A visual tour of ELCA congregations, people and events.
Sparks of faith
Trinity Lutheran Church in Mount Joy, Pa., is seeing sparks. Michelle Shirk, Trinity’s director of youth and family ministries, implemented the “Spark Teams” concept in which the youth of the congregation use their personal passions to fuel projects that serve their community, share the gospel and strengthen their faith.
Jacke Houck and Alex O’Shea collected sports equipment with their Spark Team to give to inner-city youth.
Eighth-graders Emily Ashley, Milli Straub and Kelsey Long organized a 5K walk/run with their Spark Team to raise awareness about world hunger. Their event raised more than $1,200, which was used to purchase seeds for farmers in Haiti.
Zach Rago, Hannah Williams and Abby Johns worked on their Spark Team to design curriculum, organize activities and develop a budget to host a “Senior High End of Summer Youth Retreat,” which helped rising ninth-grade students feel welcomed into the senior high youth group.
As director of youth and family ministries at Trinity, Michelle Shirk (far left) helps point out where God is working in the youth through the connections they make on their Spark Teams.
Fourteen-year-old Anika Weaver used her passion for theater production to create a PowerPoint movie to celebrate the end of the youth-group year and to show the congregation how the youth are serving.
‘God’s work. Our hands’ Sunday
On Sept. 13, ELCA congregations from across the country joined together for “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday. This dedicated day of service builds on the work ELCA members do every day to serve their neighbors and make the world a better place. From cleaning roadsides to preparing meals to playing music for shut-ins, volunteers participated in a multitude of service projects. “God's work. Our hands.” Sunday celebrates a church that believes God is calling us into the world together.
Mountain View Ministry is a joint ministry of three congregations in rural North Dakota – Peace Lutheran Church in Dunseith, Valle Lutheran Church in Rolette and Willow Creek in Overly. Volunteers help put the final touches on the newly constructed Dunseith Food Pantry.
Volunteers from Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Greenville, N.C., make tie fleece blankets for Community Crossroads Center, a local community shelter.
Almost 40 volunteers from Christ and Trinity Lutheran Church in Sedalia, Mo., gathered on “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday to make fleece tie blankets for Child Safe of Central Missouri, a child advocacy center.
About 125 volunteers from St. John's Lutheran Church in Norfolk, Neb., participated in “God's Work. Our Hands.” Sunday. Service activities included helping paint and make repairs at a local rescue mission, creating thank-you cards for military veterans and assembling welcome kits for the Chamber of Commerce.
Volunteers from Christ Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Iowa, assembled birthday cake kits that were delivered to the local food pantry.
Members of all ages participate in “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday. Volunteers from Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Crown Point, Ind., help with yard work at the home of a member’s mother.
Back to school at Ascension Lutheran
School is back in session at Ascension Lutheran School in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Serving grades kindergarten through eight and offering early childhood education, Ascension Lutheran School has been educating young people in a Christian setting for more than 50 years. Ascension Lutheran School is connected to Ascension Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Happiness is seeing your friends back at school after summer break. Many Ascension students develop life-long friendships with one another.
Middle school students at Ascension were excited to come back to school to discover that the lockers had been painted to look like books in a bookshelf. Lockers appear as book spines with titles or authors painted on them.
Middle school students, grades five-eight, can often be found collaborating in study groups outside the classrooms.
Ascension’s early childhood center is a wonderful place for infants through pre-K students. Children love to learn and play in the Nature Explorer Outdoor Classroom, which features abundant open-ended, hands-on activities that allow for investigation and a sense of wonder.
Ascension’s kindergarten teacher works with a new student. Kindergarten students at Ascension enjoy a full and rich day during which they participate in academic and enrichment classes including Spanish, music and physical education.
Students at Ascension work hard and they play hard. Recess is a favorite time for all students!
Eighth-grade students help lead chapel on the first day of school, greeting the students with welcome signs and high-fives.
