The Arkansas-Oklahoma Medical Mission Trip to Morogoro:
The Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod of the ELCA (to which we belong) is a companion Synod with the Morogoro Dioceses of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. One of our partnerships is a medical mission trip each summer to a community in the Morogoro Dioceses that is far from the larger hospital. For a week in the summer, a team including doctors, nurses, and non-medical volunteers go to serve in this community hospital. The team treat what they can and financially assist to get people to the larger hospital if they cannot treat them. Volunteers that are not needed for the medical, pharmaceutical or patient intake roles serve as a "fundi" or fixer. They repair anything from broken doors to broken x-ray machines at the hospital.
Lance and Eileen Miller, members of Community of Joy Lutheran Church in Hot Springs Village, AR and veteran servants on the medical mission trip visited Faith Lutheran to share about the ministry of this trip. Lance and Eileen shared what the day-to-day life is like, stories of meeting the people of Morogoro and the hospitality they received. The service project for this servanthood Sunday was to package Ibuprofen and vitamins to go with the team this summer. Both Ibuprofen and vitamins are common prescriptions at the hospital so to save costs for the patients, the team has started bringing them along. During the service project time, worshipers either weighed and package pills, spent time in prayer, or with the children coloring pictures to accompany the team.
During this Servanthood Sunday, 38,000 pills (Ibuprofen or vitamins) for children and adults were packaged to send with the Medical Mission Trip to the Morogoro Dioceses.
The Food Pantry at St. Mark's is a joint ministry of many congregations which began a block or two down Mississippi Avenue, at First Christian Church. 20 years ago, First Christian and Faith Lutheran Churches came together to form the food pantry. As First Christian Church sold their property, St. Mark's Episcopal Church gladly welcomed this beloved ministry and created a new home for the food pantry so that they tradition of answering the call to feed the hungry on Mississippi Avenue could continue.
Arkansas ranks the 2nd worse state in the nation for food insecurity. 18.4% of Arkansans are food insecure. Historically Arkansas has led the nation in seniors who face the threat of hunger. Because of the Arkansas Food Bank and food pantries such as ours we are no longer 1st but fifth in the nation. A lot of our clients are grandparents who are taking care of their children’s children because their parents are absent. Some clients have two working family members and still can’t make ends meet.
Food insecurity is the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.
In other words. Food Insecurity is when you do not know where you next meal is coming from unless you steal it.
Since the move to St. Marks, the food pantry has been able to expand from serving a client once every 3 months to once a month. In 2017, the food pantry provided food for 11,000 people, or 2,633 families. This ministry's volunteers and supporting churches has expanded too, to now include St. Mark’s, First Christian, Pulaski Heights Baptist, Trinity Methodist and Faith Lutheran. Each Thursday morning from 9:00-11:00 am, 25 volunteers come together to serve at the food pantry.
The food pantry also goes beyond meeting food needs, but also has retired doctors that offer blood pressure checks, deacons that pray with clients and provide space to share, volunteers to help further food assistance by helping people who are not already on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) sign up, flu shots and more. They also have volunteers who are fluent in Spanish and American Sign Language.
We believe that God is guiding and blessing all that we do. We believe that every man, woman and child should have access to food-today tomorrow and a decade from now, and every day we are pushing to make that mission a reality. We believe reaching food insecure residents of the Little Rock Metro Area with nutritious food will help stabilize lives and position our community for a better future. Our partnerships with other local churches, markets and restaurants is a partnership deeply rooted in our faith. Mostly and much more importantly we continue to serve and feed our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, all of God’s children.
As we gathered in the Sanctuary to begin worship, things were a little different than normal Sunday morning. Not just because it was a Servanthood Sunday, but also because the night before there was a thunderstorm and the church lost power! So we gathered in the dark and worshiped the Light of the World.
