J.D. in Africa

Today, Black Lives Matter is a movement of people that are thoughtfully reacting to the reality of systematic racism in our country. Our ministry to High-School students has lifted up this as a current issue, encouraging our young people to live in this time as people of God committed to reconciliation. This spring we took part in the Do Justice! Retreat focused on race, racism, and white privilege. Many of us traveled to Detroit in July. Our pre-trip gatherings were focused on the reality of systematic racism in Detroit and looking for a deeper understanding of the situations of race, poverty, and violence from our perspective as ELCA Lutherans. Then in the summer of 2016, the youth will be traveling with Mark and Leslie Swiggum, participating in a Civil Rights tour as the yearly summer mission trip.

I mention all this because it is inherently relevant to my journey this fall. From August 15 until December 6, I will be in Namibia and South Africa, participating in a study abroad program with Augsburg College. South Africa and Namibia are states that are recovering from the atrocities of apartheid. While away, I will not only be studying missiology but also racism and resistance in Southern Africa and the US, the politics of development and social change, environmental justice, and the overarching theological underpinnings of it all. I won’t only be a better equipped leader, but your students will be able to walk with me through my adventures and enlightening experiences over-seas.

For many, including myself, an initial reaction to an absence this long is fear. Fear that ECLC’s High-School students are again left behind. This will not be the case. The youth and their families have known about this for a few months now. This is not a surprise to them. Pastor Stephanie and I are deeply committed to ECLC’s ministry with youth in grades 9-12. The churches ministry to High-School students will continue, with or without me. For the time I’m gone, plans are in place for ministry to continue.

I will be back! Though pastors and youth ministers will come and go (to Africa), God’s ministry to your students is continual. If you have any questions or concerns, I would love to grab a coffee or a meal with you or your student. I want to be as accommodating as possible as we enter into the following season of ministry.

J.D. Mechelke