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http://www.flickr.com/photos/stations2014/sets/72157640798236574/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stations2014/sets/72157640798236574/

Please visit the Flickr page for this year’s Stations of the Cross: Mass Incarceration! The images, with accompanying captions, are finished. The devotional study guide is still in process, but we’re excited to announce some of the amazing folks contributing to the project: Butch Odom, Kyndra Frazier, Aquarius Deoun Gilmer, Mashaun D. SImon, Hannah Ingram, Anthony Coleman, and more! Between them they bring years of work in the fields of pastoral care, counseling and psychology, social work, and theology. Stay tuned for more on these amazing writers!

General Secretary Elect Rev. Martin Junge Addresses the Assembly

Rev. Martin Junge’s address to our 11th Assembly was surely one of the highlights of the past two weeks. We youth were lucky enough to hear him speak in Dresden and I’m sure that I am not the only one of us who was thrilled to hear him affirm young people in the life of the LWF in his address:

But even when we fulfill quotas that is not sufficient. They may ensure presence, but not necessarily participation. In order to be faithful to our previous Assembly commitments and to achieve our goals. We need to allow ourselves to be transformed as churches and as global communion by the power that women and youth bring to us. It is time for us men to get involved in making our churches and the communion more inclusive. Youth during this Assembly have already shown us  that they are ready for this step!

Rev. Junge thank you for affirming the role of youth in the present and the future of the Lutheran World Federation!

Sabbath and News from a “Remote-Controlled War”

I probably enjoyed my Sabbath day a bit too much yesterday. I’m too embarassed to even admit how late into the afternoon I slept. It was only hunger that pulled me out of my bed. After filling myself with Turkish food, I returned to my bed with my laptop to work on some grant applications. It was lovely to have the opportunity to spend an afternoon to myself to write and work on projects that I hope will help me continue to commit myself to sustainability, gender justice, and the role of youth in enhancing the visibility of the LWF. I also took a day off from The New York Times and so wasn’t greeted until this morning with disheartening news from Afghanistan.

WikiLeaks released on Sunday some 92,000 classified U.S. military documents that paint a grim picture of the United State’s ongoing occupation of Afghanistan. Reading the NY Times article this morning, I recognized over and over again themes from the LWF Global Assembly. A story about the rape of a sixteen-year-old girl by a police chief ran through my head over and over as the Assembly’s statement on gender justice was fine-tuned in plenary this morning. But, what I struggle with most  is how easy it can be to insulate myself from the realities of the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. What I found most striking about the article was that while most of the leaked documents do not contradict official military documents, they do illustrate just how misleading the American government’s narrative of the war has been.

As the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan approaches its tenth year, we in the U.S. hear less and less of what everyday life is like in the region and the narrative the U.S. military offers us we are sometimes to eager to accept. The following is but one story so tragic that it is difficult to even fathom:

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Bishop Dr. Munib Younan elected president of the LWF

In his address to the assembly prior to today’s elections Bishop Dr. Munib Younan  quoted Burmese peace activist Aung San Suu Kyi’s plea to “Please use your liberty to promote ours.” What a powerful name and figure to invoke! Dr. Suu Kyi, Nobel Laureate, has spent almost 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest in Burma for her outspoken committment to peace.

As a Palestinian Christian and a powerful voice for peace in the Middle East, Bishop Younan’s election as President of the Lutheran World Federation will no doubt promote liberty. In the words of outgoing President Bishop Mark Hanson, “This is a testament to the LWF’s accompaniment of a people living under occupation.”

President-elect, Rev. Dr. Munib A. Younan

Our President-Elect has quite a number of accomplishments to his name. He was the first to translate the Augsburg Confession, a key document of the Lutheran Church, into Arabic,  is a former vice-president of the LWF, is currently president of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches and serves with three Jerusalem patriarchs and nine other bishops on the International Christian Committee of Jerusalem.

At last night’s celebration of the life and ministry of Dr. Ishmael Noko, we young people were thrilled when Bishop Younan joined us as we danced around the dining hall during the rousing tribute that the Africa region gave to Dr. Noko. We look forward to continously celebrating the life and work of the Lutheran World Federation with him in the coming years!

