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Be God's Hands. After all, it takes a village.

Last week, I had the opportunity to address around 600 students at LuHi during their weekly chapel service. The Chapel focus during Lent has been on contemplation, and this week's topic was service. Students and teachers embarking on a mission trip during Easter break were commissioned, and the service then shifted to focus on the Lutheran Crusader Fund, which allows, through stewardship of funds, organizations in the region to engage in programs that increase ministry opportunities. Of particular note is that the committee which selects grant recipients is comprised of LuHi students and association pastors - a great, real opportunity for learning, discernment, critique, and service. I was honored to be asked to address the student body as LSA accepted a grant that day, one which will allow for collaboration with the Lutheran Counseling Center in an effort to bring parenting support to parents of students in Lutheran early childhood centers and schools. Below is what I shared that day. Stay tuned for more on the series of supports that will be rolled out in the 2017-18 school year. 

On behalf of The Lutheran Counseling Center and Lutheran Schools Association, thank you Dr. Gove, the Crusader Fund selection committee, and to the entire Long Island Lutheran community for your stewardship of funds that support a diverse set of ministries in our community.

I want to begin by telling you a story. It starts out in the summer of 2012, when a young family was given the opportunity to move about 10 hours away, from New York, to Ohio. It was an exciting time of new possibility. But, it took them many miles away from their loved ones, their friends, their community. Still, the family thought, we can do this on our own. We don’t need to be near family. We’ve got this.

That family was mine.

We lived in Ohio for about 10 months, and while technology kept us feeling close to our family and friends back in New York, it really wasn’t the same as when they were able to join us in our new home, or when we were able to pay a visit back home. Still, we enjoyed exploring a new city, its surroundings, and the adventures of being a family. Our daughter turned one while we were in Ohio, so we were still very new to the whole parenting thing. We always knew it would be temporary, but we didn’t realize then that God would call us on to our next adventure fairly soon.

As God has done for our entire lives, and will continue to do as long as we live, we were called. This time, it was back to the east coast. We didn’t expect it, as we rarely can expect what God places in our path. We headed back east, ready for what was to come. It was June 2013. 

Only when we settled in back here in NY did we realize what we were truly missing while away. 

While Ohio had been an unexpected adventure, provided us with some great opportunities, and a few strengthened friendships, moving to NY allowed us to work on our community. We found it in our daughter’s school, our church, our friends, and being near family once more. We found our village. 

You may know this African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” For us, our village includes family, church, friends, and supportive school environments for our children. That village is constantly evolving and growing in ways, as our children enter new stages in life and our family’s needs shift. Think about your family’s village. 

Maybe it includes your church home, maybe extended family, maybe, if you’re not near family, friends that feel like family. It includes this place, LuHi, which brings you all together. 

And it sure includes the One that we all can count on as part of our “village” - God. 

Today in the Gospel, we hear the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. In verse 15, we read, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

The Crusader Fund allows funds to be distributed to projects by ministries in our community, allowing these ministries to be the hands of God through their work. As Jesus served his disciples, we must serve those in our community. We must see ourselves as integral parts of other families’ “villages”. I’m sure as you walked around campus these past few days, it wasn’t hard to see that service in action here at LuHi through the meal packing effort. As you packed those meals which will go to those on Long Island and in Haiti, you are God’s hands in the world, an unnamed part of another’s “village”. 

The projects funded today through the Lutheran Crusader Fund provide opportunities to grow the “villages” of others in our community. Specifically, the Lutheran Counseling Center and Lutheran Schools Association have worked together to design a series of supports that will be available to parents sending their children to Lutheran schools. It is likely that your parents see LuHi as an integral part of your family’s “village”, and the same is true in 58 other schools and early childhood centers in our area. And, believe it or not, raising kids is tough work. So, the Lutheran Counseling Center and Lutheran Schools Association will be offering support to parents, through monthly newsletter articles and a series of webinars on topics that parents often wonder about - how to support what’s happening in school at home, constructively dealing with power struggles, and much more. We are thrilled that the funds these organizations receive today will allow for a year’s worth of support for parents in our community, allowing the two organizations to better support those “villages” of the families of over 7,000 children in the Metro-NY area. 

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

As you journey through these last weeks of Lent, focused on the promise of the cross, I pray that each and every one of you is able to find opportunities to be a part of the villages supporting the development of individuals in our area and around the world. Be God’s hands in the world. Thank you.

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