’17-’18 Volunteer Micaela Laurence at her desk at Lutheran Social Services
During National Orientation this year, Volunteers took a moment to write their hopes, fears, questions, and insights onto post-it notes and place them onto the walls of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. One read, “How do we work for social justice today?”
Part of LVC’s answer to this question is to work where one’s passion lies. Because LVC believes that achieving justice requires progress across many issue areas, and that each area needs talented leaders in the future, LVC places passionate Volunteers with amazing nonprofit organizations across a wide range of social justice issues. All of this contributes to LVC’s legacy of helping great leaders get their start in inspirational social justice careers.
For eleven LVC Volunteers this year, the answer to this question lies in issues surrounding immigration and refugee resettlement. Twin Cities Volunteer Micaela Laurence spent last year volunteering in Uruguay through the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission program. With only a year of Spanish under her belt, she found herself immersed in a new culture with a limited ability to converse with those she was now living. “I relied heavily on the patience and support of my new neighbors. Their gestures of friendship, whether just slowing down the speeds of their conversations, or going so far as to invite me into their homes for Christmas and New Year’s, made the difference between me feeling like a stranger and me feeling welcomed and accepted.”
This year in LVC, Micaela is serving at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota as a Family Reunification Coordinator where she helps new arrivals navigate the U.S. immigration system and “extend[s] the same hospitality” she received abroad to new arrivals in the U.S. “They fled all that was familiar in exchange for a life of incredible uncertainty, and still dare to hope for a safer and more secure future. They deserve nothing less than justice and compassion and I will never stop hoping right alongside them.”
Seattle Volunteer Kasey Shultz is serving at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project as the Bilingual Immigrant Youth Advocate. At least 25% of the youth she works with are DACA recipients. “I get the impression that the work has become more intense since January. People in the immigrant community are scared and every case we get feels a little more urgent.” Kasey is inspired by her colleagues and takes “great comfort and hope in being able to go to work every day in a place full of people who tirelessly advocate for the immigrant community, and who are not giving up.”
Kasey feels called to this work as a result of her faith. “We are called to welcome the stranger, to love our neighbors, to care for creation, and to honor the divine in each other. We are called to be lights in the world, to be prophets for a radical and inclusive and redeeming future, to be humble and loving. So I am responding in the only ways that I know how… throwing myself into work that I believe does these things in the world.”
In their year at LVC, Micaela and Kasey have found a place to “throw themselves into” their social justice passion and be inspired by colleagues who have committed themselves to serving the same cause. Across the United States, 84 other LVC Volunteers are having similar experiences working for organizations across a full spectrum of justice issues. Whether they are fighting hunger, improving educational outcomes, fighting violence against women, helping find employment, serving the mission of a church, or any one of scores of other important causes, each is experiencing a deeply personal answer to the question, “How do I work for social justice today.” Our Volunteers are joining a community of nearly 3,000 others who have taken a year of service at LVC and turned it into a lifetime of commitment to creating justice in the world.