Moments with Missionaries – Joel and Mary Heckendorf

Scheduled for June 15, 2024, at 2:15 p.m. CT

Rev. Joel and Mary Heckendorf – Light of the Valleys, Reno, Nev.

After serving at two large Wisconsin congregations since 2001, Joel and Mary Heckendorf moved to Reno, Nev., in December 2018 to help launch Light of the Valleys, a joint mission effort between WELS Home Missions and two local congregations. Going from a community where 20% of the population attends your congregation to a community where only 20% claim to be Christian serves as a constant reminder of why they’re there.

Finding a niche in the community is a constant prayer and effort. Having moved to Reno when their children (Alyssa, Caleb, and Connor) were students at Martin Luther College and Luther Preparatory School, some of those natural connections weren’t there. They’re grateful for the connections Mary makes as a local elementary school teacher. Although the kids are only home for vacations, it’s a joy to see how each member of the family embraces and plays such an important role in the mission effort. Their Reno experience will undoubtedly shape their future service. On a personal level, the Heckendorfs are also looking forward to Alyssa’s wedding on June 21.

Their church family consists of about 100 people, with 60 people worshiping each week in a storefront. In partnership with WELS Church Extension Fund (CEF), Light of the Valleys is in the process of purchasing land. They pray to have their own facility by 2028. While exciting, they know their mission efforts are not about building houses of worship. Rather, celebrating the spiritual house that is being built on the Cornerstone of Christ.