As an ELCA pastor, Tom Gaulke opens his heart … and his couch.
A member of the CouchSurfing community, Tom hosts travelers in his home for free; fellow CouchSurfers return his hospitality when he travels.
“One time I hosted two surfers, one from Bulgaria and one from Germany, at my apartment in Chicago,” he says, “and then took them home to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents in Milwaukee. My parents loved it.”
A CouchSurfer would seem to operate from a high level of trust. For Tom, that trust is part of his faith.
“I believe the Christian faith — and the ELCA Lutheranism in particular — has an incredibly special and important message of meaning and of hope and of redemption,” Tom says.
Sharing that message is one of his passions as he pastors his congregation, First Lutheran Church of the Trinity, Chicago.
Traveling faithfully with others
“It’s my job to love people and let them know that God loves them,” Tom explains.
“I get to proclaim good news of Jesus Christ. I get to share with folks something that means everything to me. I do what I am passionate about and I love it.”
Just as he sees the blessing of an affordable way to travel, Tom relishes the transformation that comes with a journey of faith.
“I see lives change,” he says. “I see guilt turn into liberation and deep love-in-action between humans. I see hope enacted and the presence of God in my neighbors all the time. It’s great.”
He extends the philosophy of CouchSurfing as he ministers to his congregation.
“I feel called and challenged each day to act in love and hospitality in a world where that is often not the norm,” Tom says.
“I believe that one of the beautiful things about church communities — ideally — is that they can be a sanctuary in the midst of a busy world.
“Ideally, in (a) Christian community one is not a potential customer, not an employee, not a competitor in business or success or popularity, but family. Period. No matter what. Each person is to the other a gift of God.”
As for Tom, one of his future aspirations sounds quite doable.
“A bit more traveling would be nice,” he says.