Jesus Cares Ministries Staff

describe the imageRev. Joel Gaertner serves are Vice President of Ministry and National Director of Jesus Cares Ministries. He joined TLHA in October 2013. He continues to serve as chairman of the WELS Intellectual and Developmental Disability Ministry Committee. Upon graduation in 1990, Pastor Gaertner was assigned as an Outreach Explorer in Boone County, Kentucky, where he served for 6 years establishing Amazing Grace Lutheran Church. From there until 2011, he served at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Algoma, Wisconsin, followed by 12 years at Faith Lutheran Church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin before joining TLHA. Contact Pastor Gaertner by phone at (920) 517-0381 or email


Elli Bonack joined the Jesus Cares Ministries team in 2014 and serves as the New Friends Coordinator. Elli began attending New Friends in Manitowoc with the encouragement of her daughter, who is a student at Manitowoc Lutheran High School and involved in their New Friends group. She recognizes the importance of educating others about special needs within our congregations, and throughout the community.  She is part of a medical outreach team, whose purpose is to better educate medical professionals about Down Syndrome. Elli is excited to assist in developing more New Friends groups throughout WELS High Schools and Colleges.  She feels New Friends is an important outreach with a life-changing purpose. Elli can be reached by phone (262) 424-0508 or email


Julie Luetke, Jesus Cares Ministries RepresentativeJulie Luetke has served as a Jesus Cares Ministries Representative since 2006. She has always been interested in serving people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her interest in special ministries began more than 35 years ago, and her experience includes volunteering in special education and working in direct care.

She is also very active in the JCM program at her church. Julie is always excited when churches design a ministry for people with developmental disabilities in their communities. She likes brainstorming with volunteers to help them better their classes to reach more people. Contact Julie by phone at (320) 522-2379 or email


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Staff Minister Bill Truebenbach first came to The Lutheran Home Association in 2002 to work in mission advancement and is currently a Jesus Cares Ministries Program Coordinator. He has completed the Staff Ministry Certification from Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota. Through workshops, reading and learning from mentors in this area, he has learned more about working with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Bill has been blessed to enjoy many activities with JCM participants, including seeing them be confirmed, going fishing, and more. Contact Bill by phone at (262) 208-6031 or email