Remembering the refugees
In anticipation of Refugee Sunday, June 22, Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the ELCA, and Linda Hartke, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, offered the following letter to ELCA members in celebration of 75 years of walking alongside migrants and refugees:
Dear friend in Christ,
“Welcome” is a word often taken for granted. It can refer to everything from a casual greeting to a sense of belonging in a community. On Sunday mornings in our congregations, welcome can mean a friendly smile or sliding to the middle of the pew to make room for others. In ministry, as a community, real welcome means not just making room but making a place at the table, an invitation to serve and to lead.
For Lutherans engaged in ministry with migrants and refugees, as congregations and with our partner Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), we see God’s work of welcome as more than a short-term endeavor. We believe our hands and hearts are needed for the long welcome, for walking alongside newcomers to the United States, so that they have the support to become connected and contributing members of their new communities.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of LIRS’s ministries of service and justice. Initially sparked by concern for European Lutherans displaced by WWII, LIRS is sustained by God’s call to love the sojourner and honed by decades of human care for people uprooted by war, persecution, violence, family separation and human trafficking.
Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have been deeply engaged in these ministries through volunteering, advocacy and their support of ELCA World Hunger, which helps make this work possible. Together we have welcomed the stranger in Christ’s name. Together we have walked alongside more than 500,000 migrants and refugees since 1939.
Sunday, June 22, 2014, (was) Refugee Sunday. Please join us in celebrating 75 years of walking alongside migrants and refugees – in your worship and in congregational activities on this date or another that works for you. Join us in thanking God for the gifts newcomers bring to revitalize our congregations and communities. And join us in supporting LIRS with prayers and financial gifts.
Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
President and CEO, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
You might also want to read:
75 years of welcoming refugees
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