Jewish-Christian Relations was an extremely eyeopening experience for this small town Ohio girl! I realized very quickly that I knew little about faith outside of Christianity. By the end of the course I was left with many more questions than answers. I have gained new perspective on many hot button issues such as universal salvation, open communion, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and the role of the church is worship, prayer, and advocacy. The National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. is a sobering reminder of our devastatingly murderous history. In a strange way it is also a place of hope. I left with the hope and faith that the steadfast love of God will prevail. I am still reflecting on many of the things I learned in this course and many of our discussions. What I will take with me into the church is a willingness to ask difficult questions, an open mind to ponder the will of God, and most importantly a new love for my neighbor.
Mary Ann Siefke
middle eastTwenty-four travelers participated in the Middle East Study Seminar from January 7-23. The trip had many layers of meaning. Among them were pilgrimage to holy sites; study of the archaeology of the Bible; living in the land; immersion in the reality of Palestinian life in the occupied West Bank, including church life; and a bit of fun! New insights abounded from visits to over ninety archaeological sites and other places. So at Beersheba we saw what an actual four-horned altar looks like (the kind mentioned in the Old Testament). At Korazim we explored a first-century synagogue in which Jesus almost certainly preached.
Pilgrimage took many forms, including worship at the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus, as well as kneeling at the crown-of-thorns communion rail at the Church of All Nations in Jerusalem. We also experienced an Israel and West Bank (Palestine) that had much more variation in land and weather than many people had anticipated. We had heavy wind, rain, and snow, and spent substantial time at the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Galilee, and the desert.
We had some fun, too. Several people rode a camel in Jericho including your Vice President for Operations, Ron Benedick, and Tony Katko floated his time away in the Dead Sea.
We also tried to get our heads and hearts around the sobering reality of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Several speakers and other conversations helped us see life there from a Palestinian perspective. We were especially honored to spend 75 minutes with Bishop Munib Younan, who is bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land as well as president of the 72-million member Lutheran World Federation. The Wall that divides Palestinians from Israelis was a stark reminder of power and oppression.
Many serendipitous encounters also helped us to appreciate the people in that part of the world--from officious officials (!) to an eleven-year old girl into whose birthday party we stumbled. But always we were able to frame our experiences with prayer and Scripture, as seen in the devotions led by Pastor Joan Armstrong at the Mount of Beatitudes (Kaitlyn O'Neal Katko is in the background).
We are grateful to the seminary for brokering such opportunities and to the wonderful scholarships provided by Pastor Glen and Mrs. Shirley Gronlund.
So what are you doing in January of 2017?
dIACONAL mINISTRY: dISCERNMENT, HISTORY, AND FORMATIONI participated in the J term class “Diaconal Ministry: Discernment, History and Formation” course offered through Luther Seminary. “Diaconal Ministry” is a phrase that keeps coming back to me in classes, in congregations, in my life. I had the opportunity to explore what this looks like and learn the history. There were deaconesses on hand to talk about their experiences and to ask questions to help discernment. Other questions we wrestled with: What is community? How are we in community together? What is call? What is vocation? What is it that you can’t not do? What does personal spirituality look like? What does community spirituality look like? I was blessed to attend this class at a beautiful snow covered retreat center in MN that lent to community building and perspective for the questions and the processing of information.
The course content was excellent in both my J-Term experiences! The fellow students were also excellent and there was good and helpful conversations and sharing throughout. I went to Chicago first to learn about Community Development then Minnesota to learn about diaconal ministry. I came back with a deeper understanding and sense of God’s call in my life and the opportunities, challenges and mysteries that await all of us as we walk humbly with God and boldly with Christ smack dab into the middle of mission!
It was amazing to live in community whose ages ranged from four month old Elim to retired sisters.The deaconesses Sister Krista, Sister Liz, Sister Phyllis, and Sister Mildred and former Taizé brother Dr. Dirk Lange shared life experiences about their call and how we as baptized Christians can live out our call to be Christ in the world. With Dr. Susan McArver from Southern we engaged in the history of diaconal ministry from Phoebe and Stephen in the early church to the present and future ofdiakonia for all of the baptized.
My favorite story was from classmate Alex Long describing her/our relationship with God and our call:
Sometimes God kicks in the door of our lives after knocking quietly for a while.
God bursts in and says: "Africa."
"Can you get a little more specific?"
"No. You'll figure it out."
"What about my life - my quiet 'me time' that you just disrupted? What about the door you just kicked in?"
"You'll figure it out."
The Cuernavaca J-term trip was a wonderful immersion experience into the language, culture and history of the Mexican people. I felt the presence of God in being able to connect with my host family, despite the language barrier. Over meals and through conversation, we were able to share our faith, joys and sorrows. The pictures are from our class trip to the pyramids of Teotihuacan, and from a visit to a day-school for people with Downs Syndrome where my hostess volunteers frequently. We got lots of hugs that day, and I learned to salsa dance!
lEADING cHANGE: THE EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT LEADERI entered the Leading Change class with high expectations, because my undergraduate degree in psychology has already introduced me to how fascinating emotional intelligence can be. The class was everything I imagined it would be and more. First off, we started every day with prayer and dancing to music. It was surprisingly fun to move out of my shell a little and move around to the music.
Classes were filled with learning about Emotional Intelligence and the Meyers-Briggs type system, and how those work together, and how they can work in ourselves. We did a lot of small group work, and actually learned through actively applying what we were learning to ourselves and our own leadership roles. We would have large discussions about Meyers-Briggs types and how the differences between us affected how we saw the world and made decisions. It’s more fun to have large discussions like this when you know each other’s type and can begin to understand where they’re coming from. I learned so much about myself and about others through this class, and our last assignment was a learning agenda for each of us, so that the learning could continue throughout our lives.
All in all, I absolutely loved spending this J-term on campus and in this class. My days were filled with learning and worship, through the regular worship services we had throughout the J-term, and it was lovely to have my growing knowledge of Emotional Intelligence be with me throughout my days and work. I’m excited to move on to this next semester, and then on to internship with my growing knowledge of myself and others, and this topic and course will always hold a place in my understanding of myself and the world.
I really appreciated the safe learning environment that Dr Nakamura fostered and I believe this allowed us to experience and practice the emotionally intelligent leadership concepts we were studying. For example, she gave us assignments and stated her expectations of us with an air of confidence and encouragement in us. (We responded to her positive feelings about us - resonated.) My small group was awesome. We were able to appreciate our differences, work to the good for all of us and identify and use our unique gifts in the final presentation. I will be continuing to process and use the experiences and information from this class.
HAITIBon swa tout moun!
When people ask me about our trip to Haiti, the best thing I can say is, "Come and see!"
In our time in Littleton, CO and in Haiti, we were challenged to embrace God's story for the church instead of the world's story. We hear so much about how the church is dying and people are leaving the church, and yet because of Christ's death and resurrection, we know that love and life win and that we are called to live differently as the church and as individuals.
Ayiti (Haiti in Kreyol) was a beautiful country, full of contradictions. We saw radiant, blue ocean, lined with rocky beaches covered in litter. We saw beautiful mountains that were mostly deforested. We met people living in poverty, children living on the streets, yet we were welcomed and cared for. We went hoping we could love the children with disabilities, but instead were showered by their love. We learned from leaders who were well educated and successful, but who chose to stay in Haiti instead of embracing an easier life of affluence in another country because they believed in a future of abundant life for all.To experience the hope rising from the rubble, the best thing you can do is to "Come and see!"
*These reflections appeared in the February 2, 2015 edition of FLOTD.