To be at the table and to be talked about at a table are two very different things. I attended the Lutheran Services in America Disability Network (LSA-DN) meeting in Carefree, Arizona last month. I have served in a number of leadership positions related to disability ministry for the ELCA. My experience there had proven to be some of the most inclusive environments I have ever encountered. When I accepted the invitation for this meeting, I expected to enter a group that had a long-standing history of representatives with disabilities, similar to my experience with the ELCA. Instead, I found a group of administrative leaders gathering regularly to talk about us without us.
As we reflect on the season of Lent, I'm reminded of what a special time this is for the Christian world. I am grateful for this time for reflection, renewal and repentance as we prepare for the joyous arrival of Easter. But this can also be a time to think about how we can recommit ourselves. Recommit ourselves to our faith, to our families, and to the missions that fulfill us.
As a nationwide network of Lutheran social ministry organizations, we walk alongside our neighbors every day as we answer the call to live out our faith in service to others. I ask you to pray during this Lenten season for the people we serve – the homeless, refugees, people leaving prison, children in the foster care system, families in crisis, communities recovering from disaster, persons with disabilities, seniors without strong support systems – we pray that we can help them lead lives of dignity, independence and abundance.
This week marks my seventh full week of my Washington DC semester, and I find myself already having to think about scheduling my flight back home to Minnesota. To say my DC experience so far has been great would be an understatement. Seven weeks ago I had no idea that I would have the chance to meet so many kind people, navigate my way around DC and feel a part of the team at LSA.
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.
"If you’re not around the table, you’re on the table." These were words of wisdom imparted by Diakon’s President and CEO Mark Pile at the recent LSA 2016 CEO Academy, which was held in Carefree, Arizona, Jan. 31-Feb. 3. 55 leaders from within our national Lutheran social ministry network gathered for three days of networking, fellowship and learning around the issue of "Leading Through Innovation."