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“Well, what did you learn?”

It’s been nearly two weeks since the 17 of us returned from the Women of the ELCA 25th Anniversary Trip to Liberia. The jet lag has worn off, and I’m back to my normal daily routines. Last week I listened to voice mail messages left by folks requesting photos and presentations before we were even back home. While listening to the messages I answered an incoming call–another request for the list of participants so that the caller could invite “one of them” as a speaker at a spring meeting. After explaining that I would share her request with the group instead,  the caller rapidly fired off a series of questions, in an angry tone.

There must have been four or five questions, and then finally the caller said “Well, what did you learn?” Without recounting the rest of the conversation, let me say one good thing did come from her rant. Her last question “well, what did you learn?” got me thinking.

I learned several things:

Bold women are real. We met many of them, ordinary women. Being bold takes courage and sacrifice. We went to Liberia to celebrate our longstanding partnership with the National Lutheran Church Women Fellowship (of the Lutheran Church of Liberia). Our itinerary included short stops in five districts where we were welcomed by hundreds of women waiting in 90 degree heat after walking for miles on short notice to let us know that celebrating with us was important. (By the way these thirty minute gatherings with our Liberian sisters were larger than most of our SWO conventions.)

We are complacent. Our culture has convinced us that only a certain kind of person—celebrities, the rich or famous—can impact the world, in isolated incidence. Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Women of the ELCA Triennial Gathering speaker (2011) reminded us that she is receiving the recognition but it was the action of hundreds of women day after day that made the difference in her homeland.

Doing nothing is an action. Just think what we could accomplish in 2013 if every participant took one action. The ball is in your court.

Valora Starr is director for discipleship.

[Editor’s note: you can view more photos from the trip on our Facebook wall.]

Comments (7)
Stephanie Lewis says:
Dec 20, 2012

You are right! While there I was humbled and shamed by what we Americans have and waste with no thought to the struggle of others. We stand on the shoulders of giants and we do not stand alone. That is the lesson I learned, and I will use it. Just as Ebenezer Scrooge promised the Ghost of Christmas Future that he will keep the lessons he learned in his heart and celebrate Christmas every day, I will keep what our brave, beautiful, joyous Liberian sisters taught me and walk with a beat in my step and sway to the music of my beloved organ-accompanied hymns!

Deana Fuchs says:
Dec 20, 2012

I was one of those 17 participants and I can say without a doubt that this trip changed me, changed my heart, changed the way I see the world and the way I see others. It was an AMAZING trip!! Here is a bit of “What I learned”:
I learned that even when you seem to have nothing, you ALWAYS have God…
that I need to put my love and faith in Christ above all else…
that through God, all things really are possible…
that women (and men) from very different cultures, backgrounds and experiences can still be sisters (and brothers)…
that most of us take WAY TOO much for granted…
that there can be joy and pleasure in the small things and I should always be looking for that joy…
that every person can make a difference if they want to…
that I should thank and praise God in everything I do and say…
that God really does work in mysterious ways…and his timing is perfect.
To sum it up…I learned that I should never stop learning and growing…we never know it all.

I thank God and the Women of the ELCA that I was able to be a part of this trip. I also thank all the people from my church and community that helped and prayed for me before and during this experience.

JoAnn Fuchs says:
Dec 20, 2012

My daughter went on the trip and according to her they learned a lot. The women of Liberia have a strong faith in God and want to share their faith with others. We could all learn from them to share, share, share.

Eva Yeo says:
Dec 20, 2012

I learned from the women in Liberia to continue to help women find their voice by listening to one another, inviting women to find their passion, and working together to make positive changes to empower women and girls. We have a powerful presence when we work together in unity.

Dorothy says:
Dec 30, 2012

It seems you learned what BOLD really means! That’s a lesson that bears teaching, over and over and over! God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of a sound mind. 2nd Tim 1:7.

Valora Starr says:
Dec 31, 2012

You’re right Dorothy. Bold is better seen than defined or described. And, it is in our efforts that others will see the lesson over and over.

Youneed says:
Feb 15, 2013

I say finally the Lutheran chcurh is accepting all of God’s children. These leaders of these chcurhes are dividing their congregations to make a name for themselves. They are not thinking of where these funds are going. These chcurhes are not hurting the leaders of the ELCA, they are hurting the mission chcurhes, the missionaries, and all the areas where the chcurh does the work of God. Their holier than attitude is hurting all of the chcurh. Get off your pedestals you mighty pastors and lay-leaders and care about the people of God.

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