Help Leena Learn in Tanzania This Summer

26 05 2017

I’m taking a risk and have partially paid for a study abroad adventure in Tanzania this summer! This class is  one more check off the graduation requirements list for my Master of Divinity Program at Seattle Pacific Seminary. Students in cohorts from my seminary entry year and earlier have a cross-cultural Immersion study abroad class option to fulfill a particular requirement. If you want the travel option you kind of have to jump onboard as they are offered and if it is of interest to you or you need to graduate because our program doesn’t offer trips every summer. 

I technically could wait another year or two and wasn’t sure how I’d afford this trip, but my husband convinced to take a risk (or leap in faith) and apply for the trip because:

 (1) because as mom and congregational child/youth/Christian Education minister when will this kind of opportunity so blatantly present itself? 

And (2) because, he reminded me – Africa in general and Tanzania specifically, was the place that I always said I wanted to travel to learn about and experience the culture. as a child, teen, and before I became a mother. I was shocked I actually forgot how much I desired this opportunity in the past and apparently life has taken me other directions in the past 20 years. 

This Tanzanian travel dream is dusted off and making a comeback now that I’ve turned 40. Our trip is coming up quickly  – July 8-27, 2017 – Would you like to join me and be on my “Leena Learns in Tanzania Support Team“? 

You’re invited to support me through prayer, encouragement and learning with me as I learn in Tanzania via following my blog (you’re reading  it) and/or joining a little Facebook group for trip tidbits and updates that I just created. 

If you’d like to help support me financially with a few dollars or several you can donate via my page or contact me directly for offline donation options. 

I hope you’ll choose to join me on this adventure one way or another!


Teaching children about Peace at Advent – a real life experience

10 12 2012
Our home Advent Wreath

Our home Advent Wreath


So I came up with an original idea for a children’s sermon yesterday. So often I am ¬† pressed for time and drained of creativity that I lean on the inspiration and wisdom of others for a 3-5 minute children’s sermon. I’ll share my fave resources later in this post. It was the second Sunday in advent and I live to educate the children (and congregation) about the happenings of the liturgical church year. The second candle in the advent wreath is often a symbol of peace – the first candle symbolizing hope.

I have a lot of “quirky” favorite hymns/songs for Advent and Christmas and one particularly beautiful song was running through my mind. I realized it would be PERFECT for talking about Peace. Looking at the words of “Before the Marvel of this Night” I read it as a poem describing God’s commissioning of his angels before they visited the shepherds and the world with their message of “Jesus is born! To God be the glory!”. Is also read it as a commissioning for believers to go and tell our world about the gift of peace that comes to all of us through Jesus. So I crafted a children’s talk where I asked the kiddos to imagine they were Angels on a mission and to hear God’s instructions to them before going to the world.
I was so excited, it was awesome and beautiful all at the same time.

Fast forward to real time and actual giving of children’s sermon – I start up and their are a few usual distractions – of other people’s children – just the littlest ones getting used to coming up for a talk, etc (which by the way – if the parents are reading this – does not bother me at all!!).

Then I read the poem.

As I am reading I look down at my feet and see my two daughters (one is 5 years old and one is 8 years old) fighting over a pencil. I finish reading and as I am commissioning the children and adults to go out into the world as agents of peace, I calmly reach down and pluck the pencil out of their hands, and keep talking. I’m puzzled because my 8 yr old is still very frustrated squealing in a whisper “mommy she won’t give it back” over and over. I can see there is something my 5 yr old is guarding with her life but I don’t know what it is. They keep playing keep-away while I continue to talk about being agents of peace. My girls clearly are not getting what wisdom their mother was attempting to impart to them (perhaps God feels this way often?). So to make sure they are listening I stress ways we can bring peace – including to our brothers and SISTERS and PARENTS. (Insert congregational giggle here) and they keep on fighting. I swear they were oblivious. So I wrap it up with a prayer and sending children off to class — and then, in the hallway, help my daughters make peace with one another over a satsuma orange one swiped from the other.

