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Palm Sunday in Salasaca, Ecuador, 2008—The Wycliffe Bible translators had just completed translating Sunday's reading into the native language of the Quichua tribe. They arrived at worship to proclaim the gospel to the gathered assembly. The reaction of the congregation was a testament to what hearing God's story means for God's people. Rachel Ringlaben was in worship that Sunday morning as part of a four-month mission with Youth Encounter. Amidst the applause and tears that surrounded her as people heard the gospel story as their own, Ringlaben felt the stirrings of her own call to share this good news.
Now, five years later, Ringlaben is a senior in the Master of Divinity program at Luther Seminary and the recipient of the 2013 Graduate Preaching Fellowship. As part of the Fellowship, Ringlaben will spend a year with indigenous communities throughout Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, focusing on how story can shape identity. In communities that have been ravaged by war, genocide, poverty and other crimes against humanity, she will explore how the telling of one's stories, even the most difficult ones, can build resilience and shape community identity in a positive way.
Reflecting on her past experiences doing mission work in South America, Ringlaben recalls times that she didn't know where she would be the next day or where she would sleep that night. She had to rely on the hospitality of others and couldn't give money in return. "All I could offer was to listen," she says. "I fell in love with the stories of people—and how God breaks into each one of them, good or bad."
But Mary treasured up all these words, pondering in her heart what they might mean—Luke 2:19 (NET).
Ringlaben will spend her final month in Taize, France, pondering what this experience might mean in terms of her own ministry and as a resource to others. "The time in Taize will be an intentional hermitage to honor the stories I have heard and graft space to harbor these things," explains Ringlaben. Allowing room for the Holy Spirit to guide, she is entering this experience with some specific questions in mind: How might we preach a story that creates community and changes lives? How might our communities weave our faith into the telling of our ordinary, everyday stories?
We look forward to journeying with Ringlaben through the stories she will share in the coming year. Learn more, and look for updates from Ringlaben at www.luthersem.edu/gpf
The Graduate Preaching Fellowship offers a unique opportunity to spend a year in another culture for reflection and skill strengthening in the art of preaching in preparation for parish ministry in the United States. Ringlaben is a recipient of the fellowship, which is generously provided by an anonymous foundation dedicated to the support and enrichment of proclamation of the gospel.
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