FaithBits   

A weekly digital publication called FaithBit:

FaithBITs will be: emailed on Friday mornings, archived on this page, available on our social media channels and printed and available at the Welcome Desk.


May 24, 2019




FaithBits

Worship Auction  in Tanzania

Gifts from the heart

Reflection by Martin Rathjen

In February, I was privileged to travel with an Immanuel group to visit the village of Uswaa on the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro, where we worshipped with a local Lutheran congregation.

The surprisingly large church is surrounded by tropical vegetation where many of the residents are subsistence farmers, living in simple homes while growing and selling food from their small properties.

The 2-hour worship service was in Swahili.  We could recognize parts of the worship service and we were guided through the service with the help of some local people who translated portions of the service.  At what we thought was the end of the worship service the congregation processed outside while singing a hymn.  We followed along to see how the service would conclude.

The worship leaders sat in their assigned spots while the congregation spread out, clustered in the shade to keep out of the hot Tanzanian sun. A piece of cloth had been laid out on the ground and members of the congregation brought items and placed them before the worship leaders, church leaders, congregation and God.  These items were simple non-monetary offerings that would be auctioned, with the proceeds supporting the work of the church.

Martin's quote


The very first item to be auctioned was a live white rabbit. 

We were quite surprised, wondering what would become of the rabbit, but quickly realized this was a significant gift shared by a member of the congregation for the work of ministry.  Other auctioned items included: bananas, greens, 2 eggs, sugarcane, milk and other items. 

The auctioneer sold each item to the highest bidder.  The funds raised from each shared gift was received and recorded, to support the work of the congregation’s ministry, meeting real needs of people in the community. These shared gifts were very simple but in their context incredibly generous, given as an act of worship, in response to God’s love and shared for the work of God. 

Experiencing this auction of shared gifts in worship has challenged me to again prayerfully consider how God is calling me to generously share my gifts, abilities and talents.


May 17, 2019




FaithBits

Tanzania Collage

Three Takeaways from Tanzania

Reflection by Kim Rathjen

1) God’s People are lovely. We spent a day with Dr Steve and Jodi Swanson, our medical missionaries.  Every penny of the $5800 in benevolence support Immanuel gives them is making a difference.  They are the most humble, smartest, loving people and they are changing the narrative around premature and at-risk births in Tanzania. Not only have they brought expertise and equipment to Tanzania, they are investing in training local doctors and nurses so that other hospitals can serve families with babies needing special care.  They are teaching sustainable practices, like skin to skin “kangaroo care” for premature babies and how to feed a sick baby. We met a mother who had suffered several miscarriages and stillbirths (which becomes a stigma in Tanzanian culture) whose baby was being cared for in the NICU and, with the care of the medical team, will survive.  Steve and Jodi LOVE DEEPLY.  They love the babies, the mamas, and all whom they meet with the love of Jesus.  One can’t help but be drawn to them and the love they share.

Kim's Quote


2) God’s Church is alive, and we share the same struggles. We worshipped with Nkiraawnaga (“God Calls”) Lutheran congregation in the foothills of Kilimanjaro. We also had conversation with Pastor Calvin, who is shepherding the flock of 15,000 in his parish. He is a humble, gentle man and a powerful preacher.  We worshipped in Swahili, not understanding much of anything. But the rhythm of worship, the cadence of the liturgy, and the beautiful music spoke to our hearts. The Pastor shared some of his struggles with us over lunch: decreasing worship attendance, being relevant to young people, encouraging the church to be outward instead of inward focused. We were drawn together as followers of Christ who gives us this work to do together as the Church.

