2014 Synod Assembly Mission Moments

As is past synod assemblies, "Mission Moments"were shared by some of our Mission Interpreters and partner ministries. Here are those stories. You can click on the photographs for larger images.

Good Friday Prayer Walk 
Working Group on the Middle East
Joe Scarry

(Note: There is no sound with the video until near the end)

 One of the ministries of the Working Group this year involved joining with the 8th Day Center for Justice in their Good Friday prayer walk. Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Chicago to walk Stations of the Cross in the name of justice.

Our mission states: “Led by the Holy Spirit, [we] educate and urge the Metropolitan Chicago Synod to advocate actively for justice for Palestine and Israel.” We go “Into All the World”, even to downtown Chicago, to promote justice and peace in the Middle East.

The Working Group sponsored Station #5, the Weeping Women. More than 40 ELCA members from across the synod joined us as we led prayers and raised awareness about the concerns that make Palestinian women weep. Nine ELCA women-in-black symbolically wept beside 19 posters prepared by ELCA youth and seminary students. These posters, including the 2 on each side of the screens, represent what is found on Israel’s Separation Barrier. The art is a sign of protest, an invitation to peace, and a lament that the world has forgotten them.

Listen to the words of Abed whose community organization works within the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.

“And instead of complaining that everything is bad and always the fault of someone else and waiting for miracles to happen, we need to work to make miracles happen and provoke them to happen.”

In other words, God’s work. Our hands.

We appreciate your ongoing support of the Working Group. Visit our exhibit. Attend the workshop led by Ulysses Burley and Janelle Neubauer. Ask about the trip they will lead to the Holy Land.

Young Adult in Global Mission
Karis Ailabouni - Madagascar

Thank you, Bishop Miller. My name is Karis Ailabouni and I am serving as a Young Adults in Global Mission, or YAGM, volunteer in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar. My ministry here comes in many different forms and continues to change and grow the longer I’m here.

My primary responsibility is teaching English at a Lutheran school and leading a community English club. I am able to use my gifts as a native English speaker to equip my students with skills that will open doors for them as leaders of the future.

In addition, I share my gift of music with the church by singing in the church choir and playing violin in worship.

But beyond these tangible ways of serving, my ministry often means simply being in relationship with others. It means going to my friend’s house to wash dishes and help cook dinner. It’s the simple Malagasy conversations I have with my banana seller. Or the times I’ve taught friends how to make chili and popcorn.

It’s the moments of simply being present in my community that have truly shaped my experience. The moments when I’m not only giving God’s love but receiving it. On every step of this journey I have seen God’s love in my community who has welcomed me with open arms.

Take for example my best friend, Margot. She lives in a house with no running water, deteriorating walls, and hardly any furniture. Yet, she insists that I share dinner with her family every night. Why does she give what little she has to a privileged American? Because I’m her faravavy, little sister. Little by little, Margot teaches me how to see the world through the eyes of the Malagasy. She shows me the importance of community over the individual. She teaches me how to open up my personal space and invite others in. How to give love, time, and possessions without expecting anything in return.

Every day I’m blessed to be in a community that not only receives my gifts, but also brings me joy, challenge, and awe.

I am so grateful to have this opportunity to serve and learn from the Malagasy people. I see God’s work happen every day, and it isn’t just my hands, but our hands that make God’s mission possible. Your hands and your feet are at work here in Madagascar through your encouragement, prayers, and sponsorship. Your support for ELCA Global Mission and especially the YAGM program is truly felt every day in Madagascar, and into all the world. Thank you.

Mayom Acien

In 1996, I left my home country of Sudan because of violent conflict there and was granted temporary asylum in Switzerland. When I arrived, I was alone, but I began to attend services at a Lutheran church and found a network of supportive friends. With their help, I applied for refugee status in hope that I would be granted permanent resettlement in the US.

The process takes a long time – most refugees wait 17 years! It didn’t take me that long, but the process was slow and bumpy.

I was overjoyed when I found out I was assigned to Chicago, where I’d have a welcoming community in old friends I knew from Switzerland and in new friends like the Church of the Ascension in Northbrook, which had promised to cosponsor my arrival.

