Higher Ground Mission to Pine Ridge

Imagine a community made up of these statistics:

  • 40,000 people live in this community.
  • The average yearly income for a household in this community is $6,286.
  • The average number of people living in a single small home is 17 and 33% of those homes lack basic water and sewage systems.
  • 80% of the people are unemployed.
  • 80% are also suffering from alcoholism.
  • 70% of students drop out before finishing high school.
  • 58% of grandparents are doing the job of raising their grandchildren.
  • The suicide rate among teens is 4 times the national average.
  • The infant mortality rate is 300% higher than the national average.

These numbers describe Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home to 40,000 members of the Lakota Sioux tribe. Pine Ridge is the 2nd largest reservation and 3rd poorest county in the United States. It is a place where hope is as great a need as new homes and running water.

From July 30th – Aug. 5th, Higher Ground will be heading to Pine Ridge to bring hope In the wee hours of the morning on July 30th, 20 students and adults will load up the vans and begin their summer mission trip – to bring hope through building and repairing homes and showing the love Jesus to the people of Pine Ridge.

Please pray for our students and leaders this week as they prepare and next week as they are in South Dakota:

  1. Praise God for His goodness – for the youth who want to go, for the financial assistance we have raised to help fund the trip, and for the 6 adults who have a passion for youth and mission work.
  2. For God to be preparing the hearts of the people we will meet and serve. That they will be open to the Gospel message and ready to build relationships with us.
  3. That God will prepare the hearts of the youth and adults preparing to go. That we will dedicate time to His Word and prayer so we can overflow the love of Jesus in South Dakota.
  4. For safety in travel and during our time spent on our trips. That God would give us discernment to make wise choices.
  5. That each participant would grow in their love of the Lord, prepared to return home to do God’s will in our communities.
  6. For our NextStep project leaders. That their work preparing for us will be according to God’s will and without conflict or difficulty.
  7. For the parents of the students who are attending the trip. That they have peace and little fear about this trip as they help their children pack and prepare.

We would like to invite you to join the youth and myself on August 13th for Coffee with the Youth between services. We will be sharing our stories and pictures from the trip and celebrating the ways that we saw God at work – and the ways we were privileged to participate in God’s Work.  Thank you for consistently believing in our young people and helping us to be part of these life-changing trips each summer.

Check out this video filmed the last time we were in South Dakota:

Voices of South Dakota from Next Step Ministries on Vimeo.


Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

A couple of weeks back, we had our first Fitchburg Regional Impact Gathering.  We were challenged to think about our neighborhoods, our city, and the ties we have to people that are the context and foundation for relationship and life together.

We were asked to draw out our home neighborhood, our “walkable community”, the place we are geographically tied to because of our home.

As the challenge comes to be in our neighborhood more, with our neighbors often more, resistance bubbles up.

“I don’t have a walkable community.”

“I only sleep at home.”

“My community is at work.”          

Jesus confirmed this summary of God’s commands for life as His people:

Love God

Love Neighbors

The Pharisee who answered Jesus’ question responded to Jesus’ affirmation with his own question that might have justified his actions, or lack thereof.

“But who is my neighbor?”

We live in a time where neighborhoods and neighbors are often defined more by hobbies and common interests than by geographical boundaries.

When you think about God’s command to love your neighbor, how do you answer the question, “but who is my neighbor?”  How do you think your neighbors would answer that question?

It’s not your fault, by the way. 

Instead of suggesting that we don’t do what we should, I want to challenge our conception of home and place, and the importance of our geographical neighborhood especially as we love our neighbors and make disciples…  in our going.

Where you live, where you sleep, eat, whatever, your home provides some foundation for all the rest.  Even if you feel like you spend your life living elsewhere, you wouldn’t be able to do that without the shelter, safety, and security you have.  Many of those basic needs are fundamentally bound with your home. 

You share a strong bond with your neighbors, around the ways that some of those fundamental needs are possibly met in your neighborhood.

As we seek to be Visible Reflections of Jesus,

the Word became flesh who made his home among us,

how much time to we spend in our neighborhoods?

