This Sunday we will welcome Pastor Ralph Schmidt to the pulpit and to our adult Bible study hour. He may look familiar because he and his wife Janice were members here while he worked at Lutheran Social Services New England (now Ascentria). During their stay here he was a tenor soloist in choir and they supported our 2010 effort to complete the final stops on our Richards and Fowkes Opus X organ.
Pastor Schmidt currently works for Orphan Grain Train and lives in Fort Wayne, IN. Please read below for a bio of Pastor Schmidt and a description of the important work of Orphan Grain Train around the world. A collection will be taken on Sunday to support the New England branch; please see the end of this article for contact information and further details regarding donations.
Rev. Ralph G. Schmidt was born on April 19, 1947 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where he spent his entire childhood. He graduated from Concordia Junior College, Milwaukee in 1967, Concordia Senior College in Fort Wayne in 1969 and Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 1973. His vicarage was spent at Trinity Lutheran Church, Jackson, Michigan, under Dr. W. Harry Krieger, fifth vice president of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. It was at Trinity where he met Janice Mackie who became his wife on June 2, 1973. Their marriage has been blessed with three children and two grandchildren.
Pastor Schmidt served as Assistant Pastor at St. Paul’s, Lutheran Church, Northville, Michigan, from 1973-77. While there, Synod was undergoing great turmoil and three neighboring congregations left. Members of two of them asked Pastor Schmidt to help start a new congregation, and six months later he became Pastor of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in Livonia, which grew from about 100 to almost 1,000 members by the time he accepted a call to Trinity Lutheran Church, Fort Lauderdale in 1984. He served there until 1986 when he was called back to Michigan to St. John’s Lutheran Church in St. Johns, Michigan.
But the Lord of the church had other plans in mind for him. In 1991 he was called to be Director of Church Relations and Planned Giving at Concordia University, Seward, Nebraska, where he served until Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne called him in 2001. He served there as Vice President for Institutional Advancement until 2009 when he accepted a position as Executive Director of Lutheran Social Services Foundation of New England, during which time he and Janice were members of First Lutheran. One more change was yet to come, and that was to become Director of Development of Orphan Grain Train in 2011, the position he still holds.
Pastor Schmidt has served the church in a number of capacities over the years, as Circuit Counselor, Chairman of the Michigan West Regional Pastoral Conference, President of the St. Johns Ministerial Association, Chairman of the Michigan District Worship Committee, Co-Chairman of the Florida-Georgia Great Commission Convocation, the Michigan District Convention Planning Committee and various positions to raise funds for Forward in Remembrance, Alive in Christ, the Concordia College, Ann Arbor Fine Arts Building and the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Chapel.
Pastor and Janice make their home in Fort Wayne where they are active members at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and from where he travels throughout the country on behalf of Orphan Grain Train.
Orphan Grain Train
Orphan Grain Train began in 1992 when Rev. Ray Wilke of Norfolk, Nebraska, visited Russia and Latvia. While there he went through several orphanages and was appalled at the conditions he saw. He returned to Norfolk determined that we here in the United States had to do something to help these children. Out of that determination, Orphan Grain Train was born, the first idea being to have a train travel around the Midwest picking up grain farmers would donate that could be sold to help the orphans. The logistics for that plan didn’t work out, but the name stuck.
Today Orphan Grain Train has four main purposes:
- Supporting orphans primarily in Russia and the former Russian satellites. We now work with about 90 orphanages and assist thousands of orphans every year.
- Domestic disaster relief. Orphan Grain Train has shipping containers converted into bunkhouses, kitchens and bathrooms. When a disaster hits, these containers can be moved to the affected area and volunteers can stay, often at no cost, while they are helping restore the stricken area. Current efforts are focused on Houston and surrounding areas, Florida, the Carolinas and California.
- Domestic humanitarian aid. We collect and distribute used clothing, medical supplies and equipment, etc., to poverty areas here in the United States, border areas, Indian reservations, Appalachia, etc.
- International humanitarian aid. We sent food, used clothing and medical supplies, educational materials, etc., to countries all over the world, wherever there is poverty and disaster and where we have people we can trust who will distribute things to the people who need it. We have now sent shipments to 67 different countries.
This past year Orphan Grain Train distributed $48,000,000 worth of aid (valued at thrift store prices) to 27 different countries at an administrative and fundraising cost of just 1.7%. It is able to do that because it has just twelve employees but thousands of volunteers from coast to coast. Orphan Grain Train is one of the most highly rated charities on Charitynavigator.org. It is a Recognized Service Organization of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the value of aid distributed last year is equivalent to 2/3 of the entire synodical budget.
Orphan Grain Train has grown from one small location to 27 branches throughout the country, including the New England Branch in Terryville, Connecticut. The New England Branch began in 2014. Last year it sent 8 shipments with a total value of approximately $2,000,000. Today’s door offering will be designated for the New England Branch and will help send future shipments. The major cost the branch has is the cost of shipping. Those who would like to send a check but who left their checkbooks at home may use the envelope enclosed in the bulletin and note on the inside that is to be used for the New England Branch.
People wishing to donate clothing, medical supplies, etc., may call or email the Branch Manager, Bill Schneeloch, 860-604-5264, firstname.lastname@example.org.