The following were Pastor Sarah S Scherschligt’s Remarks at the ribbon cutting for the new LIRS field office at Peace Lutheran.
December 16, 2021
Greetings honored guests,
In the evening of Friday, October 8 – just over two months ago – I was in my car with my family driving to our church retreat when a colleague of mine sent a text message. It said: “I got a call from a friend at LIRS and they are looking for some office space in the northern Virginia area. Obviously with the Afghan refugee situation they need to ramp up their operations in that area.” (That was an understatement).
I immediately texted back “Peace could do it. How many offices?”
At the time, Peace wasn’t prepared for this. Yes, rooms in the church that had been used pre-pandemic were technically available. But it wasn’t as if they were empty. No, they held Sunday School materials and furniture. And then they’d been stuffed to the gills with donations that Peace had received for Afghan evacuees. This whole room in fact was full of donations.
Further, it wasn’t as if I had license from Peace to transform our building for a whole new purpose.
But I knew the heart of the people of Peace. This was a total no-brainer, to say yes and figure out the details later.
Throughout our history, Peace has been a place of refuge. We hosted a Vietnamese family decades ago during that evacuation. More recently, we have gotten to know Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders. Four years ago we developed a program of multi-generational support called “Neighbor-to-Neighbor” (formally known as the Homework Club), where every other Saturday, volunteers and anyone needing homework help or other support, come together in this very space.
Peace already had the heart for this ministry…the rest would follow.
The people of Peace sprung into action. The next steps were to meet with LIRS. Then talk with the Church Council, the Property Ministry and our Director of Ministries for Children, Youth, Family and Community, Nadia Fitzcharles. These people immediately did the heavy lifting – in some cases quite literally.
Norm, Rose, David, and the rest of Council, please rise. You wrote the contract, researched any potential issues, and communicated these changes to the congregation. You led this effort with skill and faith and we are all grateful. Can the Property Ministry please rise?: Anna, Don, Annalise, you hauled a lot of stuff and painted and managed contracts and and and. The number of hours you put into this effort can’t be counted. Thank you. The Peace staff please rise. Our administrator Josh kept the church running seamlessly while also giving administrative support to this new effort; Nadia, you in many ways are responsible for developing the trajectory that led us here. Thank you both.
And now, two months and countless volunteer hours later, you are here. Sarah, Saba, Nassir, Lee, Krish, so many others, you are amazing. You are working so hard with good cheer and persistence. We welcomed you but then you welcomed us! It has been wonderful to get to know you.
Let me say two more things. First, the people of Peace grieve with those who have lived through the uncertainty and violence of war, fled Afghanistan, and seen your people undergo such peril. We are honored to host this office but we wish we didn’t have to. Our hearts are with you. Our prayers are with your people. We will do all we can to ensure that you have a future with hope, peace, and prosperity.
Second, I want to take a moment and reflect on the appropriateness of this ribbon cutting in the season leading up to Christmas. I am aware that we are of different faiths here in this room. Our Christian tradition celebrates Jesus’ birth at Christmas. Every time we tell his story, we remember that Jesus was not born at home, and not even at an inn, but in a stable to parents who were forced to travel. There was no room for him in places of honor and comfort. He was dependent on the hospitality of others. We remember too that when he was just two years old, King Herod came for him with murderous intent, and he and his family became refugees, fleeing to Egypt.
This is a reminder that as people who follow Jesus, we do well to be like that innkeeper, finding a place – humble as it may be – for people to make a home, heal and let the future be born. It is also a reminder to us that it is no one’s fault if they are in the position of needing refuge, that indeed we are all sojourners and all may be in need of welcome someday.
When we are given the honor of welcoming a stranger, when we are given the honor of welcoming YOU, we are given the honor of welcoming our very Lord.
And so, on behalf of all the people of Peace, I say thank you. We see God at work in you. Welcome. And Merry Christmas.