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Youth from Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Fort Morgan, Colo., and Shepherd of the Hills, Fort Collins, Colo., build six garden boxes for a new community garden that Redeemer sees as an outreach to new members of the community.

and they were learning along with us. I remember how willing and excited they were to teach us.”

New horizons: Sustainable service This summer Sky Ranch piloted three new Four Winds programs: a week of community service in Salt Lake City; an urban service partnership in Denver with DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection); and a venture with Lutheran Church of our Redeemer, Fort Morgan, that offers resources to the immigrants and refugees who make up 10 percent of the city’s population of 12,000.

Andy Sprain, Sky Ranch associate director, developed these programs with the ELCA’s accompaniment model in mind (mission as a two-way street where participants are both givers and receivers). Sprain said it began when he and other staff asked, “Who is our neighbor? How can we love and serve them? How can we be present, and what do we have to offer?”

The answer: local and regional partnerships that could be sustained year-to-year (and potentially year-round) through opportunities for Lutheran campus ministry stu- dents or congregational groups to stay involved beyond the summer season. Last fall Jenny Kalous, director of faith formation at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Fort Collins, was contemplating options for a summer high school trip. “My kids came back from [the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering] and wanted to go to Madagascar,” she said. But at a youth directors’ meeting, Kalous heard Sprain describe a Four Winds program working with immi- grants and refugees. Immigration isn’t new in rural Fort Morgan, Sprain said. Latino immigrants have been moving there for decades to work at the city’s largest employer, a meat pro- cessing plant. But in recent years crackdowns by Immi- gration and Customs Enforcement and demographic shifts have brought in new arrivals, many of them immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers from African countries. As these new neighbors adjust to rural American life, long- time residents have been challenged to accept the increas- ingly multicultural character of their community. Sprain told the youth directors that Sky Ranch campers would be hosted by Redeemer while volunteering with organizations that help individuals and families settle in Fort Morgan. Kalous thought it was a perfect way for her

youth to form cross-cultural relationships with their north- ern Colorado neighbors. She texted Sprain in the middle of his presentation: “I’m in.” This past June youth from Kalous’ congregation joined those from Redeemer for a week at Sky Ranch followed by a week on the plains. They visited with immigrants and heard their stories of coming to the U.S. They helped candidates study for the U.S. citizenship test. The youth also spent an afternoon playing with students from the elementary school.

Emily Bishop, Sky Ranch coordinator for the Fort

Morgan site, is a senior at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Wash., and member of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Westlake, Ohio. Bishop said campers were sur- prised to hear stories of global proportions “from someone who lives half an hour away. They see commercials with poor kids [living overseas]; that’s not all there is. These stories are local and they’re close to home.” Camper Austin Blaho, a 2013 high school graduate and member of Shepherd of the Hills, agreed: “It has been amazing. The community has been really welcoming to us.”

Attending the citizenship class, Blaho added, “made me think about what we take for granted in terms of citizenship.” Laura Lenczycki, a junior at Shepherd of the Hills, also found the citizenship class inspiring. She worked with a man who was “trying to pay attention to the teacher and also trying to get his daughter to give him extra tutoring, going over letters and sounds and words, over and over again,” she said.

Lenczycki marveled that the people she met “have been here for three, four, even seven years … and they’re working so hard for this.”

Campers also spent time constructing raised garden beds for Redeemer. A cookout, movie night and band con- cert brought the campers together with community mem- bers to celebrate new friendships. It reminded campers and staff alike that relationships are as important as work projects, and whether you are born and raised in Colorado or Kenya, as Bishop said, “people are people.” It’s an insight that Sprain hopes will take root and flourish for all Four Winds participants: that what matters are not only work projects but relationships; that service benefits those who are served as well as shaping those who serve. “It’s a way … to teach faith formation and liv- ing out the gospel,” Sprain said.

While Sky Ranch continues to mean ministry “on the mountaintops,” Sprain is confident that it will also mean coming down the mountain to encounter Christ through service. 

August 2013 15

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