Give them Hope

You can Make a difference

Even though the refugee crisis is staggering, you can help in 5 minutes for less than $2.
The song below has images and lyrics that summarize the current refugee crisis, and it’s connected to a gofundme page – so when you pay $1.99 to download it, the money goes to some of the world’s biggest refugee-oriented groups, includingRefugees International, Human Rights First and theInternational Rescue Committee.

If you want to read an interview with the song creators, check out this article from NPR.

Hope is a gift

After 18 years in camps, survivors point to Hope as their survival life-line.  Much like survivors of the US Internment Camps or the European Concentration Camps of the 1940s, modern immigrants who have survived years in refugee camps want to talk about hope.

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When you do not have a bed, or a light, or a toilet, or a pencil… when you live in a place without streets, or walls… when you do not want to remember your past and you have no idea what the future might hold… that is when survivors choose whether or not to cling to hope.

Prophets to the Refugees

The Israelites were refugees in the Old Testament.  Babylon conquered their land, enslaved and killed the people.  They were not allowed to return for 70 years.  During that time, the Prophets shared God’s message of Hope with the people:

  • Isaiah promised a messiah that would bring peace (Is. 9:7)
  • Jeremiah promised a peaceful future (Jer. 29:11)
  • Daniel promised a kingdom that would stand forever (Dan. 2:4)
  • Micah promised an end to fear (Mic. 4:4)
  • Zephaniah promised God would give love, joy, and gladness to the people (Zeph. 3:17)
  • Malachi promised that God heard their cries (Mal. 3:16)

 

The people of God repeated these promises to one another throughout generations of suffering.  We have now an even greater promise of hope to share with all refugees  – and all people everywhere:

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, or sorrow, or crying. There shall be no more pain, for the old things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Someday, all of the pain of this earth will pass away.  Until that time, we can share the good news, provide for the needs of refugees, and welcome them to a safer home.

 

 

 

“it’s beautiful here”: Detroit through new eyes

Faith Changes me, so it changes how I see the world

Today in Sunday School, the Kids’ lesson was about Barnabas and Paul in Acts 9.  Most of the earliest Christians were afraid of Paul, because in his former life as “Saul” he was a lawyer who persecuted Christians and had them killed for professing Jesus as the promised Jewish Messiah.  Even though believing in Jesus had totally changed their own lives, they were too scared of Saul to believe that Jesus’ gospel message might have also changed him.

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Except for Barnabas.  He advocated for Paul.  We taught the kids that we sometimes call the Holy Spirit the “advocate” because the Holy Spirit is the name of God that lives inside of us and helps us see things like God sees them.  Barnabas believed Paul’s story – believed that God could change Saul into a believer.  Barnabas stood up for Paul, and brought him to the believers, and told people he had heard Paul preaching about God.  Once the believers accepted Paul, he went on to do great things.

What you see depends on what you’ve already seen

Today’s Detroit Free Press had an amazing story called “Promised Land” about a family of 7 recently relocated in the city of Detroit.  I highly recommend reading the whole article.  In short, a family from rural Sudan ran from their village with the clothes on their backs when the warring soldiers showed up, burned their home and stole their livestock.  Years later, and after extensive screening, they arrived at a house in Detroit.  Where everything is foreign:

  • faucets, running water, washing machines, light switches, gas stove, screen doors, glass windows, sidewalks, lawn mowers, and everything else we take for granted they have literally never seen before  Someone has to teach them how to use all of it.
  • Grocery stores, banks, schools, hospitals, and offices didn’t exist in their part of Sudan.  Someone has to teach them how to get to a grocery store, pick out plastic-wrapped meat,  use a debit card to spend imaginary money, then store it in a refrigerator and cook it on a gas stove and wash the dishes with running water.
  • Arabic is their second language, and they arrived too late to enroll the 6 kids in school.  No one speaks enough English to get any kind of job.  Their caseworker, who is responsible for teaching them everything, speaks English and Arabic.

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Despite all of this, they are so grateful to be here.  Their street has burned out houses, abandoned cars, un-mowed grass, burned out street lights, and wild dogs.  “beautiful” they call it.  They hang their laundry on rusty fences, and ride cast-off bicycles, and survive off of watermelon for days because it’s a familiar treat.  They have adopted a local bunny as a pet, and met another Sudanese refugee family with whom to play.

180 days to change your life

within 180 days, 88% of refugees in Michigan are completely independent – with no need for caseworkers or federal funding.  (Sometimes, they still qualify for state assistance, like medicaid.)  This family might take a little longer.  But their caseworker was an Iraqi refugee to Michigan 9 years ago, and is now officially welcoming newcomers.

Maybe we can be more like Barnabas.  Maybe, when our neighbors or co-workers or friends or family say, “I think we should be afraid of the refugees – they might be criminals or terrorists, or maybe they don’t really want to be here”, we can speak the truth:  “Most refugees do want to be here.  They want to be a part of our lives here.  They just might need a little help.”

