As a way to recognize our centennial year of service to the people of North Dakota, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota hosted celebrations throughout the state at nine of our community program offices in early November.
Each celebration featured a screening of the LSS historical documentary. It tells the story of how LSSND was developed through the Lutheran churches in the state in response to the needs of individuals and communities. The film is a reminder of the women and men in the Lutheran churches of the prairie who witnessed the pain of families and communities in crisis and decided, again and again, to act with justice, mercy and love. They reached out to help their neighbors as they felt called to do, walking with them down country dirt roads, off the trains that carried them into the cities and towns, and into places of caring, help and hope. They helped young unwed mothers, new immigrants, children who had no place to go, families who lacked adequate food and shelter, veterans returning from war, and people who had served time in prison. To all, they offered what they could, did what they could, as guides and comforters, neighbors and friends, purveyors of hope.
At each community celebration, the LSS team thanked the many local partners, supporters, donors and friends who continue to serve their neighbors. We reminded them of the work that has been our legacy for 100 years, and the work that continues today. We humbly acknowledged their efforts to help their communities. CEO Jessica Thomasson reminded those in attendance that there is a river of good that runs throughout the state of North Dakota. That while there has always been pain and suffering, there too, have always been people ready and willing to see the hurt, and respond with love. That we are all here for a brief time, but the river of good continues to flow, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
At each location, local individuals, churches and organizations were presented with the first-ever LSS Dove awards, in recognition of their work to help people find their way. Each Dove award recipient received a certificate and a hand-crafted glass dove ornament, made by a local artist for LSS.
The dove is the symbol of LSS, because for centuries the dove has been recognized as a sign that God is ever present. Before there were compasses, travelers looked to doves for direction and hope. As a reminder of our work to spread seeds of love and hope, the dove in the LSS logo carries a branch full of seeds. Finally, the LSS dove incorporates a hand – symbolizing the hand of God and our own hands reaching out to one another.
The celebrations ended with an original song, written for LSS by a current staff member. The song, “Like a Dove,” is a reminder to all to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” as is our calling. Participants joined voices in singing the words together.
Every celebration was unique. Some of the events felt like warm, cozy living-room conversations with good friends, while others felt like powerful gatherings of elected officials and business leaders. Some gave us opportunities to spend much-needed time in conversation with staff. All, no matter how many were present, allowed us to reach out to our supporters, donors, and partners in gratitude.
These were important moments to speak of justice, mercy and walking humbly with God in service to our neighbors; to sing together and share laughter and tears; to remember those who walked with their neighbors before us, and to thank those who walk with their communities now.
– Submitted by Christine Lennon, LSS annual giving officer