Weekly Update
Announcements From Around the Virginia Synod
Being Here
For this week's Weekly, we're turning our attention to Kelly Schumacher Fuller, of St. Michael in Virginia Beach, and her recent her recent work in Afghanistan. There she worked with the organization Ascend: Leadership Through Athletics which uses mountain climbing as the vehicle to empower young Afghan women, ages 15-23. 

Below is her first-hand account of her time Afghanistan this summer. Kelly's essay was written during her time working in Afghanistan, but she has since returned home to the United States. 
Before I left the States one of my best and sweetest friends sent me one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received - an envelope full of cards, one to open each week I'm in country.

She's a busy mama (making sure my goddaughter and her little sister are well taken care of!) and an incredible artist, and each little envelope feels like a true gift. Knowing that the hand lettered quote enclosed within was prioritized over some other task that was inevitably looming on her to-do list means a great deal to me. (I'm sure she's thankful that I'm only gone for a few months! :))

All that is to say, the simple messages enclosed in these colorful envelopes hold more than I would have imagined, and probably hold more than even she intended. (Fun fact: I chose to start opening them on Monday mornings as a logical beginning of the week ritual, only to find out that the work week in Afghanistan actually starts on Saturdays... #rookiemistake.)
Of course, the message is profound wherever you are - as humans we often get so caught up in details, busy-ness, future planning, responding to "urgent" emails, social media, etc. that we forget to be present to the life and people that surround us each moment of the day. (I have yet to experience what the U.S. with Pokemon Go is like, but I imagine it falls into this category of distracted living...)

In fact, whenever I practice Centering Prayer the words/mantra that I almost always choose to bring me back to my breath and mindfulness are, "Be Present." (I like to think of it as an invitation to myself and to God.)
So, while the message isn't new I think it struck me harder because I'm here, in Kabul, where I'm regularly wrestling with so many things: living in the midst of celebration and sadness; holding heart wrenching pain and incredible beauty simultaneously; attempting to live out of love instead of fear; being distinctly American among Afghans; going to Embassy functions and spending time with the Ascend team; and missing "my people" in the States, while attempting to build relationships here. It feels like there's a tug on me in each direction.

I can't lie - it's easy to focus on the ever decreasing countdown of days until I'm back to the familiar, where I have freedom of movement, freedom of choice and reliable electricity; where I understand what's going on around me and don't have to think twice about whether what I'm doing is culturally appropriate. (And, yes, I realize the extreme amount of privilege in that statement.) It's easy to get lost in Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat catching up on what's going on with my people (you) back in the States. It's easy to focus on answering emails, making sure that programming is happening the way it should, and arranging logistics. It's easy to talk with the hubs and plan our weeks of life post-Kabul. (Sidenote: Minnesota State Fair, I'm coming for you!)

But, here's the thing: I took that little yellow card as a challenge, and trying to "be all here" here in Kabul has been kind of amazing.
Being all here has meant:
  • Taking every invitation I'm given
  • Sitting through an awkward, yet delightful, 4 hour meeting that felt like it was over at minute 15
  • Playing dress-up during said meeting and walking away with a lovely Afghan outfit that just happens to be MN Vikings colors
  • Going to dinners and staying for no less than 5 hours (perhaps to the chagrin of my driver)
  • Asking more questions than I knew I had of everyone that's willing to talk to me
  • Drinking (almost) every cup of tea offered to me
  • Embracing the awkwardness of sitting through a 20-min conversation where you understand approximately 2 words
  • Trying, trying, and trying quroot (Y'all. I still just can't get used to the salty, milky, chalky thing that quroot has going on, which Wikipedia describes as a "dried, hard, very sour cottage cheese")
  • Embracing the makeshift, impromptu manicures the girls give me when there are 5 minute breaks in activity
  • Being serenaded by an Afghan guitarist while sitting in on the music lessons the Ascend girls take (am I the only one the finds being serenaded one of the most uncomfortable social situations?)
  • Soaking in every bit of energy, drama, strength, and hilariousness the girls provide when they are around
And, last but not least: fully experiencing the first weekly hike I was able to go on with the team.

