Reflecting on a Walk of Courage

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Our recent Walk of Courage Award Gala was such a special evening. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service honored two remarkable leaders, Mahnaz Afkhami and the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Senft. It was a night filled with stories of courage, resilience, faith, hope and love of the neighbors that God gives to us.

For those who were not able to be with us, I want to share the brief videos we used to introduce Mahnaz and Ken.

Take a few minutes to watch these videos. I know you will be inspired, as I am, by Mahnaz’s courageous story and the many God-given gifts Ken has shared with a broken world.

As Ken came forward to receive our Walk of Faith Award and the entire room rose to their feet with applause, I had this to say:

Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Ken… this is the understatement of the century when it comes to your life of service to refugees, to society’s most vulnerable and to the church.

You shaped my life personally as a young adult in the church, and so much more importantly you have saved countless lives, given refugees back their dreams for a future, and truly transformed the face of America by the hospitality you have called us to extend to newcomers.

It is a true privilege for me to present to you Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service’s Walk of Faith Award.  

SenftAfkhamiAwardees
The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Senft and Mahnaz Afkhami, awardees at the 2015 Walk of Courage Award Gala.

That evening I was also pleased to recognize Mahnaz Afkhami with the Walk of Courage Award. Her courage shines through in her tenacity in the face of exile from her native Iran and her service as a leading international women’s rights advocate.

Mahnaz spoke eloquently on the communities of support that are critical to the wellbeing and success of migrants and refugees. She specifically mentioned her mother, a strong woman who has been her life-long role model, and her supportive husband and brothers.

As the video shows, Mahnaz faced uncertainty and fear for herself and her family. Despite the adversity, Mahnaz persevered and has continued to advocate for women across the globe.

Nyamal Tutdeal, emcee
Nyamal Tutdeal, who’s South Sudanese family was resettled in the United States, was emcee for the 2015 Walk of Courage Award Gala.

At the Walk of Courage Award Gala we invited guests to make an extra gift to support life-saving work welcoming Syrian refugees to America and caring for unaccompanied children and families fleeing horrific violence in Central America. I made an extra gift to LIRS that night – and I noted it was in honor of Ken and Jo Senft. I hope you might consider joining me with a gift in their honor – it would make such a difference and is such a fitting recognition of their service.

Thank you for walking with refugees and for walking with LIRS in this work of welcome.

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