SYNOD NEWS AND EVENTS - August 1, 2018
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Immigrants and the Rural Church
An Interview with Pastor Salim Kaderbhai
+Susan Sink, Collegeville Institute, July 19, 2018
Salim Kaderbhai is an ELCA Lutheran pastor of a two-point parish in rural Minnesota, Faith Lutheran Church in Madelia and Our Saviour's Church in Lake Crystal, and a participant in the Collegeville Institute Rural Minnesota Fellows Program. He is also an immigrant and an adult convert from Islam. Kaderbhai came to the United States as a college student after graduating high school in Nairobi, Kenya. He attended Concordia College in Moorhead and Luther Seminary. His family is of Indian descent from Tanzania.

Kaderbhai credits God's divine sense of humor for placing him in a rural setting in Minnesota after growing up south of the equator and spending most of his ministry development training in urban and inner city ministry. Susan Sink talked to him recently about building relationships between the members of Faith Lutheran and Our Saviour's Lutheran Church and the local immigrant community. This essay is part of our July series on the lives of rural Christians and the rural Church. To read more essays in this series, please click here.

What are the demographics in the areas you serve?
Lake Crystal is not diverse, and I think my four children are among no more than twenty students of color in their school.

Madelia, on the other hand, is 30% Hispanic/Latino and the school system is evenly split between native English speakers and children for whom English is not their primary language, which includes not just Spanish speakers but also other languages. Although the people of Madelia understand the importance of immigrants to their survival as a small town, some have not seen the need or importance of welcoming and integrating with immigrants in part because it's harder to cross the language barrier than other cultural barriers. They appreciate the way immigrants contribute to businesses, provide a tax base and buy housing, but the town remains largely segregated. Anti-immigrant sentiments are strong here, especially in the current political situation. You hear the usual rhetoric about building a wall and all that. We had a sign on the church that said "Welcome" and had the word "Bienvenidos" on it. After it had been up awhile, a member of the congregation came to me and said, "Can I take down the 'welcome Mexicans' sign?" Welcome Mexicans? I was baffled that he thought it was about Mexicans. I explained that the sign just said 'welcome' in Spanish.

Do you have Latin American immigrants in the congregation at Faith Lutheran in Madelia?
We are a welcoming church and I would love to have people of color in the church, but it's not realistic right now. We have two Latin American members in our church-both adoptees. The biggest barrier is language. I don't speak Spanish and we don't have Spanish speaking ministers. Sometimes Latino families visit, but they don't see other people who look like them in our church. Our church is friendly, but because I serve two churches, I have to leave quickly after the service at Faith to get over to Lake Crystal and do the service there. Mostly, though, the relationships aren't there.

My short term goal is not so much to integrate the church as to encourage shared experiences between parishioners and the immigrant community in Madelia. I believe what will change attitudes in town is developing relationships that will lead to compassion for the immigrant experience.

Where have you had success in reaching out to immigrants from Latin America?
We've been particularly successful with our Vacation Bible School (VBS). It's a community effort, and usually churches take turns hosting it each year. But when it's hosted at Faith Lutheran, we manage to get between 90-120 children of various ethnicities. When another church in town hosted, even though many in the immigrant community are members of that church, the number dropped to 20-30 children. One thing that made a big difference was that the church registered the participants for each session, whereas we ran it as a drop-in camp, estimating the numbers but not requiring any paperwork or registration. When parents have to fill out paperwork, that's a barrier.

We also have different leaders here with different skills. Our VBS leaders include a teacher and a paraprofessional at the school. They brought a lot of children with them, including high school kids who were tracked in as leaders to help younger children. We bring them in as families. The older kids bring their younger siblings to VBS, and friends with younger siblings, and the older kids act as translators for the younger ones.

One goal of the program is to introduce the kids to elements of rural life. One of the teachers is a local 4H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) leader and is trying to figure out how to engage the Latino community in 4H. Among other things, she brought goats to camp last year. Another leader is introducing the kids to Boy Scouts. Our VBS was so successful that the churches agreed to have us host it at Faith Lutheran again this summer, with help from other churches in planning, providing counselors, and providing hospitality.

Another thing we're trying to do is community gardening. As part of my work with an area coalition around food access, we have built raised garden beds on the church lawn. Faith Lutheran is directly across the street from a poultry processing plant that is the largest employer of immigrants in the area. There are community gardens in Madelia, but they are on the other side of town. I hope to make the beds available to immigrants who want to grow food and garden. They are already coming to this part of town for work.

What is your hope for the congregation and local immigrant population?
I want us to be better neighbors. My hope is that as a congregation we will grow in mercy and compassion for the immigrant experience. My hope is that we'll become the people God wants us to be. There is a lot of biblical instruction about how to treat the alien. How can people claim to value the Bible and ignore this message of mercy and compassion? I want people to realize it is hard to leave your country and go somewhere else. As we form relationships with each other, we will see our shared humanity and lived experience, and appreciate what our immigrant brothers and sisters bring to the table.

