Later this summer, one of our own, Ben Smith will be heading to Madagascar for a year!
The following are Ben’s own words about this upcoming adventure, and what it’s about.
Young Adults in Global Mission is a program of the ELCA for young adults, aged 21-29, to share in the journeys of companion churches and programs. This year I will be one of 89 young adults going into service in 11 countries, and one of the 10 young adults serving in Madagascar.
When I tell people I’ll be in Madagascar next year the next question I’m usually asked is “What will you be doing there?” Right now the answer is “I don’t know!” There is an expectation that I am working to accomplish some grand objective. I am leaving to become a stranger in a new country. To be welcomed by a family and community, to share their story, to walk alongside them in Christ. I’ve been told if I like to sing, I’ll be made part of the church choir: if I don’t like to sing, I’ll still find myself in the choir! They love to sing.
Madagascar is an island off the east coast of Africa that is roughly the size of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi combined. Home to 22 million people, including 3 million Lutherans, it is one of the poorest countries in the world with 80% of the population living on less than $2 a day. In the south, a severe drought has left over a million people facing severe hunger.
In the past Young Adults in Mission have taught at schools for the deaf, worked at hospitals and clinics, or even worked on a farm–all ministries supported by the Malagasy Lutheran Church. Or I may be working with those affected by the drought in the south. Wherever I end up I’ll become an English teacher, formally or informally, because there will always be at least a few people who want to learn English whenever they can. I don’t know where I’ll be living: in the city or out in a rural community where I might get an hour of electricity a day. I’ve heard stories of having to run milk through cheesecloth, to remove the hard, dirt and other stuff and then boiling it before I can drink it.
So, what drives an otherwise (mostly) rational human being to leave his home to become a stranger halfway around the world? I grew up in this congregation. I went to Camp Lutherock with Pastor Jack for confirmation, an amazing experience! Five years ago I returned to Lutherock as a counselor, where I found great joy serving as part of the body of Christ. The next summer, while I was looking to build upon my experience at Lutherock, Pastor Jack and Pastor Shelly introduced me to Pastor Kevin Jacobsen, the ELCA missionary to Suriname. On September 19,2012, with the support of Our Savior, I arrived in Suriname to live and work at an orphanage, Olga Clarck Kinderhuis, for the next three and a half months.
I have so much I could say about my time in Suriname. Living and working with the 2 houseparents and fifty children I learned so much and had such an amazing experience. What biggest realization was perhaps how much I had to learn. I was relying on 10 year olds to show me how to cook, how to do my laundry and use the washing machine. I was supposed to be watching over them, but I’m pretty sure they were taking care of me!
Since then, I have served on the Synod Global Mission Committee and worked with our synod’s four companions churches: Cuba, Haiti, Suriname and Guyana. I’ve come to greatly value serving in the spirit of accompaniment: walking alongside our global companions in a manner that practices mutuality, interdependence and solidarity. But I’ve felt the pull back to the other side of global mission: international service. So, all I could say was, “Here am I, send me.”
Isn’t that a great story? We love Ben and having him be a part of this wonderful ministry that helps build bridges in our world, instead of how so much of what goes on is about breeding hate and divisions. The cost to send one of these young adults into the mission field for the year is $13,000. In accepting this call, Ben has been asked to raise $4000 of this. If you would like to help support Ben in this ministry you can make a gift online here. Or simply make out a check to Our Savior, and send it in or put it in the offering plate and mark on the memo line, “Ben Smith.” If you’d like to be on his email list for sending back reports from Madagascar, reply to this email and we’ll pass along that information. Or if you’d like to email Ben directly his address is: SLBenjamin00@gmail.com.
God bless you, Ben, and we look forward to hearing from you and sharing your stories as the year unfolds.
Have a blessed week! See you in church!
Pastor Jack Diehl +