It’s Christmas time and undoubtedly many of our minds are focused on our families, holiday preparations, parties and presents. We look forward to the birth of our Savior and celebrate all that He provides. In places around the country and world, especially those affected by disaster, people struggling to have the basic necessities for survival may find it hard to see a reason to celebrate. God has given us generous hearts and at this time of year, thoughts of reaching out with kindness and that generosity strongly come to our hearts and minds.
We work in our communities with and among our neighbors and now we have an opportunity to help in another area–Puerto Rico. Next summer, over the course of two weeks, from July 21 through August 3, a group of mostly adult and some high school-aged volunteers from the state will be working in partnership with Lutheran Social Services of Puerto Rico and serving alongside our Puerto Rican neighbors in their continued process of rebuilding and strengthening communities after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to affect Dominica and Puerto Rico. The hurricane caused catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities across the northeastern Caribbean, with total losses estimated at upwards of $91 billion, mostly in Puerto Rico, ranking it as the third-costliest tropical cyclone on record.
A team of experienced leaders, including Pastor Mark Parker, of Breath of God Lutheran Church, Baltimore, MD is working to bring together the group of adult and youth volunteers from the region. The bulk of work efforts will focus on construction, with a mix of skilled and unskilled volunteers. Our volunteers last year ranged from age 21 to age 70. This summer we will also accept some youth who have already completed 9th grade.
Are You Interested in Being a Volunteer?
If you are interested in being a volunteer, here are a few more details. We will be staying in the Lutheran camp in Maguayo, near Dorado–about 45 minutes west of San Juan. The camp has room for up to sixty volunteers at a time. Volunteers sleep in bunk rooms with twin-sized bunk beds and communal showers–comfortable enough, but nothing fancy. The camp also includes a very nice pool, a chapel, office and storage areas, and a main hall for dining/meeting/organizing/relaxing. It’s a good home for groups like ours.
The general timeline is fly out on Sunday morning/afternoon and fly back on Saturday evening. Volunteers will serve over the course of two weeks from July 21 to August 3. Volunteers may sign up for one or both weeks. Monday through Friday we’ll worked construction doing rebuilding in the morning and the afternoon, with time in the late afternoon/evening for the beach/pool, relaxing and exploring the area. We may have the opportunity to take a half day to head across the island and visit El Yunque, an amazing tropical rain forest or explore in Old San Juan.
Registration opens in January with a deadline of April 1. The first deposit will be due at the close of registration, the second payment will be due May 1 and the final payment July 1. The expected cost is anticipated to be less than $600 for one week and less than $900 for two weeks.
If you are interested in volunteering for this unique and rewarding opportunity, please contact Kelly Thurber, our Mission and Outreach Coordinator. More information–including fundraising opportunities–will be forthcoming, but positions are anticipated to fill up quickly, so please let Kelly know if you are interested so she can keep the regional team up-to-date on our interest levels.
As we get together with our family and friends and share the joy and peace of this holiday season, let us keep those who have suffered loss in our hearts and minds. And look forward to the days when we will have the opportunity to give a broader set of neighbors a Merrier Christmas. Feliz Navidad.
Dec. 21, 2016
Good Samaritan Community,
I want to share with you all this great sense of blessing that I see in our community at Good Sam, both as I look at what God has done among us in 2016 and in what seems to be percolating among us for the year ahead.
In 2016 we took another large step forward into our growing sense of mission as a congregation–learning to fulfill our mission motto “Finding our neighbors along the journey of faith.”
We finished up reading “The Story” together in June and I wish you had heard the abundance of comments I received from so many of you about this experience. Again, and again I heard examples of new insights, new levels of conversation among families, great joy at a bright picture of God’s steadfast and long suffering plan to bring about life and salvation for all who will receive Jesus as Lord. We have several books and DVD lessons in our Library for those who might like to review or take this journey of reading the Bible. It is a wonder to see this whole picture of God working in human lives throughout history to bring people to faith. Let us know if you would like to check out these resources.
Not long after we finished “The Story” we launched into three months of exploring “God’s Work, Our Hands.” This was an ambitious effort with six different organized opportunities to reach out and meet people, making a difference in our community. By the time our September 11th Service of celebrating our efforts rolled around many of us were impressed with what had been accomplished by so many. We hope you too were blessed in these efforts. At our December Council meeting we reflected on the variety of ways that the “God’s Work. Our Hands.” efforts have had ongoing and lasting effects in our families and how it continues to connect us to people in our community. Indeed, God is faithful in working among us.
