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Centralia church brightens May Day for shut-ins

Posted on Thursday, May 7, 2020 at 6:19 am

Good Shepherd rolls ‘May Train of Hope’

At least a dozen cars rolled into the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church’s parking lot the evening of Friday, May 1.

Parking beneath the blueberry marmalade sky the prepared to bring joy to the face of loneliness.

The occasion was the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church’s May Train of Hope tomorrow night. It was a convoy of 12 cars and trucks cruising Centralia, to as, congregation member Jacki Crump Stelzer said: “We are having a train of cars go around to our members’ houses that are in town to say hi.”

Christian Wachter giving flowers to Stuart House resident Joanne Bettenhausen while Dayton Burton watches

During the last six weeks, Judy Maseman said, the congregation has been unable to meet in person due to the pandemic fears.

So Stelzer and Anne Seider, another congregation member, organized the May Train.

“When we drive by we’re going to give them a big wave and have somebody run up and lay a flower on their porch and we’re all going to honk as we drive by,” Seider say, describing the method to their May Day sharing.

They visited 20 people as well as the residents of Centralia’s Stuart House, a senior care facility.

Stelzer said one of their sources of inspiration was a Bible scripture.

“The God of Hope will fill you with joy and peace when you trust in him. Romans 15-13.”

She said it was also inspired by teachers and others forming trains of cars to drive by residences. “It seemed to bring smiles to people,” Stelzer said. “Most were teachers touching base with their students. It made them happy and that’s what we want to do for our church family.”

Sherry Morris was there in her red Ford SUV with signs reading “May Day we Miss You,” and “May Day Bless You,” signs on the door and blue silk flowers taped to the radio antenna.

“I’m here to help say hello two our church family,” Morris said, “it’s been so long since we’ve seen may face to face for weeks and we miss them.” She said it was first for her, “But a lot of us have done a lot of things we’ve never done before during these strange times.”

Maseman, a congregation member, said their visiting pastor Robert Kriete, had been sending messages over social media and sending devotionals via email.

At each stop Stelzer’s grandson, Christian Waetcher ran to the parishioners’ doors at each stop and left flowers.

Another member of the May Train was Christina Gronefeld, who, as her brother Jonathon watched, painted Jesus loves you,” on the tinted windows of the family silver mini-van. One of the reasons she was there, she said, was because she missed her church.

“First of all I really missed coming to church.  Because of the Coronavirus we’re not allowed to come to church. This is a good way to get our church community together and spread the love of God.” She, her mother and ?? had brought geraniums to leave on doorsteps.

The route included Eastmont Drive, Travis Circle, Adams, Sunset, Reed, the Columbia Street Apartments, Stuart House, Green Gables, Miles, Lakeview, Collier, Rollins, Central and Alco streets and drives.

At Stuart House residents lined the windows and parked their wheelchairs on the sidewalk and porch to see the congregations’ convoy.

Joanne Bettenhausen and Kay Forshee sat outside, accompanied by Stuart House staff member Dayton Burton.

Watecher run up the steps and handed a bouquet of pink roses to Bettenhausen, who along with her late husband Ed, has been a long-time member of the church.

Afterward, Burton said the visit lifted the residents’ spirits.

“It definitely raised their spirits,” she said. “Friends and family can’t really visit them, see them, except through the window or the door glass. They can do video chats, but they can’t get any hugs.

“It was very special,” Forshee said.

“I liked it, I liked it a lot,” Bettenhausen said afterward. “Because of what’s been going on I have not been able to see my friends, but tonight they drove by to see me.”