Michelle Lora

Learning Together


Michelle belonged to Grace Lutheran Church in Watertown, South Dakota through her childhood into her college years.

I was baptized, confirmed and part of the church choir during that time. My favorite memories of church were always on Christmas Eve midnight service when we all held a candle and lit each other’s candle. It was such a peaceful, refreshing time where we were all one — no lines, no judgements. My grandparents were very supportive and instrumental in my faith journey. They would take me to church many Sundays and would help guide me and refer to the Bible during my difficult times in life. I still think back to times we would talk and how my grandmother would say, turn to the Bible, your answers are in there. Michelle

Her favorite Bible verse is Psalms 136:1

Trust in the Lord for he is good.

This is one that I wish everyone remembered in today’s world. If we just have the faith and trust in God, good things will happen. We as his people need to just have faith. Michelle

Michelle has been married to Wade for 18 years, and they have a two daughters, Satoria (11) and Saria (5). She works for Stellis Health Clinic in Buffalo as a prior authorization/referral coordinator for approximately 60 physicians.

When I first started at the clinic, Jill Kathman told me about Zion, and then Barb Stoffel who is our neighbor also mentioned it to us. We checked out Zion and listened to Pastor John’s sermon. Wade and I got home and said to each other this is the church for us.

I feel like Zion is very friendly and warm. Everyone is willing to help or answer questions if you have one or will pass the information on to get you the answer you are looking for.Michellee

Michelle was a Prayer Sister at Zion for many years and currently teaches Sunday school for 3-5 year olds.

I love Sunday school and all the little kids. I am blessed to have had an amazing year with both Sunday school kids and also the confirmation girls. Michelle


Lora grew up in Minnesota, and fondly remembers attending Lake Beauty Bible Camp in Long Prairie as a child. She moved to New York City to start a career in magazine publishing, working for People Magazine and Sports Illustrated.

I was living in New York and Mike was living in Little Falls, MN. He invited me on a trip to San Francisco for our first date, after a brief meeting. We spent about five weekends together, he moved to New York, and proposed the morning after he arrived. Lora

Eleanor was born in New York, and then Lora and Mike moved back to the Midwest to be closer to their families. They now have three children: Eleanor (11), Hattie (9), Ben (7).

They were all born within nine days of each other in April. April is birthday-palooza at the Toussaint house. We do not do gifts, only a birthday experience. Sometimes we do one big experience together and sometimes we do a special experience individually with each of our kids. Lora

When they first moved back, they attended Buffalo Covenant Church.

Loved the music, loved Pastor Brett, loved the people, but eventually figured out that this was not the right church for our family. We then landed at Zion because it was Lutheran. We instantly loved Zion and the people here. Kirsten Kelly and I quickly connected when we met, and struggled through, CrossFit classes together. She was instrumental in our decision to stay. Soul Sisterhood was a treat for my girls. Then came Camp Wapo. VBS. My kids seemed at home. It just felt right. Lora

Confirmation Small Group Guides

Satoria and Eleanor are both in sixth grade, and started confirmation at Zion this year.

When I was approached about becoming a confirmation guide, my initial was response was ‘no way.’ I am very social and love people, but this was completely outside of my comfort zone. Lora

So, Lora told me she was approached to be a guide for the confirmation group. I laughed and said “good for you. You will be awesome. Thank God they didn’t call me because I wouldn’t know the first thing on what to do.” Michelle

Somehow, by the end of the orientation, Michelle Swenson and I were basically double-dog-daring each other to do it … Lora

By the time the first meeting was over on the expectations of confirmation, I looked at Lora and said “let’s do this. We can do it. So what if we don’t know what we are doing. We can learn with the girls and make this a great time.” Michelle

I decided to leap. Partly for me, and mostly for Eleanor because I knew she would love it if we did it together. I always wanted to get more involved in church. I wanted to feel a stronger “community” with My People. I wanted to get to know more people. I also wanted to grow in my Faith. Check. Check. Check. And check. Lora

Lora and I have done this for the year and I can honestly say, it has been the best thing for me. I have learned so much from the large and small groups. Michelle

This year my faith has grown. I’m learning to listen and to give it all up to God. Lora

Anyone can be a confirmation guide. I, who came from a small town in South Dakota who didn’t have a strong faith background, have learned so much. It is a great refresher course, but more importantly, I think it is showing the kids that it is okay not to know everything about confirmation, church, and the Bible, but showing that it is a learning process and how to implement it in everyday life. Michelle

I’m probably not the most conventional or knowledgeable guide around. Not by a long shot. We probably don’t follow the program exactly the way it was designed to roll out. I’ll tell you what….the girls have taught me more than I’ve taught them. I see friendships forming and growing. I see the sharing of ideas. I hear the never-ending fountain of feelings and emotions that the girls trust enough to spew. Every single Wednesday I hear about how excited they are that it’s Wednesday! I figure we must be doing something right. I think the small group environment is important because it’s comfortable and allows the kids to be themselves and to not form into cliques. The kids are more comfortable sharing in a small group. Lora

The kids are a huge inspiration to me about life in general. We have such a tight knit group and amazing girls and Lora is fabulous. It is the time of the night when the girls in our group connect with each other, share what is going on with themselves and see how the different verses in the Bible can help guide and mold them.Michelle

What I think is special about Zion is that we do not expect everyone here to know everything about their Faith. There does not seem to be any judgement, just support and encouragement. Why else would the staff let me “teach”? LOL. This is why I stay involved … no expectations, except to do your best and to learn alongside everyone else. Lora