Compiled by Jenny Scott

November 2022

In keeping with our Wellness pillar the LCMS Northern Illinois District comes alongside fellow District church workers during all times in their lives to provide them with a listening ear and spiritual support. We are especially grateful to our Lord for providing our newly ordained and commissioned church workers. Let’s get to know some of our new workers and the ministries in which they serve.

1. What has been your biggest surprise since beginning your work?
2. What part of your education best prepared you as you look at your service so far?
3. How have you seen God at work in you since beginning your work? In your congregation or classroom?
4. What do you do to find rest and wellness?
5. How have your colleagues been helpful as you have begun your work?

Abby Mielke, Commissioned Teacher, Zion Lutheran Church and School, Marengo, IL
1. One of my absolute favorite parts of the day is when we pray right before we go home, and I am able to remind them that they are a child of God. We ask for forgiveness of our sins, for safety as we go home, and that we are all able to come back together tomorrow. It was surprising to me that this was one of my favorite parts of the day, since that is usually such a chaotic moment as students pack up and get ready to go. It really reinforces to me the challenge that was given to me in my call, that I let God work through me and guide my students back to Him.

It’s also been surprising how much fun we can have in a day and still accomplish everything that we need to. I am blessed to be with students that I can laugh with, and I enjoy being with them.

2. I really feel that my time at Concordia strongly prepared me for my job. My methods classes were incredibly helpful. I think back to them every day and use some of the lessons I wrote at that time. It was an invaluable experience that I feel so blessed to have had.

3. I see Him work through my students as they interact with each other and their other teachers. I have also seen Him work so intensely in bringing me to my current position. It has been such an incredible experience, and I know that God was working to guide me to be here with the students and teachers. Everyone I have met here has been so kind and welcoming to me and has eased so much of my anxiety beginning this job. I have seen Him at work in every person that I have encountered in my classroom and in my congregation as He has equipped me for this call.

4. The biggest goal that I have set for myself this year is that I try not to stress about school all the time. Most nights I leave school at 5:30 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. and I really try to check out and not bring work with me. I also make sure that I go to bed at a decent hour and keep my routines and schedules. Other than that, I try to stay on top of my lesson plans and grading as much as I can, but every teacher knows that that is a lifelong struggle.

5. My colleagues have been incredibly helpful and invaluable to me in these first few weeks of school. I give thanks to God again and again that I have been placed with such a wonderful staff. They have all been so kind to me and welcoming, and they jump at the opportunity to build relationships with me and help me in whatever I may need. I have been so thankful for them as they have made this so much easier.


Rev. Eric Hart, Assistant Pastor, St. Luke Lutheran Church, Itasca, IL

1. How excited the congregation is and how supporting they are.

2. Vicarage, 4th year class on Confirmation and Christ formation with Dr. Nafzger.

3. Enthusiasm for sharing God’s Word with middle schoolers.

4. Spending time with family, disc golf, and running.

5. Helpful advice, share ideas and resources and feedback.


Mike Fanuke, Director of Church Ministry, Rockford Lutheran School, Rockford, IL

1. The biggest surprise thus far has been the depth of answers and understanding from some of my students. Remembering my own curiosities at their age I can see just how much they love learning about the Bible. I also love that in my position of Religion Teacher I get to discuss life situations with my kids, helping some individually gain confidence in my class, other classrooms, and with extra-curricular activities.

2. From my time at CUC my classes with Dr. Patrick Bayens in Scripture have helped me grow deeper in my faith and my ability to effectively teach the Bible. From CUW Dr. John Oberdeck’s class on youth ministry helped me grasp further different ways of relating with my kids while keeping a respectful boundary. God’s blessings from my own time in Lutheran Education continue to bless my current ministry.

3. I see God at work in my classroom every time one of my 6th or 7th graders has an “ah ha” moment, smiling ear to ear because they made a connection in scripture. One of my 6th graders remembered, two days later, that Benjamin’s first name was Ben-Oni and what it meant. She raised her hand as quickly as she could and shouted that his name from Rachel meant “son of my sadness.” There is God helping His children grasp His Word!

4. Finding rest and wellness is fairly easy for me, not to sound like I found the needle in a haystack, but I find that a good book or movie can help me let go. Many struggle with “turning off their brains” but praying for my kids (students) and friends and family help me let their worries go and relax.

