When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the U.S. in June, Northeastern Iowa Synod Bishop Steven L. Ullestad and his wife, Ruth, were on the White House guest list.
"We were surprised by the invitation, but in a conversation [at the White House reception for Merkel], Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (former governor of Iowa) indicated that the president is wanting to affirm faith-based ministries that do outreach in the community," Ullestad said.
For Ullestad, that includes Barnabas Uplift, a faith-based initiative to help people out of poverty, and the Lutheran response to the 2008 immigration raids in Postville, Iowa.
The Ullestads spoke with Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor; President Barack Obama; first lady Michelle Obama; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They attended a state dinner in the Rose Garden, listening to performers James Taylor and the National Symphony Orchestra.
"Just being asked to represent the Northeastern Iowa Synod and the ELCA was an honor, and the people hosting us were very gracious," Ullestad said. "Our conversations were down-to-earth, person-to-person conversations about what is important to us. That I was invited, as a Lutheran bishop, speaks to the work our synod and church do to make a difference in the world."
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