Just in the last two weeks I had an experience like this. A member of the church, a lovely and gentle woman, texted me about a situation. A young man who works with her daughter in Mankato just graduated from high school and he received a letter saying he needed to register or he could be deported in thirty days. He would be a DACA kid. This woman wanted to know who she could contact to help this kid, who had worked hard and was contributing to the community. She is someone who would say "build a wall" but was very upset to see someone lose his opportunity in America. The difference was that she knew him personally.

I wasn't equipped to give her information. We avoid politics, but I need to know where to direct her. I made several calls, and finally ISAIAH, a consortium of churches in Minnesota working around issues of social justice, gave me the information to pass along. But this whole experience shows that progress on such issues always comes through relationships. People don't get involved unless they know someone who is affected.

I believe the easiest integration will come through intermarriage. The kids are already dating across racial lines and beginning to intermarry. It's coming to the community.
Upcoming Ordinations 
Ordination of Anna Mercedes
The ordination of Anna Mercedes is Thursday, August 9 at Sacred Heart Chapel, Saint Benedict's Monastery , Saint Joseph, MN at 8:00 p.m. Reception from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. at the Gorecki Center, College of Saint Benedict. We extend our congratulations and pray God's blessings upon Anna, who has been serving and will continue to serve College of Saint Benedict.
Ordination of Marco Curriel
The ordination of Marco Curriel is Sunday, August 26 at Paz y Esperanza, Willmar, MN at 3:00 p.m. Reception to follow. We extend our congratulations and pray God's blessings upon Marco, who has been serving and will continue to serve at Paz y Esperanza.
Where will all the plastic go?
+Laura Raedke, Lutheran Church of the Cross, Nisswa, Creation Care Team
China, the world's largest importer of scrap such as plastic since 1992, is no longer accepting these products due to the huge volume of plastics that are mainly low quality single-use items, such as garbage bags, bubble wrap, beverage bottles, and plastic packaging for food and tobacco items that cannot be profitably recycled. This means an estimated 111 million metric tons of plastic waste will pile up by 2030, with the U.S. contending with 37 million metric tons of extra waste that has nowhere to go but already burdened landfills. Researchers at the University of Georgia warn that such heavy loads of garbage worldwide will continue to leak into oceans and even spill into neighborhoods (see the journal Science Advances for full report). Since 1950, nearly 9 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced - more than four Mount Everests worth of trash - often polluting the environment, including deep oceans where a plastic island twice the size of Texas floats. Plastic has been discovered in the bellies of dead whales and seabirds, and has contributed to 61percent of global beach litter. As plastic ages and degrades, their chemicals are released into the environment, accumulating in the tissues of marine animals and in seafood, while on land leaching into soils and groundwater.

What you can do: refuse to purchase plastic that is used only once, and urge public officials to push for sound policies that responsibly recycle or dispose of larger plastic items.

Like us on Facebook  If you are interested in learning about ways that you or your congregation can reduce your environmental footprint, why not check out our new synod EcoFaith Network Facebook group. (see link below). We plan to have a meeting of interested people in August to launch the EcoFaith Network.
Refer your students to Lutheran Campus Ministry!
LuMin is a network of inclusive faith communities on and near campuses celebrating God's love and grace at over 240 colleges and universities across the country.

Rooted in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), LuMin celebrates our partnerships with other traditions and welcomes people from a variety of faith backgrounds.

If you have a college-bound student in your congregation, family, or friend network, Lutheran Campus Ministry would love to meet them! A national database has been set up to refer any student, regardless of what college they are attending or where in the country they will be. Click here to refer a student.
Systems Study & Coaching Group:
a resource for clearer, calmer leadership
We are all in the relationships - and relationships can prove difficult. The Systems Study & Coaching Group meets monthly as a space for leaders to find new ways of thinking about how we function in all our relationships and how we might manage more effectively in anxious relationships. It is open to all leaders - rostered and lay alike - who want to grow their repertoire of responses in challenging situations.
We work within Natural Family Systems Theory, first developed by Dr. Murry Bowen and extended by Edwin Friedman, Peter Steinke, Larry Foster and others. Through reading and study between meetings, and discussions of practical application through case presentations, participants reflect on their own functioning when relationships "heat up."
The Systems Study & Coaching Group meets on the first Thursday of each month from 1:30 - 4 pm at the Synod Office in Redwood Falls, starting September 6. If you are interested contact Pastor Steve Cook at (320) 310-8851 or
Job Opening 
Resurrection Lutheran Church in St. Joseph, MN is currently seeking applicants for the part time position of Director of Youth and Family Ministries. Interested applicants click here for more information. 
Synod Events
Below is a list of all the upcoming synod events. Visit the synod events webpage for more information.

Church Staff Workers Retreat
September 18, 2018
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Redwood Falls 

Youth Workers Retreat
September 24-25, 2018
Green Lake Lutheran Ministries
October 7-9, 2018
Alexandria, MN

NW/SW MN Clergy Spouse Retreat
November 20, 2018
Luther Crest Bible Camp, Alexandria, MN

SW MN Synod Assembly
June 7-8, 2019
Redwood Falls, MN

Southwestern Minnesota Synod, ELCA 
PO Box 499, Redwood Falls, MN 56283
Phone: 507-637-3904