I’ll have to introduce them to the musical version of “Before the Marvel of this Night”, maybe they’ll finally understand peace??
Read the rest of this entry »

How Dare You…

6 11 2012

…these are the words than kept running through my mind as I sat in a local coffee shop this afternoon pouring over church work. In the background, I overheard a very frustrating political conversation. In my mind, it was very much an example of how NOT to mentor someone and I wanted to walk over and say “How Dare You..”, but I didn’t know how, so I prayed for them as they spoke behind me.

To preface my vent, I’ll let you know that politically I am more independent than liberal or conservative, but probably somewhat of a conservative liberal if I must choose. Regardless, my political viewpoint isn’t what matters here. Anyways, this older woman was very loudly talking to an obviously developmentally-delayed young woman. They were discussing current local political issues – like marriage equality and what it means to vote like a Christian.

The older woman was quite obviously, vehemently, against anything/anyone that supported homosexual relationships. I didn’t know the relationship between these two women, but I could tell the older woman was in someway a mentor/guidance type of person in the young woman’s life. The young woman would ask a very basic question and state her belief and the older woman retorted back.. ” Ok, I hear you, but you really shouldn’t think that way. If you want to make Christian choices you need to believe this way..” And she proceeded to tell her how she was wrong and what she needed to believe. I think what irked me the most was not the older woman’s beliefs but the condescending tone she took to this woman with developmental disabilities. It sounded like such an abusive conversation, like she was taking advantage of the young lady’s disability – treating her as weak and vulnerable and assuming she was unable to make any sound moral judgments. It was as if she didn’t believe this young woman was capable of being Christian without being forced into believing the truth.

I don’t know if this makes any sense. But I simply could not believe someone was so blatantly rude and demeaning like that in a public setting. I pray that the young woman has other mentor in her life who wills treat her with dignity and belief that she is capable of making an informed – not spoon fed – decision. I prays that the older woman will stop abusing others as she seeks to educate.

I pray that we all can treat those who my seem to have different abilities and beliefs with respect – and give them an ounce of credit simply for wanting to be informed. Give them guidance, empowerment, and a voice. And re-direction if needed – but never in a demeaning manner. I especially need to remember this in my life. God give me the strength.

Oh the Places We Go

1 10 2010

You know how when you’re young and you have dreams of what your future will be like and then all that changes (well maybe for some it doesn’t, that’s OK). I try to remember my dreams … I know I wanted to be an astronaut, a country singer (don’t make fun!), and then finally a doctor. Now there were a few folks in my home church, Camano Lutheran, who were encouraging me to pursue being a pastor or a ministry leader of some sort. I stayed active as a youth involved in volunteer leadership opportunities but never thought of it as a profession really.

