Sunday, March 31, 2019

Dinner, Silent Auction, and Bake Sale: Saturday, May 4, Doors Open 5 p.m., Dinner 6 p.m.

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Prospect and Devonshire, Champaign) hosts its annual Dinner, Silent Auction, and Bake Sale on Saturday, May 4.  Doors open at 5 p.m. and Dinner is 6 p.m.

We are looking for items and baked goods to auction.  Please contact Dean Olson ( or Jim Hack ( to donate.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Organizational Meeting - Thursday, March 28, 7 p.m.

This year's El Salvador trip with Habitat for Humanity International is Saturday, July 27, through Sunday, August 4.  We'll meet in the Choir Room at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Prospect and Devonshire, Champaign, to discuss details.

Signing up for the trip is a 3-step process:

1)  Register with Habitat International.
2)  Pay $350 to Habitat as a down payment (required a passport last year; might not this year).
3)  Pay the remainder for a total of $660 (Thrivent members; $310) or $1160 ($810).

We want to get people registered by April 1 to minimize air fare costs.
Please make your $350 down payment by April 10.
Please make your final payment by June 12.

Pastor Vilma from Cristo Rey Lutheran Church brought members of her family
and people from the Church to meet with us at our hotel to establish
our Cristo Rey of Hope program to help the youth of Cristo Rey.
August 2018, Santa Ana, El Salvador. 

Videos from Christo Rey 

Here are some YouTube videos of activities at Cristo Rey and their sister church, San Pablo:


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

El Salvador Mid-Winter Concert for Valentine's Day - Sunday, February 10, 2 p.m.

Please take a break from the mid-winter frigid weather and attend a warm concert of Russian music for Valentine’s Day 2019.  Our 3rd annual El Salvador Concert is again being presented by our very own pianist in residence, Tatiana Shustova.  This year’s recital is Sunday, February 10, 2 p.m. at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.  See the above poster for details.  We encourage you to get the word out to your family and friends!

Judging from attendance at the recent El Salvador organizational meeting, this year’s El Salvador Group could be larger than average.  That means more fundraising than average.  So, please pass the word on the Concert, and we hope to see you there!

This concert is dedicated in honor and celebration of the ministry of Pastor Tom Hillertz and his seven years of faithful service to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

Pastors Tom, Tod, and Vilma, plus Briseida Cruz
at Cristo Rey Lutheran Church, Santa Ana, El Salvador
Sunday, July 29, 2018.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

El Salvador Trip July-August 2019 - Intended Dates

Good News!  Habitat for Humanity El Salvador approved our date request for the 2019 build trip.  The intended dates are:

Saturday, July 27, through Sunday, August 4, 2019

Keep in mind that we might depart Illinois the night before: Friday evening, July 26.

Please prayerfully consider going on the 2019 build trip in service to another El Salvadoran family.  Everyone who goes has good memories, and no regrets.  It will be our 9th annual trip!  We again seek a group of at least 10 people.  The individual cost is about $650 if you are a Thrivent member, and about $1150 if you are not a Thrivent member.  We usually raise enough money for the air fare, and the stated cost above covers everything else.  Keep in mind that if we go, Thrivent donates $8000 to Habitat for Humanity El Salvador - enough for one complete house!  For more information, contact Dean at

By the way, it's interesting to see from web searches that several other churches and people have traveled to El Salvador and worked with Habitat for Humanity.  Here are a couple of other blogs.

By Jon Gunderson, one of our trip founders (look for Jim Hack and Don Block here):

Messiah Lutheran Church, Madison, Alabama:

Our 2018 Thrivent Habitat Build Group (left to right): Marilyn Dudley, Tolu Perrin-Stowe, Laurie Johnson, Gordon Hack, Nicki Kyle, Dean Olson, Douglas from Habitat, Bob Clark, Lisa Hack, Dan Corkery, Jim Hack, Pastor Tom Hillertz.

Our 2018 Build Family (left to right): Sofia, Carlos, Yenifer, Melvin.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Memories of El Salvador ... by Laurie Johnson

One of the things that stands out for me about my trip to El Salvador in 2018 was worshiping in the Cristo Rey (Christ the King) Lutheran Church.  I had gone on the mission trip in 2014 – the year that we helped to build the church.  I must say that I decided to go on that trip because I truly felt called due to Cristo Rey.  I was inspired to help build a church that had been destroyed in an earthquake so many years before so that our brothers and sisters in faith in Santa Ana would have a place to worship as well as use for a safe and loving place for the community.  

The day after we arrived in 2014, we attended worship with these brothers and sisters, and I admit that I wept throughout most of the service.  I thought Pastor Carlos must be wondering about me and my emotional state!  But I knew that I was in the place that God wanted me to be at that time.  That was a difficult and wonderful week!  The work that we were to do included some of the hardest physical labor that I had ever done.  It was also some of the most important physical labor that I had ever done.  We were preparing the ground upon which the floor of the church would be placed.  We needed to get it right!  

During the week, I was able to build relationships with other workers, some from our Good Shepherd group, some from another Habitat group, and some with local people from El Salvador.  By going on that trip, I was able to see and experience so much first hand.  I saw the commitment of the local workers.  I saw the poverty of so many.  I saw the beauty in God’s creation.  I saw the dedication of the local Habitat employees.  I had heard of all of this from groups who had gone before me, but like so many other things in life, there is nothing that can compare to experiencing these things personally.  

