By: Ariel Guerrero, Director of Member Engagement
Not only was moving to a new city an exciting, yet an anxious milestone in my life, beginning a new journey with a faith-based organization was as well. Having recently worked on policy at the state and federal level at the Annie E. Casey Foundation as a National Urban Fellow, I quite frankly did not know what to expect when it came to working for a national, faith-based organization. Over the past 60 days, I have had the opportunity to learn about what grounds each of the social ministry organizations in the LSA network. I believe myself to be a man of faith, and like many, strive to develop a closer relationship with God and understand my purpose in life. In these first 60 days, the values, vision and mission of LSA have come to light for me. The values of LSA have resonated not only in the development of my own faith but I see and feel them in the work each of our members do across the country.
To think that 1 in 50 lives in America is touched by a Lutheran social ministry organization is extraordinary. That level of impact is enormous! Two values that LSA embraces have stood out to me in my first 60 days: first, "We are guided by God's call to love and serve our neighbors" and secondly, "We are committed to the power of faith, fellowship and collaboration." I have seen these values brought to action in operationalizing our vision, "LSA envisions a network of connected, strong and thriving Lutheran social ministries that transform the lives of people and communities."
The Lutheran leadership Summit, my first major LSA event was the embodiment of this vision. Close to 50 senior-level leaders from around the country convened in Carefree, AZ to partake in a program focused on the inherent balancing act between running the day-to-day business and operations of a nonprofit organization while also innovating for the future. I have been at non-profit convening's before, but this one was different for me. It really had those two values I mentioned earlier interwoven into every aspect. It was a space where we provided an opportunity for a connected, strong and thriving network to share in the power of faith, fellowship and collaboration in an effort to lift up the work of one another. At the center of it was each person's call and purpose to serve.
One of the aspects I have struggled with since joining LSA has been the national component and not being able to touch and/or see the great work that each organization is doing daily. Since a great deal of my charge is to support the network and its members working on senior services, it was difficult putting a hand on the work each of them is doing. This all changed for me at the Lutheran Leadership Summit. I was able to finally meet folks I had been talking to and/or hearing about for weeks. I got an opportunity to talk and listen with each of them firsthand about how their work is going and impacting the lives of people across the country. It was an amazing feeling being able to make the work real for me.
It was extraordinary knowing that being a part of the LSA team meant I was contributing to our mission and its greater impact. That's my final point, mission! The mission of LSA, its action statement if you will, is what has brought it all together for me as the glue. LSA's embodiment of its mission is its work. Each member organization I work with, whether it be on serving aging populations in rural communities, trying to figure out how Post-Acute Care facilities improve their services in changing markets, or identifying various funding streams to sustain/expand services across the country, the work is all grounded in how each of us can amplify and empower one another. In addition, each social ministry organization and each individual working at a given organization is answering a call to serve. What is also moving is that our members work more to lift one another up then competing against each other. It becomes a space of abundance and possibility.
Being in a space where you are called to love and serve is a fulfilling and meaningful experience. My first 60 days has given me new perspective, insight unto my purpose and hope in how we care for one another as human beings. It continues to be a journey that I gladly travel. I look forward to the people and organizations I will interact with along the way. I am excited to meet the next group of game changers and social impactors at our Annual Conference in Minneapolis at the end of April!