Haley Meek and her husband Chuck love sharing their life with their young son, Eli. They have much to impart and pass down to him: a love of sports, close friendships, and a joy in spending time with family. Haley is also working to pass on a great gift that her grandparents and parents gifted her: the foundation of the life is finding hope and belonging in God.

Haley has experienced first-hand how faith can bring families through the most difficult of hardships. When Haley was a young girl, her two young cousins were killed in a house fire in Fargo while they slept. “The loss of my cousins was devastating for everyone in my family. When something like this happens, people respond in all sorts of different ways. My dad and grandparents responded by finding refuge in the church.” Haley’s family were committed to being held in their grief by God’s people at church and God Himself. “I experienced the power of the church to support her family through tragedy. I was held by God in my loss and ever since, I’ve known that God’s love bring comfort, even in the most devastating situations.”

As an adult, Haley conveys this great love of God to her family through her participation at Dilworth Lutheran. “Like the church of my youth, Dilworth Lutheran is great at sharing God’s love. I have a sense of belonging here that makes all the difference. People accept you for who you are.” At Dilworth, Haley knows and shares that she belongs to God, and is passing down this great gift.

When Dilworth Lutheran Church opened up after the pandemic, there was a large celebration. It was Lorna Kennedy’s 90th birthday party! For the past 70 years, Lorna had called Dilworth home. And, on this day, after a long time apart, the church came together to celebrate someone who gave so much to the church.

For Lorna, it was a homecoming. “For as long as I remember, Dilworth Lutheran was a place where I feel I belong. I feel comfortable and safe here.” Like many others, Lorna was so happy to be together again. “People stuck around to visit. We were home again.”

For Lorna, Dilworth Lutheran has always been a special place. When she was a young mother, she faced a crisis in her marriage and was divorced. As a mother of six young boys, this was a difficult position to be in. Dilworth Lutheran, however, provided her with support. “I made lifelong friends at church. All of us young mothers became so close, our families almost became interchangeable.” The church helped raise her boys in the faith—she still remembers by name the woman who taught all her boys in Sunday School. Dilworth was not simply a church, but it was home. “It is so much a part of me I wouldn’t know what to do without it.”

And Dilworth Lutheran Church wouldn’t know what to do without the leadership, kindness, and love of Lorna Kennedy. When we celebrated her 90th birthday, we celebrated someone who has made a real difference in the life of our church.

Paula Johnson is a leader—when she’s given a task, she works tirelessly to complete it. In the ND Air National Guard, she was a Chief Master Sergeant, the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force. She was also the first woman promoted to ND State Command Chief. At Dilworth Lutheran, Paula took the lead in our popular Annual Fall Dinner Festival from its beginning, and has served on our Stewardship and Evangelism Committees, on the Church Council, and, for the last 5 years, Paula has volunteered at the New Life Center Thrift Store.

Paula’s love for leadership goes way back. When she was in high school at Ulen/Hitterdal, her senior class motto was “Take the world as you find it, but leave it better.” She has aspired to live by that motto in everything she does. Her greatest inspiration, however, was her mom, Gert Johnson whose love, faith, and faithfulness kept her family going through some very difficult times. Paula recalled how her dad left her mom with 3 small children. “I was only 5 years old with 2 younger siblings,” she said. Her mom worked full time while raising her family and supporting all their activities. As she grew up, Paula’s relationship with her father was strained. It did not get easier as an adult. “I did not want to reconcile with my biological dad,” Paula recalled. The church’s emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation, however, changed her heart. “One day God spoke clearly to me, ‘Honor your father and mother.’ I didn’t want to, but I did.” God blessed that decision, bringing healing and many blessings into her life.

Today Paula will tell you that faith, family and country are all very close to her heart. Along with the values of sacrifice and serving others, Paula finds these virtues nurtured at Dilworth Lutheran Church. This faith has bore fruit in her life. Paula was recently honored with her picture on the cover of the magazine AW (Area Woman). In an article entitled “Determined, Dedicated, and Decorated” Paula says, “My faith has helped ground me, and it’s also given me wisdom to face uncertain situations. It’s important to generously serve others without losing yourself. I’m reminded that I need to think about God not just when I’m sad, but to connect with Him to do the right things. It’s a guarantee that all of us will eventually mess things up when we try to do things on our own. We need God’s help to direct our steps.”

In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul tells us that while church is one body, it has many parts. Some people serve by preaching, others by teaching Sunday School; some serve by leading music, others by keeping the lights on. Some, like Perry Kleven, serve the church at Dilworth Lutheran in all kinds of ways: when he is not gracing the church with his trumpet or making pancakes between services, he is working behind the scenes, making sure that our electrical systems and IT services are running properly.

As the service manager for Bergstrom Electric, Perry has had the opportunity to live and work in many different towns. For Perry, the community of Dilworth felt different. “When we came to Dilworth, we knew we had found a place we wanted to call home, so we bought a house and we visited Dilworth Lutheran Church.”