Our average Worship attendance for 2016 looks like it will be about 108. This is an approximate 10% jump from 2015. Also in 2016, we saw life and energy happen in other ways. We baptized 7 new believers. We welcomed 23 new members by Affirmation of Faith. We received 3 new members by Transfer. This means we welcomed a total of 33 new members to our community. I want you also to know that we have also seen a growing list of active participants as well. This means that there are an additional 29 people who are actively involved and connected to this congregation who are living out their faith lives among us. We began the year anticipating a financial shortfall of about $9,000. Yet, if giving continues as it has so far this year, we may finish 2016 with all our bills paid and some resources left to restore what we have borrowed from designated funds to cover operating costs. Stay tuned for these final numbers, and don’t forget to make your final year-end gifts before January 1. We may have great news to share on this front come January.
We have renewed our efforts to build strong faith nourishment for our children through the “Prayer Buddy” program and please watch this year for another effort we have added called “All Congregational Education Events.” They are happening five different times during the year to call the whole congregation together to celebrate our life, our faith and the ministry we share.
Also, stay tuned early in the year for great news about Music Director hiring and goals for 2017. The year ahead is certainly going to be filled with great stories of God’s faithfulness among us.
Peace and joy to you all, Pastor Mitch
Ever wonder what happens to children who depend on school meals when school is not in session? “Feed the Families” is a summertime mission of St. Mary’s Caring that helps provide food to families at George Washington Carver and Lexington Park Elementary Schools. After food donations from local businesses, growers and volunteers are packaged at each school, families are notified and pick up the boxes. Helping to fill those boxes gives me a sense of connection to our community. Playing a small part in helping feed people who would otherwise go hungry, especially when we ask God’s blessing on the food after we have assembled the boxes, is very humbling and gratifying. It really brings home the meaning of “God’s Work – Our Hands” to me. I’m reminded of Jesus’s words in Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat… whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” May God bless these families, and the ministry of St. Mary’s Caring.
On Sale and Available Now!
“Gods Work. Our Hands.” T-Shirts
Get a shirt, wear it while you are participating in one of the “God’s Work. Our Hands.” (GWOH) activities or projects and be sure to take pictures of yourself and others working at your activity site. We hope to share these photos during our “God’s Work. Our Hands.” Celebration, Sunday, Sept. 11th.
We pre-ordered 40 T-Shirts in various sizes that that are in and available now. Sizes are limited in this first order and there is a sign up sheet on the GWOH bulletin board listing available sizes and qty’s. T-shirts cost $8.00/shirt. You can pay as you pick up you shirt via cash, check (made payable to GSLC with memo line: GWOH T-shirts) or online through “Give.” If you would like a shirt sign your name on the size that you would like. For all other sizes there are order forms available: fill out a form indicating your desired size and we will be placing a new order on August 1st to arrive by September 11th, our “Gods Work. Our Hands.” Celebration and Rally Day.
at the 2015 ELCA National Youth Gathering
Early Servant Project Work Crew
On Saturday July 11, our first wave of High School youth and adult leaders headed off to rendezvous with other LutheranHANDS volunteers to make a difference in the Detroit area before the Gathering. A prayer circle gathering, a few high fives and off they go to make a difference in the world. On Monday there was trash clean-up in teams and on Tuesday they worked food service lines and sorting in a recycling collection warehouse. Let’s surround this team with prayer: Lord, may the communities in which they work be touched by the activity and blessed by the presence of this expression of solidarity and support. May our young people discover you, O God, working through their activity. May we be blessed as they return to tell their stories.
DAYLE (Definitely-Abled Youth Leadership Event) Judy Kowalik writes:
Having a great time in Detroit. We got here late afternoon yesterday after a good trip–hit some heavy rain in Ohio, but made it safely. Had a beautiful worship service last night, then broke into groups. The youth played some icebreaker games and the adults shared what they wanted to get out of our time together. Matt got sick this morning, so we missed out on a trip to a place called Faith in Action. Met up with the group again this afternoon for some very inspirational speeches from four definitely abled people. They spoke about how God has worked through them in spite of and because of their disabilities. I was so humbled by their words. After dinner overlooking the Detroit River, we gathered together for a talent show. Matt danced to Gangnum Style and had everyone clapping and cheering. This has been a wonderful experience so far. Looking forward to meeting up with the rest of the group tomorrow.