Over the next 4 weeks, open yourself to the possibility of more connection in your neighborhood and with your neighbors.  Decide to intentionally be in your neighborhood one more time per week.  You could go for a walk or a drive.  You could invite neighbors over for dinner or drinks (or both).  Whatever it is, just be there a little more, and observe your neighborhood.  What you and others love about it. 

Remember, most people, including your neighbors, are used to having more connection outside of the neighborhood.  But, maybe, there could be more.

Be the catalyst in your home and in your neighborhood, and see what God does.

How are you choosing to be present in your neighborhood?  What are you noticing?  Please let me know in the comments or via email: mwipperman@lifelivetogether.com


Prayer Walking

Summer is such a wonderful time of the year!  We are able to be out and about and visit with neighbors. We get to enjoy the bike trails, and lakes, and play outside.  The next time you are going for a walk, why not also pray?  You can let what you see inform how you pray.  Here is an example:  If you walk past a house that has toys, and strollers in the driveway you can pray that the children enjoy good health to play and that they are blessed with friendships, and are loving toward each other.  You can pray for wisdom for the parents as they raise the children. You can pray that God would provide for their every need.  If you see a home with a beautiful garden, you can thank God for the beauty in His creation and for the hands that planted the flowers.  If you know the families that live in the houses you can pray for them by name and that they would know just how much they are loved by their Savior Jesus.  You get the idea!  You can pray for the police officers and firefighters in your city, that they would be safe.  Pray for local businesses to thrive.  Pray for our communities to be filled with love and not hate, and that people would be kind to one another and feel valued. You can pray scripture by placing the person’s name right in the passage.  For example:  “Lord, I pray that you would open _______ ‘s eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in you.”  Acts 26:18


As we walk through our community talking to God about what we see He begins to soften our hearts for our community.  We pray for ourselves as well, that we would have God’s heart for others and see people like He does.  As we walk and pray it helps us to be more aware of our surroundings.  He helps us SLOW down and take notice.  Thank God for where you see shalom, that is wholeness, or peace where God is working.  And also recognize where there is Broken Shalom, the potential for God to work and restore what is broken.  


Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16    We can approach God Almighty with confidence.  Prayer is a powerful gift that we have been given.  “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17  What a promise, our God hears us!  Even if you can’t get out and walk around, you have an amazing gift to offer others as you can sit and pray for them.  


If you aren’t sure where to start, just begin by saying thank you for all that you see.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6   Instead of carrying the burdens and worries that you have turn them over to your Heavenly Father who cares for you!  

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7  


The next time you take a walk on your own, with a friend or your whole family… why not give it a try and talk to God as you walk!  


Lessons Learned: The Power of a Story

Last week I shared a portion of Pastor Tony Kobak’s boat story. Just to give you a quick review:

"Tony what is one thing that you would like God to give you for ministry?”  I asked.

Tony said, "A Boat".  Everyone laughed as it sounded like a silly request.  Jeff then asked Tony "Why a boat?"   

Tony responded "It would give me time away from the congregation for prayer and an opportunity to minister missionally to individuals who might be more willing to go fishing than step in a church." One of Tony’s classmates Phil Robarge then said, “Tony that is stupid, I bet you a 12 pack you never get a boat."  

2 years after that boat was prayed for, Pastor Kobak (Tony) was given a pontoon boat by a dying friend as a part of his inheritance. A while later, Pastor Tony baptized Todd Gloth, who learned about Jesus on Tony’s boat. (You can read the entire portion of the story from Tony’s perspective here).

Here are 3 of my favorite “lessons learned” as I reflect on Tony’s story:

#1.  Ask specifically for the “crazy” request.

Do you ever refrain from asking God for something because you think that request too small? Stop it. Start asking. Will He grant your requests? Maybe. Maybe not. What a blessing is ours, though, when we believe that God cares about every aspect of our lives, every desire of our hearts. It is in the asking where we put into practice the confidence that God owns every boat and that…

God gives boats.

#2.  Look at your life in total.

