Spring Break Hospitality…

I have always had such an amazing time on the Spring Break trips with LCM. Getting closer to the people on the trip, having adventures, and learning valuable lessons are just a few things that happen on these trips that are meaningful to me. In Albuquerque this past Spring Break, what was the most important to me were the ample opportunities to listen to the stories of the people we met throughout the week. Mary, a woman from the Acoma Pueblo, stands out to me in particular. She invited us into her home one evening to make tamales, and she shared her history and culture through her handmade pottery and photos of her family. She was so patient and welcoming with our group as she told us about what life was like in and around the Pueblo. She told us stories of love and loss, and joy and heartbreak. As Mary talked to us, I was astonished by her openness. She invited a group of twelve strangers into her home, prepared dinner for us, and shared her history and culture with us, all without complaint or resentment. She was the epitome of what it means to be welcoming, and her kind nature was so inspiring to me. I think we are all called not only as Christians, but also as humans, to be welcoming to strangers and to be open with our stories, both good and bad. Openness is often more important than we think. Sharing our experiences with others breaks down walls much more than it builds them up, and surprisingly, your story may often be exactly what someone else needs to hear.

No two people have the same experiences, and everyone has something unique that they can share. Let’s make an effort to be more open with one another and to share our stories and experiences, not only to become closer and more compassionate, but also to raise awareness for issues of occurrences that normally wouldn’t be meaningful to us. With sharing our stories comes a need to listen to, process, and unconditionally accept the stories of others as well. Both of these skills, sharing and listening, can be hard to cultivate, but when used in the right proportions, there is no greater reward.

-Allison Cunningham, LCM Servant Leader

Fear Not.

If there is anything Jesus makes clear in the New Testament, it is His want for us not to live in fear.

It’s rumored that if you add up all the times in the Bible where Jesus says “do not fear,” “do not be afraid,” “fear not,” or something similar, it sums to 365 times- a word of encouragement for every day of the year. (I haven’t done the math, but if you try it out, let me know.)

We live in a world where so many decisions are based on fear. We do work we don’t enjoy because we fear not having enough money. We don’t address problems in relationships because we fear losing them. We do things that are decidedly not Christlike because we fear the consequences of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.

And I don’t think it’s because God thinks we’ll never be afraid. I think instead, it’s a call to put fear aside in order to take the next step in following Christ. Jesus called on his disciples to sacrifice quite a bit in order to follow him, and they had plenty of reasons not to want to.

What will become of my family? What if I’m wrong? What if I die? Christ calls us, similarly, to give up our wealth and to welcome the stranger. So frequently we find ourselves asking some of the same questions. If I don’t have enough money, what will happen to my family? What if the stranger puts me in danger?

But if we want to follow Christ, we can take the example from the disciples:

Leave your net at the dock, like Simon and Andrew.

Take the leap of faith.

Do not be afraid.

I hear this as good news. In Christ we are freed not only of our sins, but also of our fears, shortcomings, and insecurities. In all that we do, God is with us. And when He is the stronghold of my life, whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)

I also hear this as a call to action. Instead of fearing for the state of the world, we get to be God’s hands and feet in it. Instead of worrying about whether or not justice is being done, we can go out and work for it ourselves!

Imagine just how radically compassionate we could all be if we didn’t let fear drive us. If we didn’t fear the stranger, maybe we could get to know them. If we didn’t fear living in poverty, maybe we’d worship money less and worship God more. Maybe if we had confidence that God was working in us, we wouldn’t be so obsessed with achievement in order to impress the people around us.

Coming up on graduation, I know a lot of students like me have decisions to make regarding their future. I know a lot of students are worried and unsure of what that future may hold. I encourage all of you to remember that the most important thing is out of your control: God loves you unconditionally and is with you wherever you go in this life. So wherever you may go, and every day of the year: Fear not.

-Libby Witte, Senior Servant Leader

New day…new rhythm…

I would be lying to you if I said that I didn’t love the beginning of a new routine. As each semester begins, I eagerly fill out my planner, print my syllabi, buy new notebooks, and physically wiggle with anticipation for what is to come. (I acknowledge this is not a feeling shared by all…) I feel as though I am re-energized and ready to tackle my new classes and work schedule, balancing it all flawlessly. However, despite these feelings of excitement, within a few weeks I start to feel worn and my days may feel dull as what was all brand new becomes routine. It is as if the shiny-ness and newness of my rhythm fades. What I am learning though is that this ‘fading’ is not necessarily a bad thing. There is still much newness in my every day- just not everything is brand new. There are still new people to meet, there are still new conversations to have, there is still new food to try, there is still that new album I’ve been meaning to listen to, there are still new laughs to share, and there are still new tears that will fall. There is still so much newness and freshness all around me and within me. So as our first few weeks of the semester become our new rhythm, I encourage you to see the new in each day…because this incredible college rhythm goes much too quickly.