The girls hadn't hiked since pre-Ramadan, so it was the first time in a long time they had gotten outdoors all together. Although it was a smaller group than normal, it was one of my favorite parts of my time here thus far.

I could have easily been focused in on how much time it was taking, whether the hike was meeting programmatic goals, and if we were fitting into the predicted schedule, but instead I tried to embraced the whole thing. From the girls arriving very early in the morning looking like (bleary-eyed) proper Afghan young women who then, in a matter of minutes, geared up to look like proper athletes, all the way to us arriving back to the office and the opposite happening (transforming from sweaty mountain-climbers to proper Afghan young women in heels, perfect makeup, and long dresses), and everything in-between.

I still feel like I'm fully developing my thoughts around all of it and its impact on my heart, but I can't help but share a few things that struck me, because I was committed to noticing them:
  • The pure joy and excitement that radiated off of the team as soon as we arrived at our hiking destination
  • The hilarity of one of the girls dropping not one but TWO apples down the side of the "mountain" while attempting to eat them. And, then successfully eating the third one she was given.
  • The inherent freedom of the dance party we had (after eating kebab) in the shade of a big rock at the top of the hill overlooking Kabul
  • Watching the girls help each other tie knots and practice setting anchors
  • One of the team members not feeling well, and witnessing the extreme care and concern given to her while going both up and down the mountain

In short, I was struck over and over by how astoundingly fortunate I am to get to do this with this extraordinary group of young women.

I wish everyone could come and go hiking with this group and see the ways the outdoors have strengthened and fortified their minds, bodies, and spirits.

They're amazing. And, I'm lucky to be here to soak it in.

Here's to being "all here" as much as I can.

To read more about Kelly's accounts during her time in Afghanistan, visit her blog KellyAscends. To learn more about Ascend: Leadership Through Athletics visit AscendAthletics.org
Article Update: ForwardingFaith with Soap
On June 23rd we reported That Rebecca Williams, from Ascension Lutheran in Danville, was creatively fundraising on her own in support of the Virginia Synod's ForwardingFaith campaign. She had then raised over $115 through the sale of soaps, and challenged the members of Ascension Lutheran to match that dollar amount. That amount has now since been matched by a member of her congregation! Becca's challenge still continues though, and is extended to the entire Synod. Will you match Rebecca?

To learn more about the ForwardingFaith campaign, visit www.forwardingfaith.org
Do You have an announcement, upcoming event or news story Idea? Send it to pilat@vasynod.org and make sure to follow our
A nnouncements
Lutheran Disaster Response in Louisiana
At least eleven people have been killed, tens of thousands have been rescued and even more have been evacuated as floodwaters continue to sweep across southern Louisiana.
Lutheran Disaster Response works to bring God's hope, healing and renewal to those who have been affected by the floodwaters.

Your gifts through Lutheran Disaster Responsewill bring God's hope, healing and renewal to those who are affected by Louisiana floodwaters.

For more information on how to donate click here

September 4-11, 2016 will be the Virginia Synod's 4th annual Week of Service! 

The Virginia Synod Week of Service coincides with "God's Work, Our Hands" Sunday, the ELCA Day of Service on September 11.  This year's dedicated day of service also marks the 15-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

We have extended the opportunity to serve to accommodate varying schedules. Last year 70 churches participated in the Week of Service.

All congregations are invited to reach out into their neighborhoods to become God's hands and feet, to serve those in need and to share God's compassion with the world. The Week of Service is an opportunity for everyone to intentionally invest time in service projects outside the walls of the church. Pick a project and prepare to serve others in the name of God's love.

