Serving God in the Service of ALL God’s People
It is appropriate that I write this letter on Maundy Thursday, a day in which Jesus taught his disciples (and us) the significance of service. On this day, Jesus, the Teacher, got down on his hands and knees to wash the feet of his disciples. It is important that we get what’s going on here. We sometimes use words so often and so casually that we forget their meaning and import. Jesus, as the Teacher was due respect and the service of his followers. The “disciples” were a group of students who had committed to follow Jesus; to be his followers; to be his disciples. It was their privilege and responsibility to follow and learn the teachings of the Master, and to serve him in any way he needed. What is absolutely clear, is that the washing of feet is something that the servant, disciple, student, follower ought to be doing for the Teacher, the Master; not the other way around. In washing the feet of his followers, Jesus shows us all that we are not to consider ourselves above serving anyone. To be clear, Jesus washed the feet of the one who would deny him, the one who would betray him, everyone without exception. Jesus washes all of our feet. Jesus offers himself to us in service. All of us. We are all to serve, as Jesus serves us.
The other day, I was around a couple of people who had participated in the recent house build that Incarnation led for a family in Tijuana, Mexico. They were musing how “cool” the experience was, and how really great it was that Incarnation did such things. Sometimes I guess I take for granted the really great things Incarnation is involved in, in our neighborhood, close by and far away from us. We truly are blessed and have been a blessing!
Let me give you a couple of examples:
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Incarnation expanded its weekly food collection for the pantry of Interfaith Community Services from once a week to three times a week. We gave folks an opportunity to bring in food for needy families by dropping off their donations in the parking lot. So for more than two years now, dedicated volunteers have provided thousands, if not tens of thousands of grocery items for our brothers and sisters in need.
A recent initiative by our Local Mission Committee has the “Service after Service” which is all about collecting, sorting and sharing hundreds of articles of clothing to people in need.
From Incarnation to the “Bridge of Hope”:
Another ongoing ministry of Incarnation has been our involvement with Project Mercy Baja, with whom we have now completed our 15th house build in the Tijuana area.
These are but three of the exciting examples of the ways in which in the good people of Incarnation Lutheran Church reach out to serve in the God’s world. The goods we share, the labor we share, all come from a place of love and generosity. One of most loved things to do is to share the beautiful handiwork of our quilters, the Piecemakers. I have personally had the privilege of sharing this labor of love with people in Mexico, India and Cameroon, and everywhere I’ve had this privilege, these quilts have been received as cherished gifts.
As you all know, we have been involved in ministry to the people of the Cameroon in west central Africa for some years now. More recently, we have become active participants in the ministry has been initiated by the Foyer de l’Esperance, that provides care and help for the street girls of Yaoundé, Cameroun. The Foyer de l’Esperance has been around for nearly 50 years, but until recently has only served street boys. Street girls were for all intents and purposes, culturally invisible. In no small measure due to the interest that Incarnation has demonstrated, a more proactive ministry has taken root among the girls. And indeed, rightfully.
The situation of the girls is often tragic and always lamentable. Almost all of the girls forced to live on the streets of Yaoundé are displaced. Some are refugees fleeing tribal conflict, or wars in neighboring countries, or the terror of the Boko Haram in the north. Many are forced into slavery or trafficked into prostitution. They are neglected, abused, and assaulted on a nearly daily basis. There are instances when they simply disappear and are presumed dead. This has surely been the case where children’s bodies have been found outside the city, victims of “organ harvesting.”
As tragic and lamentable as their circumstances may be, the other thing that is true is that each and every one of these girls are “beautiful children of God,” loved of God, without reservation, qualification or disqualification. And what is also equally true, is that we are called upon to love and serve as best we can. And I am delighted to say that we’re trying. In November of 2021, I was finally able to return to Cameroon after to a 2 year “pandemic” absence. The building Incarnation is helping to build (along with support from some European donors), is now under way.
This summer, in July, I have the privilege of leading a group of eleven to Cameroon once again, with a view to serving in this place, and among these girls. And our trips are gaining some notoriety! In addition to the 5 or 6 from Southern California, there are a half dozen others who are self-funding to join us in our mission: from WA, TX, NY and even a couple from Canada! And you may be interested to know, that four of the participants are Muslim! What a wonderful message to the world. Lutherans traveling with Muslims to the other side of the world, to serve in a Catholic run social service organization! We have a doctor and two or three other French speaking people with whom we hope to carry out significant programming with the girls, and perhaps planning for ongoing programming after we’re gone. This is going to be a mission trip for the books! But we need your help…
How can you help?
Excellent question! For those who don’t have the opportunity to participate in this mission project this summer, you can help out financially as best you can. Money is required to cover some of our travel expenses, but more importantly, to help us with the work we’re embarking on amongst these girls. Supplies are needed for the practical skills we’ll share (needlework, sewing, etc.). School supplies are needed for those who can attend school or other training programs. Clothing and linens are needed regularly. Food is needed daily. So, as you can see, anything with which you can help will be a blessing to God’s children in this place. I hope you will choose in this Holy Week to serve, and if you can, to help with this important mission activity of Incarnation Lutheran Church.
May God’s richest blessing be yours as you remember Jesus’ lesson of service on Maundy Thursday, Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday, and God’s victory over sin, death and the devil on Easter Sunday morning!