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Showing God through Learning and Action
by Jason Paltzer, Kingdom Workers Lutheran Health Alliance
Help. Serve. Impact. These terms are commonly used in human and social service programs reaching people living in poverty. We have a desire to see individuals and families move out of a state of vulnerability and into relative stability. A common approach is to provide for the physical needs of families through food banks, clothing drives or monetary donations. These are all helpful but do not address the core issue of lost dignity that often accompanies poverty and vulnerability.
In the cities of San Carlos and Peridot of the Apache Mission, Kingdom Workers (KW) is using participatory learning and action (PLA) methods to guide Grace and Peridot Lutheran members to come together as a church family and identify small steps to improve their communities. There is compassion and a desire to see their children and youth grow up knowing their Savior and being confident in their gifts as created children of God living in this world for His glory.
The first PLA session was held in April where several members of both congregations were taken through the “Ten Seed Technique”, a PLA tool used to identify a community’s survival strategy. The tool helps to prioritize challenges, uncertainties and overall livelihood to plan and develop actions addressing one or two major gaps in their survival strategy. One major issue that rose to the top was the prevalence of major depression among the youth and young adults in their communities. Minimal resources are available for these youth to obtain help in understanding and navigating through their depression.
Many families living on the Apache reservation struggle financially and physically and the youth face extreme difficulties in seeing their value and unique identity. PLA goes beyond offering short-term physical assistance and helps a church family come together to identify issues important to them. In partnership with KW and other para-synodical organizations, these congregations will develop a response that they can implement as an outreach strategy as well as a human and social service program. The impact of such work will not be in the amount of food being distributed but in local church members helping a few youth turn from their depression and see themselves as a new creation in Christ.
Praise be to God for the opportunity to work with these congregations and the Christ-driven compassion they have to support their youth in regaining their dignity and identity as redeemed children of God washed in the blood of Christ, valued and loved.
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