Community in the Truest Sense

The greatest element was the conversations that took place between the youth and their neighbors in Knoxville.

April 16, 2023 |

Image credit: St. Mark's, Mooresville

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Mooresville was blessed to receive a Kaelke grant supporting a mission trip with Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Lincolnton, to Knoxville, TN, this past summer! We are grateful for the grant and the ways in which it enriched our experience. While this grant supported this experience in many ways, I want to share with you about a specific project that our grant impacted on the trip.

We knew going into the trip that we would experience neighbors who dealt with daily realities that were different from our own. Many of the neighbors that we served alongside experienced houselessness. We use the word houselessness because while many of the neighbors we encountered might not have had brick & mortar homes, they very much had homes within their communities. I recall the sentiments of Pliny the Elder (1st century), “home is where the heart is.”

With the understanding that many of our neighbors lived in a context where housing and some essentials for daily living were not guaranteed, we decided to make summer supply bags to share with our neighbors at several community meals that we participated in. The accompanying picture shows youth assembling these bags before distributing them at an evening meal. Within these bags were: two pairs of socks, a pair of sunglasses, hand sanitizer, bug wipes, sunscreen, and lip balm. Plus, the bags themselves were sealable/waterproof bags for holding valuables in the rain.

The greatest element of these summer supply bags wasn’t bug wipes or sunscreen. The greatest element of these bags was the conversations that took place between the youth and their neighbors in Knoxville. Over bags of necessities, middle and high school youth from North Carolina learned and shared stories with people in Tennessee they had never met. Community in the truest sense of the gospel happened on this mission trip. And, as a result, youth at both St. Mark’s and Holy Cross have returned with new perspectives on communities who live without access to housing; youth are having conversations on addressing these needs in their own communities.

Thank you, God, for the Kaelke grant and opportunities to experience and meet Jesus in neighbors near and far.

Linda Kaelke served as Director of Christian Education for several congregations in the NC Synod and was the first advisor for LYO. Upon her death, she left the NC Synod with an endowment fund to support youth, used primarily to help fund mission trips. Grant awards are up to $800. Apply for a Kaelke Grant for your congregation! The 2023 deadline is Sunday, April 30. Questions? Contact Pastor Melody Simpkins, Children, Youth & Family Coordinator.


Story Attribution:

Pastor Vern Kinard; St. Mark's, Mooresville


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