Even went to college to be a doctor, calculus and chemistry classes killed that dream right away. Through that painful realization in college that I’d officially be weeded out of the pre-med track I trudged on and learned other important things about my self. I learned I wanted to be a doctor because I care about people and because my parents both held roles as registered nurses and fire fighters so naturally I needed to practice medicine as well. I remember being really scared to call home and tell my mom that I needed to drop the classes because I was failing them, I was surprised that there was no tone of disappointment in her voice (I still remember it practically 15 years later). That gave me enough confidence to face my Chemistry professor and tell him I needed to drop the class. The really cool thing about him (Dr. Waldow if I remember correctly) is he not only was OK with me dropping the class but he asked me what I was passionate about, what did I think was next. Concurrently I pursued a double major in Religion and was discovering I had an interest in studying the Bible and other religions – the history, interpretations, etc. So maybe somehow I’d be a pastor or something, but I’m female and that would be really hard. He told me he thought that was a great idea and to go with the dream if I sensed a call. I had several soul-searching conversations with close friends, and with Doug whom I had just started dating in our sophomore year. Doug kept saying what ever I decided he would support me, and that if we were still together and I wanted to go to seminary he would follow me there. I transferred to a Bible college (Trinity Lutheran College in Everett) and graduated with a B.A. in Youth & Family ministry.
Well, fast-forward 14 years later and I’m not an ordained pastor but I’m a church minister — I struggle with describing my role because it involves coordinatin not only children’s ministry, Sunday School, youth ministry, but family ministry, nursery ministry, and supporting adult education with resources and finding leaders. There are a few other hats under all of that. Who knew that I was going to be doing such a thing in ministry? Who knew that I’d also be balancing life as a wife and a mother. For some reason I never dreamed about being married, probably because of my parents divorcing when I was younger. But I always prayed, looking out my window at the night sky, that I would come upon someone who would really love me and be true to me and stick around. So far at 10 years of marriage plus 4 years dating, and two kiddos later, I think Doug and I are doing well. Not to say there haven’t been any trials, but we’ve only grown stronger working through the tough times together. God knew and God knows.
This week I’ve made yet another trek on my own to the Lifeserve ministry conference. Last year I ventured off to Colorado and this year we’re in Columbus, Ohio. To be honest with you, last year I saw the description come through a few emails and basically ignored them. Then I read through the full details one day and thought, wow – that is exactly the type of conference I’ve been praying to come my way. Something that helps me put all my ministry areas in perspective and concentrate on equipping and empowering volunteer leaders. I still pushed it aside though because nobody else I knew had ever heard of such a thing. Shortly after, I participated in a free online ministry training called The Nines. Someone in this video conference said ” you need to take care of yourself, seek out leaders/colleagues in your area of ministry. If that means attending a conference that isn’t popular among your colleagues but interests you – then be a leader and go learn!”. It seemed that pastor was speaking right to me, God speaking right to me. I knew what I had to do, that day I typed up a proposal of the costs (researched registration, hotel, airfare, etc) and sent an email off to a few folks to see what they thought. Everyone, to my surprise, said go for it. So I did. 
That first LifeServe Conference was seriously scary because it was the first time I went to something out of state where I knew absolutely NOBODY. I don’t know how many people know this about me but I don’t even go to movies on my own (I did once for therapy homework – then I had children and lost that opportunity!) I only recently in the past few years started going and sitting in a coffee shop or a restaurant on my own with my laptop to do work. I guess when I went to Trinity Lutheran College I went there knowing no one, BUT I had been to the campus for other events and I knew several people who’d attended or spoke highly of the school. Lifeserve nobody had ever heard of and didn’t seem interested in going along with me. It ended up being a somewhat interested experience (transportation-wise) but overall it was exactly what I needed for support and encouragement in my ministry. And the reason nobody had heard of it is because that was the first ever LifeServe conference.
So I’m back again this year and it is going pretty well. I’ll save what I’m learning in another blog post. There are some things I’m more confident about … forcing myself to search for people on Twitter who are at the conference and tweeting using the #Lifeserve tag and I met a guy…yeah I know that sounds bad, but it isn’t THAT kind of meeting a guy. Someone else who holds the same position in a similar sized congregation in Indiana, it is his first LS conference and we’re in similar workshops/affinity group. So I was so bold as to invite him to join me for dinner last night b/c neither of us knew anyone else and he was amazed to find someone with a ministry position like his. It was fun to chat shop and turns out he is married as well, so chatting about how we balance family and ministry (if at all sometimes). We added to our group today for dinner (I found someone else from WA State- wahoo!! – last year I was the only one). It has been fun to have conversations with others to debrief the workshops we’re taking and how we can apply what we’re learning to our lives and ministry. My workshops track today has caused me to do some deeper thinking about my role and passions and call. Still much to figure out but it was exciting to discover some things about my personal leadership style and what God may be calling me to… because he created me that way. Don’t worry LCPC’ers it doesn’t involve leaving the church (I don’t think). 
There’s a little bit about the places I’ve gone that I never imagined possible, fears I’ve overcome, people who’ve encouraged me along the way, how God has provided when I’ve trusted and had faith that Gd will provide.
Where have you gone in your life journey? What fears have you overcome? Who has encouraged you in your life.
Peace. ~L

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