 

How to double your passport stamps in 6 weeks

Where we’ve been

In our first 11 years of marriage, we’ve been to 11 countries:  Japan, Mexico, United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Monaco, and Vatican City.
3 continents, two passports, and a million memories.

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But that’s still only about 5% of the world’s countries – and less than half the continents

Where we’re going

This summer, we are going to 11 more countries!  Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweeden, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, and Spain.

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That’s going to double our passport stamps in just 6 weeks of Travel!  (thanks GPF!)

Not only that, over the next year, we’re planning to re-visit Mexico and add at least 6 more countries to the list in Central America and Africa.  That will bring us up to nearly 14% of the world’s countries on 4 continents.  🙂

The “bucket” list

Someone named Gunnar has been to all 198 & wrote about his top 20  here.  That list seems like just about enough for any adventurous traveler!  By the end of our Fellowship, we’ll have been to 12 of them.  And the other 8 are on the short list to visit again soon (although, who knows when?!)

 

29 days & counting!

Europe, here we come!

We’re less than a month away from the first leg of our amazing adventure.  For 6 weeks, we’ll be traveling all around Europe (11 different countries!) learning more about the current refugee crisis that we’ve heard about in the news.

This is officially the worst refugee crisis the world has seen since World War II:  60 million refugees around the globe, 10 million entering or trying to enter Europe.

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With such a huge crisis, there isn’t much I can do on my own.  But, there are already aid agencies, governments, and churches who are doing great things.  My goal is to visit with them, learn from them, and share their stories with as many people as possible.

why is this happening?

I’m not sure anyone has the exact answer.  But NPR did a great job of collecting as much information for us as possible.  Check out this video for more information:  https://www.facebook.com/NPR/videos/10154476026626756/

There are likely as many reasons to seek refuge as there are refugees.  But most of the stories boil down to this:  there are people with the power to exert evil in this world, and right now, those powers are putting innocent lives at risk.  Parents all over the world, no matter their religion, no matter their income, no matter their language, will do whatever it takes to give their children a chance at a better life – and sometimes, that chance is a very risky option.

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We’ll be working with established non-profits and church ministries in safe European cities this summer.  But we still ask for your prayers.  We’ll see and hear and experience a lot of difficult stories, and we’ll need God’s help and your support to process all of it.
Stay tuned for pictures, stories, and prayer requests!

So… what are you *doing* exactly?

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I am a seminary graduate.  But I’m not ordained yet.  Which consistently begs the question:  What are you doing exactly? When will you really be a pastor?

Gap Year

Earning my Master’s of Divinity was the most time-consuming and difficult piece of becoming a pastor. Thankfully, that part is done – I graduated last week!  But I also need to be approved for ordination, assigned to a geographical area of the US, and called by a specific congregation.  All of those steps take time.  In the meantime, I get to keep preaching and teaching and sharing God’s stories with other people – however and wherever God sends me.  I am horrible at waiting, and even worse at doing nothing.  So, in anticipation of this gap year, I applied for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; by the grace of God, I won an amazing fellowship!

Graduate Preaching Fellowship

This generous and anonymous award is given to only one Luther Seminary graduate per year, who gets to spend the year gaining experiences in preaching and worship leading through study and travel abroad.  The goal is to learn more about God’s story in the world, and in individuals throughout the world, and to connect people to God’s story and God’s story to people.

Migrants, Refugees, and other people on the move

God’s story is a story of people on the move.  We are all refugees.  I get to spend the next year accompanying Lutheran and Christian churches, organizations, and individuals who are walking alongside migrants and refugees.  I also get to spend time preaching about migration stories in the Bible:  Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Daniel, Jesus, Paul.

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Travel Route

Of course, in one year, I can’t travel the entire world.  So, I’m going to be focused on three major geographic areas:

  • Europe – migrants mainly from North Africa and Syria/ Middle East. In many countries, Lutherans are leading the efforts to welcome and support migrants.
  • North America – migrants from Central America, traveling through Mexico to the US.  The ELCA’s new AMMPARO program is connecting resources to advocate for, accompany, and protect migrants in multiple countries.
  • Africa – refugees from newly formed South Sudan are arriving daily in Uganda and Kenya, and Lutherans are hosting one of the largest camps in the area

David will be traveling with me, and we’ll spread the travel out across 2016 & 2017.  We aren’t moving – we’ll stay at our home in Michigan, and take trips when we can.  A few times each month, I’ll travel to a church in the US to share stories.  (Contact me if I can come to your congregation!)  Check out the “schedule”  and “contact” pages of this blog .

What about ordination?  When will I work in a church again?

Only God knows exactly what will happen after Graduate Preaching Fellowship is over.  Most likely, sometime in 2017, I will be called to a congregation and ordained as a reverend in the ELCA.  Until then, I’ll keep working where I’m sent – whether that’s Europe, Africa, Latin America or in my own hometown.
When that day comes, I hope that you’ll all be a part of it, celebrating God’s work through all of us together.