I know both Jake and Erik. Not nearly as well as I would like to, but well enough that I knew I’d buy a copy of this book as soon as I’d heard about it, just because I wanted to support them.
But read it?
I hate cancer. Really, I do. I’ve seen the effects up close and personal. My Mother is a breast cancer survivor and sometimes, I’d go sit with her during her infusion therapy sessions. I have close friends who have lived with cancer. I have close friends who have died from cancer. I have done funerals for cancer victims in my congregation.
So I bought the book, but would have been content to let it sit on my shelf. To open it would be to voluntarily re-engage a world that brings back painful thoughts, feelings and emotions. Why would I possibly want to do that. And besides, cancer scares the crap out of me.
But I also felt conflicted. Yes, I can learn more…yes, there are some interesting writers in this set of essayists…yes, I’m a grown up and I shouldn’t let base fears and emotions drive my actions.
So I picked a time and place to read it where if it got to be too much, I could just look away, and my setting would restore my soul: on the beach in Jamaica. Not bad. And so I read. And I never had to look away.
This collection of essays is full of wisdom. And there were no cliche answers…nothing designed to just make cancer seem “all right.” There was brutal honesty and powerful reflection. Not all of the essays spoke to me, and I’m sure that some of the ones that did wouldn’t speak to others. Our journeys and contexts are unique enough that the beauty of the book is that it will speak to the diversity of our experiences in some way, shape or form.
But what I loved most is that in these pages, even though I have not experienced cancer myself, I found stories of brokenness to which I could relate. Because really, we’re all broken. And while for some, the brokenness may be called cancer, for others it will have a different name.
And in the midst of the essays I still found hope and promise. Even in the stories that did not end well. There was evidence of the work of God in those stories.
I’m glad I read this book. I think you should too. It will help you remember from where you came and to whom you belong. And it will remind you of the promise of the resurrection, lived out in the the lives of God’s people, and of your life. And in reading these stories, the stories of those you know and love who have experienced cancer will resonate. And you will learn how to better connect with those who experience this disease.
I still hate cancer, with all of my heart. And while it still scares me when I hear the word…this book reminds me how to not be afraid.
Networked in Christ
Cancer Theology is edited by Erik Ullestad and Jake Bouma. Erik serves at Windsor Heights Lutheran Church in West Des Moines, Iowa and Jake Bouma is at Faith Lutheran Church in Clive, Iowa. They are both members of the Network. Erik is currently serving as the chairperson of the Network’s Board of Directors.
Text from Rev. Larry Wagner’s presentation:
While tonight’s announcement regarding the recipient of the 2013 Tommy Award won’t be covered by any of the major networks, and it won’t likely be printed in the morning edition of the LA Times, it matters deeply to those of us who are gathered in this ballroom tonight. One of our own is being celebrated as someone who has had a significant impact on the faith formation of countless numbers of youth and their families.
Listen to some of the descriptions used by her peers and proteges:
- She is joyfully tireless, but not in a workaholic sense.
- She is deeply compassionate
- She has a huge heart for loving and caring about and for others.
- She is the queen of doing youth ministry on a shoestring budget.
- She has a deep commitment to social justice issues.
She embodies so many of the components of the visions and dreams of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network:
- She is and has been a respected mentor to many lay leaders in youth ministry.
- She has organized weekly gatherings of youth leaders in her areas.
- In these meetings she writes down prayer requests and concerns in her personal prayer journal. One of her proteges commented that “you just know that she’s on her knees praying for you.”
- She has started a number of grassroots networks.
- She understands the Networks goal of creating Networks of Networks.
She currently serves as a Practice Discipleship Coach in her synod. She is the Director of Youth Ministry on her synod staff. She is the Road Trip Coordinator for Living Waters, the outdoor ministry of her synod and two other synods. She recently completed 10 years of service to her church as the youth and family director. She coordinates Bridges, not Walls, Youth Mission, creating partnerships between ELCA youth in the USA with youth in Palestine.
A very personal story about her and her husband Joe, that is publicly known in her region of the country shares important aspects of her character and her faith:
She and her husband’s son died in a fatal car accident in 2006. At a service of celebration of their son’s life, attended by huge numbers of young friends, families and neighbors, this couple “witnessed to the healing presence of Christ in the midst of their personal sorrow.” Lives were touched and changed because of their faith, so powerfully lived out.
She helped to keep her synod solidly anchored through difficult leadership transitions. As she accompanies youth directors and other church professionals during awful times of transition, she is known to say: “It will get better.”
She told me, that as we go home to the realities of our parishes, after this Super Bowl of youth ministry, that it is so important to have this network of people around us.
This Network is important to her, and to us when we are in the dark times of our life, and as we celebrate the joys of this ministry. She shared that the Network “Literally lifted me up.” And she concluded “I am so blessed to be a part of this Network.”
It is our privilege to present the recipient of the 2013 Tom Hunstad Award for Excellence in Youth and Family Ministry, to Lisa Jeffreys, from Chelsey, Michigan.
Thanks be to God!
As I have mentioned, the Network is working on a new strategic planning process. I hope to be able to write about some of that later next week. I’m really excited about the stuff that the Board is working on!
In the process of this, Larry Wagner, our board chairperson and I were talking about the growth trajectory of the Network, and the different “phases” that have existed in the life of this organization.
I mentioned that we had a video of Tom Hunstad talking about some of the early visions for the Network. A couple of years ago, we loaded that video onto the Network’s YouTube channel, for ‘safe keeping.’ Our conversations in Denver last week about vision caused me to go back and watch the video. It’s really kind of fun for someone who has been a part of the timeline to watch it and realize what is the same, and what has changed.
I thought it was appropriate to post it here. If you’re interested, watch it. And then pay attention to our new strategic plan as we start releasing parts of it next week.