Equipped to Serve

Stories of Trinity students and alums Serving Around the World

A Visit with the Haitian Timoun Foundation:

Haiti2015A Vision of the Kingdom of God

Land of Mountains

From an airplane, the first glimpse of Haiti is one of mountain after mountain, a fitting view since “Haiti” literally means “land of mountains.” Even more fitting are the words Haitians use to describe the country’s experience among the world’s powers (as well as the country’s geography): “Dèyè mòn gen mòn” or “behind mountains are more mountains.” Just when you think you have scaled one mountain, you realize more mountains remain ahead of you.

In Haiti, the first and only country in the world created through a successful slave revolution, the meddling of the Western powers of the world have, more often than not, made life difficult for the Haitians, whether through blockades, an indemnity forced upon them by their former colonizers, or the U.S. takeover of Haiti’s government from 1915 to 1934. Many unbecoming things have been printed about Haiti and its residents in the past and still today; Haiti has been put down by foe and “friend” alike. Yet, if this were the only picture that one had of Haiti and her citizens, it would be incredibly incomplete. Haitians—like any people—have their fair share of challenges, but they also have many good things happening as well. It is in this context, in this country, that the Haitian Timoun Foundation works and partners with people, as witnesses to the Kingdom of God, so that all may have abundant life.

Our group of nine seminary students, three church members, one pastor, and one seminary president came to Haiti to see and experience a number of ministries supported by the Haitian Timoun Foundation (HTF). In Creole, “timoun” means “children,” and so, each of these ministries supported by HTF, in some way, benefits the lives of Haiti’s children. HTF visits each ministry multiple times a year, allowing for the formation of real solidarity and real friendships. Each ministry is already led by or ultimately will be led by Haitians, since it is through the Haitians themselves that Haiti will thrive. We came to Haiti to learn about authentic relationship, real solidarity, visionary leadership, and what it means to have a missional mindset. There were plenty of examples of all of these, yet what stands out the most is the relationship aspect of working with the people of Haiti, the experience of getting to know them, and the idea that this communion is, indeed, a foretaste of the feast to come.

Our first stop on this journey was Wings of Hope, a home for children with disabilities. Many of the children at Wings of Hope were abandoned as babies. People found them and then delivered them to Wings of Hope. Thus, this is a place where those who are rejected become, in Christ, cornerstones of community life.

SEEDS Promotes Sustainable Living

seeds garden editOne of the important areas where seminary students, faculty, and staff participate in leadership is the campus Green-Team, known as SEEDS (Stewarding Earth & Environment Daily and Sustainably). SEEDS has been around since 2006 under the guidance of faculty member Dr. Lisa Dahill, and each new academic year participating students gather in the fall to generate goals and projects. This year has been no exception, as students uncovered many opportunities for work and service.

Students and faculty alike are asking important questions surrounding our participation in God’s mission to, in, with and under all of creation, as leaders and as fellow inhabitants of our local and global ecosystems.  At Trinity, we attempt to get to know and pray for our local watersheds, and for the most vulnerable members of our communities, whether they are human or “more-than-human.”  As research is continuing to show the devastating impacts of climate change throughout our world, it is empowering to be in conversation with others who are discussing theological, moral, and ethical implications of scripture, academic research, and scientific data.  

We also get our hands dirty! Whether it is a new community garden that is being planted in the backyard of the seminary-owned Dassel House, where President and Mrs. Barger reside, or addressing issues such as composting and recycling, SEEDS members are dedicated to working toward more sustainable living practices at the seminary. SEEDS is a great venue for students, faculty, and staff to learn and be challenged to live more sustainably themselves.  Every day, the seminary community is encouraged to bring reusable mugs for coffee and other beverages, and to recycle whenever possible. SEEDS sponsors occasional outdoor trips and hikes in the Columbus metro parks and other surrounding areas.

Sonnenbergs Serve in Tanzania

diane-sonnenburg3Tim Sonnenberg ('88) and his wife, Diane, have been serving as Global Mission Volunteers with the ELCA. Tim retired in 2012 as senior pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Wauseon, Ohio, and Diane retired as a Clinical Social Worker and Family Therapist with Lutheran Social Services of Northwest Ohio.

Since September of 2012, Tim and Diane have taught during the Fall Semester at Makumira Lutheran Seminary and University near Arusha, Tanzania in East Africa. They teach second-year students in the Bachelor of Theology Program. Tim teaches the Worship Class and Diane teaches an Introduction to Psychology course.

Their class consists of 30 students from many different tribes throughout Tanzania. Diane also teaches Developmental Psychology in the Bachelor of Counseling Program at the University.  Much of the class discussion deals with topics such as ancestor worship, demon possession, and other traditional African cultural practices.

Tim and Diane will be returning to Tanzania this September to teach for their third year. The Sonnenbergs have created a blog of pictures and reflections of their experiences at www.sonnenbergsintanzania.blogspot.com