A SLICE OF LIFE IN THE CLC
Snapshots of congregations from around the Church of the Lutheran Confession
The hand of blessing of our gracious God has been and indeed remains over Grace congregation in Live Oak, Florida. Grace Lutheran Church is located in north Florida, in the center of the state, about twenty-five miles south of the Georgia border. The I-75 (the main north-south interstate) is about twenty miles away
The work started here in the late 1970’s, and in the early 80’s the present brick parsonage and parish hall were built. Many hours of volunteer labor from members of Grace and other CLC congregations helped in this endeavor.
Our wondrous God also supplied faithful and talented pastors who labored here over the years. Pastors John Reim, Michael Roehl, Wayne Eichstadt, Jay Hartmann, Stephen Sydow, and Karl Stewart have served their Savior here, and our God has blessed their efforts so that many have heard the Good News of their Savior Who lived for them, Who died for them, and Who rose triumphantly for them. We also thank God for Pastor Vance Fossum, who has served the congregation when it was vacant and at other junctures.
Live Oak has a population of about seven thousand. It is a well-churched area with various Baptist, Methodist, and Church of God congregations. There are several Christian schools, including Christian high schools.
Currently, most of our members live within the town of Live Oak or in close proximity. We also have members who live in Jacksonville, Florida, on the Atlantic coast about a hundred miles from Live Oak. We have members in Deltona, Florida (north of Orlando), almost three hours south of Live Oak. Others live in Tallahassee (the capital of Florida) about a hundred miles west. We also have a couple who make the four-hour round trip almost every Sunday from southwest Georgia. Yes, God has granted to our members a strong, abiding commitment to their Savior and to the ongoing work and support of Grace.
An ongoing joy at Grace is the Bible studies. We have a strong core of members who come out on Sunday morning. We have studies at other times of the week in members’ homes, where we meet over the dining room table. We have a bi-weekly study in Middleburg (a suburb of Jacksonville). We have recently started a bi-weekly study in southwest Georgia, in Sale City. Yes, the words of our Savior-God are bearing fruit, calling people to faith and to a greater love and trust in Him as their Redeemer.
Over the past few years at Grace, one of the major emphases has been building up the church library. There are Bible commentaries, devotional books, books on creation/evolution, children’s books, books on the Reformation, and so on. We also have added DVD’s on many different Christian topics. This has served as a real blessing to the members and friends of the congregation, enriching their Christian knowledge and strengthening their faith in Christ Jesus. This has also helped members feel more confident in speaking to others about Christ and what He means to them. It also helps them offer Christian support and encouragement to one another, as well as to family and friends.
We advertise in the local papers. A few of the members have distributed flyers and done canvassing in Live Oak and surrounding communities. We have had Easter for Kids, Christmas For Kids, grief seminars, and other seminars on various Christian topics. These have given us opportunities to speak of the love of God in Christ Jesus, to answer questions which people have about the Christian faith, and to introduce young and old to Him Who died and rose for them.
This past December, Grace had a booth at the annual “Christmas in the Square” event. It was an opportunity to talk to people, to hand out Christian literature, and to acquaint our neighbors with activities at Grace. The organizers of the event estimated that some 18,000 people visited this year. Good contacts have been made and the follow-up is ongoing.
My wife Doris and I are Canadian citizens. I am currently in Florida on an R-1 visa (for non-immigrant religious workers). We are thankful for this opportunity to serve His people here in Florida and Georgia. I also have the call to serve Resurrection Lutheran Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Currently we alternate, serving about three months at each location. In both congregations we have dedicated laymen who lead the service when I am serving the other congregation. We thank God for these men who are willing to serve in this way so that both groups are served, and the Word of God continues to be proclaimed. We also are thankful to our gracious God for Pastor David Reim of St. Paul, Vernon, British Columbia for helping at Resurrection when I am in Florida.
Thank you for this opportunity to tell you a little about God’s work at Grace Lutheran.
Douglas Priestap is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Live Oak, Florida, and Resurrection Lutheran Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.