* Lutheran relief organizations affiliated with the ELCA and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod are teaming with local congregations to aid those affected by Montana wildfires. Collectively known as Lutheran Disaster Response, the organizations, which include LCMS World Relief, ELCA Domestic Disaster Response and Lutheran Social Services of Montana, are providing shelter, services and an initial grant of $10,000. The groups are also distributing home air filters for people at greatest risk. As only rain or snow will extinguish the fires, they are expected to burn through early October.
* As Finnish high-tech firms such as Nokia, Perlos and Elcotec have been established in North Texas, the Finnish population in greater Dallas has exceeded 1,000. In April, the ELCA officially recognized the Finnish Lutheran Church of North Texas. The church, which meets at Rejoice Lutheran, Coppell, Texas, uses English and Finnish in its worship services. The church's pastor, Heikki Ahonen, is from Helsinki.
* A Presbyterian was called as pastor of a Lutheran church in Ridgefield Park, N.J. Peter Strand, who serves part time at First Presbyterian Church, will also serve as pastor of Christ Lutheran. Strand will lead a 9 a.m. Sunday service at Christ and an 11 a.m. service at First. The shared pastorate marks the first implementation of the 1997 full communion agreement in New Jersey. More than two dozen similar relationships exist nationwide.
* A construction barrier has become a place of prayer at Carthage College, Kenosha, Wis. The white drywall barrier was put up to block a construction zone. Dean Petersen, the campus pastor who came up with the idea of a prayer wall, said, "What popped into my mind immediately was my experience of visiting the Wailing Wall when I went to Israel a number of years ago." Instead of placing small slips of paper into the wall, as at the Jerusalem site, students, faculty and staff express their prayers by writing and drawing on the wall. The barrier, which receives a fresh coat of paint at the beginning of each school year, will be in place for at least two years.
* When Communists took over South Vietnam in 1975, the Nguyen family was among the 25,000 refugees sponsored by the former American Lutheran Church for resettlement in the United States. Nghi and Ty Nguyen, their nine children and one grandchild, arrived at Ruskin Heights Lutheran Church, Kansas City, Mo., in June 1975. They temporarily lived in the church basement before jobs, a car and a home could be secured for them. In June--25 years after arriving in the United States--the family again met in the church basement for a four-day reunion including social events, Sunday worship and a video documenting the family's history in the United States.
* Fifteen high school students from Our Savior Lutheran in Seneca, Ill.,spent the night in cardboard boxes in the church yard to try to understand what it means to be homeless. The students wheeled borrowed shopping carts around the neighborhood to collect more than 400 coats for a local shelter, after which they spent the night role-playing homeless people. Local police officers came to check on the teens and gave a talk on how they interact with the homeless.
* An endowment in honor of Robert Gandrud, retired Lutheran Brotherhood chairman and CEO, was presented to Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. The endowment, which will operate off an initial investment of $300,000, will be used for stewardship education resources. Initial spending of the earnings will be limited so the fund might support an endowed chair in stewardship.
* A service celebrating the 30th anniversary of women's ordination in the ELCA and its predecessors was celebrated at First Lutheran in Norfolk, Va., June 4. Three women pastors participated in the service, which also included a discussion of women's ordination in a Sunday school forum.
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