond du Lac, mentioning that an ex-WELS pastor named Koch might be moving to Milwaukee to seek secular employment. Rudy and his wife had just scheduled a meeting with their pastor to inform him of their decision to leave the WELS because of the fellowship issue. They felt quite alone as they were unaware of anyone in the Milwaukee area sharing this conviction and were overjoyed to be able to talk to someone who did.
Sunday, March 13, 1960, found the Muellers motoring north from the Town of Franklin back to their old neighborhood on the Northwest side of Milwaukee to worship with us in Ruth Schaller’s living room. After a spirit-strengthening communion service with brethren in Fond du Lac the next Sunday, it was decided to set a specific time and place for regular worship services. The following week we met in the living room of the same house (5332 N. 434 St.) the Muellers had lived in and vacated five years before. This surely was not just a coincidence. We and they believe it was the hand of a loving and provident Lord who brought us together at a time of mutual need. May God be praised!
But the miracles didn’t stop there. On April 10 Mr. & Mrs. Enno Gerbitz joined the little group as well as Mr. Gordon Krause. Visitors brought the attendance that Sunday to nineteen. Each week we were blessed with visitors who somehow heard of these services. The guest list that summer included familiar names such as Reim, Lau, Radtke, Schaller, and Dommer. On July 17, Messiah Lutheran congregation was formed as articles of incorporation were signed and a certificate of incorporation was drawn up. The now sainted Pastors Egbert Schaller and Waldemar Schuetze preached on July 24 and 31 respectively. After I was called to Mankato to ILC, Messiah was blessed with a new home (a rented Seventh Day Adventist church, 3821 N. 26th St.) and a new shepherd, David Lau, who with his wife were already members of Messiah. Pastor Lau was theologically trained in WELS, but left because of doctrinal differences. Messiah Lutheran congregation, now of Hales Corners, will be celebrating its 40th anniversary September 10th of this year.