Our Experience Attending the Rocky Mountain Synod Assembly, May 3-5, 2019 in Albuquerque, NM by Jason and Trey Sherwood
This three part series (part 1 and part 2 here) will focus on our shared experience attending the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) Rocky Mountain Synod Assembly with the theme, “Be Transformed”. We are excited to inform you of the Synod’s “Better Together” strategic plan, share our reflections on the plenary speaker Father Richard Rohr’s message of transformational faith, and give you insight into the church’s work with migrants and refugees.
Part 3: Compassion and Service
“for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” – Matthew 25:35
Part of our transformational experience at the assembly included an excursion to the Tres Hermanas Farm a short drive from downtown Albuquerque. Slathered in sunscreen and dressed in work clothes, we journeyed with staff from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services to the farm site. We were surprised to meet and work alongside refugees from Congo, Afghanistan, and Central America, not the expected Hispanic migrants who saturate the daily news. Side by side, we painted a shed, pulled weeds, hauled compost and planted seedlings.
The farm provides transitional services by offering community garden plots for refugees and opportunities to put their talents to work. Staff acts as educators and business coaches for those interested in careers in agriculture and culinary arts.
After a hot day in the sun, we were nourished with a special supper in the farm’s barn. Women refugees from Afghanistan, who sell meals at the local farmers market and are working toward opening a restaurant, spoiled us with a creamy, cucumber infused spritzer, spicy eggplant, flavorful grains, and sautéed veggies. It was a standout meal that contrasted the painfulness of their stories. Fleeing danger and persecution in their home countries because of their race, religion, nationality or political opinion, the refugees on the farm shared with us, through tears, their struggles to get to the United States.
We were humbled to learn about the Christ-centered work of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), which was started by Lutheran congregations in 1939. LIRS is a national organization walking with migrants and refugees through ministries of service and justice, transforming U.S. communities by ensuring that newcomers are not only self-sufficient but also become connected and contributing members of their adopted communities. Working with and through partners across the country, LIRS settles refugees, reunites children with their families or provides loving homes for them, conducts policy advocacy, and pursues humanitarian alternatives to the immigration detention system.
In 2016, the ELCA Church Council passed the “Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities” (AMMPARO) strategy to bear witness to the conditions that affect far too many communities and acknowledge the humanity in all of God’s children. AMMPARO is committed to the accompaniment of migrant children and families in the U.S., in-transit and in their countries of origin through the following priorities:
- Strengthen the systems that provide protection for people fleeing violence, and holistic, sustainable reintegration for deported migrants throughout the region.
- Defend the rights of migrants by honoring international human rights principles.
- Address the root causes of international displacement and forced migration in Guatemala, El Savador and Honduras.
- Create awareness of the link between forced internal displacement and irregular migration.
At the end of the day, our experience at the Tres Hermanas Farm was not about political parties or about building a wall. It was about seeing all people as God’s children, compassion, transitional support and impactful service. Our experience at the farm helped us understand that the ELCA has an 80-year history of championing refugees, grounded in the belief that God’s grace compels us to serve, to welcome our neighbors, and to put our faith in action.
To learn more about the farm, visit: www.lfsrm.org/programs-and-services/refugees/albuquerque/treshermanasfarm/
To learn more about church’s work with immigrants, visit www.CircleofWelcome.LIRS.org and www.ELCA.org/AMMPARO. We encourage you to take the 40-day “I was a Stranger” Bible and prayer challenge if this is an area you are seeking understanding and compassion for.
In closing, we are thankful for the opportunity to attend the 2019 Rocky Mountain Synod Assembly as representatives of Trinity and grateful for our transformative experience. If you have any questions for us, please reach out.
In addition, we encourage members of Trinity to visit: www.rmselca.org/assembly_resources to access assembly videos and resources online, including formal business reports and resolutions, access to the 2019 Ministry Magazine, reports from Bishop Gonia, and video recordings of Richard Rohr’s keynote. One of the biggest changes to assembly business was a resolution allowing for a digital meeting for the 2020 synod assembly. As such, there will be one or more satellite locations in the Rocky Mountain region with the goal of decreasing travel time and expenses while increasing membership participation.