Answer: 32 sponsor visits, 22 sermons, 8 children’s messages, 18 presentations, and 9000 miles. What’s the question?
Every two years, long-term missionaries return to the United States for two months of home-assignment leave. During this time, the missionaries and Global Mission churchwide staff meet together, often at the Summer Missionary Conference. Most of their time is spent meeting with their sponsors to tell the stories of the mission and ministries in their place of service. Below, Marcia Holman, an ELCA missionary based in Jerusalem, shares what “home-assignment leave” meant for her and her husband, the Rev. Mark Holman. Mark serves as pastor for the English-speaking congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem. Marcia’s service centers on community development and education.
Our home-leave assignment began in Philadelphia in June and ended in Minneapolis in August. Along the way we enjoyed visiting 32 of our sponsoring congregations. The itinerary included 22 sermons, 8 children’s sermons, 18 presentations, and countless potluck suppers–where we sampled everyone’s hot dishes and favorite comfort food. From beginning to end we drove nearly 9,000 miles before returning the beautiful “summer loaner” car to the extraordinarily generous Dan and Anne Ritter from Trinity Lutheran Church in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.
Throughout our visits, we were heartened by the level of knowledge – and hunger for more information – that people had for peace and justice issues related to the Middle East. Many were well informed about how the ELCA stands in solidarity, particularly with struggling Palestinian Christians living in Jerusalem and the West Bank. People were not only staying abreast of information in local and national media, they had also been reading some of the fine ELCA resources, including the “Peace Not Walls” materials and The Lutheran magazine. It was an exhausting journey, at the same time when heading back to Jerusalem, we felt supported and encouraged to return to the vital ministry in a land both holy and troubled.
–Marcia Holman is an ELCA missionary based in Jerusalem.