When I arrived at O’Hare in 2003, seven years after I fled Sudan, I was greeted by workers from RefugeeOne. They took me to an apartment that members of Ascension Lutheran had set up for me so that as soon as I made it to the United States, I’d have a safe place to call home. And every week after that, someone from the congregation was there to drive to me to Sunday service. To me, going to church was more than just something to do every week: it was a return to a community that had supported me for years in my journey, from Sudan to Geneva to a permanent home in Chicago. 

Now I work for RefugeeOne setting up apartments for newly-arrived refugees, just like members of Church of the Ascension did for me, so that other refugees coming to the U.S. can feel as welcomed as I did. You can hear more about this work at our workshop this afternoon.

You can help too. More than 120 congregations in our synod have partnered with RefugeeOne in the past 10 years alone. You’ve organized coat drives, tutored children in English, and prepared meals for refugees who have just arrived. In short, you’ve walked alongside thousands of refugees in Chicago. You have gone “into all the world” and welcomed refugees home to Chicago. God bless you.

Lutheran World Relief Health Kits
Gloria Dei, Northbrook
Janet Fisher

We begin with the Health Kit Hoedown – a video created by the high school youth of Gloria Dei inNorthbrook.

Since 2008, Gloria Dei has annually taken a small step in standing with those in need of the very basics.

Each year, young and old, gather with neighbors and friends to build Personal Care Kits in partnership with Lutheran World Relief.

In April, with many hands and great joy, 1200 kits were built in under an hour. At the end we prayed that God would bless the work of our hands, and bless the lives of the people who would receive them.

These kits will go “Into All the World” as they are sent to support Syrian Refugees and to those still suffering in the wake of the typhoon in the Philippines.

This missional ministry is not only a tangible action, but also opens us up to other possibilities that God will give to serve and to grow in solidarity with our sisters and brothers around the world.

 All thanks and praise be to God.

Holy Family
Peace Exchange

I bring you greetings from Susan Work, our Chief Executive Officer, who is out of town this week but sends her greetings and thanks to all of you who have supported Holy Family’s ministry since 1985.

Perhaps you are familiar with our programs, developed over many years:

  • Holy Family School, which we believe is the most affordable K-8 private school in Chicago.
  • Little Learners Academy, our pre-K and child care program, and 
  • Adventures In Learning, our after-school and summer learning enrichment program.

Together, our programs have combined enrollments of over 500 West Side children.

Today I want to tell you about HFM’s newest program, The Peace Exchange.

The Peace Exchange was founded a year ago as a response to youth violence in Chicago. Frustrated with marches and forums, we developed an out-of-box idea. We would identify the best young leaders on the west and south sides, age 18 to 25, and provide a year-long experience to expand their vision and enhance their leadership skills.

Our young leaders spent 80 hours studying the roots of violence, past peace leaders, and peace movements of the past. Then we took our young Peacebuilders on a two-week immersion trip to SE Asia, where they encountered a poor but happy culture….a culture in which street violence is rare. They encountered a people who practice being happy simply by smiling, mindfully breathing, and by endeavoring each day to rid themselves of anger, ignorance and greed. They learned that peace begins with me and the person standing next to me.

Contact Holy Family/The Peace Exchange

We would love to screen our documentary film for the youth you serve so that we can join together in using our hands to do God’s work into all the world. Here is a link to our website and Facebook page, or to communicate further with Susan.

Thank you!

ELCA Malaria Campaign
Gloria Dei, Downers Grove
Mary Ann Smith

Gloria Dei, has contributed almost $9,000 over the past two years to the ELCA Malaria Campaign. With its focus on helping the church in Africa, certainly this is one of our major efforts to reach into ’All the World’.

Last year our Campaign was entitled ‘A Little Something’. Every group and committee within the church was invited to participate and to collect spare change at their meetings, Our counters needed some TLC with all that loose change to count, but learned to live with it for the cause. By the end of the program year, we had collected $5,800, exceeding our goal of $5,000.

This year we held our campaign during Lent. We hung 350 mosquitoes glued on 5” paper plates in the Narthex and Gathering Area and called the campaign ‘eliminate the swarm’. Though this is a suggested fund raiser in the ELCA materials, we added a component to it by having the children draw something related to ‘malaria’ on the backs of some of the plates.

