1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
–Acts 2: 1-4
I feel a bit fiery today…No, it’s not the blazing wildfires out west—though our thoughts and prayers are with you. No, it’s not the 100+ degree temperature here in Chicago. I’m burning up internally over the issue of just participation.
First, something you know about me. I am a student of political science. I studied political science, because I believe that people should be able to understand, access, participate in and change the systems that govern their lives and communities.
Second, something you may not know about me. If I could be any super heroine, I would be “Pentecost Flame”– or something that sounds cooler. I would be able to speak and understand any language.
But what does that have to do with anything?
I was blessed to spend 17 days in Bogotá, Colombia with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Council. I sit as one of five members from North America with this international group. This time around, I also had the great joy and privilege of chairing the “Advocacy and Public Voice” committee. The main mandate of that group is to discuss and work on the statements and resolutions the LWF Council will make.
During this meeting, we worked diligently on three statements and three resolutions:
- Statement 1: Nigeria
- Statement 2: Colombia
- Statement 3: Central America
- Resolution 1: Middle East
- Resolution 2: Rio +20
- Resolution 3: Financial Transaction Tax
For me, the greatest gift of the Lutheran World Federation, of which the ELCA is a member church, is the relationships and the contextual experiences. As we crafted statements in our committee, we had a woman from Nigeria, Titi, who was able to talk about the increasing violence and subsequent precautions being taken at her own congregation. We had LWF Bishop President Munib A. Younan speak with us about the most current Palestine-Israel issues. We had a group of LWF youth and people from the member church in Brazil present as Rio +20 got underway. Our global Lutheran family, our communion, is full of “experts.” YOU, we are the experts of our own stories.
But what if what is seen as “expert” is only measurements and formal reports? What if you’re being asked to work on a draft text in English, from materials only available in English—but English is your third or fourth language? Yes, the gift of Pentecost was the gift of hearing each in one’s own language, but what if the translation booths simply aren’t tuned into the “miracle” station?
Friends, I have grown weary (and frankly angry) of the reply that “resources,” financial or human, are to blame. If full and just participation is the true goal…resources will follow.
So, ELCA World Hunger Leaders and other readers… What are our true goals? Where are our resources going? As we look to become a more diverse network—in all respects—what things need to change about how we do business so that all may feel the “rush of a violent wind” and to speak as the Spirit has given ability?
You know and I know that this is an uncomfortable question, but these are tasks we are about. Accompaniment isn’t about ease of living and being together. It’s about truly knowing, understanding and working with and alongside one another.
So come, day of Pentecost! You can come more than one Sunday and season a year—keep us mindful and ablaze with your light and encouragement.
Be faithful friends. Have faith. Be consumed by the call to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). We all need a bit of fire once in while…how else can something new find space to grow?
2When you pass through the waters, I will be you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
Mikka serves as program director for constituent engagement and interpretation with ELCA World Hunger. To join the network and for more information on how you can get involved, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.