-Emily Mentz, Servant Leader

“Third Way of Jesus”

Matthew 5:38-48

“38 You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”

Buried deep in the Sermon on the Mount, which we’ll be reading in detail this Epiphany season, is this admonition to creative resistance to the powers that be.  While this passage can be read as a directive to passivity, Walter Wink offers a powerful interpretation of this passage which frames this text as a “third way” of creatively transforming violent and unjust situations.

In our ministry at the University of Minnesota, we are committed to standing with those on the margins of the campus, and the larger community. The students hold deep theoretical commitments about why this matters, and sometimes even what should be done about it.

And still, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what to actually do about our deeply held convictions, grounded in faith, that God shows up on the margins, and that we’re called to love and look out for our neighbor.

So, during Lent this year, we’re going to be offering a four part series that fleshes out this “Third Way of Jesus” that Walter Wink talks about, offering concrete tools to put those values and faith in action. We’ll be gathering at 7:30, on Wednesday nights, at Grace University Lutheran Church:

  •  To learn what it means to intervene as a bystander…
  • How to participate in basic advocacy…
  • How to have conversations across lines of difference and…
  • How art and spoken word function as a tool of both resilience and resistance…

We’re so excited about this that we’re opening it up to the broader community, and are hoping for an intergenerational community of people to emerge, committed to supporting one another and working to make the world a better place – in dorm rooms, board rooms, and everywhere in between.

Keep your eyes out for Facebook invitations, or check our website for details as they emerge.  We’d love to have you as a part of this conversation!

Change & Uncertainty…

College is time of change and uncertainty. We’ve reached a fork in the road, and the number of paths forward are endless. We’re making decisions that will affect the rest of our lives, and it can often feel like we’re making them alone. I find myself wondering where these choices are leading me. Have I even made the right choices?

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” –Joshua 1:9

God commands us to have courage. Through courage we are living out our faith and trust that we have in God. We can find this courage through God’s Word and promise that He will always be with us. We may not know where our path is going, but we can trust that wherever it goes, God’s hand is leading us. God has called us to ventures where we cannot see the end; it is our responsibility to listen to His call and trust that God is with us.

I hope that whenever you are uncertain about what’s coming next that God’s Word can be a comfort to you like it has been to me. Trust that God is leading you where He wants you to go and have courage to life out the life God has called for you.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” –1 Corinthians 15:58

-Michael Lee, LCM Servant Leader 

Come Now, O Prince of Peace

“Come now, O Prince of Peace, make us one body.  Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile your people. Come, Hope of Unity, make us one body. Come, O Lord Jesus, reconcile all nations.” –Evangelical Lutheran Worship Book, #247

I have found this song passing through my mind many times throughout this semester, and it seems even more appropriate now in the season of Advent than ever. Both personally and as a part of larger groups, we have felt much brokenness and division lately. Whether this pain stems from political uncertainty or hateful vandalism, we acknowledge our need for healing and unity. While we may tend to look to ourselves for answers or try to ignore the problem, this text points us upward. People are doing amazing and beautiful work to serve others and create bridges between peoples, but we also know that this work can only be perfected and completed through Christ. We turn to God of guidance in work, and God turns to us to do this work, and we rest in the knowledge that someday Christ will in fact “reconcile all nations.” In this season of advent we wait, we long, we hope, and we trust that something beautiful is coming.

Come Lord Jesus.

Written by Julie Wall (LCM Servant Leader)

Alternative Spring Break in Albuquerque

Dear Students,

In keeping with our values of service, justice, curiosity, and integrity, LCM-TC is headed to Albuquerque, NM to serve and learn alongside the Pueblos of New Mexico, and the indigenous people who have lived there for millennia.  We hope to extend the learning of our student vision team about how spirituality, art and culture contribute to resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.  

We understand this as an extension of who we are as a community of faith, and hope that if you decide to spend your spring break learning and serving with LCM, you’ll also engage with our racial justice work on campus, and that you’ll participate in learning about Native issues in the North both before and after our time together in Albuquerque (we’ll do this together, no worries!).

We’ll spend 5 nights in Albuquerque during spring break (March 11-16), and the total cost to you will be your plane ticket (right now they’re running $400-$550), and a $50 deposit.  The sign up deadline is January 30th, but there is a 15 person cap, and plane tickets are likely to go up quickly.

We’ll have a meeting on November 30th after pause to talk details!  Please simply show up there, RSVP via the Facebook Invite, or email Pastor Kate.  We’ll keep you posted on all of the happenings!

Peace to you today…
Pastor Kate  

Accepting Grace

Grace has always been a difficult concept for me to understand and truly wrap my head around. Growing up, it was one of those words that was thrown around, but never really explained, like a lot of the other words Lutheran churches seem to be named after (Hope, Peace, Faith, etc.). Now that I’m older and hopefully a tad wiser, I like to think of grace as God’s love and forgiveness that we can do nothing to earn or lose.

As someone who has experienced God’s grace, in all of its visceral and inexplicable glory, trying to help others feel God’s grace becomes less of a chore and more of a calling. Although we can strive to show others God’s grace through our actions, it is impossible to ever completely live out the kind of grace that God offers us. But just because we are honest about the impossibility of this task doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to treat others with the kind of unbridled acceptance God has shown us. I think that there is something very moving about a community taking on this task which it knows to be impossible, and I truly believe LCM is one of these communities.

