Leadership Toolkit, April 2014 issue
We are excited to share with you an initiative by the South Dakota Synod (ELCA) called “Compañeros de Camino,” or “Companions on the Journey,” that encourages congregations to support undocumented youth who apply for Deferred Action.
The synod is encouraging congregations to devote Sunday, May 4 to using video, prayer, sermon, scripture, and personal stories to bring alive the story of the Road to Emmaus and its connection to supporting immigrants in our own communities. Participating churches will take a special offering on this day that will go towards the application fees of local young people applying for Deferred Action in order to attend college.
The Synod has created a wonderful collection of resources to support participating churches, including bulletin inserts, FAQ’s, theological grounding, sample sermons, and worship guides. Specifically, the theological resources focus on the experiences of crucifixion and resurrection in the lives of immigrants, and the accompanying presence of Jesus as a stranger on the road to Emmaus. Congregants will be encouraged to walk beside immigrant neighbors and become “Companions on the Journey,” and to take practical action by supporting the offering for local youth. In addition, congregants will receive further information about Deferred Action and questions they may have related to undocumented immigrant youth.
The South Dakota Synod has connected with a local Latino ministry to administer the offering funds. We are inspired by this initiative and encourage other congregations who might be interested in holding a “Compañeros de Camino” Sunday to adapt the program to their specific communities and work with local ministries that serve immigrants. The program is a great example of putting our faith into action on a timely immigrant rights issue like Deferred Action. For more information and to access related resources, visit www.sdsynod.org/companeros.
The work of LIRS is driven with a mission of welcome and it is with great joy that we extend that welcome to our new Manager of Congregational Outreach, Matthew Herzberg.
Herzberg brings with him strong ties to the Lutheran church. He is the son of a Lutheran pastor and has continued to be an active member of the church community into his adult life. A graduate of New York University, he holds a degree in education subsequently beginning his career with the New York City Public School system.
Not long after he felt pulled in a very different direction. After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, Herzberg became one of the many volunteers to join in the cleanup effort. His days as a volunteer would eventually lead to a more permanent position with Lutheran Disaster Response. While in the Gulf Coast he also found a job with Habitat for Humanity. His work with Habitat brought him back north to Baltimore, where he most recently held the position of Faith and Coalition Engagement Manager.
As the Manager of Congregational Outreach, Herzberg will be responsible for connecting with and creating relationships with the many congregations, synods, and districts within the LIRS network. This is a perfect fit for someone who describes himself as, “a natural relationship builder who thrives on personal connections and seeks out what motivates people.” Herzberg will work closely with the Mission Advancement and Grassroots teams.
With regards to his new position Herzberg states, “Working at LIRS is an opportunity to provide people with more than just a dwelling or process support, but a sense of home. Lucky enough to always have caring neighbors, be part of supportive church families, and engage in dynamic communities, ‘home’ is something I have been blessed with every place I’ve lived. I’m anxious to get to work with my fellow Lutheran sisters and brothers in this great work of welcoming the stranger, advocating for the scared, and loving our neighbors.”
At the end of February LIRS had the honor of hosting representatives from 38 partner organizations. The diverse group assembled in Baltimore for three days focused on Learning, Leveraging, and Leading at the aptly named L3 convening.
Creating a space for discussion was the main focus of the conference, as this was the first time that the three service networks of LIRS were joined together. These three networks include organizations who work with refugees, organizations who focus on the impact of detention and the safety of unaccompanied children, and the many congregations throughout the nation who support this work.
Together the representatives discussed a new initiative from LIRS referred to as “the long welcome.” This initiative aims to create lasting connections between immigrants and the communities where they live to better assure the success of their transition.
The conference received attention from the LCMS publication, The Reporter. In the article the Rev. Yared Halche, a participant and pastor from Indiana, is quoted on his thoughts regarding the discussions that took place. The Rev. Halche stated, “What I like about the meeting was the intentionality from LIRS leadership to utilize our immigrant church leaders in integration,” he said. “This is a good example of utilizing God’s people in a way that would be very productive.” LIRS looks forward to continuing to form these network connections and spur the challenging, yet valuable discussions at future convenings.
