Why a Comfort Dog? The ministry is working…

We’re not going into this experience blind. We’re not adding a dog to our ministry because we think it’s a cute gimmick that will draw attention. We’re not looking for advertising potential. We’re looking to bring the Comfort of Jesus, and these dogs do just that. We’ve looked at how the Comfort Dog ministry has been used across the country over the past several years, and we’re confident that it’s working.

The Comfort Dog vision began in the midst of sorrow on the campus of Northern Illinois University after one of the horrific school shootings that seem to have plagued our country recently. A couple of trained dogs known to the Lutheran Church Charities staff were brought in to be with students on the campus to help them process. They were invited back. This is the usual reaction to the Comfort Dogs in areas of the worst devastation. They are invited back.

We first came to know the Comfort Dogs personally through their work at Sandy Hook in Newtown, CT. Who knows what to do in response to that tragic event? A Comfort Dog does. People recognize that, and invite them back. Day after day Maggie Comfort Dog continues to be welcomed into the public school system in Newtown because of her work in those first days when few people really knew what to do except the dogs.

We saw them even closer up in Boston where crowds of people returned to find the dogs whenever they were in town. Grown adults curled up on the sidewalk to get some comfort and pray with the handlers. In Boston!

We’ve been following dogs on facebook, talking with handlers, and discussing how to do ministry with a dog with Rich and Dona Martin and the Comfort Dog leaders at Lutheran Church Charities. We’re confident that the ministry works.

We’re confident that this ministry is working, and we’re excited to use it in our area just as successfully as the ministry is being used in towns all across the United States. We need your help to make it happen. Please click here to help.

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Why a Comfort Dog? They bring down walls…

New Englanders are famous for their jovial, loving, and warm dispositions, right? Wrong. There is a reason the most famous face in NH was made of stone. People from New England, like their winters, can often be cold and tough. A quiet and introverted guy like me LOVES that about New England, but it can be hard to be a pastor in this environment because it takes a while to chip away at the outer walls to get to the heart of the matter.

Usually when a guy with a pastor’s collar walks into a room he can feel those walls going up. In a region where only about 13% of people are in worship on a given Sunday a pastor can feel as wanted as a snow cone salesmen in northern Maine. We know that people mostly talk to us from the towers of their well-built walls (think Monty Python and the French Taunting). We also know that if people would talk from their hearts instead they might find some Comfort in meeting Jesus. The challenge is getting to the heart that lies inside the longstanding walls.

I got to spend a couple of days with some Comfort Dogs following the Marathon Bombings. The main thing I realized is that these dogs knock down walls. Maybe it’s better to say that they melt walls, and you can see it happen. I walked into hospital rooms, nursing homes, and places on the street with my pastor collar on and a dog at my side. As people spent time with the dogs the walls dissolved and I was able to see the real self that lies inside.   The dogs were able to get to the heart of the matter in minutes. A prayer and a word of Scripture was like salve in these wounded hearts instead of merely bouncing off the outer walls.

We want to add a dog to our ministry in order to help people get to know the true self that lies deep inside the walls they’ve built over the years. Some people are really glad to have the dog’s help to melt those walls away so they can find comfort deep inside. If you want to help us make this dream come true, please click here.

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Why a Comfort Dog? They’re HIGHLY trained…

I’ll be honest with you. I’m not a dog guy. All the crotch sniffing, annoying midnight barks, dog-doo on my lawn, and wet dog smell? Really? I don’t know how anybody puts up with that.

Then I met the LCC Comfort Dogs. It’s like they’re not even really dogs. They don’t sniff you to say hello. They don’t chase squirrels. They don’t bark. They’re highly trained, and when those vests are on they’re at work! They’re better behaved than most kids I know, and in all the days I’ve spent with these dogs not one time did a Golden Nose shove its way into my privates. That’s saying something!

The training program these dogs go through is rigorous and multifaceted. They are trained on the level of a service dog. They could get your underwear out of the drawer for you, but only if you told them too. They are trained like the dogs you see helping people who live with various handicaps. They’re amazingly well trained. They’re also exposed to all sorts of different setting so they don’t freak out when they see something new. They do escalators, air planes, farms, parks, kids’ parties, and crowds without a problem. Like I said, no barking, no sniffing, no “dog” behavior! It’s amazing!

The dogs are trained to be a comfort to people in need.  They know how to approach someone in a wheel chair or bed.  They know how to relax with children, and don’t judge people based on race, age, class, or gender.  They are highly trained in order to bring comfort in a variety of situations.  This type of training will allow safety, trust, and a good relationship with the communities that we visit. We’re happy that Lutheran Church Charities has started this ministry and provides these dogs to congregations like ours that want to add a dog to our team. All this comes with a hefty price tag, so please go to our fundraising site and be generous!

