Heather Manning ’94, and husband Mark Manning ’94 started Searchlight Ministries, a Lutheran Church in Orange, in 2001, and soon became known as a church where families and kids with special needs are welcome. The emphasis grew out of the Mannings’ family situation: their oldest of three children is severely autistic, the youngest has Asperger’s, and the middle child is a sophomore at Concordia in the pre-seminary program.
Heather also worked for ten years in a public school district with special needs kids.
“Our ministry caters to those families,” she says. “We bannered ourselves as a place where children of all abilities are welcome.”
The Mannings graduated together from CUI with a strong calling to serve as a pastor and DCE ministry team for the rest of their lives.
“Our motto was, ‘We are better together in ministry than we ever could have been apart,’” Heather says. “God has made that very clear in our ministry. We encourage, support and complement each other in that. That was our dream when we graduated.”
Concordia, she says, shaped her approach to ministry.
“Concordia Irvine is an amazing university,” she says. “The professors I had, the theology training, the rigor of the courses and what was expected in the DCE program gave me the framework to do ministry.”
Heather was recognized with the Alumna of the Year for Distinguished Service award. In addition to her work at Searchlight, she served on CUI’s Board of Regents for six years, and has worked for four years at campus ministry, abbey west, currently as supervisor for men’s and women’s nurture ministry in student leadership.
“Mark and I have always been huge supporters of the DCE program, working with students, mentoring them and loving them,” Heather says. “At Searchlight we have fieldwork students from the DCE program participate in our congregation. It’s such an honor to be chosen for this recognition, and I am thrilled about it.”