Rev. Phil Anderson, of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod of ELCA, recently returned from one of many trips to El Salvador as a volunteer coordinator for the Election Observer Mission of the Ecumenical Forum of El Salvador/Latin America Council of Churches.
As he remarked in a recent blog he authored for LIRS, Pastor Phil was first introduced to the Latin America as a seminary intern in a Benedictine Catholic monastery in Mexico, and created strong ties to the region while working as a missionary pastor in Colombia. Rev. Anderson’s story highlights the long history and importance of partnerships between Central American and US Lutherans on social justice issues including walking with migrants and refugees.
Because such large numbers of El Salvadoran refugees, many of them Lutherans, settled in the US, Canada, and Mexico both during and after the conflict, Rev. Anderson and other bishops from the US joined with Central American bishops to create a strategic plan for Lutheran churches in the region. This plan included helping Lutheran churches in the US to understand the push factors behind mass migration for Central and Latin American countries so that local ministries can better serve these newcomers.
Partnerships like that of Rev. Anderson with many Central American bishops play key roles in increasing the global awareness of Lutherans in the US and allowing US congregations to see the “big picture” of global migration. Although the conflict in El Salvador has ended, violence and crime continue to motivate people to risk their lives in search of safety and economic opportunity.
Rev. Anderson’s continuing solidarity mission in various Central America countries including Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras demonstrates his commitment to seeing peace, justice, and stability return to this region. We are inspired by the power of the relationships between Lutherans in the US and Central America, and encourage Lutherans to continue to learn more about the driving forces behind the flight of migrants and refugees from their home countries.
Southwest California Synod (ELCA) Build Bridges to Companion Synods and Minister to Migrants with Welcoming Congregations Network Initiative
An exciting new initiative in the Southwest California Synod of ELCA, called “Welcoming Congregations,” provides churches in the synod the opportunity commit to migrant ministry. The seventeen congregations who have joined the Welcoming Congregations network, led by Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, Director of Justice for the Synod, have signed on to welcome and minister to Salvadoran Lutherans who arrive from their companion synod in El Salvador with a letter of introduction. The Welcoming Congregations will assist newly-arrived migrants with access to resources including pastoral care, health services, and legal help. Each church has committed to having at least one Spanish speaker who can serve as a contact as well as a Spanish-speaking pastor available around the clock.
The participating churches have also agreed to advocate for reform in trade pacts and the U.S. immigration system. The initiative will serve multiple purposes, as it will be both a way to strengthen and expand relationships between U.S. churches and their companion congregations in Latin America, and to develop migrant ministries in local U.S. communities. Advocacy and support for immigrant-friendly policy will be important parts of these ministries.
Recently, representatives of the Welcoming Congregations churches met for their first quarterly meeting, where they took part in training, sharing, and planning. As the initiative continues to develop, Rev. Salvatierra hopes other synods will use the Welcoming Congregations model to build stronger relationships with their Latin American companion synods and to mobilize around immigration reform. LIRS looks forward to working with the Welcoming Congregations Network in mobilizing their communities to advocate in support of humane immigration reform. For more information about the initiative, please see Rev. Salvatierra’s post on the LIRS Blog here.
While immigration reform may have stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, people of faith across the country are not giving up! This is an election year and as a result, members of Congress will be home a lot for Congressional Recess. This provides a great opportunity to organize your fellow congregants, friends and neighbors to set up a meeting with your Representative or their staff. We have updated our Neighbor to Neighbor Toolkit to support you in mobilizing your community to let your Representative know that people of faith support compassionate immigration reform and want the House Leadership to bring it up for a vote. The toolkit walks you through the different steps of the visit and also includes a calendar of House recesses. If you would like more help with using the Neighbor to Neighbor Toolkit, contact Folabi Olagbaju at firstname.lastname@example.org.