3) God our Creator is Amazing! We were able to experience a safari and the beauty of God’s creation in the Ngorongoro Crater. The animals and birds are breathtaking!  But the story that has stuck in my head has to do with the Acacia trees that the giraffes eat. Giraffes graze and eat all day long on their preferred Acacia trees.  After about 15 minutes, a tree that is being grazed emits a different scent and taste that the giraffes don’t like, so the giraffe will stop grazing on that tree, keeping it from being destroyed.  Amazingly, the tree also sends a signal to nearby trees and they also begin emitting the bad taste, so that the giraffe doesn’t eat them either and must move on to another area.  God created the acacia trees to take care of themselves!  God the Creator is Amazing.


May 10, 2019




FaithBits

Janell and John

Wanna Play the Worry Game?

Reflection by Janell Weum

Wanna Play?

My mind itches to play the “Worry Game” of what ifs. I’m refusing….so far. But the starting whistle continues to blow.
“On your mark…get set….go. Let your mind race”

People closest to me are going through concerning medical issues. Issues that are hard, if not, difficult to control or predict. And so many different scenarios could play out.

The “Worry Game” calls out….  “wanna play?  Let’s play out those scenarios in your mind. (Over and over and over). Let’s play the never ending game!”

I’d rather not start the game that has no end. But sometimes it’s hard to tune it out. God understands and has given us a way to focus upon the truth of God’s love.

Janell's quote


Philippians 4:8, Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

The quiet voice speaks:

I am the LORD, your Shepherd.
You shall not be in want.
I will restore your soul.
I am with you.

Think on these things….and the call for the game fades.


May 3, 2019




FaithBits

Pastor Angela

#holyweekhumor

Reflection by Pastor Angela

Life during Holy Week in a household with two parents as pastors can be overwhelming to say the least (between us parents we had 17 worship services!), and somewhat mixed for the kids (does the book slam on Christmas Eve or Black Friday? eggs for dinner again?)  How does this mama cope?

Knowing that our week together would be, well, not together, we spent intentional family time during dinner/devotions on Palm Sunday.  The devotions simply said to read the whole passion story together (insert here the girls’ moans and groans… yes, pastors’ kids do that, too!).  So, I said, “How about instead we just all tell what we know about what happened with Jesus from Palm Sunday to Easter?”

Angela's Quote


Then we all told the story of Jesus from the donkey to the empty tomb (without a Bible)… with lots of confusion (the 4-gospel mashup), lots of questions (did Joe carry the cross? or was it Simon?), lots of prompts (the curtain tore in…), lots of fill-in-the-blank seven last words of Christ (way more than seven), lots of laughter (some almost wet their pants - almost), and somehow Jesus still got raised from the dead.  Holy humor.  And it was one of this mama’s best family memories.  Ever.  He is Risen!


April 26, 2019




FaithBits

River run

Running has become my prayer time

Reflection by Clark Weyrauch

As a runner, some of my most cherished times of the day are my morning runs along the Mississippi River.  I began running about 7 years ago and as I have grown into it, I have found that the daily meditation and focus it gives me each day, far outweighs my initial purpose which was to “get in shape”. 

Clark's Quote


Running has become my prayer time.  A time to connect with nature and reflect on what’s been going on in my life.  God has blessed us with our beautiful lakes and rivers and each day on my run I am reminded and humbled by just how much God loves us. He has given us the abundance of beauty in nature and it is my plan to continue to feed my soul with it every chance I can get.


April 19, 2019




FaithBits

Font with candles

Blessed are those who mourn

Reflection by Lisa Ross

As it has been said, grief comes in many different forms for people.  Sharing my grief of losing my Aunt with other people at a Service of Remembrance was not in Lisa’s wheelhouse.  I tend to be very private about those things.  It was an overpowering feeling I had to make the move to go to this evening service at Immanuel. 

Walking up to the door and seeing my good friend made it all the easier to walk in and plan to share my grief.  I not only found it to be a small, quaint and comforting setting, but a sense of calm came over me as I sat with my thoughts about losing someone important in my life, my Aunt Janice.  Pastor Angela shared her own stories and I was comforted by her words and also the bible verse Mathew 5:4 which says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” 

Lisa's quote


We all lit candles of remembrance for the Saints in our lives and let them float in the baptismal fountain. We prayed, sang, listened to beautiful music, and some of us cried (thank goodness for the boxes of Kleenex strategically placed). 

