Sauerkraut, kielbasa feed ‘body and soul’ | News, Sports, Jobs


Staff Photos / Ed Runyan Tammy Chuey of North Lima is shown stirring sauerkraut and kielbasa at Good Hope Lutheran Church in North Lima on Saturday afternoon at the church’s annual Herb Festival, marking its 38th year.

NORTH LIMA – With the motto “A place that nourishes body and soul” it is not surprising that the Lutheran Church of Good Hope is making food part of its mission.

Pastor Ralph Edwards said the church, founded in 1806, “has had dinners ever since they can remember.” When he arrived as a pastor in 2000, he discovered that the members of the church “ate dinner all the time. We have fish fries every other Friday until December and then we will stop until Lent,” he said.

“One of the main conditions of what we do is that we give away food,” he said.

“When you come to church you expect to be spiritually nourished, but this place goes all the way to nourishing body and soul. This is their niche. They always eat. I was 350 pounds when I came here and I’ve lost it and gained it back,” he said with a chuckle.

Perhaps surprisingly, the most popular dinner each year is the sauerkraut and kielbasa dinner, served on Saturdays in the basement dining room and in the tent outside.

The dinner is called the Krautfest and has been a staple of the Good Hope Lutheran Church for 38 years, said Wendy Edwards, the church secretary and the pastor’s wife. At this year’s herb festival there was also a basket raffle.

The herb festival even survived COVID-19, Wendy Edwards said. “We just made it a drive-thru out of the tent instead of letting people come downstairs,” she said of the herb festival and other dinners.

The fish dinners are held every Friday during Lent, but with dinners being served outside in a tent during COVID-19, the man running the dinners asked Michael Elford if the fish dinners could continue biweekly.

“We’ve been doing this every other week since then,” she said.

“I’ve met a lot of really great people,” she said of the volunteer diners who run the dinners. “This team is different,” she said of the workers. “We have wonderful volunteers. They come early in the morning and peel potatoes and get everything going.”

The church is “definitely known for its dinners,” but sauerkraut and kielbasa are the church’s most well-known dinners, Edwards said. Elford buys the sauerkraut, but he seasons it the way people like it.

“People love it,” she said. “I’ve heard people say, ‘It’s better than my mother’s,'” Edwards said. “This is our biggest dinner.”

Last year, Good Hope held a barbecue dinner in October to coincide with the churchyard sale, a take-out soup in April, a pasta casserole in March, and beef tips and noodles in February. It had pigs in a blanket last November.

Church member and volunteer Nancy Barret said the dinners are a “good service to the community.” I think it’s good that we’re having dinner while sitting down again. We have good camaraderie. We have three services, so we don’t always see all of the other services. And there are people in the church coming out.”

Bob Kepp from Poland said he drives 20 minutes down to the church for every dinner. He uses the thoroughfare because it’s convenient.

“The food is good. The people are even bigger, and it’s a nice experience. It’s like going to church and not having to go in. And the guy running it is a good guy,” Kepp said His wife also likes the food and he takes extra meals home because he owns rental properties and sometimes he brings food to his tenants.

“They’re fucking enjoying this,” he said.

COVID-19 has been devastating for Elford’s food service business, but Elford and the church have partnered to keep his business afloat, hiring members of the church, who have also lost their jobs, and others outside the church, said Edwards.

Aside from allowing people to make money from the dinners, the church also benefited from Elford having a commercial-grade refrigerator and oven installed in the church’s kitchen, Edwards said.

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