John Knuteson, Faith Lutheran member and a lead volunteer at the food pantry, gave a homily to share about the blessing of ministry that happens at the Food Pantry at St. Mark's. After hearing of John's passion for this shared ministry and the deep need for food assistance in Little Rock, we were commissioned for service. Along with the food needs of the clients of the food pantry, many are also in need of personal care items, and there is no assistance program to acquire such needed daily items. After weeks of collecting these new donated items from members of Faith Lutheran we were ready! Our mission was to go fill 300 bags with toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, mouthwash, deodorant and soap for distribution at the food pantry.
As we reentered the Sanctuary following the service project portion of the service, the lights came back on! John remarked that he began his homily with one of his favorite Bible verses that relates to hunger, Isaiah 58:10-12.
Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.
Indeed the light did shine out from the darkness!
Nancy and Grover Watts have embarked on a way to share with veterans in our community. They have made shoe box gifts that contain things like cards, personal care items, puzzle books and more to give to veterans living in the Arkansas State Veterans Home or at the VA hospital.
During our regular Sunday morning worship, we gathered for worship and service - all in one servanthood experience. After weeks of collecting items to fill the boxes, we were ready to be commissioned for this service. We began worship with hymns and prayers and then heard Nancy's story of how this ministry has grown and been a gift to the veterans of Arkansas. During worship, we assembled over 90 boxes full of goodies to bring to the veterans home. The boxes were wrapped, placed on the altar and blessed, that they may bring joy and show God's love and our appreciation for the veterans who would receive them.
Thank you to the Watts for their commitment to serving those who have served this country, to the Servanthood Sunday team, Thrivent Financial Action Grants, Women of the ELCA at Faith Lutheran Church, the Faith Lutheran Church Mission Grants, Gideon's International for the donation of New Testament and Psalm books for the Military, and the people of Faith Lutheran Church who brought items to give.
Block Builders of Faith is a quilting ministry that began in the fall of 2016, after a summer of Imagining God's Mission. Having a quilt group at the church has been a dream of Marcy Havelka since she joined Faith Lutheran 30 years ago. While the dream took time to take root, it is now a growing ministry. Block Builders of Faith make quilts, which they work on twice a month together at the church and at home in between gatherings. Once completed, the quilts are blessed and given to The Van, a local mobile organization that assist and form relationships with homeless people in Little Rock.
During our regular Sunday morning worship, we gathered for worship and service - all in one servanthood experience. We sang hymns, including "The Tie that Binds", we heard about the mission of Block Builders of Faith, were commissioned for service. During the service project, we gathered around 24 quilts, spread throughout the church and finished the quilts by sewing yarn to tie quilt blocks together or by tying the knots for fleece blankets. People joined in from all ages and whether they've been at Faith Lutheran for decades or this was their first Sunday.
Following the service project, we reflected in small groups and all together. As our reflections ended, we blessed the 24 quilts that will be given to The Van, we shared prayers and we share the communion meal together.
These quilts took time by the Block Builders of Faith to make and were made with love and I hope the people who receive them feel that love and warmth.
People worked together and did different parts, I was sewing the thread and someone else would come through and tie them and we all worked together.
I'm happy that there are guests here today and this didn't scare them off! They stayed and we all worked together.
As I tied some quilts, I thought about how this connects us all. I saw some fabric used from a shirt that I donated and I wondered where the rest came from and was glad they have new life and have been beautiful remade into something new for someone else.
This was great! I got to be with all of my church people worshiping and serving together and I got to make a quilt with my mama. I have watched her make quilts all my life but this was the first time I got to work on one with her.
This was church. Usually we have worship and I like it, but today, working with everyone on this project - it felt like I went to church.
Special thanks to Thrivent Financial for an action grant to fund some of the quits for this project. Thanks to Block Builders of Faith for sharing your gifts and passion for quilting. Thanks to the team who put together the worship service for Servanthood Sunday and all who joined in the fun of worshiping and servicing God together in community.
A worship & service experience all in one! Each Servanthood Sunday, a local ministry or non-profit will share their mission and we will join together in a service project for that mission - all in the middle of Sunday morning worship!