On July 8 at 10 p.m. Kathryn Franzenburg boarded a plane in Anchorage, Alaska. She arrived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the next morning at 9:30 and drove four hours to reach the ELCA Global Mission Event in La Crosse, Wis., July 9-12. She'd crossed 3,561 miles to join 2,036 others at the first of three summer GMEs. A fourth is planned for October in Puerto Rico.
Many participants are regulars at these annual events; some come with extended families. Accompanied by his mother, brother and grandparents, 9-year-old Joshua Thompson of Keller, Texas, has three events under his belt; this was his fourth. Rich Froehlig of Burnsville, Minn., brought nearly half his family of 15 children and 14 grandchildren (all were invited).
Deanna Isaacson, an ELCA missionary in Liberia, shared stories of hope as that country experiences peace for the first time this decade. Her hour session on Liberia was one of 85 global university "courses" offered. Through her stories, missionary Twila Schock took participants to the soup kitchen ministry of the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy that feeds 1,000 pensioners daily. And missionaries Natanael Lizarazo and Barbara Wangsness shared stories of hope and challenge as they minister in civil war-ridden Colombia.
Each participant chose seven courses to attend during the four days of worship, Bible study, prayer and songfests. The Saturday afternoon "globalfest" offered ethnic foods, music from several cultures and interactive displays. Saturday night's treat was a presentation of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat by Iowa City's Zion [Lutheran] Theater Ministry, which has more than 40 years of theatrical experience.
Franzenburg was glad she made the long journey. She was revitalized by the event's theme, "Communicate Hope," and its activities. "It's exciting to see the whole church from all over the world here. How quickly we feel a sense of commonality," she said. "This event offers unlimited opportunities to share the gospel story."
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers