Monday Dec 3rd I rose early to get to Austin for our annual Texas ELCA bishops and LC-MS district president meeting with senior leadership at UpBring (Lutheran Social Service). UpBring focuses on two main areas of service, foster care/adoption/education and disaster response.
In these areas they provide services to tens of thousands of young Texans and their caregivers each year and have set the ambitious goal of ending the cycle of child abuse in Texas. Additionally they continue to serve those in areas of disaster in the Lutheran way. Serving not just when disaster strikes but staying and continuing to provide services long after others have moved on. For example they are just now winding up case management of hundreds of families who lost homes in the August 2016 flooding in Louisiana.
After the meeting we had time for private conversation with the new district president of the Texas district of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS). This was a good time for us to share experiences, observations, and learn from each other. Although many things separate us from the LC-MS, it is good to acknowledge and know on another.
We then traveled across town in Austin to visit the Rev. Phil Wahlberg and his spouse and family. Phil served as bishop in predecessor body churches (Augustana Synod and LCA) in Texas from the 1950s to the founding of the ELCA in 1987. He is in failing health but it was good to pray with him, remind him that we remember and give thanks for his legacy, and bring Christian comfort and peace.
On the walls were pictures of his many travels including a visit in the 1980s with Pope John Paul II. Also a picture of him at his desk. That was special to me as I now sit behind that same desk. It was entrusted to me by his family after I was elected bishop in 2016. A reminder of the legacy and history of our Lutheran church in Texas. I was honored that Phil attended my ordination into the office of word and sacrament in 2005.
That evening I stayed with my parents and then Tuesday morning left for Tulsa, OK where we will gather with all six of our Region 4 bishops. Each year we set aside a couple days for conversation, learning, and building relationships.