As I come to the end of my first year working for Lutheran Services in America I continue to discover new and wonderful ways that LSA members are making a difference in the communities they serve. The uniqueness of each organization combined with a shared Lutheran heritage makes the LSA network both diverse and united in a common mission. I discovered the same dynamic holds true for the more than 100 organizations that belong to Lutheran Outdoor Ministries (LOM) when I attended their annual conference in early November. Lutheran Outdoor Ministries is a professional organization for camp and retreat center leaders. Camps and retreat centers encourage spiritual growth for the whole person through intentional Christian community.
My father was a refugee. I don't think about that often, but I was jolted back to this realization when I attended the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee (LIRS) "Walk of Courage" event. Each year, this event honors people fleeing persecution for a better life, and the people who prayerfully and humbly work in communities around the United States to help them realize that better life.
What makes the LSA network so unique? In the words of LSA President and CEO Charlotte Haberaecker, "we grow and we do." It is in the "doing together" that our network of Lutheran social ministry organizations achieves true impact. It is in the doing that we combine our collective strength to achieve better outcomes for the people we serve.
Being part of this broader faith community called Lutheran means that our work in social ministry has longstanding connections with the Church. LSA is aligned with two national Lutheran Church bodies, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). This affiliation takes shape through our bylaws, our Board of Directors and our members, who are affiliated with or recognized by one or both Church bodies. Our members are very closely connected with their Synods, Districts and congregations in their communities.
The hum of the lively conversation and the energy of mission and purpose could be felt throughout the LSA member reception at the LeadingAge conference. Over 100 people from over 26 member organizations in our network joined their peers at the reception we hosted Nov. 1 in Boston for our LSA family. We enjoyed lively conversations, connections and networking.
Were you aware that Lutherans are the largest faith- based group serving seniors? Over 20% of the senior residential living units in the top 100 nonprofit providers is a member of LSA. Of our network of 300 Lutheran social ministry organizations, about 200 of them provide services to seniors. These services help seniors live a fuller, more abundant life through a continuum of services that range from in-home services to senior housing, rehabilitation, respite care and senior centers.
Sheri Hicks was recently honored for her enthusiastic community involvement at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota's 150th anniversary celebration. Sheri says building connections with people who can help you find the supports you need is important to living well every day.
It is hard to believe that I have already been working with Lutheran Services in America for six weeks. It seems like just yesterday I was walking past the Capitol building in awe, ecstatic that I found my way to LSA without getting lost or being late on my first day. Today, I went through the motions of getting on the metro and heading past the Capitol without any concerns. I know my way around now, this is starting to feel more like my city. Today, someone asked me for directions and I knew exactly what to tell them. A lot has happened in these six weeks, and I have started to look at the DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia) as my adopted community.
Though I've only been at Lutheran Services in America for four months, I've discovered that visiting our members is its own reward: each meeting reminds me that each social ministry organization is unique by dint of its unique history and rich heritage, and that each is an inspiration.
Recently, Lutheran Services in America Disability Network (LSA-DN) had the privilege of hosting 30 self-advocates, family members, direct support staff and program staff from Bethesda Lutheran Communities, Filling Homes, KenCrest, Lutheran Family Services of Virginia, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and Mosaic for our second "Speak Up! Self-Advocate Training" in Washington, DC.