5. My colleagues are truly amazing. After spending a few years searching for a new group of people to celebrate and grow with after school, Rockford Lutheran is truly a godsend. My department chair, Darren Hansen, and his wife and my “wall buddy,” Lori, have helped me find my new home church and are always helping me navigate the world of education. The junior high wing of teachers at Rockford have taken me in and truly treat me as one of their own, and I will never be able to thank them enough! To God be all the glory!


Rev. Emmett Bartens, Associate Pastor, Bethany Lutheran Church, Naperville, IL

1. The people here at Bethany were extremely generous to us as we were moving to Naperville. They collected items to stock our pantry (which was stuffed to the brim), we received many gift cards and other gifts, and they threw the best Ordination party that I’ve ever been to following my Ordination/Installation service. It’s far more than we could have ever asked for or expected.

2. By far, the most useful practical preparation for the pastoral ministry was the year I spent on vicarage in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Being immersed in the joys, the sorrows, and the busyness of an active parish with a great supervisor was irreplaceable by any single class at the seminary.

3. The work of God permeates everything I do as a pastor. I see his work of creating and sustaining the faith of his people every time I preach or administer the Sacraments. I see Him at work when I teach the Bible and the Catechism to my day school and my confirmation students. I see the work of God as I answer questions (both easy and difficult) from the youth I work with.

4. I have a wife and two young kids at home, so rest often looks like taking walks to the local playground and running around in the back yard. I also play organ, and I like to throw darts and play disc golf.

5. I am quite blessed to serve on a staff that includes two other pastors, each of whom have over 10 years of pastoral experience. They’ve been an invaluable resource both in terms of general pastoral ministry advice to a new guy and also knowing and communicating unique aspects of Bethany and her history that have been extremely helpful as I’ve begun my work here.


Rev. Don Stein, Sole Pastor, St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Rockton, IL

1. Nothing quite prepared me for the amount of miles I would put on my car! Pastoral visits have always been a bright spot of ministry for me, and they remain an indispensable part of my work today; but I had never tracked just how much driving I do.

2. I was blessed with a magnificent fieldwork congregation and supervisor that were patient. That hands-on experience cannot be replaced. Regarding seminary courses, I have found application from nearly all of my classes. Homiletics with Dr. David Schmitt helped me to understand the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of preaching, learning to exegete from Dr. Jeff Gibbs taught me to slow down analytically when reading a text, and systematic studies with Dr. Biermann tied together the whole thing for practical use in the parish. The seminary truly provides a solid base for new pastors if they are willing to be taught.

3. God has been at work long before I arrived here. He has been moving faithful Christians to the area, each bringing their own unique gifts to serve not only the congregation, but also the community. There is an infectious enthusiasm for service and outreach here. I see God using these faithful siblings in Christ to renew my faith, hope, and trust in His promises. His Word does not return to Him empty!

4. Aside from the spiritual rest God provides in prayer and daily devotion, time with my family keeps me refreshed. Sunday nights have become “pizza night” in the Stein home. My wife makes homemade pizza dough, and our three girls add the toppings. They are creative! It is a blessing when we can recognize our vocations as joyful privileges.

5. I do not think I could ever say enough good about the support I have received from my brother pastors. The nearby churches are seeking ways to work together to benefit our youth, my Circuit Visitor has been accessible when I have needed his counsel, and the District Office has been not only responsive, but truly helpful even in these first two months. God continues to give blessings through His people.


Rev. Kevin Peterson, Sole Pastor, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Addison, IL

1. How it has been possible to have a somewhat predictable schedule.

2. Preaching classes for learning how to craft a memorable sermon that is still true to the text. Pastoral counseling and reconciliation classes for dealing with the guidance people want from their pastor. Systematics classes to be able to give solid, theologically sound answers to tough questions.

3. I find myself more open to sharing who I am, that I am a pastor, and where the church is located with people I encounter in public than I did before as a vicar or seminary student. I’ve had more confidence to simply share what we as the church have to offer with strangers and trust God will work in their hearts.

4. Spiritually I enjoy using the Holden Evening Prayer service coupled with the readings in the Treasury of Daily Prayer book. For leisure I still make a point to enjoy one of my favorite pastimes, which is film.