They immediately fell in the love with the church. “It was easy liking the church! Our core group of friends had children our age, our interests were the same and they were members here. What made it special for me were the Pastors. Their sermons, the interest and care in the members, the warmth we felt as we entered, made it easy to make Dilworth Lutheran Church our home church.”

Over the years, Perry has found Dilworth to be a great place to serve. “I was fortunate to help start the Men’s Pancake Club which brought many wonderful relationships through faith, fun and many blessings. I enjoy supporting all the Committees in our church—what a great place.”

Perry finds that using his gifts at Dilworth Lutheran has been a great blessing in his life. “By serving, I have found that in the giving I have also received. As I work for the church, I have also received many gifts of faith and friendship.”

And through Perry’s service, we have received many gifts. As St. Paul reminds us, we are all one body with many different gifts. Each one of us can serve the whole by doing our part. And through Perry’s music, talents, and pancakes, we have all been blessed.

If you visit Irene Hill, you’ll notice that she’s a cat lover! What are the clues? Cat toys are strategically placed and there’s a shelf full of cat pictures. They are right next to the love of her life, Arnold Hill.

Irene met Arnold when he was a soldier serving overseas, and she was working at the Army PX (a retail military mega store) in Berlin, Germany. Germany was continuing to recover from World War II, and Irene was getting her feet under her as a young adult. Irene is from Berlin. She’ll tell you this with a laugh: “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (“I am a Berliner.”)

This German phrase also carries a powerful message. President John F. Kennedy made it famous in a speech he gave in Berlin on June 26, 1963. He said, “Today in a world of freedom, the proud boast is, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’ All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in it.” While the world’s press made light of the possibility that JFK accidentally said that he was a jelly donut, his words encouraged Berliners like Irene.

By the time President Kennedy spoke his words, the East German government backed by the Soviet Union began to erect the Berlin Wall, a barrier between East (the Soviet-occupied sector) and West Berlin. President Kennedy’s speech was a great morale boost for West Berliners who lived in an enclave deep inside Communist East Germany. People in West Berlin were cut off from the rest of Germany and the western, democratic world. It was a fear-filled and difficult time. Twenty-seven years later the Berlin Wall came down. People around the world rejoiced!

As a young adult in Germany, Irene was blessed by her job working as a civilian for the US military. Irene and Arnold married and moved to the U.S. in the 1960’s where Arnold continued to serve in the U.S. Army. Despite the constant moves, Irene thrived in an environment that was new: new jobs, new people, new cultures, new living situations and new cats. When asked, “Where were you the happiest?” Irene replied, “Be happy where you are at!”

Irene was happy growing up in the church in Germany, but reflected that it was less personal. “We never got to know the pastors in Germany,” she said. Once back in the U.S. they attended the Presbyterian church. After moving to Dilworth (from Glyndon) they decided to give the Lutherans a try. How did that go? “We really liked the pastor at Dilworth!” she said. What is Irene most thankful for? “I’m still here!” she exclaimed. Yes, you are, Irene, and we are so thankful for you. She is a true witness that with steady faith in God and a kitty beside you, you can be happy where you are at!

Bonnie Miller is a spunky, fun-loving, devoted member of Dilworth Lutheran Church. She is married with two children and two grandchildren. A retired cardiac pacemaker nurse, she now loves singing in the choir, playing the French horn in the Red River Valley Veteran’s Band, and, most of all, taking care of her grandchildren.

As a child, Bonnie attended an Episcopal Church, but was more active in the Lutheran Church with their youth activities. “I loved being a part of both churches. It reminded me that while we may have differences, we are all one.”

When a job opportunity brought Bonnie and her husband Greg to the FM Area, they checked out many churches. “After we visited a lot of places, we loved the warm, welcoming feeling of Dilworth Lutheran Church. The Pastor was gentle and compassionate, and the sermons were what we needed to hear. The church made such a difference for our young family. We wanted to raise our children in a faith-based environment and Dilworth Lutheran provided it. And, as a bonus, they even had a choir!”

Through their time here, Bonnie and Greg have faced many trials. Along with her faith and family, the love and care from her Dilworth congregation has given her the strength to carry on to serve others as they have served her. “Dilworth has been a great church home. The messages continue to speak to me wherever I’m at and they help carry my faith outside of the church, to work and life. The longer we have been here, the more my faith grows. I find myself praying more and getting deeper into the Bible.”

The church continues to inspire and provide love and support to Bonnie. “What I love most is the way so many people get involved. People love this church, and they continue to inspire me to become more involved. There is something here for everyone.”

Recently retired accountant and current grandchild baby-sitter, Cindy Andrew grows in her faith through Dilworth Lutheran’s mission of “Love God. Love Neighbor.”

