Global Encounter: one year later

03.24.2017 Global Encounter Review 2_lr

Photo provided by Isabel Hilgendag

From where I lay in my tent, I heard the chirps of the vibrantly blue-coloured birds, signaling that it was time to get up if I wanted to watch the sunrise. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined I would be lucky enough to see the sunrise and sunset in Ethiopia and to have had a wealth of new experiences between those two spectacular moments each day.


It has been a year since I travelled to Ethiopia for two weeks as a youth delegate on Canadian Lutheran World Relief‘s Global Encounter. We visited a variety of places learning about how organizations such as Support for Sustainable Development, Lutheran World Federation and Canadian Lutheran World Relief work with communities to help improve their circumstances.

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Kids helping kids at Messiah Lutheran, Camrose

What an inspiring group of kids. Last spring, the Sunday School at Messiah Lutheran Church in Camrose honoured one of their fellow students, Shelby Hasselbohm, by raising $250 to help sick children. Eight-year-old Shelby is in treatment for leukemia. The funds they raised went to help children needing dialysis treatment for kidney disease at the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem.

Marlys Sorenson, Children’s Ministry Coordinator, explains how they did it:

In April and May 2015, our Sunday School (called KidFEST – FEST stands for Faith Education and Son [or Servant] Training) decided to participate in an offering project to support CLWR’s Care for a Child gift in the Gifts from the Heart catalogue. This gift supports a child needing dialysis treatment for kidney disease at the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. Our KidFEST did this in honour of one of our own students, Shelby Hasselbohm, age 8, who was diagnosed with leukemia in December and has been going to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton for regular treatments since then.


Members of KidFEST with their quarter folders. Shelby is in the black hat. Photo by Marlys Sorenson

We collected money by putting quarters on “quarter folders” (similar to the dime folders we used to use in Lent many years ago). Folders were given out to each family, or individuals, each month, and when they were full they were brought to church and placed in our offering basket. Each one is $10 when filled up. Shelby, her older sister Hannah, her younger brother Jakob, her mom and I took all the quarters off at the Hasselbohm home!


Removing all the quarters at the Hasselbohm house!


A completed quarter folder.

We are pleased to send you our donation of $250 to help one child receive dialysis treatment. I am enclosing a cheque in that amount (not the bag of quarters!). May God bless that dear child.

-Marlys Sorenson

God bless Shelby and her family and everyone at KidFEST. Thank you for making a difference for children in need of life-saving health care.

Cookies for classrooms


In the late spring, Rhonda Plett of Zion Lutheran Church in Morden, Manitoba, contacted us to tell us about their “Cookies for a Classroom” fundraiser – and to send us a cheque for $600, (which, as it turns out, is enough for more than two classrooms!) Many thanks to the Sunday School, the LWML-C group and the whole congregation, on behalf of the people we serve. Here’s the story of their successful fundraiser to equip a classroom in a refugee settlement:

Our project began by one of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League-Canada (LWML-C) members asking if our Sunday School would like to do a joint mission project this spring.

As a Sunday School we like to do one local mission and one national or international mission project a year and we did our local one before Christmas, so international was on the list.

I agreed and came up with the idea of baking cookies together, as most of the LWML-C ladies are grandmas and our Sunday School students are mostly Grade 6 and under. I thought this would be a fun project to do together.

At one of our Sunday School teachers’ meetings, I presented the idea of fundraising for “Equip a Classroom.” It seemed like the right choice. We decided to pair it with our cookie project and that’s how “Cookies for a Classroom” evolved.

During our introduction to the Sunday School about our mission project, I was able to use the YouTube video of “Equip a Classroom” and show the children what and who we were fundraising for.

I printed a map of Kenya, showed them how far it was to Kakuma from Morden, explained some facts about Kakuma, and drove home the idea of what a refugee camp looked like and where these children live and go to school. (Thank you for having the video available.)

Our goal was to equip one classroom, but with success we raised $600 for the “Equip a Classroom” project!


We had 95 dozen pre-ordered cookies – chocolate chip, ginger snap and oatmeal raisin at $5.00 a dozen.

Together the Sunday School teachers and parents, LWML-C members and 12 Sunday School students (ages ranging from 4–12 years old) rallied together for three days to bake, sell, deliver and host a coffee break.



Friday and Saturday were two FULL baking days. There were lots of little hands to help roll the dough, mix, measure and bag the cookies. I estimated that we made over 120 dozen cookies (approximately 1440 cookies).

On Sunday, we hosted a coffee break fundraiser and pick-up before church service. This was a free-will offering and we managed to raise over $70!

We had the older children work the cash table, deliver orders, serve coffee, tea and milk, and serve the cookies.


The younger children went around to the different tables to explain what their job was for the fundraiser – mixing, measuring, rolling dough, bagging cookies, cleaning up and, of course, taste-testing (quality control).

