Be the Best Neighbor - Betsy Borns, Mimi Richmond, Pastor Don Sutton

panel SESSION description

When an expert in the Old Testament Law asked Jesus to identify the greatest command, Jesus replied by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest command.” Then Jesus added, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus wants us to be “good neighbors.” This means caring about our communities, connecting with them where possible, and actively loving those of them who need our love and ministry. Our three panelists, Betsy Borns of Project RUSH, Mimi Richmond of Jesus Cares Ministries, and Pastor Don Sutton of Minnesota River Valley Mentoring, will challenge us in the following: 1) to think about our attitudes toward the communities in which we live and minister, 2) to evaluate how we are doing in being good neighbors, and 3) to identify good things our congregations should keep and/or start doing as “good neighbors.”


BETSY BORNS Betsy is currently the Project RUSH Manager for the Fox Cities Housing Coalition. RUSH stands for Research to Understand and Solve Homelessness and she’s been in this role since July of 2016.

Betsy led a community effort to open Pillars Resource Center for the homeless population. This center is located in the no longer used school connected to St. Matthews WELS church. By offering the space for the Resource Center, St. Matthews saved the city of Appleton over $1,000,000. Many resources come into the Center to support the people struggling with homelessness. One of those resources is bible education and faith ministries, offered by the pastors from St. Matthews Church.

Betsy received her bachelor’s Degree in Education from the University of Milwaukee. Betsy is a native of Appleton. She has been married to her husband Chad, for 22 years. Betsy and Chad live in Greenville with their two children Mackenzie and Zachary.

MIMI RICHMOND My name is Mimi Richmond. I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and volunteered with my mother [Bette Sebald] as Jesus Cares got its start in the early 80’s. After graduating with a degree in Special Education, I was able to continue as a volunteer and lead Jesus Cares classes and several special Christmas services. After moving to Lacrosse, I was blessed to continue my passion by leading our Coulee Region Jesus Cares right here, where we meet weekly during the school year. Our group loves to share Jesus with others. We are blessed to sing at several churches throughout the year. During the summer, I am also blessed to serve at Camp Phillip for a special Jesus Cares week. Thirty-plus years later, I’m privileged to speak to you about Jesus Cares Ministries and share how your church can use Jesus Cares Ministries to connect with your community.

PASTOR DON SUTTON Pastor Sutton presently serves part-time as ministry coordinator at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church – New Ulm, MN – and as part-time leader of Grace in Action, a WELS para-synodical ministry that does team building, leadership development, and strategic planning with traction. He is married and has five adult children and twelve grandchildren. He has served in parish ministry in Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota with the last 34 years in large congregations in small cities that afforded great opportunities for those congregations to connect with their communities. This has included congregational involvement in local food shelves, senior meal programs, parades, home shows, festivals, community parenting programs, and more. Presently he serves on the coordinating team of Minnesota River Valley Mentoring – a ministry to released citizens coming out of jails and prison as well as to needy people in the community.Pastor

Breaking the Silence - Michelle Markgraf


No one wants to talk about sexual and domestic violence, but the conversation is needed. Participants will examine their beliefs about domestic and dating violence. Many people have the misconception that this type of violence is a sixth commandment problem, while it actually has its roots in the fifth commandment. Violence against the survivor is prevalent and must be addressed.


How does a WELS teacher end up in a nonprofit agency that works with survivors of domestic and sexual violence? For Michelle Markgraf, it started seven years ago as a volunteer rape crisis advocate. She is now the Executive Director for The Compass Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and regularly provides community education on the topic. She is an adjunct instructor for the University of South Dakota (USD), teaching a Family Violence class. Michelle is a graduate of Dr. Martin Luther College, and in 2017 she received her Master of Business Administration from USD.

Michelle Markgraf

Michelle Markgraf

Breaking the Unwritten Rules of the Church - Pastor Mark Jeske, Pastor Mike Novotny, Pastor Randy Ott, Dr. John Parlow


Sometimes reaching others with the Gospel may demand that we think outside the box. Pastors Mark Jeske, Randy Ott, Mike Novotny, and John Parlow, will describe how they strive to share Jesus in ways that sometimes challenge the status quo. A constantly-changing society demands that we sometimes have to change how we approach outreach.


