ST. JOHN LUTHERAN CHURCH
(The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod)
A family united by faith in Christ gathering around God's Word and Sacraments.
To reach out in Christ-like concern and Christ-borne love to each other and to those without Christ!
140 Years of History
St. John's Constitution was written away back in 1870. The Holy Spirit had directed the sainted Pastor Senne, Signed by nine who trusted our Almighty Lord, Now 125 years later Christ Jesus is ever adored. Heavenly Father, faithful true Thanks and praise ever be to you.
For years members of St. John saw light from darkness by baptism linked with the power of God's Word, received His forgiveness - and have assurance of His grace and mercy from faithful pastors heard. Heavenly Father, faithful true thanks and praise ever be to you. Dorothy Kratzer, c. 1995
In 1870, St. John became a chartered organization to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How did St. John come into existence when it did? Why is it still firm while surrounded by materialism, liberalism, false doctrines, and humanism? Was God directing and guiding Lutherans relative to time? People from countries of Europe were emigrating to America to escape deteriorating political conditions, to make homes, and to establish businesses. As Holy Scripture in Galatians relates, "When the time finally came, God sent out His Son to be born in order to pay the price to free those under the law." So God directed the events in the history of Germany in order that His Word would be brought to America by German Christians who professed It in Its truth and purity. His Word was to be an influence in the new and growing Midwestern United States of America as it had been in the thirteen colonies a century earlier. At this time Lutherans were leaving Germany to seek a new life in a new land where they could have freedom to study and teach the Word of God in its truth and purity as they established homes and businesses for a livelihood. The Kansas - Nebraska Act, which was passed by the United States Congress in 1854, opened up a rich farm territory to immigrants from east of the Mississippi River and those arriving from Europe. Rev. John Andrew Fritze of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, visited some relatives who had settled on Diamond Creek, near Council Grove in 1860. His relatives urged him to request that a missionary be sent to Lutherans living in Kansas territory. On his return trip he found Lutherans on Clark's Creek, near that which became the town of Junction City; Lyons Creek, Herington; and heard of other German Lutheran settlements. Rev. Fritze communicated with the Rev. F.C.D. Wyneken, President - General of The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and other States, now Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. He presented to him the crying spiritual needs of the Lutheran settlers in Kansas. The last class of the Practical Department of the Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, was graduated in the spring of 1861.One of its members, Rev. Fred W. Lange, was assigned to be the first missionary sent to Kansas. A young inexperienced man sent to bring God's Word to pioneer people living on the frontier in a strange land! He had firm, strong faith in God to accept the challenge to come to a strange unknown frontier. For that we thank God. At that time the Civil War was raging. Travel through the state of Missouri was hazardous. Rev. Lange traveled by train via Chicago to Iowa City, Iowa, the end of the railroad. Think for a moment! What kind of passenger car? Smooth easy riding on cushioned seats! Porter service! Air conditioning in June and July! In 1861? Nothing of the kind! Missionary Henry Lossner in Iowa City was to see that Rev. Lange reached his destination in Kansas. They traveled in a horse-drawn open spring wagon via Council Bluffs, Iowa, Nebraska City, Nebraska, Topeka, Kansas, and Council Grove to Clark's Creek. Finally on August 13, 1861, after three weeks of traveling they arrived at the home of C.F. Wetzel.
How they must have thanked and praised God for bringing them safely over strange country to be with friends in Christ!