When Cindy Andrew moved to Dilworth twenty years ago, she knew almost no one. Her kids were busy in elementary school, and she was establishing her career as an accountant. “My family’s move to Dilworth could have been a lonely and difficult transition. Instead, I found a family at Dilworth Lutheran Church.”

For Cindy, Dilworth Lutheran provides opportunities for growth in her love for God and for love of neighbor. “Dilworth Lutheran has given me so many opportunities to grow in my faith. During the week, I am able to be a part of the women’s devotional group, and I am able to mentors students in confirmation. These opportunities to learn, grow, and share my faith are so important to who I am.”

Dilworth Lutheran’s energy in helping our community has expanded Cindy’s faith. Through serving with her church family, Cindy’s faith and world has grown. “As I’ve practiced loving my neighbor at a Habitat for Humanity build site or serving at a funeral, I’ve found deeper love for God.”

This past Christmas, when Cindy walked into the Faith Life Center with gifts for children in need from our local elementary school, tears sprang to her eyes, “When I saw over a thousand gifts for people in our community and women in the jail, I was overwhelmed by the superabundance of God’s grace. Wow!”

The church is her family here in Dilworth. She knows that she’ll always have a home here for loving God and loving our neighbors.

Angela Weiser loves being busy. As a young adult, she loves being active in softball, she works as much as she can, and she spends her days in a Doctor of Physical Therapy program learning to heal peoples’ bodies.

Between studying, working, and playing, all of Angela’s busyness can be exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. “I love everything I do—I’m excited about all the work I’m going to do to help people heal. But studying and working all the time can be a lot.”

For Angela, Dilworth Lutheran Church has been a place to find peace and center herself. “Since I’ve started graduate school, I’ve found that I need God front and center in my life. When I’m not connecting to God, the rest of my life isn’t the same.”

Dilworth Lutheran Church has provided the setting for her to grow in her faith. “Dilworth Lutheran consistently reminds me of the joy of being in Christian community. In worship, on mission trips, and through congregation members’ testimonies during Lent, I’ve learned that we are in the life of faith together.”

“The thing I’ve appreciated the most about Dilworth is that it provides a place for people to be honest. I’ve heard about people’s struggles—struggles that I’m facing as a young adult—but I’ve also heard that God is active and leading them through life. Coming to regular worship helps remember that God is always with me and loves me.”

As she moves into physical therapy, Angela knows that the faith nurtured at Dilworth Lutheran will flourish in all her work. “At Dilworth, I’ve learned that God heals our bodies and souls. As a physical therapist I will get to live this out every day.”

As Dilworth grows into a new building, we pray that we will be able to continue to inspire, transform, and provide respite for our youth and families.

If you are around Dilworth Lutheran, you are bound to bump into Lisa Grafstrom. She teaches Sunday School, serves on the Youth Committee, Church Council, and, when summer comes around, she helps lead the youth on mission trips and Habitat for Humanity builds.

“I love this church,” she says. “When we were first married, I was drawn to the small size and to Pastor Mark’s sermons. Since we have had kids, Dilworth has been a wonderful place to raise a family in faith.”

As her girls have grown up in the church, Lisa and her family have enjoyed getting to know all of the great people of Dilworth Lutheran Church. “I love how the church is a true community. The older members always support the youth programs through their generosity. The youth are able to serve meals to everyone. My daughters have met people they wouldn’t meet anywhere else.”

Today, Lisa sees great things ahead for Dilworth Lutheran. She loves Pastor Elizabeth and her leadership. “Pastor Elizabeth’s positive personality has helped grow the youth programs and revitalized our worship. Our small church now feels lively and energetic. Elizabeth delivers great messages like Pastor Mark and she advocates for the church.”

Because of the generosity of the congregation, Lisa has found a second family at Dilworth Lutheran Church. “We are so grateful to be a part of this congregation. God is working here.”

Emalee Muhonen is a mother, wife, and member of Dilworth Lutheran Church where she attends church regularly and teaches Sunday School. Emalee has been a member of Dilworth Lutheran for as long as she can remember.

Years ago, she remembers feeling jealous of other churches when they would take their youth out on fun field trips like skiing and mission trips and at the time, Dilworth Lutheran had a very small youth program.

Fast forward many years and now Emalee is a wife and mother! She had a decision to make for her new family as to where they will worship. She decided to continue to attend Dilworth Lutheran because of how their youth program had grown. They were now offering all the things she wished she had as a child. As she grew so did the church. The program had become larger, more involved, and more welcoming!

Emalee and her family have remained members of Dilworth Lutheran Church because of the great youth program! They also stay because of family and all the amazing people in the congregation. She especially loves how the elderly population interacts with the youth; it warms her heart to see this.

Emalee remembers one day in church her first grade daughter was the only child who went up for the children’s sermon and she was very nervous. A gentleman saw her and hauled his oxygen tank over to the middle of the pews and sat down on the carpet with her. She said it is moments like this that make coming to church so special.