I found a sense of peace and comfort watching my candles float.  This speaks to me with another favorite bible verse of mine which is a short one.  John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”  It reminds me of the deep compassion Jesus had for those suffering.


April 12, 2019




FaithBits

The faces of God

The faces of God

Reflection by Bev Osekowsky

As I headed to Africa with the Taste of Tanzania group from Immanuel, I figured I would see the face of God but I never expected to see so many faces of God. 

I looked forward to going to Arusha Lutheran Medical Center (ALMC) to see the work that Dr. Stephen Swanson was doing with premature babies.  I had heard some of his stories both at our church and on a video tape and I knew the passion he had for these little ones.  When we met him at the hospital, I not only saw his passion for the health of these preemies but his love and concern for them and his innovative methods to treat them.  He didn’t have many resources so he was very creative in his treatment, plus he wanted his practices sustainable if he were to leave. 

As we were touring the neonatal unit, he would point out doctors and nurses in the unit and he would praise them for their hard work and knowledge.  It wasn’t about him, it was about others.

The faces of God


In addition, while we were there, we meet two young RNs who were from Minnesota who had taken time out of their careers to work in this neonatal unit for a month.
After visiting ALMC, we visited Selian Lutheran Hospital.  Here Jodi Swanson, Dr. Stephen Swanson’s wife, worked with children with malnutrition.  She too had great love and empathy for the children.  She talked about things that she had tried to improve the nutrition of the children and then realized that these methods did not work for the life styles of the parents.  This did not stop her. She continued to look at other options that would work for the children and parents.  It wasn’t about her but about what was best for the families.

These are only a few people in which I saw the face of God on this trip.  There were several others who showed me the face of God.  It was humbling and made me question myself, “How can I be the face of God to those around me?”

You can learn more about the work of Dr. Stephen and Jodi Swanson.


April 5, 2019




FaithBits
Editor’s note: Watch Gary and Bob sing with Happy Son.  They began singing in each person’s native language (English and Swahili) and ended with all singing in Swahili!

A stranger, welcomed

Reflection by Gary Thrasher

1 Peter 4:8 - Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

On the first day of our recent Kilimanjaro trip in Tanzania, I was amazed by the local village people’s genuine welcome, friendship and hospitality. I wrote in my diary:

 

Gary's quote



As I reflect on this little story, I am reminded that Happy Son was doing exactly what Jesus did throughout his life.  He stopped what he was doing and took time to bring enlightenment, comfort and joy into other’s lives. 

I wonder, if a man from Africa knocked on my door, would I have done the same thing?  I pray that Happy Son’s example will impact the way I welcome strangers. I know that I would never have considered it if I hadn’t experienced it myself.


March 29, 2019




FaithBits
If you can, please watch today’s FaithBIT by clicking on the video link, or you can read the text below.

Transformed: Kelly, Kakasii, Kifalu and Quilts

Reflection by Kelly Kautz

God’s love is transformational, and through God’s Word and presence I am being transformed.

I experienced God’s presence when I was in Tanzania. Kakasii, the owner of Tanzania Choice Safari, loves people and has a generous spirit. He welcomed us to his farm, Kimaro Shamba, and spent time showing us his cows & chickens and banana, mango, pepper, avocado & coffee trees/plants. When Kakasii wanted to check on his elderly neighbor or invite him over for a meal, he simply shouted over the fields, “KIFALU!” and then his neighbor replied by shouting back “KAKASII!” Kifalu lives in   a one room mud structure and, because of an accident, he is unable to work in the fields and provide for himself. When he wakes up in the morning he prays that God will provide him with enough to eat. Kakasii makes sure that Kifalu has food to eat and he is also trying to buy enough bricks so that Kifalu will have a more stable home.  When we visited Kifalu, we crowded into his small room to give him a handmade quilt and to pray with him.  He expressed Kakasii’s love in this way, “Because Kakasii is my neighbor, is the one who feeds me, I don’t have another person to go to, he’s the only one who’s helping me. I’m very happy. He’s my father, he’s my brother, he’s my mother, he’s everything - especially for food.”  God at work through Kakasii.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”  Matthew 25: 35-36

