Lutheran College Students Explore Borders and Boundaries

1/10/1997 12:00:00 AM



     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Under the theme, "A Line in the Sand: Borders, Boundaries and Belief," Lutheran college students from across the country met Dec. 28-Jan. 1 in San Antonio for the Lutheran Student Movement-USA's annual national gathering.
     Through speakers, worship and small group discussions, 360 students and Lutheran campus ministry staff learned about boundaries drawn because of differences in culture, economics, gender and many other issues.
     "Hundreds of Mexican people are dying every day on the United States-Mexico border as they make their trek to the United States. Who we are as a people, why we are here and what we want as a people comes from the fact that we are a product of a conquest," said Rogelio Nunez, founder and director of  the Narciso Martinez Arts Center, San Benito, Texas.
     "In my mind, there are no borders or boundaries," said Nunez. "When we work together, we accomplish many good things.  That is why I think there are no borders.  If I think we have borders and boundaries, then you and I cannot work together."
     For Ralston H. Deffenbaugh Jr., executive director for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, New York, "borders and boundaries are necessary parts of human life."
     People are "territorial creatures.  We like to have a sense of security and a sense of  knowing that this is my place or this is my house," said Deffenbaugh.  "I don't think borders and boundaries are bad.  They are part of our reality.  The question is not whether we have borders or boundaries but what kind of borders or boundaries exist.  Are they flexible or rigid?  Are they open or closed?  Are they hostile or hospitable?"
     "The world has a special concern for refugees -- those who are fleeing persecution," said Deffenbaugh.  "A refugee is a person who is outside his or her own country and cannot return because of a well-founded fear of persecution," he said.
     "Refugees ... are very important for Lutherans.  In 1945, at the end of World War II, one out of every six Lutherans in the world was a refugee or displaced person," said Deffenbaugh.  "The devastation of World War II and what effect it had on Lutheran people was a very important and informative fact when it came to the thinking of that generation of Lutheran leadership," he said.
     The gathering program featured the opportunity for students to see and experience boundary issues as they are played out in the four distinct cultural regions of San Antonio.
     Sara Rasmussen, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, visited the west side of San Antonio.  "We traveled to a shelter.  It was very depressing, and I felt helpless.  We also went to the  barrios' to learn about gangs.  The guide on our tour said buses do not usually travel in this area.  We had so many kids come out into the street to look at us, I was scared.  I felt that I was prying into their life. What if a bus-load of people drove past my house?"
     "Some students on the bus were taking pictures, and this was not a place to take  pictures. This is real life," said Rasmussen.
     The Rev. Mar?a D. Valenzuela, Cristo Rey Lutheran Church, El Paso, Texas, led the Bible study.  "We have a responsibility to love our neighbor because God commanded us to do so," said Valenzuela. "We have basic human rights, but not all people share those rights. We need to be aware of that and work to change that," she said.
     "Cristo Rey Lutheran Church, San Juan, Texas, is in need of our help as it struggles to build itself up from mere cinder blocks into a vibrant and permanent worship community," said Siwa Msangi, secretary for LSM-USA's International and Multicultural Concerns.  Msangi, originally from Kenya, is a student at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.  "We will help Cristo Rey by collecting money to purchase Spanish liturgy books and Bibles for the congregation.  We've collected nearly $1,000 for Cristo Rey."
     In other business, students passed a resolution to promote campus ministry in the Lutheran church.  "We are the academic arm of the Lutheran Church," says Kirsten Boyd, president of LSM-USA.  Boyd is a senior at the University of Colorado-Boulder.  "For the Lutheran church not to consider that arm is crazy," she said.
     Matthew Mather, a junior at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, was elected president of LSM-USA for 1997.  "My central message to members of LSM-USA is ministry at home.  I believe that in order to have any kind of evangelism it has to take place in one's own everyday life," he said.
     LSM-USA is an independent organization of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church students at public, Lutheran and other private colleges and universities across the United States.  Next year's gathering will be held in Washington, D.C.

For information contact: Ann Hafften, Dir., ELCA News Service, (312)
380-2958 or AHAFFTEN@ELCA.ORG; Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Dir., (312)
380-2955 or FRANKI@ELCA.ORG; Melissa Ramirez, Assist. Dir., (312)
380-2956 or MRAMIREZ@ELCA.ORG

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