Servants for Jesus’ Sake Build A Home, Relationships and Understanding
“Connections” was the theme of CLS's 2011 Servant Event lead by Pastor James Avery, Director of the Missionary Study Centre. From May 9-17 Ian Wemyss, Mark Schultz, Keith Hoveland, Roland Starke, Cody Cooper, Professor Jonathan Kraemer, and Steve Fonnyadt, a homebuilder from Calgary and brother-in-law to Pr. Avery, engaged in building a house addition in Juarez, Mexico with Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care (LCMS), El Paso, Texas. While the main task was to complete a 12ft x 24 ft addition to a home (doubling its size), an equally important task was to build connections with people in the community, with those working for YLM, and with one another. The participants also considered the connections between sharing the mercy of God in word and deed; and the connections between their servant event and the ministry of YLM.
Construction proceeded quickly and was completed after only three and a half days out of the five estimated for the build, despite having to re-shingle the original home in addition to shingling the addition. Even with such quick progress team members regularly took time out from construction to play soccer, basketball and other games with the many curious children who came by the site. Local pastor, Pr. Hernandez of YLM, visited and brought out his guitar, singing songs with the children. Team members were also able to connect with homeowners, Lilia and Jorge.
“This servant event was fantastic” said Professor Jonathan Kraemer “Not only were we able to make a difference in the lives of Lilia and Jorge, but we were able to support the ministry of Pr. Hernandez and to form our students in a way which cannot be duplicated in a classroom. This kind of event forms our students in so many ways; to be compassionate servants of Christ, to reach out with the Gospel of Christ, to make connections with people of every age, nationality, and social standing.”
In addition to the servant event, the group was able to attend three services on Sunday. In El Paso they attended English and Spanish services at San Pablo Lutheran Church. A Spanish service at Santisima Trinidad in Juarez followed in the afternoon. Even at those services the theme of connections was apparent. One student shared “I was moved by both Spanish services on Sunday because I could see how wide the cultural gap was between us and the congregation, yet because of Christ, I also felt a close unity. The same God that called me to faith also called them.”
Preparation for the servant event began almost a year in advance. In addition to making contacts with YLM, Pr. Avery met regularly with those who planned to participate. He not only prepared the group for the servant event, but shared his experience in organizing short-term mission trips so they would be prepared to do the same in their own congregations. Pr. Avery, worked for LAMP for two years and has been involved with various short-term mission trips for an additional 5 years. The group also considered the relation of short-term missions to long-term mission organizations as well as the benefits and challenges of short-term missions.
The groundwork for this trip had been laid long before the crew from CLS began preparing to leave Canada. The couple who were to receive this addition to their house, Lilia and Jorge, had been on a waiting list for four years. Pr. Hernandez, whose ministry is supported by YLM, identified Lilia and Jorge as ones who should receive assistance. Lilia had met Pr. Hernandez through her friend whose home serves as a preaching station. Now with this addition and the small covered area they plan to create, Pr. Hernandez indicated that this is likely to become the location of a new preaching station for the community. CLS's short-term involvement is not the beginning nor the end of the ministry in Juarez, but a crucial part in the long-term ministry of Ysleta Lutheran Mission.
On the final day of construction, a key ceremony was held along with a community organized lunch. Seminary students Cody Cooper and Keith Hoveland led the service, reading the account of Jesus washing the disciples feet and reminding all gathered why the group from CLS was there: “It is because of Jesus’ example of servanthood and the fact that He died for our salvation that made us want to come and build this addition for you…We pray this building will help you to be a blessing to the whole community.”
The servant event was sponsored in large part by the Missionary Study Centre of CLS as well as with donations from congregations and individuals. The MSC was founded in 1997 to assist in the preparation of ministerial candidates who have mission hearts and are not afraid to cross cultural barriers for the sake of the Gospel.
Read more about our servant event and see more pictures on the YLM site: http://ylm.org/blog/2011/05/24/the-synagogue/