Philosophy & Theology

Faith & Reason Newsletter, Fall 2013

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Faith & Reason THE TEXAS LUTHERAN UNIVERSITY THEOLOGY & PHILOSOPHY NEWSLETTER • FALL 2013 • VOLUME 17, ISSUE 1 THE CALL TO SERVE OTHERS SHARAYAH ROBINSON, Senior Theology/Business Major In 2010, I returned to Cameroon for my second mission trip with my church. I was ready, as my church's mission statement says, "to serve God in the service of all God's people" like we had the year before. However, my pastor, Luther Symons, told us that this trip was going to mean a lot to more than just us and the people in Ngoundéré, Cameroon. The ELCA had recently made its decision to allow openly homosexual pastors to be called into clergy positions. This decision led to a major falling out not only among some of its own churches, but also among much more conservative, international partners like the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) and the Église Évangélique Luthérienne au Cameroun (EELC). While in Cameroon, we faced many questions about the topic. Pastor Luther did most of the talking when it came to this issue, as homosexuality there is a crime and any miscommunication about support or promotion of homosexuality could lead to jail time. Instead, we focused on our work—renovating the outdoor hospital rooms. Pastor Luther agreed to a radio interview and answered the questions he was getting about the issue. While he settled rumors, answered questions and tried to listen to their concerns, he focused more on the EELC and what they needed rather than on the ELCA's decision. That decision, he pointed out, was the ELCA's alone. Soon after returning from that trip, the EECMY in Ethiopia had severed its ties with the ELCA and the EELC announced that it no longer had any intention of similar actions. Our whole group agreed that Pastor Luther had saved the day. He asked us, "Do you not understand that it was all because of you guys?" What? We just painted a couple buildings. He explained to us that what he had said didn't do much of anything. Sure, it may have calmed the church leaders for a few days, but what made a difference was the people of Cameroon seeing us there working. It was the service that calmed people's nerves. It was being able to show love and hospitality for people, no matter our beliefs, that opened up the way for this kind of reconciliation. It all suddenly clicked. I understood what he was trying to demonstrate for us. It was made even more clear once we found out that there had been no ELCA presence in Ethiopia around the same time; in fact, it was discouraged by our church leaders. Being present and serving God in the service of God's people is what seemed to make the difference in Cameroon. This year I was able to go back for my third trip. On my first two trips, I had realized my call to become a pastor and work in international ministry. In the two years between trips, I had come to question that call and my faith altogether. I wasn't sure how this trip was going to go. Being there, I relearned all of the things that I had forgotten about myself and why I feel called. I was quickly reminded why people need to serve in places like Cameroon where the culture is so full of life and love, yet faces challenges to life and love everyday. It is this contradiction that makes being there meaningful, exhausting and crucial. Our main project was to help a congregation that had been working on building its church for the past ten years. When we arrived at Burkina, they had rotting benches, no windowpanes, rusting doors and window frames and aging cement walls. We worked with the church members to resurface and paint the interior, to create "stained glass" windows that were sustainable for their community, and to commission and help sand and assemble 80 benches. We saw a church change more in two weeks than it had in ten years. While part of it was the financial support, we saw more enthusiasm from all of the members than we ever expected, and I mean all. At any point in time, we had a minimum of 20 kids from the community coming in the church trying to help paint and sand. The congregation's pastor would even kick the kids out so they wouldn't get hurt, and they would continually sneak in

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