Sindisine Ndelu reflects on Project Implementation and Sustainability

Yesterday, Ms. Sindisine Ndelu, a youth delegate from South Africa, chaired the public hearing on “Daily Bread, Climate Change, and Food Security.” It seems like a perfect time to post her thoughts on her experience in the project management workshop she attended at the Youth Pre-Assembly in Dresden last week:

The workshop was quite informative. I was led by Jaap Schep from the Netherlands who currently serves as the LWF Secretary for Project Implementation at the Department for Mission and Development as well as the department’s Acting Director. The few basic questions he prepared for the session became very useful tools that helped me to realize that there is no right or wrong way to implement a project because there is always room for adjustments along the way. The questions he presented us with have helped me to sharpen my own plans and will continue to help me in pursuing my dreams.

In the past few years within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa (ELCSA) a project was implemented and supported  by bishops, pastors, congregations, and the surrounding communities. The ultimate objective of the project was to help orphans, the disabled, and people effected or affected by HIV/AIDS by collecting new or only slightly used clothes and distributing them accordingly. The pilot project went well and was run by young volunteers with the goal of helping other young people and children.

Over the past three years, the project has deteriorated because of the growing rates of unemployment among young people. Because of this workshop I have a renewed sense of committment to reviving this project and offer my humble thanks to Jaap Schep for the time he gave us to talk to us about the most essential components of project management. I was especially happy to have my questions about the sustainability of project implementation answered. I am eager to find more guidance in the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Development published by the LWF in 2002! I look forward to returning home and further realizing my goal.

Women, HIV, and Daily Bread

Walking through the halls of the Liederhalle its easy to forget that there we are not the only global gathering of men and women committed to social justice. On Sunday, as many of us were arriving here in Stuttgart, the International AIDS Conference was holding its opening ceremony in Vienna. While our theme is “Give us today our daily bread,” the theme of the International AIDS Conference is “Rights Here, Right Now.” Both of these themes ask for us to consider this very moment, our  moment.

In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther describes daily bread as:

Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

We can see that Luther’s understanding of daily bread has a depth and breadth that resounds still today. Daily bread is meat and drink. Daily bread sees to our practical needs with shoes on our feet, clothes on our back, and a sunny sky. Daily bread is a loving family and social life, filled with pious children and good friends. Daily bread is hard; it means being disciplined and living with honor.

But, in thinking about our theme and the theme of the International AIDS Conference what strikes me most about Luther’s explanation of the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer is that pious and faithful magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, and health are all grouped together.

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Your people are my people! Work and worship in Stuttgart!

After a week in Dresden and a weekend knee-deep in our shared Lutheran history, the participants of the Youth Pre-Assembly arrived in Stuttgart ready to get to work. While some of us are serving as stewards and some as delegates, we all came together yesterday afternoon in the Stiftskirche for a joyful worship service. The church was already crowded with cameras as more and more of our brothers and sisters from around the world found spaces in the crowded pews. In a beautiful, brass orchestra accompanied nod to our collective past worship opened with the always rousing A might fortress is our God. Our first reading was the story of Ruth, who clung to Naomi and promised, “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; you people shall be my people, and your God my God.” In a service full of moments sure to be carried in our hearts throughout the assembly, we affirmed our faith with the words of Ruth:

God creates all humanity with many languages, cultures, hopes, but one in love.

Your people will be my people. Give us today our daily bread.

Christ reconciles those who are far and those who are near throught the cross.

Christ feeds all the hungry at his table.

Christ opens the door to all who knock.

In Christ we are sisters and brothers.

Your God will be my God. Give us today our daily bread.

The Spirit draws us close into an ever-widening belonging. Even the gleaners are welcomed into the household.

Your people will be my people and your God my God. Give us today our daily bread.

We continued to echo these words throughout our prayers of intercession. We were asked to turn to one another and make Ruth’s promise to our neighbor. As we youth continue to bring our message of sustainability, gender justice, and the role of youth in enhancing the visibility of the LWF, let us live out Ruth’s promise.