Showcase 2012: The Top Ten Unique Qualities of River of Life
As presented by River of Life's 2011 Church Council at the annual meeting January 22, 2012. Click here to see this list in a .pdf newsletter form with color photos!
10. Sharing our building with non-profits: Shelter, Loaves & Fishes, Youth Enterprise: This was a year of big changes for each of our 3 main building partners. We opened the gym for an emergency winter shelter run by St. Stephen’s Human Services in January 2011, and reopened for a 2nd season in Nov 2011. The kitchen remodel was completed in September with great financial support from the teams who serve at Loaves and Fishes. There are enough funds left over to remodel the bathrooms too! Youth Enterprise asked to expand, and should be ready to open a t-shirt shop for girls right alongside the existing shop for guys on the 3rd floor, in early 2012. We continue to work on filling our space so that the building can become self-sustaining.
9. Prayer shawls: This ministry has been a great blessing to every recipient since 2008. Members in the nursing home or hospital or their own homes speak so warmly about the prayer shawls and how they feel wrapped in the prayers of the congregation. Any member can request a shawl to give to someone they care about, who is struggling. To date, more than 45 shawls have been blessed and given.
8. Hosting regional Liberian events: In the fall of 2009, we hosted a screening, speaker, meal and workshops around the film Pray the Devil Back to Hell about the war in Liberia. In the spring of 2010, we hosted the Midwest celebration for the 150th anniversary of the Lutheran Church in Liberia. In August 2012, we will host the first conference of ALLIA, the Association of Liberian Lutherans in the Americas! This gives River of Life members plenty of opportunities to lead not only on a congregational level, but for the region.
7. Balancing both Western & African musical styles: Two very different styles of music bring RoL members alive, and we are striving to balance them more and more in our worship. Steve Grove and Presley Karnuah are not only sharing the choir conducting role, but together are creating a unique songbook, including Liberian songs for which we have not previously had written music. We look to the choir to teach and lead the way, getting the whole congregation to sing and come alive with each other’s music!
6. Ecumenical partnerships: In the last 3 years our pulpit exchanges, soccer matches, joint confirmation program and joint Watch Night services have shown us how fruitful it can be to worship, fellowship and learn together! We began playing soccer versus St. Andrew’s Episcopal this past summer, had Watch Night for the 3rd year in a row with Mt. Zion International Ministries, and share our confirmation program with Salem Lutheran, Christ English Lutheran and North United Methodist.
5. Youth leadership opportunities: For the 3rd year in a row, River of Life was a strong partner with 4 other churches in creating and running a 2-night overnight Vacation Bible School at St. Olaf College. This year older high school youth took leadership for those in grades 4-9. U-Jay and Sam were much beloved teen leaders.
4. Connecting immigrants with established U.S. Lutheran institutions: In addition to the ELCA African Nationals Summit in Chicago (where this picture was taken), River of Life African members have connected with the ELCA Malaria Campaign, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Global Health Ministries and Luther Seminary. River of Life brings a new perspective to these predominantly white church-related institutions, and is a way into the immigrant community. We are also a reminder that the Lutheran church has always been comprised of immigrants (although the last waves of Germans and Scandinavians came awhile ago).
3. All Stars: Many churches have a seniors ministry, but few have a relationship with someone like Chef Jeff Riley. His crew from Nicollet Square (a housing complex for formerly homeless young adults) prepare and serve delectable meals. While the students learn catering, we show great appreciation for their growing skills.
2. Freely sharing our faith stories: Each week during Community Time we share prayer requests and testimonies. Over the summer of 2011, members told stories or taught songs that connected their lives with the Old Testament Bible characters we read about. 2 members told stewardship stories in October, and 3 parents told faith stories with the nativity program! In the new year, adults from the congregation were “interviewed” during the children’s message about Bible verses that have special meaning to them.
1. Cross-cultural friendships: River of Life is a faith community where people from different cultures worship, serve, and have fellowship together! We know deeply the truth of Galatians 3:28 “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”