Kelly's Transformation Quote


When we worshiped with Kakasii and his brother at their village church, Kakasii made sure that we were able to follow along with the service in the Swahili worship book and understand the sermon. A barefoot young man who appeared to have Down’s Syndrome greeted us several times throughout the service with smiles and handshakes. After worship, we returned to Kakasii’s farm to enjoy food catered by women from his church and music from the church choir. After listening to the choir sing for awhile, it was time to eat. As we sat in the shade of the enormous mango tree, I noticed that the choir members were receiving heaping plates full of rice, but were not eating the meal that had been prepared for us, Kakasii’s special guests. I also noticed that his elderly neighbor, Kifalu, and the young man with Down’s Syndrome were sitting with us and eating the same special meal that we were.  God at work through Kakasii.

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” Luke 14: 13-14a

God continued to chip away at me through His Word during devotions and in Bible Study groups. The words from the Bible, from various authors and from group members seemed to be working together, along with my life experiences, pushing me to think about my faith and opening me to change.  In our Monday morning Prayer & Praise group, Philip Yancey, author of “The Jesus I Never Knew,”  reminded me that during the last supper, Jesus washed the disciples feet, and the disciples were uncomfortable - it was not customary for the host to wash the feet of the guests! Jesus then commanded his disciples to do the same.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than the one who sent him.”  John 13: 14-16

Being transformed by God means being changed into who God wants me to be. The process isn’t always easy or clear or fast - and it’s never “over.” God is transforming me through His Word and through His presence. Again and again He calls me to serve!

Good & Gracious God, I pray for . . .

Diligence to seek you
Patience to wait for you
Wisdom to perceive you
A mind to meditate on you
Eyes to behold you
Ears to listen for your word
A heart to love you
A life to proclaim you.

Benedict of Nursia


March 22, 2019




FaithBits

Sophie


Trusting in God

Reflection by Sophie Flom

Editor’s Note: This week we have a FaithBIT in the form of a First Word (an opening devotion for Confirmation) from one of our High School Student Leaders.

Hi, my name is Sophie Flom and I am a sophomore at Eden Prairie High School. The verse that I have chosen for First Word at Confirmation this week is from Exodus 20:1-3. It reads, “And God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” This verse is discussing what God said regarding the Ten Commandments and idolatry, and although nowadays we aren’t necessarily worshipping a Golden Bull, it is easily applicable to our modern day life. Society sometimes treats materialistic things and temporary trends as a god itself. It is okay to want the newest iPhone or shoes or Airpods, and it isn’t like you have to sit in your room praying and reading the bible all the time, but setting time aside to connect with God can be incredibly impactful.

I know that this time of the year can be very difficult and stressful, since a lot of us have finals coming up and Spring break is kind of lingering, and it is easy to get distracted and place schoolwork, work, and other stressors in front of God. Especially now that we are in the season of Lent it is so important that we all slow down and focus on what we should be prioritizing, which is God. Balance is challenging, because we are all so busy and we have so much going on at once, but for me, placing my trust in God and knowing that God will handle everything brings me a lot of comfort.

Sophie's quote

Personally, I, like many other people, have the tendency to get really anxious and I overthink about my classes, and relationships, and the future, and it can be really draining. Small things like doing my devotions, writing, or praying, lifts a weight off of my shoulders and gives me faith that everything will work itself out eventually. School is temporary, work is temporary, money is temporary. Developing a strong, stable, and trusting relationship with God is something that will last forever. Set time aside to pray, learn, and speak to God, because in doing so, not only are you getting the relief of him remaining in control of everything you have going on, but I promise that it will make you feel better as well.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for being the backbone that we all need when things get hard. Even though we live in a time where it is easy to put our trust and energy in the wrong places, thank you for guiding us back to you. As we are in Spring break season, we pray for a time to renew, reflect and grow closer to you. Keep us safe and healthy during our break, and let us all return refreshed and relaxed. We are very lucky that we have the constant support that you provide. In your name we pray. Amen.


