Hey y'all! My name is Joseph Cooper and, for those of you who don't know me, I am a junior at Appalachian State University majoring in music therapy. This is also my third year as part of the Lutheran Students of Appalachian (LSA) community and my second year on the leadership team. 

This fall, LSA became a Reconciled in Christ (RIC) community. This means that our community welcomes all individuals, specifically affirming all individual's gender identities and sexual orientations. At our first meeting, we passed and submitted this following statement: 

"We accept all individuals regardless of race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, socioeconomic status and political affiliation, mental and physical ability, marital status, religious background, substance use or addiction, criminal background, documentation status, and age. We want everyone to feel welcome and are determined to bridge the gap between the divisions of this world because everyone is created equally in God's image. We believe that the Lord's kingdom reflects the diversity of the world and has no divisions. We invite all to join us on the mountaintop as we grow our faith in Christ and love for one another!"

Being a part of an affirming community has been absolutely incredible. I always look forward to our group meetings on Wednesday evenings and love the closeness of our group. We share a meal, made by some of our members, before participating in a different activity each week. We've made homeless resource bags and passed out cookies at local nursing homes and fire stations. Our group also leads a Holden Evening Prayer service at Grace Lutheran each month, and this spring break, we had the amazing opportunity to travel to Holden Village. Good Shepherd helped to provide financial support for the trip, and I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for helping me get to Holden Village. Your love and support means everything to me, and I am so proud to be part of both the LSA and GSLC communities. The trip to Holden Village, an absolutely beautiful Lutheran community nestled in the mountains of Washington State, is an experience that I will cherish forever.

On our last full day at Holden Village, I was having an incredibly difficult time wrapping my head around the truth that I would have to leave. There was something incredibly spiritual about being in a place so far apart from the rest of the world, surrounded by silence, beautiful snow-covered mountains and well, absolutely no cell service - thank goodness I couldn't get any school emails. 

Thursday, LSA had the opportunity of leading Holden Evening Prayer while we were at Holden - using a worship service that I've gotten to know over the three years I've been in LSA but at the place that the music was written for. At the time though, I was a little upset that we had to lead the service. I wanted an opportunity to participate in Holden Evening Prayer and be present in the moment instead of having to lead it musically. Emme, Faith, Peter, and I practiced the service the night before, and at that point, I think a lot of us might have felt the same way - wishing that we could truly hear the music, the prayers, and not have to worry about playing the right notes. 

But as we started playing and as the community began to sing, I felt something change. I let go of the apprehension and felt a sense of calm and peace. A sense of peace that I often think is completely impossible during my normal routine in Boone. And through this peace, the words of Holden Evening Prayer, that I've heard each month in LSA, hit me and stuck in a new way: 

"Love that fills the night with wonder, Love that warms the weary soul, Love that bursts all chains asunder, set us free and make us whole." 

And this beautiful, radical love is the gift I have received from Good Shepherd and the gift I see in LSA each week. I am deeply grateful for LSA and the unconditional love within this community. Again, I want to thank Good Shepherd for the support of this ministry and for the love I experience in this congregation, GSLC, that I call my home. 

1 John 4:7 "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God."

In radical love,
Joseph Cooper

This Sunday's Readings
Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Way of the Shepherd All-Church Conversation - Sundays during Lent, 9:30-10:30 am, Fellowship Hall - Each week, we will focus on a new topic, walking this Lenten faith journey together. All adults are encouraged to join the conversation.

Spend an Evening with GSLC Coffeehouse - Tonight, 7:00-8:30 pm - Coffeehouse offers live music, refreshments, and fellowship to adults of all abilities. Approximately 25 adult and youth helpers are needed to assist with set-up, serving, and clean-up - a great volunteer activity for families, too! Contact  coffeehouse@gslchurch.org for more information.

Baptismal Seminar - Monday, April 1, 6:00-7:00 pm If you are considering baptism at Good Shepherd, make plans to attend this baptismal seminar. We will discuss the baptismal rite, the responsibilities, and the marks of baptism that make up this ancient sacrament. For more information, contact Pr. Marsha.

Order Easter Flowers by Sunday, April 7.   If you'd like to order flowers in honor or memory of a loved one to decorate the Sanctuary on Easter, download this form, contact the church office, or complete the form in Sunday's bulletin.

Lenten Soup Suppers & Vespers Worship - Wednesdays through April 10 No need to cook dinner before you head to church on Wednesdays during Lent. Let's share a simple meal together starting at 5:30 pm (drop in any time), and then worship at 7:00 pm. Check out the complete Lent 2019 schedule.

Easter Egg Hunt is Coming Up! - Sunday, April 14, 9:30-10:30 am - All 2-year olds through 5th graders won't want to miss this chance to join friends for hunting Easter eggs, storytelling, preparing for Holy Week and a special snack! RSVP on Realm or to barb.newcomer@gslchurch.org by April 7.
Donate Candy for the Easter Egg Hunt  - Individually wrapped candy with no nuts are greatly appreciated. Place in the bin in the Narthex.

Penny Wars Begin April 14!  Look under the couch cushions, in your car, and in your piggy banks! Save your pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollar bills to support the orphans in Mnene Parish. Penny jars will be in the Narthex beginning April 14 through the Kicknic on May 19.

Sign up for the May 15-18 Hurricane Relief Mission Trip by April 14. Want to help but unable to attend? Learn more about ways to help, including school supply kits, at gslchurch.org/hurricanerelief or contact the church office.

More information about upcoming events is available in this week's bulletin announcements.

The Spring 2019 edition of The Shepherd's Voice is now available online.

A great group of folks, including Pastor Tim, Pastor Marsha, and members of Good Shepherd, turned out to discuss affordable housing at the NC Synod Advocacy Day in Raleigh on Tuesday, March 26. 
Health and Healing  for  Eric Neal, friend of Debbie McLaren; and Dorothy Greengrove, mother of Kate Greengrove.

Thanksgiving for the birth of Carter Lee, son of Shelley and Doug Bennett, and for the birth of Reagan, granddaughter of Brenda and John Chaplinsky.

Sympathy to the family and friends of Carroll Allen, friend of the Postons.

For the Orphans of Mnene Parish , including Tsamani Sigono and Trevor Ndlovu. 

Sam (Tsamani) will be 25 in May.  He is finishing his last year of classes at Midlands State University and will graduate sometime later this year.  He completed a very successful attachment, teaching Shona at Mnene high school, the school he graduated from before enrolling at University.  One of the leaders of the Mnene high school told Sam that he was very proud of his student teaching attachment!  Sam is encouraged that perhaps he will be offered a position there after graduation.  His Mail For Mnene partners are the Brimhall family and Grace Ann Chirico.

Trevor is 22 and was struggling in high school.  Mnene staff acquired a position for him at EMMB Africa, learning to be an excavator operator.  We assume that EMMB Africa is some sort of technical school, located somewhere within Zimbabwe.  Communication is limited due to the current unrest in Zimbabwe.  His Mail For Mnene partner is the Cash family.

Visit the Wittenberg Information Center in the Narthex for photos of this week's orphans and  more information on the Mnene Ministry.
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