The original baptismal font in the old church.

Now, fast forward to the day after we arrived in El Salvador in 2018.  We are going to attend worship at Cristo Rey Church!  I was so excited!  As soon as I got off of the shuttle bus and walked toward the church, my eyes again welled up with tears.  So many memories came back to me as I walked around the grounds and inside the beautiful building.  I had heard stories of those who had been able to visit the completed church, and I had seen photos of the building, but nothing could compare to seeing it in person and worshiping there with the beautiful members of the church.

The old church building, used because the original church had been destroyed by an earthquake.

The old church.  We worshiped here in 2014.

I thought about Pastor Wilma seeing me wipe my eyes throughout the service and wondered if she (like her husband before) was curious about my tears.  It is so hard for me to describe and explain.  I simply felt so blessed to be a small part of something like this.  So many hands worked so hard together, most of whom I will never meet in this lifetime.  The Spirit was truly at work in the hearts of these people.  I am very thankful for this opportunity and the experience to return to this beautiful place, and to see some of the inspiring people that I had met before.

 The old baptismal font in the new church.

 Laurie next to the dedication plaque from January 2015.

The liturgical altar linens were donated by Good Shepherd Lutheran Church to Pastor Carlos.
Notice the familiar Good Shepherd on the center altar linen.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Assorted Adventures - El Salvador 2018

Our 2018 Habitat for Humanity build family.
Carlos and Jenifer with their children, Sofia and Melvin.

The house blessing with words by ...
... Luis and Pastor Tom.

The 2018 build group with the 2017 family and built house.
Jaquline, Josue, and Francisco are in front with Francis from Habitat.

Pastor Tom, Luis from Habitat headquarters in San Salvador, and Marilyn.  Luis joined us at the work site, as he does every year.  He visited Good Shepherd in 2016 with Briseida Cruz.

Pastor Tom accepts a gift for Good Shepherd from Dinora, the head of the Getsemani Women's 
Co-Op, for whom we raise money annually by selling coffee and jewelry.  They are always very grateful, and use the money to make microloans to entrepreneurial members.

 An unlikely convergence of Cubs fans and attire in the town of Ataco, El Salvador.  Joining Pastor Tom and Jim is a total stranger from San Diego, California, who is originally from El Salvador.

The three unshaven amigos take a break on a cool veranda in the mountain town of Ataco, El Salvador on Thursday, August 2, 2018.  Left to right: Dean Olson, Pastor Tom Hillertz, Dan Cokery.  Photo by Douglas Rivas of Habitat El Salvador.

Next to 20 bags of coffee going back to Illinois, Adriana joins Dean in the
classroom at Getsemani, the Women's Co-Op in Santa Ana.
Adriana enjoys smiling and laughing a lot, but we are never sure
what she finds so funny!  Probably us.

 Pastor Tom receives his Thank-You certificate from Justin at the end of the week.

 Tolu receives her Thank-You certificate from Jennifer at the end of the week.
Jennifer and Justin are sister and brother.

Nicki is pictured with Yenifer, the Mom of our Habitat family this year.  They are shown with the painting we made at the "Paint Like Me!" fundraiser we held at Good Shepherd in June.

Marilyn and her Thank-You certificate from Habitat.

 Lisa is joined by her coloring friend, Sofia, who will live in the house we helped build.

Justin joins Laurie to receive her Thank-You certificate from Habitat.  Laurie also traveled to El Salvador in 2014 to help build the foundation of Cristo Rey Lutheran Church in Santa Ana.

Jim gets a little help from Melvin with this Thank-You certificate.

Gordon gets a little help from Melvin and one of the neighborhood boys when he receives his Thank-You certificate from Habitat for Humanity.

 Justin congratulates Dan as he gets his Habitat Thank-You certificate.
Melvin congratulates Bob on receiving his Thank-You certificate.

Dean is joined by one of the neighborhood boys and Melvin when he receives his certificate.

Memories of El Salvador 2018 … by Jim Hack

Well folks, we had another successful mission trip to El Salvador.  We had a total of eleven hard working people.

We had a number of moving experiences, but the one that got to me was arriving at Cristo Rey Lutheran Church.  When Laurie Johnson got off the Habitat bus, her expression and tears told the whole story.  She had last seen the church when she was working on the foundation in 2014.  It was a joy to see her reaction at seeing the finished church for the first time.

Over the last eight years we have gone, I cannot believe how everybody is so moved by the love shown by the El Salvador people.  The Habitat for Humanity employees are folks who cannot do enough to help us in any way they can.

We also had the pleasure to take the profit from our annual coffee sales to the ladies of the Getsemani Co-op.  It was a joy to see their happiness when they received the money, especially when they were not expecting it.

JIm and Dinora, head of the Getsemani Women's Co-Op, receives a monetary donation from sales of coffee and jewelry via Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Champaign.

Thank you to all Good Shepherd folks who supported this trip.  Please read on for more El Salvador memories.

Jim and Francis at the San Salvador Airport, July 28, 2018.