I also showed the video of “Equip a Classroom” and another Dateline documentary of Kakuma during the coffee break (as background images) so the congregation and others could see where our money would be going.

After church service, I thanked everyone for donating, buying and sharing our vision in equipping one classroom. I was overjoyed to announce that we could equip two classrooms!

I brought the Sunday School students up to the front of the congregation and we thanked them as a group.



We have a small but mighty congregation and every time we ask for a donation or support, we are floored by the response!

Everyone who ordered cookies and came to the coffee break said it was delightful to see the younger children work so hard with their peers to support such a worthy cause.

There was even some talk of doing another cookie fundraiser near Christmas… hmm…. with only one oven in the church, maybe a frozen cookie dough fundraiser will be doable!

One of the Sunday School children asked if we could send some cookies over to Kakuma for the kids there to share! I thought that was such a cute idea!

Otherwise, we had an excellent time baking, selling, rolling and trying to figure out how many bags of flour, chocolate chips and cups of butter we needed for all those cookies!

-submitted by Rhonda Plett

Hiba, the future pediatrician: receiving support from the LWF Peace Oasis

By Rifat Odeh Kassis

(article provided courtesy of Lutheran World Federation)

Everyone in Alshoy knew that Hiba would become a great pediatrician someday.

Alshoy is a village located on the Horan plain, in southern Syria, under the administration of the Daraa governorate. Because of its fertile soil it is also called “the village of wheat”. The place is also known for its archaeological and historical sites, with ruins from Roman, Byzantine, and Ghassanid times, ancient buildings, wells and tombs.

Like in many other Syrian towns, the war ruthlessly destroyed the villages and their cultural heritage in that governorate. Many people lost their lives, and many civilians left their villages and fled as refugees to neighboring countries. Hiba’s family—her parents, five siblings, and Hiba herself—sought refuge in Jordan in November 2012. Hiba, the eldest child, was 12-years-old at the time.

An exceptionally clever girl, she had always worked hard at school. When her family left Syria, she was in the 7th grade and had already decided to study medicine: she wanted to become a pediatrician. Her siblings say it was the war and suffering around them which caused this dream to bloom in her. As it began to grow, war broke out; when it destroyed her village, her dreams were also destroyed. Overnight, Hiba was uprooted from her home and reached Jordan with her dreams uprooted, too.

At the Za’atari refugee camp, she joined what the refugees call “the Bahraini School”. A month later she stopped attending classes. Hiba told me that she left school for some reasons to do with herself and others related to her father. She added, “The curriculum in the school, the way they teach here, is completely different than in Syria.” She looked at me and saw that I wasn’t entirely convinced. Then this strong little girl surprised me by bursting into tears, and speaking from the depths of her heart. “Is this a life? Is this a place where you can study, read, write, and think? I didn’t have proper clothes or shoes…we had no electricity. All my dreams evaporated as soon as I set foot in the camp. I was so sad and depressed.”

There was a long, terrible moment in which only her sobs could be heard. “It was only when I joined the Peace Oasis in the camp,” she said, referring to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) program at Za’atari for young people aged 14-24, “that I managed to pull myself together and decided to go back to school.”

The Peace Oasis program includes art and play therapy, sports, group counseling and vocational training. Activities are separated by gender in ways that respond to cultural norms and have been developed through consultation with young people living in the Za’atari camp. Donations from Canadian Lutherans have helped make this life-changing program possible.

The LWF Peace Oasis offers workshops in arts, sports and music and non-violent conflict resolution. There is also vocational training for young people. Here, women participate in an art program. Photo: LWF/ M. Renaux

The LWF Peace Oasis offers workshops in arts, sports and music and non-violent conflict resolution. There is also vocational training for young people. Here, women participate in an art program. Photo: LWF/ M. Renaux

Hiba, however, still is not going to school. “When I decided to go back, there was no more room for me. I was put on the waiting list…and I’m still waiting,” she says.

Hiba’s father phrases it in more socially dictated terms. “We didn’t have enough resources to send them to school,” he said. He also remarked about particular incidents, sexual harassment that some girls are subjected to, especially when they have to walk long distances to school.

Hiba’s father only allows her to attend the LWF Peace Oasis because she goes with other girls and LWF volunteers accompany them to ensure their safety. “If there could just be a minibus in the camp,” he told me, “people’s lives will change, especially girls’ lives, and they will be able to attend some of the many activities in the camp.”

Hiba told the LWF counselors that her biggest fear is being forced into early marriage. If that should happen, she told them, it would put an end to all her hopes. According to UNICEF, Syrian refugee girls are especially vulnerable to early marriages. While in 2013, every fourth girl was married early in 2014 the numbers rose to every third girl being subjected to the practice.