PASTOR MARK JESKE A Milwaukee, Wis. native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus Lutheran Church on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. Pastor Jeske spent a year in Colombia, South America, planting a mission church as part of his internship assignment while attending Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis. He also spent two years teaching English, history, Old Testament, and geography at Northwestern Preparatory School in Watertown, Wis.

Pastor Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in November of 2001, on just one station in Milwaukee. By 2019 the broadcasts air on more than 125 stations, numerous cable networks, different satellite channels, Armed Forces television, and the internet.

In addition, Pastor Jeske has written a Bible commentary (James, Peter, John, Jude) and dozens of daily devotional booklets. Pastor Jeske and his wife, Carol, an elementary school teacher, live on the east side of Milwaukee. They are blessed with four grown children; John, Sam, Liz, and Michael.

PASTOR MIKE NOVOTNY Pastor Mike Novotny serves as one of the campus pastors at The CORE, an outreach-focused church in downtown Appleton, WI. In addition, he is the new lead speaker for Time of Grace, a media ministry that shares the gospel with hundreds of thousands of people each week. Mike also serves as the chairman of Conquerors through Christ, a team that helps God’s people reject, resist, and recover from the wreckage of pornography so they can enjoy God’s gifts of sex/singleness. Apart from ministry, Mike is an avid soccer player who loves dating his wife/two daughters. Learn more at or, or follow Mike on Instagram at @pastormikenovotny

PASTOR RANDY OTT I have served as a pastor in the WELS for 29 years. The first 12 were spent in a rural setting in southeastern Minnesota. Since 2002 I have served at Morrison Zion Lutheran Church, Greenleaf, Wisconsin. We are a rural congregation that the Lord has blessed with growth. We are not in an area that has new houses springing up all around us, in fact, many of our neighbors are cows. But in this setting God has blessed us with growth from around 500 souls to just under 700. We are actively calling a second pastor to reach out to even more people. We exist under the theme: “Bring more of Jesus, to more people, more often.”

DR. JOHN PARLOW Dr. John Parlow’s philosophy of ministry may be best summed up by the following: “When sharing the Gospel you always need to be willing to think outside the box, because one day everybody is going to be in one.” Dr. Parlow has served congregations in South Dakota, Wisconsin and Asian Lutheran Seminary in Hong Kong. He is a graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and has continued his education at South Dakota State University, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Concordia Theological Seminary and Denver Seminary where he earned his Doctorate.

He has served for 25 years as lead pastor at St. Mark Lutheran in De Pere, WI:

· Which offers seven weekend worship services on three different days with four worship different styles at three different locations.

· Is a multi-site ministry with three campuses including a 150 child Christian Childcare Center (currently exploring the possibility of a fourth campus)

· Which consists of 2250+ “partners” whose average age is 29 years, 870 of whom are involved in Bible classes and whose DNA is saturated with the expectation of “change”.

He is married to his wife Lydia and has three sons. His interests when his pastoral duties allow time include the martial arts, “yelping” and pistol shooting.

Creating an Outreach Mindset - Pastor Ben Blumer


Jesus rallied the first leaders of the Christian Church around an amazing mission: "Go and make disciples of all nations." Two thousand years later that life-changing mission has still been entrusted to the Church. And yet sometimes that mission can get lost in the midst of the daily activities and responsibilities of your church. In this session we're going to explore how to make outreach more than the task of a committee, but a mindset that permeates throughout an entire church and to every member.


Ben Blumer is the Lead Pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Lakeville, MN. During his time at Bethlehem, God has blessed the congregation with growth from 100 members to over 800. Ben is also a part of Crosstrain Ministries where he provides ministry and leadership coaching to other pastors and congregations. Over the years, Ben has had the opportunity to speak at leadership conferences, youth rallies, mission conferences, and evangelism workshops across the country. His ministry passions are preaching, leadership, and creating churches that have a strong desire to share timeless truth in a timely way. Ben is married to Carrie and they have been blessed with 4 children.

Pastor Ben Blumer

Pastor Ben Blumer