By Evan Ratke
Three decades of experience speak for themselves. Pastor Richard “Rick” J. Goeres says his work with Lutheran Family Services of Virginia and Lutheran Family Services has never felt like an obligation. Instead, the chance to work with the people of these organizations has been a joy and a privilege.
“I’ve been connected with Lutheran Family Services for 33 years. I first started in North Carolina, then in South Carolina, then Virginia,” Pastor Goeres recounts, smiling. “There are so many different ways in which Lutherans engage in family life. As you can tell from this smile on my face, it’s just been a real gift to be connected with this kind of service ministry for the church in the community in a way that absolutely makes a difference in people’s lives.”
Pastor Goeres is not the only one smiling at LFSVA. He says that shows the organization’s continued dedication to its higher mission. “As you meet people, smiles appear on their faces because they want to tell you about what they do and what a difference they make in another person’s life,” Pastor Goeres says about LFSVA’s employees.
“For me, the church has never been a building. The church is all of God’s people in action, in congregations for worship and in service, and in all other various expressions. LFSVA is one of the many expressions of the church that impacts society.”
A graduate of James Madison University, a world traveler, and sports and exercise enthusiast, Pastor Goeres has recently taken on the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors for LFSVA, a role with which he’s familiar.
“I was on the Board of LFSVA for ten and a half years, Board Chair for about five of those years.”
“Rick has decades of experience with our organization and the services we provide. He is a great and thoughtful communicator, pastor, and leader and we are very fortunate to have him back as Chair of the LFSVA Board,” said CEO Ray Ratke.
But past experience isn’t the only reason Pastor Goeres is dedicated to the mission. When he was a child, his father’s missionary work took his family to Japan. It was during that time that his family adopted his middle sister from South Korea.
“Adoption has always been a part of my awareness and my appreciation of what it means to be a family. How do we bring in people in ways that show they are loved and they belong here? Lutheran Family Services has well-known programs like foster and adoptive services, but also, unique things like the Minnick education centers.”
Because of that awareness of what LFSVA and Lutheran organizations overall are striving to achieve, Pastor Goeres recognizes that it’s a mission that requires many people working from different perspectives, but working together.
“The purpose is the same, the purpose is how do we impact the lives of people — North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia — wherever it is. How do we live in the grace of God given to us in Jesus, not because we deserve it, but because God loves us? And so how do we experience God’s love in a way that can help other people to also smile and to realize that God adores them too? We might say it differently, but we’re headed in the same direction. The roadway is pretty wide and we may pick certain lanes that we’re familiar with at LFSVA, but let’s be companions on the journey and do so with joy and thanksgiving.
“It is about connections and experiences that are positive. That’s what I think LFSVA provides, not only for our clients, but also for the work of the wider church. It is working with our services and the wider expression of the church that allows opportunities to come our way that wouldn’t otherwise if we weren’t doing a good job. It’s about relationships and doing what you do well and then having people say something about it. It’s just fun to see how big and wide and overwhelming as the world is, that we can also feel a sense of support; we know who are the helpers. As Mr. Rogers said, ‘Look for the helpers, in any kind of situation look for the helpers.’ We’re the ones willing to walk toward the hurt, not run away from it. And that matters.”