When the plates were hung, the children were excited to find plates they had drawn and encouraged their parents to ‘buy’ their plates. The suggested donation was $5.00 per mosquito. Our goal was ‘eliminate the swarm’ by Palm Sunday, which was accomplished.

We sent $2420 by the deadline for the anonymous match and received an additional $500 grant from Thrivent, so our donation to the Malaria Campaign this year thus far has been $2920.

We believe that reducing the scourge of malaria in Africa is God’s work - that requires Our hands, and we are committed to doing our share.

Bethel New Life, Edward Coleman
Vice President Commercial Economic Development

This year we are celebrating official middle age at Bethel New Life, with the 35th anniversary of our founding on Chicago's West Side by Bethel Lutheran Church. A lot has changed in our world and in Bethel New Life since that time thirty-five years ago, but the West Side of Chicago, unfortunately has not changed substantively.

As you know, our mission is to transform our West Side communities, to move them from communities of concentrated poverty, unemployment, violence and despair, to communities of opportunity and restoration. Over the years you learn a few things. We have learned that in order to have sustainable transformation of our communities, we need to orchestrate a coordinated recovery, starting by reducing concentrated poverty.

This Spring, Bethel launched its West Side Forward strategy. Through the execution of this strategy, we can see a way to a better tomorrow for 250,000 West Side residents; we can see a way to ending concentrated poverty on Chicago's West Side; and we can see a way to begin to realize God's vision of a restored society.

Getting there will not be easy. We envision a mountaineering expedition. We have identified and measured the mountain that we must climb. Over 15 years it is our hope to go from building our base camp to putting 63,000 more West Side residents into skilled jobs. Doing so will end concentrated poverty on Chicago's West Side.

Doing so will require training more than 110,000 West Side adults for these jobs; assuring that 12,000 more West Side youth graduate from college, and creating nearly 90,000 more jobs across Chicago. This is why Bethel is making key investments in community economic development and education.

If we intend to go into all the world and realize a restored society, we must use our gifts and our resources wisely.

One way to grow more jobs in the Chicago region is to nurture more job creators. We are doing just that. Bethel's Entrepreneurship Training Program, is one example of cultivating home-grown job creators on the West Side.

For the past 35 years Bethel New Life has been doing God's work on the West Side of Chicago, using our hands, your hands, and the hands of so many around the Chicago region. Climbing the mountain before us, restoring the West Side to health and vitality, will require lots of hands on lots of ropes, but the view from the top will be extraordinary.

Thank your for lending your hands, your hearts, and your prayers to the work that we have been doing for so many years. It is good work. It is God's work.

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois
Women's Network
Bev Moody

Most of you have heard of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois or LSSI, the largest provider of social services in Illinois as they go into the world.

However, you may not have heard of The Women’s Network that was organized 32 years ago. Members of the Network, responding to God’s love, enthusiastically volunteer their time and network their skills for the sole benefit of LSSI.

This growing network of women produced the first Forget-Me-Not Brunch and Fashion Show on the Saturday before Mother’s Day in 1985. A hot air balloon greeted the 550 guests of all ages as this popular benefit event was launched. Forget-Me-Not had a double message - to not forget “mothers” and to not forget helping “people in need”.

On May 3, 2014, the Grand Finale of the Forget-Me-Not Brunch and Fashion Show was celebrated.
For 30 years Women’s Network volunteers worked together with LSSI staff on this annual event that fostered awareness of LSSI’s ministry, featured food, fellowship, and a fashion show with professional models as well as junior models, children or grandchildren of generous sponsors.

The event proceeds were designated to LSSI’s early childhood programs that provide high quality, culturally sensitive services for children and families in some of Chicago’s most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. A favorite program was “Bonding with Books” where each Head Start child is given a new book every month to take home.

I’m pleased to announce that over the 30 years, The Women’s Network generated $1,020,000 for LSSI’s children’s’ programs and services!

A new Spring event is being planned by The Women’s Network. Fun and fellowship are a vital part of introducing the next generation to the mission of LSSI. I invite you women to join the fun! 

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