Does God care about boats? Yes! Even more, He cares about the people who will use those boats, who will engage with each other on those boats, who will discuss the realities of life in Jesus on those boats. Get out of your church box, thinking that only what happens in church is “spiritual.” Stop compartmentalizing your life. God’s Kingdom is breaking out all over. Every provision in your life belongs to God, and can be used by God for His purposes.

God uses boats.

#3.  Stories help us put #1 and #2 into practice.

Already, within a couple of weeks of reading this story, the impact of his story on others has been inspiring. As Pastor Kobak’s story has been shared in multiple conversations, people are considering what their “boat prayer” would be.  When I think of what might have been missed in conversations, in understanding, if Pastor Kobak would not have shared this story, I am more convinced than ever that we need more stories, not less.

What’s YOUR “boat”?

Go here http://www.livelifetogether.com/stories to share your story. Click on the “Submit a Story” button at the top of the page, and share it. 


25th Anniversary of Ordination


I was humbled and honored to have so many people join me in praising God on the event of my 25th Anniversary of Ordination. The Meyer family has been richly blessed to follow Jesus together over those years. They sure go by quickly!

I received a priceless gift last Sunday to mark this milestone. We refer to it in our household as the “25th Year Book”. It is full of cards, letters, stories, memories, and blessings.

I would like to share a portion of one of those letters from a pastor in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I’ll have a few quick learnings from his story to share with you at the end. I met this pastor a few years ago as a participant in our first PLI Learning Community. From the beginning he was a reluctant participant…to say the least. Maybe a better term would be resistant. We struggled against each others’ expectations. I remember vividly the incident he shared in his letter to me. At the end of our two-year learning community I had little confidence that any of our efforts with PLI did much to equip him or ready him for his ministry moving forward. I was stunned last Sunday when I read this:



“I remember one session when Jeff asked us "What is one thing that could help you in ministry?  One thing, why not pray about it and see what God will do.  Well if you don’t know me, I am naturally a smart aleck and often say exactly what I am thinking.  Jeff called me out for some reason to be the first one out of the box and said, "Tony what is one thing that you would like God to give you for ministry?  

I said, "A Boat".  Everyone laughed as it sounded like a silly request.  Jeff then asked me "Why a boat?"   

I responded, "It would give me time away from the congregation for prayer and an opportunity to minister missionally to individuals who might be more willing to go fishing than step in a church." One of my classmates Phil Robarge then said, Tony that is stupid,  I bet you a 12 pack you never get a boat."  

And THEN I was SHOCKED when Jeff said in response, "That is great, let's ALL pray that God provides Tony with a boat!"   Yes, we prayed and in the back of my head, I thought Jeff was crazy for encouraging me and my insane ideas.  

Well, what happened 2 years later shocked me.  I received a call from someone in my past before I went into ministry.  A friend of mine from many years ago lost his battle with cancer.  His wife called me up and said that before he died he asked his wife if I might want his pontoon boat. This shocked me.  We had not talked for years.  I think I may have only gone fishing on his boat once.  But he knew we had young kids when we went to the seminary and now we were in ministry and wondered if I might want his boat.

I was shocked.  I didn’t expect or even think that God would provide me/ give me a boat.  And yet God did.  I truly credit this gift to God being at work in my life.  God is at work in Jeff's life and the ministry he is providing.  Here is the cool part. This past Christmas I baptized Todd Gloth, a man that I took on that boat.  REALLY! It happened!   

I have been amazed at how God has used me and my congregation after going thru PLI led by Jeff.  Over the past 2 years thru the intentional idea of Missional living along with the Holy Spirit our church in Cape Girardeau has grown tremendously.  We have added over 80 new members in the last 18 months.  I have been blessed through the skills and training that I have received through Jeff and his ministry team at PLI.  Thanks for all of your work that you have done for Christ.  God's blessings.”  Rev. Tony Kobak, Hanover Lutheran Church, Cape Girardeau, MO

What lessons do you learn about leadership, about missional living, about expectations, as you reflect on Pastor Tony’s experience? Read next week’s Spiel to hear some of mine.

Pastor Jeff