5. The staff and volunteers at my congregation have been very helpful and welcoming!


Lauren Holmlund, Commissioned Teacher, Rockford Lutheran School, Rockford, IL

1. Many times I had been warned how tough the first year of teaching is, but I didn’t know just how tough it actually was until I started teaching as a first-year teacher. I didn’t have any major surprises since beginning my job, as I had been in the same school for student teaching.

2. Looking back on my education, there is one specific class in college that I tend to go back to, that I use information all the time from in my teaching experience. The professor in the class said so many things about the reality of teaching, and I’m finding more and more of them to be true. Student teaching also helped me be better prepared for teaching at Rockford Lutheran because part of my student teaching experience was at Rockford Lutheran. I was able to get to know some of the staff and school policies before ever setting foot in the school. Part of my student teaching experience was also learning how to build relationships with students that I’ve carried into my own classroom as well.

3. One of the biggest parts of how I’ve always approached ministry is simply in forming relationships. As a teacher, you can either just stand in front of the classroom and talk to them for hours on end, or you can listen to the students, let them tell you things that are important to them. When you allow students to open up to you and form a relationship, ministry can go deeper. The way that I’ve seen God at work the most is in the relationships I’m forming with my students. This in turn allows me to show God’s love to them on another level.

4. I am a very introverted person. I find rest and wellness in simply being alone and having time to process things. I love music and have been playing guitar and flute since I was younger. I love to be outside and to enjoy God’s creation. I also enjoy a good game of football. (Go Vikings!) All of these things give me peace, and I find myself to be well-rested in doing these things!

5. I’ve been very blessed to have very approachable colleagues as I have begun my work. Many times teachers at the school see me and simply ask how I’m doing. Many of them have been teaching a lot longer than I have and have very good advice on how to handle certain situations. I feel very welcomed into the school setting that I am in and very grateful for the people that God has surrounded me with.


Matthew Ziemer, Commissioned Teacher, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Aurora, IL

1. The biggest surprise for me since beginning my work was how quickly I was able to get into the routine and find my students’ interests. I thought this would take a bit of time, especially as a first-year educator, to adapt to; and to some extent, I am still continuing to learn new things about my students each day. However, I started to feel pretty comfortable with my instructing routine and forming connections with my students already after a few days which has certainly helped me feel confident in what I am doing.

2. Something I feel my education at Concordia University Wisconsin best helped me prepare for was being ready to adapt to students’ needs and to constantly reflect on each lesson I instruct. I am constantly reflecting after each lesson on what were elements that were positive in the lesson to keep for future lessons, as well as what were areas that could be improved or changed for future lessons. That has been the most helpful part for me as I continue to develop ways to improve and grow as an educator.

3. God is most certainly present in my classroom. Having the opportunity to teach in a Lutheran school has allowed me to incorporate Christ into all of my subjects and allow for students to see Christ in all that we do. I have also seen Christ in how the students seem engaged with our religion curriculum. We have been discussing apologetics this year, and it has been awesome seeing how interested they are when it comes to learning how to defend their faith, especially as many of them will be heading to public high schools. These are skills they will be able to take with them as they approach this next chapter of their life and use to continue to share and spread the Word of Christ to others. Additionally, I have given them opportunities to write down difficult questions they have about their faith or God, and I have spent time helping them answer these questions and to feel more prepared for those difficult topics they may encounter in high school or college. As I see them continue to observe and reflect on their relationship with Christ, I see how Christ is working through them and how the Holy Spirit is continuing to strengthen their faith.

4. For me, I find rest through spending time with family and friends. I am naturally more of an introverted person but become a lot more extroverted once I have formed a friendship or connection with someone. Spending free time with friends and co-workers is something that has been a huge help in refilling my bucket when I am tired.

5. My colleagues have been extremely helpful to me as I am in the middle of my first year. There are a lot of school traditions or routines that I did not necessarily know about heading in, so my colleagues have been a huge help in helping me become acclimated with the traditions and culture of the school. Additionally, they have been great mentors for me as I look for advice on my instructional strategies and helping me see what areas I can improve in or what areas have been very successful. Ultimately, my colleagues have been wonderful to me as I am starting my teaching experience and have been a huge resource to me as I look for ways to continue to improve on my instruction practices.



WELLNESS: Promoting and encouraging health and vitality in congregations, schools, ministries, professional workers and lay-leaders.


New Workers of the Word