When I asked Hiba about her hopes and dreams for the future, she said, “I lost all my dreams, but I didn’t lose my faith in people. Being here in the Peace Oasis, surrounded by such lovely and friendly people, has made me feel happier. I still hope for a better future in a safe, secure, and united Syria. My personal dreams and my dreams for my country are finally becoming one.”

By Rifat Odeh Kassis, the LWF Country Representative for the program in Jordan. Donations from Canadian Lutherans have helped make the Peace Oasis possible.

“Education is key, and these youth want to use it”

vocational training, Palestine, job training Palestinian young adults, Lutheran World Federation Jerusalem

Yousef has opened a metal workshop in Ash-Shuyuk and provides employment to his brother. Photo by LWF Jerusalem/T. Montgomery

You are helping young men and women afford the training they need to get jobs, support themselves and their families and give back to their community.

These young adults include Yousef, Jasim, Qusai and Yasmin. Read their stories by clicking here.

Almost a quarter of the people in the Palestinian Territories live below the poverty line, and opportunities for job training and employment are severely limited by the ongoing conflict with Israel.

The goal of the Vocational Training Program in Jerusalem and the West Bank, run by the Lutheran World Federation, is to give Palestinian young adults training that’s relevant to the job market, and helps them contribute positively to their society.

This training is provided in part through your donations to the “Train a Carpenter” gift in our Gifts from the Heart catalogue (or the “Tools and Texts” gift in previous catalogues).

Many of these students, like Yousef and Jasim, have gone on to start their own businesses, employ other people and take on other students as apprentices.

“It gave me hope to look into the eyes of the young people,” said Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary for the Lutheran World Federation.

“While I recognized in some of them the pain of violence, loss and conflict, I saw in all of them a determination, a real thirst for a life in dignity: earning their own salaries, finding a place in society, contributing to build the social and political fabric of their society.”

“That’s why they are learning in the VTC, even when traveling long distances, or sometimes spending hours at checkpoints: education is the key and these youth want to use it.”

– Read about Yousef, Jasim, Jihad, Qusai and Yasmin and see photos by clicking here. Story provided courtesy of the Lutheran World Federation

That we might have life and have it abundantly

That’s the powerful vision of the Diyar Consortium, the overall group of a number of vital Lutheran ministries in the West Bank.

We visited one of those facilities in Bethlehem – International Center Bethlehem. What a great array of services and programs for youth and young adults. The center develops young people through self-expression tools such as sports, drama, film, music and art.

Music programs offered through Diyar Consortium. Photo: Bishop Susan C. Johnson

Music programs offered through Diyar Consortium. Photo: Bishop Susan C. Johnson

The center has made Bethlehem the cultural destination of Palestine. It accomplishes this through offering room for creativity, space for self-expression and a venue for cultural exchanges.

An interesting feature of the center is the library, which was originally established through the suitcase ministry. Books were not allowed into the West Bank but visitors and Palestinians brought books in their suitcases leading to the base of the library’s catalogue. Today people can order books through Amazon for the library.

Painting on a copper pan - Art created by students at the International Center Bethlehem. Photo: CLWR/T.Brook

Painting on a copper pan – Art created by students at the International Center Bethlehem. Photo: CLWR/T.Brook

Programs like these at ICB empowers youth, grows future leaders and transforms them from spectators into change agents motivating and developing their potential.

As ICB employee Angie put it: “People come to this part of the world to see the dead stones. Here we make living stones.”

Tom Brook, CLWR Community Relations Director

Graduation is just a step on the road

Catering students at the Vocational Training Centre in East Jerusalem are benefiting from job training now and assistance in finding employment after they graduate. Many graduates will pay it forward by supporting future students in their journey. CLWR/T.Brook

Catering students at the Vocational Training Centre in East Jerusalem are benefiting from job training now and assistance in finding employment after they graduate. Many graduates will pay it forward by supporting future students in their journey. CLWR/T.Brook

Normally when someone graduates from vocational or post-secondary education, that’s about it for the institution’s responsibility toward the student. Although the attitude is not as blatant as, “You are on your own, Buster,” the relationship pretty much ends with the cap and gown ceremony.

Not so at the Vocational Training Centre at Beit Hanina, East Jerusalem, where Canadian Lutheran World Relief is a significant partner.

The school follows up with graduates for a significant period afterward, making sure they have found work and if not, provides assistance in making the right connections with prospective employers.

The program takes pride in the employment rate of its graduates, which is consistently the highest in the system at nearly 90 per cent.

The program even goes as far as backing students in establishing their own businesses by loaning them important production equipment and even money to get a head start.

And these students pay it forward by returning regularly to encourage students and show that success is possible with a good education. During one visit, I witnessed a culinary arts program graduate teaching students how to make chocolate soufflé. She was now cooking in one of the leading hotels and came back on a day off to see if she could help!

– Tom Brook, CLWR Community Relations Director

Canadians support Vocational Training students through our Gifts from the Heart catalogue. Click here to learn more.