A Message from Bishop Mark W. Holmerud

A Message from Bishop Mark W. Holmerud

As I write this article, I am traveling by bus from Assisi to Rome with a tour group led by Bp. Guy Erwin and former ELCA Secretary Lowell Almen and his spouse, Sally. I‘m using this time for continuing education, learning about the early and medieval history of the church, which were subjects I studied at San Diego State and in seminary.

This is Debbi’s and my first visit to Italy. I find it fascinating to visit places and to see where and how people lived and worshiped during times I previously only knew about through books. I had the same experience when we visited Greece last week. It is a blessing to be able to have this time learning from our tour leaders about the history I didn’t know!

Debbi and I have been traveling since October 24th. We started our trip by making our way to Rwanda with a delegation of people from our Sierra Pacific Synod. We were there to help our siblings in Christ of the Lutheran Church of Rwanda commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the founding of their church. It was a privilege to celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit which has enlivened their work and witness and to see the rapid growth of their 25 year old church. The LCR has truly helped the people of Rwanda move forward in a spirit of peace and reconciliation  following the Genocide in 1994.

I’m sure my “takeaways” from this trip will take some time for me to fully appreciate. There is so much to take in and remember in terms of the people we have met and the places we have seen. For now, here are a few things that strike me as learnings and “memory makers” from our trip:

1) Meeting with students at the Rwamagana Leaders’ School and seeing the work being done there to raise up leaders for the next generation in Rwanda. Our Synod’s support of this school has changed the course of many lives.

2) How gracious and amazing people are in the countries we have visited. In most places, English is spoken by many to help out tourists like us. Which leads me to the third point…

3) What do you call people who speak three languages? Trilingual. What do you call people who speak two languages? Bilingual. What do you call people who speak one language? American! It is truly amazing to see how many people are multilingual wherever we have travelled. A sad commentary on the belief that “English only” should be taught in our schools.

4) How little people here seem affected by or even care about the impeachment hearings that are under way in our country. Most often, it seems they are amused by our current political divisions and wonder how we have landed in this sad state.

5) How often climate change and global warming have been mentioned as direct factors in adverse weather and environmental challenges and disasters in all three countries we have visited. The flooding in Venice is an example of such concerns.  Our president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord is not being received well in most places we have visited.

6) Lastly, how this trip has reminded me that Christ was sent to redeem the whole world, no exceptions. It has been humbling and powerful to learn more about the early church, the lives of followers of Jesus such as St. Francis and St. Clare, and to see how Rwanda has recovered from a devastating period of tribalism taken to extremes.

This has left me wondering how we, the sinners and saints of our Sierra Pacific Synod, are called to be the voice, the hands, the feet, the reconciliation and the peace of Christ for a time such as this. Questions to continue pondering as we move forward in ministry together.

Today (Sunday, 11/17), we will be gathering for an audience with Pope Francis along with 40,000 of our closest friends in St. Peter’s Square. Yet another voice for me (and all of us) to ponder as we prepare to return home.

Urabeho.  Antio.  Ciao.

Bp. Mark