 

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Why a Comfort Dog? They open doors…

Monday night, April 15th 2013. Three pastors sat in the office of First Lutheran Church to find ways to serve our neighbors after our city was attacked. Our first move was to call the area hospitals and offer to make pastoral visits. We called every hospital in Boston and got the same response. “Thanks for the offer, but we’ve got all the help we need at the moment.” The doors were closed. We knew that there were people on the other side of those doors who could use a prayer and the encouragement on God’s Word: “I am with you always! And, “Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus!” But, the doors were closed.

Wednesday, April 17th. Tim Hetzner of Lutheran Church Charities called Tuft Medical Center and told them the dogs are here. The SWAT team armed with machine guns standing guard at the back door parted, the doors slid open, and a team of dogs, handlers, and pastors walked in to share the Comfort of Jesus to people in need. The doors were opened.

The difference between getting to share Jesus and not share Jesus is often the difference between a door being open or closed. As a missionary pastor living in New England I have learned that you use whatever means possible to get those doors open in order to be with the people who seek Jesus. If it takes a dog to unlock the door, find me a dog. We pray that our Comfort Dog will continue to open doors so that we can reach people to bring the Good News: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17

 

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Why a Comfort Dog?

I’m sure there are some people that wonder about a Church using a DOG in ministry. I’m sure because I was one of those people once. I had seen the LCC dog booth at a few conventions through the years and always passed by with a smile and a nod and a thought in the back of my head, “OK. You use the dogs; we’ll do REAL ministry.”

Then April 15th 2013 happened in Boston. I was with my family a block and a half away from the finish line meeting up with my wife’s sister who was stretching and rehydrating after the marathon. The sound of the first bomb caught my attention, the second bomb got us moving, and the sight of a woman running toward us with tears streaming down her face forced us into a steady jog to the car to get out of the city. Not knowing any specifics we got into the car and turned on the radio to hear some news. The first words I caught were about limbs flying through the air. Immediately I needed Comfort.

The next few days brought me into Boston to serve as a helping pastor to our sister congregation First Lutheran. Pastor Dutzmann was in over his head with ministry needs and called me to make a run to the airport to pick up some friends coming to town to help. On Tuesday I arrived at Logan to pick up Rich and Dona Martin and their two friends Luther and Ruthie Comfort Dogs. For the next few days I saw these dogs walk the streets of Boston bringing Comfort and compassion to the crowds. I learned personally that they do REAL ministry that opens the door for the Gospel to be shared in biblically appropriate ways. People met Jesus because these dogs came around.

I got to meet Jesus in a new way because of my time with the Comfort Dogs. He is the God who looks for the broken and hurting and goes to them. He is the God who heads toward suffering not away from it. He is the God who looks with compassion and seeks to bring Comfort. These dogs and their handlers head to the most devastated places in our country in order to bring Comfort. What better thing can I say about them than they remind me of Jesus!

Over the next few days I’ll share some more of the things I learned since the Boston Marathon Bombings, and help you answer the question, “Why a Comfort Dog?” If you want to find out more about Messiah’s ministry and support the cause, please click HERE!

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Comfort Dog News!!!

We’re excited to announce that Messiah’s Comfort Dog is on its way!!!  A team of handlers and care-givers will be trained in NJ later this month, and on Sunday August 24th we’ll celebrate the Passing of the Leash service during our 9:30 AM worship experience.  There will be time to meet the dog after worship and a luncheon to celebrate this great step forward for our congregation around noon.

We need your support to keep our dog healthy, well-fed, and transported to places in need of the Comfort of Jesus.  Donate here!  Or, send a check payable to “North Boston Comfort” 708 Lowell St. Lynnfield, MA 01940

More importantly, please pray that this ministry will reach people with the Good news of Jesus’ love!  John 3:16-17

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April 19: The Wisdom of Holy Week

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”  Proverbs 3:11-12

All week long we’ve been seeing that Jesus fulfilled the Proverbs for us.  Martin Luther called it the great exchange.  All the suffering, pain, and death that we deserve as punishment for our sins were given to Jesus.  All the rewards, love, and life that Jesus deserves are given to us.  It’s a GREAT exchange!

Paul says a similar thing in Romans:  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life.  In the tomb we see the results of our sin, but tomorrow morning we’ll see the gift of God as Jesus leaves death behind!

In Baptism God has connected you to the death and resurrection of Jesus and performed the great exchange.  Jesus takes your punishment on the cross and gives you His father’s delight!  Celebrate because God delights in YOU!

 

 

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