Stanwood Lutheran church place of good works, gospel

STANWOOD — Tracy Ulrich believes that “God is in the house” at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church.

She knows this, Ulrich said, because the congregation’s overseas missions and local social service projects all are doing well. People in places such as Kenya and Nepal as well as north Snohomish County are getting the help they need, she said.

Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church has been a part of the Stanwood-Camano Island community for 135 years. While it has Scandinavian beginnings, its 350 active members are a diverse group of people, Ulrich said.

“And we are enthused and excited about the work we as a church are doing,” she said.

Fellow church member Dan Haskins, a Stanwood veterinarian, agreed.

“It’s been great in the past few years to watch the doors open for our missions projects, both locally and globally,” Haskins said. “It’s not about doing good works versus spreading the gospel. Together, it’s the natural outcome of our faith. People are happy to give of their time, talents and treasure.”

Overseas, for example, church member Thor McIlrath got Our Saviour’s involved in supporting an orphanage in Nepal called Amrita. The orphanage operates under the auspices of the Bellingham-based missions group Kidstown International, which also runs orphanages in Romania and India.

In Africa, the church helps with the Bosongo Community and Veterinary Agri-Project, which operates as part of the Christian Veterinary Mission.

Ravaged by AIDS, the poverty-stricken southwest Kenyan villages the Stanwood church supports are home to many widows and children who need help with their animals, water systems and gardens. The goal is to help families create their own self-sustaining source of income, said Ric Shallow, a church member from Camano Island.

The Our Saviour’s congregation has paid for the construction of wells and rainwater cistern systems in Kenya. They help provide villagers with chickens, goats and seeds. They help send Haskins, the vet, to Africa to help keep the goats healthy. This year, Haskins was joined by Shallow and fellow church member Joyce Zeigen. They brought with them old, unused basketball jerseys from Stanwood Middle School, 12 pounds of vegetable seeds from Alf Christianson Seed Co. in Mount Vernon, veterinary medical supplies, soccer balls and the financial know-how to help people start their own small businesses.

In the past year, the Stanwood church also funded the construction in one village of a school building that doubles as a church on Sundays.

Making friends with the people in Kenya was the most important part of the recent journey there, Zeigen said.

“Building relationships is the basis of all development,” Zeigen said. “It’s the way to help people out of the depths of poverty.”

Ulrich said Our Saviour’s local mission projects also depend on relationships and partnerships with other churches and nonprofit organizations in the Stanwood area.

Among the efforts that her church supports with time and money are the Stanwood Food Bank, the Stanwood-Camano Christmas House, the Caring Place clothing bank, the Gathering free supper on Thursday evenings, the Spot after-school program, Safe Harbor Free Clinic and Housing Hope.

The Spot and the Caring Place are located in old houses next door to their church, Ulrich said.

The Caring Place, which doubles as the Christmas House in December, was rebuilt with the help of church members and the Skagit-Island Counties Builders Association.

Finished in November, Caring Place is open two days a week to provide free clothing to people in need.

“Rebuilding the Caring Place house was like a barn raising. It happened so fast,” Ulrich said. “When I came back the next week to open it up, I stepped inside and said to myself, ‘God did this.’ It was great. I love working with Christians who are living out their faith.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427;

Our Saviour’s

Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, 27201 99th Ave. NW, Stanwood. Call 360-629-3767 or go to

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