Folabi Olagbaju is the LIRS National Grassroots Director. One important part of his work involves visiting Lutheran churches, synods, and districts across the country to share the work of LIRS and invite congregants to get involved with grassroots efforts at the local and national levels. Today, Folabi shares his recent experience visiting St. John’s Lutheran Church in North Carolina:
On Sunday, July 6th, I had the privilege of worshiping and speaking at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Salisbury, North Carolina. The presentation, focusing on immigration reform, was part of the church’s Glocal (Global+Local) Ministry series.
The invitation to present was truly a great opportunity to engage Lutherans in a key state for promoting immigration reform; in 2013, the North Carolina Synod overwhelmingly passed an immigration reform resolution. The speaking engagement included speaking at the Contemporary Service, giving a presentation on LIRS, our 75th Anniversary and the broad range of the work of the organization to a combined Adult Education Forum, and speaking at the regular service.
When Pastor Rhodes Woolly, Senior Pastor at St. John’s, called to go over the details of the Contemporary Service, I was not sure who was more nervous—him or I. I told him that I was not a Lutheran (yet) and had never preached to the choir before, let alone a whole congregation. We laughed and he assured me that it would be fine, I would do great, and that the congregation was a nice and easygoing crowd. And he was right!
The church did a wonderful job of promoting my speaking engagement and produced special LIRS-branded program booklets. My message lasted about 15 minutes. I shared my story as an immigrant, connected it to those of other immigrants, and spoke about the current humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children from Central America. I also discussed how 4th of July, when we celebrate that which is best in America, a country of immigrants, is a great opportunity to reflect upon how we currently treat immigrants in our midst. I touched on the biblical basis for welcoming the sojourner and how Jesus would have us relate to the unaccompanied children fleeing for safety from terrible conditions in their home countries and seeking to be reunited with loved ones here. As it were, the church had a big delegation on a mission to Guatemala that weekend, including Pastor Rhodes. The speech was well-received and I was deeply humbled to get a big applause at the end.
Many congregants shared their dismay at the crisis of unaccompanied children with me while at the receiving line after the service and asked what they can do to help. There are many ways to support and protect these children, from becoming foster parents, to petitioning the government for support.
It was truly a very fulfilling trip filled with warm Southern hospitality and Lutheran compassion!