Story Magazine - Fall, 2011

M.A. grad's work gets national attention

by Kate Sterner, Contextual Learning

If your boss called you into her office, would you be nervous? For Lynea Geinert, '11, a private word with her boss turned out to be the opportunity of a lifetime: She was to be the production coordinator for a CBS News documentary about her own job.

At the time, Geinert was the coordinator for volunteers and outreach for Taking Root. The nonprofit program of the Minneapolis Council of Churches brought Christian and Muslim volunteers together to form support teams for new immigrant families coming to the United States from refugee camps in Kenya and Thailand. Taking Root caught the attention of CBS News producers for their Faith in Action documentary series, as it was the only refugee resettlement program of its kind in the country. Just prior to CBS' call, the staff of Taking Root had just made the difficult decision to end the program due to lack of funding.

"There's so much that refugee families have to do within the first two weeks of being here," says Geinert. "Doctors' appointments, social services, county services, community networking—and the children have to be enrolled in school within one week of arrival. Adults have to be in English as a Second Language classes within two weeks."

Geinert's volunteers were typically called into action with as little as three days' notice. They worked together to find housing, recruit donations for furniture and household supplies, shop for basic food and clothing and get a home set up for people they have never met. "Each team has both Christians and Muslims on it. And there was always at least one person who could translate for the new arrivals," says Geinert, who acted as a point of contact for each team.

Despite the recent end of the program, Geinert was able to call together a reunion of one recent resettlement team and the family they sponsored, so that the CBS film crew could conduct in-depth interviews with them.

During their three-day filming schedule, Geinert got a call notifying her that a new refugee family was being sent to Minneapolis. The film crew then got to witness a team jumping into action. "They put a microphone on me all day long as I worked with the team, and they followed us around with their cameras," Geinert said.

Geinert graduated in May from Luther Seminary with a Master of Arts degree. She is a candidate in the St. Paul Area Synod of the ELCA for diaconal ministry. Part of the preparation for rostering in diaconal ministry is a supervised field experience at the intersection of church and world. Her work with Taking Root has comprised her field experience and project work toward her diaconal ministry requirements. She is now awaiting a call in the St. Paul Area Synod.

"I know I am called to work in a congregational setting, helping Christians hear the call of the gospel to carry out God's work in the world," says Geinert.