As our summer ministry continues up at Sky Ranch, Four Winds service groups have been active all around the Rocky Mountain Synod. While many of our programs are run solely by Sky Ranch, most of Four Winds programming relies on partnerships with other churches and organizations around the synod. Last week, in Salt Lake City, Utah, we partnered with Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, as well as 15 different non-profit organizations around the city. Sky Ranch staff, thirty youth and adults from Omaha, Nebraska, and youth from Salt Lake City worked alongside people from all walks of life in a service learning experience.
Through small group Bible Study and reflection, the groups worked to think about service in bigger and deeper ways. One small group visited an Adult Detox Center. This organization provides a safe place for adults using drugs and alcohol to detox and then helps individuals enter treatment if they desire. Some people use the center to make long term changes; however, others simply use the center to take a break and rest. Visiting a place like this certainly challenged us as we thought about service. As we reflected on our experience, the group was able to recognize the incredible grace shown through the work of the staff and volunteers that run the Detox Center. Regardless of where the clients were from or what their goals were for recovery, they were treated with the same respect and care at the center. It was through involvement in these organizations that we were able to think about what it really meant to serve. At the Detox Center, service is simply caring for people in their darkest, most difficult moments. Service was not about fixing people, but walking alongside them as Christ does.
Our group was challenged in all of our service sites, but we also encountered opportunities to learn as we explored Salt Lake City. Currently, 40% of the city is Mormon. Throughout the week, we were forced to think about what it really means to be Lutheran. Many people in our group had never been a religious minority before. Pastor DanaLee Simon and Pastor Steve Klemz, local Lutheran clergy, led a session on the value of our shared Lutheran identity. Here, we were able to explore our understandings of grace and love. Many young people have not had their faith challenged. We explored and discovered the beauty and unique identity we have as Lutherans. And while we found value and identity in the Lutheran church, our most important identity was focused in the grace of Christ.
After a weekend up at Sky Ranch, the group headed back to Nebraska. While our urban immersion is complete, our service is not. After diving into a week of intensive service, our hope is that we can walk away feeling prepared in our everyday service to the world, knowing that the grace and love of Christ can be shared through service in endless ways.
-Hannah Anderson, Off-site Coordinator