the Spirit of LSI

Summer 2015

A Fresh Start for Sophia | You Do “God’s Work” | A Blessing for Beloit | An Easy Way to Give | Global Greens

A Fresh Start for Sophia

“I didn’t have a lot of family support, so Bremwood became my family.”


Sophia Sophia is funny, creative, brave and smart. But in junior high, she heard none of those words from her peers.

Instead, when she was 12, a classmate said to her, “Why are you still alive? I wish you were dead.”

That’s when she started cutting herself.

“Other kids at school threatened me on a daily basis, and the teachers didn’t do anything to stop it,” said Sophia, now 18. “I didn’t want to walk home by myself after awhile.”

Bullying was once considered fairly harmless: a push on the playground or stolen lunch money. Today, there is growing awareness of its complexity. Entire peer groups can engage in repeated aggressive behavior toward a targeted child, and online bullying, or cyber bullying, has added a 24-7 dimension to the problem.

Things fell apart for Sophia during seventh grade. She stopped caring about school, her grades slipped and she started acting out. Her home life didn’t help.

“It was really rocky at home,” she said. “My mom was there in the beginning, but she slowly stopped being there because I started getting more out of hand. We didn’t talk as much, and that was hard because she was still my mom. My family’s not very supportive.”

Sophia’s last full year of school was sixth grade. She spent the next five years in and out of treatment centers, shelter care and foster care. A week before she turned 17, she moved again, this time to LSI’s Bremwood Residential Treatment Center in Waverly.

“I was the most upset I’d been in a long time. I didn’t want to have to form relationships at Bremwood and then have to move somewhere else and start all over again,” she said.

Instead, she found what she had been missing for a long time.

“I didn’t have a lot of family support, so Bremwood became my family,” she said. “They built up my self-esteem as much as they could when I didn’t have any. When I had a bad phone call with my mom, which was every single call, someone always had the time to make me feel better.”

For the first time, she began to care about her own success.

“Before Bremwood, I didn’t care about wanting to be successful or happy or stable,” she added. “I would self-harm multiple times a day with anything I could find. I’m doing better with it, but it’s still a struggle sometimes.”

Sophia completed treatment at Bremwood eight months ago. When she turned 18, it was the start of a new chapter for her.

“Being in placements for so long and then having to suddenly be an adult is probably the hardest thing someone can do,” she said.

But she is doing it, and she’s doing a great job, too. One of her biggest accomplishments came in May: she finally earned her GED (General Education Diploma), which she had been working on for months.

“I didn’t have any words. I didn’t know what to say,” she said about the day she passed her test. “People have been happy for me, and I’m happy for myself.”

Sophia will attend college this fall with plans to eventually study social work and business.

“My biggest goal is to open a nonprofit,” she said. “I don’t know what for yet. I just know I want to help adolescents who struggle with the same things I do.”

Sophia was recently named “Student of the Year” at her GED graduation ceremony and received a standing ovation for her achievements. Way to go, Sophia!

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You do “God’s work”

Sometimes love looks like a new microwave.

Zion Lutheran Church in Dysart recently blessed a 17-year-old girl who was leaving LSI’s Bremwood Residential Treatment Center to live in her first apartment. With Zion Lutheran’s youth group coordinating the effort, a church caravan of trailers and cars arrived at Bremwood with furniture, a TV, a microwave, towels, pots and pans, handmade quilts and countless other household items for her apartment. What a beautiful witness of God’s love and kindness!

We want to thank church partners who are doing God’s work all year long through special ministry projects like these. This year on Sunday, September 13, many ELCA congregations will also participate in a dedicated day of service for “God’s work. Our hands.”

Your donations of children’s books, towel bundles, school supplies and backpacks touch lives. Your “noisy” offerings, special offerings and proceeds from yard work or luncheons fund our mission. Your quilts and letters from Sunday School classes and youth groups encourage youth at LSI’s Beloit and Bremwood campuses.

You serve and love your neighbors all year long, and we give thanks for you!

A Blessing for Beloit

Jesus StatueOn Easter Sunday in 1932, a chapel at the Beloit Lutheran Orphans’ Home in Beloit, Iowa, caught fire and burned to the ground. But not before one thing was first saved: a beautiful painted statue of Jesus.

“Everyone was proud of that statue,” said Corky Minor, an unofficial Beloit historian. “They all went in there and came out with it before it was burned.”

Today, the same Jesus statue is being rescued once more.

The Thore Gunderson Memorial Chapel, dedicated in 1923, was named for Beloit’s first superintendent. In 1949, the Beloit orphanage (known today as LSI’s Beloit Residential Treatment Center) relocated to Ames, with a new focus on serving children with emotional disabilities. During the transition, many pieces of the old Home were likely lost to history.

The Jesus statue survived, though. It remained in Beloit, Iowa, spending time over the years in an icehouse, a bell tower and even on Corky’s sister’s back porch.

Last year, LSI’s 150th anniversary revived interest in finding a permanent place for the statue. Beloit alumni and family members gathered for a reunion to celebrate the Home’s legacy, and that day, $100 was raised toward the statue’s restoration. Corky knew the perfect new home for it: LSI’s Beloit campus in Ames.

“This statue was a valuable part of LSI’s history and is a visual representation of LSI’s faith-based ministry to respond to the love of Jesus Christ through compassionate service,” said Mike Buck, LSI vice president of administration.

The plaster statue, which is about 50 inches tall, had faded paint, a broken arm and several missing or broken fingers. It’s believed to be at least 92 years old.

“His face is very serious, as if He is concerned about the people coming to LSI for help,” said Mike. “But his arms are outstretched, as if to say, ‘Come to Me’ or as if He is extending a blessing over LSI’s work.”

LSI fulfilled a promise to restore the statue by partnering with an Iowa company, Created in Johnston, Inc. Today it can be seen temporarily at LSI’s Des Moines office until a display space is ready at LSI’s Beloit campus in Ames.

Already, the statue is once again serving children and families.

“One young boy and his mother went up to the statue and as his mother knelt down to view it more closely, the boy touched the hands and feet and asked, ‘Can we take Him home?’” said Mike, recalling a touching moment at the Des Moines office.

The statue is indeed coming home, back to a place where children find new hope and healing every day.

“It’s just a miracle that it’s still here,” Corky said. “It served all those children in the chapel, and now it will serve children again at Beloit. It’s back doing what it’s supposed to do.”

Giving Made Simple

One of the easiest ways you can help the children and families that LSI serves is to enroll in our Monthly Giving Program.

With this program, you can set up an automatic donation of at least $10 per month to LSI’s Compassion in Action fund, supporting our services. Monthly donations are easy to set up, either online or by calling our toll-free number at 866.584.5293, and can be deducted from a checking account or charged to a credit card.

In addition to being a simple, effortless way to give, monthly donations help LSI reduce administrative costs and be more effective stewards of your generosity. Monthly gifts also help save postage and put your gift to work that much quicker!

You’re helping grow great futures through Global Greens!

Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, amaranth greens—these are just a few of the veggies you might find at LSI’s Global Greens Farmers’ Market, now open every Saturday in Des Moines.

Many refugees in Iowa have agricultural backgrounds and are interested in returning to the farming profession. That’s a perfect match for our farming state! Through LSI’s Global Greens program, people of refugee status can be connected to many agricultural opportunities, from community gardening to market farming. In turn, they reap the nutritional, health and economic benefits of growing food as well as maintain their cultural ties.

Market farmers sell their fresh, certified naturally grown produce weekly at LSI’s Global Green Farmers’ Market and through other venues. Visit the Global Greens page to learn more.