March 15, 2019




FaithBits

God's plans


Modern Day Burning Bushes

Reflection by Kelly Meyers

Do you ever wonder if God still speaks to us like he did in the Old Testament?  Over the past several years I have gone through some big changes in my life – primarily with my work.  Both times I turned to God when things felt like they weren’t right, and both times he delivered in BIG ways.  But it was only when I was willing to keep my mind open that I really ‘heard’ him!  And I’m so grateful that I trusted him enough. 

I can only imagine the thoughts Moses had when God first spoke to him in the burning bush.  I’m pretty certain the Bible has left out some of his honest thoughts & feelings!  But thankfully Moses was faithful – even when others thought him crazy. 

In 2014 I was working at a church doing a job that I loved and felt called to.  But due to some changes I started to feel it was time to leave.  I couldn’t believe that I felt that way because after 12 years I still felt like I had a purpose there.  So I prayed.  A LOT.  But this time I prayed for God to tell me what I should do.  I will be honest.  It took a while.  And the answers came in pieces – it wasn’t laid out like a storybook with all the answers.  As I was waiting in my car to pick up my kindergartner and head to my older daughter’s high school graduation ceremony (crazy, right?) I had an incredible, overwhelming urge come over me that I couldn’t shake and I just knew it was God telling me to ‘let go and trust him.’  I quit my job at that moment (in my car!) and within 5 minutes it was ABUNDANTLY clear to me why God was urging me so strongly at that moment what I needed to do. 

Kelly's quaote


I didn’t have another job.  My husband trusted me (and trusted God) when I told him I couldn’t explain it.  And over the course of the next few weeks some very different, and unplanned things fell into place.  It was absolutely God at work.  We took some risks, and ultimately that path led me to something unique and gave me the opportunities to share my faith in new and different ways!  That change led us to Immanuel and we are so grateful to God for this community.

Fast forward to fall 2018 and I had that feeling I couldn’t shake again.  This time I prayed for answers – because I didn’t like either choice I saw before me!  I knew God had a plan and I prayed for specific answers.  This time I had a dream that caused me to wake up and shake my head.  I knew exactly what He was calling me to do.  And it wasn’t easy.  I was saying goodbye to something I had poured so much energy into!  But as soon as I resigned, things fell into place there with people that could only be God at work.  I had fulfilled whatever purpose he had for me there and it was time for me to move on!

I firmly believe that God still talks to us through the Holy Spirit in ways that are unusual and profound.  And I’m grateful I had the courage to listen and act.  I am grateful for where God has led me and my family.  The graphic of what I planned for my life and what happened is accurate and I think it’s much more beautiful because God has been behind it! 

I can’t wait to see (and hear) where God will lead me next and I’m waiting eagerly for him to speak to me in more creative ways.  Who knows, it might just be another burning bush.  But I’m listening, God! 


March 8, 2019




FaithBits

Jerry Martin


Seek and you will find

Reflection by Jerry Martin

Recently I was having a conversation with a friend.  For one reason or another, we quickly felt the familiar entanglement of trying to control everything that was going on around us.  Thankfully, we turned our discussion to our trust in Jesus. 

For me, to find God’s peace is to fully trust Jesus.  I know that not all things will go according to my plan, and that is ok.  Because if I trust in Jesus and ask that he be with me every step of the way, then I can be comforted that I am exactly where He wants me to be.

Jerry's quote


With this conversation, came another worry.  My friend shared she is concerned because her eldest son is questioning his faith.  My response…Good!  That is great that he is trying to find answers and wants to know more.  Encourage him to find those answers.  Dig, read, search, discuss, share and seek! 

