Representatives from ACL congregations gathered at Abiding Love Lutheran Church on the afternoon of April 30, 2017. The meeting was billed as a “summit” to ascertain the direction of ACL’s future ministry. At that point in time, the Bread For All (BFA) Food Pantry had been serving neighbors in SE Austin for three and half years and BFA’s host – Prince of Peace Lutheran – was in the process of figuring out its own future.
Close to fifty people from eight ACL congregations put their heads and hearts together for two hours that Sunday afternoon. ACL President and Abiding Love pastor Brad Highum welcomed us, blessed the meeting with prayer, and gave a brief history of ACL’s development. Pastor Highum reminded the group that initial conversations among ACL pastors focused on establishing a community ministry center, and perhaps, he said, that day was now approaching. Pastor Nate Lizarazo, transition pastor at Prince of Peace, then gave an update of his congregation’s status. Two main options, he said, would be ministry redevelopment onsite or sale of the property. Triumphant Love Lutheran member Dick Moeller (pictured below) then led a brainstorming process. Representatives broke into small groups at ten tables and shared their ideas what an expanded ACL ministry – based on the Bread For All mission – could and would look like.
Ideas were shared verbally, discussed at the tables, and agreed upon by each small group. The ideas were then written down upon flip chart paper and taped onto boards at the front of the room for the whole group to see and consider. Trusting for the Spirit’s guidance, everyone was then given seven dot stickers by which they voted for what they thought to be the best ideas.
The sticker votes were tabulated and two emphases stood out: nutrition and early childhood education. After the summit meeting, a leadership group of ACL board members, Prince of Peace members, and others met through the summer and fall to figure out how to best carry out the vision shared in the meeting. The first emphasis, serving as validation for Bread For All, was easy enough to follow through on. The ministry continues successfully to this day.
The second emphasis was a bit trickier in terms of envisioning implementation. In time, it became the basis for the current ACL proposal referred to on this website as the SE Austin Early Childhood Development Initiative. Pastor Highum, who continues as ACL’s president, sums up the guidance of the summit with these words today: “This is the direction the working group took from the ACL community gathered in April of 2017: nutrition and education programming and support for young children coupled with developing ministry with parents/caregivers.” We’re still in the discovery and research phase of this process, which now includes interacting with and interviewing parents of young children living in SE Austin.
May God continue to guide our conversations, learnings, and thinking as we move toward faithful implementation of these ministry goals.