LECK KILL — St. John’s Lutheran Church, 4330 Schwaben Creek Road, will hold its first Advent Bazaar from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. “Fair-trade” items will be sold, including ornaments handmade in Africa and Equal Exchange coffee and chocolates, which are made using products from several small farms in countries such as Ethiopia, Peru and Nicaragua. The church’s own cookbooks, soups and baked goods also will be sold.

Fair trade refers to a global commitment that ensures workers are paid fairly for their goods and services.

“We wanted to do some outreach during advent season to get people in our area aware of reaching out to others who are not as fortunate as we are,” said Darlene Brown, church council president.

Proceeds from the bazaar will benefit a trio of organizations whose goals are to help others in need, both near and far. Sales of the ornaments will return to Ornaments for Orphans, a for-profit social enterprise that assists orphaned children in Africa. The coffee and chocolate will benefit a new backpack food program called Line Mountain Nourishing Eagles to Soar, or LMNETS. Proceeds from the sale of the cookbooks, soup and baked goods will benefit God’s Chuckwagon, the Shamokin-based mobile soup kitchen.

Serving others

The bazaar is not intended to benefit the church in terms of money raised, Brown said, and that’s the congregation’s philosophy.

“This church has been built on this foundation of giving to others rather than to itself,” said Diane Schreffler, secretary of the church council. “The forerunners of this church laid that foundation, I think. It just seems like that was their main mission — to help others rather than themselves.”

With such an established record, possibly stemming from the area’s Pennsylvania Dutch roots, should the members of the church opt to hold a fundraiser to benefit their own small place of worship, “it wouldn’t fly well with the older members of our congregation,” Brown said.

Schreffler, who also serves the church as its organist, has been a member since 1975. “I grew up in a Lutheran church,” she said, but this particular church’s habit of giving still is different from what she experienced at her original church.

“We never did fundraisers,” said Leah Shade, who has belonged to St. John’s-Leck Kill for all of her 82 years. “It’s been a tradition for all these years.”

Shade, who grew up in a family of 12 children, said she was accustomed to raising or making what she and her family needed herself. “If we needed something, we didn’t go out and buy it.”

That attitude appears to be a cultural one.

“This whole valley here,” Shade said, “they give.”

Responding to needs

To support itself and care for building maintenance and other related expenses, the church, of course, holds a weekly collection.

“Most of the ministry has been through free-will offerings,” Schreffler said. “We have a church council, nine members and the pastor, and if they see a need or if someone comes to them with a need, it’s announced in church. You can donate to it in addition to your regular church envelope.”

It matters not whether that need is within the church building, such as a repair, or within the community, such as in response to a fire.

“If there is a need, this congregation just responds. We try to do it quietly ... we are very conservative ... and try to be humble in our work,” Schreffler said. “I’m grateful to be a member.”

Church challenges

Brown admitted the church family does face issues that other congregations share, such as decreasing membership.

“Our numbers are dwindling. Our youth are growing up and leaving,” Brown said. “We’re not strapped, by any means, but, yes, our pews are not as full as they used to be.”

“We’ve been trying to think of ways to encourage others,” she added, to visit or join the church. “This Advent Bazaar is one of those ways.”

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