However, showing God’s grace is only one half of the equation. Living in a world of property taxes, offering plates, and embezzlement scandals, I have always found it incredibly difficult to accept the gracious welcome that many religious communities offer. It seems impossible to the cynic in me that someone would be so welcoming without having some ulterior motive. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I would encourage you to power through the discomfort, and know that by accepting someone’s gracious welcome, you are sometimes doing just as much for them as they are for you.

Walter Young (LCM Servant Leader) 

Moving Out of State & Finding Another Family

Being from a small town in Illinois, moving all the way to Minneapolis was a big deal. I left behind my family, my friends, and pretty much everything else that was a part of my life for so long, and started a completely new life here at the U. Out of the hundreds of thousands of students across the country who do this, I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. I’m able to go home and see my family three times a year, which is still more than some people can say. My parents are also able to fly up to Minneapolis to visit me every couple months, which is an opportunity that not every out-of-state student gets.

And still, despite getting to see my family once every six weeks or so, I find myself missing them as if I haven’t seen them in years. Hearing my in-state friends talk about going home just for the weekend like it’s no big deal, or just casually meeting their parents for lunch one day still hurts a little, because I know that’s something I can’t have. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that I’m not completely without family here; it’s just not my biological family.

LCM has been a place of comfort for me since the moment I stepped on campus. I remember walking past the church on freshman move-in day and being handed a flyer with a spoon on it, advertising free soup on Tuesdays and a Freshman Bible Study on Wednesdays before Pause. When I went to my first Pause, I was immediately welcomed and introduced to everyone. As I navigated the ups and downs of freshman year and began to feel more confident and comfortable on campus and in the city, LCM became less like just a group of friends and more like another family. This community is one that I can turn to when I’m having a rough week, or missing my family back home a little more than usual. Pause is something that I look forward to every week because it’s a chance to ground myself and take a break from studying, as well as an opportunity to spend quality time with people. It’s become something like a second home for me.

To any freshman or new student: especially if you’re finding yourself missing your family a little more than you expected: you will be okay. Moving away was a hard decision, and sometimes it feels like the wrong one, but I promise it wasn’t. I hope you find some comfort in LCM, and that this wonderful community becomes a sort of substitute family for you as well.

Allison Cunningham (Sophomore Servant Leader)

Vision Team Reflections: a beacon of hope

It’s been almost a month since our return from Chiapas, Mexico. Now that the busyness of classes, jobs, and life are back in full swing, it feels like a perfect time to reflect back to our trip: the initial goal we set, what we learned, and how we are seeing that play out in our new community of LCM leaders.

Last fall as we were deciding where we would travel, what community we would explore, and what goal we would set, we were feeling heavy. Heavy with the recent shootings, heavy with all of the social injustice in our community and around the world, and heavy as a community of predominately white students trying to figure out our role in the midst of it all. We decided to explore a community that had experienced a history of violence, with the goal of learning how to maintain a sense of hopefulness in the midst of violence and struggle. We landed on the community of Nuevo Paraíso – a community in Chiapas that had experienced a mass shooting at the hands of the paramilitary and a history of struggle in the midst of the Zapatista movement in the 1990s. This community had quickly gone from a place of relative security, to living on the side of a highway without any land or resources to support themselves. Now after connecting with an organization called Amextra, they are making payments on their own piece of land, building their own homes and planting crops as a community.

After a filled week of spending time in Nuevo Paraíso, talking with community members, exploring Chiapas outside of Nuevo Paraíso, and trying to fully process everything we were experiencing, we were able to identify three specific things we had learned. The first was the importance of genuinely checking in with others. It was a busy and complex week, and as much as we wanted to keep going and going, we had to remember to take a step back and ask each other how we were doing – for real. The second was the importance of investing time and energy into a community. On our last morning in Nuevo Paraíso, one of the community members stated that just feeling seen by people from outside of the community was hopeful for them. Finally, we learned the importance of vulnerability, honesty, and acceptance in a group. Things do not always go as planned and life can get complex, but existing in a community that accepts brokenness and pain, and being comfortable bringing those difficult things to the table is hugely important.

We unfortunately were not able to travel to Chiapas with the entire leader team, but it has been awesome already seeing these things we learned play out amongst our community of leaders. The community this year has already embraced our LCM value of being “real”. People show up how they are, bring their true selves to the table, and genuinely ask each other how they are doing in the midst of challenges and stress. This community also holds each other up by investing time and energy to each other, and really caring for one another. It feels that LCM returners and newcomers alike feel welcomed, valued, and hopeful when students invest in one another. Finally, this community of leaders is embracing the importance of being vulnerable, honest, and accepting. Vulnerable about what they know and still have questions about, honest about their opinions, and accepting of those who think alike and those who think differently.

We recognize that the learning and processing does not stop here. We need to continue processing as a community what this all looks like for us in the context of the broader Twin Cities community and our world, but for now, are energized about the passion of each leader and growing together as a community.

Kaitlin Mork and Emily Mentz