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3E Ministerial Excellence Fund Stories

2018 MEF Impact Stories

Thank you.  My story is somewhat unique, since an acute financial crisis did not trigger my application.  Rather, it was a change in health coverage which may impact my family in the future.  The grant provided seed money to begin a contingency health savings account.  Most important, it was a source of support, reminding me that I am not alone in my faith journey. – Steve Klemz, Zion Lutheran, Salt Lake City, UT

As I get closer to retirement, there is less and less time to make up for being at a small congregation with a small salary.  While I am happy living on what I make because I love it here in Casper and at Grace Lutheran, I have often wondered if I would ever be able to retire.  This certainly has not completely taken away my thoughts that I will have to be very careful in retirement, but I am more comfortable thinking that I just might pull it off before I am too old to enjoy my retirement.  Thank you so much!!! – Brenda Frielsi, Grace Lutheran, Casper, WY

I am a second career rostered leader in Word and Sacrament, however, I have served the ELCA for almost 20 years in lay ministry. When I decided to enter seminary, the debt was daunting. My spouse and I paid for as much out of pocket as we could and so only incurred tuition debt. This still totaled over $50,000 for my Master of Divinity. We are fiscally conservative and with two children to put through college we have worked very hard to pay down my debt AND pay for college. We are also committed to honoring where God may call me to lead in the Church and so there is occasionally tension in honoring the call to ministry and care for our family. When the opportunity came for this grant, I wasn't sure I would qualify as we do already have a strong financial plan in place. But I was encouraged to share my story of serving God and God's people with the team and they were very affirming of my call, my financial concerns and my family. The grant has allowed us to pay off the rest of my loan, which frees us to help our young adult children with college expenses fully as well as to be more open to where God might be calling us to serve in the future. We are deeply and humbly grateful for this assistance and affirmation of my call to ministry. Thank you! – Brigette Weier, Bethany Lutheran, Denver, CO

Like many rostered leaders, I came out of Seminary with student loan debt.  I've been fortunate to have a full-time call with salary at or near guidelines my whole career and no debt besides student loans and mortgage.  However, in our efforts to control student loan debt, especially in the first few years of ministry, my wife and I did not save much for retirement beyond the congregation's contribution.  We received a 3E grant to jump start some extra retirement savings.  The grant served as good motivation to increase our own retirement savings and the influx of extra savings itself was sure nice!  As our student loan debt gets paid off in the coming year, I hope to add more to both retirement savings and charitable giving through the church and beyond.  – Daniel Smith, Ascension Lutheran, Colorado Springs, CO

The 3E Lilly grant offered me a chance to pay off nearly all of my debt. I was able to negotiate a one-time payment offer that reduced my balance amount considerably. I informed my congregational leadership of the 3E assistance I applied for and was surprised at how positive they received it. Because of the grant, I would be able to share more with ministries of our church and the wider church, I told them. My financial health today is better, my participation in the monetary giving of my church is greater and my financial future is less worrisome than it was a very short time ago. Getting into credit trouble was not in my plan, ever, but tough times made easy credit very attractive. I was wrong, and very ashamed to be in trouble. I feared creditor phone calls, I feared the repercussions of bad credit ratings, and I cringed when those very-important-looking envelopes came in the mail. Calling creditors filled me with anxiety and petrified me.  Asking for help seemed too frightening and I was far too ashamed to apply for the grant. When the 3E leadership reached out to me, they were helpful, non-judgmental, understanding and more than welcoming to me. For all of these things, I'm so very grateful. – Todd Hawkins, Prince of Peace Lutheran, Denver, CO

Christmas was nearing and my wife had a health challenge that required urgent attention. In the follow up in the new year, further action was required for clear health. Now our new year became the reality of two full deductibles on an already fairly rigid budget. On top of the expected anxiety and distraction of medical dept, we also faced the thankless task of fixing the mistakes of the providers as we navigated the insurance/medical billing world. Hearing about the Lilly Grant Initiative: MEF Debt Relief Grant, I recognized our situation as exactly why this money was being granted. The application process was fair without being inappropriate. The mentor relationship was joyful and the money relieved a burden that allowed us to learn and grow together through times of challenge. – Laura and Adam Berndt, Cross of Hope Lutheran, Albuquerque, NM

Because of the Lilly grant that I was awarded last year, I was able to benefit my congregation by attending Part I of the Executive Skills course at CLU. The things I learned through that course work has benefited me in my ministry here, our members, and the ministry impact we're having in our community. Perhaps one of the most critical ways this impacted our congregation was to demonstrate to them that they are valued and worthy of being awarded such a grant. I hope to be able to attend Part II of the Executive Skills this year. Thank you!!