Can we with today's modern accommodations for camping trips really imagine the hardships endured by these men who helped make possible having the Word of God preached in Alma? How many times did they wonder if they were on the right trail? How many miles did they drive up or down a stream to find a safe place to cross? Rev. Lange later wrote, "We bought bread from settlers along the way and cooked coffee for ourselves wherever we happened to be." He preached his first sermon on August 17, 1861, in the Wetzel cabin. His sermon text was John 3:16. Three neighbor families and several single persons were in attendance with the Wetzels. (The cabin is now located north of Junction City as part of the historical site of Geary County.) The next day Rev. Lange made an exploratory trip through the surrounding country in search of Lutheran families. On this trip he established the first six preaching stations of our Synod in Kansas. The six preaching stations were Clark's Creek (Junction City), two on Lyon's Creek (Herington), two on Mill Creek (Templin -later, Alta Vista - and Alma), and one on Diamond Creek (Council Grove). On lower Mill Creek, which became Alma, he found three, perhaps four, Lutheran families - the Ludwig Wendlands, on that which is now the Roger Badeker home west of Alma; the Erdmann Achtenbergs, on that which is now the Ron Bandel farm west of Alma; and probably the Christian Hankammers, on that which is now the Frank Rice farm south of Alma. Conversations of his children and an interview with Mr. Henry Wendland in 1970 indicate that he was acquainted with Rev. F.W. Lange at that time. In 1864 he came with his family to live on his homestead on Hendrick's Creek, northwest of Alma. The six preaching stations organized one parish and held business meetings at each station in turn with each station sending one delegate to these meetings. A worship service usually preceded each meeting. Their first meeting was held at Mr. Wenzel's home three weeks after Rev. Fred W. Lange had preached his first sermon on August 17, 1861. In this meeting the delegates of the six stations called Rev. Fred W. Lange to be there pastor. He accepted the call then and there. Carl Lehmberg, upper Mill Creek, and Christian Hankammer, lower Mill Creek, signed the call. He could not be ordained until the twelfth Sunday after Trinity of 1862 when Rev. M. Meyer, Leavenworth, who had just been ordained by Rev. F.J. Biltz of Cook's Store, now Concordia, Missouri, ordained him in Leavenworth. Delegates from all stations were present at his ordination. Pastor Lange lived on Clark's Creek, preached regularly every three weeks in homes or gathering places at each of the stations, and baptized children of members and of families in the neighborhoods. He also taught school at least one-half day at all stations where there were children of school age. (Compare to supervised home schooling of today!) After faithfully ministering to many families and preaching stations in Geary, Dickinson, Morris, Chase, and Wabaunsee Counties, Pastor Lange received and accepted an urgent call in 1863 from thirteen families in Humbolt, Kansas. Alma and the nearby stations were now vacant. Pastor C. Berner, who succeeded him, was installed by him in 1866; lived near Council Grove; and served the congregations and mission posts founded by Pastor Lange. Pastor Berner baptized babies and young children in services at the preaching stations and often in the homes of pioneers including non-members who wanted their children baptized. That first mission field was divided. Rev. R. Koehler was called to serve the preaching stations on Clark's Creek and Lyon's Creek. Pastor Berner served the preaching stations at Council Grove, Templin, and Alma. According to records of St. John there were thirteen (13) baptisms in 1864, fifteen (15) in 1865, and eleven (11) in 1866, and one (1) in early February, 1867. "Go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Matt. 28:19 After a short time Pastors Berner and Koehler left missionary services, so Alma and other stations were vacant from early 1867 to mid-1869. With great missionary zeal and self-denial the pioneer Pastors Lange, Berner, Koehler, and their contemporaries in Kansas endured dire hardships to carry on the work of preaching and teaching the saving Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to pioneer populations living in primitive conditions in a state involved in, and later, recovering from the great and bloody Civil War. Lack of roads, scarcity of bridges on rivers, railroad transportation; time consumed in walking, riding horseback, or in wagons through deep mud, traveling around high water, through snowdrifts in blizzards; and conflicts with lodges and very liberal religious groups proselytizing among the German Lutherans made their missionary tour very, very difficult. Pastor Lange, after requesting and receiving 85 cents from various persons to be used for postage stamps, wrote to Pastor Meyer, Leavenworth, "You at least can raise enough money to buy postage stamps. This I cannot do; my people have no money." Rev. Meyer shared half of the few dollars he had brought to Kansas with Pastor Lange. Pastor Lange could not raise funds to buy much needed clothing; his parents who lived in Washington, Missouri, (near St. Louis) had to supply him with items of clothing. He received less than $100 salary for his two years of serving many mission stations, preaching, traveling, administering the sacraments and office, and instructing the youth as much as his time and strength permitted. Can we really imagine living in the primitive physical and economic conditions in which our early-day missionaries and settlers lived? Their complete reliance and trust in God's care and protection guided them daily. One hundred forty years later we have a heritage of God's Word taught with proper distinction between Law & Gospel. Today St. John members have had or have the blessing of becoming 'one in Christ' through baptism in infancy or at conversion; growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through Christian nurture in their homes, Sunday School, Christian Day School, confirmation instruction, personal Bible study, and Bible class. They also have the blessing of receiving forgiveness of sins and strengthened faith through frequent reception of the Lord's Supper and regularly hearing God's Word proclaimed in Its truth and purity by a faithful Christian pastor who develops a 'faith growth' theme throughout the entire worship service that worshipers are edified, equipped, and motivated to glorify God, live the Gospel in daily life, and witness to each other and to the unsaved.