From my own experience, the more I seek, the more I find.  But let’s not take my word for it, we have much better authority than my testimony.  Jesus said it is so!

“Ask and it will be given to you: seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)


March 1, 2019




FaithBits

Pamoja - Together on Kilimanjaro


Pamoja

Reflection by Mchungaji (Pastor) Angela Fairbanks Jacobson

For months ahead of time, our team already knew the Swahili word pamoja (together), since we had our designated pamoja small groups, to connect, share highs and lows, pray for each other, look out for each other, and even practically speaking for head counts on the bus…“Are we all here? Kupanda’s here! Let’s go/twende!”

Of course climbing (and summiting!) Mt Kilimanjaro was spectacular and out of this world! BUT, there was something beyond the extraordinary, even quite ordinary, and that was all things pamoja.

Pastor Angela - Pamoja


Lots of togetherness. Lots of being vulnerable together. We knew all about each other’s aches & pains, altitude headaches, swollen lips, blackening toenails, blurred vision, and occasional tears. Together. Sharing, talking, praying, singing, and feasting. Together. Climbing in the darkness and gale force winds. Together. Trusting our fearless leader Festo and the incredible support crew. Together.

Later we learned the word for Immanuel, Mungu pamoja nasi. Of course! God with us. God together with us. God who chose not to stay in the spectacular, not to stay in the highest heights, but to descend into our ordinariness, to be with us, to work with us, being vulnerable together. This became ever more real for me as we descended from the roof of Africa.

Together we can move mountains. Let’s go!

Archives

May 24, 2019, Gifts from the Heart by Martin Rathjen
May 19, Three Takeaways from Tanzania by Kim Rathjen
May 10, 2019, Wanna Play the Worry Game? by Janell Weum
May 4, #holyweekhumor by Pastor Angela
April 26, Running Has Become My Prayer Time by Clark Weyrauch
April 19, Blessed Are Those Who Mourn by Lisa Ross
April 12, The Faces of God by Bev Osekowsky
April 5, A Stranger Welcomed by Gary Thrasher
March 29, Transformed by Kelly Kautz
March 22, Trusting in God by Sophie Flom
March 15, Modern Day Burning Bushes by Kelly Meyer
March 8, Seek and You Will Find by Jerry Martin
March 1, Panoja by Pastor Angela
February 25, Even Those of Us with Few Talents by Ruth Lunde
February 15, Recipients of Compassion
February 8, A Solid Foundation by Jerry Martin
January 30, Snow (Transformational Seasons) by Josh Kautz
January 25, A Meaningful Way to spend Christmas Day by Terrie Falkenstein
January 18, Miracles Happen Every Day! by Mary Ellen Anderson
January 11, Take a Hike! by Dave Nieting
January 4, Camping with Grandkids by Karen Nelson
December 28, That’s a Wrap by Kari Totall
December 21, Pondering the “why” of Advent by Kim Rathjen
December 14, There Really Is a God!
December 7, Get to Work in Broken Places by Grace Olson (Garvey-Hall)
November 30, Buen Camino by Briley Nichols
November 24, My Compass in Life by Kelly Kautz
November 16, The Way by Beth Hansen
November 2, Dinosaurs at Church! by Pastor Angela
October 26, All About Giving by Brian Vik
October 19, The Center of Life by Gary Hammer
October 12, Hot Tub Prayer Machine by Jon Ebert
October 5, Loved to Love by Emilyn Ryski
September 28, Rejoice in Today by Cari Larsen
September 21, God = Love by Kris Heinzen
September 14, A Light in the Dark by Sierra Carter
September 7, I Lost a Tooth! by Pastor Angela
August 31, Let’s Jump In! by Pastor Paul
August 24, Tears Well Up! by John and Jennifer Urbanski
August 17, Transformed through Unconditional Love by Kim Rathjen



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