A Brief History of Grace Lutheran-Toledo Bend
Grace Lutheran Church-Toledo Bend began as a Toledo Bend Lutheran Outreach Ministry sponsored by Christ the King Lutheran Church of Natchitoches, LA. After an extensive door-to-door canvas of the community in 1998 by The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Harvesters for Christ, regular worship services began on September 19th, 1998 at an old rented store near Toledo Town. The Lutherans shared the building and the $125/month rent with an Episcopal group. The Lutherans met on Saturday evening. The Episcopalians met on Sunday!
Pastor John Karle served and led Grace faithfully and sacrificially for over three continuous years, first on Saturday afternoons and then Sunday afternoons, often literally preaching "where one or two are gathered together...". Average attendance in those first three years was 10.
In December of 2001 retired Pastor Donald Jenkins of Rea, MO accepted the congregation's invitation to "winter" in Sabine Parish and minister to Grace through Easter of 2002. Following Pastor Jenkins' departure, Pastor Karle faithfully returned for Sunday afternoon services. Pastor Jenkins returned for three more "wintering" periods over the next four years.
In 2003, with the help of Pastor Karle, Grace embarked on an intensive letter campaign seeking retired pastors on a part-time basis. Three pastors responded positively to the invitation: Pastors Victor Frank and Harold Fleischhauer of Spring, TX, and Pastor Bill Burgett of Hagerstown, MD. In 2006, Grace applied for and was assigned its first Vicar, Steve Wichtendahl, followed by Rodney Schmeltz in 2007, Chris Richardson in 2008, Marcus Ring in 2010, and finally Dan Carlson in 2011. The following summarizes the ministries of these faithful servants to Grace Lutheran Church-Toledo Bend:
|Sept 1998 - Dec 2001||Pastor John Karle|
|Dec 2001 - May 2002||Pastor Don Jenkins|
|May 2002 - Dec 2002||Pastor John Karle|
|Dec 2002 - May 2003||Pastor Don Jenkins|
|May 2003 - Dec 2003||Pastor John Karle|
|Dec 2003 - May 2004||Pastor Don Jenkins|
|May 2004 - Nov 2004||Pastor Victor Frank|
|Nov 2004 - Apr 2005||Pastor Bill Burgett|
|Apr 2005 - Oct 2005||Pastor Victor Frank|
|Nov 2005 - Mar 2006||Pastor Don Jenkins|
|Apr 2006 - Jul 2006||Pastor Victor Frank|
|Jul 2006 - Jul 2007||Vicar Steve Wichtendahl|
|Jul 2007 - Jul 2008||Vicar Rodney Schmeltz|
|Jul 2008 - Jul 2009||Vicar Chris Richardson|
|Jul 2009 - Jul 2010|
|Jul 2010 - Jul 2011||Vicar Marcus Ring|
|Jul 2011 - Jul 2012||Vicar Daniel R. Carlson|
|Jul 2012 - Aug 2013|
|Aug 4, 2013 -||Pastor David Strussenberg|
Pastor Harold Fleischhauer volunteered his services on a Sunday-by-Sunday basis, conducting three services in 2005.
The use of retired part-time pastors permitted a Sunday morning worship and Bible Study venue and allowed Pastor Karle a much-needed break. Year 2004 began the first continuous year of morning worship. Membership and average attendance increased. At the end of 2007 membership stood at 30, average worship attendance in 2007 was 20.2, average special worship attendance, 17.6, and average Christian Education attendance was 8.6. Twelve children have been baptized in Grace's brief history.
In 2002 Grace Lutheran Church was asked to vacate the little white storefront, as the property would be divided among the aging landlord's children. The congregation purchased a 1.5 acre lot west of Toledo Town in November 2002. An 18x40 metal building was placed on the site that serves as the current worship center. Finding that retired pastors who owned RV's limited their options, the congregation purchased a 60-foot mobile home in 2004 to serve as a parsonage. A smaller metal building was added to the site in 2006, and used for Christian Education. A final building was erected to serve as the Pastor's Office (where before the office was in the Parsonage).
It became increasingly apparent in 2012 that vicars were no longer abundantly available, so a feasibility study to call our own pastor was done. After much prayer and an amazing fund drive, with the Lords help we were able to call and install our first full-time pastor, Pastor David Strussenberg, on August 4, 2013.
God has richly blessed Grace, for which we give Him thanks and praise. God worked through many individuals and organizations to bring these blessings about. But to Him be the glory!