For more information on how you and your congregation can get involved- click here!
St. Stephen Lutheran Church Theologian in Residence Weekend Sept 16-18
Dr. Mark Allan Powell, New Testament professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, and an internationally known biblical scholar, will be the Theologian in Residence at St. Stephen, Williamsburg, Sept. 16-18. His topics will be "Jesus Gets Passionate: The Driving Concerns that Determined his Life and Death, Christ and Culture: Paradigms for Social Transformation, and Things that Divide Us."
Children's Ministry Training
Hungry Mother Lutheran Retreat Center Beer and Brats Fundraiser
Hungry Mother Lutheran Retreat Center Announces Our Second Annual
"Where Gem├╝tlichkeit Happens" 

The evening highlights will include:
  • A selection of German Bratwurst and side dishes 
  • A selection of German and domestic beer (sift drinks avalible) 
  • Live music provided by "Diet of Worms" 
  • Lots of Fellowship
When: Saturday September 24th 

*In case of inclement weather, we will hold the event at Shumate Hall. 

Festivities will begin at 5:30 PM. Food will be served at 6:30. 

Suggested Donation: $30 per adult. 


Fall 2016 ACTS Courses
Register Now for Fall 2016 ACTS Courses
Join us October 1st and October 29th at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Waynesboro, Virginia. Hear Dr. Terri Elton address the paradox of ministry leadership, looking at the importance of balancing our role with God's.

Renew and Retreat a Christian Formation Retreat  
Tuesday Oct 4, 4:30 PM - Thursday Oct 6, 10 AM 
Co-Partnered by Camp Caroline Furnace and
Roots and Wings a Christian Formation Committee of the VA Synod

Retreat Presenter:  Debbie Streicher, President of the Christian  Formation Network of the ELCA. 

Debbie will lead us in a discussion about steps needed to immerse our children and youth in faith and creating meaningful milestones, moments that make a difference as they support children, youth and families of all ages in their faith journey.
Come to Camp Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp and Retreat Center for a retreat which is specifically designed to support and equip both full-time and part-time professional and volunteer Children, Youth and Family Ministry staff. In addition to an educational component there will be ample time for networking and resource sharing, as well as relaxation, conversation and worship. 

Lost and Found

Lost and Found  is our annual weekend retreat for youth in 7th and 8th grade and their adult advisors. We have Large Group  gatherings that consist of singing, energy, comedy, worship and a presentation on our event theme. After each Large Group gathering each person is part of a Small Group  made up of about 8 youth and a couple adult leaders where participants will get to know other Lutheran youth from Virginia and discuss life, faith and other topics that arise throughout the weekend.

For more information, and to register for Lost and Found - click here!
Reformation 500 Observances

As the second oldest Lutheran college in the USA, the mission statement of Roanoke College declares that we "honor our Christian heritage by nurturing a dialogue between faith and reason." In this spirit, Roanoke College announces a series of special academic events from late 2016 through the anniversary year 2017 in commemoration of the 500 th  anniversary of the Reformation and in coordination with the 175 th  anniversary of the college's founding.

For more information on this and future events from Roanoke College celebrating the Reformation- click here!
You can make a world of difference!

Do you have skills in art or music that you want to share? Do you have a passion for reading? Are you interested in helping with community outings or special events? We would love to welcome you to the Lutheran Family Services helping community at LFSVA Minnick Schools and Day Programs for adults with disabilities. 

Join us in providing abundance for the people who need us most! Contact Leah Hatcher at  lhatcher@lfsva.org  to sign-up or visit  www.lfsva.org  and click "Get Involved."
Upcoming Mission Trip to Nicaragua
Zion Lutheran Church in Waynesboro is planning their second annual mission trip to Nicaragua.  They are inviting any congregations or members of Virginia Synod congregations to join in on this wonderful opportunity.  To answer some questions you may have and to explore more information check out the following links: 

Job Opportunities
Director of Church Relations
The Society of St. Andrew, a nationwide faith-based nonprofit, focused on reducing food waste and feeding hungry people through the biblical practice of gleaning, seeks a full-time Director of Church Relations.

As a prominent national faith-based nonprofit Society of St. Andrew (SoSA), intentionally seeks to develop relationships with faith communities across the country. This position is centrally focused on cultivating new and existing relationships with thousands of churches across the country.

To see a full job description  click here

Email resumes to sosausa@endhunger.org
All posts can also be found online at  www.vasynod.org/job-opportunities. If you have job opening you would like posted, email pilat@vasynod.org. 
Stay Connected
Reformation 500 Observances