The Main Event at the Youth Gathering begins on Wednesday and continue into Sunday afternoon. We are excited to hear about their adventures and discoveries at the Youth Lead Service August 30, at 9 am.
Have you experienced the loss of a close friend, parent or other relative, when you were a child or adolescent? Maybe you know someone who had such an experience. This past weekend (June 6 & 7) Hospice of St. Mary’s held their annual Camp Sunrise, a grief camp for children ages 6-17 who have experienced a death in their lives. Camp Sunrise was developed to address the unique grieving process of children and their developmentally appropriate response to death. Camp Sunrise is an opportunity for children to learn how to express their feelings and thoughts on the loss of their loved one, honor and remember their loved one, and connect with other children who have experienced loss.
Serving as a mentor for a few of the Camp Sunrise attendees was my privilege and honor. The young people participated in art activities, horse related activities, canoeing, yoga, swimming and many other opportunities to connect with each other and work on their grief. It was an opportunity to walk alongside young people who have very deep needs for love and support. If you would like to know more about Camp Sunrise, or other opportunities for bereavement support or end of life care available through Hospice of St. Mary’s, please contact me.
One of the best ways to build up a community is to share the stories that highlight where God moments have happened. Have you had a connection with a neighbor that seemed to suggest to you God was present and working? We want to hear from you! This summer we are prepared to make time in worship for you to share your stories of seeing God at work in the relationships or connections around you. Please tell Pastor Mitch about your experience and think about volunteering to share your story during our Mission Focus spotlight time. You can also write your story on a 3×5 card and place it on the Mission Focus Bulletin Board in the Fellowship Hall. By doing this, we can see the multitude of ways where God is at work among us.
Perhaps you have already heard of our plan to introduce “The Story” as this Falls thematic focus. This note is to introduce the vision for the idea, and solicit your support and engagement as we plan to include the whole church in this Fall Focus.
“The Story” is the story of God’s people and God’s relationship with God’s people. It is an abridged version of the Bible, written with chronological fluidity – so that you can read and understand the story as a whole, from Abraham to Jesus. It is my vision that we introduce and deliver “The Story” at all levels and all groups within Good Sam, so that we can all interact and engage with this rich story, at church, at home and in all of our small groups for the entire church year. “The Story” has both reading materials and companion resources for adults, teens, 9-12 year-olds, 4-8 year-olds and pre-schoolers. I want to introduce The Story so that entire families of all ages can embrace the topic together. It will be embedded in the sermons and in our worship service and it is my hope that all of you will include it in some way, to some depth, with your classes or groups. There are many different ways to do so.
Please explore the materials in my office for all age groups (you might have to take turns) and explore the resources on line – www.TheStory.com/resourcelibrary. There are books and videos and study guides. The curriculum is broken up into 31 weeks – which we’ll do throughout the year, taking breaks appropriately for Christmas and Easter. You can engage at many levels, with many different resources. I have a group of leaders engaged already to help with this Fall Focus – Ginger L., Sue V., Jason V. and Drew H. We will invite you to meet with us after worship on June 7th to identify which resources you would like to use next September and how many of each we should order. Thank you for what you do at Good Sam. We welcome your input and feedback on how we can effectively introduce this Fall Focus and immerse ourselves in The Story.
Pastor Mitch and The Story Leadership Team
Mission Focus is underway and we hope you will participate. We have crafted a list of ideas for where and how you might connect with a neighbor. Please join us in “Finding our Neighbors along the Journey of Faith.” Pick up your Mission Focus Logo (magnet) and “Idea-list” from Chris V. today if you didn’t get yours last week. You can also have an extra if you would like. Ask Chris about this too.
Don’t be alarmed, everything points to goodsam.community.
You might have noticed that if you go to goodsamlutheran.com you find yourself at goodsam.community. It’s not an accident. Our new website is now active and all our web presence activities are easily found here at goodsam.community. This is true for the news blog we have been writing called By the Way. All of these news items are now on our new website under “Good Sam News.” Give it a look. Go to goodsam.community and click on the menu item called “Good Sam News.” You will find all our By The Way content right there. You can also sign up to receive email posts of new articles as they are published. We will continue to send our Wednesday e-news called “Connections @ Good Sam” and you can get highlights from Good Sam News there as well. Our goal is to help you stay connected with easy sources for information, updates and interesting news about life at Good Sam.