Balkan Peninsula flood relief
The ELCA has participated in flood-recovery efforts for more than a year in Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, providing humanitarian assistance to families, farmers and others. In May 2014, torrential rain produced floods killing dozens of people and affecting 22 percent of Serbia’s population. The storm also killed 23 people and affected 39 percent of the population in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In response, the ELCA provided funds donated to Lutheran Disaster Response to support Church World Service’s (CWS) “Winterization 2014-2015” program, designed to sustain families and communities through the winter and beyond. For more information, click here.
The Mokovic family, a female headed household of three generations -- mother Slavojka, daughter Marijana and granddaughter Nina -- lost everything in the floods. To date, CWS is the only organization that has extended help to the family.
A new corn crop (100 kg) was donated to a farmer in Samac, Bosnia.
Dzavid Idrizaj and his son Emin are from the Mali Leskovac Roma settlement. Emin attends a day care center funded by CWS and the ELCA.
Ramiza Berisa (from the Mali Leskovac Roma settlement) and her husband are trying to find a permanent home for their family. CWS delivered food and hygiene packages to the family.
Roberta Sadiki and her two children received food and hygiene packages from CWS.
Food packages are being prepared for distribution and delivery to beneficiaries in Samac, Bosnia.
10 years after Hurricane Katrina
On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States, causing damage and destruction that stretched from Florida’s panhandle to western Louisiana. One million homes and buildings were destroyed, and 1,833 people died. Hurricane Katrina is on record as the most destructive and costliest disaster in U.S. history. After the storm, Lutherans from all corners of the world started offering their time and skills to volunteer in the areas hit by the hurricane, and Lutheran Disaster Response collected more than $35 million to directly assist those whose homes and livelihoods were affected by Katrina.
Camp Victor, a volunteer camp started after Hurricane Katrina by Christus Victor Lutheran Church in Ocean Springs, Miss., housed more than 50,000 volunteers from all 50 states and 20 countries.
Students from Valparaiso University carry out damaged carpet from a home as part of Lutheran Disaster Response’s “What a Relief!” alternative spring break program to help in Katrina-affected areas. More than 800 students from 34 U.S. colleges and universities volunteered through the program during spring 2006.
ELCA mission developers help paint the exterior of a home that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
A volunteer hauls away debris after the storm. In coordination with Lutheran Social Services of the South (now Upbring), Lutheran Disaster Response coordinated 40,256 volunteers for a total of 1,787,432 service hours.
A home in St. Bernard Parish, La., suffered significant damage from Hurricane Katrina. Through Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutherans rebuilt 2,686 homes.
YAGMs conclude a year of service
In July, 63 young adults from the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program returned from a year-long mission opportunity. Each year, young adults from the ELCA travel to locations that include Africa, Asia, Mexico, the Middle East and South America, where they serve with ELCA companion churches and partner organizations. The participants, between the ages of 21 to 29, volunteer 35 to 40 hours a week at a variety of placement sites including churches, schools and hospitals. Earlier this month, 79 young adults embarked on their year of service.
“We ask God to bless these hands" was the prayer offered by the Young Adults in Global Mission program in Rwanda at an end-of-year service of praise and thanksgiving with leaders and friends from the Lutheran Church of Rwanda.
The Young Adults in Global Mission Southern Africa participants met together at their close of service retreat in July and had the opportunity to take in the majestic beauty of the Drakensberg Mountains and do some hiking.
Young adult volunteers in Argentina-Uruguay spend their last few days in retreat to celebrate and reflect upon a year of growth and transformation. The volunteers served with ELCA global partners including the Lutheran Church in Argentina and Uruguay.
Kaley O'Donnell, the young adult volunteer in England, says goodbye to her host congregation, St. James Church in Streatham, England, and is sent in prayer and love.
Former Young Adult in Global Mission volunteer Michael Dickson, now a short-term recruiter for the program, is shown with a friend from Al-Mahaba Kindergarten/PreSchool in Jerusalem. (Photo/Danae Hudson)